Latest Public Sector News

16.03.17

Tees Valley mayor must prioritise ‘high and persistent’ unemployment from day one

The new Tees Valley metro mayor has been recommended three major priorities to focus on when they take office after 4 May to make the devolved region a success, a report by Centre for Cities has outlined today.

The think identified a number of areas that needed urgent work, including responding to the Teeside Steelworks (SSI) closure, getting long-term unemployed people back into work and making the most of Middlesbrough city centre to attract high-skilled workers to the region.

Top of the agenda for the incoming mayor will be setting out a plan for the region to deal with the closure of the Redcar steelworks “from day one” – by retraining workers who had lost their jobs before moving on to repurposing the site.

The importance of working with Whitehall to achieve this goal was also emphasised, as the mayor was urged to use their informal powers to prioritise reinvestment in training over repurposing when deciding on budget allocations.

Last year, PSE reported that the Tees Valley leaders had pledged that their deal would be a “flagship” for successful devolution, promising economic success for the region.

Deputy chief executive of Centre for Cities, Andrew Carter, who will soon replace Alex Jones as CEO, said: “The most urgent challenge facing the new metro mayor will be dealing with the impact of the SSI steelworks closure, and from day one they should set out a plan to support former employees who are yet to secure a new job.

“The mayor should work closely with central government, local councillors and businesses to provide support for people to retrain, and to help them access job opportunities.

“Obviously, the results will take a while to be felt, but signalling their intention to address this issue as a top priority will be crucial for the new mayor in winning the trust and support of people across the city-region.”

The long-term economic goal of creating jobs in the region was also recognised as an area for the mayor to turn their eye to when they get into office.

“The Tees Valley has high and persistent levels of unemployment, with the share of local residents receiving employment benefits more than twice the national average, and youth employment even higher again,” added Carter.

The importance of bringing together all the different agencies involved to create a more “joined-up approach” to addressing the social, health and economic factors which prevent people from working was pinpointed by the report as key to solving this issue.

Carter continued: “The experiences of trying to do this in Greater Manchester through the Working Well programme offer important insights for the mayor in how this can be done.”

Finally, boosting Middlesbrough’s city centre was also seen as crucial to enticing businesses to the region, and therefore boosting the Tees Valley economy in the future.

“For the city-region to be successful in the future, it needs to do more to support high-skilled, high paying businesses and jobs across a broader range of industries, not just manufacturing,” argued Carter.

Focus should also be placed on “investing in and improving” the centre of Middlesbrough to make it a better place for businesses to locate and create jobs in.

He went on to say that reaching this goal would also contribute to tackling the region’s unemployment, concluding: “This will be critical in boosting employment and wages in the kinds of industries which will help the city region and its residents to prosper now and in the future.”

Today’s report is part of a series of similar insight from the think tank, which has also outlined what it believes should be the top priorities for the incoming mayors in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands Combined Authority, for example.

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