Tom Blenkinsop MP today (4th December 2013) backed calls for the Government’s recommendations on gaming machine stakes and prizes to include restrictions on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the roulette machines in betting shops that have been described as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’.
FOBTs are high-speed, high-stake casino gaming machines recently banned in Ireland due to concerns about their addictive characteristics. They are available in betting shops on every British high street with spins of £100 every 20 seconds. The addictive roulette machines have led to betting shops clustering on the high street.
There have been multiple reports of FOBTs causing crime, and last year, there were an average of 165 incidents a week in betting shops requiring police assistance.
Last week the Labour Party blocked the automatic passage of a Government consultation which would keep the highly contentious machines at £100 per spin maximum stake. Now a swell of support led by Labour MP, Tom Watson, has gathered to urge the Government to place sensible restrictions on FOBTs.
“The Government had the chance to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 and has once again tried to kick the issue into the long grass. They ignored the evidence available, choosing to maintain the £100 max stake and £500 max prize available on FOBTs.
“FOBTs are arguably in breach of all three licensing objectives of the 2005 Gambling Act: they are not fair and open, they are associated with crime and disorder and they harm young and vulnerable people.
“Our high street is not the place for high-speed, high-stakes casino gaming. These machines have been multiplying for over ten years with increasing concerns about their dangers. It can’t go on any longer and I will support any move that leads to the Government taking immediate action on this issue.”
Commenting on reports that energy giant, npower, is closing its Teesside based call centre with the loss of over 500 jobs has been branded a ‘double whammy’ by Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop today (27th November 2013).
“With recent reports that npower is about to close the call centre on Trenchard Avenue – which employs 549 workers. This followed the company saying official that a “major review of sites, operations and people across the UK was underway.”
“It is quite simply outrageous that these jobs look set to be outsourced abroad whilst simultaneously UK customers will face a hike in their energy bills this coming weekend – on average adding £139 to the annual dual fuel bill. It is a double whammy for Teesside and local communities. For the affected workers and their families this is the worst Christmas present that they could ever have expected and it is a disgrace that this information is coming to light before staff have even been told.
“The ripples from such job losses will also hit other business across Teesside through the loss of 500 pay packets which would otherwise have been traded with local companies and shops.
“The area is already suffering crippling long-term unemployment – most stark is amongst women where, since May 2010, it has increased by 144% in my constituency and over 200% in Stockton South, where the call centre is based.
“To make this worse, the company is an incredibly profitable one. Last year it saw profits rise by £77m to £390m. Whilst much of this increase is down to successive price rises, part of it has to be down to the loyal efforts of the local staff – who have been rewarded with a kick in the teeth for their dedication.”
Tom has submitted Parliamentary Questions asking what steps the Government are taking to support call centres on Teesside and what discussions have taken place with npower.
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (27th November 2013) launched a small business survey ahead of an Opposition Day Debate concerning business rates*.
“Small businesses are the driving force of our local economy and an integral part of our community but they are facing a cost of doing business crisis. Because of inflation, the average business rates bill in North East will increase by around £360 – in Redcar and Cleveland that will be £480 and in Middlesbrough by £330. This increase comes on top of an average increase of £1,500 in business rates since the General Election in 2010. It is the Government that sets these business rates that so many are struggling with.
“At a time when the Government should be backing small business, once again they appear to be on the wrong side. A Labour Government would cut business rates for small and medium-sized businesses in 2015 and freeze them in 2016, leading to an average saving of nearly £450. Small businesses are also facing rising energy costs and Labour’s Energy Price Freeze would save businesses on average £1,800.
“I support small businesses in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and value the contribution they make to the character of our area. I am looking forward to ‘Small Business Saturday’ on 7th December when we will be celebrating and supporting local, small businesses on one of the busiest shopping days of the year but for the rest of the year many of these businesses will be struggling. That’s why I’d like to find out directly what support small businesses in our area think they might need. This survey will give me a clearer idea of what needs to be done and I look forward to hearing the response.”
The survey can be filled in online at tomblenkinsop.com/small-business-survey or a hard copy can be requested by calling 01287 610878
* Debate did not take place due to volume of preceding business: https://twitter.com/HouseofCommons/status/405680733793955840
Commenting on figures released today (26th November 2013) by the Office of National Statistics figures showing a 29% increase in excess winter deaths last year local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“These figures are truly astonishing and they have revealed the true scale of last year’s winter crisis in the NHS. In the North East alone, the amount of people dying unnecessarily last winter almost doubled on the previous year up, from 860 to 1,700 – an increase of 840.
“We’re on the brink of another cold winter and we are hearing reports that A&Es are already in crisis. The Government’s severe cuts to elderly care mean support is being withdrawn from homes and hundreds of thousands of older people are turning to hospitals for support.
“Many of these unnecessary excess deaths are caused by people living in homes that are too cold. This winter, David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies will leave too many people forced to choose between heating and eating. Ministers need to take urgent action and back Labour’s plans to freeze energy bills.”
Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, will be supporting the 100th TATA Kids of Steel event in Parliament next week (Monday 25th November 2013).
The TATA Kids of Steel series aims to encourage children across the UK to adopt a healthier lifestyle through sport and exercise, as well as providing a great day out for the local community. Two events have previously been held on Teesside – most recently in September at the Eston Leisure Centre.
30 children, including from Lingfield Primary School, have been invited by Tata Steel to participate in the event.
The children will complete a swim on an indoor ‘swim-trainer’, a bike on a ‘turbo trainer’ and a run on a treadmill. Each child will have two minutes on each activity to complete as much distance as they can, with a challenge laid down to see if between them, they can complete an Olympic distance triathlon of 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run.
“I’m proud to be sponsoring this special event next week in Parliament. It is probably the first of triathlon to ever take place in Parliament. I’m very pleased that local school children from Lingfield Primary School are also able to make the journey down to take part.
“The work TATA Steel and the British Triathlon Federation have been doing to promote a healthy lifestyle for young people has been invaluable so I hope they can build on the work they have already done.
“I’m sure it will be a memorable afternoon for all of the children involved.”
Over the past year there has been a huge increase in food poverty in the UK as families struggle with higher living costs, lower wages and welfare changes. Ahead of the Christmas period Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has set up a collection point for constituents to make a small donation of food.
“With the Christmas holidays coming up, local food banks are likely to see an increase in demand. People in Teesside have a proud tradition of reaching out and helping our neighbours in times of need. Food banks are a good example of that tradition in action.
“From visiting local food banks over the past year it is clear that the situation is getting worse and demand is going up. Food bank users are no longer the homeless, or people with drug and alcohol problems; the biggest demand is now coming from families struggling with debt and unemployment.
“I would encourage residents who are able to make a small donation to pop into my office over the next few weeks to make what will undoubtedly be a valuable contribution to someone in need this Christmas.”
Donations can be made at 6-8 Wilson Street Guisborough, TS14 6NA
Examples of suitable donations include:
- Long-life fruit juice
- Tinned vegetables / fruit
- Tinned fish / meats
- Long-life milk
- Pasta sauces
- Sponge pudding (tinned)
- Rice pudding (tinned)
- Tea bags / instant coffee
- Instant mash potato
Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has arranged a public meeting for East Cleveland residents to discuss the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and how Government policies such as the Bedroom Tax are affecting many in the area.
“Making ends meet on a weekly, let alone monthly basis is becoming an increasingly unwinnable task for many families in my constituency. Prices have now risen much faster than wages for 40 of the 41 months since David Cameron became Prime Minister. On average working people are now over £1,600 a year worse off under this out-of-touch Government. Policies such as the hated Bedroom Tax have had a devastating impact on local communities and have undoubtedly added to the financial pressures many are now facing.
“To help people cope with the cost of living there are actions Labour would take including freezing energy prices until January 2017 and expanding free childcare for working parents. We have called for a tax cut for 24 million working people on middle and lower incomes by introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax. Unfortunately, in Westminster last week Tories and Lib Dem defeated our motion to scrap the Bedroom Tax but we have pledged to repeal it if we win the 2015 General Election.
“As we approach the festive period purse strings are pulled even tighter and many, as a last resort, turn to payday loans for support. At the meeting I want to gather information about people’s experiences so I can take our campaign for a fairer deal to Westminster and ensure the voices of local people are heard.
“This meeting will offer residents in East Cleveland the chance to express themselves and to let me know what they think can be done to ease the burden and also highlight particular areas they are struggling with.”
The meeting will take place from 10:30am on Saturday 23rd November 2013 at Brotton Village Hall, Laburnum Road, Brotton, TS12 2RA.
A further meeting in South Middlesbrough will take place early in the New Year and further information will be made available in due course.
Click here to complete Tom’s survey on the cost of living.
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (18th November 2013) voiced his concerns over proposals by the Tory ‘Free Enterprise Group’ to increase the price of food and children’s clothes by 15% and has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to ignore the ideas.
The Free Enterprise Group consists of 42 Conservative MPs, including Government Ministers, listed as supporters of the Free Enterprise Group. The proposals were contained in the ‘Pre-Autumn Statement 2013’ briefing.
“Many of the proposals contained in this briefing document are beyond contempt. They truly show how out of touch the Tory party are when it comes to the everyday costs many families are facing and, in many cases, already struggling with.
“Their plan to raise VAT on gas and electricity to 15% would add £120 to the average energy bill. At a time when families are facing a cost of living crisis, you have to be spectacularly out of touch to suggest putting VAT on food, children’s clothes and books.
“I sincerely hope David Cameron distances himself from his Tory colleagues’ proposals that would spectacularly add to the cost of living.”
Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (16th November 2013) branded leaked proposals “unacceptable and inadequate for local needs”.
His comments came following reports that emergency talks, held at the end of October, to plan how waiting times in departments struggling to clear backlogs could be tackled included proposals to use private providers such as The Spire Hospital in Leeds.
“Local people will be shocked to hear that there is a possibility they would have to endure a 120 mile roundtrip to Leeds to receive the treatment that they need. In their most vulnerable state people will want to know that they have family and friends close by when they are in the hospital and I’m afraid this proposal doesn’t accommodate that.
“I raised some of the legitimate concerns Teesside NHS services are facing with Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter, but unfortunately he failed to address these. I have subsequently written to him asking him to closely check the situation with Monitor, something he failed to do in my recent Westminster Hall debate.
“Whilst I am pleased that an emergency meeting took place to try and deal with what is a very concerning situation I do not think this is the right solution. I look forward to meeting with the Chief Executive of the South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss this and other ongoing concerns.”
Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (5th November 2013) secured a Westminster Hall debate over NHS funding in the North East and Teesside.
The issue was raised following research that if a proposed NHS funding formula is given the go ahead then the North East could lose out heavily.
The new formula that would decide how much the local NHS clinical commissioning body has to spend is, for the first time, expected to exclude social deprivation and poor health from the formula and instead distribute money on the general need of the population.
“These figures are frightening for Teesside and for the South Tees area which covers my constituency. To suggest that over the next couple of years that 17 and half million pounds be stripped out of the cash allocation for primary care GP service led services in the South Tees area, will mean that a an areas with some of the worse health inequalities in the UK will lose out, with that cash being diverted to wealthy areas like Sussex, Kent and the Prime Minister’s own area of Oxfordshire.
“If this is allowed to happen, then cash will be drained from GP surgeries across the South Tees area, from cash transfers to local hospitals for critical patients and from joint GP, Council and nursing services for elderly care and home visiting.
“If areas of greater deprivation are given less NHS funding then economic inequality becomes health inequality. If NHS funds are disproportionately going south then it puts the North at a disadvantage.
“Unfortunately this isn’t my only concern I have for the NHS in our area. In the debate I also intend to highlight the complete lack of winter funding for local A&E services and the current investigation over treatment times being carried out by health regulator Monitor.”