Thursday, 22 July 2021

The Tour of Britain returns to Northumberland

When the world's best cyclists set off on The Tour of Britain in September, they will once again be racing through Northumberland.

World-class cyclists will head through the west of the county during Stage Six of the bike race on 10th September, with cyclists entering Northumberland just south of Allenheads, before cycling 64km through the county and finishing with a sprint through Prudhoe.

Previous Tour of Britain stages held in Northumberland have been brilliant events, and I am sure that this year's race will be no different. The Tour will attract fantastic opportunities for local shops, pubs and businesses, and I look forward to welcoming everyone to Northumberland for this exciting event.

Monday, 19 July 2021

Recognising a Hexham Community Champion

One of the best parts of my job is being able to recognise and thank the incredible people in the Hexham constituency who work so hard to make their communities a better place to live.

It was brilliant to be able to present one of my Hexham Constituency Community Champion Awards to Liz Clark of the No. 28 Community Project in Hexham.

Liz volunteers with the No.28 Community Project, based on Derwent Road, Hexham. No. 28 provides information and advice on issues such as housing, health, employment and domestic abuse to residents, as well as free training in gardening, IT skills, cookery and self-care.

Liz is one of twenty volunteers at No. 28, and it was great to be able to recognise Liz and all the team for the fantastic work they do, by joining Councillor Cath Homer to present Liz with her award.

If you would like to nominate someone who goes above and beyond in your local community, please do get in touch and nominate them for an award here- 

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Step 4 of the Roadmap

The Prime Minister has now confirmed that we will proceed to Step 4 of the Roadmap for easing restrictions on 19th July.

Thanks to the success of our vaccination programme, the link between infections and hospitalisations has been severely weakened, meaning that we are able to move onto Step 4 and lift the majority of legal restrictions.

It is important to remember that the pandemic is not over, however, and cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks. People are encouraged to remain cautious as we move away from legal restrictions, and instead to take personal responsibility towards themselves and others through informed choices, such as wearing face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces.

From 19th July:

  • There will be no limits on how many people can meet
  • Face coverings will no longer be required by law
  • The 1m social distancing rule will no longer be in place
  • Nightclubs can reopen, and restaurants no longer have to be table service only
  • No limits on wedding and funeral guests or at events such as concerts and sports events
  • Limits on care home visitors will be removed
  • Fully vaccinated adults will no longer have to quarantine for ten days after returning from amber list countries 

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Kirkley Hall- meeting the skills needs of the future

As we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that young people have the skills they need to be successful in the future. I recently visited Kirkley Hall with local County Councillors Lyle Darwin and Richard Dodd to meet with new Principal Nigel Harrett and for a tour of the campus.

Northumberland College is the only Further Education College in Northumberland, and plays a vital role in meeting the skills needs of the future for the community and employers across Northumberland. With a wide range of courses, from dog grooming and animal care to veterinary nursing, the campus is a fantastic asset to Northumberland, its businesses and economy.

Further Education Colleges will play a hugely significant role in our recovery from the pandemic. It was brilliant to visit Kirkley Hall's campus and meet with Nigel, who has shown such engagement towards local representatives, community groups and employers to ensure that our young people acquire the skills they need. 

Monday, 5 July 2021

Happy 73rd birthday NHS

Today we celebrate the 73rd birthday of our amazing NHS.

Over the past year, the NHS has been at the forefront of our response to the pandemic and its incredible healthcare workers have gone above and beyond in the most difficult circumstances.

I am delighted that Her Majesty the Queen has paid tribute to our healthcare workers by awarding the NHS the George Cross, and would like to thank NHS staff for everything they have done for us both over the past year and since its inception.

Happy 73rd birthday to the NHS.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Wag and Company are recognised as a Point of Light

The Points of Light Awards were launched in Downing Street in 2014 to recognise outstanding volunteers who make a positive change in their community. First established by President George HW Bush in 1990, the UK's programme was developed in partnership with the original scheme, and I recently had the great honour of presenting one of the awards to Diane Morton, the founder of Hexham-based charity Wag and Company.

Wag and Company is the UK's only dog befriending charity for older people facing loneliness in their own homes. The charity uses friendship dogs to combat loneliness, and their more than 400 volunteers take their dogs to homes, care homes and sheltered housing to provide much-needed companionship to residents. Throughout the pandemic, Wag and Company has continued to provide virtual visits.

It was very special to be able to present Diane with her award, along with a letter from the Prime Minister. I was joined by Councillor Cath Homer and was also able to meet volunteers Tonia and Linda, and their wonderful dogs Belle and Ollie. 

I know through my own experience that a dog can have a massive impact on physical and mental health and wellbeing. Wag and Company is a very special charity and I would encourage everybody to support them in whatever way you can.

Congratulations to Diane and all the volunteers at Wag and Company! 

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Alan Turing and the new £50 note

This week the Bank of England's new £50 note, which features Alan Turing, the codebreaker and computer scientist, entered circulation.

Alan Turing played a pivotal role devising code-breaking machines during World War II and was a significant figure in the development of computer science. Turing's work not only continues to influence science, but his legacy is also incredibly important in our society today, as he was homosexual and was posthumously pardoned by the Queen, having been convicted of gross indecency for his relationship with a man.

The £50 note features various symbols that represent aspects of Alan Turing's life and work. For example, the design includes a mathematical table and formulae from his 1936 paper "On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem", which is recognised for its importance in early computer science, and ticker tape depicting his birth date- 23rd June 1912- in binary code.

You can read more about the Bank of England's new £50 note, as well as the extraordinary and inspiring life of Alan Turing, here- 

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Getting ready for curtain-up at the Queen's Hall

The Queen's Hall is one of Hexham's greatest cultural assets, and as we start to count down the days until the building reopens its doors on 11th August, this really is an exciting time for the Queen's Hall.

I recently met with Chief Executive of the Queen's Hall, Katy Taylor, to discuss plans for reopening for shows in the summer, the challenges they have faced throughout the pandemic and the support they have received from Historic England. I was also able to see first-hand the amazing backstage refurbishments that are currently being made before shows restart in the main theatre. 

Venues such as the Queen's Hall have been hugely affected throughout the pandemic, so it was great to be able to discuss the support Katy and the team have received from Historic England. I would encourage everyone to support our local businesses and venues as we come out of the pandemic. The Queen's Hall will be opening for shows on 11th August so please do support them- I will certainly be returning to see the finished refurbishments for myself!

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Find out if you're eligible for Pension Credit

The UK has never paid our pensioners more, with our annual state pension bill at £100 million, up from £60 billion in 2010. 

Around 1.5 million pensioners across the UK receive extra help from Pension Credit- a top up to their retirement incomes, which offers a springboard to a variety of other financial support, such as a free TV licence, housing support and more.

But there are still hundreds of thousands of pensioners who might be eligible for Pension Credit but are still not claiming what could be worth an average of £64 per week. That's why the Department for Work and Pensions is teaming up with Age UK and the BBC to raise awareness of Pensions Credit and help people understand what they are eligible for and how they can apply.

Pensioners whose income is below £177.10 (for individuals) or £270.30 (for couples) per week may be eligible to receive Pension Credit. If your income is higher, you might still be eligible if you have a disability, care for someone, or have particular housing costs.

To find out whether you are eligible for Pension Credit and to get an estimate of what you might receive, you can use the DWP's free online Pension Credit calculator. If the calculator shows that you might be entitled, or even if you aren't sure, then I strongly urge you to make a claim. This can be done online or by calling the DWP Pension Credit Freephone claim line on 0800 991234, or by post. Organisations such as Age UK or your local Citizens Advice Bureau can also help you to claim. 

So, if you have a relative or are caring for someone, please help them make a claim. Even a small amount of Pension Credit can open the door to other support, including a free TV licence or help with council tax. The application process is straightforward and will ensure that you receive the support you are entitled to.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Book your vaccination now!

The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic and restrictions. Vaccines reduce the likelihood of serious illness from coronavirus, as well as reducing transmission of the virus between people.

That's why it is great news that, from today, 23 and 24-year-olds can book their Covid-19 vaccine. If you are 23 or over, or will turn 23 before 1st July 2021, you can now go to the NHS website to book your appointment- 

Meanwhile, over 40s are being encouraged to receive their second vaccine dose earlier than originally planned. Rather than the original 12 week interval between doses, over 40s can now change their second dose appointment so that it comes 8 weeks after the first. This is to make sure that those aged over 40 have maximum protection against the virus sooner.

To bring forward your second dose, visit the NHS website and go to 'Manage my appointments'- 

Evidence shows that it is so important to get your second dose to ensure that you have longer term protection from the coronavirus. If you haven't booked your appointments yet, please do it today!

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Carers Week 2021

7th-13th June is Carers Week, a time to thank unpaid carers for the incredible work they do in their families and communities, as well as to highlight the challenges facing unpaid carers, particularly throughout the past year.

A tenth of adults in the UK provide unpaid care for a friend or family member, and some of these people may not think of themselves as carers. However it is really important that carers are able to access the right support to help them carry out their roles, and one of the aims of Carers Week is to make sure that carers know where they can access this support. 

The following links contain useful information for unpaid carers:

In Northumberland, Carers Northumberland is there to support carers, including by providing a support network with other carers in order to tackle isolation and loneliness:

Carers make such a valuable contribution to the lives of their family members, friends and neighbours, spending a significant proportion of their time providing support to those who need it the most. Thank you to all carers for the dedication and valuable service they provide to their families and communities.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Conserving the planet's rare habitats and species

World Environment Day, which took place on Saturday, encourages us all to take action to protect our planet before it is too late.

To coincide with World Environment Day, the Government has announced a range of measures designed to tackle the biodiversity crisis worldwide and protect rare and vulnerable habitats across the planet.

Over £8 million is set to be invested in projects in the UK Overseas Territories over the next three years to conserve significant habitats that are threatened by climate change. The Darwin Plus scheme will see 31 projects receive funding to protect habitats and species, including coral reefs in the Indian Ocean to help small-scale fishers sustainably manage the habitats, and marine turtles in the Ascension Islands.

As president of the G7 and COP26, it is right that the government is leading the way in the fight against climate change. It is vital that we act now to conserve ecosystems and species, and this funding, along with the £220 million already announced for biodiversity conservation in developing nations and the doubling of UK international climate finance announced in 2019, is hugely significant.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Happy National Fish and Chip Day!

Happy National Fish and Chip Day!

Today is the sixth annual National Fish and Chip Day, celebrating Britain's favourite dish and the people, from fishers to shop owners, who work hard to get it on our plate.

The Hexham constituency is home to so many brilliant fish and chip shops, and with more glorious weather forecast to be on the way, this weekend is the perfect time to support your local chippy. 

Where is your favourite place to get fish and chips in our local area?

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Happy Pride Month

Today marks the beginning of Pride Month, an event which celebrates LGBTQ+ people and their contributions to our society. It is also an important time when we can reflect on the remarkable achievements of campaigners, which have made the UK one of the most tolerant and diverse countries in the world.

This year, Pride Month undoubtedly looks a little different, with marches and celebrations postponed until laster in the year. But with the recent announcement that Hexham has been awarded £80,000 by Historic England to improve cultural activities on Hexham High Street, including Hexham Pride, it will not be long before we can once again celebrate the valuable contribution of LGBTQ+ people to our local communities in person.

I was proud to vote to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013, as well as to vote in favour of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland two years ago. Everyone should have the freedom to live and love without fear. There is more to do to stamp out prejudice in our society, but we have come a long way over the last decade. 

Happy Pride Month!

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Happy Northumberland Day

Today is Northumberland Day.

First held in 2017, this year's Northumberland Day will no doubt be a little different, with many events to celebrate taking place online. However, with celebrations being held into June from Hexham to Holy Island, there are so many great ways to get involved and celebrate our beautiful part of the world.

Northumberland is the most northern county in England and has a truly unique history. Because of its position between England and Scotland, historically Northumberland has been the site of many battles, as evidenced by the large number of castles in the county- more than any other in England! And, of course, for hundreds of years the Romans controlled Northumberland, constructing Hadrian's Wall and many of the fascinating sites we can still visit today, such as Housesteads and Vindolanda. 

Northumberland is home to the stunning Northumberland National Park, which covers more than 400 square miles of nature, hills and walking routes. It's also the perfect place to enjoy Northumberland's Gold Tier status dark skies at night in the winter. We also have England's largest forest here in Northumberland, Kielder Forest, which is also famous for providing the magnificent Christmas tree in Westminster every year. 

Today Northumberland is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the country, and it's not difficult to see why. With its historical sites, museums, stunning nature and landscapes, proximity to the coast and an outstanding range of small businesses offering shopping, food, activities and accommodation, there is no doubt that there is nowhere else like Northumberland.

Happy Northumberland Day to everyone who lives in, works in or loves our wonderful county.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Celebrating the reopening of retail with Prudhoe business owners

Last week, as part of Step 3 of the roadmap for easing restrictions, shops and indoor hospitality businesses were able to reopen.

Local businesses have endured an extremely difficult year, whilst going above and beyond to support their communities. I spent time last week visiting businesses across the Hexham constituency in a reopening tour to find out how they are finding being open again.

One of the stops on my tour was Prudhoe, where, along with County Councillor for Prudhoe South Gordon Stewart, I stopped by businesses on Front Street to chat with business owners about what the relaxation of restrictions has meant for their business. It was great to speak with business owners, including at the Tyne Valley Appliance Centre and Prudhoe Vapes, who have worked so hard to keep their businesses going throughout the pandemic, and I was so pleased to hear that their first week of being open again has been such a success.

Local businesses are the backbone of our communities, and being able to visit these businesses in person again is so welcome. Please do remember to support our brilliant small businesses and shop local.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Activities and support for those affected by dementia in West Northumberland

Last week was Dementia Action Week, an event which encourages us all to come together to take action to improve the lives of those affected by dementia. 

As part of the event, organisations across West Northumberland have come together to create this year's information booklet of activities and support available to older people affected by dementia in the area. From telephone friendship lines and community cafes to singing and chess clubs, the booklet list a huge variety of activities focusing on both physical and mental wellbeing.

Although some of the groups listed in the booklet are not yet able to meet face-to-face due to the pandemic, many are still continuing to provide support through other means, be that online or over the phone.

Cllr Veronica Jones, Cabinet Member for Adult Wellbeing, welcomed the booklet, saying "After a really difficult year, the physical and mental health of older people affected by dementia is more important than ever."

This is an incredibly detailed booklet, which showcases just how many brilliant organisations and groups are working hard to support those affected by dementia in West Northumberland. Please do share this booklet with anyone who might find it useful. 

Sunday, 23 May 2021

The White Swan- Coronavirus Community Champions!

In a year that has challenged us all in countless ways, it is brilliant to see that so many people in our local communities have stepped up and gone the extra mile to help others through this difficult time.

One example of a business that has gone above and beyond for its local community is The White Swan in Ovingham, and this week I was delighted to present owners John and Lyndsey Sharkey and their team of staff with a Coronavirus Community Champion Award.

Throughout the pandemic restrictions, John, Lyndsey and their team have carried on and have earned the gratitude of their local community, delivering hot and delicious meals every week to those who are shielding or vulnerable. Various local residents contacted me to nominate The White Swan for this award and to tell me about the amazing work The White Swan has been doing.  

The good news is that The White Swan is now back open to all, with seating both inside and outside- and an impressive tipi as well! I definitely recommend a visit to support this fantastic local business.

Congratulations to everyone at The White Swan- they truly are Community Champions. 

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Leading the way on animal welfare

The Government's Action Plan for Animal Welfare was launched last week, with the aim of strengthening animal welfare standards in this country and reinforcing the UK as a global champion of animal rights.

Meanwhile, the Animal Sentience Bill, which was introduced to Parliament last week, will formally recognise animals as sentient beings.

The Action Plan for Animal Welfare sets out how the government will protect and improve welfare for all animals, including-

Pets- by tackling puppy smuggling, cracking down on pet theft, banning remote controlled training e-collars and introducing compulsory microchipping for cats.

Wild animals- by funding wildlife conservation projects at home and abroad, cracking down on illegal hare coursing, making it illegal to keep primates as pets and restricting the use of glue traps.

Farmed animals- by ending the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter, introducing measures to improve welfare during transport, improving animal welfare at slaughter, examining the use of cages for poultry and farrowing crates for pigs and giving the police more powers to protect farm animals from dangerous or out of control dogs.

Animals abroad- by banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals and the sale of ivory, exploring a ban on the sale of foie gras, banning the advertisement of low-welfare animal practices abroad, such as elephant rides, and prohibiting the import and export of detached shark fins.

This Action Plan will ensure that the UK is leading the way on animal welfare, by introducing world-leading standards and measures to protect pets, livestock and wild animals. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

International Nurses Day

Today is International Nurses Day, and after the events of the past year, this year's event means more than ever.

I am incredibly thankful for all of the nurses and healthcare workers who have worked so tirelessly in our NHS throughout the pandemic. Their selfless dedication and commitment to caring for others is extraordinary, and I am very grateful for all they do.

It is brilliant news that their work has inspired others to take up the profession, with 11,000 more nurses, midwives and health visitors now working in the NHS.

Thank you to each and every one of our incredible nurses.

Step 3 of the roadmap- what's changing on Monday 17th May?

The Prime Minister has announced that, on Monday (17th May), the next stage of restrictions will be eased. 

The collective efforts of people across the country and the incredible success of the vaccination programme, through which more than two thirds of adults across the UK have now received a vaccination, mean that the four tests for easing restrictions have all been met. Deaths and hospitalisations are at their lowest level since July and the alert level has been lowered from 4 to 3.

As part of Step 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions, from Monday the lockdown rules are changing:

  • People can meet in groups of up to 30 outside
  • Six people or two households can meet can meet indoors, and overnight stays are allowed
  • Up to 30 people can attend weddings, receptions and other life events
  • The number of people who can attend a funeral will no longer be capped
  • Care home residents will be allowed up to five named visitors
  • Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants can serve customers indoors
  • Indoor entertainment, eg. museums, theatres and cinemas, can open
  • Sports stadiums can reopen
  • Indoor organised sports and exercise classes can take place 
  • Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
Please remember to keep getting tested regularly and continue to follow social distancing when not with family and friends. We must remain vigilant and protect all of our hard work by exercising caution and common sense.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Vote Stephen Westgarth on Thursday 6th May

On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor.

Stephen Westgarth is standing for County Councillor for Bywell.

Northumberland is a beautiful county. Wild woods and moors, beautiful beaches, vibrant city life, and historical villages. There is much to be thankful for, but it's far from a perfect world and life could be better. 

I'm standing for election as Conservative councillor in East Tynedale (Bywell Ward) because I want to make a difference. 

I came to Newcastle University in 1988 to study medicine, and stayed because I love it here. I live in Wylam, where with my wife, weve raised two boys through local schools. I love fishing the Tyne for salmon, and our spending time on our allotment. 


My plan for East Tynedale-

1. Coronavirus has hit our community hard, but the vaccine rollout means the end is in sight. I will work with the County Council to support our local businesses so they can bounce back from the pandemic.

2. Roads across Northumberland have seen real improvements over the last four years, but there is always more to do. I will make sure East Tynedale gets its fair share of the £120m road and footpath repair fund.

3. Many residents are concerned about crime and anti-social behaviour locally. I will work with the police and community groups to deliver proper enforcement and on the spot fines with public space protection orders.

4. Friends of the Earth has rated Northumberland as one of the cleanest, greenest councils in

the country. I will work to clean up the Tyne for wildlife, swimmers and fishers, and to make Tynedale a ‘net-zero’ district by 2030.

5. I will work with the police to tackle speeding and pavement parking in our villages and will fight to make sure we get our fair share of the 219 new police officers recruited to the Northumbria Force by the government.

It would be a privilege to represent East Tynedale.  There is no question that it is a challenge but Im committed to working hard for my community to bring about the changes we all want to see.

Vote Conservative on 6th May

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Vote Lyle Darwin on Thursday 6th May

 On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor. 

Lyle Darwin is standing for County Councillor for Ponteland East and Stannington.

I’m putting myself forward as the candidate to become the next Conservative County Councillor for Ponteland East and Stannington at the upcoming elections on May 6th, and I want to share with you why I’m standing as a candidate. I have been a Town Councillor in Ponteland for 4 years and I’ve enjoyed my time working with local residents, fellow Town and County councillors and local business owners to make and maintain the great area in which I’m fortunate to live and call home. I believe we, the local residents of Ponteland East and Stannington have a great community which has been able to thrive due to Conservative policies, including that of protecting the greenbelt, supporting local businesses and creating jobs and opportunities for all. I, like many others feel a responsibility to maintain our local area, improve where we can and ensure we pass on our vital greenbelt the next generation for them to enjoy and be able to grow surrounded by greenery and not concrete. We have an obligation as a council to protect and preserve places of outstanding natural beauty and the conservation areas in our local towns. 

My role as an engineer involves reviewing government legislation, deducing the relevant information which can be passed onto the design team and Architect to enable a safe, habitable and functional building fit for purpose by the end users. These skills are transferrable into my role as a councillor, whereby local residents want what is best for our area and we must aim to provide what we can as a party nationally and locally as Northumberland County Council. I will put the needs and concerns of residents first, actively engaging with residents to promote and establish a great community which we are all proud of, irrespective of party politics. We need a County that promotes infrastructure and local jobs, but not the cost of diminishing communities or ruining greenbelt. 

My time as a Town Councillor has allowed me the necessary insight into what being a councillor entails. Taking this to the next level as a County Councillor will allow me to work harder and fight stronger for the policies, ambitions and objectives I would like to deliver. Some of these objectives are already waiting to be resolved, such as the reduction in speeding on station road, Stannington or improving the school drop offs at the new primary school in Ponteland to reduce the issues of parking for local residents who live opposite at Dunsgreen. I have items I’m eager and awaiting to resolve and I look forward to new challenges as they arise which I can work with local councillors in their respective wards to reach an end goal that is best for us all.   

If you would like to contact me about council related matters in Ponteland East and Stannington, please send me an email at I look forward to being able to meet with residents when safe to do so.  

Thank you very much in advance and I hope you’re able to vote Conservative on May 6th.  

Stay safe, we should all be able to return to better times soon.

Vote Conservative on 6th May.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Vote Jan Harding on Thursday 6th May

On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor. 

Dr Jan Harding is standing for County Councillor for Haydon and Hadrian.

My name is Jan Harding, and I am the Conservative Party County Council candidate for the wonderful area of Haydon and Hadrian in the forthcoming local elections. I have lived in Allendale for 25 years with my wife and two sons. I consider myself lucky to call Northumberland home. It is a fabulous place to live- and a county whose best years are yet to come.

My professional background is in academia, studying archaeology at the universities of Sheffield and Reading. I became a lecturer in archaeology at Newcastle University back in 1996, undertaking large-scale fieldwork in northern England and publishing six books and over 40 academic papers. I am now retired from the university, but still involved in research and writing.

The people of Haydon and Hadrian deserve the absolute best. First-rate schools, affordable housing, a green and pleasant environment, good roads, decent public transport, and employment opportunities are all essential to life here. Understanding its needs and challenges is vital, and if elected, I intend to hit the ground running. I believe I can make an immediate difference with litter and dog fouling, and will be drawing-up an action-plan for helping deal with these problems. I intend to be equally proactive in addressing other issues, and during the first months will consult widely to identify key priorities. Educational opportunity is essential, and I am personally committed to building on the turn-around of local schools seen since the Conservatives started running the council in 2017. We need to improve our public transport too, with better bus services and to finally get trains stopping at Gilsland again. I was delighted to bring the Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris to Gilsland recently so he can see the potential our project has for himself.

The £4.5 million invested in refurbishing Haydon Bridge High School represents real progress. I will also explore how road safety can be improved, including for cyclists, and warmly welcome the £120 million the county council will spend improving roads and fixing potholes. Finally, it is crucial to ask what more can be done to help local farming and business, and how communities can be better involved in delivering their housing needs. And, of course, I will take a very keen interest in the area's incredible heritage and its vital role in recreation and tourism.

A vote for me on 6th May is a vote for a new, positive, community-driven approach to Haydon and Hadrian. Together we will make it an even better place to live.

Thank you.

Vote Conservative on 6th May. 

Friday, 30 April 2021

Vote Gordon Stewart on Thursday 6th May

On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor. 

Gordon Stewart is standing for County Councillor for Prudhoe South.

I was delighted and honoured to be elected as the County Councillor for Prudhoe South in May 2017. Prudhoe is a large town that had clearly lacked a lot of TLC over the many years of Labour control. 

Prior to being elected, I took a lot of time and effort to hear the views of local residents and businesses, and I continue to do this through a variety of ways, such as surveys, street surgeries or more traditional meetings. I really enjoy meeting residents at coffee mornings or group meetings. I have always made myself available every single day of the year.

Times have been difficult over the last year. I am proud to have been part of a small team leading on the support being provided around the town and to have been backed up by so many fantastic volunteers. Due to its great community spirit, our town has coped very well through this challenging time, so thank you all.

Over the last four years, the transformation of Prudhoe has been noticeable to all- improvements within all our schools, the biggest ever investment in our roads in Prudhoe, and a lot more to come after decades of total neglect by Labour. Major investment into our outside areas, including playgrounds, has also proved to be invaluable during the pandemic.

I have worked closely with businesses throughout the town and been instrumental in bringing the much needed new retail park to Prudhoe. This will create many job opportunities and save local people time and effort in travelling out of town to shop, as well as reducing their mileage to protect the environment. The retail park will give everyone another option when doing their shopping, but we are all also well aware that there are so many other fine businesses elsewhere in the town and it is so important to support them.

Prudhoe has a bright future as we continue to build back better. It is a town that now has ambition, aspirations and opportunities for all who live there. Prudhoe it a great place to live, work, learn, visit and invest in.

That is why I am very proud of the work I have done over the last four years and why I continue to be very proud of Prudhoe.

Vote Conservative on 6th May. 

Monday, 26 April 2021

Nominate your Coronavirus Community Champion!

It's always brilliant to hear constituents tell me of their gratitude to a particular person, business or organisation that has gone the extra mile to help them through this difficult time. 

That is why I created my Coronavirus Community Champion Awards, to recognise people who have gone above and beyond to help others during this pandemic.

I want to hear from you about the people who have gone out of their way to make your life a little bit easier, by nominating them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award.

If you would like to say thank you to an unsung hero of this pandemic, please nominate them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award here- 

Monday, 12 April 2021

HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh served our nation with distinction and unswerving loyalty, both as a distinguished Royal Navy officer through the Second World War and as a long serving Royal Consort to the Queen. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his life of dedication and service to our country and to the wider Commonwealth. 

My thoughts are with Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family as they mourn his loss at this sad time.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Give blood and save lives

I recently visited The Mart in Hexham to give blood. Blood stocks are low at the moment, and so it is more important than ever that people come forward to donate blood and save lives. 

Donors of all ages and backgrounds are needed to make sure that the right blood is available to the patients that need it. This means that nearly 400 new donors are needed each day to meet demand, with around 135,000 new donors needed each year to replace those who can no longer donate. It is especially important that more young people come forward to donate blood so that there are enough blood donors in the future.

Giving blood takes no time at all and in doing so you could save lives. Please do look into whether you can donate blood and find your nearest centre here- 

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Welcome funding for Tynedale and Ponteland's culture sector

More than £390 million of funding has been allocated to over 2700 arts, culture and heritage organisations in England as part of the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund. The funding has been allocated to organisations to help the culture and heritage sector reopen and recover as they welcome back visitors and return to normal in the months ahead.

Among the organisations to have been awarded funding from the Culture Recovery Fund are twelve in Tynedale and Ponteland. These include the Queen's Hall Arts, Vindolanda Trust, the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society and the Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of Hexham Abbey.

The past year has been incredibly difficult for the culture and heritage sector, and this announcement of funding to support the reopening of organisations in our local area is brilliant news. Congratulations to all of the recipients in the Hexham constituency.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Covid-19 roadmap- one step closer to life as we know it

Today marks the next stage of the roadmap out of restrictions. As part of stage 1b, from today:

  • Groups of six or two households are able to meet outside in public spaces or private gardens as long as they socially distance.
  • The 'stay at home' guidance has been lifted, meaning that it is no longer essential that you remain indoors. However you should still work from home if possible and minimise the number of journeys you take.
  • Outdoor sports facilities, including swimming pools, golf courses, sports pitches and courts, can reopen to allow sports to resume. This includes team sports, meaning that many grassroots competitions can now go ahead.
The coronavirus is still in circulation and we must all remain cautious and continue to take measures such as social distancing and wearing face masks. However the continued success of the vaccine programme means that we can now move on to the next step of getting back to life as we know it.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Add your voice to the story of the pandemic in Humshaugh

Residents in Humshaugh have come up with a brilliant way to document the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the village and its residents.

Humshaugh Publications are asking residents to contribute to a book they are producing about the coronavirus pandemic in Humshaugh. Residents are being asked to provide something that shows how Covid-19 has impacted their lives- this could be a short piece of writing, a photograph, drawing or something else entirely.

I think this project is a fantastic idea. The past year has been unprecedented for all of us, and this book will act as a document of this time in Humshaugh for the future.

If you are a Humshaugh resident,  I would really encourage you to participate in this great project and add your voice to Humshaugh's story. You can send your contributions to or by the end of March. You can also leave contributions in the basket at the village shop.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Census Day 2021

Today is Census Day. 

It is so important that you complete your census for various reasons. Not only does the information that we all provide create a record for future generations to look back on, but it also helps to inform both central and local government so that they can make decisions about the delivery of key resources, such as school places and health services. 

The census is a survey that takes place every ten years, designed to give a picture of the people who live across England and Wales. The census should take around ten minutes per person to complete.

To fill out your census online, visit here- 

Thursday, 18 March 2021

50 and over? Book your vaccination now!

More than 25 million people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine- almost half of the adult population across the country. This incredible figure includes 95% of people ages 65 and over and 9 in 10 of those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The vaccination programme is now moving on to its next stage, with all people aged 50 and over now being invited to come forward and book their vaccination appointment on the NHS website here- 

The data shows that both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines reduce the likelihood of serious illness from coronavirus by 60% after the first dose, with protection against hospitalisation at around 80% and protection against death around 85%. It really is so important to get your vaccination to protect yourself and those around you, so if you are aged 50 and over please do book your vaccination now!

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Funding opportunity for local environment projects

An unmissable opportunity has opened up for environmental charities and their partners to secure grant funding for projects focusing on conservation and restoration.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund, working in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is set to support nature projects across England with a second round of funding worth up to £40m. This  follows on from the first round of funding awarded in December 2020.

Successful projects must deliver on at least one of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund's three themes- nature conservation and restoration, nature-based solutions and connecting people with nature.

The deadline for applications is 14th April 2021 (£50,000 to £250,000 level) and 22nd March 2021 (£250,000 to £2m). More information about how to apply can be found here- 

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Where can you get your vaccination?

The biggest vaccination programme in our country's history continues to go from strength to strength. People over the age of 55 are now beginning to receive their invitation letters, and in the Hexham constituency an incredible 4 in 10 of the adult population have now had at least one dose of the vaccine. This fantastic achievement is a testament to the amazing efforts locally of the NHS, our GP surgeries and support workers and volunteers.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been contacted by constituents who are concerned that they are being asked to travel long distances from their home when booking a vaccination appointment through the online booking system.

I have raised these concerns with the NHS vaccination programme in the North East, who have clarified how they are currently utilising various locations across the North East to vaccinate as many people as possible.

The vaccination programme is following the first phase priority groups, to ensure that those who are most at risk of serious illness from the coronavirus are vaccinated first.

Local GP practices are currently focusing on vaccinating those who are clinically vulnerable and have underlying health conditions. 

Meanwhile, people who are over 55 should receive a letter from the National Booking System inviting them to book a vaccination appointment at one of the large vaccination centres. These centres are situated at various locations across the North East, including Darlington, Washington and the Centre for Life in Newcastle. 

It is great to hear that so many constituents have been able to receive a vaccine at one of these large centres. However, I understand that other people might be uncomfortable or unable to travel further afield to be vaccinated. It is important to stress that even if you receive a letter to book through the National Booking System, you do not have to be vaccinated at a large vaccination centre. Everyone who wants to be vaccinated at the local GP vaccination service can be.

If you would prefer to be vaccinated at your own local GP practice, please ignore your letter and do not respond to the National Booking System. Instead, wait for your GP practice to contact you to arrange an appointment. This may not happen straight away and may it take a little while longer for them to contact you as they work through their priority groups, but your GP will be in touch with you to arrange an appointment as soon as they are able to.

I understand that people are extremely keen to receive their vaccine, however please do not contact the NHS or your GP practice to arrange your vaccine. They will contact you when it is your turn.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Welcome news in the Chancellor's Budget

On Wednesday the Chancellor announced his Spring Budget, which was full of good news for people across the Hexham constituency and the country as a whole. The Chancellor outlined his plans to support people and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond the end of the Prime Minister's roadmap for easing restrictions and to level up the economy across all regions of the UK.

Key announcements in the Chancellor's Budget include:

  • The extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September to ensure continued support for businesses, employees and their families
  • Two further grants for the self-employed, including those who are newly self-employed 
  • New Restart grants of up to £18, 000 and recovery loans to support local businesses to reopen
  • The opening of the new Levelling Up Fund for its first round of bids
  • The opening of a new Treasury campus in Darlington, as part of the Government's commitment to level up and spread opportunity across the whole country
This Budget will provide businesses and families across Tynedale with the support they need to get through the pandemic. The extension of financial support, including the furlough scheme and additional grants for the self-employed, will be a tremendous help to local businesses and individuals as we start to reopen the country and economy. I am especially thrilled at the announcement of a new Treasury campus in the North East, which signals that the Government is committed to delivering investment and opportunity across our region.

Further information about financial support available to businesses and individuals can be found here- 

Monday, 1 March 2021

20 million vaccines!

The vaccine programme continues to go from strength to strength, with another milestone reached over the weekend- more than 20 million vaccines have now been administered across the UK. That works out as an average of more than 2.5 million doses per week or 1 in 3 adults vaccinated across the country.

In the Hexham constituency, 41.4% of people have now received a vaccine- a really incredible achievement by the NHS, volunteers, the Armed Forces and everyone involved with the vaccine rollout. 

The Prime Minister is aiming to have offered every adult a vaccine by the end of July. Everyone in the top four priority groups has now been offered a vaccine, and invites are now going out to those in groups 5 to 9.

Thank you to everyone who has come forward for their vaccine. Every jab makes a difference in our fight against Covid-19.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Roadmap for easing restrictions

On Monday, the Prime Minister outlined his roadmap for cautiously easing the current lockdown restrictions in England. 

Thanks to the incredible ongoing success of the vaccine rollout, which has now vaccinated more than 18 million people across the UK, we are now in a position to start thinking about how we can gradually remove the current restrictions.

The roadmap sets out four stages for easing restrictions, with at least five weeks between each phase to allow the latest data to be examined. The data will be subjected to four key tests:

  • That the vaccine rollout continues successfully
  • That the evidence shows vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalisation and death
  • That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations that would put the NHS under unsustainable pressure
  • That new variants of coronavirus do not cause additional concern
As the four tests are currently being met, the first stage of easing restrictions will begin on 8th March. On this date:
  • Schools and colleges will open for all students
  • Practical Higher Education courses can begin in-person learning
  • Exercise and recreation outdoors with your household or one other person can take place
  • Wraparound childcare, including sports activities, can resume for all children
  • Funerals can take place with up to 30 people attending, and weddings and wakes can take place with up to 6 guests
  • Care home residents will be able to name a visitor, who will be able to visit them regularly
Some further changes will also take place from 29th March, when schools go on Easter holidays:
  • The Rule of Six will return outdoors, including in private gardens
  • Organised outdoor sport (children and adults), all outdoor children's activities, outdoor sport and leisure facilities and outdoor parent and child groups (up to 15 people) can resume

Further easing of restrictions will take place in the coming weeks as long as the four tests continue to be met, with Stage 2 no earlier than 12th April, Stage 3 no earlier than 17th June, and Stage 4 no earlier than 21st June. 

I welcome the announcement of this roadmap, which means that after an incredibly difficult year, we can all now see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, please keep following the national restrictions that are still in place, in order to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the NHS.

Further details about the roadmap for easing restrictions can be found here-

Friday, 19 February 2021

Applications reopen for National Lottery Grants for Heritage

The last year has been incredibly challenging for many heritage organisations and projects across the Hexham constituency. 

It's therefore great news that the National Lottery Grants for Heritage scheme has reopened for applications. Organisations can apply for financial support for their heritage projects. 

When applying, heritage organisations are asked to focus on outcomes that will help drive the UK's wider recovery from Covid-19, by boosting local economies, encouraging and sustaining jobs and opportunities, supporting wellbeing and ensuring that heritage plays a central part in creating better places to live, work and visit.

Funding from the National Lottery has proved to be a lifeline to many heritage organisations this year, and I would strongly encourage our local heritage projects to apply. You can find out more about how to apply for a National Lottery Grant for Heritage here- 

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

George Stephenson's birthplace set to reopen its doors

I am delighted that following our long-running campaign George Stephenson's birthplace in Wylam will finally be back open for visitors. 

George Stephenson's birthplace was closed in 2017, however after long-term discussions with myself, local County Councillor Karen Quinn and Wylam Parish Council and the National Trust, it is great news that the National Trust have confirmed that the cottage will be open ten times between May and October. I am really pleased that the National Trust have listened and taken action, and I hope that visitor demand means that we can see the birthplace open even more throughout the coming years. 

George Stephenson is one of Wylam's most famous former residents and is known as the 'Father of Railways' because of his pioneering work on the railways and steam locomotives. He is such an important part of the history of Wylam and Northumberland as a whole, and I am so pleased that more people will now be able to share in this important piece of our heritage.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Nominate an unsung hero to be a Coronavirus Community Champion!

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us all in ways we couldn't have imagined, and in an incredibly difficult time, one of the shining lights has been the extraordinary way in which communities have come together to support each other through the pandemic.

It's always brilliant to hear constituents tell me of their gratitude to a particular person, business or organisation that has gone the extra mile to help them through this difficult time. But most of these acts of kindness that are being carried out every day are largely going unrecognised.

That is why I am delighted to launch my Coronavirus Community Champion Awards, created specifically to recognise people who have gone above and beyond to help others during this pandemic.

I want to hear from you about the people who have gone out of their way to make your life a little bit easier, by nominating them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award.

This could be a teacher, delivery driver, care worker, shop worker or someone who has gone out of their way to help their vulnerable neighbours, to list just a few examples!

So if you would like to say thank you to an unsung hero of this pandemic, please nominate them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award here- 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Over 70? Come forward for your vaccine now!

The vaccine rollout is continuing to pick up steam, with over 12.2 million people now having received a vaccine so far. 9 in 10 of those aged 75 and over in England have now received their first dose, and it is aimed that by May, everyone over 50 will have received a vaccine.

Until now, the advice has been that you should wait to be contacted by your GP or the NHS to book your vaccination. However from today, anyone 70 or over who has not been vaccinated should contact the NHS to arrange their appointment. This can be done by calling 119 or online at 

By making sure that you and your loved ones are booked in for a vaccine, you can help give those most at risk the protection they need as we continue to fight this disease together.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

10 million vaccines!

Yesterday we reached a significant milestone in the vaccine rollout- more than 10 million people have now received their first dose of the vaccine!

9 in 10 people aged over 75 have now received a first dose, and vaccines have been offered to all elderly care home residents and staff in England and Wales. We are well on the way to hitting the target of offering vaccines to the top four priority groups by mid-February.

My thanks to our NHS workers, volunteers and armed forces for their tireless efforts to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history. Every single vaccine given makes us all a little bit safer.

Monday, 1 February 2021

LGBT History Month

February marks the start of LGBT History Month.

Thanks to the efforts of LGBT campaigners, attitudes around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people and their lives have changed dramatically in the last thirty years.

In 2013, I backed gay marriage- a measure that was controversial at the time, but I genuinely believe that almost every MP would now vote to introduce same-sex marriage.

However there is still so much more to do. Specifically, HIV and AIDS is still a significant issue for the LGBT  community, and unfortunately attitudes towards HIV/AIDS are still too often stuck in the past.

There is good news though- there are now effective HIV/AIDS treatments and the aim is that the rollout of PrEP will have ended new cases by 2030. It is so important to remember that those on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV, and so this is a really significant step forwards.

1st February also marks the start of HIV Testing Week. The Coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of effective and accurate testing, and testing can help to beat HIV too. Testing can be done at home and in private- just visit 

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Landmark Supreme Court ruling on business interruption claims

 Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of small businesses receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies. 

This news will have been warmly received by many small businesses across Tynedale and Ponteland and provide a lifeline to many in the months ahead.  


Insurers included in the case are Hiscox, Arch, Argenta, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA- but around 60 other insurers sold similar products and will have to start paying out to their policy holders. These companies will have to pay out on many, but not all, policies. 

I would ask any constituent who had business interruption claims rejected at the advent of the pandemic to contact their insurance company to see how this ruling affects them.