Happy New Year to all of you, a time which is normally full of optimism and hope for the year ahead – but sadly 2023 feels like it has begun in the same way we left the previous year.

An unprecedented crisis in our NHS and doctors and nurses across our region hit breaking point yet again this winter due to chronic underfunding.

Nationally, we are subject to huge A&E waiting times, paramedics stretched and patients waiting longer for treatment all as a direct result of 12 years of underfunding by the Conservatives.

As NHS workers give their all, they are met with a government not serious about negotiating on better working conditions.

Strikes are dominant in the public sector, with everyone from nurses to rail workers standing up for working rights and improved conditions with every trade union leader stating the obvious – the government aren’t serious about negotiations.

We face the ever-growing cost of living crisis, something which continues to push families to breaking point across the North East. Daily breaking news as prices peak while so many struggle, just yesterday we saw that inflation on fresh food had risen 15% in December on the previous year, something which sadly, has become a regular occurrence.

Now I’m not putting the North East down but I want to see us getting the same level of support as every other region and nation.

Under the Conservatives, the North East has the highest child poverty rate, the highest rate of suicide, the lowest life expectancy and the lowest average salaries in the UK. 2023 needs to be a year of change and one which brings hope back to the region.

Last week it was revealed a £4.2bn devolution deal had been agreed between the seven local councils in our region and the Government.

The deal which covers Tyne and Wear, Durham and Northumberland will see the election of a metro mayor, giving the North East an opportunity to tackle key issues which plague people across our region.

Key areas at the deal’s focus is on improved transport, better opportunities for every community and a budget dedicated to lifelong learning through investment in adult education.

Labour have been the driving examples of success in these deals.

Labour Mayors have led the way in Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire. The areas they represent have already benefitted from a £2 cap on bus fares helping commuters drastically, also from key housing initiatives and a huge level of investment in education.

Labour Mayors are the perfect example of what we can deliver when in power.

Nationally, Labour would deliver for the people of the UK.

We will fix the crisis in our NHS by creating an extra 10,000 nursing and midwifery clinical placements every year. We would tackle backlogs by employing more doctors and nurses, creating lower waiting times and introduce a National Care Service which fixes our longterm problems around social care.

We are committed to a real plan on levelling up, bringing our railways back under public control, delivering a landmark shift in skills and training to drive growth and equip our communities for the future.

We would invest in our high streets by tackling the issues around business rates which hit local shop owners and not huge global digital corporations.

We are committed to tackling the energy crisis. We will work to ensure our country is net-zero by 2030, protecting the futures of our children and the planet.

We would implement Great British Energy, a publicly-owned energy company focusing on producing more energy at home and utilising renewables – making energy bills cheaper.

2022 was a year wrought by Conservative chaos in which working people were asked to pay the price, and this looks set to roll into the early stages of this year.

However, 2023 is a new chapter for our country – the Labour Party will set out the case for change and the case for a new Britain, one which gives opportunity to people and restores faith in politics as a tool for good.