Ex-shipyard apprentice who became Sunderland City Council leader dies aged 63

Updated: 

The leader of Sunderland City Council has died aged 63.

Former shipyard apprentice Paul Watson worked his way up to lead the council after studying for a law degree and went on to become a major voice for the North East.

He was chair of the Association of North East Councils and helped found the Key Cities Group which represents 26 mid-sized cities across the country and speaks up for them with Whitehall.

Mr Watson continued to work despite being diagnosed with bowel cancer last year.

Deputy leader councillor Harry Trueman said: "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 recall 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."