Archive for East Cleveland

Tom welcomes funding for Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum


Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum has received £800,000 as part of the Coastal Community Fund Awards to improve and extend facilities at the Skinningrove tourist attraction.

Tom said:

East Cleveland has a proud history of mining and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland still has the highest number of miners of any constituency in the UK. It’s right that the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum, which celebrates our proud mining past, gets the funds it needs to attract more visitors and provide a truly modern experience for those wanting to learn more about our area’s history.

What stands out in this grant is the emphasis on classroom based activities being developed at the museum that will help integrate the museum’s work and treasures for the benefit of local school students.

No one can be sure, but it’s likely the ironstone in Big Ben came from Cleveland mines – it’s nice to see money coming back from Westminster to ensure the mines that built Britain’s biggest icon are not forgotten.

The museum, which had over 12,000 visitors in 2015, was founded by Tom Leonard, a local newspaper journalist who reported on the closure of ironstone mines in the 1950s and was determined that Cleveland’s mining past not be lost.

The Department for Communities and Local Government announced the award on Monday. The grant will go towards a ‘£1.76 million project to extend the existing museum buildings and improve facilities, to create a walk-round interactive museum, artefact storage, exhibition and classroom/performance space to allow all year round opening.’

‘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.

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.

Tom calls for more action on assaults on Police Officers

Tom has called on the government to take steps to keep Police Officers safe from attacks.

161011 TB protect police

In a debate organised Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax, Tom said he was concerned that cuts in police numbers were risking officer safety, as more police patrols were conducted by lone officers. He also highlighted the case of one Cleveland Police Officer who had twice suffered a broken jaw in the last year as a result of being assaulted.

During a ‘Protect the Protectors’ event in Parliament Tom met with members of the Police Federation and serving Police Officers to discuss the latest assault figures and discuss how violence towards the police affected their ability to protect their communities.

The most recent Home Office figures on police officer assaults show that there were approximately 23,000 assaults on Police Officers with nearly 250 assaults in Cleveland alone.

However, even this is thought to be an underestimate as the Home Office believe that many assaults go unreported. Some police forces do not collect data recording the total number of assaults meaning that the national figures provide an incomplete picture of the situation.

Tom said:

Police Officers in my constituency and around the country work to keep people safe, but increasingly they are at risk themselves.

Cleveland Police work tirelessly to protect my constituents – the least we can do is ask that police are given proper support and those who attack police are properly punished.

I fear that government cuts are contributing to the problem. The Tories need to get their act together when it comes to recording and tackling this sort of crime.

Boulby Potash accidents raised in parliament

Tom last week raised the death of miner John ‘Richie’ Anderson and other accidents at the Boulby Potash Mine in the House of Commons.

Tom asked that time be made available in parliament’s busy schedule to debate the safety issues and the treatment of those workers injured in the accidents. In particular, he highlighted that the low sick pay received by some of those injured had meant they had to return to work despite their conditions.

Tom said:

Recently we’ve seen a pattern of accidents at the Boulby Potash Mine, including the tragic death of my constituent John ‘Richie’ Anderson. I am concerned by safety at the mine especially given that following recent redundancies there are less people, working longer hours on the site. This may get worse if there are further job losses at the site.

I have been contacted by constituents who are troubled that those men injured in the underground fire incident have had to go back to work as statutory sick pay is simply not enough to cover their bills.

I worry that such a situation risks further accidents. An interim solution needs to be found that ensures fairness for those injured and safety for all working at the mine.

In the last year several accidents have occurred at the site including:

  • The electrocution of a contractor working on the site at surface level (August)
  • The death of miner John ‘Richie’ Anderson following a sudden gas release (June)
  • The hospitalisation of seven miners due an underground fire, in which a total of 11 workers were injured (April)

David Lidington MP, the Leader of the House, said he would raise the matter with relevant ministers.

See Tom’s question and the minister’s response.

Tom praises Loftus opticians for winning the UK’s “Best Opticians Practice Prize” for 2015

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (December 14th 2015) praised a local Loftus optician and his staff for winning a prestigious national prize for “Best Local Optical Practice 2015” which was awarded by the national Optical Success Academy.

The practice, Loftus Optical, is based in Loftus’ Zetland Road, and is headed by optician, John Prouse.

Tom said:
“This is a testament to a small caring practice in East Cleveland, John, an optician for the past decade and his staff have built up a great reputation in the area, and this award is a testament to this. He was voted the winner by fellow members at the OSA Annual Conference. John was one of 7 finalists who presented the results they have achieved in their business with Optical Success Academy.  As the winner John won an on-site visit and day of consulting from one of Britain’s leading opticians, Manchester based Jones and Company as well as a 1000 Euro prize to underwrite a European Optical Trade Fair trip. This is a classic example of local good practice and one which has now made a national mark.”

John Prouse said:
“I started the practice from scratch 4 years ago after converting an old carpet shop into an Opticians. When starting out I would never have dreamt that in a few years’ time I would win such an award. The business has been built on reputation and word of mouth for providing a first class service. I work hard and continually invest in the latest equipment to compete with the best Opticians throughout Great Britain and I am proud to have put Loftus on the map! I hope the recognition encourages any local budding Entrepreneurs out there to make their business dreams a reality and invest in the local area. One of my favourite quotes is by the boxer Mohammed Ali who said, ‘Don’t count the days. Make the days count!’”

The award was backed by John’s local Redcar and Cleveland Councillor, Eric Jackson.

Eric said:
“This is a wonderful achievement for John and his staff operating from a small town like Loftus. It also shows that even among all the recent bad news on local job losses independent businesses can gain national recognition.”

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.”

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.”

Guisborough Town Hall purchase is a boost for the town and local people

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland today (15th September 2015) welcomed the news that Labour-led Redcar and Cleveland Council had completed the purchase of Guisborough Town Hall and will now be looking to bring the site back as the showpiece of the town.

Tom said:
“For a number of years Guisborough Town Hall has been neglected. A once grand building has become a bit of an eye sore and the source of numerous complaints. Its location, right in the centre of the town, only served to highlight its sorry state – and I received many complaints along these lines.

“So it is fantastic news the new Labour-led council have purchased the building and will soon begin a consultation with local people on the new purpose for the building and how to make it integral to Guisborough High Street once again.

“I look forward to seeing how the project develops but in the meantime I welcome the news that the future of Guisborough Town Hall has been secured.”

Tom brands Health Secretary visit to Brotton Hospital a “slap in the face for East Cleveland patients”

News that Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt is to visit East Cleveland Hospital in Brotton tomorrow (11th March 2015) has been branded a “slap in the face for local NHS patients who have suffered the direct loss of services in their community” by local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop.

Tom said:
“This is, quite literally, piling insult on to injury. Jeremy Hunt, in what can only be described as blatant electioneering, will be visiting a hospital which in a matter of weeks will be losing its minor injuries unit entirely. For East Cleveland patients this loss will mean will have to face a long, and possibly painful, trip to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough or the Redcar Primary Care Hospital instead.

“This has also been made worse by his own Health Department approving the closure of the nearby New Skelton Walk-in Health Care Centre, a facility that partnered the local hospital and also provided a GP and nurse practitioner service on site.

“Thousands of East Cleveland residents have backed my campaign against the loss of these local NHS services by signing my petition. Unfortunately, this Tory-led Government has failed to listen to their concerns and seems to be ploughing on with the closures.

“Now we are getting close to the General Election, Jeremy Hunt has the audacity to make this visit. He should be coming to firstly, say “sorry” to local people; and secondly, to sit down with me to discuss ways in which these services and facilities can be saved.”