NORTHERN Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy said today he believed the “total dissolving of the Labour opposition to the point where they are unelectable” was destroying democracy.

The Conservative Minister was meeting with council leaders across the Tees Valley ahead of elections for the Tees Valley Mayor, which will see some powers devolved from Central Government.

The elections, on May 4, will give people in Teesside and Darlington the chance to choose a mayor to lead the whole area forward and take charge of issues such as skills, transport, and new jobs and investment.

Loading article content

Mr Percy, who took over the Powerhouse portfolio from Stockton South MP James Wharton following the last election, said Tees Valley would benefit from the first Mayoral Development Corporation outside London, which would drive regeneration and big projects, such as revitalising the former SSI site and attracting investment into the area.

The minister said he would support whichever candidate was elected – but said obviously he supported Conservative candidate Ben Houchen, who if elected, would be working with Labour council leaders and mostly Labour MPs.

He said: “I don’t think one party rule anywhere is in anyone’s interest.

“I think having a vibrant democratic system where there is challenge and robust challenge is important which is why I think the total dissolving of the Labour opposition to the point where they are unelectable, is actually quite bad for democracy.

“So on the same measure I actually think here in the Tees Valley having different political leadership and control is a good thing so as a result there is better policy making.”

Labour Mayoral candidate and Redcar and Cleveland Council leader Sue Jeffrey called on Mr Percy to act on proposals which would allow combined authorities under a mayor to borrow for their new functions, a policy which has so far not been rubber stamped by ministers in London. She said borrowing could “substantially increase the investment available, exploiting current low interest rates”. She added: “It is hugely disappointing that this power that could have been put in place last year has still not been agreed.”

May 4 will see a shift in the way the Tees Valley is run, with power handed over to the Mayor to create jobs, improve transport and skills, and build homes.

  • The candidates are: Sue Jeffrey (Labour), Ben Houchen (Conservative), Chris Foote Wood (Lib Dems), John Tennant (Ukip), John Tait (North-East Party).