Archive for East Cleveland

Tom urges Barclays Bank to ‘think again’ about any possible branch closures in Middlesbrough and East Cleveland

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (29th January 2014) called on Barclays Bank to ‘think again’ if two local branches of the bank in were on their possible hit list for closure.

Tom made this comment in the light of reports that Barclays are looking to possibly axe up to a quarter of their entire branch network in the UK and a new emphasis on sharing what premises they keep with supermarket giant ASDA.

Tom said:
“I appreciate that the growth of e-banking has meant that visits to branches plays a declining role in everyday banking, but I do have to say that there are still many people – especially the elderly – who don’t all have internet expertise or connection and rely on their branch for a myriad of day to day transactions. This is particularly the case in rural areas or in towns where Barclays provide the only bank outlet.

“In my constituency, this is true of both Saltburn and Loftus. Closure would either mean customers having to travel to Redcar or, if they are thinking of setting up a base at the Skelton ASDA outlet, having to get to an out of town supermarket that currently has no bus service.

“I would hope that Barclays, in their preparation for this exercise, place an emphasis on factoring in social needs as part of any plan for their Teesside and East Cleveland presence.”

Tom to attend veteran miners’ session at Cleveland Ironstone Museum

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, will be dropping in at the East Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum in Skinningrove this coming Saturday (1st February 2014) to meet former local ironstone miners and to hear a talk on the history of North Skelton Mine  – the last Cleveland iron Mine which closed 50 years ago this month.

Tom was invited to attend the session by the Museum after he called on the Government to award the mine ‘National Status’ as a mark of respect for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Cleveland Ironstone Mining industry.

Tom said:
“I am delighted to be asked to attend and to meet the old miners, they are a living part of our local history and I know they will have many stories to tell. The North Skelton mine was one of the longest lived of the East Cleveland Pits as well as one of the most productive and the deepest. The mine and the community, has a story of human endeavour to tell too.

“I am also delighted to be supporting the work of the Museum – itself now a key part of East Cleveland’s tourist heritage. The museum has local support and I want to see it supported nationally too.”

Call for ‘National Museum of Ironstone Mining’ for East Cleveland to mark 50th anniversary of the closure of the last Cleveland mine

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (January 16th 2014) called on the floor of the House of Commons for the Skinningrove Mining Museum to be made a ‘National Museum for Ironstone Mining’ to mark the 50th anniversary of the last shift at North Skelton mine – the last of the Cleveland ironstone mines.

Tom said:
“I made this call on the eve of that closure which happened on the 17th January 1964. This was a significant date; in the words of one local paper “Its passing ended a way of life which brought industrial might to Teesside and moulded generations of men of iron”. Ironstone mining built Teesside’s industrial pre-eminence in Victorian years, and laid the foundation for today’s steel industry – still a crucial part of our economic base today.

“The mining villages built in East Cleveland are still alive and the memory of their mining heritage is part of the local consciousness.   The miners built up the social institutions – from the Co-op to the chapel – that still survive today.  Miners, their families and descendants – and I am one of those descendants – also became community leaders and representatives. Indeed, the first Labour MP in my present constituency, Billy Mansfield, was a checkweighman at the Grinkle Mine in Easington.

“The mining museum at Skinningrove is a valuable and unique repository of that industry, the pitmen and their communities and that is why I have asked the Leader of the House to mark this anniversary by designating the Skinningriove Museum a national museum, similar to the National Railway Museum in York and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. This would allow for the museum trustees and committee to approach a far wider range of sponsors and funders based on a national status.”

Tom blasts local Tory council’s move to ‘push all the housing development into Guisborough’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (January 7th 2014) blasted comments made by Tory-run North Yorkshire Council who have now formally argued that all new housing that could potentially have impacted on their area, should be sited in Guisborough.

Tom said:
“As part of the preparation of Redcar and Cleveland Council’s Local Plan – the document that identified land use across the borough – neighbouring councils are invited to submit comments on the draft document. Neighbouring Tory-run Hambleton District Council, which includes wealthy towns like Great Ayton, Swainby and Stokesley have responded and their message is ‘all the new houses that might have come their way should go to Guisborough’.

“In formal terms they say:

“We therefore support your new Local Plan. This is particularly in respect of seeking to stem out-migration by fully meeting local housing needs within the Borough through over allocating land and replacing difficult to deliver brownfield sites with more attractive large greenfield sites, such as those around Guisborough. This should lead to less pressure on the local housing market in nearby settlements in the north east of Hambleton (ie the Stokesley/Great Ayton area) which suffers from high house prices and affordability problems for local people.”

“So there we have it. The leafy suburbs of Hambleton should be protected from any new housing development that should then be sited in Guisborough instead. That this would mean losing even more local greenfield land and more pressure on local Guisborough services and facilities like schools and GP clinics.

“This is simply Tory NIMBY-ism at its worst. I deplore these comments, and I would hope that local Conservative Councillors in Guisborough and my local Conservative Parliamentary challenger will echo their own disgust at these comments.”

Tom hits out at Arriva’s ‘double whammy’ of service cuts and fare increases

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (December 30th) hit out at what he called a ‘double whammy’ landed on local bus passengers by multi-national transport giant, Arriva, who are simultaneously planning service cuts in East Cleveland and fare increases.

Tom said:
“Arriva are yet again abusing their monopoly power in East Cleveland by both planning to cut services in Guisborough and, from next Sunday, putting in place higher fares for those buses still running.

“Arriva – although they have not yet properly told local bus users – are looking to cuts in in their services in Guisborough from February. They are going to reduce the service on the 81 route from Guisborough Market Place to Hutton Gate to hourly from the present half-hourly. I oppose this as it limits public transport links for people in the Farndale Drive area – an area that will soon be seeing significant new housing development with a need for transport links. They are also planning to basically axe the section of the 28 bus that serves the Hunters Hill estate, and only keep one or two peak hour buses. Again, this cuts our bus services for a large estate on the edge of Guisborough, hitting many elderly people dependent on the bus network there and Belmont Primary School.

“Only with last minute information for passengers they are announcing new fare increases from next Sunday – the 5th January. It’s not as if Arriva are cash-strapped, it is the opposite, they are highly profitable – with fare money from local bus users going back to their HQ in Germany. It seems that such increases are happening ever more frequently, and some passengers might feel that these increases are now more regular than their buses.

“I have made my feelings known to Arriva, asking them to think again on these services cuts, but have yet to receive a reply. Even at the 11th hour I would ask Arriva to think again and act to keep their bus service lifeline open for their Guisborough customers, and to keep bus travel affordable for passengers who are either on fixed incomes or pegged wages.”

Tom arranges ‘Cost of Living’ public meeting

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.

Tom said:
“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.

Skinningrove needs a green light that post-flooding problems are being addressed

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has written ‘as a matter of urgency’ to the Environment Agency and Redcar and Cleveland Council on issues affecting he East Cleveland village of Skinningrove following recent flooding there.

Tom said:
“This flood, plus their experiences of previous floods, are burned deep into the psyche of the village and its people.  I have visited the village following the recent flood, speaking with villagers and local shopkeepers. Multiple issues were raised with me, and I want to ensure they are being addressed by the Environment Agency and the Council.

Consequently, I have written to the Leeds office of the Environment Agency seeking clarification about the present arrangements for activating the flood gates in Skinningrove. This follows the failure by the Agency’s contractors to do so on the Friday of the flooding.”

“I have also written to the Chief Executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council asking the following questions:

  1. Presently, is there any timescale for repairs to the bridge at the village’s entrance to be undertaken, following identification of the structural issues? The Bridge remains shut and is, I gather, structurally unsound.
  2. Have any arrangements been made for renewed bin collection?   There have been no bins seemingly collected for a fortnight.
  3. Have there been any revised schemes for evacuation of flooded inhabitants during any future floods.
  4. Have there been arrangements for salt bins to be placed alongside the access roads into and out of the village via Carlin How and Hummersea?
  5. If the situation persists into the winter, can these two aforementioned roads be placed on the highway maintenance map?

“I have stressed that I and the villagers need answer to these questions as a matter of urgency.

“The other concern is for local shops that are affected by the loss of passing trade – something that is particularly affecting the local fish and chip shop. I want to stress that these shops are still open and trading and can still be accessed by people from outside the village by the roads in and out via Carlin How and Loftus, via North Road and Hummersea. I would hope people would make an effort to visit them, as a way of showing East Cleveland is giving them community support.”

Tom Blenkinsop and George Dunning to approach Government for immediate flooding help for local communities

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, and the Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, George Dunning, are writing to local government Minister, Eric Pickles, to demand the ‘immediate release’ of emergency cash help for the council and local communities in the Borough affected by last week’s flooding.

Tom said:
“I understand the Council are preparing to make a formal request for help under what is called ‘the Bellwin scheme’ to provide cash help. The Bellwin scheme covers many areas where expenditure is needed to clear up after the floods. It can cover, for example, the removal of fallen trees and timber which are or may be dangerous to the public, including trees in parks, trees on highways, and trees owned by private householders, the costs of initial repairs to highways, pavements and footpaths, wage costs for council staff who have worked overtime to clean up our villages, and costs of evacuating people from dangerous structures, and temporary rehousing.

“If this cash is released then it could be possible to supplement this with some help for individuals and families who have suffered directly via the Council’s own hardship welfare fund.

“The problem is that, as we found out after the Skinningrove floods some years back, Bellwin funds are difficult to get speedily and the procedures for claiming these funds are very bureaucratic. That is why George and I are writing to Eric Pickles asking for special attention as the council is not wealthy enough to bear these costs unilaterally. I will also try to raise the matter on the floor of the House of Commons.”

Councillor George Dunning said:
“I hope the Government will heed this call. A lot of people suffered from these floods, and people are – quite rightly – looking to see that the council do all it can. We will be responding to their requests to clean and make safe affected communities, but the council cannot do all this on its own. That is why we are approaching the government for Bellwin funding. That cash reserve is held by government for just the kinds of emergencies we have suffered from, and if it can be unlocked sooner rather than later, many people will be very, very grateful.”

Tom welcomes resounding by-election victory in East Cleveland

Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (9th August 2013) triumphantly welcomed the news that David Walsh has won the Skelton by-election that was called following the resignation of David McLuckie after being found guilty for perverting the course of justice.

Tom said:
“The circumstances leading up to this election meant David had an extremely tough by-election on his hands. A lot of hard work from East Cleveland Labour Party members was required to regain the trust of the people of Skelton and hopefully this victory will act as catalyst for a fresh start for Labour in Skelton and the rest of East Cleveland and I thank the residents of Skelton for putting their faith in the Labour Party again.

“Furthermore, this result must act as a wakeup call to the Coalition parties who could barely muster 13% of the vote whilst UKIP are clearly a real threat to the Tories. The squeeze on living standards is hitting people hard in Skelton and this was reflected in conversations we had on the doorstep and this has rightly been reflected in the ballot box.”

Tom Blenkinsop opens new Skelton Pharmacy A business we had to battle for

A good piece of local East Cleveland news was made recently when local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, officially opened the new Skelton Pharmacy.

The pharmacy is sited in the same building as the Skelton Medical Centre, and partners the GP practice, the community nurse practitioner service and the NHS dentists practice already based in the building on Bylands Road.

Tom said:
“Over the last 6 months I have been involved in a long battle to help the Pharmacy managers, who already run the popular and thriving Lingdale Pharmacy, get the business up and running. The problem was that the practice needed prior approval from the local NHS Primary Care Trust and, thanks to the ill thought out and divisive new structure being imposed on the NHS by the Coalition Government; the PCT was already winding up its affairs and lacked the capability to sanction this approval. It was only after energetic lobbying and local press coverage – with Coastal View very much to the fore – that the PCT agreed to the new venture literally days before they went out of existence.

“Now that it is there, the new pharmacy will provide local people with a prescribing service on their very doorstop, and through this, helping to tackle ill health in the community of Skelton and New Skelton.”

The manager of the Skelton Pharmacy, Mr Zulfiqar Rafiq, said:
“I have been very grateful to Tom and his constituency office staff for the way they helped me battle the bureaucrats to get this business up and running. Now it is open, it is providing a daily prescribing and delivery service for local people, helping them with health advice and health promotion and providing a partnership to the GP’s and nurses at the Skelton Medical Centre. My staff is committed to providing a friendly and personal service and we look forward to be part of Skelton’s community life.”