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Bill Crosby

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Bill Crosby last won the day on January 11 2021

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  1. Between Christmas and New Year I was contacted by a resident of Heritage Gardens regarding a letter that had been received from Northumberland County Council (NCC) on the subject of removing trees from Gallagher Park that bordered certain streets, namely Newby Close, Cragside Gardens and Stirling Drive. The concern was that the trees are a useful habitat for the endangered red squirrel and encourage the squirrels to come into the garden which this particular resident enjoyed. The letter was dated 24 December 2020 and was asking for responses by 8 January 2021 as work was due to start the following Monday 11 January 2021. I felt that this wasn’t giving residents enough time to be consulted on their opinions so I wrote to NCC to get this work delayed until a proper consultation had been carried out. Following this, I then wrote and hand delivered letters to all the properties that would be affected in the streets that were mentioned in the letter asking them to contact me with their views. The Friends of Gallagher Park, of which I am chair, have been trying to help increase the red squirrel population in the park and so this was quite a concern to me also. I am pleased to say that a considerable number of residents took the time to write to or telephone me with their views and I’d like to thank all those who did so. As with everything there were differing opinions, some wanting the trees removed and those happy to retain them as it encourages the wildlife to visit on a regular basis, and I have passed all of these comments on to NCC. As a result of highlighting this on social media, I was also contacted by residents of streets in Bedlington Central Ward who had received similar letters from NCC and also had opinions to share; my colleague, Russ Wallace, has similarly taken the matter up with NCC. All this has culminated in a response from NCC to the effect that the work will not go ahead as had been planned and that a more thorough consultation will be undertaken with a view to listening to residents concerns. I understand that some work will need to be done as the park does require some form of tree management, but hopefully a compromise can be reached and avoid this “one size fits all “ approach.
  2. Between Christmas and New Year I was contacted by a resident of Heritage Gardens regarding a letter that had been received from Northumberland County Council (NCC) on the subject of removing trees from Gallagher Park that bordered certain streets, namely Newby Close, Cragside Gardens and Stirling Drive. The concern was that the trees are a useful habitat for the endangered red squirrel and encourage the squirrels to come into the garden which this particular resident enjoyed. The letter was dated 24 December 2020 and was asking for responses by 8 January 2021 as work was due to start the following Monday 11 January 2021. I felt that this wasn’t giving residents enough time to be consulted on their opinions so I wrote to NCC to get this work delayed until a proper consultation had been carried out. Following this, I then wrote and hand delivered letters to all the properties that would be affected in the streets that were mentioned in the letter asking them to contact me with their views. The Friends of Gallagher Park, of which I am chair, have been trying to help increase the red squirrel population in the park and so this was quite a concern to me also. I am pleased to say that a considerable number of residents took the time to write to or telephone me with their views and I’d like to thank all those who did so. As with everything there were differing opinions, some wanting the trees removed and those happy to retain them as it encourages the wildlife to visit on a regular basis, and I have passed all of these comments on to NCC. As a result of highlighting this on social media, I was also contacted by residents of streets in Bedlington Central Ward who had received similar letters from NCC and also had opinions to share; my colleague, Russ Wallace, has similarly taken the matter up with NCC. All this has culminated in a response from NCC to the effect that the work will not go ahead as had been planned and that a more thorough consultation will be undertaken with a view to listening to residents concerns. I understand that some work will need to be done as the park does require some form of tree management, but hopefully a compromise can be reached and avoid this “one size fits all “ approach. View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  3. Following the consultation on the Northumberland Line the County Council has launched another consultation on the budget proposals for 2021-22. In the current financial year the Council is forecasting a modest deficit due to the additional and unexpected spend linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further information on the budget proposals can be found in the link at the foot of this piece but I would also like to share my own views. Like any organisation the Council can set a balanced budget by increasing its level of income or reducing expenditure. Increasing income is always welcome but it very much depends on the source. For example introducing car parking charges in areas that don’t have them is not something I would support. Such a proposal or something similar would be totally unacceptable as it should not be residents that are milked as a cash cow given the rises in Council Tax in recent decades and the current challenging economic conditions. What the Council needs to focus on is other ways to raise income such as the sale of assets that are no longer required. These could be held by the Council or Advance Northumberland and would provide a boost to income that will help cover the extraordinary costs associated with coronavirus. What the Council also needs to seriously look at is its own cost base and whether it simply needs to stop certain things or reduce what is delivered. Councillor Russ Wallace in a recent post highlighted that the Council has an ‘International Team’. As a Councillor of three and a half years I have little knowledge of what that team does or of any benefits. Information online suggests “It will lead to the introduction of joined-up health and care in state-of-the-art facilities in China.” Whilst this sounds extremely laudable is does beg a number of questions including why the second largest economy in the world needs investment from Northumberland for health facilities. More significantly whilst myself and Councillors Robinson and Wallace are fighting for the crumbs from the table for the town centre it is ludicrous that money is being made available halfway around the world. I would therefore argue that this project should be placed under the microscope and if the benefits cannot be demonstrated to Councillors it should be scrapped. Another pot of funding which is a cause for concern is the money that is made available to Councillors for small schemes. Whilst I endeavour to spend the £15,000 I receive every year in the best way possible I am not convinced that it has always been the case in previous administrations or in the rest of the County. Under the former Labour administration I recall that money that should have spent in Bedlington ending up in Ashington. And just recently a Councillor from elsewhere tried to use the money for resurfacing works in his own street. Not only is that fundamentally wrong but it is also the type of scheme that should be part of the Council’s core budget. Reducing the allocation from £15,000 per annum to £7,500 will not only force all Councillors to think much harder but it would also save up to half a million pounds per year. That is a hugely significant sum which can be achieved for very little impact and should be looked at in any case given that some Councillors appear to stockpile the funding over 4 years then rush to spend it with questionable outcomes. A final proposal is to freeze Councillor allowances for 2020/21. The pay of MPs has been frozen as has pay in much of the public sector including local government. It is therefore inconceivable that Councillors should receive any kind of increase in such circumstances. Please take part in the survey and put your views forward. In my opinion it is about cutting unnecessary costs rather than expecting residents to foot the bill that should be the Council’s focus. https://haveyoursay.northumberland.gov.uk/communications/2021-22-budget-consultation/?fbclid=IwAR3XCl1ONb-SoKYTlxh5djpoMspJyccgLcFsWF3C94Sciu-VXsoD3AFTp8A
  4. Following the consultation on the Northumberland Line the County Council has launched another consultation on the budget proposals for 2021-22. In the current financial year the Council is forecasting a modest deficit due to the additional and unexpected spend linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further information on the budget proposals can be found in the link at the foot of this piece but I would also like to share my own views. Like any organisation the Council can set a balanced budget by increasing its level of income or reducing expenditure. Increasing income is always welcome but it very much depends on the source. For example introducing car parking charges in areas that don’t have them is not something I would support. Such a proposal or something similar would be totally unacceptable as it should not be residents that are milked as a cash cow given the rises in Council Tax in recent decades and the current challenging economic conditions. What the Council needs to focus on is other ways to raise income such as the sale of assets that are no longer required. These could be held by the Council or Advance Northumberland and would provide a boost to income that will help cover the extraordinary costs associated with coronavirus. What the Council also needs to seriously look at is its own cost base and whether it simply needs to stop certain things or reduce what is delivered. Councillor Russ Wallace in a recent post highlighted that the Council has an ‘International Team’. As a Councillor of three and a half years I have little knowledge of what that team does or of any benefits. Information online suggests “It will lead to the introduction of joined-up health and care in state-of-the-art facilities in China.” Whilst this sounds extremely laudable is does beg a number of questions including why the second largest economy in the world needs investment from Northumberland for health facilities. More significantly whilst myself and Councillors Robinson and Wallace are fighting for the crumbs from the table for the town centre it is ludicrous that money is being made available halfway around the world. I would therefore argue that this project should be placed under the microscope and if the benefits cannot be demonstrated to Councillors it should be scrapped. Another pot of funding which is a cause for concern is the money that is made available to Councillors for small schemes. Whilst I endeavour to spend the £15,000 I receive every year in the best way possible I am not convinced that it has always been the case in previous administrations or in the rest of the County. Under the former Labour administration I recall that money that should have spent in Bedlington ending up in Ashington. And just recently a Councillor from elsewhere tried to use the money for resurfacing works in his own street. Not only is that fundamentally wrong but it is also the type of scheme that should be part of the Council’s core budget. Reducing the allocation from £15,000 per annum to £7,500 will not only force all Councillors to think much harder but it would also save up to half a million pounds per year. That is a hugely significant sum which can be achieved for very little impact and should be looked at in any case given that some Councillors appear to stockpile the funding over 4 years then rush to spend it with questionable outcomes. A final proposal is to freeze Councillor allowances for 2020/21. The pay of MPs has been frozen as has pay in much of the public sector including local government. It is therefore inconceivable that Councillors should receive any kind of increase in such circumstances. Please take part in the survey and put your views forward. In my opinion it is about cutting unnecessary costs rather than expecting residents to foot the bill that should be the Council’s focus. https://haveyoursay.northumberland.gov.uk/communications/2021-22-budget-consultation/?fbclid=IwAR3XCl1ONb-SoKYTlxh5djpoMspJyccgLcFsWF3C94Sciu-VXsoD3AFTp8A View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  5. I am delighted to be supporting Contract Gym and Fitness in Bedlington Station who again are delivering a Christmas Gift Give Away. Gym owner, Lindsey Jordan, is behind the scheme which is now in it’s third year. Lindsey and her team have been collecting donations of nearly new toys and clothes, as well as unwanted gifts since October. Over thirty less well off families have been supported in each of the last two years and even more are expected to benefit this year with the gym overflowing with donations. They include bikes, games, dolls houses, scalextrics, and much more for children and adults. The Give Away takes place on Sunday 6th December at 4pm and is open to any family in Northumberland that need extra help at Christmas. Track and trace details must be provided and the numbers entering the gym at any one time will be limited in line with Tier 3 restrictions. It is also requested that people “Only take what you need to allow others to do the same.” This is a brilliant scheme from a local business that despite having a difficult year of trading is still giving something back to the local community. Lindsey has done an amazing job and I would to thank her for all the smiles that she will put on children’s faces on Christmas morning.
  6. I am delighted to be supporting Contract Gym and Fitness in Bedlington Station who again are delivering a Christmas Gift Give Away. Gym owner, Lindsey Jordan, is behind the scheme which is now in it’s third year. Lindsey and her team have been collecting donations of nearly new toys and clothes, as well as unwanted gifts since October. Over thirty less well off families have been supported in each of the last two years and even more are expected to benefit this year with the gym overflowing with donations. They include bikes, games, dolls houses, scalextrics, and much more for children and adults. The Give Away takes place on Sunday 6th December at 4pm and is open to any family in Northumberland that need extra help at Christmas. Track and trace details must be provided and the numbers entering the gym at any one time will be limited in line with Tier 3 restrictions. It is also requested that people “Only take what you need to allow others to do the same.” This is a brilliant scheme from a local business that despite having a difficult year of trading is still giving something back to the local community. Lindsey has done an amazing job and I would to thank her for all the smiles that she will put on children’s faces on Christmas morning. View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  7. There have been a lot of positive noises recently regarding Bedlington once again having a railway station. The detailed consultation taking place is a part of that as is the £1m invested in site investigations by the County Council. I am old enough to remember catching a train from Bedlington Station and talk about passenger rail services returning to Bedlington goes back decades. It is something I can certainly recall from the 1990s. The car was king in the three decades before that as more roads were built to accommodate the growth in ownership. However, it became clear that rail needed to be looked at again as congestion on the roads increased. I did think that the Labour government elected in 1997 would have taken the opportunity to repay the faith of North East voters who returned 28 Labour MPs out of a total of 30: Wansbeck and Blyth Valley among them. But it didn’t happen and the efforts of the then Wansbeck MP, Denis Murphy, were rebuffed time and time again. That one of Blair’s Transport Secretaries was a North Tyneside MP makes it even more surprising that no progress was made, and by 2010 when Denis Murphy stood down, the only passenger train that had chugged along the tracks was a special charter to see benefits that have yet to be realised. Since then I have picked up on the odd muttering from the current Labour MP but nothing that convinced me that Bedlington would again have a railway station. Given that the end of the line is Ashington, I assumed that the tub thumping would be incessant and heard across Wansbeck from Cambois to Clifton. But I do sense that a funding decision is now close. I took part in a visit from the previous Transport Secretary to Bedlington Station in 2019 along with my Independent colleagues, Councillor Robinson and Councillor Wallace. The current Transport Secretary has posted a video of support over the weekend. I am not too concerned about who politically is due the credit and whether the current drilling of bore holes will have more impact than a conversation in a smoke-filled room 25 years ago. Bedlington as always is my only focus. However, that it appears the funding will be confirmed under a Conservative County Council and by a Conservative Government must be one of the biggest ironies in Northumberland’s political history. A missed opportunity for Labour is a huge understatement in those circumstances. Little wonder the town returned three Independents in 2017 to work with whichever party took control and to ensure a better Bedlington.
  8. There have been a lot of positive noises recently regarding Bedlington once again having a railway station. The detailed consultation taking place is a part of that as is the £1m invested in site investigations by the County Council. I am old enough to remember catching a train from Bedlington Station and talk about passenger rail services returning to Bedlington goes back decades. It is something I can certainly recall from the 1990s. The car was king in the three decades before that as more roads were built to accommodate the growth in ownership. However, it became clear that rail needed to be looked at again as congestion on the roads increased. I did think that the Labour government elected in 1997 would have taken the opportunity to repay the faith of North East voters who returned 28 Labour MPs out of a total of 30: Wansbeck and Blyth Valley among them. But it didn’t happen and the efforts of the then Wansbeck MP, Denis Murphy, were rebuffed time and time again. That one of Blair’s Transport Secretaries was a North Tyneside MP makes it even more surprising that no progress was made, and by 2010 when Denis Murphy stood down, the only passenger train that had chugged along the tracks was a special charter to see benefits that have yet to be realised. Since then I have picked up on the odd muttering from the current Labour MP but nothing that convinced me that Bedlington would again have a railway station. Given that the end of the line is Ashington, I assumed that the tub thumping would be incessant and heard across Wansbeck from Cambois to Clifton. But I do sense that a funding decision is now close. I took part in a visit from the previous Transport Secretary to Bedlington Station in 2019 along with my Independent colleagues, Councillor Robinson and Councillor Wallace. The current Transport Secretary has posted a video of support over the weekend. I am not too concerned about who politically is due the credit and whether the current drilling of bore holes will have more impact than a conversation in a smoke-filled room 25 years ago. Bedlington as always is my only focus. However, that it appears the funding will be confirmed under a Conservative County Council and by a Conservative Government must be one of the biggest ironies in Northumberland’s political history. A missed opportunity for Labour is a huge understatement in those circumstances. Little wonder the town returned three Independents in 2017 to work with whichever party took control and to ensure a better Bedlington. View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  9. The last few days have been dominated by the Government’s decision not to provide free school meals this week. Given coronavirus and the uncertain economic outlook, I do believe this to be the wrong decision and much more thought should have been given to the issue. The Government has had since the summer to come up with a plan for this half-term. If they are arguing that free school meals are not the best way to provide support, then alternatives should have been explored. As that hasn’t happened, free school meals should have been provided to those that would normally receive them, but I am also concerned for those families that don’t qualify and have seen their incomes fall dramatically. The County Council’s handling of the situation has been equally poor. Other local authorities have offered a voucher scheme across their whole areas but this hasn’t been the case in Northumberland. The Tory administration and Senior Officers have seemingly been unable to agree to this, which I find staggering and something which I am beginning to wonder may be the problem with making investment available for the town centre. Now, instead of a voucher scheme, Councillors have been allowed to make up to £2,000 available from their Member’s Allowances, but since this was only announced on Sunday it didn’t really give anyone the chance to think about how to roll out something really fit for purpose. If any group needs specific support then please do get in touch and I will be happy to assist with the funds that are available to me. That said, one scheme for the whole county would have been much better and is an absolute must for the Christmas holidays. The Government and the County Council have to be more joined up on this and not rely on the fantastic generosity of the numerous Bedlington businesses and voluntary groups that have stepped in this week. My thanks to all of those involved, which once again demonstrates Bedlington’s fantastic community spirit.
  10. The last few days have been dominated by the Government’s decision not to provide free school meals this week. Given coronavirus and the uncertain economic outlook, I do believe this to be the wrong decision and much more thought should have been given to the issue. The Government has had since the summer to come up with a plan for this half-term. If they are arguing that free school meals are not the best way to provide support, then alternatives should have been explored. As that hasn’t happened, free school meals should have been provided to those that would normally receive them, but I am also concerned for those families that don’t qualify and have seen their incomes fall dramatically. The County Council’s handling of the situation has been equally poor. Other local authorities have offered a voucher scheme across their whole areas but this hasn’t been the case in Northumberland. The Tory administration and Senior Officers have seemingly been unable to agree to this, which I find staggering and something which I am beginning to wonder may be the problem with making investment available for the town centre. Now, instead of a voucher scheme, Councillors have been allowed to make up to £2,000 available from their Member’s Allowances, but since this was only announced on Sunday it didn’t really give anyone the chance to think about how to roll out something really fit for purpose. If any group needs specific support then please do get in touch and I will be happy to assist with the funds that are available to me. That said, one scheme for the whole county would have been much better and is an absolute must for the Christmas holidays. The Government and the County Council have to be more joined up on this and not rely on the fantastic generosity of the numerous Bedlington businesses and voluntary groups that have stepped in this week. My thanks to all of those involved, which once again demonstrates Bedlington’s fantastic community spirit. View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  11. As many of you will be aware, Cambois Primary School suffered a break in last month which caused significant damage and resulted in IT equipment used by pupils being stolen. It was a shocking incident and Councillors Robinson, Wallace and I, were united in wanting to do something to help. Having spoken to the Headteacher we agreed to each provide £500 from our Councillor allowances. This £1 500 will help to ensure that the school can replace equipment as quickly as possible and also provide more opportunities for children to be learning IT skills. I would like to think this is a small contribution to the fantastic community spirit that was shown in response to what happened. I was pleased to see on this occasion that the perpetrator was quickly apprehended by Northumbria Police and given a custodial sentence. I do hope that the individual in question reflects on the disgust that the local community felt about his mindless actions.
  12. As many of you will be aware, Cambois Primary School suffered a break in last month which caused significant damage and resulted in IT equipment used by pupils being stolen. It was a shocking incident and Councillors Robinson, Wallace and I, were united in wanting to do something to help. Having spoken to the Headteacher we agreed to each provide £500 from our Councillor allowances. This £1 500 will help to ensure that the school can replace equipment as quickly as possible and also provide more opportunities for children to be learning IT skills. I would like to think this is a small contribution to the fantastic community spirit that was shown in response to what happened. I was pleased to see on this occasion that the perpetrator was quickly apprehended by Northumbria Police and given a custodial sentence. I do hope that the individual in question reflects on the disgust that the local community felt about his mindless actions. View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  13. Yesterday full Council saw Glen Sanderson elected as the new Council Leader with a new Deputy also in place alongside some changes in the Cabinet. Hopefully this will be the beginning of some normality after weeks of upheaval that has got in the way of delivering for residents. On that very issue of putting residents first, Russ Wallace asked a question about whether the current administration were in agreement about providing funding for leisure facilities in Bedlington given that Newbiggin Sports Centre has recently had £1.5m approved from the Council pot; great for Newbiggin but what about Bedlington was the point. The response from the Cabinet Member was an extremely positive one and in-line with our previous discussions about the need to include leisure in the town centre redevelopment. Bedlington was additionally recognised as a town that had been forgotten and there is a definite commitment from the current administration to address a fact that we all recognise. What was less positive, however, was an intervention from the Labour Leader, who failed to take the opportunity to offer any support for Bedlington and instead was more concerned about asking who had written the response for the Cabinet Member. A FOI request is apparently going to be submitted to find out and I can only assume that the Labour Leader thinks officers at the Council have nothing better to do at the minute than deal with something that has never previously been queried in my three plus years as a County Councillor. So, yet again, it appears that Labour are simply not prepared to prioritise Bedlington. Well, there is no need for anyone to submit a FOI request to confirm something that we already know!
  14. Yesterday full Council saw Glen Sanderson elected as the new Council Leader with a new Deputy also in place alongside some changes in the Cabinet. Hopefully this will be the beginning of some normality after weeks of upheaval that has got in the way of delivering for residents. On that very issue of putting residents first, Russ Wallace asked a question about whether the current administration were in agreement about providing funding for leisure facilities in Bedlington given that Newbiggin Sports Centre has recently had £1.5m approved from the Council pot; great for Newbiggin but what about Bedlington was the point. The response from the Cabinet Member was an extremely positive one and in-line with our previous discussions about the need to include leisure in the town centre redevelopment. Bedlington was additionally recognised as a town that had been forgotten and there is a definite commitment from the current administration to address a fact that we all recognise. What was less positive, however, was an intervention from the Labour Leader, who failed to take the opportunity to offer any support for Bedlington and instead was more concerned about asking who had written the response for the Cabinet Member. A FOI request is apparently going to be submitted to find out and I can only assume that the Labour Leader thinks officers at the Council have nothing better to do at the minute than deal with something that has never previously been queried in my three plus years as a County Councillor. So, yet again, it appears that Labour are simply not prepared to prioritise Bedlington. Well, there is no need for anyone to submit a FOI request to confirm something that we already know! View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  15. Let me be clear; there is a commitment from the current political administration to develop a swimming pool in Bedlington. It has been discussed and agreed over several months in response to the changes to the town centre scheme. That an unnamed Northumberland County Council spokesperson has seemingly questioned this is a matter to be resolved within the corridors of power at County Hall and something that needs to happen now. Russ, Malcolm and I have already written to the Acting Chief Executive to seek answers and clarification. Our message is that improved leisure facilities are a must for Bedlington and are wanted by residents It is not acceptable that other towns have the equivalent of two leisure centres and smaller places have leisure facilities that our town does not. After decades of Labour failing to deliver there is at last an opportunity to provide Bedlington residents with a leisure offer that other areas take for granted. This is through funding that otherwise would have been spent on retail and the additional resources from government which were recently announced. If more is needed, then that is where the Council’s capital programme comes into play as it has previously for large scale infrastructure projects across the county. If that can be done for Ashington, Berwick, Blyth, Morpeth, Hexham and Ponteland then our turn is long overdue. Bedlington should receive equal treatment; in fact, more than that is required given unequal history. That is why I stood for election and that is what I am continually seeking to achieve. As a footnote, I have recently received emails from ‘Mary Whitehouse’ and ‘John Profumo’. That is the level of the murky and ridiculous antics taking place in Northumberland at present. I am not interested in petty score settling. Bedlington is my only concern and it deserves better. View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
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