This year may be coming to an end, but there is still plenty going on in the Hexham constituency. December has been an incredibly busy month, and I have enjoyed meeting members of the community and travelling to all corners of the constituency.
At the start of the month we celebrated Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate small businesses and to encourage customers to shop local and support them.
Since small businesses are such an important part of the Hexham constituency, I launched my Small Business Awards to celebrate excellence. So many nominations were sent in. I visited those that received the most nominations, talking to owners and staff and handing out certificates of excellence.
Among those I visited were Amanti Cupcakes in Prudhoe, Bardon Mill Store and Tearoom, Richard Skeet Electrics in Haltwhistle, and Shorts of Corbridge. It was great to learn about their businesses and ambitions, and I hope everyone will join me in continuing to support our local, small businesses.
Christmas is just around the corner, and my 2017 Christmas card is being sent out around the constituency. The card was designed by Brooke Foster, a pupil at Prudhoe Castle First School, who was the winner of my 2017 Christmas card competition. Earlier this month Brooke and runner-up Lily Macaulay, of Ovingham Church of England First School, were invited to Kielder to see the felling of the Christmas tree that is now in Westminster.
Brooke was also invited to Westminster where we saw the Christmas tree decorated and in place on College Green– a great gift to Parliament from the Hexham constituency.
I also had the pleasure of welcoming Alicia Armstrong, my Hexham Constituency Community Champion of the Year, and her mother Maria to Westminster Hall, along with Gareth and Fiona Jones, of RedHot Property who very kindly sponsor the awards.
Alicia is a leukaemia survivor and has since set world records at swimming in the World Transplant Games and is also an ambassador for organ donation. Part of Alicia’s prize was a donation to her chosen charity, Josie’s Dragonfly Trust. I joined Alicia and Gareth to present the charity with a cheque. Alicia is truly an inspirational community champion and a well-deserved winner.
Another recent winner of a Community Champion Award is nine-year-old Josh Newton, a pupil at Prudhoe West Academy. Josh rides for Override Indoor Skatepark in South Shields, and was recently crowned as Under eight Champion at the Scoot Sport GB National Finals as part of Scoot Fest.
I went to meet Josh, and it was great to hear all about his experience at the tournament and his dedication and passion for scooter competition.
This month I held my Flood Forum in Hexham to update residents on the changes that have taken place across Tynedale and Ponteland since the devastating floods two years ago.
The meeting was attended by representatives from the Environment Agency, Northumbrian Water, Northumberland County Council and local parish councils, as well as residents and flood groups. I was pleased to see everyone working together to ensure we are prepared should the worst happen in the future.
As always, visits, meetings and surgeries have continued throughout the month. If I can help in any way with problems and concerns that constituents may have, please do get in touch. I hope that you all have a very happy Christmas, and a happy and healthy 2018.