Boris Johnson is handing more government cash to the Tories’ “Red Wall” areas, with almost £100m to build offshore wind power projects and create 6,000 new jobs in Teesside and Humberside.
The prime minister is pledging £75m in government funding for the Able Marine Energy Park, on the south bank of the Humber, and £20m for the Teesworks Offshore Manufacturing Centre, on the Tees.
The handouts follow the designation of Humberside and Teesside, both historic industrial heartlands, as freeports in the budget last week and the government says construction will now begin later this year to upgrade them with new infrastructure.
“During the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, wind-powered the sails of ships from the Humber and Teesside trading goods around the world,” said Mr Johnson.
“Now the Humber and Teesside will put the wind in the sails of our new green industrial revolution, building the next generation of offshore wind turbines whilst creating 6,000 new green jobs in the process.
“Our multi-million-pound investment in these historic coastal communities is a major step towards producing the clean, cheap energy we need to power our homes and economy without damaging the environment.”
The wind farms cash – and a deal with manufacturer GE Renewable Energy to invest in Teesside and build a wind blade factory at the site, creating 750 jobs – has been welcomed by environmental campaigners.
“This is a welcome step in expanding capacity in offshore wind manufacturing, a renewable technology that many countries are now piling into,” said Rebecca Newsom of Greenpeace.
“Supply chain investment like this will be vital in delivering renewables at the speed and scale needed to tackle the climate crisis and in ensuring our coastal communities aren’t left behind in the UK’s energy transition.
“This must now be replicated across the country to build up a thriving green energy sector that creates jobs within the UK, so that workers in the fossil fuel industry can smoothly move across to the renewable jobs of the future.
“Freeports might be helpful in generating investment, but this must not lead to a drop in environmental standards or poorer working conditions.”
But the wind farms handouts come only days after a row over the government giving 90% of a £1bn Towns Fund to councils represented by Conservative MPs in Parliament.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has claimed that giving 40 of the 45 handouts to areas with a Tory MP – many in the Tories’ so-called “Red Wall” former Labour seats – would look “fishy” to the public and “feels like pork-barrel politics”.
Teesside is a key battleground in the local elections on 6 May, with the Tories’ Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen facing a Labour challenge, and Humberside saw the Tories gain seats from Labour in the general election.
Mr Houchen said of the Teesside handout: “This monumental deal reached today with GE Renewables, to bring their manufacturing facility to Teesside and creating more than 2,000 local jobs, is a major step forward for my plan to bring skilled good-quality jobs to local people.
“Just last week our plans to regenerate the Teesworks site were turbocharged when the Chancellor gave the green light to the Teesside Freeport – the UK’s biggest freeport.
“The mark of the infant Hercules can still today be seen and felt across the world, but this is not our past. It is our today and our future. With this new beginning we will continue to build a new, clean green and brighter world.”
And on the Humberside handout, Councillor Rob Waltham, Tory leader of North Lincolnshire Council, said: “This further demonstrates the confidence in North Lincolnshire’s plans and is a clear commitment from government for levelling up in the north.
“This development directly create even more well-paid, highly-skilled jobs and drive further investment into the area.
“We have the skills and experience, and we are perfectly positioned as part of the development of this world-leading industry. The people of North Lincolnshire will benefit from this for many years to come.”
But the boost for wind farms may create a political dilemma for Tory “Red Wall” MP Holly Mumby-Croft, who won Scunthorpe from Labour at the December 2019 general election.
Her biography on the Tory grassroots website ConservativeHome reveals: “Mumby-Croft has in the past campaigned against local wind farm development plans.”
Responding to the government’s announcement, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “Any investment in the offshore wind industry in the Humber and Teesside is welcome.
“But the problem is that across our country government is not investing at nearly the scale that is required to deliver the level of employment in the offshore wind industry we need and workers have a right to expect.
“We are way behind even the government’s target of 60% of offshore wind infrastructure being produced in the UK rather than overseas.”
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