Tom votes against hated Bedroom Tax

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop today (5th September 2014) joined other Labour MPs to vote against the hated Bedroom Tax during a debate in parliament.

The Bedroom Tax has caused hardship for hundreds of thousands of people across the country, costing low-income families an average of £700 a year. Two thirds of those hit by the Bedroom Tax have disabilities and 60,000 are carers. In the North East alone over 36, 986 people have been affected.

The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly joined the Tories to keep the Bedroom Tax in place and have previously resisted any attempt to protect people from it. Yet today the Liberal Democrats joined Labour in voting against their own policy in Parliament.

Thanks to the support of Labour MPs the vote was won. Unfortunately this vote will not abolish the bedroom tax, as Labour will do if elected next year, but it is a step in the right direction and a glimmer of hope for many.

Following the vote Tom said:
“David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax has hit the poorest and most vulnerable on Teesside. I regularly hear from victims of this cruel policy who are finding themselves being forced out of their homes or under mounting pressure from bills they cannot afford.

“Despite all the warnings and the clear evidence that the Bedroom Tax is causing misery, hardship and forcing thousands to rely on food banks, the Lib Dems and Tories have voted again and again in favour of it. If this government won’t ditch the Bedroom Tax, then the next Labour government will.”

Tom warns of increase in companies charging for welfare advice

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (3rd September 2014) warned constituents who are seeking welfare advice to use caution when approaching companies that charge for the service.

In the past few months Tom has heard of increasing reports of constituents turning to services that charge for things such as filling out forms and representation at tribunals.

Tom said:
“It is very distressing to learn that an industry is being allowed to flourish that takes advantage of people who, in all likelihood, are already struggling to make ends meet as it is. Services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Welfare Rights officers at local authorities have previously been able to offer these types of services free of charge. Unfortunately, they have been severely hurt by Government cuts, particularly to Legal Aid, and are unable to cope with the increase in benefits queries. It is a recipe for disaster.

“Some of these companies charge up to £75 for simply filling out a form. That is a lot of money to many people in my constituency. I would strongly urge my constituents to use extreme caution before turning to these paid for services. I also feel that these paid for companies need to be monitored much more closely to ensure they are not taking advantage of those who find themselves in extremely difficult situations.”

Response to Foundry closure announcement

Responding to today’s (2nd September 2014) announcement by ESCO Corporation that the Guisborough Foundry will close by the end of November affecting 65 employees, local MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“I am extremely disappointed at this announcement. This closure will be a huge loss for East Cleveland and my priority will be to support those employees who have been hit by this announcement any way I can.

“Since hearing the news I have written to the firm offering whatever assistance I can give to help the workforce. We cannot write off any possibility at this moment, and I’ll be making my own enquiries into how we can help in conjunction with the workforces elected trade union representatives. It is vital that we ensure that opportunities are provided for the retraining of the employees, so that they will have a chance to apply for jobs elsewhere.”

‘Money wasted on Tory vanity project could’ve improved North East public transport infrastructure’ claims local MP Tom Blenkinsop

Following the release of the report by the Airports Commission announcing they will not be proceeding with the Isle of Grain airport, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (2nd September 2014) claimed that the millions of pounds of taxpayers money that has been spent on the project to date would have been better spent investing in transport infrastructure in the North East.

Last month London Mayor Boris Johnson signed off an extra £2 million worth of expenditure on lobbying for his fantasy plans, bringing the total bill to over £5 million.

Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“It’s a travesty that such a large amount of public money has been wasted on Boris Johnson’s fantasy island. The back of a fag packet idea was never going to work and has been rejected in one form or another for the past 40 years. The report released today will hopefully be the final nail in the coffin for Boris’ plans.

“It is maddening to think that the vanity project has cost taxpayers a fortune whilst North East transport infrastructure crumbles and we have an airport that stands almost idle. Investing that money here would’ve gone a long way to improving and developing what little we have in our area.”

Tom warns of ‘serious consequences’ ahead of Park End GP surgery loss

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop today (29th August 2014) warned that losing the GP surgery in Park End poses serious risks to both the health and well-being of local people and increasing pressure on other NHS services.

Over 1,500 people are registered at Park End medical centre which is due to close this Sunday (31st August 2014).

Tom said:
“Local NHS services across my constituency are gradually being eroded away and the closure of the GP surgery in Park End this weekend is yet another example of that. Over 1,500 people will now have to find an alternative GP and it is inevitable that this will add pressure to other NHS services, particularly to already overstretched A&E departments.

“The closure is a particular kick in the teeth for Park End as, only last week, NHS England created a fund to prevent the closure of GP surgeries in areas of high deprivation. Too late for the GP surgery in Park End.

“Our NHS is at serious risk and I will continue to fight for it.”

Tom Blenkinsop expresses ‘anger’ after local NHS overlooked for new GP surgery funding

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, expressed his anger at the news that NHS England has created a fund to prevent the closure of GP surgeries in areas of high deprivation – just weeks after the closure of a GP surgery in Skelton and the announcement of a closure of another surgery in Middlesbrough’s Park End.

The news came after as many as 100 GP surgeries around the country have been threatened with closure in recent months after the Government announced changes to the way GPs are to be funded.

In an apparent admission that the plans would disproportionately affect areas with high levels of deprivation, NHS authorities have offered financial support to surgeries whose patient populations have an index of multiple deprivation score above 35 – a Government measure of poverty rates.

Tom said:
“I am seething with anger at this announcement. Proposals like this do not come out of the blue and I have a deep suspicion that the axe was taken to the Skelton and Park End surgeries at a time when NHS bosses knew such a fund was being set up. Park End, and large parts of Skelton suffer from deprivation, and the use of this fund could have kept both alive and serving their communities and patients.

“I will be asking question of Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, in the Commons when it returns after the summer recess. This is both bad planning and bad practice and I will be demanding that NHS England comes clean about why this fund was not considered suitable for Skelton and Park End. I will also be demanding that the use of this fund is looked at in the consultation work on the future the latest threatened surgery in my constituency, Hemlington surgery.”

Short-listed bidders for Northern Rail are “total wipe-out for any UK management of local railway services”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, made these comments today (19th August 2014) after the names of the short-listed bidders for the Northern Rail franchises were announced by the Department for Transport.

Tom said:
“It is a huge blow for local services that the selected bidders are almost 100% foreign owned. We have Arriva which is German owned; Govia where the largest shareholder is French; and Abelio based in the Netherlands.

“This means that every pound handed over to the conductor on the train from Saltburn to Middlesbrough and Darlington will be going to boost the profits of companies not domiciled in the UK.

“It’s not right that the future of our rail network in the North is being decided by Coalition Ministers and civil servants in London. I urge the Government to review this decision with the aim that the North East – where the railway world was born – gets an operating system fit for purpose and kick-starts a transformation in our local rail services, not more of the same.”

Tom expresses concern at Hemlington NHS proposals

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop. Has today (11th August 2014) expressed his concerns at a consultation looking into whether there is sufficient capacity in the area if Hemlington Medical Centre was to close.

Commenting on the consultation Tom said:
“Across my entire constituency different NHS services are being put at risk due to the destructive reorganisation imposed by the Tory-led Government – in Skelton we have lost the GP Practice and walk-in centre; in Park End we’ve lost the medical centre, and minor-injury services in Guisborough and Brotton look precarious. These proposals for Hemlington Medical Centre would be devastating and would inevitably increase pressure on other local NHS services, such as already overstretched A&E services.

“Whilst I understand that, currently, this only forms part of a consultation, it is strikingly similar to what happened in Skelton and Park End. I vehemently oppose the proposal to close Hemlington Medical Centre and I will be responding to the consultation saying as much. I would urge local residents who rely on the service to do the same.

“Our NHS is rapidly being eroded away and only a Labour government will fight for it.”

Coalition ‘Youth Contract’ has been a “complete failure”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (25th July 2014) labelled the Coalition’s ‘Youth Contract’ a “complete failure” following the decision to abandon the ill-fated policy.

Tom said:
“Over 4 year since he entered Downing Street, David Cameron’s Government still hasn’t got a clue how to get our young people into work. Just two years after the launch of their flagship Youth Contract, the £1 billion programme is being abandoned by ministers.

“The Youth Contract has been a complete failure from start to finish. Ministers promised it would get every unemployed young person working or learning, but only a tiny fraction of Youth Contract employer wage incentives were ever used to get young people into work. On Teesside almost 5,000 young people are still unemployed.

“The Youth Contract has proved to be a waste; we urgently need a new plan to get young people back to work. The Government should introduce Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get young jobseekers off benefits and into work.”

Tom Blenkinsop “furious” after local NHS make decision to close the Park End GP Clinic

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (10th July 2014) said he was “furious” at the “short sighted decision by local managers of NHS England to close the Park End GP surgery and clinic in South Middlesbrough.

Tom said:

“In my constituency, the closure follows other closure decisions and proposals affecting surgeries in Skelton and minor injuries units at Guisborough and East Cleveland hospitals. It is all part of a slash and burn pattern which puts balance sheets and so-called savings ahead of patient wishes and health.”

“Despite the consultation exercise seeking views on the Park End Clinic showing staggering levels of local support – with 95% of respondents saying they were “satisfied or completely satisfied” with the service provided by the clinic, that they were totally happy with the quality of treatment from GP’s and nurses and with 73% disagreeing totally with any closure proposal, citing the need or a local centre for an area with a higher than average number of elderly people, local NHS bureaucrats have merely rubber stamped their original proposal, something that leads me to conclude that the consultation was a sham exercise, with only one outcome envisaged.”

“I am afraid that is unacceptable to me and local Park End residents. Up and down the country we are seeing services closed without adequate consultation. NHS walk-in centres continue to be closed, piling more pressure on A and E departments. It is just not good enough.”

“Just four short years ago the Government inherited a self-confident and successful NHS, with the lowest ever waiting times and the highest ever public satisfaction. Since then it has been demoralised and reduced to an uncertain organisation increasingly fearful of the future – something not lost on my constituents.”

“I will continue to campaign against the closure of NHS services in my constituency, my petition to save the essential services now has thousands of signatures and is growing every week. You can add your name to it by visiting my website, www.tomblenkinsop.com.”