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Malcolm Robinson

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Malcolm Robinson last won the day on October 12

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About Malcolm Robinson

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  1. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - September 2018

    September 2018. First meeting was economic and corporate scrutiny at 10am. I got there in good time and took a seat. We had several cabinet members and the Leader there for this one because there were several bits on the agenda which we would be asking questions about. We also had the ex-Leader there and as he sat at the table I presumed he must be speaking directly to us. The meeting was called to order and we started with the chair altering the agenda because of clashes with some of the members and other meetings which they had to go to. One of the agenda items was about the legal advice members could receive from outside the NCC legal team. It had been proposed that due to legal action against 3 or 4 members and a member of staff by a multi-million pound offshore company, NCC should underwrite some of the cost of advice or we could well face say a rich development company from almost picking off any members who disagreed with it, especially in terms of planning! The ex-Leader had headed up a counter proposal supposedly denying members and officers this help and he presented his case. I was surprised at his opening remark that his group actually agreed with the proposal and it was only the way this had been brought to cabinet that he disagreed with. I’m not sure given the time frames involved that the convoluted way which was the counter proposal could have been actually delivered. I did agree with a couple of the points raised but given that a writ had been issued, time was of extreme importance. The legal advice off the NCC solicitor was pretty unambiguous and the proposal failed. We went through several items and then hit on the most controversial. This one was about a report and consultation into possibly reducing the level of council tax working age claimants received. I listened to the presentation given by the cabinet member with the responsibility and started asking questions. This was soon drowned out by one member shouting that this should not even be tabled. The reply off the cabinet member astounded me. What was being proposed was the possibility of reducing this benefit by 8% from 100 to 92%. During his reply the cabinet member mentioned the fact that the last administration were going to reduce this benefit by 50% not the 8% the current administration wanted to look at. Seems only us and Durham give 100% reduction these days with most councils facing some hard facts as they try and balance budgets. One of the members said yes but they weren’t going to do it straightaway. Flipping heck the last administration were a curious bunch looking at what’s coming out now, in fact I’m starting to wonder if I’m in some alternative universe where the Labour group cosy up with multi million pound offshore companies and think about halving benefits and the Conservative group are keeping any reduction to a bare minimum? Anyway the three labour members were asked if they wanted to make a counter proposal and after quite some prompting they proposed taking this proposal for a report off the table. A very dangerous option in my opinion because the administration could easily push this through without any due consideration or consultation! As there were 5 conservative members, 3 labour members and myself their proposal fell and I asked specifically what the original agenda proposal was. Producing a report and a consultation exercise only because this committee was not a decision making committee it was a scrutiny committee. I agreed with this now because I felt getting a report done and a consultation exercise would give us the understanding of what the impacts of this measure might actually be. The current administration could just push it through if they wanted so at least this would gave us the background needed to make any recommendation. I left the meeting and hurried home in time to grab a cuppa before going up to Alnwick for a strategic site visit. Once again I have to say the access route to the site leaves a great deal to be desired but at least the site is in the agreed neighbourhood plan. Also the fact that the neighbourhood plan recommends the same number of houses went some way in my decision making. The matter in question was the fact that the outline plans moved an area of housing nearer to the existing dwellings there so there would be a much better aspect to the development. It was half a paddock nearer but this meant that the development could be built in the low lying area and not spoil any view looking from the conserved Alnwick fields just over a hill. When I got home I had several messages about me being the target of attack by the mother of our MP’s communications manager? Seems I had to stop everything I was doing to reply to her political accusations on social media. In fact they were getting more and more deranged as far as I could see. As well as these tirades the ex-chair of the local labour group joined in but that was just par for the course! (Hi Alex!). I did do a reply the next day and I received an inbox full of well wishes! Thanks to everyone who sent them! Again once home I only had time for another cuppa then it was up to Netherton Club for my monthly surgery. Today I had the strategic planning meeting and one item on the agenda was the detailed planning for the Bedlington redevelopment in marketplace. The Alnwick application was before and that was eventually agreed. One application had been pulled and another pretty straightforward. Finally the Bedlington application came up and after seeing the application on the screen I asked about the parking provision. Looks like it’s been reduced but adding in the parking for the anchor store it’s actually increased. There were no other questions and I asked the chair to move to the vote. I proposed it and it was duly seconded and with no comments from members I said we have waited 50years for this let’s get on with the vote. It was passed unanimously. Third day of my holiday from work and full council meeting today. We had an update on some confidential matters pertaining to the Bedlington development and then downstairs for the full council meeting. I had submitted a question for this meeting again, this one about the conditions we attach to planning applications where members feel they are necessary. I had already asked our head of planning who oversees these conditions and her answer was our enforcement team. This question was a bit different however because of what I have seen locally I basically asked if it was worth members attaching conditions to applications because developers seem to be agreeing conditions but then not adhering to them once they get their permissions. I will let people make their own minds up about the answer I got back. Full council meeting September 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVbuTqINJPk I had two constituents to see and ask questions on their behalf then I was off on holiday for 3 days! It should have been 2 weeks but unable to sort of the respite for one of the lads meant our holiday had to be cancelled so we could look after him. When I got back I had a meeting to sort out which company got the contract for the new play park in Plessey Woods. It took hours to go through all the responses and score each one but eventually we got it down to three. Each had their good bits but we all eventually agreed on one. If it goes in exactly like the plan it will be quite an improvement! This is just one way I hope to make any parking charges for using this park worthwhile. We already have the undertaking that monies raised will be used to further improve the park so getting these initial upgrades is really the icing on the cake. Still working for more of course! One concern has been raised by adjacent residents who are probably rightly concerned about conflicting parking. I have requested a meeting between the park’s management, NCC highways and myself to see what can be done for residents along the road outside the park entrance. We had a full council planning training session given by two QC’s specialising in planning law. Seems the politicos wanted to pay games at question time but the QC’s weren’t playing those games. I did ask a question, this one about the weight given to applications in consideration of any emerging strategies or polices. I said this by it’s very nature was a subjective call by planners and maybe they didn’t fully appreciate the local ‘flavour’ as much as local members did so could this weight be challenged by members? The answer was maybe, but given that the same information should be used the same conclusion should be arrived at. Well that’s as clear as mud then! Seems they didn’t appreciate my subjective comment? Well it has to be doesn’t it? The monthly Town Council meeting was on tonight but I had to meet constituents so I couldn’t give my usual monthly update. It turned out to be a pretty productive meeting and I think we all know the direction, albeit a new one, we are taking now. Well I have now been accused of voting for personal gain, again off the mother of our MP’s communications manager. My legal advice, because this was something I wasn’t going to put up with, was that she either presented the case and listed where and what this personal gain is or apologised and took down her social media posting. The posting was deleted but no apology has been forthcoming! Might be worth looking at the recent BBC Newsnight update on NUM funds if we are to consider personal gain! Last couple of days of my Holidays and I had a site visit with our chair of planning for our LAC. This gave us a much better understanding of the application which is before us on Wednesday. Today I have another site visit asked for by a resident. After all the planning visits I’ve done over the last few weeks it was now time for another planning committee meeting at our LAC. One of the applications was in my ward and after seeing first-hand the site, with the chair of planning, I thought it best to request a full site visit by the whole committee. This was felt necessary by other members too as we progressed the application because it turned out the advice by the officer as he freely admitted was only his judgment. The second application was pretty straightforward so went through unanimously. As the chair couldn’t attend this meeting I chaired it and after starting then passing over to the chair of planning for that bit, after which I took over again. Public questions and only two were forthcoming. Those answered, it was on with the agenda. The police had come to introduce our new police neighbourhood officer and they gave a brief presentation about how they policed and the stats for Bedlington. A few questions ensued and I opened this up to questions from residents. First meeting of this week and it was corporate and economic scrutiny. I had read through all the associated papers and had quite a few questions on several of the agenda items. The chair changed the agenda items at the request of the Leader so we could hear the new Borderlands deal. This was given in private because it hadn’t even gone to central government yet and had repercussions to their budget but I can say that if we had been given some of the details we heard today I wouldn’t have needed to abstain from the vote at full council. I did ask to formally recognise and include the micro businesses in the resulting consultation where there were direct business links. We then resumed the normal running of the agenda and had the initial budgetary report. I had a few questions about this and almost seemed to monopolise the debate. Again I have to say all my questions were answered in what seemed to be clarity and honesty by the cabinet member and financial officer. One of my questions was about the £65M “black hole” which had been presented at public meetings last year. This is now been reduced to £36M and I asked how that had been achieved, if only to make sure the previous figure was justified. The answer came back both off the cabinet member and the financial officer and I was satisfied with their responses. I then asked about the large potential reduction in children services for year 21-22. Again the answer was about the culmative effects and their bedding in time more than putting off the biggest hit for future years! I then asked about how the debt management figures for Arch were suddenly put into savings? The reply was more about how the debt figures have now been effectively managed but more on that later! My further questions were about “operational efficiencies” and “fee optimisation” as listed in the report and again I was satisfied with the answers. I apologised for the time spent answering my questions but in reality I think many were happy to finally get questions based on the actual papers instead of political rhetoric. I also asked about the proposed savings were had previously examined in our shared service project. These have not been included and I then asked if or when would we see any given the bulk of the project has been put off until Universal Credit has bedded in. That wasn’t really answered but the intent is to complete the shared service project at some point. One last thing to mention is that I asked that commercial income generation opportunities which were listed are explored in detail and with even small incomes capable of enhancing some service provision this is something I have been working on and could really help with some of the more very frontline services. One thing I did like is that this process (budget setting) is starting off earlier than it had been done, which means we can all have greater opportunity to see and examine it. We then looked at the loan governance for Arch and again the loans, almost £300M, and their specifics were something of a direct risk worry given the way they have been written. Some members complained about the way this was presented but the answer came back off the cabinet member that the way it had been handled, where the CEO and Leader of NCC sat on the board of Arch and proposed borrowing and then took their place next door in Council and accepted the proposal to loan Arch the money they had requested. As the cabinet member remarked, that cannot be right, the conflict of interest has to be immense! I had several more questions about this subject but they were getting more and more technical in a business sense. My last question was about our social housing programme and would we be using Arch to deliver it. My concern was that if we are now going to ‘tighten’ up any loans insofar as the interest and liquidity is concerned then my request that rents were genuinely affordable might be a casualty in that power play. The reply was that social housing was seen as very low risk and it was hoped that would not be the case. I said I will be watching! I did get some support off other members on this question. I have to say if this committee is supposed to be strictly scrutiny, making overly political claims and introducing political plays is something I hoped would not happen or even be allowed. There are perfectly legitimate ways to examine the administration and its policies without resorting to the much easier politicking which is becoming the norm. In fact the distinct lack of opposition members on several committees seriously compromises NCC to represent a balanced view in my opinion! In fact the very next meeting was one I have been co-opted onto, the LDF committee. This was because essentially the opposition have withdrawn from this committee and as it has to be quorate other members were needed. I did voice the opinion that as all parties and members should be represented on something as important as this committee there should have been a place for an independent representation anyway! This committee looks at the LDF or Local Development Framework which became the Core Strategy we hear so much about. Strikes me that a group which pulls away from the working group looking into and suggesting the details of this subject while at the same time bemoaning the fact that the one they worked on had been withdrawn for a revised version is not being as upstanding as they should? We heard the results of the consultation completed by many thousands of our residents from all over the county then looked at how their opinions could be used to influence the current proposed draft. As I was the only member from the south east of the county, where about half the population lives, it fell to me to speak for that area. I could only reiterate the concerns I have with the basic infrastructure we have now never mind thinking about the huge influx of new residents given the house building and pre-applications we have recently seen. I also had a discussion with our new head of planning about some of the terms used in planning, such as affordable, and especially listing all of our towns into a hierarchical structure. I asked if that is the case will we see business rates in say a B or C town be less than those charged in an A town? And given we are seeking inward investment will that be naturally directed at the A towns first? I was assured that wouldn’t be the case. Well why not itemise our towns listing their natural assets and development potential rather than classify some which seem to be better than others. The meeting continued and it is obvious there is a huge amount of work being done by staff to meet the government deadlines. One of the other things I mentioned was based on a housing application I heard on the strategic planning committee. This had suggested the affordable housing, which has become the norm for planning applications these days, is passed to the local parish council. I was and still am very much in favour of this sort of arrangement because who knows local need better than these very local councils. I was told there are problems with that application regarding this matter but I said regardless this is a good idea and one we should adopt across the board whenever possible. This could have put up to £200K into that parish council pot annually if it was allowed and clearly would have major impacts onto either the parish precept or enhanced service provision or a mixture of the two. Would have cost implications for the parish council in terms of management and oversight but the benefits would far outweigh any associated costs in my opinion.
  2. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - August 2018

    I cant answer that before tomorrow! The project is up for detailed planning tonight and putting up an answer might look to be predetermining the application because I sit on the planning committee.
  3. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - August 2018

    August 2018. First official meeting in August and it’s at Corbridge. It’s actually a strategic planning site visit with the planning meeting tomorrow night. Another load of houses with associated planning matters but for once nice to see a designated drop off and pick up point for the adjacent school on the plans. Seems we do allow these sometimes, a point taken and espoused by one of the Labour members on the committee!!!!!! Anyway after walking the fields for a couple of hours and with some of my questions answered, others for tomorrow night, it was a quick drive back to Bedlington to see some people here. Several people been in touch today and some very interesting projects outlined. I will certainly try to help in any way I can. Off up to County Hall in good time for the strategic planning meeting. I wanted to see another councillor up there but he had tendered his apologies for the meeting so I presume is on holiday. The meeting started and again a packed public gallery. First up was an application for what is in essence an extension to the Haggerton Caravan Park. Most of the issues had been dealt with and we supported the application unanimously. I couldn’t help but think about the recent Alnwick Gardens application we supported and the potential these two venues create to back up our need for modernising the main road, the A1. Both will result in increased traffic I have no doubt. The second application was the Corbridge one and after the officer gave us more information as well as a written update, which we all had to hastily read through, I had several questions. I saved my response until we debated the application at the end of this application just before the vote and after it had been proposed and seconded. After members had said they thought the application had been thoroughly worked through my turn came. I said I was of a different opinion and gave my reasons. There were several outstanding issues, which I had asked about during questions and the answers all came back that they were being worked on. I also pointed out the fact that there was a current public consultation being held which didn’t close until after a few days’ time. This had been referred to in the papers we had received to examine for this application. One paragraph in particular stated that depending on the result of this consultation and if a hitherto unidentified ‘material consideration’ was identified our decision now might not be upheld. I said that taking all of these into consideration I didn’t think we had enough “Factual” information to make a decision and even though I thought the scheme was probably the best use of the land, apart from the absolutely crazy access road which we had not got to consider as it had already been passed at the outline stage, for these reasons I would be abstaining from the vote. The head of planning didn’t like that but said I was perfectly entitled to that decision. The vote came and all other members voted for it with only my abstention due to insufficient information. Next came the Bedlington application. This concerned a business on the Barrington Road Industrial Estate and one which we had previously turned down. Previously most of us had objected to the increased hours wagons would be using the roads and estates but this had now been dropped out of the application and there was now no increased traffic asked for. There was quite a loud dissent heard from the public gallery when the members started saying they would be supporting the application now. Interestingly it was mainly the Labour members who did this. For me this shows planning isn’t being used as the usual political football and members are applying themselves without fear or favour. For me there was quite a surreal moment when one of the objectors in his address actually quoted from this Blog. Nice to know someone is reading it and the member sitting next to him and advising was none other than one of our local political party officials. Maybe this is now required reading for the local Labour group? Back to the business in hand and I was again the last member to speak, this time I fully supported the application for three main reasons. Firstly the increased traffic hours had been quashed, secondly the other improvements and changes were all within the applicants business premises and seeing as that was on an established industrial estate what’s wrong with the owner trying to maximise his potential return on investment, that’s something we should support if we can, notwithstanding the jobs there, and lastly I had read through the conditions attached to this application and with 25 conditions, most with subsections across 4 pages, I was happy that most of the issues raised had been addressed or could be through these conditions if needed. I did say monitoring might be a problem but that wasn’t something in our remit to question. The vote came and it was unanimously agreed. Course that wasn’t what the members of the public wanted to hear and again more vociferous dissent could be heard. As one member said later, if you want to be popular don’t go on a planning committee! If only people would realise that they have to come up with these ‘material considerations’ because we are not allowed to consider anything else by law! After the meeting I had several things I wanted to ask the head planner about but she immediately thought I would be having a go about the lack of information which I had complained about. Not so and after a brief exchange about that, where I think we both agreed in the end, I raised the local points I wanted her to look into which she agreed to do. Looking at my latest emails it looks like the planners are taking things tougher now. Monday and after a tough weekend I have several calls to make and letters to write. I managed to get them all done by lunchtime. Some of these did the trick straightway others went off in all sorts of directions. One of them was something I have been working on with others for the last few months and I wasn’t best pleased that it might not happen. Hopefully that has now been sorted and we will see our youngest kids playing their football on a new pitch soon! I did make a request about community funding to planning and the answer that came back left me speechless. I was under the assumption that all planning for houses carried its own obligations for community payback but it seems that’s not the case? Seems only 5 applications can be used for community payback and we have had ours? That’s just plain daft and that’s the exact words I used in my reply! The tenders have come back for the new play equipment for Plessey Woods and I have meetings to go through them. Hope we can get some real exciting stuff in there! I have been advising lots of community groups how they can better access funding. I hope we will see much better take up of funding routes by them all now and for once Bedlington will start to get its fair share! Seems August is a quiet month for the routine NCC business but in our case that just means we get to lobby and attend meetings for our Town’s benefit. One of the things that I and the other Independent councillors for Bedlington have been pushing is the Town Centre redevelopment and at last that is back on track. We have seen one announcement but there is much more to come very soon. The whole redevelopment is listed for detailed planning at our next Strategic planning meeting early next month and until that’s heard we are bound by confidentially and not predetermining an application. Just had the last meeting to determine who gets the Plessey Woods play area contract and it’s been a hard decision. We had around a dozen tenders to go through and each one was weighed against a set scoring card. Eventually it came down to about 3 and then they were revisited and assessed again. Thankfully one came through and I think we were all pretty much convinced it was the better tender. So over the next couple of months there should be some pretty exciting play equipment and upgrades to Plessey. Having gone through a similar process for the Town Council and its 2 play park complete upgrades the behind the scenes work it surprisingly difficult and exacting. Just so considering the money which is being spent. I have to make mention of my almost incessant contact with our planning enforcement team. I am very concerned with the way some developers and behaving and this has culminated in me listing a question about ‘conditions’ at the next full council. Well it seems having voiced an opinion about the current election for WBTC I am being rebuked for not seeing it as an example of democracy in action. Seems a bit ironic getting reprimanded for my take on local democracy off people who have never been elected but isn’t that the way of these things? At some point I hope we start to realise gang culture is wrong in all sorts of fields! That’s all I can write about August really because it has been categorised by a large swell of constituents getting in touch rather than the normal NCC business which I do try and report.
  4. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - July 2018

    July 2018. 2nd of July and straight into the thick of it again. Full council had been changed and was now on today. Plenty of things to go through on the agenda plus two questions I had submitted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tIDjcTsPrM The first one was pretty straightforward with the portfolio holder promising to get me and the other members the contact details for the right people within the various social landlord businesses, especially the largest ones. My second question wasn’t so accommodating. This was the one about the safe drive in’s and drop offs at new schools and having been told there was one included in the new school we at the strategic planning had passed for Loansdean then on further inspection been told we were not allowed to have them, I was somewhat mystified. Well after asking my question the portfolio holder told me on one hand there was such a facility in this new school and in the next breath told me why they couldn’t be included? So when asked if I had a supplementary question my only response was that my original question stood. Clear as mud! I also question the Leader about the £20M a year we have been promised as part of the Devolution Deal. It was £30M a year as far as I understood? He assured me no it was £20M. I have since looked back and both the BBC and ITV reported it originally as a £30M a year deal. I can only assume it changed when the 7 members became 3! Next day it was back up to county hall, first for the community chest panel, which I chair, and then later for a strategic planning meeting. I had been around most of the community groups in my area telling them to apply for the NCC community chest funding and out of 8 applications 6 were from my area! We had just started when the fire alarm went off and everyone had to leave the building. After 40 minutes waiting outside we decided to hold the meeting somewhat apart from everyone else but under the shade of the trees. Couple of problems with two applications but nothing that couldn’t be straightened out. Still feel troubled by the lack of applications and we still have quite a wedge to award out at our last session in September! Next came the planning meeting and yet more houses on the lists. The Alnwick Gardens came up and while I fully supported the project I did ask if better and two way signage could be introduced to show visitors where the Town centre was so those traders might get a lift. I also questioned the business plan which sees the need to turn the attractions into 2 days stays yet only allows for 3 hr parking? I had also made the case for using this to boost our demand for road improvements on the main A1. Another application came through for houses in Amble and in rounding up the application just before the vote I said out of the 1300 houses I have had to give outline planning to in Amble this scheme looked the most needed and sustainable. It has a mixture of 1 and 2 bedroom houses, is adjacent to a modern estate, is getting new bus stops etc and the ‘developer’ is a social enterprise, so a not for profit group! Next up came a site visit for the planning side of our LAC. This was at a stables in Seaton Valley. Really pleased I checked Google maps before I set off. Only 4 of us turned up, myself, Russ, Bill and Christine the chair of the LAC. Once again the 3 Bedlington councillors turned up to discharge their duty yet none from the immediate vicinity! We were taken around and shown the application then it was a very quick dash up to County Hall for the Economic Strategy presentation. Again I was shocked to see only one opposition member had turned up for what is really one of the most fundamental and important policies we as a county council have to put together. The meeting was led by our Economic Strategy officer and there was a good smattering of cabinet members present as well as the Leader and Business Chair. I listened to the proposed changes to our strategy which are being introduced and got the chance to ask questions. I asked what was the definition of these much heralded “better jobs” which we seem to be chasing. I questioned whether it was just down to salary because job satisfaction must have to play a part and some people will feel they have great jobs but not necessarily the highest paid ones. That point was conceded. My second question related to two points in the presentation, one about our area not being a high wage earning area and another about affordable housing. Again I stated this affordable term we are using for housing is in no way accurate, in reality it only means less expensive! I said until we relate local salaries into the affordable nature of our housing then we are doing our people a disservice. I also related the question directly at the Leader saying that if and when we start our social house building programme we have to make it really affordable, and that would be the dictionary definition, in terms of sales and rent for our indigenous young people. My third point was about job creation and it was nice to hear an officer repeat almost word for word what I had said to her previously about the potential our smallest business have in terms of job creation if we can get them to develop to their potential. I said I thought we should start to look at this aging population which we as a county have going on and is forecast to grow even more so in the future. Maybe there are lots of retired people who still want to do something and could well be interested in starting or restarting businesses if we went out and asked? That raised some eyebrows. I had already pressed the point that real sustainable regeneration doesn’t happen because someone wants it to happen in a certain area. It’s about time we realised that and looked at the natural assets each area has which can be exploited to everyone’s benefit instead of seeing the same places get one regeneration package after another, most of which are destined to fail because the simple lessons haven’t been learnt! At the end of the presentation I spoke to the officer at length about these community partnerships which are a central plank in the new policy. I pressed him about how open the authority would be if places came together and presented viable business plans. He said he knew exactly what I was saying and any area would get a full and fair hearing. In my view this is the best chance Bedlington has to see a successor to the Market Place regeneration currently in place. It is certainly something I will be pushing for. This week is the LAC and I have several unanswered questions relating to the last LAC! The LAC once again took place At Netherton Social Club and even getting their early there were no parking places left! I had a feeling all these cars were there for one thing! The planning meeting commenced at 4.30pm as advertised and there were two items which needed to be addressed. The first one was the retrospective permission for the stables and there was plenty of opposition. For my part I listened to all the arguments but most were not planning matters so I had to discount those. The legitimate ones were answered by the officers and we then had it to decide. I proposed acceptance, seeing as no one else was going to risk the wrath of the audience, and this was duly seconded by another member. That meant I had to sum up and doing so countered most if not all of the weak planning arguments which had been presented. The vote came next and it was passed by a majority, with some members voting with their hearts not their heads! The second and even more contentious application came next. This concerned a small parcel of land which the owner wanted to turn into caravan storage. This had actually come to us last year and we had turned it down for two reasons, one overdevelopment of the land and two the impact it might have on the road infrastructure where it was. In my opinion the owner had addressed both issues in this current application. I still thought it a bad idea but couldn’t see any planning reasons to turn it down and I said so. I was certainly not the most popular person in the room then! The vote came and again it was turned down by all the other members, in my case I abstained saying I didn’t like it but couldn’t find legitimate reasons to actually vote it down. I think the owner has been given a gold plated appeal and I would expect to see caravans on there before a year is out. Of course everyone else thought it was a great decision but the wry smile I got off our planners told me differently! One thing was did strike me was the bare faced playing to the audience done by a couple of members. Now I know it’s hard not to address the audience but we are just supposed to address the committee. Watching members quite openly fawn over and almost flatter the audience was a bit queasy and I know how the planners must have felt. After the planning was over and about 80 people trouped out we had our normal LAC. I was very happy to give out presentation plaques again on behalf of the LAC Community Chest. Groups were there to receive them and there are more to come! The main meeting started and several questions from the audience. Some were answered, one or two deemed to have already been answered. The main part of the meeting was to receive an update about the Local Plan. We were taken through various aspects and all my questions were answered, as were others. I was particularly happy to hear my view that ‘Bedlington was now full of new house builds’ was generally agreed with by officers. I also asked about house design. One being some sort of Northumbrian vernacular and the other forcing new houses to be of better standards as far as future proofing and basic stuff like insulation went. Again they were generally accepted. The meeting closed about 7.45pm and I had to run to catch another community one. This week all members were invited to a presentation about Devolution. I went up to County Hall to take part and again mainly cabinet members and admin councillors. Again one opposition member and another independent from the West of the county. One Conservative councillor came in and sat down next to me jokingly saying he didn’t mind sitting next to the troublemaker. I said I consider that a badge of honour given that it was mainly cabinet members! So we were taken through the presentation and I have to say while I still do support the intent some of the detail is far from worked out. Well according to some of the answers I got back anyway. At least I was able to get a better understanding about how this will work and the functions it will contain. I even suggested making Bedlington the central plank in the economic policy for commercial development and job creation. I also spoke about the potential Cambois and North Blyth offer in terms of river usage and developing the potential of the Enterprise Zone. My only reservation was that if the Tripartite authority are looking to expand port facilities will Newcastle and North Tyneside somehow out vote us arguing for investments for the River Blyth. I was assured no because our offer is vastly different from theirs. I honestly hope that is the case. I do think this is something which we might exploit and I will be thinking up ways to put in some suggestions regarding future develop and investment into Bedlington. I went up to the Local Plan presentation held in Bedlington and was slightly bemused when the officer told me the two main topics which people had been asking about. One was the possible Golf Club development and the other the Town Centre regeneration project. I said one I didn’t know anything about because I have kept my distance as I sit on a planning committee and the other I hadn’t heard anything untoward or anything which had been changed. I was surprised when I was told the detailed planning would go in by September with a start date of January next year. That’s wasn’t something I understood to be happening but before I could get the answers off the people who would have them, I needed I had to get over the weekend at work. Unsurprisingly social media here is alight with claims and counter claims for each of those subjects and whilst I can’t get involved with one I can certainly get involved with the other! After the weekend I made some calls and had some meetings lined up to check out what exactly was going on with our Town Centre regeneration. I was assured it was proceeding as planned and that whilst an act of God couldn’t be foreseen everything being equal we will see work start very soon. I explained why I was concerned, and a lot of people in the Town too and there doesn’t seem any rhyme or reason for the planners to have told people there was a long delay? That’s being checked out. I am of the opinion that it’s still a sound goer and whilst there are several reserved matters to be attended to which may incur a slight delay, it will certainly not be months and months. I do have to say I find it a bit strange when people are questioning the exact day, hour and second this development will commence when for the last 50 years we have had nothing like it for the Town. It’s almost like Schadenfreude to some and even though they might have a political reason not to want this to happen surly supporting it for the greater good is the right thing to do? I completely understand why people are hesitant and some even doubting Thomas’s because we have been ‘misled’ for so many years in the past but I hope when this does start and people can see real action they get behind it en masses and prove Bedlington can have a successful development of this type.
  5. Malcolm Robinson

    Thomas Glassey

    Canny lass, John works in archives and publishes just about everything that comes up in connection with Bedlington. This one is taken from "Some men, Murders and Mysteries of Old Bedlington" by Evan Martin.
  6. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - June 2018

    June2018. First meeting this month was strategic planning. Just before the meeting we had an update off a previous applicant and this was to be held in confidence. When the meeting took place the chair lifted the confidential nature off the presentation and we listened to the director of the company explain the revised thinking which will go into his future planning application. This was about the waste recycling plant along Barrington Road and in the original application extended operating time permission was one of the specifics asked for. My only reservation at that time had been the fact that in my view skip wagons and large container vans were not a good mix with the likes of children on the small ancillary roads leading to the industrial estate. I was concerned that in the darker winter months a 10pm operating time meant that these wagons would be using the same roads as children and whilst this sort of traffic could be expected during the day it wasn’t something which young children would necessarily expect at night. Also the fact that pick-ups at that time could very well be in residential areas and again there was a safety aspect to consider. The director went on to say they were dropping the extended operating time for the wagons and he had invited all the residents who had complained about the application and shown them the revised plan and all were now quite happy. When we were allowed to speak I thanked the director for taking on board the sentiments we expressed at the planning meeting because even though the application was turned down we did ask for the planning department to try and reach a compromise and bring it back. I also thanked him for safeguarding the jobs there and adding several more new ones! I said I would welcome his further revised application. One sad bit to note was that he has talked about an almost £5M investment which had gone into their Chester-Le-Street and when we asked if that had gone down there because of our initial refusal he said it had. So a very salient point to note, these committee meetings quite often do have repercussions and sometimes not in the way we might hope for! The planning meeting started almost immediately and there were several applications to consider. One or two were head scratchers especially the one with revised house numbers in the middle of an industrial estate after we turned it down last year saying no housing on industrial land! One application had us all in agreement, that being the new school build on the old fire station site opposite county hall. I did have concerns, not with the actual school but the vehicular access or rather lack of. I asked the officer why there wasn’t a drive in and drop off point for the children, one which could see traffic disruption minimised on the adjacent main road, a main road beset with traffic jams already. I started to get on my high horse a bit saying here we are building a new school from scratch and we don’t seem to have learnt any lessons about traffic issues. My sails were deflated when the officer said there was a designed drive in and drop off point included in the plans. I said I could only apologise for going on about it and not seeing it was in fact included in the plans, but I would check again. Everyone had a good laugh at my expense but that’s just normal banter! One other member spoke up and said he didn’t see it either! After the meeting I had another look through the application and still I couldn’t see this feature so I stopped the officer in his tracks before he left the chamber and asked him to show me where it was. After some shuffling of papers he said there wasn’t one as such but there was a car park! He went on to tell me NCC actually has a policy banning such drive ins in case it might look like we condone parents taking their children to school in private cars. Well that’s not the answer I got in the middle of the meeting so I sent a mail around all the members who were in attendance telling them the real position. I said I wasn’t complaining but they might understand my future conduct if an officer tries to mislead me! I also said I would be raising what looks like a daft policy decision NCC currently have regarding school traffic. I have since listed it for discussion at the next full council meeting. Why not build in a practical and safe route and drop off and pick up point into all of our new schools? We can still asked parents to think about the ramifications but it looks to me like we are pushing water uphill. We can surly do better when planning new schools. One of the cancelled meetings I had was relisted for this week. This one was the corporate scrutiny committee with one thing really on the agenda, Arch. In fact it was the recommendation to move all the holdings of Arch into a new company, Advance Northumberland, and rejig its remit so it was solely concerned with Northumberland matters. There were at least two cabinet members there to present to us and the Leader of the opposition was there in a none contributory role taking notes as was the ex-business chair. The deputy leader and ex chair of Arch had been replaced with another member from his political party. As soon as the presentation was over the vice chair started reading out her questions and making some serious allegations. She was reminded that we were not in parliament and had no parliamentary privilege and was asked to withdraw her allegations. After some huffing and puffing she did. When I was able to ask my questions I contained myself to the presentation and the agenda we had been sent out. We had heard about serious threats and exposure currently held by Arch so I asked if adequate risk assessments had been carried out and if these risks had in any way been mitigated seeing as we were taking about bringing the company closer into the council’s realm. My answers came not just off the cabinet members but also the chief executive. The reality was that yes risks had been mitigated as best they could and some had to be quarantined but many were inherent in the business model adopted by Arch. In other wards extremely poor governance. This was starting to sound like the Active Northumberland debacle on steroids! My second question was about business development both commercial and in some cases social. I asked if any area came forward with a viable business plan would they get a fair hearing for once or like as has always been are there only designated areas going to see investment. I was assured that all areas would be treated the same. I said that’s good then we might see the natural assets all of our areas have exploited for maximum benefit instead of the usual artificial regeneration imposed on favoured areas. My last question was about the scrutiny which had been so lacking during the course of Arch. It was stated real and additional scrutiny would be introduced for the new company and I wanted to know a bit more about that. I said mixing policy and scrutiny with business decisions had got us into this mess and clear lines and understanding was needed. The vote in favour of allowing transferring the Arch business into the new company was taken and agreed with only three of the labour members against and one other abstaining. At the moment I have several constituents with specific housing problems. These have taken quite a bit of my time recently but that’s what I said I would do when I stood. Just heard that one has been resolved and I’m really pleased with the result. I’m waiting to hear if another had had the result she needed. After some consideration I have submitted two questions for the next full council meeting next month, one about planning and the other social landlords. Here are the questions verbatim: Question 1 from Councillor M. Robinson to Councillor Riddle. “I have been getting a lot of contact from my constituents about their housing needs and concerns. I know it’s not really something we as a council have control over because the vast majority of the properties in question in my ward belong to a separate social landlord. Irrespective of how many times I say it, the perception out there is that they are still council houses. I believe these social landlords still carry a social responsibility but sometimes it’s not the easiest thing getting them to accept that fact. After many attempts to try and get to the right person to deal with my issues and in a lot of cases not really getting past the front desk, my question is can we not have someone within our housing department who can be a liaison point for all members in their initial interactions with social landlords? They should hold direct contact details with the people who are tasked to oversee these problems within their respective organisation. “ Question 2 from Councillor M. Robinson to Councillor Riddle. “During a recent Strategic Planning meeting we heard the application for the new school which is to be built over there. Every member was supportive and just about as passionate as the head teacher obviously was. My only concern was the traffic issue, specifically the lack of a drive in, drop off in safety and drive out again facility. One which in my view should keep traffic flowing and take out any need for parents to stop on the main road to decant their children. I have exactly those sorts of problems in and around my ward and I bet most members do, but here we are building a new school from scratch and in that context I think a bit more thought should be applied to alleviate these problems. I was initially informed this was the case and this had been factored in. On later investigation, I found this wasn’t the case and the Council actually has a policy forbidding them. The reason we have this policy is so we don’t seem to be condoning parents taking their children to school in private vehicles. The reality is that many parents do take their children to school in their own cars, and that’s causing havoc in and around schools at start and finish times. My position is that instead of waging some sort of subliminal war where we don’t do something in case it looks like we condone it, shouldn’t we be practically managing the issue in real time, certainly as far as new builds are concerned? My question therefore is can we revisit the policy currently in place which forbids us, at a planning stage, from looking at practical and reasonable solutions to this problem?” Well next up was a Local Government Pension Scheme Panel meeting. Again a great voluminous pile of paperwork came out with the agenda, most of it on pink papers which are strictly confidential. It took several days to wade through these reports and in reality there were only a few resulting questions. The meeting started at 9.30am and I met the chair beforehand when he informed me only he and I had turned up out of all the committee members. That meant we were not quorate but one other member had said he would be a bit late so we contended ourselves doing some necessary committee housework until our other member turned up. So the Conservative chair had to rely on two independent councillors to hold quite an important meeting. Might make anyone consider commitment right there! Anyway we had a morning presentation and an afternoon one. After the presenters had left we held our decision making bit of the meeting and one item in particular interested me. I told them they knew my position as I have said for the last 6 months I would prefer to bank some of the incredible gains we had seen recently so taking a more guarded approach and trying to insulate some of the portfolio from a potential market readjustment would get my vote. This time it was agreed as a sub strategy! Given everything I have seen and heard about, that is a very sensible option……at last! I also asked about mortality rates given there is something of a spread throughout our county. Heck of a busy end to this week and into next week with 6 meetings, full council and my surgery in the next 5 days! Last meeting of this month and it was a strategic site visit, first to Alnwick Gardens then onto Amble. The planning meeting is next week so this will be fresh in our minds.
  7. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - May

    May will be published but in a different format.
  8. Malcolm Robinson

    Thomas Glassey

    Dont know if you have read this Canny lass but try these......... Thanks to John Krzyzanowski and his Bygone Bedlington page.
  9. Malcolm Robinson

    Thomas Glassey

    Quite a bit on him Canny lass and yes Glassey Terrace is named after him. Im sure our history bods will give you the info once our little game is over................
  10. Malcolm Robinson

    WBTC website Account suspended...

    There has been some changes to their website domain names. Probably something to do with that?
  11. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - April

    April 2018. Well April is here and I might have been at work on April’s Fools Day but it didn’t stop a local political group from trying to besmirch my character. Maybe it was their idea of a joke, seems to have backfired somewhat! Anyway busy day Tuesday with a meeting at County Hall at 10.30am, then Pegswood at 2.00pm and then back to County Hall for a 6.00pm strategic planning meeting. The first was about the Plessey Woods project and I have been pushing to get even more upgrades and investment into the park. Most have now been agreed to be worked on but one or two have slipped the net! One of my thoughts is to get a properly constituted group together which can then lead on park improvements and funding. If we can pull that together I have a feeling my other ideas might get a second airing! As it is I have the distinct feeling of smoke being blown up my nether regions! Next was a site visit to Pegswood to see the access route for the proposed 118 houses. This was an application the strategic planning committee had heard last month but had deferred a decision for a better understanding through a site visit. It just happened to be raining cats and dogs and standing on the side of a busy road trying to hear planners talking and ask and answer questions was a bit of a tall order. We then walked down a pretty muddy track at the best of times; today it was a rain sodden mess. Immediate questions had bene asked and answered, the rest were put off until later tonight at the planning meeting. 6.00pm and we were all ensconced in the council chamber at County Hall. Again a good smattering of public there as well as one of two parish councillors. I don’t think any of them were there to support the application! After the officers had outlined the scheme again and we heard from supporters and the developer it was time for member’s questions. I had one or two, principally who pays for the investigation and land works to make it safe to build on and then after finding out it was the developer why had our planners accepted the developer’s word for the questionable financial viability of this project, so much so the community payback is very limited, yet we have just found out the developer is responsible for any land works required and as yet there is no costs associated, therefore they seem willing to have a blank cheque ready for that? All that didn’t matter in planning terms of course, and when the members tried to argue overdevelopment citing the housing density as advised by the SHLAA document I had to pipe up again! I reminded them that they, this exact committee, and planners had effectively driven coaches and horses through the SHLAA advice for my ward and Town and effectively reduced its credibility to zero as far as I was concerned! If they think they were going to allow this document to stand in this case but not in our case……..think again boys! In the end the application passed because it had to pass on purely planning grounds. We did get a load of stick from the public gallery as the meeting closed; I just wish they understood the process. I have been chasing up the drainage at the cemetery again and have now forwarded onto the appropriate officers the estimates etc I have for the further work needed. I also popped down to check the work I had paid for in the Green Letch has been done. Didn’t look to be so I fired off a questioning e-mail. The answer I got back needs to be checked out, seems I was looking in the wrong place? Hmmmm. Just fired off another 4 pot hole complaints and complaints about nearly all the lights out on the way out of Bedlington on the B1331! The reply which came back said the lights were out because of a fault….but our engineers are trying to trace it. Monday and I had to get onto several departments within NCC for preparation for tonight’s surgery and residents potential questions. My surgery was at 6.30pm and this was the first time no one showed up. Now I could say then everyone is happy with NCC or it could have been down to the change in date because it should have been last week but that was April 2nd and a Bank Holiday. WBTC meeting tonight so as usual I had to write up an update for them: WBTC update: March 2018 Not a lot to tell you this month you will be pleased to hear! Police want to let everyone know there is still a police presence after 8pm. The only thing which closes then is the civilian front desk. Getting quite a few neighbour disputes reported to me, just like to say, like yourselves, I have no jurisdiction within them. Last Strategic Planning meeting members wanted to refuse an application under the grounds of over development according to the SLAAH. I reminded them they had effectively torn up that document with regard to my ward and this Town in general! Pity they didn’t listen earlier! Head of Planning has left NCC. The internal road in the cemetery has been re-laid. The new puffin crossing is all but finished. The initial work on the drains has been started and done, the bit you guys are paying for starts later this month. I have supplied estimates to NCC for the field drain works needed for the cemetery. They are assessing them to see if they will work and secondly if they can find me some cash! Very disappointing Corporate Scrutiny meeting last month where most of the agenda was supposed to be about Active Northumberland. Basically no one showed up for us to cross examine so I made my feelings known about that one. After some argy bargy I had to submit written questions and some of the answers are unbelievable! I have just agreed some repair work on a couple of roads and paths within the ward. Plessey Woods Park upgrades should be going out to tender soon but work won’t be started until September because we are third in the pecking order! I want to start a properly constituted Friends of Group for that Park soon; we might then see a bit more self-determination! Lots of Neighbourhood Plans coming into NCC these days……….please give yours some serious thought. Long day up at County today. Local Government Pension Panel meeting is down for 9am-5pm. Well it did take a long time but we were finished at 3.30pm. The chair kept everything brisk even telling the presenters how long they had. We had three presentations off London based investment houses and had to choose where to make our investment. After the presentations we had our deliberations and while I said I was pretty bearish about the market at the moment and advised defensive picks the panel went with more adventurous stocks. Time will tell who was right. Seems all that training and tutelage is very much needed! Today I have a meeting with some of the head honchos at NCC and an employer in my ward, straight after I finished my day job. Trying to promote this local business as a potential partner and it may yet work out for everyone. Everyone seemed quite impressed anyway! After that it was a quick change and then off to Cramlington for the LAC meeting. Not a lot on the agenda but one thing of note was the Local Plan framework. After that presentation I asked if the Neighbourhood Plans were leading the County Plan as was suggested in the presentation or were we back to the previous Core Strategy where the Core Strategy over-ruled everything else. The answer was a refreshing…….NCC are trying not to duplicate work so all the works done by the Neighbourhood Plans will now be assessed for inclusion into the Local County Plan. Well for once that injects a bit of local knowledge into the thing then! Strange weekend at work but that’s becoming the norm! Anyway I had a meeting at the Town Council office with my fellow NCC councillor, the Mayor, the Clerk and their head of events. We had this event problem to work around and with NCC withdrawing its support it is difficult for us to help facilitate an event. I suggested a way around that impasse and everyone agreed so onwards and upwards. This workaround produced an even better outcome and we are now working on many more collaborative projects across a whole range of matters. Nice to see the Drainage work being carried out at Westlea. Thanks go to WBTC for this work. I should have stopped for a picture as three large wagons were there carrying out the remedial work needed to expedite good drainage. Once these pipes and culverts have been cleared out and renewed I can then start hassling about the cemetery drainage again! I did go up and see the lads doing the drainage work and after a long chat they are doing the drain right along the cemetery boundary fence! Great, even less reason for NCC to quibble now about the extra drainage needed. Got some good news about the Town Centre regeneration project but as is so often the case with this information it has to go through the right channels. Should be out next week just in time for the holiday weekend and the anniversary of Bedlington electing 3 independent councillors. I don’t believe this regeneration project would have got back off the ground if it wasn’t for the new councillors because I know how hard I and the others have fought for it! If anyone doesn’t believe that look around at all the cancelled capital projects that were to happen and for once the relatively small amount of ours actually helped make it happen this time! Nice to see the new puffin crossing finished and the new road marking are pretty clear, well they are to me anyway! Well time for a few days off but things look to be really heating up for when I get back! I may have been off but some things still needed sorting out and several residents got in touch for help during my holiday! Hopefully all have been resolved or as near as!
  12. Malcolm Robinson

    Bedlingtonshires First Alll Labour Council - 1946

    Afraid not Eggy........only the NCC ones.........
  13. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - March 2018

    March 2018. Beginning of March and I’m snowed in. Hope this clears before I have to get back. Well it did and I made the meetings I had and held my surgery. I had quickly rearranged meetings because the NCC officers I needed to speak to were busy and having just been though a very bad snow-out I could sympathise. We ultimately met at Plessey Woods to talk through some of the ideas I had to improve visitor numbers. Lots of negativity here I’m afraid and I had to explain I didn’t want to spoil the natural environment only improve it and commercialise it so we didn’t have to be so dependent on NCC funding. One way opens up opportunities, the other is a continuation down a one way street I’m afraid. I did get support off the park manager and with his help we even managed to turn a flat no into a let’s look at the possibility. I really want to see a very much increased offer down there, well publicised and easy access for coaches. We spent well over a couple of hours walking around and they did listen to what I proposed but time and again it came back to, ‘that might not work’. I really have my work cut out to bring these guys into the 21st century! Not everything will work, some will inevitably fail but some will fly and they are the gold nuggets we want! After that it was time for the second site visit, this time the end of the Red Ash Path next to the cemetery. We drove there and parked up then I took them along the sodden path which had been churned up by cars at the start. I convinced them we had to put in new bollards to stop cars driving up the footpath there. I also pointed out the drainage problems the cemetery has and what I have been doing to tackle the flooding problems. Hopefully WBTC will commit to funding to help repair all the drains which actually join up under the houses and exit into the Green Letch. If that gets done then I need new field drains along the cemetery fenceline to stop flooding there. I think I won this one and they agreed to investigate and get the estimate I have, checked out. I also want to add in pitch drainage because that will not only make the pitch much better it will also help drain the footpath. The full costs of what I am talking about is well over £100K and all of a sudden why this has been left for so long becomes clear! Because the strategic planning meeting had been cancelled I was able to make it down to the EBPC meeting. Russ, Bill and Christine, the Mayor of West Bedlington Town Council, made it down too as did councillor Gobin. The chair made a point of gushingly welcoming only councillor Gobin and by association snubbing the rest of us. How childish! Anyway we needn’t have bothered going because most of the agenda was going to be discussed behind closed doors after we and the public all got kicked out! And that’s exactly what happened, very Stalinesque! I have to ask is that really in the public interest and all those agenda items needing to be discussed, subject to commercial confidentiality? Some looked quite innocuous. Today I have been on the phone for most of the day. I have agreed to help out more community groups and getting stuff in place for them took ages. Tonight is the WBTC meeting here is my update for them: Before I started I thanked them for their “open and transparent agenda” with everything out in public not hidden! WBTC update March 2018. Again not having a great deal of time to get things down chronologically so here is my update. Been getting a few concerns about anti-social behaviour in the ward so I asked for a meeting with the police. They duly responded and I have to say I initially went in to the meeting convinced it would be quite heated. I raised all the points residents have told me about and I have to say I was more than impressed with the police response. I was reassured and my constituents can be too that the police are taking all these reports seriously and even with the limited resources they have available, they are taking pretty firm actions. They did ask me to highlight a couple of things. First please report any incidents because a lot of these social media reported incidents are not being logged because they are not reported to the police. Ask for a ring back to make sure they are being taken seriously! Secondly please try to secure your wheelie bins! That’s the craze at the moment, setting fire to wheelie bins, and replacements don’t come cheap! Next up the problem with flooding at the cemetery. This is actually number 8 sub section A on your agenda tonight. I’m asking to help fund the repairs necessary to the existing drainage which untimely drains surface water out of the cemetery and also Redhouse Farm and Westlea. I have paid to get the whole warren of pipes CCTV’d and then dye tested so the blockages and problem areas could be identified. The quote you have on your agendas tonight is for that remedial action. I am also paying for extra work on the Green Letch outlet area. That’s the sprat to catch the mackerel! I have also been working on full replacement to the field drain which runs the length of the cemetery and have estimates for that. This is what will drain the cemetery and keep it dry! I have most of that cost covered and I would like to thank my two NCC colleagues here (Bill and Russ) for agreeing to help fund some of that too. I was down there with NCC yesterday and have their agreement to start looking at the project seriously and possibly making up the shortfall. Not to stop there because we have a problem with the path which runs along there, the Red Ash Path, and the football pitch I have also been quoted for full pitch drainage. I have already identified funding for that additional costing. To sum up, the overall cost of the basic infrastructure project is in excess of £100K, we get the children’s graves, and others, protected from flooding, path drainage, pitch drainage, surface water from Red House Farm estate and the Westlea estate drained properly, first time in decades and your contribution if you agree is about 6% of the cost and it will last for many years to come. The road inside the cemetery is getting redone too I have that already agreed. Now onto Plessy Woods. I have had meetings there with NCC officers because I have asked for more funding, well more help really. I want to see a bigger car park and better access because I want to see many more coaches down there. I think driving up real usage at school times means we take schools trips there. That’s one line I am exploring. I was also promoting many more ways to help the park pay towards its upkeep and especially giving the workers there some security! I didn’t expect the negativity I got back off some of the officers. In fact I had to tell them I would drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century if I had to. The one officer who had liked my ideas was in stiches and had to turn away! We have a huge asset there, 100 acres plus, but because it’s been allowed to whither due to successive funding cuts it’s in danger of not being able to look after itself properly. There is already one path almost impassable! I am also working with two very enthusiastic young ladies who are opening a Woodland Nursery there. The work on the new Puffin crossing was delayed but is now well underway. I did ask Highways to get most done during school holidays because of the traffic congestion it would cause, but again local knowledge was set aside because it didn’t fit into a nice pie chart! It has been stated that the funding for the Town Centre redevelopment has been halved……it hasn’t, actually it’s slightly more because of the planning conditions we applied to the application. Lastly I have to mention the Gallagher Park event and the steering group meeting to select the preferred event organiser. After almost 2 hours I walked out in disgust. Let me say why. There were 6 representatives there to score two applications and an NCC officer taking the role of chair and another officer from procurement handling the tender. When one of those representatives firstly hands out 3 pages detailing why one of the applicants shouldn’t get the gig, I think that was enough bias shown to exclude him from any voting on the matter, but then after 2 hours when the scoring has all been done and is being tallied up and its very close, he says quite categorically that if his choice doesn’t get it, the event won’t go ahead, then that is not a full and fair process for either applicant and one I didn’t want to be part of! I therefore felt I had no other option but to leave, registering my dismay. I did say my funding was still available but this process has to be resolved properly. It now seems NCC have agreed with my assessment and they have withdrawn too! Thankfully WBTC did agree to my request for our joint funding project and we will now see all the main drainage for surface water leading into the Green Letch repaired and redone. Thanks very much WBTC, now to get on and get the funding necessary to put in new drainage for the cemetery! They also took the decision to withdraw their funding for the Bedlington Music event given the chair’s experience at the steering group meeting and NCC’s reaction. If they decide to put on their own event that has to be where my funding will go, having linked my “small’s scheme” funding to WBTC last year. Another day and another e-mail to planners this time for advice! I also had to get in touch with the same manager I did last month asking for some information to be passed to one of my constituents. I cannot believe that hasn’t happened but it hasn’t, even though I was copied into the email off the manager asking for this to be made available. Well it seems the Music event has taken on a life of itself according to all the emails and messages I am getting. Not really sure why this has blown up in the way it has other than an inflexible predetermined position by a couple of the members of the steering group. Hmmm…. local politics don’t you just love it, gets in the way of everything! If only decisions were based on the merits of the arguments…… A live music event for Bedlington was never under threat, but proper rules and procedures have to be followed, this is public funding. I think this sentence from NCC says it all……..”it has been decided that in order to protect the probity of the process, the procurement will be terminated..” I think that more than justifies my reaction to what occurred. I can only go off my training and experience. I have done commissioning and tendering training when I ran the Development Trust and I have delivered quite a large, for us anyway, commission. The two play parks, Westlea and Meadowdale, which were done by WBTC and overseen when I was the chair, were done through a commission put out to tender. We publicised the work as far as we could and 4 national and international bidders came forward with their tenders. A small subcommittee opened them together on the time and day we had included in all packs which the suppliers all got, and they were then scored off an agreed list which was also supplied to the tenderers. That reduced the count to two and the two which made the cut were then put up for public display and a public vote. The design the public liked most won the contract! That I would suggest is an open and transparent system and because the submissions were only opened and viewed at a predetermined time and all together, then there could not have been any “predetermination” and the only thing which counted was obtaining best value for council tax payers! Busy weekend at work but an even busier Monday. I was contacted by one of our schools who needed help with some fundraising they needed for one of their major projects. I checked things out and then gave them a list of funders who they could ask and should reasonably expect donations off. Next up several of my constituents were in touch about different problems they are experiencing and they took the rest of the day to get a handle on. Some I am meeting so they can show me their concerns directly. I have also been in touch with the Plessey Woods officers I met because I want to write a report for the next WBTC newsletter including a call to see if anyone is interested in forming a proper “Friends of Plessey Woods” group. Hopefully people will come forward and we can start seeking out extra funding to add to the Park’s appeal. Off up to County Hall later today for a strategic planning meeting. Only thing on the agenda is the application for 118 houses at Pegswood. I genuinely haven’t decided which way to go on this one but I have read the papers and I do have several questions! Well not to disappoint there was only one item on the agenda but it took 2 hours to get through and then it was essentially deferred for a site visit. We heard the application then the objectors and then the applicant. Several valid points were raised in these exchanges but they weren’t allowed to ask questions directly to the planners, the only people allowed to do that are the members of the committee, so I listen intently to what the likes of the local parish council says and what local community groups say and in most cases ask the questions they have intimated by their submissions. This was no different and after I guess about an hour of questioning and then debate the motion to award planning was amended to defer for a site visit. Hmm, looks like the strategic planning committee are not the usual push overs they have been! I also had a few words with the cabinet member for country parks who asked me to work on driving up visitor numbers at Plessey Woods. He understood my concerns and is to set a meeting up between officers, him and myself. This has to be an all-in play! Loads going on today and several constituents have been in touch to ask me to sort some things out for them. Pleased to do that, it’s just part of the job. Other problems and concerns raised are not quite that straightforward and I will get back onto them on Monday when I have more time. Another hectic weekend at work but straight back into it on Monday morning. In fact I even fielded a call off a lady in Surry asking for some local help with her relative. I have also been invited to meet with a charity which is starting here in Bedlington. Just organised a meeting for this afternoon with them. Police have been on too voicing concerns about the social media stuff which is saying there isn’t a police presence in Bedlington after 8pm. There is, what ends at 8pm is just the civilian front desk access. So a meeting with them is on order again. Unbelievably I still haven’t been able to get the information one of my residents requested about the traffic survey at Netherton. Calls for a bit stronger worded email! This is not top secret, it’s a traffic survey for God’s sake and why this hasn’t been expedited straightaway I can’t for the life of me work out! Well it seems like my latest epistle worked and both I and the resident have now got the detailed results of the traffic survey which have been requested for some months! I have had the meeting with the principle of a charity which has just opened in Bedlington and what a load of stuff they do, in fact it took nearly 2 hours to listen to what they are about! Looks like they will concentrate on family issues to start and I was pleased to help and offer local advice. Especially pleased a local lass is leading this! I also had reason to drive around the Chesters estate because of complaints I have had and will forward onto the appropriate people. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what and where the complaints were about. It was soon time to go up to County Hall and again, this was a specially called full council meeting to hear a single issue, the Devolution enigma. We first have to pull out of the 7 authority one after 4 authorities said they were not going to proceed, and give delegated powers to the leads to negotiate and proceed on our behalf on the new 3 Authority one. In the end there was cross party support with only two dissenters. Unfortunately one of them decided to extend the meeting unnecessarily by insisting he reply in long speeches every time he was named by another member. That’s the protocol for these full council meetings. I rushed back to Bedlington to try and make the last Bedlington Forum meeting and say adieu to Brian and Margaret and thank them for their diligence and support. I got back just as people were leaving the Sally Army building so I could only do that by phone later. I spent most of the night replying to mails I have received on various topics. I have also canvassed for support off various organisations with my ideas for Plessey Woods development. Everyone without exception has welcomed my ideas and this now gives me a much better hand to play when I have the next meeting with the lead officers and cabinet member. Well a day off today but I did have a few calls to make and e-mails to answer! They took on a mind of their own and I now have several site visits and further enquiries to make on residents’ behalf. Today I had to get to work early then a meeting in Bedlington, then a meeting in Cramlington. For some strange reason the Labour group are saying the Cramlington meeting has been cancelled? No it hasn’t and I had to point that out on social media. And someone actually ‘liked’ it………Strange people? Anyway I made my afternoon meeting in Bedlington and it was extremely helpful. Excellent response off a local business when I asked for help! More on that later. I came home via the cemetery and took some pictures of the resurfacing work which has just been done. This is something I have been asking for over many months and at every available opportunity and at the last meeting where I had brought it up I was told to shut up because I had won them over! I sent a couple of messages to the people who untimely had to agree, thanking them for the job and passing on my congratulations to the team for a job well done. Next came the evening meeting at Cramlington. I turned up and had to sit right in front of the projector so all I saw for 25mins was a bright light! Anyway we heard the planning application, listened to objectors and supporters and then voiced our own questions. In the end we passed the application unanimously and then it was onto the LAC normal business. Pretty thin agenda but I do know they are going to be beefed up very soon. This is something I asked them to do last year, that and give the public a reason to come along! This meeting finished pretty early and as usual contained a game of political ping pong between the main parties. Today I had to be up at County Hall for a corporate scrutiny meeting. I turned up only to see more than half the committee hadn’t? Pretty bad show especially when we are the first line of scrutiny on corporate matters. I said that at my first opportunity when the meeting had started. This meeting was mainly about Active Northumberland, looking into the way it had been managed and then trying to get to the bottom of why it had gone so badly wrong. When the chair explained that the people who we needed to grill weren’t available, I again didn’t take that lying down! The officer who secretarys’ the meeting said the cabinet could still ask questions but it then goes to full council who will act as the main scrutiny. I disagreed. My argument was that we in this committee are supposed to drill down into the nitty gritty and spend as long as we needed doing that. I said the same level of questioning isn’t available at full council where we are lucky to catch the chair’s eye to ask any question in reality! Not the same and not really comparable or why have these meetings? We have now been allowed to send in written questions which will be passed around the members and replies hopefully received prior to the Cabinet meeting. If that’s the best we can do on such a confidential and essentially quite intrinsic subject matter then so be it, but any of my questions may well have led to new avenues of questioning to follow, you just don’t that that interaction with written stuff! I did submit a dozen questions and some observations. Don’t think anyone is in any danger of not knowing what I mean when they read my offerings. One thing which did puzzle was that one of the members of the committee said they had held a small meeting to discuss the issue and had some questions to submit. Now this has come out on Pink paper which means it’s entirely confidential and cannot be discussed outside the meeting, that’s why I can only mention the subject broadly and not go into any specifics. Just how that equates to having a small meeting about it with “our lot”, I don’t know……. but I have asked. I have several meetings lined up for next week now and I have been out to check the state of the roads in one of the residential estates in my ward. It has been inspected earlier in the week and several problems identified for remedial action. Well the week started off very well and I hope I have made a good enough argument to see a countywide employment initiative implemented in my ward. That on top of other developments should see this ward start to flourish in the coming years. The new light controlled crossing work on the B1331 continues and while it is causing quite a few obstructions and waiting traffic lines it just goes to show how busy this road is and the amount of children crossing it with no right of way was really just a fatality in waiting! At least they will have somewhere to cross in relative safety soon. Seems another week and another road to review. This time a road residents had been promised would be done several years ago but which hasn’t been. Again I have asked the question and also requested a site visit. The officer who responded to my request for a site visit didn’t hang around, it has happened the very next day! We discussed various options to get most of the road resurfaced and eventually agreed. I also asked him to take a look at a small bit of footpath I have been asked to try and get waterproofed. I have sent him the requested pictures and an offer of funding so we might get both jobs done! He has since agreed so both jobs will be getting done in the next couple of months. Well another month and yet another scandal breaks about the way the last administration behaved. I can only image the headlines they would be coming up with if this had been me in the frame! As it is it now looks like most people have realised just what has been going on and there is plenty more to come if they haven’t! I know work is going on behind the scenes to beef up the board of Arch as it transforms into something more along the lines of its original remit which was to provide real growth and opportunity for our county. It may be a bank holiday today but I still wanted to check up on some work which was supposed to have been done this week. It hasn’t so yet again another phone call to ask why not! I have done a reply to the accusation the Leader of the Opposition at NCC made during the last full council meeting, which was televised, where he effectively said I had sold out the Town too cheaply. Reflecting on the last administration and how they governed this county, including Arch and Active Northumberland debacles, brings this to my mind more and more………….here!
  14. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - Updates!

    Orloff, Its a long story...........................Arch is an arms length 100% NCC owned company which was supposed to do regeneration for the county. 150M....more like 300M!
  15. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - Updates!

    Once again it seems I am to blame for all the woes in the world, well according to the Bedlington Labour page that is! I must be doing something right and they can’t have that or people might actually see they don’t need to vote for a political party, just someone who tries to get the job done for them! Anyway on with my retort. I have been accused of selling out my Town and its residents by the Labour Leader at a full council meeting, because I was conned by the Tories, as seen on the video! That incensed me to shout out asking where the evidence to his claims could be found. The answer…..”They are there.” Well Councillor Davey I have looked and looked for them but I’m afraid I haven’t found them, but I did find a smoking gun. In other words what I did find was extremely revealing. Claims of a £12M redevelopment budget for Bedlington Town Centre don’t seem to stack up when I have finally looked through his medium term budget, even the now revised figure of £10M doesn’t! And just to check, if everyone who reads this can look and maybe point out to me the Bedlington Town Centre project costings in the attached pictures of that budget I would be indebted and fully retract my statements and offer unreserved apologies. If it can’t be found then it may follow I deserve an apology! (It is clearly visible in the current newly agreed budget.) I can see two Bedlington references, one to Dr Pit Park the other to the 3G pitch at the high school, certainly none for £12M. So before we get carried away and no doubt claim that the £12M proposal is somehow off the books………do we really want to go down that road because ‘that way madness lies’…… Looking a bit further into this vast tome of business acumen I find further evidence to back my electoral claims up. I said the Chief executive of Arch is on record as saying he wanted Arch to be a £1B company over the next couple of years. NCC were already heading towards a debt level of another £1B and were seeking to double that. I further stated I wasn’t willing to be the guarantor for almost £3B worth of debt! Eye watering figures and some disputed them. Well here is the CRF and clearly it’s up to £1.587B in 2019/20. My warnings over a year ago were almost spot on! Part of my election leaflet of almost a year ago…….did I get it right? For anyone who watched the recent council videos all the way through I have asked several questions. One especially for residents during the budget debate and my question was quite simply……..if what we pay in goes up and up every year and the services we receive diminish every year just where is the money going? The answer came back quick as a flash…….debt repayments. So the last administration increased debt from about £400M to nearly £800M and we all feel the effects of that in our pockets each time we pay our council tax. Can anyone imagine what the effects of doubling that debt level to nearly £1.6B would have been on our council tax payments? I shudder to think and I couldn’t begin to comprehend what service provision would be like carrying all that debt and its repayments, even at historic low rates of interest! A small, but much forecasted by pundits, percentage rise in interest rates would be catastrophic in that scenario. I would also like to mention something else. If the basic build costs for the Bedlington Town centre redevelopment have been agreed, I think by all now, at about £6.5M with an overall cost upwards of £10M, or almost double, then we just need to look across the water at what was the proposed county hall move to Ashington with its build costs at £32M. And they were before an extra floor was going to be added and didn’t include the cost of the new roads. Also because it was going to be ‘our’ building all associated costs had to be considered seeing as they too would be coming out of the same public purse. All the work stations and associated hardware and software, even mundane stuff like furniture and given the impressive nature of the building I have no doubt designer would be included in the preamble to the name on the furniture! So what would the finished costs have been…… answers on several postcards please so all the zeros can be added! Now for this……… Oh dear not top of the class for comprehension were we? It’s not Arch, per say, I’m having a go at rather the now publicly identified “Culture of Entitlement”! Again going back to my election leaflets what did I say about Arch………….. “I’m not saying scrap it, I am saying it needs effective and transparent regulation and I don’t see that as a possibility with the councillors we have at present!” Was I right……..absobloodylootly! And we didn’t know the half of it then! I see Alex is entertaining himself with a play on the words ‘new dawn’ on recent posts on social media. In reply I would just say this……… There is a new dawn in Bedlington for honesty and integrity, There is a new dawn in Bedlington for people seeing through the political smoke and mirrors of the past, There is a new dawn in Bedlington for transparency, There is a new dawn in Bedlington for the Town being taken seriously, There is a new dawn in Bedlington for self-expression, There is a new dawn in Bedlington for community cohesion, There is a new dawn in Bedlington for turning away from soothsayers and charlatans, There is a new dawn in Bedlington for the scales to fall away from people’s eyes. It’s a bit rich all this attempted subversion and discontent from people who have had over 50 years to deliver and the only consistent thing they have delivered for Bedlington is their failures!