Tom backs Transport Committee’s call to scrap “outdated” pacer trains

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (23rd January 2015) backed calls by the House of Commons Transport Committee to scrap “outdated” pacer trains, such as those running between Saltburn, Middlesbrough and Darlington.

The committee has called for pacer trains to be removed from the rail network by 2020 at the latest.

Tom said:
“This is a wakeup call from this cross-party committee to the Coalition Government’s Transport Ministers. Despite call after call from me and other regional MP’s, the government have refused to make a definite pledge that these veteran trains – first designed in the 1970s – will be removed and replaced by the same standard of trains enjoyed by commuters in London and the South.

“The only place for a pacer train now is at Beamish Museum – not on passenger tracks on Teesside.”

Tom slams “unwanted job losses at James Cook University Hospital”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (23rd January 2015) slammed the confirmation that nearly 40 jobs in the payroll department at the James Cook University Hospital have been rubber stamped for the axe by the South Tees Hospitals Trust which runs the hospital.

This follows an announcement just before Christmas that these jobs are being “outsourced” to a Lancashire Health Trust as part of a programme by the financially troubled Trust to save £90m over three years.

Tom said:
“It was recently confirmed that services provided by the trust’s payroll teams will move to East Lancashire Financial Services, part of Calderstone Partnership NHS Foundation Trust based in Darwen, near Blackburn.

“This is a tragedy and worse, I believe it could have been avoided. I know that the staff have worked incredibly hard to put in costed counter proposals delivering, savings similar to that of outsourcing and delivering year on year savings. However, I gather the Trust was concerned that these counter proposal would still ‘leave the risk in house’ whereas outsourcing would ‘transfer the risk’. This begs the question of why the Trust only seemed to want to deal with a potential partner on the other side of the country, knowing few, if any, of the staff would want to move there.

“UNISION, the trade union representing the staff expressed the position that it is more easily managed in house and keeps jobs within the local economy. Even if the Trust still needed the savings, why did they not consider a partnership with any of our local borough councils, all of whom run their own payroll sections? This could have given the savings and would have  allowed staff to simply transfer to another local public service employer, keeping the jobs in the area and the wages benefiting the local economy.

“Again, this just shows how the Coalition Government’s programme of pushing for job cuts and privatisation in the NHS is still continuing apace.”

“Worrying rise in youth unemployment”

Commenting on Labour Market Statistics released today (21st January 2015), Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“Many families who have young sons and daughters preparing to take their first step on the jobs ladder will be very concerned by the worrying rise in youth unemployment in today’s latest jobs figures.”

New figures show that youth unemployment increased by 30,000 to 764,000

Tom added:
“This contrasts with the overall fall in unemployment, which is to be welcomed. We cannot ignore that youth unemployment remains consistently higher than the adult unemployment rate. The government should bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people into work.”

Tom calls for a “coherent government strategy to sustain North Sea oil and gas”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (19th January 2014) said that the news that oil giant BP is expected to axe 200 land based support jobs and 100 North Sea offshore contract posts in the coming weeks as a direct result of the impact of low oil prices “is a warning bell” that the Coalition Government now have a duty to look to develop tax and business support strategies to sustain the North Sea fields in “difficult times”.

Tom said:
“BP directly employ 80 workers at their Seal Sands terminal who thankfully do not appear to be at threat, but there are many hundreds, and indeed possibly thousands of Teesside workers who are employed offshore or for locally based companies supporting the oil and gas industry in fabrication yards, wharf-side heavy load applications, marine and subsea engineering or offshore industry training.

“This vital economic linkage – a linkage reflected along the whole of the North East coastline – is why we need a new innovative strategy to support the offshore industry through difficult times.

“We have to understand that North Sea oil and gas, although now a mature industry which peaked in 1999 and has been declining since by 5-10 per cent a year, is still important. The leading industry body Oil and Gas UK calculates that some 42 billion barrels of oil have been extracted with another 24 billion still potentially left under the North Sea, which means there is still a big potential.  Indeed recent gas finds by Centrica in the Pegasus field, just 130 miles out from the Tees Bay, show the potential for local development on the Tees for servicing and terminal activities connected to just this one field.

“There is a glaring need for a new and flexible system of tax help for companies seeking to exploit these assets. The really big operators are now gradually pulling out of the North Sea and many of the companies now involved in exploration and development are relatively small. This is different to the past when the North Sea consisted of a small number of large fields operated by large oil and gas majors who built the infrastructure to extract oil and gas from large fields. Having produced the most accessible oil they move on and are replaced by small and medium independent operators who develop the smaller fields that remain.  They will be the local employment base for Teesside offshore workers in the future, but they need help – help the present government is failing to give.”

“Teesside robbed again” as NHS cash promised by George Osborne goes south

“The people of Teesside have been robbed again.” This was the reaction of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (13th January 2015) when details of new government NHS Primary Care funding for local GP and Health Centre were announced.

Tom was commenting after the details of extra funding for NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) promised was announced and a league table of increases across England was published.

Tom said:
“George Osborne promised that the government would increase its planned funding for the NHS in 2015-16 by around £2bn in last year’s Autumn Statement, with some £1.5bn of it is due to be allocated to CCGs and specialised commissioning budgets at neighbourhood level.

“Now we have seen how this cash will be spent and more importantly the winners and losers. Once again Teesside, and the North in general, has lost out to the South East. This is yet another clear sign that this Government is consciously and deliberately redistributing funds from our area to Tory political priorities in the south of the country.

“When we look at the tables it is clear that some 54 CCGs in the Home Counties are getting a percentage boost of around 3.5%, whilst the South Tees CCG covering my constituency gets a meagre 0.24%. Amongst the biggest gaining areas are places like Eastbourne and Bromley who get over 3.8% whilst Windsor and the Prime Minister’s own area of Oxfordshire get a 3.6% increase.

“Areas like South Tees have greater health needs than wealthy suburbs. These allocations will do nothing to boost the cash for local GP clinics seeking to recruit the urgent need for new GP’s where we have a pattern of long standing vacancies. All In all, this is a gift for the wealthy and a kick in the teeth for Teesside.”

Tom backs opportunity ‘stand up for steel’ in Parliament debate

Tom Blenkinsop MP has welcomed Wednesday’s (14th January 2015) Opposition Day debate on foundation industries.

Representatives of steelworkers from across the UK will attend Parliament to urge MPs to ‘stand up for steel’.

Tom, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Steel Group, said:
“Steel underpins every facet of a modern economy and steel underpins every element of our daily life. But steel in the UK without a proper state economic strategy for growth and industrial development will continue to drift.

“It’s good that Labour will stand up for steel in Parliament this week because the industry is under pressure and yet it is fundamental to many of the UK’s strategically important supply chains. Construction, automotive, energy and many other sectors all need a vibrant and sustainable UK steel industry, but it has been struggling to compete because of this government’s policies.

“Labour is absolutely right to hold the government to account over its lack of action in support of UK foundation industries. I will be proud to speak on behalf of Community’s steelworkers as I stand up for steel in Parliament on Wednesday.”

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said:
“As the union for steelworkers we are pleased that the Labour Party has chosen to make foundation industries the focus of an Opposition Day debate and we look forward to attending and lobbying MPs next Wednesday.

“Along with steel employers, we have been making the case for some time to government that the UK steel industry needs more than warm words from ministers to overcome the challenges that the industry currently faces.

“The government has missed too many opportunities to address the concerns of our members and their employers who are worried for the future of UK steel as they try to compete in a global market against countries, such as France and Germany, which provide far more support to their foundation industries.

“Thanks to Labour’s initiative, government ministers have another opportunity to stand up for steel, stand up for industry and stand up for Britain. I hope they will seize the moment.”

Tom backs Ed Miliband’s call for a new ‘cost of living’ index

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (12th January 2015) backed the call by Labour leader Ed Miliband for a new Living Standards Index.

A national Living Standards Index monitored by independent officials will aim to gauge whether future governments are helping working people improve their lives. This new measure – which will be accorded equal status to gross domestic product (GDP) figures – will help to ensure that economic policy is geared to the everyday needs of families rather than to meeting growth targets on graphs. Under the plan, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility would be expected to monitor standards of living and issue forecasts in the same way it does for GDP.

Tom said:
“This might appear to be rather abstract, but in reality such a new index would be immensely important for Teesside. At the moment, the way current statistics are compiled – often from out-of-date figures – means coalition politicians can create the impression that all is well when, in fact, many people are struggling on the minimum wage, in zero contract jobs or eroding state benefits and pensions.

“On Teesside this is a big problem as Tees-wide statistics show relatively high earnings in UK wide terms. In reality, this is an illusion, with the earnings of a relatively small number of people in well paid jobs in areas like chemicals, mining or on offshore rigs distorting sub-regional statistics.

“As these statistics are key parts of the building block for central government grants for local councils, the police and the NHS, a fair and proper index would be a big boost for Teesside, as it would help create a fairer local society, and would be a big help for local people on low wages, young parents with children and the elderly. It’s something I will be backing 100 per cent.”

Tom voices concerns over possible move of Brotton Post Office

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (9th January 2015) expressed his concerns over a possible decision by Post Office Ltd to move the location of the Post Office in the East Cleveland Village of Brotton.

Post Office Ltd we are proposing, with the Postmaster’s agreement, to move the above Post Office branch to a new location – Parkway Store, 2-4 Foster Street, Brotton, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, TS12 2TR.

Tom said:
“The idea, it seems, is to move from the current standalone Post Office on  the village high street to a new shared location with a general store in the Brotton Park Area. Despite the Post Office’s warm words, I have concerns.

“The location, if they are correct, is well away from the existing High Street PO and the other shops and is not on a road where there are buses stopping within yards in both directions. Additionally it is a considerable 10-15 minute walk for people from the “top end” of Brotton or from the streets running off the High Street. The new location does not offer any of these access advantages. The Post Office in a coy comment say that any walk will be via what they call “a varied terrain” which in plain English means a step gradient – something of concern for pensioners or the less able bodied.

“I think we will have to oppose this and we are now making contact with the Post Office to get more details. In the meantime I would ask local residents who also may have concerns to contact the Post Office consultation team or drop letters in to the existing post office for forwarding to the Post Office consultation team”

The Post Office consultation team can be found at https://www.postofficeviews.co.uk/liveconsultation.php

Tom writes to Planning Inspectorate following Saltburn planning decision

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (9th January 2015) has written to the Planning Inspectorate following yesterday’s rejection, by Redcar and Cleveland Council’s Regulatory Committee of an application by house builder, Taylor Wimpey for 130 houses on a greenfield site adjacent to Saltburn’s built up area.

Tom said:
“The reason for writing was to ask that, if Taylor Wimpey decide to appeal the Planning Inspectorate who handle appeals, running any appeal via a Local Planning Inquiry, rather than via what are called “written representations”.

“Given the level of interest that this application has generated, its strategic importance locally and the need for all to be given an oral hearing if possible. I feel that, in matters like these, written representations where an inspector merely reads all the papers relating to the application and letters of objection, does not allow for community involvement sufficiently.

“Obviously there is a danger that the wealthy volume house builders will go for appeal, as they can afford this, and we need the community to be ready for this if it happens.”

Comments on the rejection a 130 house development near Saltburn

Commenting on the rejection of a 130 house development near Saltburn Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Said:

“The lack of a Local Plan, which was voted down by a coalition of Tory, Lib Dem, Independent and Green councillors, is responsible for removing a series of objections as this site was not identified for housing in that plan. But the members of the planning committee have rightly seen sense and rejected this badly though out and unwanted development.

“I thank them for listening to my concerns and the concerns of the 220 residents who formally objected to the development which would have seen the green wedge between Saltburn and Marske eroded and was out of development limits.

“Thankfully this development has been rejected, but this could be the start of a planning free for all where big companies can build unwanted developments because of the Tory, Lib Dem, Independent and Green councillors who rejected the local plan.

“The developers can still appeal the decision and this will be judged by Eric Pickles against the tory-led government’s National Planning Policy Framework because the tory, Lib Dem, Independent and Green councillors rejected Labours Local Plan which would have introduced tighter planning regulations in Redcar and Cleveland.

“Redcar and Cleveland urgently needs a Local Plan to stop more unwanted and unregulated planning applications, if Labours Local Plan was in place it is very likely that this proposal would not have been made in the first place as the land was not identified for housing.”