Tees Valley businesses have made clear what they expect from their Mayor when the successful candidate is elected on 4 May.
The North East England Chamber of Commerce Manifesto has been released today (16 March 2017) with full details of what the business community sees as the priorities for this important new position. This document covers a range of issues important to Tees Valley’s future development such as skills and inward investment. Chamber Members support the measures set out in the Tees Valley Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) which was published last year. This Manifesto sets out what Members would like to see from the Mayor in their role as an economic figurehead for the Tees Valley.
Rachel Anderson, head of policy and representation said: “Devolution is gathering pace here in the Tees Valley, this makes it vital the business community has a chance to really analyse each potential Mayor’s stance on key concerns. We have a great opportunity to punch above our weight and the right Mayor is an important part of us exploiting our potential.”
Chamber Tees Valley members’ views included specific areas of policy and action plans they want to see implemented.
Skills is consistently named by businesses as their most important issue. The Mayor has a responsibility to deliver the SEP skills agenda and seek to attract and retain talented people, particularly graduates in the region. The Mayor should also use their position to ensure a clear and co-ordinated programme for business engagement with schools and universities building on previous expertise is delivered.
The Mayor should have a clear skills Strategy for the Tees Valley which takes account of the Apprenticeship levy. The Mayor should seek to put in place a skills development programme benefitting supply chains and potentially training a top quality careers service, which will utilise any opportunities presented by the Apprenticeship Levy. Any programme should offer an easily accessible programme for large employers for allocation of funds within their own companies and to utilise any underspend which develops the overall economy of the Tees Valley and is beneficial to key sectors. Early dialogue should begin with companies located in the area where decision makers sit outside the Tees Valley.
ii) Regional Image
Whilst residents of the Tees Valley and the business community are aware of the advantages and opportunities within the Tees Valley, the area still has a long way to go in terms of getting the message across outside the area. The external image of the Tees Valley is not what it should be and as the Mayor will be a figurehead for the area, a proactive plan should be developed to promote the Tees Valley with the aim of improving the area’s image externally. A positive regional image and really promoting the area is crucial to delivering many aspects of economic success.
iii) Visitor Economy
Development of a Visitor Economy is vital to the future of the Area and there must be a clear plan which takes account of development and activity both inside and external to the Tees Valley where there are opportunities for the Tees Valley. The Mayor must be prepared to work other agencies such as NGI and Visit Yorkshire to ensure collaboration brings rewards and the Tees Valley is not a forgotten area.
Business supports the transport measures set out in the SEP and would wish to see the Mayor push for funding, particular for strategic projects such as Darlington Station. However, there should also be recognition that some strategic projects which sit outside the Tees Valley can deliver significant strategic gains for the Tees Valley. A Mayor should not be afraid to support strategic projects in other areas if they will deliver significant benefits to the Tees Valley even if it means a short term loss of funding to potential projects in the Tees Valley.
v) Inward Investment
A Mayor should make it a priority to meet with key businesses and investors in the Tees Valley and be a clear point of contact for any company seeking to invest. Early dialogue should take place with key sectors to identify potential projects and investors and an action plan delivered to understand their requirements and how the public sector and business community can work to bring investment to the Tees Valley.
The Mayor and Combined Authority are charged with identifying and bringing forward land for development. Investment should be made not simply in infrastructure to access land but also infrastructure on site and key strategic sites developed to make them an attractive proposition to developers. However, the sites identified should be of strategic importance to the Tees Valley economy and the funds not simply divided between each of the five boroughs.
vii) Brexit Negotiations
The Secretary of State for Brexit has signaled Elected Mayors will be consulted during the Brexit negotiations and this will give the Tees Valley Mayor a significant role representing not just the Tees Valley but the North as a whole. The Mayor should seek an early dialogue with other Mayors across the Northern Powerhouse to ensure there is co-ordinated and strong representation from the North of England on issues such as investment, trade and a replacement for Structural Funds.
In conjunction with Tees Valley Business Club, CBI, EEF, FSB and Entrepreneur’s Forum the Chamber has organised a hustings event where the five Tees Valley Mayoral candidates will answer questions about their proposed policies from the business community. It will take place on Thursday, 23 March at Wynyard Hall. Candidates at the event will be Sue Jeffrey (Lab), Ben Houchen (Con), John Tennant (UKIP), John Tait (North East Party) and Chris Foote-Woode (Lib Dem).
Further information on the Hustings is available at http://bit.ly/2mskjW2