A group of local MPs have condemned plans for the Tees Valley put forward by Labour’s mayoral candidate, saying her blueprint for the region amounts to a recipe for decline.
Speaking out after Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s candidate in May’s mayoral election, published her manifesto the MP’s said the plans would mean the region loses out on billions of pounds worth of investment and thousands of jobs.
Joe Jacobs failed to mention the former Redcar steelworks, Teesside International Airport or the Teesside Freeport in her manifesto – the three biggest opportunities for investment, jobs and growth in the region.
In contrast Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, is looking to build on his successful first term by focusing on jobs and investment, supporting the area to bounce back from the pandemic.
Mayor Houchen’s plans for the biggest freeport in the UK were given the green light by the Chancellor in his Spring Budget earlier this month. The Teesside Freeport will create 18,000 skilled, well-paid jobs over the next 5-years and boost the region’s economy by billions of pounds.
The Teesside Freeport has already secured its first jobs after GE Renewable Energy announced they will build their first UK factory to manufacture blades for offshore wind turbines on the Teesworks site, creating 750 direct jobs and a further 1,500 in the supply chain. Teesside securing freeport status was a condition of GE coming to the region, rather than expanding their existing facility in France.
Labour’s mayoral candidate was also criticised after she said the Teesside Freeport was “cheap” showed a “lack of imagination” was “way over hyped” and “basically a tax avoidance port.”
Rather than support the progress that is being made to breathe new life into the former steelworks site and the jobs that are being created, Joe Jacobs has mocked the jobs that are allowing steelworkers to return home as just “temporary construction jobs” and ridiculed the progress being made to transform the site.
Thousands of jobs are also on their way to Teesside Airport. Along with increased jobs at the airport due to securing more routes and airlines, such as Ryanair and TUI, 4,400 good-quality, well-paid jobs will be created through the development of a state-of-the-art manufacturing park.
Joe Jacobs has already said every pound invested in Teesside Airport is “a taxpayers’ pound wasted”. Her failure to include Teesside Airport in her manifesto shows that the airport, cherished by people across the Tees Valley and who backed Ben Houchen’s campaign to save it, would once again be starved of investment, its future put at risk and jobs lost.
Jacob young, the MP for Redcar, blasted Labour’s mayoral candidate for ignoring the former Redcar steelworks in her manifesto, saying: “For years Labour have played politics with our former steelworks, but now the mask has finally slipped, and we know exactly what Labour think of the SSI site and it’s workers.
“Not satisfied with talking down the hundreds of jobs created on the Teesworks site in the last 8-months, Labour is now erasing the site form history altogether.
“We need people who are positive about our area, and optimistic about our future - and the new jobs that have been created at the former steelworks.”
Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “This manifesto shows that everything that Ben Houchen has achieved over the last four years is at risk in this election.
“Over the last four years under the leadership of Ben our region is once again being taken seriously. International businesses are investing here creating thousands of good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people, Government departments are setting up major offices here and we are leading the way in clean energy and clean jobs.
“Teesside doesn’t need our Mayor to ignore, side-line and disregard the greatest opportunities for investment and jobs our region has, we need a mayor who will embrace every opportunity and usher in a jobs tsunami and that is Ben Houchen. Whether it is our airport, Teesworks or the Teesside Freeport we have made great progress, but there is so much more to do, let’s not risk all we have achieved and go back to square one.”
Peter Gibson, Conservative MP for Darlington, said: “If proof were needed that Labour risk undoing all of the amazing work done by Ben, this manifesto is it.
“This year we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of our fantastic airport, rather than commiserating its closure. Labour sold our airport for a pittance and sat on the side-lines and did nothing while Peel ran it into the ground.
“Labour couldn’t be trusted with our airport then and they cannot be trusted with it now.”
Matt Vickers MP for Stockton South added: “Nearly every single adult Teessider has fond memories of flying out of our amazing airport on holiday or of waving off family members from the viewing platform. But because of the short sightedness of Labour we nearly lost Teesside Airport for good, and if it was not for the vision and hard work of Ben as mayor 350 houses would now cover that was the airport car park.
“Labour never believed in our airport, they thought we didn’t need a connection to the rest of the UK and the world. How wrong they were. The investment that is pouring into our region is not coming up the motorway it’s coming through the airport terminal and if Labour get their way that will soon stop.
“We absolutely cannot risk going back to the dark old days when investment was drying up and no one took our region seriously.”
Paul Howell MP for Sedgefield commented: “Teesside Airport is synonymous with the recovery of our region.
“The work in turning the Airport from a dilapidated failure, into a thriving hub for connecting the rest of the world to Teesside, delivering investment and jobs, reflects the energy and delivery that Ben Houchen has brought to everything since he was elected. To not recognise how critical an asset the airport is typical of Labours' continual and repetitive economic mismanagement.”