LIKE many politicians across different regions of the UK, I was delighted to hear that the Government is considering moving civil servants out of London. The benefits are obvious. It would start to address the draw that London and the South East has on power and decision making, and while the economic impact of basing these jobs in towns like Darlington would be significant, the long-term pay-off would be a better civil service more rounded in its approach to policy making.

Here in Teesside we are moving forward with a number of major projects, particularly in the clean growth economy. In leading on this, I have found over my term as Mayor that we are increasingly educating officials in London on the detail of projects that are beneficial not just to my region, but to the UK as a whole. We are progressing some huge schemes, whether it be in carbon capture and the multi-billion pound Net Zero Teesside project or the redevelopment of the former SSI site, and having Government located down the road rather than 250 miles away would streamline the process and reduce timescales on delivery.

The new campus would naturally work hand in hand with their counterparts in the South. With a direct flight into London City from Teesside International Airport, and direct train via the East-Coast mainline from Darlington station, Teesside’s transport links mean we are ideally located to provide a seamless transition.

There is also the harsh political necessity of such a policy. “Levelling Up” is more important than ever as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic. In the last election, voters in the Tees Valley, placed their faith in this Government, many for the first time, on the promise that investment would finally be coming their way. There is no that these votes were lent and will quickly be lost should the Government backtrack on their pledge.

Another way the Government can show its commitment to levelling up and the North is by giving Teesside a Freeport. Not only will it help bridge the North-South divide, it will create tens of thousands of jobs and make us a hive of activity, enterprise and innovation.

This would make us extremely attractive to international investors in sectors like chemicals, offshore renewables, energy and advanced manufacturing, and these sectors would have access to some of the country’s most skilled workers.

For years I’ve been pushing a case for a Freeport right here, and Government is now listening. Thanks to the work we have done, the policy was part of Boris Johnson’s manifesto at the last election, and Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade, used Teesside to announce Government would create ten Freeports across the UK, with Teesside “at the head of the queue”.

We see it all too often that the North to many means Manchester. Real change can only be driven if a Government campus was established outside of our major cities, and a relocation to areas such as Teesside will provide a level of education to officials about the true needs of people across the UK.

  • Ben Houchen is Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley