Archive for Teesside

“Teesside remains unrepresented in Government despite Ministerial reshuffle”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has expressed his “disappointment” that the Coalition Government is continuing to neglect the specific concerns of Teesside and the North East following David Cameron’s Ministerial reshuffle.

Under the previous Labour government, there was a system of regional Ministers and sub-regional Assistant Ministers, to ensure that the economic development of regions like the North East and sub-regions like Teesside would be heard.

Tom said:
“This re-shuffle has offered no additional representation for the North East, with no sitting MPs in the region being appointed to governmental office. What a contrast this is to the run up to the 2010 General Election, when David Cameron appointed a Shadow Minister for Teesside, so that the Tories at least had the appearance of caring about our area. Disappointingly, when they entered government, we began to see the Tories’ true priorities, with David Cameron failing to appoint a Minister with specific responsibility for fixing our sub-regional economy.

“To add insult to injury, I have learnt that as part of this reshuffle, the former Shadow Minister for Teesside, Greg Clark, has been appointed as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who has responsibility for helping banks and financial services in the City of London.

“The Tories have to learn that the City of London alone is not enough to secure our economic recovery, and most certainly not sufficient to guarantee much-needed growth on Teesside.”

“We Now More Than Ever Need a Full Investigation Into ‘Possibly Criminal Behaviour’ By Teesside Based Welfare to Work Company” – Tom Blenkinsop MP

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.”

“We Need a Full Investigation” into “Possibly Criminal Behaviour” by Teesside Based Welfare to Work Company

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (7th March 2012) called for a “full inquiry as to whether criminal behaviour had happened” after welfare-to-work company A4e was forced to withdraw from part of a £900,000 project to place vulnerable people into work after an employee forged signatures on official forms.

A4e was helping to place 630 youngsters with disabilities and mental health difficulties into jobs in Teesside in a project funded with European Union money.

Former colleagues said the employee invented signatures to increase the number of people who appeared to have been placed in jobs or on courses.

The inquiry into forged signatures dates back to 2009 when A4e was among subcontractors working to Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council in the Elite Project, funded with European Social Fund cash, to help hundreds of young people who might otherwise slip through the net.

They included teenage parents, those with learning difficulties and disabled people. But a council inquiry found that learners’ signatures had been forged.

Tom said “I gather A4E say that there was no criminal activity involved, and that the person responsible had resigned. I beg to differ. To me it looks as if fraud was committed based on an attempt to make it look as if the individual had got more vulnerable people involved than was the case – benefiting both the employer and, if bonuses were to be paid, the employee concerned.

There needs to be a full investigation into this case, and if A4e are not prepared to undertake this, then it should be done by both Redcar and Cleveland Council and European Commission auditors – and if needed to be referred to the Police Fraud Squad.

A4e seem to have form in this area. The company, which has £180m worth of public contracts, is at the centre of a fraud investigation in Slough, where four people have been arrested. A subcontractor of A4e is also subject to an official inquiry. An inquiry into its Hull office resulted in one former employee being fined for falsifying job outcomes.

This is public money here, and this must be looked into to restore confidence into all regeneration projects carried out locally.”

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.”