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Malcolm Robinson

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Malcolm Robinson last won the day on May 9

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About Malcolm Robinson

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  • Birthday 09/09/1956

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  1. Malcolm Robinson

    WBTC website Account suspended...

    There has been some changes to their website domain names. Probably something to do with that?
  2. 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!
  3. Malcolm Robinson

    Bedlingtonshires First Alll Labour Council - 1946

    Afraid not Eggy........only the NCC ones.........
  4. 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!
  5. 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!
  6. 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!
  7. Malcolm Robinson


  8. Malcolm Robinson

    Bedlington Cemetery.

    Phase one..........the road has been resurfaced.
  9. Malcolm Robinson

    Happy Birthday Brian

    Happy birthday Brian..........
  10. Malcolm Robinson

    Happy Birthday Vic

    Happy Birthday Vic
  11. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - February 2018.

    Well as I said February has started off with a bang. Straight up to County Hall for several meetings. First up was my assessment for Members Personal Development and I completed the sheets for democratic services. At last some sort of overview of the training we have started taking and our skills development. I wonder if we get to see everyone’s? Next up came a meeting I arranged on the phone this morning. This was about exploring various funding options for what I hope to see achieved for my ward. That turned out pretty encouraging. Next meeting was all about helping a couple of community groups in my ward and after talking through the options and concerns with one of our lead officers there now seems a perfectly reasonable way forward for them. Finally the main even, Medium Term Financial Plan or Budget scrutiny. There was supposed to be over 70 attendees, in the event only about 40 turned up. I sat next to Russ and the chair opened the meeting. This is basically what the administration wants to do over the next 3 years. I had heard a lot of this off the Leader at our LAC and we had all been given a 350 page booklet setting out the proposed budget, financials and targets etc. Course some awkward sod had actually read the book and had his own questions he wanted answering, sorry! Asking for any questions I waited to see how many members shot their hands up. Remember this is the most fundamentally important bit of business any administration can put through. No members raised their hands so I did, to set the ball rolling. I asked a few questions which ruffled a few feathers, some were even answered, and then I said I would defer my other questions so other members could ask theirs. Only one member indicated his intention of asking questions and he asked a couple then said he would defer so everyone got a fair crack. Again no other members raised their hands so I did again and asked another few questions…….all about the budget figures and what was contained within the booklet. I again said I would defer and again only the same member raised his had to ask further questions. When he was satisfied the chair asked members for any other questions and again no one spoke up so I did! I asked if this was just a double act! This time I had a couple of more serious questions about governance and after being told my concerns were unfounded and not to be considered by this scrutiny committee I pointed them to the exact passage in the booklet which outlined what I had asked about. That flummoxed everyone and I only got half a reply. I eventually got a reply after the meeting off the Leader and cabinet member about this matter and they agreed it was something which they should give serious consideration to. What struck me was the complete lack of holding anyone to account in committee exercised by the opposition. Not one question off them, not one concern raised. In fact the only questions came off the leader of the Lib Dems, Jeff Reid and myself. This is the queerest budget scrutiny I could have imagined because basically there wasn’t any, apart from the questions Jeff and I asked. Now I’m going to take a punt here and forecast lots of opposition member’s questions at full council when the budget comes up, especially if the meeting is televised again! I just hope they can read out what has obviously been written down for them to ask this time! Cynical….mois……jamais! Just been back onto the police again about another incident at the same place in my ward. I know the officer is trying to get something done and feels as frustrated as me about the vandalism and senseless criminal damage being caused there. The advice off the police officer I deal with is to tell residents to report everything, something I have passed on in the hope of seeing some action taken in the near future. I can only imagine how nerve racking it must be to have things thrown at your house windows and patio doors on a regular occurrence! Back up to County Hall today, firstly for a meeting with the countryside officer which has turned into a bit of a high powered meeting so no doubt I will have said too much or been too cheeky in my requests! I’ll wait and see. Second meeting is to resolve any unanswered budget questions I might have. I made it to the office I had been redirected to in good time followed by the countryside office, director of service and cabinet member. Firstly I tackled them about the state of the roadway into the cemetery at Westlea and pointed at and used their own medium term budget as part of my argument. The cabinet member said, “My you have read that document, haven’t you!” Yes I have and seeing what is intended for cemetery’s across the county meant we should have much improved facilities in them but especially in the one in my patch! That was agreed and the road which is dotted with pot holes near the present-day burial sites is now getting resurfaced. One down one to go! Yes Plessy Woods Country Park is being included in the very small number of country parks in the county which will see substantial investment, some more than others of course! Champion but there is never a free dinner so my payback will be to work in a very small team to increase footfall there significantly. I gave them some ideas off the top of my head how we might do that and they were astounded! So as long as we have the investment and a free hand I now have to make sure it’s warranted. Looking forward to that challenge. I came home via Leading Link and had a chat with Lyn and Julie to see how they were getting on these days. I also told them about the young person’s personal development funding the Local Area Councils have now. When I got home I had the estimate off the drainage company I have been waiting in. It’s quite a bit more than I was expecting but it has given me a ball park figure to seek funding for. This is the drainage to make sure our children’s graves at Westlea don’t flood again so can there be a cost too expensive. I don’t think so! I started the day off at North Shields at 10am then I had two meetings up at county hall, one at 2.00pm the other 6.00pm. The first one was a presentation about Universal Credit, what it is, how it will roll out and what it might mean. I have to say the presenters didn’t get an easy ride as we questioned them quite closely about this stuff! The daft thing is that it’s not really their initiative; it’s been foisted onto them like the rest of us and they have to make it work. I think one member even apologised for the questioning we gave them and suggested someone from DWP should have been here to answer a lot of these questions too. I now have a better understanding of what all this means and one of the most astounding things for me was the financial payments currently quoted. I had to come back then straight back up to County for the 6.00pm meeting. This one was our Strategic Planning meeting and we all thought it would be over within 15 minutes because the controversial one had been pulled. How wrong everyone was! The application was for extra hours and a second weigh bridge for a business on the Barrington Industrial Estate. I was really willing to listen to the evidence on this one because I could see both sides of the argument. Quite a few people and the Parish Council had complained about noise and dust and the extremely poor state of the road into the unit and the fact it is very narrow so wagons have a real problem passing each other. I listened to the residents and the council arguments and then the business owner’s arguments about extra work, investment, jobs etc. In the end I summed up my feeling about this to the committee and public audience. We can only consider the planning application which is in front of us and on that basis we have to disregard references to dust, noise and wagons using the road because that isn’t changing! The only things we are considering are the weight bridge and the extra hours. That was confirmed. And here is my dilemma……while I think the weigh bridge is entirely up to the company and I have no problem there, it’s the extra hours which cause me some concern. Not because of the extra time the depot is being used, to me that’s extra pay and jobs, and the last thing I want to do is jeopardise the validity of the business there by standing in the way of its expansion but knowing all the approach roads to that site and having 40 odd tonners barrelling up and down them up to 10pm at night, well that’s excessive I believe and probably not safe for pedestrians and other road users; who might expect heavy wagons on the same roads up to normal daytime working hours but not up to the 10pm being asked for. So I could only come down on not allowing the application based on that concern. The application was turned down but we did ask the applicant to work with the planners on a new proposal which we might all find we can work with because we are not that far away. That took 1hr45m to get through and is a good example of how we can’t take anything for granted in planning! Quite a bit going on over the phone lines this week. I arranged a meeting with a developer about a project I have been working on and invited another interested party to the meeting. It was the Town Council meeting tonight and as usual here is my update: WBTC update Feb 2018. Not the usual monologue this month but there are things I would like to update you on. Firstly I have had the drains along the Westlea Cemetery CCTV’d and they are silted up and have root damage. No surprising seeing as BUDC put them in and they have never had any maintenance as far as I know! These are the drains we need to clear to stop the children’s graves flooding! That would also help drain the footpaths and pitches along there. Anyway further inspection work was needed and I have now had to have a dye test conducted to see exactly where the problems are. Hoping to see that report sometime soon. I have also had a quote on renewing that line of field drains and it’s quite an expensive job but I am working on attracting the funding needed. Second item is the upgrades we will soon see to Plessey Woods Country Park. Two parks were getting substantial investment off NCC, Druridge Bay and Bolam Lakes; we now have Plessey Woods in that group! I have said, during my meetings, I would hope to see WBTC as a supporter for that investment and that really translates to asking for space in one or more of your future newsletters. I said I would think you will be more than happy to promote it because my job is to use the upgrades to drive up visitor numbers. You should have received an email off county about this. Last item but in some ways the most fundamental. I have been to our in depth budget presentations about the Medium Term Budget for NCC and one item which I questioned stands out as something you need to be aware of now. Its something I used to bang on about when I sat where the Mayor is sitting. For this next year we will see the local services budget carried forward as is, after that there are reductions planned for at least the following two years. When I asked about that and questioned whether we would see services passed down to Town and Parish Councils because I couldn’t see the grass stopping growing or people suddenly becoming litter conscious I was told that there will be detailed contact this next year with yourselves about this subject. There were no further elaborations. I would suggest you will be asked which services your resident’s value enough to pay for them if they were to be stopped. I think that will be something you will need to get your heads around for your next year’s budget. Just to remind everyone the next LAC at Netherton Club is 20th Feb, which is a Tuesday night because we have full council budget the next day and that will go on into the night! We have the Town Centre redevelopment as an item and the LTP as well as other presentations etc. Also work starts next week on the new Puffin crossing going in next to the COOP on the B1331. Hopefully most of the disruptive stuff will get done during the half term or traffic congestion will be huge! I am getting a heck of a lot of reports about the building sites at the west end of Town. There would seem to be a lot of conditions not being adhered to and I am continually getting in touch with planners and enforcement about these sites. It would seem to me that the dog has no teeth! With no formal meetings this week I have asked for some myself! One to chase up funding for the drainage problems and another to get a better idea of what we have available to work with down at Plessey woods. Well from nothing to non-stop in two days! I have the meetings organised with the people I wanted to speak to and others have come along too. The drainage mess at Westlea continues to grow in price to get sorted but this is something I want to sort out properly. I have now picked up costings to get the drains which run under the houses to the culvert sorted but without doing them I will be wasting my time getting the other stuff done. More funding to find! I also met with the guy who runs our Country Park at Plessey; he actually does Plessey and Bolam Lakes. In fact I was early and spoke the staff that operate the centre too so I now have a pretty good idea what is needed to make this Park into a much better visitor attraction. I spoke to the officer who manages this facility at length and I think we are on exactly the same page overall maybe not on certain specifics however but that’s all well and good for the mix. I asked him to help produce a business plan and he agreed. Now I need to talk my way into proper funding for it because I am not impressed with the offer we have at present! There are over 100 acres there with about 5 kilometres of paths and of course the river. I have just asked for a further four meetings with potential funders for tomorrow! Two cancelled for later dates but two didn’t! I called into the first one and agreed a contribution from them. Once this has all been done I will thank them properly! It was then a quick pit stop before going up to County Hall for my second lot of negotiations! This proved far more difficult but an understanding was reached and I now have further meetings to try and wring this extra funding out of them. I sent quite a few messages to officers who I have been dealing with over several projects and just about all of them are on holiday today? I had been promised the puffin crossing next to the COOP would be started this week whilst the schools were on holiday, unfortunately it hasn’t been! I have asked why not and a pretty weak excuse of the weather and lack of availability has been blamed. And we wonder why people call the councils! On a similar note I have just been informed the builders at the Netherton Lane site seem to be building outside their agreed site so I have asked for someone to come out and check it up. I know residents have too so pressure from all sides might get something done! On a similar note just been asked to see why a resident has not received a copy of a report he requested off NCC, and they agreed to, some time ago. I have asked the appropriate head of department. The last 3 paragraphs are things which shouldn’t be needed, checking up and trying to get things done which should have been. I know NCC is a large organisation but potentially their internal controls need to be reviewed? Busy day today with 3 meetings all this afternoon. First up is a meeting I have requested where I will be doing my usual “Oliver and asking for more! It’s about the Plessey Woods project and I need more infrastructure in place so I can work with the lads and lasses there to increase visitor numbers. I hope to show we can make this Park the blueprint for other parks’ developments. Second meeting is the State of the Area Debate in the council chamber and I don’t know what to expect. Lastly we have our Local Area Council tonight and two important issues on the agenda, one the LTP (Local Transport Plan) the other the Bedlington Town Centre redevelopment. Well I made it to the first meeting in good time and was soon giving chapter and verse about what I needed to turn the fortunes of Plessey Woods around. I said I would be working with the guys in place and we had some exciting ideas for developing the attraction of this park. I wasn’t about to take no for an answer but I think as the eyes widened and the mouths dropped any chance they had of stopping my tsunami disappeared. They have asked me to crystallise the plans with the lead officers of both local services and parks. We are off and running! Next meeting was the State of the Area Debate and I was a bit shocked to see only about half the members turn up! I sat and listened to the Leader, deputy Leader and cabinet members talk about where they are and where they want to be and how they could get there. The chair was only allowing questions but I reminded him it was a debate when I stood up to speak. I questioned why we are seeing elderly people as a drain on resources when in point of fact it’s their payments which have got us here in the first place. Also the new social housing, or council houses, NCC are going to build. I applaud it because it’s much needed but we really need to redefine the term “affordable” because at the moment it’s anything but! Lastly I spoke about economic redevelopment of the county and the fact that we should be expanding our workforce and their work not contracting it. That meeting over it was a mad rush to get home and get changed because I had just been told I had to do some presentations tonight at the LAC. I had asked why there was no public question time at the start of the meeting and the chair was going to check it out. When I got to the venue, Netherton Club, I asked again but was told because this was a planning meeting and only had special permission to hear the presentations there was no public questions. I said my lot won’t like that, so 15 minutes were given for public questions after the Bedlington regeneration presentation. We started with the planning and it boiled down to a new fence. A stone wall and convex fence panels atop. For some reason members were giving the planners such a hard time about the height and security of this wall? I asked if anyone had built a fence or stone wall such as we were discussing because all the ones I have built require concrete foundations and would take an articulated lorry to knock over! Also because of the wavy nature of the wooden panels most of the fence line would be well under 2 metres so the very small bits which would be over that by 20mm were really immaterial! The application was passed unanimously in the end. Next I had these presentations to do and it turned out they were some of the community groups my committee had given funding to. I chair the community chest panel and we were given £60K to give out to local organisations that passed the criteria. After 10 or more pictures we were done and I told everyone what we had to spend and the fact that our panel had given every penny away to worthy local causes. The LTP was next and I think the lead officer and cabinet member got away pretty unscathed. In fact I think I was the only member to cross examine them? Next up the Bedlington Regeneration update and a pretty competent and comprehensive update given by the lead investment officer and the project manager. Of course there were several questions following this update and thankfully the chair allowed members of the public to ask theirs. Several echoed my only concerns about parking but most were supportive. The timeframe is now set to an August start and that’s about 4 months behind the original schedule. That’s not bad considering the whole project was put into limbo by the last administration depending on the results of last year’s election and the fact that immediately following our election we had to win hearts and minds to get it restarted! I think the presentation was quite open with most of the facts and figures mentioned and only the definitive list of retailers who will move in not released but certainly we were allowed a glimpse at the types of retailer lined up to go in. Unbelievably it now seems a local political group are claiming the investment has been halved and by association isn’t worth the effort! It clearly hasn’t been and anyone listening to the presentation should know that! Another day and another mad rush, this time to get to County Hall in time for full council after a day at work. Again like yesterday the meeting will be televised. This full council meeting was pretty much all to do with the budget and it was the main item to be voted on. The preamble started and then we got to the nitty gritty. I was quite shocked as first the CeO of the council stated her concerns about the way things had been allowed to be run especially at Active Northumberland. She immediately called in an independent review of the charity. These are the main findings: “The conclusion and associated recommendations of the strategic review of the arrangements between Active Northumberland and Northumberland County Council has identified significant failings of governance and numerous gaps in the expected level of strategic and operational capability and capacity in Active Northumberland. These poor oversight arrangements have severely impacted on the organisation’s performance and day to day operational capability. There is evidence of: – Very poor leadership – A lack of evidence or rational based decision making – Very weak governance – Very weak financial management processes – Very poor strategic direction or forward planning – Ineffective due diligence and leadership processes – Lack of appropriate organisational information – Lack of an appropriate level of professional advice or support. And……- a lack of appropriate arrangements to monitor safeguarding of children.” I have never read a report like it. It is the most damming report I hope to see into a company delivering to our residents! If it was private sector there would be calls for a proper investigation! After reading through all of that it seems I am to blame for the position Active has found itself in? Well according to the latest Labour blog. Absolutely ridiculous. We then had the spectacle of the present cabinet member having to list all the short failings and quite bizarre nature of the way Active had been run. Because I have been the subject to such aggravated accusations by the local labour group I have to now mention that the cabinet member for this company during the last administration and this complete ineptitude was none other than one of our recently deposed labour councillors! Listening further it was clear she was not the only member not making the grade, because the chair of scrutiny who is charged to examine all these decisions was none other than another of our recently deposed Bedlington labour members too! My God and her husband is currently carrying out a smear campaign against me and the other two recently elected members! There has to be a complete lack of mirrors in their house! We then spoke about the budget or medium term financial plan. First up the Leader and he gave an overview report highlighting the total inadequacies of the last administration, the inherited position and what this budget was going to do to redress them. Next up came the cabinet member for finance who gave us a glimpse of just what sort of odious campaign the Labour group are currently waging countywide with regard to social media. 17 completely inaccurate claims since January on the Northumberland Labour Facebook site and blog. He then went on to itemise several and even had the leader of the Labour group saying it had nothing to do with him. It was pointed out that the site is the official Northumberland Labour councillor site and he is their leader. For instance they had reported it costs £3M a year to heat County Hall. The actual figure for gas and electricity is £225K. The current administration has decided to forgo with Arch dividend…….which I was told several times would be £25M! There has NEVER been an Arch dividend! CeO was next and again it was wildly misreported. Either £1M or £1.5M has been talked about which is actually nothing like the real figure and which was supposed to be confidential anyway! 200 jobs were being moved out of Northumberland……err no they are actually coming to Northumberland. ..and on and on it went! What became clear was the insidious nature of the Labour spin machine and how a once great organisation has been reduced to meaningless drivel by its current leaders. I think they have all gone to Egypt for their holidays because they are all in De Nile! Coming next was the labour budget and they somehow proposed last year’s budget? That was voted down and then the leader of the opposition went on to talk about what he would have done and why some of the current ideas were no good. Well some were good he said but others worthless. One thing he mentioned which drew a big jeer was the post 16 school transport which has been made free again after he had stopped paying for it by NCC. He said that might work for rich people in the north and west who could get their kids carted to schools…….. Is it just me or is that the exact opposite of a socialist position where education should be free and liberating? Like Bill and Russ I felt having not read through the document I couldn’t very well vote for or against so I abstained. Strangely in the middle of this diatribe he mentioned that if they were in power they would be building a leisure centre in Bedlington. Eh? They have been in power for 50 years here what’s changed now……..oh yes they lost seats they considered unlosable! If nothing else is achieved in the course of my 4 years as County Councillor that statement justifies standing and everyone’s vote! We have beaten the very man who said he had no appetite for a larger sports build in Bedlington when I took costed plans to the heads of Active Northumberland and said for the same investment that’s going into Gallagher Park I could get a large indoor facility built which would finally start and address the lack of such a sporting facility here! What I found inexcusable and the reason I have gone into so much detail about the shortcomings which were mentioned is that the opposition Leader then said I (we) had sold out our residents too cheaply because the investment in the Town centre redevelopment had been halved. That incensed me and I shouted out asking for the written proof. Laughing he said it’s there but couldn’t say exactly where! I have since looked but still can’t find it! When I got back home the local Labour Party had a social media posting saying the Bedlington regeneration funding had been halved……..fancy that! After checking it out with Arch that is actually not true and the real position is that there is slightly more going in! It would seem the truth is a stranger to Councillor Davey and his entire group and competence in office something they could only dream of! Unbelievable but when bullies are stopped in their tracks by a bigger person, or in this case the truth, they usually turn on a smaller body and try to continue their bullying ways. Well I might be smaller, being a single independent, but I’ve never liked bullies and I’ll do what I have always done and fight back! Another hectic day with the phone ringing non-stop and the internet alight with claims and counter claims. Once the true figures and situation about the Bedlington Town development had been put out people started seeing the Labour posting for what it was a cynical attempt to dupe them! I don’t know why they feel the need to be doing this stuff……if it was the run up to the election then understandable but shouldn’t we all be working together to make the Town better and address the disparities we can all see? Well up to County Hall first thing for a Local Government Pension Panel meeting which lasted from 9am until 1.15pm. In fact I had to excuse myself right at the end of the meeting and rush over to East Bedlington Parish Council for a meeting about the Gallagher Park music event this year. I went in and for the first 20 minutes we were regaled by the EBPC parish clerk why one of the two submissions we had come to judge shouldn’t be considered. I thought that was a bit unfair because he wasn’t now going to give the submissions equal chance in the scoring process. We kicked it around for a good hour and it became clear there was no way one of the submissions would get a fair chance. We went through a scoring process and right at the end when it looked like one of the applicants would win the EBPC clerk said he would make it easy, either his choice won or the event wouldn’t go ahead. I thanked them for wasting my afternoon and got up and left! I was disgusted and wanted distance from what I thought to be a charade, but said I would still be prepared to allow my smalls scheme funding to be used if the event went ahead but because of the way this had been handled and the lateness of the day, they would have to find a way out of this mess! I liked one submission because it offered a much more diverse day out for families with street theatre, workshops and such like. The other submission was the same event as last year music on the stage only. I can only wait and see what they came up with now. Over the weekend I heard about several more spates of anti-social behaviour and a very disturbing report about criminal activity so I asked the local police for a meeting. They agreed and that is taking place tomorrow. Seems we are slowly winning the fight to get an adult conversation about the Bedlington Town Centre redevelopment. Sensible people have seen through the latest spin designed to dupe members of the public by a political group and are now discussing the finished look and how we might move forward. And yes getting behind this development and supporting it will move the Town forward in the future I have no doubt. Pulling it to bits for political reasons can only alienate the very people we hope to attract and it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Much better to use the experience to show we can and will support this and future development here, that way we might actually also get some of the leisure offer we so badly need! I had my meeting with the police and I found it very positive. I did say we could have very differing view here but as it turned out once I had listen to what they are doing I could only congratulate and thank them on taking all this anti-social behaviour seriously. I was a bit surprised at all the actions they are talking to tackle this sort of behaviour and I couldn’t ask for anything more to tell the truth! So to all my ward residents who have raised the issue with me please be assured it is being taken seriously and actions are forthcoming behind the scenes! They did ask me to make mention of a couple of points. Firstly, and exactly as I have been advising, please report any incidents. Even if you are just reporting something ask for a call back for reassurance its being taken seriously. Secondly and quite bizarrely, please try and do what you can to secure your bins? Seems there is a spate of bin disappearances and householders have to buy replacements and they don’t come cheap! Again a real nuisance but with hidden costs, both in terms of finance and man hours. Well there’s February out and the last days saw me stuck in Derby with snow and blizzards. Got to make it back for Monday when I have several meetings and my surgery. I have to finish this month with a note by way of explanation. It has taken many hours and in some cases days to once again get the true information out into the public realm in response to the spin and mistruths put out by the local labour group. I haven’t got that time to waste on repudiating such drivel! I have far more productive things to be getting on with which will benefit my constituents and residents so please understand if I don’t counter each fresh accusation which appears on social media. It would seem their intent is to mislead people and try and bully any opposition. Well that has worked for 50 years for them, but I believe people can see through all that hokum now and really treating people like fools can only ultimately lead to their own extinction! Also the fact is that there are many things which I need to challenge the current administration about but that time is being wasted on discounting these untrue accusations.
  12. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - January 2018

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

    Happy Birthday Canny Lass

    Happy birthday Canny lass........
  14. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - December 2017

    Believe me I know Canny lass but its an epidemic here.
  15. Malcolm Robinson

    Councillor Robinson - December 2017

    December 2017. Beginning of December and I got called into to work on the same day and time I had a Corporate Scrutiny meeting at NCC. Damm these are the ones that get under the skin of NCC and I really like to go to them if for no other reason than to ask questions tinged with opprobrium. Not to be and I had to send my apologies to the chair. The NCC Strategic Planning meeting which normally takes place on the first Tuesday night of the month was cancelled so I got to go to the East Bedlington Parish Council meeting. As usual an ‘interesting’ meeting if for no other reason than the members decided to amend the minutes! The area manager for our local services had contacted me and suggested introducing the guy who has just taken over his role. I agreed and said why not include everyone and WBTC so the meeting was set for next Friday at the WBTC office. Just had the meeting with Tony Gibbin the new head of local services and I was the only one there? Steven the WBTC clerk came in half way through so he met the new guy and naturally I got all my issues at the fore! Looks like a very busy week next week again! I was up at County Hall for 9.15am and it looks like mayhem out there with cars all over in the light snow we have had. That meeting done I came back and drove all around the ward looking at the state of the roads. Today is the last day for submitting another 3 proposals for the “Pothole Fund”. I did find another 3 and have submitted stretches on the, B1331, Netherton Lane and Bishops Meadow. Hopefully we will get these done too, so long may the members who don’t submit any suggestions continue! We had the Town Centre redevelopment update off Arch I had asked for and after not getting the correct venue we all finally met at County Hall. I can say it was a very positive meeting with some nice surprises! As far as I can tell, and I did cross examine them, the Arch members have done as much as they can to prepare for the start of the scheme and once terms have been agreed officially then we will see ground being broken! I would expect some further definitive news at the February public update! We put out a joint statement telling the public basically everything was still on track and only just behind the original envisaged timeframe. Here is the update I gave to WBTC tonight: We heard at the last LAC several NCC councillors say they were not putting forward suggestions for the pothole fund. That wasn’t their job? Well I have driven all around my ward and had my 3 schemes accepted, 2 have since been completed and I have now submitted another 3 because there was such an underspend on that budget. I think we use this to get the roads in my ward and its section in your parish as good as they can be. So thanks to all those members who didn’t bother putting in suggestions! Most will have seen the statement Russ put out about the redevelopment across the road, basically for anyone who didn’t it’s a case of getting a signature on a single piece of paper then its all steam ahead. Reassuringly the principle officers would seem to have everything prepared and in hand. I am confident they have done that! It may have taken some time but remember this is a pre-sold commercial development it’s not a speculative project and as such there are way many more i’s to dot and t’s to cross. Just to explain why it’s the February meeting for the update, I was in the chair and I tried to get it in at the December meeting in Bedlington but couldn’t and the January meeting is in Seaton Valley and everyone who was there didn’t want the Bedlington update held there for several reason so we rejigged the February meeting so we can have it then. There was talk about the LTP being presented then too and I have made recommendations into that too based on feed back off residents. I have been asking questions about the propriety or lack of such in our redevelopment company, since the May elections as I said I would in my election literature. Hopefully the conclusion to the police investigation isn’t too far away. Just to mention the last LAC, good to see us well represented as usual, again there have been calls to somehow curtail public involvement. I can imagine where that has come from! My reply was that if we want to engage with the public we have to give them a real stake in the meetings. So please keep coming, keep asking your questions, don’t let anyone put you off! Good to see the Blyth and Tyne line, lead officer, actually giving a presentation because that could well have significant benefits to us… with say, for the sake of argument, if there was a new shopping centre here! Had a meeting with Tony Gribbin our new area manager for local services and had the meeting here so your clerk was introduced to him too. Can’t see anything in your correspondence so just to mention the NCC street lighting programme is about to start again with completion for Bedlington being planned for the summer period. This month’s LAC was only planning and the one application we were going to hear, which is for a single house at Nedderton Village, has been reassessed as a delegated decision: so no meeting this month. Hope most will have seen that the next full NCC council meeting will be televised and put out onto social media. I have been working with our comms department and hopefully this is just one of a string of initiatives designed to give much more transparency and enable people to interact with NCC easier. Just been served notice of 11 new houses planned for the Blue House Farm area. I have commissioned an architect to give options for the changing facility at the Westlea pitches. Trying to work out the drainage or lack of it at the cemetery, pitches and Red Ash path. As an update on the “Bethany” traffic control petition which was handed in at the last LAC by her mother, all members have now received the official criteria for speed cameras. We can now make a decision based on knowledge and not a knee jerk reaction! Well the last half of the month saw me felled with the cold that’s doing the rounds this winter. Having had it for over 2 months now it’s getting a bit wearing! Still trying to arrange a site visit with our technical department and get the flooding issues at Westlea at least on an agenda! I saw there was an update on the Devolution Deal we are now entering with Newcastle and North Tyneside and whilst I had been to several presentations about this devolution project, they we when it was 6 authorities, now there are just 3 it must be quite a different deal. I therefore asked the business chair for additional information. He agreed to ask the lead officers to give an update and I suggested my two Bedlington colleagues would probably like to have the update as well so the first time he saw us all he asked. Naturally we all agreed and a meeting is scheduled for early in the New Year. I will be asking about the costs, what devolved powers, governance, political input, value for money to local taxpayers and accountability. I am at another bit of a loss about this one seeing as one of the leading opposition members quoted this devolution deal was the most undemocratic project he had ever seen. Strange that because it was him and his fellow cohorts who actually put this together? Why let facts get in the way of a good sound bite though! Well it seems I am getting blamed for not allowing others into the Town Centre redevelopment update I asked for and we had at the beginning of this month and keeping people in the dark about it. I have to say I do find this quite galling, if not obnoxious, especially coming off people who attempted to hold the Town to ransom, concerning this very subject, depending on the results of an election. “Vote for us or you won’t get the Town redeveloped”……..that’s essentially a kind of blackmail! Not only that but they refused to give anyone any updates what-so-ever and killed off the community led ‘focus group’ who had done such a good job of keeping people in the loop. Hypocritical doesn’t even begin to come close. I would just mention here though something I wrote in one of my election leaflets in answer to the accusation that voting for an independent candidate was a wasted vote: “So, far from being a wasted vote, a vote for an independent candidate is actually a vote for positive change through hard work and effort, civic pride, ambitious Town development and openness and transparency. It’s also a vote for probably the only candidate who can negotiate effectively on our behalf; the party political ones have shown they obviously can’t!” If the electorate had returned the usual party members for Bedlington does anyone believe the current administration at County Hall would still be onside with the Bedlington development? I think what I wrote last year for that leaflet has been born out to be the truth of the situation! People can draw their own conclusions. I have to say I am personally disappointed at the results of my current efforts to get some sort of idea about ambulance response times for this ward. Since the RTA with the young school lad next to the COOP last year I have been asking for the ambulance response times. People who were there have told me it took over 48 minutes to get the ambulance on site and I find that worrying given our proximity to the county A&E unit at Cramlington. I have just been told by another constituent that his aged father-in-law tripped on his hard wood flooring and hurt his hip and leg. He had just had a hip replacement so when it became apparent he was in acute pain and something was wrong they phoned for an ambulance. 3hrs 10 mins they waited for an ambulance and later found out the old guy had broken his leg in two places! This is not good and provoked me into taking another route with my questions and concerns. I have officially asked the cabinet member and business chair for the official ambulance response times for my ward and failing that I want them for every ward in the county! Then we can see if our expectations match the reality! Well the New Year is fast approaching and having finally gone to see the quack it will be a quiet one for me with my anti biotics and serious chest infection. With a bit of time for reflection I do have to say I’m more than a little disappointed with the way NCC conducts its business. Having a full council meeting every two months with very little chance to debate and question the likes of cabinet members, leaves very little room for democratic accountability. It has produced what we can all see, a bank of opposition questions designed to embarrass and humiliate the administration for no other reason than political shibboleths. I would rather see these full council meetings take place more regularly and our ability to get to the core of the subject much easier. Allowing a very partisan cabinet to essentially make all the decisions is something which I think in the fullness of time will be seen as completely counterproductive. Giving people portfolios just because they wear the right coloured tie is not the best way to run a raffle never mind a multi-million pound business. We are seeing the last 4 years unravel because of that and the obvious danger is that the current politically driven administration fall into the same trap. Must be a better way of doing things which could produce sustainability, continuation and countywide support and understanding. Happy New Year………