Teesside Airport flight subsidy divides mayoral contenders

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, right, Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor Jessie Joe Jacobs, left Image copyright Labour Party/TVCA
Image caption Mayoral candidate Jessie Joe Jacobs and current mayor Ben Houchen clashed over the airport

New flights from a regional airport are being subsidised by taxpayers, it has been revealed.

Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) has contributed funds to support routes from Teesside International Airport.

The amount has not been released due to "commercial sensitivity" but Tees Valley mayoral candidate Jessie Joe Jacobs said it should be made public.

Current mayor Ben Houchen said he had been elected in 2017 with a mandate to save the airport.

TVCA owns 75% of the airport, which was brought back into public hands at the start of last year.

Its business plan forecasts losses until 2025 and anticipates a £650,000 surplus in 2026, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

New flights to the UK and Ireland went on sale last week for the first time in more than a decade.

Image caption The new flights are the first to be announced in more than a decade

Labour candidate Ms Jacobs said she was "fully supportive" of the airport but wanted "transparency".

"People want the airport to work but we also want to know what price people are paying to make it work," she said.

"If subsidies are going to flights, are we going to see subsidies for buses for places like Port Clarence, where people cannot get to their local hospital without getting a taxi?"

Conservative mayor Mr Houchen hit back at her comments, saying he had "delivered on his promise" to save the airport from closure.

He added: "This is a statement from someone who doesn't care and who doesn't understand our local airport." 

Labour would "pull funding for our airport and it would close", he claimed.

Ms Jacobs said there was "a way of saving our airport by not racking up a bill".

Voting in the mayoral elections will take place in May.

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