Special time for families

OPPOSITE me on the train as I travelled home was a girl who was organising her entire family Christmas through numerous calls on her mobile phone.

These included directing a delivery driver step-by-step through an apparently open house door, through the kitchen to a point where a present for her mother could be left without her seeing it, as well as discussing with her sister what to buy her dad and her niece, which were then ordered on the phone.

It was a young woman with a busy job still trying to make Christmas special for her family.

Christmas is a special time for families and most families will get together, visit each other or make contact in some way – even if it is by Skype to relatives across the world.

At this time, we think particularly of those who have family members serving in our forces overseas and of those who are in hospital or ill over Christmas.

Family life matters, and it is good to celebrate it in a festival which centres on the story of a family – a family with a new baby, plenty of excitement, but real problems as well, with nowhere to stay and a real threat to their safety.

And many families will be wondering how they are going to cope in difficult economic times. There is the prospect of serious job losses at Alcan, unless a buyer can be found to keep the plant in operation and there have been job losses at Hardy & Grey’s as well as in the civil service.

The country cannot go on spending so much borrowed money, and while that problem is being tackled, the Eurozone countries, where we sell a lot of our exports, are getting into deeper trouble.

But the Gazette has struck the right note in its Keep Northumberland Working campaign – this area has a lot to offer and there are good things happening. We need to build on our strengths.

My priorities for the Government are to get projects into the limited funding programme which will help jobs, as we have already done with the Chancellor’s agreement on an enterprise zone and with the Morpeth relief road, and as well as pressing for work on the A1, I have high hopes that we can get a decision very soon on the rebuilding of the Duchess’s High School.

At the same time we will continue to cut income tax for those on low incomes, give schools extra cash to help disadvantaged children and secure decent pension increases, all to help the most needy.

I wish all Gazette readers a very enjoyable Christmas and a happy New Year.