The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that Michael Gove, Levelling Up Secretary, has appointed the panel that will carry out an independent review into the Teesworks Joint Venture and the oversight of the Tees Valley Combined Authority.
Alongside considering allegations that have been made in relation to the oversight of the venture, such as corruption, illegality, and wrongdoing, the panel are to look into the governance and financial management. This will reflect the government’s existing external assurance review approach when it comes to local authorities.
Former Director General of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and current Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council, Angie Ridgwell, has been appointed as the lead reviewer. Ridgwell brings 30 years of experience in local government, central government and the private sector and will be supported by Quentin Baker and Richard Paver. Baker is a solicitor and is the director of law and governance at Hertfordshire County Council, whilst Paver brings financial experience and knowledge of Combined Authorities from his previous role as first Treasurer of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
Lee Rowley, Local Government Minister, said:
“I want to stress we have not seen evidence of corruption, wrongdoing, or illegality in relation to Teesworks, but it is apparent the allegations present a risk to the delivery of jobs and economic growth in the region.
“Given the importance to Tees Valley of addressing this matter, and the request made by the Mayor, the government has appointed an independent panel to review the arrangements.”
Teesworks is the first scheme that comes as part of the Teesside Freeport. The freeport begun operations in November 2021, with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen saying:
“We’re throwing our doors open to the world, showing businesses that we’re a truly outward looking, international ready region ready to welcome the cutting-edge sectors of the future.”