Mayor of Tees Valley Ben Houchen: Investments giving Hartlepool a proud future

Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) is now officially The Northern School of Art.
Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) is now officially The Northern School of Art.

When I was fortunate enough to be elected Mayor of the Tees Valley, I pledged to ensure all of the region benefited – including Hartlepool.

My priority is, and will always be, to build a high growth, high wage, low welfare economy.

To make this happen, we have a nearly £500million devolved pot to invest in local priorities. Because I’m elected by local people, you now have a say who controls this fund, as I’m accountable to you.

Since 2017 we’ve invested over £14million in Hartlepool, more than any other Tees Valley region, and have a project pipeline worth £39million.

These investments aren’t just a sticking plaster or lick of paint, they are delivering real change. Take our £4.3million funding for the Northern School of Art, which I know will always be CCAD to many in the town. This, coupled with £5million to completely revamp Hartlepool centre’s Church Street, is driving a thriving, vibrant creative industries cluster.

Transport has also received increased investment in the past year. Hartlepool residents deserve the best links for commuting, daily life and exploring our region. A strong economy is also dependent on strong transport links.

That’s why our £4million investment in the new Elwick bypass is critical. This will not only make getting around safer and quicker but will also unlock the building of around 1,500 sustainable homes and help drive £200million of private investment into the area.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of our economy and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting some amazing, innovative Hartlepool companies. These include Merlin Flex, based in the town for over 30 years, which makes flexible circuit boards for the Brimstone missile and Jenson Button’s steering wheel. Or JDR Cables that designs, engineers and manufactures high capacity subsea power cables.

As we prepare to leave the EU, I’ve made clear in meetings with ministers and Whitehall officials that those I represent will not accept a partial Brexit, half-Brexit, or a soft Brexit, leaving us subject to Brussels rule. We voted to free our country from the declining EU trade bloc, for a Global Britain to unlock international trade opportunities and the jobs these will bring for future generations.

Those jobs, either unlocked by leaving the EU or through inward investment, must benefit local people. For decades, some companies have taken the easy way out, bringing in cheap labour to fill demand. Whatever the final deal with the EU, one thing is clear – it must not prioritise EU citizens over the people of Hartlepool when it comes to jobs.

Hartlepool has a proud history and I can say that, with the investments we’ve made and the opportunities on offer, it has a proud future as well.