Tuesday, March 21, 2023
I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to visit some of the historic sites of York over the weekend when I was there to attend conference. So here is my video of my trip to the National Railway Museum. I may be too young to remember the steam age but I recall seeing the new Intercity 125s on the East Coat line running through Gateshead in the late 70s and early 80s.
Saturday, March 18, 2023
Friday, March 17, 2023
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Financial institutions are back in the news yet again, and all for the wrong reasons. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has sent shockwaves around financial markets worldwide. Fortunately the damage in the UK was limited. HSBC snapped up the SV Bank's British subsidiary allowing investors to get access to their money. If only Scottish Widows (SW) could allow the same.
SW used to be one of the most respectable financial institutions in the country. And then it was bought up by Lloyds Group. For many years, it continued to work well. For the past year or so however it has gone into meltdown. It's customer relations are at best shambolic and if you are expecting to get your pension or savings policy out of them, there are delays running to months. Try phoning them and you can often wait over an hour to get through. Then you discover they have lost documents or they send the wrong documents to customers. It is thought that up to 10,000 customers have money trapped in SW.
There is a support group on Facebook on which customers have posted about their problem with SW. It all makes terrible reading for SW. People can't get to their savings to pay for partners/family members in residential care. Relatives of people who have passed away cannot get access to pensions and policies to pay for funerals. Pension funds are supposed to be paid within a few days of a claim being lodged. Thousands of claimants are waiting months rather than days.
When my brother Andrew died, we lodged a claim on his pension with SW and was accepted. 9 months later and SW have still not paid up. So I can speak from personal experience on how appalling the service is at Scottish Widows. This company must be one of the worst run in the country but why on earth are Lloyds Group allowing one of their subsidiaries to behave in such an appalling manner?
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
A new group of volunteers is in the process of being set up in Sunniside, this time to take on the job of planting up the village. Called Planting Up Sunniside, it will be based roughly on Planting Up Whickham. The second meeting of the group was held tonight in the Travellers. I was there to give my advice and help. I also answered lots of questions about other completely different issues.
Happy birthday Michael Caine, 90 today. He was the star of one of my favourite films - "Get Carter" - based in part and filmed in Gateshead. It is a delight to watch, just to spot the buildings and scenes which are no longer there. The film made the Gateshead Multi-Storey Car Park into a cult icon. This hideous monstrosity of 1960s Brutalism was demolished in 2010. I filmed the video about in 2008 when I was given access to the building and capture a number of views of Gateshead and Newcastle which can now only be viewed with a drone.
BTW, one of my other favourite films in "The Italian Job", also staring Michael Caine.
Wednesday, March 08, 2023
The Deputy Mayor of Gateshead Robert Waugh made an interesting claim recently. At the Council's budget meeting he sat on his hands when it came to the vote on our amendment calling for £1.4 million to be used from reserves to keep threatened leisure centres open long enough to find community groups that can take on the running of them. This proposal is supported by the group that is campaigning to keep Gateshead Leisure Centre open. Cllr Waugh came in for some heavy criticism for his failure to vote for the amendment from members of the campaign group and residents generally. Cllr Waugh's response was to claim that as Deputy Mayor, he could not vote at council meetings.
His claim is frankly a load of rubbish. There is nothing in the Gateshead Council constitution which prevents the mayor or the deputy mayor generally from voting at full council meetings. For years now I've seem mayor after mayor and deputy mayor after deputy mayor voting in the council chamber. So come on Robert, have an exciting evening at home, just you and the constitution. Spend a bit of time together getting to know each other so you can avoid any further similar claims.
Tuesday, March 07, 2023
Last week I paid a visit to Leyburn in North Yorkshire. The reason for the visit was to attend a funeral of Mary, who was David's mother's brother's wife's sister. It was an opportunity to meet up with David's relatives who we hadn't seen in person since before the pandemic.
The interesting point about Leyburn is that I have visited it before though it was about 34 years ago. The occasion was the Richmond by-election caused by the appointment of Leon Brittan as a European Commissioner. It was an absurdly long campaign, lasting months and months. The Conservative candidate was William Hague but the "continuing SDP" muddied the waters by fielding a candidate, Mike Potter, who performed remarkably well, coming second and in the process, saving the Conservatives from defeat. Months later the Owenite SDP sank without a trace.
At the time I was a PhD student at Newcastle University and over many weekends we took a minibus full of students to deliver a vast tonnage of leaflets in the constituency. Leyburn was one of the villages we delivered. It had not changed much in the past few decades.
Richmond has now produced 2 Conservative leaders: Hague and Rishi Sunak. I'm not sure whether that is a plus or a negative for the constituency.
Friday, March 03, 2023
The latest eFocus for the Whickham area was published tonight. Issues covered include:
- Council tax rise;
- Leisure centres on financial cliff edge;
- Call to cut councillors;
- Marley Hill football field transfer;
- Christmas tree mulch;
- Don't lose your right to vote;
- New meeting place at Sunniside.