The Tees Valley must be at the forefront of Government plans to devolve greater powers and funding to local authorities.
That was the powerful message from the leaders and mayor of the five Tees Valley local authorities when they met with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark and Northern Powerhouse Minister, James Wharton at Westminster yesterday (16 July).
The five local authorities already work together effectively, through Tees Valley Unlimited (the Local Enterprise Partnership) and the City Deal so they were keen to meet with the new ministerial team to state their intention to enhance the impact of this collaboration further and welcomed being invited to develop proposals.
At yesterday’s meeting the local authorities’ leaders and mayor made a strong case for devolution to the Tees Valley Combined Authority, seeking greater local powers in relation to transport, skills, employment, economic growth, and business support and investment.
They also reminded the ministers of their proven track record and national reputation for working in partnership to secure investment citing the City Deal, the Tees Valley’s Strategic Economic plan and the region’s well-publicised Regional Growth Fund and Local Growth fund successes.
Chair of the Shadow Tees Valley Combined Authority and Leader of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, Councillor Sue Jeffrey, said: “Government need to harness the growth potential of the Tees Valley if they are to deliver improved national prosperity and we have a great track record of delivery and partnership working. It is our intention to develop an exciting and ambitious devolution proposal which will enable us to make a bigger contribution to UK-wide economic success, and will also bring real benefits for our people through increased jobs, skills and shared prosperity. We made it clear to Ministers at our meeting yesterday that we are ready to take the Tees Valley forward, building on the successes of recent years. We now hope that they will back our proposals so we can get on with the job of delivering the great potential that is here in the Tees Valley.”
Leader of Darlington Borough Council, Councillor Bill Dixon, said: “The Tees Valley local authorities have a long history of working together and we need to build on this further through devolved powers so I’m pleased we were able to seek assurances from Government that genuine local decision making will be allowed and encouraged. Yesterday’s meeting was also an excellent opportunity to remind Government of the vital need to further improve our railway network so our region’s businesses can easily and quickly access national and multi-national transport links – particularly through the electrification of the York to Middlesbrough line - and on a more local level, the essential investment needed at Bank Top Station.”
Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “We want to encourage more job creation and help our businesses and industries to become even more effective. To do that, we need to attract inward investment and help home grown companies and emerging sectors, like those based in and around Hartlepool, grow and develop. We are a hugely ambitious region and with greater devolved powers from London we would be able to drive forward our economic growth plan.”
Mayor of Middlesbrough, Dave Budd, said: “The Tees Valley was one of the first regions in the country to secure a multi-area agreement, establish a LEP, one of the first to get a City Deal and now we want to be one of the first to get the benefits of devolution. The Tees Valley is already a fantastic place to invest, live and work but we can make it better still and help improve our economic position both regionally and in the UK.”
Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Councillor Bob Cook, said: “The beneficial impact investments and control of decision making could have on our region’s businesses would be enormous. The Tees Valley already works really effectively together and through devolved powers we can play a major part in growing the region’s economy by supporting business development and tackling unemployment.”
Chair of Tees Valley Unlimited, Sandy Anderson, added: "Over the last few years the five local authorities in the Tees Valley have shown the clear success of working together on economic regeneration and with this history of close collaboration with business it is entirely appropriate for them to be seeking greater devolved powers and funding. It is enthusiastically welcomed by the business community."