Andy Preston has called on civil service jobs to be brought to Middlesbrough – warning that the wrong decision would represent “the biggest wasted opportunity Teesside has ever seen”.
It has long been rumoured that the government plans to move a department of the Treasury – run by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak – to the Tees Valley as part of their promise to “level up” and start to close the north-south divide.
But independent mayor Preston is concerned the government will move the new department to an out-of-town business park which he believes would do “nothing” for the region’s economy.
Instead, he wants prime minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to bring the civil service jobs to central Middlesbrough where they could have a “transformational” effect.
And he believes a new office development in the “magnificent” location by the town’s dock in Middlehaven could be created to host the civil servants – though he did not rule out Middlesbrough’s Centre Square, close to the Town Hall, Cleveland Centre and mima.
“I’m convinced the government’s getting ready to move civil service jobs out of London to Teesside,” said mayor Preston.
“That’s great – but if the government is serious about levelling up – and I believe they are – then they’ve got to do this intelligently, making sure that it actually makes a difference.
“If they get this right then the impact could be huge – generating a wall of additional money to create jobs, homes and futures.
“Placing the government jobs at the epicentre of Teesside – central Middlesbrough – is the only thing to do.
“This would lead to millions of pounds of extra investment and bring a vibrancy that would ripple out across the whole of Teesside.”
Mr Preston said that along with a ready-made high-quality office space in Middlesbrough’s Centre Square, there was also an option to build new offices alongside the town’s dock.
“New jobs are already coming to Centre Square and lawyers are finalising negotiations with several organisations who are getting ready to move in,” he said.
“This awesome location has more space – so we could quickly create exciting new buildings for a government department that’s finally heading north.
“But possibly the best opportunity for government relocation is at Middlesbrough dockside.
“This magnificent and central location is right on the A66 and a short walk to our main station with many direct trains to Manchester, Leeds and, from next year, London.
“This move would help bring an additional 200 beautiful apartments beside the dock – and kick start a rush of private investment and urban renaissance.”
Mr Preston warned chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose Richmond constituency includes Stokesley and Great Ayton, not to waste the opportunity to level up.
“The government mustn’t waste this opportunity to put right decades of neglect by Westminster,” he continued.
“They mustn’t transplant jobs to a business park on the outskirts of Teesside.
“That would do almost nothing for our economy – because jobs on business parks are filled by people who commute from miles away. These jobs bring almost no additional local spending.”
He added: “I’m calling on Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson and everyone in power to show real commitment to levelling up.
“Simply transplanting jobs to out-of-town sites will turn out to be the biggest wasted opportunity Teesside has ever seen.
“Bring the jobs to central Middlesbrough where they will genuinely transform our region.”