North East combined authority plan gets go-ahead
The government has given the go-ahead for seven councils in the north east of England to set up a combined authority.
All the councils involved say this would give them a stronger voice when it comes to attracting jobs and investment to the region.
The Cabinet Office has confirmed that the necessary statutory process to create the new body is under way.
A chairman has been appointed, and it is hoped the North East Leadership Board could be established by April.
The seven north east councils involved are Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.
Combined authorities - which do not replace any existing ones - can be set up when two or more local councils want to work more closely to support economic growth in areas such as skills, transport and investment.
Greater Manchester was the first to do so in April 2011.
Councillor Simon Henig, chair of the North East Leadership Board, described the Cabinet Office decision as an "important and exciting moment in our history".
He said: "Working together is the best way to promote jobs and growth and to secure devolution of funding, powers and responsibilities from the government.
"This is all about playing to our strengths and uniting to ensure the brightest possible prospects for our residents and our businesses."
The news was welcomed by the North East Chamber of Commerce.
Chief executive James Ramsbotham said: "With the right structures in place this area can maximise its significant competitive advantages and continue to set the pace nationally for economic growth."