Compromise is key to success for campaigns

We received good news recently that Northumberland County Council’s review of the Alnwick partnership of schools will involve keeping both Branton and Embleton’s first schools open, incorporating them into the new two-tier system.

It is a huge credit to the local campaigns run by the schools, parents and the wider villages that the council changed its mind and recognised the value of our local schools.

The last thing our farming communities need is to be facing these administrative hurdles, and I will do all I can to keep up the pressure.

As part of the campaigns, I surveyed local residents, asking them to tell me why the schools should remain open. Overwhelmingly, they told me that the school was the centre of the village and vital for attracting new people to live there. So often, we are told that rural dwellers are not-in-my-back-yarders and resistant to change. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

People told me they wanted their villages to expand and grow, and for young people to want to move there to raise families.

The schools were willing to adapt to the new two-tier model in order to ensure their future.

This example demonstrates yet again that battles are not won by railing against change, but by showing how you are willing to compromise and move forward.

The campaigners’ success was not simply down to strength in numbers, but also to the quality of their arguments. Well done, all.

Keeping local services by effectively communicating the local need is what is presently happening in Harbottle. The GP surgery in the village was forced to close recently after the doctor handed back her contract.

The Rothbury practice is doing an admirable job of running a satellite service in Harbottle to ensure villagers can seek medical advice and collect their prescriptions, but NHS England needs to find a long-term solution, and it needs local people’s views.

It is really important that we tell it what provision the area needs so it understands the importance of maintaining provision at the country’s most rural surgery.

If you live in the Harbottle area and did not get a survey form from NHS England, you can find one on my website at

Another issue that has been causing me some concern recently is problems with the basic payment scheme, the mechanism by which subsidies to farmers are delivered.

Many farmers in Northumberland, and across the country, have experienced delays in receiving their payment, causing cashflow problems and, in some cases, hardship. Concerns about late payments and a lack of clear information from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, the part of the Government responsible for administering the subsidies, were raised with me at one of my recent meetings with local farmers.

My colleague James Heappey, a Somerset MP, secured a debate yesterday on the issue, and I was able to use it to share the frustrations of local farmers.

The Farming Minister George Eustice responded to the debate on behalf of the Government, and told us that although 97 per cent of applicants have now received their first payments, there have been some delays as a result of EU requirements for inspections, which create additional bureaucracy.

Mr Eustice explained that the UK asked the European Commission to relax their requirements to speed up the process, but the commission refused.

I will continue to pressure the Government to do all it can to speed things along.

We cannot have our farmers struggling because of these extra checks. We need better communication and better planning.

The last thing our farming communities need is to be facing these administrative hurdles, and I will do all I can to keep up the pressure.

Unfortunately, this is yet another example of unelected European Union bureaucrats dictating to our Government, and this time it is our farmers who are paying the price.

This sort of problem will only worsen under the EU’s plans to continue towards ever-closer political union.

We need to be free of Brussels’ control, so we can put our own needs first.