SOUTH Tyneside’s two MPs have been in reflective mood as they look back on 2013 – and reveal their hopes for the coming 12 months.
In South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck is coming to the end of her first year as town MP, and an eventful one it has proved to be.
She found much to celebrate, including the visit of the Duke of Cambridge to South Shields and the ongoing regeneration of the town.
But she expressed concern at the impact welfare reforms were having on her constituents.
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn also took up that theme and urged townsfolk struggling to make ends meet not to get lured in to taking on more debt.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “2013 has been an exciting year, with the birth of a new prince and some great English sporting successes giving people plenty to cheer. In South Shields we have had our own royal visit from the Duke of Cambridge, and the start of an exciting regeneration of our town.
“Unfortunately there has been bad news too. 2013 was the year when the bedroom tax came in to force, incomes faced a bigger squeeze than ever and record numbers were forced to rely on food banks to feed their families. Austerity has been in place since 2010, but for many this was the year when Government cuts really started to bite.
“Since my election I have spoken to a huge number of people who are struggling with bills or who suffer tremendous stress working on a zero-hours contract and not knowing if their employer will offer them enough hours to cover their living costs. Being elected the MP for South Shields has brought these issues into sharp focus and has made me all the more determined to fight to improve the lives of local people.
“I believe 2014 will be a pivotal year for South Shields and the whole of the UK. Britain needs to reject a recovery that works for the elite and not for the majority, and argue for a fairer society that supports people struggling in tough times. I will work hard to make that argument heard.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me through what has been a busy and exciting year. It is an honour and a privilege to be able to represent South Shields, and the help and encouragement I get from local people is a fantastic motivation. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!”
In his festive message, Mr Hepburn said it was “like the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher all over again”.
He added: “I know it’s been a tough year for many of you, the Tory-led Government’s poisonous austerity squeezing living standards. It’s like the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher all over again.
“But we’ve beaten them before and we’ll beat them again. The great community spirit on South Tyneside means we know how to celebrate and nobody likes a party more than us.
“So let’s come together, sing carols, reflect on the meaning of Christmas and have fun. Christmas Day especially is a day when families sit down together. The excitement on the faces of kids is one of the greatest joys in life. Even football and rugby matches feel extra special at this time of year. I know many of you will be thinking of loved ones unable to join, including soldiers serving in Afghanistan, or those working, particularly in public services such as the police, ambulance, fire and NHS.
“I thank them all and applaud too those who’ll pop next door to see an elderly or disabled neighbour because nobody should be alone at Christmas. I don’t want to be a Grinch but please don’t be tempted into plunging into huge debt.
“Buy-Buy-Buy TV adverts are not only seductive – they’re potentially ruinous.
“The present I yearn for most is the back of David Cameron. Sadly, I’m not going to find that in a stocking or under the tree on Wednesday morning.
“But I’ll have a good day too. Merry Christmas everybody!”