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

Gateshead Flower Show - in pictures

The Gateshead Summer Flower Show was held at the Central Nursery on 1st-3rd August.

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.