Inspired by charity and businesses

Jake Berry MP visits EGGER UK in Hexham.
Jake Berry MP visits EGGER UK in Hexham.

The summer is almost here — one of my favourite times of the year, especially in Northumberland.

I am always amazed by how much goes on across the county in the summer months, and I am looking forward to this year’s busy programme of events. If the last few weeks are any indication, it will be a summer to remember.

May ended on a high note with the Northumberland County Show. I was pleased to be asked to judge and present prizes to some of the brilliant stands. There were some extremely difficult decisions to be made as every single stand caught the eye, showcasing some of the best products Northumberland has to offer.

It was great to meet so many of the people behind our local businesses and organisations. Well done to everyone involved.

I was delighted to welcome the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Jake Berry MP to the Hexham factory of EGGER UK, Northumberland’s largest private sector employer.

The Minister toured the factory, which employs more than 700 people and is one of Europe’s most advanced wood-based panel production facilities, as part of his visit to the county to discuss the Borderlands Growth Deal.

The deal brings together five cross-border local authorities, including Northumberland County Council, to promote economic growth and competitiveness around the Scottish-English border.

EGGER is a significant business for the Tyne Valley economy so I am pleased the Minister was able to see the factory and to see how forestry and wood processing can play a major part in the deal.

I am passionate about making sure that everyone has great opportunities, regardless of background. That is why I am so proud to have been appointed a Social Mobility Champion after Thompsons of Prudhoe signed up as the constituency’s first Social Mobility Pledge accredited employer.

The pledge is a commitment to improve social mobility by giving more opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Businesses commit to work with schools to help young people know about careers and to give work experience or apprenticeships. It also means having open recruitment.

Businesses like Thompsons of Prudhoe are key to tackling social mobility and helping to connect young people with the opportunities on their doorstep. I am proud to be involved with the Social Mobility Pledge and I hope that more local businesses will sign up.

My travels this month took me to Betel House in Hexham, where I met Sir Peter Vardy and David and Brenda Cox, who run the site. It is part of Betel UK, a charity for people affected by the hardships that lead to social exclusion, long-term unemployment, homelessness and addiction.

The site provides a tried and tested model of recovery and retraining in a family-like environment, with peer support. Residents are encouraged to aspire to a healthier lifestyle and to help fund their recovery by working in a charitable business, which includes furniture repair and gardening.

It was inspiring to listen to David and Brenda and to learn all about the work they are doing. I am a massive supporter of what they do.

Visits to RED Engineering and High House Brewery, as well as many others, rounded off a busy few weeks.

In the coming weeks I will be welcoming Northumberland County Council’s Produced in Northumberland team to the Houses of Parliament to showcase the county and promote its food and drink sector, which is an important part of our economy.

It looks like the summer is only going to get better in Northumberland. I can’t wait to meet of many of you as possible at events around the constituency.