“Shocking but unsurprising” rise in foodbank use

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour’s MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (16th April 2014) branded the latest figures from the Trussel Trust that show a 463% rise in North-East foodbank users as “shocking but unsurprising”.

New figures reveal more than 900,000 people turned to foodbanks for emergency help in the last 12 months – a near three-fold increase on the previous year. In the North-East, the region’s nine Trussell Trust foodbanks reported a 463% rise in demand in just 12 months.

Tom said:
“The vast increase in the number of households and families turning to foodbanks reveals the shocking truth of life under David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg. Nothing is a clearer indication of the cost-of-living crisis millions of people are facing up and down the country than the unprecedented rise in the need for foodbanks.

“Difficulty making ends meet has only been compounded by shambolic welfare reforms and this is something anti-poverty campaigners have highlighted as a major cause for this explosion in numbers of people having to turn to foodbanks.

“I’ve been well aware of this growing crisis for the past few years and I’ve took various actions to try and help, such as, urging supermarkets to develop an online tool to allow shoppers to easily donate online; helping out local foodbanks across Teesside; and even setting up a collection point in my Constituency office in Guisborough.

“The flippant way local Tories have responded to these figures is shameful. Instead of hiding behind the Tory myth, that says the increase in foodbanks is driving demand, it is time Ministers got a grip and took this issue seriously.”

Squeeze on household incomes continues on Teesside

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (7th April 2014) claimed that Households will be £974 a year worse off by the time of the next general election because of tax and benefit changes since 2010,

Labour calculations, based on IFS figures and analysis by the House of Commons Library, show that households will be around £950 a year worse off at the start of the new tax year, taking into account all changes since 2010 such as increases to the income tax personal allowance, as well as the rise in VAT and cuts to tax credits and child benefit..

Tom said:
“These new figures are just the tip of the iceberg. The strain household finances are under due to the cost-of-living crisis is unprecedented. They are in addition to the impact of wages falling in real terms, which have left working people on average £1,600 a year worse off since 2010 and, in my constituency, wages have been hit to the tune of £116.93 per week.

“David Cameron is trying to tell working people they are better off, but he’s not fooling anybody. One in four women does not even earn enough to benefit from the latest rise in the income tax personal allowance. While millions have seen their taxes go up, millionaires have been given a huge tax cut by this government.

“So whatever out of touch claims David Cameron and George Osborne try to make, these independent figures are clear: hard working people are worse off under the Tories. Labour has a clear plan to earn our way to higher living standards and deal with the cost-of-living crisis: freezing energy bills; get young people into work with a compulsory jobs guarantee; expand free childcare and cut business rates for small firms.”

New report confirms botched privatisation of the Royal Mail by Coalition

A scathing report from the National Audit Office (NAO) released today (1st April 2014) confirms that the Coalition government’s botched Royal Mail fire sale has left the taxpayer disgracefully short changed by hundreds of millions of pounds claims local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop.

Commenting on the report, Tom said:
“It is now beyond doubt that Coalition Ministers have seriously messed up in their determination to privatise the Royal Mail; allowing their friends in the City to make a quick buck whilst taxpayers and vital services are losing out on millions of pounds.

“Over the first five months of trading the share price of the Royal Mail has shot up by 72% and this news comes days after they announced it was axing more than 1,600 staff, whilst customers will see another hike in stamp prices.

“Labour raised concerns that the full value of Royal Mail’s property portfolio was not being reflected but the government dismissed this at the time. Today’s report shows how erroneous their actions have been.

“Ministers have serious questions to answer over the hundreds of millions of pounds they have lost British taxpayers and they must not be allowed to shirk responsibility for what has happened.”

Tom backs Labour’s childcare pledge to help working families

Ahead of Mother’s Day this Sunday, local MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (26th March 2014) backed Labour’s pledge to tackle what they are calling “Cameron’s Childcare Crisis”.

Labour’s plan includes ‘wrap-around childcare’ from 8am to 6pm for all primary schoolchildren and an extra 10 hours per week (making a total of 25 hours) of free nursery hours for all 3 and 4 year olds for working families.

Tom said:
“Under David Cameron’s out-of-touch Government, families are feeling the squeeze. The cost of nursery places has rocketed up by 30%; there are 35,000 fewer childcare places and 578 fewer Sure Start Children’s centres.

“Families are finding it increasingly difficult to afford decent childcare as prices rise against a backdrop of stagnant wages. This means hard-pressed mums and dads continue to struggle with bills, while Ministers do nothing to support families.

“Childcare is fast becoming one of the key issues for families. Labour understands the struggles that families face and we’re coming up with plans to address them. For mums and dads in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Labour’s pledge to extend free nursery care to 25 hours will be worth over £1,500 per year for parents of three and four year olds.

“Along with guaranteed access to breakfast and after school clubs through every primary school, these pledges show we are serious about helping families to boost their earnings and get on with balancing their family and work life.”

Tom urges Coalition to “come clean” over student fee hike

Following a series of reports of a rumoured forthcoming hike in tuition fees Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (24th March 2014) urged the Coalition government to “come clean” with future students and reveal if they have any plans to increase tuition fees beyond £9000.

Tom said:
“Less than three years after this Government decided to treble tuition fees a crisis has developed in student finances. They trebled tuition fees and cut funding for universities and students, but new evidence shows their system could end up costing the taxpayer more than the one it replaced.

“It is hardly surprising that trebling fees has created huge new debts and combined with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis means that many students would not be able to pay back their loans. Ministers have got their sums badly wrong and left a black hole in the student finance budget running into billions of pounds.

“Now it would seem that – to try and fill this black hole – a hike in fees is on the horizon. Surely this can only lead to more debt for more students. Urgent action needs to be taken and Ministers need to come clean on exactly how much their broken system will end up costing and to provide assurances to universities, students and taxpayers.”

‘Tory Budget that will do nothing to raise the living standards of Teesside families’

Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (19th March 2014) criticised the latest Budget delivered by Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, for its ‘complete failure to raise the living standards of hardworking families here in Teesside’.

Commenting Tom said:
“Today George Osborne delivered his penultimate Budget before the General Election in May next year. George Osborne and David Cameron can claim everything is going well but that’s totally out of touch when thousands of working people on Teesside on middle and lower incomes are not feeling any recovery at all.

“The North East features just once in the Budget whilst Teesside, and places within, don’t even get a look in. The Chancellor is completely out of touch when it comes to the lives of Teesside families.

“David Cameron and George Osborne stand up only for a privileged few – not hardworking families. We need a Budget that tackles the cost-of-living crisis which has left working people £1,600 a year worse off under the Tories. In my constituency alone, wages are being squeezed by £116.93 per week.

“George Osborne wants to take credit for increasing the personal allowance, but hopes people forget his 24 Tory tax rises including the increase in VAT. While millionaires have been given a huge tax cut the truth is millions of hard-working people have seen their taxes go up. It’s the same old Tory con – giving with one hand while taking away much more with the other.”

Tom reacts to coroner retirement announcement

Commenting on the announcement today (19th March 2014) of the retirement of Teesside coroner, Michael Sheffield, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:
“This is good news for families across Teesside, as I have been asking for Mr Sheffield to consider his position ever since becoming an MP.

“It is now time to start afresh with a new coroner. Lessons must be learnt and I would hope that the appointment of a new coroner – which is an exercise conducted jointly by the local authorities, the Chief Coroner and the Ministry of Justice – is fast tracked to ensure that there is no gap in provision in this most sensitive of public roles and that the new office holder is able to provide good service to the public on Teesside.”

Tom to raise issue of ‘unfair regional variations’ in funding for councils in Parliament

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, will today (11th March 2014) use a Westminster Hall debate to highlight the regional variations in central government funding to local government.

All regions besides London having their local authority funding cut by approximately 40% between 2010/11 and 2015/16 but when we look at actual Revenue Spending Power, there is extremely large interregional variation. Revenue Spending Power takes into account a range of other sources of funding to local authorities, and gives a more real—in this instance—sense of the disparities between regions.

Tom said:
“Regions with high levels of deprivation and need are facing massive reductions, whilst regions with significantly lower levels of deprivation and need are facing much small reductions.

“The North East faces an 18% cut, the North West 17% cut, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber a 16% cut, and the East Midlands a 12% cut. On the other hand, the South West and East of England respectively face a relatively small 9% and 8% cut, and the South East a 6.6% cut.

“Conservative areas are generally receiving much smaller cuts or even budget increases, with the Lord Chancellor’s local authority—Epsom and Ewell—in fact receiving a 3.51% increase. In the same period, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland face an approximate 30% cut.

“Locally, some Tories and Liberal Democrats accuse councils of somehow relishing in delight when cutting frontline services, claiming they are somehow seeking to score ‘political’ partisan points. This is clearly not the case. Councils are making cuts because the funding settlement forced upon them by central government necessitates it.

“Efficiency savings will only go so far to plug the funding blackhole the government has imposed on local government. Indeed, the scale of cuts faced by councils in the North East has led to some—like Newcastle City Council—warning that, in only a few years’ time, they will not even be able to afford to perform all their statutory duties.

“We desperately need a system of local government financing in which need and deprivation are properly considered, and in which local government has the resources it needs to thrive and to help local businesses grow. The Tories and Lib Dems have not—and will not—deliver a fair funding system, and it is only Labour that will do so.”

Trebling of zero-hours contracts ‘reveals the truth of Coalition jobs plan’

New data obtained from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) by Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP reveals that the number of employees on zero-hours contracts has increased more than threefold since 2010 and is more than double what the government has recently claimed.

The newly-revised estimate, based on the ONS’ Labour Force Survey, shows that there are 583,000 people currently employed on zero-hours contracts, up from 183,000 in 2010.

Commenting on these figures Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“Under David Cameron people at work have been hit by rising job insecurity as zero-hours contracts – once a type of contract that was once privy to a niche job type – are fast becoming the norm. In many cases full-time public sector jobs are being replaced by multiple part-time, temporary and insecure private sector jobs. In my opinion, it is become a source of backdoor privatisation for many of our public services, and is also artificially inflating job figures. This is the true nature of job creation under the Tory-led Government.

“Whilst I accept that these types of contracts may be suitable for certain types of professionals who enjoy the flexibility, unfortunately for most workers it makes family life impossible to manage and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

“I’m very pleased that Labour has committed to tackling the growing exploitative use of zero-hours contracts that provide so much uncertainty for both businesses and employees.”

The government must address the crisis in adult care

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (6th March 2014) said that Age UK’s report into adult care ‘reveals shocking truths’ about the governments care plans.

Age UK’s report into care for people aged over 65 has revealed that the number of people receiving support has fallen by a third.

Tom said: “Age UK’s devastating report shows the true scale of the care crisis unfolding under this government.

“The number of people aged 85 and over, the group who are most likely to need care, has risen by 30% between 2005 and 2014 yet there has been no extra funding.

“Age UK estimates that 800,000 elderly people are going without the care that they need, they partly put this down to the ‘deep cuts’ in government funding since 2010.

“The central government cuts have forced the vast majority of councils to withdraw care from elderly people who struggle with everyday tasks such as getting up in the morning, bathing, preparing meals or going shopping.  Many councils are now only able to help elderly people with ‘substantial’ needs.

“The failure to provide decent care and support for elderly people is simply unacceptable in the 21st century. Labour’s plan to integrate NHS and social care is the real reform we need to ensure all elderly people get the decent care and support that they deserve”