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Local Labour MPs call on government to step up support for CCS project on Teesside

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’.

Tom said:
“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.”

Anna added:
“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.”

Tom Blenkinsop slams government for “insensitive and harmful job cuts for local tax office staff”

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.

Tom said:
“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.”

Reaction to Boulby Potash announcement

“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.”

Rise in local unemployment figures ‘mask human misery and waste of talent’

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.”

Reaction to Tata steel chief’s comments

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 calls on Government to bring forward funding for mental health services

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland is today (28th October 2015) calling on the Tory Government to bring forward investment in mental health services.

Tom’s comments came following a report revealed that almost 60,000 people were in touch with mental health and learning disability services at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust in 2014/15 – an increase of 13%.

Tom said:
“These figures clearly show the extreme pressure that is being placed on mental health services across Teesside.

“The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, need to do more than pay lip-service to this increasingly prominent issue and ensure that essential services are in place to help these people.

“In a Parliamentary Question I have already highlighted my concerns that the Department of Health has a shortfall of £107m short of its promised £250m target for investment this year in children’s mental health services. The response to that was the Government will be investing an additional £1.25 billion in mental health services over the next years. But for me that is too long. As these figures clearly show, we need that level of investment now.”

EDL has no place in our community

Commenting on the recent failed protest by the English Defence League (EDL) in Boosbeck, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“The EDL need to realise that they have no place in our community. The EDL’s reputation for racism, intolerance and public disorder runs contrary to what the vast majority of decent Boosbeck residents believe. The support the EDL generates never appears to be local, and is more often than not bussed in from miles away.

“It has wasted taxpayers’ money and piled pressure on Cleveland Police who are already struggling due to major budget cuts.

“Hopefully, after their latest failed attempt to garner support in the area, they will listen to the message of East Cleveland residents and never come back to the area.”

Reaction to Tees Valley Devolution Deal

Commenting on the Tees Valley Devolution Deal which was signed in principle today (23rd October 2015) Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“It has to be remembered that councils over the past 5 years and for the foreseeable future will have faced an unprecedented level of cuts by the Tories that has severely diminished the services local authorities have been able to provide for local people. So, the devolution deal signed today should acknowledge that tens of millions of pounds have already been lost from Teesside communities.

“Inevitably there are pluses and minuses to the devolution deal. A newly formed Tees Valley Investment Fund that will have an allocation of £15m per year is welcome, but you have to put this alongside the cuts I’ve already mentioned and question ‘what will £15m be worth in 30 years’ time?’

“Any claims that this deal has magically created a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ need to be tempered. Particularly in light of the Government’s failure to support steelmaking on Teesside.

“Obviously I have concerns around the Government’s insistence that a Mayor has to be part of any deal and I would like to see the details of any autonomous powers they may have, but I do welcome that the Mayor will also be required to consult the Tees Valley Cabinet – made up of local authority leaders – on his or her strategies, which it may reject if three of the five members agree to do so.

“With a lot of reservations I do welcome the deal in principle. I recognise that, for the area to have any clout on the national stage, it requires local authorities working together on key projects for the area such as creating more jobs, developing skills for our young people and major infrastructure projects.”

Over 7,000 families in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland could be hit by tax credits cuts

Ahead of crucial debate in Parliament today (20th October 2015) research by the House of Commons has revealed that in the constituency of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 7,200 families claiming tax credits could be hit by the cuts.

Labour will be leading an opposition day debate on tax credits and is seeking cross-party support on the vote to help avert deeply damaging cuts to the incomes of low and medium paid working people across Britain.

Ahead of the debate Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“Tax Credits, set up by the previous Labour Government, were designed to ensure that work pays. Cutting them undermines the value of work, and means penalising those who work hard day after day just to get by.

“I don’t doubt that a number of those 7,200 families in my constituency, identified by this research, will have supported the Conservatives at the General Election in May and I suspect that was largely because of promise that the Tories would not cut tax credits. Rightly, many families will feel betrayed by these cuts which will leave working families £1,300 a year worse off.

“Instead of helping working people, the Tories are pushing through changes which will hit working families in the wallet.”

Local MPs assail Government Business Secretary over “foot in mouth letter” letter on SSI jobs crisis

Redcar MP, Anna Turley, and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (14th October 2015) assailed Government Business Minister over comments made in a letter on the government response to the SSI jobs crisis.

Anna and Tom said:
“In this letter the Minister, Sajid Javid, shoots himself in the foot.  He tries to compare the famous £86 million theoretically allocated by the government to Teesside (and which includes the statutory redundancy due to the thousands of people affected) with an earlier response by the Gordon Brown Labour Government in 2010, when Tata announced the mothballing of the Lackenby and Redcar iron and steelmaking plants. At that time, he says, only £60 million was allocated.

“This is a ridiculous statement and is a vain attempt to try and dress up a denuded and raddled cash response from government ministries.    The trust is that of that £60 million, all was new money.  Nothing went on paying out statutory redundancy.  Instead the cash – £30 million from the reserves of the now defunct Regional Development Agency, One NE, and £30 million from central government – went entirely on an ambitious programme of development in the process industry sector, and for training and re-training in the process industry sector – an area where steel making staff had expertise.  It was real cash that created real jobs, unlike today’s flimsy programme.

“As well as refusing our pleas to separate out the statutory redundancy element from the package, we  are also now beginning to pick up strong indications that training bodies and local colleges are being told that they have to look to their own existing revenue budgets to set up new courses and new initiatives for people made jobless by the closure. Tees Valley Colleges are being told that they have to use an already depleted – and already committed – adult skills budget, with no new real cash, and work programme providers are being told that they have to use their own existing mainstream budgets from the DWP to meet the increased demand. Day by day the glossy exterior of the government response is peeling away to show the tawdry reality.”