Monthly Archives: September 2020

Labour candidate hits out at Tees Valley mayor after tweet about jobs for ‘local lads’

(As first printed in Northern Echo)

THE Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, Jessie Joe Jacobs, has hit out at Mayor Ben Houchen’s comments on social media regarding jobs for ‘local lads’.

In a Tweet Mr Houchen posted to his account yesterday, he said: “Our Teesworks site will create years of work for local lads from Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”

Ms Jacobs said: “When it comes to the Mayor, it looks like it’s jobs for the lads, contracts for the lads and an economy for the lads.

“If you follow Houchens news feed, it seems if there isn’t a hard hat then it isn’t a real job and they’re not for women. The Mayor’s language today has undone so much hard work to empower women in the region. We already fall dramatically below the national average for women in STEM careers for instance. Research by the University of Manchester found that we stand at 12% when the average is 27%.

“The Mayor needs to move into the 21st century. This is an age old problem for the Tees Valley and as the UK’s first female metro mayor this will be at the top of my agenda. The Tees Valley will only thrive when we all thrive, men and women and that means being proactive, it won’t just come through a few token gestures.

“This isn’t just about equality. A study by the Boston Consulting Group in 2018 showed that companies with a gender diverse workforce produced on average 19% more revenue. Diversity is not just a metric to be strived for it produces real improvements to the bottom line.

“For too long, this region has been held back by a male driven economic strategy, my first encounter with Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, years ago brought this home, and little has changed.

“As the UK’s first female metro mayor, we will do things differently. Our strategy will create opportunities for all and address the inequalities that exist.”

Ms Jacobs has outlined her plans:

  • Target a 50:50 split on all boards, diversify the sectors represented within the TVCA, encouraging leaders from care, beauty, tourism, food and drink and retail to shape our economic strategies.
  • Driving forward family friendly workplaces and working to improve childcare provision.
  • Set up an Equalities Task Force and Equalities Commissioner.
  • Explore ideas such as a Womens Entrepreneurs Fund and Women into STEM academy – we need to get past the ideas that science techonolgy, engineering and manufacturing jobs are for men.
  • Campaign to drive up wages in female dominated industries.

Jessie demands urgent action to tackle unemployment freefall in Tees Valley after speaking with food and drinks industry leaders

UNEMPLOYMENT in the Tees Valley has sky-rocketed, with 12,375 job losses since March, figures published today by the House of Commons library reveal.

Today’s figures, which record the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits, show that since March there has been a colossal jump in claimants of 76% in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and 79% in Stockton South.

Jessie Jacobs, Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said, “Unemployment was already climbing in the Tees Valley for months before the pandemic hit. We were already at the precipice before coronavirus: these figures show that it has well and truly launched us over the cliff edge. As furlough comes to an end, things are only set to get worse.

“Speaking with food and drinks businesses today, there are great fears over the end of furlough and a second lockdown with one telling me, many in his industry are contemplating shutting up shop.

“More money needs investing in the everyday economy, in moving retail businesses on line and preparing the food and drinks industry for an outdoors economy. And we must see a sector specific furlough scheme introduced.

“There is a gaping unemployment gap that is growing wider by the day, and the couple of hundred jobs being created under the Tory Mayor barely scrape at the edges.

“Each new job the Mayor claims to have created has cost £100,000 – some of which are yet to come to actual fruition: this is just not good use of public money at a time when those jobs are so desperately needed”

“We need serious and immediate strategic investment in our local area to generate the jobs that our communities desperately need.

“Tees Valley deserves better than this. Now more than ever before, we need a Mayor who will create jobs for the many, not the few.”

Lack of affordable childcare is holding our economy back

For many years I have worked with, and championed, women across the Tees Valley and one of the big issues that regularly comes up is the need for good, affordable childcare.  The UK currently has the 7th most expensive childcare in the world with families spending on average 36% of income on childcare.  In comparison for many of our European neighbours the proportion is much lower with Sweden, Greece, Iceland and Austria all averaging less than 10%[1]    We simply don’t stack up and this barrier to entry to the workplace is holding women back economically and Covid along with the pressures brought by this government are making it worse.

Last week I had a conversation with Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years (Watch here)

We talked about the issues confronting women and looked particularly at childcare. She highlighted the potential devastating loss of 472 childcare providers across our region in the next year.  Whilst there are government schemes currently available they are incredibly restrictive and hard to access with only 40% of 2 year old children eligible and it is hard to argue with any conviction that it does more than pay lip service to the real problems and issues of working families.

In order to see how these issues were affecting women across the Tees Valley we ran a survey asking families their thoughts on childcare and how it was affecting their access to the workplace.  The results of that showed that 80% of respondents considered childcare to be expensive and how difficult it was to get access to the government schemes leading women to have to persevere with expensive alternatives.  This fits in with the results of a nationwide survey by Pregnantthenscrewed.com which showed that 51% of women said that they did not have sufficient childcare to enable them to work at all, whilst a staggering 74% said that it had adversely affected their earning ability.

Of course all of the issues have been made significantly worse by the current Covid crisis with 65% of mothers that were furloughed saying that lack of childcare was the reason whilst 44% of self employed mothers said the crisis had cost them childcare places vital to the running of their businesses.

We must do better and I will do better.  Good access to affordable childcare is vital cog in our economy and one of the most important factors in allowing women to achieve economically.  The Labour Party is committed to offering universal childcare for children aged 2-4 and ensuring that there is a Sure Start centre in every community.  I am also keen to explore ways in which local companies can allow more flexible working to help with families childcare needs and solutions to help children with school age children to cope with pre and after school provision.

If we are to grow the economy in the Tees Valley, affordable childcare will be a part of that growth and we must empower women and families to be able to fulfil their fullest economic potential.

[1] OECD 2018