More than 5000 pensioners hit by David Cameron’s 87p pension rise across Teesside and East Cleveland

New figures reveal that 5250 pensions in Teesside and East Cleveland will see their state pension increase by just 87p. 

On 4th December 2014 the government announced the state pension will rise by £2.85 a week but the following week Ministers were forced to admit that 1.6 million pensioners would see a rise of just 87p in their state pension income.  

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said: ““I’m calling on David Cameron to come clean with thousands of pensioners in Teesside about the future value of their state pensions.  

“His ministers should have been upfront about the 87p rise in the Government’s state pension income announcement to Parliament. This lack of openness and transparency about the losers from state pension reform undermines public confidence in the Government’s policy. 

“It’s time for the government to treat pensioners with respect and be upfront about the value of their pensions.” 

Labour’s shadow pensions minister, Gregg McClymont said: “1.6 million pensioners have been shocked to find that their state pension income is to rise by just 87p from April, not the £2.85 per week rise the Government promised. 

“Rather than being open and honest, government ministers have tried to hide the fact that many people who have done the right thing, worked hard and saved for a pension are losing out.”

‘Tory-led Government is not being upfront with pension cuts’

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (9th December 2014) condemned the Tory-led Government for not being upfront over the latest pension changes.

Pensions minister Steve Webb announced last week that the basic pension state pension would rise by 2.5% – £2.85 a week more, but he also announced the Government was freezing the pension credit – additional money which tops up the income for those who have a small income.

As a result any pensioner aged 65 and above who earns between £120.35 and £190.35 will only get an extra 87p and couples who earn £192 and £278.25 between them will get just 60p a week more.

Tom said:
“Pensioners across Teesside and East Cleveland will be shocked to find out that they will get just an 87p rise in their state pension this April and not the £2.85 promised by the Tory-led Government. Many of these will be amongst the poorest pensioners, already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, and who have saved all their lives for a little extra security in retirement. This Government seems to be punishing them for it. So if you are a pensioner and receive these benefits and believe you are one of the 1.6m who will only get an 87p increase please contact my office.

“The Government needed to be upfront and honest about how the changes are really impacting on the finances of pensioners. It’s been presented as if everyone wins, but that is not the case. The truth is that the Government is giving with one hand whilst taking with the other.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP Supporting Small Business Saturday

Tom Blenkinsop MP has joined Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP in celebrating the contribution of small firms in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland as part of this year’s Small Business Saturday on 6 December.

Small Business Saturday is a grass-roots campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support small businesses in the local community. Last year it was the biggest celebration of small businesses in the UK and gave a boost to local shops through extra trade of nearly £500m.

Tom said:
“It is so important that we support our small and independent businesses. They are a vital part of our local economy and local community and we need to get behind them. They matter to our town, like Rag and Doll, an up and coming fashion label based in Guisborough, who I visited just at the weekend. And this weekend I will be visiting Tim and his wife Sheila who run Real Meals in Saltburn. They add character and are a source of local jobs.

“Last year I took part in Small Business Saturday. It was big success and it was brilliant to meet so many great businesses doing a fantastic job. The campaign helped raise awareness of what they do and the choice they bring to our community. We all need to put our hands in our pockets to make sure we back our local businesses. This year I’ll be getting fully behind the campaign again and giving my support to our local businesses.

“So many local businesses are doing a fantastic job. They give us greater choice and that something a little bit special. We all need to put our hands in our pockets to back our local businesses.”

Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP said:
“Last year when I first called for the UK to have its own Small Business Saturday, I could not have envisaged what we managed to achieve. We helped create the biggest celebration of small business and entrepreneurs that the country has seen and it helped give a boost to their bottom line. We brought together a grass roots coalition including business organisations and local authorities to make it happen.

“On one of the busiest shopping days of the year Small Business Saturday puts a spotlight on the huge contribution of small businesses and encourages people to buy from small shops and independent firms. This year we want it to be bigger and better. Please do put it in your diary.”

Tim Beswick, manager of Real Meals, said:
“Small Business Saturday is a great initiative that puts supporting local businesses at the forefront to people’s shopping minds. The key then is to show them what a fantastic experience it can be and the importance of supporting small businesses to the local economy – and hopefully they keep coming back throughout the year.”

‘Osborne’s Autumn Statement is a road to nowhere for Teesside’

Reacting to the final Autumn Statement before the General Election next year by Tory Chancellor George Osborne, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Budget after budget, statement after statement, Teesside and East Cleveland residents and businesses have been failed by this Tory-led Government.

“On the big issues holding back the area – the lack of rail electrification to Teesside and the uncertainty surrounding the steel industry – we heard nothing from the Chancellor. In his own words earlier this year he vowed to create a “Northern Powerhouse”, but from today’s statement it is quite clear he doesn’t have the policies or ideas to deliver that pledge.

“On the NHS – the Chancellor has not found an extra £2 billion for the NHS, as he claims, but instead is proposing to recycle funds already in the Department of Health budget. This is crisis cash because of the fragile financial state of the NHS after the Government’s £3 billion reorganisation. Our local NHS alone is facing £90 million cuts over the next few years.

“And on the cost-of-living crisis being faced by households across Britain and on Teesside it is complete failure. George Osborne and David Cameron promised living standards would rise but since the last election, wages have fallen behind prices month after month. Working people are now on average £1,600 a year worse off since the Tories got elected, while millionaires have been given a huge tax cut and new figures show full-time workers are now £2,000 a year worse off under David Cameron.

“This cost-of-living crisis is why the Chancellor is set to break another promise – to balance the nation’s books by next year. When wages aren’t rising and too many are stuck in low-paid jobs, the tax revenues we need to get borrowing down don’t come in. So the Tory failure to deliver a recovery that works for the many and not just a few is the reason why they’re failing on the deficit too.

“Labour has a better and fairer plan. We’ll raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, freeze energy bills, reform the banks and we’ll cut business rates for small firms, boost apprenticeships, tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts and expand free childcare for working parents.

“Today we heard more of the same – an economic plan that is failing everyday working people, old announcements dressed up in the Emperor’s new clothes and one that is leaving Teesside – and the North East – on a road to nowhere. By delaying this Autumn Statement until a few weeks before Christmas, George Osborne has ensured that people know who the real Scrooge is.”

Government flood announcement is just ‘rehash of old news’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (2nd December 2014) claimed that the Government’s announcement on flood defences is just a ‘rehash of policies announced a year ago’.

Tom said:
“The Government’s announcement of a six-year capital settlement on flood defences does not contain any new money, instead it outlines details of how the £2.3bn that was already allocated at last year’s Spending Review will be spent.

“The Government are getting desperate, re-announcing project after project and the public will not fall for it. Parts of East Cleveland are still reeling from the effects of last year’s flooding and those communities won’t buy this Tory Government spin. At the beginning of this parliament David Cameron cut the flood protection budget by over a £100m a year.

“Flood risk management has gone backwards under the Tories. They have abandoned the last Labour Government’s independent plans for reducing flood risk, slashed the budgets, crossed their fingers and hoped for the best.

“The next Labour Government will reinstate flood protection as a core departmental responsibility. The previous Secretary for State, Owen Paterson, removed ‘preparing for and responding to flood risk’ from the Department’s list of priorities.

“This kind of uncertainty is unfair on those affected – we need a proper long term plan for infrastructure investment including flooding which is why we have called for an Independent National Infrastructure Commission.”

‘Real risk that Royal Mail universal service obligation is under threat’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (19th November 2014) warned that the future of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) is at risk.

Tom said:
“This warning from Royal Mail is a deeply concerning development and comes after consumers have already been hit with changes in collection times, with many last collections moving earlier in the day at the same time as stamp prices have risen.

“The unwanted sell-off the Royal Mail that cost taxpayers £1 Billion by the Tory-led government has put the essential services which consumers and small businesses rely on at risk. Government ministers have repeatedly said that the USO would not be under threat, yet David Cameron’s promises to protect services are looking less and less credible by the day.

“Labour is clear that we must safeguard the future of the universal postal service, and ministers must urgently give assurances on the future of Royal Mail’s services and what action they will be taking to defend the USO and to ensure this cherished service is not lost forever.”

Tom backs action to get ‘a fair deal for local pubs’

Today (Tuesday 18th November) Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, will back an amendment to the Small Business Bill that will put an end to abusive business practices designed to take advantage of individual licensees.

The amendment will finally enshrine in law the right for the tenants of large companies to opt for a market rent-only option, ending the scandal of rip-off beer prices and excessive rents charged by PubCos.

Ahead of the vote Tom said:
“Local pubs are more than places for an evening drink – they support local charities, sponsor local sporting clubs and act as social hubs for the community they serve. Pubs are part of the social fabric of my constituency. They act as vital hubs for the communities and are valued strongly by local people. The work that pub landlords do is crucial in keeping these services operating in our communities, but far too many pub chain landlords are not getting a fair deal for the work they do.

“The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimates that 26 pubs close each week and that each closure costs local economies like ours £80,000. We have also lost a number of pubs in East Cleveland, which are just standing empty.  We need to see policies that can see them re-open and again flourish. Many factors are behind this, including changing lifestyles and the increase in VAT, but undoubtedly the unfair and unbalanced relationship between PubCos and their licensees has been a key factor in pub closures.

“This amendment will ensure fairness in the relationship between the big pub companies and their landlords. They are local assets and valuable local employers and that’s why I am voting to provide greater fairness for landlords.”

‘Even Government Ministers admit the NHS is facing a crisis’

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop today (12th November 2014) urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chancellor George Osborne to listen to the advice of other ministers and increase NHS spending to avoid a crisis.

Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb has said “The NHS could crash…If we don’t get the additional resource, then you would see increasing numbers of trusts getting into financial difficulty, you would see growing numbers of people waiting longer for access to treatment, and longer waiting lists to get to see your GP.”

His comments came following the news that South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust faces cuts of £91m between now and 2017.

Tom said:
“You can’t trust a word the Lib Dems say. If the NHS is facing a crash then it is as a result of their and the Tories’ policies. This is just pre-election posturing from the Lib Dem Health Minister – who I must add has supported everything that is happening to our NHS.

“South Tees NHS are in an extremely difficult position financially, this has been plainly clear through various health centre closures; delays in A&E and various other consultations taking place. Now they have identified that they may have to cut staff to balance the books – staff that and already overstretched NHS depends on. This is the record of this Government: an NHS going backwards under the Tories, made possible thanks to the support and the votes of the Lib Dems. Rather than bickering amongst themselves the Lib Dems and Tories should be focussing on fixing the mess they’ve made of the NHS.

“Only Labour will rescue the NHS with an extra £2.5 billion a year on top of Tory spending plans which will fund new staff including 20,000 more nurses – investment the Tories and the Lib Dems will not match.”

‘Tory fear of UKIP over European Arrest Warrant seriously risks public safety’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (10th November 2014) claimed that David Cameron is ‘dodging’ a vote on the European arrest warrant over fears of a Conservative backbencher rebellion and rising threat of UKIP.

Tom said:
“A few weeks ago David Cameron promised a vote in Parliament on the European arrest warrant, but he is dodging one because he is scared of his own back benchers and of the threat of UKIP in the Rochester and Strood by-election, which is taking place next week.

“Labour backs the European Arrest Warrant and the other key parts of EU cooperation – like criminal record checks, and joint cross-border investigations – because they catch criminals and keep the UK safe. Opposing this vital cooperation, like many Tories do, is soft on crime.

“Time and again on Europe the Tories just do nothing but play games. They promise a vote, and then only pretend to have one. Why can’t they just be straight with people? The European Arrest Warrant is an essential took in tackling crime and we should vote for it. With all this smoke and mirrors it’s no wonder people don’t trust David Cameron. Labour believes instead in prioritising action that cuts crime and brings criminals to justice.”

Reprieve won for Hemlington GP Surgery

Local NHS campaigners have welcomed the news that Hemlington Medical Centre has received a contract extension, guaranteeing the medical centre for at least another year.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop, Middlesbrough Deputy Mayor Dave Budd and Hemlington councillors Jeanette Walker and Nicky Walker were outraged when they heard that the NHS were consulting on proposals around closure of the surgery at the end of December 2014

Their petition quickly raised over 500 signatures and residents packed into a special meeting of Hemlington Community Council at which they pleaded for the future of their surgery.

Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“The reprieve for Hemlington Medical Centre for a year is obviously a welcome one. Whilst it is good news that the medical centre will remain open for at least the medium term we obviously can’t rest on our laurels. What will happen after a year? We could find ourselves back in the position of having to fight for its future so by no means is the campaign over. I, along with my Labour colleagues, will continue to fight for our NHS.”

Deputy Mayor Dave Budd said:
“I’m delighted that the potential for future patients, with over 2,000 properties planned in the surrounding area and over 1,000 virtually on the doorstep at Hemlington Grange, has finally been recognised and the NHS have revised their plans. Anyone who knows this area appreciates just how much Hemlington needs this surgery.”

Hemlington ward councillors Jeanette Walker and Nicky Walker said:
“It’s a huge relief that patients in Hemlington will not now be losing the only surgery we have right before Christmas. We’d like to thank everyone in our fantastic community for all their support, Middlesbrough Council’s Health Scrutiny Panel for the key part they have played and NHS England for listening and changing their proposals.”

In an update to the Scrutiny Panel NHS England now recognise the scale of housing development planned for the area and acknowledge the value that patients place on the service provided.

The revised proposals include looking to extend the current contract for a further year during which time they will conduct more extensive engagement with patients and other stakeholders and develop a revised set of proposals for a sustainable service, which they will further consult on if necessary.