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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Labour pledge to ‘turbocharge’ North East jobs with mayor’s bid to regenerate ports and rivers

Labour vowed on Monday to “turbocharge” jobs and economic growth in the North East.

At a meeting with newly-elected North East mayor Kim McGuinness and other mayors from across England, Sir Keir Starmer promised to put boosting regional economies “top of the agenda”.

Ms McGuinness started work in her new job last week, having claimed victory in the historic election to become the political figurehead for a new combined authority stretching across Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham.

The former Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner’s manifesto included a commitment to create “thousands of highly qualified green jobs” in sectors including renewable energy and housebuilding.

She has plans to set up a Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC), a publicly-owned body set up to acquire and regenerate land, connecting the North East’s rivers and ports around Blyth, Tyneside, Sunderland, and Seaham.

Ms McGuinness, who kicked off her mayoral campaign last year at Equinor’s South Shields operations base for the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, pledged on Monday that she would “repair the damage” to a regional economy “neglected and undermined by 14 years of Tory austerity”.

The mayor, who met with Sir Keir and other leaders in the West Midlands, said: “That means good local jobs, it means green jobs around our ports and rivers embracing the opportunity offshore wind and advanced manufacturing presents. It means investing in childcare and training child care workers to make sure everyone has access to a good job.

“Devolution in the North East has so far been too limited, too narrow. Having met with Keir and the shadow front-bench team, I’m assured that with a Labour government, we’ll get real devolution and bring more power out of Westminster, into our region, to make our own decisions and finally grow our economy.”

Labour said that its analysis showed that the average gap in GDP per person between London and other regional combined authority areas in England is £29,000.

Sir Keir has pledged that a Labour government would hand elected mayors powers over transport, skills, housing, planning, employment support and energy, plus long-term funding settlements.

The Opposition leader said: “My Labour government would rebuild our economy hand in hand with local leaders. That’s why boosting growth across every region will be top of the agenda for our devolution plans. Drawing on the expertise and ideas of Labour mayors who know their communities best, we can set the ‘gold standard’ for delivering local growth.

“With our sleeves rolled up and plans already being developed before a general election, Labour will be ready from day one. We’ll turbocharge growth across our towns, cities and regions, put more money in people’s pockets and improve living standards across Britain.”

Meanwhile on Monday, Rishi Sunak insisted that the Tories had “made progress in the most difficult conditions any government has faced since the Second World War” since 2010.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, the Prime Minister denied that a change in the power balance at Westminster would make Britain’s problems “magically disappear” and accused Labour of having “no plans”.

While admitting that people’s insecurities had been heightened by fears over new tech like artificial intelligence, Mr Sunak said it was “incumbent upon us to make this a period not just of great danger but of great progress too”.

He added: “There are storms ahead. The dangers are all too real, but Britain can feel proud again, Britain can feel confident again, because with bold action and a clear plan, we can and we will create a secure future.”

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