Results of a probe into alleged corruption and wrongdoing at Teesworks are expected to be received within the next two weeks.

An investigation was launched following allegations of “industrial-scale corruption” at the freeport by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald. The claims have been strongly denied by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen who dared him to repeat them outside of parliament where he would not be protected against defamation claims.

Julie Gilhespie, Chief Executive of the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), told an Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Wednesday they had expected the report to be published by the end of October. However, they are now “hopeful” to be provided with the review “in the next week or two”, she said.The Northern Echo: Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen at the Teesworks site

Over 700 documents were provided to the panel, the meeting heard, and the process had been “much longer and more complicated” than anticipated. Questions had been raised on social media over the delay with one user on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, asking: “Whatever happened to Gove’s Inquiry and its report in Summer 2023 into TVCA and Teesworks? Waiting for the weather to improve?”

Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove appointed the panel to consider the allegations in June. Calls had been made for the investigation to be led by the National Audit Office (NAO), but Mr Gove rejected this in favour of appointing his own inquiry.

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he had always been in favour of an investigation being carried out by the NAO. Regarding the delays, he said: “The public wants answers as to what is going on. I do think that clearly there is a lot of detail involved and plenty for the inspectors to consider and I would rather they did an in-depth report.”

The Government previously stated it had seen no evidence of wrongdoing, corruption or illegality concerning the site. However Mr Houchen himself requested and welcomed a probe to “nip allegations of wrongdoing in the bud”.

Back in May, Mr Houchen said: “I look forward to the outcome, in due course, and will be making no further comment until the independent review has been completed, so to allow the independent body to carry out their work without influence or favour.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, committee member Cllr Steve Nelson asked about public money totalling £7,000 which was spent on legal advice from specialist lawyers. Ms Gilhespie said their concerns “which were held and remain to be held” related to reputation of the authority being damaged by allegations and whether they could take action to stop them being printed in the press.

“We went to the lawyers to ask whether or not that was possible,” she said. “The advice was, whilst it’s technically possible it’s very difficult to prove.”

She said it was then decided not to take action. Responding to a question on whether the external law advice was considered value for money, Emma Simson, legal officer at TVCA said: “With the greatest will in the world we’re not experts in every area of law – defamation is an extremely specialist area of law.

“I was asked the question, ‘I could have Googled it’. I suspect if I walked into Julie’s office and suggested that I think she might have marched me out of the door.

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“We took advice from professional lawyers specialising in this area as it is an extremely specialist area of law. It isn’t something I have got experience in and it’s not something any of our lawyers are experienced in.”

The Teesport project is aimed at regenerating Redcar ’s former SSI steelworks site and is led by Mr Houchen. Conservative Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke previously said Teesworks was “the biggest and best hope for Teesside in 50 years, adding: “This is what the Conservatives are fighting for, against a systematic attempt by local Labour MPs and councillors to wreck it with baseless allegations. I look forward to the independent report coming soon.”