Monday, 23 February 2015

The election is a looming and I would like to know what Labour offers Prudhoe

An open letter sent directly to my county councillor

Dear Eileen

You are my county councillor. About 70 days hence is the election. I googled “Councillor Eileen Burt” and this is the result. . Going forward the Labour party has the opportunity to persuade folk to vote. I am interested in knowing your vision of what Prudhoe might expect to gain from a Labour party win and if this was repeated, what policies there are say over a 12 year period to change the town. Specifically will the Labour party be supporting the creation of a Neighbourhood Plan as other communities in Tynedale now have? What is the Labour party policy towards the electrification of the Tyne Valley Railway line and will this be the means to remove the Pacer trains?  As a local councillor what further improvements are visualised at our railway station and with our road network? I believe the expansion of Prudhoe calls for a new B road from Ebchester in the Derwent Valley to the Horsley interchange on the A69 with a new bridge crossing of the Tyne starting from the east end of Princess Way. This will not happen quickly but unless it features in policy it will never happen. The railway station this year missed out on better waiting shelter replacements (instead like for like). Just as the Northern refranchise cannot be another stand still franchise, it would have been far more effective if the Labour party had campaigned for the real improvements needed locally. In the event it was left to people like Peter Nevin and myself and Network Rail have run rings around us. The lack of a Town Council Transport Working Group shows this up (and quite humanly there are real limits to what I can do voluntarily).  Many more issues are down there, the expansion of car parking (although I believe this is in hand from the county?). The better shelters for an expanding town are a necessity, so is a new footbridge. Proper integration with bus services and fares is another.

I would welcome both a new town centre and the redevelopment of Prudhoe hospital. But in each instance I want to know how electing a Labour government will ensure these become “excellent” projects, not will do. By this I mean for instance the thought that is given into community structures and employment opportunities at the hospital site and how some of the buildings there can be reused. To simply flatten and build nigh on 500 homes with no new transport infrastructure and employment provision to me stacks up problems. At the Town Centre I have long argued that the site demands the best solution, a Hanging Gardens of Prudhoe development with car parking hidden in the hillside. A result that meant the site’s many neighbours were wowed and not antagonised. Much of this is about planning. I am aware of many pressures in regard to the Green Belt. Prudhoe is within the Land of Oak and Iron heritage landscape project. The reason people will want to live in Prudhoe in part is because of its high quality landscape surround. How will electing a Labour government ensure that Prudhoe’s woodlands remain a gem? And how will Prudhoe benefit from the Land of Oak and Iron?

Over a whole range of issues, to my experience including transport spend, arts spend, heritage lottery spend the comparison per head between the North East Region and London is grossly disproportionate. If the Labour party form the next government I want to form an idea as to how a change in that policy will change Prudhoe for the better.

For my interests, these are the sorts of matters that I think need debate and I will be very keen that you locally as a leading Labour politician set out the stall. In that spirit I regard this as an open letter and any reply should be in a similar vein.

Yours Sincerely

Robert Forsythe
I am grateful for a reply to this letter received from Liam Carr, prospective Parliamentary Candidate of the Labour party in the Hexham Constituency.

Dear Robert,

Your raises a few issues, I will address each theme.

Rail Services.

Privatisation was a disaster for the railways. The whole franchising system has been a failure and passengers are paying more for a worse service, the Pacer trains are going but they will be replaced by cast off underground trains from London that may not be suited the Northumberland weather.

The next Labour government will allow the public sector to compete with private companies for rail franchises when they expire, this will result in public sector running sections of our rail network as soon as possible, in the same sort of way as East Coast did. 

We aren't saying we want to go back to some sort of 1980s British Rail, but we have to acknowledge that privatisation was a mistake and its one that we must rectify.

The next Labour Government will be different from the one elected in 1997, it is OK to say that some things like Health, Education and Transport, are too important to be left to market forces.

With profits coming back to the treasury, this will allow investment in the Tyne Valley line.

Roads and other infrastructure.

Labour will devolve power away from Whitehall, so instead of having to beg for real investment in the and ending up with a feasibility study, decisions will be made closer to home.

Labour has a strong track record of devolving power.  We passed the Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act and we are now committed to an English Devolution Act, which will reverse the centralisation which has occurred under successive governments in the recent (and not so recent) past.

We will transfer £30 billion of funding over five years, passing on power and resource not only for transport, which you mention, but also skills, employment support, housing and business support.

What difference will a Labour Government make in Prudhoe?

I have listened to many residents in Prudhoe who have been hit by the bedroom tax, this is an unfair tax particularly so in Prudhoe, where there are very few one bedroom properties to move into. Labour will repeal the bedroom tax.

We will also reverse the privatisation of our NHS by repealing the Heath and Social care act, the effects of which are being felt locally services at Hexham hospital are under threat. I want to be your next MP so I can defend our NHS.

There is still some concern about Education in our High school, Much of the discussion we hear is about structures; politicians on all sides have been guilty of arguing about if schools should be free schools, high schools, supported by the LEA or be an academy. However, when listening to concerns from parents, I hear that they are less concerned about structures  - most simply want a great local school, staffed by committed, well-qualified teachers, which provides good outcomes for all young people. If elected I will refocus the debate away from structures and back on what matters most; the students.

In this election we have a choice to make, about the kind of society we want to live in. I believe in a fair  society with a recovery that benefits the working people and not just the very wealthy and an economy that works for all and not just a few at the top.

I hope this reply is helpful, if you have any other policy queries please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Liam Carr

Liam (like Guy Opperman) has a blog which is at