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Showing content with the highest reputation on 02/02/18 in all areas

  1. 1 point
    January 2018. Back into the thick of it right after the New Year. Had the meeting about devolution to go to at 1.00pm on the 3rd followed right after by full council at 3.00pm. I turned up in good time to see one of the officers who was going to talk to us about this devolution deal standing outside the office door. I went for the keys and opened up and in short order Russ and Bill arrived. They were soon followed by the two principle officers who are leading on the Devolution deal for NCC. We had quite an interesting meeting with many aspects of the deal covered. I certainly had all of my questions and suggestions answered. This will be a huge commitment when it comes through but the most interesting thing for me was the fact that the money coming alongside the deal off central government will be new money and targeted at certain deliveries, such as job creation and education. It would seem to me that an economic strategy for the county is now more than ever needed so we can benchmark progress! Once that meeting was done we made our way to the council chamber for the full council meeting. I knew this was going to be televised and recorded and judging by the smart appearance of most of the members they had read the missive too! I also noted a complete absence of bottles of pop, teas and coffees as well as packets of sweets which have been up until now quite noisily handed around certain members! (Some even had 3 piece suits on! LOL.) We took our usual seats and just after the 3pm deadline the meeting started. As usual the start was all normal business with reports from committees to be accepted or questioned. I noticed a report about ambulance response times and stood to questioned that. I was assured I and the rest of the members would get a copy of the new national ambulance response times. There was call to vote on a resolution which split the chamber. This concerned items going to strategic planning and seemed pretty straightforward. In fact it was merely a tidy up operation and not one seen as in anyway divisive? However the leader of the opposition stood and said he would be voting against this motion because it took strategic planning matters away from the LACs? One after another opposition member stood and talked about planning applications in their wards which they didn’t know about such as extensions and car parks and this would make it worse. They aren’t in any way shape or form strategic? What they did was to completely misread the motion and instead either by design or accident influence others into their line of thinking. Strategic planning was never part of the LAC planning remit. Here is the actual motion……”seek an approval to a change in the terms of reference for Strategic Planning committee to allow for planning applications linked to the council’s statutory duties under non planning legislation, where issues of strategic importance are raised in terms of allowing the council to fulfil its statuary duties……” To me the most important word there is strategic and that holds its own definition under planning rules. These include the likes of mineral extraction, energy infrastructure and house builds of more than 100 units. These I think quite obviously need to be considered at a county level given the strategic importance and influence of each. Having them considered by Local Area Councils is a complete waste of time and does not give a holistic cross county covenant. I therefore voted for the motion. The opposition made it a political play and when the votes were counted and the motion stood their only comment was that they nearly had the administration. That’s what’s wrong right there……..the comment should have been about the content of the motion not a game of political ping pong! We then went to members questions…….. All bar the very first were from opposition members and I will include one member in that even though she is supposed to be independent! All very scripted and contrived as one after the other stood and read out their prepared questions. Some real gaffs followed and some couldn’t even pronounce the words they must have been given to read out! Some made less sense than others but the major one came from the ex-deputy Leader who followed his Leader at the last full council meeting where he asked about some tittle tattle he had heard about his previous actions with regard to a large sum of money only to be told it was subject to a live investigation! That took the wind out of his sails somewhat! This time ex deputy Leader Ledger asked about the council accounts and when would they be signed off. He was told they had been but the independent auditors had insisted only with qualifying statements! All being concerned with the way Arch had been financially governed and one in particular which has produced a £1.5M loss to the council. Councillor Ledger was reminded that he himself had been the chair of Arch during this time! After that had time to digest the councillor said he would skip any follow up question! Good God, these people don’t just shoot themselves in the feet they blow their own bloody legs off! I think the whole question time debacle had been originally put together by the opposition to show what a good job the opposition were doing as presented to the TV cameras. What it actually did was to embarrass one of their senior members again and we have to wonder who puts these questions together for them? Must be the same person who did their PR for the last election! This makes sheer incompetence seem an ambition for some! I will say it looked very much to me like each of the front runners in a possible leadership challenge stood with questions. I think that is extremely likely in the short term and my money is on, as I have previously said, Lovejoy’s grandfather’s cousin and if you can work that out you know exactly who I am suggesting! It seems from what I have learnt that the leadership election which was being pursued by some labour members, as I had assumed, has been thwarted and only the backing of the unions has kept the current Leader in place. We finally got to the closed session to give us a very stinted and abridged version of the Arch investigation and the chamber was cleared of press and public. This was the first time I had been given a glimpse at what the Arch investigation had discovered and whilst I can’t mention anything specifically the whole thing leaves a very bad taste. I did asked questions during this session and made remarks about how this is affecting my Town and its redevelopment. Next day and I had several constituents to get back to with answers to their private messages. I have also been onto our planners again and the flood officer who I am meeting next week at Westlea in an effort to get to the bottom of the abysmal drainage here. I made an appointment for a site visit for next Tuesday and will meet at Westlea. I have told all the residents who have contacted me about grit bins to register for a grit bin at their preferred site choice, let me know and I’ll second their application. Busy weekend at work but up at county hall on Monday morning for a Corporate Scrutiny meeting. Lots to get through and the confidential papers were huge for this one, sharing services with Newcastle council as a cost saving exercise! I made the point that on one hand we are telling people we are getting back to letting them in on decisions which affect them and their localities and yet behind closed doors we are putting together these monoliths which have very little oversight! I said I do understand the need for cost savings, especially at a time of continued austerity cuts in budgets but it does seem a dichotomy. Once the meeting finished I rushed home to get a cuppa to warm up before driving over to Ponteland for a site visit and fielded a call off democratic services about our next LAC meeting. I had to make decision about the agenda because Christine is still recovering, I later found out. Half an hour later back out this time to a site visit at Ponteland with strategic planning about the new schools and leisure centre there. Looked pretty straightforward to me and looking at the proposed plans something Bedlington could only dream of! The whole proposal fits within the existing footprint and there are school drop off and pick up points off the main road. We are only allowed to consider the planning application in terms of planning law and not the political arguments! Just had my meeting with our flood officer and walked the whole length of the fenceline at the cemetery at Westlea. He is well aware of the problems here now and has suggested a couple of ways forward. It’s not going to be cheap and I can’t get any help off his department but I told him to let me worry about the funding! Not seeing our children’s graves under water is a cost well worth investing in! So he is sorting out a CCTV inspection quote for me along the length of the existing drainage and I have to sort out a drainage expert and get a proposal to repair/replace the existing pipework. I said I was after a permanent solution to the drainage problems not a temporary fix! One thing which might hamper us is the possibility of contamination! Didn’t expect that so we just have to wait and see what the experts come back with. Well it’s been a very busy day today first with that site visit, then I have hardly been off the phone and email. I have reported more pot holes in the ward and requested more grit bins. I have also been onto several NCC departments, highways, legal, revenues, local services and democratic services on behalf of residents and I’m also trying to get a rates rebate for a business in my ward! Today I had been invited to a meeting in the WBTC meeting room about Gallagher Park. I presumed it was about the event which we hope to see there this year. It was and as well as the NCC councillors, EBPC and WBTC were represented. The NCC manager gave us a brief outline of what’s being proposed and we talked through a tender proposal for an events manager to run the show. This threw up several suggestions so it was agreed to submit any suggestions/concerns about the specific wording in the document back within a week. Financial contributions were agreed between us with everyone putting the same amount into the pot. We then had to form a steering group so it seemed reasonable to include one from each of the contributors. That seemed fairly painless and we now have a way forward to seeing another great local event on in Gallagher Park this year. Later I had to go to County Hall for the Strategic Planning meeting. I had to put my apologies into WBTC because it was their meeting night as well and I usually go to update them and the public on what’s been going on in my ward this month. There was only one item for the planning meeting but it was a meaty one! A new leisure/schools complex in Ponteland with associated works and further integration of services on site. I had attended the site visit earlier in the week and had all my questions answered but reading the papers there were several local organisations asking their own questions and unless they were answered in the meeting…….. We heard from objectors, supporters and the applicant then it was councillor questions. I let most members who wanted to speak have their questions first to see if mine were going to be answered. They weren’t so I asked mine. I say mine but actually as normal I carefully read comments from the local organisations like the Town Council and in this case a community group. The Town council had stated the development conflicted with the Neighbourhood Plan, so my first question as to ask if the Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan was an adopted Plan. It is, so it forms guidance for our planning policy! I therefore asked what conflicts exist between this application and the neighbourhood plan. Seems it was all down the Green Belt designations because the site is within a Green Belt. We had heard from the applicant a host of reasons why the development could go ahead contrary to Green Belt designation, all of which was fully endorsed by our planners. I put that in my pocket for the discussion part of the meeting. Last question, we had heard from a community group about the wholesale removal of hedging and tree lines and I wanted to know how that was going to happen when there was a clause in the planning application specifically ruling out hedge removal, topping or lopping of any trees etc: I indicated the clause number! (Some people will know this is a particular bug bear of mine because I fought a building group on a local development who ripped out ancient hedges here against their planning conditions but were given retrospective planning when we all kicked up about it! Shocking!) The answer was that yes the clause was there but if needs be the applicant could come back and ask for permission from the planners and this committee to take out trees and/or hedges as needs be. My first comment was then it seems a waste of ink to include that condition and the community group were quite right to raise it as an issue. Second comment, although I knew the answer, was who is actually the applicant? The applicant is non other than NCC so in effect we will be asking ourselves to give permission for the likes of hedge removal. Farcical! I said I would have expected to see any hedge or tree removal, especially as this is Green Belt, included in the applications and not subject to a possible retrospective application! We then had a proposer and seconder and moved into the discussion element of the meeting. I put forward that I was particularly concerned that the whole host of reasons for overturning the Green Belt rules were economic and that could be aligned to any application of this type. I said I hoped we were not setting a precedent! I was happy that the whole redevelopment would be curtailed within the existing footprint of the current leisure centre complex but I was less than happy not being told that was to happen with the adjacent school sites once those schools moved into this new build. That looks like a developer’s wet dream! Onwards and upwards…… today I had an initial meeting with the architect I have commissioned to give some options on the Westlea changing rooms. Don’t want to give the game away too soon because there is a lot of background work to do but this is looking good, exactly what I asked him to come up with! I also got the estimate off our flood officer on the costs of inspecting the drains along the cemetery and down under North Ridge. I sent off to see if I could fund it. I always take notice of the state of the roads these days and the pot holes I reported last week have been filled in! Gold star NCC for those ones! Came home on Saturday night after a long shift only to get a phone call off Christine, the mayor of WBTC, asking who she should phone for help. She had seen and reported some vandals setting fire to the toilet block opposite the library and waited until the fire brigade got there. We had a brief conversation about who and when would be best to get this reported. Once again Chris to the rescue! Today I wanted to see if the road into the cemetery was as bad as its being reported on social media so I drove along and down. It is! I have been in touch with our local services manager who is finding out who is responsible for the internal roads. I have also been advised that the cost of the CCTV inspection for the drainage at the cemetery might not be something I can claim for but there might be a way to salvage that by including it into the whole project costs. Today I went over to see a groundworks specialist and asked for a quote on the drainage job. I explained exactly what was needed and they agreed to include several options, such as including pitch drainage. I then visited the cemetery. There has been some talk about the state of the roadway in and out of the cemetery at Westlea and I wanted to see for myself. It had been a couple of years since I had last visited and I have to say some of that internal road is disgraceful! Right at the entrance and the last section is where we need to have redone. Now I need to think about how to finance this! I spoke to our local services manager and he confirmed they are the department with responsibility for this cemetery. I explained my concerns and those of my constituents and users and he agreed to go out for himself and look. We discussed how this might be financed and I suggested I might have a way. So next job get in touch with the person who can give us the funds to get this job done and highlight the important and delicate nature of this work. Bit cheeky but done and now waiting on a reply! In amongst all of this I have an argument going on in social media about CCTV. I wouldn’t care but WBTC are putting it in so it’s coming anyway. My position is I don’t like it on purely libertarian grounds but I do see a current need for it. We seem to be financing the result rather than the origin and that’s always the wrong way to do things! In times of budget cuts and strains on all budgets I would rather spend the money on adult care and support for youth services because these departments are in desperate need and there are no short cuts, spending money on one thing restricts money available for other things, simple as that really. Well my reply came back for the cemetery tarmac funding and it’s going to be given consideration. Good as it gets at the minute, fingers crossed I have made a good enough case! Work early on then out for the LAC meeting tonight. I went over with a constituent and eventually found the venue but we had parked in the wrong end of town so it was quite a walk, not a good idea when one of us has emphysema! Anyway we made it to the meeting about 5 minutes late and public questions had started. That lasted the maximum time Christine, the chair, allowed it and seemed in some way to set the feeling for the rest of the meeting. One of the questions was about pot holes, off one of my constituents and after the cabinet member had answered I said that I had put in for the original 3 suggestions in my ward for small carriageway repairs or pot holes and they had been done. I have even been able to put in another 3 suggestions which are being considered. On top of that I reported 2 new pot holes two weeks ago and they have been done last week, so as far as I am concerned this is a first class service. Moving on we were asked if any member had anything for Local services so I asked about this traffic survey for Netherton I have been banging on about for months now. I said I know the application had been lost, then found, then the officer was off who deals with them but can someone tell me when this is going to take place? Seems the officer is back now so I suggested (joked) I might get notification tomorrow the scheme is going ahead next week because after all this time I’m not willing to go to the back of the list again! The officer responding laughed and said he will do what he can. We then had a presentation about the Northumberland Community Bank and their ambitious plans to roll out inclusive banking for Northumberland. I did have couple of questions mainly around the relationship with the current Credit Unions. The lady answered them and it sounds like a very worthwhile and bespoke to this county scheme. The budget presentation came next, presented by the Leader of NCC and a cabinet member, and what happened looked like a well-rehearsed and corrosive attempt to debunk all the figures presented in an extremely non respectful fashion. That’s the nicest thing I can say about the proceeding 20 minutes! One elected member and his wife seemed intent on causing as much disruption as possible and I was thankful I wasn’t in the chair tonight because I couldn’t have kept my tongue! The audience was quite obviously “seeded” with people of the same political persuasion and they heckled and shouted down anything which they didn’t like to hear! Now it was said by a member that this sort of presentation had never happened before…..well I have attended EVERY NCC annual budget presentation since the Unitary was formed and I can say these budget presentations were ALWAYS politically driven, but unlike tonight’s the speakers were always given respect. The last one I attended I heard the CeO of the Council deliver what could have been written for him by the administration’s political speech writer! I do remember quite clearly a £25M special dividend going to be paid by Arch because it was their vehicle and it was delivering so well. To stop all the shouting I indicated to the chair I had a question and said we had to get back to the business at hand! In the presentation there had been a pie chart which gave details of the £65M black hole the current administration has identified in the budget from last year to this. In that chart there was a £19.54M item assigned to Arch. I asked what that was because it looked wrong being in the debit section having been promised a £25M “special dividend” paid into council coffers by Arch. It was explained that is the amount of funding NCC are putting by for Arch debt repayments because it’s a wholly owned NCC business! I questioned that more because we had been led to believe Arch was making positive contributions to our balance sheet yet here we are still covering their debt repayments? That was correct. So we have a company we have given £280M to and we still have to pay its debts? Flipping heck this needs to be sorted out ASAP! I also questioned the fact that at every medium term budget meeting I have attended even before becoming a councillor we were told the Government grant is reducing year on year and by 2020 will be almost worthless. This lack of funding had to be taken up by us being able to keep the business rates we collect. My point was that in this county where about 85% of businesses are micro businesses, or ones probably paying very little if any business rates, then we are staring down the barrel of a gun and the trigger could well be pulled in a couple of years! I wanted to know if we were looking at exponential rises in council tax to cover that shortfall. I was assured not and the Leader said there were other machinations in place to help with that shortfall. I still maintain there are two ways to balance a budget, one is to cut your cloth to suit, the other raise income so drastic cuts are not needed! We have probably the only cross county workforce and in a county of the size of Northumberland I think we could be going out for private sector work and not just relying on public sector stuff! This is scary stuff! Seems to me we are running like hell to build huge back offices with neighbouring authorities to reduce overheads because someone can see the absolute need to get budgets back in hand. Next up came North of Tyne Devolution and again it was obvious some members and their ‘friends’ in the audience were there just to cause trouble. The officer gave her presentation, well most of the highlights anyway because we were running quite late now. I did have some questions again one about governance and another about the funding which will come with this new authority. It’s being sold as a 30yr deal with £20M per year, or £600M; however that only applies if we hit predetermined 5yr targets set by central government. Once I teased that out I suggested the public sector were not best known for hitting targets and benchmarking has always been a dirty word. That was accepted but there will be mitigation put in place to deal with that. We heard about some ambitious educational possible polices as well as transport, housing and economic. I have to say I am in favour if only because it’s the only game in town and a share of £20M is better than nowt, but this initial offering equates to less than £35 each per annum or £175 over the 5 year term, not a lot and a huge amount to do with it over a huge area. Not forgetting Newcastle and North Tyneside will want their share! So even that £35 might end up being just over a tenner for each of us in Northumberland. To give an example of just how crazy the system is, we are currently part of a “Combined Authority” because that was needed before the great and good could form the original 7 member mayoral authority. We now need to formally back out of that before we can start up another one with Newcastle and North Tyneside. So that’s part of the consultation exercise. Looking at the role of the new Mayor, and I have no doubt we will see the political parties fighting to get their “man” into that role, it does seem to carry quite a bit of weight. Looks like it’s going to be hard work from the start! https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/472187/102915_DEVOLUTION_TO_THE_NORTH_EAST_signed_pdf.pdf Last presentation was the street lighting project. I asked a couple of questions and was told Bedlington is going to be finished by June at the latest. Everyone seemed quite happy about this project and even congratulated the presenters, one representing the contractor. I wondered if it was only me that thought this has been less than salubriously handled from day one! Hopefully lessons have been learnt! As usual I was at work when I became aware of another smear campaign against me, this time more so aimed at Russ and Bill. I will answer some of the pretty childish accusations it contains but really, irrespective of political views, these people are treating their readership with contempt judging by the jingoisms and wildly inaccurate spin being applied. 1/ “The closure of the Tesco store whipped up old feeling of injustice.” Err no, the complacency and arrogance of the sitting councillors did that! And as for being dismissive about feeling of injustice, that I don’t see that as a debating point anymore, it is blindingly obvious the needs of Bedlington and its people have been ignored and disregarded for decades as money we poured into the system can clearly see seen to have been spent elsewhere! 2/ “Local councillors under extreme pressure from their residents forced a scheme that won wide approval” Exactly how did they do that? Arch was an arm’s length independent trading organisation wasn’t it, or did it really do as dictated to by councillors? If that’s the case then the police need to cast their net wider!!!!!!! Arch came up with the scheme to make money off its Bedlington investment, pressure by residents made it back track on its original purpose of building 60 odd houses on the site! The councillors somehow forcing a scheme…..come’on……if they did it involved building houses on the site because that was the original idea. 3/ “The events of April 2015 and its development dovetailed with outside factors to create an independent tsunami.” Again err no…….Has no one learnt any lessons or are we still being fed bull about the result of an election being everyone’s else’s fault? The abject failure of the sitting councillors to adequately represent their wards would be my interpretation of the election results. They preferred to represent their political party and turned their backs on the very people to put them in these positions. 4/ “With Labour in polling doldrums the lure of independent politicians pledging to put Bedlington first proved too much. Despite this only one of the Indy’s won with a healthy majority.” Another interpretation would be that you are saying party politically whipped candidates who didn’t put Bedlington first, nearly won? The result has sent shock waves throughout the North East and further afield. Political commentators were astounded, I have spoken to them! They tell me that now Bedlington is seen as somewhere which will embrace change and actions here will be copied elsewhere in future. That’s why we are seeing attack blogs such as this one I’m responding to! 5/ “Whilst Bedlington is undergoing massive change, literally everything positive that is happening was planned and started by the last Labour administration.” This has to be a joke? The biggest thing for the Town is the Town Centre redevelopment and only the fact that independent councillors have lobbied hard to get it back on track are we seeing work being done to bring it to fruition. The last administration tried to cancel it depending on the results of the election! It says so in their election leaflet! That’s a sordid abuse of position and open to a charge of blackmail! 6/ “Since May 2017 Tory decisions fully supported by the Bedlington First team, have left a £65 million black hole in the councils budget. And it’s you who will now pick up the tab with a whopping 8% council tax rise over two years and by seeing services decimated.” Where to start on this one………maybe the last bit. I am not defending anything here only allowing readers to draw their own comparisons. The Chronicle at the time reported this… “The council’s medium term financial plan said increasing council tax by 1.99% could generate £2.9m more funding each year. It is also predicts an additional £12.2m could be raised from 2016-20 through the further 3% rise. If the 3% increase is applied, it could mean the Band D council tax charge in 2017-18 would rise from £28.55 to £44.54 – an increase of £15.99. By 2019-20, it would add a total of £119.83 per year, including the 2016-17 increase, to a Band D property.” It would seem to me that the last administration were looking to raise council tax by the maximum amount each year or 1.99%+3% giving a total over 2 years as 9.98%, doesn’t it? Therefore 8% (as bad as that is) is actually a reduction on what was planned by the last authority. Second point this £65M black hole. This is actually the funding gap left by the last administration on their last budget! Instead of just leaving a note saying there’s nowt left, this lot spent the debt and signed up to contracts which they knew they probably wouldn’t have to cover but iof they did they had given themselves a huge debt accessibility! I think I have answered this one above but trying to scare people with the results of your own actions. Really? 7/ “The local area councils have split Bedlington and Bedlingtonshire into three supposedly local decision making bodies, weakening the areas voice.” The Local Area Councils or LACs, have been designed to bring local decision making back into a local arena giving more people access to their decision makers. The “area” voice should be heard loud and clear at NCC, being as it’s clearly more strategic. 8/ “The independents said they’d stop development but voted with the Tories to weaken protections against developers. since taking control neither the Tories nor their allies have done anything to stop their council owned house building company from developing land in and around the town.” I have said why I voted to withdraw the Core Strategy document; it was flawed and did nothing to protect my constituents on concerns they raised. It was also lacking in substance. This “council owned house building company” is that the much heralded by a certain party previously, Arch by any chance? I think referring it to the police for investigation could be classed as something surly? Redefining its remit to include sensible affordable housing instead of executive housing would be another step in the right direction. But hey let’s wait until all indiscretions are brought into the public arena! 9/ “But the Tories missing out on a majority by one has negated the influence of their ‘independent’ allies yet has had no impact on their blindly following the Tory whip.” Never been whipped in my life don’t intent to start now! I’ll leave that to the political parties and their acolytes. I have normally explained my reasoning for voting certain ways and it has nothing to do with following the lead of one party or another, much more to do with what I perceive to be the best interests of either my constituents or the Town in general. 10/ “And the town centre plot has to all intents and purposes not been touched in 8 months. Could this have fallen foul of the stripping of £240 million from the capital programme?” The Town Centre plot has not been touched because of the way this was set up by the last administration. It has to be self-funding and income producing unlike other town developments where the money was literally thrown at upgrade projects. The brief to Arch for ours seems to have been somewhat different! As for a £240M capital programme strip……is that the £450M one? Yes our county council already in debt to the tune of almost £800M was going to borrow another £450M as a minimum! I have to pinch myself sometimes ………….. 11/ “Some people may believe winning one election means it’s game over but politics doesn’t work that way.” You will understand if I don’t take advice from someone who oversaw the biggest upset in Bedlington politics in its history. 12/ “Whether the independents are independent at all is a question many people are asking..” Really who is asking? I stood 5 years ago and was elected to the Town Council as an independent and stood for county as an independent. I did so because that means I can put the needs and concerns of my constituency before any political allegiance. I think my record as part of the Town Council speaks for itself and given time let’s see what can be done with NCC. Course some people, who say they only want the best for the area, might not actually want that to happen! 13/ “The elections saw a change in guard but to all intents and purposes the newbies are even more guilty of the charges they’d laid at Labour’s door.” Really……lets pull my election leaflets out again……hmm….. Who identified Arch as a problem………………………………….is it……………………undoubtedly. Who identified NCC budgets as being out of control….were they…….……..…undoubtedly. Who said residents were not being listen to……………….true?………………….. Who said councillors were putting party before constituents…were they.…undoubtedly. Only an independent vote can rescue the Town redevelopment….True?…. The County Hall/Ashington move was a deal too far……………..was it…………… I have never shied away from meeting the public unlike others……true?…….. 14/ “There has to be development but make sure facilities keep pace and for gods sake build them a leisure centre.” Can’t really believe I read that last line, some people have brass necks! Allowing wholesale house developments with zero supporting infrastructures was the modus operandi of the last administration. At least now we have some people fighting to redress that imbalance. As for a leisure centre…….late in the 1960’s beginning of the 1970’s Bedlingtonshire Urban District Council had a plan to build a new leisure centre. We then had local government reorganisation and somehow we ‘opted’ to get into bed with Ashington and Newbiggin and immediately our leisure centre was side-lined while we paid to support ones across the River. What followed was an unbroken lineage of Labour administrations in Wansbeck (AKA WDC) all of which failed to correct that injustice. So for over 50 years, and yes some will have been lean but others not so, the abject failure of a one party state for half a century is somehow going to be put right in 8 months? That’s David Blaine territory that one because there is only a magician who could pull that off! I really think when you wrote this Alex, sorry Freudian slip there, advised James when he wrote it……oops again…you are still trying to take the electorate for mugs. Nothing has been learnt and the old ways of conducting themselves (smoke filled rooms behind closed doors, negative assumptions, slur and innuendo, etc..) carries on. No apologies, no acts of contrition, no remorse…. the old saying must be right, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! I think the best thing you guys can do is fall on your swords and allow new blood to take over, people not steeped in the sordid ways of doing thing in the past. Had to be up at County Hall to chair the community chest panel again. This time no labour members bothered turning up. The funding was well oversubscribed so we had to take our time and go through each application with a fine tooth comb. I had to declare an interest on one because I am already a joint funder. We made sure every last penny was given to worthy causes and the only shame was that we couldn’t give everyone who applied their full funding requirement. Loads of phone calls over the last few days but one bit of good news is that the CCTV inspection for the drains at our Cemetery is going ahead. I am also lobbying to get the road in there redone, or at least the bits which need doing done properly. Scrutiny today and a bit of all sorts on the agenda. Several members were missing so it didn’t take as long as they sometimes can. I did ask several questions and one in particular seemed to jar another member who gave me chapter and verse on why it was such a good project. That’s all very well but our job is the SCRUTANISE how this stuff is presented, how it affects policy and consider repercussions before making a recommendation to cabinet and I felt more of an explanation should have accompanied the papers. Well another day another social media attack by the same blunt instrument as the last one. My word these seem to be coming thick and fast and given that the same things are mentioned, by and large, there is a very real possibility they will run out of copy soon. As is it there is a clear case of smear in this drivel, at least one of the supposed facts is demonstrably incorrect. So James or even Alex, best make sure of your facts before seeing them in print because if it wasn’t so outrageously laughable a more firm line would have to be taken. Seems this must be the change adopted by the local labour group as they set out their stall for the next election. Would have been nice to be all working together for the benefit of the Town and surrounding area for the next few years but hey ho, onwards and upwards! Loads going on at the minute and fingers crossed my two main projects get the backing they need. The presentations have been made and seemed to be accepted now it’s a case of seeing who puts their money where their mouths are! After quite a bit of toing and froing I have been allowed to commission the CCTV inspection of the drains at the cemetery and the bottom of Red House Farm. That’s the first step on a journey towards making the cemetery less liable to flooding, especially the children’s section, and I have included a request for estimates on drains for the football pitches and footpath. I had a request off a resident to take a look at the state of one of the paths in my ward. I drove past and looked but couldn’t see anything wrong so I contacted the gentleman again and suggested we meet there so he could explain what was wrong. We did meet up and the problem could only really be seen when you are standing there. Lesson there……..no shortcuts! Anyway I said I would progress the problem and as soon as I got home I did just that. Not only that problem there is another one adjacent, this time through the planning department! The upshot is that I now have a site meeting with the new local services manager tomorrow! Well that’s a feather in his cap……first class service there I think! The other matter not so good, as I haven’t even had a reply to my e-mail. Seems to me builders and developers adopt some sort of Teflon coating once they have their planning permission. Rules, regulations and planning conditions seem to be being ignored and it’s taking quite a bit of my time chasing this up for residents and I know they too are complaining directly to the planners. My request for a traffic survey near the junction for the Chesters has been accepted but I have been advised there is a fairly long list. Just had my meeting with the local services manager and I took him around to show him the problems which have been reported to me. We actually met one of my constituents and he explained exactly what he would like to see. Overall I don’t see a problem with any of the things we spoke about but then I don’t have to balance budgets. I asked him to keep me informed so I in turn can keep residents informed. I have just reported a pot hole at the top of Link Avenue. Well that Jan done and Feb is starting off with a bang. Three or four meetings tomorrow and another 3 on Friday!
  2. Bot

    Dam removal no longer an option

    Campaigners have spoken of their delight after it was announced that an option to remove a key structure at Humford Country Park in Bedlington is now off the table.


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