Stand up for town's soul

What is happening to Berwick?

Saturday, 29th July 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 10:19 am

If you visit Alnwick, Morpeth or Hexham, they are so different – prosperous and bustling small towns, with a range of shops and services, well maintained and clearly thriving.

But the once lovely Berwick, in its amazing historic setting, appears run-down and scruffy, with many empty shops, apart from a few with well-meaning photography or art displays.

Unemployment is high and the prospects for the young, grim.

Our police station was open 24 hours, seven days a week, but will soon be only open from 10am to 5pm on week days, ie a quarter of what it was. Alnwick will soon be a third of what it was. Are we suddenly so good?

With regard to hospitals, follow-up to treatment will often now happen at Alnwick.

Recently for a small scan I was told Alnwick or Berwick couldn’t do it and I should go to Wansbeck (three buses), Cramlington, North Tyneside or Hexham. All for a 20-minute scan.

As far as I’m concerned, the academy is still not of a satisfactory standard.

And there is a great shortage of social housing. A few years ago, our now MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, explained in your paper how to buy your council house, thus adding to the shortage, but still neither she nor her leaders have revealed any plans for building replacement social housing.

Never mind, Berwick still has a train service, if you can afford it, the promise of a hospital (we can no longer use Melrose) and our CAB is widely known as a centre of excellence, which delivers a free and welcoming service to any of its more than 20,000 residents from outstanding paid staff and volunteers.

Oh, but not for much longer. The paid staff have been given notice from September.

Letters to your paper show the shock and dismay this is causing in Berwick, especially on behalf of those who, for physical or financial reasons, cannot use alternative venues or technology.

Among these letters, an informative one from Coun Parkin states how the decision was made by Northumberland CAB trustees.

There was also an excellent one from the representative of Berwick CAB volunteers P Vassie, stating ‘management is developing the telephone service centralised in Morpeth and will further be developing web chat services’.

She also states ‘core funding is stable and total income has increased in the last three years’. So why this decision?

How can we show support for our CAB and the soul of our lovely Berwick?

Inform our families, friends and neighbours about this. Attend any meetings and sign any petitions for this.

Write to your councillors, MP or Vera Murphy, chairman of Northumberland CAB, or Moira MacFarlane, chief executive of Northumberland CAB, at 89 Station Road, Ashington, NE63 8RS.

A Knight