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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.

Toms response to new school funding formula

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today ridiculed claims by local Conservatives that schools in East Cleveland “would gain” as a result of the introduction of a new schools funding formula by central Government.

Tom said:

“Their claims are spurious. Indeed the claim was put out before the critical meeting of a local Redcar and Cleveland Schools Forum which agreed the allocations under this new formula.

“The claims are also geographically illiterate. The local Tory spokesman thinks that one school named by them – Hillsview Academy on Normanby Road in South Bank – is in “East Cleveland”. A refresher lesson in map reading is needed here!

“In broad terms Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has had a cut of £636,266 in its education service grant for 2017 to 2018 whilst the new formula going down to individual school level shows that a minority of schools will see increases – but even these increases will be swallowed by new charges imposed by the Government.

“The reality is that in Redcar and Cleveland only 21 primary schools and 2 secondary schools will have an increase of budget – but that only up to 1.55%. 11 primary schools and 7 secondary schools will see decreased budgets see a reduction of up to 1% and 12 primaries and 1 secondary will see a reduction of up to 1.5% in their support. A total of 31 schools who will lose out on government funding.

“Of course, the increases are so low that they will be eroded in this year alone by things like increases in National Insurance costs to schools, any pay awards, payment of the apprentice levy for maintained schools and the rising costs of goods and services

“Nationally the Government’s so-called ‘fair funding’ proposals will actually transfer funding away from local schools to other parts of the country. On top of this, the Government’s policy of freezing overall funding per pupil and requiring schools to pay increased costs for employees’ pensions and National Insurance will impose further cuts in schools.

“Reallocating inadequate levels of overall funding will not address the funding crisis in local education. Cutting funding to local schools will make matters locally even worse. In areas like East Cleveland where pupil poverty exists and too many people are still unemployed or on zero hour contracts, we need real and substantial increases in funding to allow local children to get a fair start in life.

“There are no winners under this Government’s current school funding policies, only losers.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP takes final steps to sign up to the Army Reserve

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland is set to join the Army Reserve as part of the Royal Military Police Reserves.

Tom Blenkinsop MP is undergoing the final assessment stage before he signs up for phase one basic training, which he will take alongside his parliamentary duties.

Tom said:

“I’m looking forward to going to Glencorse barracks in Scotland to start my formal Army assessment for the Army Reserve.

“Passing these tests will allow me to start training with the 243 Provost Company, Northern Detachment, 1 Regiment Royal Military Police, I can’t wait to start.

“My family has a strong tradition of military service, my father was a Royal Navy veteran, my grandfather was a British Army veteran and my brother has just joined the Royal Navy Reserve. Military service is a family tradition that I am proud to continue.

“This has been great motivation to keep fit, Frankie and Nick from Redcar Amateur Boxing Club have been putting me through paces for months in anticipation for my Army fitness tests, I’m sure that this hard work will pay off.”

The Army Reserve is the largest of the Reserve Forces, and supports the Regular Army at home and overseas, Army Reserve Soldiers come from all walks of life and work part-time as soldiers for the British Army alongside full-time Regular soldiers.

Government’s choice to increase private influence in railway decision-making threatens local services, says Tom

Tom has warned that the government’s decision on National Rail today might mean less busy services in Teesside face ‘neglect’.

Today Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, announced he would be restructuring the national rail infrastructure operator, Network Rail, in order to give more powers over infrastructure to local private train operator companies.

Tom said:

This decision will make taking the long term action needed for our railways more difficult.

Moving infrastructure decisions further from people accountable to the public and increasing the influence of local train operators has all but guaranteed short term thinking and a lack of investment.

This plan will kill off long term capital investment. Most train operators have less than a ten year lifespan, so won’t want to commit to big schemes, like electrification, the benefits of which will only emerge years later. The government is asking operators to take investment decisions which might only benefit a competitor!

Locally, the decisions made today will likely mean less busy lines, like the Northallerton to Teesport link or the Saltburn to Middlesbrough service, will be neglected in favour of money making lines like those connecting Leeds and Manchester. Once again Teesside is being allowed to slip down the agenda and the government letting it happen.

Tom’s comments on the future downgrading of Guisborough hospital

Commenting on the future downgrading of Guisborough hospital to a primary care centre Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said:

“For the last five years the threat of closure has been hanging over the whole of the Guisborough Hospital complex, its good news that this announcement removes that threat.

“However, the centralisation of hospital services at James Cook and Redcar is a concern. Since 2010 Guisborough has lost its maternity ward, stroke ward and Minor Injuries Unit. I welcome the £4 million investment and the commitment to keep the site open in the long term but the hospital is a shadow of its former self.

“Just yesterday James Cook declared that its A&E was under pressure and directed some patients to their nearest Minor Injuries unit if they could, an option that is much harder for East Cleveland resident than it was two years ago.

“I will be contacting the CCG asking them to confirm which services that will come to the refurbished site and when they will be fully operational.”

Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement ‘not good news for anyone’

In the Autumn Statement today the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, performed an about turn on the government’s economic strategy, loosening fiscal rules to allow the government to borrow more.

In what has been seen as a drastic change from George Osborne’s economic priorities Philip Hammond today confirmed the government will be borrowing more than ever before, increasing the national debt to nearly £2 trillion (£1,945,000,000,000) by 2020.

The Chancellor also altered his fiscal targets and rules. Mr Hammond’s predecessor promised to clear the national debt by 2015 and pushed that back to 2020, Mr Hammond today changed the deadline to the notable vague ‘as soon as possible’ after the year 2020.

While the Autumn Statement was trailed as a budget for those ‘just about managing’ it appears that the increases in the national living wage and changes in tax will be outweighed by freezes in wages and benefits and increases in costs of living due to inflation.

Mr Hammond also confirmed corporation tax would be cut to 17% – the lowest in the Western world, despite the fact business investment in the UK will be ‘permanently lower’ than previously anticipated.

Tom, said:

Many of my constituents who voted Conservative at the last election told me they did so because they believed the Tories had a ‘long term economic plan’. Today’s statement has completed blown the Tories’ ‘long term economic plan’ out of the water. The Chancellor hasn’t even tried to meet Osborne’s targets – he’s just removed them.

As inflation increases after the post-Brexit crash in the pound the cost of living will become higher for my constituents. The government’s feeble measures to support working families will be outweighed by changes in the economy, falling business investment and reduced in-work-support.

The public finances face a new crisis and working people will feel the hurt. Today’s forecast and statement don’t seem to be good news for anyone.

Tom highlights local funding challenges during Road Safety Week

Tom has backed a campaign which highlights steps drivers can take to reduce accidents on Britain’s roads. Tom also praised Redcar and Cleveland Council for their work on road safety in the face of strains on the local transport budget.

Road Safety Week is promoted by Brake, the road safety charity, who outline 6 steps drivers can take to make Britain’s road safer for everyone. These include taking regular eye tests, as 2,900 people are injured due to poor driver vision, and avoiding using the phone, because drivers talking on the phones are 4 times more likely to crash.

These factors as well as speeding, tiredness and drink driving contribute to the 5 deaths and 61 serious injuries on Britain’s roads every day.

Tom said:

I am proud to do my bit to reduce the shocking numbers of people who die and are injured on our roads every day by raising awareness of Road Safety Week. It’s up to individual drivers to take the steps Brake have identified to help save lives on our roads.

Redcar and Cleveland Council have worked hard to improve safety for drivers in my constituency. They’ve fought to solve the problems central government has caused through Tory budget cuts – credit should go to them for doing so.

Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns for Brake, said:

Every MP has constituents directly affected by road crash road death and serious injury. Road Safety Week’s theme is action-orientated and many MPs are now supporting a motion to The House of Commons.

Everyone who drives has to step up and take responsibility. If every driver vowed to slow down, never drink alcohol or take drugs, never use their phones or other devices, always use seat belts and child restraints, drive when fit to do so, and minimise driving, then our roads would be safer places for everyone.

Tom today signed an Early Day Motion in support of the campaign.

Find out more about Road Safety Week: http://www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk/

Use secret Big Six profits to boost energy innovation

Tom has called on the government to use the hidden profits of energy firms to give a boost to innovation in the sector.

Yesterday it emerged that the ‘Big Six’ has been making profits, from households across the country, seven times higher than they previous claimed. An investigation by the Sun newspaper revealed that companies made as much as £272 profit from each family on standard variable tariffs each year.

Families can only avoid paying this premium by swapping policies regularly, meaning reliable customers are milked by the very companies they show loyalty to.

Tom said:

It’s outrageous that these huge energy companies have hid the extent of their profits made off the back of hard working families. It is right that customers can shop around to get the best deal but those that don’t shouldn’t be taken for a ride.

The government should recoup the profits that these companies have hidden and put it back into funding innovative projects in the energy sector – Carbon Capture and Storage, tidal energy projects and energy storage measures – that will save the environment and reduce cost of energy in the long run.

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said he would be summoning Energy UK representatives of the energy companies for a meeting on this matter.

 

Tom encourages residents to check, Switch and Save on their energy bills

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, is encouraging people to speak to Middlesbrough Environment City at the up coming Unclaimed Benefits Campaign event.

Tom said: “Household budgets are feeling the strain of ever increasing energy costs and some people will have to make difficult decisions this winter.

“I’m encouraging people to speak to Middlesbrough Environment City to see if they are on the best energy deal for their needs and that they have taken all the energy saving steps they can.

“I’m sure that the event will help people stay warmer this winter. If you are in receipt of the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit you could get £140 as part of the Warm Homes Discount.”

You can make book a session with a Middlesbrough Environment City advisor at the 22nd November event by calling 01642 579820.