A BITTER row erupted in the wake of the Government’s announcement that £123m will be invested in clearing and marketing the former SSI steelworks site.

Chancellor Philip Hammond outlined the Government’s commitment to breathe new life into the Redcar site but one local Labour MP – Middlesbrough’s Andy McDonald – branded the plans as a ‘deceit’.

His claim was described as ‘outrageous’ by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who challenged dissenters to speak to him directly to raise their concerns.

“I’m actually gobsmacked with what some Labour MPs are saying,” he said.

“I can categorically say that this money, announced today, is new money.

Two members of the development corporation board who signed off the application in September are both Labour council leaders.

“I honestly don’t know why these politicians have allowed their comments to go so far – it’s outrageous really.

“This money will mean that we will be able clear areas of the site if a potential investor comes forward and wants to take over a particular piece of land. “We have companies interested to move onto the site and the £5m that some Labour politicians seem to have identified as the only new money is for the South Tees Development Corporation to market the site.

“I have spent the best part of six months repeatedly banging the drum for our area in government. It has been exhausting, but I’m pleased to say it has finally paid off.”

Mr McDonald provoked the mayor’s ire when he said: “The announcement in Hammond’s speech that the Government will invest £123m in the Redcar steelworks is a deceit.

"The true sum over and above what has already been promised is £5m. “The site is massively expensive to maintain. The danger here is that the Government will in due course abandon the Development Corporation and saddle it with the crippling ongoing costs of remediation of the site and its development.

“This illusion of £123m is a deceit.”

Redcar’s Labour MP Anna Turley said: “There is nothing new in this announcement that will create new jobs and attract investment.

"Proper resources need to be put into that task through the South Tees Development Corporation so we can get moving on the ambitious masterplan.”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Conservative Simon Clarke said: “This is hugely positive news for Teesside and marks the beginning of a new era for our local economy. The Government has today put a huge sum behind the redevelopment of the former SSI site, which can unlock the whole vision of Ben Houchen and his team.”

Cllr Sue Jeffrey, the Labour leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and vice chairman of the South Tees Development Corporation, said: “I welcome the announcement that Government will commit to remediation and regeneration of the South Tees site. This new investment will allow us to continue the important work to keep the site safe as well as prepare for new investment.”