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  1. Following the tragic road traffic collision on Victoria Terrace in the early hours of Saturday 19 August, I was contacted by concerned residents regarding the safety issues around that stretch of road. Suggestions were made regarding traffic calming measures as this was considered to be an accident blackspot and, following an initial telephone discussion with Northumbria Police that weekend, I met with Superintendent Huddleston at Bedlington Police Station on Friday 25 August. The Superintendent was kind enough to fully brief me on the investigation to-date and together we visited the scene of the collision to examine the road and the conditions. We are fortunate in Bedlington to have quite wide roads that allow cars to pass safely even when there are vehicles parked at either side and this stretch of road is no different; in fact, whilst travelling from Ian Bell’s towards Bedlington Station, there is a good view with little obstruction of the road ahead. It is the opinion of the Police that the road conditions in no way contributed to this tragedy. Traffic calming measures were discussed but the issue is where to put them? I myself have witnessed cars speeding along Hirst Villas and then onto Stead Lane and there could be an argument for traffic calming measures there also. As you may be aware, we are constantly being told that there are no bad roads, only bad drivers, and prior to this incident, there have been only three recorded collisions over the past three years in that area, all low speed incidents and damage only. The period between an incident and a Crown Court appearance is always the most difficult and I would ask people not to fuel rumour and speculation as to the cause but rather let the Police get on with their job and investigate this incident fully. If anyone has any issues or concerns surrounding this matter, Superintendent Huddleston has asked me to pass on that he is more than willing to meet with anyone in order to address any matters arising. If anyone would like to take up this offer, please let me know and I will relay it to him. Our thoughts are with all the families affected by this tragic event.
  2. July 2017: After a pretty gruelling weekend at work I had to be up at Alnwick for a site visit at 11.00am on Monday morning. This was to do with an industrial estate being redesignated for domestic housing. We met the planning officer and the head of planning who I had just been exchanging e-mails with about S106 community gain funding trying to make sure Bedlington, and my ward in particular, benefited from any funding due to housing applications. The chair explained the rules and again pretty severe, with none of us able to talk to members of the public! The officer then walked us around the whole site pointing out various bits contained in the application. I asked quite a few questions but without any local knowledge I felt I needed to get up to speed on how this might impact local residents. There is a Neighbourhood Plan which has passed the referendum stage but not yet adopted as NCC policy. That opposes this reclassification and development and because it has reached critical mass has influenced the planner’s opinion so that what was an indication to accept has now been changed into a recommendation for refusal. I can only hope WBTC carries on with the Neighbourhood Plan I got the residents panel to start work on, they are now taken very seriously by planners on instructions off HMG. That done and after another conversation with the head of planning about how the Core Strategy vote might impact onto council’s performance I came home and started on my paperwork. I had my first surgery tonight as well. I had to pop into a resident’s house to break some not so good news about a project they wanted doing, and which the last councillor had promised, and afterwards I went to Netherton Club where my surgeries will be held. I didn’t need to wonder if I would get anyone turning up; my first constituent was waiting on the doors opening like me! Thankfully everything was written down because there are a lot of questions this lady is asking of our planners and one of the Bedlington developments. After talking it all through she left and a family came in. Once I understood their problem I knew I had to pull out all the stops to help them. That started at 9.00am the next morning when I could catch people at their desks! Today I spoke to quite a few of our staff regarding the problem my constituents mentioned last night. I hope this gets resolved and dammed quickly! Tonight I have Strategic Planning committee to attend up at County Hall and tomorrow I am starting work at 6.00am so I can finish earlier and make full council back at County Hall at 3.00pm. There doesn’t seem much on the agenda for tonight but there is one thing jumping out at me and that’s the difference in what the planners have asked for by way of community payback funding or S106 funding in one of the applications. In the same number of proposed housing units as proposed for Bedlington they seem to be getting a veritable smorgasbord of community payback schemes whilst our funding requirement was extremely limited and curtailed? …….looks like I will be back onto planners soon enough! The planning meeting went on for a couple of hours and we had the 500 house application deferred for a site visit. Given what might happen tomorrow with the Core Strategy that’s the only possible outcome as far as I could see. We turned down the change in use from industrial to housing for the Alnwick Industrial Estate and I used my input to thank the Alnwick Town Council and the people of Alnwick because they had agreed a neighbourhood plan in referendum, and were now showing us what we should be doing, not getting rid of industrial land but adding to it in the search for jobs in the county! We also agreed the enlargement of the old Ash Dock at Cambois, something I completely agreed with but I had to mention the dredging aspect and its effect on fish migration up steam through Bedlington. That will be closely monitored and any affects minimised. Good, this should open up the whole of the Cambois economic activity area! Wednesday and I had to start work early to get an early finish for the full council meeting I have at 3.00pm. Lots to do at work again and given three jobs at 1.00pm when I had to leave at 1.30pm wasn’t the best idea. I did two and laid the other one off on another engineer…..thanks Murry! I made County Hall for 2.40pm and was given more addendums to the agenda. I had been sent extra information out by e-mail this morning and now several other bits of paperwork and I had 20 minutes to get through what were quite complex notes. I don’t think that’s the right way to conduct business which will affect the whole of the county in quite fundamentals ways. The chamber was petty full with members of the public and journalists. The way the meeting went was little more than a farce in my view with a lack of microphones, seating, moving members of the public into another room and putting a speaker system on for them but the main awkwardness was the way the main political parties tried to get one over on each other time and time again. Done cleverly its quite entertaining but the crass way these guys duke it out is essentially extremely embarrassing! The main bone of contention was the vote on the Core Strategy. It took a long time to get through these agenda items mainly because of the incomprehensible way they had been structured. The addendum to the motion was actually only extra information and when challenged by an amendment we didn’t know what the exact wording on the amendment was or even if in fact we were voting on the primary motion or the amendment. As I said Brian Rix would he been chuffed! I did like the fact that there will be more emphasis on economic regeneration in a renewed Core Strategy if we voted for one but it does leave us open to speculative housing applications with little in our arsenal to withstand any application or appeals. On balance that is the reality of the current situation and has been for almost 10 years as far as housing applications go, are the benefits of including economic regeneration worth putting off submitting the Core Strategy to Government. I think they are but I will be seeking the revision to be classed as urgent. Sitting on the planning committee I know better than most how exposed we are relying on out of date plans off the old district authorities to turn down housing applications when we feel they are unwarranted. That’s been the case for about 6 years now! One thing which was mentioned was the fact that housing did not attract permanent jobs. This was something I argued with the last administration about time and time again as they put all their economic regeneration and job creation plans into a house building strategy. Seems several reports have been commissioned nationally and all of them now refute that scenario, jobs don’t follow houses, in fact its houses that follow jobs! We have been doing it wrong for years and although justified I feel no jubilation! There was an amendment offered which would have delayed our recall vote for 2 months to give time to examine what the government would accept as minor major modifications in the submitted plan. I voted for this but it was turned down and in the vote on the original motion I voted to recall the submitted strategy and rewrite certain sections using up to date information about housing need and include much more economic policies. A second important motion was put and this time I had no compunction voting. I voted to retain the NHS beds in Rothbury. It had actually been closed down by the health authority and usually I would say keep politicians out of strategic decisions such as those of the Health Authority but I am completely against loosing our small local hospitals. In my view centralisation is a complete mistake in a county such as ours for certain things, health services being one. Other bits of the agenda were whipped through and we didn’t get to say anything about the new LAC’s and their areas. Today I had loads of emails and phone calls to make. I have another heavy pension panel meeting tomorrow and there was some extra reading to get through. At 5.30pm there was the police meeting to attend. This was a meeting we agreed Bedlington Forum put together in response to concerns about losing CSOs in the Town after 10.00pm. All three independent county councillors were there as was Christine the Mayor of West Bedlington, Keith from EBPC and Stephen from Neighbourhood Watch. We were taken in by the inspector and Superintendent Huddleston the area commander also sat in. He played a very major role in the meeting and agreed to provide a small amount of funding to enable a continued but short lived CSO presence after 10.00pm. We thanked him for his understanding and said we all understood the position he was in regarding balancing the books. We spoke for some time and we all felt it was a valuable exercise so when the commander suggested we did this on a regular basis we jumped at the chance. Looks like this guy really wants an equal partnership but expects us all to play our part just as he will play his part. What more could we ask for. Friday and I had to get up to County Hall for 9.00am. The Pension Panel had its first face to face review and there were quite a few external pension professionals coming in to present to us. The chair allowed us a 5 min comfort break after an hour and a half but then it was right back into the main business. I had to pull them back several times just to make sure I understood what was being talked about. I now have more training to do in London, that’s on top of the 3 residentials I already have. This meeting went on for about 5 hours straight and we had several presentations and updates off these pension fund professionals. The agenda was more or less pretty straightforward but one item seemed a bit oxymoronic to me. We voted to explore a new way of working which would make our panel redundant. Seems some turkeys do vote for Xmas! Although I really just want to promote my ward and Town I do have a responsibility as an elected member to work for NCC Ltd and all the training we have to do and all these committees play right into trying to make NCC as professional and as representative as possible. Monday and I couldn’t make the early morning training session today so when I got home I concentrated on catching up with all my mails. I sent one off to the head of planning asking how come a 500 house application in Amble gets a fortune by way of community gain funding while the same level of housing in Bedlington gets next to nothing? I also sent one off to the Business Chair or the chair who presides over full council meetings, this one about the Core Strategy. I asked for reassurances and an undertaking that the review which we voted for last week will be given the resources and urgency it deserves and just how will the extra economic activity polices be derived? I had one advising that we have a meeting with Arch next Friday and they will be updating us all, including the West Town Council and the East Parish Council, about where the Town Centre development is right now. Fingers crosses it’s moved on from where it was last time I asked! I am looking forward to seeing it developed not least because there is a local parish councillor who has wagered me £1000 that nothing will ever happen there! I expect I will soon need to look for a worthy local charitable cause! Well I got my reply off the business chair and he said he agreed with my premise and will do everything he can to make this Core Strategy review as brief as possible. Again I did an update for the Town Council and this time only did bullet points which I was able to expand on whilst taking through them. Strategic Planning committee. 500 houses in Amble…….500 houses in Bedlington? Against changing industrial to domestic housing land. Importance of a Neighbourhood Plan. Gave permission to extend Old Ash Dock at Cambois…opens up that area for commercial development. Warned about the dredging effects on migratory fish that might impact onto us up in Bedlington! Humford. That’s going to be extremely closely monitored and carried out at times where it will have least impact. Voted against closing the beds at cottage hospital in Rothbury. Held my first surgery at Netherton Club 6.30pm first Monday of month. Recalled Core Strategy…… New information regarding housing need plus lots more in about economic redevelopment. I did vote for the amendment to give it 2 months to explore options with HMG. I have since asked the chair for assurances it would be treated as urgent and given the resources it needs to enable a swift resolution. Since had contact off NCC as a consultee going to have to be more consultation…. Elements of full council meetings are little better than a farce due to the main political parties trying to score points off each other! Had the meeting with the police….and afterwards had my own meeting with them on behalf of some of my residents and problems identified at my surgery. Real heavy pension panel meeting! Meeting with Arch on Friday about the Town Centre redevelopment. I have just come back from the meeting with Arch and they answered all my questions with professionalism and certainty! This bodes well for future meetings and I asked if we could reinstate some sort of Focus group given that used properly it will be a good two way connector. That was agreed by all. We also wanted the “Investing in Bedlington” web site regularly updated as part of a better communication tool and again that was taken from the meeting as a prime action! Quite a positive meeting with everything on track now, even the backing needed off the new administration. Once everyone left I had to speak to the Arch guys about a problem one of my constituents is having with Arch. They have promised to look into it and get me a full report of what has been going on. Within hours I had a response and a phone call off the Head of Estates of Arch and a frank discussion about what had happened with my constituents! Given that we agreed on most things, he had to go off and check out what exactly had happened, promising to get back to me with answers! In fact the gentleman in question has got back and I have a meeting with him tomorrow to discuss the situation. Couldn’t ask for more really. While I was at work a very strange post appeared on social media about the Bedlington Town Centre redevelopment. It was off one of the participants in the meeting we had on Friday with the senior figures in Arch and their political control. Now we undertook not to say anything about where we are and what exactly is happening so not to compromise delicate negotiations being held with potential lessees of the spaces. This post seemingly attacks the project and asks people to put up their own questions as long as they take directions off the poster! This off someone who just hours previously had been party to a unanimous agreement? Unbelievable! Seems this post has caused more of a problem to the poster than anyone else but in the ensuing debate which I cannot get involved with my name has been again mentioned! Seems I don’t have the experience or the ability to ask a political party for advice, so I am less than useless. This off someone who can’t even get a name right never mind the historical context and I have forgotten more about politics than this guy will ever know! But again the old adage rings true…….empty vessels make the most noise! Getting ready for work at 4.30am on Sunday morning I was tagged into a post about broken glass in one of the play areas I renewed when I was Mayor. I could only contact someone who I knew would do whatever was necessary up to and including contacting our out of hours staff to clean up the dangerous glass pieces before some kiddie or animal cut their feet. Christine said she would go up and take a look and decide what to do then. She did go up and cleaned up all the broken glass which was what I would have done too. If there is a problem and you can sort it why not just do it? Anyway thanks to Christine for going out of her way to help and improve the area, much appreciated! I have had some replies back today about questions I asked last week. One wasn’t what I wanted to hear but if it has to be………..Our Highways dept. e-mailed back to say they understood why I had asked for the upgrades on the B1331 to be done during the school holidays but they couldn’t process them in time. I’ll have another crack just to finally see if I can sway them because it will really cause problems doing that road at normal school times. I had a strange phone call this morning too. It was off our election office up in County Hall. Seems I had transgressed some agreement during my canvassing for the election? I asked specifically what and was told I didn’t have the name of the printer on my leaflets which I handed out as part of my canvassing. I replied that I had actually asked about that and was told that because I was completely independent and paying for everything myself then it was unnecessary. Not so and there have been two complaints about it. I have no doubt one complainant will have a first name beginning with a “T” and the other an “A”! So you couldn’t get me on the questions I asked in the leaflets, the allegations I made in those leaflets, the accusations I levelled in those leaflets, the only thing you can get me on is the fact that the business that printed them wasn’t included in the typeset. Pathetic! Well T and A………….. I apologise to my constituents for that error but I was doing everything myself and I didn’t have a party machine behind me to do all the work needed to progress an election campaign. Now that I have apologised maybe you’s might like to apologise for the glaringly “misleading” statements contained in just about every one of your election leaflets! One thing omitting the printer’s name, quite another mendaciously peddling deceptions! Seems I now have a left leaning newspaper hack after me because of this……… Back to sanity……… I did get another crack at this B1331 problem and I have now been promised that they will expedite the paperwork as fast as possible and see if they can bring the time for these repairs forward to at least get the most disruptive work done during the holidays. Thanks Steve for that! Well blow me down seems I am being targeted on a social media site by what looks like the Chairman of the local Labour group! It also looks like he is trying to justify his wife’s actions or inactions when she was the Bedlington Central councillor. Seems I was harassing and haranguing these Labour councillors in the run up to the least election? Can’t remember any of that, I did ask them some pretty uncomfortable questions in my leaflets though but as they were claiming credit for everything which was happening, in my view, they should be accountable for providing any answers people wanted to questions they asked. That would only seem reasonable. Less of the distractions and back to the real business. I have another meeting with Arch today, this time at Arch HQ! I have been in almost constant contact with them over the last week progressing problems some of my constituents are having with them. It’s now make or break time! Well that was interesting. Absolutely no problems at Arch HQ only a willingness to help resolve what should never of happened as far as I could see. A very affable meeting and I did get to ask for extra help and perks for my constituents. Again speaking as you find a first class service from Arch with no one hiding behind any Chinese walls! Today was always going to be busy. I had the day off from work but an early meeting up at County Hall for the chairs and vice chairs of the LAC’s. This time the meeting was held in the Chairmen’s dining room. Before the meeting I had a good conversation with someone who said he was likeminded as far as political interference went and if I ever needed any help or advice just ask. Nice to hear off one of the Labour members! We took our places and the meeting proceeded. I felt it incumbent to draw some pretty intense conclusions about how these LACs proceeded and their remits. Surprisingly most other members agreed. So quite an open and progressive meeting I would say. This new Pot Hole fund initiative was an item on the agenda and I raised questions about a lot of it, including the name. The meeting closed after about 90 minutes but then I had other business to attend to along the corridor at Democratic Services. We had our LAC tonight and again it was at Cramlington. I had insisted Bedlington gets its fair share as a venue but the lift at the community centre was reported as being problematical? I suggested the Sally Army building and after checking it out for the next few dates it was found to be already occupied on all the dates. I questioned our department again about our community centre and this lift problem and was told because someone had to get out of a special wheelchair to use it that wasn’t DDA compliant. I advised that the lift in fact takes the full wheelchair; no one has to get out and sit in something else to get to the first floor! OPPs someone made an assumption so now we will have our share of LACs in Bedlington at our Community Centre. Our meeting came just after a planning training meeting and the first part was our own planning applications. One was deferred for a site visit while another passed unanimously. This seems an area where improvements can be made! We then started the main part of our LAC. As usual several questions from Bedlington residents who always have a good showing in the public audience for this and the previous Area Meetings. I should know I was one of them! During the course of the business we spoke about the new NCC Community Chest scheme and as vice chair of the LAC I have been delegated to chair it. There will be a panel who sit and decide who gets what as normal but there are some other tweaks proposed too. It was immediately questioned and opposed by one of the party political members……….Dear me, why not see how it works before opposing it, you never know it might be an improvement on what was there before under your watch! Another item was the new “pot hole” fund. Each councillor can nominate up to three problem pot holes in their ward for repair. This is for the ones that always come back after a few months. The solution is to do much larger patches properly and not just stamp in cold tarmac! It’s actually for all sorts of small carriageway repairs so I will ask residents for their suggestions, they know better than anyone where these small road problems are in the ward. After the meeting I did manage to have a chat with the acting CeO of NCC, Daljit Lally and remind her that my question to her principle officers was still unanswered. Very reasonable person and she promised to get me an answer or at least get me the route I had to take to get the answer I was after. This is about the time taken for an ambulance to get to my ward after a young lad was knocked down. Well off down to see my brother for a few days but with mobile devices we are never away from some sort of work. While I was away I had several constituents come back with problems and some even got back to me saying their problem had been sorted, that’s always nice to hear! Two issues were always bubbling away, one the community gain funding for the 500 houses we might be getting and the other the time it took an ambulance to get to a RTA in my ward. The first answer came back and I was shocked! Seems we have asked for the whole nine yards of S106 funding to be attached to our potential housing development? I had questioned why Amble and their 500 new house application had attracted a whole gambit of community gain for things like leisure, highways and education while ours saw only an educational requirement which had been decimated and that’s before we get to detailed planning! (Originally £3.8M this had been reduced to £1.7M and we probably won’t get that full amount even!) I have asked the officer who replied to provide the evidence for that because it was never mentioned at the planning application! I am very unhappy about this whole set up where faceless bureaucrats who have probably never even stepped foot in the place make the decisions as to what’s best for our community. Guess what I believe we are the best people to decide what we need and don’t need in our area! Daljit was as good as her word too and I was given a contact within the NHS to ask about the ambulance timings. I sent off the questions I wanted answering and had a reply back the same day. Not to get too excited it was only for additional information really but at least I have made contact with the right person now. As soon as I got back home I had a meeting up in County Hall, this time a Corporate Services and Economic Growth scrutiny committee. This is really about the core business of NCC Ltd and how each segment is performing. Looks like these will be long meetings once we get right into things but as the new administration are still preparing their strategy it only took a couple of hours this time. I think for the first time ever I never asked a question! It was really about subtle changes to the way some things are dealt with and they seemed reasonable so I supported the changes, as did everyone else. I did manged to question one of the cabinet who attended this meeting. I am extremely unhappy about not having the smalls scheme allowances rolled over to me from the last councillor. This is the £15K each councillor gets annually to spend supporting small projects in their wards. The last councillor left very nearly £20K unspent and this has now disappeared! I told the cabinet member I would be challenging them on this decision and he promised to get back to me with the full details of why that decision had been made. Loosing £20K because someone didn’t know what was needed is not something my ward can afford and I will fight it. I have the council constitution and I’m awaiting our equalities policy. Well it’s the end of the month and another good live music event in Gallagher Park. It’s going to be a struggle to put something like this on again due to cost implications but there is no reason why something can’t be put on. It’s actually something I asked East Bedlington Parish Council about working together on a few years ago when I was on the West Town Council, but they said they had other commitments at that time. Looks like we will soon be getting the press release off Arch about the Town centre redevelopment, about time! I have been delegated to chair the NCC community Chest scheme for our LAC and I have put a proposal out to the LAC chair and the officer about how this panel is made up. It will be proportional with 3 labour members, 2 Conservative members and 1 Independent member. We have just received the new rules concerning this funding and it’s set of go live next month. I put the details of the “Pot Hole” fund out and several of my constituents have been in touch to suggest areas. I have taken them all on board and visited each one and I now have the 3 suggestions I will put forward. I’m also working on proposals for the Local Transport Plan. Next month looks a bit quieter.
  3. 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
  4. 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!
  5. On 29 June, I sat on a Licensing and Regulatory Sub-Committee regarding a number of cases involving taxis. The panel was made up of three Councillors plus a reserve (me, as it was my first one) just in case one member declared an interest and withdrew. This, of course, happened in the first case we heard so I was thrown in at the deep end! It was an enjoyable experience but one taken very seriously as ultimately you could be deliberating on people’s livelihoods. On Monday 3 July, I attended a Community Safety Meeting at West Hartford Fire Station.; this is basically a meeting with Councillors and community leaders from the South East of the county in which issues of crime and anti-social behaviour are discussed. That same evening, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Friends of Gallagher Park. At this meeting I got the impression that this group was floundering. They had no chair or treasurer and the secretary was only there under sufferance. In my opinion, Gallagher Park is a vast untapped resource with loads of potential for recreational activity so, in order to try and give the committee new impetus, new officers were elected. I am the new Chair, Dawn has kindly offered to step in as treasurer and Keith Dalton will be the Secretary. We are looking for ideas as to what people would like to see in the park so, if anyone has any ideas (especially those people younger than the author) then please let me know. Following this meeting we have started a Friends of Gallagher Park Facebook page. Please feel free to join and submit any ideas, stories, photographs you might want to share concerning the park and any events etc that you would like to see there if possible. On Tuesday, I was at the East Bedlington Parish Council Meeting where I raised the subject of the omission of Sleekburn from the Bedlington/Cramlington/Seaton Valley LAC. The Council agreed with me that Sleekburn is part of Bedlington and as such should be included with the rest of the town. At the full Council Meeting on Wednesday, the decision to review the submission of the core strategy was debated; to withdraw the current plan and review the level of house building in relation to the surrounding infrastructure was, in my opinion, what the majority of people of Bedlington had been requesting over the past few years. As a result of this, I decided to vote with the current administration on this matter. Pitfalls were pointed out but the Leader of the Council assured us that this decision had not been taken lightly and had been taken with appropriate legal advice. Although not given a chance to speak on the subject of Sleekburn during the business of the Council owing to time restraints, Russ and I had met with the Business Chair prior to the meeting who assured us that, whilst he would not change it now, a review would be carried out in 6 months time. I don’t intend to stop fighting for this change as it appears that the residents of that ward have been forgotten and ignored and they feel that they belong with the rest of Bedlington. The next day, Thursday, together with other County Councillors, Town & Parish Councillors and representatives of the local community, I met with Superintendent Huddleston at Bedlington Police Station to discuss the recent crime and anti-social behaviour in the town. Also discussed was the closure of the Police Station after 8pm together with the withdrawal of CSO cover after 10pm. In fairness, there was nothing he could do about the two latter issues but he did assure us that he would fund some extra patrols in the town at weekends after 10pm for a short period of time. That’s a brief outline of the last two weeks and I could go on and on about what was debated/discussed. If anyone has any specific points they would like to raise then please contact me and i will do my best to answer them.
  6. 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
  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. May 4th 2017 Friday 5th May……. and the results were supposed to be out between 5am-5.30am. Turns out everything is running much later! Just saw Bill’s result and he has won the Bedlington East ward. Mine and Russ’s are immanent. Russ’s ward just declared and he has won it by a landslide. Because I couldn’t be there Wendy is ringing me with my result. The phone rings and its Wendy only to say the sitting councillor has called for a recount. Really is it that close, Damm! Adam could well have caused the problem I told everyone about and splitting the vote has let the sitting councillor back in. Wendy let me hear the announcement as it happened. Bloody Hell I’ve won! I am quite literally speechless! Wendy hung up to let me get my breath back and I have loads of people to thank for this. I started doing that straightaway. Walked around in a bit of a daydream for the rest of the day but I had to get myself together for work tomorrow, 4.30am quickly comes around so no celebrating. Over the weekend I was contacted by a constituent who had been promised some highways work by the ex-councillor. Haven’t even been inducted yet but I did go and see this lady and learn what the problem was. I will get to see where I have to go and then take this forward for her. I said give me a couple of weeks to see the lie of the land! Tuesday 9th and we had a basic induction to do at County Hall. Bill and Russ were already there when I got there and had already filled in the paperwork we had to do. I decided not to fill mine in straightaway because I am still the sitting chair of WBTC until Thursday night and I would have to put all that into my declaration of interests whereas holding off a couple of days saves all of that. We had presentations off the main departmental managers and while everyone else said nothing in the open session I was able to ask them some questions. Most people (fellow members) had been very polite and welcoming, in fact some blatantly so. However some were less than cordial and made quite unnecessary and cutting remarks. I reminded them that what they were actually complaining about was the result of a democratic election, we were not quite in the Stalinist state some obviously thought we were in, people still had choice! One thing I did note was who were first at the table when the freebies were being handed out! We spoke at length to the people who will be leading and forming the next administration and they suggested we come in for a ‘get to know each other’ meeting where we could properly present the case for Bedlington. Gladly accept that one. Tuesday evening and I went down to the East Bedlington Parish Council meeting as usual. I heard some raised voices outside and turned around to see Bill and Russ and one of the members down there arguing outside. They came in and sat in front of me but said nothing? The chair of that meeting used his chair’s acceptance to slate us newly elected county councillors and praise the old ones. He also allowed the member who had been remonstrating with Bill outside to continue his rant in the middle of the meeting. It was another shambles of a meeting in my view with Party politics being put above anything else, especially the needs of residents! Straight after the meeting the member who had been doing all the shouting walked straight over to Bill and started on him and his family again! He also motioned to me so I took him to one side for a ‘talk’ while Bill and Russ got out. I could see they were visibly shaken by this episode. Went in Thursday 11th for IT security training. Seems we will soon be getting all agenda’s, minutes and papers through our lap tops. Well I know one or two members who might not like that! Friday 12th and after one or two false starts, because of a VIP in the area, we had our meeting with the deputy Leader of NCC elect and the head of regeneration, again elect. I immediately put the case for the Tesco redevelopment to be reactivated and allowed to proceed because for one reason it was a commercial decision not one based on politics. Our development had to be commercially sound, in other words ours had to be commercially viable and financially self-sustainable. I had spoken to the new Ceo of Arch and knew the reason for the delay in seeking planning permission and there was nothing sinister, it was down to a clause Tesco had put in their contract when they sold the site to Arch. That was now about due to run out so planning permission was needed to progress the development. I argued quite strongly for this and it seemed to be quite well received. In fact it was suggested there might be a willingness to include some extra, more social stuff into this project! Music to my ears! I also argued for a sports development in the town based on the work I had been doing for about a year. Using the land WBTC had been bequeathed the option on off Mr Rutherford, the farmer and Burnt Tree Farm. Again it seemed well received and the only other suggestion was that other Town sites might be looked at. Fair enough, if anyone can find a better site so be it! We were told there was sympathy for Bedlington within the new administration as it has quite obviously been ignored and neglected for many many years by successive administrations at all Councils. We were also given a very slight glimpse of what the new council might start to look like as there is a push to change quite a bit of it around. Not unnatural for a new administration to want and do. Introducing more local accountability was something I personally liked and supported. Other bits like Arch were going to be subject to a review, again given the asset base of Arch and its remit not an unnatural reaction for the new administration. Back to work at the weekend and another long weekend. A posting on social media caused quite a stir…. Seems our meeting was being reported by someone who’s sister-in-law works at County Hall as one where we pledge allegiance to the Conservative Party? Nothing could be further from the truth really! Turns out this posting was a complete plant by unscrupulous people to influence public opinion against us? Now who could that be? Anyway turned out just about everyone went onto the same page and gave us their support, irrespective of these scandalous allegations! Monday 15th and I went in for IT training. Bill was there too so we had a few hours of a two to one session as no one else had turned up! Getting to grip with the new kit we have been given to use it not easy because I still have to use all my old stuff too…… I did start investigating the seemingly promised extra parking which a couple of my constituents have asked me to find out about. I found the person dealing with this and now have a definitive answer to the question. Don’t think it’s what these constituents want to hear though, can’t be done. I have also been prodding people about restarting the Bedlington redevelopment and I have been promised a press release is imminent! I have also just had a meeting the Town Council officers. I offered them the money in my Small’s Scheme, which is for local improvements, as long as they matched it. Seems to me we both get double the hit for the same area we each have responsibility over. They liked the idea especially when I suggested over a couple of years there should be enough to think about a new youth venue as well as a building on the land the Town Council have been offered by Mr Rutherford. That needs to go to their full council for approval of course and I am slightly constrained by the fact that my funding can only be used for capital projects. Still it should mean we will see well over £100K spent in the West Ward over the next few years and that’s a whole lotta improvement! I had to put in a holiday for the day of the full council meeting because this meeting starts at 3.00pm and I finish work at 2 then home for a shower and change I felt it would be cutting it too tight. When I got to County Hall I saw Russ and we went upstairs to check our dockets and see if the contained anything. When we walked into the members lounge it went from room temperature to sub-zero in seconds! The members lounge was filled with labour members who stared, grimaced and pointed our way but never spoke to us directly! I think Russ was a bit put out and he forcibly introduced himself to the other Bedlington Labour councillor. We then went downstairs into the council chamber; this was filled with Conservative members. As we took a seat Bill came through and joined us. The chamber was pretty full not just with public but also some ex councillors who obviously wanted to get a gripe in. As the meeting progressed it became more and more about ex administration members trying to use their inside knowledge to score points……pathetic! The Leader and admin were elected unanimously and after a few bits of business the new Leader proposed a change to the way local government, at the very local level, works. Essentially it was all about giving the Area Meetings some teeth and powers. One point was that in Bedlington the most eastern ward, Cambois and Sleekburn, was to go with Ashington and Blyth while the Central, East and West wards jointed up with Cramlington in a new Local Area Council. I voted in favour of this new type of administration for us because the old way of doing things had never been Bedlington friendly! Russ and Bill voted against but there was a large majority for it anyway. The problems some saw with the new ‘boundaries’ was mentioned and the Leader said this could be addressed as we progressed. Near the end of the meeting we had to ask the press and public to leave as there were a couple of items to consider in closed session. Once the meeting had finished Bill and Russ left while I went up into the reception which was being held in the Civic Head’s dining room, one which the Labour councillors had spurned. I didn’t want the buffet but I did want to speak to the lady who will be chairing this new Local Area Committee (LAC) for our area. As I had been ‘given’ the vice chair getting to know what was going on and how it intended to develop was my first concern. I spoke to Christine D for quite a while and we swapped contact details. Looks like she is as ambitious for her area as I am for mine! The very next day it was back to county hall for decision making training. This was mainly planning training and declaration of interests. So after talking about pre-determination, pre-disposition and bias we had quite a few questions for the County solicitor. Another of my constituents has been in touch and again it’s a housing issue of which I have no real inroads. I will go and see her and look at the problem then try and make my mouth go at the right people to see if we can get something done for her. Mad weekend at work again and for once I was way behind where I normally am on Sunday. It did get sorted but while some left early I couldn’t and had to stay to finish my work off. Tuesday and back up to county hall this time for more IT training. Our It trainer asked about putting other training on when we get to grips with the county council systems and I jumped at it. At the moment I’m running three calendars, an almost fulltime job and council work. It was the annual Meeting of the Town on Wednesday so after a day at work, then catching up on my computer work I changed and went down to the community centre having been invited by the Town Council. The meeting started at 6.30pm and probably half the people there were there for the presentation about removing Humford Dam. When that presentation was over there were quite a few questions for the presenter, mainly anti this initiative. Once that was done the chair asked the new county councillors to talk about our work. I started and used the opportunity to talk about the new changes to the way local government was about to work. I used the points which had just been so vociferously talked about to illustrate why I had voted for this change. Bringing it right back to how it would impact onto people here worked and there was general agreement with the way I had voted. Afterwards during the refreshments a lot of people said they now understood what I was trying to do and supported it. Again just being honest with people is clearly the way to go as they do appreciate the candour! I put this message out on social media to explain why I had voted for the chance to start again with the way the second tier of local government works. “Seems there is quite a furore about these new Local Area Councils and I can understand why. In fact it was discussed by myself, Bill and Russ before the meeting. I voted for the change! Let me explain why and I don’t want to defend or attack the proposal. First the vote was about change to the way local government operates, the ward issues are only a very small part of that. In fact once the inconsistencies were pointed out and the fact that in some cases it was almost streets which would see dividing lines down them the administration, which had been in office for about 30 minutes by then, admitted it wasn’t all set in stone and changes and tweaks could be added. There has been what I would consider to be a perfectly sensible compromise suggested for the ‘Bedlington’ area issue. Secondly, I believe this change substantially benefits my constituents and that was the main reason I voted for it. Breaking the umbilical cord which has bound Bedlington and Ashington together for 50 years and which has only resulted in our providing the nourishment for the growth in Ashington has to be cut and I would dance with the devil to make that happen! Thirdly because this is a new structure there are no preconceived positions, it’s all there waiting to be fought for and I would rather be fighting for wins rather than pyrrhic victories all the time! In fact I have been ‘given’ the vice chair and have already discussed approaching this with honesty and openness with the chair and she agreed. Lastly I believe better decisions are made with local knowledge and some have cited that or the lack of it as the reason there are geographical inconsistencies contained within the proposal. The proposal was that these new Local Area Councils have much more local decisions making powers devolved to them and I would rather that than see our questions, needs and concerns dismissed by people who have never stepped foot in Bedlington! That’s was what was happening and this change would mean for many decisions which affect us we take control over them. They are the main reasons I voted for this proposal but at the same time I said I would work with Bill and Russ to seek a sensible resolution to the geographical problems this has thrown up for Bedlington as a whole.”
  9. There were two occasions recently which gave me cause to think that the future of our county is in safe hands. The first instance was when I attended a meeting of West Bedlington Town Council and heard a young man by the name of Callum Appleby give a short presentation in support of his application to the Council for funding. This young man spoke to a fairly large gathering and explained why he would like help to visit Ecuador in 2018 in order to assist local communities with various projects ranging from building schools to installing fresh drinking water systems. I wish him well in his efforts and have added a link to his Just Giving page if you feel you are able to help Callum in his very worthy project. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/callum-appleby?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Yimbyprojectpage&utm_content=callum-appleby&utm_campaign=projectpage-share-owner&utm_term=dDJ67qR3N The second occasion was when I was invited to attend the Northumberland’s Finest Awards at East Bedlington Community Centre. I was asked if I would present the award for Innovation in youth work, which of course I was delighted and privileged to do. It truly was inspiring to hear what some of these young people have overcome in order to achieve what they have, and when looking at the list of presenters it shows in what high regard these awards are taken. 6.45pm – Introduction – Welcome Her Grace, The Duchess of Northumberland 1. Enterprise Award: Her Grace, The Duchess of Northumberland. 2. Volunteer Award: Cllr Anthony Murray Civic Head of Northumberland County Council. 3. Community Impact Award: Paul Hebron, Partnership Manager, NCS North East. 4. Innovation Award: Cllr Bill Crosby County Councillor – Bedlington East Ward. 5. Participation Award: John Dickinson High Sheriff of Northumberland. 6. Tackling Barriers Award: Dame Vera Baird QC Police + Crime Commissioner, Northumbria. 7. Health Promotion Award: Cllr Wayne Daley Deputy Leader of Northumberland County Council + Cabinet Member for Children’s Services. 8. Youth Project Impact Award: Mr Ian Lavery MP Member of Parliament, Wansbeck. 9. Special Awards: Margaret Tench & Patrick Boyle Children’s Services, Northumberland County Council. Closing Remarks The staff at the Community Centre should also be congratulated for contributing to what was an excellent event. On Monday, I attended a flag raising ceremony to commemorate Armed Forces Day and there were representatives there from various branches of our uniformed services. This event helped to reinforce Northumberland County Council’s commitment to support our armed forces and long may it continue. On a sadder note, there have been instances of damage caused in Bedlington Town Centre over the last couple of weekends where plants have been ripped out from planters destroying the hard work and effort undertaken by the volunteers involved in Bedlington in Bloom. Also, on Friday night windows were broken at three premises in the Town Centre; this sort of behaviour is intolerable and my fellow Councillors and I will be having discussions with the relevant agencies to see if we can come up with a solution in order to combat this problem. Our hard working team of Community Support Officers no longer work past 10.00pm, which is an area of concern, but in the case of the broken windows, which apparently occurred at 3.00am, we have been informed by one of the shop owners that the Police were able to apprehend the culprit at or near the scene of the crime. Let us hope that there is enough evidence to charge the offender and put him before the Magistrates and see if they can make the punishment fit the crime….. Other than these highlights, it’s been a case of attending County Hall for various meetings and training sessions as well as trying to help residents who have contacted me regarding various local issues. View on Councillor Crosby'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. This is going to be a diary of my time as County Councillor for the Bedlington West ward. It will be a warts and all journey and I will be as honest and candid as I possibly can be, given that some of the things I will have to do will be overseen by confidentiality clauses because of one reason or another. Already had one which I can’t really mention in detail, that being the departure of the Chef Executive of the council. Anyway having never ventured into this writing realm before I have been advised to write a short bio. I ran a business in Bedlington for 20 odd years and in the late 90’s took over as chair of the Bedlingtonshire Chamber of Trade. During the next 2 years we built that into the largest CoT in the North East and pressed for better partnership working with local and regional government. One was much easier to attain than the other! Wansbeck District Council which was our local council was 100% Labour members in those days and for some reason best known to themselves looked at us as the enemy? This was apparent in many ways, probably the most recognisable was when WDC reneged on its commitment for a Xmas lighting competition between the major towns and in the end took lighting displays which Bedlington residents had bought as extra displays to brighten up our town and put them up in Ashington! I had to be physically restrained that day having ran events and been gunged in green ‘yak’ to raise money for the Bedlington Xmas Lights appeal only to see it disappear over the Stakeford Bridge! Many stories about those times suffice it to say the newspapers called our committee the Bedlington Fairy Godmothers and WDC…..Scrooge! In the two years I ran the CoT I was threatened with court action by two different chief executives of Wansbeck District Council, both times I told them I would welcome the chance to counter-sue and both times their supposedly rock solid cases were dismissed before any official legal proceedings. Once was over the extra Bedlington Xmas lights when I advised the Bedlington Lights committee not to pay the extortionate bill what had been presented to them by WDC and the other time was when WDC decided to take away concessionary fares for pensioners on public transport and the CoT did what it could to support them in that fight. That plain fact was the WDC was 100% Labour councillors at the time and they wanted to save the £160K cost of bus passes for the elderly. It did seem a lot of money but in the same budget they wanted to slash that out, they INCREASED their own entertainment allowances to £240K! I was starting to get my eyes opened for me! I also put Bedlington on the Front page of the Sunday Sun and some nationals too. I got NASA to put a “Welcome to Bedlington” invite on the Mars landing vehicle and wrote up a humorous piece for the press saying any Martians would get discount rates on car, TV’s, clothes, food etc when they visited Bedlington. BBC and ITV ran the story as did all the broadsheets and tabloids. What I wasn’t prepared for was the radio and TV interest and I did interviews in places as far apart and South Africa and Canada, North America and Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates. The thing went viral and WDC was extremely noticeable by its absence. I didn’t have that much trouble with WDC after that? Moving on and after returning from a 10 year sabbatical in France I again got myself involved in community issues. WDC had been dissolved and replaced by Northumberland County Council even though that was against the wishes of 52% of the people in a referendum! No change there then! So all of a sudden Bedlington which had always played second fiddle to Ashington in Wansbeck Council was now not even on the radar being part of the much larger county authority. One of NCC’s first actions was to sequestrate the £500K the members of the Bedlingtonshire Golf Club had paid to buy out the council from their golf club and which was supposed to be ring-fenced for a Bedlington capital project. Its second order of business in very short order it seemed was to close our community centre! This was something I again felt strongly about and with some friends set up the Bedlingtonshire Development Trust, a charitable organisation created to put in an asset transfer bid to save our community centre from going the same way as the Golf Club monies! That done and being the only organisation to go correctly through the whole process, including submitting a 20 odd page fully costed business plan, it was a bit of a shock when the Centre was awarded to the Town Council which had never really taken part in the asset transfer process. Course the Mayor and deputy Mayor at that time were also NCC councillors, one being secretary to the executive and the other being Civic Head or part of the team that decided who got the Community Centre. Just to add insult to injury I was asked to attend a meeting with the Mayor and his cronies where he asked for the Trust’s business plan! Dear God these people have no shame and I hope there is a picture building up here! So with a fully legitimate Development Trust the decision had to be made whether to wind it up or see what we could do with it. We decided on the latter and readers can see for themselves what we got up to over the next few years. http://bdt.bedlington.co.uk From the Bedlington Terrier seats to enterprise lessons for youngsters, from putting in new easier access gateways to the community allotment to paying for Xmas lunches for our seniors, from buying expensive kit for Mind Active to putting on professional entertainment for our seniors, the Trust has integrated itself quite strongly into our community and delivered some really excellent projects. Four years ago I stood for County Council and Town Council as an independent, basically against the same person. Whilst the majority of people gave me their trust and elected me to the Town Council they elected another political appointee, this time a Labour one, as their county council representative. I congratulated him at the count and said he had an open field to get something moving in the Town and I would help as much as possible. Over the next 4 years he earned himself the nickname the ‘Invisible Man’ because he was hardly seen in the Town never mind anything else. That made my mind up to stand again! As for my time as Town Councillor. The first two years were made up of infighting as the Labour group tried to lay the law down through their majority vote. Wouldn’t have been so bad but what was proposed by them and carried was absolutely nuts and in my view contrary to the benefit of the Town. For the last two years I chaired the council and anyone can go to the WBTC web site (http://westbedlington.org.uk ) and see for themselves the transformation which took place.
  12. On Tuesday I attended the East Bedlington Parish Council meeting at the new Community Centre at Bedlington Station. It really is a lovely building and I would urge everyone to visit if they haven’t already done so and support the events that the team are putting on for the benefit of the local community. I have to say that I approached the meeting with some trepidation as, last month, feelings were running high so soon after the election, but in fairness I received a very warm welcome and was even asked for my opinion and help on a couple of issues. I am, of course, happy to offer my assistance in any way that I can as, although we may not all be members of the same political party, I firmly believe that we all have the same goal, namely the interests of East Bedlington. That, to me, is the essence of local politics; Councillors from different parties coming together for a common cause and working together to achieve something that will benefit the community. To use a well worn phrase; putting Bedlington First. On Wednesday, I attended my first committee meeting, the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE). This proved very interesting as there were representatives from all different faiths around the table discussing how religious education can be delivered in schools. On Friday, I met with the managers of Foundry House to discuss parking issues outside their building at The Oval. This was very constructive and I look forward to further meetings where we will be able to involve the wider community and partners to try and resolve this issue. In between these meetings, I have attended more sessions at ‘Councillor School’ and have dealt with enquiries that I have received via telephone and email. On Saturday morning I attended the St John’s Church Fayre, which was well supported despite the bad weather. Even though this is ‘just over the border’ in Sleekburn ward, I am always happy to support these community events wherever possible; indeed, I also caught up with many familiar faces from the local area. In addition, there was plenty of coffee and cake, which is never a bad thing! View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  13. In the run up to the election, one of the promises I made was to try and keep the public informed of what I was doing, what was happening within their area and how it might affect them; this blog is one of the ways in which I hope to achieve just that. On Thursday 4th May, I had the honour of being elected by the people of Bedlington East to represent them as their County Councillor for the next four years. It cannot be over-emphasised what a momentous event took place on that day when the people of Bedlington, who felt that they were not being best served by the current party politics, dispensed with decades of traditional voting habits and put their faith in three people who they felt only had the best interests of their town at heart. Since that day, I have been attending various sessions, (what I have jokingly labelled ‘Councillor School’) in which I have received training in various subjects, to include Safeguarding, Planning, Licensing and Public Protection, and there is much more to come! The training was interrupted on Wednesday 24 May when I had to attend my first full meeting of the Council. A named vote was called on the issue of local area councils and my first act was to vote against the current administration. I did this as I felt to split Bedlington into two separate groups was wrong and, in doing so, I voted with the Labour group, hopefully dispelling the myth that I am a ‘closet Tory’ and proving that, being truly independent, I am, as promised, willing to work with anyone for the good of the town. Since this meeting took place, I have now been selected to sit on four committees, which are: Licensing Netherton Park Governing Body Safeguarding and Corporate Parenting Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, and I am looking forward to these new challenges. Regarding the issues around the Tesco site, I can confirm that there have been already been discussions with the current administration and things are looking positive. I see part of my role as liaising with the local Town and Parish Councils and to that end I have attended meetings at both venues and I will continue to attend as often as I can. This week, I also attended the Annual Meeting of West Bedlington Town Council, which was dominated by issues around the future of Humford dam; it is clear that there is a massive strength of feeling on this issue as people have fond childhood memories of this beautiful spot and regard it as part of their heritage and are reluctant to lose it, as so much of Bedlington’s history has already been lost. I will be monitoring this situation closely. Since coming to office, I have received requests from various sections of the community and I have endeavoured to meet those concerned face to face in order to discuss the issues and hopefully arrive at a solution; topics so far have included help with accommodation, parking and traffic calming. I was also honoured this week to be asked to present a ‘Northumberland’s Finest’ award at East Bedlington Community Centre on Friday 16th June, which I am very much looking forward to, and I will report back on this in my next blog. I will always be approachable and in the near future I will be arranging venues for regular surgeries where you can drop in and discuss things with me in person, but in the meantime there is always the option of contacting me by email at: bill.crosby@northumberland.gov.uk or by telephone on: 07779 – 983656. Finally, thank you for reading my first blog and I hope to keep you updated with information on future events in my next one. View on Councillor Crosby's Blog
  14. 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
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