NEXT week marks the halfway point in the public sector financial year. In Tees Valley, it marks the special moment that is the start of some of the extra spending that is possible as a result of the unique devolution deal between the Conservative mayor, our local authorities and the Conservative Government.

I’m particularly proud of two programmes that are starting next week. The first is my new Routes to Work scheme. The programme will provide key workers to support 2,500 disadvantaged people to find employment.

Over the last four years, the unemployment rate in the Tees Valley has halved. Our economy is growing, and more people are in work providing for themselves and their families. Things are getting better, but there remain stubborn barriers to work. This new investment from the Government, secured only because we have a mayor, gives us a unique opportunity to address long-term unemployment.

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The second programme underway is my new Apprenticeship Fund. This prioritises proper vocational courses in key sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, chemical processing and engineering. No more soft courses to fudge the figures – this fund directly addresses our skills shortage so that we can develop home-grown talent.

Together these two programmes try to tackle the significant issues of skills training for young employees and support for people who have found themselves out of work for a long time. These are critically important groups who we need to fully involve in the economic revival that is underway throughout Tees Valley.

NEXT, I am currently pulling together a wide-ranging set of options to take back control of our airport. This is an exhaustive piece of work, with a lot of people working on an exceptionally detailed plan.

As you can appreciate, this is being produced in strict confidence and as with any negotiation it is critical that your cards are kept close to your chest. This is a local decision, using devolved funds, directed by a local mayor. No deal can happen overnight and this will take time, but I hope to give people a proper update very shortly.

All I can ask of readers in the meantime is to remain patient, put their trust in me and remember this: I will deliver on my pledge.

FINALLY, I want to mention a more light hearted but nevertheless serious idea I am pursuing; special protected food status for the Teesside Parmo. Although this was first mentioned by Boris Johnson as a joke when he publicly tried a Parmo at Conyers School in 2015, special status for local food can have a serious impact on visitors and an area’s culture.

Teesside restaurateurs, and the food manufacturer I visited – Jeff the Chef in Middlesbrough – have an economic stake in the Parmo being recognised.

My campaign has been launched and officials are now ready to receive our formal application.

If we succeed we will deliver a Teesside delicacy to the world and claim a great use for the French béchamel sauce.