Recently our young volunteer Abbigail met up with and interviewed Blyth’s new MP Ian Levy and did a great job, read the full interview below:
Question 1: How do you feel about becoming the first conservative MP for Blyth?
I think it is a massive honour, but at the same time as its being an honour, it is also a massive responsibility because I’ve got a lot of work to do around here. I think it’s an opportunity for Blyth Valley and Blyth to bring some changes and to bring the place up and to do a lot of good things in the Market Place.
Question 2: Do you believe you will help those in most need, for example those living in poverty?
Yes, would be my straight answer to that. The reason I got involved with politics was because I could have retired next year and I’ve reached a point in my life, where I can move forward and put something back into the community. I don’t want to be a conservative MP that’s in an office away from people, I want to go out and mix with the people. I want to find out what the problems are. I’ve lived in Blyth all my life, which has given me a good idea of what the problems are around here and I want to act on them, I want to be a voice for people.
Question 3: Are there any plans to fund services for young people to give them new and fresh experiences? For example, Silx. I’ve been coming to Silx since I was 11 and I believe it is important to have places like this as I wouldn’t be where I am now in my life if it wasn’t for the support I have been given.
I think there are always opportunities to reach out for funding. There is a lot of funding out there. I was approached this week by a group who want to fund an area in Cowpen and an area in the Isabella because they feel these areas could do with some support. My wife writes funding bids so if there is anything we can do, as a couple to support Silx, in particular, to get a funding bid to get some more money to keep the place running, just let us know. I don’t want to become a stranger here, I want to be seen when I’m down Blyth. I want to stick my head in and have a cup of coffee, and if I see you guys out and about, I want you to think that you can come up and talk to me. I don’t want you to think that ‘oh he’s the MP, I can’t speak to him’. I want you to come and talk to me and become friends.
Question 4: Do you believe there should be a curfew for young people, of the age 16 years old and younger, and their parents should become more responsible for their children’s whereabouts to reduce late night crimes committed by youths?
I think there is parental responsibility, that goes from when they’re babies in a pram, right up until the time you’re an adult, even by the time you’re 18 you still need your mum and dad. I think it’s not just the thing of parental responsibility but it’s the bigger extended family. So you’ve got uncles, aunties and cousins you can turn to. When you’re younger, in your teens, you might think you can’t talk to your mum and dad about something, but you can go and talk to your auntie or uncle which might be something you need. Then you build communities and that is what we need to get back. We need to get that whole community sense back. When you were saying about curfews, we should still try and install that community. I think we’ve got to show teenagers respect and I think teenagers need to show adults and the community respect. I would like to think most people when they’re on a bus and see an elderly woman and they would stand and let them have a seat, or hold a door open. It’s bringing back those old-school traditional values as it makes you feel better. You carry those values through life to the age where you have kids of your own and think ‘I want my kids to grow up with respect, with values and look after the community’.
Question 5: Police Community Support Officers [PCSO’s] used to come into Silx to have a game of pool and socialise with the young people. This built a great relationship between the young people and the police which reflected when they were on the streets. Why did this stop? Could it ever restart? In your manifesto, you said you wanted to fund more police to have on the streets within the community. This is a good idea. However, do you believe this is going to happen?
I didn’t realise it had stopped and I think it is a great idea. I will have a word to see if we can get the PCSOs back, if that’s what you guys want. It’s just respect that you as teenagers have to show the adults. It’s a two way street, we have to show you some respect. There isn’t always enough for kids to do. We have to work together, it’s a community. It’s not just me saying ‘I’m the MP you’ve got to show me respect’, it’s not like that, I’ve got to show you guys respect too. We have a big recruiting programme going on at the minute. A lot of PCSOs will be made up to be warranted officers, so they have a warrant to arrest people, if that’s what needs to be done. They become your new police officers and there will be a gap for PCSOs. This means you can bring people in at the base level as PCSOs and train them up. It’s coming in and learning the skills and from then coming up as a warranted officer and working up through the police force, but it’s a natural progression. It’s something that we are really pushing for because in terms of this government, we want 20,000 more police officers
Question 9: Due to austerity, in the area, what do you propose to do to tackle the issue?
Wow, that is a big question, a big big question. I’ve got lots of things planned. I have applied for the future High Street Fund which is something which will involve you lot the most, so I’ll talk about that one. I have also applied for the My Town’s Fund, which, if they come off, should be about £35 million that I’ll be able to spend on Blyth town centre and surrounding areas. The idea is to change the way town centre looks. This is the future High Street Fund. It’s not a case of using that money knocking down retail shops and build more retail shops, it’s about changing the look of the town and changing the look of the town for the future. You maybe try and incorporate retail with education, with somewhere to eat and somewhere to drink, you would mix in leisure activities, you would mix in activities for schools and young children, health promotions so you might have cycle ways that will run through the town centre. It’s about changing the look of the town centre and giving a new lease of life to support it for the years to come. The money, if successful in the bid, should be here at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Then there should be a consultation and people will be able to put forward ideas, so you will be able to have an opportunity to put forward your ideas as what you think for teenagers in the area. So, if you think more facilities for young people, that is what you should be asking for and you need to be coming up with ideas as we don’t always know what you guys want as teenagers. So if there is something that quite appeals to you, we maybe need to look into that. I’ve thought that we’ve got a new cinema in Cramlington and one going to be built in Ashington, so we don’t really need another cinema, but maybe something like an ice rink would be a good idea. I wouldn’t just want it to be an ice rink, I would want it to be a place for maybe bowling, laser quest, escape rooms, but it’s not going to be priced out of the market. There might be concessions so teenagers can actually go. If you look at the sports centre at Blyth, we have spent £5.5 million on the sports centre, so that’s been putting a new gym in, retiling all the pool area, putting new lockers in and a new reception area, and a new spa. Then you’ve got things like bringing education into the town centre because we’re obviously very close to what happens in the environment, A lot of youngsters are very involved with the environment at the minute, and we’re looking to incorporate what they do down at the docks, at the port, and all of the renewable energies and letting people know about that, so maybe a visitor centre? When you’ve got that in the town centre, so the port isn’t just on the Portside, youngsters can find out that there are apprenticeships going and there’s jobs going at the port. I want to encourage people to get themselves along to the visitors centre and to realise what we are doing for the environment. Once people see what’s actually happening down at the port we can all start working together. And then you’ve got the railway. This should be coming in during the next couple of years. That should help bring a lot of people through Blyth and in Newsham. There will be a bus link into Blyth to get people back and forward. For teenagers, if you want a day in Newcastle, you should be able to get the bus to Newsham or to Bebside and jump on the train straight through to Newcastle.
Question 10: Do you believe there should be more places for the homeless in Blyth? There are already three places for this in Blyth and there are plans In the pipeline that the community are protesting against. Do you support the plans for another one as there is a disagreement with the new plans as the public believe there will be a rise in crime?
I think it is a very contentious issue. I do think there is need for it. But, I think it needs to be policed properly and not just used as somewhere that people are going to be dumped. I’m very supportive of supported living for the right reasons. However, I do feel like Blyth has its fair share of it at the minute and bringing more of it in isn’t really the correct way to do it. To sum the question up, yes, I support the idea of it and I do believe in supported living but I think, at the minute, Blyth has enough to deal with, to get what problems we have put right and get the place right on track.