Challenging and exciting times ahead in 2016

May I take this opportunity of wishing everyone in our Wansbeck Constituency a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

The next 12 months promise to be both challenging and exciting. This is the time of the year when we look forward with hope to better things to come and in that respect one of our biggest challenges is to ensure that we live in a fair society where everyone has the wherewithall to properly look after themselves and their families.

The rise in the number of people using food banks – locally as well as nationally – tells us that too many are still living in food poverty and that is a situation we must urgently tackle as a nation.

One way to do that is to ensure there are more opportunities to access sustainable, decently paid jobs and that young people can look forward with confidence to their futures. In that respect we need to ensure our schools are giving our young people the very best start in life from the earliest age.

We need to do more to provide decent affordable homes, either to rent or buy, and, of course, the health service needs continued funding to meet future healthcare demands.

All these issues will be vigorously pursued by myself and my Labour Party colleagues in Parliament as we keep up the pressure on the Government to ensure Britain has a fair society for all and not just the privileged.