Friday, May 27, 2016

The Frank Hindle retirement party

Frank Hindle retirement party May 16 1

Frank Hindle was my predecessor as Leader of the Lib Dem group and opposition on Gateshead Council. He stood down from the leadership last year and this May he retired from the Council after 25 years representing Low Fell. We held a thank you party for him at the Valley Farm on the Team Valley last Saturday.

Though Frank retired as a councillor, he is remaining active in the Liberal Democrats. He is currently the chair of Gateshead Local Party and is also a leading figure in the party's In Campaign in the North East.

Thank you Frank for all your hard work. We've plenty more for you to do!

Frank Hindle retirement party May 16 2

All the fun of the fayre

Whickham May Fayre May 16 (3)

On Saturday 21st May, Friends of Chase Park hosted the Whickham May Fayre. As usual, my job was to collect tables from Marley Hill Community Centre on Friday to be used in the burger tent. On Saturday itself, I had my own stand to run, promoting self-sufficiency and selling my preserves and eggs. I brought along some of my week old quail chicks which proved quite an attraction.

Well done to the organisers. Another great event.

Whickham May Fayre May 16 (4)

Whickham May Fayre May 16 (5)

Whickham Fayre stall May 16 1

Whickham Fayre stall May 16 2

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mick Henry's parting speech

This video was filmed at Gateshead Council last week. Mick Henry was Labour leader of the Council but Labour councillors rejected his advice for Gateshead to be part of the North East devolution settlement. The battle against the plans was led by Deputy Leader Cllr Martin Gannon. Mick resigned in the middle of the election campaign and Martin was elected as Leader in his place last Friday.

Though Martin led the vote of thanks to the out going Mayor, Alex Geddes, he gave no speech thanking Mick, his predecessor. And listen to Mick's speech. He talks about Gateshead's strength over the past 14 years of his leadership as being based on the partnership the council has with other authorities. Gateshead under Martin is now heading for isolation, setting itself up as the hole in the middle of the North East devolution doughnut.

And notice Mick's closing comments: he thanks the support he has had from councillors, and then clarified it, "most of them". I wonder who he had in mind. Over to you Martin.....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chocolate cake and mayoral thanks

Last Friday was the annual Gateshead Council meeting. It is customary for the Leader of the Opposition to second the vote of thanks to the out going mayor. I was happy to do so as Alex Geddes has been a first class mayor. I also used the opportunity to present the new Leader of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon, with a homemade cake with a large hole in it. It represents the North East region which is moving ahead with devolution while Gateshead, in the middle of the region, has walked away from the deal.

Back on BBC Politics Show

I was interviewed last Thursday for the BBC Politics Show, North East edition, about Gateshead Labour Council's decision to opt out of devolution proposals for the North East. The programme was broadcast on Sunday. You can see it on this link. The devolution issue starts about 41 minutes into the programme.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A cake with a hole in it

chocolate and banana cake May 16

On Friday, at our annual council meeting, Comrade Martin Gannon became Supreme Leader of Gateshead, the Hermite Council of the North East. Martin was the leading advocate of Gateshead's rejection of the devolution proposals for Gateshead. Following his successful campaign to disengage from the North East region, Leader of the Council Mick Henry resigned. Now Gateshead, in splendid isolation, faces being cut off from millions, possibly tens of millions of pounds of devolved funding on transport, training, economic development and other matters. All so that Gateshead Labour Party could make a stand against the Conservative government.

It fell to me as Leader of the Opposition to welcome Martin to his post. I did so by baking him a cake full of bananas which I presented to him at Friday's meeting. The cake had a large hole through the middle of it, representing the gap in the middle of the North East that is Gateshead, The borough will of course get no slice of the devolved cake if Gateshead Labour Party continue to stick by their decision to declare UDI. Or perhaps Martin should see sense, reverse the decision and stop using the people as a stick with which to beat up the government.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Thank you Mick

Cllr Mick Henry was Labour leader of Gateshead Council but following his group's decision to block Gateshead's involvement in the North East devolution proposals, he announced his resignation. This was the speech I gave to Gateshead Council's annual meeting on Friday 20th May in which I thanked him for his work and referred to some of the events with which we have both been involved over the past few years.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The hole in the middle of the North East

 Journal devolution map May 16

This is the front page of The Journal from earlier this week. It puts into context the ludicrous decision by Labour in Gateshead to walk away from devolution and the North East Combined Authority (NECA). The implications of the decision are enormous. While the rest of the region goes ahead with devolution and an elected mayor, Gateshead is declaring UDI. The People's Republic of Gateshead, under the guidance of the Supreme Leader Comrade Martin Gannon, will stand alone against the Conservatives. Powers over transport, training, housing, planning and potentially health will pass from the Government ministers based in Whitehall to a devolved body in the North East. Except that Gateshead will not benefit at all.

We will have no influence over the devolved powers and budgets that directly affect Gateshead because Gateshead is no longer to be part of the governance system. Gateshead residents, thanks to Labour, will have no vote for who will lead the region. NECA is responsible for the Metro rail system which runs through Gateshead. Up to now, we have been one of the partner authorities running the Metro. Labour in Gateshead are walking away from the set up that has benefited the borough for 40 years.

The devolved settlement allows for control of billions of pounds of public spending currently controlled by the Government and to a lesser extent by Europe. That money will now be channeled through NECA and the elected mayor. Gateshead will not be entitled to a penny of it.

If Labour in Gateshead thought they could lead the rebellion and revolution against the Conservative Government, they have seriously miscalculated. Gateshead Labour may think they are the only ones in step and the rest of the region is out of step but the reality is that of the 7 councils in NECA, 6 have agreed to go forward with the devolution deal. That leaves Gateshead out on her own. This is a disaster of Labour's making in Gateshead, brought about by a group of people who think that kicking opponents is more important than using the opportunities that come your way to improve matters. It is a group that is prepared to make the people of Gateshead, as well as their own previous leader, the collateral damage in their war with the Conservatives.

I am determined to fight Labour's disastrous decision. That was my message when I did interviews today with the BBC Politics Programme, BBC Radio Newcastle and the Chronicle. And I won't rest until Gateshead is at the heart of the region, rather than the Labour created hole in the middle the Gateshead Labour Party has in mind for my home town.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Campaigning in Gateshead for the EU Referendum

IN Campaign Low Fell May 16 1

I joined local Lib Dem members to support the IN campaign in Low Fell in Gateshead on Saturday morning. We had a stall on Durham Road with balloons, t-shirts, leaflets and a petition. I turned up expecting to get a bashing from loads of anti-European residents but it was much better than I expected. Yes there was one person who wasn't going to vote for “those b******d Germans”. And of the few we quizzed about why they were voting to leave, they were unable to give a picture of what life would be like outside the EU, other than some vague idea about “trading more with the Commonwealth”. What pleased me however was that there were plenty of people who enthusiastically said they were voting to stay in. There were many who were undecided but they tended to be leaning towards voting to remain. I even found one person who said that his heart was with the leave campaign but that he will vote to remain as he works for Nissan and was concerned about the impact of a leave vote on the company. I came away buoyed up by my experience.