Campaign to change Tees Valley branding to Teesside is met with mixed response.
Northern Echo – 19 October 2015
A CAMPAIGN to abolish Tees Valley and reclaim Teesside has been met with a mixed response from the area’s political leaders.
The Teesside Together organisation, launched in August, wants to replace the various institutions branded as ‘Tees Valley’ with Teesside.
It has become a more important issue as it is expected the area will be shortly granted greater powers with an elected mayor representing the entire area from Darlington to Redcar and there may be a chance to gain investment from national and international businesses.
The Teesside Together campaigners have won the ear of James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, who is the Northern Powerhouse minister charged with bringing new economic life to the North.
Teesside Together chairman, Dave Roberts, explained he wrote to all eight Tees Valley MPs but only received replies from three of them and only Mr Wharton agreed to meet.
Mr Roberts said: “We were grateful that the minister took the time to meet up. He is a self-confessed ‘Teessider’ and we were able to discuss the issues between the area’s local authorities and the need for the strongest possible ‘brand’ if our area is to benefit from the devolution revolution which Mr Wharton and his Government colleagues are leading.
“The reality is that every time local people have been asked to choose an identity, including in two recent polls, Teesside has proved far and away the most supported, with hardly any backing for ‘Tees Valley.’”
Another MP who responded was Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North. However Mr Cunningham was not supportive of the idea. He said: “Whilst Teesside will remain a strong brand, I do not agree that we lack identity as the Tees Valley and there is much evidence to support that with five local authorities working better together than any other group I know of.
Whilst I do not agree with the Tory government’s methods in insisting on an elected Mayor for the Tees Valley to handle the potential new powers from Westminster, I do agree with the devolution agenda. We need organisations across the Tees Valley, including those with different political agendas inside and outside the traditional, to work cooperatively to maximise our opportunities.”
Jenny Chapman, the other MP who responded, wasn’t keen on the Teesside brand for her town of Darlington. She said: “The issue for Darlington is that we are happy with our identity as a town. If Teessiders want to change their name, I respect that. The Tees Valley tag was created to include Darlington but it’s never been fully adopted by residents. I don’t have a strong view either way.”
——————– Comment from TeessideTogether —————–
Jenny, we are not asking for towns to surrender their local identities, Darlington will always be Darlington just as I will always be proud to be a Middlesbrough lad. What we are saying is rather then plough on spending public cash hand-over-fist to try to convince a public and business community that Tees Valley is the answer to our ‘regional identity’, when almost all have rejected it out-of-hand (ask Neil Etherington, former CEO of Tees Valley Development Company), let’s have an identity the majority of us can get behind and go out there with our sleeves rolled up and make this area a huge success in terms of bringing in investment and jobs. Undoubtedly, we will have to do this in a hugely competitive environment – let’s not forget we will be up against the North East Combined Authority, The Yorkshire & Lancashire belts as well as Scotland. Don’t send us out there with one arm tied behind our backs by us having to first explain where this mythical region (that cannot be found on Google Maps) is before we can start to get down to business.
Dave Roberts – Chairman, TeessideTogether.