Sie John Hall has been accused of trying to shift the blame for North East unemployment onto the region’s council leaders.
Seven council leaders from Durham up to Northumberland have issued a joint statement challenging Sir John’s claim that the region is suffering as a result of poor leadership.
The Metrocentre millionaire told The Journal during this week’s party conference that the North East was suffering the effects of more than a generation of poor leadership, adding that Labour was more interested in treating the region like a “fiefdom”.
Now, Gateshead Council leader Mick Henry has accused Sir John of ignoring the causes of much of the region’s troubles.
Mr Henry, chairman of the LA7 group of council leaders, said: “Every year, when the Tories and Lib Dems meet at their annual conferences, there’s a concerted attempt to shift the blame for economic problems in the region onto the shoulders of local council leaders.
“Sir John Hall’s remarks are the latest example. It is disappointing that Sir John, who’s achieved so much for this region, appears to be blaming local leaders for a supposed divide between the Tees Valley and the rest of the region when it was the Tory-led government itself that abolished the institutions that brought the region together.”
The seven councils are currently pushing through plans for a new super council, a combined authority, which would hand them a greater say over Government funding and decision making.
Mr Henry added: “We have done this following the Coalition Government’s whole-scale dismantling of much of the economic infrastructure that supported the North East; we’re determined that never again will the fate of our region be dependent on prejudices and misconceptions in Westminster and Whitehall.
“We’re united in our knowledge that this region has so much to be proud of, and so much potential. So we would ask Sir John to do what he has done in the past, to champion our successes and promote what we are trying to achieve together.”