The prospect of a Tees Mayor, which would unlock far-reaching devolutionary powers for the region, has today moved a step closer to reality.
The Labour leaders of the five Tees authorities have agreed to push for Teesside to be in the Government’s “important first round of devolution deals”. If achieved this could unlock the treasure chest of an additional £44bn growth for the region by 2030. “It is a prize worth having for the Tees Valley,” was the ambitious message today.
Last week the leaders met Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark and Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton to promote the case for greater power for Teesside. Today they released a joint statement to say they are jointly pressing ahead for a groundbreaking deal to devolve greater control and cash to our local authorities. Chancellor George Osborne has pledged to give cities in England the chance to take control of their own affairs – but only if they accept an elected mayor.
Speaking on behalf of the Tees leaders, Councillor Sue Jeffrey, Leader Redcar and Cleveland, did not rule out the idea of a “metro mayor”. “The last thing we want to do is risk what could be an excellent deal for the Tees Valley,” she told the Gazette. The leaders have agreed to push forward for the devolution deal with Government, which a conversation about an elected mayor will be part of this process. We need to be clear with the Government we are serious about these negotiations.”
Cllr Jeffrey, along with Middlesbrough Mayor David Budd, Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton, Councillor Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool and Stockton South MP James Wharton today released a joint statement putting forward the case for devolution. “It is a prize worth having for the Tees Valley,” it said. “It is the reason we must put ourselves at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse, making the idea a reality for the people of the Tees Valley. If we secure the right devolution deal it would mean less bureaucracy and an end to the meddling of the Whitehall machine in London. It would mean better decisions could be made locally and taken quickly. It would facilitate cooperation across services and spending in ways which have never been achieved before. We have the opportunity to determine our own destiny, and it is a chance we must seize.”
But the leaders warned: “This is not a free ticket to future prosperity. We know it will require hard work and continuing strong local leadership. “In recent months the focus has been on Greater Manchester, and the Government is now negotiating devolution deals with the Sheffield City Region, Leeds, West Yorkshire and its partner authorities, and the Liverpool City Region. We want Tees Valley to be part of this important first round of devolution deals.”
The five local authorities already work together through Tees Valley Unlimited (the Local Enterprise Partnership) and the City Deal. Big recent successes for the region include train-making in Aycliffe, securing new investment for local roads and rail, the return of steel-making and the new potash mine near Whitby – all bringing more jobs and opportunities.
“All have been achieved in a tough economic climate,” the joint statement goes on. The Tees Valley LEP is one of the most successful in the country. We have secured a City Deal and our combined authority proposal is nearly there. But we can still do more.” James Wharton said he wanted “to see Teesside playing a leading role in the Northern Powerhouse” and he was pleased Tees leaders were “pulling together to achieve this”.