Archive for Finance

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.

‘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.”

Pension guarantee could be scrapped by the Coalition

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (17th June 2013) warned that local pensioners could be the victims of a ‘three card trick’ and lose a previous pensions guarantee if the Coalition Government are returned at the next general election.

He made this warning following press reports that the survival of the “Triple Lock”, which has kept state pensions rising, cannot be guaranteed after the next general election.

Tom said:
“This is not just idle press gossip, this came directly from a weekend press briefing by the Coalition’s own Pensions Minister, Liberal Democrat Steve Webb. In an interview with the Financial Times Steve Webb was reported as saying, and I quote: “in 2015 each party will say what it would do” about the triple lock “and we haven’t, as a party, decided anything about the next parliament”.

“This will be a green light to Webb’s Conservative masters to look at unpicking this commitment. The Conservative party have already said that it could not guarantee to keep the triple lock after 2015, saying it “could not comment on their manifesto now” and, tellingly, this guarantee is not in the Pensions Bill which we will be debating imminently.

“This is a clear warning to the 20.7% of my constituency who are over 60, many of  whom, due to the problems of the Teesside economy, have not got good safety nets from occupational pensions. The guarantees given by the government are worthless.

“In contrast, Labour’s position is crystal clear. Greg McClymont, our own Shadow Pension Minister penned an article at the same time this weekend as Steve Webb dropped his bombshell. He said: “Let’s be absolutely clear. Labour is committed to the triple lock which means the state pension rises by the increase in average earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent – whichever is higher.

“We will take no lessons from a Conservative Party which only a few weeks ago introduced changes – the Granny Tax – to age related allowances. These changes have adversely affected 3.6 million pensioners losing £68 per year and 360,000 pensioners losing £268 per year. The moral is clear – you can’t trust the Tories and nor, it seems, the Lib Dems.”

MP joins local credit union

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop yesterday (19th September 2012) met with representatives from Redcar and Cleveland Credit Union Development Agency (RCCUDA) to talk about credit unions and what they can offer people.

Tom said:
“Credit Unions are a fairer way for people to save and access credit in their community. Rather than paying huge interest rates from loansharks or lenders like Wonga, who charge an APR of 4214%, Credit Union loans are much more affordable option and I was really pleased to be able to join today. I would urge constituents to look into joining, as I am sure they will be pleased with what they can offer.

“Redcar and Cleveland Money Tree Credit Union has an important role to play in our community – particularly in these difficult economic times. Families who are scraping by, living from pay cheque to pay cheque can easily find themselves in difficulty through a one off emergency; a job loss or other circumstances chance and finances are stretched beyond breaking point. The Credit Union is there to help them save and to access affordable credit when needed.”

June Norman, Redcar & Cleveland Credit Union Development Agency Support Worker, said:
“As well as savings, which can be just a couple of pounds a month, we offer prepaid debit cards and loans too. Our main aims are to encourage members to save on a regular basis and to provide members with help and support on managing their financial affairs.”

If you wish to become a member of R&C Money Tree Credit Union you can go to your local Collection Point and someone will help you to fill in an application form, and will explain some of the benefits of joining R&C Money Tree. You need to take 2 forms of ID, one with your photo on it and one stating your current address, for example a utility bill.

Collection points in East Cleveland:

  • Loftus Youth and Community Centre – Tuesday 10am until 11am
  • Skinningrove Village Hall – Thursday 11am until 11:45am
  • Jubilee Hall, Carlin How – Tuesday 2pm until 3pm
  • Skelton Library – Monday 2pm until 3pm
  • Saltburn Library – Monday 10am until 11am

You can find more information on Redcar & Cleveland Money Tree Credit Union at http://www.rcmoneytreecu.co.uk or by phoning RCCUDA at 01642 488227

“Housing Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh Only Benefits Banks – Not Areas Like Teesside – Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (8th March 2012) hit out at the announcement that the coalition government’s much vaunted ‘green bank’ will be sited in Edinburgh.

Tom said “For a whole number of reasons this is a loony decision. The government say it is because London and Edinburgh are the financial centres of the country and that this makes it a good fit. It will be a good fit – but for the bankers, not manufacturers. It will mean that decisions will be controlled by financial interests and for financial interests. The logical place would have been in a manufacturing area like Teesside where green industry – in sectors like renewable energy, new leaner chemical processes and clean coal power generation – are already here on the ground. But instead the bank will be just one more bank in the city that gave us Fred Goodwin and RBS.

There is another consideration too. Scotland will be holding their referendum on independence in 2014. This will cast a shadow over the green bank from day 1 and will hinder its growth. This was a wrong decision taken for the wrong reasons and the coalition should think again.”

Double Dip Recession for the UK Likely Unless Coalition Adopt a New Plan B

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop is warning today (November 7th 2011) that a double dip recession is likely in the UK unless action is taken to adopt a different economic cause.

Tom said “This isn’t me saying this, but one of the worlds leading economic forecasters. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) warns that without prompt action on the Eurozone crisis, there’s a 70% chance the UK will stumble back into recession.”

“NIESR has also slashed its UK 2012 growth forecast from 2% to just to 0.8%. The implications of these tiny increments are severe: the UK is facing its slowest economic recovery since the First World War.”

“This forecast is backed up today by leading accountants, BDO, whose latest Business Trends report published today which indicates that the UK economy faces a serious risk of contraction as early as the end of this year and into the coming months, primarily due to a faltering services sector.”

“BDO’s Output Index – which measures turnover expectations over the next three months – fell to 92.6 in October from 93.3 in September, its lowest level since June 2009. It is also the third consecutive month that the index has been below the critical 95.0 mark indicating on-trend growth, showing that the UK economy could already be contracting.”

“The faltering economic recovery, their report states, can be largely attributed to a slowdown in the crucial services sector, which makes up three quarters of the UK’s economic output.”

“A further cause for identified concern is the worsening situation in the labour market, where BDO’s Employment Index fell to 93.4 in October from 95.9 in September and showing that job hiring intentions in the UK are likely to remain weak.”

“What worries me about this is how our government’s inaction will hit industry and jobs on Teesside. On what we see at the moment, our coalition government could not fight its way out of a brown paper bag, let alone a recession. All they seem to be able to do is to make cut after cut to public services, not seeming to notice that public service is a big supplier of goods made on Teesside. Put simply, it would be Teesside steel that could build new hospitals, schools, roads and railways – but little chance of that given Mr Osborne’s attitude.”

“The need for such investment has been called for by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, and has been echoed by business leaders. With the government able to borrow long term at less than 2.5% and construction costs having reduced in recent years, there has probably never been a better time to improve the UK’s ageing transport network alone – something that would benefit the steels mills at Lackenby for one.”

“It’s time to think again and look to a Plan B.”

Double whammy for local NatWest customers as branch closure is followed by curbs on cash point access

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today hit out at a major bank for imposing curbs on cash point access for some of their customers.

Tom said “Bosses at the Royal Bank of Scotland – the owners of the Natwest Bank – have now announced new restrictions on the use of their cash point machines for some of their customers.  They have now said that any customers who only hold a basic current account with them cannot in future use cash point machines run by other banks, saying the fees it was paying to other banks for the service were too high.”

“I find this despicable, and coming only a few weeks after they announced yet another branch closure – this time at Saltburn – it just adds insult to injury.  People who have just a basic current account are often poorer people, or people who have an account simply so, for instance, an old age pension can be paid in to it.”

“What this will mean is that, for example, a Natwest basic account holder in East Cleveland, may – in future – have to travel all the way to either Marske or Guisborough to access a Natwest cash point ATM, as the branches that used to exist in Loftus, Skelton and now Saltburn are closed or are closing.”

“The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee have also denounced this move by RBS, a move that has copied a similar tactic used in the recent past by Lloyds Bank, on the basis that this discourages financial inclusion and unfairly targets poor customers.  They are right to ask RBS to think again, and on behalf of local Natwest customers, I would hope that RBS’s already
well paid high bonus bosses, of a company which is, after all, 83% owned by the public, will heed that call.  They have said that they will look again at customers in rural areas, and this certainly reflects the position in East Cleveland.”