Darlington: currently held by Jenny Chapman (Lab)
Jenny Chapman (Lab),
Mike Cherrington (Green),
Anne-Marie Curry (LD),
Peter Cuthbertson (Con),
Alan Docherty (TUSC),
David Hodgson (Ukip)
Hartlepool: currently held by Iain Wright (Lab)
Hilary Allen (LD),
Sandra Allison (Save Our Hospital),
Phillip Broughton (Ukip),
John Hobbs (Ind),
Michael Holt (Green),
Stephen Picton (Ind),
Richard Royal (Con),
Iain Wright (Lab).
Middlesbrough: currently held by Andy Mcdonald (Lab)
Craig Baker (Ukip),
Simon Clarke (Con),
Hannah Grahm (Green),
Richard Kilpatrick (LD),
Andy McDonald (Lab).
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland: currently held by Tom Blenkinsop (Lab)
Tom Blenkinsop (Lab),
Martin Brampton (Green),
Ben Gibson (LD),
Will Goodhand (Con),
Steve Turner (Ukip).
Redcar: vacant – Ian Swales (Lib Dem) standing down.
Christopher Gallacher (Ukip),
Philip Lockey (North East Party),
Josh Mason (LD),
Peter Pinkney (Green),
Anna Turley (Lab),
Jacob Young (Con).
Stockton North: currently held by Alex Cunningham (Lab)
Mandy Boylett (Ukip),
Alex Cunningham (Lab),
Christopher Daniels (Con),
Adrian Sycamore (LD),
John Tait (North East Party).
Stockton South: currently held by James Wharton (Con)
Louise Baldock (Lab),
Drew Durning (LD),
Jacqui Lovell (Green),
Ted Strike (Ukip),
Steve Walmlsey (Ind Against Social Injustice),
James Wharton (Con).
A Teesside UKIP candidate has turned her hand to karaoke to poke fun at David Cameron and her seat rival.
Mandy Boylett, UKIP’s candidate for Stockton North, has recorded her own version of ABBA’s Chiquitita, which has been posted on YouTube.
The parody mocks the Prime Minister’s “love” for the EU and also sings about the current MP for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham.
“Alex Cunningham, you and I know how elections come and they go but this time you’re leaving. You’ll lose your safe Labour seat to the UKIP girl,” she sings.
Ms Boylett adds that Stockton North “is turning purple.”
But Mr Cunningham has said that she needs to be “serious about politics.”
“I have heard about the song but I won’t be wasting my time listening to it,” he said.
“She needs to be serious about politics rather than being silly.”
> You’d have thought that a UKIP candidate might have wanted to murder a song by a British group, not a Swedish one….
David Cameron, tell me what’s wrong?
Your MPs don’t really want you
In their eyes
You’re still in love with the EU
Oh that 1.7 billion
There is no way you won’t pay it
I can see that you think that we won’t notice
David Cameron, tell me the truth
Cos you can’t keep on deceiving
They will really keep on leaving
You were always sure of yourself
Now I see you’ve lost your direction
Saying, yes Angela, will lose you the election
Alex Cunningham, you and I know
How elections come and they go but this time you’re leaving
You’ll lose your safe Labour seat
To the UKIP girl
You will have no time for grieving
Alex Cunningham you’re gonna cry
Because Stockton North is turning purple around you
Over thirty years neglect will come to an end
And we’ll celebrate the purple
Thirty years will come to an end
And we’ll celebrate the purple
So the walls came tumbling down
Your campaign’s a blown out candle
All is gone and it seems too hard to handle
Alex Cunningham tell me the truth
There is no way you can deny it
With yet another smear to try to keep me quiet
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 06 Mar 2015
An impassioned debate over claims that strict sanctions on benefits claimants are causing severe poverty ended with Stockton Borough Council passing a motion criticising Government policy.
The motion called for a review of the Department for Work and Pensions‘ (DWP) sanctions where benefits claimants, including those on Job Seekers Allowance, who miss an appointment or is late can be left without any money at all for five to six weeks.
Several councillors speaking at the authority’s full council meeting said they had examples of where the policy was being used “unfairly” while deputy leader Jim Beall branded it as a “deliberate, cynical measure” to alter the unemployment statistics.
However Conservative councillor Andrew Stephenson argued against the motion saying the sanctions helped people back to work.
The motion concluded:
“The Council resolves to write to our MPs requesting that they raise this deplorable situation with the responsible Minister urging an immediate review of national policy and guidance on sanctioning.”
Council leader Bob Cook told of a case where a young man got a letter informing him of a morning appointment but didn’t receive it until the afternoon and lost his benefit.
Meanwhile Cllr Norma Stephenson said she knew of 19 families on the Hardwick estate who had been sanctioned while Cllr Barry Woodhouse cited the case of a Billingham resident who lost her disability benefit for having zero points, only for a review to say she had 33 points.
Cllr Eileen Johnson said she had a friend working for the DWP who told her staff had been in tears “because they can’t bear what they are doing.”
> But they carry on doing it nevertheless…
Cllr Norma Wilburn said she had heard a national story on the radio about an amputee who had lost his benefit because he couldn’t answer the phone. She said: “This seems like a coordinated attack on the vulnerable. This is evil.”
Cllr Mark Chatburn, Ukip, said the policy was “deliberate” and “the epitome of nasty.“
> This from the representive of a party who’s members have called for the unemployed to be denied the vote and banned from owning cars.
The motion was passed and Stockton’s two MPs, Alex Cunningham, Labour, and James Wharton, Conservative, will be contacted by the council.
Source – Northern Echo, 22 Jan 2015
Further cuts to policing budgets risks further jeopardising public safety, a Teesside MP told Parliament.
Despite assurances from the Prime Minister in 2010 that frontline policing would not be affected, some 8,000 police officers have already been lost from the frontline, said Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North.
Last month Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, confirmed that further cuts to the Police Grant Settlement will mean a reduction in local police funding of over £4.5m, warning it will place further pressure on an already stretched force.
Mr Coppinger called for the public and local MPs “to speak out about how far they are willing to let ministers go in juggling with public safety”.
During Parliamentary Questions to the Home Office in the House of Commons, Alex said:
“There has been a net loss of 293 police officers from the Cleveland police service since 2010, and our police commissioner says that the budget has been cut by another 5.1%, which could further jeopardise public safety.
“Does the Home Secretary agree that such losses and cuts are the reasons behind the drop in confidence in policing for the first time in a decade?”
But the Stockton MP said the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims was “unable to explain away this loss of confidence” – and sought instead to highlight the admirable manner in which Cleveland Police has dealt with cuts that will see the force £35m worse off than in 2010/11.
Speaking after the question session, Alex said:
“Despite already facing savage cuts, police forces around the country have been told to prepare for more of the same during the next Parliament.
“It is extremely worrying that the Association of Chief Police Officers is estimating that a further 6,000 frontline officers will need to be cut to meet budget reductions between 2015-17.
“Even more alarmingly, I understand that the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police has written to the Home Secretary warning that current funding arrangements will result in his force becoming unsustainable by 2019 and identifying a real risk that his may be the first force to fall.
“I am in no doubt further cutting of policing budgets will further decimate our police forces and place even more pressure on a service already under-resourced and overstretched.”
The MP said with similar cuts to local government services, police officers will be expected to do more with less – “an unrealistic proposition”.
“While Cleveland Police deserve praise for innovative collaboration with partner organisations in managing funding reductions to date, there is only a finite amount of pressure they can shoulder before the cracks start to emerge and these further cuts may breach that tipping point.”
Source – Midlesbrough Evening Gazette, 07 Jan 2015
A stepfather’s impassioned plea to end the use of zero-hour contracts has become an internet hit after his stepson was forced leave his rented home when he could no longer cover the rent.
Stephen Thompson wrote an open letter to his stepson’s employer, JD Wetherspoon, after the family was forced to buy the kitchen worker a new pair of shoes so he could walk to work without getting his feet wet.
And since he posted the letter on Facebook a few days ago, he has been inundated with similar tales from other people who are struggling under the financial burden of a zero-hour contract.
With more than 12,000 likes and 13,000 shares, the post has attracted the attention of people from across the country.
Mr Thompson, who works at a university as a social entrepreneur-in-residence and community engagement coordinator, says he was shocked at how far reaching the problem was for people trying to find secure work.
“My stepson is in 40s and trained for three years to be able to work in catering,” he said.
“I never realised how common the problem was with zero hour contracts, people who just want to work take these jobs but their futures are never secure.
> And this is a large part of the problem – so many people who ought to realise what is going on in this country seem oblivious to it. Mainstream media barely reports it, of course, but even so … and you might at least expect someone who works as a community engagement coordinator to know what’s going on in that community.
Still, he does now, and has done something positive about it.
“When I wrote the open letter, I never expected the response that I have received. I have read some real horror stories in the last few days.
In his letter, he writes:
“He is “employed” on a zero-hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. He got into trouble with his rent and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment for this.
“He now lives two miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk this distance to and from work as he does not earn enough to afford public transport. Yesterday my wife was obliged to buy him new shoes as he had worn holes in his existing ones. I think it is appalling that you do not provide your kitchen staff with appropriate footwear.”
And he has contacted his local MP Alex Cunningham to garner his support for the abolition of zero-hour contracts.
“I believe it is time to end the widespread use of zero-hour contracts.”
A Wetherspoon spokesman said:
“Wetherspoon does operate flexible contracts for its hourly paid staff.
“The company operates in a seasonal sector and offer flexible hours to meet demand. Pub managers try to give staff the hours they want.
“Rotas are produced by the manager and published to employees at least two weeks in advance.
“Wetherspoon probably offers more hours per week than any other pub company.”
To read the letter visit facebook.com/Stmedia/posts/10152912900027184
Source – Northern Echo, 03 Jan 2015
A major new campaign has been launched to hit back against any negative portrayal of Stockton from the controversial show Benefits Street.
The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign is a light-hearted response to what is expected to be a less than flattering portrayal of the borough when the Channel 4 series airs next year.
And people across the borough and beyond are being encouraged to show their love for Stockton by sharing photographs, videos and stories.
A new website – http://www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk – and social media accounts have been set up to kick-start the campaign.
The decision to film the second series of Benefits Street in Stockton caused widespread outrage, with some accusing Channel 4 of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.
The first series made stars of some of its cast but was described by critics as “poverty porn”.
After the story broke , Middlesbrough FC fans at the Riverside Stadium unveiled a banner reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
But despite the fierce local and national criticism of the show, Channel 4 chief executive Ralph Lee said the broadcaster’s output would not be “censored”.
He defended the channel’s right “to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society”.
Leader of Stockton Council, Councillor Bob Cook said:
“We did everything in our power to persuade the producers of Benefits Street to turn their attentions elsewhere. Sadly, you can’t win them all.
“What became clear, though, was that lots of people agreed with us that this is not a good thing for the borough.
“So, we’ve decided to focus our energies on turning a negative into a positive. We’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to respond to a series like Benefits Street is to celebrate, with good humour and quiet confidence, all that is great about our fine borough.”
The campaign will give people the opportunity to share their views on what they love about Stockton.
The council will support the campaign, but now want to “hand it over the public”, said Cllr Cook.
“This is a borough-wide campaign for the whole of Stockton-on-Tees. We’re delighted that our local media – The Gazette, Northern Echo and BBC Tees – are in agreement with us and have agreed to unite in their support of us.
“Whether you’re from Stockton, Billingham, Yarm, Eaglescliffe, Thornaby, Norton or Ingleby Barwick, we’d love you to get involved.”
Benefits Street is expected to be aired in March 2015 and the Positively Stockton campaign – also known as “Psst…” – features a major event that same month.
Billed as The Loudest Whisper, the event on Friday, March 13, will see a whispered message passed around the borough – starting and ending in Kingston Road – where the series is being filmed.
The message will be passed from person to person using human chains as well as all kinds of transport, from horses and rowing boats to buses and bikes.
The event, which will also raise money for Comic Relief, is being organised by Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman and proud Stocktonian Mike McGrother.
“There has been an assumption from the producers of Benefits Street that we’re a community that needs to be given a voice,” he said.
“To present this as ‘factual’ television designed to engineer some kind of social benefit is a bit arrogant I think.
“There’s an abundance of community pride in Stockton – it’s just not our style to go shouting it from the rooftops. But if we’re faced with a series that seeks to paint us in an unfair light on national television, we shouldn’t take that lying down.
“Through the Loudest Whisper event and the Positively Stockton campaign, we can dispel the myths that will inevitably be trotted out using the sense of humour, community spirit and understated manner people in our borough are renowned for.
“And it’s all for Comic Relief. Our voices, though quiet, will be heard!”
The new campaign also has the support of Stockton’s MPs.
Alex Cunningham, Labour, in whose Stockton North constituency Benefits Street is being filmed, said:
“There is much for us to be positive about our borough from the talent and resilience of our people to the powerhouse of the local council and other organisations doing their best in difficult circumstances to create jobs, improve our town centres and make life better for us all.
“It is tremendous that our community is reacting in such a positive way.
“Doubtless Channel 4 will claim our campaign would never have happened but for their unwelcome intrusion into our community, but they will be wrong again – there have been many positive initiatives over the years promoting our success, which is perhaps why the borough is seeing its population grow and why it was voted one of the best places in the country to do business.”
James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, said:
“If you look around you in Stockton you see things getting better – more jobs, more investment, a town and community proud of its past and looking to its future.
“We need to talk up what makes us great and this campaign is a brilliant addition to that. Benefits Street will show what they want, we will show the truth and talk up Teesside.”
To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, and how to get involved, visit: www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 Nov 2014
The second series of the observational documentary series is being filmed in Kingston Road, Tilery, in Stockton.
It comes after the first – based in Birmingham – attracted huge controversy.
Sources close to the show havesaid that the first instalment of the second series of Benefits Street is expected to be shown on Channel 4 in March next year – although the exact date is still undecided.
The decision to film in Stockton caused widespread outrage, with some accusing Channel 4 of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.
The first series made stars of some of its cast but was described by some critics as “poverty porn”.
Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, accused the broadcaster of perpetuating a “monstrous travesty of reality”.
And Labour’s Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham wrote to every resident of Kingston Road asking them to “think again” about taking part in the documentary.
He also suggested the makers of the programme, Love Productions, should “get out of the town”.
After the story broke in August that the show WAS being filmed on Teesside, Boro fans at the Riverside Stadium unveiled a banner reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
Boro supporters’ group Red Faction were behind the banners unveiled in the south stand of the Riverside Stadium during Boro’s game against Reading.
Group member Steve Fletcher, 27, said at the time: “Shows like this demonise working class people. They need help, not mocking.”
However, the chief executive of Channel 4 defended its decision to make another series of Benefits Street in Stockton.
Despite the fierce local and national criticism of the show, Ralph Lee, boss of the channel, said that the broadcaster’s output would not be “censored”.
Mr Lee told a national newspaper:
“We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programmes.
“In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that.
“I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 24 Nov 2014
MPs have spoken out to back firefighters, following a four-day strike over pensions.
Labour MPs from the North East urged Ministers to negotiate with firefighters.
And Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, hit out at plans to make firefighters work until they are 60 before they can receive their pension.
Currently, firefighters can retire at 55 but plans to make them work another five years are one of the contentious issues that have led to the strike.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Campbell said:
“I worked down the coal mine for 29 years, and I watched old men of 60 struggling at the coal face. What must it be like for firemen of 60 trying to save lives from fire and flood?”
He was answered by local government minister Penny Mordaunt, who said:
“We need older workers to stay in the fire service because they have great expertise. By offering protections on pensions and jobs for older workers and good practice for fire authorities to follow, we will ensure that in future they have the protections that Labour did not introduce.”
> Sounds like “we need to keep on older workers because we can’t be arsed to train younger ones.” ?
The last Labour government raised the retirement age to 60 for people becoming firefighters after April 2006. The Government’s plans would increase the retirement age for every serving firefighter, including those who expected to retire at 55.
Other changes include changing the way pensions are calculated, which effectively means people will receive less, and increasing contributions.
Fire Brigades Union members began a four-day strike at the start of the end of October .
North West Durham MP Pat Glass asked:
“We have just come through the longest firefighters’ strike in 38 years. When will the Government stop their politically motivated and disingenuous behaviour in this dispute and genuinely sit down with the Fire Brigades Union to settle this, as the Governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are doing?”
Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell asked the Minister:
“Why does not she treat them with the respect that they deserve?”
And Stockton South MP Alex Cunningham highlighted a letter from Mrs Mordaunt to a Labour MP in which she said:
“I am conscious that we will only have the ideas for the service to meet future challenges and aspirations if firefighters are engaged and feel an ownership for the service. Trust and good morale are key to this.”
He asked her:
“How does refusing to change a single word of the regulation improve morale, and how does refusing to negotiate improve trust?”
The Minister insisted that firefighters received “one of the best schemes in the public sector”.
“There has been extensive debate and consultation on these matters. I have dealt with any outstanding issues in the past few months, including those of the transition of armed forces pension schemes into the firefighters’ pension scheme and fitness protections.
“The regulations have now been laid, and it is evident from the questions coming from the Opposition that they do not understand the scheme. It is an excellent scheme, and to say otherwise would be to do firefighters a disservice.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Nov 2014
The chief executive of Channel 4 has defended its decision to make another series of Benefits Street in Stockton.
Despite fierce local and national criticism of the show, Ralph Lee, boss of the channel, said that the broadcaster’s output would not be ‘censored’.
The second series of Benefits Street is being filmed on Kingston Road, in Tilery in Stockton – leading to MPs and council leaders condemning the show, community groups launching a petition and Boro fans unveiling a banner at the Riverside Stadium reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
But Mr Lee told a national newspaper:
“We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programme” .
“In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that. I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham wrote to every resident of Kingston Road asking them to “think again” about taking part in the Channel 4 documentary.
The Labour MP had already suggested the makers of the programme, Love Productions, should “get out of the town” after accusing them of setting people up for “entertainment purposes only”.
And two Stockton mums Charlotte Hall and Di Hewitt launched an online petition, attracting 1,700 names, asking Love Productions to leave Stockton.
Middlesbrough football supporters group, Red Faction, were behind the banners unveiled in the south stand of the Riverside Stadium during Boro’s game against Reading.
Group member Steve Fletcher, 27 said at the time:
“I was hoping it would catch people’s eye at the match and help raise awareness.
“I don’t think the show will paint Teesside in a particularly good light. It is trivialising a serious social issue.
“Shows like this demonise working class people. They need help not mocking.”
Business and council leaders condemned the filming, saying that it would “misrepresent” Stockton.
And proud Stocktonian Mike McGrother, frontman in local band Wildcats of Kilkenny, caused an internet storm when he sent an impassioned letter praising the town to producers.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 Oct 2014
A cash-strapped health trust is spending what has been described as an “obscene” £350,000 to relocate offices of its management and other services.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright says the cash for the “flashy” offices at the town’s hospital could have been better used keeping two hospital-based nurseries open for at least 18 months.
The repositioning of the rooms at the University Hospital of Hartlepool comes at a time when services are being stripped away and shifted to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
But bosses at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation trust, which is £1.25m in deficit, say the move is part of centralising remaining services in the main tower block of the Holdforth Road site and will save £550,000 on running costs.
A disgruntled trust worker told the Mail that a number of offices, including a chief executive’s office with en-suite toilet, chairman’s office, a boardroom and administration offices, were being created at the town site on what was Ward 5, on the third floor.
It comes as a consultation is underway to close the day nurseries at the two hospitals, which have lost £764,000 in four years, with around 50 jobs at risk.
Union chiefs have slammed the move as “obscene”, especially in light of the proposed axing of the nurseries.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said:
“The idea that £350,000 is being spent, speaking as an accountant, I can’t see where the savings are going to be made.
“£350,000 could keep the nurseries at Hartlepool and North Tees open for another 18 months.
“You have got a spending priority at a time when the NHS is starved of funds, and it wouldn’t be flashy offices.”
The worker, who did not wish to be named, said the relocation work included the stripping out of oxygen tubes from the ward’s former use.
Work to fit carpets in the offices was carried out on a Bank Holiday, but the trust says this did not incur any extra costs.
The worker said:
“I can’t understand why Alan Foster is putting an office suite and other rooms in while they are talking about closing Hartlepool hospital.
“And he is trying to close the nurseries at the two hospitals, yet he has built these new offices.”
Unison area organiser Mark Edmundson said:
“At a time when the trust is proposing to close two nurseries that provide essential childcare for trust staff and the local community and also make people redundant, the cost of these offices is simply obscene.
“Unison urges the trust to look again at the nursery closure; perhaps fewer new offices for the highest-paid executives at the trust would enable this lifeline for hard-working people to remain open.”
Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, which includes North Tees, said:
“I am very surprised that the trust would spend such huge amounts of money on offices at a time when they are contemplating cuts to things like nursery provision.
“If they are able to make savings of half a million pounds as a result, that’s money that could be directly invested in the nursery provision, which could be expanded, if there is a will to do that.”
The trust’s associated director of estates and facilities Peter Mitchell said:
“Work is continuing to ensure we make best use of the buildings and space at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
“The plan is to bring in as many services as possible into the main hospital building to improve security and quality.
“Services which have been occupied in the Hart Building including office space, meeting rooms, wheelchair services, ICT, the sewing room, medical records and domestic services are being moved into a space formerly used as wards in the main hospital building.
“The costs associated with the space utilisation work is £350,000. It is estimated that by moving these services and closing the Hart Building, the trust will save around £550,000 – money to be put back into patient care.”
The trust says the toilet associated with Mr Foster’s office was already there.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 07 Oct 2014