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:

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.”