Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Asking for a devolution update

Full Council in Gateshead last week: I asked Martin Gannon, leader of the Council, for an update on devolution to the North East. Our region entered negotiations through the all-Labour North East Combined Authority with the Government for a devolution package. Labour mishandled the whole issue and frankly they have been a shambles. The plans collapsed and Labour in the region are split over the issue with the three authorities north of the Tyne threatening to go their own way. In Gateshead, I moved a Lib Dem motion in September calling for a constitutional convention to be set up to take forward proposals that would be acceptable to the region and the Government. The Labour group accepted the proposals. Martin has raised the convention proposal with other Labour council leaders in the NECA area but we are awaiting news on responses. Hence my question at Council on 15th December.

There wasn't much light thrown on the issue but Martin did reveal that the business community is pressing for a meeting to move ahead with devolution.

This issue is now quite pressing as many other regions are going ahead with devolution. Thanks to the shambolic North East Labour Party, our region has been left, not in the slow lane, but the no lane.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gateshead Lib Dem pint (and buffet)

Old Fox pub Dec 16 (2)

Gateshead Lib Dems had another Lib Dem pint event last night. This one was held in the Old Fox pub in Felling and also had a buffet. A good time had by all. I rather liked the pub - it had a real fire, not one of those fake gas things.

Old Fox pub Dec 16 (1)

Printing Birtley Focus

Birtley Focus Dec 16 (6)

I had a trip to the Lib Dem office in Consett on Tuesday to print the back of our next Birtley Focus. This morning I returned to print the front and fold it, just in time to get home and get changed to go to the full Council meeting at Gateshead Civic Centre.

The Focus leads on proposals to improve the A1 between the Coalhouse junction and Birtley. Also included is a bit about the council budget and my selection as candidate for Blaydon. The constituency currently includes Birtley though that looks set to change if the proposed boundary changes go ahead.

Paul Elliott, who is leading the Lib Dem team in Birtley, collected the Focuses from me this evening. Circulation will be underway shortly.

Birtley Focus Dec 16 (3)

Birtley Focus Dec 16 (7)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Challenging Gateshead Council on equality

This morning at Gateshead Council Cabinet I raised concerns about the equality implications on changes to terms and conditions for essential car user allowance. The report to cabinet showed that 75% of the staff affected are women but the equalities impact assessment said no groups would be impacted. In this video. I raise my concerns. I've also included the responses of the officer and leader of the council, Martin Gannon.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gateshead Lib Dem Christmas Dinner

Stone Trough Gateshead Dec 16 (7)

On Saturday, Gateshead Lib Dems held their Christmas dinner at the Stone Trough in Low Fell. A good time had by all. Sadly for Cllr Peter Maughan, he was unable to attend so I was forced to have 2 dinners! Waste not, want not.

Stone Trough Gateshead Dec 16 (6)

Stone Trough Gateshead Dec 16 (1)

Stone Trough Gateshead Dec 16 (3)

Sunniside History Society's Christmas buffet

Sunniside History Society buffet Dec 16 2

Last Tuesday, Sunniside History Society held its Christmas buffet. I have attended most of the society's meetings this year and was closely involved with the Fugar/Washingwell Hidden History project. So there was plenty to celebrate last week. Alas, though I won one of the raffle prizes, it was a box of Liquorice Allsorts, which I hate! I gave them to David.

Sunniside History Society buffet Dec 16 1

liquorice allsorts Dec 16

Friday, December 09, 2016

Dunston lights switch on

Dunston Christmas lights switch on Dec 16 (6)

On Wednesday, another local Christmas lights switch-on took place, this time in Dunston. I was there to snap a few photos (with Councillors Peter Maughan and Sonya Hawkins). Well done to all involved.

Dunston Christmas lights switch on Dec 16 (8)

Swalwell lights switch on

New, improved, modern Santa visited Swalwell on Tuesday by trailer towed by a Volvo rather than in that old-fashioned sleigh. Congratulations to everyone who helped arrange the Christmas lights switch-on or helped at the event. This is the video I made. And below, a few photos.

Swalwell Christmas lights switch on Dec 16 (11)

Swalwell Christmas lights switch on Dec 16 (1)

Swalwell Christmas lights switch on Dec 16 (7)

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Local economies and local currencies: self-sufficiency in Gateshead

I'm just back from a meeting of Gateshead Council's advisory committee looking at commissioning and procurement. The video is of my contribution in which I talked about how a local currency could keep more wealth in Gateshead and avoid it seeping out to centres of power and finance. I used my knowledge of history and my experience of self-sufficiency to illustrate how a local currency could work. I suspect the Council may return to this issue at some point.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Jack Charlton in Sunniside

Jack Charlton at Simply Local Sunniside Dec 16

On Saturday, my home village of Sunniside had a famous visitor. Jack Charlton of England's 1966 World Cup winning team, was a guest at the Christmas market at the Simply Local shop. Great to meet an English footballer who was a member of a team that actually won something, and did so without the fat cat football salaries of the 21st century.

Firebrick Brewery visits Simply Local Dec 16 2

Also at the fair was Alistair Lawrence who runs the Firebrick Brewery in Blaydon. Alistair and I went to Whickham School together over 30 years ago.

Spotless at Simply Local Dec 16 1

Meanwhile, Andy Singh, who runs Simply Local, was keen to have a visit from one of my goats. So we took round Spotless, our billy, who feasted on carrots kindly provided by Andy's mum!

Spotless at Simply Local Dec 16 4

Saturday, December 03, 2016

There's still a long way to go

Wetherspoon's breakfast Dec 16

I didn't expect to stay up into the early hours of Friday morning to watch the Richmond by-election result live. I decided to watch a bit of the coverage at midnight to get an indication of how things were going and then go to bed. But then I saw Sky News interview Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael who wasn't giving too much away verbally but whose smile suggested we were doing well. I decided to stay up until 1am. By then, the indications were that we could win. I decided therefore to stay up for the final result. The rest, as they say, is history.

It was a fantastic result and it has been a great boost to the party in terms of profile and morale. We also won on a clear platform of being pro-Europe. In that sense, we have a result that is arguably different to previous Lib Dem by-election gains (it's a decade since we have had one). The key formula then was to hoover up protest votes in by-elections. (And before my legions of local Labour readers start sneering about that, let me just remind them that their own party employs exactly the same technique.) This time we are fighting on a clear, positive policy position. It may not be the policy supported by the majority of people and our message to hardline Brexiteers will be rejected by them, but the 48% who voted to remain now have a voice that will put the case for soft Brexit and continued cooperation with Europe.

One of the interesting suggestions from the Richmond result is that the Conservative Remain vote had collapsed. Without a strong Lib Dem presence on the political landscape, that vote has no home. Our job now is to rebuild that presence and win over the Soft Brexit voters from the Conservatives and Labour (who now seem to be totally at a loss on the Brexit issue). It is still a long road ahead of us, but the Richmond result has put a spring in our steps.

On Friday morning I went down to Whickham for a slap up celebratory breakfast at Wetherspoons. Walking along Whickham Front Street, I was stopped by 4 different people who wanted to chat to me. I got questioned about my Dad's recent operation, comments were made about my elder brother moving back to Whickham, I discovered a tv presenter friend had split up with his long time partner and, inevitably, I was quizzed about how the world of self-sufficiency is going. Alas, no one mentioned Richmond. As I said earlier, there is still a long road ahead of us.

(Photo: large, traditional breakfast from the Harry Clasper in Whickham.)