An important year ahead in more ways than one

FIRST of all, let me wish each and everyone in my Wansbeck constituency a happy, healthy, prosperous and successful New Year.

Whether it’s local shops and businesses or residents of the town and surrounding area, 2013 is going to be an important year in more ways than one for Morpeth.

First and foremost, everyone will be eagerly awaiting the scheduled start of improvements to the town’s flood defences.

The last few days of 2012 once again dramatically showed how communities right across Britain are finding themselves at the mercy of the extreme weather conditions which are becoming more and more the norm rather than the exception.

Morpeth will remain vulnerable until the improved flood defences are in place and I will be doing what I can to make sure work starts – and is finished – on time.

Along with colleagues from around the country I will also be keeping up the pressure on the Government to ensure a scheme is put in place without delay to make insurance affordable to everyone in areas prone to flooding.

It goes without saying that 2013 will continue to be a challenging time for all of us because of the state of the economy, continued uncertainty over employment prospects, rising prices and the ongoing threat to the high street.

The latter is of particular concern to Morpeth and I will be looking to work with the local Chamber of Trade and the new Town Team to do what I can to ensure Morpeth remains one of the leading – if not the leading – market towns in the region.

Retailers are under greater pressure than ever because shoppers have less money in their pockets and purses coupled with the growing competition from out-of-town shopping centres as well as online internet shopping.

But Morpeth has a unique offering because of its attractive town centre and excellent mix of big-name stores and niche, independent businesses and we must work to get that message out to as wide an audience as possible.

I have been told of a number of major events planned for 2013 that will really put Morpeth on the map and I am confident they will bring people into the town, giving everyone an opportunity to showcase Morpeth in a way that must be grasped for the future good of the town.