Thursday, March 21, 2019

Woodmans approved

Last week, Gateshead's planning committee agreed to the plans to extend the Woodman's Pub in Fellside Road, Whickham (in my ward). An application like this would normally be approved, probably under delegated powers. However, the Woodmans is in greenbelt and therefore was recommended for rejection by officers. My view is that we need to build up the tourism infrastructure in the Derwent Valley and that means private businesses stepping up to the plate to improve visitor facilities and create reasons for people to visit the area. The Woodman's plans included the building of a function room, mainly for weddings. As far as I was concerned, the application in question was exactly the sort of small scale development we need to boost tourism in our area. I have therefore been guiding the application through the planning system.

I had to sit through 4 hours of other planning applications before the Woodmans was considered. I went into the meeting believing that the decision would be knife edge with a probability of rejection a touch ahead of the likelihood of approval. When it came to the vote, it was unanimously in favour of the application.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Moving forward with the campaign in Lobley Hilland Bensham

Last week I paid two visits to Lobley Hill and Bensham ward in Gateshead to help our local election candidate Nick Seaborn. Nick is new to the party but is very keen to lead the battle in the ward.  So far we have had one action day this year which saw the whole of Lobley Hill leafleted. Nick has recently been delivering letters in the Festival Park area and I will shortly be providing him with more to put through doors.

We've also been looking at the insufficient street sweeping and grounds maintenance. We'll be campaigning more on that during the election.

This ward campaign is very much about re-establishing our presence. Over a decade ago, we came within 50 votes of winning here and our plan is to build ourselves back up to a point where we are back in a position to take the ward from Labour.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Conference final report

conference hall York Mar 19 (6)

I'm back home from Lib Dem spring conference at York. Lots of photos taken and video shot. A good set of debates as well. The debate on setting up the registered supporters scheme did not entirely produce the fully desired result - members voted not to give a leadership vote to supporters, only to members - but the scheme will otherwise go ahead, which is great news. I was also in the conference hall for debates on internships and town centres.

Ed Davey Jonathan Wallace York Mar 19

One of the best points about conference is the chance to catch up with friends not seen face-to-face for six months (and sometimes longer). I bumped into Ed Davey MP this morning. I used to work closely with Ed when I worked for the party but that ended 10 years ago. So we had ten minutes to catch up on the past 10 years. Ed will be standing in the party's Lib Dem leadership election in May when Vince stands down. I'm tight lipped at the moment about who to support as no candidates have actually officially declared. And I want to see what each has to offer.

And finally, conference was closed in the traditional way - with the leader's speech. And as usual, Vince Cable demonstrated he was head and shoulders above Corbyn and May. Another good speech, peppered with examples of Vince's dry wit and poignant examples of the poor state of political affairs in the UK.

So, 6 months to go to party conference in Bournemouth. Quite what state the UK will be in by then is the great unknown. There is a great deal of water to pass under the bridge by then.

Back at York

I did not stay overnight last night in York. I simply weighed up the costs and found that it was far cheaper to go home and come back this morning. It meant last night I was in our goat house at 11pm bottle feeding two baby goats that were born ten days ago. An interesting distraction from politics! Anyway, I am now back in York having got the first train out of Newcastle (which was packed) this morning.

There are policy motions this morning on justice, knife crime, town centres and unpaid internships. The main attraction however will be Vince Cable's speech at 12.15pm, his last as leader.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Labour leader predicts "Total Oblivion" for Lib Dems

An interesting pronouncement by Gateshead Labour Leader Martin Gannon popped up on my facebook feed this morning. Hot off the plane from Cannes (the playground of the idle rich), Martin shared his prediction that the Lib Dems are going to be wiped out - "Total oblivion" he called it. Alas, Martin Sun Tan Gannon has made similar predictions before such as when he predicted we would lose in my ward (we won comfortably after Labour's vote collapsed). What his comments reveal are his greatest desires - no Lib Dems so therefore no opposition on the council. The People's Republic of Gateshead is what Labour wants. Perhaps, instead of travelling to Cannes at the taxpayers' expense, he should jet off to the Socialist Republic of North Korea.

After all, Martin is used to long journeys. Back in the 1980s he was militant Martin, in the 1990s he was Blairite Martin, then he became Momentum Martin. Three decades to go full circle. As for Lib Dems suffering "Total Oblivion", there is that small technicality called local elections getting in the way. We will see what results they bring but I predict he will be eating humble pie. In the meantime, we will continue to remind the people of Gateshead what Comrade Leader Jet Setting Gannon and his minions are up to.

New improved mugs!

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (2)

It seems Lib Dem Image have improved some of their merchandise and introduced some new must-have (for Lib Dems) items which can be bought at their shop here in Spring Conference in York. New improved mugs can be added to my already extensive collection of assorted mugs collected over the years from SDP, Democrats and early Lib Dem days.

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (3)

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (4)

Supersized key rings (big pockets required) are also on sale.

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (1)

And finally, Lib Dem aprons. I've not seen these on sale before. I'm tempted to get one. I could wear it while making mincemeat out of Labour in Gateshead!

York Spring Conference

Vince Cable at PCA reception York Mar 19 (6)

York is, yet again, the venue for the Lib Dem Spring Conference this weekend. I arrived yesterday, armed as usual with cameras. My photography jobs last night included taking the photos at the Parliamentary Candidates Association AGM and reception with Vince Cable. Vince has been through the Jonathan Wallace photography mill many times before so is used to my shouting at get people to stand in the right place and look in the right direction!

Photos from this weekend will be uploaded gradually to myFlickr account on this link.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I told you not to put up the bunting

Labour's recently announced policy that they will support a referendum on the Brexit deal did not last long. Labour MPs have just been whipped to sit on the fence on a vote to delay Brexit to allow for a referendum, thereby allowing the Conservatives easily to defeat the call. I wonder what those misty eyed Corbynistas who defend his every action (and inaction) are thinking about him now?

I did warn people a few weeks ago not to put up the bunting when Corbyn said Labour will back a People's Vote. If you did put any up, it may be time to remove it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Video diary 5th March 2019

Another catch up, this video was filmed on Tuesday last week. My main task of the day was to complete our eFocus newsletter (edition 114) and attend Sunniside History Society meeting.

Video diary 4th March 2019

A bit late as I've been busy over the past week so editing my video diary is a bit behind schedule. This video is from Monday 4th March. I was at corporate resources committee in the morning and spent the afternoon  delivering target letters.

Corbyn silent on referendum

One of the most interesting points about today's political events in Parliament was who said what. Note that Theresa May mentioned a number of options that MPs will have to consider over the next few days included the R word. In effect she said MPs may have to consider voting for a referendum on the Brexit deal. Yet, when Corbyn spoke as "Leader" of the Labour Party, he made no mention at all of the referendum, despite it allegedly being Labour policy. His usual response to any difficult question is to call for a general election (even though polls now show the party he leads is 9% behind the Conservatives despite the civil war the latter are fighting). Tonight was no different.

Those misty eyed Corbynistas, who think Jeremy can do no wrong, must surely now be getting a bit fed up with Corbyn. Or are they just too stubbornly stupid to realise the disaster he is to progressive politics?

Getting as far as Private Eye

Private Eye Gateshead Car Park Mar 19-page-0

When I wrote recently on my blog about Gateshead Council coming down on an errant publican about planning rules being ignored while building a gigantic car park themselves without planning permission, I was pleased to see it taken up by the Chronicle, our regional daily newspaper.

The ripple effect goes on however! Private Eye are now featuring the issue.

And it all started on this blog!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Council and Campaign Video Diary February 2019

My video diary for February 2019: lots of meetings attended, letters and leaflets printed and literature delivered.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Delivering in Festival Park

Nick Seaborn Mar 19

Our campaign in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward of Gateshead took another step forward at the end of last week. Nick Seaborn, Lib Dem candidate for the ward, delivered 300 letters to residents, mainly in the Festival Park area. More will follow shortly. Nick snapped this selfie on the estate. He'll be out again soon, delivering more letters.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Whickham eFocus 114

Just published this evening, the Whickham eFocus no. 114 covering the following issues:
  • council budget approved but no extra money for sweeping streets;
  • Swalwell scrapyard could be used for house-building;
  • branching into Lobley Hill and Bensham;
  • Arson attack on Dunston Staiths;
  • charity coffee in Sunniside;
  • Gibside's "Route to Relaxation" trail.
  • Woodmans application deferred.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Visiting the fire damaged Dunston Staiths

Yesterday I visited the Dunston Staiths which had been damaged recently by an arson attack. I was taken on to the structure by a member of Friends of the Staiths who also explained to me some of the problems of securing the site. The damage was less than I feared but nevertheless, still significant. Repair costs could be up to £50,000.

A public appeal has been launched to pay for the repairs and renovation work needed. You can contribute on this link.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Pelaw and Heworth eFocus no. 5

Lib Dems in Pelaw and Heworth ward have just published their latest eFocus, edition no. 5. Issues covered include:
  • Council sets budget - and rejects calls for cleaner streets
  • Potholes on Bolburn fixed
  • Support Heworth Grange
  • Tolls on Tyne Bridge.
You can read eFocus on this link.

Sunniside History Society - photos of Whickham

John Medcalfe slide Mar 18-page-0

Sunniside History Society's next meeting will be on Tuesday 5th March, starting at 7pm for 7.30pm, at Sunniside Social Club. The speaker is Richard Pears who will be talking about the recent history of Whickham, from the 1970s to the 1990s, and will be using the photos of John Medcalf, a local resident and keen photographer.

Members and non-members alike are welcome. £1 entry fee at the door.

Gateshead Lib Dems' tabloid

Gateshead Lib Dems tabloid Feb 19 p1-page-0

Currently going through the doors of homes in Gateshead is the Gateshead Lib Dems' tabloid. As it is now being circulated, it's time for it to be featured on my blog. So here it is.

Gateshead Lib Dems tabloid Feb 19 p2 p3-page-0

Gateshead Lib Dems tabloid Feb 19 p4-page-0

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Paper chase video

Filmed today as we shifted our supply of paper for the local elections into the office in Consett. A third of a tonne of paper!

Lib Dem Pint - the movie!

I filmed this at the Lib Dem Pint event in Felling, Gateshead, last night. Team Low Fell used the event as an opportunity to sort all their target mail!

Sorting the target mail

target mail sort Feb 19

Our trip to the Lib Dem office in Consett today was not just to deliver paper for printing, It was also to sort the target mail for two wards - Whickham South and Sunniside, and Dunston Hill and Whickham East. The letters had been put into envelopes at an event on Sunday. Today was all about integrating the different letters and putting them into their delivery patches.

In addition, I printed a final batch of letters for Whickham North and for Lobley Hill and Bensham and part printed my next ward Focus.

We will have lots to deliver over the coming weeks!

Ready for local election printing

Paper in transport Feb 19

The Gateshead Lib Dem Land Rover fleet was in action today to move a third of a tonne of paper from Newcastle to the office in Consett. We are now stocked up for the local elections! At current rates of leaflet production however, I can foresee our having to restock by the end of April!

Lib Dem Pint in Felling

Lib Dem Pint Felling 27 Feb 19 (2)

The Old Fox in Felling was the venue for Gateshead Lib Dem Pint last night. No Lib Dem event can be held without some work being done on literature. This event was no different. Team Low Fell turned up with over 1000 letters to sort and bundle up.

Lib Dem Pint Felling 27 Feb 19 (1)

Lib Dem Pint Felling 27 Feb 19 (3)

Meanwhile, the buffet catered for all tastes and diets.

Lib Dem Pint Felling 27 Feb 19 (4)

And there were plenty of empty plates at the end of the evening.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A uniform pollution charge won't work

I attended Gateshead Council Cabinet his morning. There was only one item on the agenda: proposals for a clean air zone in central Gateshead and Newcastle. One of the options is to charge all vehicles to cross the Redheugh, Swing and Tyne Bridges, other than a few ultra low emission cars. All other cars will be charged the same amount, regardless of their emissions. I am not convinced this will work.

Pollution charges are all about getting people to change their activities from dirty to clean. A pollution charge should, ultimately, collect no revenue as people shift to cleaner activities. This will simply not happen on the bridges over the Tyne. Everyone who has invested in low emission vehicles will pay the same as people driving the most polluting cars. There is no incentive to go green.

Indeed, the plans could be counter-productive. To avoid the charge, people are likely to drive west to get to the Scotswood or Blaydon Bridges, causing further congestion there and leading to longer journeys and therefore more pollution.

I put these points to cabinet and, interestingly, my comments were supported by Cllr Mick McNestry. Nevertheless, it looks like this flawed, counter-productive scheme will go ahead.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Arson at the Staiths

Dunston Staiths arson damage Feb 19

A few days ago, the Dunston Staiths, the biggest wooden structure in Europe, was damaged by fire. It is highly likely that this was deliberate arson and it is not the first time the historic structure has suffered in this way. Quite what drives people to carry out this sort of mindless destruction is beyond me.

I decided to have a look myself at the damage earlier today. I took a walk along the riverside cycle way which gave me  clear view of the Staiths and the damage. Hopefully, repairs will be possible.

Don't put up the bunting yet

News is breaking that Labour are to back a referendum on the Brexit deal. Hooray! But don't forget, this is the Corbyn Labour Party we are talking about. Corbyn is a Brexiter and he has been dragged kicking and screaming and at a snail's pace to the point we have now reached. At this point however, we don't know what Labour's referendum will be about. Will it be about Labour's pie-in-the-sky Brexit versus what? No deal? Remain? At this point all we can do is to keep our fingers crossed that Corbyn will propose a referendum between May's deal and remain. But don't count on it. Corbyn is a weasel who will do anything to get out of Labour's commitment to a referendum.

But if Labour are now to support a referendum of the current deal versus remain, this will be a game changer. Be ready to put up the bunting...but not yet!

Half a million visits!

A milestone has been passed. Recently, this blog recorded its half millionth visit! Hooray! The challenge now is to see it I ever get to one million viewings. I am likely to be seriously elderly by then!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Councillor Diary 24th February 2019 - the envelope stuffing party

I filmed this at our envelope stuffing party in the Lib Dem office in Consett today. While putting letters into envelopes is something of a dull task, put a bunch of people together to do the job and somehow it becomes quite fun!

More envelope stuffing!

envelope stuffing Feb 19 (2)

Another Sunday and another day of putting letters into envelopes. A group of Lib Dems from Gateshead ventured to the office in Consett and sorted the letters for three wards: Whickham South and Sunniside, Dunston Hill and Whickham East and Low Fell. We got through more than we expected so we've had to stand down (for the moment) the people waiting to do the remaining envelopes.

All we have to do now is deliver the letters!

envelope stuffing Feb 19 (1)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Lobley Hill Action Day - the movie!

Video filmed at our action day today in Lobley Hill.

We need visitor infrastructure in Gateshead

On Wednesday I spoke in support of a planning application to extend the Woodmans pub on Fellside Road, Whickham. Gateshead's planning committee considered the plans for the creation of a function room at the pub. This was a rare event for me - supporting a development in the greenbelt. But I believe there are sound and exceptional circumstances for this development to go ahead. The tourism industry in the Derwent Valley needs more infrastructure and we need small businesses to step up to the plate to provide it. But the planning system greenbelt restrictions can act as a brake on necessary and carefully planned developments.

So, above is a video of my presentation to the planning committee and the thorough grilling I got afterwards, and below is my speech:

I want to give you three reasons to support this application.

1)we don’t have enough high quality function rooms in Gateshead.

2)the plan complements the council’s rural economic strategy.

3)we currently have inadequate infrastructure for the growing no. of visitors to the Derwent Valley.

Gateshead has major visitor attractions, such as the Sage, Baltic and Gibside.

But we need smaller scale facilities as part of our visitor economy such as small hotels, restaurants and, as in this case, function room facilities.

Co Durham, Northumberland and Newcastle have many high quality function room facilities similar to what is proposed here.

This proposal helps address that shortage in Gateshead.

It will generate 15 jobs and more business rates for Gateshead.

The Woodmans is in the greenbelt but the greenbelt was never established to pickle what is there.

Businesses in the greenbelt should be able to grow within the confines of the planning system.

As a business that has recently won national awards, it is putting Gateshead on the visitor map.

We want more of that and this development will deliver this.

Finally, the Land of Oak and Iron is a unique project.

Infrastructure is urgently needed if the project is going to give our area a long term boost.

To ensure increasing visitor numbers are catered for, we need small businesses to step up to the plate and invest in the visitor economy.

Most of the Land of Oak and Iron project area is in greenbelt.

If Oak and Iron is to be a success, some limited development is needed in the greenbelt.

Without that investment and careful development, the visitor economy in the Derwent Valley will not cope and visitor numbers could fall away.

Oak and Iron is only one of three Heritage Lottery funded landscape projects.

It conserves both the natural and industrial landscape of the area.

This application has the backing of Mick Wilkes, director of National Trust Gibside, who phoned me yesterday and asked me to put his views to the committee today.

He shares my belief that additional facilities are needed if the Derwent Valley and Land of Oak and Iron are to have a sustainable visitor economy.

Fellside Road is not without recent greenbelt development.

East Byermoor Guesthouse was given permission to build a storage shed thereby helping the business expand.

Birdhill house across the road has recently undergone a major rebuild.

Whickham Golf Club is now enjoying new facilities, opened by the mayor two years ago.

The Woodman’s application is a modest extension at the rear of the building which does not affect the openness of the greenbelt.

So, this application gives Gateshead an opportunity to compete with neighbouring areas, complements the council’s rural economic strategy and contributes towards the growing visitor economy in the Derwent Valley.

We need infrastructure in place to ensure the project’s long term success.

That is the exceptional circumstance why the greenbelt restrictions need to be relaxed in this instance and this application approved.

Lobley Hill delivered

Lobley Hill Action Day Feb 19 4

I'm pleased to report that our Lib Dem action day in Lobley Hill was a success today. We had a street stall (actually my land rover covered with posters) from 10am to 11am from which we I dished out our Lobley Hill Focuses to members who came along to help. All patches were allocated and delivered! So 2000 homes got our message.

Some of us then headed to Dunston Hill to do a survey. We also had an action day in Felling and Pelaw and Heworth wards. Reports from there are positive!

Lobley Hill Action Day Feb 19 3

Above, Nick Seaborn (Lib Dem candidate in Lobley Hill and Bensham) and Vicky Anderson (Lib Dem candidate in Dunston Hill and Whickham East) chat to a voter before delivering a significant quantity of Focuses)

Lobley Hill Action Day Feb 19 1

Me and my land rover which had the role of street stall for the morning.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Gateshead Lib Dem Members' email newsletter

The latest edition of Gateshead Lib Dem members' email newsletter was published last night. It features the action days we are having in Lobley Hill and Bensham, Dunston Hill and Whickham East, Felling and Pelaw and Heworth wards tomorow, Saturday 23rd February. Also featured is our tabloid and our "Six to Fix" local manifesto.

You can see the newsletter on this link.

Focus on Lobley Hill

Lobley Hill Focus Feb 19

We will be in Lobley Hill tomorrow helping our council candidate for Lobley Hill and Bensham, Nick Seaborn, deliver 2000 Focus newsletters. They are all sitting in my sitting room at the moment but they will be heading down to Lobley Hill tomorrow morning when we will also be holding a street stall.

A decade ago we came within about 50 votes of winning the ward bit it slipped back into being strong Labour. We have every intention of turning that around with the aim of winning it in the near future.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The office envelope stuffing party

We had a gathering in the Lib Dem office in Consett on Sunday to put nearly 5000 letters into envelopes, print more letters, print the Lobley Hill and Bensham Focus and eat sandwiches! A successful day though it became a bit surreal when the talk around the envelope stuffing table turned to memories of the 1908s!

More Dunston deliveries

I was in Dunston on Saturday to deliver more Focuses. Key story in this edition was the air pollution levels on the nearby A1. While the government are requiring Gateshead Council to deal with illegal levels of emissions in central Gateshead, ministers are yet to put forward any proposals for reducing emissions on the A1, a road for which the government is responsible. Now is't that odd!

Labour's split - initial thoughts

Labour's split today has formalised something that has been gradually underway for months. But how does it affect matters up here in the North East?

My main concern is about whether or not the Labour party will back a referendum on the Brexit deal. I suspect the departure of the 7 MPs won't change Corbyn's position - he is a Leaver and has done everything he can to resist a further referendum. I'm not expecting any defections from Labour in the North East. They are too tribal here.

Is there a prospect of cooperation between the Lib Dems and Independents? Possibly, though quite how it will function is difficult to see.

It's early days and, like Brexit, no one can see the way forward through the fog of confusion.

Tabloid hits the doormats of Gateshead

Tabloid Jan 19

Our Lib Dem tabloid has started to hit the doormats of Gateshead. Bensham (part of Lobley Hill and Bensham ward, which we will be targeting in future elections) and Saltwell started to receive their copies this morning. Delivery will be rolled out over the next few weeks over other areas of Gateshead.

The lead story is the £700,000 spent on building a car park by Labour-run Gateshead that hardly anyone uses. We also have features on our "Six to Fix" (our local manifesto), on Labour waste and the need to build houses in the right places on the huge brownfield sites in Gateshead, rather than on former greenbelt which is Labour's favoured option.

So look out for Gateshead News coming through your letterbox shortly.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

We should have done this anyway

I recorded this at the end of January - it was after a Gateshead Council advisory group that had been held to consider the budget. The Council has a £29 million funding gap to bridge so some painful decisions have to be made. Nevertheless, there were some proposals in the budget which, even in the times of pre-austerity, would have been the right ones to take. A couple of examples spring to mind. The Council has a large fleet of vehicles and therefore a large fuel bill. However, if staff are sent on a training course on how to drive more efficiently, a saving on fuel of £120,000 would be possible. I pointed out that this is something good not only from the financial point of view, but from an environmental perspective as well.

Another interesting example of making savings but also improving the service was with children's services where earlier intervention leads to greater savings in the future as issues are tackled more quickly before they escalate into bigger problems. This is a reform that should have been done regardless of the current round of cuts.

So, while none of us want to be in the austerity suffered by local government, a few very small positive flashes of gold can be seen in the pan.

Envelope stuffing!

envelope stuffing Feb 19 (1)

We are having an envelope-stuffing and Focus printing day today in the Lib Dem office in Consett. There are about 15 of us here. The letters we printed through the week and currrently being folded and inserted into envelopes. And more are churning off the printer, as is our next Focus, this time for Lobley Hill and Bensham ward.

Lobley Hill Focus printing Feb 19

Meanwhile, lunch is served.

lunch Feb 19

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Full page in the Journal

Journal 15 Feb 19 GMBC planning hypocrisy

Oh the joy of having a blog that is widely read (and not just by the usual suspects in the Labour Party in Gateshead!) The above news story was taken from my blog and made a full page in the Journal yesterday. It was about a pub being fined for not having planning permission for an advert on one of its walls and then ignoring court instructions to remove it. The problem for Gateshead Council is that they went ahead with building a car park at Quarryfield without planning permission. Two days before it opened, the planning committee gave it retrospective planning permission. It has not put Gateshead in a good light. The Journal loved the story!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Printing in the office

Focuses Feb 19

I was in the Lib Dem office in Consett yesterday and today printing a load of literature for Birtley, Whickham North and Dunston Hill and Whickham East wards. Tomorrow, I will be delivering some of what I produced. I hope the weather is as good then as it was today.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

On BBC Look North

I was on BBC Look North this evening, talking about community asset transfers, especially as they affect bowling greens. I was interviewed at the green in Marley Hill. I've been helping the club with its community asset transfer. Marley Hill is at the forefront of transfers of bowling greens and the people running the club are very enthusiastic about it. The story starts 10.12 into the programme. If you blink, you will miss my bit but it's on this link.

The green has a nice privet hedge around it and the guys were happy for me to trim it. So 2 birds killed with one stone: BBC interview and food gathered for my goats!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Whickham delivery

Whickham North Focus Feb 19

Friday morning was cold and windy. Perfect weather for delivering Focuses on the Glebe in Whickham. 300 Focuses later and the cobwebs had definitely been blown away!

Friday, February 08, 2019

One rule for the many, different one for the few

car park empty Gateshead Oct 18 1

Gateshead Council rightly takes action against those who flout planning rules. If you don't have planning permission for a development that needs it and you go ahead with it regardless, planning officers will come knocking at your door. Continued failure to abide by planning rules can result in legal action taking place. Indeed, this is exactly what took place with a pub in Bensham, Whickham House, which has been hit by a £50,000 fine following failure to remove an advert on the side of the building which had been placed without planning permission.

Sadly for Labour-run Gateshead Council, while applying the rules to the many businesses and residents of the borough, they forgot to get planning permission on place before building a huge new car park at Quarryfield, near the Gateshead Quays. This vast car park was built in time for the Great North Exhibition last year. And then it was pointed out that no planning permission had been granted for the development. Two days before the £700,000 car park was due to open, Gateshead Council granted itself planning permission. To add insult to injury, the decision to spend this not insignificant sum of money on the car park was only officially agreed by the council cabinet three days before it opened.

This rather expensive incident does not put Labour Gateshead in a good light. Residents and businesses could be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the many, a different one for the few.

And to add even more insult to injury, hardly anyone has used Quarryfield. There is a danger it will become a parking lot for white elephants, though it is unclear whether or not planning permission is required for this change of use!

Saved by the Faroe Islands

Torshavn Jun 09 (44)

The Department for International Trade has been hard at work recently and hooray, we have a trade deal that will save the UK from the abyss once we are into the brave new world of Brexit! That economic superpower, the Faroe Islands, has signed a trade agreement that allows fish and crabs to be imported into the UK. It looks like the great British fish and chips dinner has beaten back those hoards of beastly Eurocrats! This is real Brexit - making our own trade deals with the major economies around the planet!

Except that the trade deal is simply a rollover of the existing EU trade agreement with the Faroes. So, far from Brexit letting us negotiate our own trade agreements, instead, Britain is free to negotiate for what we already have. The only difference is that we now have to pay for our own Department of International Trade when previously the EU would have carried out international trade negotiations on our behalf. It would be interesting to see the price we pay to run this department. How much does photocopying other people's work cost these days?

(Photo of me in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, June 2009)

Government press release on this link.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

DLI at the History Society

Sunniside History Society Clive Bowery DLI Feb 19

On Tuesday, Sunniside History Society, we had our monthly society meeting, and the speaker was Clive Bowery who gave us a fascinating talk about the DLI (Durham Light Infantry) during the First World War. He focused on the discovery, identification and burial of three soldiers killed during the conflict whose remained were found in the past five years. 

The most intriguing was 2nd Lieut Arnold Septimus Barker from the Sunderland who served with the 7th Bn DLI, who somehow got to be buried in Singapore! Clive explained that Barker was invalided out of the army no fewer than THREE TIMES through injuries he sustained during the first two years of the conflict. Following his third invalidation, he accepted a role with an oil company based in Singapore, but unfortunately he was still suffering the effects of being gassed and died there in May 1917.

The next meeting is on Tuesday 5th March at 7.30pm at Sunniside Social Club where the speaker is Richard Pears talking about the photos of the Whickham area taken by Jack Medcalf.

More having Labour cake and eating it

During the 2016 referendum, the Brexit campaign offered an idyllic future in which we would have all the benefits of EU membership with none of the costs. We were told the EU needs us more than we need them. We were the giant forcing those little Europeans to the negotiating table where Britain would use its superpower status to beat up all those foreigners and make them accept a British dictated future deal. In other words, Britain would leave the club but continue to use the facilities without paying membership fees, and for good measure, wouldn't even have to abide by the club rules.

It all sounded too good to be true. Indeed, it was too good to be true. The past two years have demonstrated clearly that the UK is a middle ranking power having to seek a deal with an economic superpower from which we are removing ourselves. All the cards are stacked in the EU's favour simply because of economic and political reality.

Now it appears that Jeremy Corbyn is putting out feelers to Theresa May, outlining a number of demands that need to be met before Labour will back the Conservative government over Brexit. So let's take a look at their demands.

A permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union, including a say in future trade deals.

While some form of customs union is possible (after all the EU conceded a customs "arrangement" in the May deal, at least as a temporary measure), Labour are in cloud cuckoo land if they believe the UK can walk out of the EU and then continue to have a say over trade deals negotiated by the EU. If Labour's demand were agreed by the EU, it would mean the UK has been rewarded for leaving with even more say that we have at the moment over EU arrangements.

Close alignment with the single market, underpinned by “shared institutions”.

This is similar to the previous point. Labour seem to think Britain can create a "shared institution" in which we and the EU seem to be equal partners able to redirect the direction of the single market. So, yet again, the UK would be rewarded by the EU for leaving. The UK can be part of the single market as either a full EU member or under a Norway-style agreement in which the rules are accepted but the UK has no say over them.

Dynamic alignment on rights and protections, so that UK standards do not fall behind those of the EU.

If implemented, what is the point of leaving as this policy means the EU would decide our employment and environmental law with no say for the UK?

Clear commitments on future UK participation in EU agencies and funding programmes.

More cake and eating it. Brexit is supposed to mean we don't need the EU, but here we have the UK continuing to benefit from membership of a whole string of EU institutions. No doubt Labour will dream, just like the extreme Brexiteers, that the EU will give the UK free access to these institutions and an equal say with the EU over running them. Dream on.

Unambiguous agreements on future security arrangements, such as use of the European arrest warrant.

Even more cake and eating it.

So, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn inhabits the fantasy world of Superpower UK. The reality is that the EU is in a far stronger position than we are. And they are living in the same world as the hardline Brexiteers of the European Research Group.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Whickham eFocus 113

The latest edition of the Whickham area eFocus has just been published. Issues covered include:

  • Chase Park house-building proposals agreed in principle.
  • Fellside Road reopened.
  • Call for A1 air clean up.
  • Council Budget.
  • Sunniside table top sale.
  • Dunston Station extension.
  • Camera view of local roads.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Council and campaign video diary - January 2019

This is my video diary of my council and campaign activities in January, covering the meetings I attended, action days attended, site visits carried out and occasional views on issues such as Gateshead Council's budget.

That Labour sinking feeling

In 2015 and 2016, Labour's starry eyed members voted overwhelmingly for Jeremy Corbyn as their leader. The 2017 general election rather disguised the problem Jeremy Corbyn is for Labour. What appeared to be a good election result (it looked good only because the assumptions about the outcome were so bad for Labour), turned out to be a much less generous picture for Labour. While there had been a significant increase in share of the vote, Labour failed to turn most of that into a significant increase in the number of seats they hold.

Two years ago, Labour behaved as if they had won the general election. I heard lots of Labour councillors in Gateshead drooling about the forthcoming socialist revolution. All they needed was another general election and they will sweep to power to implement the red revolution (which amounted to forcing Britain to relive the 1970s) and a fantasy Brexit that would give the UK all the benefits of EU membership without the costs.

Nowadays, I hear nothing from Labour councillors about Corbyn walking on water. They can barely bring themselves to mention his name. That's hardly surprising. His fence-sitting on Brexit and his total failure to hit the Tories hardly inspires Labour members (or anyone else). The guy is a waste of space who has significantly helped to reduce Labour's poll ratings to be 6% below what they achieved at the 2017 election. That's quite an achievement for an opposition party that is facing a governing party that is tearing itself apart.

So, as I said last year in this blog, Labour need to be careful what they wish for. Their answer to every policy vacuum is "Hold an election." The danger now is that they could get exactly what they ask for!

Withering on the Brexit vine

It looks likely that in the next few days, Nissan will announced that it will not go ahead with a planned investment at its plant in Sunderland. The Government promised Nissan in 2016 after the referendum something, though what is not clear. Why Nissan executives at the time accepted assurances that ministers were not in a position to deliver is one of the many unknowns of Brexit. I suspect however that Nissan's pending announcement will be the model for Brexit. Major international companies have significant investments in the UK. They won't abandon them overnight, once Brexit happens. But they will be left to be run down over the coming years. Plants in Europe will get investment, plants here will be maintained on an on-going basis until such time as patching up and cannibalising aging equipment is no longer viable. Factories will wither on the Brexit vine.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Pelaw and Heworth eFocus no 3

The Lib Dem Focus Team in Pelaw and Heworth ward of Gateshead have just published their next eFocus. This is their 3rd edition and features:
  • Dealing with anti-social behaviour
  • Potholes fixed
  • Good news for Bill Quay farm
  • St Mary's Church clock repaired
  • Update on the Council's Budget
  • Helping the Focus Team
You can read eFocus on this link.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

"Secret" cameras and democratic rights

GMBC notice of recording Jan19

Last night, I attended Gateshead's planning committee where a decision was to be taken on whether or not to allow in principle up to six houses to be built on Chase Park, Whickham. I will discuss that issue on another post. I am not a member of the committee but was there to film this section of the agenda. In the meantime, let us look instead at the claims of someone else who attended the meeting: Labour's Cllr Chris McHugh.

Cllr McHugh, head of office for Blaydon MP Liz Twist, raised objections to my filming the meeting after the vote was taken on the planning proposals. He seems to have overlooked the fact that filming council meetings is a democratic right enshrined in law. He was told by one of the officers that anyone can film a meeting. Cllr McHugh concluded that I should have informed the chairman in advance.

As it turns out, just before the start of the meeting I chatted to the chairman about various pleasantries. I said nothing about filming the meeting but since I was standing next to him holding a video camera and a very large and obvious tripod while engaging him in conversation, explaining that I was there to record proceedings was somewhat unnecessary.

Interestingly, a notice on the door to the meeting (see above) states that people are welcome to record the meeting. Nothing about needing to inform the chairman in advance! Perhaps Cllr McHugh should read what is in front of him before he wastes people's time with his whinging.

And so we move on to this morning and Cllr McHugh has had time to come up with another silly claim to deflect attention from what he had done over the Chase Park proposals. This time he splashes a claim across residents' Facebook sites that I was somehow "secretly" recording the meeting! The deflection attempt failed. There are countless comments by residents unhappy with his support for the Chase Park proposals.

But a thank you to Chris is appropriate - thank you for giving us a new story about Labour being unhappy about opening up the council to democratic scrutiny by giving residents the opportunity to see elected representatives in action through the medium of video.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Momentum backing Venezualan chaos

Momentum banner Jan 19

On Monday evening I was in Whitehall and spotted a loud but relatively small demonstration. As I walked passed, I heard the speaker attacking "Western colonialism and imperialism" and there were shouts of "Hands off Venezuela". Yes, a demonstration in favour of the socialist government of Venezuela and their reckless destruction of a once rich economy with some of the world's largest oil reserves. I take the view that everyone is allowed to support whatever political outlook takes their fancy but I can't help believing that those in the demonstration were somewhat deluded. One million percent inflation and the devastation of the Venezuelan economy however seems not to have woken the demonstrators from their delusions. But there again, many of the demonstrators were holding Momentum banners. And if you are ever in search of a bunch of deluded people, Momentum should be your first port of call.

Taking the biscuit

council tea and coffee no biscuits Jan 19

A few years ago I made quite a bit of noise about the need to stop providing biscuits to councillors in meetings of Gateshead Council. At the time, the council listened and acted. I instantly made myself unpopular (or even more unpopular depending on a councillor's view of me) when the biscuits disappeared from meetings. After a year of so, suddenly biscuits made a reappearance at meetings. So I started to make a fuss again. And hooray! It now appears the biscuits have gone again. I have attended lots of meetings in January and each one was a biscuit free zone. Chew on that everyone!

Snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat

I was in Westminster last night for a meeting so I was around when the votes on the Brexit amendments started to come in. Well, we all know what happened. Theresa May scraped through on the Brady amendment, thanks to a temporarily reunited Tory party and, as I predicted last year, a group of Brexit-backing Labour MPs. We were, of course, previously told that her deal was absolutely final, non-negotiable, totally impossible to change, cross my heart and hope to die etc etc etc. Now in survival mode, Mrs May went for her own jugular by backing an amendment that trashed all her previous claims. Having been defeated once, she now leads the cavalry charge against her own plans. Given that the EU are still making it clear that they are standing by loyal and supportive EU member Ireland, and that the existing exit deal was negotiated along the lines of Mrs May's very own red lines, it is difficult to see what "alternative arrangements" could be agreed upon in the weeks we have left that would be acceptable to the EU.

It is likely that she will get next to nothing more from the EU unless she makes a major concession. That looks unlikely. She has snatched defeat from the jaws of defeat. What a record to have!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Pelaw and Heworth Action Day

Fewster Sq Lib Dem street stall Jan 19 (1)

We had a very positive action day in Pelaw and Heworth today. Lots of surveys delivered and doors knocked on. And a large delegation of residents visited our street stall in Fewster Square (just outside the ward). I think we all came away feeling happy with the progress we are making in the ward.

Whickham eFocus 112 just published

Our latest eFocus for the Whickham area, edition 112, was published tonight. The lead story is an update on Labour's proposals to build houses on Chase Park. Also included: defibrillator installed at Whickham Library, Sunniside Chapel table top sale and closure of Fellside Road for maintenance.

You can read eFocus on this link.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Planning visit to Chase Park

On Thursday Gateshead's planning committee carried out a site visit to Chase Park in Whickham where the Labour party want to allow house-building. With the park under threat from development, this was always going to be a controversial proposal by the council.

I attended as one of the Whickham councillors and captured the visit on video.

Labour's transphobic motion deferred

On Wednesday last week, I was sitting in a meeting when an email arrived with the agenda for Gateshead's full council meeting on 24th January. I decided to scroll through to the motions. There were two from Labour and one in particular caught my attention. This was about gender self-identification. You can read the motion at the end of this post.

The proposer was Cllr Leigh Kirton, a Labour member of Gateshead Council I cannot recall speaking at a meeting before. As I read further into this (for Labour) typically essay length motion, it became obvious that this was not a motion supportive of the trans community. Indeed, though dressed up with attempts at supportive language, it was quite hostile. It contained an open attack on the concept of self-identification and demanded no change to the current law without a mountain of hurdles to cross.

Self-identification is the next major reform of the law as it affects the LGBT community (and especially trans people). It has been proposed by the Conservative government. Labour nationally support it. But Labour in Gateshead seem to want to put themselves to the right on the Conservatives on this matter.

Occasionally I expect Labour in the North East to be resistant to change. They are the establishment party here and too many people in Labour's ranks in the region join to keep things as they are, not improve matters through reform and change. Nevertheless, I was still taken aback by the tone of the anti-trans motion. At Lib Dem group meeting that evening, all our members shared my views.

The group agreed that we contact LGBT groups in the region and bring their attention to the motion. I was asked to speak to Gateshead Council Labour leader Martin Gannon to ask him to consider withdrawing the motion. If not, we would vote against at full council. When I got through to Martin the next day, he was quite adamant that the motion would not be withdrawn.

And then the proverbials started to hit the fan. Labour in Gateshead were under attack in the local media. The national LGBT media were knocking at Labour's door demanding an explanation. LGBT organisations were rightly angry. Labour LGBT were demanding answers.

On Tuesday this week we picked up on social media that Labour had decided to "defer" the motion. This was confirmed to me by Martin Gannon when I phoned him. Quite what is meant by "deferred" is unclear, but I suspect Martin will bury this motion and never let it see light of day again.

To some extent, I was surprised Martin ever allowed this motion to get as far as it did. He is on most issues (but not all), relatively progressive. But I suspect he has a council group that has elements that at times are out of control. Part of that comes down to the fact that Labour in Gateshead has a large council group - 54 out of 66. We are of course doing our best to solve that problem for them.

But Labour in Gateshead are now damaged by this issue, and deservedly so. And they have only their own ineptitude and narrow-mindedness to blame. Shame on them.

The motion, now "deferred":

Councillor Leigh Kirton will move the following motion:

This Council believes that, in line with current law, all marginalised groups in our society should be fully protected in ways which ensure freedom of self-expression and protection from harassment, and accords them respect, privacy, safety and dignity.

Current Government proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act would allow anyone to self-identify as their chosen gender. Under the present Act a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria is required to change gender, as well as living as your chosen gender for a two year period.

Amending the GRA could impact upon current provisions of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to the rights of women and those who have already reassigned their gender.

Council believes that the general public, especially those affected by the proposals, has the right to discuss them and confirms that any request for use of public buildings for such purposes will be allowed.

Council calls upon the Government to:

  • Conduct a full public consultation accessible to all, not just through an online document, on how self-identification would impact upon women only services, facilities, sports and spaces.
  • Defer any change to the Gender Recognition Act until a review is carried out into the application in practice of the exemptions named in the Equality Act (2010), which allow for discrimination on the grounds of sex in certain situations, such as positive action to improve the representation of women in public life, or when recruiting for jobs which require a man or woman for reasons of privacy and decency.
  • Research the impact of self-identification upon data gathering – such as crime, employment, pay and health statistics – and monitoring of sex-based discrimination such as the ‘gender’ pay gap.
  • Oppose the principle of simple self-identification unless checks and balances are in place to mitigate possible detrimental implications for women in terms of safety, dignity, privacy, participation in public life, and political representation.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Low Fell Focus no. 26

Lib Dems in Low Fell ward in Gateshead have just published edition 26 of their eFocus newsletter. Issues covered include:

  • Information sessions about extra bin trial in Low Fell
  • Pathway to be reopened
  • Supporting the Low Fell Ukes
  • New Environmental Team comes into force
  • Road markings on Durham Road
  • £1,400 for bollards!

You can view Low Fell eFocus on this link.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Chase Park decision delayed

On Wednesday last week, Gateshead's planning committee considered a proposal in principle (PIP) for up to six houses to be built on the former depot and stable block in Whickham's historic Chase Park. Gateshead Council are keen to sell this part of the park for housing. Members of the Lib Dem Focus Team are equally determined not to allow this to go ahead.

The business entrance to the park is part of the site that is likely to go up for sale in the near future if the PIP is approved. The historic gateway there has just been restored and the single track lane has an awful junction with Rectory Lane. The precedent for building in the park will also be set and there are fears that this will be the start of the slippery slope.

Dunston Hill and Whickham East Lib Dem Councillor led the battle at the committee meeting. Peter spoke against the proposals. The result is that the committee decided not to take the decision at that moment but instead to have a site visit. The decision will then come back to the next committee meeting.

(Video above: Cllr Peter Maughan calls on the planning committee to reject the Chase Park plans.)

History Society report back

Jane Lowes (January 8, 2019)

On Tuesday 8th January, Sunniside History Society held its first meeting of the year. The speaker was Jane Lowes, an author who had researched the fascinating life of Sarah Marshall, who was raised in Seaham in the 1880s but who emigrated to Australia as part of a programme to boost the number of women in the Australian colonies. There was also a detailed explanation of the events surrounding the Seaham pit disaster in 1880.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 5th February at 7pm in Sunniside Club when the speaker will be Clive Bowery who will give a presentation about the Durham Light Infantry in the First World War.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Gateshead's housing strategy - better late than never

Earlier this week I attended an advisory group at Gateshead Civic Centre about the council's housing strategy. The old strategy finished at the end of 2018 but during that year, I banged on about the need to get the new strategy in place. From May onwards I raised it at every full council. I got a variety of responses from the cabinet member for housing, Cllr Malcom Brain, as to why the new draft strategy was not materialising, including a claim by him that he was waiting for "ideas from officers" on what to include. I always though politics was supposed to be the other way round - politicians with ideas seeking the advice of expert officers on how to implement them. As the year wore on, the excuses became thinner and thinner until, by October, a draft went to cabinet and approved for consultation with the implementation date being 1st January 2019.

I asked questions about how members could be involved given the tight timetable to bring the consultation responses back to cabinet in December when the final strategy would be signed off. As a result, it was agreed a members' advisory group would be held on 9th January. It then emerged that the strategy would not go to cabinet in December but would go instead in March, getting us round the problem I had raised of giving members a say on the strategy 9 days after it went into operation. Cllr Brain's management of the housing strategy has been somewhat shambolic, though he did try to blame me at the December full council meeting for the delay in implementing it because of my perfectly reasonable request that members have a say on the strategy before rather than after it is implemented!

Anyway, when I ready the draft strategy in October I was concerned about how woolly the document was. This was a point to which I returned on 9th January. In addition, I made the following points:
  • The mixed market approach is the right one but there is still too much focus on home ownership. The key focus instead should be on providing sufficient homes. Tenure is of secondary importance.
  • Is the strategy future proof? I'm not sure it is. I've been saying for the past 8 or more years, since work started on rewriting the local plan, that we have lots of family homes in Gateshead but a large number are occupied by elderly individuals or couples who have lived there for decades. Many of them would happily downsize to a smaller property in their existing community but can't because there is nothing available. The Council's local plan requires 60% of new houses to be "family" homes. I think this figure is too high. Building housing for older people actually frees up family homes and allows for a better match between the individual and the home in which they live.
  • Is the strategy Brexit proof? Given that most building materials and a significant amount of skilled construction labour comes from the EU, how do we cope once Brexit (hard or soft) has cut us off from materials and manpower? The strategy does not address this.
  • And finally, there is no mention of the future of the council's high rise blocks. Most of our voids are in them. People in the social sector want to live in houses not high rise flats. Maybe it is time to sell off some of the blocks to the private sector (which is able to attract appropriate tenants) and invest in building homes instead. I also made the point that we as a council should also be present in the private rented sector to ensure there is a supply of good quality rented housing that also gives Gateshead a rental income that can go into local services.
So, I said my bit. We shall see what comes of it.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Yellow Pest flop in Gateshead

Gateshead was all set for a yellow vest (pest?) demonstration on Saturday. I was reliably informed that a bunch of conspiracy theorists and followers of the far right would be gathering on the Sage car park and then the massed ranks of yellow pests would march on the Civic Centre to call for street lights to be turned off and unspecified "corruption" to be addressed. Alas, things did not go according to plan. There weren't enough yellow pests gathered to fill a parking space, never mind a car park. Nevertheless, the massed ranks of 15 individuals headed south towards the Civic Centre only to find one of their ring leaders arrested as they paraded through the traffic on Gateshead High Street. Apparently drivers weren't too happy that the road was being invaded by people who claim the 31,000 lamp posts in the borough are all part of a terrorist plot to kill people (I kid you not!)

As a result of the chief yellow pest being taken into custody, I understand the protesters performed a uturn and headed back north to cross the river to Newcastle police station at Forth Bank. On the public pavement, speeches were made. Alas, no members of the public were there to listen to their ludicrous conspiracy theories.

Better luck next time!

Monday, January 07, 2019

Door knocking in Dunston Hill

Dunston Hill survey Jan 19

On Saturday morning I was called at 5.15am by a friend who I had taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Friday evening. He was in a state of distress so I had to jump into the car and head over to calm him down and keep him company. I thought I was about to miss the canvassing we had planned for Dunston Hill in the morning. Fortunately, after 3 hours of doing my caring role, I was able to get away to do the door-knocking. I'm pleased I got there. We were doing a survey and we had a very positive response. No negative comments and a thoughtfully large number of people who recognised me, even though this is not my ward!

Pictured above - me with some of the survey replies from residents of Dunston Hill.

Friday, January 04, 2019

My last photo of Paddy

Paddy Ashdown book signing Sept 12 (10)

This was the last photo I took of Paddy Ashdown, back in September 2012 at his book signing session at Lib Dem conference in Brighton.

I have some fond memories of Paddy from the early 1990s when I was Lib Dem candidate in Hexham. He visited on a number of occasion. I remember one visit in particular when his office had instructed that during his tour of Tyneside and Hexham, he had to have a rest break. My parents' home in Lobley Hill was the chosen venue. Mam didn't quite get the purpose of Paddy's stay. She cooked and baked a vast array of food even though his next stop was Hexham for the constituency dinner. He was terribly nice about it!

A bit later, in 1998, Paddy came to Whickham when we were campaigning to stop Labour stripping Chase Park of its play equipment (a campaign we eventually won). One of our councillors, Colin Ball, was there and mentioned the name of a friend who lived in Paddy's Yeovil constituency. Paddy knew who Colin was talking about and was able to mention the times he had met the constituent in question. His memory for the details of his constituents and constituency was hugely impressive.

Paddy, you are sadly missed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Low Fell eFocus

The Lib Dem Focus Team in Low Fell have just published their latest eFocus. Key issues covered include:
  • Some Low Fell residents to get extra bin
  • Lighting column improvements
  • Concerns over drug debris
  • Last chance to have your say on Council's planned budget
  • Happy New Year from the Focus Team
  • Can you help the Focus Team?

Kissing goodbye to 2018

2018 was a good and bad in parts. The bad bits were the paralysis of the political system by the Brexit chaos. On the plus side, personally it was a challenging but constructive year for our self-sufficiency project.

Anyway, we saw in the new year on the Tyne Bridge, watching the fireworks. I captured the whole display on the above video.