The three MPs representing the constituencies of the former Castle Morpeth borough look back over the past 12 months and consider the possibilities and challenges that lie ahead for 2015 in their New Year messages.
SIR ALAN BEITH, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT MP FOR BERWICK UPON TWEED
The Morpeth area begins the New Year with a firm commitment that nearly £300million will be spent on dualling and improving the A1, including the busy and dangerous stretch from the end of the Morpeth bypass to Felton. That is a massive investment for our area and its future.
At the same time we have seen substantial investment in flood protection.
I am working very closely with Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey to enable the Lynemouth coal-fired power station to convert to biomass — a big investment which would safeguard over a hundred jobs. The problem is getting approval under European state aid rules and we are doing our best to get the clearance, which we believe is fully justified.
I hope that many families will see the benefits to their children of the pupil premium and free school meals for younger children.
And, from April, there will be no income tax to pay on the first £10,000 you earn.
I know I am reciting Liberal Democrat policies, but you would hardly expect me to do otherwise! They have been made possible by working in a Coalition Government, which has steadied the economy and made real progress in dealing with the debt.
These will be my last three months as a Member of Parliament, and they bring to a close the last of my 41 years in that role. This last Parliament has not got everything right, but in terms of what has been achieved, it is the one in which I am most proud of what we have been able to do.
Naturally I hope to hand on to a successor who shares my beliefs, locally brought-up Julie Porksen, and my New Year will include a lot of work helping her campaign.
Whatever your views, and whatever your own hopes for 2015, I wish you a Happy New Year.
IAN LAVERY, LABOUR MP FOR WANSBECK
If one thing is certain as we approach the New Year it is that 2015 is going to be a year of change.
In May we will elect a new Government to run the country for the next five years, and already it is looking like being the most unpredictable of elections.
For nearly five years we have been governed by a coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and whether that situation continues will depend on who the British public feels will be best equipped to take the country forward, nationally and internationally.
Whoever takes the keys to Number 10 Downing Street will face some immense challenges. They will need to get the economy moving in the right direction and working for ordinary people; ensure there are sustainable jobs for people of all ages and abilities; and grapple with broader international issues such as climate change, immigration and our national security.
In the wake of the Scottish Referendum and promises of greater devolution of powers north of the border, a new government will also need to ensure fairness and equality of funding across the whole country, and that will be of particular relevance for a region such as ours where we feel, and the facts back us up, that we have lagged behind others, particularly London and the south east corner, for far too long.
Closer to home in my Wansbeck Constituency, 2015 will also be an important year for Morpeth, the people of the town and surrounding communities.
Through organisations such as the Town Team, Morpeth will need to ensure it retains its status as one of the premier modern market towns in the region.
The town is clearly seen as a growth point north of the Tyne, with perhaps an unprecedented number of developers bidding to start work on new housing. These proposals will not be without controversy and it goes without saying that they will need to be carefully handled to ensure that developments in the local infrastructure keep pace with any new housing growth.
There is already pressure for places on local schools and we must ensure that this does not jeopardise the excellent standards of education that they currently provide. Pressure on healthcare facilities and other community services, let alone road and transport networks, must also be taken into consideration.
In 2015 the drive to maintain Morpeth’s reputation as a shopping and visitor destination must go alongside efforts to ensure more local people shop locally and enjoy the facilities on offer. Morpeth has got so much going for it — its history and heritage, unrivalled mix of large and small shops, and a splendid choice of places to eat and enjoy refreshments.
Recently I have been briefed about exciting projects, such as plans by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust to refurbish Morpeth Railway Station and develop office space for small businesses in what would be a unique trading location, and I hope they can be progressed in the new year.
Much of what is planned is encapsulated in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan that is being progressively developed by partners, led by Morpeth Town Council with excellent voluntary support from local people. The Plan could be the blueprint for taking Morpeth forward over the next 20 years.
For the past five years I have been proud to represent Morpeth in Parliament, along with the remainder of my Wansbeck Constituency, and I hope I have earned the trust of local people to continue to do so after May.
In the meantime, may I wish all your Morpeth Herald readers a happy, healthy and successful New Year.
GUY OPPERMAN, CONSERVATIVE MP FOR HEXHAM
Christmas and New Year is a time for looking back on the year that has just gone, and at what we have been able to achieve together.
2014 has been a good year for the Tynedale constituency. Last year, 690 local young people started an apprenticeship, up by more than 200 since the last General Election, so now even more young people are getting a good start in life.
I am also pleased to say unemployment has fallen dramatically — down by 51 per cent in our area since it’s peak in 2010.
My long-running campaign for a fairer funding deal for our schools will also start to bear fruit next year. The new agreement secured from the Government means next year alone Haydon Bridge High School will see its funding increase by £170,000, Prudhoe High School will receive an extra £205,000, QEHS an extra £256,000 and Ponteland High School £252,000.
This year I was also able to help secure an extra £5.6million in roads funding for Northumberland — more than for any other council in the North East. Our campaign to improve safety on the A69 also took a big leap forward as the Chancellor granted us a feasibility study on the possibility of dualling the road west of Hexham.
Our local NHS remains in good health with £4.6million invested in the brand new Haltwhistle Hospital, which opened this year. We also had success in our campaign to cut hospital parking charges, with the daily rate at Hexham Hospital now half what it was.
Perhaps my proudest moment was the success we had in convincing the Chancellor to scrap VAT on Air Ambulance fuel, which will now save the Great North Air Ambulance £24,000 every single year. That is the cost of ten lifesaving missions.
There is still much more work to be done next year to secure Northumberland’s future, but in the meantime I wish everyone across Tynedale a very Happy New Year.