BEM for Morpeth pensioner in New Year Honours list

Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.
Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.

A Morpeth pensioner is among a number of Northumberland residents recognised in the New Year Honours list.

Muriel Harris, 83, Morpeth, receives the British Empire Medal for voluntary service to the community in Northumberland.

Robert Arckless MBE

Robert Arckless MBE

She has trained to be a reader for the Church of England and since her licensing and retirement, has worked tirelessly in various parishes.

She makes regular and valued contributions to the ministry and supports the community.

Over the past 10 years, she has been part of the team working for the Practical Compassion for Destitute Children (PcDc), a registered British charity working with disadvantaged children in the Holy Land.

Mrs Harris is one of a dedicated team who regularly visit 200 children known to the organisation, mainly through some 30 schools in the area. Her role is to provide financial support, compassion in practical ways and to listen to the problems that these children share with her.

Northumberland's former Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett. Picture by Jane Coltman

Northumberland's former Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett. Picture by Jane Coltman

These visits to Palestine are usually made twice a year and at her own expense.

Her house is open to anyone in need. She also uses her home for charity events such as coffee mornings to raise funds for the church.

Long-serving councillor Robert Arckless, the former chief fire officer for Northumberland Alex Bennett and Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner have also been recognised.

Coun Arckless, currently Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, receives the MBE for services to the community.

Dame Vera Baird

Dame Vera Baird

Council leader Grant Davey said: “We are delighted at this news for Robert, who has provided exemplary service to this council, numerous other organisations and the county over many years.

“The honour recognises Robert’s service and commitment to the community and it is difficult to think of a more deserving recipient. It is an achievement he should be extremely proud of.”

The 58-year-old has been a member of Amble Town Council for 34 years so far, twice serving as mayor. He is a former chairman of the county council, of which he has been a member since 1989, and was former chairman of Alnwick District Council.

He has also been member of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) for more than 25 years, becoming its chairman in 2011.

Through his leadership of IFCA, he has helped in the transformation of the statutory inshore management regime which affected the whole British fishing community.

He is also a founder member of the Amble Multi Agency Crime Initiative which has been renamed the Amble Youth Project.

Through his work as a county councillor, he sat as a school governor on four governing bodies. He is also heavily involved with his local parish church and was appointed as a Lay Canon of the cathedral church of St Nicholas in Newcastle by the Bishop in recognition of his services to the parish of Amble.

He is an active fund-raiser for the RNLI and a founding member of the Amble Development Trust.

Alex Bennett, who retired as the county’s Chief Fire Officer in July 2016, has been awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal.

He was nominated for the award after 14 years in Northumberland, described as exemplary and innovative, and 18 years with the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Since arriving in the county in 2002, he served in a series of roles, taking up the post of chief fire officer in January 2012.

The nomination comes on the back of his excellent leadership, delivering significant improvements and outcomes for communities in Northumberland.

These include the co-location of fire and rescue teams in Seahouses, Ponteland, Bellingham and Haltwhistle, and work on the highly successful road safety initiative Operation Dragoon.

Northumberland County Council chief executive Steven Mason said: “Alex led the fire service through challenging times, and this has now been properly rewarded.

“We would like congratulate him on his Queen’s Fire Service medal and thank him for all of his hard work in the county. There is no-one who is more deserving of this medal.”

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Brandon Lewis, added: “The Queen’s Fire Service Medal is a symbol of distinguished service and devotion to duty. I would like to congratulate Alex Bennett and thank him for the exceptional leadership he has shown in Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.”

Vera Baird, Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, is made a Dame in the New Year Honours list for services to women and equality.

She said: “This was very delightful and surprising news. I am particularly pleased that the award specifically refers to services to the cause of women and equality, recognising that gender equality is desirable for the country and for everyone in it. There have been great advances but there is still more to do.

“It is important we also continue addressing other forms of equality, across race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and the other protected strands in the Equality Act 2010, which I helped to take through Parliament, as Solicitor General.

“I have been a long-standing equality campaigner, as a lawyer, an MP a Government Minister and now as Police and Crime Commissioner, in particular tackling the significant interference with human rights caused by violence against women and girls, still rife in our society. Many others have worked equally hard and our greatest task ahead is fundamentally to change the culture so that no such violence is ever acceptable and those who perpetrate it are rejected.”

She added: “I feel truly proud to receive this honour, and see it as giving the cause of equality a boost. I would like to thank all the many people who have supported, helped and encouraged me over the years. We must continue to work together to achieve the equality we are fighting for.”