Proposals for a Tees Valley Combined Authority have entered its next key phase after public consultation backed the idea.
The aim of a Combined Authority would be to help boost economic growth and job creation in Tees Valley.
And in recent consultation with local people, businesses and others, which produced an excellent response, around two-thirds of respondees agreed with the setting up of a Combined Authority.
Creating a Combined Authority does not mean that the five councils are merging to create one big council.
The plan would see the councils continuing to exist in their own right delivering local services but unite as a formal Tees Valley Combined Authority when focusing on economic development, transport, infrastructure and skills. The new body could also unlock devolved powers and resources from Government.
The consultation’s conclusions of strong support for the Combined Authority will shortly be reported back to each of the five councils.
With feedback being supportive, each Borough Council will be asked to approve a scheme to be submitted to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon said: “A Combined Authority approach is not a silver bullet for all the challenges we face, but it has the potential to create greater devolution.
“A strong single voice is essential if we are to advance the Tees area agenda on key strategic issues such as transport, employment and in the skills agenda which are crucial to economic growth.”
Cllr Christopher Akers-Belcher, Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “A Combined Authority would provide an opportunity to build on the excellent working arrangements that already exist between the five Tees Valley councils and businesses.
“It will enable the Tees Valley to have more influence on national policies and help attract much-needed funding to improve the area and create jobs.”
Cllr George Dunning, Leader of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, said: “The positive feedback we have received from the consultation exercise will be considered by all five councils before any final submission to Government. One of the aims of a Combined Authority will be to make the best use of any powers that are devolved from Whitehall.”
Cllr Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton Council, said: “A Combined Authority will help Tees Valley maximise its competitive edge and allow the area to sustain the impetus needed to guarantee its future economic prosperity.”
Sandy Anderson, Chairman of Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU), the Local Enterprise Partnership for Tees Valley, added: “We welcome the successful completion of the consultation phase of the process to establish a Combined Authority.
“TVU is committed to a Combined Authority which would prioritise economic development and enhance the already successful private and public sector leadership in Tees Valley.”
The Government will carry out its own consultation before placing an ‘Order’ before both Houses of Parliament.
Due to May’s General Election, it is likely that the earliest chance to have an Order approved before both Houses of Parliament will be the Autumn.
The consultation attracted more than 1,900 responses with 65 percent in favour of the establishment of a Combined Authority.