Archive for East Cleveland

Statement following conviction of Councillor Dave McLuckie

Reacting to today’s (18th June 2013) guilty verdict for Councillor Dave McLuckie for perverting the course of justice, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“No one is above the law, and that applies to every elected politician and public servant. The Labour Party should not – and will not – tolerate this type of illegal behaviour.

“With a jury finding Cllr McLuckie guilty of an extremely serious offence and the Judge warning he faces a likely prison sentence, I am repeating my previous calls for him to resign as a Skelton ward councillor. He must do this as a matter of urgency. The people of Skelton and East Cleveland must come first; they expect and deserve far better.”

Tom’s Second Call for McLuckie Resignation

Tom welcomes progress on local schools rebuild

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, today (13th May 2013) welcomed the news that Department for Education will within the next twelve months begin the process to ensure new schools for Laurence Jackson School and Handale Primary School.

The news comes following a meeting at the end of April between Tom, Tony Gavin (head teacher for Laurence Jackson School) and the Minister for Schools, David Laws. At the meeting they raised their concerns over the delays to the rebuild of Laurence Jackson School under the Government’s ‘Priority School Building Programme’ (PSBP).

Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough and Handale Primary School in Loftus will within the next twelve months be open to bids for the construction and maintenance of the new schools.

Laurence Jackson was previously scheduled to be rebuilt under the Labour government’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme but this was scrapped in 2010 by the Coalition leaving schools in desperate need of repair with an uncertain over future. Laurence Jackson was then placed on ‘Priority School Building Programme’ but like a number of North East schools they have yet to receive funding from the programme.

Tom said:
“This looks like good news and I’m sure it will come as a relief to both staff and pupils at the schools. There were reports that the rebuild of Laurence Jackson School wouldn’t be going ahead until 2016 – at the time this wasn’t refuted by Education Minister Michael Gove – and this was extremely disappointing for everyone involved. Under Labour’s BSF scheme the rebuild would be well underway by now. The staff, students and parents have waited long enough and the delay was, quite frankly, unacceptable.

“There are significant costs in keeping open the existing buildings, which currently have allocated resources to remain open until September 2015. That puts a huge burden on the schools finances and is completely intolerable.

“My primary concern has always been the education of the pupils at the schools. Both are excellent schools and I feared the delays could cause irreparable damage. Whilst there is still some way to go before the schools are complete at least there does now appear to be an end in sight. Things could not carry on the way they have been.”

Standing up for rural communities as Government attacks standards for farm workers

Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (24th April 2013) argued that the abolishment of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) is ‘part of a race to the bottom over pay and fair treatment when the Government should be raising standards for farm workers’.

The AWB protects pay and conditions for 152,000 farm workers in England and Wales and it used as a benchmark for others employed in the food industry. 170 of those workers are in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Tom said:
“Last week the Government denied the House of Commons the chance to even debate this decision and it is only through the use of Labour’s Opposition Day debate that MPs are getting the chance to voice their concerns.

“The abolition of the AWB will save virtually nothing but simply demonstrates the Tory-led Government’s failure to protect people who work in the countryside. The Government should be helping rural families deal with rising living costs, not engaging in a race to the bottom in pay and conditions.

“Food production is Britain’s biggest manufacturing industry. This cut will affect a lot of hard working agricultural workers across my constituency, and will undoubtedly have a knock on impact for the high streets of our rural villages and towns. Labour believes that the people who grow our food should also be able to afford to buy it in the shops.”

Tom raises concerns over fuel poverty in rural areas

In a Westminster Hall debate that took place yesterday (16th April 2013) Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, raised the issue of gas connectivity and its impact on fuel costs in rural areas.

Tom said:
“The lack of gas connectivity in the rural parts of East Cleveland has been raised by several of my constituents, especially those living in outlying houses or small ex-farm buildings. The lack of gas connectivity, I believe, has a big role to play in rural poverty as the additional costs of energy and fuel faced by rural households are almost certainly a major factor as the cost of heating oil is approximately twice that of heating a home by gas.

“It is little wonder that on average the cost to a rural household in ensuring an adequate standard of warmth was £346 more than for an urban household and is almost twice as likely to be fuel poor as one with gas central heating.

“With such a clear relationship between gas connectivity and fuel poverty, there are significant benefits in trying to increase connectivity. The Government should be working to ensure that alternative fuels are as affordable as possible to off-gas grid households, and to concentrate efforts to increase the energy efficiency of rural households. At the very least, a minister should assume lead responsibility for the off-gas grid sector.

“Energy bills are becoming extremely difficult for many of my constituents both rural and urban but it is frustrating to know that simple actions could help ease the burden.”

“Ridiculous” to waste £20,000 when Saltburn says ‘No’ to parking proposals

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today condemned Cllr Steve Goldswain, Redcar & Cleveland’s Cabinet Member for Community Protection, over his decision to “waste” £20,000 on market research about parking restrictions in Saltburn when it is “clear that Saltburn does not want or need changes to its parking”.

Tom said:
“It seems utterly ridiculous that Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council have not just scrapped these proposals when Saltburn is near-unanimously opposed to them, and even more bonkers that they propose wasting £20,000 to conduct ‘market research’ about them.”

According to Cllr Goldswain’s own briefing note, over 99% of respondents (2086 out of 2100) to Redcar & Cleveland’s initial consultation about parking restrictions in Saltburn are vehemently opposed to the Council’s proposals. To me, and to any other reasonable person, this implies that there is not currently a traffic management problem in Saltburn. As it is illegal for a Council to introduce parking charges to raise revenue, I do not understand why Cllr Goldswain has just not decided to stop proceeding with these proposals.

Tom added:
“I called upon Redcar & Cleveland to undertake an Economic Impact Assessment, but I fail to see now why one is needed when public opinion is so clear and when there is no apparent traffic management issue. Furthermore, I fail to see how it could cost anywhere near £20,000.

“It is absolutely clear that the people in this town do not want these proposals to progress. As such, the Council has no mandate to introduce parking restrictions, yet they are wasting £20,000 of taxpayers’ money in a disgraceful attempt to potentially justify the introduction of this scheme. Furthermore, it is damning and undemocratic that the Council has repeatedly failed to meet its legal duties under the Freedom of Information Act to provide information by statutory deadlines to those who requested information about these proposals. It is also disappointing that Cllr Goldswain did not consult local elected representatives nor his colleagues in the Labour Group about his decision to progress these proposals and waste £20,000. I am sure many of them would have pointed out the sheer absurdity of his actions.

“I have a duty to do what is right for my constituents, and the Council’s handling of these proposals is fundamentally wrong. The Council should quickly u-turn its decision to waste £20,000 in these tough times, and should withdraw their proposals to introduce parking restrictions.”

‘Fatal risk of nurse shortage must not be ignored’ warns Tom Blenkinsop MP

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, is today (22nd January2013) urging the Government to think again about its decision to cut over 6000 nurses following news that patients are 10% more likely to die if wards have fewer medically trained staff.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and Imperial College London believe patients in overstretched hospitals are prone to developing fatal complications and infections because they are not properly monitored.

Commenting on the research Tom said:
“For several months now I have been highlighting my concerns over falling staffing levels at several hospitals in my constituency – namely East Cleveland Primary Care Hospital and Guisborough Hospital.

“Ministers are taking unacceptable risks with standards of patient care as the loss of experienced and adequately trained nurse picks up speed. The Government has cut the NHS budget two years running and in many hospitals there are simply not enough qualified nurses on the ground.

“At my recent meeting with the Health Minister, Dr Daniel Poulter, it was decided to give local hospitals 3-4 months to deal with the staffing shortages before the situation is reviewed again. This new research proves why it is so important to have appropriate staffing levels and backs up my own concerns over what could happen locally if services continue to be stretched. The Government should listen to the concerns of health professionals, academics and those on the frontline and ensure appropriately skilled staff is always available for those most in need.”

“The Council need to ensure Saltburn’s residents’ and businesses’ voices are heard over parking proposals”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (10 December 2012) written to Redcar & Cleveland Council about the proposed changes to parking restrictions in Saltburn.

Tom said:
“Many local residents and local shopkeepers have been in touch with me to express their concern about the Council’s proposed changes to parking restrictions in Saltburn. This is understandable, when the local economy is fragile, margins are tight and when there is a risk that these proposals could adversely affect trade.

“It is vital that the Council has a clear, transparent and wide-scoping consultation, allowing residents, visitors and businesses to have their say. At the moment, I fear that any process is being poorly communicated and rushed.

“I am therefore urging the Council to have a full and proper consultation process. Furthermore, it is my firm view that a decision so significant should be made by the full Cabinet, in light of consultation, rather than just by the portfolio holder, so it can be subject to the scrutiny process if necessary.”


Saltburn Resident Parking Proposals Letter to Councillor George Dunning

Environment Agency cash for Saltburn Gill upgrade “a Christmas present for a cleaner Saltburn”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (December 7th 2012) welcomed the news that the Environment Agency (EA) had now taken a firm decision to both invest hard cash and to begin physical work to clear up Saltburn Gill.

The EA, in a letter to Tom said that, above and beyond the £700,000 already put into the fight against mine water pollution, a further £2 million has been earmarked to clean-up the beck.

Tom said:
“The Agency have confirmed that they will now be using this cash to pump polluted  water from the old mine workings at Skelton until the current discharges dry up, which they say this can take a year. After that, a treatment scheme will be constructed which will filter iron from the mine water before it enters the stream by using a series of ponds. They tell me that this a “tried and tested” process used at over 60 treatment schemes around Britain. This, they say, will take a further five months.

“This is a great Christmas present for Saltburn and is a testament to the work of the local Saltburn Gill Action Group who have been working for the last two years to clean up this stream which runs past the Saltburn foreshore and onto the beach. For my part I have worked hard with the Action Group to ensure this much needed and important funding comes to Saltburn and East Cleveland -especially given the exceedingly high levels of rain fall we have recently witnessed.

“This news means that by late next year we will begin to see a cleaner, greener, beckside environment, which will both make the area more attractive and also save local riverside wildlife and plant life from pollution.  I am really pleased with this announcement.”

Reduction in opening hours is the ‘first step on a slippery slope’ for East Cleveland hospital

Temporary changes have been made to the opening times of the urgent care centre at East Cleveland Primary Care Hospital and Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, described the news as “extremely concerning” and a “sign of the pressure our local NHS is currently under”.

Tom said:
“This is really bad news for the hospital and East Cleveland residents. For the hospital to operate a 24hr urgent care service, it needs 3.1 whole time equivalent (wte) urgent care trained nurses. Yet the Trust only has the equivalent of less than half (1.5 wte) urgent care trained nurses currently working at the hospital – and those three nurses are rotated into Redcar. This has left a hole that was being filled with temporary staff, who now need to be deployed to Guisborough, to cover the vacant care post there – otherwise they would have a further reduction in opening hours. It is almost beyond parody how stretched services have become in recent years.

“There seems to be a number of issues at play. Obviously there is the huge financial pressure placed on trusts to handle the Tory-led top-down reorganisation of the NHS, but I also have concerns over the provision of appropriately trained nurses. Why haven’t the vacant roles been filled? Is it to do with funding, or is there a shortage of suitably trained staff?

“Furthermore, the timing of this change couldn’t be worse. As the festive period approaches and the weather becomes more dangerous, provision of urgent care is vital. Suggesting a patient could face having to traipse all the way to James Cook University Hospital from East Cleveland is a frightening prospect.

“I have requested an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Health to discuss the situation and to urge him to take action to end this juggling act of staff between hospitals before something seriously goes wrong.”

Tom urges ‘more action’ from DEFRA ministers as forestry commission reveal wider extent of ash fungus disease

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (8th November 2012) renewed his call for Government environment ministers ‘to show some real action in developing ways to combat fungal disease hitting Ash trees’ as it was confirmed that the Ash tree virus had been found in Guisborough Forest.

Tom said:
“This disease threatens the entire future of the UK Ash tree species. Ashes are one of our traditional trees and make up nearly a third of our entire tree cover and hedgerows.

“This is important locally, as we speak it has been confirmed that the fungus has been found in my constituency at Guisborough forest threatening the Forestry Commission’s work at Guisborough Forest to replace spruce and fir trees with native tree species, including Ash. After fighting to save this forest from possible sell-off by this government, I don’t want it to fall to the axe and the chainsaw.

“It seems that the only action being taken by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to ban Ash tree plant imports – which is like bolting the stable doors after the horses have bolted – and taking the axe on a massive scale to Ash plantations across the nation, which – to me – is simply environmental degradation under a cloak of disease management.

“But there are alternatives and I have called for them to be used. This call has been vindicated. I now hear that scientists believe they might have found a cure for Ash dieback. The ash dieback treatment has been developed by Imperial College and Natural Ecology Mitigation, who have offered the treatment to the Government, but who are frustrated by being told it is “in a queue” for trials by the Forestry Commission, with no date being set for these trials.

“Imperial College scientists say that – if approved – the anti-fungal treatment could be sprayed over large areas from a plane. Put simply, time is of the essence. Ministers should be looking at how we can fast-track this as a matter of utter urgency

“The present approach – felling trees – is simply a scorched earth approach. It the hallmark of an incompetent government and incompetent ministers.”