Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Visiting Marley Hill Bowling Club

Marley Hill Bowling Club are preparing for a community asset transfer of their bowling green. Members will take on the running of the facility from Gateshead Council in the near future. I visited the club last night at members' request to take some photos for our next Focus newsletter. I agreed some time ago to help the club promote their activities so the photos will be used for that purpose.

Monday, August 13, 2018

House-building survey

A planning application has been submitted to Gateshead Council for housing on land between Starling Walk and Sun Hill in Sunniside. I have no problem with housing going onto this site but as ward councillors we had always made it clear to officers that this site should be used for housing for older people. 4 years ago, the old Sun Hill residential accommodation was replaced by the new Sun Hill. Much of the unused land was part of the footprint of the old building. New accommodation for older people in Sunniside tends to free up existing family homes occupied by single older people and by older couples.

Unfortunately, the planning application for this site is for 8 houses and 2 bungalows. The bungalows fit the vision we have for the site. The houses don't.

Yesterday I delivered a survey about the application to the 50 households in the immediate vicinity of the site. I got about 25 replies. I will be sorting through them shortly and passing on the results to the planning officers in Gateshead.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Birtley Action Day

On Saturday we held our latest action day in Gateshead. This time it was in Birtley ward. It is Labour held with a comfortable share of the vote but where the turnout is only 31%. It is a ward Labour tends to take for granted.

The aim of the action day was to deliver the latest Birtley Focus across the ward. I'm pleased to report that, other than patches taken by some helpers to deliver through the week, we completed the delivery.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Scanning historic photos

I have been a local councillor in Gateshead for 31 years and in that time I have built up a substantial collection of photos which should major changes in the area. I am doing a talk on these changes to Sunniside History Society shortly, using the photos. Alas, most of them are from the pre-digital age, so I have had to spend quite some time scanning them.

Lighting Up Sunniside meeting

I attended a meeting of Lighting Up Sunniside last week. The group has been set up to raise the funds for the village's Christmas tree. We are now just over half way to our target. The meeting on Wednesday agreed to hold a race night on 22nd September at the Travellers pub. Preparations are now underway. I need to find a sponsor (£20), 8 jockeys and 8 owners (£5 each) for race one. Get in touch if you want to splash the cash for a good cause.

Having your cake and eating it

I put my thoughts on Brexit to camera recently while I had a few minutes spare. I am a remainer mainly because I believe it is in the national interest to be in the EU, arguing our case. I do not believe sovereignty can be restored simply by going "independent" as the EU, even without the UK, is an economic superpower. What happens there, affects us here, whether we are in or out. So we should be in, fighting for the UK's interest, as well as enjoying the benefit of membership.

I also believe that people have to accept the consequences of their own actions. The UK voted leave, and that means giving up on the benefits and costs of membership. There can be no half way house in which we have the benefit of membership without the costs. The analogy I use is that if you resign from membership of the local golf club, you can hardly demand the right to enjoy the benefits of still being a member.

However, in 2016 the UK was sold a pup. The people were told we could have the best of both worlds with continued access to the Single Market without any of the costs. Lots of people bought into that message. The reality of no-deal, of hard Brexit, is starting to become clear. The vision of the UK striding the world as an independent economic superpower with the EU "needing us more than we need them" has been revealed as a sham. Had the government produced a realistic plan to leave and passed the appropriate legislation with a Leave referendum result acting as the trigger to enact the legislation, there would be no need for a 2nd referendum. People would have known exactly what they were voting for. This was not what happened in 2016 so the people should have a further referendum to decide whether or not we as a nation should jump off the cliff.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Have you stockpiled your food yet?

Image may contain: 1 person, food

Are you ready for Brexit? Got your food stockpiled? A few tins of baked beans stashed away under the settee for the day Britain regains it's sovereignty and rediscovers hunger? I find it remarkable that the government can casually talk about preparing for hard Brexit by stockpiling food and drugs. No doubt this is part of the explanation for  the significant rise in support in today's Sky poll for a referendum on the withdrawal agreement and the comfortable lead for those believing we should now remain.

While some may be excited at the thought of reliving the Dunkirk spirit, the idea that negotiating a deal with the EU will be the "easiest" thing ever to do is dead in the water. The British people in 2016 were sold a best-of-both-worlds, have-your-cake-and-eat-it future which no government was ever in a position realistically to give. The UK cannot choose to have the benefits of EU membership while dumping the responsibilities. We can't keep the bits we like while refusing to abide by the bits we don't. If you are in the club enjoying the benefits, you have to abide by the rules.

So the only choice for the UK is between the poverty of hard Brexit and the shared sovereignty and security of EU membership. There is very little middle ground.

Meanwhile, as someone who grows most of my own food, my stockpiles will keep me going for years! I hope the Brexiteer extremists are equally as prepared. I doubt it though given that their  world of having cake and eating it is now shown to be a fantasy.

Congratulations Kevin and Vicky

Kevin and Vicky McClurey wedding reception Jul 18

Congratulations to Kevin and Vicky McClurey on their wedding on Friday last week. Kevin is the newly elected Councillor for Dunston Hill and Whickham East. He took the seat from Labour in May. The reception, which I attended on Friday evening, was held at the Vermont Hotel in Newcastle. In keeping with the local council spirit of the occasion, the building is the former HQ of Northumberland County Council.

Pelaw and Heworth Action Day

On Saturday we had an action day in Pelaw and Heworth ward. Alas, we also had our first serious bit of rain in two months. That rather curtailed activities. I arrived, took three bundles of Focuses to deliver and returned home. I will head back there on a day when the weather is better, some time this week.

Great Exhibition of the North - Baltic

On Friday afternoon, I took a bit of time away from politics and self-sufficiency to visit the Baltic Art Gallery on the Gateshead Quays. It was my first opportunity to attend any of the exhibitions. An interesting time with some exhibits of interest to me, others of no interest at all and others I'm still thinking about.

My first experience of LNER

I was in London last weekend and it was my first opportunity to use LNER. We were 40 minutes late into Kings Cross so my first impressions weren't good. I was hoping for an improvement on the return journey. It wasn't to be. The train was 10 minutes late leaving Kings Cross as the driver was late. It was not a good omen. By the time we got into Newcastle, I had been travelling for 7 hours on a journey that was supposed to take only 3 and a half. I'm not impressed.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Whickham Community Festival

The Whickham Community Festival was held earlier this month. I was there with goats, ducklings and jam and to help set up the marquee.

Whickham Fair 2018 jw 3

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Lighting Up Sunniside Fayre

Lighting Up Sunniside, a group I helped set up to raise the funds for a Christmas tree in the village, held its first community fayre recently in the Whinnies Community Garden. Alas, I had a group meeting in the morning but I was able to make it to the fayre for the opening at 1pm. The event raised a third of the money we need to pay for the tree. Other events will be held soon.

Visiting Hill Top School

Following our recent visit to Whickham School with our goats, we got a call from Hill Top School in Gateshead asking if we would take them there as well. So on Monday last week, we made a journey across the borough with 2 goats in the back of the land rover. The event was a success.

Since then, I've had a further request to take the goats to a community centre later this year!