Northumberland councillor joins race to become Conservative North East mayoral candidate
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Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, who represents the Bamburgh ward on Northumberland County Council, joins Sedgefield MP Paul Howell on the list to be the Tory opposition to Labour’s Kim McGuinness.
The sitting North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, also plans to run as an independent after quitting Labour after he was barred from the party’s selection process.
Cllr Renner-Thompson is Northumberland’s cabinet member for children’s services and has served on the council since 2017. He is also chairman of Belford Parish Council.
The regional mayor role is being created under a new £4.2bn devolution deal which is due to be ratified in the next few months and will bring with it new funding and decision-making powers.
Cllr Renner-Thompson said he felt the job was “perfect” for him. He had been considering running as an MP, before deciding he did not want to live his native North East.
He said: “I have taken the decision that my heart lies in the North East. I don’t want to move away to get a seat in parliament.
“This is the perfect job for me. I’m very passionate about the area. I’ve never left the North East – I was born in Newcastle and went to Newcastle University. I think that’s an advantage – the North East is in my heart.”
Cllr Renner-Thompson pointed to his successes at the helm of education in Northumberland, which has seen 94% of schools rated as good or outstanding by education watchdog Ofsted – four per cent above the national average.
He continued: “I’ve seen what we have been able to do with the county council looking at our improvements in education and I would like the opportunity to do good work on a wider scale.
“People talk about the big ticket items, but the proudest moments I have as a councillor are when I can help individual people. The big thing for me is helping people with housing.
“In my area, people have been evicted to make way for second homes and holiday lets. I’ve been involved in helping people stay in their communities.
“When you’re able to help someone who is on the phone in tears, that is what keeps you going.”
He added: “I’m a great believer in the levelling up agenda. If we can make the people of the North East as wealthy as the rest of the country – that has to be the aim.
“The money that has been redistributed to the mayors through the scrapping of HS2 is a huge opportunity to us. We need to crack on with road investment like the A1 in Northumberland, but elsewhere like the A68, the A66 and the A69.
“The other big thing for me is rail connectivity. The East Coast Mainline runs all through the region, but a lot of it misses out because the trains don’t stop at smaller stations.
“If people can move around more and access higher paid jobs in Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland from the wider areas, that’s good for everyone. For a very long time it’s been about getting to London as quick as possible, but we need to bring the high paid jobs here.”