Tom’s comments on the future downgrading of Guisborough hospital

Commenting on the future downgrading of Guisborough hospital to a primary care centre Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said:

“For the last five years the threat of closure has been hanging over the whole of the Guisborough Hospital complex, its good news that this announcement removes that threat.

“However, the centralisation of hospital services at James Cook and Redcar is a concern. Since 2010 Guisborough has lost its maternity ward, stroke ward and Minor Injuries Unit. I welcome the £4 million investment and the commitment to keep the site open in the long term but the hospital is a shadow of its former self.

“Just yesterday James Cook declared that its A&E was under pressure and directed some patients to their nearest Minor Injuries unit if they could, an option that is much harder for East Cleveland resident than it was two years ago.

“I will be contacting the CCG asking them to confirm which services that will come to the refurbished site and when they will be fully operational.”

Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement ‘not good news for anyone’

In the Autumn Statement today the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, performed an about turn on the government’s economic strategy, loosening fiscal rules to allow the government to borrow more.

In what has been seen as a drastic change from George Osborne’s economic priorities Philip Hammond today confirmed the government will be borrowing more than ever before, increasing the national debt to nearly £2 trillion (£1,945,000,000,000) by 2020.

The Chancellor also altered his fiscal targets and rules. Mr Hammond’s predecessor promised to clear the national debt by 2015 and pushed that back to 2020, Mr Hammond today changed the deadline to the notable vague ‘as soon as possible’ after the year 2020.

While the Autumn Statement was trailed as a budget for those ‘just about managing’ it appears that the increases in the national living wage and changes in tax will be outweighed by freezes in wages and benefits and increases in costs of living due to inflation.

Mr Hammond also confirmed corporation tax would be cut to 17% – the lowest in the Western world, despite the fact business investment in the UK will be ‘permanently lower’ than previously anticipated.

Tom, said:

Many of my constituents who voted Conservative at the last election told me they did so because they believed the Tories had a ‘long term economic plan’. Today’s statement has completed blown the Tories’ ‘long term economic plan’ out of the water. The Chancellor hasn’t even tried to meet Osborne’s targets – he’s just removed them.

As inflation increases after the post-Brexit crash in the pound the cost of living will become higher for my constituents. The government’s feeble measures to support working families will be outweighed by changes in the economy, falling business investment and reduced in-work-support.

The public finances face a new crisis and working people will feel the hurt. Today’s forecast and statement don’t seem to be good news for anyone.

Tom highlights local funding challenges during Road Safety Week

Tom has backed a campaign which highlights steps drivers can take to reduce accidents on Britain’s roads. Tom also praised Redcar and Cleveland Council for their work on road safety in the face of strains on the local transport budget.

Road Safety Week is promoted by Brake, the road safety charity, who outline 6 steps drivers can take to make Britain’s road safer for everyone. These include taking regular eye tests, as 2,900 people are injured due to poor driver vision, and avoiding using the phone, because drivers talking on the phones are 4 times more likely to crash.

These factors as well as speeding, tiredness and drink driving contribute to the 5 deaths and 61 serious injuries on Britain’s roads every day.

Tom said:

I am proud to do my bit to reduce the shocking numbers of people who die and are injured on our roads every day by raising awareness of Road Safety Week. It’s up to individual drivers to take the steps Brake have identified to help save lives on our roads.

Redcar and Cleveland Council have worked hard to improve safety for drivers in my constituency. They’ve fought to solve the problems central government has caused through Tory budget cuts – credit should go to them for doing so.

Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns for Brake, said:

Every MP has constituents directly affected by road crash road death and serious injury. Road Safety Week’s theme is action-orientated and many MPs are now supporting a motion to The House of Commons.

Everyone who drives has to step up and take responsibility. If every driver vowed to slow down, never drink alcohol or take drugs, never use their phones or other devices, always use seat belts and child restraints, drive when fit to do so, and minimise driving, then our roads would be safer places for everyone.

Tom today signed an Early Day Motion in support of the campaign.

Find out more about Road Safety Week: http://www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk/

Use secret Big Six profits to boost energy innovation

Tom has called on the government to use the hidden profits of energy firms to give a boost to innovation in the sector.

Yesterday it emerged that the ‘Big Six’ has been making profits, from households across the country, seven times higher than they previous claimed. An investigation by the Sun newspaper revealed that companies made as much as £272 profit from each family on standard variable tariffs each year.

Families can only avoid paying this premium by swapping policies regularly, meaning reliable customers are milked by the very companies they show loyalty to.

Tom said:

It’s outrageous that these huge energy companies have hid the extent of their profits made off the back of hard working families. It is right that customers can shop around to get the best deal but those that don’t shouldn’t be taken for a ride.

The government should recoup the profits that these companies have hidden and put it back into funding innovative projects in the energy sector – Carbon Capture and Storage, tidal energy projects and energy storage measures – that will save the environment and reduce cost of energy in the long run.

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said he would be summoning Energy UK representatives of the energy companies for a meeting on this matter.

 

Tom backs Usdaw’s campaign to protect shopworkers

Tom has joined with the members of the retail union Usdaw to call for an end to abuse in the workplace. As part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff, Usdaw members are highlighting the problems faced by staff during Respect for Shopworkers Week, which runs from 14 to 20 November.

Tom Blenkinsop USDAW keep your cool

Tom said:

I am proud to back this campaign which raises awareness of the abuse and violence faced by shopworkers across the UK. It’s important we all show respect to retail workers, especially during the stressful and busy run-up to Christmas.

It is unacceptable that anyone should have to face abuse in their workplace. The stories I have heard from Usdaw representatives and shopworkers show how difficult abusive customers can make their jobs.

I will continue to campaign with Usdaw to provide shopworkers the support they need and deserve. We must give a clear message that abusing or assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary said:

We are grateful to Tom for supporting our campaign to keep our members safe at work.

Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to deal with tense and difficult situations. Unfortunately these can escalate to verbal abuse and assault. Over 300 shopworkers are assaulted every day and it is time to say enough is enough. Parliament has placed the legal obligation on shopworkers to enforce the law in relation to age restricted sales and Parliament must also ensure that the law also protects shopworkers who are doing their job. Politicians and members of the public must work together to ensure that shopworkers get the respect they deserve.

Tom encourages residents to check, Switch and Save on their energy bills

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, is encouraging people to speak to Middlesbrough Environment City at the up coming Unclaimed Benefits Campaign event.

Tom said: “Household budgets are feeling the strain of ever increasing energy costs and some people will have to make difficult decisions this winter.

“I’m encouraging people to speak to Middlesbrough Environment City to see if they are on the best energy deal for their needs and that they have taken all the energy saving steps they can.

“I’m sure that the event will help people stay warmer this winter. If you are in receipt of the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit you could get £140 as part of the Warm Homes Discount.”

You can make book a session with a Middlesbrough Environment City advisor at the 22nd November event by calling 01642 579820.

‘Tata can’t be allowed to break promises to steel workers and pensioners’ – Tom

Tom has reacted to reports in today’s Financial Times that Tata plans to close its pensions scheme next year.

The British Steel Pension Scheme’s (BSPS) deficit was seen as a significant barrier to the sale of Tata steel’s UK plants to new operators. The scheme’s deficit, earlier this year estimated at £700m, was recently re-estimated at a far lower £50m. Despite this apparent improvement in the scheme’s health, the Financial Times today reports Tata plan to close the scheme next year, just before the company is due to make a £60m recovery plan payment, promised to the BSPS’s trustees last year.

If the reports are accurate, the BSPS would cease to accept further contributions to the scheme, although it would continue to pay out to existing members. Unions, including Community, previously threatened to strike over a plan to close the final salary scheme in 2015.

Tom, who also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Steel Group, said:

I hope Tata will clarify their plans for the British Steel Pension Scheme. The uncertainty over the future of steelworkers’ pensions affects not only the 130,000 members of the scheme but the future of the steel industry in the UK.

Tata can’t be allowed to break promises to workers and pensioners, merely to cut their costs. I hope the Pensions’ Regulator and unions will be able to examine Tata’s plans to ensure they are acting like what they have always promised to be: a responsible employer.

The trustees of the scheme had previously outlined a plan to make the scheme function independently of Tata, on which the government consulted. The consultation process closed in June. The government is yet to outline its response to this consultation.

Teesside MPs lead steel debate in parliament

Teesside MPs Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, yesterday led a debate on the future of the UK steel industry in parliament.

Tom Blenkinsop steel backbench debateAnna - Steel Debate

During the debate, which they secured, Tom and Anna raised a number of issues from the challenge of Chinese steel dumping to future of the former SSI site in Redcar.

The debate was well attended by members from a variety of different parties.

Tom, said:

I am glad members from across the house were given the opportunity to push the government again on this issue.

Just because steel has fallen down the news agenda doesn’t mean the industry has overcome the challenges it was facing only a few months ago. The government needs to act on Chinese steel dumping, access to European markets, energy costs and to support innovation in the sector.

Specifically, several MPs called for the creation of a Materials Catapult to boost research and development in the sector.

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive of the Materials Processing Institute, said:

The steel debate has highlighted the importance of continued innovation-support for the future of the UK steel industry, through the development of a Materials Catapult in the region, to keep UK manufactures on the front foot in responding to the international market.

The North East has a proud and prestigious history of steelmaking and has built extensive expertise in production and processes. The Materials Processing Institute continues to develop and share this expertise with international steelmakers, which would be bolstered by the creation of a Materials Catapult.

Anna’s speech focused on the inaction of the government during the SSI closure and the fact the site was now currently in limbo.

Anna, MP for Redcar, said:

I took the opportunity again today to raise the deadlock around the future of the former SSI site with the Minister. The site is stuck in faraway wrangles between the official receiver and faceless banks in South East Asia and there are no signs of progress. I have met with serious potential investors who are looking very closely at Teesside and are attracted by the key strengths we have but we need the site to be liberated. The businesses of Teesside are ready to rebuild, invest, regenerate and bring much needed jobs to our area but not being able to redevelop the steelworks site is a big stumbling block.

In response to the debate, Nick Hurd, the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, denied the government was not acting to solve the crisis which continues to embroil the steel industry and reiterated their commitment to securing the future of UK steel.

“On Your Bike!” local MP Tom Blenkinsop Raises Money for The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal

MP Tom Blenkinsop, the Director General of The Royal British Legion and over 80 other Members of Parliament raced against the clock on an exercise bike to raise money for The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal.
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The 12 hour bike ride was held in Parliament and aimed to raise money for the Legion’s national Poppy Appeal. Tom Blenkinsopp represented his local constituency by cycling as far as he could in 5 minutes, with the hope of topping the leaderboard. Tom managed to cycle 2.12 miles in five minutes.

The bike ride was organised by the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) in association with The Royal British Legion and follows on from the successful bike ride held in 2015 (where 77 MPs and Peers cycled a total of 128.8 miles in 12 hours).

Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“I would like to thank the Industry and Parliament Trust and The Royal British Legion for arranging this event. The Royal British Legion provides invaluable support to the Armed Forces community; I am pleased to have been able to support such a worthy cause.

Nick Maher, CEO of the IPT said:
“The work of The Royal British Legion is essential to the lives of so many families across the UK and I am delighted that Tom was able to support us in our efforts to raise money for such a worthwhile cause. The support and enthusiasm from parliamentarians this year has been fantastic”

Health letter exposes government’s secret NHS cuts, says Tom

A letter from the Health Committee has accused the government of giving a ‘false impression’ over the funding provided the NHS.

161031 TB in chamber

The letter, written by Dr Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative MP and former GP, states that the government’s claim that it will provide an extra £10bn for the NHS by 2020-21 is ‘false’.

Simon Stevens, the Head of NHS England, said the NHS required at least £8bn of investment before the last election. However, in the letter sent today from the Health Select Committee the actual figure supplied is estimated at £4.5bn.

This news comes only a day after it emerged half of NHS authorities plan to cut the number of hospital beds and one third plan to close Accident & Emergency departments.

Tom, said:

This explains why when the Tories have been claiming they are properly funding the NHS, the story on the ground is so different. The letter today shows the NHS is receiving less than half of what this government has been claiming. Even members of Jeremy Hunt’s own party say his figures are bogus.

Around the country there are stories of services being cut or closed. In my constituency Hemlington Medical Centre is closing, services in Skelton have closed and in Park End they have closed and the buildings are being sold off for commercial development! This all comes before the impact of the ‘efficiency savings’ planned in the Sustainability and Transformation Plans we are yet to see.

These are cuts the government has tried to keep secret – today they have been exposed.

I hope the government will listen to Dr Wollaston and the committee’s concerns, but to be honest I won’t be holding my breath.”

Tom today questioned Jeremy Hunt and claimed he had been ‘found out’. In response Mr Hunt stood by his figures.