Friday, September 30, 2005
Horrible Theme Park delayed_________________________________________________________________
Plans to build a theme park based around the best selling Horrible History books may not come to fruition in South Shields. Author Terry Deary has now offerred first refusal to Sunderland for his 130 million pound scheme, blaming interminable delays in the decision making process.
Well whats the problem there then?
We've been waiting almost a year now for a decision about the new super school (and will probably wait another year for a decision) , we waited over a year for the Council to act on the Trow Quarry issue, we have waited a number of years to get access to Redhead's Landing, I've waited over six months to get five yards of yellow lines painted at Laygate, with still no sign of resolution!
Despite the spin about how improved our Council is, the reality for the ordinary man in the street wanting something done is - "Don't hold your breath!"
"Nonsense" (ejection of free speech)_________________________________________________________________
There has only been one winner during this week's, otherwise, non-eventful Labour Party Conference in Brighton, the 82 year old Walter Wolfgang, a Jewish escapee from Hitler's Nazi regime.
The simple crime of crying "nonsense" during Jack Straw's speech was enough to see him manhandled and forcibly led from the auditorium, his conference pass was removed by police, and he was held by them using the powers of the Anti-terrorism Act. Has there ever been such a "nonsense" in British Politics
The television footage of former South Shields Councillor Wal Hobson, and former night club bouncer Joe Ifill almost fighting with each other to reach the 82 year old, showed amply the grotesque and disgraceful state of New Labour's Stalinist and centralist "control" mentality. This is the second such incident in recent years at Bliars big photo opportunity. In past years politicians were skilled debaters, adept at handling the odd heckler, which many a time added the missing ingredient to an otherwise banal oration. What point is there now in being part of a Labour Party that frowns upon engagement, and is unable to contemplate any views, apart from those held by it's leadership?
The stifling security controls and police presence in Brighton has been described as almost "Mosleyite" by the Guardian, whose leader warns against the expansion of New Labour's totalitarian stance in it's control of the media, and the vision it wishes to broadcast.
Quite apart from the disgusting manhandling of an 82 year old gent, a Labour Party member of many years, I find it regretfull and shameful that another longstanding party member from South Shields could be seen joining in this "nonsense". Wal Hobson is no stranger to controversy in the Labour Party, he was the first person to be suspended from the party in South Shields for daring to speak to a meeting of the Young Socialists in 1964. Describing himself as a Marxist at the time he said "We will fight these attempts to gag us". I wonder how he feels now after effectively gagging poor Walter Wolfgang?
This episode has badly backfired on Labour's attempts to control the agenda in the media, very little is known of Jack Straw's speech, it was barely reported, instead the column inches have been filled with the thoughts of an 82 year old victim of Bliar's Bootboys!
This Orwellian episode has brought shame on all politicians, the Government, the Labour Party, and the people of South Shields, and it has made an absolute nonsense of a political occasion.
BRING BACK DEMOCRACY AND FREE SPEECH!
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Arms length housing management
"Arms Length" housing management._________________________________________________________________
O.K. ...so the story in the link above is about one man's fury at the high salaried jobs being recruited for South Tyneside Council's "arms length" management company which it wishes to set up to manage it's housing stock. Let's not get too upset at that at the moment, despite the massive budget overspend, these salaries and jobs were budgeted and planned for and the policy approved, and if you want to ensure that the scheme is a flop then give the jobs to inexperienced people who are prepared to work for half the price.
On the same subject of housing management, before we decide to jump in with both feet, it's worth looking at the "efforts" being made by our neighbours in Sunderland. Here is a piece all about the failings of Sunderland Housing Group, there are some lengthy articles and it makes sharp, eye opening, thought provoking, and sometimes shocking reading - read on here.
It is worth pointing out that the owners of the Dad's Place website (in my opinion) probably have a cross to bear, a chip on the shoulder, an axe to grind, and it shines throughout the writing. However, and just as important, some one (or more than one) is/are quite prepared to keep supplying the website with valuable information. It appears that a lot of people are quite unhappy about the operations of the Sunderland Housing Group, unhappy to the extent that they are prepared to do something about it.
It is worth our Councillors taking a couple of hours to read through the piece above, we certainly don't want any of the same mistakes repeated here!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Junk food to be junked!_________________________________________________________________
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has announced at the Labour Party Conference that foods high in salt, fats, and sugars are to be banned from school meals and vending machines - read more
This move is most welcome, particularly for schools outside of this borough; I often turn up to collect Junior Curly from his primary school at 3.30 p.m. and I was recently looking at the planned menus for school meals posted on the notice board. It was far different from that of a couple of years ago, the turkey twizzlers, burgers, chicken nuggets etc. have all gone and in their place is a varied menu of freshly prepared fare including pastas and salads, vegetarian dishes, curries, and a good selection of vegetables each day. I recall, as a youngster, that frozen foods were unheard of, as were processed foodstuffs, and it's great to see these attitudes returning in South Shields schools.
Redhead's Landing - Deeds to be examined._________________________________________________________________
In an interesting little story this evening in the Shields Gazette, I learn that a Mr. Michael McRae is also campaigning for public access to Redhead's Landing, and he appears to be making some useful progress after a face to face meeting with Council Leader Paul Waggott. Cllr. Waggott has promised to investigate several issues that Mr. McRae has raised, but the most interesting part of the Gazette's report states that the deeds to the site, dating from 1930, are to be examined in the vaults of South Shields Town Hall.
For many months we have been informed that the Council is not the owner of the land, so I am a little puzzled that the deeds are held at the Town Hall (held on behalf of someone else perhaps?). It will all come out in the wash, perhaps we may also gain an insight as to why Councillors in the past decided that- when giving planning permission for the gates a condition be applied that enforces the right of the public to have access at all times through the provision of an unlocked pedestrian gate. Perhaps the deeds may help to explain this.
I am a tad upset that despite assurances from Cllr. Waggott that I would be kept informed of all developments in this saga, he appears to have forgotten to let me in on this little secret about the deeds!
I will try to get in touch with Mr. McRae, and perhaps, together, we can really help this Council come to a decision to restore public access and see this gate once again reopened.
This issue, although of minor importance to the vast majority of people, is of great importance to those who have an interest in the riverside, be it for leisure, sailing, shipping history, photography, angling or other pursuits. These are legitimate reasons to have access to the river, notwithstanding the fact that in an emergency a public landing is vital to bring an endangered person to shore.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Redhead's landing and John Simpson Kirkpatrick_________________________________________________________________
I found this interesting and well researched piece on John Simpson Kirkpatrick (the man with the donkey) and thought that I might point readers, particularly our local politicians, to the following lines about his childhood;
He played in the environs of the Gutt leading to Tyne Dock. The "Gutt" was an inlet with stone paving sloping down into the water to facilitate coal-loading. It was a scene of constant activity between people, animals, goods and the water of the Tyne.
Whilst this does not in any way suggest or prove that Redhead's Landing was a Public Right of Way (which Council Officers repeatedly state it was not) it is another piece of historical and anecdotal evidence to prove that it was a place of common public access. It still surprises me that to have Redhead's Landing added to the Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way, that I must prove that it has been subject to continued use by the public for a continuous period of twenty or more years.
For those not familiar with the riverside in South Shields, Redhead's Landing in Commercial Road has popularly been known as "the Gutt" for at least a century.
I am informed that the question of continued public access to the Landing (or further curtailment of it) will be considered by the Council's Cabinet in the very near future.
David Miliband MP_________________________________________________________________
It is interesting, and a little bit amusing to note that our MP (and Cabinet Minister) David Miliband, was recently nominated by GQ Magazine in their Men of the Year Awards. He was nominated in the politician category which was won by Michael Howard. (Would that embarass you, knowing that Michael Howard has more style?) GQ is a men's "style" magazine, of more interest to those with silly money to burn on the latest fashions, gizmos, and gadgets and is not normally the first to come to mind for political content.
What's even worse for our poor MP is the fact that in some quarters he is even seen as a celebrity - watch out for that invitation from the Richard and Judy Show David! He could be starting a new cult, in fact it must be happening already, someone wants him to supply his agent's details so we can all book personal appearances! (Click on the update Celebrity Contact Details button David.)
I hope we aren't meant to take the young lady on the front of the magazine too literally!
Store Jobs Saved!_________________________________________________________________
Following Kingfisher's announcement that it was to accelerate the closure of 22 older B&Q outlets and downsize 16 of it's giant Warehouse format stores, it has emerged that the threat to jobs at it's South Shields branch has been lifted. The company has been undergoing a period of "negative growth" in sales which has resulted in a profits slump, prompting the move to reduce it's selling space by 7%.
After consultations with it's regional staff and the affected stores, workers in South Shields were relieved to learn that their store is safe from closure. Although it is one of the company's older premisies (it was bought from Dodge City in 1981) a decision has been taken to safeguard the jobs of about 50 staff in South Shields.
The DIY retailer's position has been to close older stores where the only local DIY competitor would be one of it's own other outlets, hence the decision to close the branch in Stamfordham Road, Newcastle, where there is a B&Q Warehouse in Scotswood Road, less than a mile away. If a decision had been made to close the South Shields branch, then customers would have likely changed there allegiances to Wickes on the opposite side of the road, a situation which B&Q did not wish to contemplate.
In a year or so time this area of the town will be alive with retailing, Wickes, B&Q, Halfords, the Waterloo Square and Asda will be trading cheek by jowl, and this can only be good for the future of trade, competitive prices, and consumer choice.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Mount mangles the Tories_________________________________________________________________
I found this opinion from Ferdinand Mount in the Daily Telegraph somewhat stark and interesting.The contest for the Conservative Party leadership is becoming as much a tangled mess as that drawer in the kitchen which we all seem to have!
Unless they rediscover the radical democratic reforms and free enterprise and free trade outlooks of previous years (i.e. offer a REAL alternative to the government), then they are in serious danger of becoming increasingly unelectable.
As a former party member I am incredibly dismayed at the lack of real policy initiatives that would fire me up or inspire me, the candidates for the leadership are banal, boring, and unlikely to appeal. What used to be known as "the Church of England at prayer" looks desperately in need of divine intervention!
Northumbrian Water sorts Ullswater Gardens - at last!_________________________________________________________________
Picture and story from the Shields Gazette
A HUGE £3.5m underground water tank is to bring an end to years of flooding misery for fed-up South Tyneside families.
Plans were today revealed for a storage tank capable of holding as much water as six 2m-deep Olympic-size swimming pools.
Submerged more than 1m beneath a sports field at Brinkburn recreation ground, it will bring relief to 19 long-suffering residents in Ullswater Gardens and Mitford Road, South Shields.
This announcement will end years of misery for residents in Ullswater Gardens, who in the main are elderley and cannot afford to cope with the repeated instances of flooding. The new drainage tank will also help alleviate the problems experienced at Tyne Dock by draining the floodwater gradually from the storage tank, at present this water flows directly down to Tyne Dock where it exacerbates the problem of already full drains.
Despite my unsuccesful attempts to get Northumbrian Water to respond and communicate with this blog, I am pleased at today's announcement, I am also grateful to our MP David Miliband for approaching the Chairman of Northumbria Water on my behalf, as well as Paul Waggott and officers of the Council for their ceaseless badgering of Northumbrian Water.
In another small way I am also thankful to executives of Northumbrian Water who took the time to read this blog and understand the concerns of South Shields residents, and relate to their anguish and disgust at the apparent lack of service from our water and sewerage service supplier.
There is one other environmental issue that could be addressed with the installation of this drainage tank, that of recycling. Instead of just allowing floodwater to accumulate and drain through the tank, would it not be a better idea to recycle some of it, and make it available to the Brinkburn Allottments Association to use for irrigation? This ought to be a relatively inexpensive exercise and one which would help repair the damage to Northumbrian Water's reputation.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Revaluations put on hold_________________________________________________________________
Clock reset on revaluation 'ticking tax timebomb'
David Potts, Conservative Councillor for the Cleadon & East Boldon Ward
today welcomed the Government's announcement that it is to postpone the
planned council tax revaluation in England until after the next election,
however Coun Potts went on to criticise local Labour MPs Stephen Hepburn and
David Miliband for initially voting for the revaluation during the Third
Reading of the Local Government Act 2003.
The Government has indicated that the controversial revaluation will be
postponed until after a review of local government taxation by former Labour
councillor, Sir Michael Lyons. During the general election, Conservatives
called for the council tax revaluation to be cancelled outright in light of
the experience in Wales, where revaluation has forced council tax bills to
go through the roof.
Coun Potts explained,
"Under Mr Blair and Labour led South Tyneside Council, council taxes across
the Borough have already soared by 63% per cent - adding £479 a year to the
typical bill. But I am concerned that future hikes are on the way,
engineered by Whitehall. Behind the spin, Labour's latest announcement is
only a postponement - not a cancellation - of the revaluation, and we are
still to find out what nasty surprises their review in local taxation will
"It seems to me that our local Labour MPs are in complete disarray over the
plans. Both Stephen Hepburn and David Miliband voted for the revaluation at
the Third Reading of the Local Government Act 2003. What do they have to say
now to the people of South Tyneside?"
"Only Conservatives have provided the effective opposition to these tax
hikes - by contrast, Liberal Democrats voted in Parliament to support
Government plans for revaluation and higher council tax bands. I fear that
Labour's third-term tax hikes planned for South Tyneside are still to come,
and all they have done is reset the clock on this ticking tax timebomb."
Public says NO again to "super school"_________________________________________________________________
Please read Paul Myles Kelly's report in the Shields Gazette (link in the title above) before considering my comments.
This issue was one of the prime motivators, at the time, for my decision to publish a regular weblog as part of Curly's Corner Shop. I was so incensed and angered at the proposal to build the proposed school on Temple Memorial Park that I commenced a series of mass emails to our local councillors to voice my opinion, and in turn to influence theirs. I wrote in this blog last year, and as recently as January this year (see the archives), that a decision to build on the Chuter Ede site "would not be welcomed in some quarters", and thus, the chickens have come home to roost.
In my first series of emails to our councillors I suggested that Brinkburn ought to be considered as the best alternative, on the grounds that it was the most central, it already had school buildings on site with potential for more, it had a range of sports facilities with scope for devbelopment, and that it was preferable from a road safety perspective.
It seems that those members of the public, teaching staff, and pupils are in agreement with these principles, and whilst the Council now considers fresh attempts to consult (i.e sell another idea to) the greater part of a year will have gone past since the original proposal was announced. This cannot be good for forward planning or the development of educational establishments.
Perhaps the greatest problem underlying all this is the lack of will and leadership displayed by leading members of the Council. I have stated this before and I will repeat my comments again; Councillors are there to decide policy, elected by the public, they are accountable to their electorate - officers on the other hand are there to administer policy and to make recommendations on how to effect policy, they are accountable to the elected members.
I continue to hold the view that on many issues, officers seem to be taking the lead and recommending policy to elected members, thereby seeking a "rubber stamp" to approve their judgements. In the last year we have witnessed these scenarios when looking at the Temple Memorial Park issue, the Trow Quarry issue, and the Budget overspend. It is perhaps time that elected members started to do what they were elected for, and to do that they need to manage not just the aspirations of their electorate and party, but also those of the officers.
If the Labour Party has policies which it wishes to enact in education (or any other area), then they must ensure that officers give them proposals and recommendations that dovetail into those policies. Politicians must try to ensure that policy is not decided by public servants.
In this particular case, there will be a little difficulty in raising the necessary finance for a new school at Brinkburn or Chuter Ede, whereas the possibilities were a lot easier if the Temple Park option had been agreed upon, but this should not prevent councillors from applying their will if the people decide that Brinkburn is the best option, it just means that more difficult avenues may need to be explored to complete the project within a predefined budget!
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Great North Run
Great North Run 2005_________________________________________________________________
This is still topical (only just), so I must relate the story of this picture, particularly for the benefit of those who have arrived here via Curly's Corner Shop. It was my intention to try and be the first person to publish a picture of the mens and ladies race winners on the internet, and beat the "press johnnies" at their own game. My plan was simple, arrive early, walk across the beach, climb up the hill behind Gypsies Green Stadium, evade as many "yellow jackets" as possible, and mingle amongst those in the hospitality tent area before positioning myself behind the finish line on the leas. Everything went well in that respect, I focused the lens on the finishing line but then heard the BBC commentary announcing that the elite athletes would be finishing a few yards down the road, just passed the television gantry. Disaster! I was in the wrong place at the right time!
So all I got was a hurried shot of Zersenay Tadesse setting a new world best for the half-marathon as he destroyed a class field to win the Great North Run.
It shows that you need to do your homework and get the preparation right. I think that next year I ought to approach the Council and seek official accreditation for Curly's Corner Shop, it ought to be worth a try, bearing in mind the amount of good publicity that the main website provides to thousands of tourists each year!
The story of the winners.
Tadesse broke away from pre-race Dejene Berhanu and kept accelerating through the later stages to win in a staggering 59 minutes and five seconds.
Ethiopia's Deratu Tulu blew away her rivals to win the women's elite race from her compatriot Worknesh Kidane.
Tulu set a quick early pace and broke away from Kidane and Berhane Adere on a fast downhill section at nine miles.
She came home in 1hr 7 mins 3 secs to become the first Ethiopian woman to win the event.
Kidane was overtaken by Latvia's Jelena Prokopcuka in the last mile but fought back to take second.
Tulu said: "I thought it would be a much harder race".
"It has always been my ambition to win this event. I have tried two or three times before but on this occasion I knew I was coming into the race injury-free."
Tadesse's winning time was a second quicker than Paul Tergat's previous world half-marathon best.
But it will not count as a world record because the course loses too much elevation over its 13.1 miles.
Tadesse said: "I didn't know I had broken the record. I didn't expect to do it."
John Mayock was the first Briton home, in sixth - taking over a minute off his personal best and beating rival Jon Brown by two places.
Mayock said: "I am really pleased. I didn't expect to be two places in front of Jon. I can't remember the last time I beat him."
Britain's Mara Yamauchi ran an excellent race to finish sixth in the women's race, beating one of the pre-race favourites Catherine Ndereba.
A snatched shot of one of the leading women, and some of the post race entertainment - click thumbnails to enlarge.
Great North Run deaths tragedy.
It is always likely that there will be at least one fatality in each year's race, the law of averages almost dictates this, with 50,000 runners the chances are that one would suffer a natural death at some stage during the day in any case. However there were more than the average number of fatalities this year, the heat and humidity may have played their part, and the fitness levels of some of the runners may be questioned, but there has been an increased level of criticism of the organisers, Nova International, and the facilities that they had in place for medical assistance. My own observations suggested that these facilities looked ample and well organised. My feelings and sympathy go out to the families of the four deceased, some of whom were trying hard to earn money for their favoured charities.
The Red Arrows
For the second year, the RAF flying team, The Red Arrows provided a flypast for the start of the race, and a superb show at the finishing line, with 50,000 people attempting to get out of South Shields, this amazing detraction helps slow down the crowds and prevents buid ups and bottle necks in the queues for buses and metros.
Click the thumbnails to enlarge.
All in all, another wonderful day for the public to enjoy in South Shields, and unlike some on Curly's Corner Shop Message Board, I have no criticisms of our Councillors being afforded a good view at the finishing line. The benefits and advantages of such events, far outweigh these trifling complaints.
I would like to apologise to regular readers of this blog for the lack of posts over recent days, this has been a very frustrating time for Curly, tearing his hair out when his pc loses power after about five minutes of switch on.
Imagine losing your sight all of a sudden, then your hearing as well, does it feel as though you have lost touch with the whole of the outside world?
That's what it felt like without the use of my pc!
The problem is now solved, a new AGP Graphics Card is installed and I am back to normal cheerfulness.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Council tax revaluation
"Ticking time bomb" defused._________________________________________________________________
The wholesale revaluation of properties in England, which had been called a "ticking time bomb" for Council Tax payers has been called off by the government.
The official reason is that the revaluation exercise is being postponed until after the Government has considered the outcome of a review by Sir Michael Lyons into local government finance, which is expected this year.
This amply displays the "desparate mess" of the Council Tax system, which surely must be changed to provide a more fairer method of paying for our services, one based upon ability to pay, or service usage, rather than property value.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Pavement art Bents Park
Picture perfect paving!_________________________________________________________________
Amongst the plethora of news about South Shields today (including the 1.6m. payout to Dr. Feyi Awotona, and Andrew Spence's decision to retire from the business of protesting) it seems along the way someone missed this!
The pavement fronting the Bents Park has been painted, like a seaside postcard!
I'm not sure how it has been financed or by whom, perhaps a grant of one form or another was available to implement the project, at least I hope so! However, it has certainly got the tongues wagging on the South-Shields Sanddancers Message Board, there are even some Aussies chipping in! This is the sort of project, which, if financed through the Community Charge, would cause a lot of upset and provoke accusations of "a frivolous waste of money", which is why I suspect that it has been financed through external sources.
It will get seen by thousands of visitors to the town this weekend as competitors for Sunday's Great North Run start to arrive, indeed many of them will be camping in the Bents Park, I wonder, if like me, they will see this as a depiction of sea, sand, and land in a light sunny disposition. I have to be honest, hold my hands up, and say that I rather like this. As a visual improvement to the sea front it works, it is probably inexpensive, and importantly it will be durable. Nice idea guys!
Now how about planting some palm trees? (I have seen some very hardy varieties of cordylines/dracaenas flourishing in South Shields, they could really add to our tropical theme at the seafront.)
Click thumbnail to enlarge.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Job losses and store closures at B&Q_________________________________________________________________
Britain's largest DIY retailer, B&Q, announced today that it is to close 22 stores which are "well served" by other B&Q outlets, and it is to downsize 16 of it's huge Warehouse format stores. These giants will become smaller "mini-warehouse" stores with the vacant space being franchised or let to other retailers.
The B&Q store in Station Road, South Shields is categorized as a smaller "supercentre" and it is surrounded by three of the large "Warehouse" format stores in North Shields, Washington, and Sunderland. It is not known if the South Shields store is under threat of closure.
Retailers in general are undergoing particularly tough times this year with a decline in like for like sales being reported by many High Street operators, the future opening of the new Asda supermarket on the Coronation Street site will be a boost in this area of the town, which will likely help B&Q and Wickes increase their "footfall".
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
It isn't the title of a new film, it's the number of fuel protestors spotted at the oil refinery at Jarrow today.
4 the number of times they were outnumbered by journalists.
4 add a nought to the end to find the number of media personnel present.
4 add another 4 to the end of it to represent the police presence.
Was it worth it? Do we blame the protestors or each other for the panic buying mayhem of yesterday?
We hope that some lessons have been learned.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Blogging all over the world!_________________________________________________________________
Don't quite understand why, but the Corner Shop has been particularly busy with visitors today. Hello and many thanks to those of you from these countries who visited today!
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