Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Emergency Talks on Future of New Super Council

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Emergency Talks on Future of New Super Council

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional affairs correspondent

TOWN Hall chiefs from across the region will spend this week locked in last ditch talks to secure an agreement on a new super council.

Hopes of setting up a combined authority stretching from Berwick down to Durham and tasked with investing millions of pounds in job creation were dashed when Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson called a halt.

The Labour leader said there simply was not enough clarity on what extra bureaucracy the new organisation would add to the region, or what costs would be involved.

In a letter to Government he said there was too much concern that Sunderland would lose out if there were no written rules on what the combined authority would look like, or even simple questions such as would it need an expensive new headquarters.

He was backed by South Tyneside leader Iain Malcolm, who said that as it stood, the combined authority plan was not ambitious enough for the region.

Their call for a halt, coming just weeks before a government consultation closes, has dismayed some business groups and set chief executives at the region's seven councils into crisis talks aimed at trying to figure out if the new super council can be saved or if they need to plan for a smaller body.

Last night Simon Henig, the Durham Council leader who was set to chair the combined authority, said the job for those who supported the plan was to try and work through the objections as quickly as possible.

He said: "We all recognise the importance of working together to promote jobs and growth and to give the region a greater say on key decisions and funding. We have made a strong proposal to the government to establish a combined authority and joint arrangements for jobs, skills and economic growth. …

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