Train the people. Create the jobs. Generate the wealth.

Most political leaders get to choose their cabinets – local authority leaders, Scottish or Welsh first minister, the Prime Minister. Combined Authority Mayors are the exception. Our cabinets comprise the leaders and deputies from each constituent council. I’m looking forward to welcoming the new North of Tyne Cabinet Members, regardless of party.

Despite the narrative about a Labour collapse in the North East, Labour stands strong in the North of Tyne. There hasn’t been a Conservative elected in Newcastle since 1992. In North Tyneside, Labour still dominates the council with 51 seats out of 60, up from 48. Labour’s Norma Redfearn was re-elected with an overwhelming mandate as Borough Mayor. Rural Northumberland stayed under Conservative control literally by luck of the draw. Two seats were tied, and results decided by pulling the winner out of the ballot box. Interestingly, two new Green councillors have been elected in Northumberland.

I’m a democratic socialist, and I place democracy on equal footing with socialism. If there’s one thing this election shows us, it’s that devolution is on the agenda. Scottish and Welsh incumbent parties have done well, as have Metro Mayors across the north. In a poll for the Centre for Cities, 83% of people said they wanted their mayor to have more devolved powers and budgets.

The Combined Authority exists to bring good, well-paid jobs here. To improve skills. To enable people to re-skill and change their career if they want to. And to close the prosperity gap, which we can see every time we walk along any of our high streets.

To do that, we need to spend money. And we’re doing that in a highly effective, targeted way. £9 million on regeneration projects like the Shields Ferry landing, repair of the Protection Jetty surrounding the Fish Quay, and redevelopment of three housing sites in North Shields. £10 million on our Recovery Innovation Fund. This includes vouchers to help businesses adapt and utilise new technologies, innovations in tourism, and projects to adapt underused places and spaces.

We’re not just focusing on work. We’ve a rich history of culture and creativity. We’re working with Creative England and spending £3.25 million on a North of Tyne Culture and Creative Recovery Programme which starts this month.

Dealing with the climate emergency is a priority for me. We’re putting over £4 million into clean energy. Our North of Tyne Offshore Infrastructure Fund is preparing the facilities to bring green jobs to the Port of Blyth, and the iconic site of Swans Energy Park – formerly the old Swan Hunter shipyard.

We’re driving innovation in green jobs with our £10 million Green New Deal Fund. These projects will directly reduce carbon emissions and create skilled jobs. This Green New Deal positions us a national leader.

Next week I’m signing the steel at the construction of NUCastle – the new youth centre we’re funding near St James’s. In with the £2.6 million funding is the money to run outreach programmes, using sports to help young people improve their education and job prospects.

We’ve got world-class brains and universities here. We’re investing £5 million in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, turning that world-class R&D into jobs and start-up businesses. And another £10 million with the National Innovation Centre for Data creating jobs and innovation with local digital businesses.

On top of all of this, we’re delivering a North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission. This anchors our work in the real lives and challenges of some of our most vulnerable citizens. We’ll be delivering the recommendations from our Citizens’ assembly on Climate Change. Rolling out our Community Hubs programme. Establishing our festivals & events programme once Covid is over. And funding our inward investment programme to attract firms to set up here.

In total we’re spending £59m, creating more than 4,310 new jobs. Regardless of the election results, all of the Cabinet will work together, roll up our sleeves and crack on with the job. Supported by the amazing Combined Authority staff team we’ve built from scratch over the past two years. Our task is to create a zero-carbon, zero-poverty North of Tyne.

Train the people. Create the jobs. Generate the wealth.

*Originally published in the Journal and Evening Chronicle 10 May 2021