Archive for East Cleveland

Saltburn bathing water failure ‘really disappointing’

Commenting on a report released today (6th November) by the Environment Agency (EA) that showed that bathing water in Saltburn has failed to meet mandatory guideline standards, local MP, Tom Blenkinsop, described the news as “really disappointing for residents and tourists” and pledged to ask Ministers to help the EA and Northumbrian Water to help rectify this after the good results we had earlier in the year.

Tom said:
“Naturally I am very disappointed to hear this news as it was only in May this year that the Marine Conversation Society listed Saltburn as ‘the most improved beach’ in the North East. Now we find out that the bathing water has failed to meet strict guidelines it isn’t an understatement to say that it is a hammer blow for the town as the water is used for a variety of activities, including surfing and swimming.

“I understand that the Environment Agency will be working closely with Redcar and Cleveland Council to target potential sources of pollution that may have caused Saltburn to fail. Alongside this, joint investigations with Northumbrian Water who are undertaking a study of storm sewage impacts around the area and I am informed that they have made repairs and are planning a new sewer route for completion before the 2013 bathing water season.

“I will be writing to the Minister, Richard Benyon – who has responsibility for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs – asking for Government assistance to ensure that the EA, local authority and Northumbrian Water are appropriately equipped to rectify the result so that Saltburn can go back to the good results we experienced earlier in the year.

“Saltburn is a unique and vibrant community and the water plays a big part in that, so I hope this matter can be rectified as soon as possible. I will continue to monitor the situation as I know residents were extremely disappointed the last time something similar to this took place.”

‘Lack of leadership is a threat to the future of local libraries’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, responding today (6th November) to findings by the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee report into library closures warned that ‘Government cuts are borderline forcing Local Authorities to risk breaking the law’.

The report highlighted that many councils were unaware about what was expected of them and those who cut library services are at risk of failing in their legal duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” service.

Tom said:
“Libraries often act as the hub of a community so threats of closure often lead to a passionate community response – and rightly so. Therefore, this is an important cross-party report that clearly highlights Government failure to act and to provide guidance for under pressure local authorities. This is particularly evident on the subject of libraries under threat or being closed, and on what a “comprehensive and efficient” service should look like – and the legal requirements surrounding that.

“This vacuum of leadership from Government ministers is having a dramatic impact on local authorities being able to manage library services on a shoestring budget. This is clearly evident in my constituency where Hemlington Library is under threat due to budget cuts. We now see that there is a strong community campaign against the proposed closure and it would be a devastating loss for the area if it was to be lost.

“Unfortunately, Ministers seem unwilling to act. The only commitment they have given to dealing with library closures is a report by the end of 2014, which is frankly, a disgrace. Two more years of strained council budgets will have passed by then.  The Government needs to work alongside the Arts Council to develop ideas and structures for libraries to remain a practical and affordable service as well as a valuable community resource.”

Tom urges ‘more action’ from DEFRA Ministers as Forestry Commission reveals wider extent of ash fungus disease

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (31st October 2012) urged Government environment ministers ‘not to be asleep at their desks’ as the Forestry Commission revealed that the real extent of the fungal infestation – which is deadly for younger Ash trees – was spread much wider than Ministers maintained.

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

“This is important locally, as we speak the Forestry Commission are in full swing on a programme 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.

“They first knew of this outbreak in February but only now are acting.  We need to mobilise the nation’s scientific expertise, including the natural plant laboratory at Rothampstead to see if they can develop anti-fungal sprays that could kill this disease. A scorched earth approach is just the sign of an incompetent government and incompetent ministers.”

Tom Blenkinsop’s ‘growing irritation’ over foot dragging by local PCT to see the re-opening of Skelton dispensing chemist

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (25th September 2012) voiced what he called ‘growing irritation’ over the catalogue of delays caused by the local NHS Primary Care Service in completing the paperwork needed to allow a dispensing chemists to re-open an outlet at the Skelton Medical Centre in East Cleveland.

Tom said:
“This whole saga has been going on for months. After eventually agreeing that the manager of the nearby Lingdale Pharmacy could go ahead with the project, there has been constant feet-dragging by senior PCT officers in actually allowing this to happen in practice.  After badgering the PCT Chief Executive I did eventually get a grudging letter telling me ‘matters were making progress’ which allowed me to tell Mr Zulkifar Rafiq, the Pharmacy Manager, that things looked hopeful.

“However I now learn that despite further approaches by Mr Rafiq to the PCT, and the promise that a letter with full terms and conditions would be sent to him. We are still nowhere nearer. This horrifies me, as, under the coalition plans for the re-organisation of the local NHS, the work of the Teesside PCT’s is due to be wound up in the next two months or so.

“People in Skelton, as well as the local GP practice, nurses and the NHS dentist on site at the Medical Centre, desperately want this to go ahead. We cannot contemplate this entire matter being put once again on the back burner by the successor body to the PCT. I have therefore written a strong letter to the PCT Chief Executive warning that, unless action is taken to speed things up, I will be taking the entire issue to the new Secretary of State for health, Jeremy Hunt, and also seeking an adjournment debate on the handling of this saga on the floor of the House of Commons. The need for this service is too precious for it to be left in the bureaucratic long grass.”

Support your local Green Howards on Yorkshire Day

Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, is calling for constituents to show their support for the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment – the Green Howards – on Yorkshire Day 2012 (1st August 2012).

Tom said:
“Yorkshire Day is a well celebrated event and the Green Howards are a big part of that history. My petition continues to attract signatures from all across the country and I thought Yorkshire Day would be a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the threat to the Green Howards. I would encourage my constituents to take the time to sign the petition and show their support for the Green Howards.”

Tom will be collecting signatures throughout East Cleveland tomorrow (1st August) and the petition is available to sign online at

Concerns raised over future of Guisborough Hospital – Tom Blenkinsop MP

Tom opposed a proposal by the South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust to close the Chaloner Ward at Guisborough Community Hospital as ‘possibly the precursor to the total closure of the hospital and the end of hospital based health care in the town’.

The Chaloner Ward was an 8 bed unit providing palliative care, post-operative and respite care with dedicated nursing care for a variety of medical conditions. There is also an outpatient suite and minor injuries unit.

Tom said:
“Closing the ward could mean the eventual end of the hospital. Already the maternity service has been lost, and this would only leave a residual out patient service and the Priory Ward on the site. I think there is a not so hidden agenda here and I see the closures so far as a precursor to a future total closure and redevelopment of a valuable site.

“This is not just an issue for Guisborough. With the Tories and Lib Dems forcing through the Health and Social Care Act, health experts say that the future of at least 50 hospitals is under threat from the resulting unprecedented squeeze on NHS finances.”

About 70 hospital trusts in England have failed to achieve the financial performance and quality of care necessary to become foundation trusts and “a significant number” have “large recurrent deficits”, according to the King’s Fund. In a report titled Reconfiguring Hospital Services the charity warned of “a downward spiral of falling income, growing deficit and declining quality [which] will cause hospitals to fail.

Calculations by Health Service Journal show that at least 58 NHS hospitals will cease to cover their costs if cuts planned by primary care trusts to “low priority” treatments – such as tonsillectomies, injections for back pain and varicose vein surgery – go ahead.

Guisborough Councillor, Joe Keenan, said:
“These are not just scare stories – it is the case here in Guisborough. The South Tees Trust has had severe cash cuts imposed on them by David Cameron and George Osborne and that currently they are, according to their Finance Director, carrying a deficit of £3.3 million behind plan in terms of delivering productivity and efficiency savings.”

Tom added:
“We all remember the billboard posters at the time of the last election when David Cameron said ‘he’d cut the deficit not the NHS’. We now see the truth of this. Nationally 56,000 NHS staff are to go and what we see at Guisborough is local picture of a national scandal. I do not think the staff and the people of Guisborough will take any more such closures lying down and I will do all I can to support them in any way.”

Tom and local councillor raise abandoned building concerns with Minister

Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop and Brotton Councillor, Barry Hunt met with Greg Clark MP, the Minister responsible for planning policy, in Parliament to discuss the issue of abandoned buildings which are blighting the area (21st May 2012).

Areas in Loftus and Skinningrove have long been suffering the effects of buildings that have been left derelict by their owners and, so far, not much ground has been made by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council to resolve the issue with the owners.

Tom said:
“I know the issue of abandoned buildings is one that many of my constituents hold dear and it is something that I, along with my predecessor Ashok Kumar, had been working hard to find a solution for.  Nobody wants to see their hometown decline and, particularly in Skinningrove, a lot of effort has been put into the area – yet the former Co-op building remains a sore spot.

“Following our meeting with the Minister I will now be writing to the Council to highlight a piece of legislation that may help bring the saga to a close. Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides the Authority with the power, in certain circumstances, to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area.

“The Minister seemed confident that this would bring an end to the saga and I will definitely contact the Minister if this turns out not to be a solution. I, along with East Cleveland residents, won’t rest until the issue is resolved once and for all.”

Cllr Barry Hunt added:
“I feel after 13 years I feel that we are now making progress, thanks to Tom who has put a lot of work into helping us move forward. The minister gave us good advice and I hope we can now put this to bed.”

Tom drops in to ‘Friday @ Freebrough’

Local MP, Tom Blenkinsop, last week (11th May 2012) visited young constituents at their weekly youth club at Freebrough Academy to talk with them about issues and any concerns they may have – and a quick game of pool!

‘Friday@Freebrough’ was set up in August 2011 and is led by Michelle Bowmaker and Sue Hinds with support from a variety of other agencies including the local Police and Fire Brigade. Students can take part in a range of activities including; sports, arts and crafts, music and ICT.

Tom said:
“I was very pleased to be invited to the youth club and to be given the chance to talk with young people about issues they may be facing. It is important to come to these evenings as it gives young people the opportunity to talk with their Member of Parliament in an environment that they feel comfortable in.

“This type of evening is much needed for the local community and I praise the hard work Michelle and Sue are putting in. The kids clearly enjoy socialising on a Friday evening and I’m told the club attracts around 100 young people each week – and the evening just keeps going from strength to strength with what it can offer.”

“I hope the young people enjoyed having me here and I look forward to coming back in the near future. However, I don’t think I left too many impressed with my pool skills so I’m not in any rush to take any of them on again.”

Tom Blenkinsop seeks clarity from Government over free bus travel for pensioners

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (19th April 2012) called on the Transport Minister, Norman Baker, to come clean over future plans to restrict access to free bus travel.

The question came following an article by Lib Dem Special Advisor, Chris Nicholson, in which he calls for the entitlement age for free bus travel to “be raised immediately to 65 and then rise in line with the state retirement age”. He then goes further still by echoing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s calls for means testing for the scheme.

Tom said:

“It’s becoming clear that means testing pensioners for their bus pass is a policy that Nick Clegg wants to push through sooner rather than later. The government’s position had become muddled ever since the Deputy Prime Minister called for means testing in December last year, and this latest article only adds fuel to the rumour mill.

“I was astounded to hear that the Lib Dem Minister responsible wasn’t even aware of what his colleagues had been proposing and even more worrying was his failure to give immediate assurances that this wouldn’t become policy.

“It was not until my Labour colleague, Stephen Hepburn, again raised the issue that there was a guarantee that there will be no changes to concessionary bus fares in this Parliament.

“Many pensioners in my constituency just wanted an honest answer – ‘are there any plans to restrict access to free bus travel for pensioners or not?’ It was a simple question, but the lack of an immediate answer was concerning. I will be keeping up the pressure on the Coalition Government to maintain this pledge.”

Tom Blenkinsop Calls For Football Supporters To Be Given More Influence Over Their Clubs’ Future

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today spoke in a debate in Parliament on football governance and called for supporters to be given a more influential role in the running of their clubs. He also took the opportunity to praise the dedicated supporters’ clubs of Guisborough Town and Middlesbrough FC.

Tom said: “The DCMS Select Committee recently published a report on football governance and the Government responded. I took the opportunity in this debate to establish what progress has been made by the Government on these issues. One issue I was keen to raise was that the Government asserted in its response to the report that “every club should have a dedicated and mandatory supporter liaison officer” and that “every club should officially recognise the relevant supporters groups or trusts and keep an open dialogue with them” and that “these conditions should be an explicit condition of the football licensing model recommended by the Committee”. Football Clubs are, and should remain, part of the fabric of local communities and it is essential that their supporters have a role in influencing the future direction of the Club that they love.

“It is vital that the Government continues to push for greater fan involvement, and that real change and reform is implemented, rather than a half-hearted solution perhaps preferred by certain people with vested interests.

“Our local clubs, Middlesbrough and Guisborough Town, which I regularly watch have dedicated supporters clubs like the Middlesbrough FC Disabled Supporters Association, the Official Supporters’ Club and Middlesbrough Supporters South who keep Teessiders together in the South, and even arranged for parmos to be made for Boro fans in central London for last night’s Middlesbrough v Sunderland FA Cup replay.

“I am looking forward to talking to supporters from both clubs when they meet in the North Riding Senior Cup Semi-Final Wednesday 15th February.