Tom Blenkinsop MP hails “historic” Court of Appeal decision on the Bedroom Tax

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (27th January 2016) greeted what he called an “historic” Court of Appeal judgement which said that the Government’s keystone Bedroom Tax was “discriminatory”.

Tom said:
“This morning we have learnt that the Appeal Court, hearing two test cases, have ruled that this tax discriminates against the disabled and victims of domestic violence.

“The bedroom tax, or what the government continue to call the “spare room subsidy”, cuts benefits for social housing tenants who have a “spare” bedroom.

“One appeal concerned the effect of the policy on women living in properties adapted because of risks to their lives. Her home was equipped with a panic room. The second appeal focused on the impact of the policy on disabled children needing overnight care.

“These are far more far-reaching than previous judgements which hung on technicalities in the regulations. This one is based on needs of the registered disabled across all boundaries and to all victims of domestic violence.

“We are told that Iain Duncan Smith has said he will be trying to appeal this at the Supreme Court, but the strength of this judgement is such that he cannot be confident of holding the line on this extortionate and grossly unfair tax.

“In the meantime this will be a poser for councils, housing associations and the DWP. I would hope that these agencies will now pause their decisions affecting these groups of people.

Tom lambasts decision to cancel CCS funding for UK projects whilst handing £35m to projects in China and Indonesia

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (26th January 2016) attacked the Government’s decision to  investment £35m to help China and Indonesia develop Carbon Capture and Storage technology whilst withdrawing funding for the CCS Commercialisation Programme just 4 weeks before submission of final bids.

Tom said:
“The decision by George Osborne to cancel the funding for CCS in his Spending Review last year has been widely condemned by industry experts and climate change campaigners alike. Indeed the Energy and Climate Change Committee, of which I am a member, launched an inquiry into the ‘future of carbon capture and storage in the UK’.

“Questions need to be asked why millions of pounds for similar CCS projects in China and Indonesia have been given by the UK Government whilst funding has removed from the UK programme. How much more has been given to similar overseas projects that would seemingly fly-in the face of supporting UK jobs?

“The future of CCS in the UK – and in particular Industrial CCS projects like the Teesside Collective – is heavily dependent on public support. The Government urgently needs to clarify just how much funding has gone overseas.”

Braving the cold to raise awareness of homelessness across Teesside

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, will be taking part in ‘The Real High Street Sleep Out’ this Saturday night (23rd January 2016) in Redcar.

The High Street Sleep Out in Redcar is returning for its 4th Annual Fundraising and Homelessness awareness event to raise funds for local Redcar charity Coatham House, which has been providing supported accommodation to local young homeless people for the last 20 years.

Ahead of the event Tom said:
“If the weather is as cold as it has been over the past few days then I think it is fair to say we’ll be in for a rough night. Unfortunately, that is the reality for too many people every night. Fighting youth homelessness should be a priority, but it is a scandal that it does not receive the attention it deserves.

“Earlier this week results from a survey carried out by Shelter revealed that nearly one in three adults fear they would have nowhere to go and would end up homeless if their relationship broke down and relationship breakdown is the third most common cause of people ending up homeless.

“I hope this year’s sleep out continues to raise awareness – and more importantly funds to tackle – this important issue.”

To sponsor Tom and others at the sleep out you can donate securely online by visiting www.justgiving.com/coatham-house

‘Another nail in the coffin for UK steel industry’ say Teesside MPs

Amid reports today (18th January 2016) that hundreds of jobs are to be lost at Tata’s Port Talbot plant Labour MP and Chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Steel and Metal Related Industry, Tom Blenkinsop, and Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar, claimed that the move was “another nail in the coffin for the UK steel industry”.

Tom commented:
“This is devastating news for the Port Talbot community, so I would first and foremost like to offer my support for those workers affected at this difficult time.

“We’ve barely started 2016 and already the crisis within the UK steel industry has reared its ugly head. The Government’s inaction is unpalatable. They are sitting on their hands, with regards to four of the five proposals from the steel summit, and allowing this crisis to wreak havoc on steel communities across the UK.

“None of those asks are about propping up the industry but providing it with a level playing field. This is going to be harder to do the longer they wait, particularly if China gains ‘Market Economy Status’ – a point I raised with EU bosses last week.

“I now simply ask the Government ‘how many more communities need to lose their main life support before they do anything?’”

Anna added:
“Having experienced the devastating loss of steel jobs in our own area, my thoughts are with the workers in other steel communities, particularly Port Talbot, whose jobs are now also at risk.

“All we are asking of the government is to get behind the industry by taking action on Chinese dumping and uncompetitive business rates and give UK steel a fighting chance of survival. They need to start delivering on their promises of support and prioritise UK industry over its cheerleading for China.

“Inaction has already cost us one steelworks, it need not cost anymore if the government act now.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP takes case for steel protection from China to Europe

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has just returned from a visit to meet top European Commission heads as part of a campaign to stop the dumping of Chinese steel on European and UK markets – dumping that damages Teesside’s steel industry   Central to this was a call to stop Europe and the UK Government giving greater access to markets via a new trade agreement.

Tom said:
“Yesterday (13th January 2016) myself and colleagues from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee met with the EU commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.

“We were there to lobby against China being allowed to gain what is called “Market Economy Status”, (MES)  something that would give China greater ability to penetrate European market places. This is already a big problem. European industries say that Beijing’s policies lead Chinese firms to pump out far more goods than China’s domestic market can consume. The result has been a flood of cheap products shipped to Europe, the U.S. and other developed markets. Granting China market-economy treatment would make matters immeasurably worse leaving European manufacturers with few tools to protect themselves.

“This decision is especially important to British manufacturing and Energy using industries such as Steel and chemicals – both crucial to the entire Teesside economy.

“The Vice President confirmed that that decision will be made this autumn after debate between member states and within the European Parliament.

“There is a British dimension here – and it is David Cameron and George Osborne’s position in supporting Chinese Market Economy Status regardless of whether the UK remains in the EU, or leaves?

“Chinese dumping in steel and other products has been down to deliberate over production, often dumped at below cost price, breaking market rules as laid down by transnational institutions like the World Trade Organisation. As recent as December 2015, at the steel OECD meeting, China refused to attend. The assumption being that they wanted to avoid questions about their dumping across the world market.

“The implications of giving China MES status without any qualification, clarification or caveat upon their current production levels-at emission levels that far exceed anything emitted by any EU producing steel site gives serious cause for worry for the British steel industry.

“The British Governments unqualified support for Chinese MES, whether the UK remains within the EU, or leaves, is also deeply worrying to me, and other MP’s representing steel industry communities.  It is quite clear that blaming the EU for the current woes within the energy intensive industries sector – as our government does – is simply not credible. It does not stand up.

“We are still waiting on a Government response to the four of the five industrial asks made in October at the emergency steel summit after the SSI collapse. One of these was about the situation facing the steel industry in the UK regarding Chinese dumping.

“Put simply, unless we stop MES for China, or at the very least get concessions out in place prior to MES for China around China’s own emissions and over production, addressing any other policy ask will be irrelevant in the face of the current tsunami of Chinese products flooding the UK market and killing UK jobs and industrial communities like Teesside.”

Fall in bus usage shows need for reform and investment

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (11th January 2016)n condemned government cuts to bus services after official figures released by the Department for Transport  showed that in Redcar and Cleveland 27% fewer bus journeys were made in 2014-15 compared with 2009-10 – the biggest decline in England.

Commenting on the news Tom Blenkinsop said:
“For many people across Redcar and Cleveland buses are a vital part of their daily lives –  helping them to get to work, attend doctors’ appointments or collecting the weekly shop. But this decline in bus usage is very concerning and doesn’t seem to have an end.

“Unfortunately, we effectively have one operator that runs a monopoly bus service in Redcar and Cleveland and they have systematically removed bus routes that local people have relied on for years.

“Compounding this is the cuts to local government funding which means less funding is available for supported bus services. These routes are often the ones people and communities need most, where no alternative transport exists.

“To halt the decline we need to see, as part of the Government’s Buses Bill, powers given to communities to plan fares, routes and timetables and investment to reflect local needs.”

Commuters hit by rail fare rises of 26% under the Tories

New figures have revealed that nationally, hard-working commuters are now paying 25 per cent more for their train fares under the Tories, because of yet another year of rail fare hikes that came into force on Saturday 2nd January.

The announcement that rail fares will rise again in January 2016 means that passengers in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland have been hit by a cost increase of 26 per cent since 2010. Figures released by Labour show that the cost of an annual season ticket from Saltburn to Middlesbrough has risen by £168 since 2010.

Commenting on the figures, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“Commuters in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland have been getting a raw deal under the Tories. The price for passengers has been creeping up for years and a season ticket from Saltburn to Middlesbrough costs £168 more than it did in 2010 and stands at just over £800 – that is an eye-watering rail fare rise.

“For many people here, travelling by train isn’t a luxury, it’s how they get to work every day. This Government needs to get these fare rises under control and ensure that passengers are put before profits.”

2016 pension changes will be unfair on women

Reforms of the state pension which begin on April 6th 2016 have today (30th December 2015) been branded ‘unfair’ by the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, as petition to ‘make fair transitional state pension arrangements for 1950’s women’ approaches 100k signatures.

Tom said:
“The equalisation of the state pension age is a step that has been broadly welcomed. But the fact is these changes – which have been branded as a mistake by the former Lib Dem minister in charge of implementing them – quite clearly unfairly impact on hundreds of thousands of women born in the 1950’s. I have consistently voted and campaigned against these quite clearly, unfair proposals.

“The first increase in women’s state pension age was introduced by the Pensions Act 1995 and there was little mention of this at the time but it represented a significant change. The lack of awareness has been demonstrated in a series of FOI requests which show that the DWP didn’t even write a letter about the change to any woman affected for nearly 14 years after the Act was passed.

“The government’s proposals will hurt thousands of hard-working women who believed their retirement was just around the corner. Many of these are women who have juggled working lives with raising a family, and who have very little retirement saving to fall back on. The lack of warning of these changes means they do not have enough time to adjust carefully thought-out retirement plans and leaves them feeling robbed of their pensions.

“The Government needs a fairer and longer transition period – it shouldn’t happen in such a way that penalises so many people.”

Merry Christmas

I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas and the very best of wishes for the year ahead.

My office will open at the following times over the Christmas and New Year period to give you any help you may need:

Thursday 24th Dec (Christmas Eve) – 9am – Noon
Friday 25th Dec (Christmas Day) – Closed
Monday 28th Dec (Bank Holiday) – Closed
Tuesday 29th Dec – 10am – 2pm
Wednesday 30th Dec – 10am – 2pm
Thursday 31st Dec – 9am – Noon
Friday 1st Jan (New Year’s Day) – Closed

Usual office hours will resume from Monday 4th Jan.

Do not hesitate to get in touch should you need to on 01287 610878, or write to Harry Tout House, 8 Wilson Street, Guisborough, TS14 6NA or you can email me on info@tomblenkinsop.com.

Tata Steel must adhere to commitment to being a responsible seller for Long Products following announcement

Commenting on reports that a “Letter of Intent” has been signed between Greybull Capital and Tata Steel UK Limited to enter exclusive negotiations for the potential sale of its Long Products Europe business, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“If operated correctly then there is no reason for the long products division, such as those sites at Skinningrove in east Cleveland and Lackenby near Redcar, to not succeed so I cautiously welcome the interest from Greybull Capital. I’ll be working closely with unions to ensure the best deal for steel workers as is often the case the devil is in the detail of any deal that is struck.

“Tata steel made a commitment to being a responsible seller and I will certainly be holding them to that commitment. So if Greybull Capital come up with a sustainable plan and long-term investment to support the sites and its workers then I welcome that.

“Furthermore, after this week’s damning report by the BIS committee over the Government’s handling of the UK steel crisis it is imperative that they demonstrate that they have learnt their lesson and ensure they take an active role to allow this deal to succeed and provide a future for those hundreds of steel workers.”