Liz writes July 2019

Last week our Great Summer Get Together in Ryton was a fantastic moment, as our community came together to celebrate that we share more in common than that which divides us.
The annual event is inspired by the life of the young Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered three years ago. Jo’s maiden speech was themed around “more in common”, which saturated every part of her short but inspirational life.
I was delighted to be joined by two other inspirational women at the event; Angela Rayner, our Shadow Education Secretary, and Kim McGuinness, who is standing at the by-election for Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
Kim hopes to replace Dame Vera Baird, who has been appointed the Victims’ Commissioner. She leaves a lasting legacy from the past seven years, especially in improving Northumbria Police’s work with victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Since becoming PCC Vera Baird has devoted her time and energy to making sure that we have the best police force possible, despite the savage cuts to police budgets over the last decade which have seen 21,000 posts cut nationally.
Alongside Vera and other northern MPs I have been arguing the case with the government that the cuts have gone too far. Northumbria police alone have already suffered disproportionate budget cuts of over £140 million and lost over 1,000 officers and hundreds of support staff. The pressure on our Police is simply unsustainable.
So the challenge is great, but I am confident that while Vera is going to be a very hard act to follow, as a party we have the best possible candidate to lead us forward in Kim McGuinness.
Serving Newcastle City Council as a councillor since 2015, she knows the real issues on the ground. Her credentials as someone prepared to work hard for the community she represents, saw her elevated to a cabinet role a year after being elected to the authority. She now oversees culture, sport and public health on the council and is well furnished to be the region’s next PCC.
I have been particularly impressed by Kim’s determination to become what she terms the ‘people’s commissioner’; someone who is embedded in the communities she would represent and the voice of the people to the police.
Kim has pledged to ensure our force’s limited resources are put to the best possible use to cut crime and disorder on the ground in our communities and online. And focusing not just on crime, but on the causes of crime – situations of inequality and injustice- is the right agenda for the future.
Kim’s plans to work with local people to understand what they want from their local police force are vital, and I know how strongly my own constituents feel about protecting frontline community policing.
Our joint visit to the Co-op in Ryton to discuss retail crime confirms that local businesses also want to see a continuing presence on our streets, to deter would-be criminals.
We’re fortunate to have so many dedicated community cops locally, but they are overstretched and often unable to do the essential work of preventing crime that they signed up to do.
Looking north of the border there are good examples of how Scotland is cutting crime and disorder across the country by working closely with agencies like health, education and social workers to uncover what drives people into criminal activities in the first place, as well as acknowledging and appreciating the fall-out among people who become victims of crime.
Kims background in public health places her well to develop more of a preventative approach here, focused on tackling the inequalities that lead to crime. The approach that has delivered big reductions in cities like Glasgow and London, as well as Chicago in the United States can work here too.
On Thursday 18 July you have the chance to elect someone determined to really make a difference in ensuring all our communities are safer places to live and work. We need a strong champion for the Northumbria area and I hope you join me in voting for Kim.

Liz visits Brightsparks Nursery in Crawcrook

 

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I visited Brightsparks Nursery in Crawcrook last weekend, and was delighted to see all the fantastic work staff there are doing to make it an “Outstanding” rated Nursery.

Unfortunately, maintaining this standard is now going to be very difficult. The Government’s new funding regime has created a major shortfall for many nurseries -Brightsparks included- and staff are very worried about making ends meet.

I am therefore going to be doing what I can to put pressure on the Government to reconsider this appalling decision.

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Today I asked the Minister for Children, Young People and Families how nurseries are supposed to remain open when facing such a shortfall under the new funding regime.

After staff at the nursery had told me how difficult they were finding it to make ends meet, I was determined press the Minister on this.

I hope the Minister will now take a thorough look at the costings of the new funding.

 

Liz visits Northumbria Police

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Yesterday I spent the day with Northumbria Police to find out about their work on the ground. I started at Whickham Police station, went on to the control room at Ponteland, met the Safeguarding team based in Gateshead and visited the custody suite at Forth Banks and finished by going out on patrol with my local neighbourhood police team.
Thanks to all the officers and police civilian staff who took the time to show me policing on the ground.

The Government must give our police service the funding it needs to protect us. Our local police are doing a great job but are really stretched to do all that we ask them to do.

Liz’s column, March 2018

Challenging events often reveal the very best in people. I would like to pay tribute to all those local heroes who have been clearing roads and digging out stranded cars, visiting older neighbours and delivering groceries to the housebound. Volunteers, good neighbours and public servants in our local councils, NHS and police have kept out communities going this week in the heavy snow. The Beast from the East is no match for the community spirit of the North East.

We’re known around the country as the friendly region of England and the Geordie welcome and sense of humour are unparalleled. But our region is also internationally recognised for our innovation, imagination and creativity. We have a long history of leading technological change. The North East makes claim to such inventions as Joseph Swan’s lightbulb, Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive, Walker’s friction matches and in more recent times Sir Jonathan Ive, the visionary behind the iPod, who trained as a designer at Northumbria University. We’re also home to so many award-winning artists, writers and musicians.

So, I’m delighted that this week, as we look ahead to warmer days, more has been revealed about the Great Exhibition of the North. For the first time ever, a great exhibition will bring the world to the North East and it is set to be the biggest event in England this year. The three-month celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit – our inventors, artists and designers – will demonstrate how our region has shaped the world and is building the economy of the future.

Over 80 days Gateshead and Newcastle will become the national showcase for dozens of amazing exhibits, live musical performances, displays of innovation, new artworks and magical experiences – and it will be free. Tourists can follow three walking trails around Tyneside towards The Baltic, Sage Gateshead and the Great North Museum. The BBC have also partnered up, so expect to see plenty of coverage of our beautiful region on the telly. This year will truly be one to remember as people “#GETNorth” for the celebrations.

On to another big beast from the North East – Red Ellen Wilkinson. Last week I was delighted to attend a talk about the pioneering Jarrow MP at the Brewery Tap in Dunston, the home of “Red Ellen” ale. In this centenary year, when we celebrate womens’ suffrage, there is much we can learn from Ellen Wilkinson.

As a Jarrow marcher, trade union organiser and later the Education Minister in the post-war Atlee government, she was instrumental in the fight for jobs, reducing working hours for hard-pressed industrial workers, increasing the school leavers age, introducing school milk and she was scorned by the Nazis for her opposition to their brutality. My good friend from North West Durham, Laura Pidcock MP joined me as we both shared our own experiences as women in Parliament and lessons we can learn from the fierce Labour MP known as “The Fiery Particle”.

We are celebrating another anniversary this year. Our angel has turned twenty. I am so proud that the Angel of the North keeps watch over my constituency. Many of you will have seen the interview with Sid Henderson, the former Gateshead Councillor who led the way, against much criticism, to build the angel in 1998. Sid reminded us of the challenge that Gateshead’s Labour councillors faced in convincing the public that the angel would bring tourism and prosperity and put the region on the world map.

Just along the road in Birtley is another great home of art. I visited the Thought Foundation earlier this month and was deeply impressed by this hidden gem. The arts centre and cafe is based on the values of human kindness and thoughtfulness. Their exhibitions exploring issues around Brexit and the environment are quite spectacular. With so much media attention on the plastic waste contaminating our oceans, I would thoroughly recommend a visit to see their installation highlighting the issue using thousands of disused plastic cups. There’s plenty to see, do and think about in this family friendly space.

Gateshead Council picks up 4 prestigious awards at the “North East Care Awards”

The awards are held annually to celebrate excellence across the social care sector in the region and to recognise and celebrate the contribution of outstanding teams and individuals. The awards also bring together the statutory, independent and voluntary sectors.

Liz added “Gateshead Council’s Adult Social Care service had two employees, a team and a nurse who works in one of its short stay respite centres, as outright winners at the North-East Care Awards ceremony. Congratulations and keep up the good work!”