Calling for a U-turn over plans to close driving test centre

Kate’s latest column for the Shields Gazette:

APPROACHING the end of last year, I was left stunned when the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) announced they were considering closing the Driving Test Centre on the Bede Industrial Estate in Jarrow.

These plans understandably caused a great deal of anger and upset across the whole driving instructor community and for those learning to drive in South Tyneside.

The test centre on the Bede Industrial Estate is the only facility in the borough and it has served the community wonderfully well for many decades.

To close this centre will mean that South Tyneside residents will be forced to use the test centre in Sunderland. It has quite rightly caused immense anxiety and concern for local driving instructors, their pupils, and the local community.

Generations of families have passed their driving test there, and it would be yet another hammer blow to South Tyneside if this wholly unacceptable closure was allowed to go ahead.

The Borough, one of the highest for unemployment, is already one of the hardest hit in this country following more than a decade of Government cuts. Our local authorities have already lost more than half of their funding. We’ve lost vital health services such as the Jarrow walk-in centre, the Special Care Baby Unit and Children’s A&E services have closed between the hours of 10pm and 8pm. Acute services such as stroke and maternity services have also been moved to Sunderland. Jarrow, too, lost the much-loved St. Clare’s Hospice three years ago and we have been without a palliative hospice facility ever since.

However, over the past week the decision appears to have been made without any prior consultation. The DVSA have already contacted driving instructors confirming that the Driving Test Centre on the Bede Industrial Estate will be closing its doors after 10th April.

I had already agreed a meeting with the DVSA and the driving instructor community later this month. I was hoping that the DVSA would listen to and take the views on board of all those affected, such as the instructors and our community, but it seems they are hell-bent on going ahead with the closure without consulting anyone.

Instead, myself and the local driving instructor community will use this opportunity to urge the DVSA to rethink the closure and preserve a vital local service.

The loss of the Jarrow facility is yet another blow to South Tyneside, while lesson times, prices and waiting lists all increase at a period when waiting times for driving tests are at an all-time high.

I am seriously concerned about the poor communication and lack of consultation with the driving instructor community about this decision.

Moving the test centre away from South Tyneside could discourage many from learning to drive in the Borough. There will undoubtedly be an increase in fuel costs should pupils have to take their tests out of South Tyneside. This will impact the travelling times for lessons should they need to prepare students for driving tests away from South Tyneside.

This closure risks skilled Instructors and Examiners leaving the industry which will further exacerbate the long waiting times.

Due to the financial pressure of booking longer lessons, parents will have to teach their children themselves. While this is an acceptable practice, it will lead to more vehicles without dual controls on roads which pose a safety concern to all road users.

The added distance South Tyneside learners will be forced to drive to take lessons in Sunderland will increase emissions and impact negatively on the environment.

I have again contacted the Chief Executive of the DVSA and the Transport Secretary, urging them to reconsider this ill-thought-out decision.

I’m 100% behind the campaign to save our Test Centre and I encourage as many people as possible to sign the online petition to urge the DVSA to reconsider the closure of our Test Centre and the relocation of its services via

Energy price hikes are hitting working-class people the hardest

The government have made clear that they have no intention to back opposition calls to introduce a windfall tax on the huge profits being made by North Sea oil and gas companies. The simple fact alone that this government is more focussed on bailing out businesses as opposed to supporting and protecting everyday people on low income, truly shows that this government has its priorities wrong.

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As your MP, I promise you I am up for the political fight

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a restful Christmas and New Year. I’m sure 2022 will bring fresh challenges for us all and I sincerely wish everyone all the very best for the year ahead.  

You might’ve pledged in 2022 to drink less, lose weight, do some exercise, or change tact and embark on a new career. Often it is the case that we set our resolutions and they go out of the window in the opening days of January.

My resolution that I fully intend to keep is to fight hard for the people of the Jarrow constituency because every single passing day under this incompetent, clueless Conservative Government means falling living standards, low wages, insecurity and the running down of our NHS.

This is a Government who have lost the plot and, more importantly, have lost the trust of the people in this country. 

Our NHS – already crippled by over a decade of Conservative austerity and underfunding – has needed huge sums of money to cope with the enormous demands placed upon it, not to mention the billions wasted on ‘crony contracts’ handed out to the Tories and their friends during the pandemic.

When the Prime Minister and his Ministers shamelessly broke the rules they set that we all followed, it is no surprise people are angry and have lost all trust in this Government.   

More difficult challenges lie ahead in 2022.  The cost of living is increasing, energy bills are rising, wages are stagnant and tax rises are coming in this April.

I’ll continue to fight for more money for our local authorities in South Tyneside and Gateshead who have been starved of vital funds after more than a decade of Government austerity. 

I’ll continue to raise key issues in Westminster such as the unfair cuts to Universal Credit and the grossly unfair Fire and Rehire tactics.

I will also keep up the fight to save our local health services and do everything in my power to ensure vital health facilities are maintained in this area.

I will also continue to work hard to ensure that schools in the Jarrow constituency and across the country get enough funding and guidance to make sure our children receive the best opportunities possible.

As your MP representing much of South Tyneside and parts of the Gateshead Council area, I promise you that I’m up for the political fight.

Just over two years ago I was elected as MP for the Jarrow constituency.

It has been a difficult two years, but I feel positive and optimistic for the year ahead. It is an honour to represent the great people of our community and I will continue to do so to the best of my ability. I regularly send out updates of the work I do, but what I don’t share often is the work myself and my dedicated team do behind the scenes in the office helping constituents every day with any issues or concerns that they have.

Over the past year alone, my team has helped constituents with thousands of cases. Some of the issues that we have helped constituents with are residents being rehoused or having their banding changed due to a change of circumstances; being awarded a back payment of benefits; being awarded compensation by DWP/HMRC for errors/delays made on claims; and liaising with the Home Office on immigration cases.

I look forward to continuing my work both in Parliament and around the constituency to hopefully make 2022 a better year.

As always if you need any assistance from me or my team please contact me at [email protected] and I will do everything I can to help.

You can also visit my website or social media to keep up to date with my work.