A councillor has questioned the selection of board members for new mayoral development corporations being set up in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough after Government approval.

Liberal Democrat Chris Jones said it was “all a little too cosy” and he was confused by the presence of Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner and the force’s Chief Constable Mark Webster on both.

The appointments process was led by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who will be granted new powers to transform both town centres, and signed off by cabinet members at Mr Houchen’s Tees Valley Combined Authority.

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Development corporations aim to regenerate designated areas, bringing land and buildings into effective use.

Last week Conservative Mr Houchen said “bold and ambitious” plans were in place to “supercharge” investment in both towns by slashing red tape and delivering faster on priorities.

He previously described how a lot of time and thought had been given to “appointing people from a range of backgrounds with the vision, ambition and experience necessary to…truly deliver on the huge opportunity we have”.

PCC Mr Turner will sit on the Hartlepool and Middlesbrough boards as a full member and be joined on both by Mr Webster and combined authority chief executive Julie Gilhespie as associate members.

Middlesbrough’s membership is made up of Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston, former Sabic Petrochemicals UK and Tees Valley LEP chair Paul Booth, BME Network CIC operations director Idrees Rashid and the town’s deputy Mayor Mieka Smiles. 

The Northern Echo: Steve Turner, Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner.Steve Turner, Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner. (Image: Stuart Boulton)

Hartlepool’s board will include independent Shane Moore, leader of Hartlepool Council, Learning Curve Group’s CEO Brenda McLeish OBE, the commercial director of construction firm Strabag Lisa Molloy, Orangebox Training Solutions’ CEO Simon Corbett and HMB accountants director Sarah Bedford.

Hartlepool Council managing director Denise McGuckin and Middlesbrough Council chief executive Tony Parkinson are also associate members on their respective town’s boards.
Everyone has been described as acting in a personal capacity.

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Cllr Jones, a former Cleveland PCC candidate, who is on Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “How are these board members decided?

“What is the process?

“It appears all a little too cosy in my opinion.

“Also why are the PCC and the chief constable stakeholders in these development corporations?

“Obviously their roles cover these geographical areas, but they are concerned with policing and should be prioritising their attention on getting that right, not development and regeneration.

“Cleveland remains in special measures and has among the highest rates of knife crime and violent crime in the UK.

“Neither of them also live in Middlesbrough or Hartlepool.”

The Northern Echo: Mark Webster, the chief constable of Cleveland Police.Mark Webster, the chief constable of Cleveland Police. (Image: LDR)

Mr Turner said that policing and crime reduction “doesn’t exist in a vacuum” and said enterprise and investment would create more job opportunities for young people, thus making the prospect of a life of crime less appealing.

He said: “I have always had an unwavering focus on making Cleveland a safer place by supporting Cleveland Police to be an efficient and effective police force and commissioning a range of services to reduce crime and support victims.

“The reality is that policing and crime reduction doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

“Worldwide research tells us crime prevention measures and redevelopment should go hand-in-hand to make public areas safer and deter criminals.

“I have been vocal about the role of development, enterprise and investment in improving the aspirations of young people and creating more job opportunities for Cleveland. 

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“This in turn makes the pull of crime and offending less appealing.

“If people believe my role on these boards involves anything other than championing the safety of Cleveland’s residents and advocating for measures to reduce crime, they are very wrong.”

Mr Webster said:  “My absolute priority is to make the local area safer for our communities and do everything I can to reduce the high levels of crime across Teesside.

“My role as an associate on the boards for the development corporations in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool is to offer expert advice to ensure that regeneration designs out crime at the outset.”

A TVCA spokesman said: “The appointments process was led by the mayor and all appointments for both mayoral development corporation boards were fully ratified by the TVCA cabinet in October.

“The inclusion of PCC Steve Turner and Chief Constable Mark Webster on the Middlesbrough MDC board is particularly important given the challenges faced in Middlesbrough town centre when it comes to levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in TS1.”

The spokesman said that any conflicts of interest that came up would be declared and signed by all members, and be published.

He said Mr Houchen would chair the boards and they would hold meetings in public.
Full members will have voting rights, with associate members acting in an advisory capacity without voting rights.

Mr Houchen, who has awarded £20m to the new bodies, which could be up and running by the end of March, said public consultations had shown great support and they would attract huge investment and make streets cleaner and safer.

But Middlesbrough MP, Labour’s Andy McDonald, said they would mean hundreds of millions of pounds worth of publicly-owned assets and democratic powers, such as control over planning, being transferred from local councils to “unelected, unaccountable” development corporation board members.


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Speaking in September, he described the development corporation plan for Middlesbrough as “insane” and said it could “cause damage felt in the town for generations to come”.

Mr Houchen already heads the South Tees Mayoral Development Corporation, the first one of its kind set up outside of London, which is tasked with regenerating the massive Teesworks site near Redcar.