A GROUP of Labour council leaders have hit out at plans to bring Durham Tees Valley Airport into public ownership.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is believed to be making the announcement on Tuesday morning, but the five Tees Valley council leaders have branded the idea a 'vanity project'.

The Labour leaders of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees,Darlington, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland Councils have warned the mayor his plans to divert public funds to the airport.

They say that Durham Tees Valley Airport is understood to lose around £2m a year.

According to the council leaders, members of the Tees Valley Combined Authority have been led to believe that owners Peel are prepared to sell the site for around £40m of public funds,money paid for out of the Tees Valley £15m-a-year jobs fund.

Cllr Sue Jeffrey, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “You don’t need to be an economic expert to see the risk here. Spending perhaps £40m on an airport that was sold for half a million and loses around £2m a year is the sort of business deal that should set alarm bells ringing.

“It is vital that Ben Houchen’s airport deal is placed under forensic scrutiny. This is a man with no experience of running a major business, who seemingly just woke up one day and decided he was the best person to own an airport.”

Cllr Stephen Harker, leader of Darlington Council said: “The Labour Leaders would love to see the Tees Valley have a successful airport, but not at any cost.

“At the moment there's no detail other than it may cost £40m to buy, with no explanation as to who is going to pay for the around £2m annual losses. Is that coming from the public purse too?"

Responding to the statement from the council leaders, Mr Houchen said: I’ll be making a major announcement on the future of our airport tomorrow morning.”

Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald said the deal needs to be scrutinised closely.

The shadow trasport minister said: "If Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is proposing that the Tees Valley Combined Authority buy out Peel Holdings to acquire Durham Tees Valley airport for a staggering £40m then an awful lot of questions will need to be answered.

“We need complete transparency here and an end to hiding behind commercial non-disclosure agreements. The public have a right to know how their money is being spent."