Councillors were banned from asking questions about the upcoming Tees Valley mayoral election at a council meeting.

Darlington Conservative members were warned by the town’s mayor not to reference the vote after questioning the political motives of Chris McEwan, Labour’s candidate for the role. 

The order came at Thursday’s full council meeting after Cllr Jonathan Dulston, leader of the Conservatives, accused Cllr McEwan of asking local businessman Martin Corney to personally endorse his mayoral campaign. 

The developer is linked to the Skerningham Garden Village and Teesworks developments, but has faced criticism for his role and links to incumbent mayor Lord Houchen. 

Cllr McEwan denied the claim, saying: “I don’t think I have ever asked Martin Corney to endorse me."

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley mayor Lord Houchen (left) with Martin Corney (second left) at the Teesworks site Tees Valley mayor Lord Houchen (left) with Martin Corney (second left) at the Teesworks site (Image: The Northern Echo)

The cabinet member for economy also told the meeting: “Teesside Airport is safe in my hands” after a question from the Conservatives about previous plans for housing near the site.

In 2015 the then Labour-run Darlington Council - when Cllr McEwan was cabinet member for economy and regeneration - was in favour of selling the land at the airport, which was owned by Peel at the time.

The plan would have seen 350 homes built at the airport, with suggestions it would eventually close in 2021. But the airport returned to public ownership in 2019 following Lord Houchen's election victory two years earlier. 

Labour councillors hit back to criticise the Tories during the meeting, describing the claim as a “significant allegation” and questioned whether the party was in breach of pre-election campaign rules. 

The clash led mayor Jan Cossins to declare: “No more mention of the mayoral campaign.” 

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Following the meeting, Cllr McEwan added: “The Conservative councillors had an opportunity to ask me meaningful questions about growing the economy, instead they chose political grandstanding.” 

Voters will go to the polls on May 2 to decide who will be elected into office and in charge of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which covers Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, and Redcar and Cleveland. 

Cllr McEwan is up against Lord Houchen, Conservative; Simon Thorley, Liberal Democrat; and Sally Bunce, Green Party.