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“All spin and no substance” Tom Blenkinsop’s comment on the Hesletine Tees Valley document

Tom Blenkinsop the Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has today (7th June 2016) said that Lord Heseltine’s report on the needs of the Tees Valley following the collapse of steelmaker SSI is “A desperately thin document made up of a recipe of old ideas, and with no cash powers to effect real change.”

Tom said: “The document, however much government try to spin it, is simply a cold collation of existing aspirations from our local industries and local councils. Paragraph after paragraph has come straight from the existing Tees Valley Unlimited prospectus for the economic revival of the area.

“What Lord Heseltine – and his government – should have done today is announce that they would put up the cash and the powers to turn sound bites into jobs. But what we got was totally bereft of any new cash and was a simple set of polite “requests” to ministries to “look to help” or to “investigate ways of helping” Teesside and the people and communities of Teesside.

“There were no indications of help to the owners of the “new” British Steel who are now running Skinningrove and the Lackenby Beam Mill and no help to underpin the infrastructure to support their investment.

“There was no mention of the Materials Processing Institute which now occupies the very buildings that used to be Teesside steel’s research hub.

“The single biggest issue – the future of the strategic land where SSI once operated is merely relegated to a new “Mayoral Development Corporation” with no mention of that Corporation having anything more than a meagre cash dowry to somehow plan, implement and complete one of Europe’s biggest industrial site clean ups.  

“There was No concept of the remediation works that may be needed and no suggestion of any future use for a site containing one of the UK’s best deep water berths for bulk imports and exports.

“Lord Heseltine’s report could have offered the support Teesside needs but it was nothing more than lip service.”

 

Tom welcomes Greybull deal but warns that the steel industry is still at risk

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, Tom Blenkinsop, has welcomed the news that Tata have completed the sale of their long products division to Greybull.

The sale, which will bring back the name British Steel, includes sites in Scunthorpe, York and Workington as well as the Teesside Beam Mill and Skinningrove.

Tom said: “The completion of the sale is good news for the North, it has secured jobs in Scunthorpe, Yorkshire and here on Teesside.

“Workers at the sites have played their part in making this sale happen by accepting changes to their terms and conditions, the government must not let them down by refusing to take any meaningful action on business rates and high energy costs.

“Despite this good news the UK steel industry is still at risk, a quick sale of Tata’s remaining business could jeopardise the long term future of the blast furnace at Port Talbot and locally mills in Hartlepool remain at risk.

“There are also serious questions over the government’s handling of the closure of SSI in Redcar and I will continue to ask why it took the closure of the plant and thousands of job losses before the government took any action.”

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.”