Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has responded to the Government to set out how recommendations laid out in an independent Tees Valley Review report are to be implemented.

The review was established by the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities following claims of corruption made in Parliament and the media about the redevelopment of the Teesworks site.

The report, published in January, found no evidence of corruption or illegality in respect of Teesworks Ltd, the Teesworks Joint Venture Partners, the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) or Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).

But the 97-page report did criticise its governance and transparency and found that some decisions were not of a high enough standard when managing public money, prompting one MP to urge him to 'get his head out of the sand'.

Get more from The Northern Echo and stay informed with subscription now available on special offer for two months for just £2. Click here 

The Northern Echo: Ben HouchenBen Houchen (Image: Contributor)Mr Houchen has now written to the Secretary of State Michael Gove to provide the reply and confirm the process, which was agreed by the five council leaders who sit on the TVCA cabinet, and Siobhan McArdle as Tees Valley Business Board chairperson.

He said: “While we were vindicated by this report and it made clear that there was no wrongdoing at Teesworks, we recognise and welcome the recommendations it made so we can continue to improve our processes.

“We have been clear that we will work quickly and effectively to deliver on these, which will provide a firm basis for future governance and transparency procedures.

“We have worked closely with officers and elected members from the five local authorities to ensure a co-ordinated and robust process is now in place and I look forward to working with them to move this forward at pace.” 

The report contained a series of recommendations to further strengthen governance and improve transparency at the Combined Authority, with Mr Gove requesting a reply by March 8.

A working group made up of statutory officers from all five constituent authorities, including their chief executives, monitoring officers and chief financial officers, has now been established and has held its first meeting.

It will consider and agree on an action plan for the implementation of the review recommendations.

An STDC board sponsor has also been appointed, who will provide feedback on proposals as they progress on behalf of the Development Corporation.

Most read:

Once completed, the action plan, together with the revised governance arrangements and constitutions, will be submitted to the Combined Authority Cabinet and STDC Board for approval.

The amendments will be incorporated into the processes and documentation of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough Development Corporations to ensure best practice is consistent across all regional statutory bodies.

The Mayor is also inviting the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny to consider the scrutiny arrangements and undertake training for officers and statutory committee members.

The Local Government Association will also be invited to deliver workshops with Cabinet and senior officers within TVCA, STDC and Local Authorities to ensure independent rigour is applied to the implementation of the recommendations.

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo: Alex CunninghamAlex Cunningham (Image: Contributor)But Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, said the report, with its 28 recommendations for change, was "nothing for Mr Houchen to celebrate’"

He said: “He has been told in no uncertain terms that he has failed in everything from good governance and failure to provide his own board with appropriate information to aid decisions, to value for money and the need to review the Teesworks share agreement which has already made his private sector partners tens of millions of pounds in profit despite investing nothing.

“He even cancelled his cabinet meeting, stopping members from questioning his role in this monumental mess.  

“It's time the Tees Tory Mayor got his head out of the sand and faced up to the fact his own Government recognises his way of doing business is far from satisfactory."