DARLINGTON'S economy was the strongest-performing in the North-East in the final quarter of last year, according to an independent report.

Figures released by RBS and Nat West, in their regional growth tracker report, show Darlington was the only area in the North-East whose economic growth was better than the UK average.

The report estimates that Darlington's economy saw modest year-on-year growth of 3.4 per cent in the final quarter of 2014, ahead of all other areas in the region and ahead of the national average of 2.8 per cent.

Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon welcomed the figures, saying: "We knew we have been performing will over the last two or three years, but it's really nice to have that confirmed with an independent view.

"Going forward, I think the next financial year will be another strong one for us, with the opening of a business hub at Central Park in the next few weeks, followed by the national biologics centre in late spring, which will be a real game-changer for the borough's economy.

"Central Park is going to be critical going forward, but we have had some really good performances from Darlington businesses, like Cummins.

"It has been a real team effort on behalf of all the companies in Darlington, which are doing incredibly well and the long-term future looks extremely bright.

"Business is confident in Darlington and hopefully that will continue to be felt in terms of more investment and jobs."

The RBS figures show Darlington outperforming other areas of the region in terms of estimated economic growth in the final quarter of 2014 – with Tyneside (Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside) in second place with 2.9 per cent estimated growth.

Economic growth in County Durham was just over two per cent, with Northumberland, Teesside and Sunderland boasting estimated growth of below the two per cent mark.

Jason Heywood, North-East regional director for RBS/Nat West, said: "The consistently positive news about growth is giving people confidence to invest and explore new areas of financing support, for instance private equity is showing interest in the leisure sector."