Archive for Uncategorized

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.

“On Your Bike!” local MP Tom Blenkinsop Raises Money for The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal

MP Tom Blenkinsop, the Director General of The Royal British Legion and over 80 other Members of Parliament raced against the clock on an exercise bike to raise money for The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal.
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The 12 hour bike ride was held in Parliament and aimed to raise money for the Legion’s national Poppy Appeal. Tom Blenkinsopp represented his local constituency by cycling as far as he could in 5 minutes, with the hope of topping the leaderboard. Tom managed to cycle 2.12 miles in five minutes.

The bike ride was organised by the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) in association with The Royal British Legion and follows on from the successful bike ride held in 2015 (where 77 MPs and Peers cycled a total of 128.8 miles in 12 hours).

Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“I would like to thank the Industry and Parliament Trust and The Royal British Legion for arranging this event. The Royal British Legion provides invaluable support to the Armed Forces community; I am pleased to have been able to support such a worthy cause.

Nick Maher, CEO of the IPT said:
“The work of The Royal British Legion is essential to the lives of so many families across the UK and I am delighted that Tom was able to support us in our efforts to raise money for such a worthwhile cause. The support and enthusiasm from parliamentarians this year has been fantastic”

Health letter exposes government’s secret NHS cuts, says Tom

A letter from the Health Committee has accused the government of giving a ‘false impression’ over the funding provided the NHS.

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The letter, written by Dr Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative MP and former GP, states that the government’s claim that it will provide an extra £10bn for the NHS by 2020-21 is ‘false’.

Simon Stevens, the Head of NHS England, said the NHS required at least £8bn of investment before the last election. However, in the letter sent today from the Health Select Committee the actual figure supplied is estimated at £4.5bn.

This news comes only a day after it emerged half of NHS authorities plan to cut the number of hospital beds and one third plan to close Accident & Emergency departments.

Tom, said:

This explains why when the Tories have been claiming they are properly funding the NHS, the story on the ground is so different. The letter today shows the NHS is receiving less than half of what this government has been claiming. Even members of Jeremy Hunt’s own party say his figures are bogus.

Around the country there are stories of services being cut or closed. In my constituency Hemlington Medical Centre is closing, services in Skelton have closed and in Park End they have closed and the buildings are being sold off for commercial development! This all comes before the impact of the ‘efficiency savings’ planned in the Sustainability and Transformation Plans we are yet to see.

These are cuts the government has tried to keep secret – today they have been exposed.

I hope the government will listen to Dr Wollaston and the committee’s concerns, but to be honest I won’t be holding my breath.”

Tom today questioned Jeremy Hunt and claimed he had been ‘found out’. In response Mr Hunt stood by his figures.

“Good for Teesside” – local steel MPs back Heathrow as final decision approaches

Tom and Anna Turley have called on the government to back Heathrow expansion as the best option for Teesside.

The government is expected to make the final decision on Heathrow expansion this week, over a year after the option was recommended by the independent airport commission.

The MPs pointed to the opportunities Heathrow offers to Teesside and the UK steel industry. A third runway for Heathrow opens the possibility of direct flights from Durham Tees Valley Airport to the capital.

Anna, MP for Redcar, said:

Heathrow expansion doesn’t just mean Teesside could be better linked to London but to the wider world. It mean Teesside’s economy can be better connected to businesses, from the south of England to as far away as China.

If the government are serious about attracting investment to our area they need to back Heathrow expansion. This is the final call for a decision and the government need to make it!

The Heathrow project has also attracted support for its pledge to use UK steel. Tom and Anna, who respectively, are Chair and Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Steel Group say this could provide a lifeline for the UK steel industry. Figures released last month estimate the third runway project would require approximately 370,000 tonnes of steel and sustain 700 jobs related to the industry over 5 years.

Tom said:

UK steel needs support at the moment. While the government has decided to use French steel to build new trident submarines it has dragged its feet on the decision to back a project which has already committed to use British steel.

This should be an easy choice for the government: Heathrow has the backing of an independent report, the UK steel industry and a variety of businesses. Theresa May can’t allow a handful of London MPs to veto a project which would help the north and our industry.

Expansion would be good for UK businesses and good for Teesside.

In an article for the Guardian this week Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough and Shadow Transport Secretary, said it would take ‘overwhelming evidence’ for the government not to back to decision of the independent commission

Leadsom ‘clueless’ on how to support food industry after Brexit  

Tom slammed Andrea Leadsom’s performance at Wednesday’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

Under questioning from MPs the former Conservative leadership candidate failed to confirm what the consequences of Brexit would be for the food industry or consumers.

Her ‘lack of strategy’ was criticised by GMB, the union for the food and drink industry.

Leadsom, who campaigned for the UK to leave to European Union, was unable to state if the UK would be forced to use World Trade Organisation rules if it failed to reach an alternative agreement with the EU by 2019. She also appeared unclear about the effect of Brexit on food prices for the consumer.

Tom, who previously worked in food preparation factories in Thirsk and Billingham said:

This is just another example of a minister who cannot cope with the complexities that Brexit has presented.

The food industry is important not just for its employees but also for UK consumers. The industry needs a plan and certainty to be able to grow. People in the sector are worried about tariffs and unions are rightly concerned about what this will mean for jobs and workers’ rights. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Andrea Leadsom has the answers.

 

The government and Brexiteers are clueless on the details, and it’s risking the future of the UK food industry.

 

Eamon O’Hearn, GMB National Officer said:

 

Andrea Leadsom has today utterly failed to explain what the Brexit she vocally supported will mean for the UK food industry or for shoppers feeling the pinch.

The lack of answers coming from the leading Brexiteer and now Environment Secretary will leave consumers, business and the hundreds of thousands of people working in this industry in limbo with an unpleasant taste in their mouths. Brexit is a huge threat to the viability of the UK food industry and requires a strategy to protect it – and it’s now clear there isn’t one.

People need a guarantee that their jobs will be safe, that goods will not become too expensive and that workers’ rights won’t be eroded because of this Government’s Brexit negotiations.