Monday, February 27, 2023

Group photo


Thursday was our first opportunity to have a photo taken of the whole of the Lib Dem group since the elections last May that saw Amanda Wintcher, Dawn Welsh and Amelia Ord elected to Gateshead Council. And of course, first photo with Ron as leader.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Happy birthday to the delivery machine


Paul Gibson is known as the Delivery Machine by Lib Dems in Gateshead. He will deliver thousands of leaflets guaranteed! Over the years, he must have delivered hundreds of thousands of Focuses for us. Paul is now a Councillor in Sunderland and yesterday was his 75th birthday. A birthday celebration event was held in Heworth Golf Club to celebrate this milestone yesterday. Happy birthday Paul!

Photo - me, Ron Beadle (new Lib Dem Leader in Gateshead) and Paul Gibson.

A postponed surprise


On Thursday evening I went to a Belinda Carlisle concert at the Sage, Gateshead. There is a bit of a back story to this. The two tickets were bought by Richard, two years ago, for a concert in October 2021. In September 2021, Richard went into hospital where he died in the early hours of Saturday 23rd October. On Friday 22nd, he mentioned the concert to me, believing it was due to be held that evening. He suggested I get in touch with the organisers to tell them about Richard in the hope that they would put us at the front of the hall. Alas, Richard was in no fit state to leave his hospital bed as he was too ill. He died a few hours later.

What neither of us realised was that the concert had been postponed. The first I knew of this was the arrival of the new tickets a couple of weeks ago. I decided to go to the concert, as much out of respect to Richard as anything else. A great time had by all. I just wish Richard had been there to enjoy it.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Angela's got her voice back

I had been concerned recently that Gateshead Labour Councillor Angela Douglas had lost her voice. Angela is the Cabinet member whose portfolio covers leisure centres. She is therefore at the heart of the controversy about the proposed closures of Gateshead Leisure Centre and Birtley Swimming Centre. Strangely enough, she has been rather quiet about the proposals. Yes, she moved the original report at Cabinet back in October which kicked off the consultation on proposed closures. But when I turned up for an interview with BBC Look North about the proposed closures, she was nowhere to be seen. The BBC told me that they had made repeated attempts to contact her but had not been able to elicit a response. Council Leader Martin Gannon had to do the interview instead.

Labour then held a public meeting in the autumn about the proposed closures and yet again, Cllr Douglas was absent. Martin was there however to fill the void.

In January, when her report came to cabinet, she had nothing to say. This is quite remarkable given the controversy and the partial shredding of the recommendations which had not gone down well the night before at the Labour group meeting. Poor Martin Gannon yet again had to pick up the reins on this at Cabinet.

So it was such a pleasure to hear Angela's voice again on Thursday at the Council's budget meeting. She didn't give a speech (despite much of the debate being about her portfolio) but she did shout at the Lib Dem group when Opposition Leader Ron Beadle called for a named vote on our budget amendment. And then outside the chamber, while the Lib Dem group were getting photos taken, she raised her voice giving her view loudly on her interpretation on what the Lib Dems had not voted for in the Budget meeting.

It's great to hear her vocal chords back in action. And I look forward to hearing her say something, indeed anything, on the issue that is so central to her portfolio.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Vindolanda talk

David Goldwater will be the speaker at the next Sunniside History Society meeting on Wednesday 1st March at 7pm. He will be speaking about recent excavations at Roman Vindolanda in Northumberland but will also be talking about the nearby fort of Magna at Carvoran. The meeting is at Sunniside Club, £10 for society members, £2 for visitors. All welcome.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Whatever happened to Calvin?

Calvin Lawson was the great hope of Labour in their failed attempt to wrest control of Low Fell ward, Gateshead, in last year's local elections from the Lib Dems. Alas, now he seems to have disappeared from the radar screen. Insiders informed us last year that Low Fell had not been his first choice when he tried and failed to get selected for Birtley ward. Other insiders told us that the Labour Low Fell branch selection meeting in January 2023 had to be abandoned as no candidates were forthcoming. We have since heard that a candidate from Bridges ward has been parachuted in.

So where is Mr Lawson? Has he thrown in the towel and decided to spend his time on other activities? Has he done what so many in Labour are doing - giving up while Keir Blair-Mark-2 Starmer opens the exit door for all those pining after Jeremy Corbyn? Or is he hoping for selection elsewhere?

Frankly, I doubt many will care. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Delivering in Sunniside


200 Focuses delivered this afternoon in Sunniside, in between feeding the livestock, cleaning out the chick house, milking the goat and rushing our newest lamb to the vet.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Delivered in Saltwell


I delivered a patch of Focuses in Saltwell this afternoon. They were all about the cabinet meeting at which Labour delayed a decision on the closure of leisure centres until after the local elections. I wonder why they did that!?

Arriving today


These arrived today - 5000 Focuses for Whickham South and Sunniside. Most have now gone down to Cllr Jonathan Mohammed's house where they will be bundled into patches. In the meantime, I am sorting my shoe leather ready to plod my way around the ward delivering a significant number of Focuses.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Visiting Marquisway Resource Centre


Gateshead's health scrutiny committee (I am a member) visited Marquisway Resource Centre this afternoon. It provides support for adults with special needs. It was a useful trip to see first hand the sort of facilities available in the borough.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Tidying up Sunniside

I was invited by residents to attend a meeting tonight in the Traveller's Rest in Sunniside. They want to set up a group that aims to plant up the village and keep it tidy. I was there to speak about the experiences of setting up and being part of a similar group in Whickham. My advice was to walk before trying to run - start with a limited number of objectives and grow to take on more over time. All in all, a very useful meeting and hopefully another voluntary group in the making.

Not the talk I expected

I was the guest speaker at the U3A meeting in Sunniside Club last week. I turned up with my laptop to give a talk on what history taught me about self-sufficiency. The problem was that I had actually been booked to give my talk about the Washingwell Roman fort. Fortunately, my error was rectified as I had the Roman fort presentation on my laptop. A quick switch of files and problem solved. The talk itself went down well. The self-sufficiency talk is not wasted. I have been booked to give it later this year by another group.

Monday, February 06, 2023

My next talk

My next speaking engagement is on Wednesday at 1.30pm when I will be talking to the U3A at Sunniside Social Club. I will be talking about what history has taught me about self-sufficiency. So that means two of my passions in one go! I will be giving the same talk later this year to Sunniside History Society. The Powerpoint presentation is ready. I will give it one further rehearsal tonight.

An impromptu talk

Sunniside History Society met on Wednesday last week. We were expecting a talk on 17th century Newcastle but the speaker at the last moment was unable to get to the meeting.  Plan B was put into operation. It was a video of the Tanfield railway from Pontop Pike to the Dunston Staiths. As people had turned up to hear about the history of Newcastle, I also gave an impromptu talk about the Lort Burn, one of the lost rivers of Newcastle. I will be producing a history video about it later this year so my research on the river was incomplete. Nevertheless, I was able to talk without notes for about 20 minutes and then had quite a wide-ranging discussion about the Lort Burn and how it affected the development of central Newcastle.

Time running out to give your views

Time is running out for residents to have their say on Council plans to slash the budget for street cleaning and a host of other environmental services. The Labour run Council are proposing £970,000 in cuts to environmental services, including: 

  • less winter gritting
  • cuts in street cleaning
  • reductions in grass cutting
  • fewer staff to look after our parks
  • weed control will be cut in half
Meanwhile, some environmental services will end completely. These includes:
  • getting rid of staff who remove graffiti and the Council’s dog warden
  • ending the volunteer support service for parks.

The consultation ends on midnight on 9th February.