The constituency of Wansbeck contains in the region of 62,000 electors and is one of the four seats in Northumberland. It is unique in that it borders every other seat in the county, Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the north, Hexham to the southwest and Blyth Valley to the South.
The population centres in the east of the constituency are made up of former mining areas, while to the west is the historic market town of Morpeth and the rural countryside surrounding it.
Despite Wansbeck being more urbanized than the rest of the county of Northumberland, it encompasses many areas of beautiful countryside and coastline. Plessey Woods, the QEII Country Park and Bothal village are just three examples. In addition the renowned Woodhorn Colliery museum perfectly captures the industrial heritage of the area and serves as a reminder of our coalmining past and the lives, values and struggles of our ancestors. It also houses the Northumberland archives which attract thousands of visitors interested in researching personal family histories.
Since the 1970s the area has witnessed a period of major economic restructuring with the decline of the coal mining industry. Northumberland’s last deep mine closed at Ellington, to the north of the constituency, in 2005, and took with it hundreds of jobs from Wansbeck.
The Rio Tinto Alcan plant at Lynemouth, just outside the constituency, closed in 2012. It was Northumberland’s largest private sector employer and the loss of jobs impacted the constituency greatly. It was estimated that £65m p.a. was lost to the local economy.
The attacks on public services and public sector workers that began under the coalition have continued under the present government. The public sector remains a major employer in this area and further attacks will have a genuinely devastating impact on the constituency.
Housing and planning reforms are a major issue in the area, as laws passed under the Coalition and present government have eroded local democracy and have shut out residents from the decision making process. Too much power has been given to developers, and it is vital for many areas of the constituency that this is addressed so that future developments can meet public need as well as private profit.
A large section of the constituency suffered from extensive floods in the past. In 2008, 1,000 properties in Morpeth were affected by flooding caused by a 12 hour period of rain in which a month’s rainfall fell. Since then, flood defences have been erected which spared the town from the January 2016 flooding, although there is work still to be done, particularly on the issue of flood insurance.
Small and medium sized businesses employ many people in the constituency. These businesses are a vital part of the long term regeneration and redevelopment of former coalfield areas and need support from central government to ensure that Wansbeck has a bright and prosperous future.