The elected mayor behind the Teesworks scheme has said an official report “sets out in black and white” that there is no corruption or illegality linked to the project.

But the long-awaited 97-page report into Teesworks – one of Europe’s biggest brownfield regeneration sites – did criticise its governance and transparency and found that some decisions were not of a high enough standard when managing public money.

The development scheme, driven by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, was subject to an inquiry by three senior local authority officers, ordered by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.

Their report, published on Monday, stated: “We have found no evidence to support allegations of corruption or illegality.

“However, there are issues of governance and transparency that need to be addressed and a number of decisions taken by the bodies involved do not meet the standards expected when managing public funds.”

Lord Houchen said: “The people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool can welcome this investigation, which sets out in black and white that there is no corruption or illegality at Teesworks.

“The investigation was thorough, wide-ranging and detailed.”

He welcomed the inquiry’s recommendations on transparency and said he would work to make improvements.

Lord Houchen said the inquiry had recognised that working with private partners in a joint venture had been necessary for the scheme to progress.

“Without this partnership, the former steelworks would still be sat idle, costing the taxpayer £20 million a year to stand still, with no investment and not a single job in sight,” he said.

“It also dispels the myth that we sold the land for just £1, with the panel confirming the deal was actually worth £39 million to the taxpayer.”

Concerns about the Teesworks project were previously raised by Middlesbrough’s Labour MP Andy McDonald in the Commons, who alleged “truly shocking, industrial-scale corruption” related to the scheme.

Lord Houchen accused Mr McDonald of lying in Parliament “in an attempt to sabotage the opportunities we’ve worked so hard to deliver, which has caused significant damage to investment, me personally, my organisation, and most importantly Teesside, and the opportunities of hard-working local people”.

“However, we are now in a position where a huge demolition programme has been completed, construction is under way on major projects and we are building a new future in industries such as steel, green energy and carbon capture,” he said.

“I will continue to focus all of my efforts on delivering investment, creating jobs for local people and creating opportunities for our community – and I’ll continue to build on the 9,000 jobs that we’ve already created to keep moving forward with transforming our region for generations to come.”

The panel investigating stated they had faced “challenges” in accessing information and that the level of transparency had not always met the standard appropriate for a publicly funded project of this scale.

The 96-page document has been researched and written over seven months by three independent council officers after allegations of corruption and cronyism.

It recognises the scale of the project as "one of, if not the largest, brownfield remediation projects in Europe".

However, the investigation did find that there were "issues with governance and transparency that need to be addressed".

It includes 28 recommendations that encourage strengthening governance, transparency and oversight.

The report outlined what has been delivered by the Teesworks project to date such as "£560m of resources, including £246m in government grants and £257m in borrowing."

Meanwhile, the project has delivered 17% of the land under contract with a further 40% at Heads of Terms, 940 construction jobs with a further 1,950 recently announced, 2,295 direct and 3,890 indirect jobs created once sites operational, 450 acres of land remediated or in remediation, £1.3bn business rate income potential over the next 40 years with a further £1.4bn at Heads of Terms and a new 450m Quay.

Labour party MPs in the region have called for an inquiry into the project by the National Audit Office.

Chris McEwan, Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley said: "It’s hard to see just why this report is nearly 7 months late. There are simply no answers to some of the key questions which people on Teesside deserve.

"What this report does show however, are serious failings in transparency and accountability and value for money for people of the Tees Valley and it is absolutely vital that Lord Houchen adopt what recommendations are made by the report.

"This site has the potential to transform our region and change the lives of everyone in it. It is their money at risk here, not that of private developers.

"This report just underlines the need for proper governance structures and an overhaul of leadership in the Mayor’s Office, STDC and Teesworks."

Angela Rayner MP, Labour's Deputy Leader and Shadow Levelling Up Secretary responding to the government’s review of the Teesworks site, said: "This long-delayed report provides a scathing assessment of Conservative mayor Ben Houchen’s mismanagement and bad governance at Teesworks.  

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"It’s delivered such poor value for money for taxpayers that it is no wonder the Tory government wanted to bury it. Michael Gove must finally take responsibility and urgently refer this case to the National Audit Office. 
"Many questions remain and people on Teesside deserve answers. It is their money at risk here, not that of private developers.
"The steelworks are part of the civic inheritance for people on Teesside and have transformative potential, but taxpayers now need to see real action and change to ensure this Tory saga is never repeated."