Thursday, 18 January 2018

Heralding the formation of The Pele Trust

I was pleased to be able to celebrate the formation of the Pele Trust with the six participating Head Teachers. The Trust will is made up of Ponteland High School, Ponteland Primary School, Richard Coates CofE School, Darras Hall Primary School, Belsay Primary School and Heddon St Andrew's CofE Primary School. The Pele Trust brings together six good and outstanding schools in the Ponteland area that have chosen to join together to share their experience and expertise with the aim of further improving educational outcomes for young people in the area. I wish everyone involved the very best for the future. 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Driving the North forwards

Transport for the North has unveiled new and long-awaited plans to overhaul road and railway transport across the north of England. The plans include creating a new rail network called Northern Powerhouse Rail that will aim to cut journey times, particularly east to west across the North. 1.3 million people will live within an hour's train journey of at least four major northern cities and 39% of businesses will be within a 90-minute train journey of four or more major northern cities, according to the new proposals. The train network will be fully integrated with HS2, and new lines will be built along with upgrades to existing lines. Key improvements will also be made to roads, and the proposals could help create 850,000 jobs and boost the economy by £100bn.

A public consultation on the plans will run until 17th April, and a final version is due to be submitted for ministerial consideration later this year. Modern and efficient transport is vital to drive economic growth in the North, as well as to provide a good quality service for local residents. The government is committed to transforming transport in the North and has already committed £13bn, and I welcome these plans.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Brighten up Winter

Christmas might be over but there is still plenty to smile about thanks to Wylam Winter Tales. The week-long arts festival offers a range of events for all ages which aim to brighten up the darkest time of year. Events include music, art, film, craft, story-telling and local history, and are either free or reasonably priced. The festival was started by musician Gareth Davies-Jones and art therapist Simon Hackett, and last year 1,270 people came along to enjoy the fantastic variety of events on offer. Wylam Parish Council has generously donated £2500 to the festival, and the funding will go towards outreach work at local schools. The festival runs from Friday 26th January- Friday 2nd February- the list of events planned looks absolutely brilliant so I would encourage you to have a look and go along to brighten up your January!  

Monday, 15 January 2018

Hexham's Chris is King of the Course!

I would like to send my congratulations to Hexham-born Chris Paisley who has won his first European Tour event of his career at the South African Open in Johannesburg. Chris had six birdies in a six-under final round to finish three shots clear of South Africa’s Branden Grace. Chris’ achievement is especially remarkable as his regular caddie was on holiday and Chris’ wife Keri stepped in instead, clearly doing a brilliant job! Chris will now climb to a career-high ranking of just outside the top 120. Congratulations Chris on your amazing achievement- I'll be following your career achievements with interest.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Preparing our hospitals for winter

Winter is the busiest time of year for the NHS, with huge additional pressures on staff and resources. It is therefore great news for patients and residents that the Government has invested millions of pounds in our local NHS hospital trusts this winter, with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust allocated up to £1,019,000 and the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust receiving up to £2,235,746. This additional funding, along with the most extensive preparations ahead of the winter season ever, will ensure that our hospitals are able to cope as well as possible with the pressures that cold weather and flu can bring. We all want to know that the NHS is there for us and our families whenever we need it, so I'm pleased the Government is giving the NHS extra support at this critical time of year. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who works in the NHS for everything that you do.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A Racing Certainty

It was a pleasure to spend time in Otterburn recently visiting Girsonfield Stud & Racing and celebrating its successful expansion with the support of a grant from a European rural funding Scheme.  The LEADER programme grant, worth over £9,000 has helped Girsonfield Stud & Racing increase the number of stables and improve training facilities with the addition of a new horse walker. The LEADER scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). 

Racehorse owners and members of the Northumberland Uplands LEADER Action Group joined owners Susan and Frank Corbett for a tour of the stables and facilities, and I was thrilled to be asked to ride eight year old Harleys Max, who was born at Girsonfield and hand reared after his mother died, and has already won over fences.  

Girsonfield employs eight full time staff and two part-timers, with an average age of 19, and encourages all the staff to attend training courses to increase their skills and employability.  With 32 horses in training, and a number of syndicates available to make ownership more affordable, the yard is going from strength to strength under the stewardship of Susan.  Girsonfield’s resident Stallion - Kutub - is leased from Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum and is a triple Group 1 Winner.  

Girsonfield is a real example of a successful, expanding rural business, which is offering real jobs and career opportunities to young people from the area.  I wish them every success, and look forward to visiting again. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Great War- remembering the fallen

This year marks the centenary of the armistice to end fighting in World War One, and to mark the anniversary I will be writing about the part Hexham and Northumberland played in the Great War.

War memorials to honour and remember those men and women that have so bravely given their lives for our country in armed conflicts can be found in almost every town and village in Northumberland. But in his brilliant book, Tynedale in the Great War, the Hexham Courant's Brian Tilley tells the fascinating story of four officers of the Northumberland Fusiliers who wrote to the Courant in 1918 with a very different suggestion of how to remember the fallen following World War One. Rather than having a memorial in the town hall or in Hexham Abbey, the four officers suggested that a cottage hospital in the town would be a more practical and useful way of honouring those who lost their lives. The idea was ultimately dismissed by a local councillor though as being too expensive, especially given that the hospital nearby in Newcastle was one of the best in the country.

The proposed hospital was never built, but memorials and monuments to ensure that we remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country are still all around us today, in Hexham and beyond, and serve as valuable reminders of Northumberland's heroic past.

For more fascinating stories of our region in the Great War, I recommend getting yourself a copy of Tynedale in the Great War by Brian Tilley- available from Forum Books in Corbridge and elsewhere.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Backing the Bank

I am delighted to see that Northumberland County Council are backing the newly-created Northumberland Community Bank, which will be rolling out across the county in the coming months. 

Northumberland Community Bank was formed in April 2017 by the merger of the Tynedale Community Bank and the Credit Union for South East Northumberland.  Run by volunteers, the banks aim is to offer a community-based alternative and stop people having to go to payday lenders, while reinvesting any profits in community projects. 

One of my biggest achievements as an MP is the creation of the Tynedale Community Bank, which was launched at Hexham Abbey in November 2015 by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.  The Bank was created in the aftermath of the collapse of banks across the UK and I am so pleased that the bank is continuing to grow and to help more and more people in need.  Northumberland faces significant financial inclusion challenges that have a huge impact on our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, so I welcome the Councils decision to support and invest in the Community Bank and wish the project continued success. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

A promising future

September 2018 will see the launch of North East Futures UTC, a brand new school in Newcastle for 14-19 year olds.  I have long been a supporter of this project - the school will specialise in careers in Health Science and IT, making it perfect for young people who already know that they want to pursue a career in these fields. The school has support from local industry partners and employers and is sponsored by the University of Sunderland with partnerships with all five North East universities. The North East has huge skills shortages in Health Sciences and IT industries which are two of the fastest growing sectors in the region, and the school gives lung people the chance to specialise in these areas and gain the necessary skills and qualifications for these industries whilst also taking the GCSEs, A Levels and Technical Awards that you would at an ordinary school.

If you are between 14 and 19 and are interested in a career in Health Science or IT, then I would encourage you to find out more about North East Futures UTC- a brilliant idea that will help young people in the North East get the skills they need for the career they want.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Keep your home warm this winter

Winter is under way and it’s so important to be prepared for the cold months ahead. I would therefore like to encourage you all to get hold of a copy of my sixth annual Energy Guide. The Guide has been produced in association with Calor and has so far been sent out to thousands of homes across the constituency. With advice on how to make your home more energy efficient and to get the best deal from your energy supplier to keep your energy bills as low as possible, the Energy Guide gives residents all the advice you need about preparing your home for winter. We get so much confusing advice about how to make our homes energy efficient, and I hope that the Energy Guide will be useful as a definitive guide to keeping your energy bills down.

If you would like a free copy of the Energy Guide, please get in contact with my constituency office. Alternatively, the Guide is available here-

Monday, 8 January 2018

Planning ahead for a green Brexit

Farming is one of the backbones of the community here in Northumberland, and I welcome the recent speech at the Oxford Farming Conference by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, in which he gave much-needed clarification about farming after Brexit.

Farmers will receive payments for public goods, such as opening up access to the countryside, enhancing the environment and planting meadows, as part of plans to replace EU subsidies. Subsidies at the current EU level will be guaranteed until the 2022 election, after which there will be a transitional period in England. Farmers are currently unable to claim subsidies specifically for improving public access under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, so this new policy will ensure a fairer and more efficient system to encourage farmers to open up access.

The Government’s agriculture plans will be published in the spring, but I am pleased that farmers have been given some much-needed information about life after Brexit. The news that farmers will be paid for how they use their land, rather than how much of it they own, is a sensible and welcome announcement, signalling the Government’s plan for a green Brexit.