Paul (left) earlier this year, helping to lead on Sunderland's 2021 City of Culture bid
Paul (left) earlier this year, helping to lead on Sunderland's 2021 City of Culture bid
Jamie Hardesty

Tributes paid as prominent Sunderland business leader passes away

A true advocate for the North East, its businesses and its people.

Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council and Vice Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), has passed away aged 63 after a battle with cancer.

Born in Pallion, Paul began his career working in shipping before gaining a Law degree from Teesside University in 1998.

Ever the advocate of Sunderland and its enterprise potential, Paul led the City Council since April 2008 and, among his many prominent regional positions, was made Chairman of the Association of North East Councils, a role he also held at the North East Combined Authority (NECA).

Moreover, Paul was deputy chairman of the North East LEP and worked closely with large-scale employers such as Nissan to encourage continued investment in North East jobs.

Paul was also a key figure in advocating the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), as well as the New Wear Crossing project.

He was true business stalwart for not only Sunderland but for the wider North East.


Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair, commented: “Paul was a true advocate for the North East and it is with sadness and thoughts for his family that we pay tribute to the huge contribution he has made to the North East over his years in public service.

“Paul was committed to improving the social and economic wellbeing of the region, working tirelessly with the North East LEP to realise the ambitions within our Strategic Economic Plan and play his part in creating a better future for the people of the North East.

“He believed in creating opportunities for all, be it in accessing education to improve skills or focussing on job creation , particular in advanced manufacturing for the region. He wanted people to achieve their personal ambitions in life to support themselves, their families and future generations.

“He had a passion for the North East and the city of Sunderland, continually striving to improve the lives of the residents and conditions for businesses.

“Paul worked tirelessly throughout his illness and will be sadly missed by his fellow board members, the Executive Team at the North East LEP, and me on a personal level. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive, North East Chamber of Commerce, commented: “Paul Watson was a powerful advocate for Sunderland. Working alongside the private sector he has overseen the transformation of the city with the on-going delivery of the Vaux site development, the Fire Station and the City of Culture bid, which we all hope will be successful.

“Over recent years while we have had many robust debates on policy, he would always listen to our members’ views and engage in open debate. He also had a substantial impact on the region as chair of the North East Combined Authority. I offer our sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”

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