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“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.

 

Tom Blenkinsop battles for Boosbeck Post Office

Tom has today taken up the cudgels over the temporary closure of Boosbeck’s Post Office.

The Post Office, located in the High Street in a branch of Mace Convenience Stores, is the only post office outlet in the village, with the only alternatives either in Skelton or Lingdale.

The reasons for the closure are unclear to the shop’s owner, Neil Johnson, but they are connected to a long running and national issue with the computer system and software used by the Post Office called Horizon. Horizon is supposed to offer the Post Office’s own cash flow and accounting system online to sub post office branches. In other parts of the country sub postmasters had been reprimanded by the Post Office for alleged false accounting – something which they vehemently deny.

The shop’s owner, Neil Johnson, said

I really have to apologise for not being able to offer the Post Office service the village deserves.

The worst thing is that I cannot get a full response from the Post Office for their suspension of the service. All I want is a full explanation and from that to see what could be put right or amended. All I have at the moment is an invitation to a ‘meeting’ with post office bosses – but that’s not until the 31st of this month.

Tom said,

It just isn’t good enough and leads to an honest shopkeeper being possibly branded with an unfair image or tarnished by rumours. There have been many questions and debates in the House of Commons about these issues, but at the root of everything is the fact that sub post offices are privatised and are unaccountable to the public and even MPs. 

I did write on Mr Johnson’s behalf to the Post Office’s parliamentary liaison office, but all I have had back so far is the standard response that this is ‘being looked at’, and advice as to where the nearest other offices are – which I know anyway! This is going to mean yet another question to ministers in coming days.

Tom pledges to defend local community pharmacies

Tom has backed a campaign opposing the government’s plan to cut the budget for local chemists, after talks between the government and the sector broke down.

Negotiations on a new package of funding for community pharmacies have halted and the government is set to push through a funding cut that could force thousands of chemists to close across the country.

The government’s initial plan to cut £170 million from the community pharmacy budget – a cut of 6 per cent – was put on hold after pressure from campaigners, but a new round damaging cuts could now be imposed by the government.

The government’s own figures have shown that the £170 million cut could force up to 3,000 community pharmacies – one in four across the country – to close their doors to the public.

This puts the 271 community pharmacies in Durham, Darlington and Tees Area at risk.

Further, a leaked document today revealed the government’s relief package for community pharmacies is intended to assist just one in ten pharmacies across the country, meaning the vast majority will receive no further support.

Tom said:

The Tories’ plan risks losing important services for my constituents. The government should drop their cuts and negotiate a new deal with the sector.

The logic behind this plan is flawed because cuts for community pharmacies mean even more pressure on A&E, GPs and other services. This is a short term cut that will damage our NHS in the long run.

Under the Tories many NHS services in my constituency have closed and now more are threatened. If local community pharmacies close young families, elderly people and housebound patients in Teesside will suffer.

The government’s proposed support package isn’t enough and they need to think again about this urgently.

Slap in the face for British industry: French steel to be used to build new trident submarines

Today it has emerged that French steel will be used to build Britain’s new nuclear submarines – just a day after the Defence Secretary boasted in a speech to the Conservative party conference that he was travelling to Barrow-in-Furnace to cut the steel for the first submarine.

Tom, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on steel, said:

When the Defence Secretary cuts the French steel for the first trident submarine today, he is cutting a potential lifeline for hundreds of British steel jobs.

Once again government action on steel has failed to live up to their words. The government and ministers at BEIS have reassured me that they understand the strategic importance of maintaining a steel industry in the UK. So I struggle to understand why they have failed to use British steel when building the new trident submarines.

The government, if they are serious about securing the future of the steel industry, need to start doing all they can to get companies to buy British steel for infrastructure projects from HS2 to Heathrow. These projects could help get the industry back on its feet and competing globally.

While, I hope, the government is busy devising an industrial strategy they are missing short term opportunities to help this vital industry.

The Daily Mirror, which first reported the story, estimates the steel contract is worth tens of millions of pounds and could have protected at least 1,000 UK jobs.

Hunt’s doctors plan doesn’t deal with the NHS’ recruitment ‘emergency’

Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that the Conservative government will increase the number of medical school places by 25% would not come close to solving the recruitment crisis in the NHS, claimed Tom.

Today’s announcement states the government will increase medical school places in England by 25% (1,500) from 2018. However, figures published earlier this year show that between 2013 and 2015 the number of vacancies for doctors in the UK increased by 60% (to 4,669), while the increase for nurses was 50% (to 18,714). This recruitment problem is predicted to get worse due to increased difficulties in attracting foreign doctors to the NHS post-Brexit.

Mr Hunt’s plans would increase the number of training places for doctors from 2018. As medical degrees take several years to complete it would be 2024, some 5 years after Britain is expected to leave the EU, before these extra doctors began treating patients.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

This announcement doesn’t come close to solving the recruitment crisis in our NHS, which has got dramatically worse under this Tory government.

Demands on our NHS are growing and the Tories have shown themselves to be incompetent in coping with increased staffing levels required. Their failure to recruit enough nurses has already meant hospitals rely on expensive agency staff, which has contributed to the financial predicament the NHS is in.

Patients across England are already starting to feel the effects of this government’s failure. In my constituency, last month it was announced Hemlington Medical Centre would be closing due to an inability to recruit a GP to run the service.

Our NHS is struggling with recruitment and finances. It’s an emergency and the Tories aren’t dealing with it.

Tom welcomes news of Boosbeck abattoir sale

The news that the controversial Boosbeck abattoir will be sold by the site owners to a developer for housing has been welcomed by Tom.

Tom said:

This news lifts a cloud that has hung over the village for far too long.  The securing of this deal by Labour controlled Redcar and Cleveland is welcome. The quicker the bulldozers are in on the site, the better for everyone.

This issue has taken too long to resolve but the patient hard work of residents and the Labour led council has brought this saga to a successful end, unfortunately this was not helped by a rabble of EDL members drinking and marching through the village causing problems and breaking down community cohesion for their own ends.

However, there is still an unfinished issue to resolve, the abattoir was reopened as a going concern because that was the former business activity on that site. Under existing planning law, all a new landowner has to obtain is a ‘certificate of lawfulness’ confirming that previous activity.

Such a certificate is perfectly legal, its issue cannot be refused by a council and it cannot be challenged in law.

I believe there needs to be a change in law which requires such certificates to be extinguished after a specified period for business activities which could be seen as anti-social – and slaughtering would be high on that list.’

This is something I intend to raise on the floor of the Commons when parliament returns.

Tom asks when £350 million which vote leave said would go to the NHS is arriving

During the EU referendum campaign vote leave promised an extra £350 million a week would be spent on the NHS, they even put it on the side of their bus.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

Hemlington Medical Centre is closing on Friday and just a tiny fraction of the £350 million weekly increase the NHS was promised could attract a GP to continue the service.

If you write a promise in 6 foot letters on the side of a bus and drive it to every part of the country people will believe that you are genuine, so the leaders of the leave campaign who are now in government need to deliver.

I have written to the three ministers with responsibility for Brexit to see when this extra money will be arriving in my constituency, I won’t hold my breath.