Jessie Joe Jacobs calls for measures to help small businesses restart the economy – and mayor responds

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Jessie Joe Jacobs is calling on the Tees Valley mayor to develop innovative plans to help businesses recover and protect jobs.

Jessie says the unprecedented lockdown has put many businesses under intense financial strain which many will find it difficult to recover from.

Helping businesses come back from this will be a challenge unlike any other and while businesses are showing their innovative side that needs to be matched by the mayor too, says the Labour candidate.

Jessie has set out a number of areas where the mayor could help local businesses reopen and maintain profitability.

Firstly, to assist with small grants to help cafes, pubs and restaurants to adapt to the new rules for example in purchasing new outdoor chairs and tables.

Secondly, refocusing tourism promotion work on domestic tourists and even Teessiders themselves, helping people to discover some of the quieter hidden corners of the area.

Thirdly, a fund to help local food and drink producers reach customers, either through outdoor markets or digital sales platforms.

And finally, to work with national and local government leaders to temporarily ease up on restrictive planning laws to reduce red tape and allow for innovation and flexibility in the use of outside space for socialising and entertainment

Jessie said: “If we are to recover from this crisis we need to be bold and ambitious with our plans.

“We’re seeing innovative plans from other places for pop-up pedestrianisation to allow for pubs and cafes to spread outdoors as well as outdoor markets.

“Lots of people across Teesside work in hospitality and we need to support those jobs. The big one size fits all business grants of yesterday won’t help kick-start the economy in the way we need.

“We have got to be flexible in how we respond to this and things are changing very quickly but the mayor has to show leadership.

“We need our economy to grow faster than anywhere else in order to close the gap between us and other areas that existed before this crisis. We’ve got to work doubly hard and that needs leadership from the Mayor and to use the resources he has to help us recover.”

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic my number one priority has been the health, wellbeing and safety of everyone in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool and I’ve used all the resources I have to combat the spread of the virus while putting in place a plan for workers, local jobs and wages to restore our way of life.

“Local businesses are the backbone of our economy and it was critical in the early days of the crisis that they could quickly and easily access information on how to get government support.

“So, I established the Tees Valley Business Support helpline, a 24/7 support service that has helped to support over 2,000 local companies.

“Government support has been hugely important for businesses in our area with a Hartlepool-based firm one of the first in the country to get support through the Governments’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

“But what really matters to business is keeping customers. That’s why I set up Tees Valley Buy Local website to connect businesses that were still trading during the pandemic with local people so that our amazing communities could still support them.

“When we come through this crisis – and we will – it’s important that we have a plan for jobs and to restore our way of life and that’s exactly the plan I’m implementing, so that I can keep up the progress made so far in delivering the investment and jobs our region rightfully demands.

“Our airport is taking off once again, and diggers are already on site working on a major jobs development. This will bring international investment, which in turn will create good local jobs for local workers.

“And now we have full control of the former SSI steelwork spades are in the ground delivering the first parts of the regeneration of this crucially important site that will deliver thousands of local jobs for local workers.”