A Tory elected mayor has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to avoid another “metropolitan city” and set up his Treasury North project in the Tees Valley.
But a North East Labour MP has complained there was “no transparency” over the scheme, which would see hundreds of jobs move north out of London, following reports that Middlesbrough had missed out on being shortlisted.
According to the Financial Times, Bradford, Leeds, Darlington and Newcastle are still under consideration for the plan, which could be announced in Mr Sunak’s Budget next week.
Mr Sunak’s huge Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire lies south of Darlington, which has strong transport links and voted Tory at the 2019 general election.
The Treasury declined to comment on the Treasury North speculation.
Tees Valley’s elected mayor Ben Houchen welcomed the reports that Darlington was in the bidding, and said the town was a better option than the metropolitan cities to its north and south.
He said: “For over a year I’ve worked on a plan to secure these jobs for local people and in every conversation with Downing Street and the Treasury I’ve made it clear the only location that will achieve the Government’s objectives is Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.
“The whole point of moving senior civil servants out of the capital is to dramatically change their outlook and better inform policy, something that simply cannot and will not happen if they move to another metropolitan city such as Leeds or Newcastle.
“Now is the time for the Chancellor to be at his bravest, for him to face down the anonymous Sir Humphreys within the Treasury who think we don’t have enough culture to be home of the Government’s more important and powerful department.”
Applying pressure on Mr Sunak, he added: “Business leaders back my plan, major universities back my plan, leaders from across the political spectrum back my plan and the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool back my plan. The questions is, will the Chancellor?”
Middlesbrough’s Labour MP felt his attempts to attract the Treasury to the town had been ignored.
Andy McDonald said: “I have made repeated representations to Rishi Sunak over the last year and he and his officials haven’t even done me the courtesy of a reply.
“There is absolutely no transparency over this process whatsoever.
“We’ve no idea how various proposals are being assessed.
“All the respected evidence such as the Centre for Cities shows that Middlesbrough is the obvious economic choice but, as ever, decisions are being made on the basis of Tory party political interests and not sound economics.”
Meanwhile, Leeds, a financial powerhouse in the north, made its claim for the jobs and investment boost.
Leader of Leeds City Council James Lewis said: “We would love to welcome the Treasury’s new economic campus to Leeds, and believe they would thrive in our city, which is right at the heart of the UK.
“Not only do we have strong financial services credentials, we also offer access to a wealth of so many talented, diverse people from across the city and Yorkshire.”