Tom urges Arriva to look at better fares for young people

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (28th July 2015) written to the bus firm Arriva urging them to look at introducing a child version of the weekly ticket.

Tom said:
“As it is currently the school holidays, hundreds of families across my constituency will be looking to utilise Arriva’s bus services to travel around this and the surrounding area. However, the lack of any sort of weekly travel ticket for children is off-putting for commuters as it leads to spiralling travel costs, particularly for parents with more than one child.

“I am aware that such tickets are available for adults using your bus services. Therefore, I have written to Arriva to enquire whether they have any plans to introduce a weekly ticket for children across all their services to reduce the financial burden on parents and to make travelling on public transport an economically viable alternative for families in my constituency.”

Tom Blenkinsop response to Tata Skinningrove announcement

Responding to the announcement today by Tata Steel that 25 jobs at its Special Profiles plant at Skinningrove are at risk, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“This will be devastating news for many of the workers, and their families, at the Skinningrove site. It is clear the UK steel industry is in a perilous state and as the biggest producer, Tata Steel is particularly affected. I will be offering my support to those workers affected and will work with unions and management to try and mitigate against compulsory redundancies.”

‘Summer Budget reveals true face of Tories’

Today (8th July 2015) George Osborne delivered the first Conservative-only Budget since 1996.

Reacting to the Summer Budget, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“Today we finally saw the Tories unleashed. In the run-up to the announcements it had been billed as a ‘radical budget’, but that was merely code for attacks on the purse strings of thousands of families across the UK.

“Before the election David Cameron and the Tories refused to come clean on their plans of tax credits and now we know why. Cuts to tax credits mean wages need to increase, so with this announcement alongside the falsely named ‘National Living Wage’ research already shows that actual living wage should be well over £12 if tax credits cut. So a family with one earner on average earnings will lose over £2,000 in tax credits from the changes announced today

“Tax credits, introduced by Labour, help tackle poverty and get people back to work – particularly single parents. Undercutting tax credits without real action to tackle low pay and to ensure full employment risks punishing low earners.

“Of course we want to see the welfare bill falling and action to help people get back to work – it is a basic requirement cut the deficit in a sustainable way. But welfare spending is already £28 billion higher than the Chancellor expected because he has failed to tackle the real causes of high welfare costs: low pay, high housing benefit costs and insecure working conditions.

“This Budget needed to ensure working people are given support and incentives to find a job, whilst providing security for the nation’s finances. The reality for George Osborne is that the Tory Government is going to borrow £83bn more since his March budget. This is highly dangerous with the ongoing Greece situation and the Chinese stock market in free fall.

“My job now, as it always has been, is to give a voice to those who will be hurt by these cuts; hold the Chancellor and his decisions to account, and to set out a way to cut the deficit that is fair for my constituents in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.”

‘Government has let down the North East on jobs growth’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (6th July 2015) claimed that the Government has let down the North East as a new report reveals that London creates jobs four times faster than the North East.

The research by the Northern TUC of ONS data shows that between 2010 and 2014 jobs growth in London (11.5%) was four times as fast as the North East (2.9%).

Tom said:
“It has been over 12 months since George Osborne coined the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’, but action and investment to make it more than a buzz-phrase remains thin on the ground. I think this research clearly demonstrates that there is long-way to go to rebalance job opportunities and growth away from London – and in particular to the North East.

“The North East and, being more parochial, Teesside in particular needs urgent investment in skills and modern infrastructure. Businesses have already identified that they find it hard to find candidates with the adequate skills and there is a whole generation missing out if those jobs go elsewhere.

“We’ve plenty of opportunities in the North East. Last week’s decision on the potash mine, the gas supply-deal between BOC and SSI, and the proposed Carbon Capture and Storage network are all huge boosts to the area and I believe demonstrate a reignition of Teesside as a major player amongst large, modern industries.

“Furthermore, the Budget on Wednesday is an opportunity not to be missed for the Chancellor to start backing up his apparent desire to develop a Northern Powerhouse.”

‘Northern Powerhouse minister underestimates need for rail electrification on Teesside’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today claimed that the Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton MP, ‘underestimates the need for rail electrification across Teesside routes.’

In his response to a question about the shelving of electrification schemes in a House of Commons Business Questions for Communities and Local Government, James Wharton MP claimed that the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project was “not just about transport”.

Tom said:
“I am deeply concerned by this response from Mr Wharton. Businesses, think-tanks, local leaders and local commuters are more than aware that upgrading transport connections and the infrastructure remain key to the prosperity of the North East. The only person that seems to think otherwise is James Wharton.

“I’ve long campaigned for the electrification of Teesside railway lines and will continue to do so, but it is important that Government is on board.

“Following last week’s announcement to put on hold many railway upgrades, this will come as a double blow for commuters and businesses alike. If the Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project is to be more than a sound-bite then we need to start seeing some action.”

‘Low paid families could face cuts to tax credits’ warns Tom Blenkinsop

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (24th June 2015) warned that ‘low paid working families could face the brunt of cuts to tax credits.’

Shocking new figures released by the House of Commons Library show that 56% of families with children in could be hit by cuts to tax credits – joint highest in the country.

Tom said:
“Three months ago, before the General Election, the Tories produced an arbitrary figure of cutting the welfare budget by £12bn, but have failed to spell out exactly where the axe would fall. All the signs are pointing to tax credits being the one of the main targets.

“This will be a huge concern for many of my constituents. Tax credits offer a vital boost to living standards for families across Teesside and low-paid workers should not be in the firing line for these ideologically driven cuts.

“These new figures lay bare the devastating impact that David Cameron’s cuts could have on families. It’s time for him to come clean and say exactly what he is proposing.”

Tom backs bid for cash by Saltburn campaign group

Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has pledged his support for Friends of Saltburn Cemetery in their bid for £5,000 for a project to help tidy and restore the cemetery.

Voting is currently underway for the OneFamily Foundation Community Awards to help fund community projects and Tom is urging local people to cast their vote in support of Friends of Saltburn Cemetery.

Tom said:
“I fully support Friends of Saltburn Cemetery in their quest to raise funds to help tidy, restore and improve the local cemetery. They really need support of local people too – £5,000 would be a huge boost to their project and put them well on course to achieving their aims.

“I’m also pleased to meet up with some of the volunteers today, to see some of the work that they have been doing.”

Friends of Saltburn Cemetery volunteer, Jeanette Jefferson, said:
“I’m very pleased that Tom is backing our project and has shown his support by voting online. I urge local residents to follow his lead and vote for our project for Saltburn.”

You can vote for and find out more about the project at: https://foundation.onefamily.com/projects/friends-of-saltburn-cemetery/#project-info

 

Tom Blenkinsop MP: “The inspection of James Cook Hospital underlines the need for proper resourcing of NHS acute service on Teesside”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (9th June 2015) commented on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Inspection report on Middlesbrough’s James Cook Hospital.

Tom said:
“Overall the CQC report was highly positive, focusing on the commitment of management and staff – especially nursing and care staff at the sharp end of the hospital service – and recognising that the hospital is operating in an area where there are acute challenges of ill health, health inequality and pockets of poverty.

“It recognised the efforts put in by hospital staff and managers to tackle a background of budgetry constraint and to produce an environment where patients were put first by everyone concerned with their treatment and care. For all this, the hospital must be congratulated.

“However, there were two areas of concern, areas of concern that must be looked at by both hospital managers and by Government ministers themselves.

“The first is the sheer strain in the A & E Unit.  The report says “there were nursing staff shortages across wards and departments, particularly at the James Cook University Hospital… in urgent and emergency care and in children’s services.

“The responsibility for this lies not so much with the hospital, but with the government itself who, over the past few years, have been steadily closing walk in centres and GP and nursing practices across the South Tees area, including, in my constituency, the minor A&E unit at East Cleveland hospital and surgeries in Skelton and Park End. As I repeatedly said at the time, this would only lead to more A&E pressure at James Cook Hospital. This has now turned out to be the case.

“The second issue is one the Trust itself needs to look at again.  The report said: “Not all records were consistently completed across the acute and the community services, including the updating of care records such as assessments, fluid balance charts, risk assessments and decisions over whether to attempt to resuscitate a patient. There were also concerns over the completion of safeguarding records, particularly in the see and treat area of the A & E unit”

“Only a few weeks ago, the main NHS Union, UNISON, expressed concern over the outsourcing of the processing of patient records to a company in the Philippines.  To go ahead with such a proposal, at a time when it looks as if the original processing and writing up of the notes themselves may not be wholly secure, means to me that this proposal must be put on hold, whilst the review of record taking and processing takes place.

“But above all, the government have to be reminded of the sheer degree of pressure put on caring services like those at James Cook Hospital under their austerity regime. This is not set to improve. Only last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced that £200 million more would have to be cut from the Department of Health this year alone. That, taken with the cuts to the social care budget that supports discharged patients, is the real reason why hospitals are short of nurses and medics, and why the entire NHS is in crisis. It is a crisis of the government’s own making and one they have a moral duty to reverse.”

Tom warns that Royal Mail share sell off could damage Teesside’s and East Cleveland’s postal service

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has warned that George Osborne’s sale of the government’s shares in the Royal Mail could threaten Post Office branches and harm local businesses.

The universal service obligation guarantees a 6 day delivery to ever address in the UK at a uniform tariff.

Tom said:
“The Royal mail universal service obligation could be Osborne’s first victim this parliament as the Tories scramble to find the money they need to fulfil their unfunded election promises.

“The sale of the government’s reaming shares in the Royal Mail will put the universal service obligation under even more pressure as shareholders will demand more cost cutting. This could leave the more remote areas of Teesside and East Cleveland with a second rate postal service.

“Small businesses in my constituency rely on a universal Royal Mail to provide a quick and affordable delivery service to their customers across the country, this sell-off will threaten that and could put business under threat or cause unwanted price rises.

“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.

“I will be writing to the Minister to seek assurances that this move will not affect the delivery offices at Coulby Newham, Guisborough and Skelton and Post offices across the constituency.”

First walkout in Tata Steel pension dispute happens in Westminster

The first walkout in Tata Steel’s ongoing pensions dispute took place not in Port Talbot or Scunthorpe but Westminster.

MPs at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel walked out as one from a meeting with Tata Steel executives in protest at the company representatives’ inability to answer their questions or address their concerns over the ongoing pensions dispute with the company.

Tom Blenkinsop MP, Chair of the Steel APPG, who was at the meeting said:
“The pensions dispute is a matter of such serious concern to our constituents that we expected a full discussion about the issues and principles at stake. It was clear that only the CEO of Tata Steel could provide the answers to our questions but he only sent his spokespeople. We felt there was no point continuing the dialogue today and we’ve demanded that Karl Koehler attends in person, so that we can hear first-hand how the company has found itself on the brink of the first national steel dispute for 35 years and what he intends to do to find a resolution to this situation. At the least, Tata should be getting back round the table with the unions.”

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, Community, said:
“Our members will welcome the actions of the steel MPs. We have also been seeking answers from the company and looking for them to recognise the overwhelming strength of feeling among their workforce about their pensions. If the massive vote in favour of strike action was not enough, then the company should heed this message from MPs and return to meaningful discussions with the unions in line with Tata’s values of responsibility and integrity.”