Thursday, 23 December 2010

Highlights of 2010

Click here to watch our fantastic Highlights of 2010 video and a big thank you to the kids for producing it.

I can not tell you how much I have enjoyed being your MP so far. Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me to get this far - I could'nt have done it without you all.

Merry Christmas!! - and don't forget to check out the video!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Hexham Conservatives launch new website

To help us communicate with you, we've launched a new local website. You’ll be able to find the latest news, campaigns and photographs from the Hexham Constituency area. Over the coming weeks and months we'll be adding more features so we’re keen to hear your feedback. And to stay in the loop, don’t forget to sign-up to our newsletter.

Take a look:

What do we make of Branson's comments?

Richard Branson has previously described some young British entrepreneurs 'overeducated'. I wonder, does he have a point?

Do we put too much focus on Alevels and University degrees and not enough on work, 'on the job' training and a passion for business?

Undoubtedly a surprising number of some of the worlds most impressive businessmen are 'drop outs', including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Simon Cowell left school at 16 and Lord Sugars story is well known one.

There is no question there is a huge value in 'learning' and academia but I do wonder if we are lacking a key element in our education system that pushes young people to take that leap into business, getting hands on and really using that passion to become entrepreneurs of the future? What do you think? Its a really interesting debate I hope to look at in more detail come the New Year.

Listening on School Sports Partnerships

Education Secretary Michael Gove has agreed to continue funding the schools sports partnership system.

Michael had his team had been looking to orginally try and save some of the money but have since reconsidered how best we work towards encouraging more children into competitive sport. I've been working with my two local SSP coordinators and I'm sure they will be very pleased by the news.

There will be £47m to keep the SSPs going until summer 2011 and a further £65m to release one PE teacher for one day a week from 2011 to promote pupils' participation in sporting activities

Michael has said: "I want competitive sport to be at the centre of a truly rounded education that all schools offer. But this must be led by schools and parents, not by top-down policies from Whitehall," Gove said. "It's time to ensure what was best in school sport partnerships around the country is fully embedded and move forward to a system where schools and parents are delivering on sports with competition at the heart.

"This will take some time and I'm pleased to be able to confirm some funding for school sports partnerships during this transition. But I'm looking to PE teachers to embed sport and put more emphasis on competitions for more pupils in their own schools, and to continue to help the teachers in local primary schools do the same,"

Monday, 20 December 2010

Winter Woes

More poor weather in the region with snow causing huge problems on the A1 last night and further delays for commuters out of Newcastle Central Station.

Thanks for everyone who has let me know what conditions are like in their patch. Seems like the main roads are fairly ok but as ever its the rural access roads and estate roads causing the problems in our area.

According the weather its going to be sunny tomorrow! We shall see...

GUEST POST: The Big Society?

GUEST POST: Will Hamilton, a student of PPE and former intern in my Hexham Office

The Big Society is more than just volunteering – it’s about going above and beyond what is necessary. In the last fifty years, our society has changed to become more individualistic, and while in many ways this has been a boon, it does mean that we have become increasingly separated from those around us.

The Big Society aims to reverse this change – instead of work- or web-based communities, working to reintroduce people to their own neighbourhoods and remotivate people to do things for each other without a tangible reward – where the reward for helping somebody out is simply the knowledge that you’ve done a good thing.

It’s not a new idea, not a revolutionary concept, but it is one that will take some readjustment.

During a general election fought mostly around the economy, and with Gordon Brown’s faltering hold on the government under necessary scrutiny, the Big Society remained a background issue, albeit one that has already proved popular in our local communities. However, the media reports what sells and what is easy, and so the ideas of the Big Society have remained somewhat unclear in the minds of many. Let me try to offer my own definition; the Big Society is community.

Unions should represent members not dogma

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey took to the pages of the Guardian yesterday not to spell out his program for representing members in the workplace, but instead to tell how he was "preparing for battle" over the Governments policy agenda.

I believe Unions have a role to play in society. However Union leaders must always remember that people have the opportunity to vote for their political leaders and indeed their polices. Is it really the job of unelected* Union leaders to be preparing to fight the Government on its whole agenda?

I can't help thinking the rhetoric of Union leaders like Mr McCluskey, who seem excited by a return to the battles of the 1980's, does so little to help their members. Does he really believe his members want to see the current welfare state go unreformed?, our industry continually burdened by tax and red tape? or that they want to see their Unions more interested in overthrowing the Government than representing their individual interests?

It is a good indication that a Union leader is losing touch when the Editorial of the proudly left-wing Guardian newspaper warns against following "Mr McCluskey up the blind alley of deficit denial, indiscriminate opposition to all cuts, and a programme of strikes which large parts of the country will see as an attack on rather than a defence of the public realm."

I hope fellow Union leaders spend more time seeking a sensible dialogue with the Government to represent workers interests, rather than trying to turn back time to 1979.

(* Just for balance, although not elected as a politican I do believe Len was elected by around 7% of Unite members)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

McCoy wins sports personality of the year

Have spent the weekend recovering from Man Flu but delighted that Tony McCoy - who I know a little - won the Sports Personality of the Year. It could not be better news!!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Can you help in Oldham and Saddleworth?

The by-election for Oldham and Saddleworth has now been officially called and Kashif Ali is the Conservative candidate in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

Kashif was our candidate in the General Election, and the hard work of him and his local team helped turn this seat into a genuine three horse race with just 2400 votes in it.

Now he needs our help. His team are already working hard knocking on doors and delivering leaflets and I'll be taking down my own team to help out.

If you can help, please contact:

Caroline Dickinson - 01274 363000

Dorothy Wonnacott - 0191 286 4141

Thursday, 16 December 2010

I Love the NHS

I love the NHS. I owe my life to it. If it wasn't for the excellent NHS Doctors and Nurses who helped me after a very nasty fall as a jockey I wouldn't be here full stop - nevermind be an MP.

I'm proud this Government is committed to increasing NHS spending every year, by around £10.6 billion over the Spending Review period. Never forget Labour said they would CUT funding to the NHS - despite what Ed and Co may try and spin now.

However in order to meet the ever rising demands from our Health Service, such as the issue of dementia care which is seeing a dramatic rise, we must make sure every penny counts for patients. That means cutting out waste, reducing bureaucracy and simplifying NHS structures so that more of the protected NHS budget can be invested into frontline care.

In the New Year the Government will bring forward the NHS Bill which will set out some clear changes for the NHS: making it more responsive and more patient-centred with outcomes that should rival the best in the world.

Do you love our NHS? Let me know, and join in the debate on my facebook page.

Parish Notice: 400th Blog Post

Another mile stone for the blog today, with more than 400 posts published since the blog began. The blog is something I'm really proud of; helping me reach constituents, offering my opinion so people know where I stand on the issues, highlighting our Social Action projects, Association activities and campaigning, community events, Big Society Projects, aswell as featuring interesting Guest posts and of course the the work of our fantastic young volunteers!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Prison Problem

One of my first visits when I first became an MP was to HMP Durham. The prison staff there work incredibly hard. It's a priority for me as I've long been a champion of prison reform. The biggest failure of the current prison system is reoffending.

Prison is there to punish of course, but is the public really getting a good deal when almost half of those sent to prison will go onto commit another crime within just 12 months of being release?

I strongly believe we need a system which puts victims first and key to that is giving the victim some confidence the crime will not go on to repeated. We can only do this by tackling reoffending rates.

Justice secretary Ken Clarke has some powerful ideas to change the way prison works. Firstly instilling a disciplined routine of work and education from prisoners. The second being to make sure we tackle rather than ignore the underlining reasons why prisoners reoffend; so often drugs, alcohol or mental health issues.

Ken is also looking at how we can better use rigorous community sentences help build up the skills of offenders whilst making sure they provide meaningful contributions to the community. 71% of those sent to prison for 6 months or less reoffend within two years, that compares to 30% of those who receive community orders.

The answer to reforming our prison system and cutting reoffending is a complicated one. However I strongly believe that in focusing on tackling mental health, drug and alcohol dependency, and adult literacy, with a focus on work, skills and restorative justice, we may just make some real progress.

Elected Police Commissioners

Over the tenure of the previous government the Home Office garnered new power after new power and constantly increased bureaucracy.

The introduction of elected Police Commissioners is a radical and significant move away from this; one which marks a shift of power from the corridors of the Home Office into the hands of the public.

Elected Police Commissioners, with a clear and deliberate mandate from the public will be able hold police forces to account for their successes, and indeed failures, in cutting crime and anti-social behaviour in their area.

These moves are key to our agenda of decentralising power from Whitehall and handing power back to the public.

I think elected Police Commissioners have the potential to transform local policing, insuring that the police no longer look to Whitehall targets or politicians for direction but instead are listening and acting on the wishes of the public which they serve.

What do you think of Elected Police Commissioners?

Monday, 13 December 2010

Fancy running a Council for 5 mins?

For those of you with an interest in democracy in the Internet age, or just with a few minutes when your bored of facebook click here to have a go on this really interesting and simple application from Cheshire West and Cheshire Council.

Critics might say its a gimmick (and question the cost of the application itself) but I'm tempted to think its a rather interesting way of getting the public more involved in decision making. Have and go and let me know what you think.

Stunning Labour Hypocrisy

Last week we had hypocrisy from Labour over Tuition Fees. Despite introducing them in the first place and actually commissioning the Browne report which recommended the reforms, Labour decided to score political points and oppose the measure.

Today we have news of more Labour Hypocrisy. Maria Eagle, Ed Miliband's shadow transport secretary has now said that Labour may no longer support the £33 billion high speed rail project - despite it being a Labour pet project for years whilst in Government.

Any suggestions for what Labour's next Damascus conversion will be?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Thursday, 9 December 2010

GUEST POST: Voice of a Student

I’m a student at Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham and I will be part of the first generation of students that will have to pay the new tuition fees.

I don’t think tuition fees are perfect, I’m not even sure they are ideal – but they do seem fair.

Some one has to pay, and what is fairer; that student’s pay or the tax payer does? As a prospective University student I recognise the benefits it will hopefully bring me in my career – on average around £100,000.

With the proposed plan graduates will not have to pay one penny back until they are earning over £21,000 a year, and then they will be paying back £45 less a month than they do at the present – is that so unfair?

Any university which is charging more than £6,000 a year will have to prove that they are taking in increasing numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. That sounds fair to me.

£150 million being invested into a National Scholarships Programme to get disadvantaged students into top universities. That sounds fair to me.

Would I rather not pay? Sure. But with 45% of us going to university it is not sustainable for the tax payer to cover all students’ fees - and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask me to make a contribution.

Ed Miliband and Labour have been quick to jump on the band wagon. As a young person interested in politics nothing puts me off more than seeing politicians chasing headlines. This is our future and difficult decisions have to be made.

Labour set up the Browne report, yet have no credible alternative of their own. It may be getting Labour good headlines but playing politics with our future is not winning them support with students like me.



Tuition Fees

I've had some really intresting letters, emails and facebook messages about the reforms to Higher Education. The one thing that is worrying me however is that some younger students are being led to believe they need to find 9 grand up front before they can go to University. This is not the case at all.

Fact: No one going to uni will have to pay anything up front with
the new plans. You’ll only have to pay money back after you
graduate — and then only if you earn over £21,000 a year.

Fact: You don’t have to pay anything back until you start to make
over £21,000 a year — and even then, the monthly payments will be
linked to how much you’re earning to ensure they’re affordable.

Fact: Everyone will have to pay back less each month with our plans.
Most graduates will be £540 better off a year. Those graduates in the bottom 20% of
incomes will actually pay back less in total than they currently do.

Fact: Parents won’t have to pay any of their children’s fees.
The student pays for their tuition — and only once they’ve
graduated and are earning enough to be able to afford it.

Fact: We’re giving more assistance to poorer students,
increasing maintenance grants, insisting that universities
charging over £6,000 widen access, and setting up a new
£150 million National Scholarships Programme to get students
from disadvantaged backgrounds into top universities.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

No Spin Zone 2

On monday I highlighted the progress the Government was making on improving access to rural broadband. Its generated some discussion on my facebook page but here is the take of Phil Bicknell, senior economic adviser to the NFU:

“Broadband access is undoubtedly a hot topic for NFU members.

“We recently ran a feature in our in-house magazine British Farmer & Grower on rural broadband, and we also asked for members views. We received responses from all over the country highlighting some of the challenges. Around 40 per cent told us that they couldn’t get broadband at all, while 90 per cent who could access broadband didn’t get a reliable connection.

“All respondents to the recent survey said that their business would see ‘some benefit’ or a ‘significant benefit’ from a quicker internet connection, and felt that broadband would be essential for business in the future.

“Connecting individual homes and businesses to the hubs is likely to be one challenge. Distance to the nearest hub and the cost of extending the network to individual homes may still prove barriers to broadband access in rural communities but NFU members will be pleased to see coverage addressed by these plans."

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Record Breaking Month

November was a record breaking month for the blog - an increase of 28% on Ocotber, the number of blog readers now is actually pretty amazing!

Thank you!

What can we do to improve 'Life Chances' ?

Respect Labour MP Frank Field has called for a radical overhaul of early years education.

In his report for the coalition's Independent Review of Poverty and Life Chances, Frank has suggested SureStart needs to be refocused back on its original purpose of tackling childhood poverty. Not long ago I was at my local Hexham East SureStart centre where work and support is increasingly focused with families who need it and we need to see more of that.

Frank also recommends a radical approach in the way we deal with child poverty. I welcome us looking at how we focus on the poverty trap which is so difficult for children to escape. We must do more than rely on handing out benefits if we are to break this cycle.

Nobody should be condemned to poverty because of the circumstances of their early years.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Super fast broadband?

Some more good news on our campaign to improve broadband access this morning with the Government announcing it is to spend £830 million which will see the UK have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has set out an ambitious plan to create a "digital hub" in every community linked to the nearest exchange by high-speed connections.

Ministers will invest £50 million in a second wave of pilot projects to test how digital hubs can be extended to all communities, including those in remote rural areas.

Already more than 70% of UK households have broadband and nearly 50% have access to a super fast 50 Mbps service but we still have a way to go in rural areas which is a cause I'm determined to keep on championing.

Rural Affairs Secretary Caroline Spelman has already said rolling out super fast broadband to the countryside is "probably the single most important thing we can do to ensure the sustainability of our rural communities in the 21st century".

I'll be doing everything I can to help make that a reality!

Snow turns to Ice.

Finally looks like the snow has passed (for now at least) but road and path conditions are still not great as what snow was left has now become ice. Any specific areas suffering from a lack of gritting etc please do get in touch - we've been able to help out a few areas already.

As ever please just remain vigilant and a big thank you to everyone who has been able to struggle through to get into work to keep things moving.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is awful. It's an appalling and completely unacceptable crime. The fact that two women a week die at the hands of their partners shames us all.

Millions suffer years of abuse in their own homes and we must do more tackle it. I'm pleased to say the is why we are piloting Domestic Violence Protection Orders, allowing the police to step in when the victims are most vulnerable to give them vital space and time which could ultimately save their lives.

Friday, 3 December 2010

What do you think of Immigration cap?

Under Labour, few dispute our immigration system was broken. Migration reached almost 200,000 a year and no body seemed willing to take responsibility. The Coalition is committed to bringing the immigration system under control and reducing net migration to 1990s levels - from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced last week plans to achieve this. Plans which will cover economic visas; student visas and family visas.

Many people I talk to on the doorstep want to see this clear rational approach to immigration. I think everyone regonises immigration has a role to play in our economy and indeed society, but also that it needs to be at sustainable levels.

Do I think the cap will work? Yes I do. I know the Government has worked closely with businesses and will continue to listen to their feedback and that of the public. Drop me an email at and let me know what you think.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

THIS WEEK on the web

1. Bill Bratton the man who cleaned up New York tells us how can do policing better
2. Tim Montgomerie over at ConHome reports that the public back the new immigration cap
3. The Daily Mail has the great news that the all electric Nissian Leaf will soon be rolling of a production line here in the North East
4.Iain Martin of the Wall Street Journal has his take on this week's PMQs
5. and the BBC explains why we get so excited by snow... although I'm not sure excited is quite the word!

Badger Consultation

DEFRA are currently looking at proposals to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle with a cull of badgers.

The consultation closes on the 8/12/2010. Take a look here

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snow shows no signs of stopping...

The roads in Hexham this afternoon, photo from Stuart:

More snow today and more due tommorrow.

School Closures:

School Closure : Abbeyfields First School (Special Group only) - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
Special Group closure only due to adverse weather conditions

School Closure : Allendale Middle School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions

School Closure : Berwick St Mary's C of E First School - Closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
Please note Berwick upon Tweed St. Mary’s CE CF will be closed Thursday 2nd December due to adverse weather conditions.

School Closure : Branton Community First School - closed all week
1 Dec 2010
school is closed for the rest of the week due to severe weather

School Closure : Corbridge Middle School - closed Thur 2 Dec
30 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions. Previously announced as open until 8:30 pm when weather became much worse.

School Closure : Croftway Primary School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
Closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Greenhaugh First School - closed Thur 2 Dec
30 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions

School Closure : Greenhead C of E First School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Grove Special School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed Thursday 2 December 2010 due to adverse weather conditions. Parents should check this website for any further updates.

School Closure : Grove Special School - closed until further notice
29 Nov 2010
closed due to severe weather

School Closure : Haltwhistle Community Campus Upper School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions

School Closure : Harbottle C of E Voluntary Aided First School - closing from 12:00 on Thurs 2nd Dec
1 Dec 2010
*OPEN* in the morning on Thursday 2nd December *CLOSED* in the afternoon due to severe weather no school transport

School Closure : Herdley Bank C of E Vol Aided First School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Hexham Middle School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Hexham Priory School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
Closed due to severe weather

School Closure : Hipsburn First School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
school closed due to severe weather

School Closure : Horton Grange Primary School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School has closed due to adverse weather conditions.

School Closure : Malvin's Close Primary School - closed all week
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to the severe weather conditions contractors have been unable to repair the canopies over to pupil entrance.

School Closure : Meadowdale Middle School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
due to severe weather

School Closure : Meadowdale Middle School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School will be closed on Thursday 2 December 2010 due to adverse weather conditions.

School Closure : Morpeth Road Primary School Blyth - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
This school will be closed due to the severe weather

School Closure : Morpeth Road Primary School Blyth - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
This school will be closed due to the severe weather

School Closure : Newbrough C of E First School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
This school will be closed due to the severe weather the boiler breaking down

School Closure : Newsham Primary School - closed all week
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to the severe weather conditions contractors have been unable to repair the canopies over to pupil entrance.

School Closure : Otterburn First School - Closed Thurs 2nd Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions

School Closure : St Andrew's RC Voluntary Aided First - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School will close today at 2.00 pm and will be closed all day Thursday 2 December 2010.

School Closure : St Joseph's RC Voluntary Aided Middle School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions and staff shortages.

School Closure : Stakeford First School - closed Thur 2 Dec
1 Dec 2010
School will be closed because building work to repair leaks in the roof makes classrooms unsafe for children.

The Rural Idyll?

A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has calculated that a single person needs to earn £15,600 just to get by if they live in a rural town. That increases to £17,900 a year if they live in a village and onto £18,600 if they live in a hamlet or in the remote countryside. The interesting thing is that a person living in an urban area needs £14,400 a year to meet the minimum.

Why the extra cost? It's a variety factors; those in rural areas see thier cost of living hit by having to own a car, higher energy bills from less energy effiecent homes and as we are all too well aware, often forced into using expensive fuels.

That means people need to be earning £8.89 an hour just to get buy - well above the average minimum wage.

What does this mean for our countryside? Often it means falling roll numbers in schools, it means local people are priced out of the housing market forcing them into urban areas, it can even mean families are faced with making a choice between heating and eating in the Winter months.

I'll be looking more in depth at hidden rural poverty over the coming months.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

No Spin Zone.

The Independent Office for Budget Responsibility published it's fiscal outlook update yesterday. Click here to read the data or here to download the full report as a pdf.

So here is the their summary. No spin.

"The UK economy has recovered more strongly since the spring than the interim OBR expected at the time of the June Budget. GDP growth was greater than expected in both the second and third quarters, while employment has risen (and unemployment has fallen) to levels that the June forecast did not expect until the middle of 2012.

The world economy has also grown more strongly than expected. CPI inflation has remained slightly higher than expected in June, while the public finances have performed broadly as anticipated. Interest rates on UK government debt are lower than in June, but have risen since August."

Monday, 29 November 2010

School Closures Update 2:

(Roads Update: Western area crews will be operating overnight on the A69, A68 and A696,please keep aware of conditions and drive accordingly. At present major roads are passable with extreme care. Illuminated warning signage “Slow down Skid Risk” have been placed on the A69)

Northumberland School Closures:

School Closure : *OPEN* Tweedmouth Community Middle School - open on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School Open as Normal on Tuesday 30th November

School Closure : Acklington C of E Controlled First School - open only from 8:55am until 12 Noon on Tue 30 Nov
29 Nov 2010
Due to Heating Problems

School Closure : Cleaswell Hill School - closed Tue 30 Nov
29 Nov 2010
school closed due to severe weather

School Closure : Corbridge Middle School - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Cornhill First School - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Ellingham C of E Aided First School - closed Tue 30 Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed on Monday and Tuesday due to severe weather conditions and lack of heating

School Closure : Grove Special School - closed until further notice
29 Nov 2010
closed due to severe weather

School Closure : Harbottle C of E Voluntary Aided First School - closed from 12 Noon on Tue 30 Nov
29 Nov 2010
School Will Close At Noon On Tuesday 3oth November Due To Weather Conditions
There Will Also Be No School Transport Available

School Closure : Hexham Priory School - closed on Tue 30 Nov - School closed to PUPILS
29 Nov 2010
Closed due to severe weather

School Closure : Hipsburn First School - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Malvin's Close Primary School - closed until Thur 2 Dec
29 Nov 2010
Extended closure until Thursday December 2nd due to broken canopies blocking pupil entrance doors, caused by heavy snow fall.

School Closure : Morpeth Chantry Middle School - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Morpeth Newminster Middle School - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Newsham Primary School - closed until Thur 2 Dec
29 Nov 2010
Extended closure until Thursday 2nd December due to broken canopies blocking pupil entrance doors, caused by heavy snowfall.

School Closure : Norham St Ceolwulfs C of E Cont. First School - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Northumberland Church of England Academy - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
School closed due to severe weather conditions.

School Closure : Prudhoe Castle First School - closed on Tue 30 Nov
29 Nov 2010
School is closed on Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 November 2010 due to the severe weather and staff shortages.

School Closure : Tyne Met College Special Needs Unit - closed on Tue 30th Nov
29 Nov 2010
While Tyne Met College will be open as normal on Tuesday 30 November, the special needs unit will be closed.

Gove is right on Education

Everyone has an opinion on Education. Are we dumbing down? Is there too much focus on Exams? Are we forgetting the basics? Well last week the Coalition published the Schools White Paper setting out were the Government stands.

The White Paper sets out some serious education reforms for the long-term, and crucially is evidence based on looking specifically at what works in the best performing education systems around the globe in which we now all compete.

The paper marks a decisive shift towards those Conservative values of trusting teachers and ensuring better discipline.

If there is one statistic which sticks out at me - which serves as a reminder why we must drive forward these education reforms it is this: Just 40 pupils out of 83,000 children eligible for Free School Meals made it to Oxford or Cambridge. 40 out of 83,000.

I recently raised in the House the competitive education system in which our children are in. "Is it not accepted that in science, for instance, the UK has gone from fourth to 14th position? In literacy we have gone from seventh to 17th, and in mathematics from eighth to 24th." Reform is always difficult but surely we can all agree we must act to reverse our slide in the global education league.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

List of those Northumberland Schools closed

Northumberland Schools Closed on Monday, 29th Nov:
Updated at 9:25pm on Sun 28 Nov

- Abbeyfields First School (Special Group only)

- Amble Middle School

- Berwick Middle School

- Berwick Upon Tweed Community High School

- Coquet High School

- Cornhill First School

- Dr Thomlinson C of E Middle School

- Druridge Bay Community Middle School

- Duchess's Community High School

- Grange View C of E Vol Controlled First School

- King Edward VI School- Morpeth Collingwood School

- Norham St Ceolwulfs C of E Cont. First School

- Spittal Community First School

- St Cuthbert's RC Vol Aided First School, Amble

- St Michael's C of E First School

UK Manufacturing

Many will remember that not long ago Jaguar was the sick man of the top end car market. Struggling to compete with its German rivals and accused of being old and tired things looked bleak and another another sad story for British manufacturing looked likely.

However now the car maker's sales are booming. Revenues up 43% in the last quarter, plans to close one of its UK plants scrapped, and, healthy looking profits for this financial year.

Amazingly Jaguar Land Rover is now also responsible for 14% of all UK exports to China. Recently executives from the company joined representatives from the UK Government on their trade mission to China. Jaguar Chief Executive Carl-Peter Forster recently said the UK's attitude towards manufacturing has 'changed markedly' - I certainly hope so. Developing a strong high tech manufacturing base is vital if we are create a more stable UK economy in the long term.

The Chief Exec went on: 'Education and advancing knowledge about the sector starts with the recognition that it is an important part of society. Ten years ago the UK thought it could do without it.'

Its a sentiment I couldn't agree with more and I will be pressing the Government to continue its positive steps in the right direction on UK manufacturing.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Winter Info:

With another fall of snow last night here is some useful winter info:

Click here to use the County Councils interactive map to see which roads are part of the Precautionary Gritting Routes.

To request a refill or misuse of a grit bin call 0845 600 6400 or click here to do it all online.

Remember despite the winter scare stories there's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home or from public spaces. It's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully. If in doubt click here to read the Government advice and guidelines.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The snow hits

Snow and ice have kicked in early this year. I've had a few reports in on some areas already becoming difficult. Some real difficulties at times in Prudhoe and the ice on the roads in Castlefields made it onto BBC Look North with a bus stuck there for a couple of hours.

Do keep me informed of any problems in your area.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

THIS WEEK on the web

1. Katharine Birbalsingh welcomes the Education White Paper
2. Johnathan Isaby reports North East MEP Martin Callanan has been elected to lead the Conservative MEPs
3. The Sun reports that Alan Johnson disagrees with Ed Miliband over 50p tax
4. Richard Moss explains why William Armstrong still has a place in North East politics 200 years on
5. The Hexham Courant has the photos from Hexham's Remembrance Sunday

and on BBC1's This Week tonight Charles Clarke will be sitting in Diane Abbot's old seat alongside Michael Portillo, with guests P.J. O'Rourke, Stephen K Amos and Kat Von D, and the political round-up from Jane Moore.

Update: Christmas Social Action Project

Quick update on our 2010 Christmas Social Action Project. We've teamed up with SOS to provide some special Christmas gifts and treats for our brave troops. Its our way of showing our support to those away on the front line this Christmas.

We have been overwhelmed by the response from Greenhaugh to Belsay. Peter, Dan and Daniel busy packing up some more boxes this afternoon:

Railway Investment

I'm pleased to see the Coalition putting forward its plans to invest in more than 2,100 new rail carriages for our railways by 2019. I know how important the railways are, especially the East Coast Mainline is to us here in the North East, to communters like myself and importantly business.

The Government will now be entering commercial negotiations with franchised operators about the allocation of new carriages and those freed up from Crossrail. Subject to those negotiations, we can hope to see improved carriages running to Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, and most importantly Newcastle!

In addition to the 2,100 new carriages, Britain is also to get a new fleet of intercity trains, replacing the ageing 30 year old 'Intercity 125s'. A big bonus which will help matters on the East Coast main line.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

People’s Millions

I'm pleased to say Ponteland Community Partnership's Pont Skate Park project has been shortlisted to go forward to the public vote on ITV regional news as part of the People’s Millions funding programme and voting opens this week.

The project will be featured in a short film on Thursday night’s ITV regional news (25th November) at 6pm. Voting takes place between 9am and midnight with the winner announced on the ITV regional news in the following night’s programme.

Click here to see the project’s page on the People’s Millions website where you can find the voting telephone number (which will be available from 9am on the day of voting) and more infoon the project.

Well done Ponteland!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Prudhoe Innovation

I was in Prudhoe again last week catching up with the Partnership and members of the community who are really pushing the town forward. I am constantly surprised by the innovation on show and this meeting was no exception.

They have plans to use eBay to develop a community shop, preparations for their Christmas fayre are well underway, they have exciting plans to launch a new Community magazine - with a circulation of more than 25,000, and if that weren't enough they are also running a pilot pay by the hour community car, available to local residents 24/7.

The new Nissan Note car is located just off Prudhoe Front Street and available for residents to book by the hour, day, or as long as members need as an alternative to expensive car ownership.

As ever some really exciting stuff. You can find out more about the car share scheme at

Good news on jobs

Some really good news on jobs at the moment with the number of people having to claim out of work benefits going down.

The claimant numbers are important because they are bang up to date. I'm pleased to say here in Hexham we have seen a 12.8% fall in the year down to 2%, half the 4.7% average for the North East.

There are still difficult times ahead and the numbers will fluctuate but we do have a very good network of people and organisations trying to tackle unemployment locally from the fantastic team at our local job centre who I know very well to various community groups providing advice and support.

Monday, 15 November 2010

"Shop Local This Christmas"

I'm urging all our local residents to "Shop local this Christmas"

Thats the name of our special Christmas campaign I launched on Saturday whilst putting in a shift on Hexham Market's fruit and veg stall alongside local traders.

It was great be able to see things from the other side of the market stall and see the challenges facing our local traders. I would urge everyone to think twice about heading over to the Metro Centre in the run up to Christmas and instead to shop local and support our local shops and market traders.

It is hard to beat the quality of local meat, cheese, vegetables and even cakes available, all of which are definitely worth the calories this Christmas!

I would urge everyone to support local producers, traders and retailers this Christmas.

Speaking at the launch Michael Nicholson of the National Market Traders Federation said “With the economic situation as it is now is the perfect time to encourage as many people as possible to support their local markets.”

We will be running the 'Shop Local this Christmas' campaign in the run up the Christmas with stalls in Hexham and Prudhoe encouraging local people to sign up to back the campaign.

Keep an eye out on the blog for updates...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A packed weekend

A packed weekend started in Bywell Thursday night and followed up with the mega surgery day all day Friday; then off to a planning committee meeting in Tarset and up to Kielder for an amazing evening at the Pheasant; had to give a speech and home by 11.45
Then up and at them today - helped out in the market, then had an imnterview in the office and then went for a surgery and an afternoon with the Green Ovingham group.
Finished very tired but on good form

Aung San Suu Kyi released

amazing news

Friday, 12 November 2010

Halton Lea Gate Meeting on Tuesday

A return of the open cast mine debate that we have been fighting for years.
I cannot be there on Tuesday but will send along Jon from the office to help
Please go there to the village hall to show your support

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Christmas Social Action Project

Click here to watch the sneak peak of our 2010 Christmas Social Action Project which some of you may have read about in the Courant last week...

Egger visit

A good day at Egger - with coverage of the visit set out detail

Monday, 8 November 2010

Interested in Allendale?

You may remember a few months ago we highlighted the great community led work going on in Allendale with the creation of nine fantastic work spaces at Allendale Forge Studios. If you interested click here to out more

Friday, 5 November 2010

By Election triumph in Ponteland

A memorable day ended at 11pm last night when Eileen Armstrong triumphed in the County Council by election.
Results were:
843 Conservative
401 Liberal
100 Labour

A triumph of fair play and proper politics.

Thank you to all the dozens of people who helped

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Morrisons steps up.

Continuing our Supermarket theme of posts, this time with a big society slant. There was some really good news from Morrisons this week, that they plan to create 1,000 jobs for homeless and vulnerable people.

They are running the scheme in partnership with the Salvation Army and a social enterprise called Create.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Conservative party chairman has welcomed the move saying "This is a great example of businesses working with the community to create jobs and drive growth at a time of economic uncertainty.

"Initiatives like this will make a real difference to people's lives, providing them and the country with the skills they need to promote growth."

I couldn't agree more and I'd like to see more of this kind of thing, be it through training, internships, volunteer opportunities or apprenticeships.

I run an internship in my constituency office to help local young people build up their skills before work or uni. If you'd like to find out more drop us an email

Good News on Green Deal

Marks & Spencer are in talks with the Government to take part in the Green Deal policy.

The policy is one I've championed a fair bit - essentially businesses will be encouraged to install energy efficient measures like loft insulation, double glazing, cavity wall insulation and solar panels. Householders will pay back the cost over 20 years making such changes much more affordable for your average home owner... and bringing Co2 savings, jobs and eventually lower bills with it.

Its hoped the scheme will create up to 100,000 jobs which is good news with Tesco, B&Q and British Gas also interested in getting involved. Hopefully it will be up and running by autumn 2012.

Weekend update

A packed weekend featuring an evening do in Darlington and a really big day in the constituency, with a meeting in Egger, and a campaign stop in Ponteland.
Back in westminster a busy day ended with the former Prime Minister GB coming to westminster for only the third time since the election

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Housing benefit reform

Two things to digest from the efforts to try and bring Housing Benefit under control
i). One Mp described how he had around 60 families claiming over £1000 a week net for housing benefit
ii). Labour’s demented attack on the Housing Benefit “final solution”
‘Housing Benefit will be reformed so we do not subsidise people to live in private sector accommodation on rents working families couldn’t afford’

Eminently reasonable in policy terms, £20,000 a year in rent is of course way beyond what the majority of us can afford. The quote is taken from the Labour Party manifesto, written by one Ed Miliband…

James Purnell when he was at the DWP said he wanted to ensure “people on benefits do not end up getting subsidies for rents that those who work could never afford”. Miliband claims, “That is not what they came into politics for. I hope they will vote with their consciences.”

The barefaced hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Friday, 29 October 2010

LEPS announcement

A big start to the LEP proposals
- A good day for business as they get what they want
- Longer term a LEP will come for the North East

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

More support for the court

The Sunday Sun writes a good article in support of the court

Promising news on the economy

Good news on the economy this morning - for the second quarter running there is good signs of growth in the economy - 0.8% is positive stuff; that and the new jobs that have been created by the private sector are not talked up enough.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A busy weekend

Got home late Thursday night and then had a packed Friday - featuring a great session with A4E, in Newcastle exploring ways to get employment after New Deal: it is good that we are taking an innovative line to employment: the old system of New Deal was too inflexible, too rigid and there is good scope now for the future.
Then back to Hexham for a meeting with The Hexham Partnership - which is full of new ideas under its Chairman, Bob Hull.
Then off to Ponteland to help on the by election campaign; finally back to Hexham for the Hexham Abbey Dinner - a great evening where the abbey raised a lot of money

Saturday started with surgery visits in Hexham followed by a long day in Ponteland

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Key input to the CSR

A good article in the recent papers from 35 businessmen saying we are doing the right thing:

and the CSR page for the North East makes good reading too

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Defence review

A tough day but well done to Cameron - not an easy task - my favourite quote of the day is from Jon Snow's website

"I ran into a seasoned Defence Analyst last night. He told me two completely shocking things. Firstly that when it comes to military procurement, Israel spends £9 billion a year and administers its purchases with 400 people. Britain spends £10 billion annually on procurement and has a staff of 23,700 to do it.

The second thing my analyst told me was that for all significant procurement contracts no fewer that 66 different civil servants, generals, and the rest have to apply their signatures. Recently, he added, that number has gone up to 83."
Frankly you cannot make this up!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Housing - our next big problem

A good article in todays Telegraph on the housing crisis - click here
Housing is our big problem in Tynedale. Had a really good housing summit last week but more needs to be done

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Social Action + Campaigning

A great day in Ponteland this Saturday - murky weather disappeared and the sun came out...

We started the morning at Ponteland Park - myself, Conservative Future and even the Conservative Mayor getting our hands dirty planting bulbs on behalf of Marie Curie. This kind of social action project is a great way to help the local community and remind everyone that politics isn't just about words but about everyone getting stuck in and making our communities a better place to live.

With numerous bulbs planted it was then off with our team of volunteers to carry on our by-election campaign in Ponteland East supporting our fantastic local candidate Eileen Armstrong. I spent most of the day with my team in Stannington, Whalton and Ogle but also did the smaller farms and houses near Saltwick. A really good response on the doorstep for Eileen's positive local campaign.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Weekend surgery

Home on the 7pm train Thursday night and then up and at them Friday morning to meet Nat West in Hexham as a follow up to several concerns regaridng bank lending from constituents and local businesses. We spent the morning together discussing how to get their personal and business lending moving and the help they are offering to local businesses. IT was also interesting as we took the opportunity to meet two of thier business clients - including the team at the Crown in Humshaugh, who are doing great work turning the pub into a success story.

Then off for a surgery session in the afternoon from 3 till 7.

Popped in to the Albert Edward Club for a pint in the evening...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Westminster week

A packed week that featured a meeting with Anchor Housing chief exec concerning Blackett Court, in Wylam, a good meeting with Northern Rock Foundation and a key day on wednesday that saw contributions to 3 different debates in the House of Commons, most notably over the local Wind Farm Debate. Also went to the Equitable Life meeting on Thursday at 3.30.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Saying thanks to the CAB

The Citizens Advice Bureau is a fantastic organisation. They provide free, confidential advice on a whole range of matters from debt and benefits to housing and legal matters.

As an MP our paths have crossed a few times through casework, and the local CAB is backing our campaign to Save Hexham Court.

With more than 400 advice centres across the UK the work they do affects so many people. Indeed according to their own figures they helped a staggering 1.9 million people to solve 6 million problems last year.

Continuing our thread of Big Society projects the CAB is a brilliant example of people already going above and beyond for others. The CAB is home to 21,000 volunteers all making a positive difference to peoples lives.

On Monday I had the privilege of visiting my local CAB in Hexham which covers West Northumberland and meet the volunteers who make it all happen. It was a good chance just to say a big thank you for all the fantastic work they do.

To find out more about the CAB, to get help or volunteer click here

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

University Volunteer Fair

Watch on Youtube

Getting to grips with Equitable Life, police visits and a big surgery

Packed latter part of the week after the return from conference. Had a big surgery on Thursday - which started with a visit to County Hall and a visit to Daljit Lally.
Then a packed surgery resolving all manner of problems.
On Friday I had a meeting with the local members of Equitable Life. At its peak it once had over one and a half million policyholders with funds worth around £26 billion under it's management.

However its huge liabilities and a failure of regulation led to massive losses and the business being closed to new business in 2000. Many elderly people or nearing retirement lost out on their pensions; often in the tens of thousands of pounds, and sometimes running towards the hundreds of thousands.

It has dragged on for many years without resolution. But we have to try and sort it out: I have corresponded with them and then today hired the Beaumont Hotel to meet with policy holders from EMAG. I decided to hold an old fashioned public meeting to really get to grips with the issue and hear peoples concerns first hand.

I invited Chris Harlow along from EMAG, and together we all had a strong debate about what the future for policyholders was for 1 and 1/2 hours and what we could do going forward. I am going to the metting on Thursday 14th in the House of Commons.
Finished the day with a police visit - much discussion with the police as to Police Commissioners

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The BIG Big Society Tour - Pebbles Gallery, Allendale

Regular readers of the blog may remember last month I mentioned I was launching my 'BIG Big Society Tour' - I'm hoping to use it to visit the places and projects where the Big Society is already taking shape, meet the people behind the ideas and find out how we can build on those ideas.

The first stop on my tour was to meet Amanda and Val at the Pebbles Gallery in the heart of the Northumberland countryside in Allendale.

The Gallery is run by the Allendale Creative Artists Community Interest Company. The Gallery is currently home to 17 local businesses, each with their own space in the gallery selling anything they like, from Val's handmade handbags, to portraits and sculpture. The artists work almost as a cooperative, their 'rent' is covered by staffing the gallery for two days per week.

However the gallery is more than a rather unique and successful business model. It has also become a real community hub, attracting both visitors and local residents to their cafe and open days. Small food businesses rent the kitchen facilities and members of the Gallery on their voluntary rota days receive free refreshments throughout the day. The cafe also plays an important role in supporting local sustainability by buying local produce.

The whole company runs on a small income coming from the gallery. With some small seed funds for development, the Gallery and the Youth Project they provide free, have received no funding for salaries and project management and the Directors give their time and expertise freely.

Here we have a project in Allendale, a fairly isolated rural community in my constituency which has embraced the ideals of the Big Society and through this fantastic project is continuing to be a strong and vibrant community. So successful has the project been that the next step of their project is the quite amazing new Allendale Art & Media Visitors Center. The new building in the heart of the village, backed by the local community, will be a new home for art, small businesses, and youth projects in a stunning environment.

You can see the photos from my visit of the new build going up on flickr here

Keep an eye on the blog this week for my video interview with Amanda on the success of the project so far...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

My favourite line in the Journal so far...

....Coun Heslop has worked tirelessly with the support of local MP Guy Opperman and others to secure the future of Wark Bridge, and with a smile he said: “Someone has suggested to me it should be renamed The Edward Heslop Memorial Bridge – but I told them I’m not dead yet.”

Read the full story with the great news about the progress on the bridge. The local community in and around Wark should be so proud of what they have achieved:

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Tough Questions from Building Industry

I had the good fortune to visit Dove Building Materials in my constituency last week, one of the biggest builders merchants in the North East. For much of the building industry, from contractors to those in supply chain, times have been tough as the recession hit particularly hard.

I know personally a few builders who went under last year and I hope putting the national finances back in order will help give people and business the confidence to start investing and building again.

What was really interesting about this visit was that Doves, despite being in one of the worst effected industries here in the North East has been able to survive, mainly due to strong and careful fiscal management - a lesson for us politicians if there ever was one.

But the building industry also has some tough questions. Many in the industry would like to see a large huge number of public sector contracts created to help boost business.

I can of course understand why but I honestly think it would be irresponsible for the government to try and create a false economy for any industry as in the end it inevitably becomes unsustainable in the long term.

However that's not to say Government should ever sit idly by. Far from it, we must be innovative and forward thinking in our approach. Which is why I was pleased to hear my Coalition friend and Government Minister Chris Huhne give more detail on our proposal for a 'Green Deal' this week - something already welcomed by the UK Building Council which they believe could lead to a 'refurbishment revolution in the UK'.

The Green Deal will help deliver around 250,000 jobs – in the private sector - by allowing companies to pay up front for eco-improvements to homes such as insulation and get paid back through fuel bills. It has also been extended to commercial premises and the policy is a clear example of where we can use the private sector to grow the economy and actually relieve some of the pressure created by the financial mess the country has ended up in.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Housing Crisis?

Most people know one of my biggest areas of interest is housing, in particular social and affordable housing.

Just 4,480 homes were build in the North East last year, around half of what was actually needed. Indeed last year a further 2000 people actually became homeless. If that doesn't add up to a housing crisis I don't know what does.

Affordable Housing is vitally important here in Northumberland & Tyne and Wear - especially as we try to grow our local economy. I'm determined to try and do my bit in tackling this crisis.

Keep an eye on the blog over the coming months...

Monday, 20 September 2010

Boost for A1 Campaign

Good news for the long running campaign to dual the A1 as the CBI has today highlighted the importance of transport links.

The dualing of the A1 would help us make sure its clear that Northumberland is open for business, and help avoid the diversion of investment to the South and even North West due to better transport links.

"Transport infrastructure, in particular, should be made a priority, the CBI says, because it offers high returns and will play a crucial role in boosting domestic and international trade."

Update: Blackett Court battle

Good news today as the Journal has today covered our fight to help residents in Blackett Court, Wylam...

Hexham MP in crunch meeting on Blackett Court closure

TWO MPs are joining forces in a bid to persuade a sheltered housing group not to shut down homes and displace elderly residents.

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has been fighting to keep Blackett Court in Wylam, open in spite of Anchor Housing Association’s plans to close it and rehouse five remaining residents.

Now he will be joined by Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, who is waging a similar battle to save the homes of 54 elderly residents in a sheltered housing complex in the Staffordshire town.

The two Conservative MPs are to meet Anchor chief executive Jane Ashcroft at the House of Commons on October 12 in a joint attempt to persuade the housing group to make a last-minute U-turn on their closure plans.

Click here to read the full story

At Wylam, campaigners have fought a lengthy battle to stave off closure, with a 500-name village petition going to Anchor’s London HQ.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

BBC Radio 4: Sneak Peek

Take a look at a sneak peek of my BBC Radio 4 Interview for Beyond Westminster on the impact of blogging and the internet on politics, click here to watch on You Tube

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Constituency Video Diares (2)

Check out my second Constituency Video Diary, up on Hadrians Wall having a chat with Blue from Vetrans Aid International about the difference they are making... View on You Tube

Friday, 17 September 2010

The big 'Big Society Tour'

As most of you who read the blog will know I am passionate about the Big Society. For me it is one of the strongest planks of this governments agenda; outlining our commitment to supporting our local communities and developing a stronger society.

That's why over the next few weeks and months I'm undertaking my big Big Society tour to visit the places and projects where the big society is already taking shape and meet the people behind the ideas.

Keep an eye on the blog next week for my first stop on the Tour, the most amazing project in the heart of Allendale...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

BBC covers our fight...

The BBC have covered our fight to save Tynedale Magistrates Court, - first few seconds into the program:

Click here to watch on iplayer

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

westminster week

A packed week:
- Monday saw a meeting with the climate change secretary over Egger and the RHI
- Tuesday featured extensive constituency work, and time in the chamber
- Wednesday saw the PMQs [ Harriets last bow] and was followed up with the ID Cards debate and an interview with the BBC Look North team
Also met with the Chancellor as part of the preparation for the October budget cuts

Friday, 10 September 2010

Constituency Video Diares (1)

View on Youtube

Ponteland Market

Just a quick parish notice to let you know that the newly relocated Ponteland Market now takes place on a Friday rather than a Saturday.

The market is at the Merton Way Shopping Centre and the produce is superb. The next one is the 24th September, might see you there!

Get involved...

Conservative Future is designed for those of you under 30 (those were the days!) who have a keen interest in politics. It centres around bringing like-minded young people together through various social and campaigning activities. Not only is it a stepping stone for those interested in politics but an informal place where debate is encouraged.

Its' mission is to get young people involved in social activism, volunteering and local fundraising in a fun and informal setting. I'm pleased to say we have recently set up Hexham Conservative Future and you can find out more about getting involved locally at their blog here or by joining their facebook group here.

They've raised more than 250 quid for charity and are already planning thier next social event - not bad for a weeks work!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Robbs - The Futures Bright

Robbs is the lynch pin store in Hexham and recently things looked decidedly bleak when news broke that it was to close. However in a good sign for the local economy Robbs was taken over and its new parent company has invested £2million in bringing the store up to scratch.

I joined Hexham’s Mayor Coun. Terry Robson for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday and the staff are determined to make the revamped store a success.

The new investment will hopefully spill beyond Robbs and provide a further boost to tourism and local traders in the town.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

RIP Cllr Mel Armstrong

I just wanted to say a few words on the recent and sudden death of respected local councillor Mel Armstrong.

Mel had served on the former Castle Morpeth Council and was a member of both Northumberland County Council and Ponteland Town Council.

Mel cared a great deal about his patch and so often went above and beyond for everyone, including me. He was a great support to me as a newbie MP, and a great friend.

He will be missed by everyone.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

MP's Charity Quiz Night

I spent last night in the village of Stamfordham at the Bay Horse - where my brilliant young team of volunteers, Sarah, Pete, Amy and Charlie had organised the first of our MP's Charity Quiz Nights.

The idea is to make me more accessible as their MP, whilst also having a bit of fun and hopefully raising some money for Charity in the process.

I'm pleased to report last night was a great success and we raised an incredible £250 for Help the Heroes and TASC. The guys did amazing and a big thank you to everyone who came and made it such a great success!

Top 30

Yesterday Total Politics announced the top 30 MP blogs - and this is one of them! The list is the result of more than 2,200 people who voted in the Total Politics Annual Blog Poll. Very proud!

Monday, 30 August 2010

On the beat...

This month I spent some time on the beat in Hexham with the neighbourhood policing team. It was really useful to talk about the work taking place and to discuss the issues that constituents have raised with me; many of which I'm pleased to report the local neighbourhood policing team are already focused on.

We also called into the Hexham East Sure Start Centre and it was good to see everyone working closely together. There are many different factors involved when it comes to effective policing but visible local neighbourhood policing teams are a vital part of reducing peoples fear of crime as well as reducing anti-social behaviour and boosting public confidence.

The local policing team are doing a great job and thier contact with the local community is very strong. I'll be keeping in regular contact so do let me know if there are problems you would like me to let them know about.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Prudhoe Community Allotment

All 66 photos from the Prudhoe Community Allotment Open Day uploaded to flickr so you can see this little oasis for yourselves... click here

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Getting Online...

During the election and since the access to broadband Internet has been a big part of my daily post. For most of us the Internet is a part of everyday life. Indeed there are 30 million of us who use the Internet everyday in the UK. More than half of all leisure travel is now booked online, 90% of all new jobs require basic Internet skills and seven million jobs were posted online last year. That is why I champion increasing access to broadband across rural Britain, in places such as my constituency of Hexham.

However the problem is a wider one. Even were access isn't the problem, there are still 10 million people in the UK who have never used the Internet, and are missing out on the benefits, opportunities and savings it can provide. What’s more, the problem is worst for those already at a disadvantage. The facts are if you’re older, disabled, or on a low income, its far more likely you will be off-line - and thats not fair.

I'm always keen to support anything that helps change this situation for the better and have already signed up to support Race Online 2012.

In October, will be running a joint campaign with Race Online 2012, the BBC, Post Office and mobile phone network Three to help people gain the skills and confidence they need to get started online.

People can also learn the basics without paying a penny by visiting

In the mean time I'll be keeping up my campaign to increase the availability of broadband Internet to my constituency.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

3rd Annual North Tyne Shield

A few Sundays back I had the honour of presenting Wark Captain Gary Scott with the third annual North Tyne Shield at Wark Sports Club after thier match against Bellingham.

On a sunny afternoon Wark walked away winners after a hard fought match in front of over 100 spectators. Special congratulations to Liam Anderson taking Man of the Match for Bellingham. Thanks also of course to the match sponsors; John Famelton – Inline Fitness & William Murray WVC Electrical Services.