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.

Green ‘stands up for what matters’ in the county

Green candidate Thomas Stewart believes that with the support of local communities, he can be a leading voice in securing a better future for the area.

His priorities in the coming election will be protecting the local NHS provision, retaining and expanding local public transport, enhancing local public services and establishing a more sustainable economy by tackling the increase in householder debt. As a Green candidate, care for the environment is, of course, fundamental to everything.

Thomas believes that a care for the environment and a belief in a better future are things that bind the area together. He said: “We are privileged to live in a natural environment that is the envy of the whole country and to have a history of strong and resilient communities that care deeply for their members.

“However, the ability to control our environment and care for our own communities has diminished over recent years as political power has been centralised, as services have been cut, and as provision has been moved to larger centres of population. Of all the constituencies in England, ours is the furthest from London – our concerns are not listened to, and our priorities are not shared.

“My own first knowledge of the Green Party came when I was a teenager, but I joined as a member only many years later – the result of a growing realisation that the established Westminster parties have become so set in their ways and so resistant to the real change of approach that our communities need and that our planet needs, that they have lost sight of what is important.

“Central to the Green Party is the notion of act local, but think global – combining a real belief and trust in the power of local communities, with the certainty that what we do at a local level has consequences right around the world, both for the environment and for other communities. I believe firmly that we in this area can and should be leaders in establishing a real voice for change.

“An alternative path is needed, one which has the environment and local communities jointly at the focus of policy-making and one which builds a decent and safe future for following generations. It is for this reason I am standing up for what I believe in, and standing in the coming election.”

Labour pledges new deal for the NHS and scrapping tuition fees

Labour has announced a new deal for the NHS, with a pledge to take one million people off the waiting list and fix England’s broken A&Es with essential additional funding and tough new targets.

This includes a pledge to give the NHS an extra £37billion over the course of the next Parliament, including £10billion of capital funding to make sure that buildings and IT systems are fit for purpose.

Labour’s Scott Dickinson said: “This is an exciting new deal that would put the rightful value back in to the NHS, reward our hard-working staff teams and protect the service for those who need it.

“Labour created the NHS and with us it’s safe. Under the Conservatives, financial pressure has made some situations unbearable on staff, they work incredibly hard in these difficult times. There is a different way.”

On the pledge to scrap tuition fees, he added: “This is great news for those young people who wish to choose university as an option in life.

“Those young people may well have been prevented from doing so based on the huge charges introduced by the Tories and Lib Dems.”

Lib Dems will invest £30m to protect funding for schools

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will invest £29.7million more in schools and colleges in Northumberland over the next Parliament.

This is part of a manifesto commitment to provide £6.9billion of additional schools and further-education funding nationally.

Berwick candidate Julie Pörksen said: “During the last year while retraining as a teacher, I have developed even greater respect for the concerted effort by teachers and teaching assistants, pupils and parents, governors and community to make every school a success for pupils and the community.

“Under the Conservatives, funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, while billions of pounds are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammars and free schools which are divisive and entirely incompatible with our rural environment.

“We need to focus on providing pupils with a quality education through local schools. This extra £29million of funding would ensure no school and no child in Northumberland loses out.

“We will reverse crippling Conservative cuts to school budgets and invest to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

• The Lib Dems have also announced they would lift the one per cent cap on public-sector pay and increases wages in line with inflation.

Under Liberal Democrat plans, the 2,853 teachers working in Northumberland would get an average pay rise of £916 by 2021, while the 3,263 police working for Northumbria Police would see their pay boosted by £471.

The plans would also lead to an estimated pay rise of £527 for the 3,664 nurses working for Northumbria and NTW NHS Trusts by 2021, helping to tackle the shortage of nurses and potential strikes over pay this summer.

Mrs Pörksen said: “Public-sector workers in the North East are facing a double blow at the hands of this Conservative government, with years of pitiful increases to pay combined with a Brexit squeeze caused by soaring inflation.

“Our NHS and schools are already struggling to recruit the staff they need. Living standards are falling, prices are rising and nurses are going to food banks – but Theresa May doesn’t care.

“A better future is possible. The Liberal Democrats will stand up for our schools and hospitals and give hard-working nurses, teachers and police the pay rise they deserve.”

Conservative seeks safer roads solution

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Conservative candidate, attended a meeting of the Road Share Campaign to discuss cycling and the law.

The campaign aims to alter civil law to introduce ‘presumed liability’ for the less vulnerable road user in cases of collisions. Under the campaign’s proposals, the party who is less vulnerable (usually but not always a car driver) would be presumed in civil law to be liable - the burden of proof would therefore be on them to show they were not liable, rather than the current situation, which is the reverse of this.

Mrs Trevelyan said: “I learned a great deal at the meeting and found it extremely useful to be able to talk through the issues. I am broadly supportive of the proposal and would be very interested indeed in holding discussions with Ministers and insurnce companies to see how the proposal could work in practice. Should I be re-elected, I would be invite some of our local Berwick group to Westminster to raise these issues on a national stage and to work with my colleague across the border, John Lamont [the Conservative candidate for Berwickshire Roxburgh and Selkirk] who has been a long-term supporter of the Road Share campaign.

“Improving safety on our roads – especially our rural lanes – has been an issue that has cropped up a lot during this election campaign, and I would be very open to exploring ways in which we could ensure all road users take more care and responsibility for those around them, especially those who are more vulnerable.”

Hustings to take place next week

Two hustings events are taking place in the Berwick constituency next week.

On Monday, Alnwick Area Friends of the Earth is hosting an Environmental Question Time at St James’s Church Centre, Pottergate, Alnwick, at 7.30pm.

The following night, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) has organised a public meeting at the Swan Centre in Berwick, also 7.30pm, where candidates will come under the spotlight on pensions.

Lib Dem Julie Pörksen, The Green Party’s Thomas Stewart and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Conservative, will be present at both. Labour’s Scott Dickinson was also invited to the WASPI event, but is unable to attend.

Susan Beevers, co-ordinator of the Berwick-upon-Tweed WASPI group, said: “In an election campaign where it can often be quite difficult to talk to politicians face-to-face, this meeting offers Berwick voters an ideal opportunity to hear what the different political parties are doing for pensioners.”