Local MP to meet with East Cleveland Children’s Council

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, will meet with the recently formed East Cleveland Children’s Council to talk with them about their aims and objectives.

East Cleveland Children’s Council has been formed by children from 18 schools in East Cleveland who are concerned about issues in their local communities and want to address them.

Ahead of the meeting Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“The East Cleveland Children’s Council is a great initiative that will get young people thinking about how they can change and control their area and speak out on issues that are important to them.

“I’m very proud of the young people involved in the Children’s Council as it clearly demonstrates that they care for their area and I’m sure this commitment will remain with them throughout their lives.”

Grant Hopkins from the East Cleveland Cooperative Learning Trust said:
“The East Cleveland Children’s Council is a powerful voice which will allow the children and young people the opportunity to let those who can change things in their community know what needs doing. It is humbling to see a 7 year old child debating on equal terms with a 16 year old issues that affect their communities. This organisation shows the commitment that the East Cleveland Cooperative Learning Trust have put in to the Rights of the children and young people we work with. On behalf of the Trust I would like to publicly thank Mrs Chris Shannon for her work in the formation of this Council and her ongoing support for it and its aims.”

Teesside and the North “left out in Prime Minister’s announcement on Wi-Fi on trains” claims Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (13th February 2015) slammed the Prime Minister’s announcement of free Wi-Fi on trains, which he said “would only in the main benefit South Eastern commuters.

David Cameron recently announced a £50 million plan “to ensure that rail passengers are better connected.”

Tom said:
“This may sound grand, but when you look at the small print no one on Teesside or in the North will get anything from this. The plans would only cover services on trains run by Great Nortnern, Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales. The first three only operate trains geared to the South Eastern commuter market to London.

“As this is a government scheme, taxpayers on Teessside will be paying for city traders travelling to work to use their laptops and smartphones free of charge. ‘Digital’ Dave may think this is a wicked wheeze, but local rail users on the line from Saltburn to Darlington, packed into vintage, rattling, pacer trains will not be impressed at all.

“This scheme needs to be re-thought to benefit this area – and fast.”

Tom welcomes uprating payment for Mesothelioma sufferers

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, has today (10th February) welcomed the decision to increase the tariff of payments for civil claims made to those diagnosed with mesothelioma from today.

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme was introduced by the Mesothelioma Act in April 2014. The news today will mean that regulations will be brought forward to increase the tariff from 80% of average civil claims to 100% for those diagnosed on or after today’s date. While the uprating will apply to those diagnosed from today, the formal payment process will take effect when the regulations become law next month.

Tom said:
“Labour has been responsible for leading on almost every major piece of legislation protecting the rights of Mesothelioma victims in the UK and in February 2010, we launched the original consultation on the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments Scheme that forms the basis of this law.

“I see this scheme as crucial for many people on Teesside – particularly those with an industrial background – who are living in fear of being diagnosed with this terrible illness.

“I’m pleased that the government have succumbed to pressure from the Labour Party and victims of mesothelioma, but this is just another step for full justice for the families and sufferers of this terrible illness.”

Tom calls for ‘compulsory black box CCTV cameras in Britain’s abattoirs’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (9th February 2015) supported calls for CCTV cameras to be installed in slaughterhouses as a matter of animal welfare.

This follows recent distressing events of animal cruelty being uncovered at an abattoir in Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

Tom said:
“This measure should apply to all slaughterhouses in the UK, including local ones such as the one now operating in my constituency at Boosbeck. These units are, at present, under a regime that allows vets to make lightning unannounced policing visits, but vets cannot be everywhere at once and as a result some cruel and poor practice has happened un-noticed.

“To install such sealed CCTV units would not be costly and responsible managers should not have any cause for concern. It would only be those who turn a blind eye to poor practice who should worry. The incidents in Thirsk clearly demonstrate that cruel practices do happen, and they had clearly been missed by any inspections by the vets.

“I will be writing to agriculture minister George Eustice, who has just received a report on the possibility of CCTV in slaughterhouses by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, to urge positive action on this matter.”

Tom in last minute call for Post Office bosses to rethink Guisborough service in February closure period

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenknsop today (2nd February 2015) called on national Post Office bosses to “rethink” their proposals to provide counter services during a fortnight shutdown for the Guisborough town centre post office.

Tom said:
“Later this month, the Guisborough Post Office will have to shut down for a complete refurbishment and modernisation. This, of course, is welcome. However, what is not welcome is that the Post Office have, in my view, extremely limited plans to provide an alternative service.

“In short, they are saying that people can use branches in places like Redcar, Skelton or Saltburn. Given the distance involved, this is a nonsense, even for car drivers. For people with no car, it simply cuts out any chance of accessing post office counter services. All the post office are promising is that they will put on a twice daily minibus service from Guisborough to Saltburn to take the trade from what is one of their busiest branches on Teesside.

“We have suggested time and time ago that there are alternatives. We know that the Post Office have, for example, mobile coaches converted to counter post offices which they could park up on Guisborough’s Westgate. Given that Guisborough is probably the busiest branch in our area, and probably has a footfall equal to some Crown Post Offices, I feel this is the only commensurate response they should make.

“They have raised objections to this, citing parking and mobile telephony issues. We said in reply that we had no problem in talking to Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council (as the highway authority) about reserving a space. This is done regularly for weddings and funerals at the nearby Methodist Chapel so I cannot see any problems personally. We also note the issue about mobile telecom links but Guisborough is a large settlement and I have never had complaints about mobile telecom services there.

“We have been in touch with the Post Office time and time on this, and despite promises to come back, they have failed to do so. I appeal to them at the 11th hour, to think again.”

“New government help for residential social care is a pittance” says local MP Tom Blenkinsop

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said today (2nd February 2015) that a cash announcement of new money for social care “is a mere pittance” when measured against the real costs of care.

The region’s local councils have been handed a £2m cash injection, amid growing fears of a social care crisis. The grants are intended to put in place extra care packages for vulnerable people who are otherwise unable to be discharged from hospital – so-called ‘bed-blocking’.

Tom said:
“In my constituency area Redcar and Cleveland have been given £230,000, whilst a £75,000 allocation goes to Middlesbrough Council. These figures might look good on the surface, but we have to look at the real costs of social care. On average, in England, the cost of providing residential care, including the care home operator’s slice of profit, is worked out at £563 per person per week, according to Valuing Care, a leading social care consultancy which is widely respected for its accuracy.

“Quite simply, this cash allocation will provide no more than a few weeks cash cover for supporting elderly and frail people either in their own house or in a residential care home. Eric Pickles claims they found ‘extra money’ to help hospitals under pressure from the cold weather but the cash will almost certainly be spent before the time this present cold snap ends. It is a mere pittance, and does nothing to reflect the sheer scale and cash need of the social care crisis.”

Tom renews calls for Skinningrove Mining Museum to be given ‘National Status’ by Government

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop today (27th January 2015) called on Arts and Culture ministers to grant ‘National Museum’ status to the East Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum in Skinningrove.

Tom said:
“I have made this call before, but up to now it has been ignored by coalition ministers. My reason for renewing this call is due to the fact that Redcar and Cleveland Council is now proposing, as part of their long term public realm work, to look to the preservation of our last two surviving sets of ironstone mine buildings at Margrove Park and Skelton as interpretative sites of our old core industry – an industry that shaped East Cleveland. These sites would be linked by dedicated footpaths to the Skinningrove Museum.

“To properly develop such a scheme and to build on it, I feel it is crucial that the Skinningrove Museum should be granted ‘National Museum’ status by the Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) who have responsibility for the country’s museums.”

“Making a declaration they will do this would put Skinningrove’s Museum on the same footing as the big London Museums, York’s National Railway Museum and the National Coal Mining Museum at Wakefield. With that status would come better resources and backing for the local managers.

“I will again be writing to Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, emphasising the importance of a positive reply to this call.”

Tom backs Transport Committee’s call to scrap “outdated” pacer trains

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (23rd January 2015) backed calls by the House of Commons Transport Committee to scrap “outdated” pacer trains, such as those running between Saltburn, Middlesbrough and Darlington.

The committee has called for pacer trains to be removed from the rail network by 2020 at the latest.

Tom said:
“This is a wakeup call from this cross-party committee to the Coalition Government’s Transport Ministers. Despite call after call from me and other regional MP’s, the government have refused to make a definite pledge that these veteran trains – first designed in the 1970s – will be removed and replaced by the same standard of trains enjoyed by commuters in London and the South.

“The only place for a pacer train now is at Beamish Museum – not on passenger tracks on Teesside.”

Tom slams “unwanted job losses at James Cook University Hospital”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (23rd January 2015) slammed the confirmation that nearly 40 jobs in the payroll department at the James Cook University Hospital have been rubber stamped for the axe by the South Tees Hospitals Trust which runs the hospital.

This follows an announcement just before Christmas that these jobs are being “outsourced” to a Lancashire Health Trust as part of a programme by the financially troubled Trust to save £90m over three years.

Tom said:
“It was recently confirmed that services provided by the trust’s payroll teams will move to East Lancashire Financial Services, part of Calderstone Partnership NHS Foundation Trust based in Darwen, near Blackburn.

“This is a tragedy and worse, I believe it could have been avoided. I know that the staff have worked incredibly hard to put in costed counter proposals delivering, savings similar to that of outsourcing and delivering year on year savings. However, I gather the Trust was concerned that these counter proposal would still ‘leave the risk in house’ whereas outsourcing would ‘transfer the risk’. This begs the question of why the Trust only seemed to want to deal with a potential partner on the other side of the country, knowing few, if any, of the staff would want to move there.

“UNISION, the trade union representing the staff expressed the position that it is more easily managed in house and keeps jobs within the local economy. Even if the Trust still needed the savings, why did they not consider a partnership with any of our local borough councils, all of whom run their own payroll sections? This could have given the savings and would have  allowed staff to simply transfer to another local public service employer, keeping the jobs in the area and the wages benefiting the local economy.

“Again, this just shows how the Coalition Government’s programme of pushing for job cuts and privatisation in the NHS is still continuing apace.”

“Worrying rise in youth unemployment”

Commenting on Labour Market Statistics released today (21st January 2015), Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“Many families who have young sons and daughters preparing to take their first step on the jobs ladder will be very concerned by the worrying rise in youth unemployment in today’s latest jobs figures.”

New figures show that youth unemployment increased by 30,000 to 764,000

Tom added:
“This contrasts with the overall fall in unemployment, which is to be welcomed. We cannot ignore that youth unemployment remains consistently higher than the adult unemployment rate. The government should bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people into work.”