Consultation begins today (December 10) on proposals by Tees Valley’s five local councils to establish a Combined Authority in a bid to boost economic growth and job creation.
The process will involve engaging with residents, partner organisations, the Tees Valley business community and representative bodies. Details will be available on TVU and all five Councils’ websites through which business leaders and residents can make their views known.
The consultation period will last until 31st January, after which, subject to the consultation, the scheme will be submitted formally to Government for approval.
Creating a Combined Authority does not mean that the five councils are merging to create one big council. The plan would see the councils continuing to exist in their own right delivering local services but unite as a formal Tees Valley Combined Authority when focusing on economic development, transport, infrastructure and skills. The new body could also unlock devolved powers and resources from Government.
Sandy Anderson, Chairman of Tees Valley Unlimited, the Local Enterprise Partnership for Tees Valley, said: “A Combined Authority would give the area greater autonomy over its destiny in several key areas and give it the ability to base decisions on local priorities and needs.
“It is important that business and residents are involved in the process to establish a Combined Authority as their support will be crucial to its success.”
Cllr Bill Dixon, Vice-Chairman of Tees Valley Unlimited and leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “Creating a Combined Authority would build upon the existing excellent partnership of local authorities and the private sector and create a structure that would ensure the area can take full advantage of any new powers and funding which may become available.
“Consulting with businesses and residents is an essential part of the process to realise our ambitions to establish a Combined Authority that is relevant and suitable to Tees Valley’s needs.”
Cllr Christopher Akers-Belcher, Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “A Combined Authority would provide an opportunity to build on the excellent working arrangements that already exist between the five Tees Valley councils and businesses.
“All the feedback we receive from the consultation exercise will be considered before any final submission to Government.”
Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon said: “A Combined Authority approach would be a first step in creating more devolution and it is important to hear the views of the public at large as part of the process.
“Devolved powers will mean more money and less bureaucracy from Whitehall which has in the past hindered our own plans and direction.
“We need a strong single voice to advance the Tees area agenda to national government on the big strategic issues such as transport, employment and in particular the skills agenda which is crucial to economic growth for our area.”
Cllr George Dunning, Leader of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, said: “We believe that a Combined Authority with greater freedoms and powers would be able to help escalate the economic growth of Tees Valley and hope that the public and business community will be supportive of the plan.”
Cllr Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton Council, said: “We are determined to act in the best interests of Tees Valley, which is why we are liaising with local businesses and residents at the earliest opportunity.”
Unlike most combined authorities, a Tees Valley Combined Authority would hold joint meetings with the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and its business representatives, while also sharing staff and resources.
The emphasis would be on even stronger partnership working between public and private sectors with the aim of creating a seamless approach to building a stronger Tees Valley.
If successful the Combined Authority would be expected to come into operation in autumn or winter of 2015.
You can comment by visiting https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TeesValleyCombinedAuthorityConsultation