Tagged: Iain Wright

Tees Valley General Election Candidates

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).

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Hartlepool taxi driver and YouTube star in running to become MP

A Hartlepool  cabbie and charity stalwart who is standing for MP has had thousands of hits onstanding for MP he has created as part of his campaign.

Well-known Hartlepool taxi driver Stephen Picton, who has raised more than £50,000 for good causes, will challenge Labour’s Iain Wright as an independent candidate when the town goes to the polls in May.

 And the 43-year-old has set his campaign rolling with a number of videos – one of which has received 6,000 hits.

Back in March 2011, Stephen recorded his own version of Thom Pace’s hit Maybe, which is the theme tune from the Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

It proved a huge success, racking up more than 9,000 YouTube views.

He tsaid:

“I’ve been doing videos on Facebook for a few years and I do a lot of charity work, that’s how people got to know me.

“I just turned it around and used it as a format to let people know how I was feeling while I’m running for MP.

“One of them has had 6,000 views.

“I’ve had no negative comments at all, people have actually been saying that they feel the same as me.”

The dad-of-four from the Oxford Road area of Hartlepool, said:

“I use videos and social media to help me along my way in the campaign.

“It’s a big part of everyday life now.”

He also raised £50,000 before his 40th birthday by organising dozens of quirky fundraisers.

Stephen, also known as Taffy the taxi driver, is campaigning on improving services for Hartlepool including the reinstatement of the town’s hospital.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  13 Mar 2015

More than 100 children living on food hand-outs in Hartlepool

Hartlepool Foodbank has helped an average of more than 100 children a month after hard-up families made desperate pleas for help.

The life-saving Church Street charity helped 4,507 people throughout 2014, of which 1,253 were children aged under 17.

That is equal to 12 people needing to use the Foodbank every day throughout the year, or 375 a month, including 104 children a month.

Starving town families used a total of 2,452 Foodbank vouchers distributed by the charity last year, which was an increase of 349 on 2013.

Today, MP for Hartlepool Iain Wright described the figures as “heartbreaking”.

He said:

“The notion that kids in a rich economy, where you have billionaires avoiding paying tax, yet there are people in our town who can’t afford to feed their children.

“No-one can view that as acceptable – it should make people both upset and very angry.

“I see it when people come to seek help from me, they are absolutely desperate and they haven’t got enough money to heat their homes or put food on the able.

“A lot of the time these people are in work as well, but their incomes are so low given the rising cost of living. It’s just not enough to allow people to live.

“There are also benefit sanctions for the most spurious of reasons which seems to confirm that Central Government is dictating to job centres that they must impose them.”

“I’m genuinely shocked that this is happening in this day and age. People having to go into charities for hand-outs for something as basic as food is an absolute disgrace.

“We are just very fortunate that the people of Hartlepool are so generous and continue to to donate food to the Foodbank.”

In the annual report, chair of trustees Clive Hall said:

“Hartlepool Foodbank is a robust and effective project which has grown and developed extremely well since opening two years ago.

“Hartlepool Foodbank should feel extremely proud of all that has been achieved since opening and for the very professional service that has been developed.”

The figures were revealed in Hartlepool Foodbank’s Annual report for 2014.

It also showed that the main reasons people became so hungry that they were forced to use the service to feed themselves and their familes, was down to benefit delays and changes, and low income.

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 10 Mar 2015

A third of Hartlepool workers are ‘trapped in poverty’

More than a third of Hartlepool workers do not earn enough to live on, according to new research.

Figures from the TUC show 34.7 per cent of people in the town are paid less than the living wage – defined as the minimum hourly rate needed for workers to provide for themselves and their family.

And Hartlepool is the worst place in the region for the number of women earning less than the living wage, with 46.7 per cent of female workers taking home less than the minimum £7.85 an hour.

TUC analysis shows nationally one in five jobs nationwide pays under the living wage – leaving more than five million people on less than subsistence pay.

In the North East, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency tops the list of living wage blackspots, followed by Hartlepool, Berwick, Newcastle North and North West Durham.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said:

“In-work poverty is getting worse and it is proof the economy might well work for millionaires at the top, but does nothing to help people on low pay.”

Mr Wright raised the issue of pay inequality in a Commons debate last week in his role as Shadow Minister for Industry, and referred to Hartlepool.

“Almost a quarter of North East workers and nearly half of all part-time staff are not being paid a living wage,” he told MPs.

“It is striking that the people most likely to be in poverty in Britain in the 21st Century are those in work. No-one can honestly suggest that the economy is working well or as productively as it could be when that is the case.

“This country will not achieve our vision of a highly-skilled, well-paid and innovative work force, ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are enjoyed by all in work, if we continue down the present path.

“The taxpayer is having to subsidise, through tax credits and other parts of the welfare state, the failure of many firms to pay a decent wage.”

Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau manager Joe Michna said the centre was dealing with the consequences of low wages.

“These figures come as no surprise,” he said.

“Certainly a large number of our clients, particularly those struggling with their daily needs, would be below what is defined as the living wage.

“We get a lot of people who are on the minimum wage and others who are just above it.”

Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said:

“These figures show that huge numbers of working people in the North East are struggling to bring home a wage they can live off.

“Extending the living wage is a vital step towards tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty in parts of the North East – and Britain as a whole.

“Working families have experienced the biggest squeeze on their living standards since Victorian times, and these living wage figures show that women are disproportionately affected.

“Pay has been squeezed at all levels below the boardroom, and the government’s mantra about ‘making work pay’ is completely out of touch with reality.

“The number of living wage employers is growing rapidly and unions are playing their part in encouraging more employers to sign up and pay it.

“But we need to see a far wider commitment to pay the living wage from government, employers and modern wages councils – to drive up productivity and set higher minimum rates in industries where employers can afford to pay their staff more.”

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 23 Feb 2015

Hundreds call for return of hospital services to Hartlepool at rally

Hundreds of people gather in Victory Square in Hartlepool on Valentine's Day for a rally calling for hospital services to return to the town

Hundreds of people gather in Victory Square in Hartlepool on Valentine’s Day for a rally calling for hospital services to return to the town

Hundreds of protesters assembled in the town’s Victory Square to call for services to the University Hospital of Hartlepool to be restored.

Speakers included Keith Fisher, of the Save Our Hospital Group and Hartlepool MP Iain Wright as well as parliamentary candidates for the upcoming May election.

Those attending held placards with “No cuts” and “Keep the NHS public” on.

 Michelle McIntyre, one of the organisers of the rally, said:

“We are already suffering and other people are telling us they are suffering.

“We need the NHS to listen to us.

“We are all fighting and we all have to join together as a town and as a community to get these services back in Hartlepool.”

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  14 Feb 2015

Benefit sanctions raised in Commons by Hartlepool MP

> Part 93 of the ongoing Labour MPs Suddenly Discover Sanctions series….

THE cases of a Hartlepool benefits claimant whose money was cut because she missed an appointment due to roadworks and another who did not turn up for an appointment which had been cancelled have been raised in Parliament.

MP Iain Wright was speaking in a Commons debate on the effects of the DWP’s benefits clampdown on claimants across the North East, prompted by Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah.

Mr Wright said he accepted the need to tackle fraud, but the system had to take account of people who had genuine reasons for falling foul of the rules.

“Most people would accept the principle that if people flagrantly and persistently fail to adhere to mutually accepted requirements, they should face consequences,” he said.

“However, I have noticed a large increase in the number of sanctions imposed, often for a first or light transgression, and often with no regard to the context.”

Cases of people who had seen their benefits suspended unreasonably included:

– A man who realised he had missed an appointment, contacted the Jobcentre immediately and went in the next day, only to be informed by post that his benefits were being cut for a month;

– A woman sanctioned because she was late after her bus got delayed by roadworks in the centre of Hartlepool;

– A woman who was told her appointment for a work capability assessment had been cancelled who was then sanctioned for failing to attend;

–  And a woman who was sanctioned for a month because she missed an appointment to attend her grandfather’s funeral.

In all those cases, and in others, I have been able to get the sanctions overturned; but that itself raises some issues,” said Mr Wright.

“Is it an efficient use of taxpayer resources to apply a sanction, only for staff time to be employed in overturning it? How robust, efficient and effective is the process if that continues to be the case?”

The culture in JobCentres needed to change, he said:

“Front-line staff do not have any flexibility to determine whether a benefit claimant has failed to comply with a requirement. They have to see things in black and white and they cannot provide personalised support.

“The system is geared not to help individuals, but merely to process them.

“Claimants can suffer appallingly as a result of their treatment.”

The system was also failing to help workers whose traditional skills were not suited to the modern jobs market.

The JobCentre is simply not interested in helping them secure a new job,” said Mr Wright.

Through its indifference and latent hostility, it is consigning my constituents to the scrap heap long before their time.”

He highlighted the case of a former factory worker who had been told to apply for benefits on-line despite not owning a computer and never having used one.

“There are many people like my constituent in Hartlepool and the North East. The digital divide is creating social exclusion that is affecting the most vulnerable people,” said Mr Wright.

My constituents deserve better, as do many others in the North East and elsewhere.

“They are treated shabbily and with contempt.”

Work minister Esther McVey defended the Government’s record and told the debate the sanction rate for Jobseeker’s Allowance was between five and six per cent a month and less than one per cent for Employment and Support Allowance.

> Presumably depending on what targets for sanctions Jobcentre managers have set their staff….

In the past year, the number of people sanctioned actually decreased,” she said.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  10 Jan 2015

UKIP leader Nigel Farage is gunning for Hartlepool’s votes

A political leader is heading for Hartlepool after claiming the town is “the best place” to gain a regional breakthrough.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said last year that he considered Hartlepool to be “interesting” as he earmarked areas where his party could gain seats.

As the build-up to May’s General Election hots up, Mr Farage has now confirmed he will be spending two days in the town next month with a gala dinner followed by UKIP’s North East conference.

Eric Wilson, chairman of the UKIP regional branch, said:

“Obviously we are delighted that Nigel Farage has chosen Hartlepool to host the regional conference and to do a keynote speech.

“This will be a boost to Phillip Broughton’s election campaign, and will be the chance to show how much support we have built up in Hartlepool in recent years.

“We have done well here, and it is a target seat for UKIP.”

Speaking on his last visit to the region, Mr Farage told the media in Gateshead:

“We will not win where Labour has a massive majority, but we can find marginals or other seats where we can make a difference. Hartlepool is very, very interesting. Watch Hartlepool. It is an interesting seat for us in 2015.

“We have a base there, it is our longest established branch in the North-East.

“The North-East is our fastest growing membership area, and if I had to pick I’d say Hartlepool was an area where we can make a substantial impact.

“We will have to look hard after the elections at what our targets will be in 2015, but Hartlepool is very interesting to us.”

Back in 2010, UKIP took just seven per cent of the vote in Hartlepool and Iain Wright retained his seat.

But with Phillip Broughton put forward as the parliamentary candidate for May, the party are hopeful he can turn up the heat on Labour.

And Mr Farage will be hoping he can sweet-talk some of the electorate in Hartlepool early next month.

He will be at a dinner, which is being held at the Grand Hotel, on Friday, February 6.

Tickets for the event, which includes a four-course meal and entertainment, are £25 though people can shell out £99 if they want to sit with the UKIP leader.

The following day, the Borough Hall on the Headland will host a conference which will see various speakers and exhibitions between 10am-5pm.

Day passes for that event are £20.

Mr Farage added:

“It’s a Labour heartland, but you know what, we’re having a go.

“Let’s be honest. We are at a later stage in our development in the North-East, compared to, say, the East of England.

“That’s because we didn’t quite get over the line in 2009, 15.4 per cent in those elections. Let’s see where we are after these elections.”

The UKIP party’s North East webpage says more details will be released nearer to the time.

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 08 Jan 2015

Hartlepool leaders call for Robin Hood tax to save town from cuts

Councillors are calling on the Government to bring in a new Robin Hood tax to reverse swingeing cuts.

A group of six Hartlepool councillors put forward a motion for the authority to support a movement calling for greater taxes on the financial sector.

Supporters say the tax will generate £20bn which could be used to fight poverty and help ordinary families.

The motion to support the tax was put forward by independent and Putting Hartlepool First councillors Jonathan Brash, Pamela Hargreaves, Paul Thompson, Kelly Atkinson, Geoff Lilley, John Lauderdale and David Riddle. It was unanimously supported by councillors at a recent full meeting of the council.

It comes just after the council learned that its funding from central government will be £8.3million less for 2015/16 than the previous year.

Hartlepool has seen £30 million less funding since 2010/11 – putting huge pressure on services.

The motion read:

“This council notes the suffering forced upon local residents as a result of this coalition government’s cuts programme and asserts that there is an alternative to its ideologically-driven attack on public services – namely the levy of a financial transaction tax on the speculative activities that have accelerated the recent enrichment of the few to the detriment of the many.

“The council therefore calls upon Government to enact the financial transaction (Robin Hood) tax and use the revenues from this measure to reverse ongoing shrinkage in central grants to our council and public services as a whole.”

The council will now write to Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, pledging their support for the tax.

It would see a 0.05 per cent tax on transactions like stocks, bonds, and foreign currency.

Council leader, Christopher Akers-Belcher, who is also chairman of the finance and policy committee, said: “I do feel it has merit.

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 30 Dec 2014

Hartlepool MP’s ‘guinea pig’ fears over Universal Credit roll-out

An MP says he fears his constituents are being used as “guinea pigs” for the roll out of the Government’s Universal Credit – described as the biggest change to the welfare state in a lifetime.

Universal Credit combines six out-of-work benefits into one single payment paid monthly, instead of fortnightly payments.

It has already been introduced in  North-West England and will be “rapidly” rolled out to selected job centres in the region from February next year, including those in Hartlepool, Northallerton, Newcastle and York.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said:

“I am worried that many of my constituents will be guinea pigs for this fast roll out.

“Ministers have showed shocking incompetence so far with this project which has been subject to significant delays and cost overruns.

“I will monitor the situation to ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money, while ensuring people in Hartlepool claiming benefits and tax credits don’t face delays.”

The Government says the new system will be simpler and is part of a long-term economic plan to cap welfare and “make work pay”.

But there are concerns it won’t be suitable for everybody – particularly the most vulnerable claimants.

A member of staff at one jobcentre plus in the region said:

“The theory is that as it is paid like a wage, it prepares people for work.

“But the reality is that some people are a long way from being capable of working.

“People with serious addictions being given a month’s money in one go is just setting them up to fail.”

> A statement which, though probably with some truth in it, automatically sets up the idea that all benefit recipients are addicts.

Universal Credit is paid direct into bank accounts and is gradually reduced in line with any earnings a claimant receives.

According to the Department of Work and Pensions households on Universal Credit spend double the amount of time on finding work than they do on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:

“We’ve already seen remarkable success, with Universal Credit claimants moving into work faster and staying in work longer. As part of our long-term economic plan, people will have the financial security of knowing that if they work more they will earn more.”

 “By Spring next year Universal Credit will be in a third of the country’s Jobcentres as part of the wholesale transformation of the welfare state – providing the country with an economic benefit of £7 billion each year when rolled out.”

The roll out is expected to be completed by spring 2016.

> But we don’t expect it will…

Source –  Northern Echo,  13 Dec 2014