Joint statement from the seven council Leaders and Mayor, North of Tyne Mayor, and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner:
This week marks another important stage on the cautious road to recovery with the Budget on Wednesday and schools opening next Monday, but as we said just a few days ago we must continue to be vigilant.
This weekend saw the good weather attract many people outdoors for their exercise. That's understandable, but please remember to only meet up with one other person or stay within your household or support bubble, and stay local. Over the weekend there were reports of people going beyond these rules and some concerns over a lack of social distancing.
The overwhelming majority of people have been magnificent in following the rules during the ongoing period of lockdown but we are in danger of undoing all that good work if we all don't continue to do so.
It is concerning to see this happening just ahead of the important milestone of the schools going back on March 8. Our teams are working with teachers and staff to make sure the return is smooth and Covid secure. We all need to support them, as well as our NHS colleagues, by remembering and following at all times the hands-face-space advice to continue to drive the number of Covid infections in the community down.
The milestones set out in the Prime Minister's roadmap for easing restrictions and allowing us to return to a more normal life can only be met if we all play our part and follow the rules in order to prevent a surge in infection rates.
On Wednesday the Chancellor will present what is one of the most important Budgets in history.
It's his and the government's opportunity to build on the furlough scheme and business support packages so that when the economy reopens as many people remain in jobs and businesses are able to reopen as possible.
The North East has presented a compelling case to play a leading role in the country's recovery from the biggest economic shock in living memory - a crisis which requires an unprecedented response.
We have many shovel-ready projects alongside a huge number of well-thought out and costed initiatives which could bring high quality sustainable jobs to the region - linked to our ambitious plans for a Net Zero economy.
Our dialogue with government has been constructive and we very much hope these discussions will be recognised in this Budget with meaningful investment, confirmation of our existing business case, and a significant devolution of resources alongside strong, suitable support packages to benefit both individuals and businesses.
Cllr Simon Henig CBE, Leader, Durham County Council
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader, Gateshead Council
Cllr Nick Forbes CBE, Leader, Newcastle City Council
Norma Redfearn CBE, Elected Mayor, North Tyneside Council
Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader, Northumberland County Council
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader, South Tyneside Council
Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader, Sunderland City Council
Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor
Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner