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Malcolm Robinson

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Malcolm Robinson last won the day on February 1

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About Malcolm Robinson

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  • Birthday 09/09/1956

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  1. 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!
  2. Happy Birthday Canny Lass

    Happy birthday Canny lass........
  3. Councillor Robinson - December 2017

    Believe me I know Canny lass but its an epidemic here.
  4. 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………
  5. Councillor Robinson - November 2017

    November 2017. First of November and a mad rush from getting up. I asked work if I could start and finish 30 minutes earlier because I have full council meetings at 3pm when they are on and finishing work at 2pm in Newcastle is cutting it pretty tight to get home, shower, change and get to Morpeth for the meeting. They agreed so I was up at 5am for a 6.30am start. Somehow and don’t ask I was 3 minutes late? I rushed home got ready and was up at County Hall for 2.45pm. I had two questions tabled for this meeting of full council and Bill had one too. Mine were: “First let me say how disappointed I was to read the about the actions we are taking with regard to the Arch investigation. Not because of what has happened but because we as members were not informed prior to the press being informed. I don’t think that is correct procedure and I would have thought anything which might impact onto the reputation of this council should be given to members at least at the same time as a press release! I am not asking for the full information to be relayed only the action being taken in our name! My question therefore is, shouldn’t members be informed about such actions before any press release? “ And my second question was: “One of the reasons I voted to withdraw the Core Strategy was that it lacked any real economic guidance, hopefully that will be addressed when we see the revised version! The lack of a clearly defined business strategy for the County seems apparent unless we have one and its hiding somewhere? My question is do we have a holistic business strategy for the County, if so where is it, if not is anyone working on one and who would fulfil that remit. “ The meeting as quite ill-tempered because as usual each of the main parties were trying to score political points off each other. A less than edifying spectacle at the best of times but in full glare of the public even more so! The business chair moved member’s questions to the end of the meeting for reasons quite plain to see. After the normal precursory items and public questions we had two motions to consider. Both presented by councillor Ledger, latterly vice chair of the council and chair of Arch. First one, quite surreal, was asking of NCC would write to the various Secretary of States, Chancellor, etc asking to make sure we get included in any UK structural funding post Brexit. Seemed like a no brainer to me, isn’t that happening anyway, but what do I know? An agreement and the motion passed and quite a few puzzled faces like mine were apparent. His second one was about the Local Government Pension Scheme; I serve on the Panel for this so I know more than most about it. Seems he doesn’t want the cost saving move we are working on to happen saying it will be detrimental for any face to face meetings members might want with the administrators. That would seriously impact onto costs for members and the whole country is looking at mergers and pooling by way of reducing fees and overheads. It was shown that what is being proposed is actually enhanced services for members and at much reduced costings so this motion as thrown out. We then had various reports by cabinet members and then a decision about the way these meetings are structured. At the last meeting we had over 20 questions by a single member and she took up over an hour asking them, mainly about her ward affairs? This it was felt by the majority was appropriating member’s question time for her own political ends. So the decision was agreed that members could ask a nominal 2 questions, this question time would be limited to 20 minutes at the start of the meeting and if more time was needed it would be added at the end of the meetings. And a set time for submitting questions prior to the meetings. I agreed just to move these full council meetings along better and stop the normal grandstanding by some. We finally got to Member’s questions and Bill’s was first. He asked about facilities in Bedlington or the lack of them and in her reply the cabinet member for Leisure services and Active Northumberland said there was only 12 members for the Bedlington Sporting Club at the High School! Can’t see that maintaining its present offer if we don’t see new members, in a world of extreme pressure on budgets! My questions were 4th and 5th. The answer to the first came off the Cabinet member for Communications and he stated the Arch press release was not a NCC one! In fact they had only been asked to corroborate the story, so someone else leaked this one. Couldn’t argue with that so I then went onto my second question about a countywide business strategy which was taken by the Leader. He said he agreed with my take on the old Core Strategy as far a business went and they are pulling another one together which will include proper business guidance. His anticipated delivery time was next year. Still didn’t answer my question about who was doing it but they know I’m after whoever has the remit, first stop cabinet member for economic development. We were then enthralled by another set of lengthy questions by the member who seems to set her sights on taking the floor for the maximum period. This really presented itself when she completely lost the plot when asking one of her questions. She had the book with them written down just read it out! There was a lot of argy bargy during her stint! The previous Leader of the Council, Councillor Davey, then asked a question and the reply astounded me never mind him and his cohorts. He asked the present Leader to justify his comments about Councillor Davey’s conduct with regard to a particular incident involving a huge sum of money and a housing development at Ponteland. The current Leader said he couldn’t because it was now part of an active investigation but he was still more than willing to show the opposition party the evidence! Sharp intake of breath on that one! We then ended up with another opposition member firstly bating the cabinet and chair and then shouting them down altogether. My God anyone would think there is to be a leadership election in the Labour group, all the front runners made their voices heard at this full council meeting! I have picked up a bad cold somewhere and have to take a bottle of water with me to any meetings I attend! First one is a Pension Panel one and they usually go on for hours. Armed with my bottle of water I took my place at this pension panel. Firstly the head of pensions for NCC gave us a run through of what was going on, just in case someone had been asleep and missed it looking at one of the motions at the full council meeting!!!!!! I don’t even think the member knew he was being admonished! Anyway there were several questions I needed to ask and I got full and explicit answers as normal. No problems agreeing to all the advice we received and making decisions based on that advice. We ended the meeting at lunchtime. I nipped home had a cuppa and then it was back to County Hall for another meeting this time with the Head of Planning. This was ostensibly about the Community Infrastructure Levy associated with the proposed 500 houses north of the Chesters. Bill and Russ were there as well as were the lead planning officer and the countryside officer. After some heated debate we agreed a way forward. Whereas my ward and WBTC were not previously included in any Community Funding regarding this development we now are! How on earth we weren’t going to be included when the development is actually taking place in my ward and the WBTC area I am at a loss to explain but after some harsh words we are! I had other resident’s inspired business to ask the head of planning about so I stayed and went through that. I also mentioned the fact that I was getting more and more concerned about the level of information members of the strategic planning committee, especially, are getting in the run up to making planning decisions. He promised to look into it all. Well no work this weekend instead my youngest son got married! Congratulations to them both and a lovely service and day for us all. Monday and my monthly surgery tonight. I can hardly speak but I cried off the last one with toothache so I was determined to make this one even if I was on my deathbed or suffering with Man-Flu! It took about 30 minutes extra for my surgery tonight because of the questions and concerns raised. I now have several further areas to try and get to the bottom of and pass on residents’ concerns! Tonight Strategic Planning and for once there doesn’t seem to be anything too contentious on the agenda. That’s maybe my naivety of course! Well it took nearly 2 hours to hear the two applications and neither was particularly contentious. The first yet more housing for Amble. I listened to the various presenters and the planning officer but I did have some questions of my own. First the Town Council had suggested a much better access route from what I could see so I asked why this hadn’t been used? Not our land came the reply. Hmm pity, I could see exactly why the Town Council had suggested it because that would give an access road at the north and south of the sites. My second question was about the obvious overdevelopment of Amble. I have sat on this committee since the election and we have put through outline planning for nearly 1000 houses for a smallish place like Amble. It’s going to be a Metropolis soon! So I asked when enough was enough and the answer, basically there isn’t enough in planning terms! If the various bodies, like education, health etc, say they can accommodate the housing population then overdevelopment doesn’t feature! That’s quite a bleak thought given the performance I have witnessed form our education and health sector! We were told about a proposed through road the developers were looking to put in which would alleviate town centre traffic and also passing traffic. Many members and planners waxed lyrical about this proposed road and how it would benefit the Town but I stood up and said the only reason developers were looking to build this road was to make their houses more attractive to sell, simple, nothing more altruistic than that! What I was concerned about was that it looked like the funding for this road would come out of the proposed community funding and that would be something I would not be in favour of. Other members then questioned this too and the officer reluctantly agreed this was in fact the case! So that comes back to us separately unless the developers want to fund it themselves out of their own monies! The housing was passed unanimously and in my case because of a lack of objections to it. Next up was the anaerobic digester for Lynemouth. Sounded fine and looked OK on the old Alcan site but I did have a question about odours. I asked if the officer was so convinced there would be no problem with odours that he hadn’t inserted any environmental conditions in the application. He had difficulty understand what I was saying so another member explained. He said environmental conditions could easily be attached and linked to the Environmental Agency to be jointly policed. We insisted that happen! Again the project was passed unanimously. Just back from work and loads to get through. I sent a question into the planners……..why is the local ward mentioned in the varyco’s for the 14 houses at the top of Netherton Lane listed as Longhorsley? It should be Bedlington West! I made more calls and sent some emails and I got a response straightaway. Our Highways department phoned me to say the ‘Pot Holes’ I had identified for the new funding will be getting done in the next 6-12 weeks! Great and the road I had mentioned down to Choppington has been judged bad enough to get resurfaced, one half next year the other half the year after. Not the speediest of things but at least they are getting done! I also sent a message to the Cabinet member for Environment and Local services asking him to put Netherton Lane into our winter gritting schedule. I explained that we have changed the bus route into our local school and that means there are now over 15 busses using Netherton Lane to drop school children off every morning. Not only that it’s a bus route in its own right now too. He promised to look into it and get back to me. I had my eldest granddaughter to get to the dentists today and then get home to write up something for the Town Council Meeting tonight. The following was my update: WBTC update: “Jointly working with Chris on a 20 MPH speed restriction on B1331 past the schools. I have also made enquiries about getting the ring road around Hazlemere 20 MPH after complaints off residents about excessive speeding. Seems daft having a 20MPH on the main road and people whizzing around the estate at up to 60MPH! I had some complaints about street lighting at my surgery and I used the opportunity to further them along with the historic list off the Town Council to the Director of Service who promised to look into them for us. Looking at the flooding problems around Westlea especially along the Cemetery, footpath and playing fields. Don’t seem to have schematics off WDC about all the drainage here, or lack of it? Looking to do something with the changing facilities at Westlea which hopefully might include some sort of youth provision. Previously you as a council and my ward in particular were not included in the S106 funding stream from the 500 houses north of the Chesters, if or when they get built. Happily that has been resolved and we are now included, but it will be a long drawn out affair potentially up to 10 years! I am getting more and more concerned about a lack of full planning documentation certainly in the packs which accompany the Strategic Planning committee applications. I have made the head of planning aware of my concerns! I took part in the countywide community chest decisions and please tell any groups about this one as well as the more localised Local Area Council one. That’s the NCC Community Chest Scheme. I also raised the point about these LACs taking on much beefier agenda items and I hope you will see this month that’s exactly what’s happened. Nice to see the usual committed contingent from WBTC at these meetings, it doesn’t go unnoticed!” One thing which did puzzle me at tonight’s meeting was the updates off Russ and Bill? Seems Russ and Bill will run the Bedlington 18 gig but pay nothing into it and myself and Geoff use our smalls scheme and the two councils (EBPC and WBTC) pay up to fund it??????? Russ said they had better things to spend their funding on? Well I might just have better things to support in my ward than your event guys! One council is already imposing conditions and the other working on some! Looks like a classic case of pulling defeat from the jaws of victory there boys! What should have been an easy no brainer looks now to have turned into a right old headache! Today the county council held its Remembrance Service. I went up and took my place for the service. I can’t get to the Bedlington one because of work but I can get to this one. Very poignant and moving it was too. I came home grabbed a cuppa and then it was back to County hall for a meeting with our Comms team. They wanted me to do a video promoting our LACs and highlighting the fact that there is a now a Facebook page for them too. Not the best of ideas with a heavy cold but we had put it off for a week already so it had to be done. That done and after quite a long chat with the Comms team I then returned a call off one of our officers. This was about the flooding problem around the Westlea Cemetery. I have told our officers I would like to look at curing the flooding problem in the cemetery and in so doing get the pitch and footpath drained properly too. I spoke to our flooding expert and we are meeting up for a site visit next week. Like many people in Bedlington I’m getting a bit concerned about the lack of information reading the Marketplace Development, so much so I asked the Chair of Arch for a meeting to update us. Like it or not the future of our Town is now inextricably linked with Arch as a development company and seeing the Chief Executive and Director of Finance both suspended pending investigation does not inspire confidence! We really need to be driving this development forward as much as possible and ASAP if it is to happen! Thankfully the Chair agreed with my arguments and a meeting is being arranged. One slightly brighter note is that the Arch representative has asked for a slight delay because they are busy getting even more signatures and letting the ink dry out on contracts regarding the Bedlington redevelopment. Lots going on and all sounds very positive, fingers crossed! I couldn’t make it to the Bedlington Remembrance Sunday service but I had asked to pay for a wreath myself and then asked two of our young people to deputise for me. Again a huge turnout for this solemn act of respect. I would like to thank the two lads who laid my wreath, Callum Appleby and John Strasenburgh, sterling work and very respectfully done by all accounts. You have done yourselves, family and school proud lads! I have just been forwarded the numbers concerning the small road improvement scheme or Pot Hole Fund. Out of the 12 councillors 5 put in their (up to 3) suggestions and there are to be 13 approved schemes. Not sure why all of us didn’t apply, still getting the roads fixed in my ward is my priority and there will be another bite at this cherry because of the underspend, which I of course welcome! Had a bit of an easy week this week with only a single meeting. Looks like that’s going to be made up for next week when I have at least one meeting a day and in one case three! Well might not have had meetings to go to but plenty of intrigue! NCC issued its councillors a notice which told us about Arch being scrapped and why. I immediately asked if I could make this public but the secretary didn’t know. I sent her a message later saying it didn’t matter the Chronicle had published most of it! Well at least someone listened and members did get slightly advanced warning of this press release! Course we now have everyone pronouncing their particular take on the news, everything from the Bedlington regeneration project scrapped to every Arch employee out of their jobs. It’s all in the press release in reality, its business as usual for most of the company and the company will get a new name and focus. By far the most interesting bits for my money are the following sentences: “In an email to members, the board said the review had uncovered “failings in relation to the operating principles and fundamental purpose of Arch”. It added that “financial probity” had not been at the level required and that decision-making had been “inconsistent”. Some big adjectives and nouns there, mostly nebulous, and I will be asking questions about their meaning! Another matter popped up and took me by surprise recently. Seems there has been a falling out between the various football club managements and the one which they are supposed to operate under. I have been asked to help one out and I will. I have brokered a meeting between them and a local community group to see if we can get them to use a green space the community group have registered for community usage. Fingers crossed it would seem to tick a few boxes that one. Took a call off the NCC Business Chair asking if I would chair the LAC on Wednesday. I said of course I am the vice chair but asking about why Christine couldn’t chair it I was told she had been taken to hospital. I sent my best wishes. Wednesday and after coming home from work I showered, changed and then went over to Cramlington for the LAC. There had been quite a few apologies talked about so I read the terms of the meeting quite closely, good job I did! If there had been a normal turn out of public but a less than ample turn out of councillors I would have mentioned it but as it happened only about 4 apologies were entered. One member has consistently failed to attend and only came to one planning meeting to talk about his supposed support of residents for which he got a round of applause. Unbelievable! Anyway we had a lead petitioner and I knew all about the reasons behind this one so I spoke to the lady and asked if she wanted to be on first so she didn’t have to stay for the whole meeting. She agreed so I opened the meeting and put agenda item 5 to the front. This was a petition for traffic measures on a stretch of road in Bedlington which has recently seen this lady’s daughter involved in a fatal crash. Obviously very emotive and we all wanted to help, some wanted to help directly and some wanted to use the situation to further their own concerns. I think we had the right balance at the end. After the lady left we returned to the business of the night. We had a very good smattering of big shots at this meeting with the Ceo of NCC, Business Chair, Environmental Services manager, Highways manager, Technical manager, cabinet member for environmental services, Deputy Leader, vice business chair. I called on most to answer questions directly! Public questions and as far as I am concerned if we want to engage with the public we must give them a stake in the meetings so I allowed them as many questions as they wanted to ask. I was to pay for that later! Anyway a lively exchange as normal which I had to curtail when it started to become a debate instead of a question time. Onto the meeting and several items of interest none more so than a presentation about the Ashington/Blyth /Tyne railway line. Looks like we now have a timetable counting down to 2022 at the latest for the introduction of passenger trains, if we can reduce the £200M costs that is. Meeting closed about 8pm. Today I had a Corporate Scrutiny Group meeting and it was in the Chairman’s dining room. As I walked in the business Chair shouted for me so I went to his office and asked what he wanted. I had been working all morning with Democratic Services to get the Bedlington update on our Town Centre retail development heard in Bedlington. It was down to be talked about in Seaton Valley, not the best of ideas! Anyway the business chair started to admonish me for the way I handled the LAC, specifically the amount of time I gave the public. That soon became an extremely heated two way street! I think the best thing to say is that we agreed to disagree on this point! I also took the chance to get his backing to move the Bedlington update and as luck would have it the deputy Leader was there and he backed my idea. So with that move firmly on the cards I went into the scrutiny meeting. Two of the items on the agenda had me perplexed. We went through the meeting and got to the ones which intrigued me. One was for a loan to an animal charity and the other a loan to a swimming pool. We went through the applications and they were both unanimously supported. Personally I would rather use our financial backing to back genuine community projects like these rather than give money to a group to buy an outdated shopping centre! I was one of two members who cross examined the business cases pretty thoroughly and they both seem worthwhile and securely backed. This does beg the question however, what the hell were our last councillors doing because we saw PAWS in Bedlington having to close and the small pool at St Bennies close because of the need for some cash! Almost identical projects and for the sake of pretty small cash injections (compared to what we had just agreed) they could both still be open to the Bedlington public! I despair! When I left I was again shouted on and had to go in to see the business chair. This time the Bedlington update was the main reason and it seems Democratic Services had some new information after speaking to one of the main presenters. Again after some further discussion about several topics I left the business chair and went to see Democratic services. Seems the Dec meeting which we can have in Bedlington is still a bit soon for a full update so back to the Jan one at Seaton Valley. That’s no good so we settled to hold the Feb meeting in Bedlington and having this update and the Local Transport Plan as the only real agenda items. Well I got my way and we now have the Bedlington update in Bedlington but it cost me a month so February instead of January. As it happens we have been told there will be even more information available then so maybe not such a bad thing. I have been asked about the Core Strategy time and again so here are my views. The Core Strategy came out of the Local Development Framework or LDF, and to my mind is a legal gentleman’s agreement. That is to say it identifies policies and strategies for NCC but in reality these could still be challenged by those wanting to, for instance a developer. If the Core strategy said we only wanted housing in areas A, B, C and D but not in X and Y but a developer wanted to build in X then they could challenge the decision right up to the Secretary of State. And how many times have we seen that being applied successfully by developers, more often than not! It would be in any developer’s advantage to work within it of course because of the extras a body such as NCC can add to the mix, such as schools, roads, leisure etc…all of which makes selling their houses that much easier! All this bandying around of pointing the finger saying we now have an open season for ruthless developers, well the plain fact is that there was never a Core Strategy in place, it was a collection of documents which the Government was going to sift through and see if it stood their examination before it came back to NCC for proper adoption as a policy. The papers had only just been sent off to London! Fact is that neither the Lib Dem administration, who started it, nor the Labour administration who are mendaciously pointing fingers about it brought it in under their watch, 8 years in total. Therefore all this absolutely terrible free rein which has somehow been given to developers was already freely available to them over the past 8 years! What has happened is that Labour wanted to close the door after the horse had bolted but the Conservatives want to put extra locks on! The real point is that the horse is out there as it has been for years! Not only do I agree we should have extra locks on we should have a much better door and barn too! Well good meeting with the football club Chairman and the community group. Hope that gets resolved pretty soon. Still no meeting with the flood officer, that’s a phone call tomorrow. Just heard Netherton Lane won’t be classed as a primary route for gritting but it will be classed as a secondary route. Had an initial meeting with an architect with reference to getting something done with the abysmal changing facilities at the Westlea pitches. Trying to squeeze in some sort of youth facility too. Almost weekly contact with our planning department and enforcement these days. Two of my pot hole suggestions have already been done and the other is getting a complete resurface. Now looking for others to list. As my December update will not be due until January can I wish everyone reading these pages a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
  6. Merry Christmas

  7. Arch to go........

    Ill take that bet rosco.........
  8. Arch to go........

    Were you not around during the election then? I spend months asking the same questions! Its the same answer essentially...... its the way this project has been made to stand on its own feet for funding. Unlike EVERY other Town in the county prior to the election. You can see that the way most have been cancelled outright by the new administration! Its the way this deal has been put together....... You know while I think its unjust given the way other places had money thrown at them by the last administration , this at least will show a commitment by businesses coming in, towards Bedlington and this development, which should make ours sustainable.
  9. Arch to go........

    Who says it not going ahead Rosco?
  10. Arch to go........

    Update coming soon Canny lass. On the agenda for Jan LAC meeting is an update on the Bedlington Regeneration project.
  11. Arch to go........

    Course it does Canny lass............
  12. Arch to go........

  13. Councillor Robinson - October 2017

    You are right there Vic.......it sometimes takes weeks and months to get things done! Not sure how much of a difference but I'm trying as I said I would!
  14. Councillor Robinson - October 2017

    October 2017: After a hectic weekend at work I made sure I had either talked to or sent e-mails off to the people I needed to speak to about what is now getting to be backlog of constituency work. I have picked up yet another three meetings in the next couple of weeks, two for committee meetings and the other for additional training. When I said October was going to be hectic I really meant it! First off the block was a strategic planning meeting. One of the applications was the redevelopment of the Alcan site and I had some questions to ask about that, not least about contamination issues. I was assured none of the relevant agencies had reported any concerns. Well that sounds hunky dory except that none of that documentation had been included in our packs? This is something I am getting a bit concerned about, lack of full disclosure in planning applications! Anyway that application, like all of them that night was passed unanimously. One which I do want to remark on was the application again up in Amble this time for 272 houses. The developer came in and explained everything he was prepared to do and give by way of community payback and we even had councillors asking us to agree this application because of the level of payback this particular developer was prepared to give to the community. In effect for 272 houses a potential sum of up to £5M had been agreed. I immediately compared this with the 500 houses earmarked for Bedlington and my ward and the figures we can probably expect pales into insignificance. Same planning officer leading this too! Wasn’t too long ago, a month or so, we heard an application for 500 houses for Amble and again the negotiated community payback funding was into many millions of pounds! Why the disparity? This whole planning system is an absolute joke and needs fixing from top to bottom and I can’t even blame our planners because they have to function under the system as is, which in many cases isn’t what they might like. I feel I really need to start and highlight the inadequacies and downright inconsistency the current system is producing for the likes of my ward! Very next day and back at County Hall for another training session. I had gone to work at 5.30am come home at 2.20pm had a quick shower and then back up at Morpeth for this training session. This one was a master class in ‘chairing skills’ and it was something I wanted to do anyway. As I anticipated I have been doing it all wrong, well not really but I did learn some tricks of the trade which was exactly why I wanted to do it in the first place! Thought I had a rare day off today but not so there was a Gallagher Park Steering Group meeting to attend. That went quite well with everyone pretty positive until I was told the Community Gain funding or S106 funding for leisure emanating from the 500 houses we could very well see just north of the Chesters has been ring-fenced for Gallagher Park only. It would seem to me that the area which has to put up with the loss of amenity etc should be the area which sees the vast majority of payback, that as a minimum! Again I came home and fired off a missive to the head of planning informing him about this and saying I thought this money should be retained within the ward for the residents. As I write this up still no reply! Another day another meeting to attend this time the Pension Panel. We had a few presentations off fund managers who had come up from London to deliver them and one off an adviser who had travelled up from Leeds. Interesting presentations and they threw up some pretty interesting questions! I sat next to Liz who I am doing the further pension panel training with next week down in London and said I will meet her at the train station in Morpeth at 5.00pm. She corrected me and told me its 3.00pm! Heck just as well we chatted about it! I came home and spent nearly 4 hours getting some answers to further concerns expressed by residents and in a couple of cases trying to get their cases dealt with sympathetically. I still have my original list of concerns which still haven’t been answered or dealt with so I think it’s going to be a pretty uncomfortable meeting with NCC officers at the next Local Area Council. Well after another hectic weekend at work I did make it to the train station for 3.00pm on Monday. On the way down neither of us could work out how to use the other tickets we had, one for the underground but only for tomorrow? Anyway needn’t have worried we asked one of the underground porters and he waved us through! Up at 6.30am and after a cuppa and a quick shower it was off to the next venue for the training. Again we more or less walked straight there just in time for enrolment. As Liz said this was quite a complex session especially if you didn’t know the terminology. I asked each one of the presenters several questions, some they answered, some they deferred but against a room of over 40 people from all over the UK everyone knew there was a contingent from Northumberland present! This may not help my ward directly but it is one of the job requirements to make NCC as well run and professional as possible. In fact I would say this sort of activity takes up to around 70% of my time. I did enjoy the afternoon session and had a continual banter with that presenter! So that was the Pension Panel training over and it was then a trek back to Kings Cross. We got there early and tried to change our tickets to a train which was still in the station but we were told the ticket would have to be bought again so we declined. The problem we had was that the train we were booked on had a change in Darlington and the departure time for the train we needed to catch there, was 5 minutes after the arrival time of the first one! In the end it wasn’t a problem because it was actually on the same platform so one had to leave before the other came in. Got back to Morpeth for 9.00pm so quite a long day. Not to have a rest I had to take today off work because of meetings. First one was the joint chairs of the LAC’s and I had plenty to say there. First up was the county wide community chest scheme and we had about a dozen countywide applications and the funding was well oversubscribed. As we progressed through the list we examined the applications and questioned the officer. Some were taken out for further information and reflection as to the new rules, others passed, and some passed after quite heated debate! Next onto the normal business of this group. I had to chair our last LAC meeting because the usual chair had to have a minor medical procedure and several members of the public wanted some of their concerns addressing further up the food chain! Two in particular, one that the meetings timings were daft and the other that the agendas were as thin as water! I firstly mentioned the times of these meetings where planning is usually at 4.00pm and the LAC proper starts at 6.00pm. It seems all the other LACs have no problems with those times but I repeated what the floor of our meetings had said the times were crazy. The chair of this group said he delegated all the organisational procedures to the various LAC chairs so Christine can set her own meetings when she wants. She said she will be asking people what they prefer. The second issue I raised was the content (or lack of it) on the agendas. This was actually agreed by other members. I did say conversely looking at the November agenda it was very much beefier and contained several big topics, such as the NCC Budget. I said I hoped on behalf of residents these sorts of agenda items continue and make these meetings well worth attending. Next up a training session for the Fire Fighters Pension Board which I have been delegated to serve on. This has come right out of the blue! Listening to the briefing myself and the other delegated member were given it would seem as board members we have almost no say in the running of this scheme but we are responsible for the safe and correct way it is administered. No wonder there are no administration members present!!!!! Anything goes wrong myself and Ian are in the firing line, the administration members have insulated themselves from any liability here! Never mind just have to make sure nothing goes wrong under our tenure but again quite a responsibility. We went through the constitution and workings of this group and made sure we realised the difference in responsibility we had compared to the LGPS. This is a defined benefit unfunded scheme so no investment decisions to make! It took well over an hour to go through this stuff and only then were we informed that the next board meeting is actually next week! Because this is quite a small group, to quorate the meeting we need just about everyone there so if one of us can’t make it the meeting cannot proceed and that wastes time for everyone! Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Much nicer time today! I had been asked to take part in the Democracy Week NCC hold every year for the school children of the county and today was Bedlington schools turn. Not only Bedlington but other schools around us too. 4 councillors and the Business Chair turned up to welcome our young people and take them up for lunch. They had been up there for some time but our first job was to take them for lunch in one of the committee rooms. Gave me the chance to talk to them because I knew quite a few that had come from St Bennets. After lunch they had the chance to ask us questions across the council chamber. They were given an hour to throw as many questions at us as they wanted and boy did they do just that. So we had to field the full gambit of questions from Brexit to School transport, from additional educational learning to inclusive disabled education, from gang culture to teacher’s pay and everything in-between. Of course the Conservative Business chair on my left and the Labour Party Whip on my right went at each other like dogs at broth which gave me the perfect illustration as to why I was an independent and resulted in plenty of laughs in the audience! One of the questions was about proportional representation and the two party members gave their positions. I asked why not instead of having party references just vote for the person you think best represents your position, but both party members rounded on me and told me you had to be in a group to get anything done. Really well I’m sitting here the same as you gentlemen! Oh and one other thing, didn’t we just agree that gang culture was wrong and had no place in our schools or indeed society or is that just a case of do as I say not as I do? I hope the young people got something out of it all, even if it was just a sense of county hall not being so remote and the people who make the decisions are just human beings as well, with all the frailties that entails. I hope I have convinced one or two of the young people who always take such active roles in most of the times I have worked with these young people to lay a wreath at Remembrance Day, deputising for me. I can’t be there because of work commitments but I do want to show my respect so I have asked to buy a wreath myself and hope to get these young lads to lay it on my behalf. Well what a nightmare work was this weekend. I had to stay late on the Sunday night to make sure the production lines were running normally at switch on and that was after a 12hr shift so I was pleased to get home! Monday and a rare day this month, a day off! Time to catch up on my correspondence and get in touch with the people I needed to speak to. My environmental training was cancelled this morning but I was at the dental hospital anyway! Ended up rushing back to chair a meeting at 2.pm. This was the NCC Community Chest Scheme for our local area. Hopefully more groups and associations will apply in future but as it was the funding was about equal to the applications. We really would like to fund every application which comes in but there are strict rules and regulations we have to follow to make sure everyone gets the same chance, irrespective of how big and professional their group is. That done and seeing as I was in offices adjacent, I took the opportunity, or in reality barged into the office, to ask cabinet members several questions on behalf of constituents. I even managed to squeeze into a director of service office and ask him directly some questions! I also had the opportunity to speak to one of the planning officers! I have also been speaking to the temporary local area manager I have been trying to get answers out of. He agreed to meet with me and I will take him around the ward and show him the concerns residents have been in touch with me about. Hopefully we can come up with some resolution! So not only have we dished out about another £50K to worthy groups in this area I have also been able to put into place some determination of residents’ complaints! Now I just have to make the best case for each! Wednesday and rushed back from work to get to the LAC in good time because there was a planning brief beforehand. As this is in my ward again I really wanted to be there right at the start. Got there in time to help putting the chairs out! First up a brief planning update about the applications we had tonight and then straight into the applications. First one was certainly contentious. Members of the public were there to put their views so after we heard the planning officer present the case it was time for public address. I do wish anyone speaking would refer to and take on board the rules and regulations we have to follow. An address can be as emotive as possible but in reality it can’t be considered if there are no lawful reasons to object! Whilst the public objectors had the sympathy of the panel we couldn’t dismiss the application because it followed all the rules, in fact I seconded it for exactly that reason! Several of these members of the public felt obliged to shout at us on their way out blaming us for passing this application. If only they realised it was in fact their inability to make a case using the lawful planning terms and conditions which made the outcome so one sided. Next up an application for the nursery in the West End school here in Bedlington. I proposed acceptance and when the highways and parking issues were raised I said it was so bad now that nothing could possibly make it any worse! That again was passed unanimously. Next up was the Town and Parish Councils section. This is so Town and Parish councillors can get access to the various NCC department managers such as Neighbourhood Services, IT Infrastructure, Democratic Services, Highways and Planning who were all there tonight. There was the usual contingent from WBTC, all Independent councillors (!), so with them and the two Bedlington County Councillors once again Bedlington was well represented. In fact there seemed to me to be a feeling of really getting on with business tonight. The officers were more than open and took notes of everything raised and we should see some actions resulting. I know my items were all written down for further action and asking other members, theirs’s were too. Today I had two meetings on at the same time. Treasury Management training and the Fire Fighters Pension Board. The Board had to take precedence because as I said if one of us misses a meeting then there isn’t a quorum. Plus the fact that this was the main 6 month meeting. Again quite a complex issue but then pensions are. Updates done and questions asked the Chair then took us through the rest of the agenda. This took 2 hours and I was pleased about the level of training I have done for this subject or I just wouldn’t have a clue. Friday and I had a meeting with our Neighbourhood Services area manager, something I have been chasing for some time! I had about a dozen items which needed to be resolved so once we met up I took him around to each and showed him the problems. I have to say this guy is extremely approachable and accommodating, so much so that because he has been transferred as soon as we get a replacement both the Town Council and myself asked his boss if he could stay looking after our area and his replacement move elsewhere. That can’t happen we were told! So after driving around for an hour looking at all the concerns brought to me by residents we now have agreed ways forward. That’s all I have been after for about 2 months now! Once home I had several emails to sort out, some giving updates to residents but one other laying out the evidence to back up what I said at a recent meeting, something which had been disputed. I have also been invited to a meeting by the head of NCC Planning about the housing development to the North of the Chesters. Seems there are some anomalies to clear up! It would seem there are quite a few anomalies where planning is concerned. We currently have a variation to a planning application which was originally turned down but got through on appeal and one of the variations to the permission is to build the houses in completely different styles. I have asked planners about this and they have said it is a correct way of doing it. How can that be right?????? For instance you get permission to build a bungalow and instead you build a three story townhouse and the change isn’t even consulted upon. Absolutely nuts but that’s the National Planning Framework for you! I wanted to get some questions in the next full council meeting so I contacted the person who sorts that out and she said I still had time. I wrote one about Arch and another about the Northumberland business landscape. I will list them in next month’s diary complete with the answers which I get.
  15. Already cast my vote Eggy??????