Tees Valley Combined Authority employs both daughters of its chief Julie Gilhespie

Both daughters of Tees Valley Combined Authority’s (TVCA) chief executive, Julie Gilhespie, have been employed by the combined authority, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Caitlin Gilhespie, daughter of chief executive Julie, has been employed by TVCA since September 2023, initially as a marketing assistant, but as an officer for the Hartlepool Development Corporation (HDC) since January this year.

A spokesperson for TVCA said seven applications were received for the role of marketing assistant, and three people were interviewed for the role. Interviews were held by the strategic marketing manager, and the head of net zero.

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According to her LinkedIn page, Caitlin Gilhespie graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in accounting and financing in 2020 before joining accountancy firm Deloitte as a senior associate in 2021. Julie Gilhespie worked as a director at Deloitte between 1995 and 2011, before eventually joining TVCA in 2017.

Tees Valley Combined Authority Chief Executive Julie GilhespieTees Valley Combined Authority Chief Executive Julie Gilhespie
Tees Valley Combined Authority Chief Executive Julie Gilhespie

Caitlin Gilhespie’s current role as officer for HDC was not advertised externally as it is TVCA policy to recruit internally where possible. A spokesperson for TVCA said: “she is very qualified for the role with an accounting and finance degree, and then a master’s in media and journalism.”

Asked if any legal guidance had been taken before appointing Ms Gilhespie to either position, a spokesperson for TVCA said: “The recruitment process for both roles was conducted in line with all current official guidance and HR policies. The Group Chief Executive played no role in the recruitment process for either position.”

Meanwhile, Julie Gilhespie’s younger daughter, Erin, was a paid intern at TVCA in the Creative and Cultural industries team during the summer of 2022. Paid internships around that time were advertised on the authority’s social media pages as paying £9.90 an hour.

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In Julie Gilhespie’s latest declaration of interests form, from October 2023, there is no declaration that any close family members are employed by TVCA.

Chief executive, Ms Gilhespie, was criticised in a government review of TVCA and the Teesworks project regenerating the former site of Redcar steelworks for not recording a potential conflict of interest. The public South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) transferred shares at no cost in Teesworks Ltd to private partners Chris Musgrave and Martin Corney, who now own 90 per cent of the previously 50-50 venture.

The joint venture partners have since withdrawn £45 in dividends, hold £63m in cash, and paid nearly £39m to another company they control without investing any cash of their own.

As both chief executive of STDC and a director of Teesworks Ltd, the review states the share transfer might “rise to a perception of conflict due to the fact that the decision involves the significant benefit to [Teesworks Ltd] to the detriment of STDC and by extension TVCA.

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“This should at least be recorded to demonstrate awareness of that potential conflict.”

However, the review goes on to state Ms Gilhespie had not recorded that potential conflict, “because she didn’t recognise there was any.

It continues: “The interests of [Teesworks Ltd] haven't always been aligned with those of either TVCA or STDC, particularly after the re-distribution of share ownership and this gives rise to potential/perceived conflicts of interest.”

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