‘Real risk that Royal Mail universal service obligation is under threat’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (19th November 2014) warned that the future of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) is at risk.

Tom said:
“This warning from Royal Mail is a deeply concerning development and comes after consumers have already been hit with changes in collection times, with many last collections moving earlier in the day at the same time as stamp prices have risen.

“The unwanted sell-off the Royal Mail that cost taxpayers £1 Billion by the Tory-led government has put the essential services which consumers and small businesses rely on at risk. Government ministers have repeatedly said that the USO would not be under threat, yet David Cameron’s promises to protect services are looking less and less credible by the day.

“Labour is clear that we must safeguard the future of the universal postal service, and ministers must urgently give assurances on the future of Royal Mail’s services and what action they will be taking to defend the USO and to ensure this cherished service is not lost forever.”

Tom backs action to get ‘a fair deal for local pubs’

Today (Tuesday 18th November) Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, will back an amendment to the Small Business Bill that will put an end to abusive business practices designed to take advantage of individual licensees.

The amendment will finally enshrine in law the right for the tenants of large companies to opt for a market rent-only option, ending the scandal of rip-off beer prices and excessive rents charged by PubCos.

Ahead of the vote Tom said:
“Local pubs are more than places for an evening drink – they support local charities, sponsor local sporting clubs and act as social hubs for the community they serve. Pubs are part of the social fabric of my constituency. They act as vital hubs for the communities and are valued strongly by local people. The work that pub landlords do is crucial in keeping these services operating in our communities, but far too many pub chain landlords are not getting a fair deal for the work they do.

“The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimates that 26 pubs close each week and that each closure costs local economies like ours £80,000. We have also lost a number of pubs in East Cleveland, which are just standing empty.  We need to see policies that can see them re-open and again flourish. Many factors are behind this, including changing lifestyles and the increase in VAT, but undoubtedly the unfair and unbalanced relationship between PubCos and their licensees has been a key factor in pub closures.

“This amendment will ensure fairness in the relationship between the big pub companies and their landlords. They are local assets and valuable local employers and that’s why I am voting to provide greater fairness for landlords.”

‘Even Government Ministers admit the NHS is facing a crisis’

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop today (12th November 2014) urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chancellor George Osborne to listen to the advice of other ministers and increase NHS spending to avoid a crisis.

Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb has said “The NHS could crash…If we don’t get the additional resource, then you would see increasing numbers of trusts getting into financial difficulty, you would see growing numbers of people waiting longer for access to treatment, and longer waiting lists to get to see your GP.”

His comments came following the news that South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust faces cuts of £91m between now and 2017.

Tom said:
“You can’t trust a word the Lib Dems say. If the NHS is facing a crash then it is as a result of their and the Tories’ policies. This is just pre-election posturing from the Lib Dem Health Minister – who I must add has supported everything that is happening to our NHS.

“South Tees NHS are in an extremely difficult position financially, this has been plainly clear through various health centre closures; delays in A&E and various other consultations taking place. Now they have identified that they may have to cut staff to balance the books – staff that and already overstretched NHS depends on. This is the record of this Government: an NHS going backwards under the Tories, made possible thanks to the support and the votes of the Lib Dems. Rather than bickering amongst themselves the Lib Dems and Tories should be focussing on fixing the mess they’ve made of the NHS.

“Only Labour will rescue the NHS with an extra £2.5 billion a year on top of Tory spending plans which will fund new staff including 20,000 more nurses – investment the Tories and the Lib Dems will not match.”

‘Tory fear of UKIP over European Arrest Warrant seriously risks public safety’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (10th November 2014) claimed that David Cameron is ‘dodging’ a vote on the European arrest warrant over fears of a Conservative backbencher rebellion and rising threat of UKIP.

Tom said:
“A few weeks ago David Cameron promised a vote in Parliament on the European arrest warrant, but he is dodging one because he is scared of his own back benchers and of the threat of UKIP in the Rochester and Strood by-election, which is taking place next week.

“Labour backs the European Arrest Warrant and the other key parts of EU cooperation – like criminal record checks, and joint cross-border investigations – because they catch criminals and keep the UK safe. Opposing this vital cooperation, like many Tories do, is soft on crime.

“Time and again on Europe the Tories just do nothing but play games. They promise a vote, and then only pretend to have one. Why can’t they just be straight with people? The European Arrest Warrant is an essential took in tackling crime and we should vote for it. With all this smoke and mirrors it’s no wonder people don’t trust David Cameron. Labour believes instead in prioritising action that cuts crime and brings criminals to justice.”

Reprieve won for Hemlington GP Surgery

Local NHS campaigners have welcomed the news that Hemlington Medical Centre has received a contract extension, guaranteeing the medical centre for at least another year.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop, Middlesbrough Deputy Mayor Dave Budd and Hemlington councillors Jeanette Walker and Nicky Walker were outraged when they heard that the NHS were consulting on proposals around closure of the surgery at the end of December 2014

Their petition quickly raised over 500 signatures and residents packed into a special meeting of Hemlington Community Council at which they pleaded for the future of their surgery.

Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“The reprieve for Hemlington Medical Centre for a year is obviously a welcome one. Whilst it is good news that the medical centre will remain open for at least the medium term we obviously can’t rest on our laurels. What will happen after a year? We could find ourselves back in the position of having to fight for its future so by no means is the campaign over. I, along with my Labour colleagues, will continue to fight for our NHS.”

Deputy Mayor Dave Budd said:
“I’m delighted that the potential for future patients, with over 2,000 properties planned in the surrounding area and over 1,000 virtually on the doorstep at Hemlington Grange, has finally been recognised and the NHS have revised their plans. Anyone who knows this area appreciates just how much Hemlington needs this surgery.”

Hemlington ward councillors Jeanette Walker and Nicky Walker said:
“It’s a huge relief that patients in Hemlington will not now be losing the only surgery we have right before Christmas. We’d like to thank everyone in our fantastic community for all their support, Middlesbrough Council’s Health Scrutiny Panel for the key part they have played and NHS England for listening and changing their proposals.”

In an update to the Scrutiny Panel NHS England now recognise the scale of housing development planned for the area and acknowledge the value that patients place on the service provided.

The revised proposals include looking to extend the current contract for a further year during which time they will conduct more extensive engagement with patients and other stakeholders and develop a revised set of proposals for a sustainable service, which they will further consult on if necessary.

‘Deal collapse in Wales is ominous for Teesside steel’

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (5th November 2014) claimed that the collapse of the deal for Klesch Group to buy a Pembrokeshire oil refinery is a significant warning sign over their involvement of steel production on Teesside.

Last month, Tata Steel announced that it is restructuring its long products division leading to the Klesch offer which includes the special profiles businesses in Skinningrove, east Cleveland and Darlington; Teesside beam mill at Lackenby, distribution sites in Teesside and Newcastle, and Tata’s 4,000 jobs steel plant in Scunthorpe.

Tom said:
“The collapse of this deal is a disaster for the workforce in Pembrokeshire and it must act as a warning over the potential deal between Klesch and Tata Steel for its Long Products Division. It raises questions over how serious they are about taking over the business, and even more so that they continue to invest and that jobs are secured as part of the process.

“Given the inability of the Klesch Group to complete the purchase of the Murco oil refinery in Wales and the subsequent job losses to which this is leading, Labour will raise the issue in Parliament asking what safeguards are being in place to ensure that jobs in Tata Steel will be secure, regardless of whether the Klesch Group successfully purchases Tata’s Long Products Division?

“It is truly devastating what has happened in Pembrokeshire and I sincerely hope that a new buyer can step up to the mark. The Government must do everything in its power to provide every possible support to the highly skilled workforce.”

Tom backs plans for increased local public transport powers

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (31st October 2014) gave his backing to proposals by Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, to grant cities and regions greater powers to improve bus services across England.

Labour’s election manifesto will commit the next Labour government to giving city and county regions more power over their public transport networks so they are able to set the right bus routes and have fairer fares, as well as integrate their transport services to help working people and businesses succeed in their areas. This will give regions similar powers to regulate their bus services as those in London.

Tom said:
“Since being elected in 2010 I have constantly campaigned for improvements to the public transport system across my constituency – particularly on issues surrounding Arriva who operate effectively as a monopoly with fare rises and route cuts happening seemingly at a whim.

“Labour’s plan would allow combined authorities to use a simple and swift procedure for getting greater control over local bus services – setting routes and fares, introducing smarter ticketing, and integrating those services with wider public transport and growth plans.

“This will mean that rather than different private companies, such as Arriva, or Whitehall taking decisions about public transport, local areas would be put in the driving seat. Similar models exist successfully in many other countries, including Denmark, and local areas already franchise for some other services in a similar way, for example the Tyne and Wear Metro.

“These decisions are best taken at a local level so I am pleased to see that a Labour Government will commit to given the reins of power to the local area; and I intend to hold talks with Labour’s Transport Team about what this could mean for Teesside.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP supports launch of Dogs Trust Chip My Dog website at annual reception

On Tuesday 28th October Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, showcased its chipmydog.org.uk website with the support of a host of MPs. The website is a unique “one-stop-shop” for all microchipping queries. Members of the public are now just a click away from a wealth of information on this important element of dog welfare, including:

  • Details of free microchipping activity across the UK via a quick and easy postcode search
  • Advice on how to update microchip details with a click-through function to UK databases
  • Guidance on the upcoming change of law in England and Wales
  • Advice on what to do if you have lost or found a dog
  • Frequently Asked Questions on all elements of microchipping

To mark the launch of the site, MPs were invited to take part in a photo opportunity which saw them manning a mocked up “chip van” which appears to offer free microchips to queues of dogs, and even a few fellow Parliamentarians!

Tom Blenkinsop MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland:
“I am delighted to support Dogs Trust and help the charity launch its Chip My Dog website. I am supportive of the charity’s microchipping campaign and greatly welcomed the Government’s announcement on the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England from April 2016. Compulsory microchipping will make it easier to reunite lost dogs with their owners and cut unnecessary kennelling costs for Local Authorities. I urge my dog-owning constituents to get their canine companions microchipped and visit chipmydog.org.uk to find out more about this vital component of dog welfare before the new law comes into force”.

Clarissa Baldwin OBE, Dogs Trust CEO, says:
“Microchipping has been at the heart of Dogs Trust activities for a long time and we’re now looking forward to an exciting few years during which it will become compulsory in England, Wales and – we hope – Scotland. Chipmydog.org.uk will be the portal for all microchipping questions and we hope it will ensure that no dog is left unchipped when the laws change.

“Whilst only the size of a grain of rice, a microchip can be a highly effective means of reuniting a lost dog with its owner. Results from our recent Stray Dog Survey showed that just over 10,000 dogs were returned to their owners for this exact reason. However, it is vital to update your details! Just as you would tell your bank you’ve moved house, so too should you inform your database. Sadly without up-to-date information a microchip on its own is redundant.”

To find out more about when the roaming Dogs Trust teams will be in your area or learn more about the benefits of microchipping visit www.chipmydog.org.uk.

Tom’s objection to housing proposals at Wilton Bank

Dear Ms Skelton,

Planning Application R/2014/0631/00M

I wish to lodge a formal objection to this application lodged by Messrs Taylor Wimpy PLC, and which involves a proposal to build 130 houses on land directly to the west of Wilton Bank in Saltburn, and which is on land presently used as a riding stable and large exercise paddock.

I recognise that in strict geographical terms this land is within the St Germain’s ward of the council and therefore outwith my own constituency, but this is a matter of mere yards and the proposal does impinge on my Saltburn constituents.

My objections are as follows.

This was not a site identified in the emerging local plan for any housing allocation.  I recognise that a full meeting of the council did determine to expunge this document and this requiring the exercise to start afresh.  I accept this decision, although I have said publically that it was wrong headed, and those who voted for this are culpable of derailing a key policy document that every council needs to have.  However, the wording and recommendations of that document are on record and I believe that it is incumbent on all members of the Regulatory Committee to bear this in mind when determining this application.

Secondly, the existing plan structure now relies on the 2007 Local Development Framework.  This is now an old document, and reflects past conditions.  However it exists and must be seen as a material consideration.  Thus, the fact that this proposal is outside of the then accepted limits to development in and around Saltburn must be seen as important.

Thirdly, the proposal further erodes the accepted and long standing green wedge between Saltburn and Marske.  This was seen as proper grounds for the previous rejection of a proposal for housing at the Eastern end of Windy Hill Lane, although I am aware that this is now, given the deletion of the local plan, being appealed by the developers.

Fourthly the proposal does, in my view, detract from the essentially rural aspect of the land that slopes to the South of the site and this impinges significantly on the natural countryside running up to the ridge from above the Skelton Beck Valley to the ridge above the Skelton Beck Valley and Errington Woods.

Fifthly, the previous use of this site has been, for many years now, totally non-agricultural, and given this, much of the land resembles in its make-up, natural pastureland, and the home to a significant variety of flora and fauna.  This is a precious natural resource and should be protected.

Sixthly, I feel given the importance of this proposal, that there needs to be a site meeting at which members of the regulatory committee can view the site and hear the formal objections of local residents and myself.

Can these views be forwarded to your development control officers for tabling on the occasion when this application is to be debated and determined?

I look forward to hearing from them in due course.

With all best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Blenkinsop MP

Tom raises concerns over Tata Steel Long Products sale with Business Minister

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, will today (Monday 27th October 2014) raise his concerns over the sale process of the Long Products division of Tata Steel with Business Minister Vince Cable.

In a meeting with representatives from Community Union, MPs with Tata sites in their constituencies and the Business Minister, issues such as the speed of the process and involvement of workers will be raised.

Ahead of the meeting Tom said:
“I firmly believe that the sale process needs slowing down. Selling off over half of Tata’s steel footprint is a very worrying development and could have huge ramifications for the UK steel industry in general. Not to mention the impact on workers’ pensions across all UK Tata sites.

“Tata urgently need to sit down with the workforce and reassure them that it will not repeat recent tactics, such as those evidenced at the Tata labs in Grangetown, where national agreements were reneged upon.

“Following my request, I am pleased that I was able to get Trade Unions a seat at the negotiating table. This will ensure that all those involved will be both well informed and focussed on acting in the best interests of the workforce.”