By Rachael Grealish
Boris Johnson has praised Cumbria’s new cancer care centre as he promises better transport for the county in his levelling-up agenda.
During a flying visit to the county yesterday, Monday, February 14, the Prime Minister toured the newly opened £35 million Northern Centre for cancer care at Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, calling it an ‘amazing facility’.
After exploring the new building, meeting staff and patients, the PM told The Herdwick News: “This is my first chance to see this here, it’s an amazing facility and I suppose I’m here to thank people for what they’re doing to help the country, in particular Cumbria, as part of the North West and work with Newcastle as well, to help everybody to bounce back from COVID.”
But with all the praise Mr Johnson said even with the new facility the work isn’t done there and more staff will be needed to keep up with demand.
He said: “Everybody knows someone who didn’t get the treatment that they needed during the pandemic, everybody knows somebody who didn’t get a screening or a scan at the right time and we’ve got to catch up the waiting lists, I’m afraid, are too high, they’ll get higher, more people are likely to come forward this is just a fact and we have to put the investment in.
“We’ve got 10,000 more nurses this year than last year but we need many more, we’re recruiting them as fast as we can, but the demand is huge and the UK cancer treatments are getting absolutely amazing.”
However, the PM wasn’t only in the north to tour the new facility, but had travelled down from visiting businesses and communities in Scotland discussing his levelling-up agenda which he promised Cumbria was not being left out from.
Mr Johnson explained transport is a high priority in the county as part of the levelling up, saying the government is ‘putting money’ into the county to improve its transport infrastructure.
He said: “Look at Carlisle station, we’re giving it a £25m revamp, we’re looking at putting money into a ring road, the revamp for HS2 purposes, we’re putting money into buses as buses can make a huge amount of difference in rural areas.
“I’m absolutely convinced it’s the right agenda for this country and what we’re also doing is making sure we have enough gigabit broadband because although people need to move around physically they need a really, really, good internet connection.
“We’re also looking at opening up the ‘Waverley line’ again, from Carlisle to Edinburgh diagonally so we are very ambitious on the transport front.”
One thing the PM couldn’t make any promises over or commitment to support in the county was the controversial West Cumbrian Mine.
Mr Johnson stood firm by his line that it wasn’t a ‘decision for him to make’ when The Herdwick News asked him about it.
“On the mine, that’s something that is a planning decision that is not for me but one comment I would make is; the uk has done amazing things to move away from coal, we’ve done amazing things to move away from hydrocarbons,” he continued.
“I think this is something to be globally recognised, we are way out in front in cutting CO2 and I think we also have to recognise there is a transitional stage we’re still going through where hydrocarbons will continue to play a part even if it is a diminishing part. It’s a point about the mine; it’s a planning decision not for me.”
Although he couldn’t comment on the mine he did continue to speak positively and encouragingly about his plans for levelling-up and what it means for areas like Cumbria.
He said: “My view is that there’s talent, there’s energy, there’s enthusiasm and there’s genius everywhere in the UK – but the state needs to unlock it a bit and let the private sector come in and that’s what we’re doing.”