Monthly Archives: February 2020

Fighting to Save our High Streets

Our high streets are turning into ghost towns but Mayoral candidate sets out her fight to save them.
Jessie Joe Jacobs is today launching her ambitious plans to revive struggling high streets across Tees Valley and deal with the empty shop scourge that is blighting our town centres.
In her fight to save our high streets, Jessie has pledged to set up a High Street Innovation Fund if elected as Mayor of Tees Valley. The initiative will be a catalyst for innovative ideas to spark new life into the high street. £1.5m from the Combined Authority’s budget will be set aside for local businesses and start-ups to fund their ideas for the hundreds of empty buildings that blight our high streets across the region. The fund will be led and held by high street stakeholders, local businesses and communities.Figures show that shops are closing at a worrying rate across Tees Valley with Debenhams and New Look recently closing their Stockton stores, creating worry and uncertainty among retailers and shoppers about the future of the high street. The North East suffers from the highest rates of empty shops throughout the whole country with 16% of shops across our high streets empty. This compares to just 9% in Greater London.
Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said:
“I grew up in a family who worked three generations on Stockton market, Jacobs hardware and leather, who eventually moved into carpets. I know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our town centres. It has been devastating to see the decline. For the last ten years I have worked on regeneration projects, sat on town centre teams, championed independent businesses, learned from other areas around the UK and Europe, and I know the high street can be saved.
“My Innovation Fund will kick start new ideas for the high street by giving innovators and entrepreneurs the funding and support they need to start new ventures and projects in our struggling town centres. Like this boxing club that we are launching my fund from, it has transformed this empty shop unit. I want to see many more ideas like this bringing new life to these empty buildings.

“I have listened to many stakeholders and businesses, who all agree, we need to change our strategy for high streets. We must focus on bringing in more independent businesses and community ventures to take our town centres in a new direction, alongside opening up buildings for residential and leisure. ”
“We need to tackle the systemic issues such as the red tape and high costs that stifles innovation. And most importantly, this work needs to be led by the businesses, communities and key stakeholders of the high street, themselves. It is about unlocking their ideas and ambitions that will see our town centres transformed”
Jessie’s strategy to transform our town centres will see her set up a High Street Task Force, if elected this May. The Task Force will include a dedicated High Street Tsar, to spearhead the transformation and support local authorities to share best practice and work closer together across the five boroughs of the Tees Valley. She will also set up a Business and Community Led Advisory Group to guide the work of the Task Force and hold her and the Combined Authority to account on delivering change.

Bringing Tees Transport into 21st Century

Jessie Joe Jacobs Tees Travel plans will bring public transport system into the 21st Century

Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s mayoral hopeful for Tees Valley, has announced her exciting plans to drastically overhaul and improve public transport in the region, putting buses centre stage of her plans.

Buses in Tees Valley are in dire need of a shake-up with figures revealing bus services are being reduced, journeys are down while fares continue to rise. Jessie’s ambitious proposals would look at options for the public to have more control over fares, time-tabling and routes as part of a London-style transport network.

Jessie’s vision for a Tees Travel integrated system would include revamping buses, increasing train journey numbers, introducing new stations and radically improving cycle-ways, bringing public transport in Teesside into the 21st century.

Setting out her plans in Hartlepool, with Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary and Middlesbrough MP, Andy McDonald, Jessie’s pledges for buses include: capping fares, more and better bus routes, as well as greener and cleaner buses and trains. The exploration of options for Britain’s first Hydrogen train being piloted here in the Tees Valley, is also on the cards.

Figures show that across the Tees Valley, bus usage is down across the region year on year, with Middlesbrough seeing the largest drop in bus journeys with a 2.6m decrease from 2009/2010 to 2017/18. Other figures from the Department for Transport also show that nationally, local bus fares in England increased by 71% between March 2005 and March 2018, with the average increase in fares higher than the average annual rate of inflation.

Jessie Joe Jacob’s, Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said:

“From Hartlepool to Guisborough, I’m told of bus services that have been dropped, leaving communities and particularly older people cut off and isolated. It has been a long and slow decline, at a time when we should be moving towards more and better public transport use in our efforts to reduce our climate impact.

“For too long Tees Valley has had to put up with second-class disjointed bus service. Big bus companies have been getting away with these cuts without any challenge from the current mayor.

“How can it be fair that you can spend £1.50 standard price to travel across London but in Tees Valley it can cost so much more to make even short journeys. Fares are going up at the same time as bud routes are being cut.

“The Tees Valley is falling further and further behind when it comes to public transport. While other Metro Mayors across the UK are pushing forward creating integrated, greener and more efficient bus networks. Now is the time to tackle this issue head on, which will start with having some bravery in standing up to the big bus companies. We need the mayor to use the powers we have and sort out this failing system once and for all.

“The current Tory Mayor is more interested in how long it takes people to fly to Alicante where I’m worried about making sure people can get to work and to the shops.

“My Tees Travel plans would revolutionise our public transport system, integrating buses, trains and cycle-ways making them fit for the 21st Century.”

Similar public transport schemes have been set up by Labour-controlled councils to great success in Nottingham, Reading and Blackpool. Labour-run Greater Manchester and Liverpool Combined Authorities are also in the process of looking at ways to re-regulate their bus network.

As Mayor, Jessie will commission a study on how to create an integrated bus, train and cycle-way system – looking at different options to re-regulate bus services locally and bring them more in-line a London-style network. After a thorough study and public consultation, Jessie will select the model which will best deliver for Teessiders.

Notes to editors:
· Bus services outside of London have struggled since the system was deregulated by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

· London has re-regulated its system, with typical profits for bus companies in the capital 3% but 19% in the North. According to an analysis by FAME, in the financial year 2015-2016, Cleveland Transit Ltd (Stagecoach) profits were 19.6%. If Cleveland Transit Ltd (Stagecoach) profit was cut from 13.0% (3.9m) to the London level of 3.8% (£1.1m) through an equivalently efficient management of franchising, the saving would be £2.4m per year.

· Passenger journeys by bus by Local Authority info https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/bus01-local-bus-passenger-journeys

· Local bus fare increase info https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/774565/annual-bus-statistics-year-ending-mar-2018.pdf