Councillor Paul Watson became Leader of the Council in May 2008, after previously serving as Deputy Leader since May 2006.

Now, through his blog, he aims to communicate directly with you to give an insight into what is happening in Sunderland as well as the issues and challenges that face the city. With so much going on in the city, he wants to keep you informed about how much work the council is doing but also wants to hear from you.

This is your chance to have your say so please feel free to get in touch.

Welcome to my blog.

I'm really delighted as I sit down and write my blog today, to be sharing the news that our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help restore the city's beloved Roker Pier, has been successful!

Huge thanks go to the HLF which has agreed a grant of £545,000 to complete the final phase of the works on the pier including restoring the tunnel which runs underneath. This matches the city council's investment in the restoration of the lighthouse and work to restore and replace the paving and railings - works that many of you will have seen going on for a couple of years now.

Once completed, the £1.35 million programme will see one of the city's most treasured landmarks, at the grand old age of 112, returned to its former glory and being enjoyed once again, by residents and visitors alike.

There's no doubt that the pier - and also the lighthouse there to do such an important job - have taken a real battering for more than a century, especially during the winter storms, and so I'm sure most people would agree it's high time they received a bit of TLC!

Thanks must also go to a very supportive local community and indeed people throughout the city who are very proud of this important piece of Sunderland's heritage and history, wanting to share it with others and looking at how visitor tours might be organised.

This great news comes hot on the heels of our decision to put Sunderland forward to be named the UK City of Culture in 2021. It's really heartening that so many organisations and individuals have already come forward to support the council and the Sunderland Cultural Partnership in making this bid.

Our city has an enormous and diverse cultural offer already and so much more potential for the future.

Bidding to be City of Culture is a great opportunity to expand the offer further, boosting the profile and visibility of the city and importantly, the local economy.

Sunderland has everything it needs from its vast range of events and attractions to the unrivalled warm welcome and can-do spirit of its community, to have every chance of success in the competition.

Previous winning cities and in fact all entrants have seen significant benefits from being involved, and I am really looking forward to playing a part in Sunderland's journey alongside partners and local people!

Cllr Paul Watson