I suppose it depends on your political point of view, or indeed whether you live in the real world and not the fantasy world of unicorns and crocks of gold at the rainbow’s end.
On the one hand everything is golden, the future is bright. On the other, the outlook is bleak. So where does the truth lie?
- Somewhere in between?
I need to come clean first though. I was born in Middlesbrough in 1964, lived there till I got married and was forced to be an expat in Thornaby. I love Middlesbrough and adore being a Teessider. I cannot imagine ever living anywhere else. The Boro is in my DNA. I walked into the town through rubble when whole estates were being demolished. Slid on cardboard down slag heaps. Saw a myriad of colours in the night sky from industry, as they polluted the air when we were supposed to be asleep. Closed windows when on a bus travelling to see my grandparents because of the smell.
I am a Teessider, I am Teesside. Teesside is me.
As a result I am very sensitive when it comes to my town, my area, my heritage, my daughter’s future.
So, let’s have a little look…
Ben Houchen and Andy Preston
Tees Valley Mayor and Tory golden boy, Ben Houchen is bullish and shouting from the highest point about how brilliantly he is doing and that the future is rosy. The local airport is back in public hands and will create hundreds of new jobs and is opening new avenues, both commercially and for leisure.
The Freeport is going to plan and will create thousands of new jobs and secure Teesside’s future and rejuvenate a forgotten area. Any questions regarding transparency and cronyism are nothing more than baseless slurs. Calling the tens of millions put into the airport for no discernible benefit a waste and better off being spent on actually improving the lives of the people is short-sighted political posturing.
Sea life die-offs being connected to dredging for the Freeport are ridiculous suggestions by left wing activists.
Any criticism is basically talking down the area and politically motivated.
Middlesbrough Mayor, Andy Preston is almost as confident as the sainted Houchen about the town and takes every opportunity to get his picture in the news lauding his achievements. They are many and significant apparently. Another Mayor who doesn’t like being challenged on his record.
Employing a mate on a large salary. Unfortunately, nobody has any record of him actually doing any work. Hundreds of thousands of pounds squandered on Boho X development in which he was found to have gone against the council’s constitution.
Dying town centre, foodbanks and child poverty
Middlesbrough town centre is dying, two department Stores, (Binns, Debenhams) have closed their doors. Marks and Spencer are following suit in April.
Poverty, indeed child poverty is the highest in the country. Food banks are now a normal way of life for many, many people. Possibly on the way to bring the same footfall as a small supermarket.
Where do you shop?
Shop?… Shopping? That’s an activity that is becoming rare for a significant number of people on Teesside. Their money has already disappeared into a pre-payment meter.
Eating or heating is a reality here, it is not scaremongering.
The government has held up Teesside as the torch bearer and symbol of ‘levelling up’ that everywhere else should aspire to.
How is this beacon of achievement working out?
How do we grade the government on their ‘levelling up’ of Teesside? What parameters do we use?
- Better services?
- Improved life expectancy?
- More disposable income?
- Reduced poverty?
- Reduced use of food banks?
- Improving schools?
Or possibly using the term ‘levelling up’ at its granular meaning…has Teesside closed the gap to more affluent areas?
Answers on a postcard to…
- Matt Vickers
- Simon Clarke
- Jacob Young
- Jill Mortimer
But more importantly to
- Rishi Sunak