A body formed to lobby for better transport in the North has been “staggeringly short-sighted” by excluding Teesside, an MP has angrily claimed.
Andy McDonald said Transport For The North, which held its first meeting this week, must include representatives from Teesside on its board and blasted the group for apparently sidelining the area.
The Labour MP for Middlesbrough said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin showed “ignorance” by believing representatives from five North cities could also speak for the Tees Valley.
Transport For The North, whose members got together in Leeds on Monday, joins up city leaders from Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle and are tasked with forming a strategic plan to improve connectivity between city regions.
But the MP said it is “insulting” for the group not to have a Teesside representative and called on people in the south of the region to lobby to be included.
“Excluding Tees Valley representation from the board of Transport for the North is staggeringly short-sighted,” said Mr McDonald.
“The act of ‘bringing the five big northern cities’ together, without a Tees Valley presence, beggars belief. It is as insulting as it is unrepresentative. We must have this sorry state of affairs fixed right now.
“Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin trumpets One North’s ‘strategic proposition for transport in the north’ but even he must see the glaring omission here.
“There can be no credible strategy without all the key strategic players round the table.
“Sadly this is typical of the Tories’ narrow understanding of the North. The reality is that they have nothing to say for the transport needs of the Tees Valley and the wider North East.”
The row comes after debate about the governance structure of the region overall.
South Tyneside leader Iain Malcolm suggested the soon-to-be-formed Teesside Combined Authority join up with the North East Combined Authority, but leaders in the south of the region were against it, including Darlington council leader Bill Dixon who said Teesside would “lose something” under such a plan.
Coun Malcolm, who is a member of the North East Leadership Board, called on the Transport Secretary to rectify who he called a “mistake”.
He said: “I have no issue with Tees Valley being part of this body.
“Their absence is a mistake and I would hope the government includes a representative from that part of the region.”