AS former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine announces plans to regenerate the former SSI steelworks site Business Editor Andy Richardson asks if there is a clear plan for what happens next.

LORD Heseltine; a politician from Stockton; and an underfunded scheme purporting to help the north. That was the scenario when I turned up at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe a fortnight before Christmas 2010 to interview the veteran Tory peer, and Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, one time Stockton South MP.

They were acting as frontmen for the soon-to-be-launched Regional Growth Fund. Remember the RGF? It was the Coalition government’s big plan to create jobs in areas of the country bearing the brunt of spending cuts. It has since been quietly shelved and replaced with, well, nothing much really. The spending cuts meanwhile, go full steam ahead.

Lord Heseltine, a man who seems to think that the answer to most economic problems can be summed up with the word ‘devolution’, was in typically expansive mood that day, gesturing towards the window in the direction of where Hitachi later built a train factory. He compared the depressed North-East he’d seen in the 1980s to the 2010 version.

“Back then there was just old, dying industries and no confidence. Now you have a lot of expanding new industries and a lot of confidence,” he told me.

Fast forward six years to February 2016 and Heseltine – still one of the country’s most recognisable political figures - was back in our region, this time to convince Teessiders that the best way to recover from the collapse of their beloved steel works was with, yes, you guessed it - devolution.

"Plans to drive growth, create jobs and secure the economic future of Tees Valley took a major step forward today as local leaders were put in pole position to transform the former SSI steelworks site," read the press release handed out to journalists gathered at Teesport, where Heseltine and Stockton South MP James Wharton announced that a new Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC), modelled on the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is overhauling the former Olympic site in east London, will drive regeneration. Ironically, after the London 2012 Games ended, parts of the Olympic site were dismantled, shipped to Teesside and melted in the blast furnace.

The name 'Development Corporation' is vintage Heseltine and had such a ring of the 1980s about it you half expected the printed press release to also come out in floppy disc and ZX Spectrum cassette formats.

The idea is similarly old school. The Teesside Development Corporation (TDC) led regeneration of former industrial sites for a decade from 1987. It is best remembered for being the driving force behind Tees Barrage, Hartlepool Marina and Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium, as well as the subject of a scathing National Audit Office report which detailed missing documents, broken rules, cut price land sales and lavish spending.

Lavish spending is unlikely to be a charge levelled at the person who gets control of the the new body. When the Tees Valley mayor is elected next year they will oversee an investment fund of just £15m to drive growth in a part of the country blighted by Britain's highest unemployment rate.

There were lots of ambitious words spoken at last week's' launch, but there wasn't much detail. Numbers are important if we hope to gauge how serious the Government is about tackling the steelworks site and finding companies that will replace it.

Here are some figures that weren't discussed last week.

Fewer than half of the 2,200 workers who lost their jobs when Redcar steelworks closed in October last year have managed to find work.

Youth unemployment in Redcar is four times the national average and more than three per cent higher than in neighbouring Stockton, Hartlepool and Darlington.

Almost 1,000 jobs were lost at supplier companies when SSI went under.

One person who bagged himself a new job as a direct result of SSI's closure is the 82-year-old Lord Heseltine - appointed chair of the inward investment programme for the Tees Valley. Its specific remit, the government said when he was appointed, was: “to attract foreign investment and boost the region’s international profile.”

It is now 110 days since his appointment and all that Lord Heseltine's new job has yielded is a rehash of his trademark devolution ideas, giving the area yet another new quango so we will have five local authorities, Tees Valley Unlimited AND the new devo body.

Tellingly, at last week's launch there was no mention of how much cash the MDC will be given. We have yet to see a plan for cleaning up the site and whether or not the government will take responsibility for the cost involved or whether it will be borne by the local authorities.

What we do know is that it will cost hundreds of millions to make the site fit for industrial development or housing. What investor is going to take that on?

SSI's bankers recently visited the site, saw that rather than a big tract of land they actually own islands of land amid a sea of Tata Steel property, and promptly flew back to Bangkok. This is a big, complex site. The Official Receiver was supposed to have left in December but his job is so much bigger than anticipated he is now expected to be there until May. Meanwhile millions of pounds are being spent on the defunct works to make it safe. About 30 guards are employed around the clock to protect it from thieves. No date has been set for when the blast furnace, Steel House etc. will be torn down.

On a positive note the task force set up to help the community in the wake of the steelwork's closure has made a real difference. Almost every week we report about former plant workers who've found employment, retrained or had support to set up small businesses. They continue to do some very important work.

We also hear of suppliers still reeling from SSI's collapse, that 61,000 tonnes of Redcar-made steel is stuck in limbo at Teesport, and the value of site assets have plummeted.

The Prince of Wales visited Teesside last week, praised locals for their resilience and sense of humour, and left on the Royal train. In practical terms the visit achieved nothing but he at least helped to put Redcar back in the spotlight. He took the time to come and see for himself how the steel closure continues to affect lives on Teesside. Neither David Cameron nor George Osborne have been here since SSI was liquidated, nor did they visit Europe's largest blast furnace and the area's most important employer while it was in production.

I heard weeks ago that Lord Heseltine and the Northern Powerhouse minister were planning a big announcement linked to the steelworks. For Teesside's sake I hoped they had something big up their sleeve.

I fear that week’s press call on the bank of the Tees bore all the hallmarks of staged managed PR spin aimed at making it look like lots was being done to help the area when in truth nothing much was happening at all.

There is a huge challenge ahead and after last week's announcement most of the big questions remain unanswered.