Today, you will have your say on your next local councillor and the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner. And for readers in North Tyneside, the Elected Mayor is also on the ballot. The real choice on most ballot papers is between a Labour Party committed to a better future – improving local services after a decade of austerity that saw our council budgets decimated and key workers betrayed, and a Conservative Party mired in sleaze, cronyism and incompetence.

The NHS has done a wonderful job on the vaccine rollout and I’m grateful that it wasn’t contracted out to Matt Hancock’s mates. But let’s be in no doubt, on every other issue this has been a terrible year for Conservatives in power. 

We mustn’t forget this Government’s failure to lockdown fast enough, the incompetence of Health Ministers to get a proper test and trace system running or comments by the Prime Minister about letting the bodies pile high. Nor should we forget that Britain has suffered the highest death toll in Europe and the deepest recession in 300 years. We’re not out of the woods yet, with uncertainty on the future of the virus and the economy.

It is now clear that Boris Johnson has presided over the greatest abuse of British taxpayers’ money in history, through his wasteful approach to outsourcing public contracts to his chums. It really is infuriating to read about the friend and neighbour of a Tory minister getting £30million of taxpayers’ money, while towns and communities across the country see their local services slashed. And it’s even worse when taxpayers cash is wasted on government contracts that don’t even deliver.

Not content with wasting public money on handing failed health contracts to his cronies, Johnson still hasn’t answered questions over whether he sought to squander tens of thousands of pounds of Conservative donor cash on his flat in Number 10. The “Cash for Curtains” scandal is a national embarrassment. Any other Prime Minister would show remorse, but not Johnson. On his watch, sleaze is back in a big way and just like a fish rots from the head down, this toxic culture started in Downing Street but extends into the country.

Closer to home, Conservative-controlled Northumberland County Council has been rocked by scandal over the last year, with accusations of wrongdoing, racism and failure to act in the best interest interests of the Council leading to the eventual departure of the Tory Leader, following a vote of no confidence. Such was the sleaze that even his own side voted him out!

In contrast, we see a changed Labour Party. We’re putting working people and their communities first, focusing on creating jobs, tackling crime and protecting the NHS. As we emerge from of the pandemic our vision for Britain is simple: we want this to be the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in, whoever you are and wherever you live.

We would invest billions in the economy to create hundreds of thousands new jobs in the industries of the future, including steel and manufacturing. We would also introduce a guarantee for young people to get them into work, training or education and end long-term unemployment. And unlike this government, we won’t just clap our key workers, we’ll pay them properly. Thats why we’re guaranteeing the proper pay rise our NHS heroes were promised.

There’s no reason we can’t have better paid jobs, better schools, thriving high streets, public services that put people first and an NHS that is the envy of the world again: we just have to prioritise them. And those priorities are on the ballot paper today.

A vote for a Labour councillor is a vote for a better future for your community. I urge readers to re-elect our brilliant Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness. Kim is investing in more frontline police, way more than the government has offered. And 60 new detectives to take on the more sinister, organised and violent criminals. Kim’s work to deter young people from falling into crime is making a real difference, but there’s always more to do.