Friday, 30 November 2018

Small Business Saturday 2018

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to celebrating and supporting the small businesses that make up the backbone of our local communities. To mark the event, I held my annual Small Business Awards, very kindly sponsored by Patricia J Arnold and Co, which saw Patricia and I visit some of this year's winning businesses. Ridley's Fish and Game in Acomb was named as overall champion, and it was great to be able to meet some of their team, as well as other small businesses around Tynedale and Ponteland, and to thank them for the brilliant work they do. Small Business Saturday was started to encourage everyone to support and celebrate their small local businesses, not just this Saturday, but every day of the year, and I am happy to do anything I can to support that ambition. 

I would like to encourage you to go out and support your local small businesses, not just this Saturday but all year round. Our local communities really wouldn't be the same without them!\

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Combatting rural crime

Tomorrow (Friday 30th November), Northumbria Police will be at Hexham Mart for a Rural Crime Event. Joined by the National Farmers Union and NFU Mutual, the event will run from 8.30am-2pm. Those attending will receive information about rural crime operations, demonstrations of security devices, cybercrime awareness and measures aimed at preventing rural crime. It's a great opportunity to have your questions answered, so I would recommend you go along if you would like to speak to Northumbria Police about rural crime.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Bellingham Post Office gets ready for Christmas

Christmas is always an incredibly busy time of year for post offices, so I visited Bellingham Post Office to recognise the valuable role the branch will play in providing vital services to local customers during the festive season. It was fantastic to hear all about the wide range of Post Office services available for customers at the branch this Christmas. The Bellingham branch offers everyday banking services for customers of all the main UK banks, as well as the opportunity for shoppers to collect and return their online Christmas shopping. The Royal Mail's special Christmas stamps are also available at the Bellingham branch.

I really enjoyed meeting the Bellingham team and I wish them every success for the future and especially during this busy period.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Keeping us safe this winter

Winter is upon us and it’s good to know that Northumberland County Council have plans to cope with whatever the season brings. 

Twenty eight front line gritters are in place - with five new 18t Econ/Mercedes expected soon to replace current gritters.  All vehicles are in location and ready to go - as they have been since 29th October when the Winter Services Rota began.  All roots and drivers are in position and the Council are continuing to train and invest in additional employees - including apprentices - through their HGV and Winter Service training. 

In terms of salt, 37,500 tonnes is in stock, with all depots being full.  A contract has been awarded to construct two new salt barns - one in Allendale - for extra capacity, and area teams are replenishing salt bins and heaps across the County.  They will be replenished on request throughout the winter. 

Being prepared for the worst of the weather involves co-operation and team work, and farmers and sub-contract support are in place should serious snowfall occur in the coming months, and there are also arrangements for cross-boundary working with Cumbria County Council and Newcastle City Council. 

Gritting actions will be posted on the NCC website, Twitter and Facebook.  Should anyone need to make winter service requests, or report emergencies, please contact 0345 600 6400.

Nobody knows what this winter will bring, but as far as it’s ever possible to say - Northumberland is winter-ready.  A big thank you to all the team at Northumberland County Council who work so hard to keep our roads open and to keep us all safe.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Inspired by Our Land

A fantastic new exhibition celebrating local artists has opened at The Sill. Created by Northumberland National Park, the exhibition is titled 'Inspired by Our Land' and features original work, prints, photography and ceramics by twelve local artists. Artists come from Hexham, Rothbury, Haydon Bridge, Horsley and other towns and villages familiar to us, meaning that this truly is a local exhibition. It is brilliant to see local people being celebrated and given the chance to exhibit their work that has been inspired by the landscape of the beautiful Northumberland National Park.

'Inspired by Our Land' is free and is open seven days a week from 10am-4pm until February 2019. Make sure you don't miss it!

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Christmas arrives in Westminster

Christmas is coming! Early yesterday morning an incredible 45ft sitka spruce from Kielder Forest arrived in Westminster. Kindly donated by the Forestry Commission, the tree will now be spectacularly decorated in time for the festive season. It’s always an amazing sight- I can’t wait to see the finished tree!

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Falstone Christmas Market- today!

I was recently in the beautiful village of Falstone, and would strongly recommend a visit to its Victorian Christmas Market today. From 2pm onwards, the Falstone Village Hall will be full of Christmas gifts stalls, as well as facepainting, mulled wine, a raffle and more. It will be well worth a visit.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Tyne Valley Art Fair returns tomorrow!

Coming up this weekend is the Tyne Valley Art Fair, showcasing the work of talented local artists. The Fair is held at Trinity Church Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham, from 10.30am-4pm on Saturday 24th November. Entry is free- I would encourage you to go along and support our local artists. I'm sure you will be impressed by their incredible work!

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Otterburn welcomes back the Post Office

After several years without a Post Office, Otterburn last week celebrated the fact that the Post Office is returning to the village. Every Thursday between 12pm-2.30pm, the Otterburn Memorial Hall will be home to the Post Office, with a full range of postal services, as well as home shopping returns and cash withdrawals and banking. This is such fantastic news for the village, offering local people and especially residents who are unable to drive a facility which will undoubtedly make their lives easier. Well done to Otterburn Parish Council for making this happen- I would encourage anyone local to the area to make the most of this new facility!

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ponteland teenager's role in National Remembrance

November 11th was an incredibly poignant day for our country, and especially so for 18 year old Alex Elliott-Smith from Ponteland. Alex was one of 100 teenagers, all graduates of the National Citizen Service (NCS), who were invited by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to be part of the National Remembrance Service in London. Marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the service was a hugely important event involving members of the Royal family, politicians and veterans, and Alex played a vital role in ensuring the event ran smoothly. I am sure the occasion was memorable for Alex, and it was great to see a local young person taking part. 

Open to young people aged 16-17, the NCS programme takes place in school holidays and includes outdoor team-building exercises, a residential for participants to learn ‘life skills’, a community-based social action project and an end of programme celebration event. Graduate extension opportunities, such as volunteering at Armistice 100, are available to young people after they complete the programme.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Why I'm backing the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement, and why I will continue to support Theresa May.

Unless you have read the entire Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and formed a view, or have made up your mind in advance of the publication, I will attempt to set out my reasons why I will vote for the proposed agreement and continue to support the Prime Minister.

In the past month I have knocked on more than 500 doors, from Haltwhistle to Prudhoe, Bellingham to Ponteland and plenty of places in between. I have also spoken at multiple business events and dinners, done several local coffee mornings, conducted surveys, held surgeries and received plenty of letters, and some emails on the subject of what we should do. 

From this, the message of the vast majority is clear: help the Prime Minister to get on with the job, and deliver a Brexit deal. To be frank this accords with the prevailing view expressed over the last year.

I think everyone accepts what an incredibly tough job Theresa May has. No Prime Minister since Churchill has faced such a difficult task. Despite this, she has managed to agree, in principle, the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, as well as the terms of our future relationship.

This puts us closer to a final Brexit deal than many people ever said she would manage. Yes, it is a compromise, but it is one that takes back control of our borders, our laws and our money while protecting jobs, security and the continuation of the United Kingdom. It delivers full market access for goods, economic certainty, and resolution of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. 

It is a pragmatic outcome that gives certainty to our employers and businesses, and protects jobs.
It is a deal that has been backed by a whole host of organisations and employers, from the established business organisations like the CBI to the Federation of Small Businesses, to local employers like Iceland Foods, the Royal Mail and BAE Systems. 

Views on Brexit are clearly not universal, and I have never pretended otherwise: some want to ignore the referendum result, and stay come what may. Others would prefer to leave with no deal.
I do not accept the first answer – in a democracy you accept the result. This cannot be the best of three. And whilst some argue that this is not sufficiently 'Brexit' - I again disagree. 

This deal will take us out of the EU on 29th March 2019. Not as far out as many MP's of all persuasions [and some members of the public] would like, but we will be out nonetheless.
The vast majority of the people I meet, and who contact me, are democrats, who respect the result, and want us to get a deal that gets the best outcome for the country. Almost everyone I spoke to has made the case that it is time to put the divisions of the referendum behind us. They respect the result and want an end to this.

It is also not good enough to simply knock the deal. I would say this very firmly to those who criticise it. The PM, Ministers and Civil Servants have worked long and hard to get us a pragmatic resolution of the many hundreds of issues that do need to be addressed as we go forward. Pretending that this process is simple - if only someone else were in charge - is naive.

For these, and many other reasons, that is why I will be supporting the Prime Minister’s deal when it comes before Parliament.

Some have cast doubts on the agreement that is it is either 'too much Brexit' or 'not enough Brexit', and both the Prime Minister and Number 10 Downing Street has gone through those doubts line by line to try and assuage concerns. To assist I will set out some of these below;

The Prime Minister's statement word for word to the House of Commons last Thursday is here:

The simple explanation of the Withdrawal Agreement is found here.

The simple explanation of the Political Agreement is here.

If you want to read the whole agreement it is here.

On Sunday, Stephen Barclay, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union - who campaigned for Brexit in 2016 - has set out why this is a good deal for Britain in the Sunday Express. Stephen explains how it is one that delivers on the result of the referendum, but lets us focus on the big domestic issues facing our country. You can read his article here

I have included more details on the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration below:

The Withdrawal Agreement:
  • Protects the rights of more than three million EU citizens living in the UK and around one million UK nationals living in the EU.
  • Gives us a time-limited implementation period that provides a bridge to the future relationship, allowing businesses to continue trading as now until the end of 2020.
  • Provides a fair financial settlement for UK taxpayers.
  • Ensures no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, with a UK-wide backstop respecting the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK. This agreement legally commits both sides to use their best endeavours to ensure the backstop is never used. If either side fails to do so, this could be referred to an independent arbitration panel.
  • This includes a mechanism which either the UK or the EU can trigger to review the arrangements, which could ultimately lead to the backstop ceasing to apply.

The Political Declaration:
  • Ends free movement of people such that we will have a new skills-based immigration system, which this country controls.
  • Provides for a free trade area and deep cooperation on goods, with zero tariffs and quotas.
  • Gives the UK the ability to strike new trade deals around the world.
  • Calls for ambitious arrangements for services and investment, alongside new arrangements on financial services. 
  • Contains new and specific arrangements on digital, covering a wide-range of areas, reflecting the growth and prominence of global digital trade.
  • Ensures the UK will be an independent coastal state, with commitments to ensure sustainable fishing levels and a new fisheries agreement with the EU.
  • Ensures the UK will be outside the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
  • Provides for employment and environmental standards. 
  • Commits to comprehensive and close reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation to keep people safe.
  • A close and flexible partnership of foreign policy and defence.

On the issue of the Prime Minister I can confirm that

·       She has my support. I will not be writing a letter the Chairman of the 1922 Committee asking for a no-confidence ballot. To change leader at this time would be to add another uncertainty and distraction to our politics at a critical time.

·       If my assessment is wrong, and were such a ballot triggered, I believe that the PM would win. She enjoys large support from my constituents, and the vast majority of her party, for the way she has pressed on with this difficult task.

·        In any event, changing the leader does not deliver us a different outcome to the proposed deal that we would deliberate upon at this late stage.

·       Finally, I could comment at length on Jeremy Corbyn’s bizarre approach to such a serious issue. But, by his own admission he has not even fully read the agreement, and indicated he would oppose it before it was even published, come what may. He is using the process to try and bring about the downfall of government. That is his choice – but to pretend otherwise to his motives would be simply wrong, as his own MPs freely agree with me.

I can only make the judgement call for myself. I believe that the withdrawal agreement and political agreement is an outcome that respects the referendum, and protects the national interest long term, as outlined above.   

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

A visit to Egger

It was great to be able to visit Egger, Tynedale and Northumberland's biggest private sector employer, last week. I have visited the factory many times before, and as always it was good to meet many of the team and get an update on the need for more timber. The factory employs more than 700 people and is one of Europe’s most advanced wood-based panel production facilities. Egger also has a fantastic apprenticeship and employee training scheme, and 10% of its workforce are currently or have been apprentices.

A great business that is such an important part of our local community- I really enjoyed my visit.

Monday, 12 November 2018

UK Parliament Week

This week is UK Parliament Week, and as we mark 100 years since the first women gained the right to vote, this year's event is more important than ever!

UK Parliament Week is a UK-wide festival taking place from 12-18 November, which aims to engage people, especially young people, from different backgrounds and communities, with the UK Parliament and empower them to get involved. UK Parliament Week is part of the UK Parliament’s Vote 100 programme, celebrating equal voting rights and other milestones in the UK’s democratic history. A record high of 32% women MPs were elected to the House of Commons in 2017’s General Election. There is further to go in encouraging diversity though; UK Parliament invites people of all backgrounds to have a say in their democracy.

In 2017, UK Parliament Week reached more than 360,000 people, with over 4,500 events. This year’s UK Parliament Week festival is the largest ever and will see more than 7,000 registered events with over 500,000 people taking part. I encourage you to find out more about our Parliament and get involved with local events this week- find out more here:

Sunday, 11 November 2018

We will remember them

As the country comes together to mark Remembrance Day, I would like to pay tribute to the sacrifice and bravery of servicemen and women both past and present in armed conflicts for our country. This year is particularly poignant as it is the centenary of the Armistice to end World War One.

We will remember them.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Prudhoe's best-known landmark gets a facelift

We all know the Badger, Prudhoe's best-known landmark. It has recently been given a facelift by first year apprentices at Essity, who have moved stones back into position and given it a fresh coat of paint. The work was supported by Prudhoe Town Council, county councillors Ken Stow and Gordon Stewart, Prudhoe in Bloom and Prudhoe Ground Force, with financial backing also coming from the lottery-funded Land of Oak and Iron. The Badger now looks as good as new- well done to the apprentices at Essity for all their hard work!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Let’s support Corbridge Tennis Club

The Aviva Community Fund awards thousands of pounds in funding every year to community groups and projects. The Corbridge Tennis Club is one of the many groups to have applied for funding, and I would like to encourage you to vote for them. Funding would provide a huge boost to the club, allowing it to improve facilities with a fantastic new club house. Corbridge Tennis Club is a hugely important part of the local community- it would be great if you could give them your support!

Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Great Brocksbushes Christmas Fayre

Christmas is coming, and Brocksbushes Farm Shop is currently holding its 'Great Brocksbushes Christmas Fayre'. On for the rest of the week (Friday 9th, Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th November) from 10am-4.30pm, it's the perfect place to start your Christmas shopping. Entry and car parking is free, and there will be three huge marquees full of Christmas gifts, food and wine- make sure you don't miss out!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A stunning tribute

If you are passing through Ovingham in the next few days, I would encourage you to stop at the church and take in their incredible tribute ahead of Remembrance Day this weekend. It is wonderful to see the effort made by local people to mark the centenary of the armistice to end World War One- it truly is a stunning sight.

Monday, 5 November 2018

17-55? You could save the life of someone with blood cancer.

I was pleased to be able to give my support to DKMS, an organisation dedicated to finding donors for blood cancer patients in need of a blood stem cell donation. Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer and some 2000 people are looking for a potentially lifesaving blood stem cell donor each year. Since its launch in the UK in 2013, DKMS has registered more than 400,000 people as potential stem cell donors, however new donors are always needed. If you are 17-55 and in general good health you can become a potential stem cell donor and help to save someone's life. To find out more visit here-

Sunday, 4 November 2018

2018 Christmas Toy Appeal

It's that time of year again! This week I launched my annual Christmas Toy Appeal, and I need your help to make this Christmas a magical one for local children who would otherwise not receive any gifts this Christmas. I am always so amazed by the generosity of the people of Tynedale and Ponteland in donating gifts which will be given to the Salvation Army to distribute to local children. If you would like to donate a gift, please deliver to 1 Meal Market, Hexham before the 1st December. Toys, cuddly toys, colouring books and much more will be very gratefully received, but new toys only please! You really will be helping to make Christmas very special.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

An exciting victory for Prudhoe!

Football is an incredibly important part of life in many of our local communities, and especially in Prudhoe. It's therefore brilliant news that Prudhoe Youth FC has been awarded £276,000 by the Football Foundation, as part of a project that will allow the club to refurbish and extend its changing pavilion at Eastwoods Park. The funding will also help provide fully compliant changing rooms, officials' rooms and ancillary facilities and support the development of the club so that they can retain players and grow from 30 to 36 teams overall, including female and disability.

The difference this funding will make to the football club and to the wider community in Prudhoe as a whole cannot be overstated. I can't wait to see what the future holds for PYFC thanks to this funding.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Voices and Choices- remembering the events of 1918

Hexham Abbey's 'Voices and Choices' exhibition, to remember the events of 1918, officially opens tomorrow (Saturday 3rd November) with a day of talks and events to mark the occasion. The exhibition, open daily until Thursday 15th November, reflects the experiences of World War One as seen through the eyes of soldiers and civilians from the twinned towns of Hexham, Noyon and Metzingen. The exhibition is free and will make a fascinating visit as we nationally mark the centenary of the armistice that ended WWI- more information about the exhibition and tomorrow's events is available here-

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Remember, remember...

A reminder that Saturday (3rd November) is Hexham Round Table's annual Bonfire Night event. Held on The Sele from 6.30-7.30pm, there will be fireworks, a bonfire, stalls and more, with all donations going to the Hexham Round Table to support local charities and organisations. It's always a brilliant event, raising money for good causes at the same time- find out more below: