It’s just under a month before the polls open and votes are taken for the new elected mayor for the Tees Valley.
The aim of the Tees Valley Combined Authority is to move decision making away from Whitehall and Westminster to our region, with five key areas mapped out.
As part of the £450million deal signed with the Government, it was set out that an elected mayor, who would be held to account by the people, would be elected.
Andrew Lewis, managing director of the authority, called on residents to seize a unique chance to influence the future of their hometowns.
He said: “It’s time for Tees Valley to take control.
“The biggest decision yet is not for the Government to make, but for the people of Tees Valley.
It’s time for Tees Valley to take control.Andrew Lewis
“The new mayor will have powers to decide on issues that impact your daily life – from the buses and roads you use to get around to quality of homes available in your area.
“The decision on May 4 will resonate for many years to come and we need all those entitled to vote to say they were part of the process.
“The Government has agreed to give Tees Valley extra powers and funding, but to access them we must vote for a mayor who will be responsible for these actions.
“This is the first time that these issues will be decided in the Tees Valley.
“Now it’s over to you to decide your future.”
To help people find out more, a simple guide has been created in an animated form with the help of animation studio Animmersion UK Ltd.
For more details visit http://teesvalleymayor.co.uk/
When will the vote take place for the Tees Valley Mayor?
The election will take place on Thursday, May 4, with polling booths to welcome voters from 7am to 10pm.
Why are we having the election at all?
Back in October 2015, the Tees Valley signed a devolution deal with the Government, which will see more powers and control over cash transferred to our area.
In short, the agreement has led to the creation of the £450million Tees Valley Investment Fund, which will be used to grow the region’s economy.
As a condition of this, the Government said it would only agree to it if it elected a mayor, who would be held publicly accountable for decisions.
Tees Valley joins other areas which have also secured a devolution deal and will also elect a mayor on the same day - they include Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands.
But what is the Tees Valley?
The idea is that the term stretches further from Teesside to include Hartlepool, Cleveland and Darlington.
What system will be used to declare a winner?
Voters will be given the chance to give a first and second choice on their ballot paper - two candidates can be listed, not just the same person twice.
If only a second choice gets a cross, the vote will not be counted.
No second choice has to be given if a first choice is chosen.
If a candidate gets more than half of all of the first choice votes, they will be pronounced the winner and elected the Tees Valley Mayor for the next three years.
If no candidate gets more than half of the first choice votes, the two candidates with the most first choices, or three or more candidates if there is an equality of votes, will go into a second round. All other candidates are eliminated.
The eliminated candidates’ ballot papers are reviewed and any second choice votes for the remaining candidates are added to their totals.
The candidate with the highest number of combined first and second choice votes is elected mayor.
Once elected, what will the mayor be responsible for?
The mayor will represent the residents of Hartlepool, along with Stockton, Darlington, Middlesbrough, and Redcar and Cleveland and work alongside their councils to improve the area’s economy.
They will also aim to bring in new investment and create more jobs.
What will happen to our councils?
There will be no changes to our local authority, or those elsewhere in the area.
Councils will continue to be responsible for children’s services, social care, bin collections, libraries and street cleaning among other things.
So what will the Tees Valley Combined Authority be in charge of?
The team behind it say new organisation will focus its efforts on boosting the area’s economic growth, with its powers to come from central Government, not from the councils.
The mayor will oversee it as its chairman, but it will work in partnership with the councils and alongside the business community among others.
What areas will the mayor hold an influence over?
Among the powers they will hold will be control of a new £15million a year funding allocation over 30 years and extending high-speed broadband.
A list of five priorities have also been drawn up:
*Transport - improving the train services by having more, faster and better trains and stations in the area. They will also work to support better bus services and invest in the road network and railways.
*Homes and communities - more investment in quality homes and support the creation of successful, vibrant communities.
*Culture and tourism - promote the Tees Valley as a great place to live, work and invest through its cultural institutions and events.
*Skills and education - they will encourage more apprenticeships, improve education for young people and adults and help people secure good quality jobs.
*Business growth and investment - the aim is to support businesses to help them grow, bring in new companies to the area, revitalise our town centres and industrial areas, encourage innovation, reduce carbon usage and new energy.
*Devolution - the mayor will be tasked with securing a better deal from central Government, ensure the area has a strong voice and make more decisions here, not in London.
And how much more is this going to cost us?
The authority, which was created a year ago, has said the devolution deal will bring in new funding.
The costs of the mayor will be met through this cash, without any additional cost to the council taxpayers.
The mayor will also be supported by the authority from ‘established budgets’ and the mayors allowance will be set out by an independent panel.
Is it going to add another level of bureaucracy?
According to the authority, it will no so, with the transfer of decision making here to our region, rather than in Government departments in London.
Who can I vote for?
Here are the candidates running in the election:
Chris Foote Wood, Liberal Democrat - find out more via https://www.facebook.com/chris4teesmayor/
Ben Houchen, Conservative Party - follow him on Twitter via @BenHouchen
Sue Jeffrey, Labour and Co-operative Party - details are available via https://www.facebook.com/sue4teesvalley/
John Tennant, UK Independence Party - follow him on Twitter via @johnukip.
So, how do I vote?
If you have not yet registered to vote then visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or contact Electoral Services at Hartlepool Borough Council on (01429) 266522.
The deadline for registration is next Thursday, April 13, and to register the service will need to know your date of birth and National Insurance number.
Once registered you will be sent a poll card before polling day, which will include details of where your polling station is.
You do not need to take the poll card with you to vote - unless you are an anonymous elector - but it will help staff.
You can only vote at the polling station stated on this card.
Can I just do it through the post?
If you’re a registered postal voter, a ballot paper will be sent out by Tuesday, April 18, but if you haven’t received it by Thursday, April 27, contact Electoral Services before polling day.
It must be returned to the electoral registration office by 10pm on May 4 in the envelope provided, or at a polling station on the day.
If you can’t vote in person, you can apply to have someone vote on your behalf - known as a proxy vote - but make sure they know which candidate you wish to vote for.
If you want to do this, download a form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk, complete it fully and return it to Electoral Services at the council.
New applications for a postal vote must be returned to your electoral registration office by 5pm on Tuesday, April 18, and new applications for a proxy vote by 5pm on Tuesday, April 25.
Additional support is available through tactile voting devices and large print paper versions of the ballot papers at all polling stations to help people with visual impairments.