Farming and schools are so important

Ponteland Community High School
Ponteland Community High School

Firstly, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and I hope that 2018 is a successful, healthy and prosperous year for every one of you.

Before Christmas I visited HC-One’s Acomb Court Care Home in Hexham to help celebrate its Christmas Jumper Day. I enjoyed being shown around and meeting residents and staff.

Acomb Court offers residential, dementia and nursing care, along with a wide range of activities and events for residents, and it was good to take part in its festivities.

I am passionate about ensuring that every single child in the Tynedale and Ponteland area has access to the best education and my relationship with local schools is an incredibly important part of my work as MP.

I recently visited Otterburn First School and met Headteacher Tina Henderson, as well as other staff and children. The school will soon benefit from the second highest rise in funding in the constituency, some 12.3 per cent, under the new National Funding Formula. I was also interested to see the newly opened nursery and to meet children enjoying mental maths lessons.

I was also pleased to be able to celebrate the formation of the Pele Trust with the six participating headteachers.

The trust brings together six good and outstanding schools in the Ponteland area that have joined together to share their experience and expertise, with the aim of further improving educational outcomes for young people. I wish everyone involved the very best for the future.

Farming is a vitally important part of the community in Northumberland so I was pleased that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove gave some much-needed clarification about farming after Brexit.

Farmers will receive payments for public good, such as opening up access to the countryside and enhancing the environment, as part of plans to replace EU subsidies.

Subsidies at the current level will be guaranteed until the 2022 election, after which there will be a transitional period. This new policy will ensure a fairer and more efficient system.

It was a pleasure to spend time at Girsonfield Stud and Racing in Otterburn to celebrate its expansion with the support of a grant from the LEADER programme, a European rural funding scheme. The grant has helped Girsonfield to increase the number of stables and improve training facilities. I was joined by owners Frank and Susan Corbett, racehorse owners and members of the Northumberland Uplands LEADER Action Group for a tour.

A highlight was being asked to ride eight-year-old Harleys Max, who was born and hand-reared at Girsonfield, and has won over fences. Girsonfield is a brilliant rural business that is continuing to expand and offers jobs and opportunities to young people.

With the cold month of January under way, it’s important to be prepared for winter. I would, therefore, encourage you all to get hold of my annual Energy Guide, produced in association with Calor.

The guide has been sent to thousands of homes and contains advice on how to make your home energy efficient and get the best deal from your energy supplier. If you would like a free copy, please contact my office.

I look forward to another busy month for Tynedale and Ponteland. I hope to see as many of you as possible on my travels around the constituency as I continue to work hard for everyone in the area, and, as ever, please do get in touch if I can help you in any way.