Quite rightly there has been a lot of scepticism about the idea of a Tees Valley Mayor. As Council leaders from the start we made it clear that if we were to go ahead with a mayor we needed a great deal from Government.
Tough negotiations have meant we have secured that deal. And for the first time ever we are bringing powers back to the Tees Valley from London, giving us the freedom to do things for ourselves. To grow our economy, tackle inequality and make a real difference to the lives of the 660,000 people who live here. That’s why I – we – are doing this – to change lives – to make a difference for our people, for our communities, for our Tees Valley.
I have spent half of my working life leading organisations that were the forerunners of today’s devolution deals – Regional Assemblies – in Yorkshire and Humber and for a year in the North East. During that time I did business at national regional and local level, with government, councils and with partners from business and industry. That time has shown me how hard we will have to work to make devolution deliver, but practically I have the experience and know how it can be done.
I am a qualified housing professional with broad based regeneration experience and I have always worked at the start of new things, developing new ideas and innovative ways of working. I have a pragmatic approach to resolving issues and make things happen. This is recognised and respected by people, politicians and businesses across the Tees Valley and these are the skills that our mayor will need.
Although the mayor itself is a new position – there isn’t a blank sheet of paper. The Labour led Tees Valley Combined Authority already has well developed plans to use the powers and money from devolution which, over the next five years adds up to a £450m investment programme. Some of the big projects you will have already heard about include new housing, new transport schemes including a new Tees Crossing; the development of key industrial projects, a new focus on innovation and initiatives that will prioritise skills and getting people into work.
This is a strong strategy that has been designed by all five Labour Councils in the Tees Valley, and in partnership with business, which will make a real difference to people’s lives. We are talking about 25,000 additional jobs, 2,000 new businesses, 40,000 new residents, and our economy set to grow by a massive £2.8bn over the next 10 years.
So what will I bring extra as mayor?
My aim will be to ensure that our economic recovery and growth is sustainable and delivered to all parts of the Tees Valley.
We need to remember – our economy is bound together. When SSI shut down in Redcar – 2,000 people – living right across the Tees Valley lost their jobs, the companies that supplied SSI were based in all parts of the Tees Valley, the families that were affected by the closure are everywhere in the Tees Valley. The same is true every time the UK economy hits the rocks, the whole of the Tees Valley suffers. That’s why we need to stand together as one to make the best of our economy to benefit us all.
I have a clear plan that will ensure that by having a mayor we get even more from devolution.
We are planning for new jobs but they must be high quality well paid jobs. My goal will be full employment built on local investment, diversifying our economy and reducing our dependency on foreign capital and labour.
And it is not just about new jobs – I will also tackle the existing shameful levels of low pay and poor job security that blight so many families and allow this Tory government to claim their employment policies are working – we don’t have to put up with that.
I want to be able to offer a real chance for new homes and regeneration that’s so badly needed in many parts of the Tees Valley – not just for some – for everyone.
I want to make sure we provide the best education and training in the skills our economy needs.
We are already working in partnership – but we can make it stronger and even more effective – building on my links with business and industry and with the voluntary sector, Trade Unions, MP’s I will forge a successful coalition with one aim – to make the Tees Valley the best place to live and do business.
This is a plan made in the Tees Valley for the Tees Valley. It has at its heart partnership, innovation, skills and investment. It will put the strongest foundations in place keep us working – even through the deepest recession.
My core purpose is to rebuild our power, our pride and our passion. These things only come when we have a decent standard of living, opportunities for our children and security in old age.
Tory government austerity policies are eating away at public services, cutting them back to the bone. We need to fight back, grow our own economy, plan our own future and stop being dependent on London for our progress and prosperity.
I am very proud to be selected by Labour to stand as candidate for these Metro Mayor elections. As Mayor of Tees Valley I will be a new voice, to speak out, to challenge, and to deliver real change– that’s what I want to do and I look forward to making it happen.