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Hustings event places Tees Valley businesses at centre of mayoral election

27 Mar 2024
Mayoral candidates attend hustings at Middlesbrough College

The North East’s leading business representative bodies brought together companies from across Tees Valley yesterday (26 March) to hear from mayoral hopefuls about their vision for 2030 and beyond.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), brought together over 120 business leaders from across Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees to hear from the confirmed candidates in advance of the region’s important mayoral elections on 2 May.

The hustings, an event where all political candidates from mainstream parties are invited to outline their priorities if elected, was held at Middlesborough College. Independently chaired and moderated by Tom Sheldrick, political correspondent for ITV Tyne Tees and Border, the audience heard from the candidates Sally Bunce (Green Party); Ben Houchen (Conservative and incumbent); Chris McEwan (Labour); and Simon Thorley (Liberal Democrat) on their ambitions for Darlington, Hartlepool and Teesside.

Candidates outlined their ambitions in areas including job creation and adult skills, inward investment, economic regeneration and inclusive economic growth, as well as important areas of challenge such child poverty. They were also given the opportunity to describe their vision for the economy of the area in 2030 and the main policies, programmes and actions they would put in place, if elected, to make this vision a reality.

The audience was also invited to put questions directly to the candidates around the role of the mayor in supporting sustainable and responsible business, priorities for skills and young people, and encouraging and supporting digital adoption amongst SMEs.

A spokesperson for the three organising bodies said, “Through this hustings event, we’re ensuring that businesses of all sizes and sectors have their voice heard on the issues that matter to them. Our members are united in working for a stronger, more prosperous, and inclusive Tees Valley, and devolution and the role of the mayor is a vital part of this.

“This event allowed everyone in attendance to hear the candidates’ views on a wide range of topics central to their concerns. Businesses have listened: we look forward to the successful candidate doing the same and working on behalf of everyone across Tees Valley’s vibrant economy and communities.”

Zoe Lewis, principal and CEO of Middlesbrough College Group, said: “We were delighted to be able to support and host this important event for the future of Tees Valley and the wider North East.

“As one of the largest education and training providers in the region, we care deeply about the skills, jobs and opportunities our young people need today to make the most of the opportunities tomorrow.

“We work very closely with employers and businesses from a wide range of different sectors right across the region, so it was great to be able to play our part in giving them an opportunity to discover more about the four mayoral candidates’ visions for the future of the Tees Valley and to ask them some important questions.”

The Tees Valley event will be followed by a further joint members’ hustings for the new North East mayoral area.

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