Archive for Teesside

Local Labour MPs call on government to step up support for CCS project on Teesside

Labour MPs for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, and Redcar’s Anna Turley have today (18th November) called on the Government to step up its support for the Carbon Capture and Storage project on Teesside.

Ahead of the Spending Review and the Autumn Statement on 25th November, Tom and Anna have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor George Osborne asking him to ‘reassess the level of support and funding available to Teesside Collective’s CCS project in light of the closure of the steelworks in Redcar and the 700 announced job losses at Boulby Potash’.

Tom said:
“Over the past couple of months the local economy of Teesside and East Cleveland have suffered  tremendous blows, firstly the steelworks and latterly with the potash mine at Boulby. Now is not the time to be protecting the failing Northern Powerhouse minister by sending up Lord Heseltine to deflect some of the criticism.

“The industrial CCS project put forward by Teesside Collective offers a huge opportunity to not only protect remaining key industries, but to grow and become a global leader in this technology – and that will bring jobs.

“So far, the government has invested £1m into this project; that is a pittance when compared to other governments. For example, in Canada, government’s there have invested over $600m in a CCS project by Royal Dutch Shell. There is a real risk that the UK will be left behind on this technology and the government urgently needs to step up the funding being provided to the project on Teesside and that will attract private investment that will lead to more jobs for local people.”

Anna added:
“The carbon capture and storage project offers huge potential for Teesside’s economy and is exactly the kind of investment we need to drive our recovery from the loss of the steelworks and job cuts in other local industries. It will not only help create new jobs but ensure our existing core industries remain viable and make Teesside a world leader in clean energy. This is an ideal project for new Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative and it is imperative the government recognise the crucial importance of this project.”

“Teesside robbed again” as NHS cash promised by George Osborne goes south

“The people of Teesside have been robbed again.” This was the reaction of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (13th January 2015) when details of new government NHS Primary Care funding for local GP and Health Centre were announced.

Tom was commenting after the details of extra funding for NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) promised was announced and a league table of increases across England was published.

Tom said:
“George Osborne promised that the government would increase its planned funding for the NHS in 2015-16 by around £2bn in last year’s Autumn Statement, with some £1.5bn of it is due to be allocated to CCGs and specialised commissioning budgets at neighbourhood level.

“Now we have seen how this cash will be spent and more importantly the winners and losers. Once again Teesside, and the North in general, has lost out to the South East. This is yet another clear sign that this Government is consciously and deliberately redistributing funds from our area to Tory political priorities in the south of the country.

“When we look at the tables it is clear that some 54 CCGs in the Home Counties are getting a percentage boost of around 3.5%, whilst the South Tees CCG covering my constituency gets a meagre 0.24%. Amongst the biggest gaining areas are places like Eastbourne and Bromley who get over 3.8% whilst Windsor and the Prime Minister’s own area of Oxfordshire get a 3.6% increase.

“Areas like South Tees have greater health needs than wealthy suburbs. These allocations will do nothing to boost the cash for local GP clinics seeking to recruit the urgent need for new GP’s where we have a pattern of long standing vacancies. All In all, this is a gift for the wealthy and a kick in the teeth for Teesside.”

‘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.”

Teesside Labour representatives call for ‘urgent action’ to tackle women’s jobs crisis

Two Teesside Labour representatives have called for urgent action to be taken following figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that showed huge increases in long-term unemployment amongst women in the area.

The call for action came from Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop and Redcar’s Labour Parliamentary candidate Anna Turley.

Shocking ONS show that since the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition formed in May 2010, in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland long-term unemployment amongst women has increased by 76%, whilst Redcar the figure is frighteningly almost double that at 136%.

Tom said:
“These figures should be a huge concern for everyone. They are clear sign that more proactive approach needs to be taken to ensure that women on Teesside are afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts where unemployment figures are nowhere near as stark.

“Cuts to the public sector and in particular local government and the NHS have had a huge impact on female unemployment because women make up two-thirds of the jobs in the public sector.”

Anna said:
“It’s a very serious issue and I have previously been in touch with the Local Enterprise Partnership to see what action they have taken to tackle the issue. However, that process is far too long and there is a serious risk that all of the talent and skills these women possess will just go to waste.

“It is particularly disappointing that, compared to the national average, women here in Redcar are finding it so much harder to find work. Any talk of growth from this Tory-Lib Dem Government is not the reality for people here in Redcar, particularly if you are a woman.

“A 136% increase in long-term unemployment is a shocking figure by anyone’s standards and it is clear that, under this Coalition Government, women in Redcar are bearing the brunt of their economic policies. Only Labour is serious about tackling the scandal of long-term unemployment and providing secure work and wages for local people.”

‘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.”

Tom reacts to coroner retirement announcement

Commenting on the announcement today (19th March 2014) of the retirement of Teesside coroner, Michael Sheffield, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:
“This is good news for families across Teesside, as I have been asking for Mr Sheffield to consider his position ever since becoming an MP.

“It is now time to start afresh with a new coroner. Lessons must be learnt and I would hope that the appointment of a new coroner – which is an exercise conducted jointly by the local authorities, the Chief Coroner and the Ministry of Justice – is fast tracked to ensure that there is no gap in provision in this most sensitive of public roles and that the new office holder is able to provide good service to the public on Teesside.”

Tom urges Barclays Bank to ‘think again’ about any possible branch closures in Middlesbrough and East Cleveland

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (29th January 2014) called on Barclays Bank to ‘think again’ if two local branches of the bank in were on their possible hit list for closure.

Tom made this comment in the light of reports that Barclays are looking to possibly axe up to a quarter of their entire branch network in the UK and a new emphasis on sharing what premises they keep with supermarket giant ASDA.

Tom said:
“I appreciate that the growth of e-banking has meant that visits to branches plays a declining role in 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 their branch for a myriad of day to day transactions. This is particularly the case in rural areas or in towns where Barclays provide the only bank outlet.

“In my constituency, this is true of both Saltburn and Loftus. Closure would either mean customers having to travel to Redcar or, if they are thinking of setting up a base at the Skelton ASDA outlet, having to get to an out of town supermarket that currently has no bus service.

“I would hope that Barclays, in their preparation for this exercise, place an emphasis on factoring in social needs as part of any plan for their Teesside and East Cleveland presence.”

‘Teesside Tories and Lib Dems saying one thing and doing another’ – planning stances raised in Westminster debate

Today (8th January 2014), in a Westminster Hall debate on ‘Planning reform and local plans’, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop highlighted the seemingly hypocritical stances adopted by Teesside Coalition MPs James Wharton and Ian Swales.

Tom said:
“Many residents in Stockton South and Redcar have been left confused by the position their Members of Parliament have taken over development proposals and draft Local Plans.

“For example, Stockton Council has been under continual attack by the Tory MP for Stockton South (James Wharton) for its planning decisions, with him branding the Council’s Leader as “Bob the Builder”. This is despite the fact that the Hon. Member has not once since May 2010 objected to a planning application, and despite the fact that it is his Government that is coercing the Council into making these decisions.

“It is not just Stockton Council that finds itself under attack. Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council has been subjected to much criticism over its draft Local Plan from local Liberal Democrats. I have submitted a response to the consultation for this document, as has my colleague Anna Turley, Labour’s candidate for Redcar, who has urged for the inclusion of a commitment to a traditional pier and stressed her opposition to proposed developments in Marske.

“Despite criticism of the Council’s draft Local Plan in the press and in their dubious Focus leaflets, neither the Lib Dem MP for Redcar or the Redcar and Cleveland Liberal Democrats have responded to the consultation.

Tom added:
“Residents in both Redcar and Stockton South will not be duped when it comes to Teesside Tories and Lib Dems saying one thing but do another.”