Louise Baldock

Standing up for Stockton South

Louise Baldock, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Stockton South

Recent Activity

For five consecutive months James Wharton MP has dedicated a portion of his In Touch leaflets to slurs about me. Anyone would think he was worried about losing his seat.

I have thus far chosen not to respond to these attacks as I prefer to focus on the real issues and concerns facing the people of Stockton South rather than spending valuable time on Mr Wharton’s ill-judged articles.

However it is becoming tiresome now so I am setting out the full facts below – about all of the slurs he has made in print and online, I hope this will be an end to them.

Attack 1 - My position as a Labour Councillor in Liverpool:

In my 30s I left Stockton for work, as so many have to do, having secured a post in Huddersfield which was too far to commute to (although I did try, spending a couple of years living away in the week and coming home at weekends). In 2004 I moved again to Liverpool where in 2006 I was elected to a previously safe Liberal Democrat seat in the Kensington and Fairfield ward with a small majority after a tough campaign. In 2010 I stood again (each term lasts four years) and was proud to be re-elected with a huge majority and considerably increased share of the vote. I became Assistant Cabinet Member for Finance and was later elected as Chair of Finance and Resources Select Committee which carried a special responsibility allowance. This explains why my allowance was more than that of a back bencher.

Allowances are paid as part of the monthly salary run of the authority and are subject to Tax and National Insurance.

In February 2013 I was contacted by old friends and members of the Labour Party in Stockton South asking me to consider putting my name forward for the nomination of Parliamentary Candidate. After a few weeks of discussions with friends, family and political colleagues, I agreed. I was excited about the prospect of representing my home town, where I was brought up and where my family still lived and where I had gone to school, university and entered the world of work. I had also joined the Labour Party in Stockton South in 1992.  It was somewhere I could be proud to represent and where I would have empathy and understanding of local issues having a 35 year association.

The process began in May and ended in July 2013 when having beaten the opposition, I was selected as Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Stockton South and made plans to move back home to fight the contest.

 

Attack 2 – ‘Abandoning’ my constituents in Liverpool to live in Ingleby Barwick

I checked with the city solicitor that I was still eligible to continue in the role if I moved out of the city. They confirmed that I was. So I then held discussions with my co-councillors in my ward, with the elected mayor of Liverpool, with the leader of the opposition and with my residents at several residents meetings about whether I should resign or whether they wanted me to carry on as their councillor until May 2014 when my term came to an end.

I discovered there was no appetite for a by-election. For one thing the council was severely cash-strapped having suffered the worst cuts of any authority in the country and was not keen on the expense of a by-election; the political parties had no desire to engage in a time consuming by-election campaign when they were focussed on trying to manage a very difficult budget. The most important feedback however came from my co-councillors and residents who asked me to stay on for the rest of the municipal year to help support the fight for a new policy to limit the opening of off-licences and take-aways in the ward, and also the fight for a new post office in the area, both very big ward priorities which I was heavily involved in. So it was agreed I would stay on.

In August I moved to Ingleby Barwick. I spent a lot of time and money shuttling up and down the motorway, continuing to attend my council meetings; the meetings of full council and of both the select committees that I sat on as well as the regular residents meetings in the ward. My attendance is a matter of public record. It was and is available on the council website for anyone to check by looking at the relevant minutes. I regularly stayed over night at friends’ homes and was able to stay for several days at a time ensuring I was still on top of local issues. I carried out my casework by email and telephone, just as I had always done.

During that period I was also pleased to be able to speak at the meeting of the council which introduced the new off licence and take-away policy for the ward. Alas the Post office has still not been secured but I get regular updates on progress. And if it is ever opened I will be going over to help cut the ribbon.

In point of fact a councillor may legally attend only one formal meeting in any 6 month period to remain eligible to continue in office, and I could have turned up just once between August and May and still been entitled to my allowance. However, I met my commitments properly.

I was pleased to see a letter in the Gazette in July from Chairs of two of the Tenants and Residents Groups in Kensington and Fairfield decrying these ongoing attacks from my political opponents and confirming that I had continued to attend meetings and speak up for them right up until I stood down in May this year.

Mr Wharton has also seen fit to mention the expenses scandal in the same article as he criticises me. I would like to make it plain that at no time during my 8 years as a councillor did I ever claim any expenses – at all, for anything.

 

Attack 3 - My living arrangements in Liverpool and Stockton

Early in 2012 I put my house on the market with the view to moving to a cheaper property elsewhere in the city. I finally sold it in the spring of 2013 after a variety of set-backs.  By the time the sale finally went through I was committed to the idea of putting my name forward in Stockton South so rather than buy another house in a city which I might potentially be moving away from, I moved instead into a private rented flat. This was in April 2013. The flat was rented on the open market from Venture Housing Association where I was on the board as an independent member. It was one of a small number of private flats the Association had built in my ward, as part of their new Head Office complex, to help fund the development. These flats are available to be rented by anyone, they are not part of social housing and are not offered through the choice based letting system. They are advertised through estate agents and on Right Move etc. I could have rented anywhere but I liked the idea of Venture becoming my landlord, and of becoming a tenant board member too in effect; the flat was also in my ward which was a bonus. My tenancy contract was just the same as any of my new neighbours. No concessions were asked for or given. I did however take the opportunity to talk to the Board about moving into a Venture property so that the tenancy could be as transparent as possible. They said there was no need to discuss it with them or ask them for permission but that they were, in any case, delighted with the news.  

In August 2013 after my selection as candidate in Stockton South I gave the flat up and moved to Ingleby Barwick where like many of my neighbours, I now rent a small house. I was running a small marketing business in Liverpool and I have kept some of my clients while networking to find others but my main focus now is on knocking on 42000 doors across Stockton South so I do not earn as much from the business as I once did. I am therefore using the money I made on the sale of my house to pay my way. It’s a big gamble but I think the chance to represent the good people of Stockton South is worth it. If nothing else it should demonstrate my real commitment to representing you in Parliament.

 

Attack 4 - My position on the board of Venture Housing Association:

The Tory MP said in one of his leaflet attacks that I received £3k* as Vice Chair while claiming to live on Teesside. In fact I retired at the Annual General Meeting in September 2013 just a few weeks after moving to Ingleby Barwick. The Board asked me to stay on for another year but I wanted to give someone else the chance.

In that period I probably earned around £250 net and attended a board meeting in Liverpool in August before retiring at the AGM the following month. I claimed no travel expenses or any other kind of expenses during this period or indeed ever as a board member.  

Incidentally when I joined the board the position was unpaid. The Association only began paying its board members following a Governance Review some years later.

*£3k for a whole year, subject to basic rate tax. Ordinary board members (including tenants) receive £2k

 

Attack 5 - My commitment to the area:                    

Mr Wharton has repeatedly suggested that I would go back to Liverpool if I were not successful. Indeed he has tried hard to gloss over the fact that I was brought up here and have in fact come home. Why would I move back there again? My work there is finished. My family are here in the constituency, as they always have been, and I love being able to see them whenever I like, my friends are here and my future, whatever it holds will be here too.

I regret having had to spend hours of my time writing long explanations that you should not have needed to read or consider, but if it means an end to the tiresome and nasty coverage from the Conservative MP then it will have been worth it. He says in the September edition of his leaflet that he hopes this is the last story on the whole saga. That’s one thing we can both agree on!

Liverpool: The Facts

For five consecutive months James Wharton MP has dedicated a portion of his In Touch leaflets to slurs about me. Anyone would think he was worried about losing his seat....

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This information comes from a press release from Stockton Council. This looks great and I shall be calling in to meet the advisers and hopefully some of the  women hoping to set up in business. As a self-employed business woman myself I know how valued these kind of events are as they give an opportunity to ask questions and tackle obstacles to progress. Perhaps I will see you there?

 

ENTREPRENEURIAL women across the Borough can pick up a host of business tips and advice at a new event next week.

The special ‘Women into Business’ event will take place from 11am to 2pm on Monday, 15 September at Stockton Central Library where budding entrepreneurs can pick up expert tips and advice on starting a business. 

The event is part of the wider Enterprising Libraries initiative - a partnership of Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Hartlepool, and Redcar and Cleveland Councils - as well as Teesside University to inspire people who would like to become self-employed. 

The library service is working with a number of organisations to provide a range of tailored information, resources, literature and specialist software.

Staff will be available to set up one-to-one appointments, links to partner organisations and give information about future events and workshops in the library.

Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Regeneration, said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to encourage entrepreneurial spirit and attract new business into the town. This event is an ideal opportunity for anyone who is thinking of starting their own business to get some extra support and professional advice. I’d urge anyone who is considering self-employment to come along on Monday and find out more.”

Entry to the event is free of charge. For more information contact Stockton Central Library on 01642 526521.

‘Women into Business’ event

This information comes from a press release from Stockton Council. This looks great and I shall be calling in to meet the advisers and hopefully some of the  women hoping...

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Since Tuesday last week residents from across Stockton have been able to register for ‘The Big Community Switch’. The scheme run by ‘iChoosr’ and ‘Make it Cheaper’ and supported by Stockton Borough Council will see people joining together to form a single buying unit which will be able to negotiate cheaper energy prices. The scheme closes at midnight on the 31st October 2014. 

The next step after the closing date will be for an auction to take place to find the best tariff. Each resident receives a personal offer and will be able to see how much money they will be saving. The council have assured residents that switching will be quick and hassle free.

I am really pleased to see this scheme up and running for a third time thanks to the Labour-led council. One of the biggest issues people raised with me on the doorstep is the high cost of energy bills. Schemes like this coupled with Labour’s planned energy price freeze will go a long way to helping residents across Stockton South with their bills. I would urge as many people as possible to look at this scheme and consider registering.

If you would like to register or receive more information then please visit www.stockton.gov.uk/bigcommunityswitch. For those who do not have regular access to the internet, you can contact the Stockton and District Advice and Information Service, Horizon Centre, 1 Bridge Road, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1BH or you can call 01642 615834.

Stockton's Big Community Switch – Join NOW!

Since Tuesday last week residents from across Stockton have been able to register for ‘The Big Community Switch’. The scheme run by ‘iChoosr’ and ‘Make it Cheaper’ and supported by...

Education: A System Fit for All

 

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This week sees the beginning of a new academic year for our young people and teachers. Some are beginning in school or college for the first time, others are returning after a summer break.

I still remember that nervous anticipation at the beginning of the school year when I was at Conyers, thinking of what was to come and the excitement of seeing friends again or making new ones. In Stockton South we also have several Head Teachers starting in new posts and I want to take the opportunity to wish them all luck for the year ahead and every success.

I also thought that this was an apt time to write a little about what Labour will do to transform education and skills after the next election. Our Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has been working hard to put our policies in place and I was delighted when he came to Durham University in Stockton to discuss policy. I believe that Labour offers a great vision of what education should look like in the 21st century. The Tories are a block to this and in my view have already done a lot of damage

The Tory threat is clear; Michael Gove may have gone, but his destructive policies remain. I know from the doorstep the relief of many teachers when Michael Gove was demoted, but his successor Nicky Morgan has already made clear that she very much wants to continue in the direction he set out. She said on Wednesday that she wanted to listen to teachers because they are the experts, yet she insists on staying the course with the very policies which have alienated teachers up and down the country. An NUT poll in January 2013 showed that 69% of teachers felt morale had declined since May 2010, with 55% saying their morale is either low or very low. The failed Free Schools policy will continue. Funding for Primary school places will continue to be diverted. Finally unqualified people with untested ability will continue to be allowed to teach our children. This will all lead to a continued lack of morale, a potential for low standards of teaching and learning and teachers leaving the profession in droves; all to the detriment of our children and young people.

The choice with Labour is clear. We will ensure that our children are only taught by qualified teachers. Those unqualified will be given the training and support to attain qualified teacher status. Investment in high quality professional development and revalidation of skills on a rolling basis will mean there will be a world class teacher in every classroom in Stockton South.

Labour will put money back into funding extra school places by ending the free schools programme. In Ingleby Barwick we have a Free School opening this week on Teesside Industrial Estate with plans for a purpose-built school for next year. That won’t be under threat from Labour policy. We won’t stop from going ahead any that have been established or are in the pipeline. I have said before that I don’t dispute the need for more school places in Ingleby and I think it is unsustainable and unfair to bus hundreds of young people out every day. I would have preferred to see All Saints School extended or a new Community School built rather than a Free School but now that it has opened I do of course wish staff and students at Ingleby Manor every success in their first year.

Finally, not everyone chooses to go to university; Labour will ensure that vocational education is not a second class option. We have two good colleges in Stockton South and I look forward to seeing them being able to take advantage of delivering Labour’s Technical Baccalaureate.

Voters in Stockton South have a choice when it comes to the election in terms of education and skills. A Tory future of growing and unsustainable class sizes, unqualified teachers in the classroom and great teachers leaving the profession, or a Labour future where money is targeted to ensure that once again our children are taught in smaller classes  and by a world class teacher in a school and system which values its practitioners. I am very proud of our schools and colleges in Stockton South. Many of our schools are good or better than the rest and our colleges offer an excellent range of courses.

Only a Labour government will allow our educational organisations to grow and flourish. We will create a system fit for all. I look forward to spreading our messages on Education Policy on the doors in the coming months ahead. 

Back to school in Stockton South

Education: A System Fit for All   This week sees the beginning of a new academic year for our young people and teachers. Some are beginning in school or college...

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If it were necessary for the People’s March for the NHS to have a symbol or a figurehead who embodied the purpose of the endeavour, then I found it today in Geoff Berriman. On his 82nd birthday he joined NHS campaigners on the fourth leg of their march from Jarrow to London to draw attention to the plight of the NHS and the relentless drive to privatisation. Geoff told me that he was originally from the North East and had marched yesterday on the Ferry Hill to Darlington leg and again today on the Darlington to Northallerton leg. He lives now in North Staffordshire where he is in remission from prostate cancer.

He said he had come on the march to show his love, support and thanks for our National Health Service, that he was quite literally the image of the NHS working and walking.

What Geoff had not realised but was horrified to hear was that the cancer care service he has received in Staffordshire is currently out to tender and there is every chance that it will soon be run by a private operator. Imagine that if you will; shareholders somewhere could be making a profit out of treating men like Geoff in the future.

As I said to the marchers as I spoke to send us off, if that isn’t a good enough reason to get behind this campaign to save the NHS then I don’t know what is.

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Many hundreds of people will join the march on its way to London, some walking all the way, some walking a leg or even part of a leg. NHS campaigners who are ordinary citizens like the (extra)ordinary Darlo Mums who have so brilliantly organised it, Trade Unionists, and members of the Labour movement – including Fiona Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Windsor who intends to walk the whole route following in the footsteps of the Jarrow marchers of 1936, health workers and patients and members of their families.

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We took a big contingent of Stockton South members today and were proud to be able to play our small part in this historic undertaking. Let’s hope that our present – and future national leaders are listening.

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People’s March for the NHS – Jarrow to London

If it were necessary for the People’s March for the NHS to have a symbol or a figurehead who embodied the purpose of the endeavour, then I found it today in Geoff...

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I was up early this morning to join commuters on Thornaby Railway station. Alongside other Rail campaigners I talked to people about the news today of the latest hike in rail fares which will come into effect in January. Passengers were miserable at the news that annual season tickets have risen an eye watering 25% since 2010.

Let’s have a quick look at some of the latest rises:

Thornaby to Darlington - will cost £845 a year from Jan 1st 2015 – up £29 on last year

Thornaby to Durham - will cost £2043 a year from Jan 1st 2015 – up £71 on last year

Eaglescliffe to Darlington - will cost £746 a year from Jan 1st 2015 – up £26 on last year

Eaglescliffe to Durham - will cost £1948 a year from Jan 1st 2015 – up £68 on last year

Rail fares have risen faster than wages in every year. Over the same period, average earnings have increased by just 10.7 per cent, meaning rail fares have risen more than twice as fast as wages under the current government.

New official figures out this morning are forecast to show that RPI inflation rose by 2.6 per cent in July. Regulated rail fares – which include season tickets – are allowed to rise by July’s RPI figure plus one per cent, and would therefore increase by 3.6 per cent in January 2015.

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Last year I was on Darlington station to tell commuters that the East Coast line has shown the benefits of a publicly-owned railway by returning over £1bn to the taxpayer in the last five years – all of which will be re-invested in the service, instead of going into the pockets of company shareholders. If all the train operators were publicly owned, more money could be retained for higher investment in safety and better trains, as well as lower ticket prices. But despite the evidence, the government is pressing ahead with re-privatising the East Coast Main Line, even though two private companies previously failed to deliver.

Public ownership of our railways has widespread public support. A YouGov Poll in November 2013 found that 66 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of returning the railways to public ownership.

Speaking days before the news of the latest price hike, Ed Miliband said that “a Labour government would cap annual fares on every route and drive through the biggest reforms of the railways since privatisation."

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'Action For Rail' on Thornaby Station

I was up early this morning to join commuters on Thornaby Railway station. Alongside other Rail campaigners I talked to people about the news today of the latest hike in rail fares...


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