An exceptional time but not an easy one for everyone

THE past year has been an exceptional one, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics really catching the imagination and bringing out the best in local communities.

We have had the severe blow of the closure of the Alcan Lynemouth smelter, but most of the staff have now got alternative jobs, the power station’s future has been secured with the help of my colleague, Energy Minister Ed Davey, and new businesses are being attracted to the smelter site.

For a lot of people it has not been an easy year, with pay frozen, energy costs going up and services having to be reduced in the continuing battle to cut Britain’s debts.

But tax on low pay has been cut, the 3p petrol tax increase has been stopped, pensioners have had the biggest ever rise and there are more apprenticeships and new jobs.

We will need to keep up the fight to dual the A1, particularly now that ministers are admitting that it is an important issue, and I am determined to see early progress not only on this but also on expanding high-speed broadband which is so important to rural businesses and to get greater further education opportunities in our area and I have had discussions with the new Principal of Northumberland College about his ideas for the Ashington campus and Kirkley Hall, both of which have important roles.

I wish Morpeth Herald readers a very good and healthy New Year.

ALAN BEITH