MP Writes: A tribute to Bryan Hanson

I WAS sorry to read of the death this week of Bryan Hanson, former leader of Hartlepool Borough Council.

When he led the town Bryan provided the vision and drive which led to much of the regeneration of the marina and Hartlepool becoming a unitary authority.

For all the talk of a Tees Valley City Deal and however much we may sometimes benefit from joining together with neighbouring authorities, it is useful to remember Bryan’s achievement in getting rid of Cleveland County Council and that we as Hartlepool are geographically, culturally and socially independent and distinct from other areas and should remain so.

Bryan was as sharp as a pin and didn’t suffer fools gladly. Woe betide you if you went to see him and you weren’t clear or powerful in your argument.

His determination to make the town a better place for its residents was second to none and he had the political and administrative skills to make a difference and put those ambitions into practice.

Bryan and Gwynneth, his widow and a former Mayor of Hartlepool in her own right, were very helpful to me as a young and idealist activist, and in my early days as MP were approachable and wise in their counsel. When they retired to Northumberland I missed going to Grantham Avenue for a cup of tea and seeking their opinions on things.

I have the greatest respect for Bryan as a wise and determined public servant for Hartlepool.

I understand, at the time of writing this, that Bryan will be laid to rest in Shilbottle. I do hope, however, that we as a town will have the opportunity to express our thanks and loss at some point in the future with a civic memorial service. My deepest sympathies to Gwynneth and the rest of his family.

I’m thinking of what Bryan would make of the announcement this week that the Government has awarded City Deal status to the Tees Valley.

This does not mean that Hartlepool will have to be part of some sort of Tees Valley metropolitan authority. That is not something I would be in favour of.

However, I am keen for us to make partnerships and collaborate with neighbouring areas when it is in our economic interests to do so.

Our area as a whole has a great deal to offer, particularly in sectors like advanced manufacturing and engineering, chemicals and the process industries and low carbon and energy.

I would support initiatives which would allow us to fulfil our potential as a leading centre for manufacturing and engineering.

Anything which improves our economic and employment prospects – especially 24 hours after the bleak news which showed that the town’s jobless rate has increased again, by 4.5 per cent in a single month – must be welcomed.

For a government which has turned its back on the region, any deal which allows us greater control and flexibility over budgets on training skills and transport must also be a good thing.

However, there is no new money involved with City Deal and – in my eyes – the increased freedoms, powers and responsibilities promised by Whitehall seem somewhat hazy and ambiguous.

In this case, I think the wisdom and scepticism of a Bryan Hanson is required.