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Russ Wallace

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Russ Wallace last won the day on November 9 2017

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About Russ Wallace

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  1. As 2017 has drawn to a close it is good to reflect on the year and the lessons that can be learned. Since becoming a County Councillor in May my learning curve has been extremely steep. What I have learned though is that the people of Bedlington want to be kept up to date with what is happening in their community. Through our blogs, Bill Crosby, Malcolm Robinson and I have endeavoured to make sure we have done just that. However not everyone has, or wants, access to web sites or social media. With that in mind I will be leafleting all Bedlington Central households in the Spring with an update. I have also learned that the issues we raised during campaigning – poor road infrastructure, lack of social, leisure and health facilities, school places and ongoing housing development are issues that matter to Bedlingtonians. I am also increasingly aware of residents’ desire to tackle road safety issues in the town, particularly speeding. It is in these areas I will be trying my absolute best in 2018 to facilitate improvement and as such, I will work with anyone and everyone I can to do so. I am particularly pleased that NCC have agreed to look at the congestion at the Red Lion roundabout. Clearly some things cannot be changed but, as many residents have already indicated through their specific suggestions, it can be made better. I am also delighted that the subway is to be closed as it is a real health risk. My thanks to Cllrs Adam Hogg and Jim Tyler and to West Bedlington Town Council for their support over this. Looking back over 2017 the town has much to be proud of – Bedlington Live, the Picnic, the various events in the Front Street, Remembrance Day, the Halloween Disco, the Christmas Panto, the Carol Service in the Market Place, the resurgence of Gallagher Park and of course the contribution our two Community Centres make to the town. These events do not happen without much ‘behind the scenes’ work taking place. Much is down to individual effort but the support of our two Local Councils is crucial to these successes and on behalf of all Bedlingtonians, our thanks to them – they are unpaid and do what they do for the love of our town. As Councillor for Bedlington Central I have particularly enjoyed working with West Bedlington Town Council – they really do an outstanding job! Can I close by firstly thanking the 927 Bedlington Central residents who voted for me in May and for the support so many Bedlingtonians have given to me since then. I am proud and honoured to be your County Councillor and the one promise I can make is that I will work flat out through 2018 and beyond to represent you to the best of my ability. Best wishes for 2018 Russ
  2. Along with my fellow local Councillors I am delighted to have supported the work to improve the War Memorial area on the Front Street commissioned by West Bedlington Town Council and completed by W L Straughan and Son Ltd. The area provides a fitting memorial to the Bedlingtonians who gave their lives in the service of their country as well as providing a very pleasant recreational facility. Many of the phone calls, emails and surgery visits I receive continue to highlight road safety issues in the town and in particular, speeding cars and motor cycles. I am in ongoing discussion with the Police and the County Council to review measures to reduce speed and improve pedestrian safety in the town. I recently spent time on Hartford Road alongside the Police and Community Volunteers with their speed gun. Some of the speeds recorded while I was present were hair raising! Those caught by the volunteers’ camera are sent a letter by the Police and, if caught again, receive a warning visit from the Police. I recently met with the owners of the soon to open Box Wood Tap micropub at the old Serene Spa site on the Front Street. I am aware that the idea of a new pub in Bedlington has not appealed to everyone and can understand that. However, having spoken to Andrea Johnson about her plans for the pub I look forward to its opening. It will not be offering music, wi-fi, double up offers or quiz machines. The Box Wood Tap is very much aimed at providing quality beer, wine and spirits in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere, very much like its sister pub, The Office in Morpeth. Fellow Bedlington Independent Councillor Bill Crosby and I are delighted to confirm that Bedlington Live 18 @ Gallagher Park will take place on Saturday 28 July 2018. Thanks to the financial support of local sponsors, Northumberland County Council, West Bedlington Town Council, East Bedlington Parish Council and County Councillors Malcolm Robinson and Jeff Gobin, the event will be a worthy successor to 2017’s hugely successful Northumberland Live. Bedlington Live 18 @ Gallagher Park will be an all-day event running through until 9.00pm and there will be no charge for entry. Unfortunately I am unable to hold my next Surgery at the Community Centre on Thursday 7 December – my apologies. However, I can always be reached on 07779 983775 or at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk Thank you for reading. Best wishes Russ
  3. Thank you to the hundreds of Bedlingtonians who visited the drop-in at Bedlington Community Centre yesterday. The Arch team were amazed at just how many people came to see the plans and full marks to Arch for sending a seven strong team – the turnout meant they were all needed! The feedback I received on the display, which was much more detailed than the previous one, was overwhelmingly positive. For those who were unable to attend the main details were: A range of retailers have leased the five largest units. For commercial reasons they cannot yet be named, but they complement rather than rival our current Front Street shops. Negotiations are at an advanced stage to lease the other units. Work is scheduled to start in Spring 2018 and will be completed by late Autumn 2019. Construction will begin with the supermarket, who will use their own design team and appoint their own builders. This is normal practice. This will be closely followed by a start on the other retail units. The ‘family friendly’ pub will be the last to be built. Although I understand scepticism behind the “I’ll believe it when it starts” comment I heard yesterday, it is now pretty certain that the development will go ahead. This would surely be a good time to look to the future and move away from the negativity which has dogged the development to date. To help clarify the situation over the Old School site, the building is being stripped down and rebuilt. The overall delay is around five weeks with the builders confident they can make up for lost time. Thank you for reading. Russ
  4. After a very quiet August council matters are back to normal in September. Like every Bedlingtonian I was shocked and distressed by the tragic events on Station Road. I am sure you will join me in sending your sympathy and support not only to Beth’s family but also to Meg, who not only suffered serious injuries, but also lost her best friend. Recently I visited Whitley Memorial First School and could not help but be impressed by the friendly and happy atmosphere which greets you as soon as you walk through the door. A visit to the other school in my ward, West End First, is planned soon and by all accounts I will be met with the same welcoming atmosphere. Ofsted rates both schools as “good” but I do feel that Ofsted ratings are very understated these days in their description of schools that are doing well, and that “good” actually means “great”! I am aware of concern among parents about recent changes to the Admissions Policy at St Benets. If you are unsure of the situation regarding your child or simply want advice, please phone County Hall on 0345 600 6400 and ask for School Admissions. They are very keen to help. Understandably road safety and traffic congestion issues have been brought to my and fellow Bedlington Councillors’ attention recently. I am pleased that the Zebra Crossings to both the north and south side of the Red Lion roundabout are about to be refreshed in order make them more visible to road users and therefore safer for pedestrians. At present, the crossing by Catholic Row in particular can be a scary experience and I know many residents avoid it, so hopefully the refurbishment will go some way to improve this situation. A number of residents have expressed concern about vehicles speeding on Hartford Road and NCC data shows that excess speed, in both directions, remains an issue between the golf club and the Red Lion roundabout. The island crossing close to the entrance to Hartlands is of particular concern, as some drivers appear to accelerate after slowing down for the speed indicator at the entrance to the town. I have spoken to both the Highways Department and the Police about this issue and discussions are taking place to find a solution. My surgeries are held at Bedlington Community Centre at 6.30 pm on the first Thursday of the month, with the next surgery on 5 October. You can also contact me on 07779 983775 or at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk. If I can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me. My thanks for reading. Russ
  5. Local issues involving road safety and town parking have come to the fore over the last week or two. Potholes! All 67 NCC Councillors have been asked to nominate three potholes for filling. If you are aware of any potholes please email me at the address below. Don’t worry if they are not in Bedlington Central ward – I’ll pass the information on to other Councillors. Along with West Bedlington Town Councillor Victoria Thompson I met with Richard McKenzie, NCC Senior Programme Officer, to discuss problems on Windsor Gardens where uncontrolled parking has led to both road and pedestrian safety issues as well as creating access problems for emergency vehicles. After consulting with residents, Richard’s view is that for a trial period of 6 months the road should be double yellow lined: ie no parking, from the Front Street to the junction where Windsor Gardens loops back to re-join the main thoroughfare. This will create an opportunity to evaluate the impact on parking elsewhere in the area. If it simply moves the problem further down Windsor Gardens and beyond NCC will again consult over the introduction of a Resident Parking Scheme. I would welcome views on this via the email address below and I will also be in direct contact with the residents involved. I have asked NCC to investigate opening the Car Park behind the Council Offices for public use as at least a temporary measure. This will alleviate some the parking problems in the town centre and allow easier access to venues on the south side of the Front Street such as the Community Centre and Trinity Church. I have also requested that NCC review the crossing at the Old Police Station by the roundabout at the west end of the Front Street – it is at best tired and needs updating. Officials from St Bede’s Church and parents escorting young children to local schools have expressed concern at the frequent ‘near misses’ that occur at the crossing. I am particularly keen to hear residents’ views on all of the above. Please contact me at: russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk or drop into my Surgery at 6.30 next Thursday, 4 July, in the Community Centre. Thanks for reading. Russ
  6. In a meeting with Cllr Richard Dodd, Conservative Business Chair of NCC, Bill Crosby and I raised the issue of Bedlington’s position in the Local Area Council set up, as large parts of Bedlington are part of one LAC and most of Bedlington Station part of another. Richard was sympathetic and promised a review early next year. This may lead to something or nothing but we are determined to pursue the issue. Furthermore, I recently attended an East Bedlington Parish Council meeting as an interested observer and I was pleased that the Council agreed that Sleekburn is part of Bedlington and as such should be included with the rest of the town. The main item of the recent Full Council Meeting involved the Core Strategy recently submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Debate centred on the need to reduce the amount of new house builds contained in the submitted document and how this would be best achieved – either by modifying the existing document or by withdrawing it prior to resubmission. After voting in favour of a defeated motion to delay the decision to allow further consultation, I voted in favour of withdrawing the Strategy to allow it to be modified. My reasons for this were: excessive house building across the County is an issue for many communities and it was easily the number one concern expressed by residents during campaigning even though a delay might prolong the current free-for-all among builders, it is important for the future as a whole to take the time and get it right I felt my decision best reflected the views of Bedlington Central residents. Along with residents and County and Local Councillors, I recently met with Police Superintendent Andy Huddlestone and Inspector Trevor Oakley to discuss the recent crime issues in Bedlington. I was pleased with their agreement to fund increased PCSO presence in the town until some of the current issues have been resolved. In addition Andy and Trevor were very much of the view that the community has a crucial role in reducing both crime and anti social behaviour, highlighting the need for the Police, schools, families and the community to work together. Couldn’t agree more. It is our community and we all have a role to play in making our town the best it can be. Should we all be thinking about possible monitoring schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch? – “interested” neighbours are invaluable in alerting authorities to antisocial activities! As a standing item at the West Bedlington Town Council meeting, fellow Councillors Bill Crosby and Malcolm Robinson and I each give a verbal report to members on our recent activity. I believe this is an excellent example of good practice and fits in with our commitment both to work closely with our local Town and Parish Councils and to improve our communication with residents. As reported on local social media Facebook pages, a highly encouraging meeting took place last Friday (14 July) involving local Town and County Councillors and representatives of ARCH to discuss the Tesco site development. I gave a commitment not to comment on the content of the meeting as there is much behind the scenes work in progress – however I eagerly await the imminent ARCH announcement.
  7. Before moving to the more political, a big thank you to those behind the Bedlington Picnic held yesterday, Saturday 1 July. It was an outstanding event, superbly organised and supported by a huge number of Bedlingtonians. Vic Thomson deserves a medal for her efforts – but she was incredibly well supported by Daniel Wilkinson, Colin Patterson from Station Entertainments, Mayor Chris Taylor and the rest of West Bedlington Town Council, Allison Healy, Dave Johnson and Brian Sykes, to name just a few. Great day, thank you – and roll on Bedlington Picnic 2018! My last blog was entitled “Accentuate the Positive” and introduced “The Bedlington Show” as a way of showcasing the good things about our town. The first show was intended as a taster to highlight some of the people behind the positive aspects of Bedlington. I’m a tad overwhelmed by the response! Firstly by the positive comments from those who have listened to the show – I’m very much aware I’m no Chris Evans – but even more so by those happy to become involved in promoting our town. As a result there is another (at least one!) taster show currently in production. Keep you posted. Down to business! Like many, I am very concerned by the increase in crime in Bedlington over the last few weeks. Vandalism, threatening behaviour, robbery, car damage and arson have no place in our town. With that in mind, the announcement that the Bedlington Police Station Front Desk is to close overnight, is at best an own goal! Fellow Town and County Councillors, along with community group members have been in dialogue with the Police and will be formally meeting with officers in the near future in order to express residents’ concerns and hopefully bring improvements to the current situation. My interpretation of conversations so far is that the Police are as frustrated and concerned as we are, but remain hamstrung by the financial constraints under which they have to operate. In the last week I attended two meetings that are worth highlighting. The first meeting of the ‘Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee’ took place at County Hall. Due to its direct link in dealing with children and educational issues I am delighted to serve on this group. What pleased me most was the complete lack of politicking and point scoring which is part and parcel of so many meetings. All members, Tory, Labour and me, as the single Independent, were completely focussed on matters in hand. The result was a highly productive and constructive meeting. This week also saw the first meeting of our Local Area Committee. The agenda in truth was not contentious and once the meeting was underway it was completed quickly and efficiently. The beginning of the meeting was thought provoking. A Labour member began by expressing concern over the value of such a committee, citing previous style groups as being less than effective. Malcolm Robinson got his hand up first to express our disappointment and disagreement at that point of view. It was good to see so many Bedlingtonians present in the audience. They far outweighed any other group. They led the open session with a series of pertinent and focussed questions to committee members. The answers given to questions were full wherever possible and a promise of a prompt personal response given when they could not be answered there and then. I was therefore disappointed to then read on a local Facebook page that all one audience member decided to refer to the committee’s ‘snazzy Tory name’ rather than praise, or even mention, the full and positive responses received to his questions. There is a full Council Meeting on Wednesday. The agenda shows changes made to other Local Area Committee boundaries but confirms there are no changes affecting Bedlington. Disappointing, as this means the town remains split in two when local decisions are being made. Although I support the Local Area Committee principle and will do all I can to ensure its success, I cannot in all conscience vote in favour of something that splits my town in two! Thank you for reading.
  8. Bedlington has been my hometown for over 40 years. During this time it has changed enormously – not always necessarily for the better – but there is nowhere else I would rather live. I have always been aware that Bedlington has many positive features, eg a fabulous, tree lined, Front Street and stunning walks along the river at Humford. However we regularly hear of what we do not have and what we need – and I agree with many Bedlingtonians over this – but what is often played down and disregarded are the numerous good things about our town In order to ‘accentuate the positive’ Radio Northumberland, a local community radio station, has agreed to broadcast ‘The Bedlington Show.’ This is a non-political, one hour show which highlights some of the many positive aspects of our town – and the people behind them – through music. The first show is currently being broadcast at: 5.00 pm Friday 30 June 3.00 pm Saturday 1 July 9.00 am Sunday 2 July 10.00 am Monday 3 July 7.00 pm Tuesday 4 July 10.00 am Wednesday 5 July You can tune in at Radio Northumberland by clicking one of the carriers at the bottom of the home page. If you can, please listen in – and find out who is included in show one and discover their choice of music! The presenter is working on his skills – but would very much welcome feedback and, hopefully positive, suggestions. Normal ‘blog’ service will resume shortly, thanks for reading!
  9. Completely unacceptable behaviour yet again in in Bedlington Market Place last night. This incident occurred at 3.00 am this morning. Given the current financial constraints it is clearly unrealistic to expect a 24/7 police presence in the town. It is also right to point out that Bedlington is fortunate to be served by an outstanding Police team who have our full support. As County Councillor for Bedlington Central I wrote to the Chief Superintendent earlier this week to request that Northumbria Police reverse their recent decision to discontinue the presence of Police Officers in the town centre after 10.00 pm in the evening, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I have written again to the Chief Superintendent to ask for an urgent review of both the current situation and measures that can be put in place to prevent this level of wanton, mindless vandalism becoming even more common. Having spoken to shop owners this morning, they are determined not to give in to this form of behaviour. I will be talking to other shop owners next week to gather their views. We need to give them all the support we can. View on Councillor Wallace's Blog
  10. I attended a Northumberland County Council Strategic Planning Meeting on 6 June and left with mixed feelings. Very positive about the progress being made on the Tesco site development and was happy to speak to the committee in favour. Outline planning was unanimously approved which allows the process to move into the next, more detailed stage. I was particularly pleased that this will allow time for the further consultation over “things that local people have suggested they would like to see added to the proposals” (Council Leader Peter Jackson). Much less positive feeling over the proposal to build 500+ houses north of The Chesters. Along with Adam Hogg from West Bedlington Town Council, I spoke against the scheme. Although I am keen to learn more about the associated proposals to improve the infrastructure and understand that nothing is currently set in stone, I feel that the plans as they currently stand do not sufficiently meet the town’s needs. This is particularly the case with the proposed education, health and highway provision. I appreciate that much more discussion and negotiation lies ahead. However if the application is approved, and given current legislation this is undoubtedly well possible, the needs and expectations of the town and its residents clearly exceed what is currently on the table. I again visited Baedling Manor this week. They now host their first resident, with more arriving shortly. Happily the unsightly concrete blocks on the pavement outside are about to be removed. At the risk of repeating myself, like many I was in despair at the length of time taken to complete the build. However the home is state of the art, employs 50 local people and has built real links with local businesses in order to provide some of its services. Baedling Manor is part of our town and has earned our best wishes and future support. Also pleased that the proposals to renovate The Laird’s House on the Front Street (the old Top Club building) have taken a step forward. In its current state the building is a blight on the landscape. I am meeting the owners shortly to see if we can assist in any way. I will keep you up to date with progress. The first meeting of the Town & Parish Liaison group gave further indication of the new administration’s pledge to devolve power to local areas. Positive comments from the Council Leader over the role of Town and Parish Councils, their links with the new Local Area Councils (LACs) and the on-going devolution of power to LACs themselves is really encouraging. A good example is that all housing applications for developments of under 100 homes will be now be decided by LACs – at last an opportunity for some input into the future development of our town. Not so good is that after review, although changes have been made to the ward make up of neighbouring LACs, the Bedlington/Cramlington LAC remains unchanged. This means the Sleekburn ward, which contains much of Bedlington Station, remains with the Blyth/Ashington LAC. Much as I agree with the principle of devolving decision making into communities, and will fully support the Bedlington/Cramington LAC, I cannot, in all conscience, vote in favour of a proposal which splits my town in half. I will therefore again be voting against on 5 July. The first meeting of the Bedlington/Cramlington LAC will be held at Concordia Leisure Centre, Cramlington at 6.00 on Wednesday 28 June. This is open to the public and is sure to be interesting and informative as to the future of local democracy in Bedlington. Keep you posted! I am really enjoying working with residents who contact me with issues. Several start by saying that they know it’s a really small matter and are sorry to bother me. If there are any issues, no matter how small, where you feel I might be of help or support, please get in touch. My surgeries are held at Bedlington Community Centre at 6.30 pm on the first Thursday of the month, starting on 6 July. You can also contact me on 07779 983775 or at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk. Finally, thank you for the support you have given me over the last six weeks. I have enjoyed every minute so far and have learned so much, with more to come Thanks for reading. View on Councillor Wallace's Blog
  11. It’s now a few weeks since I was elected as the Independent County Councillor for Bedlington Central. From a personal point of view, recording thoughts, ambitions and actions as a blog which just might be read by someone means that I will have to order my thinking and record it in a logical and readable way and then I will be able to make future reference. If you wish to read on please do so, if not, no problem, thanks for reading so far. As part of Make a Noise for Bedlington, Bill Crosby and I stood as Independent candidates for two Bedlington seats in the local elections for Northumberland County Council held on 4 May 2017. We were delighted to be successful and to be joined on the Council by Malcolm Robinson, another Bedlington Independent. We replaced three Labour Councillors. The count was held overnight (and well into the next day!) at Hexham Sports Centre. To call the atmosphere emotionally charged would be an understatement. The deflation shown by the then ruling Labour Group was palpable, as was the increasing elation of the successful Conservatives. Speaking of emotion, I was caught on camera in tears! My first real thought was pride at being elected but that was kicked into touch by the response we received from the people of Bedlington. I have been congratulated in pubs and restaurants, tooted at while out walking – and of course the expected derisive comments from friends at the golf club! I was disappointed at some early ‘troll’ comments from what I can only describe as poor losers, inferring that we were Tories in disguise. Sadly these have not gone away but are seen locally for what they are – pathetic attempts to discredit those who not only had the gall to take on Labour, but had the temerity to then win. Presumably this opposition hold a similar view of the electorate who voted us into office! Like many ex-teachers, the word INSET still causes me palpitations but happy to report the staff at NCC have been spot on – well organised, kept it as short as necessary and highly supportive – thanks. More to come though! I have also appreciated the warm welcome I have received from fellow Councillors, from every party. Thank you to them. The bread and butter of being a Councillor is responding to requests from residents. I have already met many residents and have tried to be supportive and act on their behalf as best I can. Best result so far – a support railing on local steps mended and no longer a safety risk! Visited our new Care Home, Baedling Manor recently. It is superbly well appointed and includes a cinema, hairdressing/beauty salon, shop, café, lounges and several dining areas, all finished to a very high standard. The rooms themselves each have an en suite and shower and are welcoming and tastefully furnished. The staff I met are highly experienced, well qualified, enthusiastic and importantly, local. Like many I have been disappointed at the delays which dogged the build, however the end result is an impressive care home. It has brought employment and already developed links with Bedlington business: eg a local salon delivers the hairdressing and beauty provision. It is surely time to put the past behind and support the venture. Also had the pleasure of visiting the new Sporting Club of Bedlington. As with the care home, I know we had to wait far too long for it to open but it is open now and an excellent facility. I was made very welcome by the team and given the full tour. Boogie Bounce was in full session – scary watching Laraine putting the group through some tough routines. Also a gym with 27 stations and, once the school exam season is over, a huge, four court Sports Hall. Full details can be found on the Sporting Club Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sportingclubbedlington/ On 24 May attended first ever Full Council Meeting. The changeover to Conservative leadership was smooth and the meeting itself, although not always amicable, contained little of the bitterness that dogged the campaign. Good to see and long may it continue. Committee membership is a bit of mystery as to who, why and how, but delighted to be included as the only Independent on the Family and Children’s Services Committee. Working to support young people and their families and to be involved in schools and especially school improvement are things very close to my heart. Also Vice Chair of the Town and Parish Council Group, which is also pleasing. Close links between County and Town/Parish Councils can only improve involvement of local communities in the way the Council operates. On a personal note, although very much in favour of the devolution of power away from County Hall which the proposal brought, I voted against the introduction of Local Area Councils as the proposed division split Bedlington into two separate areas. One ward, Sleekburn is placed in Ashington/Blyth while the rest of the town is in Bedlington/Cramlington. Bedlington is Bedlington and the town’s strength is its togetherness. It should be dealt with as one community. The proposal was however carried. As an aside, voting with Labour on this issue has surely put an end to the “they’ve done a deal with the Tories” campaign instigated by the Northumberland against Conservatives group – but then again who knows! Perhaps the Labour leadership also regrets calling me a “Turbo Tory”? Thanks for reading – bit too long I know, so promise number two will be shorter and sharper! View on Councillor Wallace's Blog