Tory leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak pledged his continued support for the Tees Valley this morning during a visit the region.

Fresh from last night’s combative televised debate with rival contenders, the former chancellor was at the Teesside Freeport, near Redcar, meeting campaigners

He is up against Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat following confirmation Boris Johnson is to step down with his successor to be announced on September 5.

Mr Sunak, the MP for North Yorkshire, said: “This campaign is about more than who will be the leader of our next Government - it’s about who can bring our country together.

“We have been through a lot over the past few years, but there are more challenges to come.

“I believe I’m the candidate who can do that, bring opportunity and prosperity in northern powerhouses like Teesside, and restore trust in Government, so we can rebuild our economy together.”

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak at Teesside Freeport. Picture: PARishi Sunak at Teesside Freeport. Picture: PA

Mr Sunak pledged to ensure that the north remains at the forefront of Government thinking.

He said: "I was the most northern chancellor for my party since the second world war and my constituency is 20 minutes down the road.

“I think I understand better than anyone in this race the importance of delivering for the north, at a very personal and emotional level.

“My kids are at Jump 360 or the cinema or the drive thru Five Guys. This is my home so of course I am going to deliver for it and look at what I have already done.”

As chancellor, he opened the first ever Treasury campus outside of London in Darlington; championed the creation of freeports, including Teesside; and, was also responsible for the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund.

If he is made Prime Minister, Mr Sunak has said he will:

●      Retain a Cabinet-level Secretary of State responsible for levelling up

●      Ensure that every part of England that wants a devolution deal gets one

●      Give Mayoral Combined Authorities greater flexibility on Business Rates

●      Look further at the devolution of post-16 education

●      Ensure the Treasury delivers on levelling up, keeping the Green Book under review (i.e. the Treasury’s guidance on how to evaluate policies, projects and programmes)

●      Work with local leaders on the future of transport investments, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, which have the potential to deliver new capacity and faster journey times.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak with Mayor Ben Houchen and his supporters. Picture: PARishi Sunak with Mayor Ben Houchen and his supporters. Picture: PA

During the visit Ben Houchen, the Mayor of the Tees Valley, gave his backing to Mr Sunak’s campaign.

Earlier this week Mayor Houchen wrote to all the leadership candidates asking them to sign up to his plan for the region.

Mayor Houchen said: “Rishi has long been a friend of the north, and has a record of delivery for the region.

“I am delighted to give him my backing to become the leader of our Party and the next Prime Minister of our great nation.

“During his time in Government, Rishi showed unwavering support for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“As Chancellor, he played a huge role in the transformation of our region. The relocation of civil service jobs from London to Darlington is giving local people the opportunity to forge rewarding careers in the heart of Government, without having to leave the place they call home.

“The introduction of freeports also allowed us to set up the Teesside Freeport, the biggest and first operational freeport in the UK.

“This has enabled us to attract billions of pounds worth of investment, and create thousands of jobs for local workers.”

Read more: Pupils evacuated from coach after fire breaks out during school trip


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