Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Anger as Gateshead Labour reject devolution

Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition in Gateshead, Cllr Jonathan Wallace, has described the Labour Council Cabinet’s decision to reject the proposed devolution package to the North East as “utterly mad.”

The Cabinet met today, 22nd March, for less than half an hour to discuss the package that had been negotiated by the 7 council leaders in the region with the government.

Despite months of negotiation by Gateshead Council Leader Mick Henry, his own Deputy, Martin Gannon, moved that the plans be rejected as he opposed the creation of elected mayors.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Cllr Wallace said, “This decision is completely the wrong one. We have on offer from the government control over skills training, economic development, transport and planning. There is even the possibility of taking on some health powers.

“This has all been sacrificed by those in the Labour party who view elected mayors as a threat to their own establishment and control of the region. Labour have now put party interests before the people’s interests.

“Labour have not even put Gateshead into the Slow Lane. Instead they have put us in the No Lane – no extra powers, no extra investment, no hope.

“There were many smug grins on the faces of Labour cabinet members this morning after the meeting. But smug grins won’t held fill the skills gap, develop the economy or sort out our transport. Labour have set back Gateshead and the North East. It is difficult to see how the region can recover from this wholly unnecessary, Labour-inflicted wound.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gateshead's Dr Jonathan Wallace selected as Lib Dem Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Northumbria

Team Valley Trading Estate Mar 15 3

Liberal Democrats in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear are putting forward a candidate for the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner who will campaign for the post to be axed and the savings ploughed back into putting police on the beat.

Dr Jonathan Wallace is Leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council and has almost 30 years of experience in local government in the North East. He was born in Bensham, grew up in Lobley Hill, and was elected at the age of 23 to Gateshead Council in 1986 for Whickham South and Sunniside ward where he has been re-elected 8 times since.

Whilst Jonathan has extensive experience of local government, he does not come from a typical political background. 7 years ago he gave up paid employment to live the “good life” with his partner David in Sunniside, growing his own food and keeping bees, poultry and goats. His broadcasts about self-sufficiency on his YouTube channel have had over 4 million viewings. Jonathan graduated from Newcastle University in 1988 where he studied history, and was awarded a research doctorate in 1995.
“It is a great privilege to have been chosen by fellow Liberal Democrats,” said Jonathan, who is also Leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council.
“My three priorities are to ensure front line policing is protected, bureaucracy is kept to a minimum through scrapping the post of police and crime commissioner, and seeking to reduce the increase in crime experienced under the current incumbent.
“Liberal Democrats want a more democratic system to ensure all communities in the area of the police force are taken into account when policing plans are drawn up, without the unnecessary overheads of the commissioner and her office.

“I am determined to challenge the Labour establishment in the North East. They have complacently controlled the region for decades without the North East seeing any significant gains. After years of crime falling locally, the incumbent Labour PCC has presided over an increase in crime rates and has been involved in controversy over the departure of the chief constable and her decision to axe funding for Victim Support in favour of funding an alternative organisation of which she is a director. I want to prioritise community policing principles which have taken a back seat under the current Labour PCC.”

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Lib Dems call for one in 3 councillors to be cut in Gateshead

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead are to press the Council to back a cut in the number of councillors in the borough. The party is also calling for the local election cycle to be changed to save money and make the council more efficient.

There are currently 66 councillors in Gateshead, with three representing each of the 22 wards. One councillor is elected each year to serve for four years. Every fourth year there are no local elections.

Low Fell Councillor and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Gateshead, Ron Beadle, said, “Gateshead Council has 2000 fewer people working for it since 2010. As an authority, it does far less than it used to.

“The total of 66 councillors can no longer be justified. Liberal Democrats are therefore pressing for each ward to have two rather than three councillors.

“The cost of each set of local elections is around £200,000. Annual elections by thirds don’t make sense when most councils in Britain hold their electoral contests only once every four years when all councillors are up for election.

“The functions of Gateshead Council have been reduced in recent years. The number of politicians needs to be reduced as well to reflect this.

“The savings from reduced councillor numbers and by switching from annual elections will save over £1 million over 4 years. This is money that can be spent on local services, rather than local councillors.”

Liberal Democrat Councillors will be moving a motion at the meeting of Gateshead Council on Thursday 4th February calling on the Chief Executive to investigate how the council can be reduced in size and elections switched to a four year cycle.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Right to Buy could see homelessness return to 1980s levels

The government’s Right to Buy scheme could see homelessness return to the levels of the 1980s Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Olly Grender warned yesterday (Monday).

Former Director of Communications for Shelter, Baroness Olly Grender asked a question in the House of Lords to challenge the government over its abandonment of the homelessness strategy.

Liberal Democrats oppose the Housing and Planning Bill which threatens to end social housing in Britain as we know it. With 1.6 million people nationwide on housing waiting lists and homelessness steadily increasing year, on year, the government should start to tackle the housing shortage and stick to the plans to build 300,000 homes a year.

Baroness Olly Grender said, “Social housing with no legal guarantee of replacement can be anything other than abandonment of the homelessness strategy altogether and a return to the 1980s when kids out of care and troops returning home were left with no option but sleeping rough?”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said, “Today’s Housing Bill threatens to end social housing in Britain as we know it. 

“Selling off homes and pushing people out of the communities they have grown up in is tantamount to social cleansing, ripping the hearts from communities where people have lived and belonged to for many years.”

Lib Dem Councillor Peter Maughan said, "In Gateshead we already have far more demand for social housing than we have available homes. The government's plans will make a bad situation worse.

"Ministers should focus instead on building affordable homes on brownfield sites. Unfortunately, on Gateshead Council, we have a Labour party that are putting their effort into building executive homes on the greenbelt, not supplying affordable homes for Gateshead residents."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Marley Hill Community Christmas Market

Marley Hill Community Centre Apr 14

Marley Hill Community Centre are holding a Christmas Fair from 11am to 3pm on Sunday 29th November. All residents are welcome to join in the fun.

  • Lots of stalls selling crafts and food
  • Raffles and tombolas
  • Mince pies
  • Mayor visiting at 1pm
  • Live music including Whickham Wind at 2pm
  • 20p entry, children free
  • Great day out for everyone

Please support your local community centre by visiting the fair.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gateshead Council increase garden waste collection charge

Gateshead Council have decided to increase the charge for the green bin garden waste collection service from £20 to £25 next year - with more increases planned. Even at £25 per year however the Council is subsidising the service, which was first introduced in 2006 as a free service.

Low Fell Councillor Ron Beadle has asked the Council to reconsider the decision not to continue garden waste collection in November, and to make faster progress on providing alternative ways for people to recycle their garden waste.

Ron said, “Services should improve when the cost of the service is going up.”

Council officials have said that the staff who collect the green bins are currently re-allocated to winter duties (e.g. preparing gritters) in November but that they will look at this issue again.

Marley Hill School site for sale

Marley Hill School John McClurey Nov 15

Gateshead Council have now received permission from the Government to sell Marley Hill School. As a result, the site has been put on the market and it is expected to be sold for housing.

Bids, along with outline proposals for the site, have to be received by the Council by early December. The school has been closed for 4 years with local primary age children now going mainly to Clover Hill and Washingwell Schools.

Cllr John McClurey, whose sons Kevin and Stuart, went to Marley Hill School, said, “The collapse in pupil numbers meant it was not possible to keep the school open.

“Since the school closed, we have pressed the Council to sort out the future of the site. We were concerned that the building was becoming derelict and an eyesore. But the law required permission from the Government before the sale could go ahead and that was only forthcoming recently.

“Our hope is that any developer will retain the original school building, built in the 1890s, and convert it to housing. Sadly, though the Council will look on this favourably, they have not made it a condition, despite our requests.

“We are expecting any bid to include new homes on the playing field. We have asked officers to look into access to the site. There are concerns at the speed of vehicles entering Marley Hill, despite there being a 30mph limit. We would like developers taking on the site to make changes to the road layout outside the school to improve safety.”

Pictured above: Cllr John McClurey outside Marley Hill School

Landslip fears over major road link

Metal Bank embankment Nov 15

Liberal Democrat Councillors in Sunniside, Gateshead - John McClurey, Jonathan Wallace and Marilynn Ord - have raised concerns about the state of the embankment at the bottom of Metal Bank which carries one of the main roads between Sunniside and Whickham

They brought highway engineers to look at the road surface which is starting to subside. “The road is on a steep embankment and we are concerned that it is starting to give way,” said Jonathan.

“Engineers have now carried out an initial investigation of the road and embankment. They tell us that there are a number of possible causes. Under the embankment is a large culvert, there are old mine workings in the area, there are sewers under the road and animals burrowing into the bankside.

“The engineers will carry out further investigations to identify the cause but they say there is no immediate risk to the safety of road users.

"However, in recent weeks, the fractures in the road surface have got bigger, the curbstones are now out of alignment and the fence is sagging. We are worried that a landslip could could close what is a very busy road and cause traffic to be congested on other already busy roads in Sunniside and Whickham."

Pictured above: Cllr Jonathan Wallace on the embankment where the road is beginning to give way between Whickham and Sunniside.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Back our bobbies, says Gateshead Opposition Leader

Northumbria Police force faces a £57 million loss over the next four years as part of potential Conservative cuts to police budgets as part of Wednesday's Autumn Statement. 

These cuts are likely to hit Neighbourhood Policing teams hardest and put 211 PCSOs at risk across the force area.

The Liberal Democrats are clear that Neighbourhood Policing teams are vital to community safety and cohesion and are campaigning against the looming cuts.

Speaking ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review, Lord Paddick – the Liberal Democrats Home Affairs lead in the Lords and former Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner said:

“Neighbourhood policing has been a great success in providing reassurance to communities.

"By building trust and confidence between the police and the people they serve, neighbourhood policing teams are the front line in preventing radicalisation and trusted routes through which community intelligence can be passed, information on issues from drug dealing to terrorism.

“The government must ensure police forces are given the resources they need to maintain this vital part of policing.

Lib Dem leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council Cllr Jonathan Wallace added:

“I know how hard our local policemen and women work to keep us all safe, day in and day out. It is shocking to see that the Conservative Government are failing to do right by them.  I am calling on the Government to rethink these damaging cuts and back our bobbies to protect frontline neighbourhood teams in the Northumbria force area.”