Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Crucial meeting held on flooding in our area - much progress made and updates in information as set out in this blog

On Friday 18 November, I organised the second Flood Forum Meeting in the Tyne Valley region at the Community Centre in Hexham. Invited were the key agencies and flood groups from affected areas representing local parish councils and residents. The flood groups came from as far afield as Haydon Bridge to Haltwhistle, Corbridge to Acomb. It is right to put on record the amazing work these volunteer groups are doing for their local communities. All of us understand that the biblical floods of the 5th December last year had a massive impact on the Tyne Valley and we are working very hard to get our community ready for the future and much better informed.

Keeping you informed

I asked the EA to issue area updates to specific Parish Councils – both by email and hard copy – to publicise what they are doing, and to provide contact details to enable easy communication between our communities and the Agency.

I also asked that, before Christmas, the County Council and Northumbrian Water distribute maps to each affected community (via the Parish Councils and/or Flood Groups) showing who is responsible for each individual drain, and similarly providing all their relevant contact details to enable easy communication in the event of any problems.

For the latest published update in your area, please follow the links below:

Bellingham

Corbridge

Haltwhistle

Haydon Bridge

Hexham

Lipwood

Ovingham

Ponteland

Riding Mill

Warden

I accept that Prudhoe does not feature on this list, and will double check on any key updates elsewhere and in smaller communities but, as always, simply email teamoppy@gmail.com and I will try and get you an answer.

In attendance ten days ago were key figures from the Northumberland County Council – Aaron McNeill (Flood Risk Manager) and Kris Westerby (Highways) – as well as Linzie Pendleton from Northumbrian Water, and Leila Huntington from the Environment Agency (EA).

Our real big success is getting these three key agencies working hand in glove. They did this to a degree before, but the extent of integration and co-working now is both remarkable and a real credit to all involved.

Northumberland County Council

Aaron McNeill reported on the proposed flood gate project at Tyne Green. Flooded residents have pooled Flood Resilience Grants and, as a result, the County Council will start work in the new year on a flood gate to protect properties in the future.

Aaron said that the project will need planning permission but that he does not foresee any fundamental problems with permission being granted.

The County Council will be working with the EA and building on work that Northumbrian Water have already conducted on the site. This project is an excellent example of the three individual agencies working hand in glove, co-operating to achieve tangible outcomes that genuinely make a difference.

In addition, Kris Westerby announced the brilliant news that the County Council has received significant specific funding from the central government, including the allocation of £3 million for damaged road repairs. During the evening and during the day we also tried to address a number of ongoing projects and concerns, including the Haydon Bridge to Newbrough road blockage, which I visited on site, and which NCC are leading on with Network rail, and the extra repairs in places like Bywell and Eals.

Northumbrian Water

Linzie Pendleton provided an update on the massive cleaning and repair work that Northumbrian Water has been carrying out in various towns in our constituency. In Ovingham new linings have been put in place, and a flusher has been installed at Corbridge. Cleansing work is now being carried out in these locations. In Bywell a sewer review has been carried out upstream on the Tyne, whilst in Bellingham outflows have been checked.

Environment Agency

Leila Huntington explained that all damaged assets in the floods of December 2015/January 2016 have been restored to their original condition.

Moreover, Ms Huntington and her team specifically addressed Kielder and announced key amendments to the operation of the Kielder Reservoir. Flood alleviation will now start at 80% and more water will be released in the future, resulting in at least 6-7% more storage in the reservoir. This will be an ongoing operation and will also be assessed as it is being done. The EA, Northumbrian Water and the County Council have all said that they will provide an explanation of the Kielder plan on their websites.

Gravel and vegetation

Another, of many, important issues that was discussed at this meeting was the presence of gravel and vegetation in our local rivers. As everyone knows this is a very emotive issue with strong views on many sides.

Leila Huntington, from the EA, spoke at length on the issues of the vegetation in Corbridge which has been addressed, and the extent of the remaining gravel in Haydon Bridge and Warden and the extent to which this increases or affects flood risk.

Some Haydon Bridge residents have expressed that they feel the EA and the County Council are putting obstacles in the way of them removing gravel from under the bridge. The EA denied this, and there was discussion both at the meeting and afterwards by local parish council members and the EA. I have made the case, both in public and private, that we need to be fully supportive of the efforts of the Haydon Bridge PC to address this serious concern. On the opposite side of the argument there are some planning restrictions that are legitimate and the timing of ongoing extraction has to be managed by the EA. We are trying hard to get action and compliance.

Concerns over gravel accumulations at Wark Bridge and Chollerford Bridge were also brought up, as too were fears about gravel and vegetation upstream at Ovingham and down-river at Corbridge.

The EA will be carrying out a dredging impact assessment over the winter, and are reporting back to the flood groups.

Any specific problems I have missed, then please get in touch by email.

The Guardian hails Corbridge as the place in the North for a winterbreak

"With its ancient stone houses, market cross, shops, pubs and banks, this Northumberland village, should surely be reclassified as a town.... "The article then goes on to emphasis the quality of shops, food, hiking, attractions and places to stay.
Full article here:

Monday, 28 November 2016

Better trains, more services, guards and upgrades to the Tyne Valley line

Really positive meeting last week at Hexham station. A great job done by the Community Rail Partnership who organised the meeting. They do a great job to organise, cajole and make the case for real change - which we all agree we need.

So it was that we heard from Northern, Network Rail, the providers of train security, and the British Transport Police themselves. A few words to explain the updates given and to laud the efforts of everyone involved.

Pete Myers made a passionate case on behalf of Northern as to the plans since April 2016 for new trains with wifi, better seating, better engines and a better timetable. He talked of station improvements, and the mantra of 4 big changes over 44 months. Subsequently, we also had a really positive discussion about Gilsland Station and our long term plans there. Pete's enthusiasm and pride in his network was palpable.

Network Rail gave us the full lowdown on the massive reconstruction job they performed at Farnley after the landslip of 50,000 tons of earth and trees on to the line.

And we heard from the team of crime reduction officers on the line. Many remember the difficulties encountered on Friday and Saturday nights when there were staffing and rota issues, and simply a lack of staff. Where previously there were barely 20 officers covering the whole of Northern's network, there will now be 55, and quite clearly there is a better working relationship between the police in both Newcastle and Carlisle and the crime reduction officers.

You could not fail to leave without feeling much more optimistic about our local train system.


Westminster this week - busy week of debates

Today we debate remaining stages of the Digital Economy Bill until 10pm; tomorrow is the commonwealth development corporation bill, and Wednesday will see an opposition day debate of the SNP after Prime Ministers Questions.
I am in the commons on Thursday and not returning to Northumberland until Friday.
I have a number of constituents in Westminster this week, and a meeting with Defra ministers to try and resolve specific cases where there have been RPA delays.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Thank you for your generosity! Great result for our Christmas appeal

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone has donated to our Christmas Toy Appeal so far this year. I am extremely humbled by your generosity.


I carry out this charitable appeal every year, and have witnessed it going from strength to strength over the last five years. This year, however, more people than ever have donated in our sixth appeal, and I could not be more grateful.

The Salvation Army will distribute the many wonderful toys we have collected to children who would otherwise not receive presents for Christmas this year. I thank you all for your enthusiasm and willingness to ensure that some of the least fortunate children in our region can enjoy a happy Christmas.

I know I say this every year, but the kindness of the people of Northumberland truly never ceases to amaze me. Thank you very much indeed.

Gifts and toys can still be dropped off until Thursday 1 December, at either of my constituency offices: 1 Meal Market, Hexham, or Office 2, Horton Park, Ponteland.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Hexham Farmers Market, and plenty of Christmas events this weekend

Hexham Farmers Market is on today - as always back your your local farmers and producers. We are lucky to have farmers markets locally and they need your support. And you buy great local food!
Separately there are a plethora of Christmas events from Witley Chapel to many of the other local villages.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Haltwhistle late night Christmas shopping tonight, and civilised Corbridge are the Black Friday antidote

There is late night shopping with a special Christmas theme in Corbridge tonight till 8
At the same time Corbridge is deliberately laying on the antidote to Black Friday with civilised Corbridge Friday! Pop along to both and support our local shops

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Great to visit innovative Allendale business First Square

Last Friday I was pleased to meet the team behind First Square - an innovative export business showing that small start ups can cut it with the big boys.

Founded in 2005 by Managing Director Simon Farley with only one good customer, the company now has a wide customer base and supplies over 80% of its products to customers outside the UK.
With recent government funding help, First Square have invested heavily in R&D for a telescopic excavator arm that they are developing, and aim to become the third largest supplier of this product worldwide by 2018.

First Square is a truly innovative manufacturing and trading business. The global ambitions the company has, and their success to date, are a massive credit to Simon and the team.


Full details of First Square Equipment can be found at : www.firstsquare.com


Flood alerts from the Environment Agency

Parts of the north of England are warned to be prepared for possible flooding and disruption today.

The Environment Agency currently has 2 flood alerts still in place for the local area. These alerts have been issued due to heavy rainfall on Monday and overnight, which is easing, although showers are expected to continue throughout Tuesday. There may be flooding to low lying land and roads.

·         Levels on the River Rede are expected to continue rising into Tuesday.

·         Levels on the River Pont, particularly at Ponteland, are expected to continue rising and to remain high.

Widespread heavy rain and showers on Monday and Tuesday may cause river and surface water flooding, particularly in areas that have seen heavy rain over the weekend. As a result there could be some property flooding and disruption to travel with a number of road closures.

Environment Agency teams are closely monitoring river levels and are working to reduce flood risk by checking and maintaining flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses, and continuously monitoring water levels. Temporary defences are ready to be deployed where necessary.

Clare Dinnis, National Flood Duty Manager at the Environment Agency, has said: “Environment Agency teams are working hard to reduce the risk of flooding, but we want to remind people not to take unnecessary risks and avoid driving through flood water or walking near swollen rivers. People should also take care if walking by the coast as there is a risk of large waves caused by strong and gale force winds.”

The Environment Agency’s Incident Room is currently open. The organisation continues to monitor river levels closely, and these can be viewed on the Environment Agency’s website. They currently do not expect to escalate either of the 2 remaining alerts in our area to “Flood Warnings”. Nevertheless, the Environment Agency are issuing the follow advice:

Flooding is possible; be prepared. Please stay alert and check the Environment Agency website for the latest information, or call Floodline for advice on 0345 988 1188.

You can also use the online tool to find out if your postcode is at risk of flooding, by visiting the following website: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/.

>> 

Latest update from the North-East branch of the Environment Agency:

“The situation is now improving across the North East. We have had no reports of property flooding.

Although the worst of the rain has passed, there is still persistent rainfall passing through Northumberland. However we expect this to ease through today.

Whilst our incident room remains open and staffed, the focus of our efforts is shifting from incident response to recovery.  However we will continue to monitor rainfall and the corresponding impact on river levels.

We’ll be out through the day today checking screens and defences for damage and carrying out any repairs where needed. We will also be out checking river levels.”

Monday, 21 November 2016

Westminster this week - Autumn statement dominates

At 12:30 on Wednesday the new chancellor sets out his statement on the finances of the country.
Before then I have multiple meetings this week, along with debates on higher education, general education and the NHS. On Tuesday I hope to be meeting BT and EE to discuss improvements of the broadband and mobile rollout. On Wednesday I will be heading north for Northumberland.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Next May's election in France holds the key to so much of the future for Europe

France puts 2 candidates through to their final run off next May. Whoever wins the centre right part of the ticket in all probability wins the French election next year. In theory. There are three big challengers to the left. Le Pen, who is France's Farage, Sarkozy, and Alan Juppe, the former mayor of Bordeaux. Juppe is ahead, but do not underestimate Le Pen. 2 top candidates from any wing go through to the final decider.
Hollande will probably not stand given his present dire poll ratings, so if a left of centre takes on a right of centre candidate the right of centre will win. The key to the whole election is therefore who takes that right of centre slot. Juppe is still favourite,  but Le pen is close. Very close, as the spectator explains. It is worth a read.
http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/10/marine-le-pen-wont-be-president-this-time-shes-still-winning/

My guess is that the final two will be Le pen and Juppe. Given that Juppe is closer to the middle ground he ought to win such a contest. And yet they said the same about Clinton ....

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Christmas card signing x 1000 has begun! Pleased to be supporting #Minerva + the #Hextol Foundation this year - but 1000 cards is a lot tosign!

I have to start early on the Christmas card signing as with a 1000 or so to do it takes a long time! I have help labelling and stuffing. But pleased to shop locally, with a nice picture of Corbridge and to support two great local charities both of which I know well, have visited many times and who do great work.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Busy day in the south and west of Northumberland today

Very full day of constituency meetings, surgeries and events today in the far west and in Allendale, followed by meeting of the flood group and finishing with a late meeting of the board of the Tynedale Community Bank.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Making the case for constituents at the Boundary Commission Hearings

I was making my case to the North East independent boundary commission hearings. They affect the Hexham constituency and wider Northumberland a lot, and I was at the Darlington evidence session today. I was making the case that the proposed changes, in particular the partitioning of Ponteland, and the surrounding villages of Ogle, Whalton and Stannington are very wrong. The division generally of Northumberland seems wrong. More details on the proposed national changes are here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32695546
To make representations and see more locally go here: https://www.bce2018.org.uk/?gclid=CMSp4sWtptACFcIV0wodRJ4Bxw
If you want to have your say you have 3 more weeks.

The 2010-2016 years for employment growth is a big boost for DavidCameron

I have just come across this graph on job creation, courtesy of the Spectator. It makes the case that David Cameron will go down in history as one of the best Prime Ministers for job creation. His record beats all comers save Blair into a corner. And the Tony Blair years were most definitely not mid recession.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Palestine / Israel exhibition in Hexham Abbey

On Saturday I attended the Hexham Abbey exhibition about the history of Palestine and Israel dating back to the Balfour declaration, of 1917. My broad views on the Middle East, and it's many countries, conflicts and complications are well known from many blog posts down the last 8 years, and the 2015 public meeting held in another church in Hexham. If you get the chance to see the Hexam Abbey exhibition it is on till next Sunday.


Monday, 14 November 2016

2016 Boundary Review: Proposed Changes to the Hexham Constituency


As I am sure you are aware, the Boundary Commission for England have proposed some revised boundaries for parliamentary constituencies. The public hearings began today with Ponteland East Councillor Eileen Armstrong among those making representation. These changes would see part of the Ponteland area moved from the Hexham constituency to a new constituency called Newcastle upon Tyne North West. The ward of Ponteland East is the only area that would be removed from the Hexham constituency and placed in the new one. A number of other wards would be added to the Hexham constituency including the whole of Morpeth, Rothbury, and Longhorsley. These changes would take effect in 2018.

The Boundary Commission are proposing the following:  

1. That the wards of Bellingham, Bywell, Corbridge, Ponteland South with Heddon, Ponteland West, Ponteland North, Humshaugh, Hexham Central with Acomb, Hexham West, Hexham East, Haydon & Hadrian, Stocksfield & Broomhaugh, South Tynedale, Haltwhistle, Prudhoe South and Prudhoe North remain in the Hexham constituency. Please support this.

2. That the ward of Ponteland East and Stannington is moved out of the Hexham Constituency into a new constituency, splitting Ponteland. Please oppose this.

3. That the Hexham Constituency adds in the wards of Longhorsley and Rothbury from the Berwick Constituency. Please oppose this.
The Boundary Commission is inviting local people to tell them whether or not they agree with the revised boundaries. Both myself as your MP and the County Councillor for Ponteland East and Stannington, Eileen Armstrong, together with the North East Conservative Party oppose these proposals as they stand.

We believe that the proposals should be modified on the grounds that:
There are significant inconveniences which would result from the proposed changes. The proposed constituency of Hexham & Morpeth would be one of the largest geographically in England.

Ponteland East, Stannington, and Whalton are primarily rural areas. Whalton, Ogle, and Belsay do not connect to any of the Newcastle boundary lines and if the Ponteland East & Stannington ward is removed from the Hexham constituency these areas would be represented by a primarily urban, Newcastle based MP.

Important local ties would be broken by the proposed changes. For example, the town of Ponteland would literally be split; meaning the High School, Middle School, Leisure Centre, Golf Club and some of the town centre would be represented by a different MP to the MP representing most of the residents. The dividing line would also mean a Northumberland MP represented one half of Eastern Way and a Newcastle MP the other side! 

We have together agreed an alternative set of proposals which I hope you will support. Our proposals, drawn up locally, see the Hexham constituency maintain all of the existing wards (including Ponteland East & Stannington) and expand to take on some areas of Cramlington. The Berwick upon Tweed constituency would then take on Morpeth.

The above proposals fit within the Boundary Commission’s requirements on equal voter numbers, and we believe that they make much more sense from a geographical, cultural, economic and historic perspective, taking into account local ties.

I hope that you will write to the Boundary Commission as I would not want to allow anything to change unopposed at this stage, that may result ultimately in Ponteland East & Stannington, together with Whalton, becoming part of Newcastle City Council in the future. These wards need to stay as part of the Hexham constituency with a Northumberland MP that understands rural issues. Thank you.


We have provided some guidelines to writing your response to the Boundary Commission:
Should you OBJECT to the Boundary Commission’s proposals to remove Ponteland East & Stannington from the Hexham constituency, please write to the Boundary Commission for England outlining your concerns. The most effective objections will contain concerns about:

Geography, including size, shape, and accessibility
Boundaries of the existing constituency
Any local ties that would be broken
Inconveniences attendant on the changes

Please make it clear that whilst accepting the need to expand in some way to reach the new electorate quotas, you support our proposals to maintain the current Hexham Constituency as it stands with Ponteland East & Stannington.

The deadline for the Commission receiving your comments is 5 December, 2016 and we urge you to act as soon as you can. The consultation on the initial proposals will run for 12 weeks between 13 September and 5 December 2016, following the publication of initial proposals. All comments from this consultation will be published in early 2017 as part of the secondary consultation.

The Boundary Commission’s address is 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ. Alternatively, feedback can be submitted on their website where you will also find further information about the changes www.bce2018.org.uk.


Westminster / Northumberland this week - boundary reviews, second reading of the technical and further education bill, and more

I am in Westminster for 3 days this week, with debates on the FE Bill, constituents coming to Westminster, discussions on northern transport policy, PMQs, and more. All this week are the North East independent boundary commission hearings. They affect the Hexham constituency and wider Northumberland a lot, and I am hoping to be at the Darlington evidence session on Thursday. I will be making the case that the proposed changes, in particular the partitioning of Ponteland, and the surrounding villages of Ogle, Whalton and Stannington are very wrong. More details on the proposed national changes are here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32695546
To make representations and see more locally go here: https://www.bce2018.org.uk/?gclid=CMSp4sWtptACFcIV0wodRJ4Bxw

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Ponteland meeting about the library site, access to the town and NCCplanning at Henderson Court

Last Friday I was delighted to bring together the residents of Henderson Court so that they had a chance to have their concerns addressed. Quite clearly the many residents who attended the meeting do not want Northumberland County Council to demolish the library building, get rid of the community green space around the library and then build residential property next door to Henderson Court. Councillor Richard Dodd and I will continue to listen and help them make their case. If a planning application goes in then the residents will have a chance to object formally, and Richard will help them do so. We listened to the way in which the NCC developers / Arch have altered their proposed plans by agreeing to reduce the height of any proposed building, whilst preserving the present access area to the town, rather than making the residents go around via the dangerous main roa, as was originally proposed. Parking will now no longer be underground; and I have asked for the revised plans to be sent to the individual residents so that they are kept fully informed. After the meeting I chatted to many of the residents. The strength of opposition is very clear.


Friday, 11 November 2016

Remembrance Day today and on Sunday - I shall be in Hexham on Sunday + then in the Abbey afterwards

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
From "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon

Thursday, 10 November 2016

One year on from the launch of the Tynedale Community Bank - worth reviewing the Mail on Sunday from 1 year ago

This is money is the key column in the mail on Sunday and their piece on the TCB is worth a read:
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/comment/article-3308395/JEFF-PRESTRIDGE-Tynedale-bank-really-serve-community.html
We know that the bank is going from strength to strength
You can join here: http://www.tcb.org.uk/

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Prisons White Paper - if you are passionate about prison reform then have a read + comment

The Secretary of State for justice launched this last week and it is worth a read: it sets out a platform for prison reform
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prison-safety-and-reform

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Trump wins + congratulations to him. My guesstimate on the America election had Clinton winning but go that wrong

My call as the polls closed
Thought Clinton would win: predictions on the key swing states is as follows:
Clinton to win Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin,
Trump to win Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio,
Many front pages in the states make interesting reading at this time but probably the best is this by the Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article113192908.html

Update: well clearly I / all the other watchers on TVs got that wrong. Trump wins very strongly and congratulations to him. We will make the uk / USA relationship work, as the PM has just outlined.
The BBC analysis of why he won - with the benefit of hindsight - is here: http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37918303

Meeting with a remarkable School Council + why Ponteland Middle is a great school now and in the future

With the amazing school council pupils, and their headteacher, at Ponteland Middle School. Full report of my recent visit and Q+A below.

On any interpretation Ponteland Middle is a special school. But don't take my word, or the word of Ofsted or the parents or teachers. Talk to the pupils. I sat down with the school council for almost an hour last month and was genuinely dazzled by them. 

This is not to denigrate any other schools, or to praise Pont Middle unnecessarily. So let me put this piece into context. I visit a lot of schools. I have over 40 in my area. I control none of them (this is the duty of the Northumberland County Council, albeit a school that opts out of the county council by becoming an academy, like Hexham Or Prudhoe Adderlane, has just done, takes control of its own destiny).
I have been to every one of my schools from Kielder,  Greenhead and Whitfield in the west to Stannington in the east, Otterburn in the north and Whittonstall and Whitley Chapel in the south. 
I have visited some of them many times. I normally go to a school around once a fortnight, albeit parliamentary hours are very difficult at the moment. I constantly receive feedback, advice, input, suggestions and sometimes criticism from pupils, parents, teachers, governors and headteachers. Long may this continue. I am seeing several other schools / teachers / governors this week. 
But it is in the discussions with school councils that I tend to get the best assessment of how the school is doing. They often tell you more than Ofsted, the teachers or the pupils in a supervised class. I try to do these discussions on my own, unscripted. So it was that recently I sat down with the Pont Middle school school council. 
I normally ask one key questions: in a word or a phrase why do the pupils like / or what do they think of the school? 
The answers or key word I noted down from this group (with each child only allowed to come up with a phrase not previously mentioned) were: 
"It works. Inspiring! I enjoy it. It's big! There are opportunities to shine. It is open to everyone. Outstanding! Successful. Lessons are fun. Designed well. I can talk to the teachers about everything. Eco team is amazing. Atmosphere is great."
But perhaps the most interesting answer was -"the teachers really stretch you"
On the tricky issue of key stage 3 testing the pupils all agreed they liked the testing and wanted more. 
Their adoration of learning was palpable and very heartwarming. 
Massive credit to the team of teachers and governors led by Carloine Pryor. 

As to the future there is no doubt that all the pupils I spoke to want to stay at Pont Middle. I am certain that the school will be continuing in the near and long term future. I support all the schools in my area, and all those in the Ponteland catchment area,  but I will continue to fight to ensure that a school like Pont Middle -  that is outstanding in every way - continues in our area. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Visiting Wecan in Hexham - a great local organisation

A few months ago I got the chance to meet the parents, organisers, children and helpers who make the Hexham based organisation Wecan so very special. I already knew several of the mums and dads involved from other work or issues in Northumberland, but it was also good to meet, have a coffee and talk to them at the wentworth centre on a Saturday in the late summer. I am often asked to recommend organisations, fundraise and help raise funds for local charities and organisations but I am particularly happy to recommend Wecan for support. All the team do a great job, are always looking for help and support, and are an organisation that we should be very proud of.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Banking is changing - and the Tynedale Community Bank is leading the way

One year ago we launched the Tynedale Community Bank. As the Courant reports this week, it has been a massive success: http://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/First-year-of-success-for-Tynedale-Community-Bank-913768ce-06bc-4cc5-ab84-84f0dbc6ceed-ds

My recent article on community banks - http://www.policynorth.com/social-justice/

Hexham Farmers Market is on today - shop local and support our local farmers and producers: use it or lose it.

The wonderful Hexham Farmers Market is on today. As always with farmers produce and local producers the adage is use it or lose it. Such markets only survive if you support them. Each of us makes a choice if we supermarket shop.
Same point applies to independent bookshops. It's them or amazon. I know who I support.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

With his rivals going off to mayoral campaigns or select committees there is no doubt Corbyn is more secure as labour leader than ever before

Jeremy Corbyn is more secure as Labour leader than he has ever been. His opponents have done two things - gone off to run select committees like Yvette Cooper or Hilary Benn. Or gone off to run mayoral campaigns in their own areas like Sadiq Khan or Andy Burnham. Many lesser labour MPs have effectively given up. Corbyns re-election with an increased majority has cemented his position. It is now hard to see how he can be removed before 2020. He has managed to put together a shadow cabinet and front bench team that is far closer to him politically than his original one. Within the shadow cabinet, he is trying to freeze out the deputy leader Tom Watson, the only other person in the Parliamentary Labour Party with a direct mandate from the membership. Watson has been kept off the key shadow cabinet policymaking committees. Where is the future for her majesty's opposition? I have knocked on many doors these last few months and I am finding even traditional labour voters dismayed by the far left approach of Corbyn. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Egger Open Day tomorrow - worth going along to!


Sunday Politics Show now on Iplayer if you missed it

37 minutes in is the BBC regional version includes our discussions on Brexit, Nissan, Lynx reintroduction and more
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07z8dy2/sunday-politics-north-east-and-cumbria-30102016