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Malcolm Robinson

Councillor Robinson - September

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September 2019.

 

September started off with a bang!

 

First up was a site meeting up in Berwick. I had to be at County Hall for the bus then up to a pretty chilly Berwick leisure centre to hear what the proposals were.

Had a pre- planning meeting today about a possible new large scale development.  I did have questions, one of which was about offering apprenticeship schemes within the projects seeing as it would probably last 3 years plus.

 

Strategic planning and a rush to get down into the full council chamber to take my seat. I had to declare an interest in one agenda item so I had to leave the room for that one.  First one was the Berwick proposal and I questioned the officer about various aspects but especially pedestrian safety seeing as there are two schools at the other side of the main road and whatever way the kids cross they have to cross a road on quite a steep hill.  There was also the question about the roundabout which is actually on quite a slope. Other members echoed my concerns and some asked if we might impose conditions. I said could we not include a suggestion after the planning offer said we shouldn’t really impose conditions. Again after some discussion that was not allowed either!

During the course of my interchange with the highways officer it emerged that they could only consider present and historical pedestrian figures in their assessments? Now that sounds crazy to me, here we are proposing to build a new leisure facility with 2 schools opposite and we cant consider any future usage figures in the application. I thanked the officer for giving us an insight into the crazy rules and regulations they had to operate under! The application was passed with only one member abstaining.

I had to leave the meeting for the next item and halfway through I was joined by another member who realised he should have declared an interest too.

Returning there was another two applications to hear and after some discussion both passed with one member abstaining on one of them.

 

Full council today so I left work early to get home grab a quick shower and change before getting up to County Hall in time.  Seems our usual seats have been taken over by the last opposition leader and his cohorts so Russ, Bill and I found seats near the front. Lots of the usual political shenanigans at full council but I am more and more thinking that we could be doing this better, its all too stage managed!
I did have a question this one about the report by the standards committee which said anything I said in public, and that is verbally or written, I did so as a member of NCC.  I said I believed that subjugated my right to freedom of expression because I have a life outside these walls!  That had to go to the solicitor to answer because no one else understood what I was getting at.  He did and assured me it wasn’t a policy proposal only a repeat of a central government line which wasn’t even being proposed yet if ever!  It did produce reactions from other members one of who supported my warning.  Another said he expected conversations he might have in public places to be treated as confidential, but that isn’t what this sentence said!  The opposition leader said we were under the guidance of the Nolan Principles anyway which actually backed the point I had made when I said as elected members we operated under strict guidance anyway but as private individuals we were entitled to have personal views as well. If this comes back I will fight it because it curtails my ability to have a personal life.  I did say I realised there was a problem with this issue but gagging people  wasn’t the way to fix it!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqxN2M-_1XU&t=3716s

 

 

Had a meeting with our highways technical officer today and we walked around the area I wanted him to look at.

Pleased to see the interactive speed signs have been fitted and working at Netherton Village and Hartford road.  Still more road markings to be done and taking out the 60 MPH sections as we leave/enter the Town on the B1331 and the A1068 in an effort to curtail speeding cars.

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Had our Classical concert tonight and for once I was able to make it.  Absolutely stunning performances with something for everyone. I was pleased to see so many people turning up for this and many messages of congratulates. I passed them onto the organiser who along with the Staff at Plessey did a superb job for us all. Working on more events down there with the next at Halloween.  I have to say here that trying to make them free events while putting on real professional entertainers isn’t easy, but if it was everyone would be doing it!

STOP PRESS……..STOP PRESS………..STOP PRESS………..STOP PRESS…… 

Just heard the funding for our next Plessey Woods event has been agreed. Look out for a kiddies spectacular just after the New Year!  It will be super…..literally!   

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Plessey concert.

 

Had to go to Blyth today and do training regarding State Aid. Interesting session with lots of legislation to consider.  Given some of my ‘hypotheticals’ and the answers which came back I have to wonder how some of the more outlandish historical schemes and the associated funding by Arch was even considered never mind rolled out!

 

Had a meeting with the Advance officer who is in charge of project management and an officer from Active Northumberland.  I started off by asking about public loo provision within the Bedlington Town Centre  regeneration project.  Again I was told it was never considered which seems strange seeing as I now have the planning application which actually lists a public loo! I said he had better get an answer to that because I will be using it at any future public meeting!

Discussing a sporting provision then produced some interesting results, none of which I wanted to hear! Only one thing to do now so I’ve put a request into the top echelons of NCC for an immediate meeting.

 

Getting back from Ashington I had a detour to the WBTC office for a meeting there.

 

Pension training today along with North Tyneside Council up in Edinburgh. It was their session really but the Actuary used it to give us a private update on our, NCC, valuations.  Everyone is pleased at the valuations because going from a £200M deficit to an above 100% coverage is quite extraordinary and definitely a much better place to be in.  It looks like my pleas for trying to protect this position has been listened to as well and we all agreed to some de-risking in the portfolio.

 

LAC meeting tonight at Concordia.  With no planning on the agenda its wasn’t the usual mad rush back from work to get ready and the meeting started at 6pm.  Didn’t seem to be very much on the agenda but as ever these things change!  We had updates off the NCC public safety officer and the police and these turned into quite a long session, firstly with the safety officer.  I did have several questions some based off what he told us.  Next up was the police update and I think all the Bedlington councillors thought it was great!  He said he had just taken over the inspector role and the softer line taken by the police with regard to anti social behaviour (ASB) in Bedlington is now changed and a much harder approach is going to be taken.  Previously we had worked hard to stop our youngsters being criminalised but that obviously hadn’t worked given the repeated levels of ASB we have seen so back to old fashioned policing.  I nearly gave this new inspector a round of applause!  Funding had been acquired to increase on the beat policing and we all thanked him after the meeting and said if we can help with anything just ask.

 

Had the chance to speak to our manager for Local services and again asked him to look at the hedging along the front of the cemetery seeing as I have had more complaints about the fact that pedestrians now have to walk on the road to get by because of the state of the Blackthorn hedging.  He promised to look into it straight away and he has because it was cut the very next day!  Well done Local services.

Hedge

 

Good meeting with the new Friends of West Lea Cemetery tonight and a constitution was adopted and officers elected. We now have a formal group to look after public interest in the cemetery.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Thefriendsofwestleacemetery/

 

 

Had a meeting with constituents today about some concerns they have and I have forwarded them as I promised to do.

 

Pension Panel today and another huge pile of papers for it.  9.30am – 4.30pm was listed for this meeting. Most of the committee had heard the Actuary report up in Edinburgh so no surprises there but that was just the first 30mins.  It was good to get home that night and get sorted for work this weekend!

 

 

Well the weekend wasn’t the normal because on top of everything else my holiday has disappeared!  Thanks Thomas Cook!

 

I had a LAC chairs meeting today and there was two presentations as well as the normal agenda to hear.  First one was the Library service.  There is a public consultation going to be rolled out soon as we try and increase library usage figures, which at the moment are declining.  I have already submitted my ideas for bringing the service into modern day usage and having been assured non library users will be included in this consultation I will be promoting it when it comes out. I think Library provision is important for any conurbation but changing it into something which appeals to a greater amount of users is important to keeping it.

Next up was a report and presentation about social care apprentice scheme, which seems to have been a huge success. Knowing first hand some of the problems within this service I asked if these apprentices would be subject to follow ups because I would be very interested in seeing how they interacted within other parts of our service.  It seem they will and given that education and increased qualifications are offered to all carers it will be interesting to hear how it all rolls out.  One item came as a surprise to some members, the fact that 82% of the workforce in this service was made up of women.  I assumed it would be quite high anyway seeing as the vast majority of carers I know are women. Anyway good to see it being presented as a credible career with good prospects for anyone.

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We then had a presentation about the way some types of anti social behaviour is going to be reported and the figures collated and shared.  This was for things like dog fouling.  I asked about the way we respond to reports and could we do anything to bring the response more into real time. I had to explain that so I said I have several football pitches in my ward as well as a cemetery and there will be reports going in on say a Saturday when the footballers use the pitches but the ‘offence’ could well have taken place the previous Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and there might well be someone who saw it taking place. I think the answer was no we can’t react immediately which was what I expected to be fair.

 

It was good to hear the chair of this committee saying we really need to make these LAC meetings much more relevant to members of the public and drive up attendance figures.  Well its taken a year but at last my message seems to be getting through!  Wonder what’s happened to my lists of possible agenda items?

 

Had a follow up meeting with officers about the Bedlington Regeneration meeting we had last month.  Bill and Russ were there too and we thrashed out some ideas for potential future strategic projects in Bedlington. It was a pretty positive meeting with follow ups expected!

 

Last meeting this month is the Advance Board meeting.  Again dominated by putting new governance policies in place which are all aimed at putting to an end any possibility of malpractice from now on!

It was quite an intense meeting lasting nearly 7 hours non stop!

 

 

 

 

 

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