The Liberal Democrats have announced their candidate to stand against the incumbent Ben Houchen, Labour's Chris McEwan and the Green's Sally Bunce in the Tees Valley Mayor election.

Simon Thorley, a Darlington businessman, is pledging to end the "obvious nonsense and incompetence" he believes surrounds the role.

He will be running against the Conservative candidate Lord Houchen, Labour candidate Chris McEwan and Green candidate Sally Bunce to gain the most votes on May 2.

Mr Thorley has pledged a "London-style" system of flat fares on buses, reforming adult education policy and protecting green spaces.

The Lib Dem candidate will also be standing in the upcoming general election for the seat in Darlington.

He said: "The people of the Tees Valley have been taken for fools by a Conservative-led and Labour-supported combined authority ever since its creation in 2017.

"I’m both a born and bred Darlingtonian, and a local businessman. I know that the region has massive unrealised potential.

"Ben Houchen is not corrupt. He is incompetent. No vaguely competent mayor would have signed the deals with private sector partners which he has. They are jaw-droppingly bad value for money.

"Private joint venture partners are raking in hundreds of millions in risk-free profits, while the taxpayer accumulates huge liabilities. In the private sector, he’d have been sacked years ago.

"My promise is simple: no more ridiculous nonsense, such as building five town-centre ‘tram’ systems within two years for just £20m, or constructing a new hospital despite the mayor not having the power to do so. No more inflated or downright imaginary job creation figures.

"A vote for me is a vote to end the joint ventures, which represent nothing more than the public sector taking on the risk and the private sector taking the profits.

"It is a vote for investment in buses: a London-style system of flat fares, automatic capping and unlimited changes within an hour.

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"A vote for an adult education policy that recognises that our long-term prosperity rests primarily on services, not manufacturing or construction.

"A vote for an environmental policy that places the protection of our green spaces and coastal habitats above short-term commercial considerations.

"Enough obvious nonsense: honest and accountable administration is what I’ll deliver."

Incumbent mayor Ben Houchen will be hoping to be re-elected for a third term in office.

In March 2023, he was reselected to stand and has reaffirmed his commitment to the role.

Labour's candidate Chris McEwan was formally selected in November 2023 and Sally Bunce was selected as the Green Party candidate in December.