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Michael Gove orders review into corruption allegations at Teesside freeport

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Michael Gove has ordered an “independent review” into allegations of “corruption wrongdoing and illegality” surrounding a Teesside redevelopment project that is part of Rishi Sunak’s freeports plans.But there was anger as Gove declined to act on calls for the National Audit Office (NAO) to lead the investigation, instead announcing it will undertaken by an independent panel that he will appoint, while the watchdog will have some limited role.There have been growing calls for a full audited inquiry into Teesworks and its redevelopment of what is Europe’s largest brownfield site and the UK’s largest industrial zone.The project, led by Tees Valley’s Conservative mayor, Ben Houchen, is meant to create thousands of jobs on land that was once home to the area’s 140-year-old steel industry.But the scheme has been bedevilled by accusations of corruption, cronyism and wrongdoing.The shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, last week wrote to the NAO calling for an audited inquiry.

This was followed by Houchen himself, who said he wanted an NAO inquiry to “nip allegations of wrongdoing in the bud”.On Wednesday Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, said it was not the NAO’s normal role to examine individual local government bodies.But he is going to have an independent review looking into oversight of the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) by the body led by Houchen, the Tees Valley combined authority.In a letter to Houchen, Gove says: “Since serious allegations of corruption, wrongdoing and illegality have been made, I will ask the panel to address these accusations directly and to report on the governance arrangements at STDC, including how decisions are made, as well as looking at the value achieved for the

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