GAZETTE COMMENT: At last, a cash pledge

Prime Minister David Cameron, arrives  near the A1, north of Morpeth.
Prime Minister David Cameron, arrives near the A1, north of Morpeth.

North Northumberland was the place to be for politicians on Monday morning as our local representatives were joined by the Prime Minister and Business Secretary.

The reason for this was the long-awaited announcement that £290million was being allocated in the Autumn Statement to dual the A1 from Morpeth to Felton and the first section north of Alnwick, with further improvements north of Ellingham.

Clearly none of us is so naïve as to ignore the fact that we are less than six months away from a General Election and that Berwick is a target seat for the Conservatives.

Becoming even more cynical, we also realise that there have been promises before.

Not just promises, but pledges, commitments, guarantees, vows and assurances.

However, there are two big buts to remember, which mean this week should be one for optimism, not the negativity that seems to have flooded social media.

The first is that while there have been raised hopes before with no end product, this time the scheme seems to have gone further than ever before.

The money is there to be spent now, according to the Prime Minister, who believes work on the ground on the dualling can start in the next Parliament.

The second is that rightly or wrongly, whatever your political persuasion, it’s always hard to convince the powers that be to spend significant amounts of money outside London and the south-east and, beyond that, outside the cities.

So to have a commitment for £290million for a road in rural north Northumberland is a major achievement.

While there is justifiable disappointment that the dualling will not extend to Berwick and the Scottish border, this is still a big step in the right direction. Partial progress is still progress.

Of course, there will be attempts to claim credit by different politicians as they look ahead to May 2015.

But to ignore this considerable developlment due to a distaste for political posturing seems churlish given the pleas that have emanated from north Northumberland for decades.

Plus it negates the hard work that many people – not just politicians – have put in over years of campaigning.