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Tees Valley devolution deal to hand over powers

The government has tabled a multi-million-pound devolution deal for the Tees Valley region that will give local authroity powers over skills and employment as well as a directly elected mayor.

If approved, the deal would see the region receive £450m over 30 years.

It would involve the creation of a new investment fund and a consolidated transport budget.

There would also be a “comprehensive review and redesign” of the region’s education, skills and employment support system.

A directly elected Tees Valley mayor would work alongside the leaders of the five local authorities in the combined authority.

The Tees Valley currently has a shadow combined authority in operation, which is due to go live on 1 April 2016.

The devolution deal follows the closure of Sahaviriya Steel Industries’ plant in Redcar, where 2,200 people have lost their jobs.

Shadow combined authority chair and leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council Sue Jeffrey said “immediate focus” was still needed to help steelworkers left jobless by the SSI closure.

Ms Jeffrey added: “I’m pleased that the government has put a devolution deal on the table and if it is agreed by all the Tees Valley councils, there is no doubt it will enable us to do more locally to strengthen our economy and secure a more sustainable future for the Tees Valley. 

“Over the coming months we will be speaking to local residents and businesses about what the proposals mean for them. 

“But we must not lose sight of the fact that while this is good news, there is still an immediate need to focus on actions to help the shock to our borough and our people which has been caused by the current crisis at SSI.”

Hartlepool Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said devolution would give the region “tremendous opportunity over the coming years to negotiate substantial funds from central government above and beyond what we would normally receive”. 

He added: “It will also enable us to accelerate the growth of our local economy, safeguarding existing jobs and creating many new ones, and it places Hartlepool in prime position to secure a replacement for its existing power station, which alone generates £40m a year for the local economy.”  

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council leader councillor Bob Cook said: “If this deal is formally agreed by all of the Tees Valley councils we will be in a stronger position to attract investment, support business development and in doing so create more employment opportunities.”

The council leaders and mayor have committed in principle to the deal, but it is subject to formal consent by each council. 

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