In the last few weeks, I have continued my tour to many villages, from Capheaton in the south, to Elsdon in the West, Scremerston in the North and Craster on the coast.
I have met hundreds of people and many issues were raised. The vast majority were about broadband connectivity or house building projects. These are, on the one hand, local issues determined by County Hall, but on the other part of huge Government projects to digitise the whole nation and build hundreds of thousands of new homes.
The small rural school isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for our most isolated children.
I am continuing to work village by village to get us all the opportunity to be connected to superfast broadband so that no child is cut off from their homework, no farmer has to stay up all night logging animal movements down a line which crashes, and anyone who wants to build a rurally-based business can compete.
The last month has been busy.
The Upper Coquetdale valley lost its doctor’s surgery and I have been working with NHS England to ensure we get provision for patients back to Harbottle. We have seen a resolution, albeit a temporary set-up for now. NHS England has found a way forward, which will ensure provision continues. We now have time to consult on what the best provision for the needs of residents looks like so that when the permanent tender is put out in 2016 we are asking for the right services.
In Alnwick the Covance Laboratories are at risk of closure. I have drawn together a taskforce of specialists to work with the council support team to try to find a viable long-term solution that keeps these high value jobs.
I have had a busy few weeks on the schools’ front, meeting headteachers and hearing about what works and what doesn’t for them and their pupils. I have visited Berwick’s Middle School, Spittal First School and The Grove Special School.
I am supporting Branton and Embleton first schools as they live under the threat of closure caused by the Alnwick partnership review. I am hopeful we will win a reprieve and new long-term solutions for both those excellent schools will be supported by County Hall. The small rural school isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for our most isolated children. These schools are hubs of community activity.
I enjoyed a tour of Northumberland College in Ashington. There is a great set up following investment, and I am looking forward to visiting Kirkley Hall, the land-based course centre, before too long. I was excited to hear about the new Military Academy, a year-long course teaching skills for applying to the Armed Forces.
A flying visit to HMP Northumberland proved very informative. I talked with the director about changes in staffing levels, and to the Prison Officer Association team about drugs coming into prison and the new recording cameras officers wear as part of a national pilot, which they say is making an improvement in behaviour of prisoners. If you know of anyone working in the prison, I am keen to hear from as many voices as possible before I lead a debate on the subject in the House of Commons in mid-October.
MPs had a brief return to Westminster. We voted on a reduction in the benefit cap to a maximum for a family of £20,000, and on the next stage of the Trade Union Bill, which will demand a majority of members support strike action for it to be legal.
There were Battle of Britain commemorations and as a member of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, I had the privilege of hearing from RAF pilots past and present. As we waved goodbye to the SeaKing search and rescue helicopter, I have asked the RAF if there can be a lasting memorial.
The Syrian migration crisis continues to horrify us all, and my postbag has been full of offers from constituents to help financially or even take people into their homes. I am keeping a database and am liaising with County Hall. Email me confidentially to firstname.lastname@example.org