Archive for Economy

Tom Blenkinsop MP Supporting Small Business Saturday

Tom Blenkinsop MP has joined Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP in celebrating the contribution of small firms in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland as part of this year’s Small Business Saturday on 6 December.

Small Business Saturday is a grass-roots campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support small businesses in the local community. Last year it was the biggest celebration of small businesses in the UK and gave a boost to local shops through extra trade of nearly £500m.

Tom said:
“It is so important that we support our small and independent businesses. They are a vital part of our local economy and local community and we need to get behind them. They matter to our town, like Rag and Doll, an up and coming fashion label based in Guisborough, who I visited just at the weekend. And this weekend I will be visiting Tim and his wife Sheila who run Real Meals in Saltburn. They add character and are a source of local jobs.

“Last year I took part in Small Business Saturday. It was big success and it was brilliant to meet so many great businesses doing a fantastic job. The campaign helped raise awareness of what they do and the choice they bring to our community. We all need to put our hands in our pockets to make sure we back our local businesses. This year I’ll be getting fully behind the campaign again and giving my support to our local businesses.

“So many local businesses are doing a fantastic job. They give us greater choice and that something a little bit special. We all need to put our hands in our pockets to back our local businesses.”

Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP said:
“Last year when I first called for the UK to have its own Small Business Saturday, I could not have envisaged what we managed to achieve. We helped create the biggest celebration of small business and entrepreneurs that the country has seen and it helped give a boost to their bottom line. We brought together a grass roots coalition including business organisations and local authorities to make it happen.

“On one of the busiest shopping days of the year Small Business Saturday puts a spotlight on the huge contribution of small businesses and encourages people to buy from small shops and independent firms. This year we want it to be bigger and better. Please do put it in your diary.”

Tim Beswick, manager of Real Meals, said:
“Small Business Saturday is a great initiative that puts supporting local businesses at the forefront to people’s shopping minds. The key then is to show them what a fantastic experience it can be and the importance of supporting small businesses to the local economy – and hopefully they keep coming back throughout the year.”

‘Osborne’s Autumn Statement is a road to nowhere for Teesside’

Reacting to the final Autumn Statement before the General Election next year by Tory Chancellor George Osborne, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Budget after budget, statement after statement, Teesside and East Cleveland residents and businesses have been failed by this Tory-led Government.

“On the big issues holding back the area – the lack of rail electrification to Teesside and the uncertainty surrounding the steel industry – we heard nothing from the Chancellor. In his own words earlier this year he vowed to create a “Northern Powerhouse”, but from today’s statement it is quite clear he doesn’t have the policies or ideas to deliver that pledge.

“On the NHS – the Chancellor has not found an extra £2 billion for the NHS, as he claims, but instead is proposing to recycle funds already in the Department of Health budget. This is crisis cash because of the fragile financial state of the NHS after the Government’s £3 billion reorganisation. Our local NHS alone is facing £90 million cuts over the next few years.

“And on the cost-of-living crisis being faced by households across Britain and on Teesside it is complete failure. George Osborne and David Cameron promised living standards would rise but since the last election, wages have fallen behind prices month after month. Working people are now on average £1,600 a year worse off since the Tories got elected, while millionaires have been given a huge tax cut and new figures show full-time workers are now £2,000 a year worse off under David Cameron.

“This cost-of-living crisis is why the Chancellor is set to break another promise – to balance the nation’s books by next year. When wages aren’t rising and too many are stuck in low-paid jobs, the tax revenues we need to get borrowing down don’t come in. So the Tory failure to deliver a recovery that works for the many and not just a few is the reason why they’re failing on the deficit too.

“Labour has a better and fairer plan. We’ll raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, freeze energy bills, reform the banks and we’ll cut business rates for small firms, boost apprenticeships, tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts and expand free childcare for working parents.

“Today we heard more of the same – an economic plan that is failing everyday working people, old announcements dressed up in the Emperor’s new clothes and one that is leaving Teesside – and the North East – on a road to nowhere. By delaying this Autumn Statement until a few weeks before Christmas, George Osborne has ensured that people know who the real Scrooge is.”

Miliband power devolution ‘a tonic for Teesside’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Ton Blenkinsop today (1st July 2014) welcomed proposals made by Labour’s leader Ed Miliband, promising a devolution of spending powers from Whitehall to England’s regions and councils in order to reduce the inequalities between the north and London and the South East, and to boost local economic growth.

Ed Miliband pledged that under a Labour government councils would be encouraged to join forces to create regional “economic powerhouses” to attract more jobs and boost growth. They would be allowed to keep any extra business rates income generated by growth to invest locally. The plan would be “revenue neutral” – it would not cost taxpayers anything – but would hand more control over how money raised locally is spent in that area.

In addition he called for releasing up to £30bn in government funding for regional housing, transport and employment schemes, creating a new national funding framework for innovation policy and setting a target of 25% of all government contracts being awarded to small firms.

Tom said:
“If put in place this could the tonic Teesside needs to develop jobs and industry for future generations. Teesside has massive economic strengths which are simply being ignored by this Coalition government.  Our core industries of steel, chemicals and engineering are not only vital to the UK as a whole but, with proper support, are capable of fast growth.

“The infrastructure of Teesside consists of crucial and unique features vital for many of the industries that could be developed –  a direct supply of North sea gas feedstock; major effluent-treatment facilities;  a well-developed logistic capacity, including a deep-water port whose operators have experience of handling many different products; the best water supply in the United Kingdom;  a good supply of new sites for the industry that are already hooked into services and capable of producing cost and time savings for incoming producers; and above all, a mature support network of suppliers, process engineers, and an adaptable, skilled workforce.

“With help, these vital factors can help Teesside become an industrial powerhouse for the future. A powerhouse that can create new local jobs in both big and small Teesside businesses and new locally based growth – a concept that is in stark contrast to the penny-pinching, Whitehall dominated approach that has been imposed on Teesside by today’s feeble coalition.”

‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ argues Tom Blenkinsop over Chancellor’s comments about future investment in the North

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland commenting on Tory Chancellor George Osborne’s speech regarding investment in the North has claimed that ‘nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the North of England’.

Tom said:
“You will be hard pressed to find many people in the North of England, and in particular in the North East, anybody who would give the Chancellor’s comments more than a short shrift. We’re always the area at the sharp end of disastrous Tory policies be that disproportionate cuts to funding for local councils, the way above-average long-term unemployment or serious underinvestment in local transport infrastructure.

“The North-South divide has certainly widened again under this Tory-led government. The Tories scrapped Labour’s successful regional development agencies, failed to implement Lord Heseltine’s growth report and are planning to cut infrastructure investment next year

“Ever since I entered Parliament I have been campaigning for the electrification of the railway lines across Teesside – something I believe would be a huge boost to the local economy that would allow better links to our neighbouring cities.

“And with these plans – and I use that term loosely – there is little detail about how they would be funded, there is no timescale and all he really wanted was, and I quote, “to start a conversation”. This simply isn’t good enough.

“Nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the North of England. If the Chancellor is serious about tackling the uneven economy that leaves the North at a disadvantage then I would certainly welcome the investment. However, I will believe it when I see it.”

‘Tory Budget that will do nothing to raise the living standards of Teesside families’

Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (19th March 2014) criticised the latest Budget delivered by Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, for its ‘complete failure to raise the living standards of hardworking families here in Teesside’.

Commenting Tom said:
“Today George Osborne delivered his penultimate Budget before the General Election in May next year. George Osborne and David Cameron can claim everything is going well but that’s totally out of touch when thousands of working people on Teesside on middle and lower incomes are not feeling any recovery at all.

“The North East features just once in the Budget whilst Teesside, and places within, don’t even get a look in. The Chancellor is completely out of touch when it comes to the lives of Teesside families.

“David Cameron and George Osborne stand up only for a privileged few – not hardworking families. We need a Budget that tackles the cost-of-living crisis which has left working people £1,600 a year worse off under the Tories. In my constituency alone, wages are being squeezed by £116.93 per week.

“George Osborne wants to take credit for increasing the personal allowance, but hopes people forget his 24 Tory tax rises including the increase in VAT. While millionaires have been given a huge tax cut the truth is millions of hard-working people have seen their taxes go up. It’s the same old Tory con – giving with one hand while taking away much more with the other.”

Closure of local Santander agency office in Guisborough is “another blow to rural bank users”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (25th February 2014) called on Bankers, Santander, to ‘think again’ over plans to axe its agency office in Guisborough.

Tom made this comment in the light of reports that Santander were planning to close all 139 agencies – small offices operating out of local estate agents and insurance brokers – in remote communities across the UK.

Tom said:
“I appreciate that the growth of e-banking has meant that visits to local banks for things like withdrawals and deposits or account checking  are becoming less and less a part of 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 these agencies for a myriad of day to day transactions.

“This is particularly the case in rural areas or in smaller market towns like Guisborough, where the only choice for Santander customers will be to travel miles to Redcar if they want to bank in a branch.

“In overall terms, this move will hit the estate agents who act as hubs for Santander. Loss of agency status will mean that they will have to survive on their estate agency business – and we all know this will be difficult in a still depressed house buying marker in areas like Teesside and East Cleveland.

“When they took over these agencies Santander described them as the “lifeblood of rural communities” so I would hope that they think again, and in so doing review the social needs of their customers as part of any plan for their Guisborough customers.”

‘Double whammy’ for Teesside as reports circulate of npower call centre closure

Commenting on reports that energy giant, npower, is closing its Teesside based call centre with the loss of over 500 jobs has been branded a ‘double whammy’ by Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop today (27th November 2013).

Tom said:
“With recent reports that npower is about to close the call centre on Trenchard Avenue – which employs 549 workers. This followed the company saying official that a “major review of sites, operations and people across the UK was underway.”

“It is quite simply outrageous that these jobs look set to be outsourced abroad whilst simultaneously UK customers will face a hike in their energy bills this coming weekend – on average adding £139 to the annual dual fuel bill. It is a double whammy for Teesside and local communities. For the affected workers and their families this is the worst Christmas present that they could ever have expected and it is a disgrace that this information is coming to light before staff have even been told.

“The ripples from such job losses will also hit other business across Teesside through the loss of 500 pay packets which would otherwise have been traded with local companies and shops.

“The area is already suffering crippling long-term unemployment – most stark is amongst women where, since May 2010, it has increased by 144% in my constituency and over 200% in Stockton South, where the call centre is based.

“To make this worse, the company is an incredibly profitable one. Last year it saw profits rise by £77m to £390m. Whilst much of this increase is down to successive price rises, part of it has to be down to the loyal efforts of the local staff – who have been rewarded with a kick in the teeth for their dedication.”

Tom has submitted Parliamentary Questions asking what steps the Government are taking to support call centres on Teesside and what discussions have taken place with npower.

Tom launches Small Business survey ahead of business rates debate

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (27th November 2013) launched a small business survey ahead of an Opposition Day Debate concerning business rates*.

Tom said:
“Small businesses are the driving force of our local economy and an integral part of our community but they are facing a cost of doing business crisis. Because of inflation, the average business rates bill in North East will increase by around £360 – in Redcar and Cleveland that will be £480 and in Middlesbrough by £330. This increase comes on top of an average increase of £1,500 in business rates since the General Election in 2010. It is the Government that sets these business rates that so many are struggling with.

“At a time when the Government should be backing small business, once again they appear to be on the wrong side. A Labour Government would cut business rates for small and medium-sized businesses in 2015 and freeze them in 2016, leading to an average saving of nearly £450. Small businesses are also facing rising energy costs and Labour’s Energy Price Freeze would save businesses on average £1,800.

“I support small businesses in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and value the contribution they make to the character of our area. I am looking forward to ‘Small Business Saturday’ on 7th December when we will be celebrating and supporting local, small businesses on one of the busiest shopping days of the year but for the rest of the year many of these businesses will be struggling. That’s why I’d like to find out directly what support small businesses in our area think they might need. This survey will give me a clearer idea of what needs to be done and I look forward to hearing the response.”

The survey can be filled in online at or a hard copy can be requested by calling 01287 610878


* Debate did not take place due to volume of preceding business:

A hearty welcome for Archbishops crusade to fight scourge of payday lenders

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (3rd July 2013) welcomed the announcement by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that he was leading the Church of England in a crusade against the high interest pay day lending industry, and would be putting the national resources of the Church into backing credit unions as an alternative to these  lenders.

Welby, who has previous financial experience and sat on the Parliamentary Commission that examined banking practice in the UK recently announced that the Church of England will be promoting credit unions as a credible alternative to the booming £2bn payday lending industry, and says it will help match often vulnerable, low-income borrowers with the most appropriate lenders. He is proposing that credit unions be allowed to use church halls and other properties so to provide better access for customers.

Tom said:
“This is good news and shows the conscience of the Church in backing real financial need in our community. What he has said is consistent with church values – after all, in the New Testament Jesus chased the money lenders out of the Temple of Jerusalem!

“I know that he has been heavily influenced by the plight of poor communities in the North East from his time as the Bishop of Durham. He is spot-on in arguing that locally run and managed credit unions can be a real alternative to high-street and internet payday lenders, who target often very vulnerable borrowers with expensive loans at staggering rates of interest.

“I will be following this up by writing to local churches in my constituency to ask them to follow the Archbishop’s call by opening up their doors and offering their churches as a base for local credit unions and by urging their congregations to spread the word that there is an alternative to being ripped off by the kind of firms that promote ‘instant loans’ without saying how much these loans can end up costing borrowers.”

Osbornes Spending Review shows government failure and snubs the North East

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (26th June 2013) branded George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review as an announcement which both highlighted the level of government failure over the past three years and ‘snubbed’ the North East and its demand for greater regional investment.

Tom said:
“To applause two years ago, George Osborne said: ‘We have already asked the British people for what is needed, and we do not need to ask for more’ yet today Osborne has again come back and asked for more sacrifice from the British people.

“Local people will be asking why, after three years of cuts to the police, cuts to defence budgets, and cuts to local services all we are offered is more of the same? The answer is simple – George Osborne’s comprehensive failure on living standards, growth and on the deficit too.

“This spending review only adds misery on to misery. From the time of his first spending projections in October 2010 things have only got worse. Unemployment in the North East stands at over 130,000 and many more working for reduced wages or who have been forced into under-employment and short time working. It is telling that this announcement comes on the same day as the final set of 500 workers made redundant at the Thornaby offices of First Direct leave the offices for the last time.

“The Chancellor’s statement also exposed the hollowness of the Government claim to be aiding regional regeneration. Weeks after the Chancellor said he would agree to the spending suggestions for regions like the North East by Lord Heseltine we see a full scale retreat. Lord Heseltine said £49 billion was needed for a regional growth fund. Today we were offered a rather pathetic looking £2bn. If you live in London or the South East, things are different. It seems that the North East can go begging, but Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson can boast a cash boost of £9 Billion for the Crossrail 2 scheme – a scheme that will benefit the North East not a jot.

“This is a spending review which has been born of failure. For my part, I and my Labour colleagues will continue to fight for what this area needs – investment and new jobs. Local people deserve nothing less.”