Sunderland and councils across the North East are seeking stricter controls from Government ahead of national COVID intervention.

With infection rates already rising rapidly across the region, local authority leaders are keen to take drastic proactive action to protect residents, communities, and businesses.

Nationally, it is understood to be the first instance of neighbouring authorities uniting to lobby for stricter lockdown restrictions ahead of them being imposed by government.

The leaders of Sunderland City Council, Newcastle City Council, Gateshead Council, Durham County Council, North Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council and South Tyneside Council - collectively the LA7 group - have contacted government requesting powers to get ahead of the recent surge in cases.

Several authorities in the region have been added to the national watchlist as places of enhanced concern with others likely to follow.

Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council and LA7 spokesperson, said: "The North East is renowned for its resilience and togetherness and there is no greater time to come together than during a crisis such as the one we all continue to face.

"Cases of COVID-19 are increasing rapidly across our region, and it is only right that we take a joined-up approach to protect residents right across the North East.

"Our towns and cities now have some of the highest infection rates in the country and we are not prepared to sit and wait for Government to tell us what to do.

"Together, we want to take action now to take back control and stop this virus ripping through our communities.

"We're asking for the power, funding, and resources to change things now in order to protect our most vulnerable. We know that a large proportion of the transmission occurs in the hospitality trade and in people's homes, so we need to be able to target these areas among others.

"But we also need greater control over test and trace, to be able to fully understand the outbreaks as they occur and work with Public Health England and the NHS to implement effective outbreak control.

"This is not the time for inaction. If we are to protect those most susceptible to the virus, we need to be able to act now and that is exactly what we are collectively trying to achieve."

Possible measures that could be introduced include reduced operating hours for pubs, restaurants, takeaways and cafes, and stricter limits on the number of people allowed to visit others not in their household or support bubble.

New restrictions and where they apply will be announced once they have been agreed.