New Year message

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2011 has been an extremely difficult year as people in Wansbeck and beyond have experienced the effects of the Coalition Government’s savage cuts to jobs and services.

These cuts will devastate our communities and are further damaging a fragile economy.

The coalition has choked off the recovery and more families face the new year without a job than at any time since the early 1990s.

Two of the largest jobcentres in the Wansbeck Constituency already have more than 30 JSA claimants for every job vacancy, which is an absolutely frightening statistic.

The Coalition Government claimed that the new jobs in the private sector would outweigh the number of public sector cuts.

This simply hasn’t happened. In the last quarter for every 13 jobs lost in the public sector, just one was created in the private sector.

Sadly, the situation at the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter and power station continues to threaten the jobs at the largest private sector employer in Northumberland. The consequence of closure does not bear thinking about.

The loss of more than 600 jobs would have a catastrophic effect on the employees and their families and would be a disaster for the local economy and those employed in the supply chain.

In my view, the Government should intervene as a matter of urgency to secure the future of the smelter and power station. The funding announced by the Government for energy-intensive industries is quite simply not enough when you think of the number of companies that will be seeking to access that fund.

Being in power is about making choices, the Coalition Government has an opportunity to save the jobs and show some real commitment to Wansbeck, Northumberland and the North East, the ball is in their court.

I hope very much that 2012 will see progress on the delivery of the much-needed flood defences for Morpeth, and also on the issue of insurance for residents and businesses.

Whilst there are numerous individuals, politicians and organisations who have worked tirelessly on these issues, I would like to take this opportunity to make special mention of the Morpeth Flood Action Group for their excellent ongoing work on both issues.

As we approach 2012, our thoughts must be with those in the forces who are serving so bravely in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families all a happy, healthy and peaceful 2012.