We need fair funding for northern schools

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has welcomed a report by IPPR North, and backed by Teach First, which calls for fairer funding for northern schools.

Northern secondary schools receive £1,300 less per pupil on average than London and IPPR are urging the government to use upcoming reform of the national funding formula to address this imbalance.

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

“Thanks to a modern plan and lots of investment form the last Labour Government Teesside now has some of the best primary schools in the country, but children are being let down as this Government is short changing northern secondary schools.

“Teachers, and other school staff, are already facing an uphill struggle as school budgets have been cut but this report reviles it is even harder in the north due to unfair government funding.

“I’m Backing IPPR’s report which calls for more resources to overcome educational disadvantage in the North, I hope the Chancellor acts on this report with more than just empty world and his ‘northern powerhouse’ sound bite.”

Tom warns the Government that splits must not jeopardise Tata sale

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on steel has warned the Government not to jeopardise the sale of Tata by squabbling with itself. 

The Department for Business (BIS) and the Department for Work and Pensions are arguing over a proposal which would see Tata’s pension fund ‘spun off’ as a separate entity, effectively become a new scheme. 

Tom said: 

“The accelerated timescale for the sale of the remaining Tata business is already a course for concern but this new intra-department spat has the potential to put off the majority of buyers.  

“Bickering in the corridors of Whitehall is directly affecting lives here on Teesside, Hartlepool 25 inch, 42 inch and the mothballed 84 inch mills are all up for sale with hundreds of jobs on the line. That’s why I’m calling on Sajid Javid and Stephen Crabb to put their differences aside and work together to find a buyer and save the thousands of jobs which are at risk nationally.

 “The Government must work alongside buyers to secure a sale, no options should be ruled out at this early stage, sending mixed messages will only cause confusion and doubt.”

 

Tom supports Foster Care Fortnight

You don’t have to be a good cook to foster, revealed children and young people in foster care as part of a new survey conducted by The Fostering Network to mark the start of Foster Care Fortnight 2016 (16-29 May).

Instead the overwhelming call was for foster carers who can provide them with security, support and love.

A survey of 261 care experienced children and young people identified what that they consider to be the key qualities and skills needed to foster.

The top three qualities that these children and young people identified as key to making a good foster carer were:

  • making them feel safe and secure (67 per cent)
  • supporting and helping them (61 per cent)
  • loving them (54 per cent)

Adam, 19, is living with his foster carer in Scotland, said: “Foster care saved me and rebuilt me. I was shy, timid and awkward with little life prospects.

“Fostering opened the doors to a vast amount of opportunities: allowing me to go to university, allowed me to take up almost every hobby know to the world and allowed me to become a member of The Scout Association.”

When asked what made a good foster carer, Adam said: “This may sound really silly, but caring. There needs to be a passion to deal with these young people who often come from horrific conditions and you need invest time, belief and strength in them. It cannot be underestimated the importance of a strong role model on a young person. You need the skill of seeing light in times of darkness because these young people will lean on you through some of their lives.”

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop Said:

“I’m sure that becoming a foster carer can be daunting but it’s something that many people would be capable of doing. I urge anyone who thinks they have the skills and personality to make a positive impact on these children’s lives to talk to their fostering service about becoming a foster carer.

“I’m backing the Fostering Network’s call for 9,070 foster families to come forward right across the UK to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children. In particular there is an ongoing need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children and sibling groups.

“Without more foster families coming forward during 2016 some children will find themselves living a long way from family, school and friends orbeing split up from brothers and sisters.

“If you believe you have the skills that children and young people want in their foster carer, visit thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/could-you-foster today and find out more.”

Tom’s Response to the Queen’s Speech

Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the all-party parliamentary group on steel, Tom Blenkinsop said:

“The government had the opportunity to reassure the steel industry, and tens of thousands of steel workers, that they had learned lessons from the closure of SSI at Redcar and would not stand by and let a key national industry fail, but there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech to help the industry.

“The Steel industry cannot afford the time for the government to take their eye off the ball, this Queen’s Speech was the perfect opportunity to address the five key asks that the steel industry raised with the government last year.

“The Government could easily have introduced legislation that would reform business rates and benefit both the North and the Steel industry, the closure of SSI has left a £10 million hole in local business rates and recent changes mean that this shortfall is no longer shared across the country.

“In Redcar and Cleveland we have seen the Conservative, Liberal democrat, UKIP and Independent councillors too afraid to take power in case they are held responsible for the draconian cuts made by this out of touch government, business rate reform would have gone some way to levelling the playing field between the North and the South and could have helped reduce cuts to already stretched local council budgets.”

Tom Backs the ban on bee harming pesticides

Tom Blenkinsop MP has added his name to a growing list of MPs who are opposed to lifting of the ban on bee harming pesticides.

Neonicotinoids have been restricted across Europe since 2013 due to mounting evidence that they pose a risk to bees. Ministers are currently considering an application to allow their use again.26930623695_5c5aa16976_z

Tom Said: “We should be in no doubt about the importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and the economy. The decline in bee numbers should worry us all.

“The European Commission announced in 2013 that it would restrict the use of neonicotinoids to crops that are not attractive to bees after the European Food Safety Authority concluded that three commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides pose an unacceptable danger to bees.

“The Government initially opposed the ban in 2013, has approved an application for the ban to be lifted in autumn 2015 and are now considering lifting it again, going against a growing body of scientific data.

“Government statistics, published in December, show that the average yield of UK oilseed rape actually increased in 2015 – the second harvest without neonicotinoids. It is vital to take a science-led approach to pesticide use and to consider how best to support farmers, protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators.

“There are, of course, many reasons for the decline of pollinators, including habitat loss, climate change and pests and diseases. The government cannot continue to ignore the threat to bees from neonicotinoids, the he European-wide ban represents a proportionate response to the evidence. I will continue to lobby the government to keep the ban on neonicotinoids.”

Tom welcomes the governments forced U-Turn on school academisation

Commenting on the news that the government is to drop its plans to force all schools to become academies, Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said:

“Thanks to pressure from Labour MPs and Labour councils the government has U-turned on its costly top down reorganisation which would have seen all schools forced to become academies by 2020.

“The government should now be looking at ways to support our immensely hardworking head teachers, the thousands of dedicated teachers and support staff who do so much to provide excellent education for young people often in difficult circumstances.

“Locally we have some of the best primary schools in the country, the government’s plans to force them all to become academies could have jeopardised this as schools would have been forced to become more like businesses and hardworking parent governors would have been abandoned.

“There is little evidence that academies raise standards, especially for primary schools, different schools have differed priorities and it would be wrong for the government to force them all it to the one size fits all academy route, I welcome their U-turn.”

 

TOM BLENKINSOP IN “PAY THE RATE” CALL IN PARLIAMENT

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop M.P. today (May 4th 2016) will be formally asking in the House of Commons for changes to law to enable planning authorities to impose conditions on new power plant construction in the UK which will secure what is called the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) terms and conditions for construction workers on those sites.

Tom with Anna Turley MP, Denis Doody of UCATT and Mark Wilson of GMB

Tom with Anna Turley MP, Denis Doody of UCATT and Mark Wilson of GMB

This follows a high profile series of disputes on new ‘waste to energy’ incineration plants at plants on Wilton International and Seal Sands over what are seen as ‘wage undercutting’ by main contractors and sub-contractors.

Tom said: “Many construction workers have lobbied me, and fellow Teesside MP’s on this matter. It is clear that there has been undercutting and clear breaches of terms and conditions which have long been seen as standard in the industry.  This drives skilled workers away from the industry and – in the long run – lowers the skill base of UK contracting, leaving the field open for overseas firm to scoop the market.

“I am proposing that all power generating plants, energy from waste plants and Biomass Power Plants which produce under 50MW are to be built utilising sector specific collective National Agreements, such as the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) terms and conditions. This can easily be done by widening the scope of existing planning law.

“Projects with a generating capacity of less than 50MW are considered under the provision of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and therefore can be dealt with by local authorities.   Adding the power to insert conditions relating to wages and terms of employment for workers on these sites can both add to public acceptance of these proposals, and can improve the quality of working life for local construction workers.

“This Bill would put terms and conditions on a firm legal footing which would give workers and their Trades Unions a solid and unbreakable guarantees of fairness.”

POST OFFICE NOW ADD “INSULT TO INJURY” IN LATEST TWIST IN SALTBURN BRANCH SAGA

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (May 4th 2016) said the privatised Post Office Counters had “added insult to injury” in the long running controversy about a move of the existing sub post office in Saltburn.

Tom said “A week ago, the Post Office told me that despite the fact ‘people with be inconvenienced’ they would be going ahead with the much disliked move from the existing Station Square post office to a new site on Windsor Road, which would be shared with the new Nisa mini-market store.

“Now, a further letter arrived which has added insult to injury. Originally, in their first letter the Post Office had promised a new pelican crossing on the busy Windsor Road as well as the relocation of bus stops, now the follow up letter merely reveals that this would be a ‘request’ to both Redcar and Cleveland Council and Arriva Buses to undertake these jobs.

“This is an utter nonsense. The council is cash strapped and has announced a moratorium on new borrowing for capital works and already has a waiting list of road improvements across the Borough, hey just can’t ‘put in a new crossing’ as the Post Office assumes they can do.  Likewise,  we have enough problems holding Arriva to their promises of running buses already – I fail to see them responding to a request from the Post Office to carry out a move of stops which would only benefit one trader.

“If the Post Office and Nisa are serious, they would finance and carry out these road improvements at their own cost, putting their money where their mouth is.  All this has been a tawdry exercise on a move already, I am certain, tacitly agreed even before the self-styled ‘consultation’ was underway.”

Westminster office vacancy

Job Title: Parliamentary Assistant

Working For: Tom Blenkinsop MP (Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland)

Location: London

Salary: £23,000 PA for 30 hour week

Job Details:

Tom Blenkinsop MP is seeking to appoint a Parliamentary Assistant to support his role as the MP for Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland, as a member of several Parliamentary Committees, and as an officer of All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs).

The role is for 30 hours a week (Mon-Thurs), based in Tom’s House of Commons office, and will primarily be focused on his key areas of interest in Parliament.

The position requires flexibility from the post-holder as the demands of the role are determined in part by the Member’s workload and the Parliamentary timetable.

Job Description

  • Analyse, evaluate and interpret data to ensure Member is accurately informed on key issues
  • Develop and maintain current knowledge of bills, Early Day Motions, legislation, Hansard, debates etc
  • Diary Management
  • Ensure the Member is fully briefed on potential questions and motions to be put to the house
  • Give advice on policy issues
  • Monitor media coverage and brief the Member on relevant issues
  • Prepare and present briefing notes for committees, press releases, parliamentary questions etc
  • Progress policy based casework
  • Project management
  • Provide generalist admin support
  • Respond to routine correspondence and enquiries
  • Undertake research, usually from readily available sources on straightforward subjects
  • Communicate effectively with both internal and external contacts
  • Liaise closely with colleagues in the constituency office to support Tom’s work

Person Specification

  • Educated to degree level
  • A keen interest in politics and current affairs
  • Ability to work proactively and independently, as well as part of a small team
  • Excellent research, analytical and communication skills, with keen attention to detail
  • Strong organisational skills, with the ability to work quickly and flexibly, prioritising and completing tasks in a timely fashion
  • Ability to remain discreet and maintain confidentiality at all times
  • Excellent IT and database skills, knowledge of standard office practices
  • Sympathetic to the aims and values of the Labour Party
  • Previous experience of working in Parliament would be beneficial

Upon appointment you will be required to comply with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, undertaken by the Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO). See Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO) page for further info. MPs generally pay staff in accordance with IPSA guidelines.

Closing Date: 6 May 2016

Interview/Start Dates:

Interviews will take place in Westminster on 12th and 19th May, with the successful candidate starting as soon as possible after 31st May.

Application Details:

To apply for this post, please email a one page covering letter and your full CV with referees to info@tomblenkinsop.com with PARLIAMENTARY ASSISTANT – YOUR NAME in the subject line.

 

Tom Blenkinsop MP meets The Royal British Legion

Parliamentary Drop-in Event – North Region - 13 April 2016.

Tom Blenkinsop recently met with The Royal British Legion’s local Area Manager, Marcus Hawthorn, to discuss support for the Armed Forces community and this year’s World War One commemorations.

The Royal British Legion is the country’s largest Armed Forces charity, providing welfare assistance to many thousands of veterans, serving personnel and their families. It is also the national custodian of Remembrance, best known for its emblem the red poppy. Tom attended the Legion’s event in Parliament to show his support for the charity’s work, and to meet with local area manager Marcus Hawthorn to discuss issues facing the Armed Forces community, as well as plans to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Legion research has found that the biggest issues currently experienced by working-age veterans include hearing loss and difficulty finding employment, whilst among older veterans, physical health and social care are among the most common problems. To help address these issues, the Legion has successfully campaigned for a new £10m Veterans Hearing Fund, supports career transition through its Civvy Street website, and delivers practical assistance through community outreach services and six care homes.

In advance of the summer’s centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme, the Legion has produced a comprehensive toolkit to help local communities organise their own commemorative events. Somme 100 provides an opportunity for us all to reflect on one of the bloodiest battles in human history, in which more than one million men were wounded or killed, from all walks of life and every part of the country. Anyone who is interested in learning more about the battle, or how they can get involved with the commemorations, should visit www.britishlegion.org.uk/Somme100, where toolkits can be mail-ordered and downloaded.

Marcus Hawthorn, the Legion’s Northern area manager, said:
“I was delighted to see Tom and we were grateful that he took the time to drop in. The Royal British Legion offers a range of welfare support all year round, and last year we answered over 450,000 calls for help. This event offered a great opportunity to spread the word about the range of services that we provide, and discuss our plans for the centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme. It was a pleasure to meet with Tom and I look forward to working with him on Armed Forces issues”.

Tom Blenkinsop added:
“I enjoyed meeting staff from The Royal British Legion and learning more about the work being done in my local area. Members of the Armed Forces community make huge sacrifices in the service of our country, and I am proud to support the work of the Legion in honouring the memory of the fallen and building a better future for the living.”