Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Euro MP visits Pathhead

Liberal Democrat MEP for the North East of England, Fiona Hall, met local councillors and residents outside the Pathhead landfill site on Saturday 20th December. She discussed her hopes that the Chairman of the European Parliament's Petitions Committee will be able to visit the site soon, following the submission of a petition raising concerns about the waste dump.

Friday, December 12, 2008

High Spen field to be cleared

A field next to Howard Terrace in High Spen, Gateshead, is to be cleared and the fence repaired after complaints from residents and local Liberal Democrat councillors.

After residents asked Councillors Andrew Graham, Elaine Earl and Brenda Osborne to look into the condition of the field next to their homes, Council officers were asked to investigate how the site could be tidied up.

Councillors asked for a bid for funding from the Neighbourhood Pride scheme to cover the costs and this bid has now been agreed.

“We are pleased this bid has been agreed and work should take place shortly,” said Councillor Graham.

Greener driving will save you cash – Gateshead Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead have given the thumbs up to a ten point plan which could save motorists a large amount of cash and help save the planet.

The Energy Saving Trust’s scheme lists ten easy steps to using less fuel whilst driving. Sticking to it would allow a vehicle to go 15% further on the same amount of fuel.

It would also mean that much less pollution and carbon dioxide would be produced. If every driver in Gateshead were to follow the 10 point plan, the borough would pump out up to 31,000 tonnes of CO2 less each year.

The Trust is a joint venture between Government and top private companies including BP and EDF. It has found that simple measures such as inflating tyres properly can have a dramatic impact on your wallet, health and local environment.

The Trust also recommends driving away immediately, rather than idling, to let the engine warm up, and turning your engine off in a traffic jam as practical everyday ways to reap the benefits of lower fuel consumption.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, “The Energy Savings Trust’s list has some great ideas for saving money and the environment. They are simple ideas that can make a big difference to the pockets of Gateshead residents and to local air quality.

“If we all made small changes to the way we do things, we can make big savings that benefit both Gateshead and the planet.

Commenting, Norman Baker MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said: “Spending less on filling up the car would be a bonus for everyone this Christmas, but it is not only our wallets that should feel better if we all become energy-efficient drivers.

“The local benefits of following these simple rules can be huge, making a valuable difference to the environment and helping to reduce the impact on health from noxious exhaust fumes.”

The list of greener driving ideas includes:
1. Check your revs - change up before 2,500rpm (petrol) and 2,000rpm (diesel).
2. Anticipate road conditions and drive smoothly, avoiding sharp acceleration and heavy braking. This saves fuel and reduces accident rates.
3. Use air conditioning sparingly as it significantly increases fuel consumption.
4. The most efficient speed depends upon the car in question but is typically around 45 - 50mph. Faster speed will greatly increase your fuel consumption.
5. Drive away immediately when starting from cold - idling to heat the engine wastes fuel and causes rapid engine wear.
6. Accessories such as roof racks, bike carriers, and roof boxes significantly affect your car's aerodynamics and reduce fuel efficiency, so remember to remove them when not in use.
7. Avoid short journeys - a cold engine uses almost twice as much fuel and catalytic converters can take five miles to become effective.
8. Plan your journeys to avoid congestion, road works and getting lost.
9. Check your tyre pressure regularly - under-inflated tyres are dangerous and can increase fuel consumption by up to 3%.
10. If you're stuck in a jam, switch the engine off if you expect to be there for more than a minute or two. Cutting the engine will save fuel and reduce emissions.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Queen's Speech “won’t help families in Gateshead” – Liberal Democrats

The Government’s plans for new laws will do little to help hard-pressed families in Gateshead, claims a leading local Liberal Democrat.

The plans were outlined in the Queen’s Speech but disappointed Liberal Democrats say that the Government’s announcements will do very little to help people Gateshead cope with the recession.

"The measures in the Queen's Speech are not enough to help people with the real problems we are now facing,” said Dr Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham and Sunniside.

“We need legislation to change the way energy tariffs work to make sure people get the cheapest prices for their essential fuel and power and changes to taxes to put money back in people's pockets.

"With the massive discounts on offer in the shops at the moment, the short term trimming of VAT will make little difference and what we need is income tax cuts targeted at low earners and paid for through closing loopholes.

“Residents of Gateshead who are worried by the economic situation will find little comfort in this programme.

“We need action to force the banks to lend money on fair terms to small businesses and families – and make it quite clear that if the banks cannot be made to act, the government will lend directly itself.

"The Government wasted the opportunity to help people in last week's Pre-Budget Report and now with the Queen's Speech they are wasting it again."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Anger at National Express's inflation busting fares increase

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead have demanded that National Express abandons its plans to impose a 6% increase in the price of regulated fares, season tickets and saver tickets.


The increase in ticket prices not regulated by the government is to be an even steeper 7.4%


The announcement of the inflation-busting fares hike on 21st November was met with an angry response by Gateshead Councillor Jonathan Wallace.


“Train passengers living in Gateshead are being hit for six by National Express,” said Cllr Wallace. “At a time when people are struggling with the recession, this train company is adding to people’s difficulties and is stinging passengers for more cash.


“These rises could make the recession worse in the North East and could lead to more congestion and pollution as people abandon public transport for their car instead.


“I am calling on the government to step in and use the power they have over regulated fares to impose a freeze on ticket prices for a year. This could be paid for from within the Government’s transport budget.


“Just as the Government stepped in to freeze fuel duty for motorists because of the recession, they should change their mind and stop these price increases going ahead.


“Rail passengers will rightly feel that they are being taken for a ride by National Express. They have every right to feel angry with this price hike and with the Government for letting it happen.”


The Government has agreed that the ticket price increases can come into effect on 2nd January 2009.





Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Welcome for street repairs

Liberal Democrat councillors representing Sunniside in Gateshead have won a long standing battle to have some streets resurfaced in the village.

Hollywell Lane had never been adopted by the Council and had been without a proper surface for decades. Meanwhile Longwood Close and Coanwood Way were both in need of resurfacing as their condition had become much worse in recent years.

Work to resurface the roads took place in October and November.

Councillor Marilynn Ord said, "We have been pressing for this work to be done for many years and we are pleased it has now been carried out."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Welcome for Government u-turn on Post Office Card Account

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon have welcomed a decision by the Government to abandon proposals to hand over the payment of pensions and benefits from post offices to a private company.

Thousands of elderly people, carers, disabled people and claimants in Blaydon constituency currently use their local post offices to receive their pensions and benefits through the Post Office Card Account.

But earlier this year ministers invited bids from private companies as well as the Post Office for the contract to pay out pensions and benefits from 2010.

Had the Post Office lost the contract, up to 6,000 more post offices could have gone to the wall as a result of the lost business. These unmanaged closures would have been in addition to the 2,500 “managed” closures which the Government has already announced.

“The Government’s u-turn is welcome here in Blaydon constituency,” said Parliamentary Spokesman Peter Maughan. “It means our post offices have a better chance of staying open.

“But this is a u-turn that should never have had to happen in the first place. The Government should have realised the importance of post offices to communities and awarded the new contract to the network without these months of delay.

“Instead, local branches have had to deal with the uncertainty that ministerial dithering and unnecessary contracting processes has caused.

“Hopefully, local branches can now plan ahead knowing they will continue to pay out pensions and benefits. But we are also calling on the Government to carry out another u-turn.

“They must stop putting pressure on pensioners and benefit claimants to get their cash paid through the banks. People should have a choice.”

Under current government plans, the branches at Winlaton Mill and Crookhill are to close. 4 years ago, the government closed branches at Swalwell, Bleach Green and Dunston.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dunston Pool refurbishment

Pressure from Liberal Democrat Councillors for better access to Dunston Swimming Pool has paid off. Plans have been submitted for new access and reception area for the building.

“We have raised concerns about the poor access to the building over the past three years,” said Councillor Yvonne McNicol. “We are pleased that the plans for the easier access are now moving forward.

“We are also continuing to press for a general renovation of the whole building.”

Watergate Bank closure

Watergate Bank, between Lobley Hill and Streetgate, will be closed to through traffic from 6am to midday on Sunday 16th November to allow for essential maintenance work to be carried out. The road will be closed from the Pennyfine Road junction to the Ravensdene Lodge on Consett Road, Lobley Hill.

Residents living on the closed section, and those going to the Marquis of Granby pub at Fugar Bar will be allowed access.

Butterfly Bridge swept away in September storm

The heavy rains in September that caused flooding in the Derwent Valley also claimed the Butterfly Bridge which crosses the river at the bottom of Clockburn Lonnen, near Winlaton Mill. The bridge was popular with residents of Whickham walking to the Derwenthaugh Park.

The bridge itself is lying downstream on the river bank and is on one piece. It is believed that trees, washed down the river in the flood, hit the bridge, causing it to collapse.

We are pleased to report that the Council is planning to replace the bridge and plans are being drawn up to do this. The old bridge will have to be removed from its current resting place and engineers are looking at how this can be carried out. We will keep you in touch with progress.

Remembrance Day

Councillors fort he Whickham area laid wreaths at all the local remembrance Day ceremonies on 9th November. Peter Maughan laid the wreath at Dunston, Mary Wallace at Swalwell, Marilynn Ord at Marley Hill and Peter Craig, Allison Chatto and Jonathan Wallace at Whickham.

We have a full series of photos taken of the Whickham parade and service. These can be viewed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathanwallace/sets/72157608789975091/

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hole in the wall celebration

A village that fought to get a hole-in-the-wall cash machine in the local post office will celebrate its opening this weekend.

The Post Office in Sunniside, Gateshead, applied to have a cash machine installed at the front of the shop in 2007 but Gateshead’s Labour councillors kicked out the application. They claimed that as it was on a front street, it would attract traffic.

But an appeal, backed by the village’s Lib Dem Councillor, Jonathan Wallace, saw the decision immediately overturned by government planning inspectors earlier this year.

Plans to install the machine had to be put on hold over the summer whilst consultation took place on the Government’s Post Office closure programme.

Now, the machine is in place and this Saturday, 15th November, at 11.30am, outside the Post Office, Councillors Wallace, Marilynn Ord, John McClurey and Peter Maughan will join Sunniside Postmaster Paul Mein to cut a ribbon to launch the cash machine.

“At a time when Post Offices are under threat of closure, we need to do all we can to help them stay in business,” said Cllr Wallace. “The cash machine will boost the Post Office and the village.

“It will be the only 24 hour, free-to-use cash machine in the village. Other shops in the village centre will therefore feel the benefits as well.”

Residents of Sunniside are welcome to attend the event.

Labour MP David Anderson accused of hypocrisy over Post Offices

Labour MP Blaydon, David Anderson, has been accused of hypocrisy after he put his name to a Parliamentary motion supporting Post Offices only to vote against it in the House of Commons shortly afterwards.

Post Offices face a bleak future if the Government gives another company the contract to pay out pensions and benefits. They currently deliver this through the Post Office Card Account (POCA), which is used by around 4 million elderly people and benefit claimants.

It is believed that up to 6,000 Post Offices could close if the POCA is taken away from them. Ministers are expected to announce their decision on POCA shortly.

The Parliamentary motion expresses worries about the damaging results on Post Offices if they lose more business. Ministers and government agencies are currently putting huge pressure on people to get pensions and benefits paid directly into bank accounts instead of through the Post Office.

The motion called on government departments and agencies to use Post Offices to make services available through Post Offices to help both the Post Office network and the people who rely on it. MPs could sign the motion over the summer and autumn. Liberal Democrat MPs then brought it to the House of Commons to debate it on Monday 10th November.

“Residents of Blaydon constituency will have every right to feel let down by David Anderson’s hypocrisy on Post Offices,” said Councillor Peter Maughan, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon.

“It seems that he says one thing about Post Offices and then votes the exact opposite way.

“Mr Anderson chose to vote to throw out the concerns about the future of Post Offices and replace them with praise for what the Government has done to the Post Office network.

“Our area needs an MP who will fight for local people, one who will do what it says on the cover. What we have is one who postures in support of local people and then runs away from taking action when it’s needed.”

Monday, November 03, 2008

Maughan raises concerns about Derwent Reservoir following river flooding

LEADING Liberal Democrat Councillor in Gateshead, Peter Maughan, has raised concerns with Northumbrian Water over the Derwent Reservoir.


Following flooding along the Derwent River in early September, Councillor Maughan has written to the Environment Agency about the need for better flood defences in villages such as Blackhall Mill.


But after speaking to residents in Chopwell on Saturday 1st November, he has raised further concerns with Northumbrian Water.


“Blackhall Mill came very close to flooding and Chopwell came close to being cut off along its Derwentside route in September,” said Peter.


“Many residents have now told me that they feel some of the flooding in September could have been avoided if the Derwent Reservoir had been able to hold more water.  Yet residents tell me that the Reservoir was kept close to being full before the heavy rains.


“I have written to Northumbrian Water about this and asked them to clarify the situation. If, as now seems likely, climate change is causing more sudden and heavy downpours, we need to take action to reduce the effects.


“Ensuring Derwent Reservoir has capacity to hold back flood waters in the future and then release water once the rains have stopped could help to reduce future floods.”

Friday, October 31, 2008

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon demand tax cuts to help beat recession

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency have called for a cut in income tax for people on low and middle incomes to help them beat the recession.

“Inflation is at its highest for years,” said Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon. “Residents of Blaydon are struggling with rising fuel and housing costs. They need money in their pockets now.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for a cut in income tax of 4p in the pound. It will be paid for by closing the loopholes used by the most wealthy to avoid paying tax. And we will increase the level of tax on the most polluting activities.

“Too many people are faced with the prospect of either eating properly or heating their homes. Action is needed now to help residents of Blaydon who are struggling with rising prices.

“Many residents on low incomes are paying more in tax following the government’s decision to double the starting rate of income tax to 20p in the pound. Though the government was eventually forced to come forward with a package to compensate people for the tax increase, many are still worse off.

“Cutting income tax will therefore give residents and our local economy a boost at a time when it is desperately needed.”

Chopwell's children's centre opens

The new children’s centre at Chopwell Primary School, Chopwell has been opened. The centre provides information to parents of children below the age of 5. There is a baby clinic and drop-in space as well.

The sort of information available for parents of young children includes local groups and children’s health.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Unemployment rises in every ward in Gateshead

The Credit Crunch is hurting Gateshead with unemployment rising in every council ward in the borough, claim local Liberal Democrats.

Councillor Peter Maughan, speaking after the publication of the latest figures for the number of people on Jobseekers’ Allowance, said that rising unemployment is likely to lead to more home repossession and business closures.

The figures show that 555 more people were unemployed and receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance in September than in the same month in 2007, bringing the total in Gateshead to 3,906.

“The actual number of people unemployed is about double this as the published figures do not include those out of work but on other benefits,” said Peter.

“With Britain going into recession, there needs to be a big cut in interest rates. This will help businesses and homeowners keep their heads above water.

“The danger is that, without a big interest rate cut, there will be more house repossessions and business closures.”

The ward with the highest rate of unemployed residents on Jobseekers’ Allowance is Bridges where one in ten of the working population receive the benefit (10.8%).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Demand for North East to be given share of new building work – Maughan

A LEADING Liberal Democrat on Tyneside has warned that the North East could be left behind if the government brings forward planned building projects designed to tackle the recession.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling is considering bringing forward to 2009 projects originally planned to begin in 2011 in a bid to kickstart the recession hit economy.

But with most of the big government building projects being outside the North East, there are worries the region will not get the boost needed to get people back to work.

Peter Maughan, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Blaydon and a Councillor in Gateshead, has written to the Chancellor calling for the region to be considered seriously for new investment.

“I am particularly concerned to ensure that the transport system is included in any government plans to boost building projects,” said Peter.

“But I am very worried about the poor record of the government on supporting an upgrade to the Al and rail improvements in the region.

“Many of the big projects such as Crossrail and the Olympics will benefit London and the South East. We need a cast iron guarantee that the needs of the North East will not be ignored any more.

“In the long run better transport links for the region are vital for the long term growth of our economy. The poor main road and rail links we have are holding back our economy.

“Improving them will therefore create jobs in the long run, and not just boost employment during the recession.

“As things stand with the government at the moment, there is a huge danger that no serious investment in big projects will take place in the North East.”

Councillor Maughan highlighted the need to develop the Metro system, improve other local rail links, improve rail links to London and upgrade the A1 as key government projects to boost the local economy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Award for Gateshead Liberal Democrat

GATESHEAD Liberal Democrat Councillor, Jonathan Wallace, has won an award from the party for the use of email to keep in touch with residents.

Councillor Wallace, who represents Whickham South and Sunniside on Gateshead Council, launched a monthly email newsletter called eFocus, five years ago. It was originally sent to 50 residents. Now three different editions are produced and which are sent to over 1500 households.

The award was presented to Councillor Wallace at the Liberal Democrats’ North East Regional Conference at Gateshead Civic Centre on Saturday 18th October.

“I invented the email newsletter as I thought it would be a great way to keep in touch with residents,” said Jonathan.

“We know that many people find it useful and forward it on to family and friends as well. We have heard that it gets sent to expats living as far away as Australia!”

The newsletter was named after the Focus newsletter printed and produced by Liberal Democrats and delivered to every house in the Whickham area.

The award was made by Andrew Stunell MP, former Chief Whip of the party who is now running the election campaign for the Liberal Democrats for 2009 when the European Parliament elections will be held.

Photo: Andrew Stunell MP (left) presenting Councillor Jonathan Wallace with the party’s award for his email newsletters to constituents.

Friday, October 17, 2008

North East Liberal Democrats meet in Gateshead

LIBERAL Democrats from across the North East will be gathering at Gateshead Civic Centre for their annual meeting on Saturday 18th October.

The meeting starts at 10am and amongst the speakers will be Andrew Stunell MP, former chief whip of the party who chairs the party's campaign for the local elections next year.

"We are pleased the party is meeting in Gateshead," said Cllr Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon. "And we are delighted that Andrew will be lending us his campaigning expertise."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kibblesworth residents asked about cost of living

Residents of the village of Kibblesworth in Gateshead have been asked about how the rising cost of living is affecting them by local Liberal Democrats.

Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon constituency, carried out the survey as he is concerned that many are struggling with rising food and fuel proces.

“Many residents of the constituency have raised with me the serious impact on family budgets of the steep increases in the cost of basics, such as meals on the table and power to heat and light homes,” said Peter.

“It seems wherever I go in Blaydon constituency, people express their worries to me about how they will cope with the extra costs.

“So we have delivered 500 survey forms to residents in Kibblesworth village and will be carrying out the survey elsewhere in Gateshead as well.

“The survey results already show that people are tightening their belts. Many are cutting back on heating. Some older people are making personal sacrifices for their children or grandchildren.

“With unemployment rising, many people are telling me they are not sure how they will cope with Christmas.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for a cut in income tax for people on low and middle incomes. It would be paid for by closing loop holes used by the rich to avoid paying tax, and by putting up taxes on pollution.

“This will put money into the pockets of the people who need it now.”

The survey will continue to be carried out across communities in Gateshead over the coming weeks and the overall results will be published later in the autumn.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The banking crisis and Gateshead Council’s cash

The crisis in the banks and financial sector has already begun to be felt in Gateshead. The Council has £4.5 million of reserves in an account with the Heritable Bank, which is the UK subsidiary of failing Icelandic bank Landsbanki.

Heritable has gone into administration though it continues to trade. A new buyer for the bank is being sought. Gateshead’s deposit is not due to be repaid until between mid-December and February.

The Council is seeking clarification on the bank’s administrators about the situation. However, the government’s current deposit guarantee scheme does not cover council or business deposits.

So far, the government has not shown any willingness to guarantee any deposits made by local councils in the failed bank.

"The only way to end the uncertainty is for the Government to guarantee local authority deposits,” said Councillor Jonathan Wallace. “If ministers can come to the aid of the big banks, they can come to the aid of councils providing vital services such as schools and social services for the vulnerable.”

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Euro MPs strengthen climate change commitment

Euro MPs on the Environment Committee have voted to strengthen the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – widely viewed as the corner stone of EU strategy to combat climate change -in order to to ensure that carbon emissions are cut by at least 20% by 2020 and that the EU has a strong hand in global emissions reduction negotiations.

The ETS ‘cap and trade’ system allows companies to buy and sell carbon allowances within a progressively tightening cap. Until now the ETS has included a generous amount of free allowances but the changes voted this week mark the start of a much more restrictive regime. The power industry will have to buy all its allowances from 2013, for example, and there will be an increasing requirement for purchase of allowances for CO2 emissions from aircraft

Fiona Hall MEP, Lib Dem MEP for Gateshead, says that the changes are an essential step towards an international consensus on carbon emission trading and vital if global temperature rises are to be kept under 2 deg C and not allowed to "go critical". In the New Year, preparations will get underway in Poznan for the 2009 global climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Fiona said, “This result is a victory for progressive industry which recognises the Stern conclusions that global warming has huge long-term costs. Of course there has been some pressure from industry but it has been important to avoid loopholes which would have undermined the foundations of the Emissions trading process.

"The way to deal with worries about global competitiveness is through the forthcoming Commission analysis of carbon leakage and I will continue to work closely with North East companies who have specific concerns on this.”

As well as emissions trading, the Environment Committee also voted to ban the building of new coal-fired power stations from 2015, unless they are equipped with carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) to curb their CO2 emissions. A report by Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies which calls for the use of up to 500 million allowances from the emissions trading scheme (this could easily exceed £7 billions) to meet the additional costs of CCS installation has been adopted and would ensure carbon capture and storage technology could make a healthy contribution towards saving thousands of CO2 emissions.

Following the Environment Committee votes, negotiations will start with the Council (Member States ministers) with the aim of completing the legislation in good time for the Poznan negotiations in the New Year.

Fiona said, “The North East is at the forefront of new energy technology and can really benefit from this week's Environment committee votes. In the negotiations that are now starting I will continue to work closely with North East industry to make sure that our lead position on efficient processes and forward looking technology is supported.”

Monday, October 06, 2008

Nick Clegg welcomed on visit to Tyneside

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg was welcomed to Tyneside by the party's local Parliamentary Candidates on Friday 3rd October.

Peter Maughan (Blaydon), Ron Beadle (Newcastle North) and Greg Stone (Newcastle East) met Mr Clegg at Newcastle Central Station. The Liberal Democrats' leader was in the region to visit flood victims in Morpeth and to speak at the annual constituency dinner in Berwick upon Tweed.

"I was delighted Nick was in the North East," said Peter. "Nick is a northern MP, representing a constituency in Sheffield, and he knows the problems faced by our region.

"We discussed the Conservatives' policy to leave the North East out of a high speed rail network.

“We know the Conservatives have little interest in the region. However their announcement that they support a high speed rail network for the country except for the North East and Scotland shows they are not prepared to give the region the investment it needs."
Photo: Greg Stone, left, Cllr John Shipley, Leader of Newcastle City Council (to left of Nick Clegg), Peter Maughan (behind John and Nick) and Ron Beadle, front right, are joined by other Lib Dem members to greet Nick Clegg and protest about the decision of the Conservatives to leave the North East off their proposed high speed rail system.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Liberal Democrats launch credit crunch survey

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency have launched a survey to find out how people are being affected by the credit crunch and rising prices.

The survey is being co-ordinated by Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon, where he is a councillor.

The survey asks residents about the impact of rising prices for food and power and whether or not people are tightening their belts, and if so, how, in response.

“Many people I have spoken to across Blaydon constituency have told me how hard they are being squeezed by the rising cost of living,” said Peter.

“The survey will give us a clearer picture of the effects of the credit crunch on people’s pockets. We will use the results to argue for a fairer deal from the government and Gateshead Council for our area.”

300 copies were delivered to households in the village of Kibblesworth on Sunday 28th September and local members will be carrying out the survey over the coming weeks.

The overall results will be published when the survey has been completed.

Unemployment rise in Gateshead is “worrying sign” – Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead have warned that rising unemployment is a sign of the credit crunch affecting the borough.

In August, there were 346 more people claiming jobseekers allowance in Gateshead than in August 2007. The jobless figures rose in 20 of the 22 council wards in the borough.

Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokseman for Blaydon constituency, said, “The newly published figures are a worrying sign that the credit crunch is biting in Gateshead.

“The actual number of unemployed residents however is likely to be double the figure of 3756 which is the figure for those who are on jobseekers allowance in Gateshead. There are many people who are unemployed but do not qualify for this benefit.

“I have already launched a survey of residents about how the credit crunch and the rise in the cost of living are affecting them. It is clear from some of the replies we have already received that many residents are concerned they may be out of work soon.

“The government must act now to help people though the hard times. Rising unemployment is likely to lead to more house repossession.

“The government must step in to give councils the power to buy the homes of those facing repossession so that they can be rented back to the very same people who would otherwise be made homeless.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lib Dems win promise on Whickham Somerfield store’s future

LIBERAL Democrats in Whickham, Gateshead, have won a commitment from the Co-op to consult residents on the future of the local Somerfield store.

The Co-op are in the process of buying Somerfield but the area’s Liberal Democrats are concerned that, with a Co-op store already in Whickham, the Somerfield branch on Oakfield Road could be closed.

Councillor Peter Maughan wrote to the Co-operative’s Chief Executive Peter Marks to seek assurances about the future of the store.

“In his reply, Mr Marks said that the government’s competition regulators would take a decision about whether or not to allow the takeover of Somerfield,” said Peter. “He was unable to give any guarantees about the future of the store.

“However, he did assure me that the Co-op would consult residents about any closure proposals.

“We have argued all along that if the Co-op buys Somerfield but decides to close the Whickham branch, a new buyer should be found as quickly as possible so that the jobs remain and residents are able to shop locally.

“We are pleased they have said that they will consult residents.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Path Head - landfill investigation moves forward

The European Commission is to investigate Environment Agency claims about the path head landfill site.

Shocked officials have vowed to take action after learning that the site operator SITA has been found to be in breach of four of its operating conditions – information which the Environment Agency had failed to pass onto the Commission.

The facts emerged in a meeting of the petition committee of the European Parliament. Path Head residents submitted a petition to the Parliament in 2005 with the help of North East Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall.

The Commission officials were further shocked when the MEP produced pictures of the Path Head site, shown above, taken by a resident during recent heavy rain.

The photos show the waste cells flooded with water, and leachate from the rubbish site clearly polluting a lagoon which drains into a local stream.

Fiona has written to the chairman of the committee, Polish MEP Marcin Libicki to ask him to visit the site to meet local officials and residents.

Said Fiona: “Despite the fact that the petition committee has a very full diary at present, Mr Libicki reacted positively.

“I very much hope the path head committee will come to see the problems for themselves.”

Call for better flood defences at Blackhall Mill

A LEADING Liberal Democrat campaigner in Gateshead has written to the Environment Agency to urge them to consider improving flood defences at a village in the borough.

Blackhall Mill sits next to the River Derwent and on the border with Derwentside. The heavy rains at the start of September saw some localised flooding in the village which resulted in some people being temporarily moved out.

Councillor Peter Maughan, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon Constituency, which included Blackhall Mill, visited the village during the worst rains on Saturday 6th September.

“I wanted to see what effect the flood defences were having that were installed after the flooding in Blackhall Mill in 2000,” said Peter.

“The defences were holding though when I was there, another small rise in the level of the river would have seen the village flooded.

“We also saw water bursting from from drains in the streets near the river as they were unable to cope with the amount of rainwater.

“Blackhall Mill was very lucky to avoid the worst of the floods and much of that can be put down to the effectiveness of the flood defences. But I am concerned that only a small additional rise in the river level could have turned into a disaster for residents.

“I have written to the Environment Agency to expalin my concerns and to ask them to look at ways of strengthening the existing flood defences.

“Yet the most effective action to take would be for the government to take real action to cut down on our carbon emissions which are leading to extreme weather conditions.

“All we are getting from Gordon Brown and the government are nice words but few real actions.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Maughan visits flood area

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon, Peter Maughan, visited Blackhall Mill over the weekend to see how the flood defences were coping with the heavy rains.

"Thankfully there was no repeat of the floods of 2000," said Peter though some elderly residents were temporarily evacuated.

"I thought it was useful to see for myself how well the defences were working. Unfortunately, the sort of extreme weather we have experienced is likely to be common in the future.

"This brings home the need to tackle climate change and to stop treating the environment as a dumping ground for our waste."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One saved, two more close: Post Office closures in Blaydon

The Government's Post Office closure programme has led to the closure of two branches in Blaydon constituency at Winlaton Mill and Crookhill. Blackhall Mill however has been reprieved. Peter Maughan reports.

River Derwent close to flooding in Blackhall Mill

It was a lucky escape for the village of Blackhall Mill on the weekend of 6-7th September. The River Derwent came close to bursting its banks. Some elderly residents were evacuated but the flood defences, installed after floods in 2000, managed to stop the village being flooded.

Councillors Peter Maughan and Jonathan Wallace visited the village on Saturday to see the state of the river first hand.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Delight and anger at Post Offices news

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency have responded with delight to the announcement that plans to close Blackhall Mill Post Office have been withdrawn.

But they have also expressed their anger at the decision to press ahead with the closure of the branches in Crookhill and Winlaton Mill.

Liberal Democrat Councillor and Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon, Peter Maughan, campaigned to keep open the three branches. Local members collected over 250 signatures from residents calling for the three Post Offices to keep going.

“I am very pleased for Blackhall Mill,” said Peter. “Residents would have had to take a long and steep walk to Chopwell to get to the next Post Office. I am pleased that the Post Office management has seen sense on this.

“But the decision to press ahead with the closure of Winlaton Mill and Crookhill is a blow to these two communities.

“The government’s decision to force through the closures of branches will leave thousands of residents here without a local Post Office.

“Only one branch of the 81 proposed for closure in the North East has been saved from the axe. That looks to me very much like the consultation over the closures was little more than a sham.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

Blaydon Liberal Democrats back action to save homes from repossession

PLANS that could save many residents of Blaydon constituency from the trauma of home repossession have been backed by local Liberal Democrats. With the credit crunch biting, many households are struggling to keep up mortgage payments and risk losing their homes.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable MP launched the plans on 27th August that could stop many people being thrown out of their homes because of the growing mortgage crisis.

Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon, said, “The fear of repossession is stalking communities in in Blaydon constituencyand the Labour government is not doing enough to protect people from the worst effects of the mortgage crisis.

“People who lived through the last mortgage crisis under the Conservatives will never want to experience the same situation again. That is why I am pleased that Vince Cable MP is putting forward these plans.”

The Liberal Democrat proposals include:

· allowing families struggling with repayments to sell all or part of the equity in their house and rent it back from a housing association or private firm to help keep them in their home;
· letting councils and housing associations borrow money to buy up land and empty new homes for use as social housing ;
· giving guidelines to courts to allow homes to be repossessed only in extreme circumstances, making the mortgage lenders’ voluntary code binding on all lenders.

Vince Cable MP said, “The Government seems obsessed with fighting a losing battle to artificially prop up the housing market, rather than finding ways to deal with its worst effects. Ministers must act to help the thousands of families struggling to keep a roof over their heads.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Housing application raises concerns in Whickham

A planning application for new housing in Whickham, Gateshead, has sparked concern about loss of green belt.

Plans submitted to Gateshead Council to build a new detached house behind the current buildings at the riding stable (Dunston West Farm) on Whickham Highway could lead to erosion of the green fringe between Whickham and Dunston, say local Councillors Peter Maughan and Allison Chatto.

The application is for one house which is adjacent to, but not on, the green belt.

Peter and Allison have written to residents of the neighbouring Lakes Estate to inform them of the application.

In their letter they say, “The plan which has been lodged clearly shows at least five building plots – some of them apparently in the green belt – and it seems to us that this may be the first step in an application for multiple residential development on the riding stable land.”

Speaking about the application, Peter said, “The green belt is meant to stop small towns merging into large conurbations. It is meant to provide an open, green envelope around places such as Whickham and Dunston Hill.

“This application, if approved, could be the start of a nibbling away of the green belt.”

A decision on the application will be taken in September by Gateshead Council’s planning committee.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon back calls for UK energy independence

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency have given their strong backing to ambitious calls by Nick Clegg MP for Britain to become self-sufficient in energy.

The Liberal Democrat Leader has called for a major programme to build up Britain’s own energy supplies through wind, tidal, wave and biomass technologies.

Mr Clegg said, “We have an enormous opportunity to create real energy independence for the UK, freeing ourselves from the shackles of foreign oil, coal and gas. This will require the kind of ambition and political will that succeeded in putting man on the moon.”

Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon, said, “I am delighted that Nick Clegg is calling for a green revolution in the way we produce power.

“The recent Russian invasion of Georgia and the ongoing troubles in Iraq and Iran show just how dangerously reliant Britain is on energy from unstable parts of the world.

“We have to build up our own energy supplies and as an island nation, we have an abundance of natural and clean energy sources that both Labour and Conservative governments have failed to develop.

“Whilst Labour and the Conservatives joined together earlier this year to agree Britain should have a new generation of nuclear power stations, Liberal Democrats believe this will leave a legacy of radioactive waste for future generations. It will also leave us dependent on foreign supplies of uranium.

“Liberal Democrats in Blaydon welcome Nick Clegg’s call for Britain to develop clean energy supplies and become self-sufficient in them by 2050. This is an industry in which we as a nation should aim to be world beaters.

“We have a history of engineering in the North East. Our region is well placed to take advantage of a green power revolution. Developing green power will boost local jobs and the local economy.”

A copy of Nick Clegg’s proposals is available at: Energy Independence for the UK

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Liberal Democrats prepare to go to conference

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead are making their final preparations to attend the party’s conference in Bournemouth in September.

4 members from Gateshead will be heading for the conference which will be held from Saturday 13th to Wednesday 17th September.

Debates taking place will include pensions, crime, eco-towns, the housing and mortgage crisis, transport and health.

“We are looking forward to a good conference and some lively debates,” said Councillor Jonathan Wallace. “We are also looking forward to speeches from leading figures in the Liberal Democrats, particularly Nick Clegg’s Leader’s speech on the final day.

“People in Gateshead are feeling the pinch with rising unemployment, rising prices for food and energy and a collapsing housing market. So there will be a great deal of interest in the debate about the housing and mortgage crisis and in the speech of Vince Cable MP, our Shadow Chancellor.”

Jonathan is also part of a team of photographers and video makers who will be capturing the conference on film. He will have access to the whole of the conference centre, including the backstage area throughout the five day gathering.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Concerns raised over future of Whickham Somerfield supermarket

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have written to the boss of The Cooperative Group to ask for reassurances about the future of the Somerfield supermarket in Whickham.

The Cooperative have recently announced they are buying Somerfield to convert their supermarkets to Coops. However, the Office of Fair Trading may require some stores to be sold to other retail chains.

Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon constituency (which includes Whickham), has written to Cooperative Chief Executive Peter Marks to ask about the future of the store in Whickham.

“The current Whckham Somerfield supermarket employs many residents as well as being one of the main shops here so we are concerned that it continues to operate, either under the Coop or another retail company,” said Peter.

“Whickham already has a Coop store and residents want to ensure both this store and the existing Somerfield continue in operation.

“If the Office of Fair Trading steps in and requires the Somerfield store to be sold to another company, we want that to take place as smoothly and quickly as possible so that residents can continue to shop there.

“I have therefore written to Peter Marks to ask him to reassure local residents that the supermarket here either has a strong future or is quickly transferred to another supermarket company with the minimum of disruption for staff and shoppers alike.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

250 sign petitions to save Post Offices in Blaydon constituency

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency have collected over 250 signatures on petitions to save three threatened village post offices from closure.

The branches under threat are in Winlaton Mill, Blackhall Mill and Crookhill. The proposed closures are part of a government programme to close at least 2,500 branches.

Petition co-ordinator, Councillor Peter Maughan, said, “These branches are important to the communities they serve. Their closure will hurt many people.

“Post offices are important to village front streets as well and help ensure local economies are healthy. Closing them can damage other businesses in the area.

“People were keen to sign our petitions in the three villages. Last week, when I was in Blackhall Mill, residents were stopping me in the street to tell me how important the local Post Office was to them.”

The petitions have been handed in as part of the consultation on the planned closure. The Post Office will make a final announcement on the closures in September.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Welcome for plans to tackle youth crime

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon have welcomed proposals announced this week by the party’s Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne MP to tackle youth crime.

The plans aim to deter crime and get young people involved in positive activities that benefit local communities. They include:

The creation of a Youth Volunteer Force, to engage with young people, involve them in community projects and give them skills to benefit them in later life;

Establish Community Justice Panels across the country, where offenders admit their guilt to the community and agree on a Positive Behaviour Order as a course of action;

Create a dedicated PCSO youth officer within every Safer Neighbourhood Team to identify and work with teenagers most at risk of offending;

10,000 more police on the streets by scrapping the ID cards scheme;

Intelligence-led stop and search and 'hot spot policing' targeted at gun and knife crime;

Restorative justice programs to be run in every community, specifically targeted at early intervention with widespread use in schools and care homes.

Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon constituency, said, “These proposals could potentially go a long way to reduce youth crime. By having more police and by focusing on crime hotspots, we will be able to deter crime more effectively from happening.

“But we also need to give young people positive alternatives to do. Too often they get into trouble because there is nothing for them to do. The Youth Volunteer Force will be a great way to get young people involved in activities that benefit themselves and the area where they live.

“I am also keen to ensure that those who do break the law or cause disturbances or vandalism have to pay back the community they have wronged.

“That is why restorative justice is important. It will mean that those convicted of offences will have to work on cleaning up vandalism or on projects that benefit communities as part of their punishment.

“Residents of Blaydon constituency often tell me of their worries about youth crime. I believe that the proposals the Liberal Democrats have put forward will go a long way to addressing those concerns.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Conservative collapse in Gateshead By-election

The Conservatives were squeezed heavily in a by-election in Gateshead on Thursday 31st July as Liberal Democrats and Labour fought to win the vacancy in Whickham South and Sunniside ward.

Liberal Democrat John McClurey was comfortably elected in the contest that saw the Conservative share of the vote halve from nearly 19% to just under 10%.

The Conservatives fell victim to a squeeze in a constituency that is squaring up to be a battle between Liberal Democrats and Labour at the general election.

The ward is in Blaydon constituency where Labour are defending a majority of only 5000 over the Liberal Democrats.

“I am delighted to have been elected,” said John, who took nearly three out of every four voted cast. “I want to thank everyone who voted for me in this by-election. I am joining a strong team of Liberal Democrat councillors in Gateshead.”

The by-election for the seat was caused by the death of Liberal Democrat Councillor, Alan Ord, following complications that arose after an operation.

The result was:
John McClurey (Lib Dem) 1612 (+4.4%)
Elaine Dobson (Labour) 394 (+4.2%)
John Robertson (Conservative) 217 (-8.6%)

Majority 1218

(Percentage changes since local elections in May 2008)

Photo taken at end of Whickham South and Sunniside count. Left to right: Marilynn Ord, Jonathan Wallace and newly elected John McClurey. All three represent Whickham South and Sunniside ward on Gateshead Council.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Voting underway in Gateshead by-election

Voting is now underway in theWhickham South and Sunniside by-election caused by the death of Councillor Alan Ord.

Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm. A result is expected before midnight.

The Liberal Democrats are defending the ward which had a majority for them of 1459 (49.7%) in May. Their candidate is John McClurey.

No upsets are expected though there may be some interest in whether or not there will be a recovery in the Conservative vote.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Local welcome for Liberal Democrat vision for Britain

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon have welcomed the launch of the Liberal Democrats’ vision for Britain by Party Leader Nick Clegg MP. Called ‘Make it Happen’, the paper will be debated at the party’s conference in Bournemouth in September.

In ‘Make it Happen’ the Liberal Democrats say:

They will cut taxes for ordinary families
If your local hospital can't see you on time, they will pay for treatment elsewhere
They will switch taxes from people to pollution - so it pays to go green
To improve standards in education, they will fund extra help for those who need it most
They will put Britain at the heart of Europe to make us a force for good in the world
They will stop ID cards so we can keep control of our privacy
They will change the voting system so everyone's voice counts
They will bring communities together with local people in charge
They will give communities a say in how offenders pay for their crimes

Parliamentary Spokesman Peter Maughan said, “I am delighted to be able to back ‘Make it Happen’. It sets out how the Liberal Democrats will run Britain.

“No resident of Blaydon constituency has escaped the rising cost of food and fuel. The credit crunch is biting hard and local people are feeling the pinch.

“Nick Clegg has set out how we can help ordinary people through cutting taxes on those on low and middle incomes. Thousands of people in Blaydon will benefit from this.

“We are taking the plans in ‘Make it Happen’ to the people of Blaydon during the summer to get their response. And in September, we will be heading to the Liberal Democrats’ conference where we are looking forward to taking part in the debate.”

‘Make it Happen’ is available at: http://www.libdems.org.uk/media/documents/policies/Make%20it%20Happen.pdf

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Traffic issues on the A692

This video looks at traffic issues on the A692, on the section in Whickham South and Sunniside ward.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Milton Road dig annoys residents

Residents living on Milton Road in Whickham will not need reminding of the problems caused last year when the pavements were dug up and the grassed area ruined by work taking place in the area. After local Lib Dem Councillors Chris Ord, Peter Craig and Mary Wallace stepped in to press for a clean up, work on repairing the damage was carried out.

But work by Balfour Beatty for a gas utility company has seen a return of the mess residents thought had gone for good.

As Chris reports, “The footpaths are all uneven with gaps in between them with no cement. The drains are blocked. The residents were forced to park on the grass while the works were taking place, as well as the works vans parking there.

“This grass was only relayed last year following the home improvement works at the Gateshead Housing Company and is ruined yet again. Needless to say, the residents in the area are furious at the state the place has been left in.”

Chris has been in touch with Council officers to press for a clean up.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Call for action on historic buildings at risk in Gateshead

The publication of a register highlighting the plight of historic buildings in Gateshead has been welcomed by local Liberal Democrats.

The register, published by English Heritage, is drawn up to draw public attention to buildings that no longer have a use, have fallen into disrepair, but have important historical character or significance.

Included in the register are Dunston Staithes, Ravensworth Castle, Hollinside Manor, Gibside Hall and Whinfield coking ovens.

“There is a significant danger that historic buildings can be lost through neglect and lack of use,” said historian Dr Jonathan Wallace, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside. “The register is an important document which puts public attention on what needs to be done to preserve our heritage.

“Wherever possible, old buildings need to be given new uses and again, the register is important in helping to achieve this. The Government however needs to take action to ensure this happens. One way to do so would be to reduce VAT on repairs and maintenance of historic buildings where it is currently paid.

“Liberal Democrats would pay for this by putting VAT on materials used to build new homes on greenfield sites. The money raised this way could also reduce VAT bills on repairs, conversions and maintenance of all homes, not just on historic buildings.

“Tourism is important to our local economy and preserving our heritage therefore means boosting local jobs and businesses. Without the historic buildings we have, many visitors will go elsewhere.”

Councillor Wallace made a video about Ravensworth Castle which shows the state of the building. It can be viewed on YouTube: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=1N0rYP4BlkU

The English Heritage Buildings At-Risk Register can be viewed at: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19186

Call to Government on fire damaged school

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon constituency, Councillor Peter Maughan, has written to the secretary of State for Schools, Ed Balls, to urge him to bring forward plans to rebuild Whickham School on the existing Burnthouse Lane site in Whickham, Gateshead.

The school’s sixth form and staff block was destroyed in a fire in March, and Councillor Maughan argues that this increases the need to start work on a new school as soon as possible.

Despite claims made last year by the local Labour party that building work on a new school was due to start within months, actual proposals for replacing the existing buildings have been penciled in for 2015 as the earliest start date.

“The fire that destroyed the sixth form block has focused attention on the state of the buildings overall,” said Peter, who is a governor of the school.

“Staff and pupils are coping well following the fire but the school was already at bursting point. Many buildings are worn out and inadequate.

“Whilst it would have been great to start building a new school last year, that was just a Labour spin story to get them through the election.

“But we need a start on the new school as soon as possible. Waiting until 2015 will see a generation of kids getting schooling in buildings that are badly in need of replacement.

“I have written to Ed Balls to draw his attention to the problems of the Whickham School buildings and to urge him to rebuild the school on the existing Burnthouse Lane site as soon as possible.”
Pictured: fire damaged Whickham School

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Labour MPs “back phone companies on masts” – Liberal Democrats

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have attacked Labour for siding with phone company giants rather than local residents in a row over the power of communities to stop inappropriately sited phone masts.

At present phone masts up to 15 metres in height don’t need full planning permission, often making it difficult for councils to refuse permission for controversial proposals.

Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament recently moved an amendment to the Planning Bill. It aimed to tightened up the rules and make phone companies get full planning permission for their masts.

This would have meant that they would be considered in the same way as applications for new buildings or change of use of existing ones.

But Labour MPs voted against this and most Conservative MPs did not bother voting at all. The proposal was therefore thrown out.

“Gateshead’s MPs had the opportunity to side with local communities or with giant phone companies,” said Lib Dem Councillor Frank Hindle. “It is extremely disappointing so see that they decided to back big business.

“Lots of us use mobile phones, but that is no reason why the phone companies shouldn’t have to apply for planning permission in the same way that every other business has to.

“This change would have encouraged companies to do more to share masts and to site them better, so that residents didn’t have to put up with so many masts - but Labour seem more interested in phone companies than with what local people want.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Local hero chosen for by-election battle

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency have chosen a local hero as their candidate in a crucial council by-election.

John McClurey will fight the Whickham South and Sunniside ward to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the party’s deputy leader on Gateshead Council, Councillor Alan Ord.

John, who lives in Sunniside village, shot to fame in May when he helped to rescue a young mum and her four year old daughter from a house fire near his shop in Blakelaw, Newcastle.

“I was working in my shop and someone rushed in asking us to call the fire service,” said John. “When I went out, I could hear screaming from the house.

“I just did what I had to do, broke in and helped the mum and her daughter to escape the flames. Only afterwards did I think about my own safety. It only dawned on my how big a story this was when the Evening Chronicle ran a big feature on it.”

The by-election is taking place in the heart of Blaydon constituency where a close battle is looming with the Liberal Democrats fighting hard to take the seat from Labour. They need to overturn a Labour majority of only 5,000 from the last general election.

Peter Maughan, who is Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon, said, “John is just the sort of person we want on our local team, representing people on Gateshead Council.”

The by-election will take place on Thursday 31st July.

Pictured above: Peter Maughan (Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon), Councillor Jonathan Wallace, Councillor Marilynn Ord and John McClurey.

For further information on John McClurey and the house fire, please see: Evening Chronicle

Friday, July 04, 2008

Blaydon “has not benefited from Brown’s first year as Prime Minister”

Blaydon has not benefited from Gordon Brown’s leadership, claim local Liberal Democrats in a message to residents.

Labour MPs unanimously made Mr Brown party leader last year and on 27th June, they marked his first anniversary as Prime Minister.

But local Liberal Democrats are unhappy about Mr Brown’s leadership and have argued strongly that Blaydon has failed to benefit from his year as Prime Minister.

Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon Constituency Liberal Democrats, said, “Gordon Brown has been in office for a year and I am still looking for any significant improvements here in Blaydon.

“Instead of the strong leadership claims Labour spun last year, we have endured months of dithering, indecision and a chaotic government under Prime Minister Brown. He seems more like a rabbit frozen in the headlights rather than a person giving leadership to the country.

“Having failed to sort the improvements that are badly needed on the A1 Western Bypass, thousands of local residents on low incomes continue to be worse off under Gordon Brown’s 10p tax grab, despite the recent panic concessions.

“Thousands are being forced to pay more council tax and many local residents are forced to live in overcrowded conditions because of the credit crunch and the failure of Labour to build sufficient affordable homes.

“As I go around Blaydon speaking to residents, I find more and more anger as matters get worse under Gordon Brown rather than better.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

100s gather to say goodbye to Alan

Hundreds of local residents gathered at Whickham’s St Mary’s Church on Wednesday 11th June for the funeral service of Councillor Alan Ord.

Alan had been admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in mid May for an operation.

Everything seemed to be fine after the operation and he was able to go home at the end of the month. But a couple of days later, with complications setting in, he had to be readmitted to hospital. He passed away on Monday 2nd June.

Alan’s wife, Councillor Marilynn Ord, their two sons Andrew and Arran, and their five grandchildren are devastated by the loss.

Alan was chairman of Marley Hill School Governors and of Marley Hill Community Centre. He was also a governor of Fellside Primary School.

He was first elected to Gateshead Council in 1988 and has since been re-elected by local residents five times, the most recent being last month.

Alan was also deputy leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council and had previously led the Opposition on Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority.

The great number of letters, cards and emails of support sent in response to Alan’s death, and the huge number of people who attended his funeral, are testimony to his popularity and hard work as a councillor.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, "Alan was my colleague representing local people on Gateshead Council for 20 years. He was a great friend and I am deeply shocked and saddened that he is no longer with us.

"He was a hard working councillor who had dedicated the last twenty years to serving the people of Whickham, Sunniside, Marley Hill, Byermoor and Streetgate. He will be greatly missed."

Alan had undergone an emergency operation in October 2005 following a serious case of food poisoning. He bounced back to health and was back into his council duties three months later.

Tributes have been paid from across politics. Labour Leader of Gateshead Council Mick Henry said, "I know I speak for everyone on Gateshead Council when saying he will be greatly missed."

Councillor Noel Rippeth, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Gateshead Council, said, "Alan was a larger than life figure who loved making people smile and laugh. Yet at the same time he was a dedicated public servant and worked tirelessly for his constituents."