Last week Tyne and Wear was granted City Regions Pathfinder status. This means it is one of 13 successful cities to receive additional funding and flexibility to tackle worklessness.
This represents a radical overhaul of how the Welfare State provides services as it moves from a one size fits all solution designed and delivered by Whitehall. Tyne and Wear will be given greater freedom to provide individually tailored programmes and solutions to local problems.
In order to secure this status, the Tyne & Wear region submitted plans to pool resources and expertise in order to tackle the specific problems that have stopped people from getting into work in the area.
The government is providing £5m nationally to get the plans off the ground and if we are successful in meeting targets agreed with government, the region will be eligible for additional funding that can be re-invested into local services and priorities.
As increasing participation is identified as key to raising the economic performance in the region and is a core principle of the Regional Economic Strategy, this is a critical opportunity.
However more important is the additional flexibility awarded. As a region we have always said we know best how to solve our own problems and have continually lobbied for greater policy flexibility.
Now we have an opportunity to demonstrate this through developing our own plans to help people off benefit dependency and into work.
Furthermore the award of the new status is given in recognition of our local authorities working together to bid as one city region.
Over the past weeks there has been much debate about the governance of city regions following the OECD report.
Let's not ``navel gaze". Instead let us focus on practical examples of how across the local authorities we can make a difference by working together.
This award gives us an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the city region concept without endless debate about governance structures.
Let us take this opportunity to prove to government we can work across administrative boundaries without the need for further levels of bureaucracy.
A demonstration of how the concept can provide tangible benefits is much more likely to engage the key stakeholders.
Sarah Green is regional director of CBI North East