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.

Following our recent success negotiating the £85m grant for our City Deal which will see investment in the city's economic growth, I am pleased to report further good news for our city with the recent announcement of a £289m funding agreement for the North East which will help businesses to grow and create thousands of jobs on Wearside.

This historic Growth Deal features an innovation programme which will support technological advances in key industries and will see the creation of the first 'FabLab' in the North East here in Sunderland. FabLabs - digital fabrication laboratories - are set up to inspire individuals and companies to turn their ideas into new products and prototypes by giving them access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology.

The North East's FabLab will be part of the Sunderland Enterprise and Innovation Hub - a new £9m centre based at the University of Sunderland to provide the environment, skills, advanced materials and technology to make new products cheaply and quickly. It will be made available on a local basis to entrepreneurs, students, artists and small businesses and, in time, the Hub is expected to create in the region of 650 new jobs. It will keep the city at the forefront of innovation and creativity and is the next logical step in Sunderland's proud manufacturing history.

As well as the exciting developments with technology, skills development and job creation; transport links will be improved as part of the Growth Deal. Most significantly of all, we have secured over £40m to develop the next phase of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor from the New Wear Crossing to the City Centre. This important new road will help us to deliver our economic growth strategy for the city and further boost investment in the local economy and growth in local business.

Funding is also earmarked for improvements to road junctions to support further growth in the Sunderland Low Carbon Enterprise Zone, which takes advantage of the low carbon manufacturing undertaken by Nissan and associated automotive manufacturers. £6m has been awarded for transport infrastructure works needed to support its development. Assessment of the existing road network has already been carried out with the assistance of the Highways Agency and a number of measures have been identified to improve access to the sites and deliver the necessary capacity at key junctions to keep the flow of people and goods running smoothly.

All-in-all, I am delighted to report that Sunderland is doing well out of the current process and we are very clear about our plans to generate economic growth and to create jobs and opportunities for the city and the region.

Cllr Paul Watson