Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Focus on farming

As one of the most rural constituencies in the UK, farming is an incredibly important part of life in Tynedale and Ponteland. I was therefore really pleased to be able to welcome the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Farming, George Eustice MP, to the Hexham constituency last week to attend a round-table event, discussing a wide range of issues relating to farming and the rural economy. It was a really fascinating discussion and a great opportunity to ask the Minister about issues that are important to local farmers. The summit was also attended by representatives from Natural England, the Environment Agency, Northumberland County Council, Northumberland Federation of Young Farmers, Newcastle University and farmers and agricultural business leaders from across Northumberland. As part of his visit, the Minister also spent time at a local working farm.

It is impossible to overstate how important farming and rural business is to our community. I will continue to do everything I can to champion the cause of farmers, food producers and rural businesses in the constituency.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Small Businesses- an opportunity not to be missed!

Small businesses are the heart of our local communities, and each year Small Business Saturday celebrates small businesses and encourages consumers to shop local. Last year I got involved with the event by starting my ‘Small Business Awards’, inviting constituents to nominate their favourite small businesses, and I spent a fantastic few days travelling around the constituency and presenting some of our best local businesses with their awards. 

This year’s Small Business Saturday is not until December, but plans are already underway to make the day a great success once again. Applications are now open for Small Biz 100, a scheme to highlight 100 small businesses- one a day for the 100 days leading up to this year’s Small Business Saturday. The 100 businesses will receive exposure on social media and in the local and national press, and will join the Small Business Saturday team at receptions in both Downing Street and The Treasury Drum with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a brilliant opportunity and it would be great to see some local businesses as part of the Small Biz 100.

Applications close on 30thJune- apply here-

Monday, 18 June 2018

A very special Midsummer's Evening

Corbridge’s Midsummer’s Evening is back! One of the highlights of the year in Corbridge, the town will be open for late night shopping on Thursday 21st June, 4pm-9pm. There will be stalls, activities and entertainments all over the village and Market Place, with food and drink, live music, Morris Dancers, children’s activities and a mini boating lake in the grounds of St Andrew’s Church. Shops, pubs and restaurants will also be open and taking part in what promises to be a very special event. There is a free park and ride service from Tynedale Park/Rugby Club to the Market Place. A Midsummer’s Evening is always a great event, so I certainly recommend you go along and celebrate with Corbridge on Thursday.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Get involved with our great local organisations!

There were so many different groups and organisations in attendance at last week’s Ponteland Party in the Park, and I used the opportunity to meet as many of them as I could. 

One of the organisations with a stand at the event was the Ponteland Girls’ Brigade, a group for girls aged 5 to 18 which gives them the chance to work for badges covering a wide variety of subjects. Members of the Girls’ Brigade have written to me about issues that concern them in the past, so it was great to be able to meet some of the people involved with the organisation for myself. They are always happy to welcome new members so if you are interested in joining them, they meet at Ponteland Methodist Church- find out more here-

I was also able to meet members of the local Air Cadets wing. The Air Cadets have more than 40,000 members aged between 12 and 20, and the Durham/Northumberland Wing has 35 Squadrons all across the area. The Air Cadets I met spoke very highly of their experience in the organisation, so if you are looking for excitement, adventure and challenges, find out more about joining here-  

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Social Mobility and a special visitor

I recently had the pleasure of welcoming the former Education Secretary Justine Greening to the Hexham constituency as part of her work founding the Social Mobility Pledge. Ms Greening spoke with students at Prudhoe Community High School about her own background growing up in Rotherham and the opportunities and chances that are available to them. We also visited local business Thompsons of Prudhoe, who recently became the first Social Mobility Pledge accredited employer in the Hexham constituency. By signing the pledge, businesses like Thompsons commit to work towards improving social mobility by accessing and progressing talent from all backgrounds. Businesses like Thompsons are key to tackling social mobility in our area and helping to connect young people with the opportunities already on their doorstep. I was delighted to welcome Justine to our constituency, and I hope that her visit will encourage other local businesses to join Thompsons and sign up to the Social Mobility Pledge.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Tyne Green flood defences- work underway!

I can remember all too clearly the devastation caused by the floods in December 2015, which affected so many people in the Hexham area. Now, two and a half years on, work has begun on a flood defence scheme at Tyne Green to protect local homes from future flooding. The project is being funded by residents who have pooled the individual grants they received following the 2015 floods. 

In the last two years I have spoken to many people whose lives and homes were devastated by the flooding, and so I am pleased to see our long campaign for flood prevention on Tyne Green come to fruition. I would like to thank the Environment Agency, as well as Northumberland County Council, Northumbrian Water and Network Rail, who have all helped to make this happen. I hope that the new flood defences, which should be completed in the next few weeks, will be hugely reassuring to residents, ensuring that the next time we are faced with floods, Tyne Green is prepared.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Produced in Northumberland- simply the best

The Houses of Parliament were treated to a taste of Northumberland earlier today, as I welcomed Northumberland County Council’s ‘Produced in Northumberland’ team as part of an event to showcase and promote the county’s food and drink sector. 

‘Produced in Northumberland’ is a scheme which verifies that food and drink is produced in Northumberland, with audits carried out by Trading Standards and Environmental Health staff, and there are now around eighty businesses signed up with another forty interested or awaiting verification. Businesses already signed up include Brocksbushes Farm Shop, the Northumberland Spirit Company, the Artisan Bread Company and Kielder Organic Meats.

The food and drink sector is an incredibly important part of Northumberland’s economic growth, and ‘Produced in Northumberland’ aims to raise the profile of the food and drink industry in the county. It was a pleasure to welcome people and businesses involved in the scheme to Parliament, and I am delighted that so many in Westminster were able to find out for themselves about the extremely high quality of food and drink we produce in Northumberland. Well done to everyone involved in organising the event- I can’t think of a better advert for Northumberland food and drink.

Coffee and a good cause

We all know somebody who has been affected by cancer, and this Saturday the Northumberland Cancer Support Group are holding a coffee morning in aid of all those affected, including friends and family. The event will be held at Trinity Methodist Church Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham, on Saturday 16th June from 10.30am-1pm. The Northumberland Cancer Support Group has been a registered charity since 1986 and provides a wonderful support network for people affected by cancer. Go along on Saturday and show them your support!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A party in Ponteland

There was only one place to be on Sunday- at the Ponteland Party in the Park. It was an honour to be asked to open the event- it was clear that so much hard work had gone into organising the day. There was plenty to see and do, and a particular highlight for me was being able to meet some of the people behind many of our local organisations. Add in the wonderful community band who kept us all entertained, and it really was a great day. Well done to everyone involved. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Read all about it

The Hexham constituency is home to some brilliant independent bookshops, and this week (16th-23rd June) is dedicated to celebrating bookshops around the country. Independent Bookshop Week is a part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, and to mark the week there will be celebrations and events including storytelling, reading groups and face painting at many local bookshops. We are incredibly lucky in Northumberland to have shops like Cogito Books in Hexham and Corbridge’s Forum Books, now in their fantastic new premises, which are not only shops but also communities, allowing us to share our favourite books and discover new ones. It is so important that we support our independent bookshops, so why not go along to your local shop and celebrate with them?

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Saving our seas

Earlier this week we marked World Oceans Day, and I am delighted that the government is leading the way on protecting our sea life and marine habitats. On Friday the Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced plans to create more than forty new Marine Conservation Zones across the UK, safeguarding almost 12.000 square kilometres of marine habitats and marking the most significant expansion of the UK’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date. The new sites will reach right across England’s coastline, from the South West to Berwick, as well as two sites in Northern Irish offshore waters. No new activities deemed damaging- such as dredging or significant coastal or offshore development- will be allowed to take place in these areas. 

This is such an encouraging announcement, which will protect rare and threatened marine habitats and species- yet another example of the government’s commitment to protecting our planet. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Essity Prudhoe Mill... My Responsible Business Champion

I am so pleased to have been able to choose Essity Prudhoe Mill as my Hexham Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2018. This is as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group’s Responsible Business Champion Awards scheme, with a national winner announced at a reception in Westminster next month. The scheme was set up to celebrate the achievements of businesses like Essity Prudhoe that play an important role in their communities.

The Essity paper mill is Prudhoe’s largest employer and the second biggest manufacturing business in Northumberland. The Prudhoe site has a award-winning apprenticeship scheme, supports dozen of local charities, schools and donations, and is a great supporter of local grassroots sports. Essity Prudhoe Mill has also been the main sponsor of the annual Prudhoe Miners’ Race since 2012 and in the last year saved the public toilets in Prudhoe town centre from closure with an incredibly generous donation for refurbishment work, as well of providing free toilet rolls on an ongoing basis.

Essity Prudhoe Mill makes an outstanding contribution to the local community, and I am delighted to have been able to highlight the brilliant work they do on a daily basis.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

100 years of Charlotte Straker House

The Charlotte Straker Trust does incredible work improving the lives of older people, and on Saturday Charlotte Straker House in Corbridge is celebrating 100 years as a vital part of the Corbridge community with its Centenary Summer Fete. From 2pm on Saturday 9thJune there will be stalls, face painting, tea and cakes, music by the Tyne Valley Band and more. Charlotte Straker House was originally run as a cottage hospital in memory of Charlotte Straker in 1918, and now provides a home for elderly people in Tynedale and West Northumberland. It is a wonderful place and it would be great if you could go along on Saturday and celebrate their centenary!

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Get the party started...

This weekend I will be in Ponteland to open this year’s Party in the Park. Organised by Ponteland Churches Together, the event will be held on Sunday 10th June from 1.30pm- admission is £1 and free for children under five. And if the list of attractions is anything to go by, we should be in for a brilliant day. A fun fair, pony rides, a climbing wall, Punch and Judy, a bouncy castle and food and refreshments, as well as performances from the Ponteland Community Band, the Richard Coates Middle School Orchestra and Choir and more, are just some of the exciting attractions you can expect to see. I’m really looking forward to opening the event and getting the party started in Ponteland- let’s hope for some good weather and a great day! 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Introducing a Community Champion

Back in April I spent a very enjoyable afternoon at Walwick Hall, celebrating some of the winners of my Hexham Constituency Community Champion Awards. I started the awards last year to celebrate the achievements of people in the Hexham constituency that make a difference to our local communities, and with the sponsorship of Gareth Jones at Red Hot Property, so far the awards have been a real success. It is inspiring to meet people who have done such incredible things and to be able to thank them for their hard work. 

One of the winners who attended the event at Walwick Hall is Kate Stanforth. Kate was put forward for an award because of her work to make Prudhoe more accessible for wheelchair users and the elderly. Kate also started Project Parent, delivering gift packs of essentials to parents and families of children in hospitals around the country. And just in case all this isn’t impressive enough, Kate does all of this whilst dealing with a chronic illness. Kate truly is inspirational and it was a pleasure to celebrate her achievements.

If you know someone you think deserves a Community Champion Award, please do get in touch and let me know. 

Monday, 4 June 2018

Welcoming a Minister- showcasing Northumberland's biggest private employer

I was delighted to welcome the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, to the Hexham factory of EGGER UK, which is Northumberland’s largest private sector employer. The Minister toured the factory, which employs more than 700 people and is one of Europe’s most advanced wood-based panel production facilities, as part of his visit to the county to discuss the Borderlands Growth Deal. The Borderlands Growth Deal brings together the five cross-border local authorities, including Northumberland County Council, to promote the economic growth and competitiveness of the area around the Scottish-English border. EGGER is a very significant business for the Tyne Valley economy, and so I am very pleased that the Minister was able to see the factory and to see how forestry and wood processing can play a major part in the Borderlands Deal.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Tynedale Beer and Cider Festival- coming soon

Raise a glass because it's not long now until the Tynedale Beer and Cider Festival! Running from Thursday 14th- Saturday 16th June, the annual Festival is always a huge success, with beer, cider, wine, food, music and more. This year's Festival looks set to be the biggest yet- you can buy your tickets online here-

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Swim with the Tide - sign your company up to The Social Mobility Pledge!

I am passionate about making sure that everyone has great opportunities, regardless of their background. That is why I am so proud to have been appointed a Social Mobility Champion after local business Thompsons of Prudhoe signed up as the Hexham's constituency's very first Social Mobility Pledge accredited employer. The Social Mobility Pledge is a commitment from local businesses to help improve social mobility by giving more opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Businesses commit to work with local schools to help young people know about the careers they can have, and to give young people work experience or apprenticeships. It also means committing to having open recruitment approaches, which help open to more disadvantaged young people. Businesses like Thompsons of Prudhoe are key to tackling social mobility in our area and helping to connect young people with the opportunities already on their doorstep. I am very proud to be involved with the Social Mobility Pledge and I hope that more local businesses will join Thompsons of Prudhoe in signing up.

Friday, 1 June 2018

All the fun of the Fair- Prudhoe's the place to be!

Another month, another fun-filled event in Prudhoe! This weekend the Prudhoe Community Fair will bring Prudhoe Arts Week to a triumphant close with an assortment of activities that will keep the whole family entertained. With fair rides and games for the children, as well as stalls and hot and cold food, Prudhoe is definitely the place to be this weekend. It’s all happening on Sunday 3rdJune from 12pm-4pm on Front Street- why not go along and join in the fun?