Durham County Council leader Simon Henig has stepped down as chair of the North East Combined Authority.
The Chester-le-Street councillor and lecturer of politics at Sunderland University has chaired the combined authority since its inception in April 2014 and before this he led the North East Leadership Board through its transition from shadow to statutory body from November 2013.
Cllr Paul Watson, from Sunderland, has been elected as the new neca chair.
Cllr Henig: “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.
“All of our major achievements – the formation of the Combined Authority in April 2014, the proposed devolution agreement in autumn 2015 and the agreement for the first devolution order in May 2016 – were landmark moments for the North East.
“All were argued by some to be impossible or very unlikely, with collapse frequently predicted. There were significant challenges at all stages.
“But collapse did not happen and we are still moving forward. We remain on track to establish the foundations of a strong, devolved North East.
“For this to succeed, I firmly believe there must be engagement and partnership across the region, from the business community to trade unions to members of parliament, voluntary and community groups and all of our residents. I believe this is vital for the future and to make devolution work.
“I also believe that recent changes in the Local Enterprise Partnership leave it in a very strong position to move forward and I am proud to have served as its vice chair.
“But this is the AGM and it was always intended that the position of chair rotated among our seven local authorities.
“It is therefore appropriate that I stand down as chair of the North East Combined Authority and vice chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.”