‘POLITICS’ HITS PLANS FOR MAJOR EVENTS
TeessideTogether – 5 January 2016
TeessideTogether, the organisation which aims to promote Teesside as the area’s clear identity, has revealed that its hopes of staging a series of high-profile events this year—including a half marathon which would have gained international coverage—have been dashed as a result of what it describes as ‘political considerations.’
A letter sent to the organisation from the Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, Councillor Sue Jeffrey, stated that Leaders and Mayor from the area’s five local authorities had decided that they would be ‘unable to meet’ to discuss proposed events because TeessideTogether Chairman Dave Roberts had confirmed he would consider standing if proposals for an Elected Mayor went ahead.
Subsequently, says Teesside Together, one of the authorities whose involvement would have been crucial to staging the ‘Six Bridges’ Half Marathon, is now saying it would seek to recover all costs—including charging for officer time—in any dealings with the organisation.
Initially the authority, which had previously been fully supportive and prepared to hold discussions without any suggestion of these kind of charges, stated that it was because of the issue of Mr. Roberts’ Mayoral ambitions, but has now changed its position, arguing that it is because of ‘austerity measures.’
TeessideTogether has contacted the Northern Powerhouse Minister and local MP James Wharton, arguing that ‘the actions clearly instigated by some local politicians strike at the very heart of the Government’s wish to ensure that candidates who can be seen as truly independent and whose primary objective is to represent the interests of the public rather than party are encouraged to put their names forward as Elected Mayors.’
Said Dave Roberts “Obviously we are deeply disappointed that our hopes of staging high profile events which could have nothing but good for the area have been undermined in this way. The position is clear, before the letter from Councillor Jeffrey we had been having detailed discussions, particularly on the Half Marathon, with a council that could not do enough to help bring the prestigious events to the area and without any indications that we would be charged for officers’ time.
“Now we would face the prospect of costs which would run into thousands of pounds for council officer time. Whatever ‘spin’ is put on the situation it is clear that political considerations have forced us to halt our plans.
“It is particularly sad because there was already tremendous enthusiasm within the athletics community for the Half Marathon plans and we had an agreement in place which would have given the event—and the area—substantial international television exposure. Fundraising estimates for local charities alone were in the region of £400,000.
“We have written to James Wharton as the Minister leading the Government’s devolution agenda, because we think the action of the local authority leaders—and the subsequent developments—raise some very serious issues.
“As we have pointed out to the Minister, it is reasonable to expect that one or more of the Leaders and Mayor who took the decision may themselves seek to become Elected Mayor. They presumably will have unfettered access to council resources which could assist their electoral interests.
“The suspicion must be that, whatever the Government’s ambitions to see as wide a range of candidates for Elected Mayors—including those independent of party interests—that view is not shared by some of our local politicians.”