A council leader from the North East has been appointed to head the joint body aiming to bring economic growth to the region.
Durham County Council leader Simon Henig will take over the role of chair of the North East Leadership Board, the body looking to create a joint authority covering Tyne & Wear, Northumberland and County Durham.
The board will work alongside the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to deliver a more strategic approach to issues that affect job creation and economic growth in the region.
Coun Henig will formally take on the role when the statutory body is established next April. The appointment will then run for two years, with the option of a two-year extension.
He said: “As the Government has now launched the formal consultation, the board has taken the decision at the earliest point to go into shadow arrangements. This is the next stage in the journey of collaborative working. This role will oversee the transition from shadow to a statutory body which will play a part in helping to secure future prosperity for the North East.
“It is extremely important that as a region we work together for the benefit of our economy, our businesses and our residents.
“This is a very important opportunity and I do not underestimate the work to be done. However, by taking this approach we will be able to present a stronger argument for the investment needed to create the new transport links and jobs, which we need.
“As demonstrated effectively elsewhere, it is entirely appropriate that decisions about what is right for a region are made by the people who know it best and I am therefore pleased to accept the role as chair.”
Paul Woolston, chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership said: “I welcome the decision to name the chair of the combined authority, and look forward to working closely with Coun Simon Henig. This is an important step forward in the formation of the combined authority. The new body promises to add huge value through co-ordinated decision making, promotion and delivery of public services on key issues for the North East.
“The existing strong relationships that are at the core of the North East LEP’s role linking business, education and our local authorities will be further advanced by the combined authority. Simon was the first Deputy Chair of the LEP and instrumental in its early and ongoing successes. I look forward to building on this joint working in the future.”
The Government earlier this month launched a formal consulation on the formation of a joint authority that would take region-wide decisions on matters such as skills, transport and economic growth, with resources devolved from Whitehall to the region.
Similar joint authorities elsewhere in the country have already been formed, with the suggestion that that has given areas around Manchester and Leeds a competitive advantage over the North East.
But a question mark has been raised over the North East authority after the Government said the region would have to show that opposition to a regional assembly that was shown in a referendum held in 2004.
The Government consultation on the joint authority will run until January 2. It can be found on www.gov.uk/government/consultations