Jessie Joe Jacobs was flanked by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram
A former charity leader has unveiled a trio of pledges to turn around Teesside’s mental health crisis and boost innovation in an effort to become mayor.
Labour’s Jessie Joe Jacobs launched her campaign to be Tees Valley Mayor at Hartlepool College of Further Education on Wednesday (January 22).
Promises to create a £1m “Tech for Good” charity, a new vocation centre in all five boroughs and a pledge to tackle the “mental health crisis” on Teesside “head on” were at the centre of her pitch.
Flanked by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram, Ms Jacobs told the crowd of young supporters it was a “momentous day”.
Offering a “unifying vision” was a recurring theme in her campaign launch.
Ms Jacobs said: “We will rise again with a new vision.
“My opponent makes populist promises but crucially fails in the big picture of what it will take to rebuild.
“True to Conservative type (by) offering simplistic answers and soundbites to complex issues in order to win your vote and support.
“I will not do that. I will offer you a vision which will change Teesside.
“We deserve this - we thrived when we had an ambition which was right for the boat we were in.
“This is the 2020s not the 1920s so we must move beyond tradition.
“I know we can be better - we know we can be better.”
Ms Jacobs told the Labour crowd how harnessing innovation would be part of her offer - with a new £1m charity to “inspire technology companies” to create innovations in health, virtual reality and in care.
She said: “We will invest in cutting edge technology that focuses on tackling the big issues - exploiting those opportunities around climate change, inequalities and social exclusion.
“If you have an idea to change the world, come to Teesside.
“If you have a vision you will be given the land, the buildings and investment you need to develop those ideas.
“We will harness green technology such as biomass, hydrogen, tidal power and be a frontier of change in green technology.”
'A job you love'
Making sure Teessiders had skills and opportunities was behind her second pledge - with a vow to open up a “vocation centre” in each of the five Tees Valley boroughs.
Ms Jacobs added: “There is a saying that if you find a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.
“That’s my vision for the people of Teesside - a job you love.”
Conservative incumbent Ben Houchen stands in the way of Ms Jacobs achieving her mayoral dreams.
Mr Houchen announced his own pledge to bring health and social care under the control of the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) yesterday (January 21).
He'll visit Hartlepool Hospital this afternoon (Wednesday) as part of his own campaign.
But Ms Jacobs claimed the difference between her and Mr Houchen was she would “focus on the big social issues”.
She added: “I will not shy away from the challenges, I won’t pretend they don’t exist.
“Looking after each other is as much a part of our heritage as the Stephenson Rocket.”
Middlesbrough was the UK’s suicide capital in 2018, and Ms Jacobs’s final vow was to deal with Teesside’s mental health crisis “head on”.
She added: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories about mental health, or suicide, or about losing young people before their time.
“I’m going to commit to secure new powers on health and social care - and I will make it my number one priority to tackle our mental health crisis head on.
“I will begin a region-wide challenge to end loneliness.
“In Teesside, nobody will walk alone.
“We will not leave anyone behind.”
Teessiders will go to the polls once again in May and Mr Burnham backed his Labour colleague to unseat her Conservative opponent.
The Manchester mayor added: “We’re not against blokes in suits becoming mayors but it would help mix things up a bit if we had a range of perspectives.
“I think Jessie would be brilliant. She’s a people person and that matters but she’s a fighter as well.
“This is a big moment for the north and it needs people who are going to hold the government to account.
“They’ve made a lot of promises - we’ve got a lot of promises out of them.
“The issue isn’t necessarily getting more promises necessarily, it’s making them deliver those promises.
“That means mayors that will hold them to account.”