Twenty twenty has a ring to it.
Last year was politically turbulent. In the North of Tyne, though, we just got on with delivering prosperity for our people.
I’ve been Mayor for eight months. Much of 2019 involved setting up a brand new combined authority. Recruiting staff, building relationships, and getting our first programmes underway.
Central government set the Combined Authority a target of creating 10,000 jobs over thirty years. That’s 1,667 jobs during my five year term.
Our business expansion programme will create 200 jobs in rural Northumberland, 252 across Newcastle and North Tyneside, and another 70 at Newcastle Helix.
Our Inward Investment Programme planned to bring another 600 jobs here. I’ve met directors of companies, talked up our area, and promoted our region. It’s working so well, we’ve expanded the programme to create 2000 jobs. Good jobs – permanent, well paid, with career prospects.
The five-year aim was 1,667 jobs. We’re on target for 2,522 in under a year.
We’ve set up a Returnships programme, supporting people who’ve been out of employment caring for loved ones. It boosts their confidence and skills to get back in to employment. Our Working Homes Programme helps people in social housing who’ve had difficulty getting in to work. It’s a supportive programme – not a coercive, benefit-sanctions approach.
Our United Nations Accredited Climate Change Teacher programme is rolling out. We’ve implemented STEM programmes to promote science through stargazing, with the mobile observatory. The kids love it! Our industrial history project with the Woodhorn museum has been a hit. Our high-speed broadband programme will reach every public building in Northumberland. We’ve partnered with the Newcastle United Foundation, to rebuild Murray House and do youth work across the whole of our region. Giving kids a good start in life is a sound investment.
And it’s important to lead by example. The Combined Authority has a gender pay gap of zero. The women get paid as much as the men.
We’ve more than tripled our budget by leveraging in money from private investment and other sources.
We’ve built a great team. I might be the centre-forward, putting the ball in the net, but behind me is a team of hard-working officers, and my cabinet colleagues.
There are too many good staff to list. Pat Ritchie, my Interim Chief Exec, deserves a special thank-you, for getting us up and running. Pat’s moving on to a new role. North Tyneside’s Paul Hansen is replacing her. With the support of my two new directors, Henry Kippin and Ruth Redfern, 2020 will see us breaking new ground.
What’s in the pipeline for this year?
Simple. Deliver the manifesto you elected me on.
The Good Work Pledge is a cornerstone of our work. It rewards good employers. Those who pay real living wages, promote career progression, and who look after their staff. Whether large or small, good employers will get an advantage when tendering for public sector work. This will raise the standard of employment across our region.
Our Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change will run this year. You, the public, will get a direct voice in making the tough choices we face to protect our future.
We’ll be setting up our first Community Hubs. There’s strength in our communities. With some funding and a bit of specialist support, we can enable people to take back control over their lives. Community hubs will be led by local communities.
On transport, we’ll see trials of the technology needed for joint ticketing. This is so you can swipe in and swipe out on any public transport, so it will automatically get you the best fare, even across different bus companies.
From 1st August, we’ll be running Adult Education programmes. We’re awarding over £6mn of contracts to local providers to support our communities with skills and life opportunities they need. Education is the route not only to better jobs, but also richer lives.
And starting this spring, I’ll be holding regular Mayor’s Question Times around the region, so I can talk to more of you in person.
So that’s my twenty-twenty vision. Happy New Year!
This article was first published in The Journal and The Chronicle on Monday 6th January 2020.