Saturday, 28 March 2020

Support for our businesses through Coronavirus


Northumberland County Council has launched a Business Hub, with a specialist team who are working hard to support businesses - small and large - through the Coronavirus pandemic.

You can visit the Business Hub website by clicking here.

Businesses can use the Hub to apply for the Small Business Grant Fund, as well as Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants, which are administered through the County Council, as well as access a whole range of information and support. 


Small Business Grant Fund

If you are a small business (properties with a Rateable Value less than £15,000) in any sector who were in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief on 11 March 2020, you may be eligible for a £10,000 small business grant payment. 

Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure Grant

For retail/hospitality/leisure business operating from premises with a Rateable Value of less than £15,000 (and not in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief) you may be eligible for a £10,000 grant. Retail/hospitality/leisure businesses operating from premises with a Rateable Value between £15,000 and £51,000 on 11 March 2020 may be eligible for a £25,000 grant.
The Hub also has information and guidance on additional support available, such as through HMRC's Time to Pay, as well as support for larger businesses, such as the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility.

Friday, 27 March 2020

New measures announced to support the self-employed

The Chancellor has announced new measures to help self-employed people to cope with the financial impact of Coronavirus. 

The government will pay the self-employed a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 per month. The scheme will be open for at least three months, and extended if necessary.

The scheme is open to those who earn under £50,000 a year - around 3.8 million people - and self-employed people can continue to work as they receive this support. To minimise fraud, only those in self-employment, who have a tax return for 2019, can apply. However, anybody who missed the filing deadline in January will have four weeks from today to submit their tax return. You can find out more about eligibility by clicking here. 

HMRC are working urgently to get the scheme up and running, and the government says it expects people will be able to access it no later than the beginning of June. You don't need to do anything if you are eligible, HMRC will contact you with an online form, and pay the grant straight into your bank account. 

The self-employed can also access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans, and Income tax payments that are due in July can be deferred until the end of January 2021.

This support is in addition to a whole package of support to help people who have been affected by Coronavius, which includes a three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty, evictions have been suspended, Statutory Sick Pay is available from day 1, and the government will cover up to 80% of the wages of retained workers. 



As your local MP, I am here to provide help and support in any way I can. Please get in touch if you have any issues or concerns. My office is physically closed, but my small staff team are working from home. Email correspondence sent to TeamOppy@gmail.com will be replied to in the usual way, post is being redirected and phone messages will be responded to. 

Two weeks ago, I launched by Coronavirus website - GuyOpperman.co.uk/Coronavirus. It is updated regularly with all the latest information for individuals, businesses and employers, from what to do if your MOT is due to expire, to advice Foreign Office advice, and support for businesses and jobs. You can click the links below to access each of the pages:








Changes to the TV Licence for over-75's

Important Contact Details


Downloadable Cards and Posters


As ever, if you can't find the answer you're looking for on my website, please get in touch - I am here to help in any way I can.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Hexham's new post office gets up and running!

I was very pleased to officially open Hexham’s new post office. The post office has now moved from the former Beales store to a new convenience store on Battle Hill, and I am delighted that this relocation has happened with minimal disruption to the service for the local community. The post office has been opened along with a micro-convenience store by retailer VPS and director of the group, Ash Singh, was at the opening where goody bags were presented to customers.  The new premises look fantastic, and I must give huge credit to the Post Office, councillors, Ash Singh and his team for all of their hard work in making the transition a success.


Thursday, 12 March 2020

A Budget for Britain's future



Yesterday, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented the Budget to Parliament. The Budget takes place every financial year and sets out the governments plan for spending in the next financial year.

This is an important Budget that delivers on the promises made during the General Election. I wanted to take this opportunity to set out some of the key aspects of the Budget, and the benefits for people across Tynedale and Ponteland.

Clearly, a key part of this year's Budget has been addressing the challenges we face from Coronavirus. That's why the Chancellor announced a £30bn plan to make sure the NHS gets the resources it needs. It means Statutory Sick Pay will available for all those advised to self-isolate, and the cost will be met by the government for those with less than 250 employees.

Employment and Support Allowance will be available from day 1, a new £500m Hardship Fund will be distributed to Local Authorities to support vulnerable people in their local area, and over the next 12 months, nearly half of all business properties will not pay a penny of business rates. You can read a full breakdown of everything the government is doing to tackle Coronavirus by clicking here.

WATCH: The Budget in 21 seconds

In addition to the funding boost to tackle Coronavirus, there's a whole lot more in the Budget:

🏥 It makes sure the NHS gets the resources it needs, with 50,000 more nurses and 40 new hospitals across the country.

✂️ A tax cut of over £200 for the average family.

💷 It delivers an increase to the National Living Wage to £10.50 an hour to boost the wages of the lowest paid.

🏘️ £9.5bn to build affordable homes.

🎖️ Supporting our amazing veterans. They protect us, so we should help them get a job - so businesses employing veterans will get a one year break from National Insurance contributions.

🛣️ There's £500m a year to fix potholes and speech up journey times.

🌲 40 million trees over the next five years across 30,000 hectares - that's a forest larger than Birmingham.

❄️🍺 Duty on beer, cider, wine and spirts has been frozen!

In addition to all of this, the Tampon Tax will be scrapped, fuel duty is frozen for the tenth year in a row, new legislation to protect access to cash and allow credit unions to offer a wider range of products and services - something which is particularly important in Northumberland. Flood and costal defence spending will be doubled, and the new plastic packaging tax will incentivise the use of recycled plastic.

This is a fantastic Budget from the Chancellor, and I look forward to supporting it when it comes before Parliament.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Celebrating and commemorating VE Day

This year marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day. The Tynedale Rotary are organising a commemorative concert at Hexham Abbey on the 8th May to raise money for Walking with the Wounded and North East Veterans as part of national commemorations of the event. The concert begins at 7pm with the ringing out of church bells nationally, just as they did at the same time across the country on VE Day 75 years ago.

Tickets for the concert are £20 (£10 for children) and are available here: ticketsource.co.uk/tynedale-rotary

This is just one of the events that will be taking place in Hexham to mark VE Day- on Sunday 10th May there will be a picnic in the park in Hexham with a 1940s band and fancy dress.






Monday, 9 March 2020

Get set for Sport Relief

This Friday is Sport Relief, and schools, workplaces, organisations and communities all over the country will be coming together to raise money.

Sport Relief was created to use the power of sport to raise money for people in the UK and around the world who need it most. The money goes to organisations who are tackling issues such as mental health, child poverty, domestic abuse and helping people have a safe place to live, both here and abroad. Since the last Sport Relief two years ago, £82 million has been invested in supporting people living in tough conditions in the UK and around the world, helping 13 million people.

If your school or workplace doesn't have anything planned to raise money for Sport Relief, it's not too late! You can visit the link below to receive a free fundraising pack, make a donation or find inspiration for fun and innovative ways to raise money. It really is all for a fantastic cause!

https://www.sportrelief.com/get-involved




Friday, 6 March 2020

The law on organ donation is changing

On 20th May 2020, the law on organ donation in England is changing. From 20th May, organ donation will move to an 'opt out' system, meaning that all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

The law is changing to save and improve more lives, as every day in the UK someone dies waiting for a transplant. However, you still have a choice as to whether you want to be an organ donor or not- the NHS is asking everyone to record their decision regarding organ donation on the NHS Organ Donor Register and to tell their family and friends what they have decided.

You can speak to somebody about your choices by calling the NHS' dedicated line on 0300 303 2094. You can also visit the link below to find out more by downloading the fact sheet for further information: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/uk-laws/organ-donation-law-in-england/



Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Wear a Hat for Brain Tumour Research

Wear a Hat Day is coming up at the end of this month- on Friday 27th March the UK's biggest brain tumour research fundraising and awareness-raising day is taking place and there are so many ways that you can get involved!

Every year, thousands of people across the UK put on their favourite hat and take part in a hat-themed event to raise money for Brain Tumour Research. Whether through a hat-themed cake sale, a pub quiz night or a children's Easter bonnet parade, the possibilities to get involved and raise money really are endless.

Wear a Hat Day began in 2010 and the event is now in its 11th year, raising a total of more than £1.5 million for vital research into finding a cure for brain tumours. Brain Tumour Research focuses on funding long-term, sustainable research into brain tumours at centres around the UK.

All the money raised through Wear a Hat Day goes towards this incredibly important research. You can find out how to take part in this year's Wear a Hat Day by visiting https://www.braintumourresearch.org/fundraise/wear-a-hat-day - sign up and receive a free fundraising pack! Brain Tumour Research is such an important cause- it would be great if you could get involved!



    Monday, 2 March 2020

    Dipton Mill Inn- Northumberland Pub of the Year!

    A huge congratulations to the Dipton Mill Inn, which has been named as Northumberland Pub of the Year by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). 2000 members of the Tyneside and Northumberland branch of CAMRA voted to find their pub of the year, with a judging panel choosing the eventual winner.

    It's not the first time Dipton Mill has been recognised as a great local pub- they were named value pub of the year in the Good Pub Guide 2020 earlier this year. With a peaceful garden, on-site brewery and use of good quality, local ingredients, the Dipton Mill Inn really is worthy of the accolades it has recently received. Make sure to pay a visit- you won't regret it!

    https://www.diptonmill.co.uk

    https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/camra-announces-north-east-pub-17820972.amp?__twitter_impression=true

    Friday, 28 February 2020

    Shop local at Hexham Abbey

    Next weekend sees the first indoor market and craft fair of the year take place in the Great Hall at Hexham Abbey. Local traders will showcase their beautiful products and gifts on Saturday 7th March, 11am-3pm, as part of an event that champions local talent and gives you the opportunity to shop local. The fair is organised by CH Event and will be a monthly event. It is free to enter- put it in your diary and support our talented local suppliers!





    Wednesday, 26 February 2020

    Meeting the Environment Agency, and todays Environment Bill in the Commons


    Second Reading of the Environment Bill takes place in the Commons today. I am backing the new legislation as it offers this generation a real opportunity to leave the natural world in a better condition than it inherited. The Environment Bill is one of the flagship pieces of legislation for the new Conservative Government and it aims to protect and enhance the natural environment by tackling a priority of our time. In part this legislation is borne out of the need to address environmental regulation in view of the UK leaving the EU, but it goes much further than simply creating a new post-Brexit framework for the environment. The Bill outlines improved measures to tackle waste; enhance water efficiency and resource management; address air quality, as well as a renewed focus on biodiversity and conservation. The Bill will also create an Office for Environmental Protection to monitor and enforce new and higher standards.




    This Bill offers us the opportunity to finish what was started in the last Parliament and to make sure this generation passes on our precious environment in a better state than we found it. We have made real progress in recent years. But this new legislation goes much further.


    In addition this week I have met with local Environment Agency representatives to discuss a number of key issues including the response to the recent storms, passing on my thanks of residents for all the teams work, but also to chase up the long awaited River Tyne revised modelling which is a hot topic at our flood forums. 

    Clearly the biggest impact has been my successful plan to lower the Kielder reservoir post Storm Desmond – see here:


    And we have driven forward innovative local schemes as seen on Tyne Green




    But the long term change will not happen unless the EA approach the River Tyne in a different way. We cannot do this without the revised modelling and consequential approach thereafter. I continue to work with local groups, flood groups, councillors and Nick Oliver who leads for us in Tynedale and Northumberland on flood prevention.



    I have also had meetings this week with the Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow MP, and the Secretary of State to raise issues with the proposed Kielder Water Abstraction as I have been contacted by a number of concerned businesses, and to continue to press for a replacement of the leader scheme, and an update on both the RPA / BPS situation before next Friday weeks farming surgery and getting more clarity on the progress of the great Northumberland Forest million trees programme. I am holding a forestry summit / update meeting with NCC and key local stakeholders, including Paul Brannen who has done great work on this issue, in Morpeth on Friday.   


    The World's Biggest Pub Quiz

    Pubs play a vital role in our communities, raising more than £100 million for good causes every year. From 8th-12th March, The World's Biggest Pub Quiz is taking place, with pubs across the UK taking part to raise funds for a variety of charities, including this year's charity partner, Action Against Hunger. The event is organised by PubAid, which was created in 2009 to highlight the charitable work of pubs, and the first quiz took place in 2016. Last year more than 1500 pubs took part and raised £230,000 for good causes.

    The following local pubs are taking part:

    • The Barrasford Arms
    • The Golden Lion Hotel, Allendale
    • Halfway House, Prudhoe 
    • The Manor House Inn, Shotley Bridge
    • Three Tuns, Heddon-on-the-Wall
    • Yolo, Ponteland 

    The World's Biggest Pub Quiz is a brilliant way to make a difference to great causes like Action Against Hunger while having fun at the same time- go along to your local pub and get involved! More details about the local pubs taking part can be found here- https://worldsbiggestquiz.pubaid.com/search 



    Sunday, 23 February 2020

    Donate your books to a fantastic cause

    If your home is full of books you have read and don't need anymore, you can donate them to a fantastic cause. Barrett Developments North East is working with Borderline Books, a literacy project based in the North East, to collect as many unwanted books as possible in time for World Book Day on 5th March. Books that are in good condition can be dropped off at any of the sales offices, including David Wilson Homes in Hexham, so that they can be distributed to those who need them most by Borderline Books. Borderline Books works with schools, homelessness groups, food banks and women's refuges to support vulnerable people to improve their literacy skills.

    This is a great project- I will be donating some books and encourage you to do the same with any unwanted books you have at home.

    https://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/18243774.house-builder-collects-books-project/


    Saturday, 22 February 2020

    1 month to go until the Great British Spring Clean- get involved!

    It was great to join the amazing volunteers from the Prudhoe Groundforce team this week to tidy up their local community and remove litter. Prudhoe Groundforce do fantastic work all year round to clean up the community in Prudhoe, but with less than a month to go until the Great British Spring Clean 2020, now is the perfect time for everyone to get involved in taking responsibility for the communities we live in.

    The Great British Spring Clean is the UK's biggest mass-action environmental campaign. The campaign aims to encourage us to transform out country by creating cleaner streets, parks and beaches and protecting wildlife. We can all commit ourselves to performing individual actions that will make a huge difference, whether that is by picking up litter when you walk the dog or taking part in or hosting a clean-up.

    Last year more than 560,000 people took part in the Great British Spring Clean and this year it is hoped that more than 600,000 will take part. You can make your pledge to get involved and help your local community here- https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/get-involved/support-our-campaigns/great-british-spring-clean




    Friday, 21 February 2020

    Fairtrade Fortnight

    For two weeks every year thousands of companies and individuals come together to mark Fairtrade Fortnight, an opportunity to share the stories of the people who grow our food, drinks and the cotton in our clothes, and who are often exploited and underpaid. This year's Fairtrade Fortnight starts on Monday, running from 24th February- 8th March. The campaign is calling for cocoa farmers to earn a living income and is sharing stories that show the positive impact that Fairtrade has on the women behind your chocolate bar. A living income means enough money to live a dignified life, paying for essentials like clothing, medicine and school. Fairtrade Fortnight is also a great time to remind ourselves of the Fairtrade Standards, which cover price, premium, women's empowerment and environment- more information on the Fairtrade Standards is available at the link below.

    Last year's Fairtrade Fortnight saw over 4000 events take place, with 1 million people taking part. You can find out how you can get involved with this year's Fairtrade Fortnight in your community, workplace, faith group or school here- https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/get-involved/current-campaigns/Fairtrade-Fortnight




    Thursday, 20 February 2020

    Market Day in Hexham

    This Saturday is Market Day in Hexham! The Hexham Farmers' Market will take place from 9am-1.30pm in Hexham Market Place, with local farmers and producers from all over Northumberland selling products using locally produced ingredients. The Hexham Farmers' Market takes place fortnightly and is always a great opportunity to support our local producers and economy. Go along and see what local products you can find!

    https://www.hexhamfarmersmarket.co.uk


    Wednesday, 19 February 2020

    Fashion is front and centre in Corbridge

    Every year Corbridge comes together to organise a fashion show in aid of local causes, and this year’s event is taking place on 24th March at 2.30pm and 7.30pm at the Angel of Corbridge. The fashion shows will feature fashion from local businesses, with all money raised being shared equally between the Corbridge Youth Initiative and the Charlotte Straker Community Respite Bed.

    You can buy your tickets for the shows at various local Corbridge businesses, including Norma James, Finale Shoes and Accessories, Shorts of Corbridge and Katie Kerr clothing.



    Tuesday, 18 February 2020

    Focus on men's mental health at Heart Wood

    Congratulations to Heart Wood, a charity set up by Chip Ponsford from Hexham, on receiving funding from the National Lottery. Heart Wood was set up to improve men’s mental health through woodland-based counselling and therapy. They plan to use the money to run two eco therapy groups a week and train more therapists to offer more sessions. Currently sessions are held for men aged over 25 in Slaley and for 18-25 year olds in Ponteland. 

    I am sure this funding will make a huge difference to the work Heart Wood is able to do in improving the mental health of men in our local area. If you feel that the sessions offered by Heart Wood might be helpful to you, please find out more by visiting their website here- 


    Monday, 17 February 2020

    Northern Point to Point comes to Corbridge

    The next Northern Point to Point meeting takes place this Sunday (23rd February) at Downhills, Corbridge. The first race starts at 12.30pm, with pony racing from 11.30am. I have ridden a winner here in the past, and while I will not be riding this weekend, I will certainly be supporting. It's always a fantastic occasion- you can find more details about the meeting here-

    http://www.northernp2p.co.uk


    Friday, 14 February 2020

    Year 12 pupils- apply for the chance to experience university life!

    Applications are now open for schools and young people to apply for the Sutton Trust UK Summer Schools programme. The Sutton Trust champions social mobility from birth to the workplace and their summer schools are designed to help young people make informed choices about their futures. Their summer schools give young people the chance to experience university life and explore taster sessions in a chosen subject. A recent study has found that young people who take part in a UK Summer School are four times more likely to receive an offer from a top university, so the benefits of the programme are huge! 

    The summer schools are open to all state-school students in year 12. The deadline for applications is 3rd March 2020. 


    To find out more about the programme and its application process, visit here: 

    Wednesday, 12 February 2020

    Going beyond the Westminster bubble!


    The General Election on December 12th was a vote for change. It was an election that sent a powerful message to Westminster that democracy cannot be ignored.

    That's why I've launched a new podcast, it's called Beyond the Bubble. It's a different type of politics podcast, all about getting out of the Westminster bubble and focusing on the issues that really matter.

    The first two episodes are out now, with Episode 1 featuring North East MP's Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland) and Jacob Young (Redcar).

    Click here to listen and download now.

    Tuesday, 11 February 2020

    St Matthew's pupils run to success!

    Well done to pupils at St Matthew's Primary School, Prudhoe, who have received £100 from Prudhoe Town Council after having the most participants in the 2019 Miner's Race. Children at the school were presented with a cheque by the Prudhoe town mayor and representatives from the race organisers, Prudhoe Plodders and Essity. The school will use the money to buy gym equipment to support pupils' physical wellbeing.

    The Prudhoe Miner's Race was revived after the 2012 London Olympics to build on the legacy of the games. This year's race will take place on 20th September.

    https://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/18224520.prudhoe-school-pupils-rewarded-efforts-race-day/



    Monday, 10 February 2020

    Mind Your Head

    Mental Health affects people from all walks of life, with one in four adults and one in ten children experiencing mental illness.

    Today the Farm Safety Foundation's third annual Mind Your Head campaign launches, aiming to raise awareness and encourage communication about mental health and wellbeing of farmers and those in the agricultural industry. Mental health issues are of increasing concern in the farming community, with 84% of farmers under 40 saying that they believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today. Additionally, 85% of young farmers believe there is a definite link between farm safety and mental health. It is estimated that more than 20% of farmers will suffer from depression during their working life; it has been found that whilst UK farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops ad machinery, it appears that they do not have such a good track record when it comes to taking care of their own wellbeing. That's why the Mind Your Head campaign is so important (especially in a rural area like the Hexham constituency) to raise awareness of the pressures within the agricultural industry and to encourage farmers and farming families not to neglect themselves.

    The Farm Safety Foundation's Mind Your Head campaign takes place from 10th-14th February to continue the conversation about mental health amongst the farming community.

    https://www.yellowwellies.org



    Saturday, 8 February 2020

    Great opportunity for nature lovers!

    Northumberland National Park is looking for conservation-minded young people aged 16-25 to experience life as a National Park Ranger. Young people with a passion for nature and an interest in pursuing a career in the environmental or countryside sectors can apply for a 10 day placement to take place from April-June 2020. Successful applicants will have the chance to work alongside staff at Northumberland National Park as part of its Ranger Team, becoming involved in the care and management of the Park.

    This is a unique learning opportunity for young people to gain experience and skills. Northumberland National Park is the most beautiful National Park in the UK; these placements sound like a great experience and a lot of fun!

    For more information, call 07795 834936 or email jane.riddell@nnpa.org.uk

    https://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/about-us/jobs-volunteering/placements-apprenticeships/ranger-team-young-volunteer-placement/




    Thursday, 6 February 2020

    VE and VJ Day 75

    This year marks the 75th anniversaries of VE and VJ Day, on 8th May and 15th August. Ahead of the nation's commemorations, The Royal British Legion are asking veterans to register to be a part of their programme of events. Applicants can be of British, Commonwealth or Allied origin and all costs will be met by The Royal British Legion. 750 Second World War generation from across the UK will be invited to attend the VE 75 events programme in London over the 8th-9th May. If you know someone who might be interested in applying, please do encourage them to do so!

    Find out more about how to apply here:- https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/remembrance-events/ve-day-75


    Tuesday, 4 February 2020

    It's not too late to get your flu jab!

    Flu can be very serious, especially at this time of year, so I would like to encourage you to get your immunisation this winter. This is particularly important if you fall into one of the vulnerable groups; if you are aged over 65, a pregnant woman or have an underlying health condition or weakened immune system, please do arrange to get your vaccine at your local GP surgery. By protecting yourself against the flu, you help yourself and your local community.

    You can find out more about the flu jab via the NHS here:

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/

    Sunday, 2 February 2020

    Roman history gifted to the nation

    English Heritage cares for some of our constituency’s most important sites, including Housesteads, Corbridge and Chesters Roman Forts and significant portions of Hadrian’s Wall. In January, English Heritage took responsibility for caring for yet another historic site in the Hexham constituency; following a generous gift from local landowner Jennifer Du Cane, Carrawburgh Roman Fort is now an English Heritage site.

    Carrawburgh is one of 16 forts along Hadrian’s Wall. The fort housed a garrison of around 500 soldiers- first from South West France and later from Southern Belgium- responsible for defending the frontier of the Roman Empire from the tribes to the north. Carrawburgh sits between Chesters and Housesteads. 

    As an English Heritage site, Carrawburgh will be open to the public, with entrance free of charge. For more information, visit www.englishheritage.org.uk/hadrianswall 



    Thursday, 30 January 2020

    Giving thanks to our armed forces

    Yesterday marked 164 years since Queen Victoria instituted Britain's highest military decoration, the Victoria Cross, which is awarded for outstanding bravery on the field of battle. The metal from which the medals are struck is either from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol or other cannons. Only 1355 VCs have been awarded since 1856- 11 were awarded for the defence of Rorke's Drift in the Zulu wars 141 years ago this week.

    Bravery comes in many forms. Locally in Northumberland I commemorate Private Fred Dobson of Ovingham. Private Dobson twice volunteered to go out under heavy fire to bring in two wounded men at Chavonne in France in September 1914. Today, there is a memorial stone to Private Dobson outside St Mary's Church in Ovingham.

    Thank you to all those our armed forces and all those who risk their lives to protect us.




    Tuesday, 28 January 2020

    Dates to remember...

    The new year is less than a month old, but there are already so many exciting events planned in Hexham over the coming year. Here are some upcoming dates in 2020 to put in your diary:

    The Hexham Book Festival takes place this spring from 24th April- 3rd May. The festival always features a wide range of authors and storytellers, so whatever your literary tastes, there is bound to be something to interest you!

    https://www.hexhambookfestival.co.uk

    Meanwhile, the 2020 Hexham Abbey Festival is also starting to take shape, with the programme of events currently being put together. More information about the festival will be announced later in the  year, but for now, make sure to save the date- 17th-20th September!

    https://hexhamabbeyfestival.org.uk


    Sunday, 26 January 2020

    Top of the class!

    The 2019 primary school Key Stage 2 results were published at the end of last year. Thanks to the hard work of teachers, pupils and parents, the national average of children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics has increased to 65% this year. The results are the fourth since the government introduced more rigorous assessments to align with the new national curriculum in 2016, which has brought England's primary education in line with the best in the world.

    Six schools in the Hexham constituency saw an increase in the proportion of children achieving the expected standard. Congratulations to staff and pupils at the following schools:

    • Allendale Primary School (89%)
    • Ponteland Community Middle School (95%)
    • Richard Coates Church of England Primary School (82%)
    • Bellingham Middle School and Sports College (66%)
    • Corbridge Middle School (85%)
    • Hexham Middle School (77%)
    You can find the results of all the schools in the constituency here:


    https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&parliamentary=Hexham&geographic=parliamentary

    Thursday, 23 January 2020

    Find out more about developments in Hexham

    The second Hexham Hub event takes place this Saturday (25th January), giving local Hexham residents the chance to find out about projects and developments planned for the town. Developers of various sites around Hexham will be in attendance to provide updates, as well as Northumberland County Council which will update residents about the Hexham House wedding venue and apartments and the two new schools which will be built on the high school site. Additionally, Highways England will be there to explain about the improvements to the A69 junction at Hexham.

    This is a great opportunity to make your voice heard and find out more about planned developments in Hexham. The first Hexham Hub event took place in March, and residents will be able to find out how these plans have progressed since then. The event will be held this Saturday in the Great Hall at Hexham Abbey from 10am-3pm.




    Tuesday, 21 January 2020

    Protecting our dark skies

    One of our greatest assets here in Northumberland is our dark skies, which attract tourism to the region. In order to protect our dark skies, Northumberland National Park Authority is encouraging local residents and businesses within the park to apply for funding from energy snack company CLIF Bar to introduce dark sky-friendly outdoor lighting. No new artificial outdoor lighting is permitted in certain areas of Northumberland National Park, and so this funding is being made available to help those living and working in the park to adapt and replace any existing lighting that is currently contributing to light pollution.

    To apply for funding, please email duncan.wise@npa.org.uk 





    Sunday, 19 January 2020

    Village Halls Week 2020

    Ponteland Memorial Hall is joining village halls all over the country in celebrating Village Halls Week. Village Halls Week this week takes place from 20th-26th January, and aims to celebrate rural community spaces and the people who dedicate their time to keep them going. The event is organised by the ACRE Network and events will be happening all over England this week as part of the celebration.

    To mark the week, Ponteland Memorial Hall will be holding a free open day on Wednesday 22nd January from 10am-12pm, to showcase the venue and its facilities. If you are nearby, make sure to go along and find out more about this central part of the Ponteland community!

    https://acre.org.uk/our-work/village-halls-week.php

    Friday, 17 January 2020

    The North's best bakery!

    Grants Bakery in Corbridge has been named as the best bakery in the North at the Baking Industry Awards. At an awards ceremony in London, the bakery received the Craft Bakery Business Award for best retail bakery in the North. Grants Bakery is found in Market Place, Corbridge, and is owned by Andrew Cotterell, who has been in the baking industry for more than 40 years.

    It is always great to see local businesses get the recognition they deserve. Businesses like Grants Bakery are such important parts of our local communities so please do support continue to support them. Congratulations to all the staff at Grants Bakery on their brilliant achievement!



    Wednesday, 15 January 2020

    Coffee and cake at the Errington Coffee House

    I recently visited the Errington Coffee House on Hadrian's Wall at the junction of the A68 and the Military Road. I know Louise, who has taken the Coffee House over, and it was great to meet her team, see the amazing premises and try some of their entirely home-baked menu. There were two log fires going when we arrived- perfect on a cold January day- and the food was delicious.

    Whether you're a hiker, day-tripper or a local, I really recommend a visit!

    http://erringtoncoffeehouse.com





    Monday, 13 January 2020

    West Wylam's fantastic community effort

    It is so important that every community has access to a defibrillator, and community-members in West Wylam recently came together to celebrate the installation of a brand new defibrillator. Children from Adderlane Academy, residents at the Manors Extra Care scheme, local businessman Miv Chahal and county councillor Gordon Stewart were all in attendance. The defibrillator, which is placed outside the Manors, was funded by Mr Chahal and Councillor Stewart.

    It is brilliant to see so many members of the community in West Wylam work together to deliver on such an important issue. It is thanks to the great community spirit of local residents that West Wylam now has access to a life-saving defibrillator. Congratulations to everyone involved on making this happen!


    Saturday, 11 January 2020

    Brewing up success at the Dipton Mill Inn

    Congratulations to everyone at the Dipton Mill Inn, which has been named value pub of the year in the Good Pub Guide 2020. As well as its character and peaceful garden, the pub was praised for its good value, which its landlady Janet Brooker says is thanks to the fact that they buy good quality, local ingredients to keep costs down- another great reason to shop local. 


    Dipton Mill Inn was also runner-up in the ‘pub with its own brewery’ category. The pub has its own brewery on site and has launched a new ale this month called ‘Tynedale’. Why not pay a visit and give it a try?!




    Friday, 10 January 2020

    The Lost Words- celebrating the magic of nature

    This month, The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre is opening its The Lost Words Festival, which runs from 25th January to 20th April. The Lost Words is a book of spells that conjures the near-lost magic and unique qualities of the nature we are lucky to be surrounded by here in the UK and especially in Northumberland National Park. The Lost Words Festival includes The Lost Words Exhibition, which features acrostic spell-poems and watercolour originals that will inspire both children and adults. It will be a wonderful celebration of the beautiful and majestic nature we are lucky to live alongside here in Northumberland.

    https://www.thesill.org.uk/the-lost-words-festival/


    Tuesday, 7 January 2020

    A visit to Hexham Hospital

    I recently visited Hexham General Hospital, where I was able to spend time with the fantastic doctors, nurses and midwives hard at work on the hospital's many wards. As part of my visit, I was able to visit the Maternity Ward where I met one of Hexham's newest residents!

    It is important to remember that this time of year is always especially difficult for our hospitals and emergency services. The team at Hexham General Hospital strongly advise that you get your flu jab this winter, particularly if you are aged over 65, a pregnant woman or have an underlying health condition or weakened immune system. Please also remember to only call 999 in case of a serious emergency- over 40% of calls made to 999 don't need to be taken to hospital. For urgent medical advice instead call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk.

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/






    Sunday, 5 January 2020

    Join me this January in improving mental health through exercise

    I am sure I am not alone in having made resolutions this New Year with the aim of starting 2020 with a positive, healthy attitude. This January I am participating in both Dry January and Red January. Red January challenges people to be active every day, through running, swimming, cycling and more, and works in partnership with ‘Mind’. Physical activity is undoubtedly a great way to improve your mental health, and so I would like to encourage you to join me in exercising every day to improve fitness and mental health, this January and beyond. 




    Saturday, 4 January 2020

    Welcome increase to national living wage

    I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that the biggest ever increase to the national living wage will come into effect in April. The Chancellor previously announced the move back in September, and it is great news that the Prime Minister has now confirmed a date for this new measure. The national living wage will rise by 51p to £8.72 from £8.21; this is the largest increase since it was introduced in April 2016. Nearly 3 million workers will benefit from the increase.

    The national living wage is the minimum wage payable to adults aged over 25. 21-24 year olds will receive a 50p pay increase from £7.70 to £8.20 an hour. 


    I am delighted that the Government is rewarding workers with the pay rise they deserve for their hard work. 

    Friday, 3 January 2020

    Make a difference in 2020

    I’m sure I’m not alone in having made resolutions for the coming year, but if you haven’t decided on your New Year’s resolutions (or would like to take on a couple more!), charities all across Northumberland would welcome new volunteers to lend a helping hand. Charities including Chrysalis Club Tynedale, which offers support for those living with dementia and the families, and the Tanga Club in Hexham, a social club for children and young people with a range of needs, are just two examples of charities that would be delighted to welcome new members to their teams this new year. 


    Why not get in touch with a local charity that is close to your heart and find out how you can make a difference in 2020?



    Thursday, 2 January 2020

    Shop local this Localanuary!


    Last month we celebrated Small Business Saturday, recognising some of our amazing small local businesses and producers across Tynedale and Ponteland. This January, I'm supporting Localanuary - a campaign to encourage everyone to buy local produce from independent shops throughout January.

    We have so many amazing local businesses and producers in Northumberland, from Ridley's Fish and Game in Acomb, winners of my 2018 Small Business Awards, to amazing locally produced cheeses from the Northumberland Cheese Company.

    Watch my visit to the Northumberland Cheese Company


    You can find fantastic fresh fruit and vegetables at Brockbushes Farm Shop near Corbridge, and amazing organic lamb and beef from Kielder Organic Meats in Bellingham. 

    One of the easiest ways to shop locally is at Hexham Farmers Market, which takes place every second and fourth Saturday of the month in the Market Place, with the next market taking place on Saturday 11th January. Click here to find out more.

    Northumberland County Council also runs the 'Produced in Northumberland' scheme - a verification process so you can identify when produce is local. Keep an eye out for the logo below!



    We're all making New Year's Resolutions this year - make yours to shop local this January!

    Wednesday, 1 January 2020

    Happy New Year!

    I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year. 2020 already looks set to be another amazing year in the Hexham constituency- with the Hexham Book Festival in April, Northumberland Day and the Northumberland County Show in May, the Corbridge Festival in July, and a whole summer of county shows planned, there really is so much to look forward to.

    Whatever your plans for the coming year, I wish you all a very happy start to 2020.