Monday, 2 February 2009

Guisborough Swimming Pool reopens after £300,000

SPRIGHTLY 83-year-old Bill Wood has lost count of the thousands of lengths he's swum up and down Guisborough Swimming Pool in the 41 years since it opened.  So he was the ideal person to cut the red ribbon at the official re-opening of the pool after its £300,000 renovation by Redcar and Cleveland Council.


Bill, of Guisborough, swims up to three times a week to tot up an impressive three miles of swimming. He was one of the first to use the pool with his family when it first opened in November 1968. He said: "This facility is so important for young and old - for the whole community. It's a very precious asset for Guisborough. We deserve a pool like this - there's no reason why we should have to go outside the town to enjoy swimming. I'm absolutely delighted the council has refurbished it and given it a new lease of life."


Campaigners have battled for years to save the pool and officials say the refurbishment has secured its future. Councillor Denise Bunn said: "Bill's a terrific example of how to keep young and healthy and we're doubly delighted he's now got beautiful new surroundings to swim in!"


Bill added: "I taught my children to swim in the pool and we've been great supporters ever since."


The pool reopened in December but on Friday, Council leader George Dunning, Cllr Joe Keenan and Cllr Denise Bunn, along with Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Ashok Kumar attended official celebrations.


Its improvements include a new reception, changing rooms and poolside surrounds while the roof was refurbished and the pool's cleansing and filtration system modernised to give better water quality.


Cllr Dunning said: "This underlines our view that the pool must remain as a valuable community asset. We made a manifesto commitment to the people of the town and are delighted we've been able to fulfil that pledge."


Campaigner Dr Kumar said: "This is the culmination of a dream for me and for all the users of the pool. It was eight years ago when I first visited it and I was appalled at how run-down it was, but also how popular it was with local swimming clubs, local schools and townsfolk."

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Thursday, 13 November 2008


Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Ashok Kumar, today (The 13th of November), welcomed the news that the Government had announced measures that would ensure that local Post Offices were to keep their existing benefits payment function.

James Purnell M.P., the Work and Pensions Secretary, today said that the Post Office will retain its £1bn five-year contract to distribute benefits to 4.3 million claimants. The Post Office Card Account (POCA), used by more than four million people, was designed to do away with the need for giros and payment books for pensioners and benefit claimants, while still allowing them to use Post Offices to collect money.

Ashok said 'This is great news for local Post Office in my constituency – especially those in rural parts of East Clevelandwho felt that they were under threat of closure if they lost this business to commercial providers. It will also come as a great relief to many pensioners the length and breadth of my constituency who were worried that they would have to be forced to switch accounts to shops and banks, and who they saw as more remote and impersonal."

"This news now also allows the government to build the Post Office network as what has been called a "trusted provider of a broader range of financial service". This news is a lifeline.  I hope this announcement will now be built on by Government, as over recent months it has become clear that many people implicitly trust the Post Office – much more so that the big banks"

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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Guisborough development plan to go on display

RESIDENTS in Guisborough can have their say on a 15-year development plan for the area at an exhibition this week. The blueprint for the town will be on show in mobile exhibition bus in the town's Fountain Street car park from November 15 to November 17, from 10am to 4pm.
Councillor Joe Keenan said: "It is really important that we connect with the people of the town. They know what is needed for us to help us make a difference."


The public has already responded to the invitation to get aboard the Love It Hate It roadshow, with around 1,500 visiting the exhibition bus at its stops in, Saltburn and various locations in Greater Eston. The 40 day tour is expected to collate thousands of ideas from people about what they love or hate in the borough.


Councillor Keenan said: "We want to get people involved in Guisborough, not just simply commission design professionals and architects to tell us what they think. We need to get residents views on how this area should be regenerated. We're going to see millions of investment in the coming years and the roadshow gives the people who live and work here an opportunity to have their say."


The Council is working in partnership with the regional development agency, One NorthEast, to create a robust Regeneration Masterplan to identify multi-million pound economic opportunities, sports, leisure and housing developments across the area.

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Ashok Kumar MP on the victory of Barack Obama

MP Ashok Kumar on the victory of Barack Obama


ASHOK KUMAR, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, shares his perspective on the momentous events which have been taking place in the United States this week:


ONLY a few years ago the mere suggestion that a black man could rise to the most powerful position in world politics would have been dismissed by even some of the most astute political commentators. Even after Barack Obama made history by becoming the first black person to be nominated for President by a major US political party, many still doubted his country was ready to elect an African-American as their President.


On November 4 — a day that will forever live in history — the hopes and dreams of many, including myself, became a reality and Obama became the first ever black President of the United States of America. This brought back vivid memories of 17 years ago when I was fighting a similar battle — albeit on a very much smaller scale — at a by-election in the marginal, Conservative- held Parliamentary seat of Langbaurgh which later became Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.


As someone who was born in India and raised in Derbyshire, many doubted I would be accepted in an area which is largely rural and industrial and, at the time, was 99.4 per cent white. My aim, and that of my party — much like Obama's — was to reach out to people irrespective of their background and, through hard work and determination, challenge any prejudices they might have.

I always saw myself as a Labour candidate who happened to be Asian rather than an Asian candidate. Similarly, Barack Obama ran his campaign as an American who happens to be black, not as a black candidate.


It is a great credit to the people of the North East and their progressive, fair-minded nature that race was not a major issue in any of the elections I've been involved in. With the recent US presidential election, many of the most informed commentators claimed that the so-called Bradley effect — a discrepancy between election outcomes and opinion polls when a black candidate is running against a white candidate — would have slashed Obama's lead. So I was delighted when his victory was similar to that predicted by the polls. Thanks to his wide appeal, the turn-out was phenomenal and the sight of people queuing round the block to vote was truly inspiring.


This now begs the question . . . will we ever have a black or Asian Prime Minister here in the UK? We now have 15 black and Asian MPs in Parliament, 13 of whom are Labour and two who are Tory. Despite this, there is still a long way to go in this country to increase the representation of ethnic-minorities at all levels of society. But I do firmly believe that racism is now confined to small, marginalised sections of society.


From my own experience, British people, and in particular those in the North East, are fair and decent. Just as Martin Luther King dreamed, they tend to judge people not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. If only he was still alive to see the culmination of his hard work and sacrifice . . . the election of a black president.


Unlike the US, the UK has never had segregation or a civil rights movement. But despite the differences between our two countries, Obama's success certainly fills me with confidence and hope that the same could happen here in the near future.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the British people are ready for a black or Asian Prime Minister if the right candidate emerges and I remain optimistic that if the conditions stay the same we may see one in the next decade or so.

I take great comfort from Obama's passionate speeches about the "audacity of hope" and for minorities it is hope and determination that has brought us to where we are today . . . both in the US and Britain. When people ask me if we can expect a black Prime Minister in the UK in the near future, I will respond, in the words of Obama himself: "Yes we can".

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Wednesday, 6 August 2008


Plans for making Guisborough one of the major tourist centres in the region have been strongly backed by local Guisborough Labour Councillors.

Denise Bunn and Joe Keenan say that Redcar and Cleveland Council's success in gaining £120,000 from regional development Agency One North East for a three-year programme of development work in the town provides a great opportunity to exploit the town's potential, especially in outdoor tourism activities.

Says Denise Bunn "Over the past three years getting on for half a million pounds has been invested in the economic regeneration of the town with funding channelled through the Guisborough Market Town Partnership.''

"But we need to move forward which is why we are pleased that the Council has been able to secure funding for planning the next stages in attracting more investment, more visitors—and more jobs—to Guisborough."

Adds Joe Keenan "The new funding will be spent on what is known as a 'capacity project'—it's really all about looking at how we can exploit the town's attractions as a tourist destination and identify ways in which we can attract other funding to enable the development of projects which can help bring in visitors—for instance the plans for a mountain bike 'Trailhead' in Guisborough Forest. I believe we could have a great future if we develop our activity tourism potential.''

"We need to have our basic strategy in place so we can work with our stakeholders like the Guisborough Market Town Partnership to make Guisborough the vibrant and attractive town we all want to see."

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


 Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour M.P., Ashok Kumar, will tomorrow (Wednesday 30th July) at 2.30 p.m. be inviting Iain Wright M.P., the M.P, for Hartlepool and a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government to see the progress of flood control measures in the Pine Road area of Guisborough.


Ashok said "Flooding after heavy rain had been a long standing problem in the Pine Road and Bolckow Street area of the town and after being contacted by residents I put pressure on Northumbrian Water to bring forward their programme for sewer improvement and rain-water run-off facilities.  This has paid off with work now well underway, and I want to pay thanks to both John Cuthbert, Northumbrian Waters Managing Director, and John Mowbray, their head of Corporate Affairs, for their help in solving this problem."


"The works are being managed in partnership with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and I want Iain Wright, as a Local Government and Planning Minister, to see how this partnership between NW, the council and local Labour ward councillors has paid off for local people who will no longer have to live in fear of winter flooding".  


Richard Woodhouse of Northumbrian Water, said: 'Work is on schedule, with 600m of sewer pipe now in place. A Combined Sewer Overflow structure, which discharges wastewater into watercourses in times of very heavy rainfall to protect properties and surrounding land from flooding, will be constructed in the next few weeks. We are continuing to liaise with residents and other agencies involved.'


Northumbrian Water have invested £3 million to upgrade this section of the sewerage network.  The work involves upgrading 1500 metres of sewer pipe and the construction of a screened combined sewer overflow. Northumbrian Water say that in times of heavy rainfall the quantity of rainwater entering the sewerage network had resulted in flooding to properties in Pine Road and Bolckow Street and that this improvement work will significantly reduce the risk of flooding to these properties.

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008


Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Ashok Kumar, today (July 7th) expressed his 'delight and joy' at the news that Guisborough Swimming Pool was to be the recipient of a large modernisation and refurbishment programme and that this work was to be the precursor to a totally new pool for the town in 2013

The work on the pool is to be funded via a sizeable contribution from Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council's £2.47 million Capital Programme for Leisure and will mean a new internal roof for the pool, new poolside surrounds, a total refurbishment for the changing rooms, cubicles and lockers as well as work on the external roof and a modernisation of the pool's cleansing and filtration system. This work is designed to see the pool continue in use until a totally new pool is developed at LawrenceJacksonSchoolin around 2012.

Ashok said "This a triumph and marks the culmination of a long eight year campaign that I have led in the town to see that the present baths were both saved and that they were to brought back to a condition that will see the pool become a centrepiece for local leisure pursuits. Over the past years I have held a special debate in Parliament, present a petition to the Council and to the House of Commons and brought the former Sports Minister, Richard Caborn MP, so he could see for himself the need for these works to be funded. This will now happen – and on top of that we now have the news that this work will be the precursor to the building of an entirely new pool on the Lawrence Jackson School Site as part of the Government funded 'Building Schools for the Future' Programme".

"This news shows how the government and the local council, working together hand-in-hand can turn aspiration into reality. I was proud to have led the fight for the new pool and I now look forward eagerly to the opening ceremony."

The Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, Councillor George Dunning, said "We are honouring Labour's manifesto commitment to Guisborough to maintain swimming facilities, something in stark contrast to the previous coalition who, at one point were considering the total closure of the pool"

The Deputy Leader of the Council and the Council's Cabinet member for Culture, Leisure & Tourism Sheelagh Clarke, said .' We are committed to improving the range of activities and facilities for Guisborough and for the borough as a whole, and this is another big step forward '

Local Guisborough Ward Councillors Joe Keenan and Denise Bunn also welcomed the news. Joe said "This is great news for the town. The threat to the future of the pool under the previous Tory, Lib Dem and Independent coalition administration worried us all. Fighting to secure a pool for Guisborough was one of the main reasons that I stood for election to the council. I am really pleased with the progress we have made. All concerned should be congratulated."

Denise said "I am extremely pleased that we have been able to deliver one of our Manifesto promises to ensure swimming facilities for Guisborough by repairing the present pool , and planning for a New Pool at Laurence Jackson. The Labour Government is intending to allow free swimming for Children and over 60 year olds in the first instance , and then for all age groups. What better way to stay fit physically and mentally than by swimming !".

Rob Vincent Jones, the Vice Chair of the Guisborough New Pool Group also commented. He said "I am delighted to hear this news, which will ensure the continuation of swimming in Guisborough as a sport and as a leisure pursuit. It is a tonic for the town."

Joe Keenan
Councillor for Guisborough Ward

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Minimum Wage to rise by 3.8%

Labour's Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that the adult National Minimum Wage will rise from £5.52 to £5.73.

The rate for 18-21 year olds will also increase from £4.60 to £4.77, while the 16-17 year old rate will rise from £3.40 to £3.53. Gordon Brown said: "Some people said the minimum wage would cost us two million jobs. We have a rising minimum wage and we have created three million jobs.''

The Labour Government has also boosted the funding for enforcement of the National Minimum Wage and is planning tough new penalties for rogue employers who underpay staff as part of the Employment Bill which is currently before Parliament.

Since the implementation of the Minimum Wage Act, Labour's National Minimum Wage has made a huge difference in making work pay and helping families out of poverty in Britain.

Since October 2007 the minimum wage for adults, combined with Working Tax credits and other benefits, has guaranteed an income of at least £292 a week for families with one child and one full-time worker.

While the Tories opposed the minimum wage and still criticise it, the Labour Government is taking steps to strengthen it – ensuring that employees know their rights and employers know their responsibilities.

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Neighbourhood Watch in North Guisborough

North Guisborough Community Forum are looking for volunteers who would be interested in being involved is setting neighbourhood watch groups in streets around the town. If you are interested in getting involved, please email with your details and they can link you to appropriate contacts.


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Ashok visits Laurence Jackson School

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Ashok Kumar, will be visiting Guisborough's Laurence Jackson School this coming Friday (the 7th March) to meet Mr Tony Gavin, the School's new Headteacher, and to visit the Applegarth Unit on the School Campus and which gives special help to Children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions.

Ashok said "This is an important visit.  Laurence Jackson School is the biggest 11-16 school in Redcar and Cleveland and teaches children from across a large part of my constituency. It is an excellent school, and one on the cutting edge of educational innovation.  I want to hear from Mr Gavin on his plans for the future and for his views on how the government's new educational reforms are working on the ground"

"I will also be visiting the Applegarth Centre and the lead teacher there, Jane Goodchild.  This centre, opened last September is a specialist unit accommodating up to either children at a time or who have a range of autistic spectrum conditions – including Aspergers Syndrome.  The unit helps prepare them for life in a school setting and undertakes its work on a one-to-one basis for all the children using the centre. The work there is vital. If those youngsters can cope with school life, they will also be better prepared for adult life as well."  

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Councillors expenses

At a Special Full Council meeting this week, the Labour Administration delivered on one of its central manifesto promises by voting to freeze basic councillor allowances. This was against the recommendations of the independent panel which had suggested a 2.5% rise.This was a very important decision. Councillor allowances under the previous coalition council crept up to the highest in the whole of the Tees Valley. Allowances are nearly twice what they receive in Hartlepool for instance - although they are not directly comparable, I suppose, as they have a different system of local government with a directly elected Mayor. This situation must stop and the outrageous behaviour of hiking up expenses for personal gain that was done by the greedy Tory and Liberal Coalition Councillors previously has come to an end. My personal position is that we should be looking at the possiblility of maintaining a freeze until our allowances are around the Tees Valley average for the local authorities around us. That is up for debate I suppose but one thing is for sure, the freeze this year will ensure that more money goes into council services rather than Tory Councillors pockets!
Cllr Joe Keenan 

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Thursday, 28 February 2008

Race night

Fundraising: Race night tomorrow (Friday 29th Feb 2008), 730pm redcar cricket ground. Tickets £3.50, contact Norma.