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Ben Houchen was elected as the Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley in May 2017. The Tees Valley area covers the five boroughs of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees.

Prior to becoming Mayor, Ben was a Councillor on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, representing Yarm and Kirklevington Ward. He also led the Council’s opposition Conservative Group. In 2012 he stood as the Conservative parliamentary candidate in the Middlesbrough by-election, and in 2014 stood to become our region’s Member of the European Parliament.

As Mayor, Ben is implementing an ambitious agenda to increase economic growth and prosperity. He wants to create a strong local economy that creates good quality jobs, underpinned by an even stronger private sector. His personal commitments include: saving our Airport; supporting businesses to grow; delivering the housing that the region needs; ensuring an effective structure for Cleveland Police; and securing protected food status for ‘The Parmo’ – a much loved local delicacy.

Ben is Teesside born and bred. A qualified solicitor, he has worked for two local firms specialising in commercial litigation and employment law. In 2016 Ben founded BLK UK – an international sportswear business, which supplies clothing to amateur and professional clubs. As Chief Executive of BLK UK, he delivered an impressive programme of growth and company expansion. Since the election, Ben has stepped down from his position at BLK and is dedicating all of his time to his Mayoral role.   

Ben lives in Yarm with his wife Rachel, a French teacher at a local secondary school.

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As Mayor, Ben is accountable to and represents around 670,000 people across all five boroughs in the Tees Valley. Ben’s primary role is to steer the work of the Tees Valley Combined Authority – the body that drives economic growth and job creation in the area. The job of the Mayor ranges from setting budgets and priorities for economic development, transport, infrastructure and skills, to acting as an ambassador for our region to attract inward investment.

The Combined Authority is not a ‘super-council’ or another version of Cleveland County Council – the five Tees Valley councils will continue to exist in their own right, delivering local services and meeting the day-to-day needs of residents. The Mayor and Combined Authority do not replace, nor can they overrule local councils.

In exchange for more powers and control over local budgets, the Tees Valley agreed to elect a Mayor who would act as a single point of accountability – to both local people and central government.

Devolution means having more control over how and where we spend the money we have. It means we can design services and find ways of working that better meet the needs of the Tees Valley and the people that live, work and invest here. It also means we can boost our economy and reinvest money back into the region to where it is needed most.

Ben is able to make some decisions independently, but others involve consultation with, and approval of, all five leaders of our local councils in the Tees Valley. Some decisions need unanimous support, others need a majority.

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Another key role of the Mayor is to serve as an advocate and global ambassador for the Tees Valley region, helping to build trade links and attract inward investment.

The Parmo is a local delicacy that we all know and love. It is something that we very much associate with being a ‘Teessider’.

I believe it’s time we put Parmos on the map. One of my election pledges, for which I received considerable support, was securing ‘protected food status’ for the Parmo. We’ve seen the Cornish Pasty receive ‘protected status’ and we all know Champagne has origin protection – it’s about time the Parmo was recognised too.

Protected food status is an EU scheme where food or drink producers can apply to have the name of their product protected under EU law. It gives an elevated status to the product, which can be celebrated in local communities, at the same time as increasing business opportunities for local producers. The benefits of protected status are not lost through Brexit. The likely development of a UK scheme for protected food names will have the same advantages, and can be attached to future trade deals, including with the EU.

There’s an application process to secure protected food status, where Parmo producers must explain how the Parmo is made, what makes it unique, and why it’s such an important part of our culture in Teesside. I would be delighted to support a producer group to do this, details of how to get involved are below.

The majority of my work as Mayor is delivering an agenda that drives economic growth and increases prosperity. This involves tackling some really complex issues, from the future of our airport to ensuring that our businesses can access the skills they need for future success. The Parmo provides a more light-hearted and positive opportunity to really galvanise community interest and support, and to build local pride. I hope you will agree, and look forward to working with you.

 

Show your support by joining the Parmo Producers Group

To join the free group you must already be a parmo producer – a registered business, which is licensed to sell food products to the public and also sells parmos as part of your menu. You must also read the draft application below which includes a description of how we suggest a true Teesside Parmo should be made. We want your views on this, and you can submit your own suggestions in the box provided at the bottom of the application. We will review all feedback, and the final application will reflect the comments we receive. Once you have agreed to the method, or suggested your own – you will be part of the Parmo Producers group! No costs are involved – the purpose of the group is to get as many producers to support the campaign as possible.

Read the draft application

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