Archive for Teesside

Tom welcomes funding for Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum

CIMM

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.’

Tom Blenkinsop meets with local head teacher to discuss school funding cuts

Tom Blenkinsop today met with Tony Gavin, head teacher of Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough, to discuss the funding challenges facing Teesside’s schools.

This follows news that, due to the new school funding formula, increasing school costs and changes in pupil numbers, schools in the North East are set to lose approximately £119 million in funding by 2020. A survey of head teachers also found that 72% of school leaders believe that their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

Tom said:

It was good to meet with Tony today, who highlighted not only the £650,000 blackhole Laurence Jackson School could be facing by 2019, but the wider issues facing Teesside schools.

I have previously met with local National Union of Teachers representatives on this issue. With the help of the NUT and National Association of Head Teachers I have tabled an Early Day Motion in parliament asking the Government to think again, and am proud this has received the support of 14 of my colleagues from the North East.

I have repeatedly applied to hold debates on this issue in Parliament but have been unsuccessful so far. I will keep trying and attempt new approaches to get the Government to answer for what they are doing to our schools.

In their manifesto the Tories promised to protect school spending. It’s clear that, again, they’re breaking their promises and letting down the children of Teesside.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto pledged to ‘continue to protect school funding’ and stated repeatedly that the ‘amount of money following your child into school will be protected’.

In December an independent National Audit Office report into the ‘financial sustainability of schools’ found that UK schools will have to find £3 billion in efficiency savings by 2020 if current spending levels continue.

Tom and Jason Isaacs ‘Make Every Daffodil Count’ for Marie Curie this March

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and Harry Potter actor Jason Isaacs have joined forces to ‘Make Every Daffodil Count’ this March and help Marie Curie provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness.

Marie Curie Campaign; Jason Issacs' Portcullis House, Westminster; 28th February 2017. © Pete Jones pete@pjproductions.co.uk

Tom and long-term Marie Curie supporter Jason were pictured together with Marie Curie Nurses, Sally Monger-Godfrey and Lib Wolley at a parliamentary event in Westminster to celebrate the launch of the Great Daffodil Appeal, Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign.

Tom pledged his support to the appeal and is encouraging Teessiders to help the charity raise more money than ever before by simply giving a donation and wearing a Marie Curie daffodil pin, available from volunteers across the country, or Superdrug, Spar and Poundworld stores, and Wyevale Garden Centres, during March.  Morrisons supermarkets will also be holding GDA fundraising collections on 10, 11 & 12 March.

Tom said:

Marie Curie do amazing work caring for those suffering from cancer. I’ve had personal experience of what a difference they can make to people towards the end of their lives and I’ll be forever grateful for the warm care they gave to my Dad in his last days.

I’ll continue to support Marie Curie so that as many people as possible can get the support and care they need. I know thousands of Teessiders will have lost someone they love to cancer. People should know that any donation to Marie Curie, no matter how small, can make a real difference.

Jason, who is best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films,said:

I’m delighted to help launch Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal.

Please help us make every daffodil count.  The charity is also calling on more people to help with local collections.  Volunteering a couple hours of your time will make such a difference to the care and support that Marie Curie can provide.

 Sally Monger Godfrey, Marie Curie Nurse and face of The Great Daffodil Appeal, said:

Make every daffodil count. Your daffodil means I can care for someone in their own home, and be there for them through the night. You make a difference to people at the end of their lives, which in many ways is just as important as at the start.

For more information about volunteering for a local collection call 0800 304 7025 or visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil.

Tory Mayoral Candidate’s SSI comments ‘unbelievable spin of a Government failure’

Tom has slammed comments made by the Conservative candidate for Tees Valley Metro Mayor praising the Government’s response to SSI site closure as a ‘blueprint example in how to rescue an area’.

Tom, said:

These comments are frankly unbelievable.

The Government failed to step in to save the SSI plant, which was one of the most efficient in Europe, and if it was saved would be making a solid profit today. The Government fought against trade defence measures at the European level to stop Chinese dumping saying that it unfairly protects inefficient plants – while allowing efficient plants in the UK to close!

Employment still hasn’t recovered in my constituency and Redcar.

The Government’s response was a blueprint for nothing but failure.The fact local Tories are trying to spin this loss of such a major plant as a success is absurd and frankly shameful.

It shows the Tories both locally and nationally aren’t willing to fight for industries in our area. When our industries, whether it’s the remaining steel plants, the chemical industry or the energy sector, next need someone to stand up for them I hope we have a Labour Mayor like Sue Jeffrey, not a Tory one who will protect the Government’s reputation ahead of local jobs.

The comments were made at a hustings hosted on Wednesday night. The vote for mayor will take place on 4 May.

Teesside MPs lead steel debate in parliament

Teesside MPs Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, yesterday led a debate on the future of the UK steel industry in parliament.

Tom Blenkinsop steel backbench debateAnna - Steel Debate

During the debate, which they secured, Tom and Anna raised a number of issues from the challenge of Chinese steel dumping to future of the former SSI site in Redcar.

The debate was well attended by members from a variety of different parties.

Tom, said:

I am glad members from across the house were given the opportunity to push the government again on this issue.

Just because steel has fallen down the news agenda doesn’t mean the industry has overcome the challenges it was facing only a few months ago. The government needs to act on Chinese steel dumping, access to European markets, energy costs and to support innovation in the sector.

Specifically, several MPs called for the creation of a Materials Catapult to boost research and development in the sector.

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive of the Materials Processing Institute, said:

The steel debate has highlighted the importance of continued innovation-support for the future of the UK steel industry, through the development of a Materials Catapult in the region, to keep UK manufactures on the front foot in responding to the international market.

The North East has a proud and prestigious history of steelmaking and has built extensive expertise in production and processes. The Materials Processing Institute continues to develop and share this expertise with international steelmakers, which would be bolstered by the creation of a Materials Catapult.

Anna’s speech focused on the inaction of the government during the SSI closure and the fact the site was now currently in limbo.

Anna, MP for Redcar, said:

I took the opportunity again today to raise the deadlock around the future of the former SSI site with the Minister. The site is stuck in faraway wrangles between the official receiver and faceless banks in South East Asia and there are no signs of progress. I have met with serious potential investors who are looking very closely at Teesside and are attracted by the key strengths we have but we need the site to be liberated. The businesses of Teesside are ready to rebuild, invest, regenerate and bring much needed jobs to our area but not being able to redevelop the steelworks site is a big stumbling block.

In response to the debate, Nick Hurd, the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, denied the government was not acting to solve the crisis which continues to embroil the steel industry and reiterated their commitment to securing the future of UK steel.

Tom calls for more action on assaults on Police Officers

Tom has called on the government to take steps to keep Police Officers safe from attacks.

161011 TB protect police

In a debate organised Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax, Tom said he was concerned that cuts in police numbers were risking officer safety, as more police patrols were conducted by lone officers. He also highlighted the case of one Cleveland Police Officer who had twice suffered a broken jaw in the last year as a result of being assaulted.

During a ‘Protect the Protectors’ event in Parliament Tom met with members of the Police Federation and serving Police Officers to discuss the latest assault figures and discuss how violence towards the police affected their ability to protect their communities.

The most recent Home Office figures on police officer assaults show that there were approximately 23,000 assaults on Police Officers with nearly 250 assaults in Cleveland alone.

However, even this is thought to be an underestimate as the Home Office believe that many assaults go unreported. Some police forces do not collect data recording the total number of assaults meaning that the national figures provide an incomplete picture of the situation.

Tom said:

Police Officers in my constituency and around the country work to keep people safe, but increasingly they are at risk themselves.

Cleveland Police work tirelessly to protect my constituents – the least we can do is ask that police are given proper support and those who attack police are properly punished.

I fear that government cuts are contributing to the problem. The Tories need to get their act together when it comes to recording and tackling this sort of crime.

’The story of this site isn’t over’ – Tom on SSI stats

New statistics show 93% of those forced to rely on unemployment benefits by the closure of the Redcar Steelworks have stopped claiming, one year later.

Statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions show 1990 of the 2150 of those made unemployed, either as a direct or indirect result of the SSI site closure, no longer rely on Job Seekers’ Allowance.

Tom welcomed the findings but warned there is still more to do:

These statistics show the impact of the closure of the SSI plant is still being felt by my constituents and others on Teesside. They show over 150 of those made redundant in the closure of the site are still unemployed. The fact that the vast majority have found jobs is testament to the hard work of the SSI Task Force.

But these statistics don’t show the whole picture. They don’t show if many highly skilled workers are now employed in jobs that fail to use their range of abilities, if they are poorly paid, or if those jobs are sustainable in the long term. The reality is these statistics on their own don’t demonstrate success, success can only be demonstrated in rebuilding lives of those who lost their jobs a year ago.

The steel industry on Teesside didn’t die with the closure of the SSI site. ‘British Steel’ now operates the long products site in Skinningrove and the Lackenby bean mill, and, hopefully, Hartlepool tube mill has a viable future. With the right government support these works can thrive and expand, perhaps then these former SSI workers can get back to doing what they do best – producing high quality British steel.

The story of this site isn’t finished yet, and we can’t let the government use these statistics to close the book on the men and women who have played a part in it.

These figures were released to accompany the SSI Taskforce’s One-Year-On report, which highlights the progress made by the Taskforce in the year since closure.

Boulby Potash accidents raised in parliament

Tom last week raised the death of miner John ‘Richie’ Anderson and other accidents at the Boulby Potash Mine in the House of Commons.

Tom asked that time be made available in parliament’s busy schedule to debate the safety issues and the treatment of those workers injured in the accidents. In particular, he highlighted that the low sick pay received by some of those injured had meant they had to return to work despite their conditions.

Tom said:

Recently we’ve seen a pattern of accidents at the Boulby Potash Mine, including the tragic death of my constituent John ‘Richie’ Anderson. I am concerned by safety at the mine especially given that following recent redundancies there are less people, working longer hours on the site. This may get worse if there are further job losses at the site.

I have been contacted by constituents who are troubled that those men injured in the underground fire incident have had to go back to work as statutory sick pay is simply not enough to cover their bills.

I worry that such a situation risks further accidents. An interim solution needs to be found that ensures fairness for those injured and safety for all working at the mine.

In the last year several accidents have occurred at the site including:

  • The electrocution of a contractor working on the site at surface level (August)
  • The death of miner John ‘Richie’ Anderson following a sudden gas release (June)
  • The hospitalisation of seven miners due an underground fire, in which a total of 11 workers were injured (April)

David Lidington MP, the Leader of the House, said he would raise the matter with relevant ministers.

See Tom’s question and the minister’s response.

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).

‘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.”