Sir Alan Beith: Berwick will gain from A1 plan

Ellingham junction of the A1 25 miles south of Berwick, where the dual road will become single carriageway
Ellingham junction of the A1 25 miles south of Berwick, where the dual road will become single carriageway

The A1 should be dualled all the way from London to Edinburgh, because it is the strategic road linking the two capitals and joining up the communities of Eastern England.

We will now get a lot nearer to that objective, even though the section to be dualled is closer to Alnwick than to Berwick, crossing the old Berwick borough boundary just north of Ellingham.

Vince Cable with Julie Porksen and Sir Alan Beith at the A1

Vince Cable with Julie Porksen and Sir Alan Beith at the A1

Have you been stuck behind slow moving traffic all the way from Morpeth to Felton? Have you lost your only chance to overtake slow lorries and caravans because two HGVs have decided to overtake each other on the short North Charlton dual carriageway?

That should all change when those gaps are dualled, and when overtaking lanes are added at three other points between there and Berwick.

I have pointed out many times that no government was going to do the whole A1 at one go, but, thanks to Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, this Coalition Government has programmed the biggest improvement to the A1 in 30 years.

This £290 million programme will benefit Berwick, and especially those who have to travel to Morpeth, Ashington or Newcastle regularly. It will be quite an upheaval while the work goes on, but it will be worth it.

And the campaign will continue to complete the last sections, including those which come under the Scottish government.

I am already discussing with Julie Pörksen and Michael Moore MP how we can take things forward from here.

AUTUMN GOOD NEWS

So what else was there in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement for North Northumberland?

First and foremost, a determination to stick to the plan which the two Coalition parties agreed on to cut the deficit as quickly as is manageable while making sure that the burdens are shared as fairly as possible.

Without Liberal Democrat co-operation with the Conservatives to take tough and sometimes unpopular decisions, there would have been a financial collapse on a scale we have not seen since the 1930s.

Getting through that crisis has enabled us to see real growth and given us the chance to raise pensions by record amounts and slash tax on low pay - soon there will be no tax on the first £10 ,600 of earnings.

Growth in our area will be encouraged by more business rate relief on small businesses and High Street shops, more help to take on apprentices, and the continued freezing of fuel duty which will help rural motorists. And VAT will be refunded for hospices and for the Air Ambulance.

Things are still tough for a lot of families, and there is still some way to go to get the country back into the black. Any opposition party which follows Labour’s current path of opposing all cuts without saying how they will cut the deficit which they left cannot expect to be taken seriously.

BERWICK MATERNITY

The latest recommendations from NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, are good news for Berwick mothers and Berwick’s midwife-led maternity unit. After our battle to save the unit, mothers who are preparing for a second or subsequent birth and do not have other known risks will be encouraged by the news that midwife-led units or home births are a good choice.

It is important to remember that it is a mother’s choice whether she has her baby in hospital, in a midwife-led unit or at home, but the choice of the Berwick unit will not be there unless it is regularly used. Mothers have told me that it is like a home from home, and the NICE guidance points to the benefits of the more relaxed and less clinical atmosphere at such units.

So many of us will be hoping to see an increase in the use of the Berwick maternity unit, especially given that there is a review going on of maternity facilities across the county.