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  1. 6 points
    January 2019. First meeting of the year and its strategic planning. Reading through the papers nothing too controversial but something did make my hackles rise. There was a retrospective application in for the removal of 4 trees on the new school site across the road from county hall. The biggest application was the one for over 500 houses around and behind the fire brigade headquarters at Cramlington. That looked a no brainier to me as the whole site is dedicated employment land and we have already stated our intention to protect employment land when we turned down the Alnwick application for houses on their industrial estate. Jeff Reid made a good point in that the site was always dedicated for industrial use and was originally in the remit of the RDA. With their demise the site along with many others has been gifted to other agencies who do not have the same remit as the old RDA as evidenced by this application. It was turned down and the site remains available for industrial use. In fact there were some veiled whispers that it might be needed sooner rather than later. The school application came up and I only asked simple questions of the officer. First would we see like for like tree replacement? She thought I was on about the species but I said no it’s the maturity I’m on about. No doubt the 5 new trees going in will be whips but we could ask for like for like replacement. I said I knew that would be a very expensive option but it might stop developers ripping out protected trees and shrubs with almost impunity. I then asked if it was a NCC maintained school or an academy. After some puzzles looks the answer came back that it was NCC maintained. I kept my powder dry for the debate after that. It was proposed and seconded and opened up for debate. I said I was really disappointed with this application because the new school is a flagship development and enjoys cross party support. Given that the site is ours and its our school and it’s a matter of yards away from this building if we cannot control this site we have no chance of controlling any site in the county! The builder has been given a set of plans which I presume listed these trees as being protected yet chose to just dig a trench adjacent, ripping out their roots and undermining the trees and then pulling them out. Again I had to say I was disappointed at the obvious lack of control or expertise this has shown but I don’t know where we go if we don’t agree? In the end we did vote unanimously to approve the application but I hope someone is learning that I’m not just going to rollover on this stuff because it’s happening at most building sites with trees and shrubs being removed expressly against planning conditions. Full council meeting today so straight after work it was a rush to get up to county hall. Couple of contentious things going through today, Council tax support and the Local Plan. As usual lots of silly things too and a couple of times members were throwing handbags at each other! I’m not sure I like the way this council tax support cut has been put onto the agenda. It’s in a report from cabinet and is not in the agenda as it’s own item. In fact members had to ask if they were agreeing the minutes or voting for the change. Both it seemed. The council solicitor mentioned that he had just realised that some members or their close family might actually be claiming this benefit and should declare an interest. I asked a question for clarity then the chair moved onto declarations for the meeting. I was amazed at the members who now had to declare they or family members claimed this benefit. I wondered if they would be allowed to vote on the matter because it seemed to me there was a direct financial benefit here! I had made my case at committee and I could see one of my suggestions had been considered in the cabinet meeting. I felt I could only abstain from the vote given the replies I had off my residents I have spoken to about this, 99% of whom agreed with the proposal. I would still of preferred deferring the introduction until we get Universal Credit sorted if it ever is sorted but that was turned down. Well once again another labour member has put a social media report out saying I and the others who abstained should have backed the labour resolution not to introduce this measure. First of all there wasn’t a Labour resolution for anything, like I said earlier it was brought in for a vote on the back of cabinet minutes. The only resolution was to accept or not to accept. Also I’m a bit annoyed by someone telling me I should support the Labour group, I certainly wasn’t elected to do that! If anything quite the opposite. Given that several labour members put their apologies in for the meeting, maybe if they got their own act together instead of pontificating on how I should proceed they might actually benefit. This is the real problem, long term players can only see things as a binary choice and say things like if you don’t support us then you are against us. No, let the merits of the argument decide the outcome instead of playing silly political games which ultimately do nothing for the county as a whole. Why would members elected to work for and support the county walk away en masse from important committees. They can neither represent their constituents nor do the job they were elected to do with regard to the running of NCC Ltd. So that went through and it was then the Local Plan. Several questions ensued with a lot about affordable housing, especially off one member. I had my own and started by saying I still consider the whole affordability definition a misnomer because it just means less expensive. Until we base affordability on local people’s ability to buy them instead of a super inflated market price then they certainly aren’t affordable for the bulk of our young people. I then picked up on the council house building policy saying this was something I supported but I’m starting to wonder where we might see them because we have been rushing to get neighbourhood plans and town boundaries introduced to stop wholesale development in and around our local conurbations and yet this is where we need the mass of social housing. My last point was about the build quality of new houses. Within the document it says we will get better homes and I asked how would we do that? Would we insist on a better build code which could at least give purchasers some backup because what I’m being told is that the build quality of these new boxes we all see sprouting up is shocking. Nice to see some nodding heads on the front bench. The Local Plan carried even after all the labour members abstained. Yep the ones telling me I was in dereliction of my duty by abstaining on a previous vote all abstained on this one. Seems what’s good for the goose isn’t quite the same for the gander! I have read through this document and it’s far more interconnected than the last one which was almost exclusively concerned with getting as many new houses built as possible. This one dovetails economic regeneration and development, educational improvement, infrastructure projects as well as laying down not just a housing strategy but quality improvements in housing. In my view this is more like a comprehensive plan for the county which realises its USPS and seeks to exploit the ones capable of being exploited whist at the same time protect those which need protecting. I’m not saying it’s perfect and I will be questioning a lot of the rather blasé statements it contains but it’s a whole sea change from the last attempt. I always questioned the last one with it ethos, build houses and the jobs will follow. I argued that was exactly the wrong way around as has been proved throughout history. Towns and cities have always built up around economic activity and that in turn begets it’s own economic activity. I had a meeting at the Town Council offices today about grit bins. This seems to have been going on for months and months, in fact I have already paid for the ones I need. At last we were down to the nitty gritty with the NCC officer saying none of the suggestions met with the criteria for NCC to supply. I had already presumed that months ago so I just wanted to get these new bins into their positions so they are in place when needed and given we have escaped the worst or the winter up to now…….I listed the four, residents had asked me to see about and we should see them in place within a week or two. Many thanks to WBTC because after the two free refills they will be picking up the refill costs in future. Another example of a good working relationship for residents these days! I had a meeting with Russ, the head of local services and the technical head of highways about the A1068. I have residents complaining about their access roads because they are basically hidden from oncoming traffic. I presumed asking for concealed entrance signs would suffice however I was surprised when the head of highways said no chance. If you allow them here we will have to allow them throughout the county. Errr….so what if it improved road safety? I even offered to pay myself out of my smalls scheme but again that was turned down. That now meat a full on argument because I couldn’t see any sense at all being displayed. Not only do we have those concealed entrances the speed on the road goes from 30 to 60 to 40 and back to 30 all within a mile or two. In my book that’s just unnecessarily confusing and actually makes this road worse in terms of road safety. It was suggested we have a full road investigation because Russ wants to see some improvements closer to the town and we were told we would have to stump up for it. Is now going to cost me about a grand, Russ the same, and all I really wanted was a concealed entrance sign and there is no assurance that will even be considered! All we can do now is wait on whatever the results are of this survey. I had a meeting with our regeneration manager to discuss some ideas I have for further regeneration within Bedlington. He said the governments High Street funding is extremely over applied for but he is putting together a list of strategic regeneration ideas countywide which if considered worthy will get serious consideration. He is going to send me the application process. After many months of forwarding residents complaints about certain building sites within my ward to enforcement but not really getting much further forward I had to opportunity to take a slightly different tack, on the back of another application I heard for another town in the county, this time I questioned our ecology officers. After being promised a site visit which never happened and again approaching the lead officer he promised me not only would he get his assistant to come for a visit but he would invite me along as well. This took place and our enforcement officer attended too. I took them along the main bone of contention and showed the clear breaches to the ecology conditions. Because I sit on two planning committees I know better then most the conditions laid down on applications! To say he was appalled would be an understatement and he agreed with my prognosis if this wasn’t rectified. We were there for well over an hour and he told the enforcement officer he would be sending them a letter outlining all the breaches he had been shown and he expected it to form the bulk of their letter to the developer. Let’s hope we see some teeth now! I received the application process off our regeneration officer, it’s actually expression of interest forms, and given the very limited timespan I had to fill it in straightaway. I duly sent it back for his opinion and I have been told it warrants closer examination so it’s passed the first hurdle. As well as that I have been working on a project at Westlea for some time and after getting most of the ducks lined up one final one to get onboard was our planning department. They had previously sent me an UXB saying what I have been working towards might not be allowed. That solicited a phone call straightaway and speaking to the appropriate officer I was offered a meeting to discuss my proposals. I have just sent a message asking when would we be able to have this meeting at their earliest convenience. If it’s not one thing it’s another, I have to wonder if other places get this level of negativity when someone proposes a community project. As mentioned previously I have been trying to get interactive speed indicator signs for Netherton village and after the Town Council agreed to pick up any maintenance charges that should be plain sailing. Well that’s what I thought. On the back of that I know of one other sign another member wants for another Bedlington area and maybe one might help towards the problems I have on the A1068. So will see what I can negotiate the price of four down to.
  2. 6 points
    December 2018. First up was a site visit to Widdrington to look at the site of a potential Caravan park. I got there early because I wanted to look at all the access roads. The main one from the village is pretty new and pretty good but the other way it’s more or less a single track road passing over railway lines with unmanned level crossings. This would be totally unsuitable for a sizeable increase in traffic in my view so that’s one question to ask later! It is a nice site and perfect for a caravan park with some provisos. A major one being the ecology report and possible mitigation measures. While the planning officer gave us the presentation I asked about the Blue Sky Forest project and if this had been included in that site. I really wanted to know if this land had been identified for this sort of development for years or was this application something new. Seems not many people, other than the Widdrington residents who were there as observers only, knew the answer. Turned out it was one of the areas earmarked for development in the Blue Sky Forest project, in fact it was the area designated for a nature reserve. Tonight we had the strategic planning meeting with several old applications having to come back because of the new NPPF guidance off central government. First off I objected to the minutes of the last meeting which said there had been no objectors to the new 500 houses in Bedlington. I reminded the chair and officers there had actually been 2 objectors, one of which was me! After a bit of fluster I was told it was only a slip of the pen and would be amended forthwith. First up was the Widdrington application. This took nearly 2 hours to get through. We were given the presentation by the officer then objectors spoke, then supports/developer spoke then members got to ask questions of the officers. After they were over we get to debate the motion once it has been proposed and seconded. I had heard several concerns the local parish council had mentioned and one in particular resonated with me seeing as I chaired our local Town Council for two years and served as a member for four. I reiterated their concerns about things like a possible litter problem which would ultimately be costly for the parish council and I specifically asked what measures were in hand to make sure this private commercial development didn’t impact onto the parish unproportionately. Given there were only 80 odd households in this parish that was understandably something of a worry. The officer replied saying some of the s106 funding was for coastline mitigation and part of that would be wardens or rangers who would be able to keep paths clear and help oversee things like litter bin emptying. I also mentioned the road to the west especially if this was the route from our main arterial road, the A1. I said I welcomed the North East Mainline Train holding objection until they assessed any impacts onto their level crossings. So we have to wait until they get back with their assessment. Didn’t stop the application going through with only one member objecting because of his concerns regarding the lakes on the site. Given that we have policies espousing the virtues of tourist potential I don’t think we had much choice. The rest of the applications were actually ones coming back because of the new NPPF guidance. As there was one about a 500 house development I couldn’t help but compare the agreed S106 funding with the one Bedlington got. Sizeable differences but given that this one was only one part of about 900 for Amble I could see some reasoning. Didn’t stop me questioning the agreed funding! In fact once again I had to insist on getting the answers to my questions and using them to inform other members that even though we think we are getting a good deal, things like the health contributions don’t actually put one extra doctor or nurse into the practices because it’s capital only funding. I said this actually does nothing about waiting times to see the likes of health professionals or even help parents get their children into their local school of choice. The interim head of planning told me they tried to get the best deals they could within the regulations and I replied I understood that and this time I didn’t blame them or even the developer but I did want to question the health authority and education authority about the way they assessed need and where and how this money got spent! Few slack jaws there with that volley and I don’t think this has ever been questioned before. We think we are doing the right thing yet know nothing about the system after our input. I also had words about another application up in Amble. This one came to us earlier in the year and members asked about a relief road as part of the development. It was mentioned not just by the developer but planning officers as well that a road would means there would be no suit of other S106 funding, it would effectively wipe them out. Members stepped away at that point but given that the local member had requested this road I asked if we were being presented with a deal for community benefit who was to say what the community really wanted? The planners insisted on the funding package as presented so I asked when had they last spoken to this community to get their view, isn’t that the job of the local member and he was asking for this road. That seems to really throw the cat amongst the pigeons again but I said it seems we were being asked to decide on which side of the deal to come down on. Seems we weren’t and any trade-off was imaginary. I think I was on planet Planning at that point! I would suggest no one play poker with anyone in our planning department because whenever I have four of a kind they pull out a royal flush. This is getting frustrating having them pull trump cards out of thin air all the time and the whole thing looks to be smoke and mirrors with the rules written on the back of fag packets! The next meeting I had to attend was listed as pension training but actually it was to hear a presentation from our new pension management officers. This because we are now in a partnership called Boarder to Coast with another 12 authorities and public sector pension providers. The officers from Leeds gave us a run-down on where we are with the new host body and then the head of strategic investments gave us his input. I did have several questions for him and one in particular seemed not to be answered even after asking it again. It was about the investment strategy and in particular the sub divisions. I was keen to know if they would be taken up whatever the market did even if that meant buying into a loss making position. Still didn’t get my question answered and in our discussions later, after these officers left, other members of the panel agreed it was a pretty fundamental question. I also asked about the strategy I had suggested several months ago about protecting our level of pension liability coverage. We currently enjoy a 100% coverage for the first time ever but my warnings about market corrections seem to be coming true. I’m pretty sure we don’t enjoy that amount of coverage now because of our passive engagement in stocks and shares. It should come back of course but I really did want them to protect our gains because we would be in a buying position given market viotility instead of sucking our thumbs waiting to see the effects. Chance lost I fear. I had a quick exam and assessment to do as part of this panel then it was off back home for the Town Council Meeting. I had a meeting with our head of Estates and the green spaces officer about a couple of projects I’m working on in my ward. I also had to raise concerns others had made to me about their relationship with our estates office. Affable meeting with no real objections raised to my suggestions so onwards and upwards! When I got back to Bedlington I had time for a quick cuppa then back out for a meeting with the police, this along with Russ and Bill. We discussed quite a few issues and I listed just about all the concerns my residents had contacted me about over the last couple of months. I think we all felt each of us got something out of this meeting and now others have been arranged. The police are well aware of what residents are concerned about these days. I had been asking for a meeting with the leadership of NCC for some time and after many cancelled attempts I finally got into the Leaders office along with the cabinet member I had specifically asked to attend. This was all about trying to get more investment into Bedlington, give it a renewed focus to address its fast approaching dormitory Town status and especially my ward and the suggestions I made were listened to and acknowledged. In fact I have to work them up into firm costed proposals now so lots of work to do in the New Year. I got up to county hall in good time for my next meeting which was economic and corporate scrutiny. One of the main bones of contention for this meeting was the proposed reduction in relief for council tax claimants of working age, to go from the 100% currently enjoyed to 92%. This was the same meeting I had previously reported on because I was told I was taking the bread out of the bairns mouths by asking for as much information as possible before proceeding to a recommendation? The consultation had been carried out and we now had the results. These were contained in a large publication which has been available in the members lounge for some time and something I had taken the time to read through. I have mentioned previously about me asking people for their thoughts on this potential reduction to benefit. In fact the NCC consulting’s got about 500 responses, I have asked probably nearly 100 people myself. Of all the people I asked I can now report that just one person was absolutely against the idea and I asked people in all council tax bands, people working in this arena and even benefit claimants themselves. So I did have a clear mandate to back to proposal however there are some salient pieces of information most people will not be privy to, such as the introduction of Universal Credit and its likely effects. I also consider the fact that with 80 odd percent of micro businesses making up the business landscape in this county and with small retailers being a large part of that, the recent downturn in high street retail with some pretty large players going to the wall means that employees within that sphere, not usually the best paid, could well be facing a bleak time, was something I had to consider as well. Like everyone else on the committee I spoke to prior to the meeting we all expected a large presence in the public gallery for this one and again histrionics from certain members. I was astounded when only one single Labour member turned up and he is on the committee. The other two submitted apologies even though at the discussion stage they shouted about this, now when the decision was to be made their votes were missing? None in the public gallery either which again shocked me as everyone had expected heckling. Back to the meeting and after the usual agenda item we came to this benefit cut. The Labour member sitting next to me asked about the consultation and both the cabinet member and the appropriate officer gave him the run-down on how it was conducted. I said nothing because I knew I had it posted on my blog and asked residents to complete it, if all 67 members had done the same I’m sure there would have been a lot more than 500 replies! Anyway the chair asked if we had any more questions and with none forthcoming from other members I said I had several. I first asked how confident we were in the numbers and the immediate response was about the consultation numbers. I said I was not on about those rather the financial numbers given that all the way through we had been told about 12,000 people would be affected, just now that figure seems to have been revised up to 15,000. How confident are we in the number of people affected and the financial savings mentioned in the report? Seems there was a bit of averaging done to arrive at these figures but NCC was the only authority along with Durham which gave 100% rebate and even after the change if it goes through we will still be the second most generous in the North East. I said it looked like that was being used as an excuse for bringing in this cut and I wasn’t bothered about anywhere else, I wanted the best for our residents, that was my only concern as it should be for the rest of us! I said I considered this proposal too much of a blunt instrument and we should really celebrate the fact that we give this level of help to people needing it. I went on and said I wanted members to consider two proposals, one to guarantee the 100% rebate for the first year of unemployment because that’s when help is really needed and secondly defer the introduction until we see how Universal Credit has bedded in. The Labour member sitting next to me immediately seconded my proposals but the cabinet member said how that would negatively impact onto the budget. I reminded everyone I had asked members of the committee to consider what I said to which the secretary gave a rather curt reply saying all comments would be taken to cabinet for their consideration. I kept my powder dry until the chair called for a vote but that never came. I do know cabinet considered my proposals but decided to put the reduction through without change straight-away. We had our usual Local Area Council meeting at Seaton Sluice this time and there was really only one planning item on the agenda. This was a revision to a condition we had laid down on this application previously when it came before us. Speakers for and against spoke as well as the planning officer. Storm in a teacup really because it was all about disguising a metal storage container so it blended into the setting better. One of the members spoke against it saying she could hear the noise when she was at church and it looked unsightly. I said she must have supersonic sight and hearing because I had been to the site visit, only the Bedlington lads and the chair attended, and the container wasn’t visible from the road and it was actually 200 metres away from other buildings as well as a wall and a wood all directly in the way of the church the member said she was inside of but could hear saddles being lifted out of mountings inside this container. Another member said there was actually churches in the middle of our largest cities right alongside major roads and that this was a complete red herring. The applicant got his change of condition. I did have to raise something else at the final agenda item of any other business. I said we were told these committees would bring decision making closer to residents and would have things like economic budgets attached. If that is the case I can’t recall any meeting where that has happened or did the administration really just meet local contested planning applications? The chair informed me that this wasn’t the right time to bring this up but another member said he actually backed everything I had said. So I look forward to an answer at our next meeting. So that’s about it for 2018 and I wish all residents the very best for the New Year. Kenavo 2018 and Salud 2019.
  3. 6 points
    First meeting was supposed to be a site visit but that had been postponed on instruction from the applicant. So the first meeting became a strategic planning meeting. The huge volume of notes for this meeting had been halved because two applications had been pulled. Still left several and most were revised reports listing changes to things like S106 agreements. This is the community payback funding which should go directly into our areas for things like education, health and leisure. With that I mind I had examined the notes in detail and had quite a few questions for each as they came up. Two simple applications first then it was into the meat of the meeting. Several hundred new houses proposed for the east end of Ashington, near the hospital and spine road, with several millions of pounds paid into things like education and health. I had a few questions about that and then in was onto the thorny one. We had a developer which had challenged the contributions our planners had asked for and after two or three critical examinations which produced mixed answers the planners had finally agreed a reduced figure with the developer. Lots of questions with this one! We get to ask the planners questions first then after a proposer and seconder has been found we get to debate what we have heard. I was first to speak at debate. I said I think it’s obvious for once our planners had tried to strike a hard bargain with the developer and I applaud that. Also I would have loved to give our planners full backing for their original proposal but with the present listing I couldn’t. I could see some rye smiles appearing. I went on to say it now looks like we have been presented with a Hobson ’s choice and we could actually be folding a full house, pardon the pun. I said I would be voting in favour if for no other reason than I believe our planners that the current agreement is the best they can get at this time. I might have been tempted to a showdown with the developer over this because the funding which is the casualty is the educational allocation. I said I was really disappointed for the children of Blyth because in my view it was them paying for these abnormal ground conditions which the developer has stated makes a full suite of contributions unviable. The application was passed unanimously. New Fence for pedestrian safety at Green Letch. I had a LGPS meeting and this one looked a mammoth undertaking, the paperwork and notes were very extensive. I’ll not go into detail but it took most of the day and we had two or three managers who addressed us regarding aspects of our fund and it’s performance. We are taking steps to protect our 100% coverage at last in case we do see a market downturn. We I’ll know in the next 6-9 months if that was prudent! Looks like I was justified in pushing for some sort of protection looking at recent market gyrations over the last week or so! I had a site visit at Plessey Woods with the park management and the contractor picked to put in the new play equipment. I did know the rep because it was the same guy I used for the two play parks we put in at WBTC. I spoke to him before the others got there and asked about other adult play/sports equipment. He gave me a catalogue including the prices which was exactly what I wanted for another project. When the others got here we convened the meeting inside the café. Going through the plans there were two bits of equipment we wanted to ask questions about. One bit I wanted to changed entirely! I did manage to convince everyone that what was intended wasn’t that inspiring and another bit of equipment suited the project much better. It was more expensive but I negotiated the price down with the rep who agreed to swap this bit with the other piece. Because of this I did give way on my initial request to have a zip wire included in the offering but then argued that if I did agree to the bit of equipment instead of the zip wire it had to be of a size and exciting enough to justify not having a free play bit of kit. I said I wanted 20% more but the same cost and Mark remarked that we already had a discount applied. I said I have just put that down to us including the cost figure in the tender so consider it only as an accounting excersise! What a barmy way to put out a tender, including the exact figure we have to spend. About a dozen applications came back all surprisingly to the penny of that quoted figure. I realise we had to find some way to give an idea of overall cost but surely we could have done it without quoting the exact figure? Other bits of change were negotiated with the rep mainly to do with the finish and edging. All in all I think this will be a pretty exciting new addition to the park when it finally gets installed. Initially we are looking at spring for the installation so it will be ready and open for Easter. Lots of small stuff still to be agreed but mainly edges and materials. I did manage to speak to our head of parks later and mentioned concerns some of my residents have regarding other areas within my ward but also to ask him to look at other ways we can stimulate increased footfall. Last time I had this conversation my ideas were dismissed out of hand, this time he agreed to think about them and have a conversation about them later. Progress! I asked if he would allow me to propose things like events and other upgrades to the top end of the park right at the entrance to increase footfall and hopefully takings in the café because that’s the only way we will get the justification for future development, not only for capital items but revenue costs as well. Town council meeting tonight and even though I hadn’t prepared anything I did give as much of an update as I could because a lot of my work this month had been for constituents and that remains private. Concern was expressed at the lack of action regarding the town centre redevelopment site but I said we had just met there today and if anyone looked now the site had been cleared this morning. That I believe augers well. An update has just gone out saying the main contractor will now begin with the site preparation work which needs to be done before any building work can be started. Happy to buy one of the new bus shelters, along with Councillor Wallace, which now sit outside Lidl. I had also been invited to the opening of the new apartments on the site of the old school opposite St Cuthberts. I was quite surprised at the finish and the fact that each apartment had its own parking bay at the rear. I also asked about materials and build quality and again pleased to hear higher spec insulation had been used throughout, more efficient boilers and broadband connections into each unit were installed. Also seeing as the clientele were all to be over 55yrs old good to see a lift installed for this 3 story development. Another bonus was that the reacts were all classed as affordable and whilst I might have a problem with that actual term it did means top end private rents were not being charged. We were told all the units expected to be let forthwith and some clients were actually moving in that same day! Might not have been my preferred option for this site but I can’t argue with the fact that it must satisfy a local demand. Just been informed my meeting with highways and parks management has been postponed but only for a week or so. This is about concerns raised by residents about parking issue along the roads outside Plessey Woods. . Next meeting was for new grit bins for my ward and the others wards in West Bedlington. We met at the WBTC office and Russ and Bill came for their wards too. Our highways manager gave us the rationale behind these grit bin positions and they have to score against a set criteria. Finally got to see the criteria so I now have to present each of my suggestions within that context. I also asked about a strategic map the Mayor said she and highways technical have put together looking at existing bins and possible ones because I don’t want to duplicate efforts. Another meeting has been planned for next week let’s hope all the information will be available then. Just been to another site visit this morning and I am even more perplexed than I was before. There are several bits to the advice given by planners which seems strange to me so I asked about them only to be told they were all down to personal interpretation. As far as I can see that means I can just use my common sense which is something of a rarity for planning matters! I’ll see what other members think next Wednesday at the planning meeting before I throw my tuppence in! I have been asking everyone for their views about this 100% reduction to the council tax working age benefit claimants get because it’s out for consultation. I have been shocked at the replies which came back. I won’t mention anymore here but I will have to dig deeper before I come to a balanced conclusion. Just firmed up another debate with young people as part of the NCC local democracy week. Looking forward to that but they do give me a hard time. Nothing like young minds to see straight through any obfuscation of the facts! Young people we can all be proud of. First meeting of the week and it was a site visit for an application in my ward. 4 of us turned up at 9.30am and the planning officers gave us a guided tour explaining what was what and where things might go. We were taken around outside the site and suggested we should look at the views of the open countryside. We left after an hour and the officers had given us replies to our questions. I had to go and see a local blacksmith I knew from previous jobs he had done for me through the Town Council and the development trust. I gave him an outline of the job I needed pricing up and he said he would go and measure up that day and forward me his estimate. Tonight is our LAC meeting which this one is shared with the local town and parish councils. Immediately prior we had a planning meeting for an hour. This to consider the application we had the site visit for on Monday morning. As it had already been in front of us last month, where members have requested a site visit, we knew most of the details. We heard off the officer then the applicant and then it was our turn to ask the officers questions. I did have several questions about this one because on the face of it there should be a refusal, given that was the officer recommendation. However the site visit had been requested because it was really down to a judgment call and there were several bits of the reasoning put to us by the officer which I disputed. As we worked through the questioning it was clear other members were unsatisfied too. An interruption was made so our head of planning could interject because clearly she could see this was not going as intended. Once the questioning was over there is a call for a proposer and seconder and I duly proposed accepting the application but under the terms, minded to accept subject to the outlined conditions being met and qualified. That caused a bit of an uproar and again the head of planning interjected explaining what my proposal meant. I was happy for her to clarify for other members but essentially I had proposed accepting the outline application only if the terms and conditions which had not been discharged yet duly were. It then has to come back to us for ratification or not as the case might be. It was seconded and after a debate which included officers for some reason I was able to give a closing statement. I said I would normally vote for refusal given the designation of the site however in this case I couldn’t agree with the reasons put before us. I had looked north from the site as requested and two large black agricultural barns were blocking any views. Along the road a little and looking north again we saw the Hepscot building site in full view. Turning back looking at the site and there were no views of the proposed site at all! Looking west from the site we see another large building site just up Station Road again not obscured at all and again at least 2 story houses. This application was outline permission only for 2 bungalows with restricted heights and as far as I could ascertain only the corner of one of the roofs would be seen from a single viewing point on Station Road. Also included was that this development would urbanise the area, clearly 2 low level impact bungalows couldn’t do that especially compared with the building sites we have allowed along Station Road and the house types being built there. I said I thought we were in danger of inconsistency if we didn’t allow these and that was my main reason for going against officer advice. The vote was taken after a lot of clarification by planning officers, their acting head and the NCC solicitor and it was 6 to 2 for my proposal. This doesn’t mean the applicant can now go off and start building; they have to discharge several conditions and get professional reports before our minded to, becomes approval. I feel we have acted in good faith and not discriminated against an applicant who doesn’t have a large building firm behind her to put forward their own partisan arguments. New road resurfacing done on the Choppington Road entrance into Bedlington. It was then on with the LAC and this one was for Town and Parish councils to interact with NCC departments and officers they wouldn’t normally get to have any discourse with. The chair suggested a round table approach and taking a very relaxed oversight of the meeting. We were given an update on the roll out of Universal Credit and both Councillor Pidcock and myself registered our dismay with this scheme and they way it is to be rolled out. We acknowledge it wasn’t our officers who should be in the firing line and they had to implement this as directed. Supposedly rolling out on 12 December in our area and with payments potentially 6 weeks in arrears meant some people would have no money for anything at Xmas never mind presents! In fact they might not get their full entitlement until February next year. Also the facts that it has to be all done online and applicants have to have bank accounts are other concerns. Who thought this was a good idea, obviously someone who has never been on benefits and doesn’t understand how they work! Several more items were discussed with most members using it to further the concerns they had in their own wards. I certainly did although I did ask about where we are with the devolution project. Just had another meeting about new grit bins but I still haven’t seen a map yet. This is supposed to come out to us next Monday. As we had the manager of local services there and the highways manager I did get the chance to raise some past and present concerns residents have mentioned to me. In fact one was mentioned by the young people I met with yesterday about their safety at school drop off and pick up times. Good to see them all written down let’s hope I get the answers back we all need. I went up to Leading Link and once again took part in a question and answer session with some of our young people. All of these youngsters are interested in becoming part of their school council so I knew there would be some hard questions! I gave a brief summary of local government then tried to answer questions off the youngsters. Once again the variety of topics these young people are interested in is astonishing and nothing like young minds to see everything in black and white. After grilling me for over an hour I hope they got some of their questions answered in a manner which they understood. Monday and back to county hall for another scrutiny meeting. This one only had about three or four agenda items, with the main one about the arrangements for dissolving Arch. I had read through the papers and had a few questions about how the council was financially safeguarded. I was particularly interested in the arrangements about the purchase of the Arch share capital and it’s reimbursement through a special dividend back to Council. Arch and ‘special dividends’ are something to be absolutely certain about!! I also asked specifically about the companies owned by Arch, both trading and non trading. I was quite satisfied with the answers I got back and a bit mystified when only one other member asked questions. Another member asked about the new governance document and we were told we would receive a copy each but that was something already asked about previously. Once again I had not boiled a kettle for a cuppa when I got home before I was made aware of a report on social media which seemed to misrepresent the facts as had been discussed just this morning. As the only member of the committee to actually ask questions about the financial arrangements and their repercussions I have to say the oblique silence from opposition members during committee sessions only to see accusations and finger pointing on social media almost immediately after these meetings only leads me to assume very partisan reports go back to whoever writes this stuff and their own conclusions are added into the mix which is then regurgitated onto social media. I do not think this is in the best interests of anyone in the county much less taking responsibilities for the best practice of NCC as a body. Holding the administration to account and suggesting ways it might improve for the benefit of us all is surly the job of every councillor irrespective of whatever party they belong to? Maybe I’m still just naïve, I am certainly coming to my own conclusions! Today it’s the Fire Brigade pensions and as usual the agenda runs to almost four pages! Unlike the Local Government Pension Scheme my part in this one is as a representative for the employer and it looks only at the administration and legalities because it’s a revenue pension scheme unlike the LGPS which has investments to manage. It takes all morning and into the afternoon to get through it all and we now have a manageress from Yorkshire who come up to advise. This is because the admin for this like the LGPS is in Yorkshire. We got through all the details and I even now have a basic level of understanding although it’s still pretty complex. After the pension committee meeting I went home and had just enough time for a cuppa before it was back up to county hall for the community chest committee meeting. We had quite a few applications to wade through, sadly this time only one from Bedlington! With only myself and two members of the administration we agreed all the applications in one form or another. Some of the details were not eligible and I wish people would take their time and read through the associated guidance then we could award even more. We ended up still underspent and not wanting to see that funding for local community groups and charities disappear we decided we wanted another extra round in January! Road resurfaced at the Hartford Hall entrance into Bedlington. Just returned for a supposed meeting about residents concerns about parking adjacent to the Plessey Woods Country Park. Seems that meeting had already taken place even though my invitation clearly said today. Being there and with the manager of the site and one of the workers I used the time to go through what had been said at the meeting. Seems nothing much even after they walked around speaking to residents. Unless residents wanted to see double yellow lines outside their houses there isn’t much that can be done. I suggested a much better signage for the park which included the wording…..”parking for Plessey Woods this way”. We also had to chance to kick some ideas around for the park and I think we might be on the same page by and large. I want to see more people using the park and using the café, that way we get to retain the income and spend it on more park upgrades and personnel. I also want to see more event type things going on and pulling more and different park users down with a varied offer. I was assured the lads now wanted to help with putting together a proper Friends of group and they will be talking to users to see when we can get a meeting pulled together to discuss it with all interested parties. There are a lot of things going on with regard to constituents and their concerns at the moment, even more than usual. I try and forward each concern as soon as I receive it and when answers are not forthcoming give the departments a nudge. I had a reply off highways about the traffic survey which was asked for by residents and which I in turn asked for. This was done on Choppington Road near the Chester’s entrance road. Again like the Netherton Village one this has come back saying the data doesn’t warrant any further action. We must have the safest drivers in the whole country because that’s two traffic and speed surveys which have come back quoting insufficient evidence for further action. If I didn’t know better I might have agreed! Path extended and resurfaced. Just come back from another LDF or Local Plan meeting. This had been called by officers working on the new plan for guidance on a list of items. Again I was the only member from the south east so it fell to me to provide answers for this whole area! Good job I sit on strategic planning so even though Blyth, Ashington and Cramlington were discussed as well as Bedlington, I did have knowledge of what was being discussed. In fact I think it was a pretty ‘robust’ meeting with some very straight answers given to straight questions. Lots of housing issues as well as town boundaries and community gain funding discussed. I was pleased to hear employment land would not only be protected but enhanced as we seek to bring real economic growth to the county. One thing which came up as I mentioned concerns I have with some of the developments we have seen is that the 500 house application north of the Chesters was actually first considered by the last administration. When it came to us last year at strategic planning it was actually the second time it had come through as a minded to approve scheme. No wonder I couldn’t get it refused. As I have been asking for updates on the Devolution Deal we are entering into with Newcastle and North Tyneside I have been invited to attend the committee meeting later this week as an observer. As I have already pitched a scheme for Bedlington using not only the Devolution Deal but also the Borderlands Deal I need to go and make sure I’m aware of the trajectory they are taking. I did go to the Devolution and Borderlands presentations and found them very interesting. So much so I had several burning questions I wanted to ask but being only a spectator at this committee I couldn’t during the meeting but I did directly to the officers after the meeting closed. Talking about questions I was astounded none of note came during the official question time during the meeting. Instead members only seemed interested in promoting their own candidates into the oversight committee positions which would be created all in the name of political balance. At some point we will have to put people into these sorts of positions because of their acumen and quality instead of just belonging to a political party! This infuriated me and I couldn’t help but tell them what I thought on my way out. 2 schemes worth about a billion quid and no one had asked how we made sure we get the maximum benefit for our residents. I might be being unfair and it’s all worked out but the answers I got back, I very much doubt it. Residents roadway finished at last!
  4. 5 points
    April 2019. First of April and straight into a corporate scrutiny meeting. At least this time there was no mention of potential criminality! We had several previous cabinet reports to acknowledge and then future ones to scrutinise and advise on. First one was a potential Cultural Fund to support a Great Northumberland initiative which would be aimed at boosting both culture and tourism. My only concern really was to question if this in any way shape or form was designed to replace the Community Chest scheme and assurances were given that it wasn’t. In fact this fund would seek out new projects to back. It was agreed unanimously. The second item was about increasing the Regeneration Development Reserve and I had a few questions about this one. Again eminently sensible and again agreed unanimously. I had to take several detours on my way home to look at various problems residents had contacted me about recently. Once home I had a few emails to send out too! Monthly surgery tonight and it took longer than the normal hour listed. Again quite a few emails to do tomorrow! Strategic planning today and with only 3 applications anyone would expect a quickish meeting, but this is planning! First one was a new supermarket for Amble and my initial thoughts were with the existing small traders who have helped transform Amble over recent years. Having said that and as I said at the meeting why shouldn’t Amble residents have 21st century shopping facilities on their doorstep, as long as we don’t lose sight of helping existing traders. There had been a retail impact assessment done which didn’t raise any concerns. However once the contents of this report were considered it was obvious it was just a desktop exercise done by someone who had never even visited Amble. So many inaccuracies it was unbelievable and I had to say that. The supermarket passed but we were able to ask for measures which are designed to help footfall down into the town and Marina from the supermarket site. Next came an application which to say was convoluted wouldn’t do it justice. Houses were being applied for on green belt land and the only way that could happen is if several exceptional circumstances overcome the green belt listing. The officers told us only one exceptional circumstance was in place and this was what looked to me like a hotchpotch, designed especially to try and get around the green belt designation. In fact, given the level of questioning by members of the committee it wasn’t just me who was uncomfortable. This was a 3year old application (?) and the 3 labour members who had sat when it first came up wanted it pushed through. As the planning officer stated the rules had changed and so had their advice, which had gone from acceptance to outright refusal. Normally we hear applications for houses and there are S106 developer contributions paid to the likes of education and health locally. What was proposed here was that the land owners wrapped up the money they were getting in a S106 agreement but the only beneficiaries would be themselves, ie nothing for health or education etc. I specifically asked the head planning officer about this because we usually have a run in about S106 agreements at every meeting. I said how many times have I questioned you about these agreements and you have always told me that there are strict rules and a mechanism in place to set these S106 monies, yet here we are a situation which flies in the face of your previous guidance. What no one wanted to say was this was the only way the green belt protection might be alleviated by saying the S106 agreement was a special circumstance. Well if it was it was like none I have ever seen before! A labour member proposed overturning planning guidance and accepting it but the legal officer then wanted him to list why he thought it overcame the several green belt protections. He couldn’t and then was advised by a colleague to go for a deferral. The 3 labour members voted for that with the rest of us voting it down. We then voted to refuse the application in line with officers recommendations. This whole S106 question looked to me like something artificially designed to simply get around the green belt issues and like other members I wasn’t happy about it, in exactly the same way we saw a quick redesign to our town boundary to accommodate 500 new houses in Bedlington! The last application was for a new classroom block at a Blyth school and we passed that without almost any questioning. I had to call in on a resident on the way home to give her the information I had for her so it was quite late when I got back. Town Council meeting tonight and I hope there is a good turnout. Lots of comments on social media because this council published their budget online for everyone to see, unlike most others! Well not the turnout I hoped for but an interesting meeting nonetheless. A resident asked if it was proper that two of the sitting Labour councillors were right not to declare an interest before they pushed through a motion giving a neighbouring council, where they are members too, funding for one of their events. Seems it was a matter for their own conscience. In the Mayor’s update they featured again because while this council had given funding to a play area which is actually outside their parish, the neighbouring parish where this play area is situated refused and the two members who had voted saying it was a worthwhile cause when at one council actually voted against it when it was discussed at the other council? One has to wonder if they had some “Road to Damascus” experience or if indeed they were just following a political directive. Whatever, it seems the calls for closer working between these two parish councils is OK as long as the actual money flows one way! Thats 7 grand WBTC have just awarded projects in EBPC’s ward, it would be nice to see some reciprocity or council tax in West Bedlington will have to climb to the heady heights of other local parish councils! Local Development Framework or Local Plan meeting today and low and behold this time I wasn’t the only South East member, the Lib Dem Leader Councillor Reid from Blyth attended too. None of the Labour members turned up again so it was down to the two of us to represent the whole of the South East area, which I think we did pretty well! We went through the 20 odd pages of bullet points regarding the input from the last consultation exercise, diligently pulling out ones which we needed clarity on or wanted to ask questions about, so the meeting lasted all morning. This has been a pretty Herculean task for the officers who have worked on these studies and consultations and given it has several completely new focuses the fact that they have produced such an in depth, articulate and sound plan was something we all thanked them for. My final question was something I wanted to know so everyone who took part in the consultations would know if their time and effort had been worthwhile. I asked if the public responses, not any off self interest groups just plain old Mr and Mrs Joe Bloggs, had influenced this final draft in any way. I was assured they did even down to some publicly suggested wording has been considered and given weight in this new Northumberland Plan. Given that this will influence planning for some years ahead it wasn’t unexpected that developers had been very vocal in their submissions with many saying much of it was too restrictive for them. It certainly isn’t the developers playground the last Core Strategy intended! This one has much more joined up thinking and reasoning behind it and embraces all sorts of things like sustainability, employment, infrastructure, affordability, health and education to name just a few. Whilst this is no panacea for all the woes in the county, at least it does draw together and start to bed down various other policies NCC have now got in place. The last Core Strategy took over 7 years to produce and basically gave developers carte blanche as far as house building went. This one has taken a year and has already restricted new house builds over the course of its life by something like 8-9 thousand. In fact given the settlement boundaries and neighbourhood plans now in place most of our towns and villages have additional protection. Minor changes and details are now to be considered then we should have a plan ready to go to central government for their perusal quite soon. Our LAC planning site visit today and we all met at the designated site in Cramlington. As temporary chair of this planning committee it was down to me to set the ball rolling and I explained to the members of the public the rules and regulations we were under and the way this site visit had to operate. That done I handed over to the planners and our highways officer for them to explain the specifics of the application. Once members had their questions answered, and I had quite a few, I suggested we walk around to the temporary entrance to the site to see first hand how that was being administered. Our highways officer pointed out a few discrepancies to the applicant’s representative and they were rectified immediately. After a cuppa and a chat with Russ and Bill in Cramlington, it was then time to get to another meeting with the CeO of Advance about our town centre redevelopment. We are pushing this about as far as we can go without resorting to bad language and I think that message has got through. In fact it looks to me like we might have another meeting next week given our almost reticence to accept things at face value these days! Several other possibilities were mentioned all aimed at augmenting footfall for the retail units planned there. Time will tell how ‘received’ they were! Another dash back home then off to the dentist, this time not for me! Firefighters Pension Board meeting today and this one is different to the normal LGPS because one is a board and the other a panel. This one looks at all of the administration, legals, recommendations etc and take a view accordingly. The LGPS Panel make investment decisions because its a non funded scheme whereas the firefighters one is funded directly by employers and the firefighters themselves. Again quite a bit of reading to get through and of course the recommendations off the ‘training’ day I attended at the Cramlington fire station. It took over 3 hours to get through all of the papers and I really wish I had a dictionary of acronyms because not being involved on a day to day basis all these letter abbreviations are somewhat confusing and I have to stop and work them out as we go through. We had a rep from the Yorkshire admin we use and she had quite a bit to go through too. LAC meeting this time at Seaton Sluice. This was only a LAC Planning meeting and I have been asked to step in as chair again until someone from another political group is appointed. The meeting started with the Chair of the LAC, Christine, opening the meeting then passing the planning section onto me. We had been to a site visit on Monday morning so we all had first hand knowledge of the first application. After the presentation by officers and hearing arguments for and against we were able to ask our own questions. I had to say I thought this was a missed opportunity for some elderly housing provision but as most other members stated given the facts of the application, as far as planning matters went, we didn’t have any material considerations to turn the application down to it was agreed. The second application for a MUGA in a school at Cramlington was again passed unanimously. I did ask if this would be open to the public but it was a special school and therefore this new muga will have to be fenced off for school use only. I did mention the fact that I was dismayed to hear work had already started, hedges had been ripped out, even though we hadn’t as yet given any permission. Well it’s been a week or two of ups and downs, pleasingly more ups than downs! We saw the new play area in Plessey Woods Country Park open bang on time. Not bad seeing as it was over 12 months ago when we sat down to plan this and targeted Good Friday 2019 as the opening date. It looks to have been very well received. Now to get some good events on down there and drive up visitor numbers, as was my brief when we got the funding for the new park. Lots of two way traffic with residents at the moment and most issues have been resolved, some even to the delight of residents! Others will take more time because they need careful and considerate handling. I have been working on a project to replace all the piecemeal hedging at the front of the cemetery with cleaner metal fencing so it looks much better and cared for and at last I have the quotes needed to go after the rest of the funding. Still waiting to hear what the new speed signs for Netherton Village and outside Hartford Farm are costing and that is frustrating to say the least as I have other calls on my smalls scheme funding. Looks like the interactive signs will be fitted before I get the costs! This is not the best way to oversee a small finite budget! Never mind at least we seem to be getting somewhere after many months of trying to push these along. Been working on a large scale project too and this at last is progressing well. It’s taken well over 12 months to get this far and when it comes off, not if, I hope it will finally start to address one of the running sores we all feel in Bedlington!
  5. 5 points
    March 2019. Monthly councillor surgery tonight, been a busy day today. Strategic planning meeting today and there seemed no contentious issues but this is planning and you never know what might pop up. Seems I was right and what should have been a straightforward application for a new fire station turned into something else. I questioned the reasoning behind removing the green belt protection because quite simply it flew in the face of what was in the guidance papers! I fail to see how in one sentence we read that response times were perfectly adequate yet in another sentence they were being used to show green belt protection should be overturned because they needed to be improved? I didn’t really have a problem with the application but I did have a problem with this reasoning. The new head of planning explained that response times were not really a planning issue and we should disregard them. I asked if that was the case then the green belt protection stood and we had no option but to refuse permission. I said it seemed to me they were an integral part of the application and that was reluctantly agreed! In the end the application went through unanimously but I hope we see some joined up thinking behind these applications and their rationale sometime soon. Next up was an application for a new free range hen farm. This had its own nuances seeing as it was the NCC Leaders farm! In fact it was explained that the only reason it had come before us was because of who the applicant is and anyone else wouldn’t have needed to submit to such rigorous examination. The only thing I was concerned about was the ‘waste’ material handling and this was to be agreed at a later date. I said I was fed up of getting half the information when trying to decide planning applications and this was a case in point. There are strict guidelines and some serious concerns had been mentioned about this sort of waste and not having a full report as to how the applicant intended to manage this meant, in my view, we didn’t have a complete set of papers in front of us on which to make a decision. Again the head of planning responded saying the conditions would be subject to discussions between his department and the applicant. I said I understood that but I had to make this decision now and I really wanted to know if the conditions would be in the interests of the general public and residents of that area or for ease of use to the applicant. Without that I considered this a less than complete set of information! I had a LGPS panel meeting today and this really was a case of turkeys voting for Xmas! We have been considering merging the NCC pension fund with the much larger Tyneside one and we have already transferred our administration department to them in a cost saving exercise. Going through all the permutations for a couple of hours we eventually concluded this was potentially a good move for pensioners and contributors. More investigations to be conducted before our next meeting in June but if it goes ahead the NCC panel which I’m part of will be redundant! Busy day today, first up my car had to go for an MOT and with other meetings to go to lifts had to be arranged. Turned out I got my car back in the morning just in time to get to the meeting we had with the police. No guessing what mainly featured in this meeting and I was pleased my calls at the recent State of the Area debated in Council chambers for a multi agency approach had been welcomed and things were proceeding. Russ and Bill were there too and each of us had our own concerns to mention. We all feel these are worthwhile meetings and it seems the police do too. Next was another meeting with the CeO and Chair of Advance at their headquarters in Ashington. More questions than answers again but at least it seems we are moving forward, albeit in a crabwise fashion! Last meeting today was the West Bedlington Town Council one, where we all give updates. Interesting meeting tonight pity more residents don’t attend and see where their council tax Parish precept goes. Well at long last the audit report into the Arch fiasco has been released. Lots of areas of concern in themselves but taken in context with the Active Northumberland report and the recent Briardale debacle we can see a pretty distressing pattern emerge, that being, at the very least, a substantial lack of accountability and any business acumen. For a company which had been “given” hundreds of millions of pounds in loans by NCC this is extremely worrying. That’s not even considering the proposed extra £450 million in the last administration’s budget for new projects. This was to be overseen by only two people, the ex Leader and the Ex CeO of NCC! These people should not be allowed to go anywhere near anything to do with pocket money never mind figures that are being discussed now! It does give an insight of how the last administration conducted themselves when they held office because all of this had to go through various committees where all councillors should have been sitting and they had a majority, no excuse! Comments and opinions by auditors below: Internal Audit Opinion: “There are two immediate primary areas of concern regarding propriety / probity. These relate firstly to the purchase of the former Arch Chief Executive’s home, by Arch, at a price which appears to have been unrealistically high to deliver expected rental income yields; and secondly, to what appears to be an unduly generous benefits and remuneration package afforded to a specific contractor (referenced as Consultant C). There is potential for criminality to be indicated in respect of each of these two matters, which were correctly referred by the County Council’s then interim Chief Executive to Northumbria Police for further examination. Northumbria Police requested that absolute confidentiality should be maintained by the County Council / Arch, in order that any potential criminal proceedings would not be compromised. Lifting of this reporting restriction was notified to Northumberland County Council by Northumbria Police in February 2019 (confirmed in March 2019). The Police are responsible for determining whether any offences have occurred and if so, by whom; the Crown Prosecution Service would be responsible for assessing whether any prosecution would be brought. In the remaining areas audited, findings indicate areas in which procedures need to be strengthened to protect the Arch Group of Companies and its primary shareholder Northumberland County Council. During Internal Audit fieldwork, several Arch staff voiced the opinion to us that ‘Arch is separate to the County Council’ and that ‘Arch is a company and follows its own procedures, not those of the County Council’. While this is true, it would be expected that as a group of companies wholly owned by the local authority, Arch would understand the need to demonstrate appropriate and effective stewardship of public funds. Some of the decisions reviewed as part of the audit – specifically the two matters referred to above – do not appear to have been in keeping with Arch’s own agreed procedures or expected financial returns; they appear unique and without a sound commercial basis. These examples do not reflect a sense of fiduciary duty to the shareholder when dealing with public monies, or a sufficiently robust commercial approach, by those involved in taking the decisions. In the other work performed by Internal Audit as part of this investigation, there are areas in which we would recommend that procedures are strengthened. These are explained further in this report. Internal Audit has also identified as a specific risk that the nature of Arch Corporate Holdings – as a group of companies – further complicates investigative work. The completeness and reliability of records across the company group will need to be verified as additional work on the matters under examination is performed and concluded. As part of our work to date in gathering and assessing evidence in respect of the specific objectives set out above, Internal Audit has not assessed the financial performance achieved by Arch to date, or the returns which it has delivered / is forecast to deliver for the shareholder. It is recommended that such an assessment is performed as part of any strategic review of Arch, to determine the profitability and performance of the group of companies and the accuracy of projected growth and income forecasts. In turn, this will help the Board and its primary stakeholder (Northumberland County Council) evaluate which activities are delivering well, and which should be continued; and which aspects of the group’s operations are not adding value and which should cease. During Internal Audit’s work, we have begun to consider the matter of State Aid. This is a complex area which did not form part of the initial Terms of Reference for this work. It is recommended that this matter is kept under review and that appropriate legal advice is sought as required. At this juncture, confidence in and reputation of the Arch group of companies would be enhanced by a more transparent approach, clear commercial acumen and demonstrable stewardship in all aspects of the Group’s operations and decisions taken. Comment /Evaluation: One of the biggest risks here is corruption / collusion. Without evidence of a sufficiently robust competitive process in any organisation, there is a risk that firms might be appointed to lucrative contracts inappropriately – or that this suspicion will fall on the company, creating reputational risk. Documentation demonstrating a competitive process was available in five of the thirteen ‘consultant’ assignments sampled. However the robustness of the competitive process could be strengthened. For the remaining eight consultants, appointed by former Arch Chief Executive or the current Arch Chief Executive, no documentation could be provided. Some of these consultants have had long standing engagements with Arch over a number of years. The absence of information regarding the engagement exercises with a number of appointments made by Arch former Chief Executive and the current Chief Executive needs to be examined further. Regarding the engagement with Consultant C, there are a number of documents which Internal Audit has viewed. Some of these, such as the one side summary of this contractor’s skills and experience, refer to Consultant C. However invoices have been submitted under his company name (a company shown as no longer trading on Companies House website). Whilst there was evidence provided regarding a role being advertised and parties (including Consultant C) submitting ‘bids’ there was no evidence of a value for money review of quality and price. There is email evidence which suggests that Consultant C was operating in the role before he had applied for it. The relationship between Arch and the surveying firm/ Northumberland County Council needs to be examined further as a separate piece of work, to more fully understand the nature of the relationship and services provided. All consultants currently engaged by the Group should be reviewed to determine if these services continue to be required and if so whether a fresh engagement process is needed to ensure value for money is being obtained, the engagement process is transparent and financial regulations are complied with. Comment/Evaluation: From the information provided and discussions with Arch staff, there is a lack of awareness of the requirements of Financial Regulations with regard to the appointment of consultants. There was a lack of information regarding the terms of engagement with the majority of the consultants reviewed. With regard to any equipment/assets consultants are actually provided with, this is covered in a later section of this report. The letter dated 15 May 2017 from then Arch Board Members would appear to be an extremely rare arrangement, and not likely to be typical. The scenario set out in the letter does not reflect the terms set out in the advert for this work published on Arch’s website, from which Consultant C was appointed. Internal Audit has not found any evidence of similar arrangements afforded to any other contractor. Comment/Evaluation: There is no segregation of duties in the payments to the four long standing consultants and a lack of evidence was provided in relation to the work undertaken. The daily rates are very high and we refer back to our previous comment regarding reviewing all consultants currently engaged by the Group to determine if these services continue to be required and if so whether a fresh engagement process is needed to ensure value for money is being obtained, the engagement process is transparent and financial regulations are complied with. There is no process in place to verify the work undertaken by Consultant C. This would not be possible due to the apparent absence of any terms of engagement and the lack of detail on the invoices in relation to work undertaken. On the basis of the invoices reviewed it would appear that former Arch Chief Executive and former NCC Chief Executive were authorising the payments. There was little evidence of the work undertaken (seven press releases at Arch) in comparison with the remuneration to this consultant. There is evidence that the first payment relates to a period before Consultant C had submitted his application for the role / contract advertised. In respect of the construction consultants sampled properly authorised orders and invoices were evidenced. For the two marketing companies where quotations had been obtained and purchase orders issued, evidence of monitoring progress and completed work was also provided along with authorised invoices. Comment/Evaluation: The absence of an inventory of assets has hindered this aspect of the review and it is difficult to say with certainty that the information provided forms a complete record. No consultants other than Consultant C appear to have been given a house / car. A decision is required in relation to what to do with the car, and its future value and use to Arch. Comment/Evaluation: Once an inventory of equipment has been established, a decision should be made on whether or not insurance is required for any items held by consultants. The purchase of insurance for the car used by Consultant C adds to an already substantial package of benefits enjoyed by this contractor and funded by Arch. It would be unusual to provide insurance in these circumstances. Comment/Evaluation: It is not known whether the tax implications of the provision of equipment and mileage payments to Consultant C have been accounted for correctly, or whether his status as a consultant is correct. Comment/Evaluation: There was a lack of evidence provided regarding the appointments of a number of the employees sampled. For the most recently employed member of staff in the sample a relatively robust process appeared to have been followed. This could have been enhanced further through checking the qualifications of the new employee. A number of appointments appear to have been made without a competitive process being followed. The offer of a £3k relocation package to a new Director already living in Morpeth at the time of his appointment would be difficult to justify, especially as the Director appears to be living at the same address as prior to his appointment. It was not established whether this payment was in fact made, or simply proposed. Financial Regulations and MoDA do not specify anything in respect of salary decisions that are required to be considered by Remuneration Committee, other than MoDA specifying that in year pay increases to the Group Managing Director are to be approved at this committee. If the Director of Finance’s email to the former Arch Chief Executive on 21 April 2017 regarding the requirement for Remuneration Committee approval for the Chief Executive’s direct reports is correct there are further areas that need to be examined further, including increases to the Director of Finance and the Arch Chief Executive. Comment/Evaluation: The absence of a salary scale makes it difficult to ensure parity for roles of comparative levels of responsibility. The provision of company vehicles to employees should be reviewed. Where it is felt beneficial for employees to have vehicles that they take home the terms and conditions of the use of the vehicle and each party’s responsibilities should be formalised. The other vehicles used by staff appear reasonable given the nature of Arch’s work, i.e. Citroen vans and a ford fiesta van. However, the purchase of a vehicle for £24,290.65 + VAT would appear at face value to be excessive. The invoice for this purchase is not signed / authorised. The staff benefits should be reviewed taking into consideration that the company is owned by NCC. For example in the current financial climate within the public sector, it may seem extravagant for a company which is wholly owned by a local authority to have a subsidised Christmas party. Comment/Evaluation: There was a lack of evidence provided regarding the appointments to new posts of a number of the employees sampled. A number of the pay enhancements reviewed appear to be unusual and require further examination by management. Financial Regulations and MoDA do not specify anything in respect of salary decisions that are required to be considered by Remuneration Committee other than MoDA specifying that in year pay increases to the Group Managing Director are to be approved at that Committee. If the Director of Finance’s email to the then Arch Interim Chief Executive on 21 April 2017 regarding the requirement for Remuneration Committee approval for the Chief Executive’s direct reports is correct there are further areas that need to be examined further, including increases to the Director of Finance and former Arch Chief Executive. Comment/Evaluation: The absence of an inventory of assets has hindered this aspect of the review. An inventory of equipment, particularly portable electronic equipment should be established as soon as possible. The number of mobile phones in use appears to be excessive and could benefit from a review. Internal Audit are of the understanding that the former Arch Chief Executive was on gardening leave in the period prior to him leaving the company in June 2017. This raised questions as to whether the charges incurred outside of the EU occurred in this period and if so whether he was on Arch business. Comment/Evaluation: The 2016/17 P11D return to HMRC is inaccurate in that it does not contain all the required information. The use of company vehicles by employees is a particular area of concern. Further work is required by the company to ensure compliance with all HMRC requirements. Comment/Evaluation Inaccuracies found in a number of banking transactions associated with property purchases result in a lack of confidence in the overall internal processes surrounding bank payments for properties purchased by Arch. We were informed in September 2017 that the legal law firm contractor ref.1 had concluded a review and that this had identified that £42k had been overpaid by Arch. It is understood from the Management Accountant that clients’ accounts at the Law Firm should all reconcile to zero once a property purchase is complete, which would have provided a further control, but should not have been relied on by Arch as the sole source of control. The surveying firm appear to have received payments under a fee structure which sees a payment for identifying an executive property to be sold to Arch; a further payment for identifying a tenant to live in that home; and possibly other fees which at the current time are obscure. This does not assure value for money. The decisions around the purchase and disposal of property at Empire Court in Whitley Bay do not seem congruent with the direction of other Arch acquisitions and developments. As we understand this property is now being disposed of, it will only be when all units are sold that the return on this investment can be evaluated. Further analysis on the treatment of Stamp Duty Land Tax (and professional advice on the treatment applied in this case) will be required. Comment/Evaluation: Rental income monitoring appears to be disjointed with the Arch team monitoring private rental sector and affordable homes and the surveying firm monitoring the Executive Properties. Review of rental statements show high levels of arrears in some Executive Properties, suggesting that the surveying firm may not be managing this as effectively as would be expected. There are weaknesses in the end to end process for all rental income monitoring. A review should be undertaken and a process determined which gives Arch assurance that there is a robust process in place across all the rental sectors. It is of concern that the Land Registration details for the property Y were incorrect and in the name of Persimmon Homes rather than Arch, despite the conveyance having been performed by legal law firm contractor ref.1. Comment / Evaluation: The involvement and interest taken by the former Arch Chief Executive in the purchase and subsequent rental of Property Y, demonstrated in emails regarding the property, appears inconsistent with his involvement in the purchase and management of other Arch properties. Had the ‘extra’ costs been taken into account in the purchase of Property Y then calculation shows it would not have achieved the 5% gross target yield or a net annual profit and may/should not have been approved. Had a more realistic achievable rental income been used in the calculation for the purchase of Property X then it would not have achieved the 5% gross target yield or a net annual profit and was unlikely to have been approved. Comment /Evaluation: Points of good practice: Internal Audit was informed that in the earlier years of the Company, the opportunities for hosting of events were more carefully considered with proposals going to the Board and a report of outcomes also going to the Board. It was the perception of the Marketing Manager that more recently as the Company grew and with it the volume of business going to the Board, hosting became a reduced priority for Board consideration and reporting purposes. Internal Audit was shown an overall calendar of events (spreadsheet) and provided with detailed spreadsheets for the planning and monitoring of expenditure in relation to individual larger events which included MIPIM (Cannes) and the Tall Ships. Areas of concern: Due to the apparent lack of a strategy and reporting, it appears unclear what value is being gained from expenditure incurred; the rationale for hosting certain events, or the level of hosting if such events are to be attended (e.g. bar and travel to social or sporting events). There is a risk that expenditure may be incurred that does not contribute towards the objectives of the Company. At the transaction level, all transactions should be properly supported with prime documentation regardless of the method of payment. Comment/Evaluation: Under the Localism Act, elected members are required to comply with the Code of Conduct maintained by the Council’s Monitoring Officer. It is the elected member’s personal duty to declare interests. Clarification should be obtained from the Monitoring Officer as to which ‘hat’ elected members serving on Arch’s board would be expected to be wearing when undertaking various duties and roles related to Arch, or accepting hospitality. The risk is that acceptance of hospitality and gifts from, or interests with, those firms with which Arch contracted may have impeded the impartiality of decision-makers or been seen to impede that impartiality. At worst, there is a risk of corruption/collusion; and reputational risk to the organisation. There is clearly a need to reiterate the duty on elected members and senior officers at NCC of their duty to declare in accordance with the County’s codes of conduct. There is similarly a need to make the requirement to declare by Board members at Arch more robust, and to enforce this more stringently. Comment/Evaluation: Further to the lack of a separate process for the declaration of offers of hospitality and gifts by Board members throughout the year, as there exists for officers, it is apparent from the work undertaken by Internal Audit in relation to the hosting of events that the annual declarations are incomplete, specifically under the section ‘Gifts and Hospitality’. There had not been additional declarations made under the NCC policy and processes. Comment/Evaluation: The awarding of exclusivity arrangements to the surveying firm to act as agents and property management agents in relation to the Executive Homes Portfolio has not been tendered for in accordance with Arch’s Financial Regulations and Memorandum of Delegated Authority, as described in Section 1 of this report. An assessment should have been made as to the estimated fees for the scheme should have been undertaken and the appropriate procurement method followed (for example the Director of Finance had delegated authority to £20m on Executive Homes, therefore it would have been easy to establish that the fees for finding and managing these properties would have been over the threshold requiring a full tender exercise). Our earlier work in relation to the Executive Homes portfolio has identified concerns regarding the surveying firm’s management of these properties and we are aware that the Head of Estates and the Homes Manager have written a briefing paper recommending the management of these properties is brought in house. The award of the 2015/16 and 2016/17 asset valuation works has not been compliant with Arch’s Financial Regulations and Memorandum of Delegated Authority as competitive quotes were not obtained and the services are in excess of £20k. Competitive quotes should be obtained prior to the award of these works for the 2017/18 annual accounts. The annual costs of the estate management contracts is below the £20k requiring competitive quotes to be obtained, however as these contracts have been in place since 2015/16 it may be an appropriate time to obtain competitive quotes for the 2018/19 financial year. Earlier in this report we have referred to the importance of estimating the costs associated with schemes to ensure the correct procurement routes are followed. This applies to individual schemes such as the large acquisitions of Potland Burn and Ellington Colliery as the fees incurred were likely to be significant given the value of the land being purchased. No declarations were identified in relation to the engagements with this company. A number of emails were identified during the original review which indicated an apparent closeness between the surveying firm and Arch former Chief Executive (the former Chief Executive being referred to as ‘mate’ in one email). Comment / evaluation: The cost of the new stand and clubhouse by Arch and associated lease require review regarding the expenditure incurred and the financial viability of the project. That the former Arch Chief Executive and a former Arch Board member are also ACFC Board members and there would appear to be a close relationship between the two organisations with Arch providing financial support to ACFC. Further review is required to establish whether this is in accordance with Board approval. Arch has paid approximately £67k plus on-costs for 2 members of ACFC staff and in itself is a significant financial contribution to ACFC. Comment / Evaluation: From the information gathered at this stage in the investigation, the nature / extent of any relationship between Arch and Construction firm ref. 13 is unclear. No evidence has been found of undue influence from Arch within the procurement process leading to Construction firm ref. 13 being included within the NCC framework contract. A substantial amount of business has been awarded to Construction firm ref. 13 by Arch. While some of this has been the subject of competitive tender, in other cases it is unclear. With regard to the first (and largest) tender exercise the validity or suitability of some of the other requested tenderers appears doubtful. Given the status and influence which the former Arch Chief Executive would hold, it would have been expected in the interests of transparency that the relationship with his brother (an employee of Construction firm ref. 13) would have been explicitly declared. This is especially so given the values paid to this company.” Given what the police have come back with I have no doubt this will not be the end of the matter! How they could have conducted a complete investigation without interviewing anyone, even without being under caution, is something I just can’t understand. There are some pretty devastating sentences included in the auditors comments above which anyone of them by themselves demand forensic investigation! Firefighters Pension training all day today at Hartford Fire Station. Members of pension boards came from all over the North East and it was a long and quite intense session. Several questions now for our board. LAC meeting tonight and I have been asked to chair the Planning portion because our last chair was Bernard. So a pre meeting with the planners to go through the application/s then the meeting proper started at 5pm. Only one application and after we heard the planning officer outline the application then an objector and supporter we had members questions. This was followed by the debate amongst members but this was somewhat truncated when we all decided a site visit was in order. Seems strange to me that this application was first brought in 2016 for outline and then a demolition order but there’s nowt as strange as planning matters! Once the planning was done we had 15 minutes before the main event. The room was filling up because there was a Bedlington Town Centre update on the agenda. We got through the bulk of the meeting quite quickly then it was the main event. I knew this was going to go wrong and I had warned them but it was for some reason deemed necessary? So the CeO of Advance gave a presentation of where the development stood and basically it was in the same place as it was last year at this time. That’s not quite fair, there has been a lot of preparation work done so building work above ground can begin but until we see some bricks being laid I don’t think anyone will believe it’s actually happening. I asked a few questions, why has this turned into a staccato type development, can’t we look at other ways to develop the USP Bedlington could offer and lastly why is the public toilet not showing on the plans now? Seems the toilets were never included, sorry but I sit on strategic planning and saw the toilet provision clearly stated and a member of the public backed me up on this. After members had a chance to question the CeO of Advance the public had their chance and if he thought we were tough…….. Lots of questions, suggestions and concerns put forward with some people leaving early. All in all a pretty lacklustre offering with more questions than answers again. My first question now would be if we are so close to sealing the deals and getting the scheme across the line why not put off this presentation for a month or even two so a definite signed and sealed development could be presented. For my money this a just another in a long line of disastrous PR for firstly Arch and now Advance. At some point lessons have to be learnt, surely! I used the chance of having the heads of local services at the meeting to lobby for Bedlington to be included in the recent High Street Clean Up funding central government has just released. Seems I wasn’t supposed to be aware of that yet but the point was taken and I was assured Bedlington would be included. I have had several meetings with local organisations and I was offered a meeting with local services manager about this high street clean up funding. I suggested including WBTC and Russ came along too seeing as its primarily in his ward. Seems this funding is extremely time dependant with only a matter of days to submit schemes for consideration. WBTC have to put in schemes for most of the funding but NCC are withholding some of the allocated funding to do extras in the Town. Both Russ and I are trying to get maximum benefit out of that NCC withheld funding but its turned into a bit of a fight! Time will tell. Called in to make sure the new play equipment was on track at Plessey Woods so we get an Easter holiday opening. Looking good and seems with only some infilling left to be done, we are on track. Had a whole afternoon at planning training, this one about the new social rented housing we are initiating. Listening to the presentation I became increasingly worried that we might not see as many new houses to rent at affordable charges as I was anticipating. I therefore had to question the presenters about this. Still waiting for a definite answer to that one! I also asked about build quality and running costs because it’s all very well having a new council house but if you can’t afford to heat it! I asked about infrastructure and where that might feature and another point of worry was the onus the presenters put on the financial aspect to demonstrate need so I put forward that social need had to be figured in too. I said “need” was something aligned to people so it wasn’t too hard to see a lot of social need in our area given we have over 50% of the population squeezed into the South East of the county. If we only rely on the fact that there may not be enough houses available in rural areas and financial constraints when there are then we will miss out on a huge opportunity to address social housing needs in my area. With no other members from the South East in the chamber I had to be determined enough not to take flimsy answers or I would lose the point for this whole area. I eventually got acknowledgement of my concerns! I seemed to monopolise the questions and apologised but as I remarked we should get this right from the start and save problems building up later. I also questioned the fact that developers seem to say that their sites cannot support S106 schemes because of ground conditions etc. and we let them get away with it. Is it really in our job to allow developers to maximise their profits on the back of not paying any community funding, such as health, education and leisure? The new head of planning responded and said I was quite right and this was something central government has identified and were going to take steps about. All in all a very informative afternoon but once again I was the only member from the south east of the county to attend? We are shaping a social housing policy and the very people purporting to support this don’t attend therefore don’t get to shape any part of it. There might not be any newspaper headlines to grab but this is the basic workload of elected councillors as far as I can see and I have to wonder how anyone can shout their mouths off when the cameras are on yet fail to put in the work where and when it really matters? Once again it seems I’m being targeted on social media by the same person and his cronies, this time demanding I apologize for screaming across the chamber at the last full council meeting, as well as other nonsense. I think light must have to bend around these people! Well I’m not going to apologize for refusing to allow this Town from being used as a political football between the two main parties. The video of that meeting is in the public domain and I think anyone can see I certainly wasn’t screaming at anyone, passionate for the town yes, screaming no. In fact there isn’t many times fellow members indicate their support for what was said with a round of applause but that was one! But thanks for bringing up the question of apologies maybe someone needs to apologize for the many years they spent on Wansbeck District Council ignoring the needs of Bedlington and the way they and their associates allowed Arch and Active Northumberland to operate, ramping up debt levels to unsustainable heights which in turn leaves council taxpayers on the hook for many millions of pounds in interest payments. We can all clearly see the present day results of that! On another point it seems the fact that I have a “day” job as well causes mirth. No answer to that absurdity really. Also it seems I claimed I ran ‘successful’ businesses for 30 years, well the video of the council meeting can lay that one to bed. Of course given that in all that time I have never left creditors in the lurch would explain why some might see fit to insert their own adjective. It would appear the seemingly demented ex taxi driver is increasingly apoplectic in his rabid social media attacks to which I will respond with a truncated quote from an ex Prime Minister when describing someone of opposing views… “a sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself?” I would just like to point out one extra little bit of extraordinary hypocrisy. I was castigated by a local political group for abstaining on the council tax benefit vote. I did give my reasons for that at the time and in these diaries but I was “told” in no uncertain terms that they considered abstentions an aberration, in our democracy. Well not only did we see the whole of the Labour contingent abstain on a recent vote at county we now see our MP abstaining on a vote of national importance. I’m still waiting for similar cries directed at them off the same political group, who have been strangely quiet on the matter!
  6. 5 points
    Thank you! It was a bit different this year. 31 years ago I was fooled into a hard morning's work clearing snow, followed by a sauna, followed by a roll in the snow, followed by a brown, foul-smelling and foul-tasting drink served in a small glass. It was revolting - but it didn't half put a glow inside my chest. I was lead to believe that this was normal and customary practice on birthdays celebrated during the winter. Talk about being naive and gullible - It was six years later when I learned they were taking the mickey! By that time, having recovered from the shock of the first experience, I'd started to enjoy the procedure (and even the drink - the sacrifices one makes) and ever since then I've thrown myself voluntarily into the snow with gay abandon every January 13th with the exception of one snow free year when I threw myself into a lake (3 degrees centigrade). Never again! Snow, believe it or not, is warmer! This year we are again without snow so I had to make do with the sauna and the drink (well - it might have been two) following which I spent a quiet and relaxing day doing basically nothing. I've had a hectic month with an extremely ill OH so doing nothing was absolutely wonderful!! OH is making a remarkable recovery so we'll make up for lost time when he's properly on his feet again. Thanks again for your kind birthday wishes.
  7. 5 points
  8. 4 points
    Hi Tracey, I'm so sorry to hear this. What a lovely thing to do with the memorial garden. @Malcolm Robinson should be able to give you more info on the benches.
  9. 4 points
    Hope you all have a great time
  10. 4 points
  11. 4 points
    The residents group has been going almost 6 years now and we're still very active. We've had a Xmas party for the kids every year and we've had two trips , one to Blair Drummond Safari Park in 2017 and Flamingo Land in 2018. The trips were heavily discounted thanks to grants from East Bedlington Parish Council and Bernicia. They also help to fund the Xmas party along with donations from Morrison, Bedlington Station Co Op, Bobby Cowell, Proctor and Gamble and Kevin Foster Funeral Services. Bernicia recognise the residents group and we meet with them to air any concerns etc . Anti social behaviour is at an all time low on the estate and Bernicia have told us that they have a waiting list of people wanting to move here. We have a weekly bonus ball draw £45 to the winner and one every two months at £10 a number which pays the winner £500. Bigger and better things are planned for this year.
  12. 4 points
    Hi, i have just stumbled across this forum online, we are the family of Jack Antonino he is the man in the white coat and his grandson david is the little boy in the horse and cart with him, to this day we have carried on Jack’s legacy in fhe ice cream trade with our ice cream vans that have covered Bedlington and Blyth for decades as well as our very own ice cream parlour in the heart of Blyth in memory of Jacks arrival in the UK back in 1906 making it 110 years when we opend the shop.
  13. 3 points
    As those of you who use Gallagher Park frequently will know, the children’s play area has been in a poor state of repair for several years now. The Friends of Gallagher Park have been tirelessly campaigning for better facilities in the park that can be utilised by families who visit the park with their children. Recently, I met with the Director of Local Services from NCC together with the Portfolio holder for the Environment and Local Services to discuss improvements in the park. They both agreed that the play facilities left a lot to be desired and, as a result of that meeting, NCC have agreed to invest in improvements in the park. They started off with a budget of £65,000 but, with contributions from myself, Councillors Russ Wallace and Jeff Gobin, West Bedlington Town Council and The Friends of Gallagher Park, that total has now increased to around the £80,000 mark. Disappointingly, at their meeting last night, Tuesday 2 April, East Bedlington Parish Council declined to contribute to the project, citing a lack of information as the reason. The decision was not unexpected as I have been informed by the previous East Bedlington Parish Council Chair that, as Gallagher Park was owned by NCC, they would not contribute to the upkeep or modernisation of the park. Given that the park lies mainly within their parish boundary and hosts their music event I felt, and still feel, this to be a very negative view to take. However, on a positive note, I think we will be able to get a very good play area in the park; NCC have it out for tender now and hope to have it completed by the time the schools have their summer break. With a bit of luck, and with the support of NCC, the County Councillors, West Bedlington Town Council and the Friends of Gallagher Park, the children’s play area will be finished by the summer and the families attending Gallagher Park Live will have a chance to enjoy the facilities, unaware that this was without the support of the Parish Council.
  14. 3 points
    Gosh, it's 10 years since I wrote that letter to the NPL. Since then Blyth has descended further, the town centre is a wasteland and public transport awful. I live in Switzerland, in Thun (pronounced Toon, so somethings still sound familar) and from the airport to my Mum's via Metro and bus can take over 2.5 hours. 8 miles in a straight line! I still think Ronnie has done better out of Westminister than Blyth Valley has. Apparently, he will retire soon, watch out for a Corbynite/Momentum replacement. All the best to Bedlington, I have some good memories from there. Alan
  15. 3 points
    It was used as engineering manufacturing company that produced nuts and bolts, and other fittings. How do I know this? My old man knew the boss and arranged for me and my brother to have a holiday job there during the school Easter hols of 1969; It was arranged that I could use some of the facilities to finish off my A'Level Engineering project - a racing kart (some folks call them go-karts but this was a serious bit of kit). I bent the tubular chassis there on their pipe bending machine and welded it together with their oxy-axcetelene gear ... the school didn't have this type of tackle. Anyway, what i recall was banks of multi-chuck automatic machines producing bolts in their thousands, turning the hexagonal bar stock to size, threading and then parting-off ... the finished items cascaded into metal bins for fork lifting away. Whilst I worked on my kart my brother got the job of stripping the asbestos lagging off three (it might have been two ... memory fade) huge boilers using a hammer, saw and crowbar. This was 1969 and well before H&S at Work Act ... no protective gear apart from a mask and dust everywhere. So these boilers play into baths theory. I can't recall the name of the firm.
  16. 3 points
    As some of you will be aware, there have been several incidents of criminal damage in the area over the past couple of weeks. These incidents have consisted of houses being targeted and windows broken as well as vehicles having their windscreens and other windows smashed. Whilst this would be traumatic for anyone who is the victim of such crimes, it is particularly distressing for anyone who may be elderly and be the repeat victim of such crimes. The police are doing what they can, but as we all know, there are less Police Officers available to do the job as effectively as they once did. I have been speaking to them over the weekend, and I know they were conducting door- to- door enquiries in the area following the recent spate of incidents. They have asked me to request that those of you that live in the Alfred Avenue/Seaton Avenue/Lily Avenue area with CCTV or dashcams could look at your footage you have from 3.00am – 5.00am on Sunday 10 March to see if you can spot any suspicious looking males. If so, can you let the Police know. It would also be helpful if anyone lives in the wider surrounding area to check also. It doesn’t matter how innocuous of trivial you may think it is, report everything. Let the Police decide and investigate as to whether it is relevant or not. The Police are stretched, and they need the help of our community if we are to track down the perpetrator(s) of these crimes. If you have any information, please ring 101. There is no need to have an Officer come to see you if that is your preference, just tell the call handler that when you’re on the ‘phone. I know it can be frustrating waiting for your call to be answered but the call centres are as understaffed as the police Officers on the street so please try and be patient. If you’d rather, you can contact the Police online if you follow this link: – https://services.northumbria.police.uk/online-services/tell-us-something/ There may be some of you who don’t feel comfortable contacting the police. If that’s the case, you can always contact me, and I’ll pass on the information. Tel: 07779 – 983656 or email me at: – E-mail: [email protected] Let’s see if we can all work together and put a stop to these incidents that are causing so much distress and fear in our community. Thank you.
  17. 3 points
    How thrilling for all those people who elected him as one, and aren't going to be given the choice of another.
  18. 3 points
    Sorry a little bit off topic HPW but you mention having your wedding on 8mm but never seeing it, my dad bought a Cine camera just for my wedding it was 9.5mm, the Co-op put a film in it for him then developed it, we never had any means to view it, recently I sent it away to be converted to MPEG, it came back on a USB and CD, it's not the best quality but great seeing our wedding, 57 years later, only problem is its reversed! my carnation (and Doreen) are on the wrong side, I first noticed as my BMW (Isetta bubble car!) the numbers are backwards. The company are busy redoing it. Charles's 1931 Morris is also on it. We went on to get standard 8 and super 8 cine cameras, and I have made my own conversion to VHS then DVD, the kids all have copies.
  19. 3 points
    Nov 2018. We had a pretty packed strategic planning meeting tonight, or it was going to be until one of the large applications was pulled by the applicant. The other biggie was the Bedlington application for the 500 houses north of the Chesters. Having been awarded a new contract I was at work all week for training and exams and had to get permission to leave early for this meeting and the full council meeting tomorrow. The other applications were not really contentious and we agreed with the planners and their advice. The chair knew I wanted to speak about the Bedlington application and first up was the planning officer who outlined the application and its terms. Next up was Christine, the current mayor of West Bedlington Town Council. She gave an impassioned 5 minute speech about how disappointed she was with the terms of the S106 funding and especially where it was going to be spent. We next heard off the applicant and then onto members questions. One or two members asked a question about the application then it was my turn. I said it seemed we had a dichotomy of guidance regarding this application seeing as the Wansbeck Local Plan had a boundary line which these houses lay outside of, therefore they should be disallowed. Not only that but we are being advised that the new Planning Guidance off central government which actually meant these houses were needed, to bolster our housing land supply figures. I said I saw that as an excuse, sorry for using that term, but would we as a county have enough land bank for housing if these houses were not permitted? The silence was deafening so I gave them the reply they didn’t want to give me. Yes we have more than enough identified housing land, isn’t that true. Again none of the planners wanted to say but I pushed them for an answer. It seems we do have enough but they want these as well. I asked if that justified redrawing the town boundary line and again silence. I then asked if the Wansbeck Local Plan was the only planning guidance we should consider because at every meeting we are told we can only consider material considerations and adopted policies. Again a very muted response! I then asked about the S106 agreement and said it wasn’t good enough. The reply was that there is a framework for working out these agreements and some might seems more generous than others. Well how can the same framework deliver almost £5M in S106 funding in Amble for the same number of houses and even about £4m for almost half the number in Blyth? Ours totals just under £2M! In fact the only change I could see since this was last before us is the inclusion of a £65 bus ticket for each house. It really isn’t good enough. Given highways and transportation were mentioned in the application I asked about a new road I have heard about linking the B1331 and Choppington Road. I was told I couldn’t mention that because it wasn’t part of the application but I said in that case you shouldn’t be so ambiguous in the terms used in your guidance and my question stood. No answer. Next came the debate after two members proposed accepting the application. One member even said he didn’t understand the new central government guidance but would vote for the application. Surly that should mean you don’t vote for something you don’t understand shouldn’t it? It does whenever I don’t understand what’s on the table. In my reply I said this was clearly outside the boundary line in the only policy in place and I will not vote for anything which seems to undervalue my residents in comparison to any other residents in the county. When the vote came only two of us voted against it so it was agreed by majority. I think we have lost an opportunity to get some real funding to address the imbalances we can all see here in our social infrastructure. I have to mention some of the things which my refusal to accept this paltry community funding has brought to my attention. First I hadn’t realised this application had been brought to the last administration. In fact it looks like they were the ones to agree the first mishmash of community funding. This was the agreement brought to strategic planning last year when I first heard it. This had no health funding requirement and the educational requirement had been allowed to fall from £3.2M to about £1.2M, or about £2M was allowed to disappear. To add further insult to injury the outdoor sport and play funding was to go to Bedlington Station? So West Bedlington gets the houses and the demand while East Bedlington gets the goodies. I wonder who put this deal together but I hope readers can see why I objected so passionately last year when this came up. In the course of several meetings I had with the planners over this I got planners to ask the health trust again about some funding requirement and I also had that ring-fenced for East Bedlington caveat squashed. So £335K for health funding suddenly appeared and the £229K for sport and play can stay in our ward. Still think the figures are insulting given what other areas seem to be able to demand and in no way addresses the lack of infrastructure needed to service our current needs never mind considering the huge increases we will soon see I’m sure. Full council today and it was quite a rush back from work because I’m doing training and exams all week. There weren’t really any main bones of contention in the agenda but that was before the more politically motivated members got their hands on it. So once again a political ping pong match which I think shows just how unwilling some members are to work with each other for the benefit of the county. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-_ELUoMGYA I am really quite disappointed with these full council meetings. Instead of reasoned debate which might just influence the direction we are taking we get the minutes of previous committee meetings and a chance to ask….TWO….questions….if they were submitted in time before the meeting. This isn’t the cut and thrust of modern politics for local benefit, this is an old codgers club! We really need to stop electing people because of the gang they belong to. Interesting to see just how wildly taken out of context some of the ‘quotes’ are and that’s only the ones I have firsthand knowledge about. I was truly shocked at the misrepresentation of one of the committees I serve on. I now have to question everything those members utter in future. Well it might have taken some time, months in fact, but after all the complaining, lobbying, phone calls and messages we eventually have a full set of working lights up the Netherton Village. We were promised these were working some time ago but several faults came to light; pardon the pun, which resulted in temporary traffic lights for a couple of days while the faults were once and for all rectified! Fingers crossed! Sadly it has become apparent that once again I have been targeted by certain individuals in an effort to unseat me. This was particularly distressing because it involved other people close to me and while I am fully prepared to argue my points and politically debate quite openly the oleaginous manner in which this was done left a lot to be desired! This resulted in having to close down my social media accounts until I was sure I had regained control over them and was the reason my last month’s diary was late and this one somewhat truncated. It would seem giving, principally, my constituents so much information within these diaries is not something certain people relish. I will leave the last word to one of our greatest political commentators, “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ― George Orwell.
  20. 3 points
    I would just take that as a compliment, Malcolm! You're clearly doing the job too well and it's ruffling a few feathers. Keep up the good work!
  21. 3 points
    Sorry folks. Working on it but it might be offline for a couple of weeks.
  22. 3 points
    I used to live at 11 Gladstone Terrace in the 50's before moving to Australia in 1960. I remember the shed and roundabout in the background. The "Parky" was Mr Elliott and lived at no.10. He was indeed more interested in his bowling green and gardens than the playground . Still, we had some great times there.
  23. 3 points
    Its coming up to 100 years since the First World War ended. The North East War Memorials Project (NEWMP) website is an excellant source of information containing details of the brave men and women who served in that conflict and their memorials. If you are looking for information about your relatives, it may be on this website. See the attached NEWMP leaflet for more information.
  24. 3 points
    You can never go on too long HPW! Every word is valuable to me. I all helps paint a picture of the life and times of my ancestors. It's not always a pretty picture but it's vivid and full of detail. As you say, pitwork isn't an easy thing to describe to someone like me, who's never been, let alone worked down a coal mine. It isn't easy for us either when the 'experts' write about it using a terminology which only miners can understand. I really appreciate the time and effort yourself, Vic and Pete take to write about coalmining and the way you explain the terminology as it crops up in the text. Now, here's something from my field of work that you miners might find interesting: You mention "Gates" - tailgates, dummygates, mothergates and panelgates and you say that these 'gates' are "roadways". I, in my naivety, when these 'gates' have previously been mentioned have thought that it was a gate of the open and close kind. Now I know otherwise!But did you know that you've been speaking a bit of Swedish (Old Norse, to be precise) every time you speak of gates down the pit. Gate - meaning roadway - comes from the Scandinavian word gata - a word, still in use today, meaning 'street'. It can be found above ground as well in some street names like: Oldgate, Oldgate within, Newgate etc. So, I think you have earned the title 'HPW Honorary Swede'.
  25. 3 points
    A very wise decision Canny Lass!!..and very nice words spoken about wor wise aad pitmen friends on heor! As you say,CL,you usually find answers to your questions,and NO [!]..we don't mind you asking aboot things that puzzle ye...that's what we aal come on heor for..ti share wa nollege wi those that haven't experienced things such as mining. Me porsinally,a tek delight in being able ti share me experiences wi folk cos when aal us aad pitmen are gone..tha'll ownly be byeuks ti refer ti. Nowt wrang wi that,ti a point,but most byeuks aav read,hev been writtin by folks wi nae REAL experience in rough conditions,daeing aad-fashined hand-filling in low seams,[a shudda sed "LAA"seams theor..but it might hae been owa much ti decipher!!]. Enywheh!...traditionally,when kids went doon the pit on the forst day,they started working at ,or near,the shaft bottom area..where coal tubs ["Chummins" i.e. ..empty ones]..were sent doon in the cage,and pushed oot thi cage by the Onsetters pushing "Fullun's"[full tubs]..INTO thi cage,at the shaft bottom,if that was where the seam was being worked,or it might be any distance doon thi shaft wherever other seams were being worked simultaneously,such as the "High Main",or the "Yard" seam..and so on. If a seam like this was being worked,we called it the "Yard Seam Inset"...etc,to denote that it wasn't actually the shaft bottom. My elder Brother ,for instance,started pit life,in 1956,on the surface,at Bedlington A pit..[Hereinafter referred to as "The AAD pit],then his first job underground was "Hingin' on",in the "Dish" at the "Harvey East Plane".[aa was 12 yrs aad on his borthdi...born same day..three years apart!] NOO!..can ye imagine the puzzlement on my fyess when he was cummin yem at neet,after he's shift,and trying ti explain ti ME...aged 12 years,wat a "Plane was?![but aa was a little bit wiser than me schoolmates aboot pitwark cos a read loads o' byeuks aboot it!] The term used at thi Aad pit was "The Engine Plane"....at Choppington B pit,[Hereinafter referred to as "The High Pit"],the term was "The Trot"...or at most pits "The Rolleyway"...all of which referred to the Rope Haulage Roadways from the shaft bottom area which hauled Chummins inbye,to the Loader-end,and simultaneously hauled Fullun's back outbye to the shaft bottom to be sent to Bank..[the surface]. Of course ,there were haulage roads aal thi way inbye reet ti thi coal face almost,but by Regulations in the Mines and Quarries Act 1954,these had to be kept a cetain distance from the actual face itself. Personell who were not "Face-trained" in all aspects of coalface work,were not allowed within 20 yards of any coalface....which was a laugh cos at age 17 yrs,us lads at the High Pit used ti tek wor materials inbye reet to thi face for the men,[Cutter cables..Face conveyor driveheads.Drillers..coal-cutters...owt that was needed],and we sometimes used ti gaan "Under the low"..[meaning actually ONTO the face!],and help the "Nyeuk" coalfiller ti cast he's coal oot and onto the conveyor belt...cos the nature of his job meant he could be five or six,or more,yards away from the "Boxend"..[the return drum end of the rubber conveyor belt]. It was highly illegal from the point of safety,but we weren't exactly dumb nuts!,it was just as rough in the miles of roadways we travelled in aal day,as it was on the face, so we were used to thi dangers,and it helped us gain a bit of face experience which primed us up for wor actual Face-Training". But back ti thi "Rope Boy"..[or "Haulage Boy"]..so me older Brother,stood in a dip in the shaft bottom area roadway,which was called "he Dish"..Chummins came rattling doon inti thi dish four at a time,[each cage carried four tubs -two tubs in each deck..in thi double-decked cages],and his job was ti couple thi tubs together with the attached "Chynes"..[Chains].. and "Yeuks"..[Hooks]..inti "Sets"..[GANGS".."GANGING"...??]...of a "Score"..[Twenty tubs in a set]....and "Hing"..[Hang].. them onto thi haulage rope ..which was continuously moving about four miles an hour..[and which was fast underground in confined spaces!],using "Hambones"..special heavy steel clips with about five feet of pretty thick heavy chain and a big"Sheckle"..[Shackle.."C-shaped to fit into thi middle "Cock-hole" on the tub]. I have explained in depth about the crude terminology elsewhere in this topic,so won't go into it here!. As soon as thi hambone was slung onto thi moving rope,it "Clicked" the set of twenty tubs away instantly..no gradual pick-up of speed...you had to hing thi hambone onti the rope and jump back to safety from between the rolleyway rails.It often happened where lads slipped and got either their feet injured by being run over by the set,or at the very least a hand injury..if you didn't get your hand crushed severely while coupling the tubs on as they bumped into each other in the dish![which happened often!]. NOO!...here's what puzzles me a bit...'cos a "Rope Boy"could also refer to an apprentice rope-splicer,which was usually one of the tasks of the Rolleywaymen,but not aalwis..cos at Bates Pit,thi "Ropemen" were dedicated to exactly that..repairing or replacing haulage ropes..or even doing rope extensions..which involved cutting the rope and anchoring it,splicing a predetermined length of new rope into the loop,then moving the "Sheave"..[Return Wheel]..further inbye to be nearer to the face as the face was advancing....then tensioning the rope up to operating standards . "JOTTIES"..My guess would be they are referring to vehicles other than coal tubs..flat trams for instance,used for loading coalcutters or other machinery onto,or,as was thi case at thi Aad pit,"Mary-Janes"..which were flat trams with wooden panelled sides all around to hold timber props and planks,or long cutter cables etc. At thi High Pit,we had "Three-barred-trams",which were small bogies or trams,with three vertical steel bars on each side with a top rail connecting them for rigidity. At Bates Pit,they had trams with three sides called " Betties". I suppose every pit had it's own terminology for all the different operations and gear which they used. As I mentioned earlier,"Ganging"..may have been an old term for "Sets" of vehicles underground.[like nowt ti dae wi "Gangers"..which refers to men in charge of a gang of workmen in other industries..but not in wor coal industry..that aa ever knew of! "Panel Gates"..where coal is extracted using "Bord and Pillar" methods,pits like Lynemouth,and Ellington,referred to the areas of coal they were working ,as "Panels",and "Gates" referred to roadways underground the world over!![as the saying is!]..."Mothergate"..."Tailgate".."Dummygate"...etc..so the Panelgates would have been the main roadways leading into the workings,with cross roadways being driven every 60 yards apart,giving a "Cross-hatch " set of roadways called "Stentons"...[or,at the High pit.."Through-shuts"[slang for "Through-Shoots"] At thi Aad pit,in the High Main seam,they referred to the "Tailgates" as the "Narrow Bord"..[Bord and Pillar remember?!]...or some men called it "The Back Road". Getting tired noo,Canny Lass,a hope aa hevn't went on too lang ti answer ye,but pitwark isn't an easy thing ti describe to folks who have never worked doon theor!!..wat wi aal thi different terms used at different pits owa thi ages..it's mind-boggling wat ye had ti learn..worse when ye were transferred away ti another pit...and had ti learn aal owa again...!! Cheers bonny lass!..and ti Vic and Alan,not forgtting Geoff and Alan Dixon,me aad Marra's..!
  26. 3 points
  27. 3 points
  28. 3 points
    August 2018. First official meeting in August and it’s at Corbridge. It’s actually a strategic planning site visit with the planning meeting tomorrow night. Another load of houses with associated planning matters but for once nice to see a designated drop off and pick up point for the adjacent school on the plans. Seems we do allow these sometimes, a point taken and espoused by one of the Labour members on the committee!!!!!! Anyway after walking the fields for a couple of hours and with some of my questions answered, others for tomorrow night, it was a quick drive back to Bedlington to see some people here. Several people been in touch today and some very interesting projects outlined. I will certainly try to help in any way I can. Off up to County Hall in good time for the strategic planning meeting. I wanted to see another councillor up there but he had tendered his apologies for the meeting so I presume is on holiday. The meeting started and again a packed public gallery. First up was an application for what is in essence an extension to the Haggerton Caravan Park. Most of the issues had been dealt with and we supported the application unanimously. I couldn’t help but think about the recent Alnwick Gardens application we supported and the potential these two venues create to back up our need for modernising the main road, the A1. Both will result in increased traffic I have no doubt. The second application was the Corbridge one and after the officer gave us more information as well as a written update, which we all had to hastily read through, I had several questions. I saved my response until we debated the application at the end of this application just before the vote and after it had been proposed and seconded. After members had said they thought the application had been thoroughly worked through my turn came. I said I was of a different opinion and gave my reasons. There were several outstanding issues, which I had asked about during questions and the answers all came back that they were being worked on. I also pointed out the fact that there was a current public consultation being held which didn’t close until after a few days’ time. This had been referred to in the papers we had received to examine for this application. One paragraph in particular stated that depending on the result of this consultation and if a hitherto unidentified ‘material consideration’ was identified our decision now might not be upheld. I said that taking all of these into consideration I didn’t think we had enough “Factual” information to make a decision and even though I thought the scheme was probably the best use of the land, apart from the absolutely crazy access road which we had not got to consider as it had already been passed at the outline stage, for these reasons I would be abstaining from the vote. The head of planning didn’t like that but said I was perfectly entitled to that decision. The vote came and all other members voted for it with only my abstention due to insufficient information. Next came the Bedlington application. This concerned a business on the Barrington Road Industrial Estate and one which we had previously turned down. Previously most of us had objected to the increased hours wagons would be using the roads and estates but this had now been dropped out of the application and there was now no increased traffic asked for. There was quite a loud dissent heard from the public gallery when the members started saying they would be supporting the application now. Interestingly it was mainly the Labour members who did this. For me this shows planning isn’t being used as the usual political football and members are applying themselves without fear or favour. For me there was quite a surreal moment when one of the objectors in his address actually quoted from this Blog. Nice to know someone is reading it and the member sitting next to him and advising was none other than one of our local political party officials. Maybe this is now required reading for the local Labour group? Back to the business in hand and I was again the last member to speak, this time I fully supported the application for three main reasons. Firstly the increased traffic hours had been quashed, secondly the other improvements and changes were all within the applicants business premises and seeing as that was on an established industrial estate what’s wrong with the owner trying to maximise his potential return on investment, that’s something we should support if we can, notwithstanding the jobs there, and lastly I had read through the conditions attached to this application and with 25 conditions, most with subsections across 4 pages, I was happy that most of the issues raised had been addressed or could be through these conditions if needed. I did say monitoring might be a problem but that wasn’t something in our remit to question. The vote came and it was unanimously agreed. Course that wasn’t what the members of the public wanted to hear and again more vociferous dissent could be heard. As one member said later, if you want to be popular don’t go on a planning committee! If only people would realise that they have to come up with these ‘material considerations’ because we are not allowed to consider anything else by law! After the meeting I had several things I wanted to ask the head planner about but she immediately thought I would be having a go about the lack of information which I had complained about. Not so and after a brief exchange about that, where I think we both agreed in the end, I raised the local points I wanted her to look into which she agreed to do. Looking at my latest emails it looks like the planners are taking things tougher now. Monday and after a tough weekend I have several calls to make and letters to write. I managed to get them all done by lunchtime. Some of these did the trick straightway others went off in all sorts of directions. One of them was something I have been working on with others for the last few months and I wasn’t best pleased that it might not happen. Hopefully that has now been sorted and we will see our youngest kids playing their football on a new pitch soon! I did make a request about community funding to planning and the answer that came back left me speechless. I was under the assumption that all planning for houses carried its own obligations for community payback but it seems that’s not the case? Seems only 5 applications can be used for community payback and we have had ours? That’s just plain daft and that’s the exact words I used in my reply! The tenders have come back for the new play equipment for Plessey Woods and I have meetings to go through them. Hope we can get some real exciting stuff in there! I have been advising lots of community groups how they can better access funding. I hope we will see much better take up of funding routes by them all now and for once Bedlington will start to get its fair share! Seems August is a quiet month for the routine NCC business but in our case that just means we get to lobby and attend meetings for our Town’s benefit. One of the things that I and the other Independent councillors for Bedlington have been pushing is the Town Centre redevelopment and at last that is back on track. We have seen one announcement but there is much more to come very soon. The whole redevelopment is listed for detailed planning at our next Strategic planning meeting early next month and until that’s heard we are bound by confidentially and not predetermining an application. Just had the last meeting to determine who gets the Plessey Woods play area contract and it’s been a hard decision. We had around a dozen tenders to go through and each one was weighed against a set scoring card. Eventually it came down to about 3 and then they were revisited and assessed again. Thankfully one came through and I think we were all pretty much convinced it was the better tender. So over the next couple of months there should be some pretty exciting play equipment and upgrades to Plessey. Having gone through a similar process for the Town Council and its 2 play park complete upgrades the behind the scenes work it surprisingly difficult and exacting. Just so considering the money which is being spent. I have to make mention of my almost incessant contact with our planning enforcement team. I am very concerned with the way some developers and behaving and this has culminated in me listing a question about ‘conditions’ at the next full council. Well it seems having voiced an opinion about the current election for WBTC I am being rebuked for not seeing it as an example of democracy in action. Seems a bit ironic getting reprimanded for my take on local democracy off people who have never been elected but isn’t that the way of these things? At some point I hope we start to realise gang culture is wrong in all sorts of fields! That’s all I can write about August really because it has been categorised by a large swell of constituents getting in touch rather than the normal NCC business which I do try and report.
  29. 2 points
    Thank you for the update Councillor Robinson, I can name all the perpetrators mentioned in the last three paragraphs. Do I win £5 ?
  30. 2 points
    February 2019. Busy start to this month. First up was a corporate scrutiny meeting at 10am in County Hall. This was a pretty important one as it scrutinised the medium term financial plan and this years proposed budget. I was a bit shocked to see so many unoccupied seats because members from all scrutiny committees were invited. I had several questions and again it was a bit of a two man show as the Lib Dem Leader and myself monopolised the question and answer session. My questions were about post 16 school transport and why it only had one year listed in the accounts, why do we see a 2.99% council tax rise when at last year’s meeting we were told if we agreed a 2.99% rise for last year we would only need a 1.99% rise for next year, or this year as it now falls, a further question about recurrent financial pressures, the adult social care proposals, delegation of the strategic regeneration budget to 4 officers and members and could someone explain the quote ‘flexibilities of capital receipts’ when we are told time and time again capital and revenue budgets cannot be mixed. I was satisfied with most of the answers that came back. The opposition made a comment but did not question the financial plan or budget at all? That meeting finished around 11.25am and it was a rush to get down into the council chamber for the State of the Area debate tabled to start at 11.30am. Again I was surprised when it became apparent the Labour group and Lib Dems boycotted this meeting. Not sure how you can represent constituents by not attending meetings but that certainly seems to be the modus operandi of the opposition at present. I would make the point that I feel to effect change to prospective NCC policy, which is basically put in place by cabinet, I can only do that by engaging at committee level. Or before it becomes NCC policy. Trying to do it after the cabinet has accepted or declined suggestions, changes and amendments, and then voted for it is almost impossible, given they are the administration. We heard the Leader talk about future plans and in particular those on education and tourism, in fact the cabinet members responsible for those, gave presentations. During the educational presentation we heard about large investments in new schools etc throughout the county. The portfolio holder said this is all about viable business cases being made. I was a bit annoyed at that and asked if that is the case then tailoring your offer to customer demand, or in this case schoolchildren’s needs, how do we see large investments in lower residential density areas and whilst I note there is a single new school planned within the South East of the county, where over 50% of the population resides, we do have extra educational needs based on huge influxes of new residents. The cabinet member responded and again said any investment would be based on sound business principles so I said I would welcome the undoubted investment coming into Bedlington in that case! Next we had a presentation about tourism and the Discover Northumberland initiative. I did want to ask for help with a particular problem we have in Bedlington at present and I had to think of a way to factor it into a question. I used the antithesis of what was being presented to ask for a multi agency task force to help with the anti social behaviour Bedlington was being subjected to at weekends because that flew in the face of presenting a positive image for the county as a whole. The deputy Leader said he would get someone to contact me and tell the Northumberland Youth Service to get involved. Next I had a mad rush to get home have a cuppa then out back to the Advance Northumberland HQ in Ashington. Bill and Russ came and again we discussed the Bedlington Town Centre Regeneration Project, this time with the MD and head of investments. This 30 minute meeting turned into 2 hours and some pretty straightforward talking took place. These meetings have been subject to strict commercial confidentiality and it’s a bit soul destroying seeing and reading huge swathes of social media principly put out by a local political group for their own political benefit at the cost of so much discord and division in the town. I then had my usual monthly surgery for residents at Netherton Club, so all in all quite a busy Monday. Strategic Planning and no real issues with any of the applications for a change. I did want to challenge planners on one item, wagon access to a opencast coal mine. I was particularly concerned this application was retrospective and was about road safety issues as highlighted by a local school and local residents. Our recommendation off planners was based on a new access route to the site not any alleviation of road safety issues especially for minors. Other members expressed their disquiet about this being a retrospective application too looking to change conditions as laid down when the original application was heard. Exactly what I have been banging on about for the last year! What’s the point of laying down conditions if developers etc just ignore them. Given there was just a very limited time left for this site to run we asked for a strongly worded letter to go out to the operator and I hope we keep our eyes open in future about such conditions breaches! I have a meeting with planners at Westlea today and I hope I can get some resolution to their impasse. Well you are never too old to be shocked. After listening to the arguments put forward by our planners I rebuffed their arguments one by one and they actually agreed with my take. So much so I now have their help in making this project happen. I would like to thank them for being so reasonable and open minded. I then had to go down to the police station for another meeting with the officers charged to look after Bedlington. No prizes for guessing what took up the whole of the meeting. We are going to see a different tack from now on with police being far more proactive, something which I said I welcomed. Had to be up and ready for a pick up at county hall today at 7.45am. Bill, Russ and myself have been asked to travel on the hopefully soon to be reopened Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Tyne rail line and we should be able to speak to the minister for Transport directly outlining our support and the reasons why our Town needs this so badly. After he was taken around the recently started upgrades happening to Morpeth station we got on a special train and first stop, according to the announcement, Bedlington. Had a nice ring to it!!! Once here we were able to get off, onot the old platform and press the minister for his support in getting this line reopened. Everything he said was positive! In fact 2022 is now being bandied around for the first passenger trains onto this line for decades. For my money this not only helps people travel out and into central station Newcastle where the full monty of rail destinations is available, it also helps bring people in which in turn will make Bedlington a destination instead of a crossroads to other towns. Lots of hurdles and lots of work still to be done of course but it does look like the political will is there now. Sad news today, out of the blue, Councillor Bernard Pidcock has died. Bernard was a heart on his sleeve sort of bloke and spoke passionately in support of his particular beliefs. He took part in a number of committees I work on and many more. I for one will miss his mischievousness especially at full council meetings. Next meeting was our community chest committee. Bernard was on this committee and even though a great deal of thought had gone into the make up of this committee so it was balanced politically he was usually the only opposition member to attend. His recent death has now resulted in no opposition members being present! So I had to check with the officer to make sure we were quorate. We were so I started the meeting and given this was about underspent monies in the normal community chest I suggested, as normal, considering any applications which had not had funding before. The three which met that criteria were assessed and then we went into the rest of the applications. Couple of hours later and we had allocated all of the outstanding monies at our disposal. This is something I believe we owe the local groups and charities based in our locale because I know first hand how difficult it is to actually get funding for community projects. Some of the other areas are still under their funding criteria, however ours is 100% paid out! I have a site meeting with Miller Homes today after many months of complaints from residents about the way they have conducted the build at Broadoaks, most especially the effect it has had on the Green Letch. Well we have just had the meeting and it looked like Miller had turned up mob handed with the North East manager, north of Tyne manager, technical manager and site foreman in the office with me. Our enforcement officer turned up to even things out a little. We spoke about the planning problems the site still has and I told them residents concerns. There was some pretty straightforward talking done and I have a new respect for our enforcement officer after she refused to back down on her demands and backed me and my resident’s claims up! They did agree to the proposals sent in by our ecology officer and I asked for them to be written down and sent back so we all had them in black and white. We then walked along the site and on a couple of occasions I had to draw their attention to things which in the office they said they were not doing! I think in the end we both knew where we have to go, in fact the boss said we have heard things neither of us wanted to hear but at least we have cleared the air and solutions have been agreed. The only thing I didn’t get was some answer to the Great Wall of Bedlington. Sitting in the officer when I asked about it I was told there was no building going on top of this structure. I asked to make sure, so it’s only going to be gardens and the reply came back yes. When we walked along the site I stopped the boss and said you have just told me there is no buildings going to be on top of this retaining wall and clearly there are foundations, footings, bricks up the damp course level and one half built house. He said he thought I meant directly on top of the gabion wall cages? He assured us that the foundations were at a depth and angle that no stress would be on the gabion wall anyway. OK but that’s not quite what was said half an hour ago in the office! All in all I agree with the ecology officer who suggested to enforcement that sympathetic restoration rather than going for an out and out breach of conditions was the way to go and as long as we get what was agreed in writing and they complete, I think that is the best we can demand now. Course if we had some proper oversight in the first place….. Busy week this week, first up we had a budget and financial plan presentation in our office at county hall. This is given to all parties and groups before the full council budget vote. The financial officer and the corporate cabinet member came and we had a long session of going through their budget and 3 year plan. My first question was about the regeneration budget for our town centre development because this time it wasn’t shown separately. After going through the budget spreadsheet we were shown the line which contained it by the finance officer. It was a separate item in last year’s financial plan, this year it was included in the budget proposals for other Town centre regenerations. That done loads of more questions about where our Town fitted and might fit into this 3 year plan. We did have many questions about the proposed cuts to the social care budget and I made the point that these people by their very nature were passive and couldn’t really make representations for themselves. I had the opportunity to question these financial plans at the corporate scrutiny committee at the beginning of the month but I was still able to drill down into the detail. We eventually finished this meeting and then it was a rush to get back have a quick cuppa then get to Cramlington for the monthly LAC. This should have been a planning meeting only but we had a couple of presentations to hear, first one the Local Transport Plan and the other the new Local Plan. Nice to see several Bedlington residents had made the time to make the meeting. Seems to me that a lot of places are faring quite well out of this year’s LTP, (Local Transport Plan) Bedlington not being one even though each of us had given our three priorities. I did question this and asked why over 12 months ago I had been turned down on two out of my three priorities but for one I had been assured I was going to be invited into a meeting to discuss it. This one was about school parking issues which affect residents in my ward. Again I was assured by the officer that he would look into it and get back to me within a day. Seems to have slipped again! Next presentation was the new Local Plan and a brief rundown was given before questions were fielded. Again I did have several questions for the officer even though I had worked on this at committee. Very interested in the house build design strategy. The chair did open these presentations up for any residents who attended to ask questions. Much better way of doing things. Long day today, work at 6am a mad rush at 2pm to get back have a shower and change then up to County Hall for full council at 3pm. The main bones for this one was the proposed social care cut and the budget. I argued that this social care cut was not the way to balance the budget and specifically questioned why do we seem to be charging carers to look after people? The answer came back that we charge for any specialist help carers need to look after people, people that are probably loved ones. What an insensitive policy and as its a continuation of the existing policy I wonder who put this in place? The vote came and we lost by 10 votes. Looked like the administration had all of their councillors there, pity the opposition didn’t or we might have been able to turn that over! Other non aligned independents voted against too. Next came the budget vote and questions were asked specifically about the Bedlington Regeneration funding. The Leader said we are getting our regeneration, the chair of regeneration said its included and I said I had checked to make sure it was included and it is. Thanks for the concern! I was a bit taken aback when all labour members voted against the budget knowing full well it contained our much needed regeneration funding and not just Bedlington’s but other town centres too. Again putting politics before the needs of our communities. Before I got home that night yet another report on a local political page saying I had voted for the social care cut? That seemed to entitle several people to make personal comments about me and people close to me insisted I made a counter statement. I did and put up the video of the meeting leaving people to make their own minds up about who was or wasn’t being truthful. The accusation was then changed to say that because I had voted for the budget I was in fact voting for the social care cut by association. I would just point out the advice given by the NCC solicitor during the meeting which resulted in the opposition Leader taking out his counter motion pre vote concerning this social care cut. It couldn’t legally be included having just been approved by the full council unlike our town centre funding! I will just say this in conclusion, if I had voted against the budget knowing full well our town centre funding was included how on earth could I look anyone in the eye and tell them I was working for our Town’s benefit? I can just imagine the faux outrage if that had happened! Local Government Pension Panel meeting today and as usual quite complex and long. It’s one thing keeping abreast of the current regulations but we also have to consider the new shared admin with Newcastle as well as the new Border to Coast group we are part of. It was good to hear off all the independent examiners, pension board chair, employee reps that they consider this panel to be out performing and our commitment to training was very commendable. Must be doing something right then! One of the questions I did ask was about this shared service and was the expected savings and improvements being seen. Seems they are. Next meeting was another long training session, this time for planning. Improving planning design and delivering better homes not just in terms of build quality but also running costs is something of a soapbox for me and it was good to hear support for this when I mentioned it. In fact our new head of planning said he understood and supported what I was saying. Let’s hope we see real movement towards these ends soon. This session certainly gave us food for thought. It was a pity once again not all members made it but there was a good smattering of officers present. Russ and myself had a meeting at the WBTC office today, this with NCC highways and the Town Council. Matters under discussion were the suggested road safety improvements we want to see. I was particularly interested in getting the new speed interactive signs fitted, seeing as I have agreed to buy three. Also getting new road markings to slow traffic on certain roads was again something we tried to get through. We did agree the upgrades we wanted to see and we were assured the final costings should be available next week. Many thanks to WBTC for their help and input, so much easier when we are all just trying to improve our area for residents. I have been contacted by our road safety officer after my questions at our last LAC and we are meeting on Ridge Terrace to look into the school traffic problems. We did meet and walked from Bishops Meadow along to the school exit on Netherton Lane. Several points were raised along the way and some agreed on. So hopefully we will see some further upgrades designed to aid the safety of our school children as they go to and from their schools, as well as some relief for residents! Looks like I’m now being castigated on social media again for going on that train with the government minister. Well sorry but if I get the chance to talk directly to a minister advocating investment and regeneration in our area Im going to jump on it. Who was and wasn’t invited wasn’t in my remit but being able to tell the transport minister that this project is integral to the regeneration of this area for several reasons was reason enough to take part. I think a passenger rail link is one of the most crucial keys to lasting economic growth for our area, if its handled properly. I make no apologies for taking part, in fact I consider it part of the job! Had an interesting meeting today about the new High Street Fund. Lots to consider even though Bedlington isn’t one of the 3 priorities NCC have listed or the one, Blyth, they are putting forward for this funding. I asked for and now have the data matrices concerning our Town. Looks like there are quite some options and I don’t see why we can’t go for them, albeit in a slightly different context. Back up to County Hall for another meeting this afternoon. This one in response to my call, at the State of the Area debate, for a multi agency approach to the adolescent problems blighting this town at present. Nice to hear this is something being taken seriously and actions will be forthcoming from NCC. NCC Youth Services and Neighbourhood safety teams are initially being tasked to get involved and liaise with the Police.
  31. 2 points
    Following last week’s Annual Meeting of the Town at West Bedlington Community Centre, there was some criticism on social media that residents had not been made aware of this event, (despite it being on their website for 3 weeks prior, in the newsletter and shared on Facebook.) On Tuesday it is the turn of East Bedlington Parish Council to hold their Annual Assembly. In order to try and divert any future criticism that no-one knew, I am attaching the agenda for this meeting below for your information. Last year there were no residents from East Bedlington in attendance. This is your opportunity to find out what is happening in your area, meet and ask questions of your local Councillors and raise issues concerning your local community. Discussions with your local representatives can often prove to be more informative than relying solely on social media. At the end of this meeting there will be light refreshments. Hope to see you all there.
  32. 2 points
    This photo is the front of the club next to the railway line .
  33. 2 points
  34. 2 points
    Hello, I hope someone here can help me. Does anyone know who made the lovely benches that are around the parks in Bedlington that have the bedlington terriers on the sides of them? We are making a memorial garden for our beautiful 17 year old daughter who sadly took her own life 7 weeks ago, her best friend was our Bedlington terrier Lenni so we would really like to have one of these benches made for her garden. You can read more about Quinn and her garden here https://www.facebook.com/donate/465713653959901/466050047259595/
  35. 2 points
    Cames across this medal which belonged to me father George Johnstone. The medal is inscribed Bedlington CC 1936. I knew my father played for West Seekburn 2nd XI who were League Champions in 1931 and have a photo of that team. I was not aware my father played for Beblington CC. Any 1936 photos out there?
  36. 2 points
    As memtioned before, if you are looking for information about your relatives who may have served in the 1914-1918 War you might find their story on this website along with other information about the War Memorials in the area. I have attached two stories to show what is available on this website. While researching these soldiers we find not may photographs are available. If anyone reading this has photos of WW1 soldiers in uniform with information such as name, service number and regiment we would like to add them to this site. 1. Rogers, George Thomas.docx 1. Orange, Snowden Foggan.docx
  37. 2 points
    Good news for Bedlington Station and well done to all involved ! 👍
  38. 2 points
  39. 2 points
    .... that must have been one of them bonny coloured, chequered bath towels that they sold in the pit canteen.
  40. 2 points
    I have attached a couple of photos of the headgear from different viewpoints showing the unusual arrangement of the pulley wheels at the “Little Pit’. In James Tuck’s book “The Collieries of Northumberland”, there is a chapter on “The Auld Pit” and he says this is known as a ‘Tandem Headgear’ and that the only other tandem headgear in Northumberland was at Seaton Delaval colliery. He also mentions that the ‘Little Pit’ had 2 small diameter shafts but until I read your posting I didn’t appreciate that the reason for the tandem configuration was to position the pulleys over two separate shafts situated next to each other - Thanks HPW for your excellent posting. There must have been a ventilation shaft, so the ‘A’ pit would have had 4 shafts in total.
  41. 2 points
    Hi Alan!...wheor dae a start?!! Forst off..big thanks for posting this one....gives me a blast from thi past! Aa started thi Aad Pit in 1965,and a got ti knaa a whole bunch of canny youngins,of which Norman was one of the canniest you ever wish ti meet..not just canny,but a really affectionate warmth aboot him. Aa was ownly 21 mesell' but a was face-trained and had been coalfilling ,coalcutting,and everything in between,at the High Pit..[cos that pit management sent the youngin's for face training as soon as they came of age,whereas the aad pit lads didn't get trained till they were in their mid-twenties! Enywheh!As time went by a got ti knaa Norman's family,"Thi Hillsies"..ie Bob Hills and Billy Hills,both coalcuttermen at thi Aad Pit,and Norman Hills,cutterman also,but worked at Bates Pit....my problem noo is,a canna mind which one was young Norman's aad chep!! A can mind that Aad Norman used ti tek a moothie ti work in he's bait bag,and play it owa the "DACS"..[Coalface tannoy system..],so the whole pit,reet up ti thi Control Centre on thi surface,used ti hear Norman playing "Lily thi Pink"...and other songs as gud as Stevie Wonder might have done!!...anybody else might have had ti gaa ti thi Manager's office,but ivrybody knew Norman,and he didn't dae that ivry day,usually aboot this time of year..."White Christmas" ...and aal that,so ivrybody used ti shout owa the DACS..."Howeh Norman,gie wi anotha one."![usually when the shearer was on a shearing run and things were "Quiet",in mining terms! Aav nivvor seen young Norman for a lot of yeors,wonder hoo he is getting on...[Oh!....a "Moothie"..is a slang term for a Mouth Organ..!] Your query aboot the Shafts,Alan..!...thi Aad Pit was a weird set-up..The "Smallest" Headgear,[on the left..] was the deepest and widest shaft,cos it ran both cages conventionally in the same shaft. The shaft was 900 feet deep,and and the lowest seam was the "Harvey",at anything from 1 foot 10 inches high,varying up to 2 feet and 2 inches high.[They drifted down to the "Denton Low Main" seam not long before the Pit closed in 1971.] A think they worked aboot twenty seams from that shaft,over the 145-or so-years of the Pit's life. Noo,the "biggest" Headgear ,[on the right] was that size,because each cage had it's own shaft,sunk adjacent to each other,for some wierd reason which aa canna fathom oot![unless Geological conditions meant it had ti be that way.]...this set-up was referred to as "The Little Pit",and the "Harvey" shaft was referred to as .."The Big Pit". The Little Pit was sunk down to the "Main Coal" seam,when a started,although it might have been down to a deeper level in the old days,and may have had a false "Sump",at the level it was when Aa started.[The Sump was generally at the shaft bottom,below the level where the cage would come to rest,to change tubs,and was a collection point for all of the minewater pumped from all over the pit...Where huge shaft pumps pumped all the water up the shaft and out to what we called.."The Pit Ponds"...settling chambers to allow all the silt to settle out.] The "Banksmen", on the Heapstead",at the surface,and the "Onsetter's" at the shaft bottom,used ti walk a million miles a day,to load and unload each cage in turn,even though the shafts were only a few yards apart![as opposed to a normal set-up where they would only have to step a few feet from one cage to the other.[daily average..winding aboot 25-30 score of tubs a shift....i.e. 25 x 20 or 30 x 20...one score=20 tubs] So the two headgears had three shafts between them! Ye canna see from this angle,but if ye check oot any pics in thi gallery,showing the Headgears fully sideways on,ye wud see hoo the big headgear has the two cage wheels offset,and slung one below the other...and by scaling,ye might can envisage hoo far apart the two shafts were....the average Pit Cage Wheels were aroond 12 feet high...give or take a foot or two!...so ye can judge the size of the headgear...but summick is telling me that them wheels were a bit smaller than average....aa not sure!! Hope ye dinna mind the lang-winded explanation Alan...ye knaa me!! Cheers!
  42. 2 points
    Bradford I may have some information on your family. Not sure what you have. Also I have found a family tree with your family on. How would you like this sent?
  43. 2 points
    Spot on with me age group,Alan,and it's great ti see aal me aad school friends from the Whitley! Aa lost a lot of schooling up ti that period till a had ti gaan ti Morpeth Cottage Hospital aroond this year ti hae me tonsils and adenoids removed.A have nae recollection of this trip at aal!..it might hae been when was off school...but aa wudn't hae been anyway,me Mother wudn't have been able ti afford ti send me.She couldn't afford most of the yearly group photo's either,so a have very little memorabilia apart from the odd single pic.owa me school life.Thanks ti James for posting it,and ti ye Alan for notifying me!...it leaves me wanting more!! Funnily enough,Eric Campbell worked at Choppington High Pit,as an Apprentice,in the early 1960's,and when the pit closed in 1966 a never saw him again....till a few weeks ago,doon at Cambois beach,we stopped ti taak ti this canny couple,wi LBJ,[Little Black Jess for those who don't know her..],and it was Eric and his Wife,Pat,both of who aa hadn't seen since the 1960's!! Then after aal them years break,we saw them again a few days later at Wansbeck Hospital!!...small world! The first lass a cud think of immediately a saw this pic,at number 13,was Lilian Moore,sadly now deceased..R.I.P. Lilian. Doreen might remember,Vic,she was Lawrence Moore's Sister.[Lol was his nickname,at number 11..]..a cud be wrong but just wat struck me.
  44. 2 points
    After what seems like a lifetime since the Market Place development first came under discussion – it was 2015 – I am delighted that Tolent have actually started the work. There are a series of phases with completion is due in late 2019/early 2020. Inevitably there will be disruption, noise, parking issues etc until the project is completed but I hope that the town will now get firmly behind the development and crucially, when it is complete, support the businesses that have invested in Bedlington. These retailers have chosen to come to Bedlington in what are difficult trading times and will need our support. I am aware that Achieve Northumberland (formally ARCH) have done their best to attract investment in the development and when the shops open it is then up to us to use them. Elsewhere in the town, two issues, anti-social behaviour and road and pedestrian safety continue to cause real concern. Along with other Independent County Councillors I met with the local area police Inspector and two of the Bedlington Police Team. During our discussion we made sure that they were fully aware of residents’ fears, frustrations and concerns – and importantly the impact that this is having on the town. At present he Bedlington Police Team are particularly concerned over the amount of youth anti-social behaviour in the town and stressed that they are doing everything they can with the numbers of staff they have at their disposal to deal with the issue. However their main message was quite clear – please report every crime. The team fully accept that staffing levels mean they are unable to deal with every single incident and they are aware of the frustrations that may be experienced when calling 101, but ask that we keep trying – or alternatively report incidents online, anonymously if you prefer. The problem for them is that if a crime is not reported not only will it not be dealt with, but also recorded crime figures remain artificially low and as a result no extra resources will be allocated to Bedlington. So it’s up to us to support our local police team by reporting crime and hopefully securing more resources. The new traffic signage, road markings and improved lighting at the crossing points on the Front Street marks the first stage in improving road and pedestrian safety in the town. In addition traffic speed surveys have been undertaken on both Hartford Road and Church Lane. I very much hope the results will show the need for further traffic calming in these areas. Funding is already in place to implement any measures on Church Lane. NCC Highways are also looking at the area around Morrisons/Lidl in order to make both the roundabout and the pedestrian crossing points safer. I will continue to push as hard as I can to ensure these projects turn into reality as soon as possible. Finally, with Winter on the way I have been working with NCC, West Bedlington Town Council and the other Bedlington Independent County Councillors to review the siting of grit bins in the town so that they are placed where they are most needed. If you wish to discuss any matter please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] 07779983775 or by my Facebook page http://bit.ly/RussWallaceBedlingtonCentral. My next Surgery is at 6.30 on Thursday, 6thDecember at Bedlington Community Centre. Thank you for reading. Russ
  45. 2 points
    There are a few common spam words in the filters you may have hit but I can't see anything in your post that would have caught it. I'll check on it though, thanks.
  46. 2 points
    Can't find 'Rope boy' - just 'Rope mam' = A man employed to maintain and extend, splice or install haulage ropes. Other than HPW - Geoff Glass & Alan Dickson (Barnton Facebook group) two of the web sites I have used for pit terms are :- https://www.healeyhero.co.uk/rescue/glossary/glossary.htm & http://www.dmm.org.uk/books/terms_a.htm Nothing about Rope man or boy in the dmm list. NB. the healeyhero site http://www.healeyhero.co.uk/rescue/glossary/glossary.htm t says :- his site is Glossary of words that are generally specific to the mining industry: Some have a two or three fold meaning, some have gone out of use, some are local to Derbyshire, Leicestershire, South Yorkshire and to Nottinghamshire, and others are general to the British Coalfields. As there wasn't a reference to Rope boy I looked at Haulage (from the Rope man definition) and it has this :- Haulage Boy, (1) aged 13 to 18 usually employed lashing or clipping and un-clipping tubs on an engine driven (moving) haulage rope on main roads or pit bottom area. Haulage boy (2) could also be one say 15 years plus employed getting tubs or jotties of supplies to a face and empties back in panel gates by engine driven haulage rope, or ganging same by a pony. The age of starting work was 13 from 1880s up to 1913, then 14 from 1930s to 1948, 15 up to 1960s, thereafter 16 plus. Haulage boy (3) generally a young boy 13 to 15 assisting an experienced person doing the above jobs (description sometimes varied pit by pit).
  47. 2 points
    If I leave this world tomorrow I will be go contented knowing my life had been enhanced by the Rolley-Way man Scuffling alang wi the Worm & fling Gummer = magic HPW
  48. 2 points
    Canny lass, I found this in the" Durham mining museum- mining occupations". I'm sure HPW will have a better explanation ! also describe a "scuffler" A man whose business it is to attend to the rolley-way and keep it in order. It is also his duty to keep away the work, and see that no time is lost in getting the full waggons to the shaft and the empty ones in-bye again. His wages are about 2s. 9d. for 8 hours, or 3s. 4d. if he stands 12 hours (1849).
  49. 2 points
    Not a bad idea. We can make the categories and albums public but the images member only but I'm all for keeping things open generally. Getting people to sign up doesn't seem to be an issue as there's a constant stream of members it's the engagement that is sometimes tricky. The advantage of Facebook is it's general social aim but it's also the big disadvantage in that pretty much everything posted there is ultimately doomed to get lost. We're working on allowing people to post before registering so that posting and signing up are part of the same process. Hopefully that will help.
  50. 2 points
    A bit of both. It’s surprisingly popular so maintaining multiple streams on a single connection causes problems elsewhere. I’m trying to find a suitable service that will redistribute the feed that isn’t cost prohibitive.


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