This Wednesday (18th December 2013) an Opposition Day Debate will take place concerning the growing use of Food Banks as people struggle with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
“Nothing is a clearer indication of the cost-of-living crisis millions of people are facing up and down the country than the unprecedented rise in the need for food banks.
“If I get the opportunity to speak in the debate on Wednesday I will highlight the massive increase in the amount of food banks appearing and the ten-fold increase in users of food banks in the North East. I will also highlight the growing normalisation of food banks appearing in our communities which, I believe, is a scandal in 21st Century Britain and only last week a welfare minister urged local authorities to invest in food banks.
“Ahead of the festive season – as family budgets are stretched to their limits and beyond – I have set up a collection point in my constituency office for those residents who are able to hand in much needed food items. My fear is this will now become a permanent feature.”
Tom Blenkinsop MP today (4th December 2013) backed calls for the Government’s recommendations on gaming machine stakes and prizes to include restrictions on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the roulette machines in betting shops that have been described as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’.
FOBTs are high-speed, high-stake casino gaming machines recently banned in Ireland due to concerns about their addictive characteristics. They are available in betting shops on every British high street with spins of £100 every 20 seconds. The addictive roulette machines have led to betting shops clustering on the high street.
There have been multiple reports of FOBTs causing crime, and last year, there were an average of 165 incidents a week in betting shops requiring police assistance.
Last week the Labour Party blocked the automatic passage of a Government consultation which would keep the highly contentious machines at £100 per spin maximum stake. Now a swell of support led by Labour MP, Tom Watson, has gathered to urge the Government to place sensible restrictions on FOBTs.
“The Government had the chance to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 and has once again tried to kick the issue into the long grass. They ignored the evidence available, choosing to maintain the £100 max stake and £500 max prize available on FOBTs.
“FOBTs are arguably in breach of all three licensing objectives of the 2005 Gambling Act: they are not fair and open, they are associated with crime and disorder and they harm young and vulnerable people.
“Our high street is not the place for high-speed, high-stakes casino gaming. These machines have been multiplying for over ten years with increasing concerns about their dangers. It can’t go on any longer and I will support any move that leads to the Government taking immediate action on this issue.”
Commenting on figures released today (26th November 2013) by the Office of National Statistics figures showing a 29% increase in excess winter deaths last year local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“These figures are truly astonishing and they have revealed the true scale of last year’s winter crisis in the NHS. In the North East alone, the amount of people dying unnecessarily last winter almost doubled on the previous year up, from 860 to 1,700 – an increase of 840.
“We’re on the brink of another cold winter and we are hearing reports that A&Es are already in crisis. The Government’s severe cuts to elderly care mean support is being withdrawn from homes and hundreds of thousands of older people are turning to hospitals for support.
“Many of these unnecessary excess deaths are caused by people living in homes that are too cold. This winter, David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies will leave too many people forced to choose between heating and eating. Ministers need to take urgent action and back Labour’s plans to freeze energy bills.”
Over the past year there has been a huge increase in food poverty in the UK as families struggle with higher living costs, lower wages and welfare changes. Ahead of the Christmas period Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has set up a collection point for constituents to make a small donation of food.
“With the Christmas holidays coming up, local food banks are likely to see an increase in demand. People in Teesside have a proud tradition of reaching out and helping our neighbours in times of need. Food banks are a good example of that tradition in action.
“From visiting local food banks over the past year it is clear that the situation is getting worse and demand is going up. Food bank users are no longer the homeless, or people with drug and alcohol problems; the biggest demand is now coming from families struggling with debt and unemployment.
“I would encourage residents who are able to make a small donation to pop into my office over the next few weeks to make what will undoubtedly be a valuable contribution to someone in need this Christmas.”
Donations can be made at 6-8 Wilson Street Guisborough, TS14 6NA
Examples of suitable donations include:
- Long-life fruit juice
- Tinned vegetables / fruit
- Tinned fish / meats
- Long-life milk
- Pasta sauces
- Sponge pudding (tinned)
- Rice pudding (tinned)
- Tea bags / instant coffee
- Instant mash potato
Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has arranged a public meeting for East Cleveland residents to discuss the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and how Government policies such as the Bedroom Tax are affecting many in the area.
“Making ends meet on a weekly, let alone monthly basis is becoming an increasingly unwinnable task for many families in my constituency. Prices have now risen much faster than wages for 40 of the 41 months since David Cameron became Prime Minister. On average working people are now over £1,600 a year worse off under this out-of-touch Government. Policies such as the hated Bedroom Tax have had a devastating impact on local communities and have undoubtedly added to the financial pressures many are now facing.
“To help people cope with the cost of living there are actions Labour would take including freezing energy prices until January 2017 and expanding free childcare for working parents. We have called for a tax cut for 24 million working people on middle and lower incomes by introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax. Unfortunately, in Westminster last week Tories and Lib Dem defeated our motion to scrap the Bedroom Tax but we have pledged to repeal it if we win the 2015 General Election.
“As we approach the festive period purse strings are pulled even tighter and many, as a last resort, turn to payday loans for support. At the meeting I want to gather information about people’s experiences so I can take our campaign for a fairer deal to Westminster and ensure the voices of local people are heard.
“This meeting will offer residents in East Cleveland the chance to express themselves and to let me know what they think can be done to ease the burden and also highlight particular areas they are struggling with.”
The meeting will take place from 10:30am on Saturday 23rd November 2013 at Brotton Village Hall, Laburnum Road, Brotton, TS12 2RA.
A further meeting in South Middlesbrough will take place early in the New Year and further information will be made available in due course.
Click here to complete Tom’s survey on the cost of living.
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (18th November 2013) voiced his concerns over proposals by the Tory ‘Free Enterprise Group’ to increase the price of food and children’s clothes by 15% and has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to ignore the ideas.
The Free Enterprise Group consists of 42 Conservative MPs, including Government Ministers, listed as supporters of the Free Enterprise Group. The proposals were contained in the ‘Pre-Autumn Statement 2013’ briefing.
“Many of the proposals contained in this briefing document are beyond contempt. They truly show how out of touch the Tory party are when it comes to the everyday costs many families are facing and, in many cases, already struggling with.
“Their plan to raise VAT on gas and electricity to 15% would add £120 to the average energy bill. At a time when families are facing a cost of living crisis, you have to be spectacularly out of touch to suggest putting VAT on food, children’s clothes and books.
“I sincerely hope David Cameron distances himself from his Tory colleagues’ proposals that would spectacularly add to the cost of living.”
Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop recently wrote to all major grocery stores urging them to make available for online shoppers a facility that would allow them to donate to a food bank at the end of their shopping.
In his letter to some of the UK’s largest retailers including Ocado, Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Asda has asked them to give serious consideration to providing a feature for online shoppers that would allow them to donate to a food bank at the end of their shopping process.
“Under this Coalition Government we are seeing a surge in the use of food banks by people who are struggling with the cost of living crisis. It is a disgrace that, as one of the largest global economies, families are struggling just to even feed themselves.
“The appearance of volunteers collecting essentials for food banks as you exit a store is a growing sight for many shoppers. However, many people now do much of their grocery shopping online and I thought it would be a missed opportunity if, as I suspect, many people are willing to donate to a food bank but they find that the option to do so is not available.
“I do not imagine this would be particularly difficult to implement, but it is something that could make a real difference to food banks, their users and the wider community. I have been encouraged by some of the responses I have received so far and will make these available in the near future.”
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (2nd October 2013) claimed that policies announced in David Cameron’s speech at Conservative Party Conference amount to “an attack on under-25s who are already in a difficult position because of Tory policies in the first instance”.
“If the policies announced in Cameron’s speech are going to form part of his party’s next manifesto then that paints a bleak picture for many of our young people in our area who could see essential help, such as Housing Benefit and JSA, stripped away. It seems extremely uninformed about many of the people who are in receipt of this help, and, in many cases, of how their own previous policies have made the situation worse.
“What is clear is that the Tories made a critical error when they axed Labour’s Future Jobs Fund. It’s a damning indictment of this Tory-led Government’s policies that since David Cameron became Prime Minister, long-term youth unemployment in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has increased by 81.4%, in Redcar by 65.6% and in Tory Stockton South by 238.4%.
“Or on housing benefit, does the Prime Minister realise – or even care – that over half of those under-25s who require housing benefit have dependent children; 169 thousand are single mums, 1700 single dads, and 32 thousand are couples with children?
“Unless you are amongst the millionaires that received a tax cut in April then this new policy is far removed from building a ‘land of opportunity for all’, but one of hopeless Tories.”
Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has recently written to local schools in the Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland Boroughs to ascertain their school uniform policies and the impact this has on the cost of living.
Questions asked to schools included:
- What estimate has your school made of the total cost of school uniform?
- What support is available to low income families to support their purchasing school uniform?
“The start of a new school term is both an exciting and daunting prospect for both parents and children, it is understandable that, for many, buying a new school uniform is just something that has to be done. Unfortunately, these ‘extra’ costs can quickly add up and become a further burden to many families who are already struggling with the cost of living on a week-to-week basis.
“From speaking to parents in my constituency, it is clear that many are deeply worried by recent increases in the cost of uniforms. Only recently, Santander conducted research that showed parents this year faced a 27% price hike for uniforms and kits – the average price being £224 compared with £177 in 2012.
“If this trend continues then I can foresee a situation where parents’ choice of school could be constrained by the cost of uniform extreme expense. This would be an unsatisfactory state of affairs, for both the future of our children and for the education system.
“Something must be done to curb this cost such as increasing the choice of suppliers the uniforms and kits are available from, or encouraging the use of uniform recycling schemes. This would help to ease the pressure uniform costs place on the purse strings of many local families. I am looking forward to reporting back on this important yet under discussed issue in the near future.”