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COMMITTEE ATTACKS DEVELOPMENT BODY

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Weak financial management at the Teesside Development Corporation cost taxpayers'£13m, according to the House of C...
Weak financial management at the Teesside Development Corporation cost taxpayers'£13m, according to the House of Commons public accounts committee.

The corporation, set up in 1987 to oversee the environmental and economic regeneration of Teesside until its demise in March 1998, left its successor grappling with debts of up to£40m, said the committee's damning report.

The report, which followed questioning of the corporation's former chief executive Duncan Hall in March, claimed many of the benefits achieved for Teesside could have been gained with greater adherence to the principles of good governance.

Dave Walsh (Lab), leader of Redcar & Cleveland BC, said the corporation had developed a reputation for picking off 'soft' developments in retail and leisure instead of focusing on hard-end work.

'Fifteen years on very little has changed,' he said. 'We still have big problems with housing renewal, getting people into work and cleaning up the environment.'

One of the corporation's most high-profile tasks was the planned redevelopment of Middlehaven docks in Middlesbrough, the biggest regeneration project in the north-east.

'When the Teeside Development Corporation was in place, substantial progress was not made,' said a spokesman for Middlesbrough Council.

'It managed to unify a lot of the parcels of land, but a lot of the fundamentals - the physical work, for example, and a strategic marketing plan - were not in place.'

But Brian Dinsdale, chief executive of Hartlepool BC, said Hartlepool had always found the corporation a 'good partner'.

'Their objectives were very similar to ours, and it always helps if you're singing from the same hymn sheet.'

Mr Hall was accused of disregarding the guidance of the Treasury and the Department of the Environment by, for example, granting a mortgage even though the making of loans was not allowed.

However Mr Hall denied allegations put by the committee that a secret bank account was opened up by the corporation and documents illictly shredded.

The former Department of the Environment - from which the corporation received government grants worth£354m - also came in for criticism.

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