Council bosses south of the Tyne are looking to the future after the North East Combined Authority split - as the new partnership meets for the first time.
Leaders from the newly constituted North East Combined Authority (NECA), made up of Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland, have come together for the first time since the former NECA disbanded to allow Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland to form their own mayoral combined authority.
At today’s meeting, Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, was appointed to chairman the new combined authority and Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, was named as vice chairman, and it was agreed that leaders will meet again to finalise the primary collaborative projects that the new body will take on.
A statement on behalf of the NECA said: “Today’s meeting is the start of a new journey towards achieving our ambitions individually and collectively and we are ready to step up to the plate and ensure that this area continues to supply the economic lifeblood to power this fantastic region.”
It said that NECA – which represents an area with an economy worth well over £20bn - would play to its strengths, capitalising on the significant headway it had made in a number of key sectors.
Adding: “Already, the area is home to the region’s world-leading advanced manufacturing and technology sectors and a thriving hub of business services and innovative creative and cultural firms. Manufacturing GVA accounts for almost double the contribution to the economy than across England as a whole. But we are not complacent.
“We want more for the 432,000 people who are employed in 28,000 enterprises that are based here. We want to sustain the 61,000 employees working in manufacturing in the area – and create the conditions that will attract more investment – and with them more jobs. We believe there is vast potential to make an even greater contribution to the region and UK Plc.
“To put the potential of our collective plans into some sort of perspective, between them, our seven largest employment-generating capital projects have a combined investment value of £1.6bn and will bring nearly 24,000 jobs. That’s a big impact and gives us reason to be very confident about the future.”
Almost two years after the region-wide devolution deal was scrapped, the former seven NECA councils voted in favour of proposals for Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside to get their own elected mayor creating the North of Tyne Combined Authority - which was approved by government earlier this year.
The statement also confirmed that NECA will work in collaboration with other regional bodies, including the new North of Tyne Combined Authority.