Commenting on today’ (25th November 2015) Comprehensive Spending Review, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“George Osborne’s fanciful claim that the North is growing faster than the South is completely devolved from the realities of the job losses Teesside and East Cleveland has suffered in the last couple of months. I’m certain that my constituents will have serious questions for the Chancellor and the Tory Government that has stood by whilst we’ve lost our steel industry and one of the biggest employers in East Cleveland cut 700 jobs.
“Furthermore, the government still lacks a comprehensive strategy for the steel industry and the industry is still waiting on compensation for the carbon price floor tax introduced four years ago. Meanwhile, the majority of the 5 point plan presented by the steel industry at the summit in October seems to have been ignored.
“Other issues from the CSR include the tax credits cuts U-turn – which is a welcome one and will come as a relief to thousands of families across Teesside. However, I fear the devil may be in the detail. For example, I fear that the cut hasn’t been completely abandoned and is just a transitional measure, deferred to tax credits form part of the Universal Credit – assuming the Government ever get to grips with that policy. Nevertheless, credit for today’s announcement must go to the campaigners who have forced this climb down from the Chancellor.
“No doubt that, over the next few hours and days, as the details of the CSR are poured over the full extent of Osborne’s plans will become clearer – the massive cuts to local councils, cutting £360m from adult skills and the climate change tax exemption that will leave steel companies no better off in cash terms are just a few of the gremlins revealed so far.”
Labour MPs for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, and Redcar’s Anna Turley have today (18th November) called on the Government to step up its support for the Carbon Capture and Storage project on Teesside.
Ahead of the Spending Review and the Autumn Statement on 25th November, Tom and Anna have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor George Osborne asking him to ‘reassess the level of support and funding available to Teesside Collective’s CCS project in light of the closure of the steelworks in Redcar and the 700 announced job losses at Boulby Potash’.
“Over the past couple of months the local economy of Teesside and East Cleveland have suffered tremendous blows, firstly the steelworks and latterly with the potash mine at Boulby. Now is not the time to be protecting the failing Northern Powerhouse minister by sending up Lord Heseltine to deflect some of the criticism.
“The industrial CCS project put forward by Teesside Collective offers a huge opportunity to not only protect remaining key industries, but to grow and become a global leader in this technology – and that will bring jobs.
“So far, the government has invested £1m into this project; that is a pittance when compared to other governments. For example, in Canada, government’s there have invested over $600m in a CCS project by Royal Dutch Shell. There is a real risk that the UK will be left behind on this technology and the government urgently needs to step up the funding being provided to the project on Teesside and that will attract private investment that will lead to more jobs for local people.”
“The carbon capture and storage project offers huge potential for Teesside’s economy and is exactly the kind of investment we need to drive our recovery from the loss of the steelworks and job cuts in other local industries. It will not only help create new jobs but ensure our existing core industries remain viable and make Teesside a world leader in clean energy. This is an ideal project for new Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative and it is imperative the government recognise the crucial importance of this project.”
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (November 13th 2015) ripped into the government for their handling of job losses at three local tax offices which are now due to close over the coming four years.
“This news is a disgrace to the name of proper government. They are now talking of sacking loyal and often low paid HMRC workers on Teesside at a time when figures released earlier this week showed that the level of staffing is already so poor that HMRC were unable to answer 18million phone calls from the public last year – more than a quarter of those it received. Figures given to the House of Commons showed that that 10.5million calls to HMRC went to an answer machine or received a busy tone, while 7.4million more were terminated by frustrated customers fed up with waiting on hold.
“So what’s the Government’s answer? To sack more staff here on Teesside, something that will make the matters even worse. This only adds insult to injury for taxpayers and puts the burden of paying for the cuts on to dismissed members of staff and their families.
“To compound matters, the local announcement was made weeks after the announcement of the SSI job losses, a week after the announcement of the Stockton Air Products job losses and on the very same day that it was announced that 350 jobs were to go at the Boulby Potash Mine.
“Teesside has just endured a tsunami of job losses. This all means the work being done by the original steel task force needs to be redoubled to cope with the latest onslaught, and this time the government have to put their money where their mouths are.
“They could make a start by announcing that one of the new HMRC “Regional Hubs” would be sited on Teesside, allowing for some expansion at a time where the news elsewhere is of contraction. This is a key demand and one I will be making of Treasury Ministers.”
“My heart really goes out to our East Cleveland miners at Boulby. We must keep them and their families first and foremost in our minds at this terrible time. To be informed you may be losing your job is a devastating process to go through, and especially in the lead up to Christmas.
“There is never a good time to be given this news but we are fast approaching one of the most stressful parts of the year so I will be working with Unite and GMB trade unions and will support whatever John Chilton and his fellow union reps want to do going forward.
“This news compounds the crisis industry on Teesside is facing. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the past couple of months and the Government needs to seriously reassess how it will stop this terminal decline. I will also be seeking an urgent question in this matter on Monday morning in the House of Commons.”
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (11th November 2015) branded the latest unemployment figures for his constituency area as “appalling” as they showed an inexorable rise. Tom said: “The sad fact is that in the two boroughs that I cover in parliament, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland, there are now 6887 adults jobless and, shockingly, 1610 young people signing on.
“I need to stress that these are figures that lag a month from when they are compiled, so they don’t yet show those thousands of people affected by the SSI collapse and the job losses there and at local contracting firms. When these come on to the register imminently, the figures will be horrendous. “The fact that we have just under 8,500 people officially registered as unemployed shows the sheer degree of human waste and squandering of talent that this government are presiding over. These are people who, if they were in productive work, could be helping to build a better future and a better economy for Teesside. This is a waste of talent and a waste of human potential. The Government should be ashamed of itself. The powerhouse is becoming the poorhouse.”
Comments from Tata Steel Europe’s chief executive Karl Koehler’s that the firms’ Long Products Europe operation “has no future” within the company’s operations beyond April is “yet another bitter blow for steel on Teesside and across the UK” claims local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop.
Tom Blenkinsop said:
“With depressing regularity over the past 7 or 8 weeks, thousands and thousands of good, honest, hardworking men and women across Teesside have had their livelihoods taken away from them. Unless something is done fast, 700 workers could be out of a job by April next year.
“Clearly we are going through a crisis in British steel and companies, such as Tata, should hold firm before writing off sites, or whole sections, without guaranteeing a new owner at the very least.
“However, these are insensitive comments from Mr Koehler. Many of the workers were already worried about their future and this only adds to those concerns. Creating speculation, or indeed playing high stakes poker with an entire steel division is not the message that Tata would want to give to Britain nor indeed internationally after painstakingly developing an excellent reputation for corporate responsibility to theirs workforce.
“The Chief executive should rescind his comments and give clarity to his long products workforce who are still creating profits for their parent company.”
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (9th November 2015) welcomed the news that work on repairing Gaskell Bridge in Loftus is due to start this week.
The bridge was damaged following severe flooding in September 2013 and has been the subject of a long legal dispute over ownership.
Following the local elections, in August this year the Labour-led council adopted responsibility for the bridge, much to the relief of local residents.
Tom said: “Getting to this stage has been a very difficult process and I was pleased when the Labour controlled council took on this responsibility. I am obviously overjoyed that work to carry out the repairs will get underway later this week.
“The residents have had to wait a long time for these repairs so I have my fingers crossed that we have reasonably decent weather as to not hamper the workers who will be carrying them out. Nobody is under any illusion that the repairs will be easy and they will take some time, but I think we now have an end in sight for this saga and everyone can be pleased.”
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (5th November 2015) welcomed the “great news” that Redcar and Cleveland Council’s regulatory Committee had unanimously rejected a planning application by Coast and Country Housing that would have seen the loss of a much loved community hall in Loftus through conversion to a dwelling house. The hall, the Luke Senior Community Centre on Rosedale Crescent has been operating since the 1950’s.
Tom, who had also objected to the plans, said “I thank local Loftus Labour Councillor, Eric Jackson, for formally moving the rejection of Coast and Country’s plan and all the members of the Committee for supporting him. It was clear that Coast and Country Housing had not thought this proposal through properly, had not consulted the local public and just simply did not grasp the public anger over this move.”
“The building is a valuable resource housing community activities, acting as a “hub” for the neighbouring Mars Estate and being a well used polling station. I would hope the unanimous rejection and the attendance of many local residents at the Committee hearing will dissuade Coast and Country from appealing this decision, and that they will now, instead, work with the local community to protect and build up the usage of this valuable community facility”
Commenting on news that the government plans to make state aid approval to provide relief to Energy Intensive Industries from the cost of renewables policy by the end of this year. Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel said:
“This is too little too late from a government trying to play catch up, one sixth of the steel worker in the country have already lost their jobs and more could be under threat by the end of the year.
“Labour MP’s have made it very clear to Anna Soubry, the BIS Minister, that this is too slow and any state aid needs to happen in the next few weeks to minimise the risk to the future of the steel industry in the UK.
“I will raise this with Sajid Javid in a meeting later today (29th October), urging him and the government to act quickly, it is too late to save job losses in Redcar and only a fast acting government can save ever more steelworkers from facing redundancy.”
Commenting on Coast and Country Housing’s planning application to convert the long standing Luke Senior Community Centre in Rosedale Crescent, Loftus, into housing, Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Said:
“Loftus residents have my support in opposing this application. The hall is a well-used facility for older people in the West of Loftus and in the heart of the housing estate. There are no nearby similar facility, meaning that some user groups will either have to find alternative venues or fold.
“Luke Senior Hall is a life line for older people and is an integral part of their community as well as a well-used polling station for elections. Darts, tombola, coffee mornings are all part of the daily life of this hall.
“If the application is successful Coast and Country will have closed community halls in the neighbouring villages of Loftus and Easington in five years, damaging both communities. Luke Senior Hall is too precious to lose and I have asked Coast and Country withdraw their application until a proper consultation can take place and residents’ concerns can be taken into account.”