Bus Cuts – Let us know your thoughts

Go North East are removing bus services and routes in order to make their business sustainable.

They have an ongoing consultation process that we need as many people as possible to have their say and to help try and protect our communities.

As your local Labour team, we wanted to make you are aware that you need to have your say in the consultation by 31 May. You can do this and see the plans for service reduction at https://www.gonortheast.co.uk/consultation

Whilst go North East are a private company, we want to make sure your voice is heard throughout the council and in Westminster also, please do contact us with your thoughts on the consultation ran by Go North East so we can make sure your community is speaking as loudly as possible. Together, we can give this our best shot to help protect some of the worst cuts outlined by Go North East.

Fill out the form below to let us know

 

The Derwent Walk

Just before Parliament was prorogued, I had the privilege of presenting a petition on behalf of many of my constituents involved in the Save our Derwent Walk campaign.

The Derwent Walk Country Park, running from Swalwell through Winlaton Mill to Rowlands Gill, is a great mixture of woodlands and riverside, with amazing views over the Derwent Valley and a fine mix of flora and fauna. The country park has been formed from the route of the former railway line from Consett to Newcastle, closed in 1962.

It is such an important part of our community – people from across the region come here to walk, sight see, fish and immerse themselves in a such a unique environment.

I’m proud that my constituency contains such a great part of our history and our heritage, from the Nine Arches Viaduct, views of Gibside to the Butterfly Bridge, there is so much to celebrate across this glorious landscape.

But now this vibrant and wonderful country park faces the threat of destruction or irrevocable change through the proposal of a permanent rail link route being put through its centre. An outline business case has been submitted to the Department for Transport.

Tearing through this wonderful and vibrant country park to recreate a railway would be nothing less than environmental vandalism and would hugely damage our local environment as a result.

Some incredible local activists have come together to form the ‘Save Our Derwent Walk’ group and there has been a huge level of support and love shown to our Derwent Walk, and a great determination to retain the park and the opportunity for people from across Gateshead to walk, cycle and enjoy nature.

It was with their help that I was able to deliver the petition from my constituents showing the support for this walk to Parliament – but amazingly, the paper petition was backed up by more than 25,000 signatures on an online petition, showing a huge amount of support in the area for the Derwent Walk Country Park.

I will continue to do all I can to support this campaign and to protect the heritage and history of the region.

But we do need improved transport links. I fully understand that need and demand for better transport links across our region. I am a passionate advocate of this in Westminster. Seeing bus services to so many communities under threat, I have been vocal about the need for extra support to help protect bus companies as they rebuild after the pandemic.

I backed the ambitious plans set out by Transport North East in its recent Bus Service Improvement Plan and it was great to see it receive the largest allocation of funding in the country. It will allow it to look forward and plan for the future of our services.

It’s not as much as we need and not as much as we asked for, but the allocation of £163.5m will transform bus services across the North East, greatly improving the bus network for millions of passengers and encouraging more people to make the switch to bus.

As a regular bus user in both the North East and in London, I know the value in having a great bus service. It can vastly change communities and open up opportunities for our young people in our community. Something that can vitally change our region for the better.

The ambition to improve our transport links should not come at the cost of a vital part of our environment and heritage.

The Derwent Walk is popular with so many visitors and with it being such a popular cycle route. It would be devastating to lose this at the heart of my constituency, and I know this will be a concern for all the surrounding communities.

Our region needs better transport links and the Blaydon constituency most certainly wants them. We should be looking at longterm, affordable measures that can serve the whole of the North East and it should not come at the cost of so many residents within the communities I represent.

Above anything else, we should absolutely remain committed to not tearing up the beautiful landscape of the Derwent Walk.

Tell me your energy security concerns

Boris Johnson just announced his Energy Security Strategy and much like the rest of the announcements from this Conservative Government, it raises a lot of questions.

I want to hear from my constituents on this issue, please fill out the form below and tell me what you would like me to be asking the Prime Minister and his government regarding the future of our energy security.

Time is running out fast to take action and save our planet, I want to make sure your views are represented in this vital discussion so fill in the form below.

 

This government talks the talk on levelling up but the reality is poverty in the north is going up

 

In 2022, MPs in the world’s fifth richest economy should not need to talk about child poverty or regional inequalities, yet sadly, too many of my constituents, and people living across the whole of the north of England, face very real issues. Inequality directly impacts our children, cutting their opportunities, health and even their life expectancy. Yesterday, I led a Westminster Hall debate, to focus Parliament’s attention on the growing crisis, with a call for urgent action.

The Child of the North report published earlier this year by NHSA, a group of academics and health specialists, found that inequality and low living standards are deepening across the region. The figures are stark. Nearly a third of children in the north now live in poverty – and 60% of our councils have above-average numbers of children living in low-income homes.

The report also found that children across our region spent more time in lockdown than their peers in the rest of England, they are more likely to grow up in care, and our children are less prepared when they start school than those in the rest of England. We see higher levels of poverty and infant mortality, poorer educational attainment, lower life expectancy and worse mental health outcomes in children and adults.

And Covid-19 has deepened the crisis, with our region subjected to longer lockdowns, higher levels of infection, and, sadly, a higher number of deaths. I agree with the NHSA that without intervention the outlook for our region is bleak.

There are people on the ground across my constituency – Blaydon – taking positive steps to make things better. Organisations like Gateshead foodbank in Blaydon and Birtley; the Blaydon Community Larder; the Gateshead West pre-loved school uniform scheme; The Winlaton Centre; The Bank in Chopwell; Birtley Hub and so many other groups right across Blaydon constituency are taking action. But it shouldn’t have to be like this.

The most recent data from the North East Child Poverty Commission, shows the North East had the UK’s second highest rate of child poverty with an average of 37% of all babies, children and young people in our region growing up poor, compared with a UK-wide average of 31%. We also saw the steepest growth in child poverty in the six years leading into the pandemic, rising from 26% to 37% – compared with a UK-wide rise of 2 per cent in the same period.

The North East has also experienced the steepest increase in the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) of anywhere in England during the pandemic – having already had the highest proportion of pupils eligible for FSM before hand.

And poverty is hitting many working families, too. The TUC found that 108,775 of the children living in poverty in the North East come from homes with at least one parent or carer in work – an increase of 52% in the number since 2010. So, its not about parents who refuse to work, but rather a lack of secure, well-paid jobs in our region.

Yet in recent months we’ve seen action from this government that will only level down the life chances of our children. The removal of £20 per week from universal credit is already hurting and next month the government will implement the largest increase in taxation since the 1950s, at a time when inflation and household bills are soaring. Our communities face a gruelling period in the months ahead.

Yesterday I called on the government to establish an urgent, cross-departmental child strategy. The government must act now to reverse the regional trends. That means an increase in child benefit by at least £10 per child, per week, and lifting the two-child limit and benefit cap. They must reverse the £20 cut to Universal Credit, too.

Ten years of Tory austerity saw Labour’s highly effective Sure Start programme slashed. Johnson’s government must now reverse those cuts, with investment in long-term, transformative services that children, young people and families use, such as family and community hubs. This government talks the talk on levelling up, but the reality is poverty in the north is going up. It’s time for Johnson’s lot to walk the walk.

Environment Action Together – Online Meeting

I am holding an online event on Wednesday 23rd February to discuss what we can do, both nationally and locally to help save our planet. Will you join me?

When: Wednesday 23rd  February 7-8pm

Where: Online

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