Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Ringing the bells to welcome Reverend Tom Birch

I would like to welcome the Reverend Tom Birch, who is the new parish priest of St Oswin’s Church in Wylam and St Mary the Virgin Church in Ovingham. He is the first vicar to be the incumbent of both parishes, and on Monday evening he was welcomed into the community at a packed St Mary the Virgin Church, where he was licensed by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev. Christine Hardman. Mr Birch was previously assistant curate at St Nicholas’ Church in Gosforth.  I wish him, his wife Jessica and their three children the best of luck in their new community, and I look forward to getting to know him over the coming years. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Just when you thought it couldn't get better ...

Rory McIlroy has added his name to the already exciting list of top golfers who will be playing at next week's British Masters, which will be played at Close House in Heddon-on-the-wall. McIlroy will be joining tournament host Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, and many more when the tournament tees off on Thursday 28th September, and it promises to be a fantastic few days for the North East!

If you're lucky enough to have a ticket for the British Masters then why not make the most of your time in Northumberland? The area around Close House is home to some brilliant restaurants and pubs- try out The Swan in Heddon or go down the road to the Black Bull in Wylam for some delicious Northumberland cooking.

More information about the 2017 British Masters is available here-

Monday, 18 September 2017

Hidden Treasures- Aydon Castle

You've heard of Bamburgh Castle and Alnwick too, but just outside the centre of Corbridge is Aydon Castle- one of the finest examples of Northumberland's long and fascinating history.

Surrounded by beautiful and peaceful woodland, Aydon Castle is a stunning 13th century fortified manor house. Built by wealthy merchant Robert de Reymes in 1296, the building was initially a residence but was fortified on the outbreak of the Anglo-Scottish wars and was occupied by both the English and the Scots during the 14th century. Aydon Castle later became a farmhouse in the 17th century which was lived in until 1966, and it is largely unaltered from its medieval appearance to this day.

Aydon Castle is full of history and makes a fascinating day out, especially with its secluded and peaceful setting which is perfect for a picnic when the sun is out! There is so much history in Northumberland, and Aydon Castle is a great place to discover some of Northumberland's fascinating past!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Tynedale Jobs Fair 2017 - The Biggest and Best yet!

Less than a fortnight until the 2017 Tynedale Jobs Fair and more and more businesses are being confirmed to attend every day! Supported this year by successful Tynedale company Thompsons of Prudhoe and Northumberland County Council, companies looking to hire and who will be at the Jobs Fair on 28th September include
  • Royal Navy
  • Waitrose
  • Matfen Hall
  • Thompsons of Prudhoe
  • Blue Arrow
  • INTU Metro Centre
  • Q-Hotels
... and many more to be revealed over the next two weeks.

If you're looking for work, training or want a change of direction, come along to Wentworth Leisure Centre in Hexham on Thursday 28th September from 10am-4pm and meet the right business for you. No charge for entrance - what have you got to lose!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Success! Long campaign means more money for every school in the constituency.

Great news for Northumberland schools as Education Secretary Justine Greening has announced that schools in the Hexham constituency will see funding rise by an average of 3.3% under a new fairer funding system for schools in England. For years I have campaigned to bring an end to the historic postcode lottery that has seen huge differences in funding in different parts of the country, so I am delighted that Northumberland schools will no longer lose out as every single school in our area will see their funding increased. Small rural schools in Tynedale will particularly benefit, with first schools in Greenhead, Otterburn, Slaley, Wark and West Woodburn seeing their funding rise by more than 10%. The new formula will provide funding gains for schools with a guaranteed increase in the basic amount allocated for every pupil; a minimum per pupil funding level for both secondaries and primaries to target the lowest funded schools; a minimum cash increase for every school of 1% per pupil by 2019-20 and a £110,000 lump sum for every school to help with fixed costs, and an additional £26 million to rural and isolated schools to help them manage their unique challenges. This is the biggest improvement to the school funding system for decades and I welcome this announcement which is fantastic news for our area and which will mean that children in the Hexham constituency get the education that they deserve.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Back British Farming!

Earlier this week was Back British Farming Day organised by the National Farmers Union and it was fantastic to see the day so well supported in Parliament. I was proud to wear my pin badge in support of Back British Farming Day during Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight and celebrate the huge contribution that British farmers make in producing our food. The UK’s farmers are a vital part of the food and drink sector, which is worth £109 billion and employs 3.8 million people all over the country.

In the seven years that I have been an MP I have enjoyed many visits to members of the farming community across Tynedale and Ponteland, who are such an important part of life in the constituency. A farmer’s life is full of challenges and as always I would like to encourage farmers to contact my office in case of any issues or concerns.

For more information about the work done by farmers all over the country and how you can support the farmers in our community, visit

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Aviva Community Fund- apply now!

This year's Aviva Community Fund has recently been launched, and applications for funding are now open! The Aviva Community Fund awards funding of up to £25,000 for local community projects across a range of categories such as skills for life, health and wellbeing and community support. All you have to do is put forward an idea that could benefit your community and you could be awarded a life-changing amount of money to make a huge difference to your local area.

Applications are open until 12pm on 10th October- this will be followed by a vote on your favourite projects and the winners will be announced in January.

Apply here-

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Lynx in Kielder Forest- my thoughts

With a decision getting near, I would like to reiterate my opposition to the proposed reintroduction of lynx into Kielder Forest. 

Lynx UK Trust have put in an application to release six lynx into Kielder Forest as part of a five-year ‘trial’ with the aim of protecting and restoring biodiversity in the area. However, although the organisation has carried out a consultation process, it has been criticised by many in the Kielder area. 

I have had extensive discussions with the National Farmers Union, and I have not spoken to any farmer who is in favour of the proposal. Farmers are such an important part of life in Kielder, and they fear that lynx will stress and kill sheep and livestock, causing serious economic damage to their livelihood. The National Sheep Association are also strongly against the proposal, whilst the vast majority of Kielder residents I have spoken with about this issue are also opposed to the plans. 

Lynx UK Trust propose that this would be a trial reintroduction, however many people believe that once released the lynx would never be removed, meaning that the release of lynx into Kielder Forest would be permanent. The consultation process has been ineffective and has not taken into account the views of the majority of residents, and I find it unacceptable that such a big decision could be made despite so much opposition. 

I hope that the views of local residents will be seriously considered before this decision is made, and I urge anyone with concerns to contact Natural England with their views.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Release your Potential with a Returneeship!

I recently met with Release Potential CEO Gaye Hutchinson to discuss their employment-training programme Returneeships, the only scheme of its kind in the UK. Release Potential, a Northumberland based company, offers training across a wide range of public and private sector organisations, and the company has recently introduced Returneeships, which is a pre-employment project aiming to boost employability skills among people over 40 to help them return to work. Returneeships is a four-week programme- two weeks based in the classroom and a two-week work placement- funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, with the aim of improving confidence and self-esteem, as well as the chance to gain nationally recognised qualifications in IT, customer service and employability. I really enjoyed learning about the Returneeships programme and I wish Release Potential every success with the project. It is a fantastic scheme, aimed at helping older workers return to work, and with a course starting soon in Hexham, and the project rolling out across the North, I would encourage you to consider the Returneeships programme. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

My call for the reopening of the Hexham General Hospital overnight facility

As a decision date draws nearer, I would like to reiterate my call for the reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital. 

Since December last year the hospital has been closed from midnight until 8am, initially as a temporary measure, however this has been extended several times since then. I have had extensive meetings with NHS staff, managers and key Directors of the NHS Trust and I strongly believe that 24-hour care is an essential facility for the people of Hexham and the surrounding area. 

The Trust, the Board and senior managers have repeatedly made clear to me that maintaining an overnight walk-in facility would happen, and I hope that they will honour this promise. This closure is causing the Northumbria NHS Trust reputational damage, even though its hospitals are otherwise performing extremely well. 

Expecting patients, many of them elderly, to travel late at night to Cramlington Hospital is unreasonable and an unnecessary expense to them. I hope that the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital can be reopened as soon as possible so that the people of Hexham can once again make use of this vital facility. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

wear it pink!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I would like to encourage everyone to take part in Breast Cancer Now's flagship fundraiser, 'wear it pink', which aims to raise money to fund vital breast cancer research. On Friday 20th October thousands of people across the UK will add a splash of pink to their outfits as part of 'wear it pink', and I encourage constituents to join me. Anyone can take part- all you have to do is wear something pink or hold a 'wear it pink' event, and make a donation to Breast Cancer Now. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and one in eight women will face it during their lifetime, and Breast Cancer Now hope that if we all act now, by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will win their fight against the disease. The work done by Breast Cancer Now is so important, so I encourage everyone to join me on 20th October in supporting this fantastic organisation.

For more information about how you can take part visit-

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Getting ready for tee off at the British Masters!

There are less than three weeks to go until the 2017 British Masters begins at Close House, and the current entry list was announced this week. With star names including tournament host Lee Westwood, reigning US Masters champion Sergio Garcia, 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett, former US Open champion Graham McDowell, two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer, and many, many more- including crowd favourites, previous British Masters winners and local golfing stars- excitement really is building for what is going to be a fantastic event for sport in the North East. It is a great opportunity to showcase our area, as well as bring economic benefits to Northumberland. The British Masters is on from Thursday 28th September to Sunday 1st October, and tickets are still available at-

For more information, visit-

Friday, 8 September 2017

Victory for Haltwhistle Jubilee FC as they secure Council funding

There is huge enthusiasm for football in Haltwhistle, and so it is fantastic news that Northumberland County Council has awarded £71,000 in funding to Haltwhistle Jubilee Football Club to complete the third phase of a major project at the club. Thanks to the funding, the club will benefit from new changing rooms for home and away teams, as well as for officials, and a store, which should all be completed by October. Meanwhile, the earlier stages of the project have upgraded pitches. Football is such an important part of the Haltwhistle community, and I look forward to seeing the finished result soon!