Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham has today written to the Tees Valley combined authority welcoming the vision and plans for the area – but also poses a number of critical questions that still need answers.
Whilst welcoming delegated spending powers, Alex also recognises that there has been no huge increase in spending for the Tees Valley as the sums of money destined for the area under a series of Government and EU spending streams are delegated funds and not new ones.
The Plan speaks confidently about the replacement of European funds by the Government after the UK leaves the European Union, but the Stockton North MP noted that this does not provide long-term security and questions what guarantees have been offered by the Government that the area won’t be left with large holes in future budgets.
He has also sought assurances that the Government, which recently confirmed the funding promised in 2015 to keep the former Redcar steel works site safe and start the development work, would guarantee a long term financial commitment to the site and not delegate responsibility for it without the billions needed to create the promised new future. The Plan fails to address this issue.
Whilst the Plan is comprehensive and varies little from the proposals of last year, it does not reflect the Tees Valley Mayor’s pledge to buy Durham Tees Valley Airport, merely talking about securing a sustainable future for it and allocating a half million pound budget.
Speaking on the Plan and Budget, Alex said:
“The Plan is clear and comprehensive in nature and I support its thrust to attract investment, build an asset base for future investment – much like we had with the Regional Development Agency – and the concentration on housing, skills, public transport, infrastructure, culture and tourism.
”But there are other areas of this plan and budget that concern me, such as the lack of detail on the future financial responsibility for the South Tees Development Corporation and in particular the funding of the former steel site over the next 20 years.
”The plan is one for the whole of Tees Valley and it must remain so. We need greater clarity from the Government and the Combined Authority on long term financial support if we are to have confidence that we will see the necessary delegated resources for the steel site and our area won’t be left having to find the cash locally to make it a success.”
“There is also a glaring omission in regards to the Mayor’s promise to buy the airport, yet he has allocated £500,000 for the airport in his budget but the Plan provides no detail of how this money will be spent.”
Alex, who founded and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Carbon Capture and Storage was pleased to see it in the Plan.
“I welcome the reference to Carbon Capture and Storage but I would have hoped to have seen a little more detail on what the combined authority hopes to achieve. I’ll happily work with the combined authority on this and I will be pressing the Minister on the future of the Tees project when she fulfils her promise to meet with the APPG in a few weeks time.”