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THE CITY OF MIDDLESBROUGH?: Council will push for city status

 

Can Middlesbrough be a city? Plans have won fresh backing from councillors ahead of an upcoming bid – with opponents labelled “small-minded, petty and pathetic”. 

Officials and teams at Middlesbrough Council will now push on with an entry for the town to vie for city status as part of celebrations for the Queen’s platinum jubilee in 2022.

An authority-run online poll found 91% of 2,874 responders wanted Middlesbrough to put a third bid together for city status.

And a motion to launch the effort was passed at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Wednesday night with the idea gathering cross party support (July 28).

Conservative Cllr Luke Mason told the chamber the town had a long and colourful history to be proud of – but it needed to build on it, adding Teesside was one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country without a city at its heart.

Cllr Mason also sought to address concerns about costs of the bid – saying Chelmsford’s 2012 effort cost £3,423 excluding officer time.

He believed it was a “miniscule amount of money in the grand scheme of things”.

Cllr Mason added: “While this bid certainly won’t deal with many of the pressing issues facing our town, I nonetheless feel this is an important first step in regaining a little bit of local pride and hope for the future.”

Middlesbrough failed to win status in 2012 when the town lost out to Chelmsford.

Another effort in 2002 also fell short with fellow transporter bridge host Newport taking the honour.

Any bid will need to be lodged before December 8 if Middlesbrough wants to throw its hat in the ring this time around.

Doubts 

Despite support, the motion to go for it didn’t pass without some doubts.

Cllr Chris Hobson, independent member for Marton East, has long wanted to keep Middlesbrough’s status as a “small town”.

She shared concerns about the cost being more than anticipated – and pointed to how Middlesbrough had some of the most deprived wards in the country.

Cllr Hobson added: “Do we think by being a city it’s going to change what we’ve got?”

She also doubted the public backing for the fresh bid – telling the chamber every person she’d spoken to about city status had given her the same answer of: “oh not again”.

“Please – we don’t really need this,” said Cllr Hobson.

“You know what I think – I think we’re the best small town in the North-east.

“No matter what anyone says, we are a small town.”

Cllr Tom Mawston also had misgivings about how city status would help poorer people in the town.

He said: “Will it clothe people and feed them? Middlesbrough is continually at the top of the worst lists and at the bottom of the best lists.

“If I can be assured that achieving city status will keep us out of this depressing state of poverty and deprivation, then I’ll support it.”

Look at the stars not the mud

But the counter-arguments triggered disagreement from the floor.

Cllr Chris Cooke said it was about raising aspirations of the town.

Labour colleague Cllr Teresa Higgins told the chamber Middlesbrough wasn’t a “small town” and needed to grow through city status.

She said: “Let’s look at the stars and not at the mud – we have to move forward and city status is what the people deserve.

“That’s how we get jobs, and the people who live in poverty out of poverty because of the work which will come here.

“It really drives me mad when people say we’re just a little town – there’s no aspiration there. I don’t want to be a little town – I love Middlesbrough and I want it to be a city.

“I want to be the same as Newcastle – they get everything and we get nowt.

“If we’re a city, we can shout louder.”

Written by Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter


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