Tom Blenkinsop MP pledges his support for the Royal British Legion’s ‘Count Them In’ Campaign

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, declared his support for The Royal British Legion’s campaign after meeting with ex-service personnel on June 13.

 

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The ‘Count Them In’ campaign’s aim is to improve information about the Armed Forces community in the UK by including Armed Forces related questions in the 2021 UK Census.

It is estimated that there are currently between 6.5 million and 6.7 million members of the Armed Forces community living in the UK. However, little is known about the exact numbers, location and needs of this significant group. Including new questions on the next census would provide public bodies, local authorities, and charities with valuable information to ensure they are able to deliver the best services they can for our Armed Forces community.

Following the meeting Tom said:

“It was an honour to meet with members of the Armed Forces community who, along with their families, make huge sacrifices for the freedoms we all enjoy.

“If we as a country and as politicians want to offer a better deal to our Armed Forces community we need to know more about them and their needs.  

“It cannot be right that our Servicemen and women, veterans and their families are effectively hidden from official statistics, and that’s why I’m backing the call for new questions to be added to the next UK Census. We count on them – let’s count them in.” 

Chris Simpkins, Director-General of The Royal British Legion, said:

 “As a nation we promise to provide lifelong care and support for those who serve our country. By adding questions to the 2021 UK Census, we can help public bodies and charities deliver the best services they can for our Armed Forces community, when and where it is needed most.

 “We thank Tom for adding his support to our campaign: together I’m confident that we can make the next census count for our Armed Forces community.”

You can find out more about the campaign by visiting the campaign website, www.britishlegion.org.uk/census, or by posting your own pledge of support on social media using the #CountThemIn hashtag.

 

Comments on incident at Boulby Potash Mine

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (17th June 2016) spoke of his alarm at the over the death of a worker at the East Cleveland Boulby Potash Mine in the early hours of this morning.

Tom said:  “The miner who died in the explosion was one of my constituents who lived in East Cleveland.

“My immediate thoughts – and I have no doubt the thoughts of the entire local community – are with his family and friends.

“We cannot allow this death to go unmarked.  Over the last decade and a half, the mine has been a safe working environment, certainly compared to years past where accidents were more frequent.  

“However, In the space of just a few months we have seen two tragic incidents. I am concerned that this must not become a pattern. Mines legislation requires a full investigation, and I need to be reassured that this will indeed happen.

“I would also want to be reassured that recent redundancies at the mine have not altered day to day working practices to the extent that risk may have been allowed to creep back in. In the near future I will want to meet with both the mine owners, ICL Ltd, and the mine unions on these issues.”

 

‘Recycling proposals and offering no new action’, Tom slams the Heseltine review

MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop criticised the Heseltine review in parliament today saying it would get ‘no marks for originality’ and fails to ‘call for the clear action needed’.

The report, he argued, recycles proposals from previous agreements and offers mostly vague aspirations for the area.

Where specific proposals are made the government seems hesitant to act on them. In response to questions from Tom Blenkinsop, Andrew Jones from the Department for Transport said the department would consider the electrification of the rail line between Northallerton and Teesport only after 2022 and would not include it in the current scheme as recommended. The Department for Education also failed to confirm whether it would act on the recommendation to prioritise the Tees Valley area in a national roll out of the National Teaching Service scheme.

In a debate on the subject in parliament Tom Blenkinsop said:

“This report is a missed opportunity. It fails to recommend action to save what’s left of the steel industry in Teesside, secure investment in the SSI site and back the Tees Valley’s businesses.

“The reality is, this report guarantees no additional action or extra funding from central government. It is essentially Lord Heseltine repeating an old shopping list that has been ignored by government before.

“I hope the government will pay more attention to these local aspirations now they have been endorsed by the former deputy leader of the Conservative party.

“But when I have asked questions of ministers relating to specific proposals in the report on transport, education and additional funding for the Redcar site they have either delayed answering or indicted there will be no follow up on the recommendations.

“Put simply this report and the government’s response to it are not good enough. The report asks the government to “consider”, “make assessment for” and “take account of” all sort of things. But it does not call for clear action to keep our steel industry alive, regenerate the SSI site or make us a world leader again.”

In the debate Mr Blenkinsop rejected Lord Heseltine’s claim that employment has recovered following the closure of the SSI site in the Autumn last year. Instead, he highlighted the fact that unemployment was up by 23% in his constituency since the closure and by 43% in Redcar.

Tom welcomes opening of public consultation on the future for “iconic” Guisborough Town Hall building

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today welcomed the news that Redcar and Cleveland Council had formally launched the formal consultation on possible future use for Guisborough’s historic Town Hall building.

As part of this process Guisborough residents are being encouraged to have their say on the future of the Town Hall as Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council wants to hear what local people think, to that end drop in sessions will be taking place on Monday 20 June between 3pm and 7pm and Tuesday 21 June between 3pm and 6pm.

Both events will start at Guisborough Town Hall so local people can get a feel for the building and then a question and answer session will be held at Sunnyfield House, on the other side of Westgate.

Tom said “This is a welcome step.  This is an iconic listed building which dominates the Market Place, and has been sadly neglected by past owners. Conscious of local feeling it was finally purchased at auction by the council last year.

“It is important that whatever final use the building is, it is one that meets what the people of Guisborough and the wider East Cleveland area. I encourage everyone to get along to the meetings or to give their views to the council on-line at  www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk/guisboroughtownhall “

Tom warns that the government buses bill could wreck Lord Heseltine’s plans for the Tees Valley

The government has announced that their long awaited buses bill could stop councils running bus services and new council run services will be scrapped all together, a move which could damage Lord Heseltine’s plans for the Tees Valley.

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, has today (8th June 2016) warned that the reliable bus service is key to Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley could be jeopardised by the government’s new busses bill.

Tom said: “The bus industry across the UK is in crisis. Figures out today to accompany the launch of the bill show there has been a fall of 27 million passenger bus journeys taken in England since last year – and this follows falls in past years.

“This is a bill with one major flaw in it – it prevents councils running their own bus services in areas where they will be needed.”    

“Figures show that since 2005, the number of miles covered by English local authorities supported buses has decreased by a huge 55 million miles. The annual bus stats also shows that bus fares have increased with fares in England increasing by 61% on average between March 2005 and March 2015.

“We were promised that all this would be reversed by the new buses bill which has been launched today, but the reality seems to show that these promises were hollow. We were promised that areas like the Tees Valley with a combined authority and a mayor would get new powers to “franchise” services in their area, but it looks as if this will only occur if the big bus companies are prepared to co-operate.

“The big issue is that the bill effectively outlaws local councils from running bus operations despite a large existing network of local council bus operators who can easily demonstrate they can run proper services for their communities

“Local councils – including Redcar and Cleveland – run their own direct bus services to meet areas of need. In my constituency outlying estates in Guisborough benefit from a council run shopping and commuter service linking the town centre with the outlying estates. Council buses service outlying areas like Easington and provide the only bus link to the East Cleveland Hospital in Brotton.  And on an evening, the “Local Link” services connects the villages of East Cleveland long after the dominant commercial operator, Arriva, have put their buses to bed in the garage. These could be at risk if the bill is not altered.

“Ironically, in his report yesterday, Lord Heseltine talked about the commuter flows in the Tees valley and how people need to be simply able to get to the future jobs he talked about. It looks like even if some of these jobs appeared, no one will be able to get to them.”

“If this buses bill is passed, then these areas could all suffer. This bill – which I know has been subject to constant lobbying from the likes of Arriva and Stagecoach since it was first announced – will have to be stringently examined line by line in the Commons and possible downsides like the loss of council services must be combated.”

 

“All spin and no substance” Tom Blenkinsop’s comment on the Hesletine Tees Valley document

Tom Blenkinsop the Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has today (7th June 2016) said that Lord Heseltine’s report on the needs of the Tees Valley following the collapse of steelmaker SSI is “A desperately thin document made up of a recipe of old ideas, and with no cash powers to effect real change.”

Tom said: “The document, however much government try to spin it, is simply a cold collation of existing aspirations from our local industries and local councils. Paragraph after paragraph has come straight from the existing Tees Valley Unlimited prospectus for the economic revival of the area.

“What Lord Heseltine – and his government – should have done today is announce that they would put up the cash and the powers to turn sound bites into jobs. But what we got was totally bereft of any new cash and was a simple set of polite “requests” to ministries to “look to help” or to “investigate ways of helping” Teesside and the people and communities of Teesside.

“There were no indications of help to the owners of the “new” British Steel who are now running Skinningrove and the Lackenby Beam Mill and no help to underpin the infrastructure to support their investment.

“There was no mention of the Materials Processing Institute which now occupies the very buildings that used to be Teesside steel’s research hub.

“The single biggest issue – the future of the strategic land where SSI once operated is merely relegated to a new “Mayoral Development Corporation” with no mention of that Corporation having anything more than a meagre cash dowry to somehow plan, implement and complete one of Europe’s biggest industrial site clean ups.  

“There was No concept of the remediation works that may be needed and no suggestion of any future use for a site containing one of the UK’s best deep water berths for bulk imports and exports.

“Lord Heseltine’s report could have offered the support Teesside needs but it was nothing more than lip service.”

 

Tom welcomes Greybull deal but warns that the steel industry is still at risk

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, Tom Blenkinsop, has welcomed the news that Tata have completed the sale of their long products division to Greybull.

The sale, which will bring back the name British Steel, includes sites in Scunthorpe, York and Workington as well as the Teesside Beam Mill and Skinningrove.

Tom said: “The completion of the sale is good news for the North, it has secured jobs in Scunthorpe, Yorkshire and here on Teesside.

“Workers at the sites have played their part in making this sale happen by accepting changes to their terms and conditions, the government must not let them down by refusing to take any meaningful action on business rates and high energy costs.

“Despite this good news the UK steel industry is still at risk, a quick sale of Tata’s remaining business could jeopardise the long term future of the blast furnace at Port Talbot and locally mills in Hartlepool remain at risk.

“There are also serious questions over the government’s handling of the closure of SSI in Redcar and I will continue to ask why it took the closure of the plant and thousands of job losses before the government took any action.”

We need fair funding for northern schools

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has welcomed a report by IPPR North, and backed by Teach First, which calls for fairer funding for northern schools.

Northern secondary schools receive £1,300 less per pupil on average than London and IPPR are urging the government to use upcoming reform of the national funding formula to address this imbalance.

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Thanks to a modern plan and lots of investment form the last Labour Government Teesside now has some of the best primary schools in the country, but children are being let down as this Government is short changing northern secondary schools.

“Teachers, and other school staff, are already facing an uphill struggle as school budgets have been cut but this report reviles it is even harder in the north due to unfair government funding.

“I’m Backing IPPR’s report which calls for more resources to overcome educational disadvantage in the North, I hope the Chancellor acts on this report with more than just empty world and his ‘northern powerhouse’ sound bite.”

Tom warns the Government that splits must not jeopardise Tata sale

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on steel has warned the Government not to jeopardise the sale of Tata by squabbling with itself. 

The Department for Business (BIS) and the Department for Work and Pensions are arguing over a proposal which would see Tata’s pension fund ‘spun off’ as a separate entity, effectively become a new scheme. 

Tom said: 

“The accelerated timescale for the sale of the remaining Tata business is already a course for concern but this new intra-department spat has the potential to put off the majority of buyers.  

“Bickering in the corridors of Whitehall is directly affecting lives here on Teesside, Hartlepool 25 inch, 42 inch and the mothballed 84 inch mills are all up for sale with hundreds of jobs on the line. That’s why I’m calling on Sajid Javid and Stephen Crabb to put their differences aside and work together to find a buyer and save the thousands of jobs which are at risk nationally.

 “The Government must work alongside buyers to secure a sale, no options should be ruled out at this early stage, sending mixed messages will only cause confusion and doubt.”

 

Tom supports Foster Care Fortnight

You don’t have to be a good cook to foster, revealed children and young people in foster care as part of a new survey conducted by The Fostering Network to mark the start of Foster Care Fortnight 2016 (16-29 May).

Instead the overwhelming call was for foster carers who can provide them with security, support and love.

A survey of 261 care experienced children and young people identified what that they consider to be the key qualities and skills needed to foster.

The top three qualities that these children and young people identified as key to making a good foster carer were:

  • making them feel safe and secure (67 per cent)
  • supporting and helping them (61 per cent)
  • loving them (54 per cent)

Adam, 19, is living with his foster carer in Scotland, said: “Foster care saved me and rebuilt me. I was shy, timid and awkward with little life prospects.

“Fostering opened the doors to a vast amount of opportunities: allowing me to go to university, allowed me to take up almost every hobby know to the world and allowed me to become a member of The Scout Association.”

When asked what made a good foster carer, Adam said: “This may sound really silly, but caring. There needs to be a passion to deal with these young people who often come from horrific conditions and you need invest time, belief and strength in them. It cannot be underestimated the importance of a strong role model on a young person. You need the skill of seeing light in times of darkness because these young people will lean on you through some of their lives.”

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop Said:

“I’m sure that becoming a foster carer can be daunting but it’s something that many people would be capable of doing. I urge anyone who thinks they have the skills and personality to make a positive impact on these children’s lives to talk to their fostering service about becoming a foster carer.

“I’m backing the Fostering Network’s call for 9,070 foster families to come forward right across the UK to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children. In particular there is an ongoing need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children and sibling groups.

“Without more foster families coming forward during 2016 some children will find themselves living a long way from family, school and friends orbeing split up from brothers and sisters.

“If you believe you have the skills that children and young people want in their foster carer, visit thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/could-you-foster today and find out more.”