Government not following through on the Heseltine report, says MP

Tom Blenkinsop MP in the chamber

Tees MP Tom Blenkinsop has questioned ministers on their seeming lack of response to the Heseltine report.

The publication in June of Lord Heseltine’s report, ‘Tees Valley: Opportunity Unlimited’, was welcomed by business leaders and others in Teesside.

However, as of yet many of the report’s recommendations are yet to be acted on by government.

In his report, Lord Heseltine wrote “the Tees Valley has an exciting future and that it should be helped to assert its own character and personality”.

Within days of publication the government ruled out electrifying the Northallerton to Teesport rail line, a key transport recommendation in the report, at least until after 2022.

Other recommendations, from setting out a new approach for a local energy industry to rolling out a scheme for attracting talent teachers to Teesside are also yet to be acted on.

Last month Lord Heseltine himself appeared to draw back from his recommendation that central government meet the costs of the SSI clean in an interview with BBC1’s Inside Out programme, after it emerged the bill may run to £1 billion.

Mr Blenkinsop, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, asked the new Northern Powerhouse Andrew Percy about the apparent lack of action following Lord Heseltine’s report.

Mr Percy said the recommendations highlighted would be implemented in the “near future”, and work to do so had already begun.

Mr Blenkinsop said: “As I warned at the time of the report, there is a real danger that the report’s recommendations are just ignored by government. There are no guarantees and it’s up to Teesside MPs to push ministers to act.

“The new Northern Powerhouse minister seems more willing to listen and work towards meeting the government’s previous pledges and Lord Heseltine’s recommendations.

“I welcome the funding given the Tees Valley, but the minister is wrong if he thinks the recommendations are being followed through.

“The National Teaching Service has not yet been rolled out in Teesside, the government has not yet developed a new plan for Carbon Capture and Storage – which has a lot of potential in the Tees Valley – and Lord Heseltine has himself cast doubt on whether the government will fully fund the SSI clear up operation.

“I hope the minister is right and all these commitments will eventually be met. I will keep raising these issues in parliament to make sure they are.”

 

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