Saturday, September 26, 2020

Attending conference online

Lib Dem conference opened yesterday but this time with a fundamental difference. It is entirely online, a result of the covid pandemic. As a fan of online meetings for Gateshead Council, the fact we are online is something I welcome for conference. There are, of course, some things I miss about not being able to attend physically - such as meeting friends, looking around the exhibition stands, mixing with like minded people. There are of course some things I am happy to miss - long and expensive train journeys to get to conference, hotel bills and the need to take 5 days away from home!

I've dipped into some of the debates and I was pleased to see conference yesterday backed proposals for a universal basic income. Currently, the debate taking place is on a federal UK. Alas, the joy of not being away from home for 5 days is also a drawback. I have half a tonne of winter fodder for the goats to sort. I don't have the excuse of being a few hundred kilometres away. So I have to leave the federalism debate and get on with some manual labour, though I did get a chance to vote against referring back the federalism motion.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Goodbye Elaine

Today we said goodbye to Elaine Earl, councillor for Winlaton and High Spen 2008-2012. Elaine passed away earlier this month. Due to covid restrictions we could not attend the funeral service but individual residents and friends lined the the route of the funeral procession so we could pay our respects. Sadly, with social distancing in action, we were unable to chat and share memories of Elaine but she will be remembered.

Gender Reform and Gateshead Labour

Gender recognition reform is urgently needed to end discrimination against transgender and non-binary people. Sadly, the Conservatives have abandoned reform. While Lib Dems and Labour support reform nationally, there is a significant number of Labour councillors in Gateshead who are with the Conservatives on this issue and oppose reform. They must be rubbing their hands with glee with what the government has done.

You can read all about how the parties view the issue on this link.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Do you feel you have been suitably buttered up?

I can see it coming in our direction - like an out-of-control juggernaut crashing through every obstacle on the road. The tougher pandemic restrictions are on their way and the nation has been subject to leaks, plans, proposals, warnings and so on about the rising incidents of positive coronavirus tests. We have less than an hour and a half to go before the actual restrictions are announced. We are already seeing the government calling on people to work from home wherever possible. I thought it was a mistake (from an environmental point of view) to encourage people to go back into the office and I miss no opportunity to raise the damage to the environment, the economy and people's mental and physical health of congestion and vehicle pollution. If we are able to cut out unnecessary travel, all the better.

Anyway, the announcements will be made shortly. So put on your facemasks and keep your social distance because things are about to get tougher.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The photocopier free trade achievement

At last, the UK has been able to negotiate a free trade agreement with a major economy. The government had previously clocked up agreements with the Faroe Islands and Papua New Guinea but anything large seemed to elude them. Now however, Japan can be added to the list of countries which will be free trading with the UK. A big achievement? Well, no actually. Membership of the EU gave us a free trade deal with Japan which came into operation in 2019. It was the world's biggest trade agreement. So, what has the government achieved in dealing with Japan themselves? Little more than a photocopy of the EU-Japan free trade agreement. In other words, the UK gained what it already had! Let's hope for the sake of the UK economy in the future that we can ensure all trade deals allow us to import photocopiers tariff free!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Low Fell eFocus no. 72

The Low Fell Lib Dem Focus Team have just published their latest email newsletter eFocus, edition no. 72. There is an update on Gateshead being moved tot he coronavirus "watch list" as well as news about the garden waste collection scheme (customers are to get a discount). There are also a number of Low Fell news stories.

You can read Low Fell eFocus on this link.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Local lockdown cliff edge

We are looking over the edge of the local lockdown cliff in Gateshead. We now have the highest rate forpositive infections in the North East and the 10th highest in England.

Please everyone, stay 2 metres apart others not in your household, but if you can't, wear a facemask. Wash your hands often and stay away from crowded areas. These are simple actions that could help save Gateshead from a local lockdown.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Corporate resources online

 I've just finished my first corporate resources scrutiny committee since January. It was held online and much of the discussion was about what we have learnt from the lockdown in terms of how the council operates. I strongly pushed for the council to offer as a right where appropriate the opportunity for council staff to work from home. I argued that it will help with mental and physical health and with protecting the environment (cutting congestion and emissions). Officers responded positively as indeed I'm pleased to say did the committee chair John Eagle.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Birtley eFocus no. 8

Our latest eFocus for Birtley has just been published. issues covered include local museums and galleries reopening, modest rise in coronavirus positive tests, Birtley gym reopens, full range of waste accepted at waste and recycling centres and Ed Davey chosen as new leader. 

You can read eFocus on this link.

Whickham eFocus 141 - coronavirus update

We brought forward the publication of our latest eFocus for the Whickham area so that we could update residents on the recent rise in the number of people in the area testing positive for coronavirus. At this point Gateshead is not on the list of areas likely to require a local lockdown. Nevertheless, the figures are a move in the wrong direction and we felt it important to ensure residents are kept informed.

You can read edition 141 of eFocus on this link.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

ALDC conference

 I am rather enjoying meeting on Zoom. In the past few weeks I've been able to attend more conferences and training events than I normally would because they have been online. I've been very busy with the smallholding so being able to pop back home for a meeting in between feeding the sheep and mucking out henhouses has been very helpful. Today, I attended the ALDC conference. It is raare for me to do so simply because it is often on the first day of autumn conference - and the first day for me is normally lost to travelling.

So hopefully, the party will continue to have Zoom meetings. Meanwhile, I also hope that Gateshead Council will continue after November to hold meetings online.

Anyway, a good conference today and a good speech by new leader Ed Davey. He can drop the "Acting" bit from his previous title. He's the real thing now!

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Whickham School demolition underway

Whickham School's replacement building is now complete. The old school buildings are now starting to be demolished. I have happy memories of the being a pupil there in the later 70s and early 80s. Some of the buildings that are now being demolished were built when I was a pupil and we were among the first to use them!

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Meeting cancelled in Sunniside

Tonight I should have been at Sunniside Club helping to broadcast via Zoom a presentation by Sunniside History Society about local train journeys that are no longer possible due to rail closures, mainly in the 1960s. Alas, we learnt last night that the Club has suddenly had to close for a deep clean following a positive test for covid for a Club member. We therefore pulled the plug on the meeting though we are looking to record the presentation and put it onto YouTube.

eFocus edition 140

We published another edition of eFocus for the NE16 and NE11 area over the weekend. It covers:
  • Chase Park survey
  • museums and galleries starting to reopen
  • modest rise in Gateshead coronavirus positive cases
  • Whickham Library 2nd hand book sale
  • Dunston gym reopens
  • Ed Davey chosen as new Leader
  • 3 billy goats gruff

Ed Davey elected leader


A rather busy week doing farming and self-sufficiency activities for this is a bit late - I am very pleased to see Ed Davey elected as new Lib Dem leader. I've known Ed since 2002 when I was working for the party on policy and I was allocated to the Parliamentary team around him. Key for me, then and now, is the green agenda and I am confident Ed's experience will be put to great use to move forward the environment debate. 

In the short to medium term, times will be challenging for the Lib Dems nationally. There will be no quick fixes and the road ahead is bumpy and full of potholes and delays, Nevertheless, we need to take the journey to recovery and with Ed at the driving wheel, I am optimistic about our Lib Dem future.

The photo above was taken at the March 2019 Lib Dem spring conference.