Sunday, 13 December 2009

Is this the worst play area in the Constituency?

I was delivering leaflets in Birtley today and came across this Toddlers play area in Birtley. It has an expensive soft play surface, a picnic bench and, well, nothing else! One suspects that Gateshead council and the developers met the minimum standard of putting in a play area but neglected to put anything in it. Let me know if you have a worse play area.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Pre Budget Report

The Pre Budget Report is increasingly like a mini budget. No more so than this year, when its a good excuse for a pre election rally. A shame for people that instead of a genuine attack on undeserved privilege, we have a bonus tax that is so easy to evade I can already think of a few ways to do it. From a work perspective, I was disappointed that the CAB funding stream was halved from £10m to £5m. This funding stream is producing excellent results, providing extra opening hours for clients affected by the recession. This will now suffer.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

OneNorth East

In an article in the Journal the other day, Blaydons outgoing Labour MP defended the role of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). One NorthEast is one of the best of these regional quangos, but that is not saying much. I agree that economically deprived regions such as the North East, need a body such as this but there is few arguments supporting them in other English regions, such as the East of England and the South East.

In addition, One NorthEast desperately needs local accountability. Councils are much derided but at least you can vote people out if they don't perform. There needs to be a stronger link with One NorthEast and the voters.

The Tories hate anything that resembles regionalism but after pledging to abolish RDAs now plan to "evolve" into more local bodies. So the plan is to abolish a Quango and replace it with more?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Sir Humphrey would be proud

Gordon Brown has announced that he is going to trim out Public Sector waste. Excessive pay will be scrutinised and unnecessary programmes and Quangos abolished. One does wonder what the Labour chancellor from 1997 to 2006, with his legendary reputation for Prudence and for being "the Iron Chancellor", was doing for all those years.

Meanwhile the Tories pledge to increase government efficiency seems to be moving on a pace. To do this they have set up an advisory board, which presumably if they are elected will mean they become a paid quango, containing a lot of the advisers Labour employed to recommend efficiency savings. Sir Peter Gershon and Martin Read both produced efficiency reviews of Government under Labour. Great to see the fresh broom that Cameron plans to bring in. No one could accuse the Labour Party and Conservatives of being too alike now could they?

The only way to make massive efficiency savings in government is to simplify out massively complicated tax and benefits system and to abolish whole bureaucracies. The bold thinking that drove Vince Cable to suggest abolishing whole government departments, is much needed now.

Dunston Hill and Christmas

I was out tonight doing a spot of late night leaflet delivery with my colleagues from Dunston Hill - I say late delivery but of course it was only 7pm, it gets dark so quickly at this time of year.

Returning home through Crawcrook I have to say it felt very unfestive, the council could really do with putting up christmas illuminations in places like this as well as in Gateshead town centre.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Manufacturing Matters

The terrible news from Redcar of the closing of the steel plant down there, with the loss of 1700 jobs directly and many more additional supply jobs, was a thoroughly depressing reminder of the many large factory closures in the North East.

Manufacturing accounts for a smaller and smaller amount of our GDP but still accounts for a lot of exports. A lot of people say that if we don't make things our economy is built on foundations of sand. I have to say I agree. Unfortunately the UK, one of the most centralised countries in the western world, is run for the benefit of the South East and London, where there is a much lower incidence of manufacturing than in the North East. The financial sector is a big employer there but up here it is mainly just call centre jobs. We urgently need to push for a more northern economic strategy that puts manufacturing business creation and support at the forefront of our economy. Germany and France have overtaken us in terms of national wealth and the UK will continue its slide down the economic prosperity table without a strong manufacturing sector.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Baking for Liberty

Last night was a long one as I baked cakes for the Whickham Lib Dem Christmas Fayre. Yes that's right for those of you who know me, I baked. An Apple and Cinnamon Cake and a Sultana and Orange traybake. And very nice they looked too in my opinion!

The Fayre was great - and all the local councillors chipped in. It was really busy and other charities and groups were there to raise funds. Special praise must go to Susan Craig for pulling it all together.

Then off to the Ryton Hirings

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Today I had the chance to chat with Mike Porritt, the editor of Village Views, a magazine for Whickham and Sunniside. We had a very long running chat about the state of politics, Afghanistan, my roots and lots of other things. Before I know it we had spent 2 hours discussing things!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Gateshead Labour Consults but not here!

I was looking yesterday to again read Labour controlled Gateshead Councils proposals for cuts. except of course it is very hard to find on their website. In fact a Mars bar to the first reader who tells me where it is - I can't find it on the website! Fortunately our Lib Dem councillors have seen it.

Gateshead Council is great at many things, its wonderful nurseries and flower show for example, but doesn't really get consultation. They have two sessions but both are in Gateshead Town Centre. No need to consult residents of Blaydon constituency and the south and west of Gateshead then!

In addition you have to register before coming. I'd contrast this with Lib Dem Northumberland, where we are also making horrible hard choices foisted on us by cuts from Browns government, but have open consultations in every major town in the area. And we listen to residents and sometimes change what we do. Is that too much to ask from Labour?