Archive for Economy

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.’

National Insurance increase a ‘betrayal’ of self-employed

Tom today called the Chancellor’s decision to break a manifesto commitment not to raise taxes for the self-employed a ‘betrayal’.

The Chancellor announced an increase in National Insurance contributions demanded of the self-employed. This came as a surprise given the Conservative 2015 General Election Manifesto pledged ‘no increases in National Insurance’.

The self-employed on average work longer, earn less and have less security than employees.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

This is a real betrayal of the self-employed. It breaks a Conservative manifesto commitment and puts the burden on those taking risks and getting their own businesses off the ground. When I think of the self-employed in Teesside, like those running small business in Saltburn or those who set up their own businesses after losing their jobs in the SSI closure, I think of people taking risks and creating jobs for others. They won’t have planned for this change and it will just add to the pressure they’re already under

The Government promised not to increase National Insurance and they have. It’s not like they needed to do this – they’ve prioritised other things like cutting corporation tax and giving a tax break to those who inherit their wealth but have increased the burden on those trying to make their own way.

This and the tax credits cuts amount to a kick in the teeth for those Teessiders trying to step up their own businesses and create prosperity in their communities.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for the future of the economy also downgraded their prediction of long term economic growth by 2020/21.

MPs reveal ‘2020’ vision for steel

Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, chaired by Tom , published its vision for revitalising the steel industry.

The report, ‘Steel 2020’, draws on interviews with businesses, unions, Government ministers and employees of the industry to develop a strategy for securing the industry’s future in the UK.

It concludes, that the UK steel industry is currently ‘hamstrung by a toxic combination of policies that hobble the industry by comparison to global competitors’, and calls on the Government to act to provide a level playing field that will allow the industry to ‘thrive nationally and globally’.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

This report confirms that with the right Government action the UK’s steel industry can have long term future and provide the good manufacturing jobs that Teesside and communities all around the country so desperately need.

’Steel 2020’ highlights the incredible innovative work that is already taking place in the metals sector and the challenges it needs to overcome.

This report not only identifies the failures of current Government policy but also offers some solutions too. I know my colleagues and I will continue to push the Government to act on this reports’ recommendations and support this industry which has supported communities all over the country for generations.

Particular credit for compiling this report should go to my Labour colleagues Anna Turley and Stephen Kinnock, whose hard work and belief in this industry made ‘Steel 2020’ possible.

The report recommends further action in several areas including energy costs, Chinese steel dumping and procurement rules for Government projects.

‘Steel 2020’ is supported by members from four political parties and was authored by Dr Ian Greenwood of Leeds University Business School.

‘Help Teesside lead the world’ – Tom’s appeal to Government

Tom has called on the Government to invest in Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technology in Teesside as a way to boost investment and job creation in the region.

Tom pointed to the recent success of Carbon Clean Solutions in India which has created technology to capture the CO2 created by an industrial plant and use it to make Baking Soda, on a commercial basis, i.e. without Government subsidy.

The UK Government controversially cancelled a project to help get the industry off the ground in the UK in 2015, which was due to fund starter projects in Teesside, despite warnings that the move could cost thousands of jobs. Last year, a Parliamentary Advisory Group on Carbon Capture and Storage called for greater Government support for the industry and claimed early investment in the technology could save consumers billions.

Tom said:

The Government must act to support CCS and CCU technology now. Teesside in particular could benefit as our area’s industry provides the perfect environment in which to build a commercially viable Carbon Capture sector.

I have written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ask for a meeting to discuss how this could benefit Teesside and what the Government can do to get this industry going.

Carbon Clean in India have shown that with determination and innovation this can be done. The Government cannot afford to pass up this opportunity which would cut pollution, cut bills, create jobs and bring much needed investment to our area.

I believe the Government can and should help Teesside to lead the world in this relatively new technology.

Tom backs backbench amendments to government Finance Bill

Tom has added his name to two backbench amendments to today’s Finance Bill.

The first amendment aims to improve transparency around international corporations’ tax affairs. If it passes, the amendment will give the government the power to make large global companies publish ‘headline’ details of where they make their profits and pay their taxes.

The second amendment proposes the reintroduction of ‘distributional analysis’ to government budgets, which will show the impact of budget measures on different income groups. This analysis was scrapped last year alongside George Osborne’s controversial plan to cut tax credits, which it is believed would disproportionately affect lower income groups.

Tom said:

I am proud to support these two amendments which could help to tackle two great problems of time: tax avoidance and inequality.

I owe it to my constituents to get accurate information on how government changes will affect them, and to make sure global companies pay their fair share of tax, just like businesses and families in Teesside have to. These amendments will help do both those things and that’s why I am supporting them.

Regrettably, Labour’s leadership and organisation on these important issues has come from the backbenches. I hope the outcome of our leadership election will provide us with a new leadership that doesn’t have to rely on others to take on the Tories.

So far Theresa May has talked the talk about corporate responsibility and helping the poor – we’ll see on Monday whether she’ll walk the walk by backing these amendments.

The Finance Bill, and these amendments will be debated and voted on in the House of Commons on today (5 September) and tomorrow (6 September).

Air Products withdrawal ‘another blow for Teesside’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (4th April 2016) branded the decision by Air Products to end its ‘Energy-from-Waste’ business ‘another blow for the Teesside economy’.

Tom said:
“The news that Air Products is to ‘write off’ its Teesside energy from waste developments is the latest part of the crisis that is sweeping the UK’s industrial sector.

“I will be in contact with TVU to help seek assurances from Air Products that they are looking to find a sustainable, long-term buyer who can continue with this project and that they are not just looking to scrap the whole plant, which is nearly complete.

“I have long called for the taskforce which was set up to help SSI workers who were made redundant last year to be extended and given extra government funding to cover those who have been made redundant from other industrial sector jobs, such as the recent redundancies at Cleveland Potash in Boulby and workers let go in the oil and gas sector. I will be asking the government for extra funding to do this, again.

“There are serious questions the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse must answer.  Since James Wharton received his title from Prime Minister David Cameron, the North East industrial sector has lost thousands of jobs. Workers at SSI in Redcar, miners at Cleveland Potash in Boulby, workers at Caparo in Hartlepool and now workers at Air Products in Billingham have all been failed by the Government’s lack of an industrial strategy.  This is largely down to a long-term inertia and drift in Government policy.  Empty slogans such as the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ are no replacement for genuine well thought and planned government industrial engagement.”

‘Osborne’s Budget has failed Teesside’

Commenting on the Tory Chancellor’s 8th Budget Statement which was delivered earlier today (16th March 2016), Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Today’s Budget provided no clear indication that this Tory Government have any intention of turning the fortunes of Teesside around, and may even entrench its difficulties further.

“The biggest issue facing the area remains the fallout from the closure of SSI and there is not a single mention of the steel industry in the budget booklet. This budget provided the opportunity for George Osborne provide the cash required to sort out the site, instead they are leaving it to rot. My calls for an extension to the remit of the taskforce to account for job losses at Boulby Potash and those offshore workers who are at the sharp end of low oil prices, has fallen on deaf ears.

“In terms of devolution, the meagre level of cash available for the Tees Valley deal will not bring about the overhaul of the area that is required in terms of improving transport links and there was nothing in the Budget in terms Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project  receiving a helping hand on Teesside. For all the hot air, none of the much vaunted improvements to transport infrastructure will benefit Teesside, with the bulk of the cash going to London – yet again.

“In order to turn the corner in 2016 and push for a positive Teesside we can’t keep getting cuts on top of the job losses from industries that the area has relied on for generations. One avoidable cut that will protect local jobs is keeping the local tax office here on Teesside. These are public sector jobs that the Government has control over. It doesn’t need to add to the misery of job losses suffered in the private sector.

“Today was all about George Osborne jockeying for position in the Tory leadership race. Unfortunately, it is Teesside that is paying the price.”

Dumping by Government of CCS funding “could now bring about black-outs” warns Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (26th February 2016) warned that UK energy experts were now predicting that the cancellation of funding for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects alongside new power generation plants by the Government could “now lead to possible power shortages and danger of blackouts”.

Tom’s comments came following the release of a study by the respected UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) who in a report published today stated that “importing gas will have a severely limited role to play in the UK’s energy mix in the next two decades without the development of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide”.

Tom said:
“Their report makes sobering reading. They argue that the proposal by the Government that the UK simply imports more gas for power generation as a bridge between today’s needs and new nuclear power stations coming on line is fatally flawed if CCS is not used from the outset. Their report shows that, without CCS, the UK will only be able to use 10% more gas in 2050 than it did in 2010 if legally binding climate change targets are to be met.

“This will a severe limitation to companies wishing to generate power from gas in the long term, and it poses a question mark over the future for the UK’s domestic heating, for which gas is the primary fuel.

“The report says that if all coal-fired power generation is to be removed by 2025, and we are no longer supporting the development of CCS, policy makers must think long and hard about how best to replace that capacity as without CCS, gas can play only a modest role between now and 2020 if we are not to break international climate change agreements.

“My view is that this just shows how short sighted the government were to announce to the Stock Exchange that they were no longer to support CCS development, like the plants proposed on Teesside. If gas is limited, both by climate change agreements and by delays due to the widespread opposition to UK fracking, this, taken together with previous cut backs to renewable energy generation and delays in the building of new nuclear plants, means that power shortages in the future are well-nigh inevitable.

“There is an answer if the government had the vision, and it is a simple one. Simply get the Teesside CCS plans out on the table again, and then sit down with the Tees Energy and Chemical Process leaders to discuss how best and how quickly to get CCS up and running before the lights go out.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP response to Comprehensive Spending Review 2015

Commenting on today’ (25th November 2015) Comprehensive Spending Review, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“George Osborne’s fanciful claim that the North is growing faster than the South is completely devolved from the realities of the job losses Teesside and East Cleveland has suffered in the last couple of months. I’m certain that my constituents will have serious questions for the Chancellor and the Tory Government that has stood by whilst we’ve lost our steel industry and one of the biggest employers in East Cleveland cut 700 jobs.

“Furthermore, the government still lacks a comprehensive strategy for the steel industry and the industry is still waiting on compensation for the carbon price floor tax introduced four years ago. Meanwhile, the majority of the 5 point plan presented by the steel industry at the summit in October seems to have been ignored.

“Other issues from the CSR include the tax credits cuts U-turn – which is a welcome one and will come as a relief to thousands of families across Teesside. However, I fear the devil may be in the detail. For example, I fear that the cut hasn’t been completely abandoned and is just a transitional measure, deferred to tax credits form part of the Universal Credit – assuming the Government ever get to grips with that policy. Nevertheless, credit for today’s announcement must go to the campaigners who have forced this climb down from the Chancellor.

“No doubt that, over the next few hours and days, as the details of the CSR are poured over the full extent of Osborne’s plans will become clearer – the massive cuts to local councils, cutting £360m from adult skills and the climate change tax exemption that will leave steel companies no better off in cash terms are just a few of the gremlins revealed so far.”

‘Summer Budget reveals true face of Tories’

Today (8th July 2015) George Osborne delivered the first Conservative-only Budget since 1996.

Reacting to the Summer Budget, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“Today we finally saw the Tories unleashed. In the run-up to the announcements it had been billed as a ‘radical budget’, but that was merely code for attacks on the purse strings of thousands of families across the UK.

“Before the election David Cameron and the Tories refused to come clean on their plans of tax credits and now we know why. Cuts to tax credits mean wages need to increase, so with this announcement alongside the falsely named ‘National Living Wage’ research already shows that actual living wage should be well over £12 if tax credits cut. So a family with one earner on average earnings will lose over £2,000 in tax credits from the changes announced today

“Tax credits, introduced by Labour, help tackle poverty and get people back to work – particularly single parents. Undercutting tax credits without real action to tackle low pay and to ensure full employment risks punishing low earners.

“Of course we want to see the welfare bill falling and action to help people get back to work – it is a basic requirement cut the deficit in a sustainable way. But welfare spending is already £28 billion higher than the Chancellor expected because he has failed to tackle the real causes of high welfare costs: low pay, high housing benefit costs and insecure working conditions.

“This Budget needed to ensure working people are given support and incentives to find a job, whilst providing security for the nation’s finances. The reality for George Osborne is that the Tory Government is going to borrow £83bn more since his March budget. This is highly dangerous with the ongoing Greece situation and the Chinese stock market in free fall.

“My job now, as it always has been, is to give a voice to those who will be hurt by these cuts; hold the Chancellor and his decisions to account, and to set out a way to cut the deficit that is fair for my constituents in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.”