Election reflections – and thanks too!

As the dust settles on last week’s North of Tyne Mayoral election, it’s time to reflect. It’s also a moment to say thank you to the many many people who, unprompted, gave their time to join my campaign for a modern, forward-looking, positive vision for this fantastic place that we call home.

These included men and women, young and old, lifelong locals and folk originally from afar – all equally proud of the region’s potential.

Above all, I want to thank the 60,089 people across our region for having the faith to give me their votes at the election. Even if it ultimately did not give us the result we wanted, runner-up at the finish line was no mean feat!

I joined the election race because I firmly believe the new North of Tyne Mayor offers a new and real opportunity for our region to make a powerful case to the outside world across business and community, as well as through Westminster.

I stood because I believe my breadth of experience could help our region to bigger and better things. My track record, working with partners to initiate £100m in civic projects, could contribute to delivering more. It’s this kind of experience our Mayor needs, as they bid for new investment and the new jobs people want so badly. Hence my election theme: Projects Not Politics.

I also stood because I love the North East. I was born here and have the region running through my veins. I run a fourth-generation business that in turn provides space for 1000 people in small businesses. I’ve helped many new ventures grow, supporting jobs and local investment along the way.

I wanted to help the region tell a positive story about the success we’re seeing here. About the growth of international brands like Greggs, Fentimans and Barbour. About the UK’s fastest-growing digital economy. About our brilliant inventions and our academic success. About the unmatched beauty of our country and coastline.

Celebrating success is also about our sporting ambition. That’s one reason why I talked a lot during my campaign about Newcastle United. Buying the club is beyond the reach of the Mayor alone, but getting the club to raise its game and give more back to the community should not be too much to ask.

A winning team is a winning region and adds to economic success too.

Who knows what else our region can achieve if we have a positive vision and outlook? That’s what the Mayor can do if it’s done right. We need an ambassador who can tell our story and make a brilliant case.

I am very concerned that the election of a hard-left Corbyn Mayor in Jamie Driscoll will mean a missed opportunity for us to celebrate our success. His victory speech last Friday was heavy on negatives and socialist rhetoric like ‘rejecting chaos’.

This is a narrative I don’t share, because I see so much great work in the region that we must applaud rather than paint a divisive world picture.

Under the gaze of international media, Driscoll’s speech was a huge missed opportunity. Where was the inclusive vision? Where was the good news? Where was the call for partnership? Inward investors watching on will hardly have been inspired to come to our region.

It’s not just the negatives and parochial thinking that concern me about Corbyn’s man. Nor is it the complete lack of experience that will leave him floundering and out of his depth.

My concern is the actual proposals he puts forward, which promise little for the people of our region. Take his plan for a community bank. All experience shows that new banks are big drains on cash and will suck in more taxpayer funds, with little public benefit whatever. This is especially true in Germany, which Driscoll cites as an example to follow.

The sensible folk running the new North of Tyne Combined Authority know this all too well. That’s why its cabinet has already moved effectively to block Driscoll’s pie-in-the-sky plans, by agreeing a framework for practical spending that will bring in new jobs.

The Mayor will chair the new authority – but has no veto on decisions made. He will have to work with a cross-party cabinet made up of moderate Labour and Conservative leaders. I’m interested to see how an uncompromising hard-left Mayor can possibly take the consensual partnership approach required for the job.

It will be essential to see the Mayor’s funds not as prime investment but as leverage to encourage partners from national government initiatives and outside corporate investors.

Some have asked me why I didn’t stand as an independent candidate, especially at a time when the Conservative party (indeed established politics generally) is viewed in such low esteem.

Blue has never been an easy colour to sell in a region steeped in Labour history. But there is structure and support that comes from party – both locally and across the Conservative network.

I have also seen closely the positive change of a progressive Conservative administration that has taken over from an entrenched Labour group in Northumberland County Council. There transformation of the finances and prospects for the county are amazing and undersold: the authority has the largest building programme of any in the UK for leisure centres and schools. It is also reducing planned debt from £1.2bn to £750m, knocking £20m per year of potential interest repayments.

My own perspective is naturally Conservative. Coming from a business background, I know why people want to set up in business and how enterprise success creates new jobs. People want the opportunity to control their own prosperity, not depend on the state.

I back a vision that supports public investment, and think the austerity agenda has hit too many too hard in our region. We must have the right safety nets in place, and offer good government-backed options like more affordable homes and flexible public transport. I support a co-ordinated approach to transport that adds more options on Metro, train and cycle and so helps tackle climate change.

Work can start immediately on building a coordinated approach to DWP benefits in North of Tyne, if the new Mayor can avoid the distractions of tinkering on the national agenda topics not in their gift to control.

The Brexit impasse at Westminster, without doubt, went down badly on doorsteps, hitting both main parties – though the North of Tyne results show that Labour was hit twice as hard as Conservative. Like it or not, most voters North of Tyne share the view that we must deliver an exit from Europe’s bureaucracy, respecting the result of the referendum.

Importantly, this North of Tyne devolution can help us to ‘take back control’ of our own local decisions. It is the disconnect from Westminster that led so many here to vote leave in 2016.

Standing for public office is no easy call. Anyone who does lays themselves open to scrutiny, and that is only right. In the social media age, however, you can also be subject to the most vile abuse possible, as well as endless tirades from obsessive keyboard warriors. I’m far from the only one to get this toxic bile!

I am thick skinned and can cope, so was content to leave my Facebook page quite open to comments pro and con. It became the home of feisty debate during the campaign, unlike social sites moderated by opponents. I have no regrets about hosting open debate and thank those who joined the discussion in a positive spirit.

I’m also grateful to fellow candidates who engaged with some of the debates we’ve had on policy.

I am disappointed by the quality of the media coverage of the election, with little by way of critical analysis of the proposals on offer, or the candidates’ suitability for the job.

Press stories all too often just re-presented the words of the candidates. With one or two honourable exceptions, our local journalists and their publishers need to up their game. I know I’m not alone in thinking this. I will continue to develop my idea for a regional media hub, which resonates with many.

The structure and opportunity for debate during the campaign was stiflingly limited. The hustings events on offer in particular were formulaic and unengaging, with a one-by-one answer format leaving no room for interaction between candidates or audience. The exception to this was a lively Friends of the Earth meeting in Alnwick – conducted with good humour and quite open discussion.

Room to improve – and an opportunity for the future maybe?

I’m grateful and offer thanks to the many people who backed me in what has been my first political campaign, with both wisdom and feet on the ground. I had a brilliant home team of volunteers, including platoons of door knockers and leaflet droppers. I’m also grateful to Sir John Hall, who was a constant mentor throughout the campaign.

I was backed above all by my wonderful family. My wife Kate and sons Bede and Hector hit the pavements to support me as much as anyone else.

My father, Freddy, was so responsible for giving me a foundation in community spirit and public service. He was modest of his record and aghast at the ‘sell’ of politics, preferring to deliver discreetly rather than blow trumpets.

He was confined to the Freeman Hospital for the duration of the campaign, was discharged to cast his vote on Election Day and, home at last, died three days after the result. He was surrounded by all his family and boundless love.

Though he never sought recognition for his works, our family will ever be proud of his contribution to public life. He took comfort that I hadn’t won, leaving me time to keep an eye on my mum, Peta, who had been his strength for 60 years!

Thank you for your incredible support during this campaign everyone. 60,089 votes is a strong body of support – and is the clearest validation of all that the effort to stand was worth it.

It’s important to consider how we give a continued voice to the aspirations of voters who understood our positive vision for growing the region.

Here’s to a positive vision for a our Great North. I ain’t going nowhere because there ain’t nowhere better. It’s up to all of us to make the future bright!

Day of destiny

On Thursday May 2, all of us in the North of Tyne region go to the polls to choose a new mayor.

The choice will be between a range of individuals of various skills, experiences and abilities.

Whoever becomes Mayor will carry a high responsibility for the economic and social growth of all of us who live here – now and in future years.

Some people have said the new Mayor does have not enough powers to affect major changes in the way we live in the region.

To some degree I concur with this, but I firmly believe this is the first step in the devolution process and more powers will come.

I have always felt that the basis of this region’s stability and growth lies with the hundreds of SMEs who have their business interests rooted here. These SMEs are generally family-owned, where the individual owners took a risk and a gamble when they started in business.

They now provide thousands of jobs and capital investment in this region for all our benefit.

In my view the first priority of a new Mayor is to ensure the continued success of these businesses. He needs to understand their needs, problems and aspirations. Without these businesses the region will be a lost cause.

I am at a loss to understand the thinking of one of the candidates, Jamie Driscoll.

In his book he says that ‘nine out of ten business owners contribute nothing to the production process.’

What absolute nonsense. It would appear he doesn’t understand how to run a business and what each member of a firm contributes. I personally do not know any owner who fits into this analysis.

I would say on behalf of all business entrepreneurs and owners that his words are a slur on all of us who runs SMEs in this region. If Jamie Driscoll had run his own successful business he would really understand that fortitude, ambition and entrepreneurship of those he criticises.

I have given my support to Charlie Hoult as I feel he has the necessary skills and experience in business to enable him to make things happen as Mayor. His family are also rooted to this area.

It is easy to write words and theorise but often the words are lost in the sands of time.

A successful Mayor will need thinking time, but he has to deliver the changes necessary to take this region into the fourth industrial revolution for our children and grandchildren. We are just custodians for future generations.

I have in my life travelled the world and done business in many countries and seen many different political systems.

 In spite of all the problems of this country at this time I have not found another country to replace this one and where I would go to live. Whatever our feelings and political views we all have a duty in this wonderful democracy to go out on Thursday and register your vote.

My choice would be Charlie Hoult.

 

A new regional media hub

Today I’ve launched my idea to invest in a new media hub for the region.

The concept behind the hub, which I’ve dubbed Great North Media, would be to increase news, debate and culture, but also to provide and move beyond pure content to encourage tourism and participation.

I’ve already had discussions on the idea with vloggers, podcasters, actors and directors, magazine editors and former newspaper executives.

Regional media is under great pressure – less original content, no space for news and no meaningful debate. That’s the same across newspapers, radio and TV. All are squeezed by the spread of new online channels but it’s the North East that suffers.

With less investment in content, our region doesn’t create the training ground for new talent, whether that’s the next Cheryl or the next sound engineer. While at the same time, there’s a boom in citizen journalism, video and blogs.

My concept is to fund an online platform to allow for video, print and radio. With my background in technology and journalism – I co-founded the regional tech forum Dynamo and a successful software company, and worked on national newspapers – I’d be willing and able to work with both tech and media sectors.

One of the problems with being an outpost of a national media firm, is that the cost structures are wrong. We need a media station that is headquartered in the region, not paying for a head office overhead elsewhere.

The bid for Great North Media will look to fund a beacon project that can be replicated in other regions too – working with regional and national teams at the BBC, ITN, Arts Council England, Innovate UK, National Trust and English Heritage – as well as local universities.

I’ll look beyond these ‘traditional’ UK partners and pitch new entrants such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube, where I have senior contacts after my years in the tech sector.

The idea is that they will come to North of Tyne to invest in and explore new ways to develop regional audiences.

The North East is a perfect region for acting as a testbed for new products. The idea of Great North Media Hub has roots in new media models being developed in Holland, Australia and the US – where operators are reaching smaller audiences with deeper content and debate.

If we are to build the region and take back control from an over-centralised London bureaucracy, we must develop the dialogue between the different and diverse communities in our region.

National media doesn’t cater well for rural Northumberland, but that’s where we have emerging stories in business but also the challenges of lifestyle change. The brilliant new £18m distillery for Wooler is a great example – what a great story, but what poor coverage it’s had.

It’s not just news though – we’d look at drama and performance. Wouldn’t it be great to have somewhere for the next Ant and Decs to learn their trade then showcase their talent. So Great North Media would have the capability to train people and then have the channels or platforms to shine the spotlight on them.

There are all sorts of opportunities. Could we look to develop a toolkit for all the arts venues in the region? And then could we link hotels and restaurants to create an all-encompassing, pro-active digital What’s On guide, a one-stop portal like Hull developed for their year as City of Culture.

I’ve been talking to Time Out founder Tony Elliott about this and received plenty of encouragement. If elected, I’d look to pull together a working group of industry leaders and experts to fully understand the opportunities and challenges. I’d also look to identify regional or national funds to pour into the Great North Media pot.

I’d love to know what you think of this idea, so please let me know by emailing votehoult@gmail.com or Tweet me.

Let’s focus on the plans we need

When I became candidate for North of Tyne Mayor last month, one piece of advice hit home above all. It came from Ben Houchen – the inspiration for my ‘Projects Not Politics’ approach with his brilliant work as Tees Valley Mayor – and that made it all the more convincing.

Ben strongly advised me – given the fluid nature of what is effectively a mayoral ‘start-up’ – to work only to a list of policy proposals that were deliverable. With the Mayor’s own budget limited to £20m a year, it is important that we stick to a few high-impact, low-budget wins.

As importantly, it seems to me, we should not over-promise on grand-scale ideological projects that are impossible to deliver.

The same advice came from Sir John Hall, who is cynical after 30 years of regional initiatives that headline big ideas, but which have repeatedly failed to tackle the same over-riding issue that has plagued the region: the need for jobs. Sir John and I have talked about the economic contribution that Newcastle United could make, given the right partnership with the Mayor.

Accountability to the electorate chimes with me as a businessman, with experience of signing off £50m annual budgets with company boards. All stakeholders need to see income and spending commitments stack up as a year progresses if they are to trust growth plans or take a risk on big new investments.

The same principle applies as much if not more to voters – because public money is at stake.

It is with increasing dismay that I hear more about grand promises from my fellow mayoral candidates, to solve everything from the banking system to mental health to workplace diversity and climate change. Of course, there is a leadership role on all of these vital issues, and we all care about them – but we need to stick to what is possible within the new Mayor’s remit.

Some of the policy proposals on offer seem to be driven by textbook ideology rather than need – and could use up most of the new mayor’s budget on their own. Proposals coming from Labour’s hard-left Momentum candidate in particular cause real cause for concern – not least for a ‘people’s bank’ and for a new ‘green energy company’. Why on earth create these bodies when the risks in these sectors are so high, and the market is already providing much of what the region’s people and businesses need?

What I propose

My five overriding themes for this election are: jobs, education, transport, homes and community, and regional pride. All have at their core the desire to create a better, stronger economy.

Within that I have four core proposals that I believe will help the new mayor to deliver what we need.

1. Boost work advice for every student

I will create a new ‘business link board’ for all senior schools, to provide mentors and work experience for every student.

This programme will call on voluntary support from local businesses. My experience of providing this at North East Futures UTC is that businesses are enthusiastic to volunteer and can provide their apprentices, grads and junior staff as mentors. GCSE and A level students respond better to 20-something mentors. And, with minimal training and attention, this provides a two-way learning experience that builds confidence.

2. Build business we’re good at

I will help our region’s growing business sectors to expand, as I have done already in technology through my business campaigning group Dynamo. We strengthen the vital connections between firms and assess what the region needs. We will use a similar approach to help other sectors where the region is strong, such as medical science, advanced manufacturing, subsea and professional services. We will use the Mayor’s position to turbo-charge the growth of these sectors, with investment of £2m a year. Businesses here are led by men and women from all backgrounds, and we all want more of that.

3. Fast-track a town renewal taskforce

A new town renewal taskforce will work in high streets and town centres across the region to prepare regeneration strategy and bid for new funds. Economic activity in the city has big challenges, with changes from internet shopping, city centre rates and the new planned pollution tax. But districts further afield suffer too. It is imperative that we understand the dynamics and how to prioritise investment to boost our key centres – whether in Wallsend, Blyth, Haltwhistle, Berwick, Wooler or Hexham.

I will commit £1m to back a team of 10 regeneration experts to bring town centre stakeholders together, drawing in outside experts on retail, leisure, heritage and vibrancy. They will develop a clear strategy for each place and communicate this so local people and business can come on board. They will help write tenders to bid for the funds available, for instance in the North Northumberland area, where £345m is allocated for the Borderlands Partnership.

4. Open new community sports hubs

I will develop new community sports hubs in partnership with those already doing great work, including the foundations of Newcastle United, Eagles and Falcons. They understand the power of sport to deliver new jobs and boost regional pride. I will deploy mayoral funds to bring in other partners and their funding. We will bid for support from Sport England, football’s Premier League and charities, to create a ‘dream team’ that addresses sport for all. And all will be driven by a Deputy for Sport, to make our region healthier and more confident.

The funds available to the North of Tyne Mayor are £20m per year, agreed by a cabinet at the North of Tyne Combined Authority. Ahead of the mayor’s election, the cabinet has already committed £100m of forward funds for job creation, school improvement and adult education and skills. All plans have a sharp focus on economic development.

All that I propose is equally practical and focussed, and won’t cost a fortune. Uncosted textbook plans, on the other hand, will not deliver the jobs our communities need. The mayor’s key role is to grow the local economy, and we can do that by creating jobs and inward investment. Let’s not get distracted into risky projects that could cost a fortune, and blow the opportunity that sits in front of us.

Hoult welcomes business leaders warning

Conservative candidate Charlie Hoult has welcomed a letter from 30 regional business leaders today, warning voters of the dangers of electing a hard-left Momentum Mayor at next week’s North of Tyne Mayor election.

The warning letter, published in the regional press, is signed by leading business people including former Newcastle United owner and MetroCentre creator Sir John Hall, who is the lead signatory.

The 30 businessmen and women – listed below – have come together to express their fears about Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum candidate Jamie Driscoll becoming the first North of Tyne Mayor after the election on May 2.

In the letter, set out in full below, the 30 state that “Jamie Driscoll has little relevant experience and has also declared that ‘nine times out of ten, owners contribute absolutely no work to the production process’. We worry such naïve rhetoric will divide business people and scare off investors.”

The letter declares the group’s support for Charlie Hoult. The 30 state: “Our region needs a more positive vision and leadership with a mayor connected across community, business and government.

“We will vote for Charlie Hoult on May 2 because we know he can deliver the right growth for our region.

“We believe Charlie Hoult has the best track record. He has led North East tech group Dynamo on complex projects like the £30m National Innovation Centre for Data. His own businesses have created 1,000 jobs. And, he has worked to put the region on the map by lobbying for new projects like Northumbria University’s International Centre for Connected Construction.

“We know Charlie has the passion and energy to deliver more winning projects as mayor. He plans to use the £600m mayoral budget for projects to support local growth, improve career paths and renew town centres. He’s a modern collaborator who will use seed investments to bring new connections with international partners, charities and government agencies.”

Welcoming the business support letter, Charlie Hoult said: “This letter demonstrates the strength of feeling in the North East business community about this election. They are deeply worried about the prospect of a hard-left Momentum mayor supposedly representing or championing the local business community.

“They are rightly concerned about the Corbyn candidate’s anti-business rhetoric. Driscoll is on record as saying that 90% of business owners do not contribute to the production process. This is insulting, and shows how far removed he is from reality.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of our local economy and to insult business owners in such an ignorant way shows why Jamie Driscoll should not be mayor – he just doesn’t understand business. How can he expect respect after saying such daft things?

“Now is not the time to experiment with uncosted, unproven policies. Now is the time for someone who has proper business experience.”

Business letter in full

“On May 2, voters in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside elect a new mayor for ‘North of the Tyne’, as part of a devolution deal. The mayor’s remit is economic development: jobs, homes, education and growth.

“Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen shows what an imaginative mayor can achieve, attracting new business and government investment. North of the Tyne calls for a similar approach and someone with a wide experience in delivering projects on the ground.

“We believe Charlie Hoult has the best track record. He has led North East tech group Dynamo on complex projects like the £30m National Innovation Centre for Data. His own businesses have created 1000 jobs. And, he has worked to put the region on the map by lobbying for new projects like Northumbria University’s International Centre for Connected Construction. Actions, not words.

“We know Charlie has the passion and energy to deliver more winning projects as mayor. He plans to use the £600m mayoral budget for projects to support local growth, improve career paths and renew town centres. He’s a modern collaborator who will use seed investments to bring new connections with international partners, charities and government agencies.

“None of us are strongly party political – but we are concerned at the prospect of a mayor from Labour’s hard-left Momentum faction. Corbyn’s candidate, Jamie Driscoll, has little relevant experience and has also declared that ‘nine times out of ten, owners contribute absolutely no work to the production process’. We worry naïve rhetoric will divide business people and scare off investors.

“Our region needs a more positive vision and leadership with a mayor connected across community, business and government. We support a vote for Charlie Hoult on May 2 because we know he can deliver the right growth for our region. We ask you to place your trust in him too.

Yours

Sir John Hall (lead signatory)
Alastair Balls
Charlie Bennett, Otter Recruitment
Hermina Ely, Ely Architects Ltd
Paul Ely, Ely Architects Ltd
Steve Forrest, Forfusion
Anna Gibson, Microscooter
Jane Gibson, Gibson & Co
Michael Grayson, Solutions Recruitment
Naveen Handa, Cairn Hotel Group
Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation
Sir David Kelly
Barry Ladhar, Ladhar Group
Dr Nigel Lightfoot CBE
Paul Lilley
Joel Marks, Cheviot Insured
Jeremy Middleton, Middleton Enterprises
Nigel Mills CBE
Chris Ollerenshaw
Dr Shiv Pabary, InDental Practice
Alistair Scott, Thomas N. Miller
Raj Seghal, Union Property Services
Mark Souter, RH Irving Industrials
Mark Squires, Squires Bennett Associates
Jonathan Sykes, Sykes Property
Laura Sykes, Broadoak
Fergus Trim, Broadoak
Susan Trim, Positive PR
Duncan Young, Sanderson Young

Sport central to winning future North of Tyne

Today in Newcastle’s Walkergate, I visited the wonderful Newcastle East End FC, to mark the launch of my new vision for sport for the North of Tyne region. My vision celebrates the power of sport in boosting regional pride and underpins a strategy for economic growth North of Tyne. If I’m elected Mayor on May 2, I’ll appoint a Deputy for Sport to help turn the vision into reality.

The North East is home to some of the UK’s true sporting legends, from Alan Shearer to Steve Cram, and Lucy Bronze to Katy Daley-Mclean. And we have Newcastle’s United, Falcons and Eagles that have become internationally recognised brands beyond sport and great beacons for economic growth.

From success with Gateshead Harriers to the international arena, Brendan Foster created the Great North Run, now the world’s biggest half marathon. It’s an icon of sporting success that annually brings thousands of city break visitors and worldwide TV coverage.

Together these names have generated unmatched passion from among the people of the region, with a clear link to local economic growth.

A report in February by accountant EY demonstrated the economic power of Newcastle United alone. It showed that NUFC added £236m to the regional economy in 2017/18, with 2,000 jobs supported and £89m generated in tax revenues.

Football can be a stronger lynchpin for international recognition of the city of Newcastle and the wider region, if the city and club can be more aligned on future growth.

The economic power of sport is a key reason I have put it centre stage of my economic plan for the North of Tyne. I recognise sport’s unparalleled power to build communities, improve well-being and stimulate economic growth.

I’m pleased that my sports vision is welcomed this week by North East sporting legends, including triple jump Olympic and world record holder Jonathan Edwards and former Newcastle United owner Sir John Hall, as well as grassroots clubs like Newcastle East End FC, which I visited today.

Jonathan Edwards said: “I have seen first hand how sport can transform people’s lives and bring communities together. I am delighted to see it take centre stage in the upcoming election for the mayor.”

Sir John said: “Sport can be a power for good, particularly around health and wellbeing. It can also be a catalyst for wider community teamwork beyond sport.”

My strategy will see new sporting facilities in North East hubs and bring key talent together so the region’s players have a path from village green to Olympic gold.

If I become Mayor, I will appoint a new Deputy for Sport. The Deputy, a leading figure from the world of sport, will lead a team of ambassadors and coordinate with sports organisations across the region, bringing in funding from national bodies like Sport England, the RFU and FA.

My vision for sport reflects my wider ‘Projects not Politics’ approach: to deliver real action on the ground, backed by new seed investment. I will bring together stakeholders, on issues from pitch provision to diversity, from general fitness to bringing beacon events in, such as the Tour de France and Commonwealth Games.

Among the proposed facilities supported by the vision are a new pavilion and sports pitches for public use in the heart of the city, and a set of new community sports hubs in towns across the region.

Initiatives supported by the sports vision include:

  • New satellite sporting hubs in key towns across the North of Tyne area
  • A city pavilion and pitches on Newcastle’s Town Moor, offering a new public sports facility
  • Community revival of the much-loved but disused Tynemouth Pool, with investment to back it
  • Murray House, the new Newcastle United Foundation sporting hub at St James Park
  • New Youth Zones, offering sporting facilities for younger people in the community
  • A new clubhouse for community-based Newcastle East End FC
  • Local initiatives to promote fitness and health, and tackle obesity
  • A new bid for the Commonwealth Games for Newcastle.

Among parties keen to deliver on the ground are the Freemen of Newcastle Upon Tyne, who manage the 1000-acre Town Moor. Discussion has started for a possible public sports ground with pavilion for community use and competition, right in the heart of the city.

A great example of impact is community sports club Newcastle East End FC. The Walkergate charity has run a sports teams since 1995 – and today has 49 teams and a membership of 500 including boys, girls, young and old.

Backing my vision for sport, Sir John called on professional footballers to get out into the community more, including to the region’s smaller towns. “Our star footballers must actively engage with these hubs. Young people idolise players and they are role models. They can encourage people to change for the better.”

Sport is a great unifier North of Tyne. We know the passion for it is stronger here than almost anywhere else. With focus, the region’s confidence can grow off the pitch as well – and we will be unstoppable on the field and elsewhere.

I’ve seen the determination of teams in competition, whether in cricket, athletics, rowing or netball. While there are performers on the field, the networks stretch through parents and club structures. We must coordinate to invest in the facilities for elite play and future generations.

Photo: Charlie Hoult with players and staff from Newcastle East End FC, with Sir John Hall, in the centre of the back row

How we reversed Labour-led misrule

Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, explains how the Conservatives have helped turn around the council after inheriting £1.5bn in debt and priorities in all the wrong places.

In May 2017, the Conservatives were elected to run Northumberland County Council. Voters in Newcastle and North Tyneside have an opportunity to deliver positive change for their areas too. Northumberland Conservatives are still picking up the pieces of a disastrous Labour council. We inherited a council with debt plans of up to £1.5 BILLION.

The Labour council prioritised spending £120m on a dated shopping centre over investing in education and skills – putting our county at the bottom of national leagues.

The Labour council prioritised refurbishing the Labour Party chairman’s football club ahead of making the county a great place to work, study and raise a family.

Now the council is making our county work for everyone, investing more in school buildings than ever before, fixing the county’s roads and modernising leisure centres across the county.

With strong Conservative leadership from day one we have turned Northumberland council around. We’ve reduced the debt by £250m and now focus investment on transforming communities across the county, spending £80m on new schools and £66m on new leisure centres. The message loud and clear is that Northumberland is open for business.

We also have a refreshed economic strategy, with greater emphasis on development and regeneration and a new local plan that promotes sustainable growth. We are addressing housing need, while protecting the green belt and the unique characteristics of our area.

We have invested in education and skills, roads, and have agreed major investment in schools and leisure.

There is new car parking, and progress too on the Newcastle-to-Northumberland train line. We focus on creating more and better jobs, with a housebuilding programme to match.

We have also refocused the council on delivering results that make a real difference to people’s lives and that address the generations of neglect from Labour.

Northumberland is a showcase for what a Conservative council can do for you.

Every voter in Newcastle and North Tyneside will have the opportunity to back their local Conservative candidate on May 2nd, to ensure their council can work for everyone.

Fix disjointed transport

Transport is a key topic for Charlie Hoult in the North of Tyne Mayoral election on May 2. Instead of an unproven pollution tax that hits those on low incomes hardest, he backs a co-ordinated green transport approach that connects rail, buses, roads and cycling.

Fixing the region’s disjointed transport will be key if I become the North of Tyne Mayor. I will get the region moving, working to improve the region’s road, rail and air links for the benefit of everyone – families, commuters and businesses.

I firmly oppose the pollution tax that is being proposed for Newcastle city centre. Such a tax would be grossly unfair on people whose older cars would be targeted. The tax would disproportionately hit people on low incomes hardest – and it’s unfair on people with older cars who can’t afford to replace them.

Crucially for me, there is no firm evidence that a pollution tax would even improve air quality. That’s why 60 out of 63 towns and cities nationwide are looking at more comprehensive counter measures. Look at cities like ours, such as Nottingham, delivering results on air quality without hitting hard-pressed drivers with a comprehensive approach on electric vehicles, congestion, cycling and public transport.

We absolutely need to improve our air quality by 2021, but the answer lies in a radical and more strategic approach. Answers lie in improving our public transport, including a Metro upgrade.

We’re lucky to have the Metro system here and to encourage greater use of it. The funds are secure for replacement trains. But £80m is needed to upgrade stations. We will push for this to finish the next phase.

The introduction of an Oyster-type Connect card would also encourage more people to use public transport. The Connect card would work across different transport, just as the Oyster now does in London.

I fully support Northumberland County Council’s £3.45m investment to plan for passenger trains on the Ashington/Blyth/Newcastle line. Stations at Bedlington, Northumberland Park, Bebside and new estates along the line will mean 34,000+ homes are a short walk to a station for town.

I spoke direct to the transport minister when he was in the region recently and his department are racing to sign this off. If elected as North Tyne Mayor, I’ll be kicking down the doors at Westminster to convert that support into real projects on the ground in the North East. That’s my approach, to get things done.

On the roads, my first roads focus is the A1 Western Bypass stretch from the Tyne Bride to Seaton Burn.

For three years, the Western Bypass has been approved for triple lanes with budget sign-off. How come Nick Forbes hasn’t pressed the button? The delay is holding back businesses and investment. Not acceptable. I’ll fight to kick-start projects that will have an impact.

Better road infrastructure will help, with better traffic management systems introduced to keep cars moving. I’ll back moves to increase electric vehicle charging points. And I’ll support a scrappage scheme that incentivises people to swap to greener vehicles.

People don’t need another tax. They need incentives. Carrots not sticks!

As a city cyclist, I know how quick and easy it can be to get around on two wheels. If more people cycle, everyone benefits from less congestion and pollution.

This is a perfect city to ‘Go Dutch’. But only 2% of short journeys are made by bike – against a target of 10%. The investment has started but we all need to take to the cycle lanes for wellbeing and to cut car traffic.

We have some already, and in some places the provision is really good. But we need a serious look at connectivity – the dots need to be joined, the provision connected.

Areas like Heaton have a funded cycleway plan, but I understand councillors blocked its delivery. Likewise, we need to fix connectivity issues between Newcastle and North Tyneside to up our game across the North of Tyne region.

There is so much more to do. These are #ProjectsNotPolitics  – inputs from local people that need experienced project management, from a team that knows how to drive complex issues to completion.

North Tyne Mayor – why me?

On Thursday May 2, voters go to the polls to elect a new mayor for the North of Tyne. Charle sets out his vision and explains why he wants to be mayor.

The North of Tyne is a region with enormous opportunity, driven by the most passionate and hard-working people in the land.

But we have suffered decades of Westminster neglect and the squabbles of local politics. The region needs to think bigger with a mayor to represent us on the wider stage, but with the ability to deliver projects with impact on the ground.

I have a strong track record to drive the region forward as mayor. Ten years ago, I returned to the region to help lead the family business, Hoults Yard at Byker . I have since trebled its size, providing workspace for over 750 people across 150 brilliant local businesses. I have also started a software firm and a recruitment firm, now both employing over 120 staff.

In 2012, I founded Dynamo, a network to champion the 40,000+ people working in the North East’s tech sector. Dynamo has identified 4,000 tech vacancies in the region: proof that the new jobs exist. Every week, I receive emails from returning locals looking to be signposted to the exciting careers on offer in the sector. Dynamo gives careers talks in school. And it connects firms looking for new business or to lobby the region for government investment.

Dynamo has initiated £100m in projects, including North East Futures UTC, a science-specialist state school for 600, and secured £30m for Newcastle University’s new National Innovation Centre for Data at Science Central, working with the city council, university and the tech industry.

I have also worked on the £40m International Centre for Connected Construction (IC3) and, with Whitehall, on the National Leadership Centre to develop a £10m programme to equip UK and overseas civil servants for digital transformation in their roles.

I have also attended monthly board meetings of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership with other business groups to input into regional industrial strategy. This has allowed me to input to the big picture for the region, picking up on long-running debates and gleaning angles for new projects. It is essential to have the trust of a great network of civic-minded people to develop our local economy.

For instance, I have driven the region’s unique cluster in construction software to press for the IC3 centre of excellence. I brought in Northumbria University, the UK’s leading player in architecture and built environment studies. I launched IC3 in the Institution for Civil Engineers and House of Lords, lobbied to partner Cambridge University’s Centre for Digital Built Britain and articulated the export benefits to Brexit secretary Martin Callanan.

This is a flagship project to signal big ambition as a region. It places us at the heart of the global digital revolution in a niche that accounts for 12% of global GDP and where our students can learn to lead on 21st century software tools to manage the building process as it moves to automation.

We can repeat this ambition in other digital niches, but also advanced manufacturing, tourism, agribusiness, professional services, medicine — all areas where we are already world-beaters but sometime hide our excellence under northern modesty!

The remit for the North of Tyne mayor extends to education and skills, housing and transport. I have worked on Dynamo’s apprentice system and proposed a ‘mentor for every child’ system that has proved itself at the UTC. My expansion of Hoults Yard Hubs, investing £7m of risk capital in new sites in Gateshead, Haymarket and Sunderland, gives me insights into the property projects and planning complexity across the wider region.

As the new mayor, I would generate access to £600m in funding at the off. I want to grow this to deliver what the region needs. I will create more jobs, fix disjointed transport, inspire young talent, build stronger community and cheerlead for inward investment.

We need a strong mayor to press our case at Westminster for increased funding to wipe out long-running inequality. It will take modern, inclusive leadership to steward the diverse teams that operate across our city, coast and county.

I’m also running for mayor because I fear the election of a mayor from the hard-left Momentum faction of the Labour party. This risks returning us to an era of strife and textbook economic experiments.

I’m old enough (just) to remember the 1970s winter of discontent: public sector strikes saw the rubbish pile up on the streets of our city. My father-in-law has vivid memories of Liverpool under Militant Labour’s Derek Hatton. As a headmaster in Toxteth, he received redundancy notices for his whole staff — sent by taxi from the council offices.

I fear a return to these bad old days if the region elects Momentum in May. We don’t want return to an era of being branded ‘sick man Of Europe’, with Newcastle bottom of the economic league tables.

In February, the North East was ranked at Number 1 in the UK for business growth, above even London, by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, contributing £3.1bn to the regional economy and a whopping rise of 48.9% since 2010. Let’s turbo-charge our current position, not risk a return to the slow lane.

In readiness for this mayoral campaign, I have started asking experts in the region what they want to see. I’m a founder member of the NE property network Developing Consensus and have held sessions with lifelong professionals Gavin Black and Eric Morgan. In education, I have sought support from Giselle Stewart, of computer games firm Ubisoft, and a governor of Newcastle College Group, Mark Squires.

I’ve spent time with Tees Valley’s own elected mayor, Ben Houchen, to understand what has driven his success there. Ben has a positive vision for the future Teesside, taking back control from creeping Westminster centralisation and making a real difference. I want to do the same for North of Tyne.

Our region needs big ideas and big ambition to seize the opportunities of the global next industrial revolution. I am indebted to many who share my deep-rooted pride in our home turf and the potential of our future generations.

Geordie pride is embodied in Sir John Hall, who in March confirmed that he is backing my campaign. From Ashington mining family to turning around Newcastle United, Sir John remains impassioned about the battles we must fight to get to the top.

Like Sir John, I am local to the core. I was born in Gosforth and my family has been in Newcastle for four generations, with a strong tradition of public service. My grandfather was an independent Newcastle city councillor, and my father was a magistrate, school governor and first chair of Freeman Hospitals Trust. My wife Kate is a consultant dermatologist at Royal Victoria Infirmary — we have four teenage boys. We like nothing more than fish n’ chips along the Fish Quay or mountain biking around Kielder.

I know voters share my deep-rooted pride in our home turf and for the potential of our future generations. We need ideas, energy and a region fit for the next industrial revolution. I stand to be counted.

#ProjectsNotPolitics

Promoted by Aidan Ruff on behalf of Northumberland Conservatives, both of Office 2, Horton Park, Seaton Burn NE13 6BU