Category Archives: General Blog

A better Deal For Women

I was working at a senior leadership level in the charity sector and recongised the desperate need to have female regional leaders. Our area has been fairing badly for women. Women in Tees Valley earn significantly less than men, with women earning 22% less; we have some of the highest child poverty rates in the country; our economy is declining; mental health rates are rising and people are getting poorer.  

Women were disproportiantely impacted in the Tees Valley during the covid crisis

Issues with child care, female dominated sectors were the first to close and the last to open, like hair and beauty businesses, which employs twice that of car manufacturing. Care, retail and NHS workers were at the front line in the crisis, are predominantly women and yet are still fighting for a pay rise when the risks have been significantly increased and working conditions harder.

This is why it is of vital importance we get female Metro Mayors. We have seen through the Covid crisis how important Andy Burnham’s and other regional mayoral voices have been yet we have also seen how male those voices have been.

A Labour vision for The Tees Valley is women succeeding, children lifted out of poverty, people earning good wages, having great jobs, people having great homes and good places to live.

And my vision for the Tees Valley is this, that we are a place people love to live, work, invest and play

As potentially the UK’s first female metro mayor, I am going to ensure we really put women’s empowerment on my agenda and make the Tees Valley one of the family friendliest places in the UK

Now as a progressive female mayor, there are four direct things I will do to improve the lives of women in our region.

–           Champion family friendly workplaces and running a business challenge around this within a good work agenda

–           Great places to visit, in tourism, culture and sports; ensuring a better offer for families

–           Get more women into STEM: I am launching a build it in the Tees Valley campaign – but many of these jobs and jobs of the future are in STEM. We currently have less than 10% of women working in STEM, half the national average so we need to do something. I am going to set up a female STEM programme to help women transition and get the skills and supporting women into these new jobs of the future around climate, technology and science industries,

–           Get more women into business: Launching a women’s entrepreneur’s fund and mentoring scheme – we have many brilliant women with ideas for business but they need support to get off the ground, my scheme will do this, offering easy access start up funds and support

Fighting Child Poverty is personal to me – I’ve been doing it half my life

As Labour’s Metro Mayoral Candidate in the Tees Valley, fighting child poverty is personal to me. A few weeks back I was at a local food project with Keir Starmer, he had visited the Tees Valley to speak to voters, and show support for my campaign for Tees Valley Mayor. I can’t forget the words of one young boy we met at the project who said, they come to the project because they didn’t have any food. He was about 6 or 7 years old. For nearly half my life I have been fighting to lift children out of poverty. At 24 I started a charity for women and young people in Teesside, called A Way Out. A drugs intervention project, quickly became a poverty fighting charity because when it came to it; that was actually the big problem. Food poverty, poverty of opportunity or aspiration, turning to drugs because there was no hope or no help. And often, some of the most important interventions we provided was a meal; just a meal. Proving food so children wouldn’t go home hungry. We would have children come in to our drop in’s who were having 10p crisps for their dinner. Food matters.

So to hear the news yesterday, that the Conservatives voted against extending free meals in the holidays broke my heart and caused an anger that I can’t shake. We know there is always politics at play and as an opposition we hold the government to account on many things; but there are other times when politics shouldn’t come into things and last night was one of them. I was appalled that every Conservative in the Tees Valley (We now have four) voted against extending free school meals. In the Tees Valley we have some of the worst child poverty rates in the country, Middlesbrough has the highest with 41% of our children in poverty. It is a national scandal and at a time when these families need the support the most, the Tories chose to turn their backs.

Under my leadership of the Tees Valley we are going to turn around the lives of our children, I will campaign night and day to see a fairer welfare system, I will work with businesses to have more family flexible policies; Invest in parts of our economy that will lead to better pay and better jobs, aimed at those who have fallen behind in the labour market and particularly women and families and I will seek to develop community and family learning and support hubs that allow everyone to feel like they can find help and support.  I believe by working collectively with our communities we can make a better future for everyone.

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 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

A future for the Blast Furnace?

This week our current Tees Valley mayor  announced the commissioning of the demolition of our iconic blast furnace, previously describing it as a scar on the land. I don’t see our blast furnace as a scar, I see it as one of the most beautiful and iconic industrial structures in the world!
The original plans for the old SSI site included exploring saving part of the historic and iconic structures on the site as cultural landmarks. This included the most important building, the blast furnace and whilst debate grows about the Dorman Long tower, the real debate we should be having is about the future of the blast furnace.
Germany has repurposed a number of its old industrial sites including its steel works and blast furnace like Landschaftspark, which is now a world famous tourist attraction.
It is imperative to create the right environment for future business and employment and of course we can’t live in the past.  We absolutely  need to regenerate the site to bring new industry and quality jobs, but surely we can still treat our steel heritage with the care and respect it deserves!

The original SSI Master Plan document stated there would be detailed work to establish the business case for each structure, in collaboration with local community groups and Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council.  This has not seem to have happened. 

This is why I am launching my own consultation today to hear from the public, what their thoughts are on the future of the blast furnace. I will also be making an enquiry into what work was done to establish the viability of the saving the Blast Furnace and other iconic structures at the site.
This site is of international significance and too important to simply allow the bulldozers to come in, without at least some understanding of what is possible.
So let me know, what are your thoughts? Tell me here your ideas about the future of the Blast Furnace

Lets put an end to Child Poverty in the Tees Valley for good!

Last week I was speaking to teachers in the Tees Valley who shared how they’d been spending their own money on feeding, clothing and providing gas and electric for their pupils and I was astounded. How have our teachers become social workers over educators?

Since 2014/15 the number of families in poverty has risen nationally by a staggering 2.8% but in our region the stats are much, much worse.   Middlesbrough has seen a rise in the percentage of children living in poverty from 26.8% to a heartbreaking 42.4%[1].  The biggest rise in the country.   Three of our local authorities, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland are in the top 20 for the highest proportion of children in income deprivation.

But why and how has this happened.   Austerity has hit hard everyone but nowhere has been hit as badly as the most vulnerable children.  Sure Start centres were set up by the last Labour Government to provide help and support for families with children under 5 and proved to be a huge help to new parents especially in some of our most deprived areas.  The Tories responded to this by cutting funding by 62% and resulting in the closing of over 500 such centres.  Other cuts were squarely aimed on squeezing cost savings from those same poverty stricken families.  Benefit caps were introduced to restrict the benefits that families could claim to a maximum of two children.  Introduced in 2017, this cap has had a devastating effect on larger families and according work done by the Child Poverty Action Group could ultimately effect 800000 families and over 3m children.  In a survey of affected families 88% said it will affect their ability to feed and clothe their children and many talked of “feeling shame and guilt at not being able to offer a normal family life” [2] .

Unfortunately it is clear that under this Conservative government domestic issues like child poverty take a backseat but in the Labour Party this is an absolute priority. We have promised that we would scrap benefit caps and the Two Child limit, invest in 1000 new Sure Start Centres and expand free childcare in order to help parents get back into the workforce.  We pledged to poverty proof our schools by providing free school meals to all primary school children and to tackle the costs of new school uniforms that put such a burden on parents every August.  Most importantly, we would tackle these issues at the root of the problem by introducing a Real Living Wage and abolish in work poverty[3].

At a more local level, as Mayor, I will work to ensure we tackle child poverty and ensure families in the Tees Valley thrive, this means working with businesses to have more family flexible policies. Investing in parts of our economy that will lead to better pay and better jobs, aimed at those who have fallen behind in the labour market and particularly women and families and I will seek to develop community hubs that allow everyone to feel like they can find help and support.  I believe by working collectively with our communities we can make a better future for everyone.

[1] Centre of research in Social Policy at Loughborough University research based on DWP Child poverty stats



Without grassroots, independent culture there is no culture

Without grassroots, independent culture there is no culture. And without culture, there’s a gaping hole in our economy and society.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, I have had a continuous, resounding, repeating anxiety when it comes to thinking about our cultural sector (when I say culture, I mean nightlife, pubs, clubs, restaurants, festivals and the arts).
My fear has been this – “What if only the strong survive?”

Polar Bear in Hull

I’ve spent a long time leading, investigating, thinking about and being a part of regeneration projects, creative development and innovation. I’ve seen the big masterplans for city regeneration, the £30 million “knock the old structures down” designs and the development corporation’s “build the business park and they will come” ideas. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. We do and will always need the big top down approaches, but what nearly always works, anywhere, across the globe from Bilbao to Brixton, Belfast to Berlin is culture and cultural regeneration.

I have come to believe that the most important players in any economy but particularly within our cultural economy are the small, the independent and often grassroots businesses. They are the innovators and the entrepreneurs. You know the ones, the arts venue built with love and a bit of MDF, the street food business that trawled the streets for years before getting its first shop, the micro-pub that is now the semi-permanent home of both your best friend and your favourite Gin/locally brewed beer. It’s the theatre in a disused building that brought you the play that then headlined at Edinburgh. It’s the old pub that your heroes played in when they were nobodies and the place most of us still gig in, whilst trying to ‘make it’. Basically – the soul of towns and villages and cities.

The ‘who we are’ of Great Britain, not the ‘what we are’ or ‘what we produce’  The character, the personality and the heartbeat of the places we love and call home.

Let’s look at the numbers: hospitality employs 3.2 million people, produces £130 billion towards GDP every year. The cultural and creative sector produces £10.8billion a year to the UK economy and generates a further £23billion a year and 363,700 jobs. When the Hospitality Union started calling for support early on in the Covid crisis, estimating 2 million jobs could be lost UK wide, I was one of the first in the North East to join their call, and I coordinated a North East response via Food and Drink North East. We got some of what we asked for but not all. When the Venues Trust and Music Trust launched their campaign for a cultural rescue plan, I quickly backed their call and added my voice to their campaign. I was pleased the government responded; but, just like so many interventions in the government’s response to the crisis, they have been slow and geared towards the big companies.

When I heard just this week about the closure of The Welly and Polar Bear in Hull, and Gorilla and the Deaf Institute in Manchester, my heart sank and my anxieties heightened. When I heard the silent mutterings about a known and loved eatery desperately worried they won’t earn back their Covid Crisis loan and unsure of how to keep their landlord at bay, I felt deeply uneasy. You see, to me, the big institutions and the multi-nationals stand on the shoulders of our small independent businesses. They come because someone came before – big corporations are rarely the pioneers, they often aren’t the risk takers and rarely are they the creators and innovators. But for a place to thrive you need all of these things. So whatever is done, at a local, regional and national level, if we don’t favour the small, if we don’t write policies with them in mind, then we may as well say goodbye to all that makes us strong. To all that makes us, us.

But the problem is, the Conservatives rarely seem to favour the small, they don’t tend to make decisions with the little guy in mind. Just look at some of their recent controversies in the Jenrick cash for favours or the type of schemes and companies being supported by our current Conservative Tees Valley Mayor. It’s the big, the flashy, the mate of the mate of at the £50,000 fundraising dinner, the headline winning proposal that has more gloss than grit. But I have come to expect little less. They are after all a party funded by the big, the rich and the powerful. They pay lip service to the small and sometimes they do ok, throwing a little cash about here and there, but when it comes down to it, when the rubber hits the road, will it be Joe’s Gin Bar and Lula’s DIY music hall that weathers the storm and gets their support, or will it be the Multi-national land owner who is second cousin of the PM? I hope I am wrong but the signs so far say we stand on shaky ground.

There’s another crisis looking, even more deadly and destructive than Coronavirus and this time we must act.

There’s another crisis looking, even more deadly and destructive than Coronavirus and this time, we must act.  We can not afford to turn away any longer.  Dealing with the Covid-19 crisis has got me thinking all the more about this next big crisis yet to come. The Climate crisis. It is going to hurt our nation and the globe in ways never imagined.  We must be prepared. We have now lived through a crisis, we have seen how quickly we needed to, but could adapt, how behaviours and ways of doing things, we never imagined possible were implemented within days. We also learned how timing is imperative. The point at which the country went into lockdown, when mass gatherings were stopped and when social distancing was introduced, all determined ultimately, how many lives would be saved.

The world’s best scientists have been warning us about the climate crisis for 40 years, their voices getting louder yet in the 40 years since we were first warned, despite many ordinary people’s best efforts, carbon emissions have risen by 60%. More CO2 in the air, means ultimately more warming of the planet. Year on year we reach record temperatures. When we reach 1.5 degrees warmer, it is game over. Life on this planet as we know it will collapse. We don’t have decades, we have years. But getting there will mean dealing with it like it really is. A crisis.

Since lockdown was called in February, cars were parked and planes grounded. Despite this, the amount of Co2 in our atmosphere still broke records in April.

The truth is, no matter how many envelopes we recycle and bean burgers we buy, we don’t have the power as individuals to make the big changes we need to stop this crisis. But as political leaders we do.

The coronavirus has showed us something astounding- we have proven that it is possible to put the old system on hold, that money can found to get us through a crisis, and that leaders can when it comes to it, put people’s lives above profits.

The question now is, do we go back to life as normal, or do we create and prepare for a new normal, a better normal, a normal that ensures a healthy and safe environment for our kids, a normal where people’s well being is given the same credence as the economy.

So let’s stop and ask ourselves, what don’t we want to come back as we move on from the Coronavirus? What can be done better? What can we do ourselves? How can we improve our communities? What can our governments do, local, regional and national?

In this country, we have all the tools, and the money we need to solve the climate crisis. They just need to be implemented.

We must demand it for our futures sake.

There are so many ideas we could begin to put in place in the Tees Valley, and we must begin by calling a Tees Valley Climate Emergency.

Some simple ideas that could  be pushed through at a Tees Valley level are

  • Supporting flexible and home working, providing incentives, guidance and recognition to companies who implement this
  • A Tees Valley environmental awards, support and framework, to support and recognise those businesses who are going above and beyond in reducing emissions and contributing to a zero carbon future
  • Increase funding to low carbon jobs, training, research and industries
  • Ensuring investment funds of local and combined authorities follows climate tackling industries, zero carbon initiatives and is divested away from fossil fuel related industries
  • Post Covid-19, build back better funding for businesses could have climate and emissions targets attached
  • Create a community energy fund and incentives for community energy and retrofitting scheme development
  • Setting up a people’s assembly on climate
  • Significant investment in cycle use including financial support for e-bikes and cargo bikes alongside fast tracking cycle route development
  • Prioritising public transport investment, including fast tracking developments at Darlington Station

These are just a few of the things we could be spearheading, there are more. But one thing I am sure of is with leadership, bravery and vision we can build back a better Tees Valley for people and for the planet. We can avert the crisis but we must do it now.






Sirius, the Conservative Minister and his Billionaire Friend – We are definitely not all in this together!

As revelations of Conservative donors and lucrative businesses deals, aided by friends in Government emerge, I have been deeply angered but not surprised. I have been doing some of my own investigating of the links between the Conservatives and deals done in this area and I have been left with many more questions than answers. The Conservatives have done a remarkable job at convincing working class, poorer voters that they are on their side, but the façade can not last. It is our job as opposition to expose the truth, and I and my team will be doing just that over the coming months. We will leave no rock unturned.

Firstly – let’s talk about Sirius Minerals.  According to an article in The Guardian, Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick, met with Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer in March 2018 while Jenrick served as exchequer secretary to the Treasury. The meeting between Jenrick and Ofer, the ultimate owner of UK mining firm Cleveland Potash, happened while Jenrick was determining whether to offer state support for a new potash mine being built by Sirius Minerals. The new mine would have posed serious competition for Ofer’s own mining operations. The application for funding was later rejected by the government.

A great deal of hope as well as hard cash has been invested in the plans for a £3bn polyhalite mine near Whitby, linked by an underground conveyor to processing plant on Teesside.

Conservative politicians have been happy to associate themselves with Sirius when it provided PR opportunities. Ben Houchen, Conservative Tees Valley Mayor, has talked about it regularly in the press and it being a sign of confidence in Teesside.

Sirius began asking for Government support for the project in 2018, with Ben Houchen backing their call for a loan guarantee. Robert Jenrick was assessing that request. But back in March 2018, Jenrick had met Idan Ofer, now acknowledged to be a “family friend”.  Ofer was the ultimate owner of Cleveland Potash – a rival of Sirius, also aiming to grab a share of the global market for polyhalide fertiliser. So there’s a conflict of interest. Jenrick recognised this and eventually stepped aside from decision making regarding the Sirius aid request. What we don’t yet know is WHEN he told his officials, or when he last had any input into the decision making process.

In January 2019 Theresa May (then PM) confirmed that funding guarantees were being discussed between the Government and Sirius Minerals and that although details were commercially sensitive it was exactly the sort of project that the Northern Powerhouse is all about: driving investment, driving exports, good for the north. City broker Liberum responded positively – keeping share prices from tanking.

BUT, in March 2019, another firm belonging to Ofers (as explained above, the owner of Cleveland Potash, rival to Sirius, and friend of Robert Jenrick), Quantum Pacific UK Corporation, donated £10,000 to the Conservatives. They’d never given to the Conservative Party up to that point.

In September 2019, the government refused Sirius Minerals request for support. This left the company is serious difficulties, unable to raise further finances and the share price hit rock bottom.

Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen continued to be upbeat. In a statement, Houchen claimed that he was in daily contact with the Managing Director of Sirius and remained confident

In the run up to the December 2019 General Election, Simon Clarke was campaigning in Middlesbrough with Liz Truss.  Reportedly, she was the one who picked up responsibility for deciding on the Sirius Aid request after Jenrick had eventually let go of the case, but Truss said “It’s not something I’ve made a direct decision on”.

So was she the decision maker? She doesn’t seem to be taking the credit (or blame) for it, but if it wasn’t her, and it wasn’t Jenrick, who was it?

Sirius by now was desperate to find a way to keep the project going, and had to accept a cut-price deal from Anglo American in January 2020. This wiped out the savings of thousands of small investors, many of them ordinary North Yorkshire and Teesside residents who’d been drawn to the exciting project right on their doorstep. Ofer could stand to gain from the delays and disruption to the rival Sirius plans.

So that’s the story of the Government failure to back Sirius. A failure that cost jobs, delayed the project – scaled back and only recently resuming work under the new owners – and led to many small shareholders losing their life savings.

But that is not all 

This is not the first time Robert Jenrick has been involved in controversy – Mr Jenrick struggled to get planning permission for an extension to one of his London homes until Conservative councillors intervened to approve it.

In his current role as Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick is under pressure over allegations that he rushed through a £1bn development in order to help a wealthy Conservative Party donor save £45 million (money that would have gone to the local council). Jenrick had met Mr Desmond at a Conservative fundraising dinner and his decision on the development was challenged in the High Court over the ‘appearance of bias’. Jenrick did not contest the case. He still has his job as Secretary of State.

And this is the point, the idea that we are all in this together, that we have the same rules and abilities to influence decisions regardless of who we are is the biggest con in living history. Money talks. Friends in high places help each other. Look at  Britain’s top 100 rich list, 1/3 of them are Conservative donors according to the Huffington Post. But it goes beyond this, it is about connections, friendships, schools you went to and clubs you were a part of. Which parties do you attend together, who do you sit next to at a fundraising dinner. Believe me, the Conservatives do not sit next to the likes of you and me. We are not in their club. We don’t get to influence decisions.

I want answers, not just in these decisions about Sirius, but in many other areas. We have a Conservative led Combined Authority that is spending millions and millions every year, investing in big projects with different businesses, people and corporations. I want to work on your behalf to ensure that there is accountability, integrity and ultimately fairness in all of those decisions.  We have to be assured that decisions made in the best interests of Teesside people, not because a friend of a friend sat next to a politician at a dinner party. We are watching very, very closely.

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