BUSINESSES in the region have been reassured the Government is determined to invest in creating thousands of jobs following the announcement of the Tees Valley City Deal.
David Cameron visited the Tetley Tea factory in Eaglescliffe, near Stockton, this morning (Friday, December 13) where he outlined plans which will see power devolved from Whitehall to the regions to enable them to focus on job creation and skills training.
However, local labour campaigners are calling on the Government to take more drastic steps to ensure plans for a ‘super’ Tees Valley authority go ahead.
Redcar’s Labour and Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate Anna Turley said: “A key component of the City Deal bid is that the local councils on Teesside were required to make a commitment to a 'combined authority' to oversee all elements of development policy - from training to highway and transport provision and the physical regeneration of communities blighted by decades of unemployment.
“A similar approach was asked of councils in County Durham and Tyne and Wear, and this is now being put in place. The same has to be done on Teesside."
During his visit to the region, the Prime Minister defended his commitment to the North-East when asked whether the government had ignored the area in favour of the South.
“I don’t accept that,” he replied. “If you look across this Government we have done a lot of things to make sure that the economic recovery is shared by all. If you look at the investment in transport infrastructure, the electrification of railway lines, the plans for HS2, the regional growth fund we have over £300m invested in the North-East.
“I don’t accept that and I know that what some want to believe but I’m very keen that we have a recovery shared by all and I think changes today and announcement today about the City Deal will help with that.”
The City Deal aims to boost Teesside's process industries, supporting the creation of 3,500 jobs and unlocking £28m of private sector investment.
It would see the Tees Valley become a global pioneer in carbon capture and storage together with the development of a wate heat network, using waste heat from local industries to warm businesses, homes, hospitals and council buildings.
When asked whether the potential £28m of investment was too little, too late for the area, Mr Cameron replied: “These City Deals are not a one off, what it is about is getting round the table with local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and Whitehall and saying ’right what more can we bring?’ .
“Is there more land we can bring into use? Is there more government funding we can make available? Is there private sector investment we can unlock? It’s a partnership and it’s a partnership for growth and it comes on the back of the regional growth fund that has put £300m into the North-East.”
Stockton South MP James Wharton, who organised the PM’s visit, welcomed the City Deal move after pushing for more powers to be held locally after the creation of the Tees Valley LEP.
He said: “Now, for the first time, real control over the future will be in local hands. This City Deal will allow a planned approach to skills and apprenticeships to ensure our young people have the training they need for the industries of the future and comes alongside significant investment in new technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage.”