Category Archives: General Blog

Living and dying behind a supermarket – not on my watch!

Hearing yesterday about people dying on the streets of Teesside, brought home the issue of homelessness to me, once again. At a round table with Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing minister, participants from across the Tees Valley housing sector shared some of the big concerns alongside solutions and ideas that could begin to fix Teesside’s housing problem. Hearing that people on Teesside have died in the cold behind a local supermarket, is a travesty. How is it that in one of the richest countries in the world, we still have people dying on the streets?

Homeless has risen by 141% since the Conservatives came to power, and our current Tees Valley Mayor has done nothing on this issue and little to address wider housing issues such as rogue landlords and poor quality housing. Susan Gill from the homeless cafe in Middlesbrough told me “We lost fifteen people in 2019, six last year and two in the last year. We have found them behind behind iceland because that’s the only place with a shelter and most seem to go there.” She also raised concerns about debts being accrued by those who will not be able to pay, saying it was scandalous.In the initial lockdown last year local authorities moved quickly to offer accommodation to rough sleepers with some success.

But many will be forced back onto the streets when that scheme ends next month. There are also fears that financial and personal problems caused during the pandemic will create a new crisis of homelsessness as landlords begin to claw back unpaid rents.We need to take action now to prevent this growing into another crisis. People fall through the safety net for so many reasons, because of family rifts, the breakdown of a relationship, unemployment or getting their benefits sanctioned. Ordinary home life is so fragile. There is always a tale of human tragedy behind it.

People should not be abandoned to the streets because of a twist of fate. Housing will not be neglected under my watch, it will be given the attention it deserves. When housing situations worsen people are either left homeless or find themselves in the hands of Dodgy landlords with substandard property.

Susan told me stories of rental properties left for months with no heating or hot water, that can’t be right. These are people. They need to be treated with dignity and respect and helped towards rebuilding their lives. Local leadership working closely with housing providers, ethical investors and the appropriate agencies can begin to resolve this problem. We can do something about this if there is the political will and leadership.

The Tees Needs A NIGHT TIME ECONOMY Champion

Teesside should have a ‘night time economy advisor’ to help a vital sector bounce back after the lockdown says the Labour candidate in the looming mayoral election.

Jessie Joe Jacobs believes pubs, clubs, theatres and venues are key drivers for the local economy and they need a dedicated champion to help them rebuild after a traumatic year.

“I support the campaign by ‘Seat at The Table’ for the government to appoint a cabinet minister for hospitality to protect and promote this vital cog in the economy,” she said.

“And I believe there should be a ‘hospitality and night-time economy ambassador’ for the Tees Valley too.

“The roles would be champions and guardians of hospitality In Parliament and within the mayor’s office, promoting the importance of the economic, social and employment contribution of the sector to society. They would advance the status of hospitality and tourism at a regional and national level.”

The role would be especially important at local level as pubs, restaurants and venues struggle to return after a long lockdown. There will be many problems to overcome but Jacobs is confidenty they have the drive to bounce back. 

“I love our small independent businesses and our hospitality industry, ” she said. “They are the heart and soul of our communities, the ‘who we are’ of Great Britain. They are central to the character, personality and the heartbeat of the places we love and call home.

When the Hospitality Union started calling for support early on in the Covid crisis, estimating two million jobs could be lost UK wide, I was one of the first in the North East to join their call,” she says.

The often over-looked sector is huge. 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. Jacobs has been fighting hospitality’s corner since the first lockdown.

“I coordinated a regional 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 it feels like, the longer this crisis goes on, the harder it is for these businesses to bounce back and the harder these business owners will be finding things. “

People across the Tees Valley have missed the opportunity to enjoy a night out during a difficult period and Jacobs worries about the damage that has been done.

“Birthdays and celebrations are usually spent in our favourite bar, with our favourite people, eating and drinking our favourite meal and drinks,” she said.

“But this last year has been very different and as this crisis rolls on, the loss of those simple things, has become more apparent. But more worrying is the lingering fear, about what of those everyday things and places will still be left after this crisis?”

And Jacobs has urged those in the sector to get in touch to share ideas.

“If you want to talk to me about anything specific, have any concerns or you just want a chat, please get in touch. Times feel tough, it’s so hard to stay positive, but just remember that fighting spirit and bravery that drove you to start a business in the first place, that’s something nothing can take away.

“Dig deep, the end is in sight and there are brighter days ahead.”

Five Things You Can Do To Help

With the country still under lockdown those businesses are under tremendous pressure but there are things you can do to help

1) If you are local hospitality business is still open, why not order click and collect or take away.

2) If your favourite hospitality business isn’t open, why not drop them a message letting them know you miss them and , that you are looking forward to coming back to them when they reopen.

3) Support a crowd funder for a local venue or a hospitality fundraiser. Tht has been a success for the Westgarth Social Club in Middlesbrough and The Georgian Theatre in Stockton but there will be others.

4) Join my call for a National Minister for Hospitality and a ‘Hospitality and Night-time Economy Ambassador’ for the Tees Valley.

5) Lastly, post an image of your favourite pub or restaurant on your Facebook wall or Instagram. Remind everyone else about how much we value them.

Saying no to demolition of redcar blast furnace

The Tees mayor has announced he’s demolishing the Redcar Blast furnace, even though he was presented a proposal to keep the heart of the furnace, that experts from the Save Our Steel heritage task group say would be cost virtually no more than to demolish, would need only 1/1000th of the site of Tees Works and wouldn’t affect jobs or development. He is simply doing what Tories always do, ripping the heart out of communities.

Houchen is making a mistake,” said Jessie Joe. “The Conservatives ripped the heart out of Teesside when they took away large scale steel-making and this will be finishing the job. The furnace means a lot to generations of people who worked in the industry. It is a still important icon of who we are and what we built. It won’t be going down without a fight.
But it is not just nostalgia. Heritage icons like the blast furnace can play a huge part in economic regeneration. There are countless examples across the globe like the Angel of the North and the Landschaftpark in Germany where rather than being discarded, industrial history has preserved cultural identity and led to tourist interest and complemented existing industries.

The removal of the blast furnace is based on a deeply flawed report, designed to build a case for demolition. It is a short-sighted plan based on a report that bears no resemblance to reality. The report he commissioned was based on retaining huge amounts of old structures and building a visitor centre – but no one has asked for that, people have simply been asking to keep the furnance and keep the heart of Teesside’s industrial heritage.

It proves Ben Houchen does not understand how to build a varied and inclusive economy for the Tees Valley. This area is desperate for jobs we need a diversity of jobs, something  which tourism and heritage alongside an industrial strategy can bring, something which I can bring.”

My Campaign to bring 750 new treasury jobs to our town centres

I am calling for the government to bring 750 treasury jobs to Teesside. Investment decisions have too often favoured the south east and this needs to change. This should be seen as a small step towards rebalancing years of Conservative neglect. It shouldn’t even be a question.

But I am also calling the mayor to ensure our town centres are offered as the main location. Our town centres are the beating heart of the Tees Valley’ local economy. They are our culture, leisure and retail hubs, and we should be doing all we can to promote increased footfall – especially as we look to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

That’s why I’m concerned that the Tees Valley Mayor is appearing to talk down down new office accommodation in places like Middlesbrough, seeking instead to direct the Government to look at “out of town” options, especially around Teesside Airport. If this were to happen then the main beneficiary would be the airport, not the Tees Valley as a whole. The Tees Valley is about to see a mini revival and people will come here from all over the UK to live, work and play.

It is one of the greatest undiscovered places in the UK, from the stunning coast, the beautiful hills to the vibrant cultural scene, affordable homes and some of the warmest, passionate and brilliant people you will meet. It is a perfect location for government decision makers to relocate to. Let’s not allow them to get stuck at an out of town development.

Jessie calls on Government AND Tees Mayor to do more to support our children

The Government needs to unveil a package of family support alongside its £4.9 billion fund for businesses to help them through the new lockdown, says Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor Jessie Joe Jacobs.

With the Prime Minister announcing a new national lockdown on Monday 4 January, including the closure of schools, Jessie is calling on the Tees Valley Mayor to do more to champion our children asking him to back the Children’s Commissioner’s call for the Government to ensure all children have access to devices and wi-fi to ensure they can be properly home-schooled during the lockdown and to use the Combined Authorities business networks to lead a campaign to raise funds from local business to meet immediate needs such as the purchase of tablets and 4G data.

Jessie is also adding her support to the campaign to keep the £20 increase in Universal Credit so far the Chancellor has stated this increase was a temporary measure but the tightened restrictions shows that the increase will be needed beyond 31 March 2021. According to Action for Children, the Tees Valley has seen a sharp rise in households with children in receipt of Universal Credit from 15,625 to 22,860 – an increase of 7235 households between January and August 2020.

Jessie said:

“The extra support to local businesses during the new lockdown is welcome – and something I have been campaigning for – but it’s clear that the Government must also do more to help families through this crisis.  

“Our children are our future and every child matters. The Government is asking for education to “go online” but to do that every child needs to have a device and wifi. Without this, poorer children’s education will suffer in the long term and we can’t allow that to happen. 

“The Tees Valley Mayor should also get behind our children, using the power and influence of the role to both lobby government and work with local business to find local solutions. We saw through the child hunger campaign how our local business communities stepped up to ensure Tees children don’t go hungry. It’s now time to come together to ensure our children also don’t go without an education. 

“We need a real plan and resources to help families in the difficult time both regionally and nationally. This means cancelling the Universal Credit cut, providing rent and mortgage holidays and ensuring people are not pushed into debt. 

I have heard from far too many concerned teachers and families to understand the Government needs to act to support Tees families, and they must provide that support quickly

Take action and get support

Early into the Covid-19 crisis I formed a community project called Teesside Community Action group. I understood very early on, our communities would find themselves in significant need and the best way to tackle that need would be to support people to support each other. We created Teesside Community Action group which produced support and advice to many new groups and people wanting to take action in their communities. From people giving out food and treats to care workers to street based community support; there were so many people stepping up. Having had a significant number of years experience in voluntary sector management, I wanted to put my knowledge to use, which in turn helped thousands of people during the crisis.

Some projects are continuing today and becoming more formal projects in their own right. If you are looking for support, here is helpful guide we created that you may find useful.

To find out more about Teesside Community Action Group – See here

Use returned £1.9bn “coronavirus relief” for small businesses and to bring new life back to the High Street

The £1.9bn “coronavirus relief” returned by supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda should be used to support small businesses, says Labour’s Tees Valley Mayor candidate, Jessie Joe Jacobs, on small Business Saturday (5 December).

Around £1.9bn in relief has been paid back to the Treasury by supermarkets. The move followed the news that Tesco paid out £315m in shareholder dividends in October – despite claiming relief funding from the Government during the pandemic.

According to the latest ONS Business Impact of Covid Survey, 15% of very small businesses (micro businesses with 0-9 employees) and 9% of small businesses (with 10-49 employees) have low or no confidence of surviving the next three months.

Jessie said:
“When I won the ‘Sunday Times Social Entrepreneur of the Year’ it was because as a charity, we understood the importance of innovation. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, my grandfather ran a small business, Jacobs Carpets for many years and I know how important small businesses are to the local economy and to our communities. I’ve been out and about visiting a number of small businesses and there are some exciting steps we can take to ensure we grow and develop those Tees Valley businesses.

“There are also some important actions that need to be made to ensure we keep hold of businesses that have struggled during the crisis. This means standing up for them and ensuring they get the support from the Government they need to keep going.

“That’s why I’m urging the Government to use the returned £1.9bn in “coronavirus relief” to support those small businesses and business owners who have missed out on funding support and to also use it to encourage new business and business diversification. The Tees Valley will be great place, to grow up, get on and grow old and this means great high streets and thriving local businesses”.

Jessie has also pledged to establish a High Street Taskforce, an innovation fund to encourage new ideas for repurposing empty buildings on the High Street and an entrepreneurs fund to support those looking to start new businesses in the Tees Valley, if elected Tees Valley Mayor in May 2021, saying.

“We must encourage innovation in local business and on our high streets, we can do this by creating an easy access fund, giving the idea creators and entrepreneurs the funding to try out new business models and ideas for the High Street; this might be within leisure, fitness and tourism.

“We need a digital strategy to ensure taxation doesn’t penalise the small and local and we must create new locally owned platforms for e-commerce so more wealth created here, is kept here in the Tees Valley.

“We need a strategy enabling councils to breathe new life into town centres by making them community hubs; encouraging the move of more public services into town centre locations, such as learning, living, youth and health and care provision;

“We lastly need an immediate review into the relationship between landlords, government and tenants. Rents are too high and lease arrangements too restrictive. Owners of these properties must play their part and can’t continue to sit on empty buildings or ask for extortionate rents, whilst the High Street goes to the wall.

“We need everyone coming together to secure the future we need”.

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.
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