A RETHINK has been urged after a Teesside town missed out on a £25m support deal rolled out around the country. 

Redcar, Middlesbrough, Thornaby and Hartlepool are all set to receive the multi-million pound packages as part of the “Towns Fund” scheme launched by the Government in late 2019. 

But Billingham councillors have once again questioned why the town wasn’t chosen for the scheme – asking Government chiefs to look at jobs troubles and poor health in reconsidering their decision. 

Veteran councillor Barry Woodhouse told Stockton Council leaders how Thornaby and Billingham had a “very similar story” when it came to their challenges – questioning why the town of 35,000 people was rejected for the fund.

He said: “Billingham, having seen a decline in its industries, has inherited many socio-economic challenges which fit the broader intentions and indeed ethos of the Towns Fund. 

“There are many other factors not only including income but education, skills and training as well.”

A new council building is set to be built in Billingham as part of the council’s long term masterplan for the town.

A consultation held earlier this year pinpointed a desire to create more opportunities for younger folk and better investment in the largely privately owned town centre. 

A report on potential joint ventures between the council and town centre owner St Modwen is due to be unveiled early next year. 

But Cllr Woodhouse told the Local Democracy Reporting Service Billingham could do with more – with Labour councillors in the town signing the letter to Local Government minister Robert Jenrick to ask for a Towns Fund rethink. 

He said: "We looked at the Town Deal and I've always had this feeling that we're at least on a par, if not worse off, than Thornaby.

"I could not understand how we got nothing yet a town 270th on the list, in Jenrick's constituency, did. 

"In my opinion, it's wrong and we've started to look at our plan for Billingham and things we'd like to see.

"We haven't had a response yet."

The Towns Fund is a £3.6bn pot of money designed to “level up” regions nationwide in 100 settlements. 

Boards at a local level draw up investment plans for up to £25m from the fund.

Their brief is to boost economic growth by spending the money on everything from land uses to cultural assets, or ways of improving skills and enterprise in a given area. 

The Billingham letter pointed to the town having nine neighbourhoods in the top 20 per cent for income deprivation in 2019 – compared to Thornaby’s eight. 

It also pointed to both towns having out of work claimant counts higher than the national average as well as similar proportions of people having lower than average life expectancies. 

Cllr Woodhouse said the Town Deal efforts had gained the support of Stockton North’s Labour MP Alex Cunningham. 

“The town centres as far as major shopping areas are just about dead,” he added. 

“Billingham is a satellite town – we’re spending millions in Stockton which is probably right in the same way Middlesbrough and Hartlepool spend millions in their centres.

“In Billingham, we’re looking at increasing the retail offer, increasing the leisure and business offer and possibly an innovation area for technology.”

A large-scale expansion of the FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies campus is continuing off Belasis Avenue in the town – with the promise of hundreds of new highly skilled new jobs in the coming years.

On Tuesday, Darlington was announced as one of the first seven places in the UK to get £22.3m as part of its Town Deal bid. 

When it came to Billingham’s plea, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it expected to make announcements on new Town Deals in due course.