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See the whole debate

Duncan Leatherdale

BBC News Online

Thanks for joining us this morning. That's the end of our re-cap of the Tees Valley mayoral debate staged yesterday evening and broadcast on BBC One.

The election will be held on 4 May.

The full debate is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer and on BBC Tees.


Jeffrey: 'I know my community'

Sue Jeffrey said her role as leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and work as a housing professional responsible for regeneration and development qualified her to be mayor.

She said: "I'm a resident of South Bank, I know about and work in my community. And I'm a mum and granny, of which I am very proud."


Ms Jeffrey also dismissed fears the Tees Valley could become a "Labour cabal" if she were elected.

She said: "It is about a partnership of local authorities, businesses and the people of Tees Valley standing together and fighting for the area. That's what I'm standing for."

Foote Wood: 'We need all-party support'

Chris Foote Wood said he is "not a modest guy" and knows his capabilities, adding he was the best-qualified candidate.

He said he has been a council leader and knows the importance of all political parties working together.


The Liberal Democrat said there is a heavy Labour presence in the North East and he believes a Labour mayor would be the equivalent of a "one-party state".

Mr Foote Wood said: "To be successful, this needs to be run on an all-party basis."

Tennant: 'I am the turkey voting for Christmas'

John Tennant said he understands most "ordinary people" do not like the Tees Valley Combined Authority and do not want a mayor.

He said his party, UKIP, promised the people an EU referendum and "we can do it again" in relation to the mayoral role.

Mr Tennant said: "I have been involved in UKIP for a long time and we have always been turkeys voting for Christmas."


Houchen: 'I know what is happening'

Ben Houchen said he has "a lot of experience" as leader of the Conservative group on Stockton Borough Council.

He said he knows the pressures councils face and the opportunities available to them.

Mr Houchen said he has also started his own company, which now employs more than 20 people, and he used to be a solicitor so saw the social problems faced by his clients.

He said: "I've got both the public and private experience of what is happening."


Question seven: Why are you best for the job?

The seventh and final question comes from Vic Walkington, who asked the candidates: "This is a new role that carries a lot of responsibility. What experience do you have that makes you best suited for this job?"

The panel

Foote Wood: 'Cheaper to renovate than build'

Chris Foote Wood said he would want to emphasize renewing houses and "bring them up to modern standards" rather than building new ones.

He said: "It's almost always better instead of knocking a house down to renovate it. It costs less and keeps people together."

Mr Foote Wood also said "clearing slums" means breaking up communities.

He said: "Let's keep the communities together by making sure housing is brought up to modern standards."

Tennant: 'Renovate empty houses'

John Tennant said he would want to see empty houses being brought back into use.

He said that would solve some social housing problems and help people get on to the housing ladder.

Houchen: 'Let's build a new town'

Ben Houchen said he would want to build a "new town" in the area, which he would ask the combined authority to find viable sites for, as well as more affordable housing.

He also said a proper local plan for the area needs to be drawn up to stop "towns being attacked by ad-hoc planning applications by developers".

Mr Houchen added he would want to secure additional funding to "bring back into use brownfield sites".

Jeffrey: 'Put the heart back into communities'

Sue Jeffrey said housing areas need to be regenerated, which means investing money.

She said: "It can't just be about building houses on greenfield sites. It's about putting the heart back into communities."

"We need money going into proper regeneration."

Question six: How will you improve homes?

Question six comes from Yvonne Richardson, who is retired.

Ms Richardson said: "Much of our older local housing stock is being bought up by profit-obsessed private landlords who have no interest in the community and don’t carry out repairs. 

"What will you do to tackle this and ensure investment goes into our homes?"


'Transport services need to connect'

Another man in the audience said connections between trains and buses need to be radically improved.

He said: "I take the train every day from Saltburn to Middlesbrough for work. The trains are frequently late and were built when I was six, which is about 30 years ago.

"There are no connections between train companies and buses."

John Tennant said services should be integrated, while Chris Foote Wood said he is old enough to have a free bus pass which he uses frequently - but it is "no good if there are no buses".

'Airport shambles proves devolution need'

The audience has been having its say again and feelings are obviously running high about Durham Tees Valley Airport.

One man said getting permission for the homes has made the land more valuable and queried how a business could be persuaded not to submit further applications for housing which would be worth more.

Another said: "The shambolic management of the airport is an example of why we need devolution."


A third man said with the case of the metro the mayoral candidates should be "careful what they wish for" as there might be enough money to keep the system maintained properly.

A woman from East Cleveland said too often issues of public transport are "being discussed by people who are not public transport users".

She said she relies on buses, but after 17:00 it is "extremely difficult to travel around on a bus" which is "fundamental to people's quality of life".

Jeffrey: 'Wouldn't pass airport cost on to taxpayer'

Sue Jeffrey said she would not buy the airport and instead would invest in it to improve services.

She said: "I wouldn't buy an airport that was losing £2m a year and pass that on to every single [taxpayer].

"I will invest in the airport and turn it into the thriving international gateway we should have in the Tees Valley to grow our economy. 

"I'm not doing Peel's job for them. I'm working in partnership with a major business."

She was questioned about her involvement with the board of the airport and though admitting she "had an interest to make it successful", she said she had no "influence" over Darlington Borough Council's decision to approve the construction of homes next to the facility.

Houchen: 'I would buy the airport'

Ben Houchen said his plan is to buy Durham Tees Valley Airport from its owners Peel Airports.

He said Peel are the "biggest problem" and their current plan only accounts for the next five years. He also said Peel, who claim they are losing £2.5m a year on the airport, were holding the five councils of the combined authority "to ransom" over pension payments which the authorites have agreed to cover.

The debate chairman, Richard Moss, said Peel had said they want to carry on running services at the airport and questioned Mr Houchen about how he would buy the airport from them.

Mr Houchen said a compulsory purchase would be a "last resort" but there are plenty of options available, for example "public private partnerships".

Question five: What about the airport?

Lee Kilcran, an environmental scientist and member of the North East Party, asked the candidates their fifth question.

He said: "In light of recent controversy surrounding Durham Tees Valley Airport, what would the candidates do to ensure a viable future for our local airport beyond 2021?"

Plans to build 350 new homes on land at the airport were recently given planning permission with the airport's owner saying they were losing £2.5m a year.


Jeffrey: 'Projects already under way'

Sue Jeffrey said several projects, such as improving freight rail links, are already under way thanks to the combined authority.

She said it was important to get "public transport right" and added she would look at improving bus services.

Ben Houchen said it was a "shocking idea" for the combined authority to be running a bus franchise.

Ms Jeffrey replied the authority would not run services but rather work with the bus companies to improve selected services - thereby "improving the local economy."

Tennant: 'A metro would improve the airport'

John Tennant also said he wants to create a metro system in the Tees Valley area.

He believes it could also improve the fortunes of Durham Tees Valley Airport - citing the impact the Tyne and Wear system has had on Newcastle Airport.

He said a metro has previously been costed at about £220m and he would ask government for the money.

Mr Tennant also said a metro system would boost job creation, adding: "We've got a captive workforce. We need a system to get them to work quickly."

Foote Wood: 'We need a bridge and metro'

Chris Foote Wood said he would want to create a metro system and a new road and rail bridge across the River Tees.

He said: "To get people moving around we need a metro, but we can't have one in the Tees Valley because the River Tees is in the way. 

"What we need is a link downstream. Let's have a road and rail link, a combined super bridge, and create a rail loop.

"The metro is essential for getting people around quickly, cheaply and easily." 

Question four: How will you improve transport?

The fourth question comes from Abbi Hunton, an engineering student who said she often comes across transport problems when traveling from Darlington to Newcastle University each day.

She said: "What plans do the candidates have for improving the local infrastructure and transport connections within the area?"

Duncan Leatherdale

'EU funds need to be distributed fairly'

Time for the audience again and several members said they feared the government would focus former EU funds on Southern England.

Sue Jeffrey said she would go to government with an investment plan and would ensure "fair distribution of those resources repatriated to our country".

Ben Houchen said it was British money, not EU funds, and the mayor would have to "walk into Whitehall" to seek funding. He also said if there were more Conservative councillors and MPs in the North East the region could be better represented in front of the government.


Jeffrey: 'Government should give £25m'

Sue Jeffrey said 45% of the Tees Valley Combined Authority's funds come from EU funding.

She said from 2019 - when the UK has left the EU - the government should give the authority, which is made up of the five councils of the Tees Valley area and would be headed by the mayor, an extra £25m per year to plug the gap.

Ms Jeffrey said: "I would hope that all the people on this panel would commit to ensuring the government gives us that extra."

Foote Wood: 'I would negotiate hard'

Mr Foote Wood said he wished to remain in the EU, but being a "democrat" he had to accept the UK had voted to leave so "we need to make the best of that situation".

He said: "We need to make sure that the European funding we previously got still comes to us from the government.

"That's something we need to negotiate hard and make sure we get, and I will."

Houchen: 'Become less reliant on funds'

Ben Houchen said the UK should create its own funding systems to replace the EU schemes.

He said: "Its all well and good giving, say, £100m to Europe to get half back with strings attached about how we can spend it. I would rather an elected government of the UK could make that decision."

He also said growing the local economy would reduce the area's reliance on such funds.

Tennant: 'EU funds are our money first'

John Tennant said the funding from the EU is "our money in the first place" and it would instead have to be sourced from the government.

Mr Tennant said: "The mayor is going to have to go to Westminster and fight and make the case to keep that funding going. It can be done. 

"We currently have a situation where the EU is telling us how to spend it. We won't have that problem any more."

Question three: What will you do for post-EU funding?

The third question comes from Jean Kaye, who is retired.

She asked the candidates: "Teesside has benefited immensely from EU funding. When this is no longer available, what plans do the candidates have to obtain alternative funding?"

Getty Images

'Who even wants a mayor?'

Time for the audience to have their say and one man raised the question of why the Tees Valley, which he said does not really exist as an entity, is getting a mayor.

He said: "About 14 years ago we had a referendum on a regional assembly. It was beaten by about 80 to 20. 

"Now we are having this (mayor) imposed upon us. This is a complete nonsense. Let the people have their say and I think you'll find it is overwhelmingly 'We don't want a mayor and this devolution'."


Houchen: 'Grow economy to grow jobs'

Ben Houchen said growing the economy would allow businesses to grow - thereby increasing their workforce and the support they can give to people trying to find employment, such as through apprenticeship schemes.

He said: "We need to create an environment in which businesses can grow to create those opportunities."

He added the government has supported workers from the former steelworks find new "albeit not always perfect" employment or start their own businesses.


Jeffrey: 'I will create 25,000 jobs'

Sue Jeffrey said she would create 25,000 jobs across the Tees Valley and has already identified sectors ready to take on more people.

She said: "I am convinced if we apply the right investment in the right places to those sectors the jobs will come."

Ms Jeffrey also said it was important to ensure proper training is on offer to help people get the newly created jobs.


She added the quality of jobs needs to be high and said though many of the former Redcar steelworkers have found other roles, the average wage in Redcar and Cleveland has dropped to the lowest in the region.

Ms Jeffrey said: "I want to address the types of jobs we are creating making sure they pay enough to bring a family up on."

Tennant: 'Infrastructure will bring jobs'

John Tennant said improving infrastructure will create jobs across the area.

He believes the private sector needs the public sector to improve transport systems.

Mr Tennant said: "We need a metro system in the Tees Valley."

He went on to add industry should be protected in what is a "strong industrial area".

John tennant

Foote Wood: 'Jobs is top priority'

Chris Foote Wood said the mayor's top priority will be to create employment in the Tees Valley.

He said: "The number one job for the mayor is to get the jobs."

He added improving infrastructure would aid job creation and said the mayor will have the power to improve training and adult skills as well as identify land for development to help businesses start up and grow.

Chris Foote Wood

Question two: What will you do about unemployment?

Question two was asked by Joel Mebara, an unemployed refugee living in Stockton who is undergoing training in order to find a job.

He asked the candidates: "With the Tees Valley region having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, what will you do to bring it down?"


Foote Wood: 'Steelworks urgency need'

Chris Foote Wood said more urgency is needed to rectify the Redcar steelworks site.

"That site has stood derelict for 18 months, nothing has happened," he told the debate audience.

"I would see the offical receiver (who controls the site) on day one to get things moving.  

"There are firms ready willing and able to move on to that site."

Tennant: 'Secure future for workers'

John Tennant said a clear-up is important, but added the priority "has to be to secure the future for the workers".

He said: "The way to secure the long-term jobs and future is to build an infrastucture that is needed. 

"We need to get the voluntary sector involved. There is a captive audience that is crying out for those jobs."

Jeffrey: 'We need to secure ownership'

Sue Jeffrey said the steelworks site is one of "international importance and needs redevelopment to bring jobs back".

She said ownership needs to be secured from the official receiver with work ongoing on that front as there are "interested parties that want to invest and create jobs on that site".

Houchen: 'Money to spend'

Ben Houchen said the Conservative government is "continuing to fund the upkeep of the site".

He also said a taskforce set up to help formers steelworkers find new jobs or set up businesses has "a big chunk of money still to spend".

Mr Houchen added a full plan is needed for the South Tees Development Corporation, which is "the key to the site".

Asked why the government could not just pay the estimated £1bn clean-up bill, he said the scale of the clean-up (and therefore overall cost) would depend on what the site was going to be used for - for example heavy industry or housing.

Question one: What is happening with steelworks site?

The first question for the candidates comes from Martin Blane, who had worked at the Redcar steelworks for 35 years before the site's closure in 2015.

He asked the mayoral hopefuls: "What is your plan for the steel site, what is the timescale and who will pay for the site clean-up?"

To read more on the steelworks and the clean up, click here.

Steelworks at Redcar
Getty Images

Your questions about the Tees Valley mayor

Over the past few weeks we have been asking for your questions about the Tees Valley mayor, some of which may well come up during the debate.

Click here to see some answers.

Duncan Leatherdale

Welcome to the debate

Duncan Leatherdale

BBC News Online

Good morning and welcome to our coverage of the Tees Valley Mayor debate, which was held on Thursday night.

The four candidates for the role answered questions from an 80-strong audience at the Macmillan Academy in Middlesbrough with the debate chaired by BBC Look North's political editor Richard Moss.

The candidates

The candidates are, in alphabetical order by surname, Chris Foote Wood for the Liberal Democrats, Ben Houchen for the Conservatives, Labour's Sue Jeffrey and John Tennant from UKIP.    

The debate was broadcast on BBC One at 22:45 on Thursday and is being aired on BBC Tees from 09:00 today.