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 couple of weeks.

Greens raise fears over threat to inpatient beds at town hospital

The people of Berwick could be left with no inpatient beds within 60 miles, according to the Green Party candidate Thomas Stewart.

Analysing the data published by the Gazette a fortnight ago, it’s very clear that would mean the lives of north Northumberland residents being put at risk, the party says.

Thomas said: “Figures show that for elderly medicine bed occupancy across the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for the last three years has been averaging between 88 and 91 per cent, and peaking at 96 per cent – well above the 85 per cent at which there becomes an increased risk of harm to patients.

“The fact the plans for rebuilding Berwick Infirmary were shelved last year is, I suspect, part of a wider plan to downgrade it to a ‘medical facility’ and remove the inpatient beds. Of course, I would hope to be proved wrong.

“Properly equipped and properly staffed multi-disciplinary health centres can be a valuable part of a reorganised and public NHS throughout Northumberland, but it is essential, given the long travel distances, that those health centres should include inpatient beds.

“The need for a 120-mile round trip – whether for patients or hospital visitors – is neither a mark of a civilised society, nor of a health service that is open to all.

“The Green Party insists that, with proper funding of the NHS and firm commitment to keeping it public, there is an alternative that would give no loss of beds, would improved provision, improved care, and improved wellbeing.”

In February, healthcare leaders confirmed ‘their absolute commitment’ to rebuild Berwick Infirmary following a pause in the redevelopment process, in place since August 2016. It was anticipated that it would be summer, at the soonest, before any further updates.

Ukip candidate in 2015 urges voters to back Conservative

Nigel Coghill-Marshall, who stood for Ukip in the Berwick constituency in 2014, has endorsed Tory candidate Anne-Marie Treveylan in this year’s race.

In a statement, he said: ‘As we approach what is, without any sense of hyperbole, the most important General Election for more than 50 years, I must explain why, on this occasion, I will not be a candidate.

‘The momentous decision to leave the EU was, in many ways, the culmination of my political career which began in 1966. In 1967, I recognised that the so-called Common Market which we were applying to join, was actually the embryonic super state envisaged by Jean Monnet and Arthur Salter.

‘It was never just about trade, although that was the premise upon which we were taken into the, then EEC, by Edward Heath.

‘Steadily across the years, that super state has come closer to reality, and increasingly since June last year, that agenda has been driven forward through announcements on a European Army, funding for European defence, demands for a common budget and Finance Minister.

‘Yet still, those who fail to recognise, or perhaps choose to ignore, these salient facts, demand we remain in the EU.

‘They disguise and trivialise the real arguments, in the hope that we can be persuaded to change our minds.

‘We need a government that will ensure that leave means leave. We need a Prime Minister and for this constituency, an MP, who will work to ensure that does happen.

‘Having worked closely with Anne-Marie Trevelyan during the referendum last year, I believe her to be committed to that cause.

‘I trust her to work towards that end and for that reason I will be voting for her on June 8. I am asking all Ukip supporters to join me in doing so.’

‘Cruel, confused and contradictory policy-making’

The Liberal Democrats have challenged Theresa May to answer a series of questions following her apparent U-turn and confusion over her policy on social care.

Julie Pörksen, the Lib Dem candidate, said: “Theresa May’s dementia tax is cruel, confused and contradictory policy-making at its worst.

“I am meeting so many people on the doorsteps who are furious about the Conservatives’ lack of support for elderly people from winter fuel allowance and ending the triple lock guarantee on pension increases to losing all their hard-earned money in care charges.”

She added that the Liberal Democrats ‘will stand up to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain’ and ‘support the elderly’.

‘Support pensioners by voting Labour’

Labour candidate Scott Dickinson has claimed that the ‘Tories have launched an all-out attack on pensioners’.

Referring to policies on the likes of the pensions triple lock, winter fuel payments and social care, he said that ‘the Tories are failing to guarantee a decent standard of living for older people’, while ‘only Labour will stand up for pensioners and protect your pension’.

Scott added: “ I am deeply concerned about the pensioners in our constituency and beyond. Many pensioners rely on these winter fuel payments to help heat their homes.

“Support pensioners by voting Labour on Thursday, June 8, to protect pensions and other pensioner benefits.”

Labour has said it will retain the triple lock on pensions as well as winter fuel payments and free bus passes for everyone over the age of 60, while not raising the state pension age above 66.

Conservative candidate welcomes manifesto measures

Anne-Marie Trevelyanhas welcomed measures announced a fortnight ago in the Conservative manifesto to increase schools funding and secure the future of social care.

Anne-Marie said: “I am very pleased that if my party is returned to government, primary schools in Northumberland will not, as previously feared, lose any funding as a result of changes to the National Schools Funding Formula. This commitment, means a great deal to parents locally and to headteachers who have struggled to maintain their schools on their smaller budgets. Now schools will have their funding increased by £4billion in real terms over the next five years.”

Mrs Trevelyan also welcomed the new plans announced for nurseries – the Conservatives announced that all new primary schools will include nursery provision and capital funds will be made available to existing schools to be able to offer nursery care.

Anne-Marie said: “Vital to maintaining our village communities is the ability to attract young families to live and raise their children here. Ensuring working parents have viable childcare options is key to this and this measure is a really welcome step, especially as nursery care can be hard to come by in some areas of Northumberland.”

Anne-Marie also welcomed the news that social care will be made sustainable for the first time, with the commitment to make the system fairer, better-funded and ensure people can receive care at home as well as in a residential facility. “I am pleased my party has pledged to introduce a new cap on care costs, to ensure that, no matter how large the cost of care turns out to be, people will always retain at least £100,000 of their savings and assets, including value in the family home – the present amount is £23,000.”

Lib Dems: May is snatching lunches from more than 1,100 children living in poverty in Northumberland

Up to 1,171 children living in poverty across Northumberland will have their lunches taken away under Theresa May’s plans to abolish universal free school lunches for infants, Liberal Democrat research has revealed. In total 8,802 children in Northumberland are set to lose out under the plans.

Those families losing out are expected to have to pay around £440 per child per year for their school lunches.

The Liberal Democrats have also calculated that under Conservative costings of just under 7p per child’s breakfast, each child could expect to receive either half a boiled egg, one slice of bread with 12 baked beans or 37.5 cornflakes and 100ml of semi-skimmed milk.

Julie Pörksen said: “Theresa May’s cruel policy will mean nearly 1,200 children living in poverty in Northumberland will lose out on free school lunches.

“This will mean greater inequality and struggling families having to pay hundreds of pounds on lunches a year.

“The Conservatives’ promise of a free breakfast is cynical and clearly not designed to reach all children. They have set aside a meagre 7p per breakfast per child, the price of half a boiled egg or just one slice of bread with 12 baked beans.

“The Liberal Democrats will stand up against this mean-spirited vision of Britain and extend free school lunches to all primary school children.

“After over a year working in the classroom I know at first hand how much children’s concentration, ability to learn and participate in the school day is improved when they have had a proper lunch. This is a backwards step which will harm children across the county.”

Invest in public transport, not an A1 vanity project, say Greens

The Green Party have condemned Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s focus on the dualling of a short stretch of the A1, when there are so many more important issues to discuss in the run-up to the General Election.

Candidate Thomas Stewart said: “This is a snap election that the country did not want, that is costing taxpayers £190million to stage and has the stated purpose of giving Theresa May a bigger majority in parliament in advance of EU negotiations. And yet all that Anne-Marie Trevelyan wants to talk about is 13 miles of road between Ellingham and Morpeth.”

Thomas points out that Mrs Trevelyan has campaigned on this same issue for the last seven years, but has so far failed to deliver a single extra yard of tarmac. In the same period, she has voted repeatedly in parliament to cut benefits to the poorest in our communities.

Northumberland has one of the lowest levels of car-ownership in the UK. “There are tens of thousands of households in Northumberland who do not own a car; a short stretch of dualling will not make their journeys any better and will do precious little to improve road safety. What is needed is comprehensive investment in local train services, new local train stations, and local bus services, combined with specific and targeted road-safety measures”.

While Mrs Trevelyan has repeatedly stated her aim of extending dualling to the Scottish border, Theresa May categorically failed to support that aim when she spoke in the constituency a fortnight ago. “It seems that what Mrs Trevelyan is offering us is the chance to spend £300-million of our own money, only to move the northern end of the dual carriageway from Morpeth to Ellingham. This would require over two years of roadworks, with traffic lights, contraflows and significant increases in congestion, particularly during holiday periods.”

‘The futures of the NHS and our schools are at stake in this election’

New research published by Labour today highlights the threat to our schools and hospitals posed by five more years of the Conservatives. This new analysis of the Tory threat has shown that, if the current rate of deterioration under the Tories continues, by 2022 our health and education services could be facing huge problems. It could mean:

In a Tory NHS and social care system: 5.5 million people on waiting lists in England, 1.8 million more than at present; almost 1.5 million older and vulnerable people with unmet social care needs.

In a Tory education system: 650,000 pupils crammed into primary classes of over 30; Families left almost £450 worse off per child as a result of the Tories’ plan to scrap free school meals for 1.7 million children.

The choice at the election is stark. The Tories have no plan to properly fund our public services, pushing them further into crisis. Labour will take a different approach, we will rebuild our public services for the many by modest tax rises for companies and the richest five per cent.

Labour will build an NHS and social care system for the many: Labour will invest £37 billion in our NHS and take one million people off the waiting list by the end of the next Parliament; Labour will invest £8 billion in social care over the course of the next Parliament and lay the foundations of a National Care Service to integrate health and social care.

Labour will build an education system for the many: abour will cap class sizes at 30 for 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds; Labour will provide free school meals to all primary school children by introducing VAT on private school fees.

Scott Dickinson said: “Our NHS is important to us all and everyone should access healthcare without fear of not being able to pay the bills. We all pay in, Labour created the NHS free at the point of use and only Labour will protect it.

“Our schools are important for the development of our children and future development of our country. Schools cannot continue to sustain these levels of cuts.”

Doorstep talk is of two horse race and dementia tax - Pörksen

As the polls fluctuate on a national level, Lib Dem candidate Julie Pörksen has been knocking on doors and listening to residents from Lynemouth to Berwick and says the word on the doorstep is clear - it will be a race between her and the Conservative candidate.

Julie saidd: “People tell me on the doorsteps they are surprised to see May doing so badly after calling for an election when the Conservatives were looking so strong in the polls just a few weeks ago.

“But despite Labour’s apparent recovery, voters tell me they have seen no evidence of Labour campaigning in this constituency.

“I always tell people that the only poll that counts is the one on June 8. Here in the Berwick constituency this is clearly not a vote for a leader, but for who they want to be our local MP to represent our area – it is a two-horse race between me and the Conservative.

“I am pleased that many Labour and Green supporters tell me they are backing me to be the next MP to work for our local residents, not prop up a government that is making cruel cuts. There is so much concern about the dementia tax which will place huge burdens on elderly people to pay for care as well as the devastating impact of cuts to our schools and NHS.

“I am even more determined to stand up and be a strong voice to get a better deal for all people across our community.”