Archive for Growth

‘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.”

Queens Speech a “wet washout” as more gloom hits Teesside High Streets

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (9th May) branded the new Government programme announced in the Queens Speech as a “wet washout in a wet spring with no commitment whatsoever to try and bring about UK growth and boost jobs”.

Tom said:

“This Queens Speech comes on a day when more local High Street jobs across Teesside are under threat with the collapse of Clinton Cards, who have six shops in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Guisborough in my constituency. Yet all we see are “arrogant posh boy” Ministers obsessed with issues far removed from normal people’s daily lives. Many of my constituents will now be asking themselves ‘why is the government talking about Lords Reform when my job is on the line?’ It is a question that this government is failing to answer.

“In these tough times the government should be setting out an agenda for change which would improve living standards for families, ensure security for pensioners and get our young people back to work.

“Across Europe we see people voting against austere policies and calling for a new direction. The one exception seems to be Britain, where David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne seem wedded to the view that only long drawn out economic misery will somehow improve things. It is clear that this approach has failed and will continue to fail. More than ever, we need a Plan B.”

“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.”

Fall in GDP led by manufacturing “show that Cameron’s policies are still hitting Teesside hard”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said today’s news that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was still in free fall, particularly due to a slump in manufacturing, “shows how bad things are for industrial areas like Teesside.”

The Office for National Statistics said that GDP had fallen by 0.2% in the last quarter of 2011 and that this decline was most noted in construction and manufacturing.

Tom said “On a day when the jobs of over 60 workers at the North Tees Petroplus oil storage and distribution plant are in jeopardy following the firm’s bankruptcy, these figures are sobering for Teesside.”

“Teesside has been hit by a double whammy in manufacturing. Firstly, the squeeze on personal incomes imposed by the coalition has hit purchasing power and thus less demand for household goods – many of which have Teesside chemicals as their base – whilst the decimation of public sector investment has meant that goods like steel products for new schools and hospitals are simply not now being purchased.

David Cameron and George Osborne are failing to reduce the deficit and are failing to reduce the national debt. Their policies look set to plunge the UK into a double dip recession. The Government’s economic policies are hurting places like Teesside, but they are not working; Teesside will find it hard to prosper until the UK takes a new economic course.”

Loss of Barratts name from high streets is a “sign that Chancellor Osborne’s cuts are now biting deeper”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (December 8th 2011) reacted to the news that the Barratts shoe store chain is going into administration with the loss of 191 shops and up to 3,800 staff as a clear sign that the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s policies are “failing Britain’s people and Britain’s High Streets”

Tom said “Barratts is one of our High Street’s iconic names and has over a hundred years of tradition. Older people will remember the ‘Walk the Barratts Way’ adverts, and posters for their childhood shoes. Locally we may be facing the loss of a shop on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road, and the loss of the availability of Barratts products in other local department shops and in Dorothy Perkins.”

“This is a clear sign of how deep the recession is biting. People are simply buying less and less, and this is hitting both the retail sector and the manufacturing sector – and Barratts were a big buyer of shoes made in the UK. Does it have to take more empty High Street shops to get George Osborne to realise he needs to adopt a ‘plan B’ – and quickly before more store chains end up like Barratts.”

Tom Blenkinsop calls for rail electrification programme to include Teesside

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (December 5th 2011) has called for the government to see that Teesside is put on the railway electrification map.

Tom said “In the national infrastructure programme announced last week, Chancellor George Osborne said that the Leeds to Manchester railway line was to be electrified, bringing about a faster and more modern Trans-Pennine travelling environment. It has now been said that this programme will also extend to York.”

“But there is a missing link in this announcement – and that is the link between Middlesbrough and the main line North of York. If this link – used around the clock by Trans-Pennine express services – is not electrified it leaves it dangerously exposed, as it will still need older diesel powered trains, which may well be phased out by Trans-Pennine express when the section between Leeds and Manchester is connected to the grid.”

“This would be a disastrous outcome for Teesside, as the present service is well used with increasing ticket sales year by year. It gives a link from here to the big stores of Leeds and Manchester and directly into and from Manchester Airport.”

“I will be tabling an urgent question to Transport Minister Justine Greening asking her to look into the matter and for her to ask Network Rail and Trans Pennine express to build up a business case for putting Teesside firmly on the railway electrification map.”

Teesside Development Land ‘May be sold off to Benefit the South’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today hit out at what he said ‘was a distinct possibility’ that development land on Teesside might be sold off and the funds passed to boost housing or jobs growth in the wealthy south.

Tom was speaking after receiving a letter from Government Business Minister, Mark Prisk MP, and in which Mr Prisk outlined the policies the government would be putting in place to sell off land in the former ownership of Regional Development Agencies (RDA’s).

Tom said “the former RDA for the North East, ONE ne, had acquired large tracts of land in and around Durham Tees Valley Airport and around Middlehaven, Middlesbrough in order to facilitate business growth at and around the airport and on Middlehaven. The letter from Mr Prisk said explicitly that whilst the new Local Economic Partnerships (LEP’s) would be allowed to carry on these developments if they had the capacity to do so, they would not be allowed to acquire the receipts from the sale of these land holdings, cash which would instead, go straight back to the Business Ministry in London for re-use nationally”

“This raises the spectre that cash made out of selling land on Teesside would not come back to Teesside, but instead be used for other government programmes elsewhere, and possibly being used to facilitate new private housing or commercial development in London and the South East, areas already wealthy, and which could be made even more wealthier at Teesside’s expense. This, if it were to happen, would be criminal, and I demand that Mr Prisk rethinks this policy as a matter of extreme urgency.”

OECD Report and North East Economic Outlook Forecast ‘Bad News for the Economy and for Teesside

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today warned that two reports issued yesterday ‘spelt continuing misery for the North East and Teesside’ as the economic downturn intensified.

Tom said “The highly influential Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has now warned that the UK and the eurozone could be entering a renewed recession, and has cut its global growth forecast. In the UK, the OECD predicted the economy would shrink in the fourth quarter by just 0.02% and by 0.14% in the first quarter of next year. This puts the massive spin operation mounted by Chancellor George Osborne, in advance of today’s Autumn statement into a proper perspective – spin, not substance.”

“The second report – from the Newcastle based think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North – says that the North East faces a dismal decade of unemployment as the North-South divide continues to grow. They have done their regional number crunching and have come to the conclusion that it may well be 2020 before employment figures in the region return to 1990 levels and many more years before they reach the levels recorded in 2008, when the number of people in employment peaked across the UK. In contrast, they say, the outlook for London and the South East is a rosy one, with employment levels in the City and the leafy suburbs expected to recover in a mere three years.”

“It is clearer by the day that George Osborne’s Plan A is failing the nation, and especially those parts fo the nation like Teesside that rely on manufacturing industry and industrial employment. A plan that keeps the City of London happy, whilst the rest of the nation outside the M25 are left in misery, is the last thing we need in today’s world. It is clear that fairness and targeted growth and investment are words that are not in Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne’s vocabulary.”

Chancellor​’s National Infrastruc​ture Programme ‘Leaves out Teesside and the North East’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today warned that the much vaunted National Infrastructure Scheme launched by Chancellor George Osborne ‘was passing Teesside and the North East by’.

Tom said “with the exception of the announcement of some additional support for the Tyne and Wear Metro, there is little cheer for our region in this announcement. Indeed some parts of the announcement could actually further disadvantage us.”

“The announcement that the rail links between Leeds and Manchester will be electrified are little help to us. To get the full benefit, this programme should properly have been between Middlesbrough, York and Leeds allowing for train services from Teesside and Tyneside to get the full benefit. If this gap is allowed to remain, all it will do is mean that services from Teesside and the North East to Manchester and Manchester Airport will be further marginalised. The same is true of the roads programme. It seems the real cash here is for uprating – for example – the M25 and the M3 – meaning that the benefits will flow to the already wealthy south instead of to areas like ours which need better road links to the A19 and A1.”

“There are also local infrastructure schemes which could have been in the programme but aren’t.”
“There is an overwhelming case for backing the physical expansion of Teesport to make it both the main import and export ‘Container Hub’ for the North, and also to capitalise on the central position it has for the future development and servicing of offshore wind farms. But of this, not a mention. Also missing is any reference to the Tees Metro scheme for a rapid and efficient rail system which could allow for the development of a 21st century mass transit network for the whole of Teesside. Instead we see a proposal for expanding London’s tube.”

“Again, we see missed opportunities and a fixation with building for the economy of the South – and not for the North.”