Monday, 26 November 2007

CHRISTMAS IS COMING, BUT NOT IN EAST BOLDON

Whilst tonight’s Gazette is a little tame compared to the last week or so, two things did grab my attention. Firstly an article, the second an advert.

The article first, covering my old stomping ground of East Boldon. Every year the shop promenade received a Christmas tree from the Council which was correspondingly draped in lights. No other Christmas lights or decorations for the area were provided. Not so this year. In true Scrooge style, the Council want to hang a set of lights from an existing tree situated on the other side of the road. The reasons stated were objections from traders due to disorder and also the issue of access to the shops.

As an ex resident of the block, I have some experience of the issues. The problem of disorder is valid: the tree became a magnet for young people to hang around. On one occasion they even attempted to set it on fire. However, those living in the area remained vigilant and the disorder remained “controlled”. As for access, the complainant on this front has recently sold his business with a new proprietor taking over. I always personally liked the tree, giving the area a festive feel and highlighting the shops.

I suspect the removal of the tree may have other motives. I do remember for the last couple of years the Council have attempted to obtain funding for the tree from local businesses (who refused to pay) something they do not do in other wards. The disorder problem is also spurious. Are the Council adopting a policy whereby if an area suffers problems of anti social behaviour it can’t have Christmas decorations? If so I suspect many areas of this Borough may have to pass Christmas by and move straight into January.

No, I believe the case may have more to do with the nature of the Councillors political affiliations who represent the area. Whilst I hold no truck with them, they were elected democratically. Why should the area be deprived a Christmas tree when other wards who correspond with the Councils political make up get the equivalent of Blackpool?

Moving on, I’m not a great reader of adverts in papers, but I was half way through the full page spread for funeral directors R S Johnson and Sons before I realized it was actually a commercial feature. Why, because the accompanying picture included the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress for South Tyneside, Alex and Brenda Donaldson. They were also named in the article. Promoting their newly refurbished premises, the text serves to promote every stage of the service provided by the company.

The issue here is not RS Johnson and its business, neither is it their desire to promote their services. The issue centres on the involvement of the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress. They should not be seen to be involved with a private commercial business advertising its services as it could be construed as an endorsement of their product. What sets RS Johnson apart from others? What about other funeral providers in the area, many of whom provide excellent and competitive packages? Indeed, what of all businesses in the area? Why should they not have the benefit of the Deputy Mayor’s apparent commercial endorsement?

If I were a funeral director, I would be demanding equal advertising photo opportunities from our Council dignitaries, and if I were a business considering placing a full page advert in the Gazette, I would also be seeking similar support.

You never know, perhaps a local firm would be interested in supplying election security at next years local vote. Surely that would be something the Deputy Mayor would be happy to endorse.

NOTE: NO IMPLICATION HAS BEEN MADE AS TO THE DEPUTY MAYOR/MAYORESS RECEIVING ANY PAYMENT FROM RS JOHNSON

1 comment:

Ahmed said...

Interesting point about the Christmas lights!

Come to think of it there is a distinct lack of festive lights in Westoe, West Park and Harton wards. Perhaps it's coincidence but taking all three wards together there is only one labour councillor out of a possible 9.

I can’t wait to see how many lights go up in Fellgate and Hedworth next Christmas when current council leader Paul Waggott joins the ever increasing list of ex labour councillors ‘watching their pennies’ after years of complacency!