Thursday, 31 January 2008

Conway not the only con!

Today’s Times lists 47 MP’s who employ members of their families. Some of those highlighted are pretty well known parliamentarians. However, when it comes to allowances, members of the House of Commons remain fully committed to protecting their own “first class only ticket gravy train.”

To increase staffing budgets from £90505 to up to £102650 a year
Senior Salaries Review Body
Accepted and voted through by MP’s last week

Spot checks on expenses claims for 30 to 60 MP’s a year by National Audit Office
Senior Salaries Review Body
Kicked into the long grass – referred to a panel of MP’s appointed by Michael Martin

That receipts be required for all expense claims from MP’s above £50 a month. The current threshold is £250.
Senior Salaries Review Body
Kicked into the long grass – referred to a panel of MP’s appointed by Michael Martin

More open recruiting methods for MP’s staff
Sir Alistair Graham, ex standards watch dog.

That MP’s should publish details of all staff including family members
Liberal Democrats

Request for breakdown of how each MP spends housing allowance of £22110
Freedom of Information campaigners
Committee chaired by Michael Martin is fighting against disclosure at tribunal.

So you see, South Tyneside only mirrors what goes on nationally!


With the news that Derek Conway is to step down at the next election, the Time’s has a wonderful cartoon highlighting his plight. With a newspaper bill board headline "Conway to Step Down at Election”, a passing member of the public says to her husband “He wants to spend less time with his family”.


Merry Go Round

Whilst the vagaries of South Tyneside Council dominate local press and blog site headlines, there is another world out there, and today’s Time’s gives us a little peep at what the over 60’s are up to. With the heading “No kidding, a play ground for the over 60’s”, I initially thought the reporter must have utilised the Councillors Chamber at the Town Hall. No, wrong venue! The playground in question is Charlestown, Manchester, and it contains a ski walker, the swinger and the see saw, all designed for the older element who want to have a bit of fun and a chat.

Costing £15000 (financed by Council grants and local housing association contributions) the facilities have been a success.

With some of our own more mature Councillors all ready involved in a right old merry go round, perhaps a few facilities like this in the Borough might help them get out of there seats!


Whilst the South Tyneside Council reconvened full meeting and EGM will go ahead tomorrow, I think we will see a different type of affair to the last ones. The public will still be there, but as they have been “gagged” by Brian T Scott, they will be refusing to utter one single word. Nor will the Independent councillors, who as a protest against the removal of their constitutional right to field questions to any type of full council meeting, will also boycott the meeting. This means that all motions will either fail to be proposed and seconded, or go through on the nod without any discussion or dissent. The same will apply to any minutes outstanding from sub committees. The public themselves will also have a little, but peaceful, surprise, for those who remain on the other side of the Chamber.

However, I wouldn’t think that this is the end of the affair – I have seen the question roster for February, and believe me, some people are going to have some very sleepless nights.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Justice the South Tyneside Council Way!

With an article in today’s Shields Gazette concerning Mr Ahmed Khan and the “Case of the Missing Ballot Boxes”, we are faced with a startling fact; despite being aware that the ballot boxes were missing on the 8th May 2007, South Tyneside Council represented by Brian T Scott, Returning Officer, allowed legal proceedings to continue unhindered until 22nd October 2007. Mr Khan is now being pursued legally for costs amounting to £30,000.00, nearly all of which were accrued after the ballot boxes were “lost”.

The fact that the ballot boxes went missing is an injustice, the fact that the Council wishes Mr Khan to pay for their error and neglect only exasperates the matter.

I have covered this issue many times, and on the 11th January I posted in detail on the contents of Mr Khan’s original electoral petition to the High Court, of which I had obtained a copy. However, a series of leaked documents have arrived on the news desk, shedding more light on the affair. The documents are original copies and none are embargoed. I have therefore decided to follow the same scenario as it did in earlier this month and outline them in the form of a rolling diary. This approach reveals what a travesty of justice the case is. It also shows that from 8th May 2007, the Council were involved in, endorsed and created, the biggest election conspiracy in modern politics within the Borough.

For background and additional information please refer to the post above.

1. 23rd May 2007:
Original election petition lodged in the High Court of Justice. Section 3 of the petition makes 6 allegations, 2 of which are:

a) That a serving councillor and candidate for election in the Horsley Hill Ward, Iain Malcolm, was observed to be in unauthorised possession of postal ballot papers on 26th April 2007.

b) That postal ballot papers were opened on 27th April 2007, contrary to indications provided on 17th April 2007 that postal ballot papers would be opened on 3rd May 2007 at 22.00 hours onwards

The petition was served upon Audrey McMillan, Brian T Scott (Returning Officer) and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

2. A court bundle submission supplied by Sharpe Pritchard, Solicitors and Parliamentary Agents, Chancery Lane London, reveals the following affidavit account of the Council’s version of events:

Russell Cochrane, Deputy Returning Officer

¨ at the conclusion of the postal vote opening session on 4th May 2007, there were 54 ballot boxes of papers, 18 boxes of valid postal voting statements and 18 ballot boxes of rejected postal voting statements.

¨ They were locked in the Reception Room, Town Hall, with computer equipment.

¨ Further 18 ballot boxes of valid postal vote ballot papers locked in the basement of the Town Hall with 105 ballot boxes from polling stations.

¨ 4th May 2007 at 8.30am, Michael Outerson (Porter) asked to clear the Reception Room as it was needed for function. Valerie Stephenson (DRO) agreed. John Erskine (Porter) took 36 ballot boxes to the corridor next to Basement 34, where the other boxes were stored.

¨ 8th May 2007: space was prepared in the basement rooms to create room for the ballot boxes.
¨ 8th May 2007 at 4pm: Lindsay Dixon informed Valerie Stephenson that the ballot boxes containing the rejected postal voting statements and ballot papers were not in the corridor. Stephenson established the John Erskine was not on duty till the next day and would speak to him then.

¨ 9th May 2007: Lindsay Dixon spoke to John Erskine who confirmed that he had put them in corridor BR34

¨ A search ensued. No boxes were found.

¨ 9th May 2007: Valerie Stephenson informed Russell Cochrane of events, who informed Brian T Scott. Irene Lucas (Chief Executive) and David Slater Executive Director Reg and Res were briefed.

¨ 10th May 2007: Scott and Cochrane conduct further search. CCTV footage of car park viewed by Council staff.

¨ Porters interviewed with no new evidence emerging, though a casual porter did “skip” some black bags (skip emptied on 8th May 2007).

¨ 11th May 2007: arrangements made to examine contents of skip. Not done till 23rd May as specialist equipment needed to open skip.

¨ Russell Cochrane spoke to the “casual porter” on at least 3 occasions and each time he denied he had done anything wrong. Yet in the Court bundle Cochrane makes the statement: “In the absence of certain knowledge and taking all possible factors into account, I can only conclude that in my opinion the papers in question were inadvertently removed from their ballot boxes as waste, bundled together with genuine election waste in plastic bags and disposed of in error by being placed in the waste skip in the car park. I am aware that this conflicts with the statement received from the casual porter, but to my mind this can be the only rational explanation”.

3. Email from Simon Paget-Brown, Mr Khans legal representative to Ashley Badcock and Lucie Wibberley, Sharpe and Pritchard representatives:

“I have still to receive your evidence. The Court Order of 17th July 2007 stated that the same was to be received by 20th August 2007. Nearly tow months have passed. Unless your evidence is received by 4pm on Wednesday 17th October 2007, I will be forced to make an Application to Court seeking to strike out any late evidence. Please ensure that the same is received by return as without your evidence, preparation for the court hearing is being hampered”.

4. Letter from Sharpe Pritchard to Court Manager, Newcastle Crown Court re Rule 53 Application, asking that the matter be held in a closed court.

“We should draw your attention the fact that the Claimant’s application is made under Rule 53 of the Local Elections (Principal Areas) (England and Wales) Rules 2006 and that Rule 53(6) requires that the hearing of the application should be held otherwise than open court and we should be grateful if the matter and the evidence filed in the application could be listed/treated accordingly."

5. Letter from Sharpe Pritchard to Mr Khan’s legal team, 7th November 2007 attempting to gag Mr Khan and stop him speaking to the press:

“In the event that we are able to agree a settlement of both sets of proceedings, we cannot ignore the fact that the proceedings have resulted in significant local press and public interest. The Returning Officer to date has simply responded factually to press enquiries, without making any comment on the merits of the proceedings. The proceedings cannot now be withdrawn without any public comment by the Returning Officer. While the Returning Officer would be entitled to respond robustly to future press enquiries as to the merits the proceedings and the costs incurred in defending them, it would be preferable if all the parties were to agree a joint press statement along the following lines.
Please take your clients instructions.

“Election Petition Withdrawn”

Ahmed Khan with the consent of the Returning Officer and Audrey McMillan has agreed to withdraw his petition challenging the election in the Beacon and Bents Ward at the May 2007 local elections. An application has been made to the High Court for permission to withdraw the proceedings. The decision was made after considering the Returning Officer’s formal response to the proceedings. It was not considered right in the public interest to incur any further costs, which will be substantial.

This statement is issued jointly on behalf of Mr Khan, Mrs McMillan and the Returning Officer. The parties will not be making any further comment on the matter”.

6. In reply to an email from Ahmed Khan asking him to ensure that all ballot boxes under investigation were safe and secure, Brian T Scott on 14th May 2007 addressed the issue of the Petition and also replied re his obligations. Here is the exact text:

“I am aware of my duties with regard to the retention of documentation”

So there you have it in front of you, direct quotes, full reproductions of texts and a full account of the Council’s version of events. These documents have never been in the public domain in their entirety before, so you are the first to see them as originals.

But what does it all mean? Here are my comments and perspectives:

1) Deputy Returning Officers Submission: why were 18 boxes of ballot papers stored in an insecure corridor, and 123 ballot boxes of undisputed and accepted votes locked in a room? Surely, it should have been the other way round?

2) Why were CCTV tapes viewed as late as July/August?

3) Why, when the porters have denied any wrong doing on at least 3 occasions, does the Deputy Returning Officer still maintain that their involvement is the “only rational explanation”?

4) Despite the fact that the ballot boxes were known to be missing on 9th May 2007, why were Mr Khan and his legal team not updated about the situation? On 17th July 2007, 20th August 2007 and 17th October 2207, Sharpe Pritchard had “official” opportunities to release this information. They could have been honest about the situation anytime between 23rd May 2007 and 23rd October 2007. They deliberately chose not to.

5) With the knowledge that they had withheld evidence pertinent to the case, is it any wonder they chose to insist that the November case be heard behind closed doors with the public and press excluded?

6) The November attempt to “gag” Mr Khan is a travesty, and an indication of the arrogance and unaccountability which permeates South Tyneside Council. Sharpe Pritchard state “it was not considered right in the public interest to incur any further costs, which will be substantial”. This is an outright lie. If they had been concerned about public costs they would have been honest about the missing ballot boxes on the 9th May onwards.

7) Brain T Scott said on 14th May 2007 “I am aware of my duties with regard to the retention of documentation”. Clearly he was not, as the ballot boxes had been missing for a least 6 days. It is against the law to either loose or deliberately destroy ballot boxes and their contents, yet Mr Scott has not been disciplined or reprimanded for this clear breach which occurred under his supervision.

8) Finally, let’s once again return to the issue of the casual porter, an unnamed temporary employee, who by the grace of the fact that he put some black bags into a skip, is the Council’s convenient scapegoat for a disgraceful affair. However, here’s one more official document. In a letter (8th January 2008) to a member of the public, Brian T Scott outlined a response to a supplementary question ruled out of order at December’s Council meeting. The “casual” porter referred to is now described as such:

“The person concerned is not an agency worker. The Council regularly employs him as a porter on a casual basis as and when his services are required. He receives appropriate training that is necessary to do his role”

Clearly, the porters did not throw the ballot box contents or the boxes into a skip. In the council’s own words, they are sufficiently aware through adequate training what their duties entail, and it does include destroying election material either knowingly or otherwise.

If this were the plot for a novel, it would be unbelievable. The whole scenario is riddled with holes, cover up’s and deliberate conspiracies. The Council deliberately withheld evidence, forcing a member of the public to now face a financially crippling legal bill. What better way to get rid of a thorn in your side?

The Council are quoted as saying “Mr Khan could have avoided much of these costs had he withdrawn the proceedings earlier, as he was invited to do so”. Perhaps if the Council had not been involved in a conspiracy to hide the truth, then Mr Khan would have withdrawn his petition. However, they didn’t tell the truth, conspiring for 5 months to hide the facts, and conspiring for 5 months to allow legal bills to mount up.

This is not democracy and this is not justice.

EGM Update(2)

As I outlined yesterday, here are the EGM motions which were rejected by Brian T Scott, Head of Corporate Governance, South Tyneside Council. Clearly, there has been a takeover, a coup – call it what you will, but Councillor’s no longer run this Borough. In true Orwellian fashion, we are now dictated to by the p….now that would be to strong: we are now governed by unelected, unaccountable and undemocratic Executives, a group of arrogant pen pushers who have Labour Councillors as their lackeys!

I understand from sources that the meeting will still go ahead.

To: The Mayor of the Council of the Borough of South Tyneside

We are members of the Council of the Borough of South Tyneside.

We make this request under:
Paragraph 3(2) of Part I of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended); and
Rule 3.1.5 of the Council Procedure Rules in Part D.1 of the Constitution of the Council of the Borough of South Tyneside.

We require you to call an extraordinary meeting of the council within 7 days from the receipt by you of this requisition for the purpose of considering the business set out in the Schedule.

Dated: 24th January 2008
Signed by


Questions from the public

Could the council please provide the following information in relation to the Council’s Citizens Panel:
a) What criteria does the council use to appoint members of the public to the panel?
b) When are panel members appointed and for how long?
c) Does the panel accurately reflect the make up of the borough’s population? Please provide details of
- total number of people on the panel
- male to female ratio
- how many members of the panel are registered disabled
- how many members of the panel are from the ethnic minority community
- breakdown of the ages of panel members
- details of where panel members reside on a ward by ward basis only
d) Do members of the panel receive expenses/allowances, if so please provide details?
e) Does the council publish agendas, reports and minutes of the meetings, if so where?



What measures has the Council taken to ensure that there is no repetition of incident highlighted in the Shields Gazette where South Tyneside Home(s) tenant(s) received overtly threatening letters stating that forced entry would be used to gain access to tenant(s) homes to carry out gas servicing?



What measures the has the council taken to contact surviving family members of those whose headstones the council deems unsafe before they are toppled by the council’s appointed contractor(s) and does the council provide any financial assistance for those on low incomes to help reset the headstones deemed unsafe?



How much has the council spent on PC’s, laptops, Blackberry devices, mobile phones and training on how to use them for elected members for the following financial periods?
a) 2005 – 2006
b) 2006 – 2007
c) 2007 – to date
Please any rental/lease charges, maintenance, call charges and any additional expenditure for the items listed above



What inspection measures does the Council have in place to ensure that all PC's, laptops and Blackberry devices that are issued by elected members are not used for any purposes other than Council business?


Motion 1

‘This Council has no confidence in the Leader of the Council to carry out the Council’s business and call upon Cllr Paul Waggott to resign.’

Motion 2

The demand for costs from a resident of the borough as the result of a case to Newcastle upon Tyne County Court currently stand at £28,478.43. We call upon the Council to withdraw this demand.’

Tuesday, 29 January 2008


Is it just me, but if you type

into your browser details, does something strange pop up! The address is the one used by the Councillors in Whiteleas and Parkway Ward. The posts were always different, but never like this. What is going on? Is it just my PC? Will I have to delete this post because nobody else has this problem? Help!

Deport the lot and be done with it!

The headline item on the Shields Gazette website resembles a direct quote from a Dicken’s novel:

“Send kids in care to boarding school, say Tories”

I sincerely thought the headline was a joke, but Councillor David Potts, leader of the South Tyneside Conservative Party, wants to send “willing and able” children living with foster parents in the Borough to boarding school during the academic year. With 141 children under the age of 18 currently being looked after by care services, Potts advocates a saving of between £8000 and £5000 if they were sent to boarding schools. These figures are based on Durham School’s fees.

The proposed scheme ignores the following facts:

1. Children in foster care are vulnerable and require specialist care. Boarding schools would not be able to provide this level of expertise.

2. Whilst they are in care, many children still have contact with their natural families. This contact is essential to their care strategy. To send them away from the family environment would be detrimental to their well being during what is a very emotional time.

3. The costs are disputed by the Council. They claim only 10 children would be eligible, and care would still have to be provided when the academic year had ended. This would amount to a minimum of £6000, negating any savings. (the Council also claim the cost of this out of school care could actually be £15000).

4. What will be the reception for these children, forced to study in a socially alien environment.

5. These children are already at school: why do they need to be sent outside of the Borough at extra cost? Is Councillor Potts saying schools within this Borough are not good enough, that they are second rate when compared to private education? As a Councillor, surely that is one of his Council functions: to ensure that schools within the Borough perform as well as possible. Mr Potts has three excellent schools within his ward. I wonder what they think of his dismissive views?

I suspect care and social service will be shocked to the core by this idea. It is dangerous, absurd and Victorian in ethos. It is clearly aimed at a larger Tory heartland which does not reside in this Borough. I suspect the Gazette letters bag will be inundated with letters of dismay and protest, and so it should. The last thing these vulnerable children need is to be sent away from the only security and family connections they have, all to save a maximum of £2000

What next from the Tory cohort – children up chimneys or back down the pit? Why pussy foot around, send the scroungers to Australia and Canada like we used to do. I’ve heard one way tickets are pretty cheap at the moment.

EGM Update

Yesterday I outlined the details of the EGM meeting which would directly follow the full Council meeting scheduled for 2.30 p.m. this Friday. News has just reached the Northern Herald that all is not well with regards to the EGM.

Brian T Scott, Head of Corporate Governance, has once again interpreted the Councils constitution to accommodate Labour’s agenda. Two motions were submitted to the EGM, together with 5 public questions. Scott has only allowed one motion to be included on the agenda, and has rejected all the public questions. This is despite the following codicil in the council’s constitution relating to EGM’s:





Part D Section 1, Article 8.1, states:




All motions and questions submitted were constitutionally in order. The original signatories of the motions are now taking legal advice as they dispute the decision of Scott to limit the agenda to the one issue.

I am awaiting news of the outcome of the discussions on these issues, and will post later on what has emerged from the Town Hall, together with the text of the rejected motions etc.


Looking at today’s Time’s, it appears that there are more people than just the Olympic controllers who cant keep to budget. BAE systems, builders of a series of new Royal Navy ships and submarines, have managed to go over budget by £500 million, money which will have to be paid by the tax payer. BAE of course, are well known for escaping prosecution when they were investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for offering bribes to the Saudis. Murray Eastern, boss of BAE, has also been offered a CBE by Gordon Brown in the recently announced honours list.

So there you have it – corruption and bad management really does pay.

Monday, 28 January 2008

WAGGGOTTT on the spot!

The agenda for the reconvened full council meeting is available on the Councils web site. Also outlined, is the news that an EGM will follow the meeting, called to discuss a motion of no confidence in the Leader of the Council, Paul Waggott. Clearly, he has lost the confidence of the Borough. He has disgraced his position by referring to those who wish to challenge his party’s hegemony as “lunatics”, and deliberately encouraged a full time official to formulate a policy which would stop the public exercising their democratic right.

Here are the details, pre ambles etc, re the forthcoming meeting.

South Tyneside Council

You are hereby summoned to attend an Extraordinary meeting of the South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council to be held on Friday 1st February, 2008, at the rising of the re-convened adjourned Council Meeting, in the Town Hall, South Shields, for the transaction of the business indicated below:


1. Declarations of Interest

2. To consider the following motion:

Motion 1

“This Council has no confidence in the Leader of the Council to carry out the Council’s business and call upon Cllr Paul Waggott to resign”.


A Branley
J Branley
S Harrison
E Hetherington
L Nolan
M Robinson
V Thompson
G Waddle

Irene Lucas
Chief Executive

It must be Monday

After reading today’s Times from back to front, I was startled to by the shear lack of news. If I had been locked in a deprivation chamber for weeks on end, I would still have been able to guess it was Monday! Alan Johnson’s deputy leadership campaign is now tainted by dodgy money – so what, who in the campaign hasn’t been on the take. This is not news any more, it’s expected. Frances Societe Generale Bank, reduced to near bankruptcy due to dodgy deals worth billions of Euros – not unlike Northern Rock Bank, also reduced to near bankruptcy by dodgy deals worth billions of pounds. As it stands, both British and French governments are having to ensure that a national asset doesn’t go under – no difference in the news there then.

However, it has been left to good old McDonalds to provide us with some news worthy of our attention. The Government will announce today that the fast food giant (along with Network Rail and Flybe) will be able to award educational qualifications equivalent to GCSE’s, A Levels and Degree’s. Not content with turning the population into obese individuals, the purveyors of mass produced burgers want to raise the provision of French fries to the level of philosophical theory. I can hear the conversation at the till now:

CUSTOMER: Burger please
MCDONALDS STAFF: Would you like fries with that Sir, or a degree in Philosophy?
CUSTOMER: I’ll have the degree today please.
MCDONALDS STAFF: Certainly Sir. What dip would you like; Locke, Burke or Marx?
CUSTOMER: Burke please, Locke’s labour theory on property has never agreed with me.
MCDONALDS STAFF: We have a special offer today – buy a Marx dip and get an Engel’s burger free.
CUSTOMER: No thanks, they don’t compliment each other, regardless of what historians say.

Unlikely I know, but you get the drift. An A Level from the University of McDonalds will only leave you feeling hungry later in life, a bit like their burgers. What ever next, “Pot Noodles for Beginners: Advanced Course” or “Chicken Nuggets: There Role in Society: Master of Philosophy”. Only Labour could come up with such a ludicrous, media driven idea! Education at this level should be left to our current providers. With NVQ’s and other vocational qualifications, we already have an adequate system in place to acknowledge specific industry skills.

Anyway, who wants an A level from Network Rail – it won’t arrive on time!

21 Days

Yesterday I outlined how I had received information that a particular Councillor had been arrested and was under investigation re allegations of domestic violence. Last night, I received another snippet outlining a Councillors links to wrong doings at the GMB, irregularities in the Council’s procurement process, sealed bid security issues and printing contracts. On top of all this, allegations of a police investigation and a secret internal enquiry were also made.

Trouble makers, tittle tattle, or am I being duped and set up? If somebody were to place some well directed and well worded Freedom of Information enquiries, then we would have an answer in about 21 days.

Now there’s an idea!

Council to reconvene Full Council meeting

South Tyneside Council have reconvened last Thursday’s full meeting for Friday 1st February 2008 at 2.30 p.m. With only a few agenda items remaining, the meeting should be over quickly. That is of course, if certain Councillor’s behave with a little more decorum than they did the last time they presented themselves to the public. Hopefully Councillor Maxwell won’t question the common sense of those in the gallery in the very insulting and intimidating way she did last week, and let’s assume that Audrey McMillan doesn’t behave like a drunken teenager getting of the boat after an Amsterdam trip.

Perhaps certain Councillors should avail themselves of the official Code of Conduct, particularly the sections outlined below:

Part 1
General Provisions
Introduction and interpretation
(1) This Code applies to you as a member of an authority.

General obligations
(1) You must treat others with respect.

These are the Councils own words not mine. Quite a simple principal Councillors; its only 6 words and its all you have to do. Perhaps you could adopt this concept when listening both to the concerns of the public, and the views of those who sit opposite you in the Chamber. The Constitution works both ways: if people want the public to honour their obligations, then our elected representatives must honour theirs.

It is very easy to condemn the public, as many commentators have done, for what happened at the last meeting. It’s even easier to apportion blame when you weren’t even there, basing your accounts on second hand (biased) evidence. For the record, the public did not leave the gallery when confronted with the very intimidating threat of the police. Councillors were the first to leave the Chamber, once they’d decided they couldn’t face the levels of scrutiny any more. Neither do the public need lectures from anybody as to how they should conduct themselves. It is one thing to be appraised on the various elements of the Constitution, only to have full time officials and Councillors abuse, misinterpret and ignore the sections which are supposed to enshrine the principals of democracy. Therefore claims that South Tyneside Council is being challenged by a “Militant Tendency” is scaremongering, alarmist and frankly, bizarre. Those days lie very much in the past, and to drag them up in such a way is an indication of the failure of opponents to have any arguments which justify the Councils attempts to gag the public.

For to long the Labour Party have dominated this Borough, running the Council like a private club. Sadly, both the Liberal Democrats and Conservative’s have aided and abetted the Labour Party in their arrogance. Not once did they criticise or question Labour’s decisions to curtail any form of democratic debate, not once have they honoured their political obligations to act as an opposition to this Council’s singular desire to conduct its affairs for the benefit of self perceived elite and their wards. It has been left to the Independent Alliance to time and time again hold Labour to account, and they will no doubt do so again this Friday. After all, it was only their representatives who urged caution and restraint at the last meeting, their opposition to the abandonment of the meeting being ignored by the three main parties.

It will also be left to the public to play a part in the process. Nobody wants to see the events of last week repeated, but neither does anybody want to see the public gallery viewed with such disdain and loathing. Inspector McBribe will no doubt be on door duty at the public entrance, his presence exerting a more sombre influence this time around. For the record, I won’t be at the meeting, but I will post a “factual” account of the fate of agenda items and motions. Hopefully, I will be able to report a swift but democratic conclusion to the whole affair. However, if both the Council and its Councillors insist on the same confrontational and intimidating approach they adopted last Thursday, then they will encounter once again the publics desire to be heard with respect and dignity. They are not lunatics, they are members of the electorate who will no longer tolerate the Councils decision to ignore them, insult them and dismiss their views without consideration.

The outcome of this meeting then, is entirely reliant on the nature of the Council’s approach.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Whiteleas and Parkway - Page Not Found

Despite the fact that a statement on the site claimed that it was being revamped, the Whiteleas and Parkway Community blog has been de-listed by their hosts Blogger. This means that the Councillors who ran it (Gibson and Brady) have either moved elsewhere, changed the name or finally decided that it was too much hassle. As the site gained a lot of “attention” near its final days, I favour hassle road.

Regardless of the issues, the more people who post on regional and Borough issues, the better. Their disappearance is a therefore sad, especially for those in their ward. No other Councillor in this Borough uses the media of the web to inform their Ward what they do on a daily basis etc, to represent them.

Mind you, with Council Leader Paul Waggott’s attitude to emails and the public, it’s probably just as well.

Et Tu Wood, Clare, Bell, McAtominey!

The Northern Herald News Desk is in receipt of copies of the original “Lunatic” email sent by Council Leader Paul Waggott to Brian T Scott, Head of Corporate Governance, South Tyneside Council. We are also in receipt off an anonymous tip off that a well known Councillor is under investigation by the police for matters relating to domestic violence. The excepted opinion is that he could be charged very soon. Legal advice is now being taken to ascertain whether this matter can be fully outlined in a post.

Returning to the emails. I have reproduced them below in full scan. Naturally, the text is not totally readable so I have outlined a summary of events.

On the 15th January at 11.18 a.m. Brian T Scott sent an email to Council Leader Paul Waggott outlining 8 questions which to date had been submitted to the Council for its next full meeting. After each question, Scott has told Waggott who will be answering the question, but he has also outlined who will be supplying the information that the Council’s Executive wants placed on public record.

Waggot replies to the email as such:

“I see the lunatics see trying to take over the asylum.
This is getting stupid.
I am sorry but there must be a way of stopping this abuse of the system

The message is sent via his hand held Blackberry, and amongst others, is circulated to the following cabinet members:

Councillor John Wood
Councillor Michael Clare
Councillor Ian Malcolm
Councillor Joanne Bell
Councillor Eddie McAtominey

The issues raised by the reply are very serious.

1. The referral to the public members who submitted questions as “lunatics” is an outrage. As members of the Borough, they have a right under the Councils own constitution to submit questions to their elected representatives. If the do so, they should not be open to unfounded and insulting accusations by the Council leader. The question must be asked – how many other times has Councillor Waggott officially expressed his total disdain for the electorate?

2. His request to stop the “abuse of the system” has two ramifications. Replying directly to the Head of Corporate Governance i.e. the Council’s legal advisor, he has asked him personally to find ways to manipulate the system and stop questions being put to Council. Scott ruled questions out of order for January’s meeting under extremely dubious interpretations of the Council’s Constitutions. Waggott clearly has a policy that the Constitution must be circumvented at all costs. In defence of the public, if the Council had not conducted its business over a 7 minute period in October and then placed a 20 maximum of debating time, none of this would be necessary.

3. Who runs this Council, elected officials or Executive members? Scott has outlined and named the full time official who will supply the information for each Councillor to answer their question. This has serious ramifications. As each Councillor sits on the committee which covers the relevant question topic, surely they are able to determine the tone of the answer. Have they not being paying attention, do they not know about policy requirements etc. Do they actually go to the meetings? This scenario is a reminder of the comment posted on a local site by Executive David Slater who said of a back slapping event organised by the Council “every year we set direction for the Council”. Not only do they set direction, they also tell them what to say.

4. Brian T Scott sent his email to 4 Cabinet members and Waggott forwarded his onto to the same group. There are ten members of the Cabinet (including Paul Waggott). The members who were not informed of the events are:

- Councillor William Brady
- Councillor James Foreman
- Councillor Thomas Hanson
- Councillor James Sewell

Clearly, there exists a “cabinet” within the “cabinet”, with Brady, Foreman, Hanson and Sewell not being viewed as important enough to be included in the “A Team” or as it is known on the “inside track”, the Saturday Club. I do notice however, that none of the recipients of the message have publicly distanced themselves from Councillor Waggott's accusations that the public are mentally bereft. Their guilt by association is clear for all to see.

5. Clearly, Councillor Waggott has some detractors in his midst, or in usual parlance, a mole. It suspect his arch nemesis may even be a “Badger”, such is the content of his comments on this site. His tenure is obviously coming to an end, and certain people want him out before he looses the election in May to the Independents. With 4 cabinet members on his distribution list, it doesn’t require much intelligence to guess where the leak came from. Watch your back Councillor Waggott, the knives are out!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Time Out!

Returning from work I have been informed I apparently have to attend a family gathering. Posting will therefore be unlikely. I have been informed that these events are more important than The Northern Herald, though sometimes I beg to differ. However, I lost the argument tonight. See you all Sunday!

Friday, 25 January 2008

Setting the record straight

I have received a series of emails from members of the public to the TheNorthernHeraldNewsDesk@Yahoo.Com email address. Most senders were present at the Council meeting on Thursday and all object to being classified as “lunatics”. With at least one member promising legal action to clear his name (he is a solicitor, so it shouldn’t cost him too much) perhaps you should take heed Councillor Waggot.

However, some very pertinent issues have been raised about the meeting, with some comments about posts which have been made on other regional sites also highlighted (I wish people would comment through the accepted mechanism. However, my email system offers “anonymity”, so I guess their not happy having their names in print. No problem)

Anyway, here we go at answering a couple of queries.


For the record, I have no problem with the Mayor’s conduct re the Council meeting. She gave the Branleys equal opportunity to cover all issues, and she appeared embarrassed with her own members conduct. Neither was she the brunt of the publics discontent – I myself often heard the comment “It’s not your fault Mayor” coming from the public gallery. She marshalled the meeting well, and considering that this was the greatest challenge to Labour hegemony since modern politics were recorded, she conducted herself with dignity, composure and honesty – she is also now part of a great historical record. However, as Mayor, she could have over ruled the 20 minute curtailment and she could have allowed disqualified motions to be put to the floor without the interference of the Chief Executive. There is a balance re her tenure, and you must make your own mind up.


“Why spell his name like this” was the query in the email. According to the people in the “know”, Councillor WAGGGOTTT complained that Councillor Branley failed to pronounce his name properly, and in an attempt to set the record straight, emphasised the syntax to Mr Branley. Since then, Councillor Branley has emphasised the pronunciation.


My god, if this is all the public have to complain about, we live in very privileged times. I wasn’t aware there was a dress code for Councillors. The Independents in question were well presented and though I didn’t sit next to them, I presume they didn’t smell! Attack them on their policy or arguments, but as to their clothes – if this is all you have, you’ve lost the argument!


All these comments were directed to the gallery by elected members, though WAGGGOTTT’s was at least in an email he presumed we wouldn’t see (what about the rest WAGGGOTTT!) For your information Councillor Maxwell, I have at least two Degree’s ( One a 1st in History) and numerous other South Tyneside Council accredited schemes initials after my name, all of which anagram to “Your Out”! Basically, I have common sense (no comment on the lunatic bit though!) so watch what you say at the next meeting!


Of course the Branleys understand the Constitution, but as an email received clearly points out, this was not why the Branleys constantly referred to Brian T Scott for judgement (they thought he was asleep, but no, thats how he looks!) It was a political point: “if its going to be ruled out of order, at least let him make the decision!” Those of you who didn’t understand this tactic shouldn’t really pass judgement on it!


Poor sods, characterised by their names, but no respect paid to them because they are man and wife. Unlike of course WAGGGOTTT and Malcolm, who are brought together under the banner of “The Chuckle Brothers”. Or indeed, WAGGGOTT and WAGGGOTTT CO, a team who by all accounts, either don’t know what Ward there in, or what (lunatic) Ward there in (think about it)!

Never mind here we go…..

I have in the past attacked the Branleys – they have previously not attended the level of meetings they should have done and this has caused me problems. I do however notice that their attendance rate has increased, possibly no doubt in relation to the level of support and encouragement they now receive from the public.
(Trust me, I know what it is like to oppose within a wilderness – I have experience of living in the Cleadon and East Boldon Ward!) They are now more vocal, more diligent and more attacking than they have been for years – the difference is they now have an organised and coherent structure behind them. This is the reason why the “Progressives” have been encouraged to break their bonds with the Alliance and its popular movement – they fear accountability (the attack coming from a source who isn’t even elected!)

So there you have it, a clarification on the “chaos” of South Tyneside Council’s last meeting. However, I don’t think for one moment that this is the last time we will be addressing the issue.

Now, what has Ian Dale to say on the matter, or better still, what will the Private Eye make on the recent developments, together with the absence of the Conservative Leader of the Group of Rock, Paper, Scissors…….never mind, that’s for another day.

And so it begins......

Well, well, well. A new era begins. A new site, but will it be matched with a new leader? Only time will tell (for both).

Time to go!

So it’s now official and finally confirmed, Councillor Waggot has no respect for the public or the people who voted for him. His leaked emails show he considers anybody who challenges the Labour cohort at the Town Hall as “lunatics”. He also has no friends or supporters: this leak came from within the Cabinet and originated from his so called colleagues. They obviously find him as odious as the public do.

If this is how he views the electorate, what has he said about them on other issues?

Like Hain, his resignation is only around the corner, but he will spend the rest of his tenure looking over his shoulder for his mole, or should I say “Badger”.

Either way, Council Leader Paul Waggot is a spent force, a liability to the ruling elite. With the election looming, “retire” now and save face, what you have left anyway!

Just tell it how it was!

With the dust starting to settle on what was a very stormy Council meeting, the dilemma is how to portray these events. There is only one approach, tell it how it was.

Work commitments didn’t allow me to arrive at the Chamber till 4 p.m. As I entered the building, I could hear the uproar cascading down the corridors of power. Clearly in full swing, I envisaged the Chamber as a scene from the “Gladiator” film.

With the debate ongoing, I took my seat. With an air of mendacity, I could tell things had been tense. The dynamic duo of Councillor WAGGGOTTT and Councillor Ian Malcolm looked fraught, and the Mayor’s gavel lay smoking next to her like a prop from a Dirty Harry film.

To the agenda: what item were we up to? The televising of Council, my god, after 1hr 40m, the EGM still had not finished. With an amendment on the table from Councillor WAGGGOTTT to look at the issue with all interested parties, Councillor Alan Branley had seen through the rouse. The altered motion would see it filed, committee'd, binned, watered down, delayed and finally rejected. Prevarication and argument prevailed. When Alan Branley asked Councillor WAGGGOTTT for a straight answer yes or no to the question "was he in favour of the televising of Council meetings for public consumption",the leader visibly shrunk to the size of a "gonk" and refused to answer the question. Like a child watching an episode of Doctor Who, WAGGGOTTT was gripped with fear. The Labour Daleks however, backed him to the hilt, ably assisted by the drones in the Liberal Party and the Conservative cohort. The good old TV Doctor only has one assistant, the Labour Party has 5 (six when the Conservative “Master” turns up. Clearly time travel has not reached Scotland yet – but more of that later).

A short interlude followed, but there was no ice cream as the atmosphere was to hot. Refreshed and replenished and looking radiant (was it the blood transfusions or sheer anger/fear/embarrassment) the Councillors returned to the Chamber for the second half. As they walked to their perches, the only thing missing was the theme tune from the “Rocky” films!

“Once unto the breach dear friends, once more!”

To the full meeting then. Procedural points – fine. Mayor’s correspondence from the public – except there was none, even though two had been sent. The Chief Executive (I can’t remember which Ward she was elected to represent) had ruled them out of order. Apparently you’re nor not allowed to write to the Mayor anymore unless it only contains what Irene Lucas wants to hear. Perhaps letters to the Mayor should go like this:

Dear Mayor
Yours faithfully
Peter Shaw

The benefit of this approach is that it avoids controversy, something which Ms Lucas has an allergy to.

On to the public question time, and I was reminded of Councillor Leader WAGGGOTTT’s earlier comments about the public fielding questions, something about a scam to hijack the meeting. The first four questions came from Labour party members i.e. they were planted – now that’s a scam! The only time wasting subject not covered by them was “The Sex Life Of A Tennis Ball: Theory or Reality: Discuss”. The first question was tabled and the clocked started: we only have twenty minutes to save the Borough, and Defcon 5 had been activated. Step forward one Councillor Clare, beautifully clad in a Safari coloured suit (he was in the Lions Den!) but there was no need for the Daktari impression. Onto his speech, a tone penned in poison ink in response to a question on saving the planet. Councillor Clare went on for 14 minutes and left the Chamber devoid of oxygen. Doesn’t he know that hot air destroys the planet? Defcon 4 reached. With only 6 minutes left for public questioning, it was left to Councillor McAtominey to provide the next answer. It took him 1 minute to rise from his seat: that’s only 5 minutes left then. In true filibuster form, the filibuster finished of the clock (boy, that man can eat time, I’d hate to see him in front of Greggs)

“That’s it” cried the Mayor “time has expired”. “So has democracy” came the cry from the public gallery.

Next on the agenda were Councillors questions, again the front runners were asinine Labour submissions. I think they managed to pose 3 questions – I can’t remember, I saw some interesting fluff on the floor next to me!

It was left to the section on committee minutes to light the blue touch paper. Again the Branleys dominated for the voice of reason, grappling with WAGGGOTTT and Co, the debate being the equivalent of verbal mud wrestling. As each committee minutes came up for the Labour stamp of approval, the Branleys said “Excuse me Mayor, if we could just clarify…..”. Defcon 3. Facts did emerge from this session, particularly a Councillor who had been arrested! Sorry said the Mayor, these issues are confidential. Not to a certain Councillor McCabe, who in receipt of an electric shock, leapt out of his chair to defend the Council against claims of missing ballot boxes. Clearly 3 hours too late for the debate, he was unaware we weren’t actually talking about ballot boxes and skips. To humour him and not interrupt his stride, other Councillors gazed on like disappointed parents! It was about now that things started to get a bit grizzly, with the Councils bingo board showing Defcon 2. Up stepped one Councillor Audrey McMillan, she of Election Petition filed in May 2007. “The innocent must be protected” cried Audrey. Sorry Audrey, but ballot boxes are inanimate objects and have no legal rights. Plus they can’t be found as well you know. How convenient! The gallery had a giggle at her stance – Oh no, don’t giggle at Audrey! As she turned to face the public her shoulder pads flexed - she spat the words to the public – explain what you’re looking at? Decorum stops me! Defcon 1 engaged and ready to fire!

The Gallery was in uproar and with Audrey ready, willing and perhaps able, I thought she might even vault the divide and enter the public enclosure like a mosh pit diver (that’s someone who can jump very high for you older readers). “I will not have name calling” said the Mayor. “I will not have squabbling from the public gallery” reiterated the Mayor. “Why not” replied the Gallery “Councillors do!”

That was it – the Mayor had had enough. If order was not restored, the public was out. Sorry Mayor, but Audrey spoilt the party. Down came the gavel, out you go. Sorry Mayor, Audrey spoilt the party (did they not get the message). The gavel again, now it’s the police.

Up jumped the Councillors and of they went to the refreshment tent, well, bar. The public were left to their sombre fate. Years in jail, files in cakes, tunnels dug into walls, slopping out, Porridge etc, but without a nominee to bend over and pick the soap up in the shower! However, 10 minutes later the Mayor reconvened the meeting. The jails were full and clearly the Police would not be coming, something about a cat up a tree, or more to the point, how could you arrest the public for exercising their democratic right: this isn’t North Korea you know!

Equipped with a motion to adjourn the meeting, the Mayor saved face. The Branleys defended the public’s right to air their views, but Labour would have none of it. Backed up by Brian T Scott, Head of Corporate Governance i.e. the Councils lawyer and a man who can walk around whilst appearing to be asleep, the meeting was conveniently called to a halt. On came the statins by the bucket full, and Councillors were revived from a state of epilepsy. In the gallery were the great unwashed, a rabble who had dared challenge the hegemony of Labour. They must be punished.

They are lunatics!

However, the lunatics have a habit of taking over the asylum!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

You heard it here second!

The Shields Gazette web site is already reporting their initial coverage of tonight’s full council meeting, which is not a bad preamble to what will follow in tomorrows full edition. I seem to remember that I told you it was worth hanging around for.

More to follow on this site on what the Gazette cant report!

Council meeting abandoned amid angry stand-off

A COUNCIL meeting was abandoned tonight (Thursday) after chaos erupted in the packed public gallery.

At one point, a council executive even threatened to call the police after the public refused to leave under the orders of the Mayor.Throughout the full council's monthly meeting, members of the public continually interrupted proceedings with a stinging barrage of criticisms.But after four hours the verbal sparring became too much, and South Tyneside Mayor, Coun Tracey Dixon, asked the public to leave, with the meeting adjourned for five minutes to allow them to exit.

But despite her pleas, the crowd of around 20 people refused to move, and even the threat of police action from one executive was ignored, and the Mayor was forced to abandon the meeting.

The meeting will be continued at a later date, to be chosen by the Mayor.

For the latest updates and reaction, see tomorrow's Gazette.

Private Eye's Little Eye

Number Crunching

Ta Ta! (Welsh for “Sacked”)

Called to Ordure

Number Crunching

50 days – time for which tax payers will remain liable for £25 billion loan to Northern Rock under current deadline

5 years – time for which taxpayers will remain liable for £25 billion government bonds under Alistair Darlings rescue plan

£100 million – profits gained by senior executives through QineriQ privatisation

£75 million – QinetiQ pension deficit, now being addressed by additional staff contributions

Ta Ta! (Welsh for “Sacked”)

Now that Peter Hain has finally decided to do the honourable thing and spend his money outside of Cabinet, perhaps we should be reminded of what he said in 2003. Quote courtesy of Private Eye.

“It is of the greatest importance that the conduct of Members of the House meets, and is seen to meet, the high standards expected by the Wicks committee (on standards in public life), and also by our constituents. Lapses, however rare, are very damaging to public confidence in the House and in our parliamentary democracy. If lapses occur, and are not seen to be tackled with sufficient rigour, the effect is many times worse”

Peter Hain, the Leader of The House of Commons
26 June 2003

Yes, and then you get the boot!

Called to Ordure

It seems that South Tyneside Council Labour members are not the only second rate politicians who have cottoned on to the concept of the “planted question” (more of that later). “Called to Ordure” in the Private Eye has highlighted how Labour have succumbed to the old trick in order to give Gordon an easy ride. Not content with promoting this shoddy tactic in the House of Commons, Labour have also transferred it to the Lords as well. Lord Rooker, he of Jeff MP fame, tried to put forward the climate change bill in the upper House, his speech based on twaddle and propaganda. A certain Earl of Onslow (only awake on Tuesdays) realized that the “Rook” hadn’t a clue what he was talking about (Cabinet material still prevails). Here's how it went according to the Private Eye.

Re Rooker’s reply they said:

“See column 858 of the House of Lords Hansard, dated 9 January, for the full glory of a long spiel of meaningless, frantic bullshit by Rooker”.

Oh dear, Cabinet material definitely still prevails.

Perhaps Onslow had the day when he said “Hands up anybody who understood a single word of that?”

You dont need a shirt and tie to spot the truth

This afternoons Council EGM and full meeting have left me completely astounded, almost as perplexed as the post on Curlys Corner Shop. Was he at the same meeting? No mention of course of his beloved Conservative Councillors (minus their leader again), who voted with the Labour cohort on every important issue. As for the Liberals, they might as well cross the floor, their cut of the same cloth.

That only leaves the Independents and Progressives – the only voice of reason and the only opposition in this Borough. To comment on events now would be to down play what really happened, because to be honest, the real events of tonight came after the EGM.

Politics in South Tyneside is no longer the private club of the shirt and tie brigade of the Labour Party – it now belongs to the people. What those in the “know” don’t appreciate however, is that there is more to come.


As I will be attending the two council meetings today in the Town Hall, posts may be late tonight. In fact, if the meetings last the five hours predicted, posts may even be tomorrow!

Can you imagine it, Councillors having to stay awake for five hours?

Big Macs all round!

Just when you thought you’d heard it all, this government comes along with another scheme to make the blood boil. This time it plans to give the over weight and obses… wait for it…free shopping vouchers if they loose weight. That’s right, loose a few pounds and you can have some metro centre vouchers to spend at McDonalds. Together with a £75 million advertising campaign, Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, and Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, will try and reduce the nations expanding waistlines with free money.

No mention is made of reducing admission charges into leisure facilities, creating more school sports facilties, giving physical exercise more prominence in the national curriculum or banning junk food advertising instead of “reviewing” it.
Until the government accept the need for radical policies, this tinkering with the ground rules and squadering of public money will have no effect what so ever.

The £372 million Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives strategy includes:
— A £75 million marketing campaign to persuade parents to improve their children’s diet and encourage physical activity
— A code of practice to be agreed with the food and drink industry
— £30 million invested in “healthy towns” to encourage walking, cycling and other activities
— Increased funding over three years for personalised weight-loss programmes and competitions in workplaces and the community
— Cookery lessons compulsory in all secondary schools by 2011
— Ofcom to bring forward a review into junk-food advertising to children

Police on the march

With varying figures reported for yesterdays police march, 25000 participants seems to be the accepted turnout. With over ¾ of police on duty at any one time, this is quite a presence on the streets.

To loose the support of the police can only lead to more head aches for Gordon Brown. Not only does it lead to poor morale on the streets, but it alienates the public who are well aware of the problems and issues facing the average policeman plying the beat. Labour is steadily running out of support for its disjointed and arbitrary policy towards public sector workers. Not only that, it has shown that it cannot be relied upon to honour arbitration decisions, forcing more unions to ballot for strike action rather than pursue conciliation measures.

As a side note, many police arrived and the march 3 hours late, claiming they only just received the call. Some officers phoned up to ask if the marchers were still hanging around the corners and did they have any drink.

Freedom of Information

This week two very important decisions have emerged from the offices of the Information Commissioner. The first was the ruling that all MP’s expenses must be outlined individually and released for public consumption. Richard Thomas, the IC, ruled that MP’s claims should be broken down into 12 different sections. The House of Commons have 35 days to comply with the ruling. But will they? The Commons has always claimed that they have a degree of “privacy” not enjoyed by the average member of the public. Run through the Northern Herald Universal Language Translator, this comes out as “we are above the law”. As MP’s last year actually failed to change said law in their favour, they intend to appeal against the Commissioner’s decision on the grounds that they have special needs. Couldn’t agree more on that assumption!

The second decision concerns the original draft of the Iraqi arms dossier, which is rumoured to include the first mention of the 45 minute mass destruction element. Ordered by the IC to place the draft in the public domain, the Foreign Office objected and the issue went to an Information Tribunal. The Tribunal has backed the decision, and publication should follow. Oops, here we go again. The Foreign Office doesn’t like the end result, with a spokesman saying it would be "studying the decision". Sources said there were no plans to release the draft in the near future. If pushed it will either go to the High Court or ask Miliband to sign a “ministerial veto” stopping the release.

So that’s MP’s who are above the law, and now the Foreign Office.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Dont Forget To Bring Your Sleeping Bag

The post below needs to be padded up a little bit and today’s Shields Gazette offers some little bits of added information.

With back to back meetings (the EGM and the Full Council) members could find themselves confirmed to the Chamber for up to five hours (this is the maximum time allowed). Questions submitted from the public have covered the full political spectrum, including some from Labour party members.

So what’s the source of this universal call to hold the elected members of South Tyneside Council to account? The answer is the outrage which greeted the 7 minute wonder that was Octobers Full Council debacle, something which I highlighted on these pages.

How the Labour contingent must rue the day they couldn’t even sit down for five minutes. I only hope they have bought their cushions for tomorrow.

A Date For Your Diary

Don’t forget the following Council meetings tomorrow:

South Tyneside Council
Extraordinary General Meeting
2.30 p.m. Council Chambers

South Tyneside Council
Full Council Meeting
Directly after EGM: Full Council Chambers

Crossing Closed

Today’s Gazette carries the staggering news that the Liberal Democrat contingent will NOT be crossing the Chamber and sitting with the Labour Party. Apparently they are quite happy with the seats they have thank you.

This is of course, how nasty rumours start and it only goes to show you shouldn't always believe what drunken Councillors say in pubs when they think nobody who knows a thing or two is listening. Perhaps we should take this a stage further, and not believe what sober Councillors say when they think etc etc etc.

As one of illustrious representatives once said “Do You Know Who I Am?”.

Minister for Dirge

As visitors to this site well know, I like Parliamentary sketches as they take out the mundane and drivel generated by asinine MP’s, and highlight the fact that yes, our elected representatives can actually speak on the hoof, engage their brains and dare I say it, go of script.

Simon Carr’s comments in today’s Independent follow this style. Poor old David Miliband (apparently he is Foreign Secretary) made an appalling speech in the Commons yesterday. It was left to Patrick Cormack (Con South Staffordshire) to wake up the House. Raising a point of order, he asked the Speaker for an adjournment so that Miliband could rewrite his speech!

David, where is your mojo? The long hot summer of 2007, when the name Miliband was touted as a definite front runner for the Labour leadership, seems like another country now. Mr Miliband currently spends his time cultivating boredom, analyzing tedium and throwing them all together into a speech. He is now the official Minister for Dirge!

A point to note and one for the Hansard enthusiasts. Carr points out that William Hague made one of the best speeches of the year, and “probably next year as well”. Always a gifted orator, the ex Tory leader is rapidly becoming the balanced voice in what is clearly an unbalanced House!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Sounding the Gong!

Yesterday I highlighted how the rumour mill was doing forward roles with the news that all three Liberal Democrat councillors in the Borough were going to cross the floor of the council Chamber, retire from representational politics and join the Labour Party contingent. What is also “doing the rounds” is the scurrilous story that the reason the Chief Executive, South Tyneside Council, was awarded the CBE is because she will soon depart for pastures new: her gong being in recognition for her sterling work at the helm of the Borough.

Tittle tattle, rumour or innuendo? Perhaps. But the tale gains momentum when her next post is outlined. Put it this way, the next time she ply’s her trade she will make a pretty sovereign. The Honours list has always had an element of “here’s your reward before you retire” about it, so at least of couple of the jigsaw pieces fit. You’ll need some form of strategy to fit the rest together.

We all know that certain Executives at the Council enjoy the odd perusal of regional sites such as this, you know, to see what “they can pick up”. A word of warning – I understand from a source close to home that some of you are on fixed contracts i.e. 5 years, and not permanent ones.

You know what they say about a new broom?

Bean and Balderick: Demolition Experts At Your Service

Yet another wonderful Parliamentary sketch from Ann Treneman in today’s Times. Covering the Chancellors announcement in the Commons of the Northern rocks fate, Treneman states:

“A man with dodgy eyebrows cant to the Commons to tell us about a great deal that he wants to do with our money…It was like watching a new car salesman trying to get us to invest in a car that was in a terrible was a mess, has an unreliable engine, wonky breaks, no MOT and no insurance. It could cost billions. What a deal!”

Add to this the analogy of no driver and little chance of a good resale value on the second hand market, and you have a marvellous description. The depiction of Alistair Darling as a George Cole/St Trinians/Trigger (delete as appropriate re how far your memory goes back) it’s not only humorous, but very apt under the circumstance.

During his speech, Darling shouted “At least I have a plan”, to which Iain Duncan Smith (Cons) replied “I cannot tell you how much better we feel now that we know that the Chancellor Balderick has a cunning plan”.

The Tories may not be able to win an election, but with (Alas) Smith and Hague, they have the funniest front bench. Unlike of course Labour, whose front bench now consists of “Bean and Balderick: Demolition Experts. Businesses Broken Up And Sold At Your Pleasure”.

It may be time for Curly at his Corner (Photo) Shop to once again super impose some heads on to the bodies of our illustrious PM and his side kick Chancellor. After all, not only was Rowan Atkinson “Bean”, but he was also “Blackadder”, Balderick’s puppet master.

Conspiracy theorists gaze in awe!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Private Eye Rotten Borough Awards

Not the type of award you want to win, but the Private Eye this week dished out its Rotten Borough gongs. Nominations in the “Democrat of the Year” category included West Somerset, Bournemouth and one South Tyneside. The Eye describes the Borough as being the area where “the council covered up for six months the fact that 18 ballot boxes had gone missing after the local May elections”. Unfortunately (or fortunately if your Brian T Scott, Returning Officer) South Tyneside was outclassed by Waltham Forest and the case of Miranda Grell, who managed to overturn her Liberal rivals majority by alleging that he was a paedophile.

This is South Tyneside’s first appearance in this event, and word on the streets is that the council is training very, very hard for next years awards!

Many thanks to “The Badger” for pointing out the omission from the “Little Eye” post of However, I always intended to cover this issue as a separate item. But thanks anyway for paying close attention to The Northern Herald. It is always good to know that at lease one Cabinet Member is paying attention to what is going on in the Borough!

The History Of Shreddies

No, not the breakfast cereal, but underpants.

Thanks to Curly at his Corner Shop, Newsnight will never be the same again. Every time I see Paxman attempt to reduce a frivolous politician to a quivering wreck, I will see that awful vision.
I am determined to avoid the inevitable clich├ęs such as “the fall out from this story” etc, so here is a history of “duds”, as highlighted by today’s Times. Follow the link below to update yourself on Paxman’s fear for the British “brief”.

With Northern Rock on the verge of collapse, the Home Secretary admitting that crime ridden areas have become “no go” sprawls, how reassuringly English to focus on the demise of the male undergarment.

Short history of pants

— The remnants of leather loincloths have been found with the remains of prehistoric man from 7,000 years ago

— The Ancient Greeks dressed very simply. The closest article of clothing worn by men in ancient Rome was called a subligaculum, which in modern terms means a pair of shorts or a loincloth

— Pull-on underpants were invented about the time of the 13th century. The loincloth was replaced by large, baggy drawers called “braies” By the Renaissance, braies were usually fitted with a closing flap in the front. This codpiece allowed men to urinate without having to remove their braies

— In Victorian times, men’s undergarments were in two pieces and made by hand

— Mass production began during the Industrial Revolution

— Boxers and briefs became popular in the 1930s as elastic waists replaced button, snap and tie closures. “Underpants” also entered the dictionary

— Jockey began making briefs in 1930. Jockey Y-vent briefs arrived in 1934

— Colour was introduced during the Second World War

— Spandex was created in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, Lycra Cotton was realised

— In the 1970s and 1980s the new designer underwear producers, including Calvin Klein, used sex as the main selling point for major advertising campaigns

— The thong and the G-string have been popular in South America since the 1980s and have since taken on a global appeal

— In the 1990s retailers started selling boxer briefs, which take the longer shape of boxers but maintain the tightness of briefs

The Rumbling Rumour Mill

A cheeky little email to the Northern Herald news desk has shed more light on the possible demise of the Liberal Democrat Party in the Borough. Apparently, Abbot, Atkinson and McKie, a firm of solicitors if ever there was one, all plan to walk the plank and fall into the murky sea inhabited by the Labour contingent.

Clearly concerned about the safety of their seats and the weakness of the Liberals nationally (who is their leader again?) the Councillors see their future more secure on the Labour bench.

If Abbot and Co seriously wish to resign their Liberal membership, they would do the Borough more service standing as independents. The last thing South Tyneside needs is the Labour hegemony boosted by another 3 seats.

Hopefully, Abbot and Co will think long and hard before they make any rash decisions.

Am I Bovvered?

Not prepared to sign the European Lisbon Treaty in front of cameras, Gordon Brown is also not prepared to present himself in the House of Commons when the Treaty amendment is debated and voted on. Instead, he will be flying back from his Asia trip.

Browns avoidance of democratic accountability may have something to do with the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, who have said the Foreign Policy elements of the Treaty are unchanged from the EU Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters, a previous treaty which Labour promised us a referendum.

At least when we finally realised that we have signed away another swathe of our rights to govern ourselves, Brown will be able to say “well, I never voted for it!”

Not so however, Bill Cash MP. As well known and longstanding opponent of all things Europe, Cash is chief signatory to a letter in today’s Times. Together with six other notable antics, Cash and Co make their point pretty well;

“The Labour Governments attempt to ram the Bill through Parliament without holding a national referendum is a direct attack on Parliamentary democracy. Not to hour the referendum…… to treat the people of this country like fools”.

Well said!

Number Crunching Bio Fuel Style

One of the main problems with the environmental debate is you just don’t know who to believe. For instance, the use of bio fuels has long been touted as a means to reduce carbon emissions as a result of standard fuel consumption. Not so, says the Environmental Audit Committee, as reported in today’s Times. According to their report, bio fuels can increase gas emissions and exacerbate climate change. The Committee’s views come 48 hours before the EU announces its Renewable Directive, expected to call for 10% of transport fuel to be from Bio sources.

A major concern is that forests are being cut down to accommodate “bio fuel” crops. Put into the number cruncher, here’s how the figures emerge.

264 million litres of bio fuel sold in UK alone in 2006 including
169 million litres of bio diesel
95 million litres of bio ethanol

40% - proportion of Europe’s land necessary to achieve 10% reduction in fossil fuel costs

49 billion litres of all types of fuel sold in 2006

0.54% of fuel sales by volume were bio fuels

20p – per litre fuel duty incentive to use bio diesel and bio ethanol until spring 2010

7% - proportion of worlds transport fuels that the International Energy Agency forecasts could come from bio fuels by 2030

800000 hectares of land in Britain expected to be given to bio fuel crops in 2010, rising to 1.1 million in 2020

Once again, the green debate degenerates into claim and counter claim. When will we ever get the definitive truth, and when we do will it be too late?

I wonder if any members of the Environment Audit Committee have links to the fuel industry? Perhaps something to look at for a future post!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

That Was The Week That Was

Recycling South Tyneside Council Style

Cant get ahead in English politics?

Missing (in)action

It Hain’t Right!

Northern Rock Giveaway

Shearer “the only man who can do it”.

Recycling South Tyneside Council Style

Cant get ahead in English politics?

More and more men and women are finding it difficult to make a career in English politics because they aren’t Scottish enough.

However, thanks to a European ethnic awareness grant, the Northern Herald is able to offer a course in “Scottishness” which when completed will not only guarantee you a membership of the Labour Party, but the Cabinet as well.

Course includes:

A Rab C Nesbit CD of Parliamentary Phrases, including “had ya gash”, “witchit Tori boy” and “David McPotts”.
Free posters of famous Scottish dignitaries including Graham Sourness, The Krankies and the Loch Ness Monster (a log).
Free Law Degree
Signed copy of Charles Kennedy’s number one book “My Favourite Cocktails Before Question Time”.


Missing (in)action

Have you seen this man?

Nick Clegg was last seen shortly after becoming leader of the Liberal Democrat Party. Friends say he was heard to mention that he was just popping out to “change the face of British politics”, but he never returned. Police has trawled local and national newspaper headlines but can find no trace of him. If any member of the public has any knowledge of his whereabouts, please contact Inspector McBribe of the Lame Duck Politician Squad, Westminster.

It Hain’t Right!

The following advert was spotted in the Times personal; column.

Money to fight Labour Party deputy leadership battle
Preferably old fivers
Minimum £103000
Can supply own brown envelope if required
Contact Peter Hain, PO Box No 10, Westminster
PS – Sshh! Don’t tell any one.

Northern Rock Giveaway

The Northern Herald has two tickets to give away for the new block buster musical “The Northern Rock-y Horror Mortgage Show”. The musical, written and produced by Andrew Lloyds TSB Branson, centres around a bank which breaks down and has to be rescued. Starring Alistair Darling as “The Badger”, the all star cast also includes many Labour MP’s stuck in a time warp.

All readers have to do is answer the following question:

How the hell can we save the Northern Rock and get our money back?

Answers on the back of a twenty pound note to:

Gordon Brown, No 10 Downing Street, Westminster.

Or call 0801 – 3456789. Premium rates apply. Lines already closed, but still phone please.

Shearer “the only man who can do it”.

Thousands of people this week called on Alan Shearer to be given one of the toughest jobs in the North East. In an attempt to restore the pride, confidence and financial stability of what can only be described as a northern institution, Shearer is the people’s choice to save the “sinking ship”.

Unfortunately, Shearer has no experience of banking and would rather manage Newcastle United than take over at Northern Rock.

Questions - Questions - Questions

With the 20 minute public questions rule coming into operation for the first time at the Council’s full meeting next Thursday, I thought I’d have a quick look at the questions submitted to see how many issues the public question session is likely to cover. The answer is not that many.

With 10 questions being submitted by members of the public, we will be lucky if 5 are answered within the 20 minutes allocated. Why? Because at least 5 have been submitted deliberately to encourage prevarication, waffle and spin – 3 pretty good techniques if you want to see 20 minutes disappear.

Let’s have a look at the subjects of the initial 5 questions.

The councils measures to tackle global warming – what an opportunity to generate hot air. 5 minutes wasted.
Sources of economic finance re the Jarrow School Swimming Pool – not yet built, confirmed or even wanted in some quarters – what an opportunity to cover European and regional grants – 5 minutes.
Levels of European funding received within the last ten years for regeneration and social projects across South Tyneside - the inclusion of the word “European” can only lead to a waffling 7 minutes.
CSR and the recent Local Authority grant settlement – oh dear another 5 minutes.
DCLG in relation to the Councils Commission/democratic accountability – CSR, DCLG, EU, that can only mean AFM (another 5 minutes).

Without including supplementary questions, we have at least 30 minutes of questions and answers (from the first 5) re the public’s allocation.

Never mind, at least we have another 20 minutes of democratic accountability, with councillors also being allowed to field 20 minutes of questions. Or do we? Here we go again.

CPA Inspection 2008 – 5 minutes.
Plans to improve Metro System in South Tyneside – 5 minutes
Dragon site and Shields Foreshore – at least 5 minutes
Wet weather facility at the Foreshore – a good PR question, lets give this one 5 + minutes.
Fair trade policy and procurement – good one again, add a bit of waffle and the odd stutter – 5 minutes

So again we have 25 minutes minimum, the end result being 6 questions (mostly Independent’s) untabled and unanswered.

The “20 minute rule” is in effect a gagging order as it prevents democratic debate and public involvement in the representational process. It is also censorship, something which would be more akin to North Korea than South Tyneside.

Labour has played the Independents at their own game – they have dominated the 20 minute period for both the public and council sessions with fascicle questions. As a consequence, the issues which really affect the public and which concerns voters, are forced of the agenda.

So is it end game for the “20 Minute Brigade”? I suspect not – roll on February’s meeting!


I note from the Council’s internet site that their will be an Extra Ordinary meeting that will take place directly before the Full Council meeting on Thursday 24th January. The meeting will debate the following motions:










I am particularly interested in the outcome of Motion 3, which is an excellent idea. The technology is readily available to accommodate this. Should the idea of being videoed upset some councillor’s, then an audio version could be streamed from the Councils site with equal ease.

EGM’s at this level of regional governance are rare, and when they are called, they can only indicate that discord and discontent permeate the governing body.

What is also worrying is that the council failed to initially publicize this meeting, using the rather uninspiring excuse that the software they use to place posts on their site could not handle two agenda’s on the same day for the same meeting (surely they could have thought of something different like err… we forgot!).

We can only assume that that once again the Council’s executive did not want the public to either know about or attend the meeting.

And they have the audacity to object to the word “gag”!

Saturday, 19 January 2008


Wallpapering again!

Friday, 18 January 2008







In answer to the above question, if you’re Gordon Brown, he’s at EDF. Let me explain.

EDF Energy is already the largest energy supplier in London, the south east and the south west. The French state controlled company is favourite to build the series of nuclear power stations announced by the PM this month.

Congratulations then to EDF, and congratulations to its head of media relations, Mr Andrew Brown….. Gordon’s brother.

The Eye is watching what happens next.


A beneficiary of the NHS’s National Programme for IT, has been ASE Consulting, who received £16.4 million in 2006/2007, and a total of £46 million since 2003.

However, The Eye has learnt that the chief technology officer for the National Programme 2002/2005 was none other than Alan McNeil, ASE main shareholder and boss. In effect, he paid himself the money. The National Audit Office is now looking at the matter, and no doubt will be returning to it later


$20 – price per barrel of oil which Rupert Murdoch predicted as his reason for backing Iraq war in 2003
$100 – price of oil after five years of war.

Initial cost of Visitors Reception Centre, House of Commons - £8,687,500
Final cost of Visitors Reception Centre, House of Commons - £12,450,000

60% rise in wholesale gas prices which National Power say it has no choice but to pass on to customers
60% proportion of net income which National Power’s parent company RWE proposes to pass on to shareholders in dividends


Last summer Gordon Brown promised to reward Britain’s unsung heroes. Here then are some recipients of Brown’s “gongs” together with what they did to earn them!

ALAN GARWOOD – CBE – outgoing head of Defence Export Sales Organisation at the MOD. “Seriously” questioned under caution by the Serious Fraud Office when it was looking at the BAE Scandal.

MURRAY EASTERN – CBE – Boss of BAE’s submarine division who are £1.22 billion over budget completing the Astute Class subs.

VIC EMERY – OBE – Boss of BAE, currently over budget for the Type 45 Destroyer to the tune of £989 million, plus 3 years late.

RICHARD SUMMERSGILL – CBE – Director of Child Benefits and tax credits at the Revenue. Remember the discs?

BRENDAN FOSTER – CBE – he of Great North Run fame and Observer article wondering where the charity money had gone. Chairman of Nova International which sells the rights of the run to the BBC. For good measure Foster goes on to present the TV coverage, even though BBC guidelines state that presenters must have no substantial connection with products and firms concerned with the stories they are covering.

IAN MCALLISTER – KNIGHT OF THE REALM – credited with improving rail network “beyond recognition”. To true, who can forget Boxing Day delays!

STUART ROSE – KNIGHT OF THE REALM – In the year Brown promised British jobs for British workers, he gave a gong to a man who turned his business around by importing 90% of its clothing stock from abroad!

Thursday, 17 January 2008


Having a night off apparently, something to do with wallpaper. So before my DIY stalker responds, it’s from B and Q, it’s an awful Art Nouveau style which teenagers like, and basically, I haven’t a clue what to do next! Flour and water sounds good.

Please come back though, because I have some very interesting news about Council meetings!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


A great receptacle of wit and an under used source of information for us bloggers are “Parliamentary Sketches” Most papers have them, and they are nearly always used to raise the days Parliamentary procedures above the level of banality. Mathew Parris is perhaps the best at his game, combining acid wit with acrid truth.

However, running him a close second is Ann Treneman, sketch writer at the Times. In today’s edition she knocks about James Parnell, Culture Secretary and deliverer of the bad news to the Commons that the Olympics have another £1 billion black hole. On Parnell’s conduct she states “Mr Parnell won the vote but little else”.

It is her description however, of Michael Fabricant MP, a man with a spies name if ever there was one (the names Fabricant, Michael Fabricant) that raised a wry smile.

“Up popped Michael Fabricant, the Tory who is famous for his golden locks and who is currently wearing a rather fetching winter wig”

What a marvellous picture, backed up with the additional information that wigs now come in seasonal varieties.

Fabricant also gave us a corker. Complete with a winter warmer perched perilously on his bonnet, he launched into a classic Tory boy, Colonel Smithson –hyphen- Smythes hyperbole on the matter of Lottery cuts funding the Olympics.

“There are already swinging cuts in the arts. Litchfield Garrick Theatre is no longer going to receive its funding. The Birmingham Rep isn’t going to either. This is being replicated all around the world”.

Poor old double “o” Fabricant and the poor old Garrick! No mention of course of the boxing clubs, urban community initiatives, community centres etc, all of which keep young people out of trouble and of the streets. All these organisations are also loosing their funding and due to King Kens use of a dodgy estate agent, the sale value of land and property after the Olympics is now drastically reduced resulting in the National Lottery not being repaid its “loans”.

Never mind, thanks to Ann Treneman, at least we know that the “Whig” party is up and running again!