WHEN the government started devolving powers from Westminster to local regions, some thought it would be yet another layer of bureaucracy making little difference to local people’s lives.

But the transfer of power and decision-making from unknown Whitehall officials to an elected local representative who local people can kick out if they fail to deliver has meant we can move faster and seize economic opportunities.

As mayor, I’ve specifically been tasked with bringing economic growth to our region and I’ve been given the tools to boost investment and jobs.

We are only a few years into devolution, but already we have made huge progress.

I take every opportunity to relentlessly bang the drum for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool and the opportunities we have here to create good-quality well paid jobs. Few things are more central to my plan for jobs than the redevelopment of the former Redcar steelworks, now called Teesworks.

The jobs we are creating on the former steelworks site means more local people have more money to spend in our town centres - backing our amazing local businesses.

In the last seven-months alone, 557 good-quality well paid jobs have been created for local workers, and former steelworkers are returning to the site. Rather than contracting around the country they are now working just minutes from home, spending more time with their loved ones and putting more money in their pockets for them and their families.

Every successful region has a successful airport and the investment that is going to power forward our region won’t come on a bus, it will come through our airport terminal.

Teesside International is close to all Teessiders’ hearts, and this year we are able to celebrate its 80th anniversary rather than commiserate over its closure. Our airport is only open because devolution, and the power it gave local people, allowed Teessiders to vote for a mayor who pledged to bring it back into public ownership and save it from closure.

And because of the investment into the airport we’ve been able to secure Ryanair, who will be offering flights to Alicante and Majorca from June. Loganair will be ramping up its domestic flights, and Balkan Holidays is expanding its summer service to Bulgaria. Plus, the UK’s biggest holiday company, TUI, is set to start a Majorca service from Teesside in 2022.

Creating new jobs is all well and good, but if people can’t get to work then what is the point? That is why I’m drastically improving our local transport.

In Middlesbrough I’ve provided £22.5million for the redevelopment of Middlesbrough Station, and secured the rest of the cash from Government to make the upgrade a reality. Work on platform 2 is now underway, and will be completed in a matter of months - meaning LNER Azuma trains will be rolling into the station from London in December.

I’ve backed the redevelopment of Darlington Station with £25million and got the Government to cough-up the remaining £80million. The redevelopment will create a new local station and train platforms, which will take the current two trains an hour across the region up to a possible eight trains an hour. And I’m improving stations in Hartlepool, Billingham, Egglescliffe, and at Teesside Airport as well.

A few years ago it seemed like the rest of the UK had written our region off. Since we started down the road to devolution and took more responsibility for our own destiny things have started to look up. When we shout about our region, rather than leaving it to London, our message gets through much clearer.