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Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson dies aged 63

Cllr Paul Watson Credit: Sunderland Council

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.

Paul had many talents and among these were how, unlike some politicians, he could take a long-term view and see bigger and wider strategic points and issues.

As a younger man he had known the difficult times that so many people had experienced in the 1970s and 1980s when he, like many thousands of others, had been made redundant from his job.

Unemployment in Sunderland during the 1980s was very, very high and far, far higher in some wards and areas.

He wanted to see Sunderland’s economy grow, see more jobs created and see that people could fulfil more of their aspirations and have more choice. He, like many, could re-call when jobs, any jobs, were very, very scarce and when unemployment was far more common than now.

We can never be complacent or stand still on these things and while Paul recognised that Sunderland’s economy had re-invented itself, because all the jobs lost in shipbuilding and coalmining had been replaced, there was always more to do.

Politically, there’s no denying the Labour Party nationally has been through some interesting times. Yet during Paul’s time as Leader of the council’s Majority Labour group it saw its share of the council’s 75 seats increased from 48 in 2010 to 67 seats in 2016."

– Deputy Leader Councillor Harry Trueman