General Election round-up

The General Election is on June 8.
The General Election is on June 8.

Here’s what the candidates in the Berwick constituency have been saying and doing in the past week.

Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan has revealed the dualling of the A1 throughout Northumberland will be her key priority if re-elected.

There is already a Government commitment in place to spend £300million dualling the road between Alnwick and Ellingham, with smaller-scale safety improvements on the remaining 25 miles of single carriageway to the Scottish border.

Mrs Trevelyan, speaking at the launch of her election campaign as Conservative candidate on Monday, said: “The plans for the A1 dualling scheme are due to go before planning in July and my aim will be to ensure that work gets done as soon as possible, along with the improvements further north.

“We have a commitment from the transport minister that he supports the goal of dualling all the way to the border and I’ll be pushing to make that happen.

“It’s vitally important that we have a decent roads infrastructure in place.”

She added: “In just two years as the MP, I have put our patch of Northumberland on the map with Ministers, and my focus if re-elected will be to build on what I have done in the past two years,which have seen the A1 dualling project progress rapidly, an enterprise zone for Berwick, £2million for the town’s port and more and more villages connected to superfast broadband.

“I have spent two years banging the drum for Northumberland in Parliament so Ministers understand the unique challenges faced by our rural communities.

“It would be a real honour to continue to do that, and to support Theresa May as she steers our nation towards its new, global future.”

• The Lib Dems have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major commitment of the election campaign.

The tax would raise an additional £38million for Northumberland; £26million for the NHS and £12.1million for social care each year.

This is the party’s flagship spending commitment and its first major policy announcement for the election.

Julie Pörksen, the Lib Dem candidate for Berwick, said: “It is vital for each and every person in our community that we invest in a quality NHS service accessible to all.

“The Conservatives’ record on the NHS nationally and locally has been disgraceful, stalling investment in Berwick Infirmary and closing Rothbury Hospital ward with no notice while running Alnwick at dangerously high bed-occupancy levels.

“The need to improve our local mental health services is an issue frequently brought to my attention.

“Jeremy Hunt and the Conservatives just do not care about the NHS or patients and their families. If given free rein, the Tories will decimate our local NHS.

“Having both worked in the health sector and talked to hundreds of people recently while collecting signatures for the Save Rothbury Hospital petition, I understand just how much our local NHS and quality care services mean to rural communities. With guaranteed funds, we can invest in better health and social care for everyone across Northumberland.”

Mrs Pörksen is also challenging Northumberland’s new council administration to bring back the Lib Dem policy of free transport for post-16 students.

She said: “It was a outrage that Labour stopped the previous Lib Dem council’s free transport for post-16 students. Not only did they remove all rights to free transport, the actual cost was way above the £600 they originally suggested.

“I know many young people and their families who have been seriously affected by the cost of transport. It should be every young person’s right to travel freely to school or college until they reach 18 – no matter where they live.”

Referring to the fact that Tory councillors backed its retention in opposition, she added: “I now call on Northumberland’s Conservative county council to bring back free post-16 transport from September.”

• The Labour and Lib Dem candidates for Berwick have both signed the WASPI pledge to support the pensions campaigners and to work to find a solution for the women affected.

Lib Dem Julie Pörksen said: “The injustice experienced by the WASPI women at the hands of the DWP is a disgrace.

“This is a real example of how Government does not take into account the human consequences of its actions – or inactions – of not informing women of their changed pension rights even when asked by women.

“Given that there is widespread acknowledgement that WASPI women have been treated unfairly and have been unable to plan their retirement, I believe the Government should have found a solution for all women affected by now. There’s been enough talk, it’s time for action on WASPI.”

Labour’s Scott Dickinson said: “The Labour Party called on the Government to implement plans in the Autumn Statement, to give vulnerable women in our country some stability until their delayed state pension is available

“Labour are also developing solutions for those affected who would not be entitled to means-tested Pension Credit under these proposals.

“It is however vital that action takes place now, to end the hardship faced by women who have worked all their lives, but find that they cannot retire as planned.”

• Labour’s plans to upgrade and transform Britain’s economy will be underpinned by a commitment to protect middle and low earners’ incomes by announcing a personal tax guarantee.

A Labour Government will guarantee to rule out rises in the following taxes in the next Parliament: VAT (standard rate); Income Tax on those earning below £80,000 a year; personal National Insurance contributions.

Under Labour’s plans, 95 per cent of taxpayers will be guaranteed no increase in their income tax contributions and everyone will be protected from any increase in personal National Insurance contributions and VAT.

Only the highest earners, the top five per cent of taxpayers, will be asked to contribute more in tax to help fund our public services which the party say have suffered at the hands of seven years of Tory austerity.

Berwick’s Labour candidate Scott Dickinson said: “Middle and low earners need this guarantee. Hard-working families, couples and individuals up and down the country need to know Labour’s on their side.

“We want to make sure hard-working people keep as much money in their own pockets.”

• Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan has pledged to act on business rates if re-elected as MP for Berwick.

After a visit to Beadnell on Tuesday, the Tory said that the biggest issue raised was ensuring all owners of holiday homes pay their fair share of business rates and parish precepts to ensure the survival of communities.

“There is a real concern from the permanent communities in towns and villages such as Beadnell, that some owners are not paying their fair share, leaving residents footing the bill to maintain their communities alone. I want our tourism industry to continue to thrive, in conjunction with, not at the expense of the communities they rely on.

“I know a great number of holiday-home owners pay their way, but not all do, and I will – if re-elected – work with the new Conservative administration at Northumberland County Council to ensure there is a fair, holistic way of ensuring everyone who benefits from our stunning coastal communities contributes to their long-term survival.”

• The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is calling on all candidates in the North East to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brexit to maximise the benefit to the beer and pubs industry.

CAMRA’s manifesto is calling for a number of European restrictions to be removed to allow the UK Government to better support beer and pubs, such as extending duty reductions for low-strength beers and reducing duty rates for draught beer sold in pubs and clubs.

Candidates are also being urged to safeguard and protect British pubs and breweries during Brexit negotiations.

olin Valentine, CAMRA’s national chairman, said: “The General Election and upcoming negotiations to leave the European Union give us a unique chance to rewrite some of the tax rules that have a significant impact on the price of a pint in the pub. We would like to see a range of measures introduced over the next Parliament to help reduce the huge tax burden facing UK brewers and publicans to ensure that pub-going and beer drinking remains an affordable activity. As part of this, current business rates discounts for pubs in England should be made permanent and increased to £5,000.

“Pubs are a uniquely British institution which showcase our nation’s brewing tradition while providing an essential community facility for those that use them. It is therefore crucial that beer drinkers and pub-goers are not left behind when it comes to negotiating Britain’s future over the coming years.”