Mayor Ben Houchen to attend meeting with PM and 'committed to working positively' with Government

Conservative party candidate Lord Ben Houchen delivers a speech after being re-elected as the Tees Valley Mayor
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

The Tees Valley Mayor will visit Downing Street this week for a meeting with the Prime Minister who said he will work with all leaders, regardless of "the colour of their rosette".

Ben Houchen said he will attend the meeting on Tuesday, to which all Metro Mayors have been invited, and also hopes to secure a private meeting with Sir Keir to further discuss regeneration projects in the Tees Valley. Lord Houchen is now the only Conservative regional leader however, in a speech on Saturday, Sir Keir said there was "no monopoly on good ideas" and insisted he's not a "tribal politician".

Lord Houchen has written to the Prime Minister congratulating him on his appointment. He expressed a commitment to work together with the new government "to ensure Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool continue to see progress."

In a post on Facebook, he wrote: "I said when I was elected that I would work with anybody who shares my view that our area must continue to succeed, and I meant it. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister tomorrow and I have requested a further meeting to make sure his Government supports the fantastic projects we have attracted to the area, which are creating thousands of local jobs."

Sir Keir said economic growth was the "number one mission" of the Labour Government and work had begun to ensure "people are better off everywhere, wherever they live." He indicated that more power will be given to metro mayors.

Sir Keir Starmer in September
Sir Keir Starmer -Credit:PA

"The principle I operate to is those with skin in the game know what's best for their communities and that does require us to be bold about pushing power and resource out of Whitehall," said Sir Keir. "Therefore when I return from the Four Nations I shall hold a meeting of the Metro Mayors to discuss with them their part in delivering the growth that we need across the UK.

"That will include non-Labour Metro Mayors; there's no monopoly on good ideas and I'm not a tribal politician. The principle I operate to is, whether its mayors or other elected representatives, where regional leaders want to deliver for their area then, regardless of the colour of their rosette, my door is open and my government will work with them."

In a letter to Sir Keir, Lord Houchen extended his congratulations on his election as Prime Minister. "We may come from different political parties but your success in this role is in all our interests and I wish you all the best in the months and years ahead," he wrote.

"As the Mayor of the Tees Valley I am committed to working positively with you and your Government to ensure he continued prosperity and development of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. Our region has undergone significant transformation and growth in recent years and I believe that with a unified effort, we can continue to see success."

He spoke of his work during his tenure as Mayor including the launch of the Freeport, NetZero Teesside, the "revitalisation" of the airport and the development of the Teesworks project. He also highlighted the "return of steelmaking" with the plans for an electric arc furnace at Teesworks and said: "Government must now work with us and British Steel to make sure this project succeeds.

"These achievements have laid a strong foundation for the future, but there is much more to be done. I am eager to discuss how your Government can support us to build on these successes and address the challenges that lie ahead. I look forward to the possibility of working closely with you and your team and I again wish you the best of luck as Prime Minister of our great nation."

As reported, prior to the election, Labour said it would send in the National Audit Office (NAO) to investigate the Teesworks project if they won the general election. Speaking in April when she was Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves said: "I know that if I become Chancellor of the Exchequer later this year there isn't going to be a lot of money to go around and that's why it's even more important that every pound of taxpayers' money is spent wisely. When it's not, we need to uncover that and that's why I think it is right that the NAO are brought it to investigate this and that's what we would do."

After securing a fifth term as MP in his home town of Middlesbrough, Andy McDonald repeated calls for a NAO review. Decisions made in relation to the former steelworks site has been mired in controversy, particularly over a deal with Lord Houchen which saw private developers take a 90 per cent share in the redevelopment.

The Government-ordered review of the scheme made 28 recommendations including the suggestion that the South Tees Development Corporation should try to negotiate a better deal for taxpayers from the Teesworks joint venture. Lord Houchen has said that he agreed with the report’s recommendations and work is ongoing to implement them.

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