Jump to content

Contributor Leaderboard


Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation since 08/04/19 in all areas

  1. 5 points
    I need some help. I hope and expect we will soon see a community response to this dangerous time we find ourselves in at present. Lots of local people and organisations have been working to put a network together so the most vulnerable in our community have the support they will need. There is one group which particularly worries me. These are elderly people who have been living independently and therefore not necessarily on any list of vulnerable adults. I want to make sure these individuals are included in our efforts! Please if you know any elderly folks within my ward (Bedlington West…..Bishops Meadow, The Chesters estate, Meadowdale estate , West Lea, Red house Farm, Hazelmere, Netherton Village and Shields Road) who might not have needed help previously and were able to look after themselves but may find the current and ongoing situation difficult please let me have names and addresses. Do not post publicly but rather send me their/your names and addresses to: malcolm.robinson@northumberland.gov.uk or phone me on 07779983080.
  2. 5 points
    Hello fellow Bedlingtonians I have not been on the forum of late because I have been in hospital recently for 90 days I had a knee replacement done and the specialist found I had sepsis in my left ankle and right knee so I am lucky to still be here just wanted to wish my friends on the forum Merry Christmas and a happy New Year see ya lads
  3. 5 points
    November 2019. First up a site visit to Hexham at 10am Monday morning. Even with the traffic I made it in time and we all stood at the site entrance. This one was about developing a bit of derelict land at the entrance to Hexham. The real crux was the listed stone wall which will have to be removed and re-sited further back for a new roundabout and access into the site. The officers took us through the application explaining what was proposed. Took about an hour to get through and walk around. I can see this will be pretty controversial tomorrow night when it comes in front of our committee. Strategic planning this afternoon but first a presentation about a possible schools project in Hexham. We heard that and asked quite a lot of questions, it actually overran by about 30mins. Next was the planning meeting and we had an application for Bedlington to discharge reserved matters on the proposed new houses next to the Chesters. First were two applications related to the Hexham application. Both were considered as one but voted on separately. The first was about the new store and hotel which is being proposed as well as possible secondary retail offers. I just thought this hotel will dominate the site and its basically a square box pity we don’t see some imaginative design for it. We also considered this listed wall and its removal. It is to be re-sited around a new curve allowing vehicular access to the site but I pointed out that most of the stone which is to be reused is shot so new stone will have to be used and it won’t look the same. I asked planners to take the aesthetics into account when agreeing materials. There are also old bricked up tunnels under this road and wall which we all hoped might come back into use for pedestrians and cyclists. This application went through unanimously after hearing it had been a blot on the landscape for 30 years! Next came the Bedlington reserved matters application. I had asked for this to come back to committee even though the developer didn’t see the need! We had the scheme outlined by the planners and then had a member of the public speak about safety issues at the proposed junction and then the spokesperson for WBTC who had tabled several objections. The problem was that most were not specific to the application! However some were and needed to be answered. We then had members questions and I waited until the end before asking mine. I did this because I could only ask about matters pertinent to the application and those brought up by the planners and highways. I had to say I was struggling to contain my questions to the application only given the history and the planners knew exactly what I was saying! Because of questions and replies given earlier I started by saying what had really happened and why and explaining some of the reasoning other members had asked about. I then asked my questions, we had heard about a speed reduction, where was that proposed, trees were to be removed where abouts, the S106 agreement and how it will be delivered and do we have a definitive settlement boundary now? Each one was taken by several officers and it took quite some time to get through as we argued and debated back and forth, especially about the S106 infrastructure funding. In the end with only my vote against the application passed. Full council meeting today and again only questions off independent members tabled to the administration! Mine was first. I wanted to know about the build quality of these new social houses are are supposed to be building and used another council’s award winning scheme to illustrate how we could be doing them. Seems we are going to look into the build quality and running costs so I spoke about the project Northumbria University are currently doing with the North East’s very own George Clark, one of channel 4’s architect building experts, and could we get the recommendations and suggestions coming out of that to use in our own builds? No commitment but at least they know about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0ym88gG-Ng&t=1612s Again a ping pong match between the main parties each trying to score points over each other. Even the Lib Dems got into this one! Facilitated a meeting at County Hall today with a group of residents and the appropriate officer to see if solutions to their problems could be found. Hopefully they have and we will see some action soon. Remembrance Day and a full schedule today for me. I declined the NCC parade and instead attended the West Bedlington Memorial. First up was a scrutiny meeting at County Hall about the forthcoming budget amongst others. I had quite a few questions for this scrutiny meeting across all the subjects. I had read one paragraph over and over and it still seemed to me to be something other than what was promised. This was about a budget consultation but it only said the proposals would be presented and explained. It never mentioned anyone responding to the consultation would have their views considered and might ultimately influence any decisions made. As I said that’s a PR exercise not a consultation! This was disputed by the portfolio holder and I eventually gave him the benefit of the doubt, but I will closely monitor this consultation and see if anything coming up influenced any of the proposals in anyway! https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/politics/council/call-meaningful-consultation-budget-ps10million-cuts-planned-northumberland-county-council-974817?fbclid=IwAR01_EPvFO-Mv5FzGgCZGtk7vILJsM4yWp3bNoZ1Y_j6QsZN-WLRdCJNhmQ After this meeting it was back to Bedlington for the Remembrance Day service at the Memorial and then up to West Lea Cemetery to officially unveil my new plaque. I had asked Sydney Graham to do the honours as he organises the Remembrance Day parade for our armed services and the Royal British Legion. He has also identified most of not all the war grave in this cemetery. Parachute Regiment veteran Bill Johnson came too. We had an all member Local Transport Plan meeting today and about a third of the councillors turned up for it. After an outline we then broke into LAC groups to go through each of our proposals. I registered my immediate concerns that none of my proposals had made it through into the schemes to be worked up. After checking my email trail the officer apologised and wrote them down again, this time into the approved schemes! We spent most of the allocated time with the first officer then had a swap as the technical officer came in and again I managed to get another two of my schemes into the mix. So from going from zero input I managed to get 5 schemes into the mix! I also mentioned something which bothers me personally and even though its not even in my ward I had to mention it. It was the road out of Bedlington up the Horton Bank, especially the adverse camber coming down this road towards the Attlee Park bridge. I was surprised this had never been mentioned but it was agreed this was something to be looked at especially when the officer emphatically agreed with me it is very dangerous! We then had an inclusive last session on things like plastic added road surfaces and after I had some questions about that the meeting was called over. One thing which had made it through already was my call to get the 40MPH bit of road at the bottom of Choppington Road reclassified as 30MPH. I felt it was a morning well spent but only if we see some resulting actions! LAC tonight and the chair has been in touch to say she is unwell so could I chair it. I got to Netherton Club in good time and agreed to open the meeting then hand over to the Planning chair for that part of the meeting. I had to declare an interest in the only application before us so once the planning started I left the room. Had to remind another member she had the same interest! Once the planning was over, and it took about 10 mins, we had 45mins to wait before I could restart the meeting! Daft! I reminded everyone that we were not a Hustings, we were a Local Area Council operating under Purdah so don’t try it on! Once the meeting restarted I opened with public questions and seeing as we were in Bedlington there are always some of them! Once members of the public had asked their questions and been satisfied with the responses I moved onto the agenda. We had several presentations and updates off NCC highways and local services. Good hearted meeting tonight and I allowed members of the public to ask their own questions to the officers. I might get into hot water again because of that but if I’m in charge of the meeting then members of the public can have some access! Not sure if this has been seen by many……. https://www.newspostleader.co.uk/news/local-plan-proposals-main-towns-south-east-northumberland-399418 Next meeting was the LAC chairs meeting when once again I requested more public involvement into the area LAC’s. I did this because of a specific question relating to this at our last LAC. The answer came back that public involvement was at the discretion of the chair, so at least I have some justification if needed! Several other matters were discussed and county wide community chest applications heard. I had to go back up to County Hall this afternoon to chair our area’s community chest and once again there was one application which didn’t adhere to the rules so we had to dismiss that one. Very pleased it wasn’t a Bedlington based organisation! The rest of the applications went through with just about all getting the funding they had applied for. Once again we have an underspend so an extra round in Jan/Feb was called for. Well that’s just about it for this month and as my December diary won’t be seen until January I wish all the readers of this a Merry Xmas and a very happy New Year.
  4. 5 points
    Having been brought into the social media froth by the Bedlington labour group I think I should be allowed the right of redress. Looking at recent postings regarding the forthcoming East Bedlington Parish election it seems some are suggesting an almost malevolent Independent Party has been formed to suppress the democratic wishes of the electorate. As usual in these cases the truth is far more mundane! When first elected to County Hall the three independent candidates for Bedlington formed a group, not a political party, to impose ourselves onto the committee structure within County Hall. That meant we had to be given seats by ratio on the major committees as all ‘groups’ have to be awarded. This we believed best represented our wards and Town. Instead of possibly being frozen out of major committees we had to be included and we each took seats on committees which we felt best represented not only our constituents but our own past experiences and interests. That would seem quite sensible to me? There has also been a suggestion that party politics shouldn’t play a role within Parish level of government and indeed this was quite clearly written in one of the first drafts of the NALC guidelines for the new Parish’s created after local government reorganisation in 2009-2010. That was surreptitiously taken out before the guidelines were agreed and put in place! The question is who could possibly benefit, in my view certainly not the residents who would be asked to vote! One further thing to note is the plain fact that even at parish level votes were and probably still are being ‘whipped’ by political parties. That means party political elected councillors have to follow the orders they are given to vote certain ways on certain items of business. There is clear documented evidence of this even a video so let no one be naive enough to suggest this doesn’t happen! That to my mind says political appointees will look after the best interests of their chosen party before the best interests of their electorate. These are some of the reasons I stood as an independent candidate for NCC and why I think the sooner we get rid of party politics the better!
  5. 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!
  6. 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!
  7. 4 points
    Hi CL, Safe and well but in desperate need of a hair cut as all the Barbour's are closed. Good to hear every ones ok.
  8. 4 points
    Good to see our youngsters getting involved with the NCC tree planting initiative. On a very cold and windy day too!!!!!
  9. 4 points
    Thank you kind sirs! Missed my usual roll in the snow this year as there isn't a flake to be seen anywhere round here. Mind you, I didn't miss the shovelling snow which was a cause of great joy. Spent a quiet(ish) day planning a holiday in the sun before hubby starts being weaned off all his medications. Thanks again!
  10. 4 points
    December 2019. After taking the lads on holiday it was straight back into the thick of things with an Advance Board meeting. We have eventually got through all the new policies which needed to be put into place and now there is just a few agreed amendments to make. Its been a long hard slog with meetings lasting well over 6hrs sometimes but it really needed to be done to make sure the excesses of Arch never happen again! Once again I raised the sore point about the Bedlington redevelopment and the parking problems. Scrutiny meeting today and along with the normal cabinet scrutiny there was one special item, the Climate Emergency strategy. It emerged that there is special provision within the SE of the county for tree planting. With up to 29 sites identified I asked for a map and was assured one would be forthcoming! Friends of West Lea Cemetery tonight and again a well attended meeting. Similar sorts of problems came up and I said I would invite the manager and head of service along to our next meeting so things might get resolved face to face. A phenomenal amount of funding has been raised by the dedication of this group and a few very hard working members! Well done Issey, Sarah and Susan! WBTC Christmas meeting tonight with most getting into the spirit of the season early! Site visit Hartford Bridge with head of service, cabinet member for housing and a couple of officers. Pleased to say they are responding to my requests and I hope a solution has been found and agreed. I had a meeting with cabinet member for local services and the head officer to ask about some requests we have for the cemetery. It was agreed head of service would attend a site visit and see what could be done about my specific requests. The cabinet member did remark that there were other cemeteries in equally parlous states or even worse but I replied that whilst I might agree they aren’t in my ward! LAC Meeting at Concordia tonight. I chaired the last one and had been asked several questions which I said I would have to find the correct answers to add report back. I had done so and gave the answers to the meeting when we went through the minutes. This one was mainly planning and one application in particular about extending opening hours of a take away in Seaton Delaval. I did have some questions about this and the one which I still find curious was that a 12 month trial would be conducted with a 6 month review after close monitoring. I had to ask again who would be doing the monitoring because the answer was the applicant? So the applicant who wanted the increased hours would assess any incursions which might not allow that to happen. A farce would be too kind a description! Anyway it was agreed by majority. The rest of the month I was chasing stuff up for residents so we could get closure before the Xmas holidays.
  11. 4 points
    Happy new year to all our forum friends, wishing you all good health for 2020. Vic & Dot (Doreen HPW!)
  12. 4 points
    Happy New Year to all me Marra's on this great forum! Noo! Canny Lass,ahem,[cough cough!],me being a clean-living lad,who nivvor smoked ,nivvor drank,nivvor gammelled,a can HONESTLY say....aam 0 on the shaggy dog scale!....except aam buggaad wi aad age in me bones!! My New Year's Resolution..[same as last year but broke it for domestic reasons..]...Aam determined ti get oot more on me Bike,since this time last year,a did 40-odd miles,and that was gaan for MOT, and CBT!!! Aav written it on me calendar as weel as me second resolution,and that is ti try and write more of me book,which a started in 2009!! Aav been advised by a published Author who me Wife and me met doon Cammis a few days ago,a luvly friendly aad Lady caaled Mary Bowmaker,who has three books on Amazon,and is busy wi a fourth book. She was enthusiastic when a telt her a was writing me life story from a wee bairn,growing up from the late1940's,ti aal me experiences doon the coalmines. SO!...it's here in black n white!...we'll see hoo things gaan at yem! Aal thi best folks!
  13. 4 points
    Season's Greetings to all Bedlingtonians from a hot,dry and firey Oz.
  14. 4 points
    September 2019. September started off with a bang! First up was a site meeting up in Berwick. I had to be at County Hall for the bus then up to a pretty chilly Berwick leisure centre to hear what the proposals were. Had a pre- planning meeting today about a possible new large scale development. I did have questions, one of which was about offering apprenticeship schemes within the projects seeing as it would probably last 3 years plus. Strategic planning and a rush to get down into the full council chamber to take my seat. I had to declare an interest in one agenda item so I had to leave the room for that one. First one was the Berwick proposal and I questioned the officer about various aspects but especially pedestrian safety seeing as there are two schools at the other side of the main road and whatever way the kids cross they have to cross a road on quite a steep hill. There was also the question about the roundabout which is actually on quite a slope. Other members echoed my concerns and some asked if we might impose conditions. I said could we not include a suggestion after the planning offer said we shouldn’t really impose conditions. Again after some discussion that was not allowed either! During the course of my interchange with the highways officer it emerged that they could only consider present and historical pedestrian figures in their assessments? Now that sounds crazy to me, here we are proposing to build a new leisure facility with 2 schools opposite and we cant consider any future usage figures in the application. I thanked the officer for giving us an insight into the crazy rules and regulations they had to operate under! The application was passed with only one member abstaining. I had to leave the meeting for the next item and halfway through I was joined by another member who realised he should have declared an interest too. Returning there was another two applications to hear and after some discussion both passed with one member abstaining on one of them. Full council today so I left work early to get home grab a quick shower and change before getting up to County Hall in time. Seems our usual seats have been taken over by the last opposition leader and his cohorts so Russ, Bill and I found seats near the front. Lots of the usual political shenanigans at full council but I am more and more thinking that we could be doing this better, its all too stage managed! I did have a question this one about the report by the standards committee which said anything I said in public, and that is verbally or written, I did so as a member of NCC. I said I believed that subjugated my right to freedom of expression because I have a life outside these walls! That had to go to the solicitor to answer because no one else understood what I was getting at. He did and assured me it wasn’t a policy proposal only a repeat of a central government line which wasn’t even being proposed yet if ever! It did produce reactions from other members one of who supported my warning. Another said he expected conversations he might have in public places to be treated as confidential, but that isn’t what this sentence said! The opposition leader said we were under the guidance of the Nolan Principles anyway which actually backed the point I had made when I said as elected members we operated under strict guidance anyway but as private individuals we were entitled to have personal views as well. If this comes back I will fight it because it curtails my ability to have a personal life. I did say I realised there was a problem with this issue but gagging people wasn’t the way to fix it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqxN2M-_1XU&t=3716s Had a meeting with our highways technical officer today and we walked around the area I wanted him to look at. Pleased to see the interactive speed signs have been fitted and working at Netherton Village and Hartford road. Still more road markings to be done and taking out the 60 MPH sections as we leave/enter the Town on the B1331 and the A1068 in an effort to curtail speeding cars. Had our Classical concert tonight and for once I was able to make it. Absolutely stunning performances with something for everyone. I was pleased to see so many people turning up for this and many messages of congratulates. I passed them onto the organiser who along with the Staff at Plessey did a superb job for us all. Working on more events down there with the next at Halloween. I have to say here that trying to make them free events while putting on real professional entertainers isn’t easy, but if it was everyone would be doing it! STOP PRESS……..STOP PRESS………..STOP PRESS………..STOP PRESS…… Just heard the funding for our next Plessey Woods event has been agreed. Look out for a kiddies spectacular just after the New Year! It will be super…..literally! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Had to go to Blyth today and do training regarding State Aid. Interesting session with lots of legislation to consider. Given some of my ‘hypotheticals’ and the answers which came back I have to wonder how some of the more outlandish historical schemes and the associated funding by Arch was even considered never mind rolled out! Had a meeting with the Advance officer who is in charge of project management and an officer from Active Northumberland. I started off by asking about public loo provision within the Bedlington Town Centre regeneration project. Again I was told it was never considered which seems strange seeing as I now have the planning application which actually lists a public loo! I said he had better get an answer to that because I will be using it at any future public meeting! Discussing a sporting provision then produced some interesting results, none of which I wanted to hear! Only one thing to do now so I’ve put a request into the top echelons of NCC for an immediate meeting. Getting back from Ashington I had a detour to the WBTC office for a meeting there. Pension training today along with North Tyneside Council up in Edinburgh. It was their session really but the Actuary used it to give us a private update on our, NCC, valuations. Everyone is pleased at the valuations because going from a £200M deficit to an above 100% coverage is quite extraordinary and definitely a much better place to be in. It looks like my pleas for trying to protect this position has been listened to as well and we all agreed to some de-risking in the portfolio. LAC meeting tonight at Concordia. With no planning on the agenda its wasn’t the usual mad rush back from work to get ready and the meeting started at 6pm. Didn’t seem to be very much on the agenda but as ever these things change! We had updates off the NCC public safety officer and the police and these turned into quite a long session, firstly with the safety officer. I did have several questions some based off what he told us. Next up was the police update and I think all the Bedlington councillors thought it was great! He said he had just taken over the inspector role and the softer line taken by the police with regard to anti social behaviour (ASB) in Bedlington is now changed and a much harder approach is going to be taken. Previously we had worked hard to stop our youngsters being criminalised but that obviously hadn’t worked given the repeated levels of ASB we have seen so back to old fashioned policing. I nearly gave this new inspector a round of applause! Funding had been acquired to increase on the beat policing and we all thanked him after the meeting and said if we can help with anything just ask. Had the chance to speak to our manager for Local services and again asked him to look at the hedging along the front of the cemetery seeing as I have had more complaints about the fact that pedestrians now have to walk on the road to get by because of the state of the Blackthorn hedging. He promised to look into it straight away and he has because it was cut the very next day! Well done Local services. Good meeting with the new Friends of West Lea Cemetery tonight and a constitution was adopted and officers elected. We now have a formal group to look after public interest in the cemetery. https://www.facebook.com/Thefriendsofwestleacemetery/ Had a meeting with constituents today about some concerns they have and I have forwarded them as I promised to do. Pension Panel today and another huge pile of papers for it. 9.30am – 4.30pm was listed for this meeting. Most of the committee had heard the Actuary report up in Edinburgh so no surprises there but that was just the first 30mins. It was good to get home that night and get sorted for work this weekend! Well the weekend wasn’t the normal because on top of everything else my holiday has disappeared! Thanks Thomas Cook! I had a LAC chairs meeting today and there was two presentations as well as the normal agenda to hear. First one was the Library service. There is a public consultation going to be rolled out soon as we try and increase library usage figures, which at the moment are declining. I have already submitted my ideas for bringing the service into modern day usage and having been assured non library users will be included in this consultation I will be promoting it when it comes out. I think Library provision is important for any conurbation but changing it into something which appeals to a greater amount of users is important to keeping it. Next up was a report and presentation about social care apprentice scheme, which seems to have been a huge success. Knowing first hand some of the problems within this service I asked if these apprentices would be subject to follow ups because I would be very interested in seeing how they interacted within other parts of our service. It seem they will and given that education and increased qualifications are offered to all carers it will be interesting to hear how it all rolls out. One item came as a surprise to some members, the fact that 82% of the workforce in this service was made up of women. I assumed it would be quite high anyway seeing as the vast majority of carers I know are women. Anyway good to see it being presented as a credible career with good prospects for anyone. We then had a presentation about the way some types of anti social behaviour is going to be reported and the figures collated and shared. This was for things like dog fouling. I asked about the way we respond to reports and could we do anything to bring the response more into real time. I had to explain that so I said I have several football pitches in my ward as well as a cemetery and there will be reports going in on say a Saturday when the footballers use the pitches but the ‘offence’ could well have taken place the previous Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and there might well be someone who saw it taking place. I think the answer was no we can’t react immediately which was what I expected to be fair. It was good to hear the chair of this committee saying we really need to make these LAC meetings much more relevant to members of the public and drive up attendance figures. Well its taken a year but at last my message seems to be getting through! Wonder what’s happened to my lists of possible agenda items? Had a follow up meeting with officers about the Bedlington Regeneration meeting we had last month. Bill and Russ were there too and we thrashed out some ideas for potential future strategic projects in Bedlington. It was a pretty positive meeting with follow ups expected! Last meeting this month is the Advance Board meeting. Again dominated by putting new governance policies in place which are all aimed at putting to an end any possibility of malpractice from now on! It was quite an intense meeting lasting nearly 7 hours non stop!
  15. 4 points
    This month my surgery was on Monday the 1st and as usual plenty of questions to get answers to. Next day I had to be at county hall before 9.30am to get a small coach for this site visit to Kirkwhelpington. I think only one member of our strategic planning committee did not show so most of us got to see the spectacular scenery the rural part of our county has to offer. Getting up to where this monument was proposed to go was quite something as we had to stop and inch past tractors quite a few times. Eventually we stopped beside Tit Hill where this was being proposed for the top of. A few protesters lined the route with their placards but we were told not to speak to them under any circumstances because this was a delegated planning site visit under strict regulations. Didn’t stop a couple of members engaging with the protesters and the chair had to call them back in! Once we had a good look at the proposed site from this vantage point we had another two to get to and look from. It was difficult to imagine what this monument would look like imposed on the landscape but the planners had done some mock up pictures with it superimposed. I have to say this site visit did give extra gravitas to the proposal. We made it back just after lunch and I nipped home for a cuppa then back up to County Hall for a meeting at 3pm, this time for one of my pet projects! Once we had conducted that business it was about time for the strategic planning meeting at 4pm. Again we heard off our planning head, residents, councillors and the applicants agents each with their own version of what should be done. After many questions a proposal was made to reject this application and this time it succeeded. It was gratifying to hear the reason put forward for refusal was exactly the reason I had stated at the last meeting about this, namely there was merit in the idea but not at this location! This time I had done the background and listed chapter and verse within the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) why I thought refusal was the correct outcome. I could see the head of planning nodding at my assertions. Again I was left wondering if some members were just playing to the audience as one even stopped to get a round of applause! Never mind I think the right result was reached. I was supposed to have a meeting with our local services manager today but something cropped up at the last minute and he couldn’t make it. I would like to see him sooner rather than later so I can progress residents requests. Had a Corporate Scrutiny meeting this morning but I had to declare an interest in one agenda item, that being a revised governance of Advance Northumberland. Getting the relationship correct with NCC is vital in making progress on the new internal governance within the group. We also heard about the current position regarding NCC debt with regard to council tax and business rate payers etc. Next came a report about the new road which is being proposed for Blyth and finally a last minute addition, a report about a new countrywide lottery. Plenty of questions all of which got answered! Had the afternoon meeting cancelled because of an accident. It needs to be back on sooner rather than later because it’s about additional Bedlington investment! Today, along with Bill and Russ, I had a meeting with the Leader and some of the other senior NCC cabinet members. We have all been pressing not just for more investment into Bedlington but also having some of our basic social needs addressed properly. It was a very businesslike meeting and there are some, what look like, halfway decent results. I did make the point that we have heard plenty of rhetoric from the Administration it was now time for action! Once that was over I had to run to my next meeting because I had to chair it. This one was the LAC Community Chest and we had to go through several applications. I would urge everyone who applies to actuality read through the guidance because we had to take some of the applied funding out and dismiss one or two entirely because they clearly breached our guidelines for funding and that’s something we all hate to have to do! That done I thanked the members who made the time to turn up and closed the meeting. I had an extra LGPS Panel meeting this afternoon and I expected it would be quite a short meeting. As usual it didn’t turn out that way because there were so many interconnected things to consider and we were making a fundamental change to our strategic asset planning. Again I did make the point that we are in the middle of a pooling restructure, considering a merger, implementing a strategic review and considering an asset reallocation, each one worthy of very careful consideration in itself and each one putting extra stress on our team, most of all our officers and the Board members. That was acknowledged but we did finally make a decision to de-risk some of our assets, something which I have been arguing about for over a year. I had a brief talk with one of the police officers who oversee our Town about a suggestion I had made at the last meeting we all had. I have expanded that suggestion and I await the reply. Hopefully it might help tackle the seemingly growing anti social behaviour we are seeing. Nice meeting today at a special school in Cramlington. This came about because of my comments when their new play area came in front of our LAC planning group. The questions I asked were later answered by the school’s new head of comms and funding. We eventually chatted about the school and the pupils and I was asked to go to an opening event they were holding for a new garden area the pupils had done for themselves. I suggested asking all the LAC members and said I would ask our Civic Head to officially open it for them. The invites went out and Ian our Civic Head of Northumberland and his deputy Eileen agreed to officiate. Lovely to see all the undoubted hard work paid off in such an inspiring garden area. I chatted to the school liaison officer and suggested ways they might try and attract extra funding into their school. Today I have our LAC to chair because Christine the chair is away on personal business. So quickly back from work for a shower and change then straight out for the pre planning meeting at Seaton Sluice. Only two applications both of which were uncontested. As Bernard was the chair of planning and I had to take it on temporarily until a new chair was found, this was the first planning meeting for our new chair Councillor Ian Swithenbank. I opened the LAC gave a brief explanation how it operates went though the first three agenda items and then passed the meeting over to Ian for the planning part. He took us through the two applications with the planning officers and both were agreed unanimously. We had 30 minutes to wait until I could restart the LAC! One restarted straight into public questions and the very first one was something we couldn’t consider. I gave the speaker as much leeway as possible to eak out a question to us but in the end what was being said had no relevance to our LAC and I had to stop the line of questioning. His next question was about members conduct during elections and I asked if he wanted an explanation of Purdah? He said so and I gave him my understanding which was about the types of communications members used and the tools allowed to do it. I was corrected when I suggested members should even say they were already elected members in the authority. In fact the new Labour leader said no one would stop her saying she was an elected member and supported her preferred candidate. After one other question, which I requested a written reply to because we couldn’t give a definitive answer verbatim, the meeting carried on and we had several updates from our local area managers, notably highways and neighbourhood services. We then got to an update on the cycling Tour which is coming through Northumberland again. A presentation ensued from very enthusiastic officers and they answered our questions afterwards. I then wrapped the meeting up. Today I had a meeting about the old council offices in Bedlington trying to get something done. Thats seems all but impossible given the way this was put together originally. It’s almost like one step forward and two back sometimes! Had to go to a planning training meeting today and again more empty seats than full ones. In fact it looked like most of the planning department was here so even less member attendance and we all sit on one planning committee or another! In fact the head of planning stated the Central government guidelines which says members have to undertake training or they wont be allowed to sit on planning committees. The head of planning then gave the presentation and launched into ‘what is planning’ as the first part of his presentation. Some interesting points were brought up and in the Q&A session I had a few questions. One bit I did want clarification on was the assertion that planning had to ‘facilitate economic development, that I hadn’t heard before. I asked if that was a material consideration and the reply was yes it is. That was a bit strange because profit, per say, isn’t and do you get one without the other? Second presentation was about houses and again I have several questions. I asked for specific training along the lines of what the Strategic Planning committee had asked for several times, S106 developer funding, and also I asked about conditions and varyco’s attached to applications both before and after a decision. I said I had sat in committee and attached conditions to applications only to see them changed or just taken out as soon as a developer started work. I said that wasn’t right because the development didn’t now look like what we had considered. I also questioned him about the term ‘affordable housing’ saying I thought the term at best misleading and I postulated that in actual fact infrastructural improvements were much more rewarding to a greater number of people in the local communities than half a dozen ‘affordable houses’ and the fact that they are now dished out to housing associations behind what looks like closed doors only adds insult to injury as far as I was concerned. He took my points and said they warranted further consideration. Well just come back from a site meeting with a sports facilities funding officer and he said he was impressed with my ideas because they were far more inclusive than just applying to one sporting body. He is going away to do some work to help me progress this and I now have to think up ways to fund another feasibility study into need in Bedlington. Last time I did this was back in 2010 and we got KKP to do a report but their conclusion was that a £20M investment into a new school with modern sporting facilities at Bedlington Station couldn’t be ignored and the easiest option would be to make them accessible for the greater community. Of course what we actually got was a £10M new school and very limited community accessible facilities. So the fight goes on to get Bedlington what it deserves! Just come back from another Advance board meeting and again it was dominated with new governance and policy matters. Anyone might suspect we could possibly end up with a regeneration company fit for purpose at this rate! I did have to stop the meeting at one point to raise a concern and that will now have to be addressed before that particular item is progressed. As an aside it looks to me like the company really needs to assert itself and not be held back by quasi public sector restraints and ways of doing business. Fleet of foot and agile of mind would be my maxim regarding how this company develops now, with the proviso that the governance is sorted of course! Well someone was listening. Several phone calls off Advance today but finally my concerns were addressed and we can now proceed with that particular project. I did use this time to further ideas for more investment into Bedlington of course! First meeting today was the LAC chairs. I’m only there because I am vice chair of ours. Several item on this agenda and a presentation about the possible Northumberland Lottery project. The chair moved the presentation up so the presenter didn’t have to spend all morning sitting listening to the usual meeting before she got to her bit. She did say some of us would have heard her presentation before and I was one because she had given the same to scrutiny earlier. As she explained this was all about getting good local causes potential funding because players picked which of the good causes listed they wanted to support with most of their stake monies. I did have another couple of questions about this such as how long would players be subscribed for, seeing as it is entirely internet based. Also was there any constraints on how the good causes spent their possible windfalls? Other members had their questions answered too and the whole thing is going to cabinet for their approval, or not, at their next meeting. On with the normal meeting and again I said I wanted to see a much greater turn out at LAC meetings so making the agendas interesting for the public was essential. This time the business chair intervened and challenged me directly to list all the possible updates and presentations I wanted to see and send him the list so each one could be checked off as it was delivered. I have already made a start on this list! Back home for a quick cuppa and get some mails sported then back up to county hall for another meeting , this one the LDF or Local Plan update. We had the update and its expected the governmental hearings will start in October with Morpeth Town Hall booked to deliver the public sessions. A couple of items were on as separate updates, one being affordable housing and the other planning obligations. Both of these topics enlisted several questions from members and I had a few of my own. The SPD’s or supplementary planning documents will be going out for consultations quite soon because we all want to see this local plan in place. Again it was stated today that pretty soon if members do not take up planning training they will be barred from sitting on any planning committees. Seeing as all members sit on at least one planning committee there could be sparks soon with that one! Planning law, like Local Government Pension training, isn’t the easiest thing to get your head around but the new head of planning is insisting members have to attend. Might start to improve attendance records for some! Had a meeting with our Highways Technical officer today about the road issues and the solutions we have been working on. Russ was there too and he got his issues sorted while mine were about the new speed signs I have already paid for and other traffic calming measures especially on the B1331 and Netherton Village. I had told residents I would not let this officer go until I have a set date for the installation of these signs because we seem to have been waiting months and months for their installation after being agreed and paid for! Well I did get assurances that both the signs at Netherton and Hartford Bridge will be in within the next 2 weeks. There are also other measures to go in and these are hoped to be completed before the end of the school holidays. In fact it might look to some like overkill but Netherton Village especially has suffered far too long from excessive speeding and if these measures don’t have an impact a far more drastic solution is in the wings! One of the measures is to reduce the speed along sections of both the B1331 and the A1068.
  16. 4 points
    I was talking to Dave last week, I know him well and will bring this to his attention @Brian Cross @Alan Edgar (Eggy1948)
  17. 3 points
    I remembered - to nights one liners :- I’d like to start with the chimney jokes – I’ve got a stack of them. The first one is on the house. Do twins ever realize that one of them is unplanned? I did a gig in a fertility clinic. I got a standing ovulation I have kleptomania. But when it gets bad, I take something for it
  18. 3 points
    First, a correction: “Cnoc an Chuillin (Irish Gaelic) means literally ‘Hill the Holly’ as does the Welsh equivalent ‘Bryn Celyn’ - holy hill”. That should read holly hill and not holy hill. Moving on to the Old English period (OE) 700 – 1100 AD, the Romans had now left Britain but there’s not a lot of evidence to throw any light on what effect they had on the language. What little does remain of their influence is, strangely enough, found in place names. We know that they built military settlements and this is visible today in the names of their major settlements, now ending in –chester which is derived from the Latin castra meaning camp. According to David Crystal The English Language (1990), there’s also the odd borrowed word such as street from straet, but this is of no help to us in unraveling the mystery of Hollymount. I think we can safely say the Romans had no part to play in that name. However, what happened next had a profound effect on the language as Crystal goes on to explain. It was a turbulent time for England with many invasions and this turbulence also found its way into the English language. The sheer number of invaders eventually outnumbered the Celts making it easy for their languages to get a grip on England. England had become a nation of small kingdoms each battling for supremacy and the same thing was happening with their languages. The result, however, was not one united language for England but four different dialects: Northumbrian, Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon. Northumbrian and Mercian came from the Angles, Kentish from the Jutes and West Saxon from the Saxons. The Northumbrian dialect went on to be greatly influenced by the Vikings but it was Mercian that went on to become the standard English which we use today- hardly surprising as Mercian was the dialect of London - the seat of power. As if that wasn’t enough for England to be dealing with, side by side with those invasions another invasion of a more ‘spiritual’ nature was happening as Irish monks arrived to establish Christianity (and monastic buildings) the length and breadth of England. Many of their buildings, Lindisfarne among them, have not stood the test of time and are now in ruins but their contribution to the English language, in the form of the Latin alphabet and many Latin words, has done somewhat better as most of the words they introduced are still in use today. Understandably, most of these words relate to the church: abbot, chalice and hymn as well as many of the words used in church services but some words relate even to their monastic lifestyle with its self-sufficiency in housekeeping, such as: radish, plant, oyster and candle but they left nothing in the way of place names to help explain Hollymount. The Old English period of language development also saw a start to writing manuscripts in this new ‘language’ and those that have survived give a fair amount of authentic research material. The majority of the written material which survives from the period is written in West Saxon dialect but the oldest surviving texts, noted by both Barber and Crystal, are in the Northumbrian dialect: Caedmon’s Hymn, Bede’s Death Song, the poem Leiden Riddle and of course the several thousand names and places in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, translated from Latin at the request of King Alfred in the second half of the ninth century. Credit must be given here to our North Eastern forefathers who never let anything go to waste if it could be saved for later use! Thank heavens it didn’t end up torn into neat squares and threaded on a string, to be hung behind the door of some draughty, outdoor netty, as has been the fate of so much other written material! What a service they did for historical linguists everywhere! Understandably, there were major changes throughout the period in many aspects of language: spelling, grammar, pronunciation, an ever increasing amount of new words and, of course, place names. During the Old English period, topographical names continued to be used and some new Celtic names may have appeared. Some totally Anglo-Saxon names would certainly have appeared as the invaders built their new settlements and some names, like the previously mentioned Cumberland, mixtures of the two languages, would also appear as the dialects rubbed shoulders with each other. However, the Anglo-Saxon invasions caused a new type of place name to emerge. As land was being taken by invaders, numerous settlements were appearing and these were being named after the chieftains or landowners – presumably of high status and therefore well known should one wish to find one’s way by asking. Most of us are aware of a couple of Old English (OE) place name endings: –ton from the OE tun, meaning an enclosure, farmstead or hamlet and –ham from the OE ham, meaning homestead or from hamm, meaning meadow. Barber in his study The English Language, a Historical Introduction (1997) adds -ley from OE leah meaning wood or glade, -field from OE feld meaning open country and several other endings of a topographical nature. Hollymount, having neither ‘endings’ nor personal names to help us, requires us to now break down the word into its component parts – holly and mount – to look for clues. As previously said, topographical names were still being constructed during the period so all hope is not lost. Next, I’ll be reporting my findings on holly and mount and having a look for any connections with holy. … to be continued.
  19. 3 points
    I am not sure if anyone would be interested but I have a copy of the Evening Chronicle for the 7th May 1945. Here is a picture of the front page.
  20. 3 points
    My garden is 2-3 acres! That's the bit nearest the house. Most of it I try to keep looking like woodland so most of those leaf trees are planted by me (saplings dug up on my travels) or self sown by wind and birds. I found the density of the forest close into the house on all sides rather oppressive when I came here and I've worked to open up and make more 'airy' the space around the house. The Hawthorn bush in the foreground is grown from a pip brought from England, Wooler to be precise! I've also planted in hundreds of Birch saplings. I like the way they move in a breeze. Fir trees are so stiff and lifeless to look at. I never tire of that view, which I also have from my kitchen window. It's beautiful whatever the time of year whether it be winter: or, my favourite, early autumn when the cold air pressing down on the lakes causes the moisture to rise into the air: Magical!
  21. 3 points
    Happy Anzac Day , Lest we forget.
  22. 3 points
    Answers to last Friday's quiz: 1. Wimbledon 2. Egypt 3. The USA and Canada 4. Somerset 5. 66 feet 6. Sarah Brightman 7. A, B, AB, O 8. Bald Eagle 9. Australia 10. 1901 11. Percy Sugden 12. Galileo Galilei New quiz tomorrow.
  23. 3 points
    Answers to last Friday's quiz: 1. Rawhide 2. A bird 3. British Thermal Unit 4. Mark Phillips 5. Chartwell 6. David 7. Polio 8. Jules verne 9. John Curry 10. Disraeli 11. Empire Day 12. Geometry New quiz tomorrow.
  24. 3 points
    Hi Folks! Aav been locked in for five weeks , since me Wife had a really serious Seizure ,the worst one she has had for over thirty years,cos for the first two weeks after the seizure,I couldn't leave her for a minute,as the saying goes,it was full on nursing from me at home. Then the lock-down started,and since then,very good neighbours of mine have been doing our shopping,it's at times like this when the value of good friends and neighbours is very much appreciated!! Both of us are in the really vulnerable category,so are strictly abiding by the rules for everybody's sakes. The positive side is,we have gardens front and rear,the front garden is decent-sized but faces right onto the main road,which normally has a constant stream of traffic,but which is now strangely quiet!..I can hear Birds whistling a mile away!,and last night,under the glow of the street lamp outside our house,I was in the drive,and glanced around when something caught my eye,moving slowly in the darkness. Mr Foxy, [of the four-legged kind!],was standing,brazenly staring up at me,then after a few seconds, ambled away unconcerned,walking on the dry road,cos it was better than the damp grass...[what a pity!] Nowt like having Elk on your doorstep,Canny Lass,but for Bedltn,it's a lovely sight to see! Fortunately,wor back garden faces owa thi back fields,reet owa ti Scotland Gate,and futher owa ti Hepscot way,so it's a wid open aspect,wi aal the birds coming in. So we're fortunate ti have somewhere ti waak aroond,and ti potter on with. Aav got a wee pond in the back garden,and when a put it in,twenty years ago,a asked me [then] fower-year-aad Niece ti fetch me some Stickleyback fish ti put in,cos a aalwis loved them when aa was a bairn. She came wi her Granda one day,after been doon the Furnace Bank,ti thi River Blyth,and she proudly presented me wi a jamjar wi fower Luvly Stickly's. Owa the last twenty yeors,them fower fish have bred,and bred several generations,and aav noo got aboot thirty.[having given dozens away to friends,and released hundreds back into the river!] So a can sit and watch me fish on a nice warm afternoon,for aboot ten minutes,then back ti thi grindstone![nivvor still!] Vic,and Canny Lass,a cud live amang the forests withoot any persuasion!![we did for owa twenty yeors,wi thi touring caravan,farm and Forestry Commision sites,from 1977-on..when the bairns were young..] Aav got me guitars and recording gear,noo that's a hobby that,if a had the time,a cud spend hours and hours...nay..days and days..on a project...multi-tracking,and creating me aan music![which a used ti dae,afore me Wife became disabled,and a became her full-time carer]..nivvor mind,nowt's a bother to me,aam cool!! Me motorbike is an ornament,nice ti luk at! Same wi thi car!..aam not grousing,a feel very fortunate to not be in the same sad predicament that a lot of families around the world are in. Then,late at night,to relax,a watch U-Tube music videos,documentaries,or a dvd noo and again. A divvent watch telly,haven't for aboot thirty years,knaa very little aboot what's gaan on,in the news,except for the latest Govt Briefings,and what snippets me Wife tells me ..!! Wi me health problems a hae ti avoid stress,and a gaan thi best way aboot it!! So that's my life story ,Isolation doesn't affect me mentally,aav telt folks in conversation,for years,that aa can easily mix wi folks,or a cud just as easily live in the jungle or an island on me own!![as lang as a had me guitars and me laptop!] Both me Wife,and mesel,have found aal the comments in this thread really interesting,as ti hoo other folks are coping. Big thanks folks! [First time aav ivvor commented withoot ivor mentioning.............COAL!...[drat! ...a just did!]
  25. 3 points
    3G and myself are doing fine here in Italy. We are in the South, and are fairing far better than the poor people in Lombardy. That's not to say that it's good, we do still have many cases here, but compared to the north we are getting off very lightly. We don't go out very much at all, but do have a very large garden we can get out into. 3G hasn't been out at all since 20th March, when he decided the daily bike ride wasn't worth the €3000 euro fine if caught. The lockdown is very, very strict here. We have to carry a form with us when we (I) go out, stating exactly where we have come from, where we are going, and why. Only one person from the household can go shopping, and at our local Lidl only 10 people in the shop at any one time. I go out to do the shopping no more than once a week if I can help it. That's it then, that is how things are for us here in Italy.
  26. 3 points
    Unfortunately I have no idea. It was installed within Facebook on my old Windows Vista Desktop PC and it still keeps it's dictionary up to date but the version/release number is not displayed anywhere. I said above it was four years ago but I think it's more like six + years as the stats show I have played over 4,000 games. When I switch on my Windows 10 PC I will see if that gives the version number. Don't hold your breath, I'm struggling to get out of bed at the moment - my diary is more like Ann Franks = Day 1 Hid - day 2 Hid - Day 3 Hid........................
  27. 3 points
    Had to give the Scrabble up about four ago - involuntary reflex actions of the legs kept knocking the coffee table and destroying the board. Changed games and now play an online version of Scrabble = Words_With_Friends and the board stays intact.
  28. 3 points
    Over 70s are now in home-quarantine for two weeks here (to begin with) . Dug the Scrabble and the Yatzee out yesterday. Fortunately we stocked up on wine on a w/e in Germany a couple of months ago. Also hoping for a bit of good weather (we finally got snow that stayed, a couple of weeks ago) so that I can get some gardening done without interruptions.
  29. 3 points
    Not sure if this is it @Alan Edgar (Eggy1948) sorry about the watermark but the pirates have been selling them again.😡
  30. 3 points
    February 2020. Just into February and already meeting times and dates are clashing. I had to be at Whitley Bay for 11am so I had to give apologies for a planning site visit this morning at Widdrington. I then had my monthly surgery and again quite a list of things to do resulted. I had another Fell-a-Ship meeting today about men’s mental health. Again quite a few representatives turned up all dedicated to promoting good mental health in men. We now have enough groups enlisted to support initiatives within Bedlington. What we need now is for people to come forward to put those initiatives in place with the full backing of this group. Hopefully when people see this sign and banner they will recognise it for what it will stand for. Strategic planning tonight and with only one application on the agenda it might be presumed to be a short meeting. But this is planning and this single application took nearly 2 hrs. This was the Widdrington application and going through the paperwork I did have several questions. In fact as the meeting progressed I had even more! At one point I had to say planners had done their usual and pulled out the trump cards to curtail me getting reasonable answers to my questions! It annoys me when they do this, use seemingly arcane planning law which we don’t know about to answer quite open and honest questions. In the end I agreed with the application because this development was aimed at and costed for first time buyers. I had requested a visit to the old council offices in Bedlington and I had the guided tour today. I really wanted to see just how bad the state of the building is in so I have a better idea of what usage it might be put to. There is a huge problem which seems to have put everyone off this building and seeing it first-hand I can understand why. However it’s not insurmountable in my view, although it will be costly and fraught with legal and technical problems! Yet another grim legacy from the days of WDC! Meetings galore today but first off a MOT for my car. The rest of the day was spent trying to sort out some of the concerns residents have passed to me and for once a few resolutions after I insisted on face to face meetings with the appropriate personnel. I also had the Plessey Woods event to tie up any loose ends. Saturday and the Superheroes were at Plessey Woods. Again it’s another event I can’t attend for work commitments but I’m more than happy to make these things happen especially as it was enjoyed by so many of our kiddies. I have even arranged for canopies and seating in case it rained, thanks Tony! It didn’t and the afternoon was another great success, thanks Charmaine, Danny and the ground staff. Another busy day today with a Scrutiny meeting at 10am kicking it off. One of the main items was the proposed budget and once again Jeff Reid and myself raising most of the questions. I had further questions about the proposed rail link as this was another agenda item. The full cost of this will be in the order of £160+M and we are looking for around £100M off the government through one of their funding streams. Other funding will come from other applications with NCC putting in nearly £30M. Listening to the officer things are now proceeding in the right direction because we have built up a good tail wind with support from most if not all bodies which will input into this. I did have several questions about finance and ownership not least. Also the fact that these new stations, or newly used stations, could and should be attracting economic regeneration in their own right and this was generally acknowledged and agreed. I had a further question about the actual rolling stock which will be used, particularly how it would be powered, given that we have called a climate emergency and we are supporting a huge infrastructure in green energy production. I said not using our own green energy and relying on old diesel rolling stock was such an obvious own goal I hope this won’t be the case? The officer responded by saying electric seemed the way forward and we could very well see the pantograph raised near Newcastle but then lowered in Northumberland where battery power could take over. Sounds like a plan to me! The last order of business was the proposed new arm’s length trading entities NCC want to initiate. Possibly up to 5 new trading companies all controlled by NCC. I wanted clarification as to what was going to be included in any business models (looking at the last time this was done and the associated ‘indiscretions’!) and the fact that it said these would be looking at new income generation, NOT SAVINGS on existing service deliveries! The CeO replied to my questions and assured me she was going to make sure safeguards were in place this time and only trading outside of our existing service provisions would be considered. Given what I have seen of her ridged insistence on proper governance at Advance board meetings I was happy with the answers. This might go some way to respond to my calls for the biggest employer in Northumberland (NCC) to seek out contracts within the private and public sector to generate income and not to solely rely on putting up tax rates year after year. I expect this will be used to create more discord for political reasons but as I was the only member to question this item in its details then once again disingenuousness would seem to be the order of the day. Having now seen the political manipulations in the press it seems my prediction was spot on! Instead of getting to grips with this stuff at committee where changes could possibly be made some are happy to sit on their hands only to wring them in public later! This meeting closed then it was a dash to get back to Bedlington for some tree planting. I was struck at the previous scrutiny meeting where the new urban tree planting initiative was discussed that this should be opened up to our youngsters to get involved with. So I contacted the schools and youth groups in my area and arranged for them to come down, with the environmental portfolio holder, and help plant these trees on the 20 Acres. 29 sites have been identified within the urbanised SE to be used for planting new trees. The ambition is to give every young person in the county a tree to plant so they can identify with it as it grows and matures. That is the bigger countywide initiative as well as planting up a new ‘People’s Forest’. It was a very cold windy day but we had a good turnout of young people to help and they seemed to enjoy it. This is only the first batch which will be going into Bedlington so I’ll do the same for the next lot which are going in behind the Hartlands. I have been asked what sort of trees were used and I now have the list….5x Acer campestre, 5x Alnus cordata, 5x Crataegus laevigata Paul’s Scarlet, 4x Malus tschonoskii, 6x Populus tremula, 5x Prunus padus and 5x Tilia tomentosa. So 35 in all and they are semi mature not the usual wisps. I had to be up at County Hall today for my LAC community chest meeting. I chair this one and again insisted we held this extra one to use up every last penny in the budget, given that is all goes to community groups and voluntary sector. Once again after going through all the new applications and doing a bit of jiggling we spent everything in the budget! As I left I had the chance to collar cabinet members and press them to attend a ‘talk’ I have organised. There is another ‘talk’ being held about councils, democracy and environment with some of our young people, thanks to the help from Leading Link! It’s something I have always been keen to support and I normally go myself and talk to any of the youngsters interested in politics, with a small ‘P’. This time I have invited most of the big shots in NCC and failing to get our first choice of chair I have agreed to chair it myself. It will therefore be something like a Question Time. Great chance for our youngsters to put their questions directly to the movers and shakers up at County Hall and given who will chair it there will be no hiding places!!!! Another Friends of West Lea Cemetery tonight and again a good turnout. This time I had invited the officer responsible for cemeteries within the county and he duly attended. It was good to see how each side can help and interact with the other to get our cemetery not only up to expectations but surpass them! The group has designs on the old building there and this is something we are starting to look at in greater detail. The officer responded to all the questions and concerns which were put to him and in fact sorted some out as he sat there. I had pushed Advance to hold regular Bedlington Business meetings and our second one was today. Good turnout but I still would like to see more Bedlington business making use of the help and advice on offer. Been putting together the funding for the new fence and hedging for the front of West Lea Cemetery and I expect to see work starting very soon. I think this will tidy up the whole of the front of the cemetery, which was the first ask from residents who live opposite, and provide a bit more security. Thanks go to WBTC for agreeing to a contribution for this cemetery project, I’m hoping it’s somewhere we can all take a renewed pride in soon. I have a full council meeting coming up, it’s the budget one, and going through the reports and papers one stands out as inconceivable. It’s the report into the county council planning function. Once again like the Active report and the Arch one we read previously, the more exasperation and incredulity took over. Here is the link……… http://committee.northumberland.gov.uk/Meeting.aspx?MeetID=9674 When anyone reads statements like this you know something is very wrong………. “There is now significant evidence that appears to suggest that attempts were made to subvert these functions in respect of a major planning application, namely the application for Dissington Garden Village. This is clearly of significant concern and is explained in detail further below.” Also…… ” The independent investigation report found that, in respect of the specific planning application (which was for a large residential development of some 257 hectares on a green field site), decisions and conduct in relation to that planning application were not transparent or appropriate.” “It appears that significant efforts were made by several persons in positions of authority and control within the County Council to collude with and secure a 5 number of inappropriate advantages for the planning applicant / developer in the application in question. Such advantages would not be conferred on any other planning applicant in the normal conduct of the Authority’s planning functions.” There is evidence that discussions between the previous executive / senior management of the County Council and the developer / planning applicant had been ongoing and in addition to other discussions reached an advanced stage regarding the provision of a loan, from the County Council to the planning applicant concerned. This loan, for which heads of terms and other correspondence have been obtained, offered the planning applicant an initial £34million from the County Council to fund the development with further funding of 55% of the site value “once outline planning permission was granted”. The ‘site value’ is not clear but the planning applicant has indicated that the site was forecast to “have a gross development value of c.£772million”. This correspondence was conducted by a former chief officer of the County Council, on that chief officer’s personal email account (not that officer’s County Council email account). It is now clear that senior officers within the Planning department were similarly using personal email accounts to transact County Council business in respect of this same planning application, this is further outlined at paragraph 21 below. It would be highly irregular for any local authority to enter into a funding arrangement such as this with any planning applicant. That Northumberland County Council appears to have been offering such substantial funding to a planning applicant – and that the Authority is the Strategic Planning Authority which would determine the planning application in question – may well raise valid questions as to the impartiality and objectivity with which the application would be determined. In terms of financial governance, the values concerned in turn were likely to represent a serious financial risk to public finances.” “There is evidence that the applicant and / or their advisers in the specific planning application were invited / allowed by a very senior officer in the Planning department to write and alter parts of the Planning officers’ report to the Strategic Planning Committee. This report ultimately recommended approval of the application. The applicant was also allowed to view confidential drafts of the report which would not normally be published outside of the County Council. There is therefore serious concern of undue influence / conflict of interest on the part of the planning applicant, enabled by a senior officer in the Planning department having already offered and given significant hospitality to a very senior officer.” “Anonymous Allegations – in December 2017, two anonymous letters were sent on to the County Council by two elected members. However these elected members then circulated the anonymous letters widely, not only sharing these with the External Auditor, but also the (then) Police and Crime Commissioner, many officers, and a number of elected members. The anonymous letters were clearly politically motivated and much of the content was pejorative in nature. Notwithstanding this, those aspects of the anonymous letters which were capable of checking back to facts were thoroughly examined. This involved interviews with officers and elected members, as well as gathering and analysis of all available supporting information. Following this detailed, impartial and evidence based investigation, it was established beyond any doubt that the anonymous letters were wholly without basis. However, that these letters were relied on so prominently in the legal action brought against the County Council and others, again the Authority would contend is further evidence of the spurious nature of the claims made against it in the writ and underlines the lack of any evidence to substantiate those spurious claims.” I’m going to have to question this at the meeting! Full council today and a meeting with the Leader just before to make sure we are on the same page with my sports centre proposal. I have been working on getting a small sports centre up at West Lea for about 2 years now and this is the final push. I have had planners there, sport professionals there, builders and funders and all of them have backed my ideas to change the small changing rooms there into a proper sports multi-use complex. I have negotiated half a million pounds to kick start this and I wanted to know the in’s and out’s before it was put to members in the budget proposals. Happy with what was discussed and if the budget gets approved later we can finally start the next stage in the process. Just a picture that no one in Bedlington has ever seen before! A stand along budget item for a community sports facility in the town. It’s been a lot of hard work and although not the multi millions other towns have had its something to start with and build on. Its half a million no one else has ever been able to get in writing, even those belonging to whatever political party in charge, so much for an independent member not being able to get things done! Went down for full council and I was expecting fireworks on one of the agenda items. I wasn’t disappointed. When the audit report came up and questions were allowed it didn’t take a genius to see who was on the war path and who were battening down the hatches! Several members voiced their outrage at what had happened and I was particularly keen to suggest we needed some resolution to this and previous reports if only for the reputation of the council. I expect to see more fireworks about this over the coming months! I have to say yet another debacle deriving from the last administration, surely there can’t be anymore? As we have seen Active Northumberland report……lacking any sort of competent administration, Arch……lacking any sort of financial governance at all, and now this……..and all done under the last Labour administration, what were these people thinking of? The budget came up and after the presentation and questions it went to the vote. It passed by about 38 to 1 with 25 abstentions! Now it wasn’t that long ago I was accused, very vociferously and vocally, of letting my residents down by abstaining on a vote, even though I explained my reasons why I had chosen to take that path. I was also “told” abstaining wasn’t in the remit of a decent councillor! The very same people were now abstaining en-mass. Might be worth a look at a dictionary…….. At the very least it clearly shows a political whip in play! As it now stands the video of that meeting has been taken down even though it was a live recording and available until late this morning! Also there were plenty of members of the public in attendance at the meeting so if this is an attempt to stop the information coming into the public realm it seems flawed. Two members were named in the meeting for the actions they had taken and I can only assume there has been some sort of complaint by either, both or a political party which has resulted in this public account being taken down! I will be pressing to get it reinstated so everyone is aware of what has been going on. Well the video has been reinstated with only the names edited out. Gets exciting about 22 mins in…………and why they tried to stop me from speaking I don’t know! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDto-qIHd0g&t=1329s Unless and until we get some sort of resolution to this and other past ‘events’ then I have to disagree with the legal opinion expressed in the video. I would be more than happy to abide by any verdict which resulted from a group of 12 open minded citizens which had heard evidence presented to them in a court of law. Not allowing that outcome can only result in more accusations and allegations because there is not a final and transparent result. Just had reason to look at the comparison data matrices for the main towns in Northumberland. Bedlington has a greater population than the towns of Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth but town centre footfall is the lowest. My argument is that there is little reason to walk down into our Town centre, comparatively, until we see the investment into our town centre redevelopment start to bear fruit. Of course we actually need the infrastructure built to enable that! Considering the downturn in the fortunes of high street retailers shouldn’t we be looking to augment that footfall with other non-retail usage? That’s why I keep lobbying to get Bedlington taken seriously as a site for an Enterprise Hub with training and mentoring and even small units for bespoke businesses to try out in. That would help footfall for the retailers in the town, new and existing, and start to make Bedlington a destination town rather than the crossroads it is at present. I hope someone has been listening to me droning on about this and I can only wait until June to see if that has happened! Local Area Council meeting tonight and only the Local Transport Plan on the agenda. We heard the presentations and then quite a few members had questions. One big bugbear came out to not just me but Russ and Bill as well. Once again it seems Bedlington, as a whole, is faring less well in terms of funding than other areas, even though we have meticulously gone through the scoring criteria to make sure our proposals were vindicated, so we have made a complaint! Getting around 1% of the budget for the 4th largest Town in the county wasn’t something we feel we can accept! Further meetings have been agreed now! I had to call into Leading Link today to talk to the youngsters about this upcoming Question Time. One of the teachers led it and we went through some of the types of questions they want to ask. Well it looks like the 5th Column are out again drip feeding their one sided views to anyone who will give them time. Have to say it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest I haven’t kept people aware of what’s going on after publishing a monthly diary of my time as a NCC councillor from the very first month. In fact the feedback told me I was publishing too much at one point! As for taking a role in Advance Northumberland, I said at the time I was accepting this poison chalice if only to get the Bedlington Town Centre development over the line and it may have taken some time but I have brought it up at every board meeting and been party to quite a few tense and terse meetings about it. As it now stands a press report is going out this week detailing the agreed timetable for the works but I don’t see why it can’t all be achieved earlier than listed and that’s a line I will be taking and pressing for! https://www.investinginbedlington.co.uk/2020/02/25/Bedlington-town-centre-redevelopment-update-on-project/ LGPS today at County Hall and again a very intense session not least because of the proposed merger with another body. We have been examining this merger and it has been worked on for the last 18 months and had been agreed at the last full council meeting but we still have months of oversight to complete. So half the meetings was taken up with the intricacies of this merger, the other half business as normal for the panel. I had to leave at noon and had already told the chair but we were just getting to the nitty gritty of a proposed new alignment in our investment portfolio so I had to stay for the vote. This meant I was running late for the next meeting at Ashington. I made it to the next meeting an Advance Board meeting just as it was about to start. Again another large agenda to get through with all of the new governance procedures in place. Advance is now so far removed from what Arch used to get up to its unreal and I feel the popular view that’s its one and the same in its conduct is unfair. New web site about to go live which if anyone takes the time to go through it they will see for themselves just how different the two companies are these days. Just one item to note will be the publication of board minutes something unheard of previously but one which can only increase transparency. Same day and the trees and overgrown hedges have been taken out for the Town centre development. Seems lots of people are saying they are distraught at this action but it had all been listed in discharge of conditions attached to the planning application. Also new trees are included in the proposed landscaping to make up for taking these out. Not only trees but shrubs and flowers are included too to soften the hardness of this commercial development. We are finally seeing some action which can only mean the real build out is a matter of weeks away. Aldi have their planning application due on 16th March after which, if successful, they will issue a timetable of works. I have already insisted the Advanced works and the Aldi works run in tandem to minimise any necessary disruption a build out of this size will inevitably result in, for Bedlington residents.
  31. 3 points
    As the population gets bigger = more children = more schools = all new schools will have to be built away from the town centers = children will have to be driven to school = after 2035 all school will have to have 'drop off points' and 'charging points for electric cars = the world will be a better place - for some. What about those parents that don't have a car to drive their kids to school ? How far into the future can local planning committees plan and get whats best for the area? If the world of automation explodes there will be more people out of work and have time to walk their children to, and from, school. Then the authorities can change how schools teach the children - let the ones who can't be driven to school stay at home with their out of work parents and get taught, online, at home. When will we ever have a perfect solution to any challenges this fast paced progressive world is throwing at as? I know - WWIII, or a pandemic, and that should reduce the population explosion. Or will it. After WWII they introduced Family Allowance, for the 2nd child in the family, so that parents would have more children and therefore more money coming into the home and then when the children grew the parents would encourage them to buy their own home, have a family and get their children educated = more schools = more.............................. When will the merry go round ever end? Not half pleased your the councillor Malcolm, it must be like going round in circles. Retirement doesn't seem that bad - at least you have more time to look for soup spoons.
  32. 3 points
    Vic, this is the strangest autumn and winter I've experienced! We had our first snow in mid September! That's early even by Scandinavian standards. It didn't stay more than a day however and, with the exception of a 3 inch fall in December, it's been more like spring ever since. Haven't had the shovel out once. My arm muscles are wasting away. I've had to change my favourite whisky glass for one that's less heavy.
  33. 3 points
    Any New Year resolutions waiting to be broken? PS. Happy birthday 3g!
  34. 3 points
    Best wishes to all ... hoping you all have a good Xmas and a great New Year.
  35. 3 points
    I think there was a church of some description before 1069. . The site is important . The Golden age of Northumberland and the rise of Christianity had many people believing and then going back to pagan ways . 1069 was the monks fleeing from the Normans. I believe the history of Cuthbert’s body being here in Bedlington starts before that date. Hence they return to safety . The church site is on higher ground . The river is nearby we have a holy mount. ( ok Hollymount now). No one can disagree because no one really knows. Again Bedlington says to me Bede town in honour of The Venersble Bede. Various vicars make reference to a time before 1069.. The service was by candlelight and in Latin . Very atmospheric .The ancestors have all left their mark in making the place special regardless of belief. ‘Honour those that went before us. There is a group called Show of Hands and they do a track called All Hallows’ Eve. Basically you light the lantern at your door and honour those that went before on Halloween . A better use of time than trick or treat and scaring your neighbours. Just go for the chocolate to remember. Being back in the Shire life gets busy. Even managed to get to the Gallowgate end to watch the Toon play the Palace..
  36. 3 points
    Merry Christmas everyone.
  37. 3 points
    Well if nothing else at least it’s good to see the Front Street nice and busy today.
  38. 3 points
  39. 3 points
    I said I would write a thank you to the people who helped make the Commemorative Plaque at the West Lea Cemetery possible. Some might not know but West Lea Cemetery in Bedlington is a nationally recognised War Graves site and with this in mind I came up with this design for a commemorative plaque which could be attached to the entrance. With over 28 graves directly attributed to the second world war and many more annotations on family graves mainly attributed to the first world war it was time we saw a permanent memorial plaque. Taking my idea and design down to Mike Robertson and his innovative team at Barrington Metals they came up with an all metal plaque which exactly matched my expectations. After a whirlwind week it was produced and fitted in time for Remembrance Day. Thanks go to Tony and Stephen, NCC cemetery management, and also the CeO of NCC who I needed special permission off to pay for the project. I am especially grateful for the kind words and recommendations off so many people in our community when they have seen this new plaque. With a new Friends of West Lea Cemetery group I can only see this usually forgotten and neglected important local asset improve and become something we can all take pride in.
  40. 3 points
    October 2019. October and after a short break straight back into it. Being a Thomas Cook customer on top of everything else is sending the house into meltdown! Having had to cancel my surgery because of a change in travel plans I now have several home visits to do. First one in the Chesters. After a nice chat and seeing first-hand what the problems were it was then a quick trip up to Netherton Village for another home visit. This one will be more problematical but given some of the meetings I have this week I should be able to get this mentioned during them. Along with Russ and Bill I had a meeting with the local police team today but it had to be cancelled at the last minute. I had some constituency concerns to address so I insisted on a private meeting with them anyway. Lots of food for thought with this one and I’m afraid more questions than answers, which wasn’t really the fault of the local cops its just the complexity of the issues. I have been trying to get a meeting with the NCC leadership for some time and received a message off the secretary saying if I could make lunchtime today they were all in one place at the same time! I went up and waited in the secretary’s office! We had what I would consider a positive meeting and one I expect results to flow from! I put my positions forcefully and had agreement in the end. There were several topics covered, each with their own nuances but in I think we worked out a strategy for each. Once home I had a quick cuppa then it was off to a meeting at Gallagher Park. This one was with the Barnesbury Cycling Club as they try to get funding pulled together for a renewed BMX track. The other independent councillors, EBPC and WBTC had met earlier in the week with them and most had pledged some funding to support their ambitious plans. I had already shown them how to apply for one funding source and they have been successful with that one. Strangely only EBPC and the Labour councillor for the Sleekburn ward have refused their plea for funding help. Seeing as they need to match fund a generous Sports England grant it was a no brainer for me because helping them reach half the amount unlocks so much more and improves the offer down there for all our young people, I just wish I could have offered more. Again once home a quick cuppa then out for a WBTC meeting. During my update for them I told them about the Halloween event in Plessey Woods and the event aimed at our youngsters for next February. I have even arranged for shelters for the seating area for the February one, just in case. Part of the challenge I was given when I got the money for the new play park down in Plessey Woods was to increase visitor numbers and I know how much extra its being used now and given we are using it for extra events as well even these numbers can only increase in the short term. I also know there is another event for which a funding bid has been worked on and submitted. Just had an audit committee meeting for Advance and good to hear the new governance and polices which we have been putting in place for the new company is starting to have the desired effect. I did have several questions for the external auditor which were answered in their entirety. We were also given reports by internal audit and again very helpful as we transform the company. Been up to see a couple of my constituents who are both reporting problem with roads and paths within the ward. For some reason NCC have been out and marked the bad bits of roads but have never completed? In fact its been that long the marker paint has eroded off both. Why NCC fail to keep residents informed is beyond me and seems to me to be a prime requirement for any ‘business’. I think a question at full council is called for because I have had many such issues! Another likewise problem is with trees situated in our housing estates. Seems to me at some point in the past we have planted the wrong type of trees and they are now mature enough to cause real problems for residents. The pretty rows of nice looking plantings the developers left as they moved out of the estates are now pushing up paths and pavements, undermining foundations, touching roofs and blocking reception and making some paths unusable. Forward planning at its best! Given the amount of contact I have been having concerning these problems I will do a spreadsheet to list the item, concern and any actions forthcoming. Thats the only way I can think of to keep on top of this seeing as some have been listed for action but in fact nothing has been done since the problem was reported. Had to attend an internal audit for Advance and nice to hear things seem to be changing. We did ask for a more contemporary update taking into account the changes which we have put in over the last few months to measure their performance. That was agreed and I hope it shows the huge change in corporate governance we have put thorough recently. No more “Arch” type shenanigans! Had another Friends of West Lea Cemetery meeting tonight and I hope there are some actions forthcoming. Plenty spoken about so getting them seen to is the way forward now. Pleased the ‘spoil’ heap has been moved! Local Area Council or LAC meeting tonight but it was just for planning matters. In fact there was only one item on the agenda, the new play area for WBTC. Christine the Mayor gave a presentation about the project and we heard the response off the legal consultees. One really surprised me. It was off public protection and made mention of a noise assessment and secondly went on about floodlighting the area? I said I was bemused by this seeing as floodlighting wasn’t even in the application so by planning standards we shouldn’t even be able to consider it, but I wanted to know exactly what the noise assessment was about. Are we really going to measure the cheerful noises off children playing in the new park? Seems it was more about the noise off the new equipment so I made sure that was listed as the sole reason for the noise assessment! It was only in front of us because NCC own the land and it went through unanimously. There was a Locality event on in the Community Centre today and I had tried to promote it as much as I could. This will lead to a directory of local voluntary groups etc and should show people exactly what’s going on in the Town and environs. There was a good turn out and I hope it all gets listed. A directory of local groups would make my job of telling them where funding is available much easier so we get as much inward investment into the voluntary sector here as possible. Fire fighters pension board meeting today and as usual a whole swathe of papers to go through. In fact I suggested doing this in bite sized chunks might be advisable so we have doubled the amount of meetings. So much to consider and much of it very technical in nature. Having shorter meetings but more often would make it much easier to keep on top of. Just had a meeting with highways technical after residents got in touch to complain about their estate road. He agreed their road is needing quite significant works done but that has to go into the LTP for consideration and budgeting. He did promised remedial action on the worst bits would be done ASAP though. I had a meeting with NCC about my sports project this morning and after discussing the best way forward it was agreed to ask for the feasibility funding as a first step. That is now proceeding! Its taken 2 years to get to this stage! On my way home I called in to report back to a resident about the concerns she had been onto me about and whilst they are going to be addressed I couldn’t tell her exactly when. That depends on budget pressures but if not this financial year then certainly next. I then had to call in to see a Development Trust member because they have agreed to fund an item for another voluntary group. Next up a visit to the manufacturer for the memorial plaque I have commissioned for the West Lea Cemetery to make sure that’s still on track. With all that done I could then get on with my own stuff for work this weekend. I had a meeting with WBTC and NCC Cemetery’s about West Lea Cemetery. Good positive meeting and the new Friends of Group is a welcome addition according to NCC officers! Plenty to get on with and agreement on most. Advance Board meeting this afternoon and again quite a lengthy meeting. We recapped the new strategic strategy we have put in place for the group and explained what the internal audit had said. The Chair had to pull my horns in when I spoke about Bedlington but apart from that the company is being turned around slowly but surely and with a large new project in Blyth…… Ahem Mr Chair that will be Cambois or Bedlingtonshire, its our side of the river, not to be parochial of course! Still lots to do but at every meeting we see a whole swathe of new governance and policies put in place. I hope we soon see some business help put in place in Bedlington and help the businesses we have as well as help anyone thinking about starting one. Just heard thats coming this month! https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/News/2019/Jun/Council-to-declare-climate-emergency.aspx All member Climate Change meeting tonight and a decent turn out of councillors for once. We heard two presentations about the problems and what NCC intend to do about them. The projects are aimed at making us carbon neutral in about 10 years. There were some pretty impressive facts and figures quoted and at the end we did have a chance to ask questions. I asked about how much of our current energy usage is delivered by renewables, given the trends we see in vehicle production and the fact that gas supplies into new houses is to be ended in the near future are we reasonably able to take all that extra usage and still be carbon neutral by the anticipated date and lastly do we assess carbon footpaths into our calculations given things like battery usages. Seems we are just over the 50% in renewables at present and if we get all the subsidies and grants off central government etc we stand a good chance of achieving the outcome we want. As for measuring the carbon footprint of all associated items the answer was no but the speaker did admit there are some pretty nasty ingredients in batteries which would skew any resulting calculations! Trees and peat bogs were spoken about as a means of carbon capture with a large investment going into tree planting in urban areas. Keilder was mentioned and I asked if broad leave or pine trees were better at carbon capture. Broad leaf trees are much better but to me that means decades of growth before they reach their potential. One item which did prick my ears up was the hydro power generation which is being looked at. I think we have a reasonable possibility for that using the tidal estuary on our river. In fact I have just wrote in and suggested looking at the possibility of using modern designed hydro units to generate power for Bedlington! Maybe the old Iron Works could still yet give us an insight into using water to provide power for Bedlington! Whatever happens change is coming and I want Bedlington into the forefront of any possible investment.
  41. 3 points
    August 2019. Second of August and I have a meeting with WBTC about the Local Transport Plan trying to get some real benefits out of it for all our residents. What a refreshing change to talk to Town councillors and other county councillors about schemes which address concerns residents have raised and the only thing on the agenda was improving the current situation. We went through all the concerns and suggestions which residents had sent in to NCC highways and settled on the ones which hadn’t already been addressed or were in the process of being addressed with a view to support them. Strategic planning today and going into county hall for the meeting I chatted to other members of the committee who all asked me to curtail any objections or suggestions I had. Looks like I’m being blamed for the meetings overrunning, ha ha! I did have to declare interests in two of the agenda items, as did another member, because Ascent Homes were the applicant and they are a division of Advance. First application was about new school facilities within Haydon Bridge High School. This is a maintained school so NCC was the applicant. After the presentation by the planning officer and as there were no speakers we went into members questions. Seems I was the only member to have some questions about this and I could almost hear an audible groan! I said while I had no problem with the school extension I did have a problem with the fact that we were cutting down 44 trees, which to me seemed an inordinate amount, with zero mitigation? I went on and said we have just declared a climate emergency and here we are ripping out the lungs of that area, we can and should be doing better! I pointed out that there was already a condition in the application which specifies “agreed landscaping” and I suggested we insert the need for replacements for the trees lost. To add insult to injury some of the trees are to be cut down to provide more parking spaces! The rest of the members agreed with my comments so at proposal and vote we included this “aimed” condition. The legal officer suggested allowing the exact wording to be delegated to the chair and lead planning officer which I agreed but insisted it had to feature mitigation for the lost trees! The application passed unanimously. Next up was a varyco to a plan for an extension to Kyloe House at Netherton Park. Again this passed unanimously. I then had to leave as did another member while they heard the Ascent applications. I had a meeting with the head of Active Northumberland. We talked about the proposal I made at the last full council meeting about giving our armed forces veterans free access to our leisure centres. I did get a reply and it was quite thorough in explaining what discounts veterans can apply for now. I said I did understand the constraints imposed on Active but made a further proposal that any armed forces veterans injured in the line of duty get free access to our leisure centres. That seemed to fit in with the aims of a charitable company such as Active is. That proposal is going to their next board meeting and would at least be a step in the right direction of recognising service to country! Two steps forward and one back as usual. Phone call today off Bernicia telling me the table I acquired for a group of residents is causing a problem? I was asked for help in tidying up a communal area within a block of flats in my ward and I got them some hanging baskets, thanks Brenda, and paid for the compost and hanging brackets myself. They also wanted a table so they could sit outside in the summer once the area had been cleaned up. So I asked around and one of my contacts within NCC came up with a suitable table with integral seating. I even got them to deliver it and helped get it into place. Seems one of the residents has complained about it and I now had to have a meeting with the Bernicia officer. She did understand what was being attempted and we tried to get it sited in a couple of other places but the resident wouldn’t have it. So it now has to come out! This reminds me of the green at Red House Farm where I worked with a resident group to turn it into a kiddies football pitch and gardens. Again one resident complained and that kicked the whole project into the long grass! Maybe when people complain about things not being done they might like to consider the stuff going on in the background and the real reasons for the associated unrealised projects! Well the Bedlington Regeneration meeting finally took place yesterday after many months of trying to get one sorted. I didn’t like the make up anyway with supposedly 3 members from WBTC and 3 from EBPC which I said would unbalance the group and mean very parochial items were forwarded instead of strategic aspirations for the Town as whole. It was said by one member that NCC should be doing everything but as the officer who lead the meeting explained that isn’t how this would operate the people present would have to do it all but they would get administrative backing off NCC. We did discuss the Town Centre development of course and as the chair of Advance sat next to me and we had the regen officer from Advance too they gave an update on the current position. The 2hr meeting overran by 30 mins and I had a chance to speak to the officers who had led it. I know what I took away from this meeting and told them so. Busy few days as I keep up the pressure for the traffic improvements at Netherton and outside Hartford Home Farm. They have been paid for and I’m wondering why we haven’t seen them installed as yet! Had a meeting with our manager for local services and as usual took him around my ward showing him the problems and concerns residents have contacted me about. I also had a couple of suggestions about improvements at the West Lea cemetery and again they have been well received but I now have to get the rest of NCC departments on board. The problem is most of the people I need to speak to are on holiday at the moment so a couple of weeks before I can progress them. Well all the posts for the new interactive speed signs have been installed, just the signs to be fitted and by the mail I have received off Highways that happens next week, once the concrete has hardened. I have been invited to go up to Hadston today and take a look at their sports centre. This is a smallish centre catering for local need and I have been told there are ideas there which might well translate well into one for Bedlington. Open to all and any ideas so a trip up there is called for. I did go up to Hadston and met with Active Northumberland officers who showed me around and told me how they manage this centre. Few lesson there for making a small sports centre sustainable, something which we have to get right if we are to have any hope of getting one in Bedlington. At last Christine Taylor the chair of West Bedlington Town Council has called a meeting to try get a Friends of group for West Lea cemetery. Lets hope we get a good turn out. Its not about doing what we expect the council to do its about keeping up the pressure so they know what we feel is important and trying to get even more done there than what’s currently being done. Well done Chris. Just had a reply off my question about needing planning permission for one of my projects. Seems its not needed so I can at last progress this one. Just had the first meeting about forming a Friends of West Lea Cemetery. About 20 people turned up and some interesting suggestions, now to get it formalised and see what we can do. There is already a list of actions and more to come by the sound of it. Great start!
  42. 3 points
    @HIGH PIT WILMA - posted on the Friends of Bates Colliery Facebook group by Trevor Gregg : - ' Here is a photo I took from the top of the No 3 Shaft Headgear on a cold but beautiful winters day' Trevor didn't specify a date.
  43. 3 points
    As it passed through Bedlington............
  44. 3 points
    Nr. 1: I knew his face rang a bell! I'll get my coat.
  45. 3 points
  46. 3 points
  47. 3 points
    If you love food but were a child of the 60’s you should remember most of this: * Pasta had not been invented. * "Kebab" was not even a word, never mind a food. * Curry was an unknown entity. Indian restaurants were only found in India. * The only vegetables were spuds, peas, carrots, turnip, cauliflower and cabbage. Mange tout and Pak choi were made up words. Chilli was in South America and scotch bonnets were worn by old ladies in Aberdeen.* A take-away was a mathematical problem. * A pizza was something to do with a leaning tower.* Oil was for lubricating your bike chain not for cooking.* Olive oil was kept in the medicine cabinet.*Spice went in Christmas cakes (and so did peel, Yuk).* Herbs were used to make medicine I think.* All crisps were plain.* All soft drinks were called pop. * Coke was something that we put on the fire, we never drunk it and we certainly didn’t sniff it. * Ginger beer burnt your lips off, when you stopped drinking. * Rice was a milk pudding, and never, ever part of our dinner. * A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining. * A microwave was science fiction * Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves. The tea-cosy was the forerunner of all energy saving devices. Tea had only one flavour, it was tea flavoured * Figs and dates appeared every Christmas, but no one ever ate them. * Coconuts only appeared when the fair came to town. * Mayonnaise was called Salad cream* Hors d'oeuvre was a spelling mistake. * Dinner consisted of what we were given, and not negotiable. * Only Heinz made baked beans.* Leftovers went in the dog. * Sauce was either brown or red. * Eating raw fish was called madness, not sushi. * The only ready meals came from the fish and chip shop. * Frozen food was called ice cream. * Nothing ever went off in the fridge because we never had one. * None of us had ever heard of yoghurt. * Brunch was not a meal. * Cheese only ever came in a hard lump. * If we had eaten bacon, lettuce and tomato in the same sandwich we would have been certified insane. * Eating outside was called a picnic not Al Fresco. * Seaweed was not a recognised food. * Eggs were not called ‘free range’ they just were, and the shells were white. * Pancakes were only eaten on Pancake Tuesday - it was compulsory. * The phrase "boil in the bag" would have been beyond our realms of comprehension. * The term "oven chips" would not have made any sense at all. * We bought milk and cream at the same time, in the same bottle, before you gave it a shake.* Prunes were purely medicinal. * Pineapples only came in chunks in a tin.* We didn't eat Croissants because we couldn't pronounce them, we couldn't spell them, and we didn't know what they were. * for Baguettes (see Croissants). * Garlic was used to ward off vampires in films, but never to be eaten. * Water came out of the tap; if someone had suggested bottling they would have been locked up....
  48. 3 points
    This is what this site is all about!!
  49. 3 points
    I am pleased to say that the club won the Northern League programme award this season. This was due in no small part to a series of articles about the history of the club from the formation of the Mechanics in 1949. Thanks to everyone on here who was able to chip in with bits of information.
  50. 3 points
    Apparently we won Eurovision, well if you add up all the losing countries with our score anyway.. lol
Hide Adverts


  • Newsletter

    Want to keep up to date with all our latest news and information?
    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...