The North of Tyne Mayoral Election on May 2 will see a new mayor elected to represent the people of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.
Jane Imrie

North of Tyne Mayoral Election: Strictly business

Ahead of the North of Tyne Mayoral election on May 2, Bdaily spoke to the mayoral candidates hoping to make a difference to the region, getting their take on what matters to local business leaders and SMEs.

Three strategies or policies to boost business growth and drive enterprise:

Charlie Hoult (Conservative):

  1. Skills training.
  2. Town renewal strategy to drive investment in each town in the region, with a taskforce to help each set strategy, bid for funds and coordinate.
  3. Business board for each senior school, with a plan to match each senior school student with a volunteer career mentor.

John Appleby (Liberal Democrats):

  1. Build and strengthen relationships between the private sector and public, and internationally, including rebuilding of links damaged by the Brexit process.
  2. Establish a team to provide information and support to small and medium enterprises to help them access apprenticeships and procurement [opportunities].
  3. Develop sustainable ‘green’ industry, building on existing strengths including universities, offshore, energy sectors.

John McCabe (Independent):

  1. Make sure businesses across our region get the infrastructure they need, whether it’s being at the cutting edge of digital connectivity, or through improved transport access.
  2. A programme to ensure all school students learn computer coding.
  3. A strengthened inward investment service and a specific drive to get our big public sector sites doing more to work with local firms.

Jamie Driscoll (Labour):

  1. Put local economy first - make sure the money made in the region is reinvested locally by getting institutions including councils and universities to commit to localise their spending.
  2. Creating highly-skilled, sustainable jobs to power the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’.
  3. Setting up a Regional Bank that lends to small and medium local businesses - the profits from the bank would be reinvested locally.

Charlie Hoult, Conservative

How your professional experience equips you with the knowledge of what local business leaders need:

CH: “I founded industry network Dynamo to grow the NE IT economy. Through Dynamo sector success, I am on the business liaison board of the NE LEP, working on regional development strategy and communicating to the region’s wider business base. This is ideal training for the Mayor’s job spec.”

JA: “As head of mechanical engineering at Newcastle University for 14 years (2003-2017), I worked closely with industrial partners as collaborators, funders of research and employers of our graduates.

“As a long-standing member of the university’s governing body I also met senior people from major local enterprises and appreciated their perspectives.”

JM: “Having worked at director level at a multi-national business, set up my own firm, and been deeply involved with the North East England Chamber of Commerce, including two years as president, I’ve seen business in the region from all possible angles.

“I learned a huge amount as part of a global firm, but I realised there was a heap of extra knowledge I needed when I was taking the risks myself to start a business from scratch.”

JD: “I started out working in industry when I was 16-years old. I then went to uni to study engineering, and paid my way through by working part time. I went on to work with local and international businesses, and set up my own business developing industrial software.

“I’m a local councillor and know planning and development processes. I know how to work with business, manage teams, set a clear vision, and treat people with trust and respect.”

John Appleby, Liberal Democrats

Local industries that would be your priority for development:

CH: “One challenge of North of Tyne is the breadth of the region across city, coast and country.

“Industries that are my priority in the city are digital, health, govtech, finance, education and professional services; the coastal industries of manufacturing, shared service centres, e-commerce, ports and fishing; and country industries like tourism, farming, food, heritage, specialist housing and rural diversification.”

JA: “A wide range of small businesses, including the 100,000 sole-traders, who lack information and time, but who often produce the new ideas, energy and passion that subsequently grows.

“I’d also include small rural businesses who are under-represented [and] need good IT services, local workshops linked to housing development who are vital for our beautiful countryside to be sustainable and accessible.”

JM: “We have a very proud record of exporting in this region, but I think that sometimes masks the fact that only three per cent of our businesses actually sell overseas. If we’re going to grow our economy sustainably, we need more of our firms to be competitive in markets outside our own region.

“I also think we have the capacity to accommodate more business activity in our region. We’ve seen from businesses like Accenture and EY that there is a strong case to bring more work here from other parts of the country, including London, and I want to see us specifically build on that.”

JD: “The low-carbon economy is the industry of the future. It will be huge, and affect everything. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, agrees with me - he said even the finance industry will be affected. We’re placed to be a world leader - if we get the right person, who understands the engineering, the planning and the economic strategy.

“We can make our homes out of carbon-negative construction techniques, we can expand out renewable energy sector, and be the hub of offshore wind manufacturing.”

John McCabe, Independent

The area of business you are passionate about:

CH: “Small-to-medium size firms. They are the lifeblood of any economy - I know the risk and sacrifice that families put into their business, which is often thankless and unrecognised stress by outsiders that presume it’s all ‘easy’.”

JA: “Green industry in all its manifestations! The environment is a bigger issue, here in the North East and everywhere, than all others combined.”

JM: “One thing I’m absolutely clear about having started my own business is that it’s nothing without the right people. I’ve seen the same in many other businesses - passionate, hard working talented people from management level to the shop floor each playing a critical role in making their workplaces successful.”

JD: “The journey people make through their careers. So many people I know have started out in one line of work and made a complete shift - it’s so wonderful to see the change in people when they’ve found a job that is also their passion. Finding the skills and opportunities for people brings real prosperity - fulfilment as well as economic growth.”

Jamie Driscoll, Labour

Your message for entrepreneurs and SMEs in the North East region:

CH: “As mayor, I will be your cheerleader! You get a champion who knows the daily struggles of business but also how passionately you support the progress of the region by creating jobs, contributing to the community and training the next generation.

“Business owners need space to grow, not the turbulence of governments adding changes or new regulation or starting their own projects that compete with us!”

JA: “Although the North of Tyne area (including Hexham, Prudhoe, Allendale) could be hardest hit by a bungled Brexit, we have much to be proud of and to build on, and this new Mayoral position and structure can help us to succeed.

“We used to have the carbon; we’ve still got the energy!”

JM: “We have great opportunities in North of Tyne. We have huge assets here and the scope to grow even further. You will have a crucial role in that.

“Devolution gives us the opportunity at last to take investment and policy decisions in the North of Tyne, focusing on the issues that really matter on the ground.

“We have to make it count, and I believe that only an independent mayor can deliver the change that will enable your businesses and the people working in them to access and take those opportunities we have.”

JD: “It’s always people at the coalface who know their job best. What our SMEs need is a level playing field. I’ll be leading with these business first values to make sure every business; regardless of size have every opportunity to flourish.

“Above all, we need to keep wealth here. When people have more money in their pockets, it boosts all businesses.”

UKIP candidate Hugh Jackson was unavailable for comment.

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