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Tom’s comments on the approval of plans for 128 homes at Swans Corner

Commenting on the news that Redcar and Cleveland Regulatory Committee, which looks at planning applications, have approved plans for 128 homes at Swans Corner near Nunthorpe Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said:

Today’s decision to grant planning permission for these new houses, taken together with the previous approval by Middlesbrough Borough Council for 138 houses at Gypsy Lane and the long standing barrier of trying to cross land in the ownership of the National Trust at Ormesby Hall, means the East Middlesbrough by-pass scheme is no longer likely to happen.

The government must take the blame, if there was a will to solve this problem they could find a way. After raising the by-pass in parliament, I had a meeting with Patrick McLoughlin MP, when he was still Transport Minister, pointing out the need for a solution to the traffic issues across South Middlesbrough.  If he had wished he could have called this application in and also queried the earlier Gypsy Lane application while plans for a by-pass were put forward. However, he did absolutely nothing.

The combination of a Tory Transport Minster refusing to call this application in for review, the casting vote of a Tory Chair of Planning and the lack of a local plan, which was voted down by the joint efforts of Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors, to strengthen planning regulations means that is likely that the bypass will never happen

“It is important to look for new ways of easing the congestion in the area, and that has to mean government cash and the will to find a solution.

 

Hemlington Medical Centre to Close after long fight

Hemlington Medical Centre has been forced to close after the Local NHS CCG could not find anyone to run it.

After looking at a number of options including a new provider for a like for like service, an extension to the existing contract and the option for an existing surgery to extend in to the area, South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group will end GP services at Hemlington Medical Centre on 30th September.

Local Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

This is a sad end to a long fight to keep GP services in Hemlington. After securing an extension to the existing contract this is a hard blow to the thousands of Hemlington residents who use the centre.

Since 2010 the Conservative led governments have closed every new medical centre, in my constituency, that the previous Labour government opened. This is a massive step backwards for the NHS in our area.

This is just another victim of the GP recruitment crisis which this government has done nothing about. Time after time reports have said that the North East is the hardest place to recruit and maintain GP’s but nothing has been done to solve this crisis which will leave thousands of my constituents looking for a new GP.

I will be raising this issue in Parliament when it returns.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour Party nominates Owen Smith, despite attempted ‘entryism’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party (CLP) last week voted to nominate Owen Smith as the next leader of the Labour Party.

The vote, 23-12 in favour of Owen, was welcomed by MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, who also nominated the challenger in the contest.

Tom said:

“I am really pleased with this overwhelming vote to support Owen Smith as our next Labour leader.

“I know some of those who voted for Owen at this meeting supported Corbyn in the last election, which I think says a lot about both Corbyn’s leadership and Owen’s radical and practical vision for our country.

“As well as our local party and unions such as Community and GMB, polling shows the general public also believe Owen should be the next leader of the Labour party. I hope party members and supporters listen to these voices and vote for Owen Smith.”

The vote was carried despite one Jeremy Corbyn supporter, who is not a Labour party member, trying to enter the meeting using someone else’s membership card.  CLP officers spotted the discrepancy and ensured the individual was prevented from participating in the meeting.

Tom said:

“I am grateful that vigilant staff prevented this attempted entryism from influencing our nomination meeting. I will be informing the national party of the incident and will ask that they provide additional support to CLPs around the country to stop these sort of underhand tricks undermining the nominations process.

“If this is happening in local nomination meetings then we must be aware of what Corbyn supporters from outside our party may be doing to undermine the upcoming national voting process.”

This follows the news that Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed evidence from Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, of hard-left groups organising to influence the leadership election.

Tom’s comments on more Job losses at Boulby Potash Mine

Commenting on news that Cleveland Potash are cutting another 140 Jobs Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, where the mine is located, said:

Tom at Boulby mine with on-site GMB and Unite representatives

Tom at Boulby mine with on-site Unite and GMB representatives

“This is very concerning news as it comes just a week after another accident at the mine.

“Mines by their nature are hazardous but there has been a marked increase in incidents in recent months. In April 11 miners were trapped underground for hours when a fire cut them off, in June a gas blowout killed John ‘Richie’ Anderson, last week a worker was put in to and induced coma for two days after suffering a serious electric shock and there have been other health and safety incidents since the workforce was reduced at the beginning of the year.

“I will be meeting with the chief inspector of mines, Bob Leeming, Tomorrow (Tuesday 16th August) to talk about the series of accidents in recent months and since the initial redundancies were announced.

“Safety must be the first priority in any potentially dangerous workplace and I will be seeking assurances from the mines owners that they have taken this into account when deciding on these new job losses.

“I already have concerns that the new 11.5 hour shifts could have an effect on safety and I would like a guarantee that proper consultations will take place if there are any further changes to the shift pattern and that the high temperatures and hazardous conditions are taken in to account when changes are made.

“My thoughts are with the workforce and their families at this difficult time, I will do all I can to help them. I have already contacted on-site union representatives and I will be working closely with them through the redundancy process. I would also like to reiterate the calls I made for enhanced redundancy payments when previous job losses were announced.”

You can read Tom’s concerns about redundancy payments here.

Tom’s Comments on the European Regional Development Fund

Commenting on news that payments from the £3 billion EU development fund were suspended just days after the Brexit vote, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Businesses across Teesside and East Cleveland have benefited from some of the £3billion European Regional Development Fund which is designed to improve economic growth in areas like ours.

“The Tories inability to guarantee match funding will means that the money put into the North East by the EU is sitting in a government bank account and is not creating the jobs which the area desperately needs.

“The future of the ERDF needs to be made clear by the new Chancellor and those, like Boris Johnson and local UKIP Councillors, who were part of leave campaign which guaranteed that the North East would lose no funding need to make sure this happens.

“So much for the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton who campaigned to leave the EU has been removed as the Northern Powerhouse minister and won’t have to clean up the mess he has made on Teesside and across the North.”

Tom reveals why he’s backing Owen Smith to be the next leader of the Labour Party

The Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has revealed his reasons for backing Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith.

Tom has backed the Parliamentary Labour Party’s vote of No confidence in Jeremy Corbyn and has nominated Owen Smith to stand against him in the Labour leadership contest.

Tom said:

Owen is principled, passionate, radical and credible. He’s the candidate we need to unite us as a party and defeat Tory austerity.

“I’ve seen him in Parliament and can tell you what a brilliant Labour voice he is. During the last year, he’s secured major victories over cruel Tory cuts to disability benefits and over cuts to support for low-paid workers.

“Before that, as Shadow of Secretary of State, he stood up for Wales when the cuts were hammering working families and rallied against the Tory tax cuts for millionaires and when he was in Labour’s health team, he fought the Tories’ plans to privatise the NHS tooth and nail.

“I’ve recently been contacted by a young Hemlington resident who works in the NHS and voted for the Conservatives at the last election, in his letter he says that he would ‘love to be given the opportunity to vote for a Labour Party I can believe in’ and I believe that with Owen Smith will give him that chance.

“Only an Owen Smith led Labour Party can reach out to the large section of voters who are crying out for an effective opposition to hold the Tories to account at a time when Brexit will change the shape of the country for decades to come. Labour voters and the country deserve better than Jeremy Corbyn.”

Comments on incident at Boulby Potash Mine

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (17th June 2016) spoke of his alarm at the over the death of a worker at the East Cleveland Boulby Potash Mine in the early hours of this morning.

Tom said:  “The miner who died in the explosion was one of my constituents who lived in East Cleveland.

“My immediate thoughts – and I have no doubt the thoughts of the entire local community – are with his family and friends.

“We cannot allow this death to go unmarked.  Over the last decade and a half, the mine has been a safe working environment, certainly compared to years past where accidents were more frequent.  

“However, In the space of just a few months we have seen two tragic incidents. I am concerned that this must not become a pattern. Mines legislation requires a full investigation, and I need to be reassured that this will indeed happen.

“I would also want to be reassured that recent redundancies at the mine have not altered day to day working practices to the extent that risk may have been allowed to creep back in. In the near future I will want to meet with both the mine owners, ICL Ltd, and the mine unions on these issues.”

 

‘Recycling proposals and offering no new action’, Tom slams the Heseltine review

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.

Tom welcomes opening of public consultation on the future for “iconic” Guisborough Town Hall building

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today welcomed the news that Redcar and Cleveland Council had formally launched the formal consultation on possible future use for Guisborough’s historic Town Hall building.

As part of this process Guisborough residents are being encouraged to have their say on the future of the Town Hall as Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council wants to hear what local people think, to that end drop in sessions will be taking place on Monday 20 June between 3pm and 7pm and Tuesday 21 June between 3pm and 6pm.

Both events will start at Guisborough Town Hall so local people can get a feel for the building and then a question and answer session will be held at Sunnyfield House, on the other side of Westgate.

Tom said “This is a welcome step.  This is an iconic listed building which dominates the Market Place, and has been sadly neglected by past owners. Conscious of local feeling it was finally purchased at auction by the council last year.

“It is important that whatever final use the building is, it is one that meets what the people of Guisborough and the wider East Cleveland area. I encourage everyone to get along to the meetings or to give their views to the council on-line at  www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk/guisboroughtownhall “

Tom warns that the government buses bill could wreck Lord Heseltine’s plans for the Tees Valley

The government has announced that their long awaited buses bill could stop councils running bus services and new council run services will be scrapped all together, a move which could damage Lord Heseltine’s plans for the Tees Valley.

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, has today (8th June 2016) warned that the reliable bus service is key to Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley could be jeopardised by the government’s new busses bill.

Tom said: “The bus industry across the UK is in crisis. Figures out today to accompany the launch of the bill show there has been a fall of 27 million passenger bus journeys taken in England since last year – and this follows falls in past years.

“This is a bill with one major flaw in it – it prevents councils running their own bus services in areas where they will be needed.”    

“Figures show that since 2005, the number of miles covered by English local authorities supported buses has decreased by a huge 55 million miles. The annual bus stats also shows that bus fares have increased with fares in England increasing by 61% on average between March 2005 and March 2015.

“We were promised that all this would be reversed by the new buses bill which has been launched today, but the reality seems to show that these promises were hollow. We were promised that areas like the Tees Valley with a combined authority and a mayor would get new powers to “franchise” services in their area, but it looks as if this will only occur if the big bus companies are prepared to co-operate.

“The big issue is that the bill effectively outlaws local councils from running bus operations despite a large existing network of local council bus operators who can easily demonstrate they can run proper services for their communities

“Local councils – including Redcar and Cleveland – run their own direct bus services to meet areas of need. In my constituency outlying estates in Guisborough benefit from a council run shopping and commuter service linking the town centre with the outlying estates. Council buses service outlying areas like Easington and provide the only bus link to the East Cleveland Hospital in Brotton.  And on an evening, the “Local Link” services connects the villages of East Cleveland long after the dominant commercial operator, Arriva, have put their buses to bed in the garage. These could be at risk if the bill is not altered.

“Ironically, in his report yesterday, Lord Heseltine talked about the commuter flows in the Tees valley and how people need to be simply able to get to the future jobs he talked about. It looks like even if some of these jobs appeared, no one will be able to get to them.”

“If this buses bill is passed, then these areas could all suffer. This bill – which I know has been subject to constant lobbying from the likes of Arriva and Stagecoach since it was first announced – will have to be stringently examined line by line in the Commons and possible downsides like the loss of council services must be combated.”