Saturday, 21 November 2009

Blaydon and Whickham Petition

Had a great day today in Blaydon then Whickham shopping centres before the heavens opened. We got a great response to our help for our Troops petition. There is real anger at the way the government treats our troops and a lot of support about our call for troops to receive starting pay similar to that of a trainee policeman or fireman.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Gateshead Cuts

I was shocked, but not surprised, to see the scope of the cuts proposed by Gateshead Council for next years budgets. Not surprised because at Northumberland Council, where I am a councillor, we have already been taking action to make highly unpleasant but necessary cuts. It's because the central government, who councils depend on for two thirds of their income, is strapped for cash after bailing out the banks, unnecessarily cutting VAT and subsidising foreign car construction through the scrappage scheme.

Unfortunately its front line services that will suffer with big cuts projected in areas such as flower displays, street cleaning and even maintenance of bridges!

However, I would make the point that the Council can't point the finger at who's to blame for much of this. That's because its their own party, Labour. Blaydons Labour MP has been merrily voting for all the spending increases but this government is happy for councils to take the flak on cuts.

This will be Labour government cuts by a Labour council. If the Tories were to get in at the next election, I predict the local council will be much more vocal about where the blame lies for cuts but I would call on our Labour MP to try to relax his governments cuts on council budgets and cut the many wasteful schemes they have been squandering money on in the good times.

Monday, 16 November 2009

John McWilliam RIP

I've heard that former MP for Blaydon John McWilliam has passed away. I never met John but Lib Dem councillors tell me that he was always courteous to them despite being on the political opposite side of the fence. He had no problem liaising on casework with councillors when it was more appropriate for them to be leading on an issue and his experience of being a local councillor before being an MP will have helped him there.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Whickham leaflets

Was out and about with the team today delivering our latest local Focus leaflet. People are always really happy to get it as it as lots of local information and they get it all year round - not just at election time!

Friday, 13 November 2009

When are the Scottish not Scots?

When they are Geordie volunteers in the Tyneside Scottish Terriorial Army Artillery Battery! The Tyneside Scottish Association were kind enough to invite me to one of their monthly meetings today. The Tyneside Scottish is a unique battery unit with a fascinating history. At the meeting were veterans of all generations from the Second World War to the current campaign in Afghanistan.

The Territorial Army is a great asset to our armed forces. It only consumes 1.3% of the defence budget but about a quarter of the army's troops. Not a bad deal. People were understandably dismayed at the cuts that Browns government had proposed to TA training, that were quickly removed.

There was enthusiasm for the Lib Dems campaign for a fair wage for troops and I heard about how TA troops often had to wait before getting out into combat situations before they could get their hands on equipment that they would usually have had one at their training base to practice on. All in all the people were great, very patriotic and very kind. They even gave me a Tyneside Scottish Tie Clip to say thank you for coming!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Day

I would just like to commend the excellent remembrance day events today across the constituency. There has been a concern in the past that the young generation is not as interested but on seeing the events across the constituency and in my home town, I would have to say that does not seem to be the case. Let's never forget the price paid (and still being paid) by people to preserve our freedoms and way of life.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

A big shock

A big shock today to hear that a 40 year old woman has been found unconscious in the area of Prudhoe I represent opposite Carnaby Close on Friday night and that she was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Details have not yet been released but my heart goes out to her family and friends. The Police are appealing for anyone who was in the area between 10.50pm and 11.15pm on Friday to contact Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043 ext 69191 or to or ring the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

A living wage for our troops

With Remembrance Sunday tomorrow and with the price paid by our troops in Blood in Afghanistan rising by the day, it seemed an apt moment to talk to local residents about the Liberal Democrats campaign to get soldiers a living wage. Soldiers are paid a scandalously low wage considering the risks they take. The military predominately recruits from poorer communities, often from the North. As a result communities like Blaydon pay a higher price. The least they deserve is to be paid a decent wage.

We went to Crawcrook and Ryton high streets to collect signatures for our petition. A great response and real anger on the streets about both the situation in Afghanistan and also the way this government is treating the soldiers both with a lack of the proper equipment and the low levels of pay. A great day. I got chatting with a TA veteran who told me of the disgraceful way in which the TA was not getting paid for drill situations and how the TA feels undervalued under Brown when it is sending troops to Afghanistan on the front line.