Mike Hill MP: Inspirational stories of communities uniting to tackle ‘Beast from the East’

Welcoming in the Chinese New Year.
Welcoming in the Chinese New Year.

Last week, the first day of spring came and went with hardly a mention. Not surprisingly, because days after the highly successful annual snowdrop walk in Greatham, the village was plunged into chaos as one of the worst affected places in Hartlepool by the so-called ‘Beast from the East’.

Stories of villagers coming together to dig out the High Street, neighbours looking out for each other and farmers rescuing cars from snow drifts are a real inspiration; as have been all the stories I’ve heard from right across the town, following the most severe weather we’ve witnessed for a long time.

Communities united in the teeth of the great snow storm, people rallied to help each other out, common decency prevailed and even the council weren’t blamed for not emptying the bins for the week because people knew their efforts and resources were being spent on more important things, like keeping the highways clear.

The gargantuan effort made by every decent citizen filled me with pride, but of course a special mention needs to be given to our NHS workers who battled to work in extreme conditions, many of them sleeping overnight to keep our hospitals going, and making sure their patients were safe and cared for.

• It really is a sad indictment, therefore, that in the same week that the blizzards came, the local NHS Trust chose to launch an initiative that could see the very same NHS workers ripped off over time.

Sugar-coat it as much as you like, but setting up an arm’s length or subsidiary company to run your own internal services like procurement and Facilities Management is privatisation through the front door, not the back door.

Even worse to say from day one that new employees of the company, known as ‘North Tees and Hartlepool Solutions LLP,’ will not enjoy the same pay, pensions and terms and conditions as existing NHS staff speaks volumes about future commitments to national agreements by our local NHS leaders.

Shame on them for knowing this and not resisting austerity and Government pressures to go down this road.

• As we have learnt from recent unfortunate events in the town, animal welfare is quite rightly a big issue in Hartlepool, which is why I was so pleased this week to be able to join forces with animal welfare and veterinary organisations in calling for a ban on electric shock collars for dogs.

The use of these cruel devices has been banned in Wales since 2010 and the Scottish Government recently announced plans to follow suit.

These collars have proven to be detrimental to dog welfare and I believe that the time is right to introduce a ban on these cruel and unnecessary devices.

• Ironically according to the Chinese calendar this is the year of the dog and I was honoured and privileged to be invited to attend the Chinese New Year celebrations last Sunday by the Hartlepool Chinese Association.

It was a fantastic cultural and entertaining event and I enjoyed every second of it.

The children, local dancers, musicians and Tai Chi Group were simply wonderful, as was the food, but to top it all was the spectacular Lion Dance.

A truly amazing and thoroughly enjoyable event.