Louise Baldock

Standing up for Stockton South

Louise Baldock, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Stockton South

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How the British public have been short-changed by £750million

When the 500 year old service, Royal Mail was sold off last year, in spite of a big public campaign to save it, it was clear on the first day of trading that it had been sold on the cheap. Share prices were advertised at 330p but were selling at 455p by close of play that day.

The shares were so popular that they could have been sold 24 times over, with one industry expert comparing the demand to 2012 Olympics tickets.

Today’s share price is standing at 565p, that’s 70% more than shares were sold for.

The National Audit Office has now looked at the deal and said the Government’s approach

" …was marked by deep caution, the price of which was borne by the taxpayer."

And how! The first day of sales alone cost the taxpayer £750million.

£750million could have paid for:

  • 5550 nurses for 5 years
  • 5250 police officers for 5 years
  • At least 1 new hospital
  • 75 new schools
  • An extra £80 Winter Fuel Allowance this year for each eligible household
  • Building of 15,000 1 bedroom flats by social landlords outside London

It could also have covered the bedroom tax for every affected tenant in the country for a staggering two years!

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary and George Osborne, Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer should hang their heads in shame for their gross incompetence and giving away so much of our money to their friends in the city.

Next time you hear the Coalition whining about austerity measures, just remember the Big Royal Mail Robbery.

Big Royal Mail Robbery

How the British public have been short-changed by £750million

It’s not every day you get to make history by doing something that people do every day. But today couples across England and Wales will do just that by becoming the first people to enter into a same sex marriage.

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Opening up marriage to couples of the same sex who love each other and want to make that commitment is an important moment for equality in Britain and comes after decades of progress for LGBT people.

I’m proud that Labour MPs and Peers were able to give the Government the majority they needed to get Equal Marriage through. Sadly our Tory MP voted against this measure. Throughout our history, the Labour Party has stood shoulder to shoulder with those across the UK who have campaigned for the right to be treated no differently under the law simply because they choose to love someone of the same sex or their gender identity.

From equalising the age of consent, to ending the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces; giving gay couples and individuals the right to adopt children, to allowing people to legally change their gender; and of course scrapping the hateful Section 28. In Government we brought through historic changes which have transformed the lives of LGBT people across the UK.

It wasn’t always easy, when we created Civil Partnerships we met with opposition, but it was the right thing to do to show that as a society we value, recognise and reward that loving commitment in the same way we do couples of the opposite sex who choose to marry.

Now same sex couples will be able to demonstrate that commitment by making marriage vows themselves in civil ceremonies and in the case of Quakers and Reform Jews, religious ceremonies too. Of course not every religious group is the same, and religious organisations will not be required by the law to marry same sex couples, because freedom of religion is also important.

And the Government need to speed up work now to allow couples to convert their civil partnerships into marriage too.

Whilst we have come a long way towards equality in law, it is important to remember that people across the UK and the world still live with homophobia and face discrimination and sometimes persecution for their sexuality and gender identity.

Labour will continue to lead this fight, but today is a day to celebrate with all the happy couples, same sex or opposite sex, who are walking down the aisle today.

 

LABOUR’S RECORD

Between 1997 and 2010 the Labour Government did more for the advancement of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans equality than any other government in British History.  In government, Labour:

  • Achieved an equal age of consent

  • Ended the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces

  • Ended discrimination against Lesbian & Gay partners for immigration purposes

  • Gave LGBT individuals and couples the right to adopt children

  • Scrapped the homophobic Section 28 (Clause 2a in Scotland)

  • Become a signatory of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which gave the EU powers to end discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation

  • Banned discrimination in the workplace and in vocational training with the introduction of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations

  • Created the Equality and Human Rights  Commission (EHRC) which gives LGBT people statutory body protection

  • Included homophobia in the definition of hate crimes

  • Increased sentencing for homophobic hate crimes

  • Removed outdated offences such as gross indecency and buggery

  • Produced and implemented the Gender Recognition Act, allowing Trans people to have their true gender recognised in law

  • Created Civil Partnerships

  • Outlawed discrimination in goods and services (with no exceptions)

  • Launched a campaign in the UN for the Decriminalisation of Homosexuality focusing on the nine countries where it is still punishable by death

  • Awarded statutory rights for fertility treatment for Lesbians on the NHS.

A happy day for equality

It’s not every day you get to make history by doing something that people do every day. But today couples across England and Wales will do just that by becoming...

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I have today submitted formal objections to new plans by developers to build 70 houses on what was intended to be part of the playing fields for a new Ingleby Manor Free School.

I am dismayed that the Tory Government’s Education Funding Agency has done a deal with developers Satnam and Tiviot Way Investors to reduce the size of the land available for Ingleby Manor Free School – and thus its playing field provision – in order to allow for the building of 70 more houses.

This is a betrayal of local residents who have learned of this only as the application has come in and were never consulted on this change. Resident objectors in Regency Park in particular were told when the original plans were passed that, in mitigation, the school fields would be behind their houses, now they can expect houses there instead.

I understand the Trust behind the Free School are extremely disappointed too.

Whose interest is this in?

Ingleby Barwick is already creaking at the seams, the infrastructure is not there to support this, one man contacted me to say his house sale fell through because there was no junior school place on the estate for the potential purchasers’ child and I am also worried about long waiting times for GP appointments  for existing residents.

My petition is still live and I hope you will sign it as our campaign to prevent building in this area pushes forward.

http://www.egenda.stockton.gov.uk/elps/entity/EI9SHtDb75IfAjqttfADJL0?searchreq=50

If you want to object to this application you will find it at 14/0562/OUT.

I look forward to joining residents at the relevant planning committee to firmly object to these latest proposals

Update: New application for housing in Ingleby Barwick

I have today submitted formal objections to new plans by developers to build 70 houses on what was intended to be part of the playing fields for a new Ingleby...

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Last month I spoke to a woman on the doorstep in Thornaby about her issues and concerns and she explained the tough financial circumstances the family found themselves in. Her husband, the family’s breadwinner, was working for a firm which was struggling and were not paying out wages but had kept staff dangling for several months with unmet promises, while they continued to work.

I was very much struck by the situation and have been describing the family’s plight when speaking out about how the system – and indeed the economy -  is simply not working and needs reforming.

This week the woman, let’s call her Sue, has been back in touch with an update.

This is what she has said (I have changed a few small details to prevent her from being identified)

“I spoke to you recently when you knocked on my door regarding the fact we have had no income; I just thought I would update you and maybe you could come up with some suggestions for the Labour Party to put forward towards the next election as I think it’s too late to help us now. But with this current economic climate there will be a lot of people in our position in the near future. There seems to be a lot of help out there for the long-time unemployed but the short-term need help too. If you have the time please read what has happened in our case and maybe you can help people in the future...

My husband has worked since he was 16 and we have 3 children, other than claiming unemployment for 20 days a few years ago, he has always worked hard and paid tax and national insurance.

The firm he worked for has now closed down. We only got part of December’s wage, none of January and February and were notified in early March that the company had no money. After seeking advice and contacting our MP’s office we made a claim for Job Seekers Allowance and asked that they back date it. We contacted ACAS and CAB and the Administration Company. The Job Centre were unable to say if and when we could get any help. The Administration Company said we can only put in a claim but it is capped. It turns out that we can only claim about half of the money owed. And today we have received a letter concerning Job Seekers saying that we do not meet the requirements for having the claim backdated and the first three days don’t count, but after a date in mid March we can claim £112 per week to keep us all.

Steve has always worked hard and although he didn’t earn a lot, always paid tax, NI and bills etc and saved a little. Through no fault of our own he found himself in a situation of working for months without pay, being told he would get it next week, over and over. December 2013 he got part wages, it is now March 22nd and we haven’t had anything since. We had just over £1000 in savings which we used towards bills, we have borrowed from family and friends, we are overdrawn in the bank and owe nearly £3k on credit cards.

Steve has applied for numerous job vacancies and after an interview on Friday is expecting a job offer soon. By the time we are entitled to help from Job Seekers or anything else we will no longer be entitled to it because hopefully Steve will get a start date and sign off.

There seems to be help for the long term unemployed who rent but hard working people who want to buy a home and need help short term, maybe just for a few weeks every five or ten years have nowhere to turn.

I have cried more these last few months than in the whole of my life and I don’t think a penny off a pint or a bingo tax will help seeing as we don’t drink or gamble. One person would have to drink a hundred pints to save a pound yet this costs the Treasury a lot. It would have been better to put the beer up and use the extra income for something worthwhile. No-one minded Gordon Brown putting up beer or cigarettes because that few extra pence per item added up to a lot of extra income which he used to make life better for the many not just for the few...

Since the last election our standard of living has gone down and down. Things were getting harder even before the company closed because no-one had had a pay rise in five years and if Steve is offered this job he will be taking a £5000 pay cut from £25k per year down to £20k from which we will have to find a way of clearing the debt we have acquired over these few months.”

This is by no means the only case I have picked up on the doorstep which shows how inflexible our benefits system is. It simply doesn’t cater for any set of circumstances outside of a tight frame. I can only assume that Government relies on people’s friends and families being in a position to tide them over. I entirely sympathise with Sue where she explains that despite paying into the system for decades, it doesn’t wish to pay out when the safety net is needed.

I also met a man who is looking for work and was about to accept a job as a care assistant before understanding that it was a zero hour contract. This meant he might work some weeks and not others, but the benefits system is not capable of or flexible enough to manage people who need support only intermittently – and yet this is the new reality. Consequently he couldn’t take the job because he wouldn’t be able to guarantee to pay his rent or feed his child.

People have also talked to me on the doorstep about catastrophic company failures leaving people without work or pay. One angry man in Ingleby Barwick told me last summer about how his own transport company went bust and he had no-one to advise him or offer support when it was still just about viable. He said they could have kept afloat with an injection of cash to tide them over until cash flow improved and this would have saved lots of jobs. Instead he had to shut down and his lads all entered the system. Another man, in Bishopsgarth, told me how a business rates holiday would have helped his mechanics business in Stockton when times were hard.

I have several friends who have chosen not to claim benefits when finding themselves out of work for short periods because the system is too intransigent and difficult, too inflexible and unaccommodating, they prefer to take the financial hit, borrow and make-do until an opportunity comes along. You might be thinking that is a good thing, that it is better if people don’t claim or seek assistance, but the worry surely is that if people don’t feel the benefit of a National Insurance system then they will begin to resent paying into it and the whole support system will collapse (the clue is in the title after all!).

We need to do more as a country to support small businesses when they are struggling, a huge number of the nation’s workers are employed in SMEs in the private sector and although their collapse doesn’t necessarily mean thousands being thrown on to the dole as it would with a household name, they are still valued and valuable work places and we should be putting as much effort in there to keep them going as we would with a big employer. I have written elsewhere about the disappointing withdrawal of Business Link by this no-clue-about-business Government. And everyone knows the banks don’t do enough to help; that’s a particularly strong reason why a Regional Bank is such a good idea.

We also need to reform the benefits system so that it can reliably support people who only rarely need to call down money from the significant amounts they have paid in to the national pot; people who don’t fit neatly into categories but merit financial support which recognises their long-term contributions. Why can’t we support people like Sue and Steve? They are just as deserving.

And finally we need to reform the system so that it can flexibly meet the need where it is regularly intermittent (if that is not an oxymoron) and where people need to be able to claim income support some weeks but not others. The three day “pay nothing” measure wont work for people like this.  And of course we need to get rid of those horrible zero hour contracts.

I shall be feeding this contribution into Labour’s manifesto planning process.

A Thornaby family's financial plight shows how the Government isn't working

Last month I spoke to a woman on the doorstep in Thornaby about her issues and concerns and she explained the tough financial circumstances the family found themselves in. Her...

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All those present at March’s Tees Valley Business Club found Managing Director Stephen Catchpole’s presentation very useful on the future plans of our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU). I am not a big fan of LEPs to be honest, some of them have been quite ineffective but it is clear that TVU is punching above its weight.

Stephen outlined an ambitious target of creating 25,000 net new full-time equivalent jobs in the private sector in the next ten years if we are to transform the local economy. He explained that Tees Valley had seen 28,000 jobs in the previous 10 years but many had been in the public sector. It is clear with Government cuts that we have to look elsewhere as job losses are now quite severe there. He said he thought the biggest growth would come in the business and professional services sector, but also in health and engineering. He explained that we still have high rates of unemployment, particularly for young people and TVU is keen to support measures to try to rectify that by offering subsidies to employers taking on new workers.

As an indication of where some of the growth might come, I enjoyed hearing from Dan Riley from Spearhead Interactive in Middlesbrough about how his award-winning young business is developing a brand new digital sphere and from Bob Makin at Sock Monkey Studios who is also growing a new digital business. Two young men with passion and determination to succeed and to take others on as they grow. I also met a young woman from Eaglescliffe who is going to be a opening a new florist and gift shop at Orchard Estate shops in Eaglescliffe with her sister - and isn’t it good to see the roof going up for the new parade by the way, not long now until completion.

As someone who has spent 7 years supporting new businesses it is particularly good to see young people taking their first steps. I have several on my campaign team who are finding it difficult to find a job, setting up your own business is a great remedy for those with imaginative ideas. Sadly the excellent individualised support we could expect from Business Link was one of the first casualties of the Coalition who in my view are utterly clueless about what business really needs. Fortunately TVU have some plans to introduce a new system, COMPASS which should start to fill some of the huge gap left behind.

As with all business networking, we exchanged business cards; it was disappointing that not a single one I now have in my little stash carries a twitter handle, even though everyone I asked said they do have an account. I had a good look through the nea2fguide too and didn’t spot any there either. Come on designers, branding agencies and printers, stop letting your clients down. You are missing an absolutely vital business promotion trick here.

I have sent off my subs for the business club today as it will obviously be a very useful group for me to be part of on several fronts.

Will young entrepreneurs help ‘spearhead’ Tees Valley’s drive to tackle unemployment?

All those present at March’s Tees Valley Business Club found Managing Director Stephen Catchpole’s presentation very useful on the future plans of our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Tees Valley Unlimited...


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