Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today said he now feels it is time to be “open” about the Operation Sacristy investigation.
Tom said “Operation Sacristy now extends to some 4,963 documents, 2,325 exhibits, 764 statements and 37 interviews, involving 715 named individuals.
Although I am firmly of the view that it is important not to rush an investigation if doing so would weaken the likelihood of justice being done, there are clearly public interest issues.
According to the Police Authority, though, “the matters under investigation are complex and extensive, some relate to matters that occurred several years ago, some more recent” and we need to know what these are. They also say “some of those under investigation are very senior public figures and leaders, occupying influential positions with significant responsibilities and powers.”
I fear that if this investigation continues without the public being informed of its scope and specific allegations, the people of Cleveland might find themselves struggling to trust local leaders. As such, I am urging the Sacristy team to be much more open about this important investigation.”
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (23rd March 2012) said “a full inquiry as to whether criminal behaviour by training and employment placement group A4e was needed more than ever” after he had voiced earlier concerns after A4e was forced to withdraw from part of a £900,000 project with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council after an A4e employee forged signatures on official forms.
He said this after a BBC investigation revealed what he called ‘a systemic pattern of duplicity at A4e across the country’. BBC Newsnight had obtained the results of a confidential 2009 internal audit of work by A4e’s top recruiters. The auditors found staff claiming for putting people into jobs which did not exist, jobs which did not qualify for payment and fabricating paperwork.
Tom said “This programme highlighted what to me seemed to be clear evidence of a systemic culture of fraud within A4e and a lack of adequate controls by the Department for Work and Pensions and other public bodies partnering A4E Both are completely unacceptable.
At the time A4E said that there was no criminal activity involved, and that the person responsible had resigned. This was also the position taken by Redcar and Cleveland Council. Now, it looks as if this kind of behaviour was par for the course at A4e, and given this, local inquiries have got to be re-opened. At the very least, Council officers should refer this matter to the Council’s own elected member Audit Committee so the matters can be looked at in an open and transparent fashion.”
Tom Blenkinsop, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour Member of Parliament, has today written to local Church of England churches and church leaders, as well as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Middlesbrough, asking about their experiences on metal theft, and how they think it should be tackled.
Tom said: “Last week, I asked the Second Church Estate Commissioner a Parliamentary question regarding the impact of metal theft on the Anglican Church in my constituency. The answer shocked me: in 2011, £115,000 worth of metal was stolen from Church of England property in the Diocese of York, an increase of 62% from the previous year.
“I have written to local Church of England vicars, as well as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Middlesbrough, to ask about whether they have experienced metal theft, and the steps that they think the Government should take to tackle it. Although I have already urged the Government to act, I hope that this information will put me in a stronger position to lobby for the necessary action to be taken.”
Any other churches in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland who have been victims of metal theft are encouraged to get in contact with Tom’s office at 6-8 Wilson Street, Guisborough, TS14 6NA.
Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today “slammed” cuts to Cleveland Police made by the Government through their Police Funding Settlement.
Tom said: “There are already 8,000 fewer police officers maintaining law and order in England and Wales than there was under the Labour government, and it looks set to get worse.
“In Cleveland Police alone, police numbers have reduced by 155 between March 2010 and September 2011. The amount of recorded crime in Cleveland has also been increasing.
“The link between reducing police numbers and rising crime should be obvious, but this out-of-touch government would rather spend millions on unwanted and unnecessary bureaucratic changes to the Police and NHS than protect frontline services. Instead of maintaining the crucial frontline capacity of police officers actually making our streets safer, this Government is wasting many millions of pounds on electing police commissioners.
“I will be urging the Government to reconsider this unfair police funding settlement, for the sake of my constituents, whose safety is being threatened by it.”
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today urged the Government in the House of Commons to take urgent action to tackle metal theft which is damaging to the economy and can be extremely dangerous.
He spoke today in the Chamber of the House of Commons in support of Labour’s four point plan to tackle this damaging criminal activity.
Tom said: “Metal theft is becoming an epidemic and the Government must stop shirking its responsibility to take action and deal with it. Labour MP Graham Jones has introduced a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament which could really make a difference but instead of doing the right thing the Government played party politics and blocked it. They also blocked Labour amendments in the House of Lords last night.”
“The Church of England alone lost £4.5 million last year due to metal theft and, as reported in the today’s Evening Gazette, St Agnes Church in Easterside could be facing repair costs of more than £100,000 due to metal theft. St Leonard’s Church in Loftus was also seriously damaged due to metal theft last year. In addition, cable theft from railways in Britain went up from 1,593 in 2009/10 to 2,712 in 2010/11 and on North Eastern railways from 593 in 2009/10 to 1087 in 2010/11.”
“I will take the opportunity today in the House of Commons to urge the Government to put aside party political issues, for the good of my constituents and the wider economy, and take urgent action to put a stop to this organised crime and dangerous trade. I have also asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner a Parliamentary Question to ascertain what the cost of this crime has been locally in our area.”