A family is "worried sick" after a 28-year-old went missing after a night out.
Samantha Donkin, known as Sammie, who also uses the surname Smith, is described as being "vulnerable" and was having a difficult time when she went to meet a friend in Gateshead on Friday, June 19.
Her sister, Natalie Stokoe, told Chronicle Live: "She was fine on Friday, she said she was going to see her friend in Gateshead.
"I messaged her about 1.30am saying 'are you coming home?' and she said she was staying out, and she didn't come home the next day.
"Her friend said she got into a taxi at 11.30pm, which went to Morpeth. My sister doesn't know anyone in Morpeth as far as we know, so it doesn't add up.
"We've been ringing and messaging and she hasn't answered, so after 24 hours I reported her missing to the police, who are looking for her.
By Bill Crosby
Following the tragic road traffic collision on Victoria Terrace in the early hours of Saturday 19 August, I was contacted by concerned residents regarding the safety issues around that stretch of road. Suggestions were made regarding traffic calming measures as this was considered to be an accident blackspot and, following an initial telephone discussion with Northumbria Police that weekend, I met with Superintendent Huddleston at Bedlington Police Station on Friday 25 August.
The Superintendent was kind enough to fully brief me on the investigation to-date and together we visited the scene of the collision to examine the road and the conditions. We are fortunate in Bedlington to have quite wide roads that allow cars to pass safely even when there are vehicles parked at either side and this stretch of road is no different; in fact, whilst travelling from Ian Bell’s towards Bedlington Station, there is a good view with little obstruction of the road ahead. It is the opinion of the Police that the road conditions in no way contributed to this tragedy.
Traffic calming measures were discussed but the issue is where to put them? I myself have witnessed cars speeding along Hirst Villas and then onto Stead Lane and there could be an argument for traffic calming measures there also. As you may be aware, we are constantly being told that there are no bad roads, only bad drivers, and prior to this incident, there have been only three recorded collisions over the past three years in that area, all low speed incidents and damage only.
The period between an incident and a Crown Court appearance is always the most difficult and I would ask people not to fuel rumour and speculation as to the cause but rather let the Police get on with their job and investigate this incident fully. If anyone has any issues or concerns surrounding this matter, Superintendent Huddleston has asked me to pass on that he is more than willing to meet with anyone in order to address any matters arising. If anyone would like to take up this offer, please let me know and I will relay it to him.
Our thoughts are with all the families affected by this tragic event.
By Malcolm Robinson
After a pretty gruelling weekend at work I had to be up at Alnwick for a site visit at 11.00am on Monday morning. This was to do with an industrial estate being redesignated for domestic housing. We met the planning officer and the head of planning who I had just been exchanging e-mails with about S106 community gain funding trying to make sure Bedlington, and my ward in particular, benefited from any funding due to housing applications.
The chair explained the rules and again pretty severe, with none of us able to talk to members of the public! The officer then walked us around the whole site pointing out various bits contained in the application. I asked quite a few questions but without any local knowledge I felt I needed to get up to speed on how this might impact local residents.
There is a Neighbourhood Plan which has passed the referendum stage but not yet adopted as NCC policy. That opposes this reclassification and development and because it has reached critical mass has influenced the planner’s opinion so that what was an indication to accept has now been changed into a recommendation for refusal. I can only hope WBTC carries on with the Neighbourhood Plan I got the residents panel to start work on, they are now taken very seriously by planners on instructions off HMG.
That done and after another conversation with the head of planning about how the Core Strategy vote might impact onto council’s performance I came home and started on my paperwork.
I had my first surgery tonight as well. I had to pop into a resident’s house to break some not so good news about a project they wanted doing, and which the last councillor had promised, and afterwards I went to Netherton Club where my surgeries will be held. I didn’t need to wonder if I would get anyone turning up; my first constituent was waiting on the doors opening like me! Thankfully everything was written down because there are a lot of questions this lady is asking of our planners and one of the Bedlington developments. After talking it all through she left and a family came in. Once I understood their problem I knew I had to pull out all the stops to help them. That started at 9.00am the next morning when I could catch people at their desks!
Today I spoke to quite a few of our staff regarding the problem my constituents mentioned last night. I hope this gets resolved and dammed quickly!
Tonight I have Strategic Planning committee to attend up at County Hall and tomorrow I am starting work at 6.00am so I can finish earlier and make full council back at County Hall at 3.00pm.
There doesn’t seem much on the agenda for tonight but there is one thing jumping out at me and that’s the difference in what the planners have asked for by way of community payback funding or S106 funding in one of the applications. In the same number of proposed housing units as proposed for Bedlington they seem to be getting a veritable smorgasbord of community payback schemes whilst our funding requirement was extremely limited and curtailed? …….looks like I will be back onto planners soon enough!
The planning meeting went on for a couple of hours and we had the 500 house application deferred for a site visit. Given what might happen tomorrow with the Core Strategy that’s the only possible outcome as far as I could see. We turned down the change in use from industrial to housing for the Alnwick Industrial Estate and I used my input to thank the Alnwick Town Council and the people of Alnwick because they had agreed a neighbourhood plan in referendum, and were now showing us what we should be doing, not getting rid of industrial land but adding to it in the search for jobs in the county!
We also agreed the enlargement of the old Ash Dock at Cambois, something I completely agreed with but I had to mention the dredging aspect and its effect on fish migration up steam through Bedlington. That will be closely monitored and any affects minimised. Good, this should open up the whole of the Cambois economic activity area!
Wednesday and I had to start work early to get an early finish for the full council meeting I have at 3.00pm. Lots to do at work again and given three jobs at 1.00pm when I had to leave at 1.30pm wasn’t the best idea. I did two and laid the other one off on another engineer…..thanks Murry!
I made County Hall for 2.40pm and was given more addendums to the agenda. I had been sent extra information out by e-mail this morning and now several other bits of paperwork and I had 20 minutes to get through what were quite complex notes. I don’t think that’s the right way to conduct business which will affect the whole of the county in quite fundamentals ways.
The chamber was petty full with members of the public and journalists. The way the meeting went was little more than a farce in my view with a lack of microphones, seating, moving members of the public into another room and putting a speaker system on for them but the main awkwardness was the way the main political parties tried to get one over on each other time and time again. Done cleverly its quite entertaining but the crass way these guys duke it out is essentially extremely embarrassing!
The main bone of contention was the vote on the Core Strategy. It took a long time to get through these agenda items mainly because of the incomprehensible way they had been structured. The addendum to the motion was actually only extra information and when challenged by an amendment we didn’t know what the exact wording on the amendment was or even if in fact we were voting on the primary motion or the amendment. As I said Brian Rix would he been chuffed!
I did like the fact that there will be more emphasis on economic regeneration in a renewed Core Strategy if we voted for one but it does leave us open to speculative housing applications with little in our arsenal to withstand any application or appeals. On balance that is the reality of the current situation and has been for almost 10 years as far as housing applications go, are the benefits of including economic regeneration worth putting off submitting the Core Strategy to Government. I think they are but I will be seeking the revision to be classed as urgent. Sitting on the planning committee I know better than most how exposed we are relying on out of date plans off the old district authorities to turn down housing applications when we feel they are unwarranted. That’s been the case for about 6 years now!
One thing which was mentioned was the fact that housing did not attract permanent jobs. This was something I argued with the last administration about time and time again as they put all their economic regeneration and job creation plans into a house building strategy. Seems several reports have been commissioned nationally and all of them now refute that scenario, jobs don’t follow houses, in fact its houses that follow jobs! We have been doing it wrong for years and although justified I feel no jubilation!
There was an amendment offered which would have delayed our recall vote for 2 months to give time to examine what the government would accept as minor major modifications in the submitted plan. I voted for this but it was turned down and in the vote on the original motion I voted to recall the submitted strategy and rewrite certain sections using up to date information about housing need and include much more economic policies.
A second important motion was put and this time I had no compunction voting. I voted to retain the NHS beds in Rothbury. It had actually been closed down by the health authority and usually I would say keep politicians out of strategic decisions such as those of the Health Authority but I am completely against loosing our small local hospitals. In my view centralisation is a complete mistake in a county such as ours for certain things, health services being one.
Other bits of the agenda were whipped through and we didn’t get to say anything about the new LAC’s and their areas.
Today I had loads of emails and phone calls to make. I have another heavy pension panel meeting tomorrow and there was some extra reading to get through.
At 5.30pm there was the police meeting to attend. This was a meeting we agreed Bedlington Forum put together in response to concerns about losing CSOs in the Town after 10.00pm. All three independent county councillors were there as was Christine the Mayor of West Bedlington, Keith from EBPC and Stephen from Neighbourhood Watch. We were taken in by the inspector and Superintendent Huddleston the area commander also sat in. He played a very major role in the meeting and agreed to provide a small amount of funding to enable a continued but short lived CSO presence after 10.00pm. We thanked him for his understanding and said we all understood the position he was in regarding balancing the books. We spoke for some time and we all felt it was a valuable exercise so when the commander suggested we did this on a regular basis we jumped at the chance. Looks like this guy really wants an equal partnership but expects us all to play our part just as he will play his part. What more could we ask for.
Friday and I had to get up to County Hall for 9.00am. The Pension Panel had its first face to face review and there were quite a few external pension professionals coming in to present to us. The chair allowed us a 5 min comfort break after an hour and a half but then it was right back into the main business. I had to pull them back several times just to make sure I understood what was being talked about. I now have more training to do in London, that’s on top of the 3 residentials I already have. This meeting went on for about 5 hours straight and we had several presentations and updates off these pension fund professionals. The agenda was more or less pretty straightforward but one item seemed a bit oxymoronic to me. We voted to explore a new way of working which would make our panel redundant. Seems some turkeys do vote for Xmas!
Although I really just want to promote my ward and Town I do have a responsibility as an elected member to work for NCC Ltd and all the training we have to do and all these committees play right into trying to make NCC as professional and as representative as possible.
Monday and I couldn’t make the early morning training session today so when I got home I concentrated on catching up with all my mails. I sent one off to the head of planning asking how come a 500 house application in Amble gets a fortune by way of community gain funding while the same level of housing in Bedlington gets next to nothing?
I also sent one off to the Business Chair or the chair who presides over full council meetings, this one about the Core Strategy. I asked for reassurances and an undertaking that the review which we voted for last week will be given the resources and urgency it deserves and just how will the extra economic activity polices be derived?
I had one advising that we have a meeting with Arch next Friday and they will be updating us all, including the West Town Council and the East Parish Council, about where the Town Centre development is right now. Fingers crosses it’s moved on from where it was last time I asked!
I am looking forward to seeing it developed not least because there is a local parish councillor who has wagered me £1000 that nothing will ever happen there! I expect I will soon need to look for a worthy local charitable cause!
Well I got my reply off the business chair and he said he agreed with my premise and will do everything he can to make this Core Strategy review as brief as possible.
Again I did an update for the Town Council and this time only did bullet points which I was able to expand on whilst taking through them.
Strategic Planning committee. 500 houses in Amble…….500 houses in Bedlington? Against changing industrial to domestic housing land. Importance of a Neighbourhood Plan. Gave permission to extend Old Ash Dock at Cambois…opens up that area for commercial development. Warned about the dredging effects on migratory fish that might impact onto us up in Bedlington! Humford. That’s going to be extremely closely monitored and carried out at times where it will have least impact. Voted against closing the beds at cottage hospital in Rothbury. Held my first surgery at Netherton Club 6.30pm first Monday of month. Recalled Core Strategy…… New information regarding housing need plus lots more in about economic redevelopment. I did vote for the amendment to give it 2 months to explore options with HMG. I have since asked the chair for assurances it would be treated as urgent and given the resources it needs to enable a swift resolution. Since had contact off NCC as a consultee going to have to be more consultation…. Elements of full council meetings are little better than a farce due to the main political parties trying to score points off each other! Had the meeting with the police….and afterwards had my own meeting with them on behalf of some of my residents and problems identified at my surgery. Real heavy pension panel meeting! Meeting with Arch on Friday about the Town Centre redevelopment.
I have just come back from the meeting with Arch and they answered all my questions with professionalism and certainty! This bodes well for future meetings and I asked if we could reinstate some sort of Focus group given that used properly it will be a good two way connector. That was agreed by all. We also wanted the “Investing in Bedlington” web site regularly updated as part of a better communication tool and again that was taken from the meeting as a prime action! Quite a positive meeting with everything on track now, even the backing needed off the new administration.
Once everyone left I had to speak to the Arch guys about a problem one of my constituents is having with Arch. They have promised to look into it and get me a full report of what has been going on. Within hours I had a response and a phone call off the Head of Estates of Arch and a frank discussion about what had happened with my constituents! Given that we agreed on most things, he had to go off and check out what exactly had happened, promising to get back to me with answers!
In fact the gentleman in question has got back and I have a meeting with him tomorrow to discuss the situation. Couldn’t ask for more really.
While I was at work a very strange post appeared on social media about the Bedlington Town Centre redevelopment. It was off one of the participants in the meeting we had on Friday with the senior figures in Arch and their political control. Now we undertook not to say anything about where we are and what exactly is happening so not to compromise delicate negotiations being held with potential lessees of the spaces. This post seemingly attacks the project and asks people to put up their own questions as long as they take directions off the poster! This off someone who just hours previously had been party to a unanimous agreement? Unbelievable!
Seems this post has caused more of a problem to the poster than anyone else but in the ensuing debate which I cannot get involved with my name has been again mentioned! Seems I don’t have the experience or the ability to ask a political party for advice, so I am less than useless. This off someone who can’t even get a name right never mind the historical context and I have forgotten more about politics than this guy will ever know! But again the old adage rings true…….empty vessels make the most noise!
Getting ready for work at 4.30am on Sunday morning I was tagged into a post about broken glass in one of the play areas I renewed when I was Mayor. I could only contact someone who I knew would do whatever was necessary up to and including contacting our out of hours staff to clean up the dangerous glass pieces before some kiddie or animal cut their feet. Christine said she would go up and take a look and decide what to do then. She did go up and cleaned up all the broken glass which was what I would have done too. If there is a problem and you can sort it why not just do it? Anyway thanks to Christine for going out of her way to help and improve the area, much appreciated!
I have had some replies back today about questions I asked last week. One wasn’t what I wanted to hear but if it has to be………..Our Highways dept. e-mailed back to say they understood why I had asked for the upgrades on the B1331 to be done during the school holidays but they couldn’t process them in time. I’ll have another crack just to finally see if I can sway them because it will really cause problems doing that road at normal school times.
I had a strange phone call this morning too. It was off our election office up in County Hall. Seems I had transgressed some agreement during my canvassing for the election? I asked specifically what and was told I didn’t have the name of the printer on my leaflets which I handed out as part of my canvassing. I replied that I had actually asked about that and was told that because I was completely independent and paying for everything myself then it was unnecessary. Not so and there have been two complaints about it.
I have no doubt one complainant will have a first name beginning with a “T” and the other an “A”! So you couldn’t get me on the questions I asked in the leaflets, the allegations I made in those leaflets, the accusations I levelled in those leaflets, the only thing you can get me on is the fact that the business that printed them wasn’t included in the typeset. Pathetic!
Well T and A………….. I apologise to my constituents for that error but I was doing everything myself and I didn’t have a party machine behind me to do all the work needed to progress an election campaign.
Now that I have apologised maybe you’s might like to apologise for the glaringly “misleading” statements contained in just about every one of your election leaflets! One thing omitting the printer’s name, quite another mendaciously peddling deceptions!
Seems I now have a left leaning newspaper hack after me because of this………
Back to sanity………
I did get another crack at this B1331 problem and I have now been promised that they will expedite the paperwork as fast as possible and see if they can bring the time for these repairs forward to at least get the most disruptive work done during the holidays. Thanks Steve for that!
Well blow me down seems I am being targeted on a social media site by what looks like the Chairman of the local Labour group! It also looks like he is trying to justify his wife’s actions or inactions when she was the Bedlington Central councillor. Seems I was harassing and haranguing these Labour councillors in the run up to the least election? Can’t remember any of that, I did ask them some pretty uncomfortable questions in my leaflets though but as they were claiming credit for everything which was happening, in my view, they should be accountable for providing any answers people wanted to questions they asked. That would only seem reasonable.
Less of the distractions and back to the real business.
I have another meeting with Arch today, this time at Arch HQ! I have been in almost constant contact with them over the last week progressing problems some of my constituents are having with them. It’s now make or break time!
Well that was interesting. Absolutely no problems at Arch HQ only a willingness to help resolve what should never of happened as far as I could see. A very affable meeting and I did get to ask for extra help and perks for my constituents. Again speaking as you find a first class service from Arch with no one hiding behind any Chinese walls!
Today was always going to be busy. I had the day off from work but an early meeting up at County Hall for the chairs and vice chairs of the LAC’s. This time the meeting was held in the Chairmen’s dining room. Before the meeting I had a good conversation with someone who said he was likeminded as far as political interference went and if I ever needed any help or advice just ask. Nice to hear off one of the Labour members!
We took our places and the meeting proceeded. I felt it incumbent to draw some pretty intense conclusions about how these LACs proceeded and their remits. Surprisingly most other members agreed. So quite an open and progressive meeting I would say.
This new Pot Hole fund initiative was an item on the agenda and I raised questions about a lot of it, including the name.
The meeting closed after about 90 minutes but then I had other business to attend to along the corridor at Democratic Services.
We had our LAC tonight and again it was at Cramlington. I had insisted Bedlington gets its fair share as a venue but the lift at the community centre was reported as being problematical? I suggested the Sally Army building and after checking it out for the next few dates it was found to be already occupied on all the dates. I questioned our department again about our community centre and this lift problem and was told because someone had to get out of a special wheelchair to use it that wasn’t DDA compliant. I advised that the lift in fact takes the full wheelchair; no one has to get out and sit in something else to get to the first floor! OPPs someone made an assumption so now we will have our share of LACs in Bedlington at our Community Centre.
Our meeting came just after a planning training meeting and the first part was our own planning applications. One was deferred for a site visit while another passed unanimously. This seems an area where improvements can be made!
We then started the main part of our LAC. As usual several questions from Bedlington residents who always have a good showing in the public audience for this and the previous Area Meetings. I should know I was one of them!
During the course of the business we spoke about the new NCC Community Chest scheme and as vice chair of the LAC I have been delegated to chair it. There will be a panel who sit and decide who gets what as normal but there are some other tweaks proposed too. It was immediately questioned and opposed by one of the party political members……….Dear me, why not see how it works before opposing it, you never know it might be an improvement on what was there before under your watch!
Another item was the new “pot hole” fund. Each councillor can nominate up to three problem pot holes in their ward for repair. This is for the ones that always come back after a few months. The solution is to do much larger patches properly and not just stamp in cold tarmac! It’s actually for all sorts of small carriageway repairs so I will ask residents for their suggestions, they know better than anyone where these small road problems are in the ward.
After the meeting I did manage to have a chat with the acting CeO of NCC, Daljit Lally and remind her that my question to her principle officers was still unanswered. Very reasonable person and she promised to get me an answer or at least get me the route I had to take to get the answer I was after. This is about the time taken for an ambulance to get to my ward after a young lad was knocked down.
Well off down to see my brother for a few days but with mobile devices we are never away from some sort of work.
While I was away I had several constituents come back with problems and some even got back to me saying their problem had been sorted, that’s always nice to hear!
Two issues were always bubbling away, one the community gain funding for the 500 houses we might be getting and the other the time it took an ambulance to get to a RTA in my ward.
The first answer came back and I was shocked! Seems we have asked for the whole nine yards of S106 funding to be attached to our potential housing development? I had questioned why Amble and their 500 new house application had attracted a whole gambit of community gain for things like leisure, highways and education while ours saw only an educational requirement which had been decimated and that’s before we get to detailed planning! (Originally £3.8M this had been reduced to £1.7M and we probably won’t get that full amount even!) I have asked the officer who replied to provide the evidence for that because it was never mentioned at the planning application!
I am very unhappy about this whole set up where faceless bureaucrats who have probably never even stepped foot in the place make the decisions as to what’s best for our community. Guess what I believe we are the best people to decide what we need and don’t need in our area!
Daljit was as good as her word too and I was given a contact within the NHS to ask about the ambulance timings. I sent off the questions I wanted answering and had a reply back the same day. Not to get too excited it was only for additional information really but at least I have made contact with the right person now.
As soon as I got back home I had a meeting up in County Hall, this time a Corporate Services and Economic Growth scrutiny committee. This is really about the core business of NCC Ltd and how each segment is performing. Looks like these will be long meetings once we get right into things but as the new administration are still preparing their strategy it only took a couple of hours this time. I think for the first time ever I never asked a question! It was really about subtle changes to the way some things are dealt with and they seemed reasonable so I supported the changes, as did everyone else.
I did manged to question one of the cabinet who attended this meeting. I am extremely unhappy about not having the smalls scheme allowances rolled over to me from the last councillor. This is the £15K each councillor gets annually to spend supporting small projects in their wards. The last councillor left very nearly £20K unspent and this has now disappeared! I told the cabinet member I would be challenging them on this decision and he promised to get back to me with the full details of why that decision had been made. Loosing £20K because someone didn’t know what was needed is not something my ward can afford and I will fight it. I have the council constitution and I’m awaiting our equalities policy.
Well it’s the end of the month and another good live music event in Gallagher Park. It’s going to be a struggle to put something like this on again due to cost implications but there is no reason why something can’t be put on. It’s actually something I asked East Bedlington Parish Council about working together on a few years ago when I was on the West Town Council, but they said they had other commitments at that time.
Looks like we will soon be getting the press release off Arch about the Town centre redevelopment, about time!
I have been delegated to chair the NCC community Chest scheme for our LAC and I have put a proposal out to the LAC chair and the officer about how this panel is made up. It will be proportional with 3 labour members, 2 Conservative members and 1 Independent member. We have just received the new rules concerning this funding and it’s set of go live next month.
I put the details of the “Pot Hole” fund out and several of my constituents have been in touch to suggest areas. I have taken them all on board and visited each one and I now have the 3 suggestions I will put forward. I’m also working on proposals for the Local Transport Plan.
Next month looks a bit quieter.
By Russ Wallace
Local issues involving road safety and town parking have come to the fore over the last week or two.
Potholes! All 67 NCC Councillors have been asked to nominate three potholes for filling. If you are aware of any potholes please email me at the address below. Don’t worry if they are not in Bedlington Central ward – I’ll pass the information on to other Councillors. Along with West Bedlington Town Councillor Victoria Thompson I met with Richard McKenzie, NCC Senior Programme Officer, to discuss problems on Windsor Gardens where uncontrolled parking has led to both road and pedestrian safety issues as well as creating access problems for emergency vehicles. After consulting with residents, Richard’s view is that for a trial period of 6 months the road should be double yellow lined: ie no parking, from the Front Street to the junction where Windsor Gardens loops back to re-join the main thoroughfare. This will create an opportunity to evaluate the impact on parking elsewhere in the area. If it simply moves the problem further down Windsor Gardens and beyond NCC will again consult over the introduction of a Resident Parking Scheme. I would welcome views on this via the email address below and I will also be in direct contact with the residents involved. I have asked NCC to investigate opening the Car Park behind the Council Offices for public use as at least a temporary measure. This will alleviate some the parking problems in the town centre and allow easier access to venues on the south side of the Front Street such as the Community Centre and Trinity Church. I have also requested that NCC review the crossing at the Old Police Station by the roundabout at the west end of the Front Street – it is at best tired and needs updating. Officials from St Bede’s Church and parents escorting young children to local schools have expressed concern at the frequent ‘near misses’ that occur at the crossing. I am particularly keen to hear residents’ views on all of the above. Please contact me at: email@example.com or drop into my Surgery at 6.30 next Thursday, 4 July, in the Community Centre.
Thanks for reading.
By Russ Wallace
In a meeting with Cllr Richard Dodd, Conservative Business Chair of NCC, Bill Crosby and I raised the issue of Bedlington’s position in the Local Area Council set up, as large parts of Bedlington are part of one LAC and most of Bedlington Station part of another. Richard was sympathetic and promised a review early next year. This may lead to something or nothing but we are determined to pursue the issue. Furthermore, I recently attended an East Bedlington Parish Council meeting as an interested observer and I was pleased that the Council agreed that Sleekburn is part of Bedlington and as such should be included with the rest of the town.
The main item of the recent Full Council Meeting involved the Core Strategy recently submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Debate centred on the need to reduce the amount of new house builds contained in the submitted document and how this would be best achieved – either by modifying the existing document or by withdrawing it prior to resubmission. After voting in favour of a defeated motion to delay the decision to allow further consultation, I voted in favour of withdrawing the Strategy to allow it to be modified. My reasons for this were:
excessive house building across the County is an issue for many communities and it was easily the number one concern expressed by residents during campaigning even though a delay might prolong the current free-for-all among builders, it is important for the future as a whole to take the time and get it right I felt my decision best reflected the views of Bedlington Central residents. Along with residents and County and Local Councillors, I recently met with Police Superintendent Andy Huddlestone and Inspector Trevor Oakley to discuss the recent crime issues in Bedlington. I was pleased with their agreement to fund increased PCSO presence in the town until some of the current issues have been resolved. In addition Andy and Trevor were very much of the view that the community has a crucial role in reducing both crime and anti social behaviour, highlighting the need for the Police, schools, families and the community to work together. Couldn’t agree more. It is our community and we all have a role to play in making our town the best it can be. Should we all be thinking about possible monitoring schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch? – “interested” neighbours are invaluable in alerting authorities to antisocial activities!
As a standing item at the West Bedlington Town Council meeting, fellow Councillors Bill Crosby and Malcolm Robinson and I each give a verbal report to members on our recent activity. I believe this is an excellent example of good practice and fits in with our commitment both to work closely with our local Town and Parish Councils and to improve our communication with residents.
As reported on local social media Facebook pages, a highly encouraging meeting took place last Friday (14 July) involving local Town and County Councillors and representatives of ARCH to discuss the Tesco site development. I gave a commitment not to comment on the content of the meeting as there is much behind the scenes work in progress – however I eagerly await the imminent ARCH announcement.
By Russ Wallace
Before moving to the more political, a big thank you to those behind the Bedlington Picnic held yesterday, Saturday 1 July.
It was an outstanding event, superbly organised and supported by a huge number of Bedlingtonians. Vic Thomson deserves a medal for her efforts – but she was incredibly well supported by Daniel Wilkinson, Colin Patterson from Station Entertainments, Mayor Chris Taylor and the rest of West Bedlington Town Council, Allison Healy, Dave Johnson and Brian Sykes, to name just a few. Great day, thank you – and roll on Bedlington Picnic 2018!
My last blog was entitled “Accentuate the Positive” and introduced “The Bedlington Show” as a way of showcasing the good things about our town. The first show was intended as a taster to highlight some of the people behind the positive aspects of Bedlington.
I’m a tad overwhelmed by the response! Firstly by the positive comments from those who have listened to the show – I’m very much aware I’m no Chris Evans – but even more so by those happy to become involved in promoting our town. As a result there is another (at least one!) taster show currently in production. Keep you posted.
Down to business!
Like many, I am very concerned by the increase in crime in Bedlington over the last few weeks. Vandalism, threatening behaviour, robbery, car damage and arson have no place in our town. With that in mind, the announcement that the Bedlington Police Station Front Desk is to close overnight, is at best an own goal!
Fellow Town and County Councillors, along with community group members have been in dialogue with the Police and will be formally meeting with officers in the near future in order to express residents’ concerns and hopefully bring improvements to the current situation.
My interpretation of conversations so far is that the Police are as frustrated and concerned as we are, but remain hamstrung by the financial constraints under which they have to operate.
In the last week I attended two meetings that are worth highlighting.
The first meeting of the ‘Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee’ took place at County Hall. Due to its direct link in dealing with children and educational issues I am delighted to serve on this group. What pleased me most was the complete lack of politicking and point scoring which is part and parcel of so many meetings. All members, Tory, Labour and me, as the single Independent, were completely focussed on matters in hand. The result was a highly productive and constructive meeting.
This week also saw the first meeting of our Local Area Committee. The agenda in truth was not contentious and once the meeting was underway it was completed quickly and efficiently.
The beginning of the meeting was thought provoking. A Labour member began by expressing concern over the value of such a committee, citing previous style groups as being less than effective. Malcolm Robinson got his hand up first to express our disappointment and disagreement at that point of view.
It was good to see so many Bedlingtonians present in the audience. They far outweighed any other group. They led the open session with a series of pertinent and focussed questions to committee members. The answers given to questions were full wherever possible and a promise of a prompt personal response given when they could not be answered there and then.
I was therefore disappointed to then read on a local Facebook page that all one audience member decided to refer to the committee’s ‘snazzy Tory name’ rather than praise, or even mention, the full and positive responses received to his questions.
There is a full Council Meeting on Wednesday. The agenda shows changes made to other Local Area Committee boundaries but confirms there are no changes affecting Bedlington. Disappointing, as this means the town remains split in two when local decisions are being made. Although I support the Local Area Committee principle and will do all I can to ensure its success, I cannot in all conscience vote in favour of something that splits my town in two!
Thank you for reading.