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 am 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.

She added: "Women in the Tees Valley have been overlooked and undervalued for far too long."

In response, Mr Houchen said: “My plan for jobs – creating good quality, high skilled local jobs for local people – is creating jobs for women and men across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“I’m proud of my records of promoting women. As mayor I appointed the combined authority’s first female chief executive and female directors across a range of departments from education to innovation and technology and governance. More than half of the staff at the combined authority are women, helping to drive positive change across the region.

"Once we saved our airport from closure, I also set up a national programme called Women in Avaition to encourage more female STEM careers.

“If anyone in the Labour party actually bothered to visit the Teesworks site and speak to the local people who are working on site, they will know there are dozens of former steelworkers who are delighted to be back working at home.

"These 'hard hats' jobs my labour opponent is mocking are local people and former steelworkers earning a good salary, whilst at the same time being able to see their families and loved ones rather than travelling hundreds of miles across the country every week.

“Labour constantly talk down the good quality well paid jobs we’re creating at the former Redcar steelworks site and take any opportunity to smear the progress we’re making. They take any opportunity to mock the jobs we’re creating for former steelworkers as ‘not real jobs’, I’d like Labour politicians to come down to the site and say that to the workers.

"Labour hasn’t changed. They’re still trying to play divide and conquer politics. The same divisive Corbynite politics from a Corbyn candidate.

"I’m proud to be here to represent and do everything I can for every person across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool."