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.

As everyone settles back into the weekly routine following the summer holidays, the council continues to forge ahead with our community leadership agenda.

A key element of this is working effectively with our partners across all sectors to ensure that our utmost priority - to protect and support those in our community who need it the most - is at the centre of the development of new service models.

As I've said many times before, while we have savings and efficiencies to make as budgets are further and further cut for public services, the council's primary aim is making services even better and more customer focused through any new delivery model we put in place.

We've seen this happen for the Library and Adult Social Care services over the past year whereby the needs of customers and their individual requirements are being better met by modern, relevant and accessible services.

Fundamental to achieving this, is ensuring that we fully understand what local people, organisations and businesses want and need. We are therefore continuing to develop the ways in which we can hear what the city's communities have to say and then work together on the design and delivery of solutions and services.

On this note, I am very proud to say that the city recently hosted the regional launch of the Accessible Britain Challenge. The vision of the challenge is for communities to become more inclusive and accessible by engaging and working with disabled people to remove the barriers that get in the way of them playing a full part in community life.

The idea is to encourage better collaboration between disabled people and local organisations including businesses, employers and service providers and it was heartening to see and hear of the fantastic examples we already have across the region.

Building on this, there is much more that we can still do and it was great to see so many people and organisations at the event, ready to take up the challenge. More information and details of how you can get involved in the Accessible Britain Challenge can be found in the 'External links' below.

Cllr Paul Watson