Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson has died at the age of 63.
Born in Pallion, he served time as an apprentice and worked as a shipwright until he was made redundant in 1981.
Following his redundancy, he worked in German shipyards and was known to speak fondly of the warm reception he received while working as an ex-pat.
He then became self-employed and gained an Honours Degree in Law from Teesside University in 1998.
Leader of the City Council since April 2008, he represented the Pallion Ward.
Cllr Watson was first elected to the ward in September 1997 and continued to be successfully re-elected.
He took a major interest in the city’s economic development as the City Council worked with regional, national and international organisations to attract investment and re-build the city’s economy after devastating job losses in the 1980s and 1990s
Cllr Watson served as the council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration before becoming Deputy Leader and then Leader.
As Leader he was the council’s chief political spokesman and a major figure in North East regional politics as well as holding national positions.
As Deputy Leader, Councillor Harry Trueman assumes council leadership responsibilities until further notice.