A COUNCIL leader has hit back at criticism over a public consultation on plans for a combined Tees Valley authority.

The Northern Echo previously reported that a seven-week long consultation on a combined authority for Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Cleveland and Stockton on Tees brought 1,900 responses, of which 65 per cent were in favour of the proposal.

But critics have said that with a combined population of more than 650,000, the consultation was not representative, and an online petition was launched calling for the consultation to be run again.

Speaking at a recent meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet, council leader Bill Dixon defended the result and said: “There has been some comments on Facebook and other social media about the poor response to the consultation, but our response to the consultation was two or three times bigger than anybody else’s.

“This isn’t something that excites people. Let’s be honest, with the exception of the people around this table most people really don’t care as long as they are governed reasonably well.”

He told members that if the Tees Valley did not unite to create a combined authority, they would be forced to join another – either West Yorkshire or an authority to the north.

Those behind the proposed move say the combined authority – which will initially comprise the leaders and elected mayors from the five councils – will be able to take advantage of new powers and funding and better co-ordinate economic boosting activity.