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New chair of North East Combined Authority appointed

The councillor who led the establishment of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) has stepped down after two years, allowing a new chair to be appointed. 

In order to fulfil the goal of rotating chairmanship of the NECA among local councils, Cllr Paul Watson (pictured), leader of Sunderland City Council, will become the new chair. He has previously served as the NECA lead for economic development and regeneration.

Cllr Simon Henig, a Labour councillor and leader of Durham County Council, had been chair of the NECA since 2014. He also led the negotiations that led to a NECA devolution deal being signed with the chancellor, George Osborne, last October.

At the NECA AGM, Cllr Henig said: “I have been honoured to chair the North East Combined Authority over its first two years and in the months leading up to its formation.

“In that time we have firmly established the north east in the first wave of devolution across the country – something I, and many others, believe is key to achieving a bright future for us all.”

He praised the devolution deal for going ahead despite “significant challenges” and added that engagement from businesses, MPs, voluntary and community groups and residents would be “vital” for devolution in the north east to succeed.

Cllr Watson said: “On behalf of my colleagues on the North East Leadership Board, I’d like to thank Cllr Henig for his hard work in chairing the combined authority in its first two years, as we have worked to get it up and running and then developed a devolution deal with the government.

“It’s important to acknowledge the good progress that has been made over the last two years. I’m really looking forward to all of the NECA member authorities continuing to work together to create better opportunities for everyone in our region as we finalise arrangements for devolution.”

Like other combined authorities, the NECA is due to elect a mayor in May next year. It is not yet known whether Cllr Henig is considering standing for the role.

(Image c. NECA)

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