Michael Gove orders probe into Teesworks ‘corruption’ claimson May 24, 2023 at 2:52 pm

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An independent panel will assess claims of wrongdoing at Teesworks, the UK’s largest industrial zone.

Ben Houchen at Teesworks

The government is setting up an independent panel to probe claims of “corruption, wrongdoing and illegality” at the UK’s largest industrial zone.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said he had taken the “exceptional decision” to order the review into claims at the Teesworks site in Redcar.

Labour MPs had raised concerns over the transfer of millions of pounds of public assets to private developers.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said he “looked forward” to its outcome.

In a letter to Conservative Mr Houchen, Mr Gove said he was acting on a request from the mayor and had “reflected carefully on the choices available”.

He said the “continued allegation of corruption” had posed a “very real risk” to the site, which had “delivered jobs and economic growth”.

However he said, although it was not in the National Audit Office’s (NAO) remit to investigate the site, he would “welcome” the body to update “its review of the government’s funding arrangements”.

Michael Gove

Image source, PA Media

Mr Gove said he would ask a independent panel to report on the governance arrangements, how decisions are made, and look “at the value achieved for the investment of public money on the site”.

He said he would “invite” interested parties, including MPs, to make representations as part of “evidence”.

Mr Houchen said the review was necessary to “show investors” that there had been no wrongdoing.

“My officers stand ready to provide any and all information requested by the independent review,” he said.

The site

Image source, Teesworks

Labour’s shadow secretary for Levelling Up Lisa Nandy previously said there were “serious questions” that “remained unanswered” and had called for an investigation.

Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald had accused developers of financially benefitting from land which had seen millions of pounds of taxpayer investment.

Mr Houchen previously denied allegations of wrongdoing, saying the claims were “untrue” and that the work was being “smeared”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak caused confusion when he said Mr Gove had “already announced” an investigation into Teesworks, hours before his letter.

MPs including Labour’s Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson had then written to Mr Sunak asking for clarification.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it had not seen any evidence of wrongdoing and repeated Mr Gove’s claims that the allegations “pose a very real risk”.

The NAO said it would be “willing and able to carry out” an investigation if instructed to do so, but added that the government had made “alternative arrangements” by setting up the independent panel instead.

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