Tagged: Tom Blenkinsop

Bedroom tax ruling gives ‘hope to tens of thousands of separated couples with children’

A housing provider on Teesside claims a landmark bedroom tax appeal ruling will give “hope to tens of thousands of separated couples with children”.

Coast & Country says its Tenants Working Together group has secured a legal victory which could mean parents sharing responsibility for a child or children will not be subject to the controversial bedroom tax on the spare room used by their child.

A first-tier tribunal judge ruled that a child can live in two homes for bedroom tax purposes.

It follows other tribunal successes, many based on room size or usage, which encouraged the group to help fellow tenants in lodging an appeal.

Kim Gallagher, chair of Coast & Country’s tenant panel, said:

“This successful appeal is incredibly exciting and has the potential to affect the lives of many thousands of people across the country for the better.

“It is the so-called absent parent, generally the father, who is hit by the bedroom tax, even if the child has a room that is regularly used at the house. This ruling opens the doors for many other people to appeal on the grounds that a child can have two homes.

“The bedroom tax is grossly unfair and it is only by determination to fight unjust cases that the most vulnerable are not penalised.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said:

“The bedroom tax was one of the cruelest policies implemented by the coalition Government and under the current Tory Government, it will not be going away.

“A Labour government would have abolished this unfair policy and scrapping the bedroom tax would have been included in the first Queen’s Speech.

“The next best thing is winning these little battles in the courts and I completely welcome this decision and praise the hard work of these local campaigners.

“It is so vital that it is repeatedly pointed out how unfair and, in many cases, unworkable this policy is. I’m sure the Coast & Country tenants’ working group will continue to fight against the bedroom tax and I am happy to support their efforts.”

Coast & Country chief executive Iain Sim said:

“Coast & Country is pleased to be able to support our hardworking and energetic tenants’ group in ensuring that any tenant who may have grounds for appeal is made aware of this and assisted in every way.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said:

“This judgment does not change the wider policy.

“Ending the spare room subsidy is restoring fairness to the system and saving £1m a day.”

It is understood the ruling could still be subject to appeal.

Under the spare room subsidy, social sector tenants with rooms deemed to be “spare” face a reduction in their housing benefit.

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 27 May 2105

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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).

Red-faced Tories blast one of their own MPs for low speech-rate

North-East Tories were left red-faced after accusing one of their own MPs of failing to “fight for” his constituents in the Commons.

The leader of North Tyneside Conservatives attacked MPs who “short-change” voters by making only a small number of speeches in the chamber.

Councillor Judith Wallace produced a table claiming that such MPs were costing taxpayers many thousands of pounds for each speech they made.

And she said: “Politicians think that they can just turn up at election time, push a few leaflets through the door and think ‘job done’. Well it just isn’t good enough.”

However, the table – based on the number of speeches made during the 2014 calendar year – listed only two North-East MPs as “well below average”.

And one of those two was fellow Tory James Wharton, who faces a crucial knife-edge battle to cling onto the Stockton South seat, where he has a majority of just 332.

Mr Wharton spoke just 12 times last year, the Tories said – at an alleged cost of £5,589.17 per contribution – two more occasions than Tynemouth Labour MP Alan Campbell (£6,707).

Cllr Wallace added:

“Voters expect their MPs to be working hard for their salary.

“An MP’s job is to stand up in the House of Commons and make the views of your electors known to the executive – to challenge and to fight for your constituents.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland – second in the table (76 speeches) – pointed out that Mr Campbell was Labour’s deputy chief whip, so spoke very little by convention.

And he said:

“I’d like to congratulate the Tory party for highlighting how little James Wharton has done in his five years – and also for highlighting how much I have done.”

Mr Wharton did not return messages left by journalists, while a spokesman for Cllr Wallace insisted: “Judith’s comments are specifically about her sitting MP Alan Campbell, for Tynemouth.”

The list put Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman top (116 speeches), with Labour’s Ian Lavery (Wansbeck – 66) and Grahame Morris (Easington – 64) third and fourth.

 However, most Westminster observers believe such tables are a poor measure of an MP’s effectiveness – as they ignore constituency work and private lobbying of ministers on key issues.
Source – Northern Echo, 21 Mar 2015

Former Redcar Labour councillors call on Ed Miliband to launch investigation

Former Labour councillors today called on Ed Miliband to investigate after a bitter row in the Redcar party led to the departure of a number of high-profile members.

Former Redcar and Cleveland Council leader George Dunning headed a demonstration in Redcar asking for a full investigation into the party’s “flawed selection process”.

The call came ahead of the Labour leader’s question and answer session at Redcar and Cleveland College.

Mr Dunning’s deselection followed those of Redcar and Cleveland Council cabinet members Steve Goldswain (Eston) and Norman Pickthall (Teesville), the chair of Cleveland Fire Authority, Cllr Brian Briggs (Skelton) and Cllr Olywn Peters (Eston).

The deselections meant Mr Dunning and his colleagues could not stand for Labour in May’s elections and followed claims of bullying and harassment in the local party.

Mr Dunning, who has since quit the party, said:

“I was and still am the longest serving leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council.

“But I was deselected due to the influence of a group within the party who have never been voted for by the public.

“Everybody knows the selection process is flawed from start to finish.

“I’m absolutely appalled by the Labour Party. I’m nearly 65 and this is the first time ever I will not be voting for Labour. It is not a democratic party anymore and it no longer represents the working class.

“I’ve asked the question, will Ed Miliband carry out a full investigation into Labour Party North’s deeply flawed selection process?”

The deselections have seen Labour lose control of Redcar & Cleveland Council.

> Which seems a weird thing to do just before elections….

The upheaval in the Redcar and Cleveland Labour group follows a similar row in the Middlesbrough party last year.

Five councillors were deselected following interviews, and although Cllr Derek Loughborough won an appeal against the decision, he quit the party along with Cllrs Len Junier, Pervaz Khan, Sajaad Khan and John McPartland.

In a statement issued at the time of the deselections, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Redcar, said it was “time for change”.

Leader George Dunning and deputy leader Sheelagh Clarke have served Redcar and Cleveland with great commitment and have a lot to be proud of,” the statement said.

“However, local Labour Party members have today voted to replace them with other candidates for the ward of Teesville. We have a wealth of talent in the Labour Party and the bar has been set very high this year.

“The people of Redcar and Cleveland deserve the very best representation that the Labour party has to offer in the local community and members have chosen some fantastic local candidates. It is time for change. We are building a fresh, exciting and committed new team.”

The statement was released in the names of Mr Blenkinsop, Ms Turley and John McCormick, chair of Redcar and Cleveland Local Campaign Forum, Neil Bendelow, chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party and Bill Suthers, chair of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour Party.

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 06 Mar 2015

Redcar and Cleveland Council deputy mayor is latest to resign from Labour party

The deputy mayor of Redcar and Cleveland Council is the latest to resign from the Labour party after a week of turmoil at the authority.

Ten Labour councillors resigned their membership last week after council leader George Dunning, deputy Sheelagh Clarke and members of the authority’s cabinet were told by Labour that they had not been selected to stand again for their party in May’s elections.

Now Doreen Rudland, who represents the Brotton ward, has confirmed she is the 11th current councillor to leave the party.

She said: “I think it is disgraceful what has happened to those councillors who were deselected by the party.

“Ten councillors resigned last week – and I am supporting them.”

Cllr Rudland, 77, is the authority’s deputy mayor and was elected at a by-election in Brotton more than four years ago.

She confirmed  that she was not planning on standing in the May elections.

“I had already taken that decision, I did not want to stand because of my age.

“I have enjoyed being a councillor, and I have particularly enjoyed my time as deputy mayor.”

On Sunday, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party selected its candidates to stand in May’s election.

Current Labour cabinet members Joan Guy and Helen McLuckie were selected to stand again in their Saltburn and Skelton wards, the local party confirmed.

The ten councillors who resigned from the party at a protest outside Milbank Terrace office of Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley last week were: George Dunning (Teesville), Sheelagh Clarke (Teesville) Steve Goldswain (Eston), Olwyn Peters (Eston), Norman Pickthall (Teesville), Mark Hannon (Kirkleatham), Vic Jeffries (Marske), Brian Briggs (Skelton), Carole Simms (Normanby) and Wendy Wall (Normanby).

A vote of no confidence in leader George Dunning has been tabled by the council’s Liberal Democrat group for Thursday’s meeting of the full council.

In the wake of the row, Councillors Steve Goldswain and Olwyn Peters spoke out about alleged bullying in the local party, while the chairman of the Redcar constituency party Neil Bendelow confirmed that Cllr Vic Jeffries had made a formal complaint about bullying.

Cllr Dunning said that the resignations came after a long-running internal dispute in the Labour Party between council leadership, and the offices of Ms Turley and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop.

After Councillors Dunning, Clarke, Hannon and Jeffries joined Steve Goldswain, Brian Briggs and Norman Pickthall in being deselcted by the party, Mr Blenkinsop said that “he wasn’t part of the selection process”.

Ms Turley said in a statement:

“I am sad that the councillors and members who didn’t get selected don’t feel they can continue to be part of the Labour movement without being paid councillors, but the party cannot be held to ransom.

“There were simply other candidates who won their elections and they deserve their opportunity to serve their local communities.”

In response to Mrs Rudland’s announcement, Labour repeated its statement made in the wake of the other resignations that it was “disappointing but unsurprising”.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 09 Feb 2015

Redcar : Council leader tears up Labour Party membership card as bitter internal dispute continues

The future of a Teesside council has been left in disarray after its Labour leader and other cabinet members resigned from the party.

Redcar and Cleveland Council leader George Dunning, his deputy Sheelagh Clarke, the mayor, cabinet members and other senior councillors resigned this morning.

The move is the latest development in a bitter internal Labour dispute and comes after the councillors were not selected by the party in their seats in May’s council elections.

Ten councillors – including more than half of those on the council’s cabinet – staged a public protest outside the Redcar office of Anna Turley, Labour’s candidate for the Redcar seat in the General Election.

An informal meeting is taking place today in which the group will speak to cabinet members still in the Labour Party, and also approach independents to debate how the council can continue to function.

The most pressing issue is the need to pass a budget before the end of March, which includes a vital decision on whether to raise council tax.

But the Liberal Democrat group on Redcar and Cleveland Council have now confirmed that they will table a motion at next Thursday’s full council meeting calling for Cllr Dunning to stand down as leader.

Speaking at the protest in Redcar, Cllr Dunning said Redcar and Cleveland residents have “nothing to worry about”.

Cllr Norman Pickthall, cabinet member for corporate resources, said: “The direction of travel is that we will agree the budget, with a 0% council tax rise.

“All the work has been done. Other councillors would be foolish to reject it.”

Asked if he thought Labour would again win control of the council in May, Cllr Pickthall said: “I don’t think so. Not if the councillor who wants to become leader succeeds.”

Cllr Dunning said that South Bank councillor Sue Jeffrey wanted to become leader of the council’s Labour group.

The ten councillors who resigned from the party were Steve Goldswain (Eston), Olwyn Peters (Eston), Norman Pickthall (Teesville), Mark Hannon (Kirkleatham), Vic Jeffries (Marske), Brian Briggs (Skelton), Carole Simms (Normanby) and Wendy Wall (Normanby).

Their total membership in the party spans 230 years.

Cllrs Goldswain, Briggs and Pickthall were deselected as Labour councillors in November.

Cllrs Dunning, Clarke, Hannon and Jeffries were deselected at a meeting on Sunday, the culmination of a rift the council leader says exists between the leadership and Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Anna Turley, and councillors Joe Keenan and Dale Quigley, who work in Mr Blenkinsop’s office.

Mr Blenkinsop said earlier this week that “he wasn’t part of the selection process”.

Ms Turley said in a statement today:

“I am sad that the councillors and members who didn’t get selected don’t feel they can continue to be part of the Labour movement without being paid councillors, but the party cannot be held to ransom.

“There were simply other candidates who won their elections and they deserve their opportunity to serve their local communities.”

Ms Turley was out campaigning when the councillors staged their protest at her Milbank Terrace office.

A Labour Party statement said the decision was “disappointing but unsurprising”.

It read:

“The selection process in Redcar &; Cleveland has been fair, robust and competitive. The Labour Party expects the highest standards from our councillors and council candidates. These expectations include that a candidate demonstrates a willingness to campaign in their community all year round.

“The selection process is still ongoing but local members have begun to choose a new team of candidates drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, including a postman, a steel worker, a cobbler, a barmaid, and a netball coach.”

Cllr Sheelagh Clarke has now called for an independent inquiry into allegations of bullying, and the selection process which saw senior Labour members rejected by their party.

Cllr Peters said she had suffered a nervous breakdown because of bullying – and that she supported the deselected councillors who she said “represented what Labour is all about”.

Cllr Goldswain has also complained about bullying.

Chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party, Neil Bendelow,  claimed  earlier this week that there had been “no complaints” about bullying.

However, Cllr Vic Jeffries said he had made an official complaint around three weeks ago – which had been acknowledged.

Mr Bendelow said: “We had no complaints from those councillors who have spoken about the issue in the press. But we have had a complaint from Cllr Jeffries – the first I have ever had to deal with – and it will be dealt with by Labour Party process.”

Speaking after ripping up his 30-year Labour Party membership this morning, former mayor Cllr Jeffries said: “It is a very, very sad day.

“I am weighing my options up. I am a socialist and I believe in fairness, transparency and truth.”

Cllr Brian Briggs said: “I used to help my father with party business when I was a boy. I am Labour through and through. It is with a very heavy heart that I resign my membership.”

Independent mayoral candidate for Middlesbrough Len Junier, and fellow Middlesbrough councillors Pervaz Khan, John McPartland and Derek Loughborough supported their Redcar and Cleveland counterparts at the protest.

All but Cllr Loughborough were deselected by Middlesbrough Labour Group last year.

Cllr Junier said: “I think that this shows that party politics on Teesside is in terminal decline.

“It is the rise of the Independents. I hope we see a repeat across Teesside.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 04 Feb 2015

‘It’s been a cull’: Redcar councillors react to being deselected as Labour candidates

The deselected deputy leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council Sheelagh Clarke has called the process “undemocratic” – and claims “somebody in London wants rid”.

Council Leader George Dunning, along with deputy Cllr Clarke, cabinet member Mark Hannon and former mayor Vic Jefferies were told at a meeting at the Claxton Hotel in Redcar on Sunday that they would not be allowed to stand for Labour in their wards in May’s elections.

It immediately raises questions about how the authority will run on a day-to-day basis – coming as it does after a further four Labour councillors were deselected last year.

But Cllrs Dunning and Clarke say they remain “as committed as ever”.

 

How the leader and deputy responded

“There is a budget for us to get through, and we’re proposing to keep council tax frozen again and do what’s right for the people of this borough,” said the leader.

“We’ve done a hell of a lot of work since taking the council back in 2007 – which a lot of people in our party didn’t even think we would do.

“As far as we’re concerned, unless there’s a vote of no confidence, Sheelagh and I will continue to run the council.”

Cllr Dunning insists he is the victim of a “power struggle” within the Labour Party and that the office of Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop “wants to run the council, and we won’t let them”.

“A lot of members in Teesville are getting on, or have been ill,” the leader continued.

“I wasn’t going to round people up on a cold day and tell them they had to come and vote for us, but I know we had the support.

“This has been a struggle for years.

“There have been people in this party who wanted to be leader, who wanted to be on the cabinet, and they are paranoid and power-mad.”

‘It’s not democratic’

Cllr Dunning has survived tests of his leadership in the past – both from within his own party and from the Liberal Democrat opposition.

And Cllr Clarke said:

“I do not think it is a democratic process. If the people of my ward had voted me out, I would fully accept that.

“But those people have been denied a chance, because somebody from the Labour Party in London wants rid of us.”

Meanwhile, cabinet member Mark Hannon blamed the fall-out on a rift between senior councillors and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Mr Blenkinsop, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Redcar Anna Turley, and councillors working in their offices.

Candidates are chosen by local Labour party members in each ward, but if not enough members show up, as was the case on Sunday, the party’s local executive steps in to vote.

And Cllr Hannon, cabinet member for economic development, said: “I went and did a ten minute presentation at my interview, I answered questions for ten minutes, and I know I did the best presentation.

“The other candidates weren’t in there for anywhere near as long as me.

“I am popular with people in Redcar.

“Since I’ve been a councillor, we’ve got a new hospital in my Kirkleatham ward, housing, a new shopping centre.

“That doesn’t matter though. It’s been a cull of senior councillors.”

‘Labour just want to keep people on benefits’

“The Labour Party doesn’t care about the working classes any more.

“They just want to keep people on benefits and feather their own nests.”

“Against a backdrop of austerity, we have totally regenerated Redcar.

“We’ve not only kept leisure centres open, but we’ve built a new one, we’ve kept libraries open – and we’ve tried to keep council tax down.”

Cllr Hannon alluded to bullying within the party – which led cabinet member Olwyn Peters to claim she had suffered a breakdown.

This comes two-and-a-half years after Labour North’s Wallis Report claimed the Redcar and Cleveland Labour Group was “dysfunctional”.

What the MPs said

In a joint statement, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Redcar, thanked Cllrs Dunning and Clarke for their service but said it was “time for change”.

Mr Blenkinsop said:

“All candidates knew exactly what to expect, and the bar has been set very high in these elections.

“If deselected councillors were not told about the reasons for deselection, they’re not asking the right questions. Selection is a democratic process.

“The Labour Party is not looking for candidates that take support for the party for granted, or for anyone who is complacent. Candidates need to get out and talk to people to find out what they want.

“But I wasn’t part of the selection process for these councillors, so I don’t know what the reasons were.”

 

‘If Labour group can’t manage their own affairs, how can they manage the council?’

Glyn Nightingale, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, said the possibility of launching another ‘no confidence’ vote would “be a matter for group members to discuss”.

“If the Labour group cannot manage their own affairs, how can they manage the council?” he added.

“I do not agree with what George Dunning and his administration have done in office, but I acknowledge that they have been working hard.

“It was up to the people at the ballot box to replace them – not an internal party manipulation.”

‘I totally do not accept any form of bullying’

Neil Bendelow, the chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party, said that all members had been treated equally.

“The way that candidates were selected follows the Labour Party process and would be the same anywhere,” he added.

“All councillors were asked the same type of questions, and were allowed to give a ten minute presentation and answer questions for ten minutes.

“We have some fanstastic candidates who are going to work tirelessly for their wards.”

Last year, Cllrs Brian Briggs, Steve Goldswain, Norman Pickthall and Brian Hogg were also deselected.

But Mr Bendelow added: “I totally do not accept any form of bullying whatsoever.

“There is a process for anyone to follow if they feel they are being bullied, and I have received no complaints and no shred of evidence has been given to us.”

What the future holds

Cllrs Dunning, Clarke and Hannon were told that they could possibly stand for Labour in other wards – but say they were not given reasons for their deselection.

Cllrs Dunning and Clarke said that at this point, they would not consider standing as independent councillors.

Cllr Dunning said that Bob Norton, Rob Hodgson, and Geraldine Williams will now stand for Labour in the Teesville ward.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 02 Feb 2015

Emergency NHS cash diverted south with most areas of North-East receiving just 0.24% of £2bn fund

Emergency cash for the troubled NHS has been diverted away from the region to areas mainly in the South, a new analysis shows.

Health chiefs in the North-East and North Yorkshire have been handed tiny increases in their budgets from the £2bn fund – most receiving just 0.24 per cent more.

In stark contrast, other areas – mainly in London and the South-East – have been given funding boosts of more than 3.5 per cent, for the 2015-16 financial year.

NHS England argues the extra cash is going to areas which are currently underfunded and which have “the greatest health needs, where the population is growing rapidly”.

But the decision has been fiercely criticised by Nick Brown, Labour MP for Newcastle East, who campaigned against a previous attempt to shift health cash from North to South.

Mr Brown said:

“This is highly political. Extra money is being found for Tory-voting parts of the country at the expense of the rest of us. The allocation formulas have been twisted to bring this outcome about.

“Those who die too young are the losers. The big winners are the geographic areas where people enjoy a long-lived, healthy and comfortable retirement.”

Tom Blenkinsop, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, said:

“This is yet another clear sign that this Government is consciously and deliberately redistributing funds from our area to Tory political priorities in the south of the country.”

The Northern Echo:

The issue of CCG funding has also drawn criticism from local Conservative MPs, including Vale of York’s Julian Sturdy who told ministers of a “postcode lottery” in a debate last week, saying: “Why does Vale of York CCG, in particular, receive such a poor allocation?

 The analysis, by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), found the biggest increases had gone to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in areas with Conservative and, to a lesser extent, Liberal Democrat MPs.

There are 53 CCGs receiving rises of between three and four per cent – covering areas where no fewer than 85 per cent of MPs are from the two Coalition parties.

Furthermore, some – unnamed – CCGs have been forced to revise their plans from April because they are now receiving less money than expected, the HSJ said.

The allocations – slipped out by NHS England late on the Friday before Christmas – divide up the £1.1bn of the £2bn which has been given to CCGs, which ‘buy’ treatments.

Announcing the £2bn injection in November, amid growing talk of an NHS “crisis”, George Osborne said it would “support the day-to-day work of our incredible nurses and doctors”.

But 11 of the 14 CCGs in this region will receive just 0.24 per cent extra, worth just £400,000 to Darlington, for example – and none will get more than 1.99 per cent.

Ten CCGs are gaining 3.7 per cent or more, including in Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead, Bedfordshire, Bromley, in Kent, and in Slough.

The list is topped by East Staffordshire, which gets a 4.28 per cent increase – an extra £5.8m, for 2015-16.

The row has echoes of the controversy in both 2012 and 2013, when NHS England first attempted a big shift in spending from poorer areas to those with more pensioners.

It was forced to back down after protests that the “fair shares formula” would slash up to £170m of funding from CCGs in the North-East and North Yorkshire

This time, every area is receiving a rise of at least 1.7 per cent from April, but half the extra £1.1bn will go to just 54 of the 211 CCGs.

Announcing its decision, NHS England said:

“Every CCG will get real terms budget increase.

“More of the extra funding for local health services is being used to more rapidly increase NHS budgets for those parts of the country with the greatest health needs, where the population is growing rapidly, and where services are under greatest pressure.”

NHS England is independent of the Department of Health, which means its spending decisions are no longer announced to parliament, nor scrutinised by MPs.

Source –  Northern Echo, 13 Jan 2015

MP warns Teesside ‘pacer’ trains could be replaced with ageing London Underground trains

A Teesside MP has warned that the Government’s Transport Ministry may look to replace Northern Rail’s Pacer trains with equally ageing former London Underground trains.

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has joined in calls for improvements on routes served by the trains, which go no faster than 60mph on Northern and Trans-Pennine Express routes.

Easington MP Grahame Morris has called for a firm commitment from the Government on replacing the “outdated, uncomfortable and cramped” trains after Chancellor George Osborne said the re-franchising of the East Coast mainline next year would include “a substantial package of upgrades including new services and modern trains”.

Now Mr Blenkinsop, who uses the trains which operate from Middlesbrough and Darlington to Nunthorpe and Saltburn, said:

“The influential railway industry source, the Rail Business Intelligence Bulletin has become aware of a proposal to convert London Underground District Line D78 units – that were already 30-years-old and being decommissioned by London Underground – into diesel engine carriage sets for use on North of England commuter lines like the ones in my constituency.”

Mr Blenkinsop said the only winner if a deal was brokered would be London Mayor Boris Johnson “who will get a Christmas present of some cash for trains he was going to scrap anyway”.

He continued:

“This worries me as a local rail service user, we don’t want to see veteran trains replaced by equally ageing old London Underground trains which will be nothing more than vintage carriages with a diesel engine bolted on to them.

“I have a simple message to coalition transport ministers – just get rid of the Pacers.

“They are an embarrassment to our rail system and the regular commuters who have to be sardined in them on a daily basis.

“Give people on Teesside the longer trains and comfortable carriages enjoyed in the south. Only then will you see passenger numbers really increase on local routes instead of today’s steady decay.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  16 Dec 2014

Real terms cut in public health budgets announced

Spending on public health in the region will be cut next year, it was announced yesterday (Tuesday, September 9) – despite Government promises to protect the NHS.

The amounts given to local councils – for services such as smoking cessation classes, obesity clinics, school nurses and drug and alcohol treatments – will be frozen.

The Department of Health admitted that meant a cut in real terms, after inflation, but said it was necessary because “the health budget is under a lot of pressure”.

Furthermore, it comes after cash-starved town halls have already been accused of raiding their public health budgets as they wrestle with huge cuts to their overall funds.

The cut was revealed in a statement to MPs, which announced that public health funding in 2015-16 would “remain the same as last year, at £2.79bn”.

It means County Durham will continue to receive £45.8m from next April. Other frozen allocations include Darlington (£7.8m), Middlesbrough (£16.4m) Stockton (£13.1m) and North Yorkshire (£19.7m).

In response to The Northern Echo, a department of health spokeswoman acknowledged:

This is a flat cash settlement – so it’s a real terms decrease.

 “The health budget is under a lot of pressure, so we are not able to increase it, but at least budgets are remaining stable and we are not taking money away.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, linked the decision to the recent closures of medical centres at Skelton and Park End – with Hemlington also under threat.

He said:

“It is quite clear that our local areas NHS is being cut for purely financial reasons, with no attention to clinical need.”

Budgets for public health were transferred from the NHS to local authorities last year, as part of the Coalition’s radical overhaul of the health service.

Ministers argued councils were better equipped to tackle problems such as obesity, smoking and pollution and – ironically – that the funds had often been “raided” by the NHS.

The cut comes amid growing pressure to increase spending on the stubborn causes of ill-health, to cut the long-term cost to the health service.

 Yet both the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Journal have warned that services are being rundown – despite the money being, in theory, ring-fenced.

Cash has been diverted to areas including trading standards, citizens’ advice bureaux, domestic abuse services, housing, parks and leisure centres, they found.

But Jane Ellison, the public health minister, said:

“We want to see local areas continue their excellent work to help people lead healthier lives.

“The money has again been ring-fenced, so the focus will remain firmly on improving the health of local communities. This will be further boosted by an extra £5m to target priority areas.”

Source – Northern Echo, 10 Sept 2014