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‘Under funded’ South Tees A&E services miss waiting time targets

In January over 603 people in the South Tees area waited longer than four hours to be admitted to A&E.

January 2017 was the worst month for A&E departments on record, Health Department statistics released today reveal.

In 2010 the Government set a target that all hospitals should either ‘admit, transfer or discharge’ 95% of A&E patients, but today’s statistics showed that only 85.1% of patients in England were seen in under four hours.

Major A&E departments were the worst affected. Only 5 of the more than 120 NHS Trusts with such departments met the Government’s waiting times target for major A&E services.

Major A&E services at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton saw 88.2% of patients within the four-hour time limit – better than the national average but still well below the Government’s 95% target.

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

These statistics are deeply worrying. Despite a fall in A&E admissions since December more patients than ever waited over 12 hours for a bed once admitted.

NHS staff in Teesside A&E units are working hard to meet the four-hour target and treat patients as quickly as possible. We all owe so much to every single nurse, doctor and paramedic treating patients in our hospitals. But they are being starved of funds. The billions of cuts to social care have piled pressure on already strained A&E services and patients are suffering because of this Government’s spending choices.

The Chancellor finally acknowledged the crisis facing our A&E services by committing new funds to social care and A&E services yesterday. However, further cuts to council funding will damage social care and the fact that South Tees A&E services are performing better than the national average mean we’re unlikely to see much of the additional A&E funding promised.

National Insurance increase a ‘betrayal’ of self-employed

Tom today called the Chancellor’s decision to break a manifesto commitment not to raise taxes for the self-employed a ‘betrayal’.

The Chancellor announced an increase in National Insurance contributions demanded of the self-employed. This came as a surprise given the Conservative 2015 General Election Manifesto pledged ‘no increases in National Insurance’.

The self-employed on average work longer, earn less and have less security than employees.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

This is a real betrayal of the self-employed. It breaks a Conservative manifesto commitment and puts the burden on those taking risks and getting their own businesses off the ground. When I think of the self-employed in Teesside, like those running small business in Saltburn or those who set up their own businesses after losing their jobs in the SSI closure, I think of people taking risks and creating jobs for others. They won’t have planned for this change and it will just add to the pressure they’re already under

The Government promised not to increase National Insurance and they have. It’s not like they needed to do this – they’ve prioritised other things like cutting corporation tax and giving a tax break to those who inherit their wealth but have increased the burden on those trying to make their own way.

This and the tax credits cuts amount to a kick in the teeth for those Teessiders trying to step up their own businesses and create prosperity in their communities.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for the future of the economy also downgraded their prediction of long term economic growth by 2020/21.

Tom criticises Portuguese-speaking requirement for construction workers

Tom has criticised a company for seemingly favouring Portuguese speakers for roles in constructing a new power station on Teesside.

A job advert for a banksman slinger on the Middlesbrough site, stated that speaking Portuguese ‘is highly desired but not essential’. Banksman slingers are responsible for ensuring safety during the transportation of materials via crane on a construction site.

Tom said:

This is one way in which companies are disadvantaging local skilled workers and making it harder for them to get work. It is very unusual to expect construction workers earning £14 an hour to speak a second language, to say the least. I have been contacted by several Teessiders who work in the construction industry who feel they aren’t being a fair chance to get these jobs.

There is another issue here. Why is there a requirement for a banksman slinger to speak another language at all? I worry that this means the crane drivers and scaffolders on the site are foreign workers being exploited by being made to work for conditions and pay below the industry standard. This could mean the migrant workers are being cheated while standards for all construction workers are being undercut.

Last month I introduced a bill to tackle exactly these sorts of practices by employers building power stations. A loophole in the law means companies building smaller power stations can make their employees work for less than the industry agreed standards. I will be raising this issue again – we need to stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting and close the loophole.

Tom Blenkinsop, introduced the 10 minute rule bill last month saying that the House of Commons must address these ‘pockets of exploitation [which] lead to resentment among all workers from our communities who are prevented from seeking and achieving meaningful employment.’

Tom and Jason Isaacs ‘Make Every Daffodil Count’ for Marie Curie this March

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and Harry Potter actor Jason Isaacs have joined forces to ‘Make Every Daffodil Count’ this March and help Marie Curie provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness.

Marie Curie Campaign; Jason Issacs' Portcullis House, Westminster; 28th February 2017. © Pete Jones pete@pjproductions.co.uk

Tom and long-term Marie Curie supporter Jason were pictured together with Marie Curie Nurses, Sally Monger-Godfrey and Lib Wolley at a parliamentary event in Westminster to celebrate the launch of the Great Daffodil Appeal, Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign.

Tom pledged his support to the appeal and is encouraging Teessiders to help the charity raise more money than ever before by simply giving a donation and wearing a Marie Curie daffodil pin, available from volunteers across the country, or Superdrug, Spar and Poundworld stores, and Wyevale Garden Centres, during March.  Morrisons supermarkets will also be holding GDA fundraising collections on 10, 11 & 12 March.

Tom said:

Marie Curie do amazing work caring for those suffering from cancer. I’ve had personal experience of what a difference they can make to people towards the end of their lives and I’ll be forever grateful for the warm care they gave to my Dad in his last days.

I’ll continue to support Marie Curie so that as many people as possible can get the support and care they need. I know thousands of Teessiders will have lost someone they love to cancer. People should know that any donation to Marie Curie, no matter how small, can make a real difference.

Jason, who is best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films,said:

I’m delighted to help launch Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal.

Please help us make every daffodil count.  The charity is also calling on more people to help with local collections.  Volunteering a couple hours of your time will make such a difference to the care and support that Marie Curie can provide.

 Sally Monger Godfrey, Marie Curie Nurse and face of The Great Daffodil Appeal, said:

Make every daffodil count. Your daffodil means I can care for someone in their own home, and be there for them through the night. You make a difference to people at the end of their lives, which in many ways is just as important as at the start.

For more information about volunteering for a local collection call 0800 304 7025 or visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil.

Labour MPs warn of ‘£119m hole’ in North East education funding

North East MPs have called on the Government to give the region the funds it needs to meet increasing education costs.

EDM

The MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) which calls on the Government to take action on the estimated £119m real terms cuts that North East schools face by 2020. This funding gap is due variety of factors including changes in the new funding formula, cuts outlined by in the 2015 budget and the effect of inflation on school costs.

An independent report by the National Audit Office found schools across England need to make total savings of £3bn by 2020 to cope with increasing costs. The National Union of Teachers estimate the savings needed in the North East is equivalent to losing 3,203 teachers.

It is not just Labour Members of Parliament worried about this situation, a survey found that 72% of head teachers think their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

Tom, who tabled the EDM, said:

These findings are extremely worrying for the North East and casts doubt on the financial sustainability of schools in our area.

The National Audits Office’s findings show that the Government’s current plans for funding our schools aren’t good enough. We’re currently in the mists of a financial crisis in the NHS and this suggests we could be facing something similar in our schools by 2020. It looks the Tories haven’t got their sums right again – they can’t be trusted to run our services.

Either our schools will have to make deep cuts that will affect the education of young people in our area or the Government will have to stump up more cash. We are asking they do the latter.

‘End of a battle’ as future of former Boosbeck Abattoir decided

‘It’s the end of a long battle.”  That was the reaction of Tom Blenkinsop to the news that the future of the controversial Boosbeck Abattoir site has been decided. Plans to build housing on the site were finally given the go-ahead by Redcar and Cleveland’s Regulatory Committee today.

170222 Abattoir

The MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said,

This has been a matter which has been high on the local agenda for some years.

The residents who had thought the abattoir had been closed for good when the former Norman family ceased trading, were rightly annoyed when it re-opened under new ownership in 2015.  They were concerned about fumes, smell and industrial activities in the heart of a village, but were caught by land use law which stipulated that former uses can outlive an ownership and start again without the need for a new planning application.

The controversy was heightened when outside, racist and neo-Nazi elements sought to involve themselves on the basis that the plant was processing Halal meats – an intervention the village didn’t need and didn’t want.

However, after a lot of patient negotiation between the local council and the plant operators a deal was finally brokered. The deal is a success for local people as it will mean the closure of the plant for good and the purchase of the land by a housing developer.

Now that planning permission has been granted, the sooner the diggers are on the site, the better. I look forward to seeing the first new households moving into the village.

Labour MPs support medals for brave bomb squads in Northern Ireland

A group of Labour MPs have called on the Government to review their decision to deny Armed Forces Personnel in Northern Ireland General Service Medals.

The decision was taken after a senior military commander who asked that Ammunition Technical Officers be awarded General Service Medals for their work tackling explosive devices in Northern Ireland had his request refused.

In a letter to the Defence Minister, drafted by Tom Blenkinsop, Chair of Labour’s backbench committee on Northern Ireland, the six Labour MPs questioned the logic behind the decision not to award these medals. They ask that the differences in ‘workload and risk’ for troops serving in Northern Ireland compared to elsewhere in the United Kingdom is ‘reflected in the recognition such personnel receive’ by allowing these troops to be awarded General Service, or equivalent, medals.

Tom said:

The support Ammunition Technicians in Northern Ireland provide the Police Service of Northern Ireland in tackling bomb threats to civilians is vital.

The level of threat and amount of incidents which these soldiers must deal with goes beyond what is required from their colleagues serving elsewhere in the UK. They carry out this work with a professionalism and bravery that deserves to be recognised.

All communities are threatened by terrorism in Northern Ireland and recognising the increasingly difficult work these bomb squads face should be non-controversial. If there is a technicality getting in the way of giving these brave men and women the medals they deserve the government should sort it now.

Northern Ireland has experienced a recent increase in dissident terrorist activity in which police have had to deal with a bomb alert approximately every week. The six Labour MPs who signed the letter are Tom Blenkinsop, Conor McGinn, Vernon Coaker, John Spellar, Ruth Smeeth and Phil Wilson.

Full letter:

CCI16022017

Tory Mayoral Candidate’s SSI comments ‘unbelievable spin of a Government failure’

Tom has slammed comments made by the Conservative candidate for Tees Valley Metro Mayor praising the Government’s response to SSI site closure as a ‘blueprint example in how to rescue an area’.

Tom, said:

These comments are frankly unbelievable.

The Government failed to step in to save the SSI plant, which was one of the most efficient in Europe, and if it was saved would be making a solid profit today. The Government fought against trade defence measures at the European level to stop Chinese dumping saying that it unfairly protects inefficient plants – while allowing efficient plants in the UK to close!

Employment still hasn’t recovered in my constituency and Redcar.

The Government’s response was a blueprint for nothing but failure.The fact local Tories are trying to spin this loss of such a major plant as a success is absurd and frankly shameful.

It shows the Tories both locally and nationally aren’t willing to fight for industries in our area. When our industries, whether it’s the remaining steel plants, the chemical industry or the energy sector, next need someone to stand up for them I hope we have a Labour Mayor like Sue Jeffrey, not a Tory one who will protect the Government’s reputation ahead of local jobs.

The comments were made at a hustings hosted on Wednesday night. The vote for mayor will take place on 4 May.

Union members back changes to steel pension scheme

Members of the three major steel trade unions have backed proposed changes to their pension scheme.

Members of Community, Unite and GMB trade unions have voted to reform the British Steel Pension scheme in a move designed to help secure the long term future of the industry in the UK.

Tom Blenkinsop, Chair of the All Party Group on Steel said:

Everyone knew neither option on the ballot paper was ideal. This decision has been difficult for steelworkers up and down the country but shows what they are willing to do to keep this vitally important industry in the UK.

Credit should go to these unions who sought the backing of their members and who have worked tirelessly to help current and retired British steelworkers in this time of crisis.

Both the Government and employers must now match the commitment to industry that workers have shown, resolve the difficulties with the pension scheme and build the successful future we all know the UK steel industry can have.

Responding to the results, Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said:

This result provides a mandate from our members to move forward in our discussions with Tata and find a sustainable solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme.

Steelworkers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking. Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but as we have always said, it is vital that we now work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the PPF.

This ballot involved an extremely personal decision for everyone that voted. Whichever way our members cast their votes, we know they will not have taken that decision lightly and everyone’s opinions must be respected.

We now expect Tata to make good on their promises and deliver the investment plan for the whole of their steel business. The UK Government still has an important role to play and we fully expect them to deliver tangible support for steelmaking in the UK.

 

UK Government ‘duped’ by China’s promise on steel

Tom, Chair of All Party Group on Steel, has said that the Government has been ‘duped’ by China’s promise to reduce their steel production.

Overproduction of cheap Chinese steel has been blamed for the crisis facing European steel producers such as Tata and the former SSI site in Redcar. The Chinese Government had publically committed to reducing its steelmaking capacity after mounting global pressure, but a new report reveals that in fact new steelworks have opened in China during this period leading to increases in steelmaking capacity.

The UK Government has previously argued for lower tariffs on imported Chinese steel, despite the crisis in the UK industry. It is also Government policy to support granting China Market Economy Status – a move which would reduce the ability of countries to add tariffs to imported Chinese goods.

Tom said:

This report shows the Government has been duped and our steel industry has paid the price.

Our Government has taken the Chinese Government at their word and are hoping that problems caused by Chinese steel dumping will go away – this report making it clear that they won’t. The Government’s stance on Chinese steel dumping at the European level is absurd. They seem to working harder to give subsidised Chinese producers access to our market than supporting steel jobs at home.

This news should mean our Government should harden its stance on Chinese steel dumping, but I won’t be holding my breath.

The report, by Greenpeace East Asia and steel consultancy Custeel, also highlights the damage steel over production is doing to air quality in China. This follows the news that the UK Government has classified the steel industry a ‘low priority’ in its Brexit negotiations.