Sunderland chief claim's 'levelling-down agenda' after North East freeport bid rejected
City leaders have slammed the Government decision to overlook Sunderland’s bid for a freeport as part of a North East bid.
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak opted for nearby Conservative-run Teesside instead, prompting claims he had ‘ignored’ the needs of Wearside and the rest of the region.
“It seems that only if you have a Tory MP can you expect government support,” said Graeme Miller, the leader of Sunderland City Council.
“The Tories can continue 11 years of austerity and continue the levelling-down agenda in the North East.
“For those people in the North East who lent their votes to the nasty party, better count your fingers and reconsider, as clearly voting Conservative in Sunderland gets you nothing.”
Cllr Miller was speaking at a meeting of the full council on March 3, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube, to set the local authority’s spending plans for 2021/22.
Finance chiefs for Wearside have insisted the five per cent council tax hike approved was needed because of government spending plans.
They also gave the green light to major spending projects worth a combined £234.211 million over the next few years, which Cllr Miller claimed would ‘continue the investment in this city and what our residents need and deserve’.
Teesside has had a Conservative mayor, Ben Houchen, since 2017, while of the five Teesside local authorities, none are controlled by a single party.
Of the seven North East authorities, six are controlled by Labour, with only Northumberland under the Conservatives.
Conservative city councillor Dominic McDonough hit back at the council leader, adding there was ‘little surprise’ Teesside had been chosen over the North East’s freeport bid.
He said: “[Teesside’s] mayor, MPs and councils of different political parties have put politics aside and put a positive case directly to the Government.
“They put it to work and they’ve got the rewards.
“Our Labour leadership have decided to sit on their hands preferring to play politics and bash the government for a few cheap headlines, instead of working together to put a positive case forward for our city.”