As your Member of Parliament it is essential that I’m aware of the local issues affecting my constituents. I work in partnership with the Council, Health and other organisations to try and get the results that local people need.
The main issues affecting people in the constituency are outlined below with an update on my activities in those areas:
Inflation is continuing to rise and with pay freezes, cuts to people’s benefits, pension changes and the loss of jobs are squeezing the budgets of families and people living alone. Food prices are outstripping the 5% inflation rate and there appears little sign of it coming down despite the government’s pledge to half it. Sadly the Government are en trenched and determined to cut even more jobs, projects and services but the fight goes on to try and persuade them to change course before it is too late. Already we see the development of food banks in the North East as people struggle – we need to cut the country’s deficit buy people shouldn’t be hungry in 21st century Britain.
It was great to see TAG Energy Services open their new facility to make mono-piles for the offshore wind industry at Haverton Hill recently and with the right orders it could mean several hundred well paid jobs in our engineering sector. I’m continuing to press the Government to do more to compel companies building wind farms off British shores to buy British and benefit Teesside firms.
The area has been granted an Enterprise Zone to develop new businesses and a Local Enterprise Partnership has been set up – but they are yet to receive any form of funding support from the Government and in the current economic climate, could struggle to achieve much in the coming years.
What we need now is hard cash from the Government to encourage companies to develop, expand and create jobs and proper apprenticeships. A local survey of companies in the Stockton area by my office confirmed the banks are also failing to invest in our companies. Sadly the Government is doing nothing to force them to do so.
The work goes on in Parliament to persuade the Government to have All-Party talks on the future of social care – and develop a policy that will look after older people and others amongst the most vulnerable in our society.
Labour (and previously the Liberal Democrats) favoured politicians working together to solve the problem of our age – how to deliver and fund care in a society where people live longer and have a range of complex problems. We need to delvier long term certainty for both elderly people and other groups in need of care.
I believe that no older person should be forced into residential or nursing accommodation if they don’t want to go and there are alternative ways of supporting them in their own homes and that the law and services for older people need to be further developed to safeguard them in whatever situation they find themselves.
It is good that despite the government axing the plans to redevelop all our secondary schools, the new North Shore Health Academy and MyPlace centre for young people will after all be going ahead. I was pleased to play my part in making that happen.
Now Stockton borough council are bidding for extra cash to concentrate on other schools where improvements are needed to sustain them for the next few years.
Meanwhile I for one am proud of the achievements of our young people in their GCSE and A level exams and get fed up, particularly with Tory politicians, who do them down and don’t value them. Young people are major losers under the Tories and I’m sure they won’t forget.
A decision on whether or not the Government will allow the building of the new hospital at Wynyard under a Private finance Initiative will be known within the next few weeks.
The Government previously refused to fund the new hospital leaving the Trust to rely on the money markets to raise the cash. We should have more news soon.
Meanwhile another major health project – this time for the people of Billingham, has been stopped by the Government. They have refused allow the council to borrow the money for the health and social care centre in the town centre.
Much needs to be done to rejuvenate and redevelop our town centres at Stockton and Billingham. The large number of empty units does nothing to inspire confidence in them as shopping centres and potential future investment.
The Council has done lots of positive things for Billingham to encourage development – the £15 million renovation of The Forum will increase the number of people in the town centre but the economic downturn is hitting the shops. It’s now time for Stocklands, the owners of the Town Centre to do their bit and deliver the shops they’ve promised. I played my part in helping bring forward a proposal for a new supermarket alongside the Billingham Arms but sadly the operator has pulled out. I’ll keep up the pressure.
In Stockton I’ve been pressing the owners of the Swallow Hotel to tell us its future – it could play a major role in developing the town. Meanwhile I back the Council’s plans but recognise that with government spending cuts, it could take time for their vision to be realised.
The transfer of the Council-owned housing stock to Tristar, planned under the last Government, has resulted in a fund to invest millions of pounds in new windows, doors and other facilities to improve the condition of homes.
There are also plans to build new homes but cuts to spending are also hitting those plans. Hopefully we’ll see some movement soon and some of the people who are desperate for a home will get one.
There are a number of villages in Stockton North from Longnewton in the South to Wynyard in the North. They have different needs – and I’d like to work with communities to help them realise their ambitions for their areas.
The former headquarters of ICI at Billingham remains an eyesore for the local community who have been disappointed that the many promises to demolish it or redevelop it have been broken time and again. More legal challenges are pending to try and stop Stockton Borough Council taking the building down. Hopefully there will be better news soon.
I believe that the law needs to be changed to stop developers buying sites and then allowing them to deteriorate as vandals move in and the weather takes its toll. Where local authorities require building such as Billingham House to be demolished, and where the developer fails to carry out the work, the Council should be able to take possession of the site and do the work and charge it to the owners;
Many local people, some of them amongst our oldest residents, have told me that the Anhydrite mine in Billingham is no place for waste of any sort but sadly permission has now been granted to dump flue ash under the industrial part of the area.
We’ll need to keep an eye on the development and ensure residents of Billingham don’t once more have to fight to stop nuclear or other harmful waste finding its way under their homes.