MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop criticised the Heseltine review in parliament today saying it would get ‘no marks for originality’ and fails to ‘call for the clear action needed’.
The report, he argued, recycles proposals from previous agreements and offers mostly vague aspirations for the area.
Where specific proposals are made the government seems hesitant to act on them. In response to questions from Tom Blenkinsop, Andrew Jones from the Department for Transport said the department would consider the electrification of the rail line between Northallerton and Teesport only after 2022 and would not include it in the current scheme as recommended. The Department for Education also failed to confirm whether it would act on the recommendation to prioritise the Tees Valley area in a national roll out of the National Teaching Service scheme.
In a debate on the subject in parliament Tom Blenkinsop said:
“This report is a missed opportunity. It fails to recommend action to save what’s left of the steel industry in Teesside, secure investment in the SSI site and back the Tees Valley’s businesses.
“The reality is, this report guarantees no additional action or extra funding from central government. It is essentially Lord Heseltine repeating an old shopping list that has been ignored by government before.
“I hope the government will pay more attention to these local aspirations now they have been endorsed by the former deputy leader of the Conservative party.
“But when I have asked questions of ministers relating to specific proposals in the report on transport, education and additional funding for the Redcar site they have either delayed answering or indicted there will be no follow up on the recommendations.
“Put simply this report and the government’s response to it are not good enough. The report asks the government to “consider”, “make assessment for” and “take account of” all sort of things. But it does not call for clear action to keep our steel industry alive, regenerate the SSI site or make us a world leader again.”
In the debate Mr Blenkinsop rejected Lord Heseltine’s claim that employment has recovered following the closure of the SSI site in the Autumn last year. Instead, he highlighted the fact that unemployment was up by 23% in his constituency since the closure and by 43% in Redcar.