CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown has praised two North-East councils for their demonstration of "pioneering local government".

For Darlington Borough Council, Mr Brown's comments, at the Local Government Association (LGA) annual conference in London yesterday, were the second major accolade for its social services this year.

While Darlington's efforts to help children with needs were praised, Sunderland City Council's work with children and young adults was also hailed as a good example.

Mr Brown told the conference the aim was to match higher incomes for families with children with better services.

"I welcome the LGA's commitment in this area," he said.

"And I hope that we can work together to develop imaginative ways of delivering these services for the communities you represent, building on the innovative examples set by councils such as Sunderland, whose local PSA (Public Services Agreement) is providing an active citizenship plan for its children and young adults, or Darlington, which has created a one-stop shop delivering an integrated service for all children in need - demonstrating to us all what pioneering local government is able to do."

Earlier this year, the Secretary of State for Health named Darlington council's social services department as the fastest improving in the country.

Councillor Bill Dixon, cabinet member for social services, said: "We have had two national accolades in less than a month. It's one in the eye for those people who said, when we got unitary status, we would never pull it off."

But he said the real praise should go to the council workers who delivered the services.

He said: "It's a genuine accolade for our staff. It's not about us as politicians, it's about those who deliver our services.