SINCE 2017 I have tirelessly banged the drum for Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool, and with less than 24 hours until the Chancellor unveils his latest Budget, I once again urge Rishi, who knows our region so well, to give our region the attention it rightfully demands.

Everyone’s top priority, locally and nationally, has to be jobs. I know from talking to local businesses how much they’ve struggled as a result of the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, and it’s to the government’s credit that through the furlough scheme and other measures lives and livelihoods have been supported and saved.

To make sure that our comeback is far better than the setback I’ve made some clear asks of Rishi, headed up by two big, ambitious demands that will kickstart job creation and recovery in Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool.

First, I want the Chancellor to give the green light to my plans for the Teesside Freeport. I’ve made it very clear to him that this is my top budget demand. The Teesside Freeport will be truly transformational for Teesside and will lead to a golden age of investment and good-quality jobs for local workers.

Should Rishi stand at the Dispatch Box tomorrow and give my plan the go ahead it will unlock a jobs dynamo, a roaring engine of economic growth, and create a flag-bearing project for Global Britain. With Freeport status our area can be a global player in advanced manufacturing and engineering and we can be reborn as an industrial powerhouse.

The Teesside Freeport heralds a jobs tsunami for our region. Within five-years it will create 18,000 skilled, good-quality, well paid jobs and turbocharge our local economy by a massive £3.2billion. It would also increase international investment into Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool by over £1.4 billion.

Rishi was an early supporter of freeports himself, so I know that he understands the enormous potential we have here. There are amazing opportunities in offshore wind and clean energy, and for our steel industry, as well as the chance to create a huge range of supply chain jobs in manufacturing, logistics, maritime, and other sectors which can deliver the kind of good quality, well-paid jobs that will bring a better life for local people.

Teesside Freeport might be a big enough demand for some, but I think we need to raise our sights higher still. I’ve put another proposal to Rishi. As a North Yorkshire MP who is often in the area, he knows very well how frustrated local people have been for years with out-of-touch, faceless bureaucrats who sideline ordinary people’s concerns.

So I’ve spent over a year pressing everyone from Rishi himself and the Prime Minister to senior civil servants and MPs to bring the government’s most powerful department to Teesside as part of the Government’s plan to relocate senior civil servants out of London.

This would mean 800 top jobs in Rishi’s own department coming to a new northern economic campus, dubbed ‘Treasury North’. Some in Whitehall have been scheming for this project to be watered down to a few people relocating from London to another metropolitan centre like Leeds, Manchester, or Newcastle as a token gesture. That simply isn’t good enough.

What we need is to drag government out of metropolitan Britain to the coal face of cutting-edge industry, showing top officials on a daily basis both the amazing things we have to offer and the challenges we face. This can give Teesside people a seat at the top table of government and bring better, more responsive, decision-making.

Bringing Treasury North to our area would also bring huge job opportunities. That’s why more than 100 local business leaders, both Teesside and Durham Universities, and political leaders from across the political spectrum, have backed my proposal. Our children can grow up seeing a top government job is within reach and that such a career can be built right here in our area.

But as well as these direct job opportunities, there will be a huge range of supporting roles. There will be construction jobs to build the purpose-built offices the Treasury has signalled it requires. There will be roles supporting the campus from day to day, from security to maintenance to reception to IT roles. There will be big opportunities for businesses supplying food, drink, accommodation, and other goods and services to those who’ll be coming to Treasury North for meetings, conferences, and other events. All these jobs in turn can help build critical mass to support all kinds of sectors in our local economy develop, opening up new opportunities. It will be a virtuous circle of job creation and it can’t come soon enough.

The best way to prevent low incomes and low opportunities from blighting the lives and hopes of adults and children is to do all we can to create new, good quality, well-paid jobs, on an unprecedented scale. Teesside Freeport and Treasury North can deliver the jobs, the investment, and the growth that we need. Our ambition is unlimited, as is the opportunity in front of us.

We have put the building blocks in place, we have the plans, we have the talent and we have the vision; the question is, does Rishi have the strength to stand up to the Whitehall mandarins that have held our region back for so long to deliver a Budget for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool?