January got off to a snowy start which saw us campaigning ankle deep in the snow for the coming Local Elections. It was also the month I raised the prospect of us having to have Border Controls if Scotland goes independent and our support for the opening of Gilsland station came another step closer to reality. January was also when I lost a great friend and inspiration in Dr Alan Reece. It also saw myself and hundreds of locals pack into Snods Edge Village Hall to discuss the Whittonstall Opencast proposals, an issue that will rumble on into next year. Reform to Constituency boundaries was defeated 334 - 292. Labour's scare stories on University admission were undermined when it was revealed UCAS applications from those from disadvantaged backgrounds has also risen to the highest ever on record at 19.5%.
We started off February with a visit from Skills Minister Mathew Hancock to our Apprenticeship Summit, which I organised at Kirkley Hall. February was also the month I voted for the Same Sex Marriage Bill. On the 8th February Anne Marie Trevellyan was selected as the Conservative candidate for Berwick upon Tweed at the 2015 General Election; since then the incumbent Sir Alan Beith has announced his retirement. February, as well as seeing the "Horse Meat Scandal", saw me raise the prospect of new form of local governance for Tynedale. We brought Tyneside Blonde (a beer) to Westminster, brewed by our very own Martin and the team at the Hadrian Brewery. I was also part of the campaign to protect greenbelt land just off Piper Road in Ovingham, an issue which would come to dominate the year locally. I made one of my many visits to Albermarle Barracks; at the same time the Guardian urged it's readers to move to Hexham, describing it as "cute as a puppy's nose and handsome as Clark Gable." The Lib Dem's held Eastleigh and I ended the month holding a public meeting for residents facing difficulties with their housing provider in Haydon Bridge.
The picture below is of the Skills summit at Kirkley Hall - with the Minister, one of our winners, and her boss!