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I will not be seeking re-election as the Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

Tom Blenkinsop, Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has announced he will not be seeking re-election at the upcoming General Election.

Tom Blenkinsop has served as the Member of Parliament for the constituency, in which he was raised, went to school and worked prior to becoming an MP, since 2010.

Tom said:

I will not seeking re-election as the member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

I have made no secret about my significant and irreconcilable differences with the current Labour leadership. It is because of these differences I feel I cannot in good faith stand as the Labour candidate for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Representing the people of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has been the proudest years of my life.

I will do all I can in my time remaining as an MP to champion my constituents and the area that means so much to me, as I have been proud to do over the last 7 years.

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.

‘Under funded’ South Tees A&E services miss waiting time targets

In January over 603 people in the South Tees area waited longer than four hours to be admitted to A&E.

January 2017 was the worst month for A&E departments on record, Health Department statistics released today reveal.

In 2010 the Government set a target that all hospitals should either ‘admit, transfer or discharge’ 95% of A&E patients, but today’s statistics showed that only 85.1% of patients in England were seen in under four hours.

Major A&E departments were the worst affected. Only 5 of the more than 120 NHS Trusts with such departments met the Government’s waiting times target for major A&E services.

Major A&E services at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton saw 88.2% of patients within the four-hour time limit – better than the national average but still well below the Government’s 95% target.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said:

These statistics are deeply worrying. Despite a fall in A&E admissions since December more patients than ever waited over 12 hours for a bed once admitted.

NHS staff in Teesside A&E units are working hard to meet the four-hour target and treat patients as quickly as possible. We all owe so much to every single nurse, doctor and paramedic treating patients in our hospitals. But they are being starved of funds. The billions of cuts to social care have piled pressure on already strained A&E services and patients are suffering because of this Government’s spending choices.

The Chancellor finally acknowledged the crisis facing our A&E services by committing new funds to social care and A&E services yesterday. However, further cuts to council funding will damage social care and the fact that South Tees A&E services are performing better than the national average mean we’re unlikely to see much of the additional A&E funding promised.

Labour MPs warn of ‘£119m hole’ in North East education funding

North East MPs have called on the Government to give the region the funds it needs to meet increasing education costs.

EDM

The MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) which calls on the Government to take action on the estimated £119m real terms cuts that North East schools face by 2020. This funding gap is due variety of factors including changes in the new funding formula, cuts outlined by in the 2015 budget and the effect of inflation on school costs.

An independent report by the National Audit Office found schools across England need to make total savings of £3bn by 2020 to cope with increasing costs. The National Union of Teachers estimate the savings needed in the North East is equivalent to losing 3,203 teachers.

It is not just Labour Members of Parliament worried about this situation, a survey found that 72% of head teachers think their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

Tom, who tabled the EDM, said:

These findings are extremely worrying for the North East and casts doubt on the financial sustainability of schools in our area.

The National Audits Office’s findings show that the Government’s current plans for funding our schools aren’t good enough. We’re currently in the mists of a financial crisis in the NHS and this suggests we could be facing something similar in our schools by 2020. It looks the Tories haven’t got their sums right again – they can’t be trusted to run our services.

Either our schools will have to make deep cuts that will affect the education of young people in our area or the Government will have to stump up more cash. We are asking they do the latter.

UK Government ‘duped’ by China’s promise on steel

Tom, Chair of All Party Group on Steel, has said that the Government has been ‘duped’ by China’s promise to reduce their steel production.

Overproduction of cheap Chinese steel has been blamed for the crisis facing European steel producers such as Tata and the former SSI site in Redcar. The Chinese Government had publically committed to reducing its steelmaking capacity after mounting global pressure, but a new report reveals that in fact new steelworks have opened in China during this period leading to increases in steelmaking capacity.

The UK Government has previously argued for lower tariffs on imported Chinese steel, despite the crisis in the UK industry. It is also Government policy to support granting China Market Economy Status – a move which would reduce the ability of countries to add tariffs to imported Chinese goods.

Tom said:

This report shows the Government has been duped and our steel industry has paid the price.

Our Government has taken the Chinese Government at their word and are hoping that problems caused by Chinese steel dumping will go away – this report making it clear that they won’t. The Government’s stance on Chinese steel dumping at the European level is absurd. They seem to working harder to give subsidised Chinese producers access to our market than supporting steel jobs at home.

This news should mean our Government should harden its stance on Chinese steel dumping, but I won’t be holding my breath.

The report, by Greenpeace East Asia and steel consultancy Custeel, also highlights the damage steel over production is doing to air quality in China. This follows the news that the UK Government has classified the steel industry a ‘low priority’ in its Brexit negotiations.

Tom’s Comments on Steel Industry ‘low’ priority classification

Commenting on news that the government has classified the steel industry as a ‘low’ priority industry in the upcoming Brexit negotiations Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“The steel industry can thrive in the United Kingdom given the right market environment but this document suggests that the government are not willing to work to provide this.

“The dumping of cheap Chinese steel is a huge worldwide problem for the steel industry and we need to work with other steel producing nations to remain competitive in a saturated market. The last thing that British steel industry needs is an import tariff on their goods.

“I will be seeking assurances that the British steel industry will not be an afterthought in the upcoming negotiations from the government’s Brexit Secretary when Parliament returns from recess.”

Tom’s comments on G4S dropping asylum seeker housing in Loftus

Commenting on News that government contractor G4S are no longer looking to home asylum seekers in Loftus Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

“The fact that G4S have listened to the views of the Borough council and myself that East Cleveland lacks some of the facilities which are needed to properly care for asylum seekers, is helpful. East Cleveland has no easy access to community groups, adult English classes, dedicated GP practices, international food shops and has poor transport links.

“I thank the vast majority of the residents of Loftus who listened and accepted these rational reasons which were put forward by the council. It was not questionable letters, hearsay or grandstanding which got this situation resolved, it was facts and a sensible dialogue between the involved parties.

“However the actions of one elected representative who has used ‘dog whistle’ politics to play on people’s emotions and stir up hatred have been abhorrent.

“Going forward there needs to be a new understanding on matters like this, residents should be involved early on in the process so any difficulties can be highlighted and dealt with before any firm decisions are made.

“I will still be meeting with John Whitwam, the G4S Director of Immigration, on Tuesday of next week to reinforce these points and discuss what G4S’s future plans are.”

Tom will vote to trigger Article 50

Tom has confirmed he will vote to start the process of negotiating an exit from the European Union in Parliament this week.

EU leave bill

The vote will give the Prime Minister the power, under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave and begin the formal two-year process of negotiating a withdrawal.

Tom said:

I voted to give the British people their say on leaving the EU and now I must vote to support their democratic decision. I voted for a referendum and then campaigned for Remain. Remain lost, so the UK must leave the EU.

Unlike Scottish nationalists who refuse to recognise the result of any referendum, and unlike the Lib Dems, who assume power in Government despite coming third, I must, as a believer in democracy, act upon and respect the result of the referendum on the 23rd June 2016.

There are serious challenges that face us, from securing the best trade arrangements for our industry, to protecting workers’ rights and keeping the country together. My focus must now be on meeting these challenges to get the best possible Brexit deal for Teesside and the UK.

Tom and local councillor blast Arriva Buses for ‘taking Brotton off the map’

Tom and Councillor Michael Dick, Labour Councillor for Brotton on Redcar and Cleveland Council, today blasted Arriva Bus bosses for making route alterations which they say would help to ‘take Brotton off the bus map’.

Arriva announced last week that they were planning in the next month to cut short the half hourly 5a Bus from Middlesbrough to Brotton so that it terminated at Skelton instead of Brotton.

Tom said,

This is a decision which isolates many people in Brotton.  The key issue is that this is the only bus from Brotton that serves one of East Cleveland largest food stores – the ASDA supermarket at Skelton. It would also mean that a direct link from the Kilton Lane area of Brotton to Guisborough and Middlesbrough would be lost.   In addition, access to ASDA would be lost for all residents in Skelton.

Michael Dick said,

This decision will also mean a steep dip in the number of buses serving urban the urban Teesside and Guisborough from Brotton.  This will mean passengers being decanted on to the existing 5 buses, which only run half hourly, or on to the X4 service which is already crowded at peak hours.

Both Tom and Michael said that they would be writing to Arriva NE senior managers, asking that this decision be reviewed with an aim to maintaining the present 5a service and boosting it by adding a turn round at Brotton Hospital – which they argue would provide a new passenger boost.

‘Stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting – close the loophole’

Last week Tom presented a bill to parliament aimed at preventing employers from undercutting British construction workers by exploiting migrant labour and employing people using ‘bogus’ self-employment contracts.
170130 TB in chamber

The bill aims to ensure that trade union negotiated pay levels and conditions are included in contracts for building power stations. This is already the case for power stations which generate more than 50 megawatts of power but is not guaranteed for power stations that generate less than 50MW, which come under different regulations.

This loophole has led to some employers ‘importing’ foreign workforces on a temporary basis to build these smaller power stations for almost half of the agreed national pay level. Tom Blenkinsop along with trade unions, such as GMB, argue that these standards should apply for construction work on all power stations – no matter the size.

Tom said:

Unscrupulous employers have been using this loophole, affecting power stations that generate less than 50MW, to undermine agreed national standards on pay and working conditions. These standards have been hard fought for by working people through trade unions and cannot be ignored.

Employers using tactics from classing workers as self-employed when they’re not, to bringing in migrant workers to work on these sites for less money, are forcing down the wages of the construction workers and engineers who work on these plants. GMB and Unite have campaigned hard to minimise these practices but to put a stop to it altogether parliament must act.

I introduced this bill to raise the issue but the reality is without Government support it is not likely to pass – my message to the Government is simple: help working people, stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting and close the loophole.