'WE can handle the big bucks,' is the message to the two main parties from the body responsible for driving growth across Tees Valley.
Labour this week unveiled plans to hand up to £30bn of spending powers to regional decision-makers, which followed George Osborne's pledge that a future Tory government would help regions to become masters of their own economic destinies.
Bosses at Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU), the area's Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said their track record in helping to support jobs and investment showed they could be trusted with even more power.
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"We have proven that we can handle large budgets to help drive future investment and job creation across the region," said Stephen Catchpole, TVU managing director, as he unveiled the LEP's annual report.
Creating 25,000 jobs and adding £1bn to the regional economy over the next decade is the number one priority for TVU and its public and private sector partners.
TVU said it has supported more than £630m of investment and 4,000 jobs since it was set up in April 2011. With confidence rising across the region's businesses the prospects for jobs and investment were on an upward curve, said Mr Catchpole, who pointed to Darlington's cluster of subsea suppliers as one of the area's big success stories.
"I think that whatever the colour of the next government it seems clear that there does not seem to be any appetite for major structural change," added Mr Catchpole, who expects that LEPs will play a key role in leading regional development for the foreseeable future.
TVU is spearheading development plans and initiatives to help attract more companies to the area, to enable firms to grow and win more businesses.
Its other priorities are improving regional infrastructure and ensuring that Tees Valley’s voice is heard by key decision-makers.
Among the key achievements in the annual report was £53m secured from the last two rounds of the Regional Growth Fund, eight projects attracted to the region's enterprise zone, £22m of direct investment, support for 1,288 jobs, agreement for its City Deal to support carbon capture and storage, and the launch of the £10m Tees Valley Catalyst Fund, the first of its kind in the UK.
Sandy Anderson, the TVU chairman, said: “With much valued support from our partners both public and private sector, our Annual Report reflects a year of strong performance.”