Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Catch up

Just doing a quick catch up as I haven't posted since Friday when I was on the train heading to North Wales. The journey itself was a nightmare, needing 5 different trains and an arrival time over an hour later than the National Rail Enquiries website claimed. Still, at least it was a sunny weekend (my forehead is peeling as a result of the sun).

I went to Sian and Alan's wedding on Saturday afternoon in Llandudno and did the photos as requested. I think they were happy enough with the results. Saturday also saw me squeeze in some filming abd photography on the Menai Bridge - this is one of the great historic suspension bridges in Britain and is well worth a visit if you are ever in North Wales. It was opened to traffic in 1826 and was a great wonder of its day.

Monday saw me return home to a pile of council papers I read for the cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning which was considering the closure of two schools (Marley Hill and Sacred Heart) in my ward. Falling pupil numbers and the age of the schools has lead to great difficulties in sustaining their future. It looks now that many (though not all) of the parents of children at Marley Hill will send their children to Washingwell School in Whickham. Washingwell also has surplus places but the transfer of children from Marley Hill may help to secure its future. No perfect solution has offered itself and unfortunately the process of deciding the future shape and investment in the schools in Whickham itself has been extended by a year. This adds to uncertainty, a point I made at cabinet.

Today, I had 4 meetings, starting with planning committee at 10am. I'm not on planning and was not speaking on any applications but I went along to support my colleague, Cllr Peter Craig.

The second meeting was Corporate Vitality Advisory Group which looked at plans to extend the use of petitions. All councils are now required to draw up plans to allow residents to petition for debates at council or to require officers to answer for decisions taken in front of scrutiny committees. I made the point that it should not just be officers who are required to answer to a scrutiny committee. Council cabinet members should also be called to answer for decisions taken.

Councils will also be required to set up an on-line petition function, similar to the Downing St site's petition system. It should be interesting to see how this turns out in practice but it is something I am keen to see go ahead.

My 3rd meeting today was a seminar hate crime. Then came the new experience for me - attending a chair and vice-chair briefing meeting. Last week I became vice chair of the Corporate Vitality Overview and Scrutiny Committee. We seemed to range over quite a few issues that will come up at the first meeting of the committee in June. I will, no doubt, keep you in touch with progress ater the committee has been held.

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