ONE of the main arguments put forward by supporters of an elected regional assembly was that it would give the North-East a stronger, more united voice.

The people of the North-East voted overwhelmingly against an assembly, but that need for more regional unity remains.

We therefore welcome the Association of North-East Councils' backing today for the campaign to persuade the Government to endorse a national ports strategy which favours our region.

As a body representing 25 local authorities, ANEC has the potential to be a powerful weapon in the North-East's armoury. It can help provide that single, influential voice.

We hope the Government will listen. We hope that Tony Blair, as he approaches the end of his time as Prime Minister, will embrace the opportunity to do something of real benefit to the North-East.

During his time in Downing Street, the region has been hit by a series of job losses in the manufacturing sector due to global competition. Here is a chance to inject up to 7,000 jobs into the regional economy by providing the necessary political support for a £300m investment by PD Ports at Teesport.

We believe it makes sense for the country to have a ports strategy which eases road congestion by allowing investment in the North rather than in the overheated South.

And we are delighted to have the support of an organisation which brings together 25 councils in the belief that it will boost the entire region.