As Mayor, I will take the Tees Valley into the 21st century. I have a bold vision to become one of Britain’s most economically exciting regions, where social and economic goals will work together in synergy. We have a thriving tech industry, busy commercial centres, a cool arts and music scene, a great independent business culture, the port of Tees and swathes of reclaimable land surrounding the old SSi site. All of these are the foundations for our future growth.
A New Approach To Business
Good Business Hubs
Better approaches to doing Business should be encouraged. I envisage a network of Hubs within which cooperatives, social enterprises and other value-centred businesses will be given support and resources to grow, connect and develop a just business alternative that prioritises people, pay and equality.
Community Wealth Building
Community wealth involves economic output being shared by the many not the few. We need a more progressive procurement approach that ensures local, social-value-adding businesses will find it easier to compete for public-sector contracts. This will keep money circulating in the area rather than being siphoned off to London – or to offshore tax havens.
A Better Deal For Workers
Good Jobs and the Real Living Wage
My priority is to grow the economy in a way that is just, fair, and works for all sections of our communities. We face higher unemployment and underemployment rates than the rest of the country, so it’s vital that we create new jobs. Let’s have joined-up regional business initiatives and stimulus to our local economies. Foreign investment can be helpful too, as long as it doesn’t involve a race-to-the-bottom of wages and rates. Yes, we need more jobs, but also better jobs, that pay at least the Real Living Wage.
Workers’ Rights and Strong Trade Unions
When it was first introduced flexible working was intended to benefit the worker, but it’s become a tool by which employers are ripping off their workers. The workforces that have managed to maintain decent pay and conditions are noticeably those with strong union representation. I’m therefore very proud to champion trade union membership. Employers can benefit too, as secure and happy colleagues tend to be more productive and absent from work less.
Making More of Technology
Our economy has been changing rapidly and technology has been at the heart of that change. I’ve been inspired by the work of ‘Tech For Good’ and events such as WorkerTech which have shown how tech must be harnessed to assure better work for everyone. Tech can be highly profitable and at the same time a force for social good, if we ensure the right business model.
Public Sharing Platforms
It’s perfectly possible for ‘sharing platforms’ to be the intellectual property of municipal government on behalf of the people. I’m excited by the possibility of developing publicly-owned technology right here in Teesside. Let’s hold competitions within our FE and HE institutions to develop apps that enable new services such as car-pooling, cultural events, sports clubs, community group directories and much more.
Civic Tech Innovation
The Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has an inspiring project, the Civic Innovation Challenge, has promoted innovative research to find solutions to electric vehicle charging, affordable housing, dementia care, combatting loneliness and enabling financial inclusion. In the same vein we ought to begin a Tees Valley-wide challenge for businesses to find tech solutions to our local challenges.
A Food Revolution
Food and Drink
The North East is brimming with potential when it comes to food and drink. We should begin to transform our food and drinks industry through
- Supporting local food and drinks industry providing investment for growth, alongside encouraging the wider authority and key local institutions such as hospitals, schools and universities to procure food from local suppliers, keeping jobs and money in the region.
- Encourage local food growing and urban gardening and farming. This includes business start up support for food initiatives, the development of community allotments and the creation of new neighbourhood orchards.
Reducing Food Waste
Poverty has risen across the UK since 2010 and it has hit our region to the extent that thousands of families are struggling to even put food on the table. I commend the work of volunteers at foodbanks and soup kitchens, whilst recognising that it is time for TVCA to pull its weight too, which should include:
- Encouraging supermarkets and suppliers to reduce food waste and distribute unsold food to support charities.
- Supporting food waste initiatives such as Fuel for Schools and the Real Junkfood Network