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I won't raise taxes to fund our plans.

Byline: MIKE BROWN mike.brown@trinitymirror.com @MIKEBROWNGAZ

TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has pledged he will "never" ask council tax payers to fund his plans while he is in office.

In a letter to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid MP, Mr Houchen confirmed his plans for economic growth for the region can be funded through existing cash devolved to our area from government.

Mr Houchen pledged he will never levy a Mayoral Precept on the council tax bills of Teessiders throughout his term in office until May 2020 - while aiming a dig at local councils who charge "an arm and a leg".

Mr Houchen said: "I didn't stand for election to increase taxes - that's not why I'm here. People across our area work hard, many for long hours and in difficult jobs.

"I want to build a Tees Valley where people are able to get on, stand on their own two feet and build a better life for themselves and their family.

"The best way we can achieve this is by helping people keep more of the money they earn," continued Mr Houchen, who campaigned on a plan to nationalise Durham Tees Valley Airport and says he has held several rounds of talks with owners Peel over its future.

"I have a PS464m war chest to invest in local priorities over the next four years. I am proud to say that my ambitious plans for jobs, growth and investment can be funded through money devolved to us from government without the need for a precept or levy." Devolution legislation allows five of the six mayoral combined authority mayors (Greater Manchester, Liverpool, West Midlands, Tees Valley and Cambridgeshire) to raise a precept to help fund their functions.

Only the West of England mayor does not have these powers as local leaders prevented such a clause from being included in the region's devolution deal agreement with the government.

On Thursday, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street confirmed plans to raise an extra PS8m for the West Midlands through council tax - the first mayor to present proposals for a precept.

The Government requires that the five Metro Mayors set out whether they will propose a precept for the 2018-19 financial year.

Mr Javid said last month that he was letting mayors set their own precept level this year rather than being subjected like individual councils to a threshold for increases above which referendums are required.

At the time Mr Javid said: "I'm sure voters will be watching closely to ensure this freedom is not abused - as I will."

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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen IAN COOPER

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 9, 2018
Words:433
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