Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, has issued the following statement summarising some of work that has been undertaken during his first 100 days in office:
“On May 5 this year a political earthquake hit the Tees Valley and I found myself at the centre of it. 100 days on, I’ve really hit the ground running delivering my Plan for Growth.
I’m delighted to have finally put Teesside Airport back on the agenda. In my first three months we’ve had news of investment in the terminal to improve passenger facilities, and a new route announced for the first time since 2010. This just shows what people have always known: there is a future for our airport and it can be a success. I’m certainly proud of the part I’ve played to put Teesside Airport back on the agenda as I progress with my election pledge.
I am currently pulling together a comprehensive set of options to take back control of our airport. This is an exhaustive piece of work with a lot going on behind the scenes. I’ve already held productive meetings with the new Aviation Minister, Lord Callanan, the chairman of Peel Airports, and with others in the aviation industry, who are all working with me to help secure my ambitions.
In my professional life I was a corporate solicitor and I know that no deal can happen overnight. This will take time, but I can assure you that good progress is being made.
I have also launched a vision to transform our road network across the Tees Valley, which includes a new Tees Crossing and a northern bypass for Darlington. Some of these schemes have been talked about for decades, but I hope to get this sorted once and for all. If we’re successful in our bid to government, over £500 million could be ploughed into our road network.
In the last three months since my election, over £240 million in private investment has been announced for the Tees Valley. Companies such as PD Ports, Quorn, ErlingKlinger, Biffa Polymers and Calor are all making massive investments, which is a huge vote of confidence in Teesside and its workforce.
I have also reached a landmark deal with the Teesside Pension Fund for them to invest up to £200 million in local projects. Teessiders have worked hard to pay into their pension pots, so it’s about time their money was invested locally to the benefit of all. This will help to fund my ambitious Plan for Growth that will transform lives and deliver significant change in the Tees Valley.
The first Mayoral Development Corporation outside of Greater London has been established covering an area 6 times the size of the City of London. It includes the former SSI steelworks and has wide-ranging devolved powers to invest in infrastructure, attract new business, and coordinate land ownership – including through compulsory purchase orders.
This site is a national asset and has already received more than 100 expressions of interest from global companies.
The whole mind-set of my team is to ask how we can improve the local economy. This is what my Plan for Growth is all about: creating an environment for private businesses to grow so that they can create jobs, meaning more people providing for themselves and their families.
Since my election in May, there have been over 1,300 new private sector jobs announcements in the Tees Valley.
I’ve also launched my new £7.5 million ‘Routes to Work’ scheme to help up to 2,500 of the most disadvantaged people find employment. Over the last four years, the unemployment rate in the Tees Valley has halved. Our economy is growing, and more people are in work providing for themselves and their families. Things are getting better, but there remain stubborn barriers to work.
This new investment from the Government, secured only because we have a Mayor, gives us a unique opportunity to address long-term unemployment.
The idea you can only get on in life by going to university is nonsense. It might be old fashioned, but there is nothing wrong with encouraging young people to learn a trade. That’s why I’ve made supporting proper apprenticeships a key part of my Plan for Growth.
My £1.5 million Apprenticeships Fund prioritises proper vocational courses in key sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, chemical processing and engineering. No more soft courses to fudge the figures, this Fund directly addresses our skills shortage so that we can develop home-grown talent.
One of my main election promises was to launch an independent commission into Cleveland Police. We need a police force that does justice to the hugely important work of our frontline officers – the men and women who work night and day to keep communities safe. They need to be properly supported by an organisation which enjoys full public confidence.
Nick Hurd MP, Minister of State for Policing, recently came to the Tees Valley. I’m working with him to get this Commission up and running. Compensation claims against the force in the last few days, show how critical it is that I push ahead with this as soon as possible.
A VOICE FOR BUSINESS
Private sector businesses are the life blood of our economy. I’ve have visited at least two major employers every week and worked with a range of organisations to ensure the Tees Valley’s voice is heard by the Government. Already I’ve met with the Cummins, JDR Cables, Materials Processing Institute (MPI), Nifco, Fujifilm, British Steel and AV Dawson, In the next few weeks I’ll be meeting with Sirius, Sembcorp, CPI, TWI and more.
Naturally, this is just the beginning, but what has been achieved in only 100 days, with the support of the public and private sectors, demonstrates the fortunes of Tees Valley’s businesses and residents will be transformed for the better in the years to come.”