Labour MPs warn of ‘£119m hole’ in North East education funding

North East MPs have called on the Government to give the region the funds it needs to meet increasing education costs.

EDM

The MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) which calls on the Government to take action on the estimated £119m real terms cuts that North East schools face by 2020. This funding gap is due variety of factors including changes in the new funding formula, cuts outlined by in the 2015 budget and the effect of inflation on school costs.

An independent report by the National Audit Office found schools across England need to make total savings of £3bn by 2020 to cope with increasing costs. The National Union of Teachers estimate the savings needed in the North East is equivalent to losing 3,203 teachers.

It is not just Labour Members of Parliament worried about this situation, a survey found that 72% of head teachers think their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

Tom, who tabled the EDM, said:

These findings are extremely worrying for the North East and casts doubt on the financial sustainability of schools in our area.

The National Audits Office’s findings show that the Government’s current plans for funding our schools aren’t good enough. We’re currently in the mists of a financial crisis in the NHS and this suggests we could be facing something similar in our schools by 2020. It looks the Tories haven’t got their sums right again – they can’t be trusted to run our services.

Either our schools will have to make deep cuts that will affect the education of young people in our area or the Government will have to stump up more cash. We are asking they do the latter.

‘End of a battle’ as future of former Boosbeck Abattoir decided

‘It’s the end of a long battle.”  That was the reaction of Tom Blenkinsop to the news that the future of the controversial Boosbeck Abattoir site has been decided. Plans to build housing on the site were finally given the go-ahead by Redcar and Cleveland’s Regulatory Committee today.

170222 Abattoir

The MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said,

This has been a matter which has been high on the local agenda for some years.

The residents who had thought the abattoir had been closed for good when the former Norman family ceased trading, were rightly annoyed when it re-opened under new ownership in 2015.  They were concerned about fumes, smell and industrial activities in the heart of a village, but were caught by land use law which stipulated that former uses can outlive an ownership and start again without the need for a new planning application.

The controversy was heightened when outside, racist and neo-Nazi elements sought to involve themselves on the basis that the plant was processing Halal meats – an intervention the village didn’t need and didn’t want.

However, after a lot of patient negotiation between the local council and the plant operators a deal was finally brokered. The deal is a success for local people as it will mean the closure of the plant for good and the purchase of the land by a housing developer.

Now that planning permission has been granted, the sooner the diggers are on the site, the better. I look forward to seeing the first new households moving into the village.

Labour MPs support medals for brave bomb squads in Northern Ireland

A group of Labour MPs have called on the Government to review their decision to deny Armed Forces Personnel in Northern Ireland General Service Medals.

The decision was taken after a senior military commander who asked that Ammunition Technical Officers be awarded General Service Medals for their work tackling explosive devices in Northern Ireland had his request refused.

In a letter to the Defence Minister, drafted by Tom Blenkinsop, Chair of Labour’s backbench committee on Northern Ireland, the six Labour MPs questioned the logic behind the decision not to award these medals. They ask that the differences in ‘workload and risk’ for troops serving in Northern Ireland compared to elsewhere in the United Kingdom is ‘reflected in the recognition such personnel receive’ by allowing these troops to be awarded General Service, or equivalent, medals.

Tom said:

The support Ammunition Technicians in Northern Ireland provide the Police Service of Northern Ireland in tackling bomb threats to civilians is vital.

The level of threat and amount of incidents which these soldiers must deal with goes beyond what is required from their colleagues serving elsewhere in the UK. They carry out this work with a professionalism and bravery that deserves to be recognised.

All communities are threatened by terrorism in Northern Ireland and recognising the increasingly difficult work these bomb squads face should be non-controversial. If there is a technicality getting in the way of giving these brave men and women the medals they deserve the government should sort it now.

Northern Ireland has experienced a recent increase in dissident terrorist activity in which police have had to deal with a bomb alert approximately every week. The six Labour MPs who signed the letter are Tom Blenkinsop, Conor McGinn, Vernon Coaker, John Spellar, Ruth Smeeth and Phil Wilson.

Full letter:

CCI16022017

Tory Mayoral Candidate’s SSI comments ‘unbelievable spin of a Government failure’

Tom has slammed comments made by the Conservative candidate for Tees Valley Metro Mayor praising the Government’s response to SSI site closure as a ‘blueprint example in how to rescue an area’.

Tom, said:

These comments are frankly unbelievable.

The Government failed to step in to save the SSI plant, which was one of the most efficient in Europe, and if it was saved would be making a solid profit today. The Government fought against trade defence measures at the European level to stop Chinese dumping saying that it unfairly protects inefficient plants – while allowing efficient plants in the UK to close!

Employment still hasn’t recovered in my constituency and Redcar.

The Government’s response was a blueprint for nothing but failure.The fact local Tories are trying to spin this loss of such a major plant as a success is absurd and frankly shameful.

It shows the Tories both locally and nationally aren’t willing to fight for industries in our area. When our industries, whether it’s the remaining steel plants, the chemical industry or the energy sector, next need someone to stand up for them I hope we have a Labour Mayor like Sue Jeffrey, not a Tory one who will protect the Government’s reputation ahead of local jobs.

The comments were made at a hustings hosted on Wednesday night. The vote for mayor will take place on 4 May.

Union members back changes to steel pension scheme

Members of the three major steel trade unions have backed proposed changes to their pension scheme.

Members of Community, Unite and GMB trade unions have voted to reform the British Steel Pension scheme in a move designed to help secure the long term future of the industry in the UK.

Tom Blenkinsop, Chair of the All Party Group on Steel said:

Everyone knew neither option on the ballot paper was ideal. This decision has been difficult for steelworkers up and down the country but shows what they are willing to do to keep this vitally important industry in the UK.

Credit should go to these unions who sought the backing of their members and who have worked tirelessly to help current and retired British steelworkers in this time of crisis.

Both the Government and employers must now match the commitment to industry that workers have shown, resolve the difficulties with the pension scheme and build the successful future we all know the UK steel industry can have.

Responding to the results, Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said:

This result provides a mandate from our members to move forward in our discussions with Tata and find a sustainable solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme.

Steelworkers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking. Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but as we have always said, it is vital that we now work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the PPF.

This ballot involved an extremely personal decision for everyone that voted. Whichever way our members cast their votes, we know they will not have taken that decision lightly and everyone’s opinions must be respected.

We now expect Tata to make good on their promises and deliver the investment plan for the whole of their steel business. The UK Government still has an important role to play and we fully expect them to deliver tangible support for steelmaking in the UK.

 

UK Government ‘duped’ by China’s promise on steel

Tom, Chair of All Party Group on Steel, has said that the Government has been ‘duped’ by China’s promise to reduce their steel production.

Overproduction of cheap Chinese steel has been blamed for the crisis facing European steel producers such as Tata and the former SSI site in Redcar. The Chinese Government had publically committed to reducing its steelmaking capacity after mounting global pressure, but a new report reveals that in fact new steelworks have opened in China during this period leading to increases in steelmaking capacity.

The UK Government has previously argued for lower tariffs on imported Chinese steel, despite the crisis in the UK industry. It is also Government policy to support granting China Market Economy Status – a move which would reduce the ability of countries to add tariffs to imported Chinese goods.

Tom said:

This report shows the Government has been duped and our steel industry has paid the price.

Our Government has taken the Chinese Government at their word and are hoping that problems caused by Chinese steel dumping will go away – this report making it clear that they won’t. The Government’s stance on Chinese steel dumping at the European level is absurd. They seem to working harder to give subsidised Chinese producers access to our market than supporting steel jobs at home.

This news should mean our Government should harden its stance on Chinese steel dumping, but I won’t be holding my breath.

The report, by Greenpeace East Asia and steel consultancy Custeel, also highlights the damage steel over production is doing to air quality in China. This follows the news that the UK Government has classified the steel industry a ‘low priority’ in its Brexit negotiations.

Tom’s Comments on Steel Industry ‘low’ priority classification

Commenting on news that the government has classified the steel industry as a ‘low’ priority industry in the upcoming Brexit negotiations Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“The steel industry can thrive in the United Kingdom given the right market environment but this document suggests that the government are not willing to work to provide this.

“The dumping of cheap Chinese steel is a huge worldwide problem for the steel industry and we need to work with other steel producing nations to remain competitive in a saturated market. The last thing that British steel industry needs is an import tariff on their goods.

“I will be seeking assurances that the British steel industry will not be an afterthought in the upcoming negotiations from the government’s Brexit Secretary when Parliament returns from recess.”

Tom’s comments on G4S dropping asylum seeker housing in Loftus

Commenting on News that government contractor G4S are no longer looking to home asylum seekers in Loftus Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

“The fact that G4S have listened to the views of the Borough council and myself that East Cleveland lacks some of the facilities which are needed to properly care for asylum seekers, is helpful. East Cleveland has no easy access to community groups, adult English classes, dedicated GP practices, international food shops and has poor transport links.

“I thank the vast majority of the residents of Loftus who listened and accepted these rational reasons which were put forward by the council. It was not questionable letters, hearsay or grandstanding which got this situation resolved, it was facts and a sensible dialogue between the involved parties.

“However the actions of one elected representative who has used ‘dog whistle’ politics to play on people’s emotions and stir up hatred have been abhorrent.

“Going forward there needs to be a new understanding on matters like this, residents should be involved early on in the process so any difficulties can be highlighted and dealt with before any firm decisions are made.

“I will still be meeting with John Whitwam, the G4S Director of Immigration, on Tuesday of next week to reinforce these points and discuss what G4S’s future plans are.”

Tom will vote to trigger Article 50

Tom has confirmed he will vote to start the process of negotiating an exit from the European Union in Parliament this week.

EU leave bill

The vote will give the Prime Minister the power, under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave and begin the formal two-year process of negotiating a withdrawal.

Tom said:

I voted to give the British people their say on leaving the EU and now I must vote to support their democratic decision. I voted for a referendum and then campaigned for Remain. Remain lost, so the UK must leave the EU.

Unlike Scottish nationalists who refuse to recognise the result of any referendum, and unlike the Lib Dems, who assume power in Government despite coming third, I must, as a believer in democracy, act upon and respect the result of the referendum on the 23rd June 2016.

There are serious challenges that face us, from securing the best trade arrangements for our industry, to protecting workers’ rights and keeping the country together. My focus must now be on meeting these challenges to get the best possible Brexit deal for Teesside and the UK.

Tom and local councillor blast Arriva Buses for ‘taking Brotton off the map’

Tom and Councillor Michael Dick, Labour Councillor for Brotton on Redcar and Cleveland Council, today blasted Arriva Bus bosses for making route alterations which they say would help to ‘take Brotton off the bus map’.

Arriva announced last week that they were planning in the next month to cut short the half hourly 5a Bus from Middlesbrough to Brotton so that it terminated at Skelton instead of Brotton.

Tom said,

This is a decision which isolates many people in Brotton.  The key issue is that this is the only bus from Brotton that serves one of East Cleveland largest food stores – the ASDA supermarket at Skelton. It would also mean that a direct link from the Kilton Lane area of Brotton to Guisborough and Middlesbrough would be lost.   In addition, access to ASDA would be lost for all residents in Skelton.

Michael Dick said,

This decision will also mean a steep dip in the number of buses serving urban the urban Teesside and Guisborough from Brotton.  This will mean passengers being decanted on to the existing 5 buses, which only run half hourly, or on to the X4 service which is already crowded at peak hours.

Both Tom and Michael said that they would be writing to Arriva NE senior managers, asking that this decision be reviewed with an aim to maintaining the present 5a service and boosting it by adding a turn round at Brotton Hospital – which they argue would provide a new passenger boost.