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.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Animal welfare champion calls for end to puppy farming

Puppy farming needs to become a thing of the past, a leading Liberal Democrat and animal welfare campaigner has claimed.

Gateshead Councillor Peter Maughan, who is also chairman of Newcastle and North Northumberland RSPCA, made the call following a challenge by Lib Dem peer Kate Parminter in the House of Lords to the government to end puppy farming. Lady Parminter made the call on Monday 9th November.

“In Gateshead there are two registered puppy farms,” said Peter. “Overall the system of licensing is weak and fails to give adequate welfare protection to dogs used to breed the puppies or to puppies themselves.

“My own preference is to see an end to puppy farms but if they are to continue, they need much tougher control and regulation. We have to put an end to squalid, unhealthy and often cruel circumstances in which puppies are farmed. We need to ban the sale of puppies below the age of 8 weeks.

“If farms are not registered and conforming to higher welfare standards, they should be closed down. People who buy puppies from them do not know how well their dog has been treated and do not have consumer protection.

“There is more protection in buying a fridge from an electrical store than a puppy from an unregistered puppy farm.

“I urge all those wanting to buy a puppy to go to a reputable breeder rather than a puppy farm where dogs are treated as puppy producing machines.”

Monday, November 09, 2015

Remembrance Day Parade - Whickham

Whickham Remembrance Day Nov 15

Whickham hosted the largest of Gateshead's Remembrance Day parades yesterday which saw over 40 wreaths laid by organisations and individuals at the war memorial on Front Street.

You can see a full set of photos of the day in the above album.

New "snoopers charter" is a threat to ordinary people - but not to serious criminals - Frank Hindle

The proposed Investigatory Powers Bill will put law abiding citizen's personal data at risk - while the seriously bad guys will simply use servers that are based overseas. It seems that Ministers need to find out more about how internet services work before they try to legislate about them.

Low Fell Lib Dem Councillor Frank Hindle, a former Head of Computing at Northumbria University, has pointed out that the proposed requirement for Internet Providers to keep people's browsing history for a year is a threat to the privacy of ordinary people.

 "Our browsing habits say a lot about us. Whether it is looking up information about places before going away on holiday, or researching our own or our relatives’ illnesses, or simply the absence of any browsing when our homes are empty and unguarded, a perfectly innocent web browsing history will reveal things that we are entitled to keep private. Whatever safeguards the law might have (and at the moment they are inadequate) about how government agencies could use this data, the recent problems at TalkTalk demonstrate the risk that criminals will hack into and steal this data, and be able to use it to target their activities, or simply sell or publish it.

"But for any serious - or even semi-serious - criminal such as a terrorist, child pornographer, or drug trafficker it isn't hard to set up encrypted systems using a server or servers located outside of the UK that will let them do all the browsing they want out of reach of this proposed law. Expecting the internet service provider of someone doing this to be able to provide a meaningful browsing history is impossible.

"Similarly, the proposals don't make sense when it comes to services such as WhatsApp and iMessenger - internet companies are expected to be able to decrypt any messages, even though the companies have no way of knowing the key that is needed to do the decryption.

"Many of the proposals seem technologically illiterate and their absurdity is summed up by a quote by a researcher at University of Kent in New Scientist 'I don’t know what the legal position is on a government requiring a company to do something that is logically impossible.'"