If Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is proposing that the Tees Valley Combined Authority buy out Peel Holdings to acquire Durham Tees Valley airport for a staggering £40m then an awful lot of questions will need to be answered.
We need complete transparency here and an end to hiding behind commercial non-disclosure agreements. The public have a right to know how their money is being spent.
I am entirely supportive of our local airport and having met with Peel, the current owners at the airport, I was entirely in favour of their plan to develop additional flights and develop aviation related industries, including the many aviation sector jobs that were to be created.
I am extremely disappointed that Ben Houchen, on taking up office as Tees Valley Mayor, saw fit to block the proposed support of the airport that was agreed by the TVCA Labour Leaders to the tune of £600,000 to bring additional flights to Teesside. Had he not rejected that proposal, instead spending money on lawyers and reports to further his notion to buy the airport outright, we would have had those additional flights by now.
What cannot be ignored here is that the airport loses over £2m a year. Where is the independent business case that says that £40m to acquire an asset that loses such vast amounts of money year in year out can be turned round?
Who is going to pay for those losses? Are the local authorities – whose funding this callous Tory Government has already slashed in half – going to have to foot the bill?
If TVCA want a transformational transport investment why not fund a world class bus network across the region? This would be a game changer for the people of Tees Valley.
Like many people across Tees Valley, I want us to have a thriving airport, but we do have to ask ourselves the difficult question of whether this should be at any cost.