Cllr Ben Houchen, the local business owner and solicitor, who is the Conservative Party’s candidate to become the Mayor with devolved powers, has said he will be campaigning for an area he describes as “Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”
Ben said: “The election campaign itself will be launched in a few weeks and I have lots of innovative ideas to put to local people. However, hardly anybody knows the election is on, hence I want to point out the areas it is taking place. The correct geography is Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. This accurately describes the Tees Valley. I don’t propose any rebranding exercise if elected, that would just waste money on logos, but everyone who lives here needs to know we will have the only devolved election east of the Pennines.
“Teesside, Hartlepool and Darlington have been given a great opportunity for change and voters need to examine the ideas each candidate has before voting. The Alternative Vote system also gives local people the chance to vote for more than one party, so it is possible to achieve change by putting a favoured candidate first regardless of political affiliation. I’m confident that the ideas I’ll be discussing will be compelling, putting me in a position to attract the most first preference votes.”
Ben, 30, who leads the Conservative group on Stockton Borough Council, has described his approach as: “change where it’s needed and continuity where it works”.
A Teesside man, he attended Conyers School in Yarm before studying law and Northumbria University. He is married to Rachel, a secondary school teacher.
He was elected to represent Yarm and Kirklevington on Stockton Council in 2011 and again in 2015, contested the Middlesbrough parliamentary constituency in the by-election that followed the death of Sir Stuart Bell, and stood as a candidate in the 2014 elections to the European Parliament.
Ben said: “The impressive strategic plan that has been adopted by the councils can stay, as can the early work being undertaken by the shadow South Tees Development Corporation. They both place business growth as a number one priority.
“However, in some areas such as housing, transport and social policy, real change is needed and I intend to outline some of my ideas in the coming weeks. Also, as a Conservative Mayor I will also provide a critical brake on costs, preventing the Combined Authority growing into an expensive and cumbersome bureaucracy.”