Map of Blaydon and Consett area with "Q&A with candidates" text.
Map of the Blaydon and Consett area featuring "Q&A with candidates" for the upcoming general election.

As we gear up for the general election on 4th July, Consett Magazine has been on a mission over the last three weeks to connect with every parliamentary candidate vying for a seat in the Blaydon and Consett Constituency. We’ve tried everything—phone calls, emails, SMS, voicemails, and a flurry of social media messages—hoping to bring you the full scoop on their stances on the local issues that matter. Despite our best efforts, some candidates seem to be playing hard to get. Missing in action are Vicky Anderson (Liberal Democrats), David Ayre (Reform UK), and Paul Topping (Social Democratic Party). If they’re this elusive now, imagine trying to get a hold of them post-election!

Here are the 10 key questions we asked all candidates, along with the responses from those who took the time to engage:

  1. Shotley Bridge Hospital: What steps will you take to ensure the hospital is built promptly, addressing residents’ concerns about delays and uncertainty?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives:  I have been working closely with Richard Holden on ensuring the prompt construction of Shotley Bridge Hospital. I will continue to address residents’ concerns through regular updates and consultations.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: The Green Party has announced the boldest plans of any of the major parties to invest in our NHS. By creating a fairer tax system, where the wealthiest pay their fair share, we promise to invest an additional £50 billion in health and social care. As MP for Blaydon and Consett I will work hard to ensure Shotley Bridge Hospital receives the additional funding that’s been promised. I have a personal connection with the Hospital as both my children were born there and my wife was treated there for breast cancer. I believe the investment in health services in the district is a positive thing, but it must be balanced against the concerns of those who may be adversely affected by any development. I will always make myself available to listen to residents and mediate between them and others to ensure that, where possible, compromises or mitigations are put in place and adhered to. 

Liz Twist, Labour: In 2019, the Tories promised a new hospital for the people of Consett and over a full term of parliament, they failed to deliver. The money to deliver this has been allocated and we now need to get on with the rebuild. This will be a key priority for me if elected on July 4. 

  1. Pharmacies and Healthcare Access: How will you support local pharmacies to ensure residents have access to essential healthcare services without overburdening GPs?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives:  I will support local pharmacies by advocating for fair funding and resources, ensuring they can provide essential healthcare services and alleviate pressure on GPs.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: Our £50 billion investment in the health service will see major benefits for pharmacies, GPs, dentists and the whole system. A lot of access issues exist because demand for services far exceeds supply. GP and dental appointments now seem like relics of a golden age. Only by investing in all parts of the healthcare system can we hope to improve access and reduce waiting times.

Liz Twist, Labour: Pharmacies are a really vital part of our health service, and closures have affected the very communities that need them most. I’ve chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rare Diseases and I’m really passionate about making life easier for people with long term conditions. A Labour Government will get pharmacists working to the top of their licence, as part of our plan to move care closer to communities and get the NHS back on its feet.

  1. Mental Health Services: What measures will you implement to improve mental health care in light of increased demand and recent criticisms of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives:  I will push for increased funding and resources for mental health care, particularly for the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust, and support calls for a public inquiry to address recent criticisms.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: I declare an interest here. I was a non-executive director at Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust between 2013 and 2019. I still serve on its mental health panels which determine whether patients are being legally detained. I would support a public inquiry into what went wrong at the Trust, but with the caveat that our Public Inquiry system needs reform. They take too long and by the time they report, the system has moved on. As the MP for Blaydon and Consett, one of my first meetings will be with TEWV’s Chief Executive to discuss mental health provision in the district and to work to improve access and outcomes. Again, I refer to the Green Party’s £50 billion commitment to investing in our healthcare system. 

Liz Twist, Labour: When I was first elected to parliament as the MP for Blaydon in 2017, I spoke about losing my late husband to suicide. It is a subject very close to my heart and one that I have been a lifetime campaigner on. I’m proud that Labour have set out our plans to recruit 8,500 new mental health professionals and that we will prioritise those who struggle with their mental health, particularly young people in our region. 

  1. Local Infrastructure: What are your plans to improve infrastructure in Consett and Blaydon, particularly in road maintenance and public transport, to enhance connectivity and support local development?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives:  Through my work as a local councillor, I have invested in road safety initiatives, including new speed visors and securing funding for a new Speedwatch van. I have also completed Speedwatch training and personally volunteered to tackle road safety. I will continue to secure investment for road maintenance and public transport improvements, enhancing connectivity and supporting local development in Consett and Blaydon.

Richard Simpson, Green Party :I know public transport is a big issue especially in the County Durham half of the constituency. Consett’s connectivity in particular is a cause for concern. I use bus services a lot and I can’t get a direct bus to Consett after 6pm or on Sundays. That’s not good enough. The Green Party is committed to improving public transport to reduce reliance on the car. We will champion better, cheaper public transport so that every community is connected and can thrive. We will increase annual subsidies for rail and bus travel to £10 billion by the end of the next Parliament. In addition we will invest an additional £19 billion over five years to improve public transport, and create new cycleways and footpaths for those able and keen to travel more actively. We will also bring railways back under public ownership. Potholes are visible reminders of what 14 years of Conservative Government has delivered for Blaydon and Consett. A Green Government will reverse the funding cuts to our local councils. For the record, I will certainly not be proposing turning the Derwent Walk back into a railway. 

Liz Twist, Labour: Public transport in the North East comes up in nearly every doorstep conversation I have, and as a bus user myself, I know just how unreliable the services can be.

From filling potholes, to bringing buses back under public control and trains under public ownership – Labour is the party ready to put public transport back in the hands of those who use it. We’ll accelerate the bus franchising process, give local leaders more control and flexibility over bus funding,and set aside funding for local authorities to improve the condition of roads. 

  1. Economic Development: How do you intend to attract new businesses to Consett and Blaydon, and what support will you offer to existing local businesses?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives:  As a local business owner and tapping into my experience as a member of the Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Durham County Council, I will attract new businesses by promoting local incentives and supporting existing businesses through grants and advisory services, driving economic growth and job creation.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: There is tremendous potential for business in our mission to transition to a green economy. The Greens promise to invest £40 billion a year to make it happen. With a Green MP, Blaydon and Consett will be excellently positioned to attract business. I will make it a priority to engage with national and international green technology businesses and researchers to extol the virtues of Blaydon and Consett as places to invest in. One obvious Green Party policy which is guaranteed to create jobs is our mission to insulate homes and bring them up to good environmental standards. It will be a £29 billion programme, requiring the training and employment of local people to deliver it. The Green Party also recognises that small and medium sized businesses are the life blood of our economy and our communities. We will press for the creation of regional mutual banks to drive investment, decarbonisation and local economic sustainability. I was self-employed myself for eighteen years, was business editor of The Journal, and proudly worked with a number of economic development and training and skills organisations over the years in an effort to make the North East the best it can be. I am still committed to that. 

Liz Twist, Labour: There are many success stories of local businesses across Blaydon and Consett thriving against the odds, but it is hard to avoid the fact that local businesses have had a really tough time over the past few years – it has become all too common to see boarded up shop fronts. I’ve listened to those businesses and we want to give local communities the right tools to drive growth in their areas. That means giving local authorities the power, flexibility and long-term funding settlements they need to make change. We will also scrap business rates and bring in a fairer system, which would reduce the burden on high street premises. If elected, I’m keen to champion every business across Blaydon and Consett. 

  1. Housing: What is your strategy to tackle housing shortages and ensure affordable housing for all residents?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives: My strategy includes promoting affordable housing developments and working with local councils to address housing shortages, ensuring all residents have access to affordable homes.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: Britain’s housing sector has been in crisis for years. The Green Party will shift the balance of power from housebuilders and landlords back to local people to deliver well-insulated, low carbon homes that people can afford to rent or buy where they need them. I have already mentioned our £29 billion mission to insulate British homes. In addition, where new homes are built, we will ensure they are accompanied by the necessary investment in local health, transport and other services. We aim to create 150,000 units of social housing a year across the country and I will ensure Blaydon and Consett receives its fair share. We would scrap Right to Buy and introduce rent controls to keep rents affordable for local people. 

Liz Twist, Labour: When I was the MP for Blaydon, barely a day went by without a constituent getting in touch to tell me about issues they were having with their housing – be that damp and mould issues, repairs, overcrowding, or a section 21 eviction served by their landlord. Fourteen years of Tory Government have left us with a chronic shortage of homes, and the dream of home ownership is too far out of reach for too many families. Our house building plans will see one-and-a-half million new homes built within the first five years of a new Labour Government, delivering the biggest boost to affordable housing in a generation, and ensuring first dibs for first-time buyers. 

  1. Policing and Crime: What actions will you take to enhance policing, reduce crime rates, and ensure the safety and security of residents?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives: I will work to increase police presence and resources, implement community safety programmes, and support initiatives to reduce crime rates and ensure residents’ security.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: Community safety is vitally important if communities are to thrive. The reduction in police numbers over the past 14 years is a scandal. As MP for Blaydon and Consett I will press the next Government to restore policing levels and will work closely with the two Police and Crime Commissioners to ensure that our police are well-resourced and effective at reducing crime and antisocial behaviour. In addition, we need to resource the criminal justice system and the prison service so that criminals are dealt with promptly and dangerous criminals are not released from prison early merely to create space for new offenders.

Liz Twist, Labour: Quite frankly, the Tories have failed our police forces. From the rise in abuse against shopworkers to antisocial behaviour in our communities, things need to change. Labour have pledged to put 13,000 extra neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the beat, so every community has a local officer that they can get in touch with. I have a track record of working with both Durham and Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioners and I want to be part of that positive change that Labour can bring to our communities. 

  1. Environmental Protection: What actions will you take to ensure stricter regulations and enforcement to protect our local environment, particularly regarding Northumbrian Water’s raw sewage discharges?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives: I was instrumental in supporting the fight against Consett incinerator, and my speeches against it can be found on YouTube. I will advocate for stricter regulations on environmental issues, including Northumbrian Water’s raw sewage discharges, to protect our local environment and public health.

Richard Simpson, Green Party:This is an issue very close to my heart. Water is a national resource and should be owned by the people. Privatisation has failed us. The Green Party is committed to renationalising the water companies. As MP for Blaydon and Consett I will hold Northumbrian Water to account, while it still exists, for every sewage discharge it makes and insist it puts customers and the environment before dividends to shareholders.  

Liz Twist, Labour: I first raised this issue in parliament in 2021 and the Tories have done their best to kick this into the long grass. Labour will put water companies under special measures to clean up our waters. This will include the introduction of severe and automatic fines for illegal sewage discharges, and criminal charges for water bosses who oversee repeated law-breaking. We’ll force all companies to monitor water outlets under independent supervision so that they are no longer allowed to mark their own homework. Locally, I will continue to raise residents’ concerns and fight to ensure that our beautiful countryside is not subject to environmental vandalism. 

  1. Immigration: What is your stance on immigration, and how do you propose to manage it while considering the local community’s interests?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives:  I believe in a balanced approach to immigration that considers both national interests and local community concerns, ensuring integration and support for all residents.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: I’d like to say something positive about immigration. Most of the immigrants who come to this country do so perfectly legally on visas issued by our Government. In general, they make a huge contribution to our country because they come to study or to work. Those desperate refugees who risk their lives crossing the Channel in boats are invariably victims of criminal gangs. If there was a proper, open process for people to apply for asylum in the UK then we could massively reduce the number of boats crossing the Channel. I understand people’s concerns about the changes high numbers of immigrants bring to their communities. But at the end of the day, there is more that unites us than divides us. In the past five years, the Government has made immigration more of an issue than it need be in order to distract us from the damage their policies have caused. 

Liz Twist, Labour: Immigration is an important part of our national life – which is why it is so important that we have a system that is fair and properly controlled. Sadly, all we’ve seen under the Conservatives has been chaos, with migration hitting record highs. Labour has set out our plans to bring down migration – we’ll strengthen wages and conditions for Britain’s workers, link skills plans for young people with the jobs businesses need to fill, and implement a practical plan to tackle the small boats chaos, stopping the illegal gangs running the operations and putting lives at risk. 

  1. Education and Child Care: What steps will you take to support and enhance the quality of education and child care in Consett and Blaydon?

Angela Sterling, Conservatives: As a fully qualified teacher, education is dear to my heart. I will work very hard to ensure children in Blaydon and Consett have access to a world-class education by supporting initiatives to enhance the quality of education and childcare, including improving facilities and resources for schools, colleges, and childcare providers.

Richard Simpson, Green Party: Education should be about inspiring a love of learning and ensuring every young person can reach their potential. Too many of our children are failing to thrive in an education system that operates like a production line rather than valuing their individual qualities. It is no accident that young people account for a large proportion of the dramatic increase in mental health demand in the past few years. The Green Party will increase school funding by £8 billion, including a £2 billion uplift in teachers’ pay to address recruitment and retention issues.  We will restore grants for higher education students and end tuition fees. We will end “high-stakes” testing at primary and secondary schools and abolish OFSTED and return to a more modular method of learning. Sure Start centres were one of the most effective initiatives of the Blair Government of 1997 and, as Blaydon and Consett MP, I will push very hard for their reinstitution. 

Liz Twist, Labour: Children in Blaydon and Consett deserve the very best start in life. Where the Tories have promises, we have a plan to deliver. We’ve pledged to convert spare school classrooms into high quality spaces for nurseries to create over three thousand new nursery classes across England. This will allow us to deliver on access to childcare hours for families. As part of our first steps for change, a Labour Government would also recruit 6,500 more teachers to ensure that every child is taught by a specialist. These commitments will be funded by ending tax breaks that private schools currently enjoy, so that we can spread opportunity more widely and give every child the education they deserve.

We appreciate those who did take the time to engage.

Below are quotes also provided by the candidates who shared their views:

“My priority is to ensure a thriving and connected community in Consett and Blaydon, with robust healthcare, improved infrastructure, and strong economic growth, while safeguarding the wellbeing and security of all residents.”

Angela Sterling, Conservative and Unionist Party Candidate

“When I joined the Green Party just under five years ago, I did so because I could no longer sit back and watch my country sink into chaos, division, and corruption. I believe strongly in democracy, in universal human rights, and in environmental and social justice. The Green Party, for me, is the only one with a mission that transcends the ‘party first, country second, planet third’ approach of the two main parties. A vote for me is a vote for real hope that we can both prosper and live within the natural limits of planet earth; that we can lead the world in transitioning to a new, green way of living to secure the futures of our children and our children’s children.”

Richard Simpson, Green Party Candidate

“Fourteen years of Conservative Government have been disastrous for our region. There’s sewage in our rivers, mortgage and food prices through the roof, and people waiting on trolleys in A&E. People in Blaydon and Consett deserve better.

Since 2017, when I became an MP for the former constituency of Blaydon, I’ve campaigned hard on issues such as regional inequalities, child poverty, and suicide prevention. In the face of the challenges created by Tory failures, I’m pleased to have been able to help secure funding for local schools and community organisations and to have assisted local families on some really challenging issues such as housing, education, and care. I know we can do so much more under a Labour Government, which is why I hope you can use your vote on 4 July to help us deliver the change that is so desperately needed.

It’s time for change, and that’s what a Labour Government will deliver. We have a fully costed, fully funded plan to get our NHS back on its feet, tackle sky-rocketing energy bills, crack down on anti-social behaviour and give local communities control of their public transport system.”

Liz Twist, Labour Party Candidate

Shape the Future of Blaydon and Consett with Your Vote

With the general election approaching, residents of the Blaydon and Consett Constituency should be informed about their candidates’ positions on important local issues. We appreciate the candidates who provided their insights and regret that some did not respond, despite our best efforts.

Your participation in this election is crucial for shaping the future of our beloved community, so make your voice heard and vote on 4th July. Find out where your Blaydon and Consett polling station is located.

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