New Year message

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2011 has been a tough year for many of us locally.

We are facing up to the most serious financial challenge our country has faced since the Second World War.

The Government is helping to ease the pressure, by freezing Council Tax, cancelling the Fuel Duty rise on petrol, and helping pensioners with the largest cash rise in the state pension since 1948.

2011 has, however, also brought with it good news. The Royal Wedding reminded us all what a great country Britain still is. Locally, apprenticeships have grown, with a 50 per cent increase in our patch alone.

The Charity Walk of Hadrian’s Wall brought in over £4,000 for charities including Tynedale Hospice, and I must thank everyone who supported me both on the walk and during my illness.

We have also had a strong voice in Government. I am determined to take our case right to the very top.

Earlier this year, I was able to arrange the first ever meeting between the Education Secretary Michael Gove and our high school headteachers, including Ponteland, so they could tell him face-to-face the challenges and opportunities for our local schools.

I’m passionate about our local NHS and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley visited Hexham Hospital this year to see for himself the progress that’s being made on reducing mixed sex wards.

We still have a lot of work to do building our new economy.

We all know you can’t borrow your way out of a debt crisis. There is a long road ahead but if we stick with it we will have laid the foundations for a better future.