So the government has committed £14 million to Seaborne Freight to provide ferry services after 29th March in the world of Hard Brexit. This is a significant amount of money just so that the Conservatives can claim that not all ferry contracts for the Hard Brexit crisis have gone to EU companies. Seaborne Freight now have to spend the next few weeks desperately racing around to find some ferries to operate some services. Good luck to them!
The government say they did all the checks needed on Seaborne Freight before awarding them the contract. How very reassuring. Hopefully they will be equally as diligent when letting the contract to operate the 2nd Channel Tunnel from 29th March onwards!
Monday, December 24, 2018
Labour have made a complete mess of devolution in the North East with half the region, north of the Tyne, going off to do their own thing, and what's left (a glorified Co Durham) having to reconstitute its own scrutiny committee. As a result of this, I am now on the NECA (North East Combined Authority) scrutiny committee. The NECA name will continue to be in use for the now truncated region.
On Thursday last week, I attended my first meeting, at South Shields Tow Hall. I rapidly discovered that I am dealing with something of a bureaucratic body. My thoughts are in the video above.
Published today, just in time for the seasonal break, eFocus for the Whickham area, no. 111. We led with the issue of Labour's plans to build houses on the historic Whickham Chase Park. We also had articles about Jim Robson, the waving lollipop man who sadly passed away recently, and the extension by two weeks of the consultation on fire service changes. You can read eFocus on this link.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Yesterday I attended a meeting of Gateshead Council Cabinet. There wasn't a great deal on the agenda but I was interested in the review of allotment rents (I don't rent from the council). The recommended rise matched inflation so was not in any way controversial. I did however raise the issue of the need to carry out community asset transfers of the allotment sites. I have been arguing for this for years as it will mean the sites are managed by their own allotment holders and they will have access to funding from charitable organisations which do not invest in Council facilities.
I'm not sure the council has significant spare capacity at the moment to do a review of the sites but it is something we are going to have to do soon to ensure the allotment sector in Gateshead prospers.
Delivery of our Whickham Focus newsletter is underway and on Saturday, I delivered a patch in my own ward. My plans to deliver three patches however was shelved. I whimped out after doing one patch to to home, warm up and have lunch! The two remaining patches will be done shortly.
Friday, December 14, 2018
This morning I visited the Woodmans Arms on Fellside Road, not to have a drink(!) but to speak to the owner about a planning application he has to extend the pub. I am helping him with the application as I think it is appropriate for the site and will create 9 new jobs. Currently the planners are recommending refusal. We had a good luck around the site and discussed options. No date has yet been set for the planning committee decision.
Then back home to start work on the next efocus. The latest edition was published yesterday but I had material I had to leave out because of lack of space (I'm aiming to keep efocus relatively short but produce it more regularly). This spare material will be going into the next edition which will go out just before Christmas.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Just published - eFocus email newsletter from the Whickham area Lib Dem Focus Team. Key stories in this edition are the granting of planning permission for executive homes on Whickham Highway, Woodmans pub in line for award, Whickham School turf cutting ceremony, Sunniside Methodist fair, Christmas lights switch on and consultation on fire service cuts.
You can see edition 110 on this link.
You can see edition 110 on this link.
Yesterday, in between delivering Focuses and attending a meeting of the Whickham Library volunteers, I turned my hand to predictions about the Theresa May confidence vote, knowing that my political projections of the past couple of years have been rather wide of the mark. I suggested she would be fine if she had less than 70 MPs voting against her, she was in a grey zone with 70-100 voting against, and if over 100 voted against, she was in deep trouble. My expectation was that she would be in comfortably (ie in the less-than-70 zone). How wrong I was.
While the Conservatives were tearing themselves apart yesterday I headed out to the Watergate Estate in Whickham to deliver 370 Focuses. The newsletter is currently going out across the Whickham area of the three Whickham wards. I have lots more to deliver in my own ward!
The lead story is Labour's decision to build hundreds of executive homes on Whickham Highway. Other stories include news about the Whickham branch of Lloyds Bank, Whickham Post Office closure and Remembrance Day parade.
On Tuesday I attended the funeral of Andrew Friend at Durham Crematorium. Andrew had been a presenter at Tyne Tees TV, a constituent of mine (before boundary changes) and a friend. He and his then partner Jonathan had experienced one of our self-sufficient dinners at our house. I last saw Andrew in March when I took Richard to an appointment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We had a quick chat but I had not appreciated how ill Andrew was at the time.
It was standing room only for the funeral. A fitting send off. RIP Andrew.
Sunday, December 09, 2018
Delivery of our latest Focus for Sunniside, Streetgate, Marley Hill and Byermoor is now completed. Key issues covered included:
- approval of house-building in Sunniside and Streetgate;
- arson attack on Marley Hill bowling club pavilion;
- birds of prey at the Whinnies in Sunniside;
- repairs to Ravensworth Castle;
- improvements to Sunniside Methodist Hall;
- flytipping removed from Byermoor
- Sunniside Christmas tree lights switch on.
We now have in our possession the Focus on Whickham which we will be delivering over the next few days.
Yesterday, I was at the Whickham Volunteer Library for their Christmas fair. I was there to sell my preserves. Around £200 was raised for the library's funds.
On Thursday evening the switch on ceremony for the Sunniside Christmas tree lights took place. Two of my goats - Coal and Perky - were there, cunningly disguised as reindeer. They overdosed on Christmas carrots!
Thursday morning required my presence in the Lib Dem office in Consett to do some printing - but not for the Lib Dems. I am helping the Lighting Up Sunniside group to raise the money for the village's Christmas tree. The switch on event was in the evening but I agreed to produce a leaflet that could be handed out to people to drum up support for the organisation. 200 A4 leaflets produced - probably my quickest print run in years!
Friday, December 07, 2018
My council ipad needed to be "migrated" so I lost half the morning going into the civic centre to sort this out. From there I headed to Marley Hill to deliver the last of the Focus newsletters I had. And in the evening, I headed to Sunniside Club where, as Chairman of the Sunniside History Society, I ran the meeting (which included our Christmas buffet - 54 people attended). I used my chairman's prerogative to not do the quiz (name the musical). This was a good move as I would have crashed and burned had I taken up the challenge.
Wall to wall meetings starting with corporate scrutiny (I asked questions about Gateshead Council's carbon footprint), then a seminar on Universal Credit, then a meeting with the director who deals with waste collection and cutting back trees and finally off to Sunniside Club to test the projector for the History Society meeting the next day. Last month the projector would not work so instead of playing a DVD, I had to improvise for an hour by giving a totally unplanned talk and Q&A on local history. I don't want to do that again!
There was a Christmas fair at Lobley Hill Community Centre on Saturday afternoon which was run by Groundwork, the environmental charity. They invited me to bring a couple of our goats to the fair. Sadly, the rain discouraged many people from attending but the goats were popular with those who did come. Alas, we were outdoors for the whole of the afternoon! We were a bit wet!
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Gateshead Lib Dems held another action day on Saturday, this time in Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward. We won the seat up for election in this ward from Labour in May and Labour's last seat here is being contested in May 2019. Alas, I was only able to get along in the morning as I had been invited by Groundwork, the environmental charity, to take some of my goats to a fair they were holding in Lobley Hill in the afternoon.
Despite the rain, I was sent out to deliver target mail. I ended up with a patch that had lots of long drives and steps! Members also carried out a survey of residents and got a positive response. A productive day.