Thursday, 15 May 2008


The musings of the last few days have certainly drawn a little bit of attention, and for once, some sensible comments. As per usual a couple of posts did pass the usual tests, but hey, everybody has their stalkers! Trying to link these policies to any political party is, whilst flattering, also ridiculous.

Everybody has a wish list, the “something for the future” posts incorporate how I would like to see the Borough progress – nothing more, nothing less.

Anyway, it’s back to drawing board for the final couple “wishes”.

Call back Friday if you’re interested.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Something For The Future – Free Leisure Facilities

If the control of South Tyneside Council is to be eventually wrestled from the hands of the Labour elite in 2 years time, then it will attract media attention not only on a regional scale, but also on a national basis. Whilst this would be an accolade for those involved, I myself would want the Borough to be a political beacon for what it actually does, not for who controls it. With a two year gap before the local elections return, there is an ideal opportunity to formulate some radical and ground breaking policies to put before the electorate. I have already mentioned the possibility of a referendum for an elected mayor. I would now also like to introduce a second approach, that of Borough wide “free at point of use” leisure facilities, to include all community associations, leisure centres, swimming pools and all associated bodies etc.

The thud you just heard was the Chief Executive of South Tyneside as she fainted, the thought of all that Temple Park revenue disappearing overnight. However, the idea has more merit than first assumed.

1 This country is on the brink of a health crisis that has it’s origins in both poor diet, but more importantly, a lack of physical activity. What better way to re-introduce swimming, squash, badminton, football etc into the family ethos, than by offering it for free?

2 If Gypsies Green Stadium is indeed demolished, then the South Shields area of the Borough will have no athletics facilities for the first time since the 1950’s. Council Leader Ian Malcolm and David Slater (Regeneration and Resources) have both in the past promised that money from any Foreshore development would be ring fenced for leisure construction. This money should be used to create an all weather running track at Temple Park, with ample left over to subsidise its free use.

3 Whilst the income stream “through the doors” would end, Temple Park can still recoup revenue from other sources:
- Upgrade of restaurant to include evening meals based on a healthy and nutritionally balanced approach.
- Grants from outside sports bodies, National Lottery, European sources etc
- Sponsorship from local businesses etc
- Retail outlets - sportswear shops on high streets make thousands of pounds selling sport associated clothing. Lease a unit to them in Temple Park
- Savings in Council expenditure. For example, South Tyneside Council has spent millions on market research, consultants etc. This work can be done “in house”, with the savings being used to subsidise leisure costs.

All of a sudden, the concept of free leisure access doesn’t seem so far fetched. As the obesity time bomb ticks onwards to destruction, society needs to radically change its approach to how it utilises it’s spare time. Free access to leisure facilities is certainly a step in the right direction.

All that is needed is the vision and the will.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Something For The Future – Elected Mayors

The recent election victories for the South Tyneside Alliance represented a massive change in the regions political make up. Not only did Labour loose its leader, but after decades of manipulative and hedonistic control, their strangle hold on the Borough is now under serious threat.

Despite this ray of political sunshine, many people still remain negative and dismissive of the regeneration of public involvement in Council politics, their doom and gloom attitude focusing on one tenant – it doesn’t matter which political party is in control at local level, they still have to administer national policies, guidelines and directives. The end result will therefore always be the same.

There is however, a way round this admittedly fairly large stumbling block, and that is the provision of a regionally elected mayor!

The Local Government Act 2000 was Labour’s first major pieces of legislation which was aimed at radically changing the way that local councils and institutions operated. Enshrined in this law was the public’s right to hold a referendum on the election of a mayor to head local governing bodies. To date the electorates of 13 regions have directly chosen their mayors, the most famous being “Robocop” Keith Mallon (Middlesbrough) and Hartlepool’s Stuart Drummond, famously voted in whilst attired in a monkey suit!

Whilst primarily a Euorpean/American concept, the idea of an elected head of the local executive is still in its infancy as far as the English voters are concerned. However, evidence shows that when it comes to regional governance, the concept does work.

~ Keith Mallon – reduced crime by 18% in his first year as an elected mayor
~ Hartlepool Council – 4 star rating achieved under the direction of Stuart Drummond
~ Hackney Council – prior to an elected mayor, the council was on the verge of being taken over by the government. However, to coincide with the period of its elected mayor, it is now on course for a 4 star rating (currently 3).

In conjunction with this evidence, I have always considered the case for an elected mayor to be extremely compelling. Government ministers have always been more willing to devolve powers to councils whose leaderships deliver effective and accountable local governance – in this instance mayoral models score highly. They also collectively form a powerful political voice for change, particularly in local police accountability, revenue generation, political change and economic development. Perhaps more importantly however, they provide visible and accountable leadership and a sense of direction for communities within their regions.

South Tyneside is politically well placed for the introduction of an elected mayor. We have a plethora of eligible candidates, both politically and no-aligned. We also have an increasingly politically active electorate, and together with the changing political landscape, we have a Council institution which is now being viewed as unreflective, unaccountable and stagnant.

Legislation calls for a referendum on the idea of an elected mayor to be endorsed by a majority of councillors or 5% of the eligible electorate. In the case of South Tyneside, this would mean just over 5000 people out of 114166 signing a verifiable petition. The Gypsies Green development opposition group Save Our Seafront managed to get just under 8000 signatures for their petition against the Tavistock hotel plans!

Anything is therefore possible.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Abbott and Potts - Comedy Duo

Whilst aid might not be able to reach Burma, over at The Chief Whip’s office, news has been released of a couple of committee position “free” hand outs

As we all suspected George “Judas” Elsom has been given a committee position as a reward for putting his wife up for election in the Beacon and Bents Ward. Olive’s inclusion on the ballot paper as an “Independent” was purely aimed at splitting the vote. The voters weren’t fooled however and she only polled 43. I suspect poor old George will pay a severe price for his treachery when he is next up for re election. We have all seen what happens when the Independent Alliance works a ward – they win!

As to Abbott and Potts (weren’t they a comedy duo in the 40’s and 50’s – sorry that was Abbott and Costello) surely their appointments have nothing to do with the fact that Labour is desperate to avoid the creation of an “opposition block” of councillors. How better to diffuse the situation than draw some of the main players into the committee system. However, they needn’t have bothered – the comedy duo has never opposed anything in the Chamber for years so their silence hardly needed to be bought.

Here’s the prediction – Liberal Democrat and Conservative Party support for Labour policies over the next 12 months. Let’s start of with the TOP’s report.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Surely they must be related?

Thanks to Curly at his Corner Slop for the revelation. I somehow don't think Potts will say "Oh Yes!"

Eye Eye!

Rumours are gathering force that Councillors David Potts (Con) rather public exhibition of a bloody nose and black eye are not all they seem to be. Wild and wonderful parties have been mentioned, over indulgence has risen its ugly head and dodgy pavements outside of certain watering holes are in the frame. Even his good old buddy at the Corner Slop has had a dig at his black eye Pity his wasn’t so vocal about his lack of attendance at Council meetings.

Do(g)dy throat, dodgy eye, dodgy nose – what ever next for the poor afflicted Councillor? Dodgy…… whmmm.... I wonder if the Chief Whip has anything to add!

Lets face it, whilst a 10 hour knock out for a nose bleed seems a bit strong, who really cares?

Well apparently the Private Eye magazine and the Chancellor do!
Sources reveal that both the magazine and No 11 have been more than happy to receive the Gazettes picture of said Potts with “Billy Bunter” eye for the forthcoming national election, whenever it may come.

Who in Scotland would vote for an (English) man this mug shot on his election address?

Whoever advised Councillor Potts to allow his picture to appear in our local paper should be sacked.

If not, at least punched in the eye!

In The Clinch Of The Finch

Fridays Gazette carries a nice piece on Councillor Gordon Finch (Independent), newly elected Councillor for Horsley Hill.

I know Gordon well, and canvassed his ward on many a cold night. He is an honest and honourable man, and the Ward will be well served by him.

As they say, once you get the first Independent in the ward, the rest fall like dominoes!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Judas No 2

Talking of controversy, the Hebburn Town Centre debacle rumbles on.

Councillor McAtominey is quoted in today’s Gazette as saying that when it comes to the best bidder for the town centre regeneration, money was “just part of the equitation”.

Sadly, McAtominey is economical with the truth – Tesco’s are involved - money is the centre of the equation.

Read the “Private Eye” magazine Councillor, if indeed you can! If this super store is involved, then money is the issue, and South Tyneside Council wants to trouser the lot, regardless of who objects.

Even Councillor Nancy Maxwell (who she? surely they are not related) has dropped a clanger.

“Come back in 5 years and people will be thrilled” she says of the development.

That assumes Nancy, that in 5 years you still have a Council seat!

Roll on 2010!

Family Feud

Some time ago the Gazette printed a horrendous artist’s impression of the proposed £2m indoor development plans by Michael Sheeran for the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park area of South Shields.

Today’s paper outlines the opposition to the project by 17 current operators, stall holders and caterers, many of whom envisage job losses and the end to long running family businesses.

Not only do they object, but so do Mr Sheeran’s brother and sister in law, Joseph and Sally.

The brain(less) child of Council Deputy Leader Ian Malcolm, the Foreshore programme is surrounded by controversy. This family spat only adds to the melting pot of discontent that shrouds the Council’s plans. The focal point of the development is focused on Gypsies Green Stadium, but rumour has it that Tavistock have not only got cold feet as a result of Labour losses at the last election, but that the “credit crunch” has also eaten into their reserves.

Only time will tell!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Lady Linda – Intrepid Explorer!

As a footnote to the local election proceedings, I have via my travels managed to somehow accumulate election material from every Borough ward.

If it actually interests anybody, the worst material originated from the printing press of The Progressives, who despite years of political experience, managed to make an Asda receipt more interesting than their election address. Naturally, I found the Independent Alliance’s pamphlets generic but targeted for the wards they were distributed in. The Labour Party’s were professional but long winded and boring, and the Conservatives lacked enthusiasm and commitment. As for the Liberal Democrats – they were yellow, which mirrors their political stance!

As I file them all away for posterity, I can’t help but laugh at Joanne Bell’s (Labour) effort in the Boldon Colliery Ward. Quoting direct she says of Independent Alliance candidate Ed Keller:

“Do you want (a candidate)…who is not standing as an Independent Councillor in his own ward? (The Bede Ward, Jarrow) Why not?”

The reverse of the sheet then goes on to mention Ward Councillor Linda Waggot, virtually describing her as the “Patron Saint of Schools”. It fails to mention of course, that the Lady Linda does not live in the Boldon Colliery Ward, but in fact in the voting district of Fellgate and Hedworth. She does in fact live at the top of Ed Keller’s street. It also fails to mention that whilst highlighting the Bede Ward, a certain election there two years ago rejected said Lady Linda, mainly because…..she didn’t live in the Ward!

Political acumen? Media sensitivities? Creative abilities? Attention to detail? Sadly these are gifts that deserted the South Shields Labour Party many moons ago, and ones which on recent evidence, will never return.

New Kid On The Blog

Whilst I have been trawling the streets of the Borough’s wards over the last few weeks, rattling letter boxes and persuading the electorate to vote for various Independent Alliance candidates, somebody has been setting up an extremely swish and well balanced local blog.

Billed as the “best informed blog in South Tyneside”, the site is well presented, well written and well informed. It certainly “out techs” these pages, and with out doubt offers a far better perspective than that pontificated over at the Corner Slop.

As I assume a more sedate and specific role within the South Tyneside blog community, I wish the Chief Whip all the best, and as the months plod on I shall attempt to “cultivate” a constructive relationship with its anonymous author.

However, judging by the posts over the last few days, he/she needs no help from me!

Monday, 5 May 2008

A to B

As South Tyneside Council goes through the (Labour) mechanisms of a new elected leader, the usual throw back to the “A” and “B” team scenario has once again reared its rather embarrassing head.

First of the blocks was Ian Malcolm, with the poisoned chalice firmly in the hands of his bank balance; now it appears that Michael Clare may have appeared as an “I, Claudius” candidate!.
The “B” candidates have been sucked in by a certain “Me Myself and Irene” syndrome.

Good luck to them. Who needs a liability beginning with "M"!

Either way, if a South Shields Councillor assumes the “Don” position, then the Jarrow Wards will demand second stage.

Oh God, what a mess the Labour Party is in!

(Self) Felled Councillor

Poor old Councillor David Potts (Con, Cleadon and East Boldon) – today’s Gazette is reporting that he wasn’t able to attend the local Election count on Thursday as some one had given him a bloody nose and a black eye. Luckily the culprit was "himself" and not some doorman who didn’t know who he was. Also lucky for me to – I may have found myself top of the list of suspects and at the mercy of a police interview.

Apparently Councillor Potts was unconscious for 10 hours – he obviously thought he was at a full Council meeting along with his side kicks representing the “Rip Van Winkle” Party.

Talking of suspects, Councillor Rob Dix (Labour, Harton) will find himself up in front of the beaks this Wednesday over his racial comment allegation (if all goes legally to plan that is – Councillors have a habit of avoiding the law).


Surely not a bye -election so soon after the local count?

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Independence Day

With the dust starting to settle on the carcass of the local elections, and with a number of South Tyneside Labour Councillors now seeking more standard employment, things can now return to “normal”.

It seems pointless going over the results at this late stage, the link below gives you all the information you need.

In hindsight, April was quite a month. I estimate that I delivered 30,000+ leaflets and knocked on 2000+ doors for the South Tyneside Alliance. On the day of the election I canvassed in 6 Wards, attended the postal voting opening and verification sessions, and finally arrived home after the count at 3.30 a.m. on Friday morning. The rest of the day was spent at work and the evening was devoted to a social night celebrating the Alliances successes the day before. Back to work again on Saturday, with today being the first day I have had free to start posting again. Whilst I can pat my own back and congratulate myself on being part of the victory, if a table were compiled to reflect who did the most work, I would be mid league, the equivalent of “Blackburn Rovers”. Other people worked far harder than me, and that was the reason behind the Independent Alliance’s success – they took to the streets and put politics back into the hands of the people of this Borough.

So what of the future, both for this site and the Borough’s political make up?

Posts on this site before the elections were averaging at about 4 per day. This wont be repeated for the following reason:

The South Tyneside Alliance made serious progress in this year’s elections. As a result of this success, 18 candidates will be standing at the next elections in 2010, with an overall majority highly probable. I intend to work very closely with them over this two year period, and spare time will therefore be in short supply (campaigning in some areas will actually start in June!). The site will therefore concentrate solely on the Borough of South Tyneside. Posts will be frequent, but will only concern local political matters.

There are also many outstanding issues which need to be addressed. Certain concerns were put on hold over the campaign period, some of which have great ramifications re the issue of who actually runs this Borough. For example, some one, some where, is going to have a whopping great incinerator built on their door step!

These issues and others will be returned to in earnest now that the election is over.

There is also the small matter of the South Tyneside Democracy Forum which was launched prior to the election. A website is under construction, and I shall report on their activities via The Northern Herald. The Forum has a rapidly growing membership, drawing support from all walks of life and political persuasions. Five major projects are in the pipeline, all of which directly relate to the Borough. Information on the Forums plans will be outlined here at the end of the week.

May 1st 2008 was a defining day for South Tyneside. Finally the Labour stronghold over the Borough is collapsing. No longer will council meetings be run like private clubs, and no longer will the public be ignored.

To quote Bob Dylan “The Times They are a’ Changin”

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Today’s Gazette carries the profiles for candidates standing in the local elections. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a link on the site for you to view the information on line.

Olive Elsom forgot to send her picture in – a post card from Canada would have sufficed. Neil Maxwell, standing for Labour in Harton Ward, also didn’t manage to get his photo included. How can the Ward members vote for him when he can’t even manage this simple task!

The best has been left to last. Together with ugly policies, the BNP must have some ugly candidates – they failed to provide pictures for 4 of their storm troopers. Something about the 9 o’clock watershed and children reading the paper underneath the quilt. Personally I think it’s because they could find any mug shots where they didn’t have their jack boots on.

Roll on the vote.