Thursday, 28 October 2021

The Budget

I am delighted with the Budget and three-year Spending Review announced by the Chancellor yesterday. It will ensure our public finances are secure, whilst also investing in our communities.

The Budget prioritised helping working families and vulnerable households, including through a significant tax cut for low-income families by reducing the Universal Credit taper rate from 63 per cent to 55 per cent, a 6.6 per cent increase in the National Living Wage to £9.50 an hour – giving a £1,000 pay rise to 2 million of the lowest paid.


Businesses will also benefit from new measures, including a 50 per cent cut in business rates next year for 90 per cent of retail, hospitality and leisure – alongside a freeze of all rates – the creation of new business rates relief to encourage green technologies and improvements to properties, and a doubling of creative industries tax reliefs for theatres, orchestras, museums and galleries.


Our hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, and a beer duty cut is exactly what local public publicans have been calling for - pubs will benefit from the largest cut to beer duty in 50 years! 

Draught Relief will apply a new, lower rate of duty on draught beer and cider. It will particularly benefit community pubs who do 75% of their trade on draught. It’s not a freeze, it will cut duty by 5%. A long-term investment in British pubs of £100m a year. Also, the planned increase in duty on spirits like Scotch Whisky, wine, cider and beer, are all cancelled. 

Other measures to drive economic growth include supporting innovation through a record £20 billion spending on R&D; and a huge uplift in skills training through T-levels, Institutes of Technology, and apprenticeships. Additionally, funding for 30,000 extra school places for children with special needs and disabilities. 

As part of the three-year Spending Review delivered alongside the Budget, total government departmental spending will increase by £150 billion by 2024 – a 3.8 per cent annual real terms increase – the largest real terms increase this century.

I am also very pleased that the Chancellor announced the temporary cut to international aid will return to 0.7% of GNI by the end of the Parliament.

If you would like to read the Budget in more detail please click HERE.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

I urge Lloyds to rethink closing their Ponteland branch

I am very disappointed and concerned by the announcement from Lloyds that they are closing their bank branch in Ponteland.

Lloyds have announced that they are closing a total of 48 bank branches nationally, including Ponteland, in the Hexham Constituency. This news follows a recent spate of bank branch closures in rural areas, where access to cash and banking facilities are vital for residents.

I urge Lloyds to urgently rethink their position. Access to cash and an in-person counter are vital services to residents who may not be able to access online banking services. The Ponteland branch serves many of the surrounding villages meaning it will hit another one of the rural communities in my constituency very hard.

Clearly, footfall in branches has reduced since the advent of the pandemic. However, in-person banking services continue to be vital – we must save this branch!

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Sir David Amess

The whole country has been shaken by the senseless death of my friend and colleague Sir David Amess.

David was such a kind friend, always supporting colleagues no matter what political side they were on. Tributes over the weekend showed the breadth of friendships David had in politics.

Neighbouring MPs of David's Essex constituency; Labour MP Wes Streeting and Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell gave a moving tribute in a joint interview to Sky News on Sunday showing that whilst we might campaign with different colour rosettes, as Jo Cox said so eloquently, 'We have far more in common than that which divides us.'

On Friday, when the awful news of David's death was announced, I was conducting constituency street surgeries in Allendale. Meeting with constituents face-to-face is a vital part of my role of representing the people of Tynedale and Ponteland as your Member of Parliament. Gordon Brown said the legacy of this tragic event can't be 'less democracy'- and he's right.

Questions of security for MPs have been raised and I think it’s right for these issues to be investigated. However, there are many other public servants in public facing roles that face similar risks. We must always do our best to protect our public servants and I was very impressed that almost immediately after the news broke that Northumbria Police were in touch to ensure my staff and I were safe and well.

David would’ve expected nothing less than democracy to prevail from this horrific incident. That’s why the job must go on. On Friday I knocked doors in Allendale, held surgeries and went to my local pub afterwards.

This Friday, I will still be hosting the annual Tynedale Jobs Fair at the Wentworth Centre in Hexham between 10am and 3pm. I would encourage as many as possible to attend – if you are out of work or looking for a change in career. There are over 70 local employers recruiting from a range of industries, including hospitality, retail, manufacturing and transport.

Dedicated members of my team alongside the brilliant team at Hexham Jobcentre Plus have worked extremely hard to put this event together. Confirmed attendees include Britishvolt, Nissan, Network Rail, Aldi and McDonalds. What’s more, for the first time ever, this year’s event will include a ‘Kickstart Zone’ for young people who are on Universal Credit, and a dedicated CV writing advice area.

Holding this sort of community event is exactly what my constituents expect – and I will continue to work hard for people across Tynedale and Ponteland despite the awful atrocity we saw on Friday.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Vote for Zola at the Westminster Dog of the Year competition!

If you see me out and about in the Hexham constituency, then there is a very good chance that I will be accompanied by my fox red Labrador Retriever, Zola.

Zola is my biggest supporter and regularly charms Secretaries of State, as well as always helping me prepare for select committee appearances. She is much-loved by MPs and staffers alike and the rural lanes of Northumberland would be difficult to canvas without her invaluable help.

Zola is taking part in this year's Westminster Dog of the Year, organised by Dogs Trust and The Kennel Club. On Thursday 28th September, Zola will be joining other MP's dogs of all shapes and sizes at Victoria Tower Gardens to compete for the title, and we need your support!

The 'paw-blic' vote element of the competition is decided by the public, and you can cast your vote for Zola here- 

Westminster Dog of the Year is not only a fun event to be involved in, but it also provides a great opportunity to highlight the importance of responsible dog ownership and the work that MPs are doing to improve dog welfare. This year's event is focusing on promoting responsible dog ownership, so that owners recognise their responsibility to ensure that their pet lives a healthy and happy life.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Haltwhistle's state-of-the-art new school opens its doors

I was delighted to attend the opening of Haltwhistle’s brand new Primary Academy recently.  

After years of campaigning to ensure that West Tynedale’s children have access to state-of-the-art learning facilities, the new building was officially opened by children’s author and ex-pupil, Iona Daley.  


I joined Iona, Head Teacher Susie Drake, WISE Academies Chief Executive Zoe Carr, Haltwhistle County Councillor Ian Hutchinson, Northumberland County Council Cabinet Member Guy Renner-Thompson, and current Haltwhistle Primary Academy pupils Mason and Charlotte to explore and celebrate the fantastic new building and Children’s Centre.  


Since becoming MP in 2010, I have campaigned relentlessly to ensure that the most rural communities in our area receive investment in their schools. The opening of the new Haltwhistle Primary Academy building follows recent successes at Queen Elizabeth High School and Haydon Bridge High School, which have seen a full rebuild and a major refurbishment respectively. 


Thanks to funding from Northumberland County Council and WISE Academies, the trust that oversees the running of the school, Haltwhistle Primary pupils now have the opportunity to learn in these excellent new facilities, getting the very best education that they all deserve. 

Headteacher, Susie Drake said:

‘’We are delighted to have successfully moved into our new school site on Park Avenue, Haltwhistle.  We are already seeing the benefits of our first class educational facilities and our children are excited by their new modern classrooms and specialist teaching spaces. Our Early Years department provides a homely, creative setting to spark children's imagination alongside an inspiring location for outdoor adventures.

The additional capacity across school means that we are able to welcome new families who are looking for excellent teaching and a fantastic learning environment for their children.  This is a wonderful opportunity for children in the Haltwhistle area and we are excited about the future for our school community.’’

Zoe Carr, Chief Executive of WISE academies said:

"It is a great delight to officially open the remodelled Haltwhistle Primary School. The transformation to this building has been quite remarkable. Now the children of Haltwhistle have a school they can be proud of.  Bright open spaces, enhanced library provision, a spacious dance studio, and specialist art and music rooms are just a few of the features that pupils can now enjoy.

The outdoor play space for the youngest children, set against the beautiful Northumberland countryside, rivals any National Trust park. Whatsmore, it is exciting to be located on the same site as the Western Tynedale Children's Centre. Now local families have a fantastic facility that can provide many services both now and into the future."

Guy Renner-Thompson, Northumberland County Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said:

‘’This is a fantastic day for Haltwhistle and the surrounding area. The Council continues to invest in education in the west of Northumberland for the future of our children. After the community was so badly let down by the failed Bright Tribe Trust, our partnership on this project with WISE Academies is an examplar of how Councils can work Academies that could be replicated across the Country.’’

Saturday, 9 October 2021

MRI scanner opens at Hexham Hospital

Last month I visited Hexham General Hospital to unveil a plaque to mark the opening of the hospital's state-of-the-art new MRI scanner.

Although the machine has been in operation for more than 18 months now, the opening ceremony was delayed due to the pandemic. The MRI scanner has seen around 300 patients per month for key diagnostic scans, including around 25 cardiac patients per month undergoing specialised scans and 15 arthrograms- high-tech imagine for musculoskeletal conditions.

It is vital that Tynedale's patients are able to access diagnostic scans close to home and quickly so that they can start treatment as soon as possible. Where previously patients would have gone to North Tyneside or other hospitals for diagnosis prior to their elective surgery here, now they are able to do both the diagnosis and the surgery in Hexham.

The new MRI scanner has replaced the previous mobile unit and represents the most recent step in the 15-year + partnership between Northumbria Healthcare and InHealth, which has already seen scanners installed at the Trust's North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Northumbria hospitals.

It was fascinating to be able to tour the new MRI scanner facilities at the Hospital with Northumbria Healthcare and InHealth representatives, who manage the scanner day-to-day. I have always said that I will fight for as many health services as possible to be delivered locally in Tynedale and this is a brilliant facility, which is now available to patients across Tynedale.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Tynedale Jobs Fair returns on Friday 22nd October

The Tynedale Jobs Fair is back on Friday 22nd October!

The 2021 Jobs Fair will take place on Friday 22nd October from 10am-3pm at the Wentworth Centre, Hexham. Organised in collaboration with the Hexham Jobcentre and kindly sponsored by Essity, employers and businesses from a wide range of sectors will be attending, from hospitality and retail to manufacturing and transport.

Confirmed attendees include Britishvolt, Nissan, Network Rail, Aldi and McDonalds. For the first time ever, the 2021 Jobs Fair will also feature a Kickstart area, promoting the Government's Kickstart Scheme which helps to create jobs for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit.

Also new to this year's Jobs Fair is an area dedicated to CV writing, run by recruitment company Reed in Partnership, to give job-seekers advice on how to put together the perfect CV.

Whether you are looking for a change of career or to get back into work after a break from employment, please do come along on 22nd October.