I will not be seeking re-election as the Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

Tom Blenkinsop, Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has announced he will not be seeking re-election at the upcoming General Election.

Tom Blenkinsop has served as the Member of Parliament for the constituency, in which he was raised, went to school and worked prior to becoming an MP, since 2010.

Tom said:

I will not seeking re-election as the member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

I have made no secret about my significant and irreconcilable differences with the current Labour leadership. It is because of these differences I feel I cannot in good faith stand as the Labour candidate for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Representing the people of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has been the proudest years of my life.

I will do all I can in my time remaining as an MP to champion my constituents and the area that means so much to me, as I have been proud to do over the last 7 years.

Tom says Government must ‘find the money for North East schools’ after new free school announcement

Today the Government announced that it would be opening 131 new free schools. Two of these schools will be built in the North East, compared to 27 new schools opening in the South East of England.

One new primary school, Discovery Special Academy, will be opening in Middlesbrough. There are no new schools set to be built in Redcar and Cleveland.

This announcement comes after a National Audit Office report found that existing schools will need to make £3 billion of savings before 2020 and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee warned that education funding was facing the biggest squeeze in decades.

Tom, who has been campaigning for the Government to provide additional funding to North East schools facing cuts, said the announcements showed the Government were getting its priorities wrong.

Tom said:

I’ve been contacted by head teachers and teachers saying that local schools are facing budget cuts and parents are getting in touch to say that they are worried that lower funding levels will impact their children’s education. This Tory Government are saying North East schools need to find £119 million of savings in the next three years.

Meanwhile they have found the money to open a whole raft of new schools – only two of which will be in the North East. My constituents will rightly be wondering why the Department has been focusing on building more new schools, rather than making sure the schools which already exist are able to give their pupils the best education.

More school places are welcome but I think we have to prioritise those schools who we know as struggling and are already teaching students.

The Government pledged more than £300 million to build new grammar schools in their budget but can’t seem to find the money needed to plug the funding gap for North East schools.

Tom welcomes funding for Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum

CIMM

Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum has received £800,000 as part of the Coastal Community Fund Awards to improve and extend facilities at the Skinningrove tourist attraction.

Tom said:

East Cleveland has a proud history of mining and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland still has the highest number of miners of any constituency in the UK. It’s right that the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum, which celebrates our proud mining past, gets the funds it needs to attract more visitors and provide a truly modern experience for those wanting to learn more about our area’s history.

What stands out in this grant is the emphasis on classroom based activities being developed at the museum that will help integrate the museum’s work and treasures for the benefit of local school students.

No one can be sure, but it’s likely the ironstone in Big Ben came from Cleveland mines – it’s nice to see money coming back from Westminster to ensure the mines that built Britain’s biggest icon are not forgotten.

The museum, which had over 12,000 visitors in 2015, was founded by Tom Leonard, a local newspaper journalist who reported on the closure of ironstone mines in the 1950s and was determined that Cleveland’s mining past not be lost.

The Department for Communities and Local Government announced the award on Monday. The grant will go towards a ‘£1.76 million project to extend the existing museum buildings and improve facilities, to create a walk-round interactive museum, artefact storage, exhibition and classroom/performance space to allow all year round opening.’

Tom Blenkinsop meets with local head teacher to discuss school funding cuts

Tom Blenkinsop today met with Tony Gavin, head teacher of Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough, to discuss the funding challenges facing Teesside’s schools.

This follows news that, due to the new school funding formula, increasing school costs and changes in pupil numbers, schools in the North East are set to lose approximately £119 million in funding by 2020. A survey of head teachers also found that 72% of school leaders believe that their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

Tom said:

It was good to meet with Tony today, who highlighted not only the £650,000 blackhole Laurence Jackson School could be facing by 2019, but the wider issues facing Teesside schools.

I have previously met with local National Union of Teachers representatives on this issue. With the help of the NUT and National Association of Head Teachers I have tabled an Early Day Motion in parliament asking the Government to think again, and am proud this has received the support of 14 of my colleagues from the North East.

I have repeatedly applied to hold debates on this issue in Parliament but have been unsuccessful so far. I will keep trying and attempt new approaches to get the Government to answer for what they are doing to our schools.

In their manifesto the Tories promised to protect school spending. It’s clear that, again, they’re breaking their promises and letting down the children of Teesside.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto pledged to ‘continue to protect school funding’ and stated repeatedly that the ‘amount of money following your child into school will be protected’.

In December an independent National Audit Office report into the ‘financial sustainability of schools’ found that UK schools will have to find £3 billion in efficiency savings by 2020 if current spending levels continue.

‘Under funded’ South Tees A&E services miss waiting time targets

In January over 603 people in the South Tees area waited longer than four hours to be admitted to A&E.

January 2017 was the worst month for A&E departments on record, Health Department statistics released today reveal.

In 2010 the Government set a target that all hospitals should either ‘admit, transfer or discharge’ 95% of A&E patients, but today’s statistics showed that only 85.1% of patients in England were seen in under four hours.

Major A&E departments were the worst affected. Only 5 of the more than 120 NHS Trusts with such departments met the Government’s waiting times target for major A&E services.

Major A&E services at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton saw 88.2% of patients within the four-hour time limit – better than the national average but still well below the Government’s 95% target.

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

These statistics are deeply worrying. Despite a fall in A&E admissions since December more patients than ever waited over 12 hours for a bed once admitted.

NHS staff in Teesside A&E units are working hard to meet the four-hour target and treat patients as quickly as possible. We all owe so much to every single nurse, doctor and paramedic treating patients in our hospitals. But they are being starved of funds. The billions of cuts to social care have piled pressure on already strained A&E services and patients are suffering because of this Government’s spending choices.

The Chancellor finally acknowledged the crisis facing our A&E services by committing new funds to social care and A&E services yesterday. However, further cuts to council funding will damage social care and the fact that South Tees A&E services are performing better than the national average mean we’re unlikely to see much of the additional A&E funding promised.

National Insurance increase a ‘betrayal’ of self-employed

Tom today called the Chancellor’s decision to break a manifesto commitment not to raise taxes for the self-employed a ‘betrayal’.

The Chancellor announced an increase in National Insurance contributions demanded of the self-employed. This came as a surprise given the Conservative 2015 General Election Manifesto pledged ‘no increases in National Insurance’.

The self-employed on average work longer, earn less and have less security than employees.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

This is a real betrayal of the self-employed. It breaks a Conservative manifesto commitment and puts the burden on those taking risks and getting their own businesses off the ground. When I think of the self-employed in Teesside, like those running small business in Saltburn or those who set up their own businesses after losing their jobs in the SSI closure, I think of people taking risks and creating jobs for others. They won’t have planned for this change and it will just add to the pressure they’re already under

The Government promised not to increase National Insurance and they have. It’s not like they needed to do this – they’ve prioritised other things like cutting corporation tax and giving a tax break to those who inherit their wealth but have increased the burden on those trying to make their own way.

This and the tax credits cuts amount to a kick in the teeth for those Teessiders trying to step up their own businesses and create prosperity in their communities.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for the future of the economy also downgraded their prediction of long term economic growth by 2020/21.

Tom criticises Portuguese-speaking requirement for construction workers

Tom has criticised a company for seemingly favouring Portuguese speakers for roles in constructing a new power station on Teesside.

A job advert for a banksman slinger on the Middlesbrough site, stated that speaking Portuguese ‘is highly desired but not essential’. Banksman slingers are responsible for ensuring safety during the transportation of materials via crane on a construction site.

Tom said:

This is one way in which companies are disadvantaging local skilled workers and making it harder for them to get work. It is very unusual to expect construction workers earning £14 an hour to speak a second language, to say the least. I have been contacted by several Teessiders who work in the construction industry who feel they aren’t being a fair chance to get these jobs.

There is another issue here. Why is there a requirement for a banksman slinger to speak another language at all? I worry that this means the crane drivers and scaffolders on the site are foreign workers being exploited by being made to work for conditions and pay below the industry standard. This could mean the migrant workers are being cheated while standards for all construction workers are being undercut.

Last month I introduced a bill to tackle exactly these sorts of practices by employers building power stations. A loophole in the law means companies building smaller power stations can make their employees work for less than the industry agreed standards. I will be raising this issue again – we need to stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting and close the loophole.

Tom Blenkinsop, introduced the 10 minute rule bill last month saying that the House of Commons must address these ‘pockets of exploitation [which] lead to resentment among all workers from our communities who are prevented from seeking and achieving meaningful employment.’

Tom and Jason Isaacs ‘Make Every Daffodil Count’ for Marie Curie this March

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and Harry Potter actor Jason Isaacs have joined forces to ‘Make Every Daffodil Count’ this March and help Marie Curie provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness.

Marie Curie Campaign; Jason Issacs' Portcullis House, Westminster; 28th February 2017. © Pete Jones pete@pjproductions.co.uk

Tom and long-term Marie Curie supporter Jason were pictured together with Marie Curie Nurses, Sally Monger-Godfrey and Lib Wolley at a parliamentary event in Westminster to celebrate the launch of the Great Daffodil Appeal, Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign.

Tom pledged his support to the appeal and is encouraging Teessiders to help the charity raise more money than ever before by simply giving a donation and wearing a Marie Curie daffodil pin, available from volunteers across the country, or Superdrug, Spar and Poundworld stores, and Wyevale Garden Centres, during March.  Morrisons supermarkets will also be holding GDA fundraising collections on 10, 11 & 12 March.

Tom said:

Marie Curie do amazing work caring for those suffering from cancer. I’ve had personal experience of what a difference they can make to people towards the end of their lives and I’ll be forever grateful for the warm care they gave to my Dad in his last days.

I’ll continue to support Marie Curie so that as many people as possible can get the support and care they need. I know thousands of Teessiders will have lost someone they love to cancer. People should know that any donation to Marie Curie, no matter how small, can make a real difference.

Jason, who is best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films,said:

I’m delighted to help launch Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal.

Please help us make every daffodil count.  The charity is also calling on more people to help with local collections.  Volunteering a couple hours of your time will make such a difference to the care and support that Marie Curie can provide.

 Sally Monger Godfrey, Marie Curie Nurse and face of The Great Daffodil Appeal, said:

Make every daffodil count. Your daffodil means I can care for someone in their own home, and be there for them through the night. You make a difference to people at the end of their lives, which in many ways is just as important as at the start.

For more information about volunteering for a local collection call 0800 304 7025 or visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil.

Labour MPs warn of ‘£119m hole’ in North East education funding

North East MPs have called on the Government to give the region the funds it needs to meet increasing education costs.

EDM

The MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) which calls on the Government to take action on the estimated £119m real terms cuts that North East schools face by 2020. This funding gap is due variety of factors including changes in the new funding formula, cuts outlined by in the 2015 budget and the effect of inflation on school costs.

An independent report by the National Audit Office found schools across England need to make total savings of £3bn by 2020 to cope with increasing costs. The National Union of Teachers estimate the savings needed in the North East is equivalent to losing 3,203 teachers.

It is not just Labour Members of Parliament worried about this situation, a survey found that 72% of head teachers think their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

Tom, who tabled the EDM, said:

These findings are extremely worrying for the North East and casts doubt on the financial sustainability of schools in our area.

The National Audits Office’s findings show that the Government’s current plans for funding our schools aren’t good enough. We’re currently in the mists of a financial crisis in the NHS and this suggests we could be facing something similar in our schools by 2020. It looks the Tories haven’t got their sums right again – they can’t be trusted to run our services.

Either our schools will have to make deep cuts that will affect the education of young people in our area or the Government will have to stump up more cash. We are asking they do the latter.

‘End of a battle’ as future of former Boosbeck Abattoir decided

‘It’s the end of a long battle.”  That was the reaction of Tom Blenkinsop to the news that the future of the controversial Boosbeck Abattoir site has been decided. Plans to build housing on the site were finally given the go-ahead by Redcar and Cleveland’s Regulatory Committee today.

170222 Abattoir

The MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said,

This has been a matter which has been high on the local agenda for some years.

The residents who had thought the abattoir had been closed for good when the former Norman family ceased trading, were rightly annoyed when it re-opened under new ownership in 2015.  They were concerned about fumes, smell and industrial activities in the heart of a village, but were caught by land use law which stipulated that former uses can outlive an ownership and start again without the need for a new planning application.

The controversy was heightened when outside, racist and neo-Nazi elements sought to involve themselves on the basis that the plant was processing Halal meats – an intervention the village didn’t need and didn’t want.

However, after a lot of patient negotiation between the local council and the plant operators a deal was finally brokered. The deal is a success for local people as it will mean the closure of the plant for good and the purchase of the land by a housing developer.

Now that planning permission has been granted, the sooner the diggers are on the site, the better. I look forward to seeing the first new households moving into the village.