Friday, February 29, 2008

Blaydon Liberal Democrats call for end to ID cards

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon constituency have backed calls to the government to abandon plans to make people carry identity cards.

Leading the call locally is Councillor Peter Maughan, Parliamentary Spokesman for Blaydon. He decided to voice his concerns after Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg MP published figures showing that 37 million pieces of personal information on UK citizens were lost in 2007, mostly by the Government.

The law bringing in ID cards has already been passed by Labour and soon most citizens will have to pay for an identity card.

“The expensive identity cards scheme is based on the government storing large amounts of information about each one of us on a central database,” said Peter.

“But in 2007 the Government stumbled from one data loss crisis to another. The worst example came in November when the Government lost the personal details of all 25 million families with children. That has put the privacy of every family in Blaydon at risk.

“The dangers of putting so much information about every citizen in the UK into one central database are clear to everyone except, it seems, the Government. Ministers are in denial when they argue that the information will be safe and people’s privacy will not be undermined.

“I am very pleased that new Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg is leading the battle to end the ID cards scheme. Liberal Democrats in Blaydon are right behind him. The plan to make everyone carry a piece of plastic should be buried before it ends up as another expensive government fiasco.

“The scheme will be a bureaucratic nightmare. It won’t prevent illegal working. It won’t help stop crime or terrorism. If the government really wants to make an impact on crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, the money it has earmarked for this scheme would be far better spent on more police and intelligence officers. That is what the Liberal Democrats would do.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Liberal Democrats to attend Spring Conference

LIBERAL Democrat members in Gateshead have chosen 4 members to attend the party’s forthcoming spring conference in Liverpool.

Members from across the country will be meeting in the city from 7th to 9th March. Amongst them will be Peter Maughan, Frank Hindle, Ian Patterson and Jonathan Wallace from Gateshead.

Peter Maughan, Parliamentary candidate for Blaydon said, “We are looking forward to this conference as it will be Nick Clegg’s first as Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

“There will be important debates on health, housing, education and defence. Nick Clegg will be making his first speech as Leader of the Liberal Democrats. The party’s Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable MP, will also be speaking.

“I am hoping to meet a number of the party’s MPs at the conference to discuss with them concerns about the cuts to police funding that the government has made. These cuts will lead to the loss of the ‘101’ non-emergency police phone number.”

Liberal Democrats hold two national conferences a year, the first in March and the main one in September.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Festival Park play area survey

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have carried out a survey of residents about play areas on Festival Park and Rosewood Park in the Team Valley.

The survey was carried out after residents raised concerns about inadequate play facilities for children.

“The two estates here were built after the National Garden Festival finished in 1990,” said Peter Andras, who co-ordinated the survey.

“There are many young families living there and parents had told us that more facilities were needed. The small play areas already there were appropriate for toddlers but there was nothing much for older children.

“So we carried out the survey over the past two weekends to get a better picture of what people’s concerns were.

“We are now checking through all the replies and will be taking up the issues raised with the Council.”
Photo: Lobley Hill and Bensham ward Liberal Democrat Focus Team members Susan Craig and Peter Andras outside one of the small play areas on Festival Park, Gateshead.

Friday, February 22, 2008

MP accused of hypocrisy on council cash vote

LABOUR MP for Tyne Bridge, David Clelland, has been accused of hypocrisy after he attacked the low increase in the level of government grant paid to Gateshead Council to support service.

Mr Clelland attacked the low grant increase in the House of Commons on Monday 4th February. But only two hours after making the attack, he voted for the cash plans.

In the Commons, Mr Clelland asked Local Government Minister John Healey why Gateshead is “constantly given such a poor settlement? What is wrong with the forumla, and when will the Minister put it right?”

Mr Healey dismissed Mr Clelland’s questions, claiming, “There is nothing wrong with the formula, which is the best and fairest way that we have established for distributing the money available [to local councils].”

Gateshead Liberal Democrat Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, “Mr Clelland rightly raised concerns about why his own government has given Gateshead such a poor cash settlement compared to other councils.

“This is a below inflation rise and it will leave Gateshead cash-strapped for years to come.

“But I found it staggering that Mr Clelland was then happy to be herded through the goverment lobby to vote for the cash settlement he had only just attacked. This was a case of all talk and no action from this Labour MP.

“It strikes me as hypocritical to speak out against something and then immediately afterwards vote for it. Residents of Gateshead are owed an explanation from Mr Clelland.”

Metropolitan Councils have been given an average increase of 4.1% in their cash grant for the coming year but Gateshead’s increase is only 2%.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Speed reduction plans “don’t go far enough”

A proposal to cut a speed limit on a busy road near Whickham, Gateshead, that has seen a number of fatal accidents in recent years, does not go far enough, claim the area’s Liberal Democrat councillors.

Plans to cut the speed limit on Fellside Road, on the section from the Woodman’s Arms public house, past the entrance to Whickham Golf Club, to the edge of Whickham, from 60mph to 50mph have been put forward by highway engineers.

A review of conditions on the road was carried out in 2007. In the previous 5 years there had been 22 road accidents involving injuries. Four involved fatalities.

“Highway engineers are proposing a number of measures,” said Councillor Alan Ord. “Whilst some of the proposals for better road and verge markings are welcome, Councillors Marilynn Ord, Jonathan Wallace and I do not feel the speed reduction proposals go far enough.

“We have been asked for our views by the engineers and we have called for the whole of the road from the edge of Whickham to Burnopfield to be reduced from 60mph to 40mph. We are continuing to press for this improvement.

“This is a dangerous road with a poor accident record. Excessive speed is making the situation worse. We feel 40mph would lower the danger considerably.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Call on Council to look at “101” funding

A LEADING Liberal Democrat Councillor in Gateshead is calling on the Council to explore ways of keeping the “101” non-emergency number in operation, despite the decision of the government to end funding for the scheme.

“101” is a number people can call to report low level crime and anti-social behaviour without having to use the emergency “999” number.

The service was very successful in the Northumbria Police area. It was set up in July 2006. In Gateshead, over 32,000 people called the number up to November 2007.

But in the autumn of 2007, the government announced the funding for the service was to be axed.

Councillor Peter Maughan, who is Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Blaydon, has now written to Gateshead Council’s Chief Executive and Leader to ask them to explore ways of funding the service to keep it going.

“Newcastle Council’s controlling Liberal Democrat group has made the commitment to fund the service in the city,” said Peter. “It now looks as though residents in Newcastle will continue to benefit from the 101 service.

“Unfortunately, without council intervention on the other side of the Tyne, it looks as though the residents of Gateshead will lose the service.

“So I have written to Gateshead’s Leader and chief executive to ask them if they could look at ways of funding the service in the borough. I am hoping for a positive response.”

Sunday, February 17, 2008

“Dithering has been damaging to Northern Rock” – Blaydon Liberal Democrats

Responding to the decision by the Government to nationalise Northern Rock, Councillor Peter Maughan, Liberal Democrat candidate for Blaydon, one of the party’s most winnable constituencies in the North East, said:

“This decision was inevitable and should have been taken last year. Instead, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling were paralysed by their own dithering. They put off a decision right until the very end. This is hardly a sensible way to run the Government.

“Had Labour followed the advice of Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable last year, the uncertainty that was so damaging to Northern Rock would have been avoided.

“Last year, Labour MPs in the region were incredibly hostile to the whole idea of taking Northern Rock into temporary public ownership.

“I have now written to David Anderson, MP for Blaydon, and one of the strongest opponents of nationalisation, calling on him to abandon his position and back the legislation that will be needed to bring the bank into temporary public ownership.

“I am looking forward to receiving his reply.”

Friday, February 15, 2008

Decent Homes Choices Events

Gateshead Housing Company are holding 2 choices events concerning the Decent Homes work for Sunniside and Byermoor estates - 100 tenants will be invited to each meeting (Sunniside 1st meeting and Sunniside and Byermoor 2nd meeting). They are on Friday 22nd February and Friday 28th March between 11am-3pm at Sunniside Club.

Whickham housing plans rejected

PLANS to build flats for elderly people in Whickham have been rejected by Gateshead Council’s planning committee.

McCarthy and Stone had wanted to build a block of two to four storeys containing 49 apartments on the site of Whickham Motor Company on Whickham Bank.

But fears that neighbouring houses and bungalows would be overshadowed by such a large development put a brake on the proposals.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillors Mary Wallace and Peter Craig carried out a survey of over 400 local residents about the proposals when they were first published in November. Over 100 people replied to the survey and a wide range of concerns were raised.

“This is a very prominent location on a busy road,” said Mary. “A large development along the lines proposed could have had a big impact on traffic.

“There is also a large number of bungalows and houses next to the site and a four storey block there would mean a large number of people losing their privacy.

“A suitable use for the site needs to be found but it should not be a development that impacts so heavily on people already living in the area.”
Photo: Councillors Peter Craig and Mary Wallace at the Whickham Motors site on Whickham Bank

Welcome for Dunston Pool Gym Refurbishment

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have welcomed the refurbishment of Dunston Swimming Pool’s H20 fitness room but have warned that much more needs to be done to improve the building.

The work on the Fitness Room cost of £60,000. It now has a range of new state-of-the-art fitness equipment. All the old equipment in the gym has been replaced, from carpets to exercise bikes and notice boards.

The gym closed for two weeks in December to allow the work to take place.

Councillor for Dunston Hill, Peter Maughan, welcomed the renovation but said much more needs to be done with the whole building.

In his email newsletter to residents, he wrote, “As a user of the gym myself and knowing many residents use it as well, I am pleased the work has taken place.

“However, the building needs improved access. There is a mountain of steps to climb for people coming into the building and this can be off-putting for elderly and disabled people wanting to get to the gym.

“In addition, the pool area and changing rooms could do with a facelift.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Get Carter Car Park" - a view from the top

Gateshead's infamous "Get Carter" Car Park (so-called as it had a starring role in the cult film "Get Carter" staring Michael Caine) is due for demolition. The top levels have been closed to public access for many years but Councillor Jonathan Wallace was allowed to go to the top of the building to film it and the views. So here's the video.....

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Budding MP asks Home Secretary to back better police funding

A Liberal Democrat campaigner and aspiring MP has written to the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to ask for an explanation as to why funding of the 101 non-emergency phone service is being ended.

Peter Maughan, who hopes to overturn Labour’s majority of 5,000 in Blaydon constituency at the general election, has also asked the Home Secretary to explain why Northumbria Police has had a lower grant increase than most other police forces.

The increase in cash from central government to Northumbria Police is barely enough to cover inflation.

Peter, who is also a councillor in Blaydon consitituency, wrote in his letter, “It seems very unfair that Northumbria Police should get the joint lowest increase in spending in England whilst other areas have had a more generous increase.

“Why is the government treating some areas more favourably than others when it comes to spending on the police?”

Peter also said, “The 101 service has been a success in Gateshead. It has been used by over 30,000 people to report incidents of vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

“In the likelihood of the loss of this service due to the government’s ending of the funding, residents will no longer have this facility to report low level crime.

“Meanwhile, the low rise in the level of grant will mean that Northumbria Police Authority will be cash strapped in the coming year, leaving less to fight crime.

“The government needs to think again on the spending plans and give us a better deal.”

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Lobley Hill Big Top Application - interview

The planning application by churches group "NE1" to install a big top for a period of ten weeks on the site of the Central Nursery at Lobley Hill, Gateshead, has sparked local debate. Some residents oppose the plan, fearing traffic congestion. Jonathan Wallace interviews Revd Bob Hopper of Lobley Hill All Saints Church who supports the plan, and Councillor Peter Maughan, who is representing residents opposing the application.

Friday, February 01, 2008

MP tackled for “own goal” on football claims

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency are tackling the area’s Labour MP, David Anderson, after he signed up to two opposing motions on football in Parliament.

On Monday 28th January, Labour's Mr David Anderson MP attacked Premiership football clubs for employing too many foreign players – 331 in total or 60% of the total players on their books. (Early Day Motion 756)

According to the words of the Parliamentary motion he put his name to, “this huge increase in players from overseas is to the detriment of the long-term interests of professional football in England.”

But two days later, Mr Anderson argued the exact opposite. In Early Day Motion 829, which he wrote and sponsored, he attacked the decision to refuse a work permit for an Iraqi footballer who wants to play for Manchester City.

“Mr Anderson can’t have it both ways,” said Councillor Peter Maughan, who is hoping to unseat the Labour MP at the next election.

Peter fought Mr Anderson at the last election and is hoping the return match at the next general election will be a win for the Liberal Democrats.

“Mr Anderson can’t credibly attack clubs for employing foreign footballers and then immediately cry foul when a foreign player is refused the right to play here!” Peter continued.

“He is clearly offside in his claims. It seems that since he first made them he has transfered teams, done some bad political dribbling and then scored an own goal!

“Mr Anderson needs to explain why he is playing for both sides of the argument or otherwise face being sent off the political field at the general election final.”