A Hartlepool UKIP councillor is standing for election to become the first Tees Valley mayor.
Borough councillor John Tennant, 30, is the party’s chosen candidate for the newly created role which will see voters go to the polls on May 4.
Despite saying he believes Tees Valley Combined Authority will dilute the power of local councils in future, Coun Tennant says he wants to be part of it to help steer economic regeneration.
He says he would back a new Tees Metro rail system.
Explaining his choice to stand, Coun Tennant, who is UKIP group leader on Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “Crucially, we need to have a voice for those who on the one hand are ambivalent about whether the Tees Valley Combined Authority is going to be something that works for the area, but also highlight the importance of regeneration and economic growth for the area.
“No doubt the Tees Valley has a lot of potential for economic growth that is not being tapped into.”
Why not have someone who’s going to fight to make sure it is a cost effective organisation and try to build some kind of public understanding of what it’s all about?Councillor John Tennant
At a Hartlepool council meeting in November, Coun Tennant warned the combined authority “could actually one day replace local councils and dilute connections between local councillors and their ward residents”.
He said he still stands by that view, but added: “This is happening now and to sit back and argue about it isn’t going to do anything.
“Why not have someone who’s going to fight to make sure it is a cost effective organisation and try to build some kind of public understanding of what it’s all about?”
The Jesmond ward councillor said there are many existing lines and stations that can be a part of any new light rail system.
He added: “Teesside airport is one such example of the potential for this region, the problem is it suffers the lack of accessibility for passengers and staff, if this were improved by the introduction of a light rail system, Teesside airport would see better investment from the private sector and residents may not have to travel to Heathrow or Newcastle to go abroad.
“It is important to consider all possibilities to drive economic growth in Teesside, a Metro system in Tyne and Wear has greatly improved prospects for residents to be able to commute to work in different towns and why should Teesside be any different?”
Coun Tennant will be up against Conservative candidate Ben Houchen, Labour’s Sue Jeffrey, and John Tait of the North East Party.