Wednesday, September 20, 2023

2 motions for debate

 Full council tomorrow in Gateshead and there are two motions from the Lib Dem group. 

The first is about flytipping and reads:

Gateshead Council congratulates Durham County Council on their tough stance on fly tipping by issuing nearly one thousand fines in 2021/22. Council notes that in the same period Gateshead Council issued one fine. Council calls on the Chief Executive to write to the Chief Executive of Durham County Council to invite him to send an appropriate officer to conduct a Gateshead members’ seminar to explain to members and officers how their success was achieved.

The second (which will be moved by me) reads:

This Council calls on the Chief Executive to draw up a proposed amendment to the Council constitution that would allow the submission of amendments and motions to full Council by email. This change should be ready to be incorporated into the next review of the Constitution.

Labour have submitted a wrecking amendment to the first motion but a not-unfriendly amendment to the second. Should mean an interesting debate.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Booked for regional conference

I've just signed up for the 2nd conference of the autumn. Northern Region Liberal Democrats will be meeting for the AGM on Saturday 4th November at the Little Theatre in Saltwell, Gateshead. It's four years since we last met in person, having switched to online conferences because of covid. No motions are on the agenda yet as the period for submitting them has just opened. The Little Theatre is in Saltwell, scene of one of our gains from Labour in the local elections in May. That on its own is worth attending conference to celebrate.

The other conference is the party's national conference in Bournemouth starting in 8 days. This time next week I shall be on a train heading south, hopefully in better weather than we have at the moment.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Rejoining by stealth?

I thought one of the main reasons for Brexit was to free ourselves from all those European institutions, whatever the cost. The announcement by the current Brexit government that the UK will rejoin the Horizon Europe programme must be a source of concern for those who thought withdrawing from the EU was a great idea. All those Brexiteers must be fuming that a fundamental plank of Leave has been tossed onto the fire. Being part of Horizon is strategically crucial for UK science and it is clearly in the national interest to be part of it. So, for once, let me congratulate Brexit-backing Prime Minister Sunak on his U-turn.

Other government decisions must also be upsetting Leavers. We were promised control of our borders but we have an internal border between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland. No matter how much the Windsor Agreement improves the flow of goods and people, Brexiteers must feel a sense of betrayal that control of our border with Ireland rests with the EU. And don't forget the government's failure to take control of all of our borders in relation to goods coming into the country from the EU. While Europe has implemented border checks, the UK still enjoys the free movement of goods into the country, very much against what was promised in the referendum.

We await, of course, the benefits of Brexit to arrive. In their current absence, Leavers must be worrying that Horizon, Windsor and movement of goods without checks show Britain is rejoining the EU by stealth.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Low Fell eFocus no. 128

 Team Low Fell are still hard at it with their latest eFocus. In edition 128, they cover the following issues:

  • Sunday's flooding
  • Bus shelter on Durham Road replaced
  • Ward boundary changes - have your say
  • Lorton Road trees

You can read eFocus on this link.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Dinner time

Gateshead Liberal Democrats have never before had an annual dinner. That is now changing. On Monday 16th October, we will be sitting down to dinner in Rosa Twelve in Low Fell. Guest speaker is Simon Hughes. I will be attending and I've just carried out the most significant job of today: choosing starter, main course and dessert!

In the olden days, when I worked for the Lib Dems, I once prepared a briefing for Simon for a meeting at conference. He got the briefing in the morning and attended the meeting in the evening, having completely memorised it. He missed nothing out and spoke without notes. Very impressive!

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Back up plan


Last week, someone managed to back their car into the frontage of Stewart Eyecare in Whickham. Fortunately no one was injured and the business continues to operate, despite the boarded up windows. I had my eyes tested there yesterday. New glasses should be with me shortly. In the meantime, hopefully the glass panels will be replacing the chipboard soon.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

I think you are forgetting your past, Martin

On Monday, a post from Martin Gannon, Labour leader of Gateshead Council, dropped into my Facebook feed. He asked:

"Got to ask the question. What part does ATC privatisation play here? Just wondering."

It's an interesting question, given the airline chaos of the day caused by a faulty system that came close to grounding the nation's entire air transport. Martin's reference to ATC (Air Traffic Control) is actually a reference to National Air Traffic Services wholly owned by NATS Holdings. This is a public-private partnership and was proposed by Labour in government in 1998 and implemented in 2001. The public sector retains 49% of the ownership. Though a minority, it is the biggest individual shareholder and the government retains a golden share.

Martin has had a number of political incarnations over the past 40 years I have known him. In the 1980s, he was militant Martin. In the 1990s he could out-Blair Tony Blair. From 2010 to 2015, he at least on the surface was comfortable with Ed Miliband. From 2015, his views on Corbyn were difficult to pin down (in public at least). 

Martin's FB post seems to hint at privatisation being the cause of the problems that blew up on Monday. Given that NATS has been in the private sector for 20 years, privatisation as the cause seems very unlikely. He also overlooks who was responsible for the sell off - his Blairite government of which he was a super fan.

Maybe Martin has a need to shore up his support on Gateshead Council with the left of the Labour party. Attacking privatistion, or at least raising questions about its suitability to operate important infrastrucutre, could bolster his support among those Labour councillors who still pine after Corbyn. Quite what those same councillors think about Martin's pursuit of the privatisation of the management of Gateshead Council's leisure facilities would be interesting to know.


I see the government have announced that, for the fifth time, they have postponed the introduction of border checks on EU goods entering the country. If I were a Brexit supporter (I am not) I would be furious at the government's inaction on the borders. After all, taking control of our borders and Britain deciding what comes into the country was a key promise of Brexit. It is yet another promise of beauties of Brexit that have not materialised since we left the EU.

Sunniside leek show


On Tuesday, Sunniside Social Club held their annual leek show. I didn't enter any of the competitions myself (I don't grow show leeks) though some of the people there suggested to me I should give it a go next year!

Well done to all those who did enter the competitions and especially to those who won.

Let me eat cake


A craft fair was held at Marley Hill Community Centre on Saturday and I popped in, hoping that there would be plenty of cake makers. I found only one as I toured the stalls. But that was sufficient. A large piece of lemon drizzle cake was purchased. Obviously I wasn't being self-sufficient when I bought the cake but we are happy to support local bakers and crafts people.

On a general point, I try to visit as many of the community events in my ward as possible. It is a useful way to keep in touch with people, and pick up issues - as I did on Saturday!