A very Happy New Year to Herald readers.
2014 will be my last full year as a Member of Parliament before I retire in April 2015 so I intend to make it another year of action on issues which affect our area.
Promoting jobs and apprenticeships, getting better funding for our schools and ensuring that the pupil premium helps disadvantaged children, developing further education, fighting to maintain services in our villages – and working to make sure that this Coalition Government, unlike the last two Governments, gets on with dualling the A1.
This will be the year in which we elect Members of the European Parliament, and with so many jobs in this area depending on Britain staying in Europe, we need to make sure we are represented by people who will fight to keep us in Europe and make it work for the North.
I pay tribute to my colleague and Whittingham resident Fiona Hall, who is also retiring, and has done exactly this as our MEP and as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament.
I will be backing Angelica Schneider’s campaign to succeed her.
2014 is also the year in which Scots will vote on whether to leave the United Kingdom and I very much hope that they will reject the SNP’s independence bid.
We are better off together, and here in the North we do not want to see barriers between ourselves and our neighbours over the border.
The Coalition Government will need to keep tight control of public spending so that we do not land future generations with unsustainable debt, but it will also need to continue its commitment to the highest ever basic pension, cutting tax on low pay, holding down petrol prices and doing as much as possible to limit household energy bills, and giving extra support to disadvantaged children.
Economic problems are still there; there will be no New Year bonanza, but things are gradually being improved. The job is not finished yet.