Yet more painful cuts on the way

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Can I start by wishing all readers a happy, healthy and hopefully prosperous New Year.

This is, of course, a time to look forward to what lies ahead for all of us during the coming 12 months, perhaps with some optimism that things can only get better than they have been of late.

But will that be the case?

As members of parliament returned to Westminster after the festive break, the first thing that greeted them was Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne telling the country that 2014 will be the time for us all to face up to the hard truth that more painful cuts wait in store for us as a country.

Not an encouraging start when so many people are seeing their standard of living continually squeezed by rising costs at a time when their incomes are either stagnant or reducing. And when benefit payments are being cut and many jobs are still at risk.

In that regard what must have been particularly galling for thousands of people whose homes and businesses were flooded over Christmas and New Year to learn that the Environment Agency is to axe some 1,500 jobs, some directly involved in flood protection work.

The storms dramatically illustrated how the whole country is facing up to the prospect of more extreme weather in the years ahead.

In this instance we escaped the worst of the weather here in the north east, but we must ensure that investment is increased rather than being cut, to give people the protection and peace of mind they need to keep their homes and businesses safe.

Work should be completed this year on Morpeth’s improved flood defences, and in the light of what has been happening elsewhere in the country, we would have to say not a moment too soon!