On behalf of Northumberland Labour, I want to wish you the safest and happiest Christmas possible in these strange times. I appreciate that, even though we are so close to Christmas, people’s plans are having to change and families and friends are facing yet another year of not being able to be with the people they love.
In preparing to write this message I’ve looked back over the issues Labour was highlighting; Covid (of course), the economy, business, health and social care, transport, housing, education and the response to Storm Arwen. We believe there is no excuse in a rich country such as our own that you, the voter, should expect :
- effective management of the pandemic (instead of the UK having the dubious pleasure of having one of the highest death rates in the world, not helped by continuous mixed messaging and the appalling behaviour of No 10, government departments and cabinet ministers throwing parties while we were all making huge sacrifices and following the government instructions to the letter);
- proper support for business which enables them to keep going during these uncertain times (instead of contradictory messages leaving many business wondering if they can even survive, never mind grow and prosper);
- more help for people and families when they desperately need it (instead of taking away the £20 uplift in Universal Credit which meant some people were not able to put food on the table or heat their homes;
- proper rewards for health and social care workers (instead of the paltry and insulting pay offer to the NHS and a promise to ‘fix social care’ which means the better off will be, well, better off and as usual those with fewer resources have more to lose);
- a decent transport system which supports people in their work and private lives (rather than the ongoing debacle over the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line started by Labour but hit with endless issues because central government quite clearly do not care about people in our county);
- a warm, comfortable and safe home (we’re still waiting for affordable social housing to be built. Not one social home has been built in Northumberland in the life of the Tory-led council);
- an education system fit for our children which support all education staff and the vital work they do (instead of stripping funds out of schools forcing them to cut staff at a time when our children need as much support as they can get);
- an appropriate response to an adverse weather event (instead of lacklustre response which saw some people being without power for two weeks).
During the year I, along with the Labour group members, have listened to people right across the county, no matter how they voted in previous elections. From individuals, families, public sector workers and businesses we’ve heard that people need support, and their contribution to the economy and the life of this county needs to be properly rewarded and acknowledged. We’ve also heard that people need the basic things we should all be able to have; a decent home, a decent education, a decent job.
There is light and we have also seen and heard this. The people in our wonderful county have stepped up on many occasions when the government has not. The care and kindness from the community we saw in the response to Storm Arwen was heartwarming. I want the thank everyone who helped in any way.
We’ve also seen the emergence and continual development in green technology and we welcome the opportunity to be world leaders in this area because there will be well-paid jobs and we can address climate issues at the same time.
Since the Hexham East bi-election the Tory-led council, while still the leaders, do not have a majority. I want to thank candidate Jonathan Wheeler and everyone who worked on his campaign.
Northumberland Labour will continue to hold this Tory council leadership to account. We will work together where it is in the interests of people living right across the county. We worked hard to get a cross-party consensus to introduce parental and carer leave for councillors, making the role accessible to people with those responsibilities. I thank county councillors for their willingness to leave party politics aside and see the bigger picture, which means that we can all look forward to having councillors who better represent and reflect the population we serve.
As we begin another uncertain year, you have my assurance that we continue to listen and we are open to hearing all views. We still have a vision to make Northumberland the best county in the country to live in, and that means for everyone.
Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be part of that discussion.
I wish you, your families and friends the happiest Christmas possible and a safe, peaceful and healthy New Year.
With my very best wishes
Councillor Scott Dickinson
Leader, Northumberland Labour