Monday, March 28, 2005
Labour Councillors vote for another rise in allowances!_________________________________________________________________
Despite the outcries over allowances at the recent budget setting meeting, and the 4.9% rise in our Council Tax, our Labour rulers have decided to vote for another increase in Councillors allowances, knowing full well the amount of public opposition to their "wages".
The Shields Gazette reports Cllr. Ron Reynolds as saying "We are not into gesture politics any more, we are about making real changes to peoples' lives."
Sorry Cllr. this distinctly looks like a "two fingered" gesture to me!
The opposition motion proposed by Cllr. Jane Branley called for a four year freeze in the current allowances.
Full story - click here
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Council declares Trow Quarry safe - (yeah, sure it is!)_________________________________________________________________
Forgive me for being a bit sceptical, but it comes as neither a surprise or a shock that the Council has declared the Trow Quarry infill site to be safe. Following the disclosure in the Shields Gazette in December of last year, that the Council's independent health and safety assessors, High-Point Rendell, had discovered a cocktail of toxins just inches below the surface of the site, an exercise in news management has been put into place, of a scale comparable to Alastair Campbell's best efforts.
The Council's own internal audit report on the matter used the word "mitigate" at least seven times as it set out measures to improve upon the failures and inactivity of officers and departments. The audit itself was an exercise in laundering to mitigate the damage to the Council, it's officers, and it's policies and procedures' as well as reputation. If only they could have behaved like Gateshead, Peter Collins might well have still been employed by the National Trust.
The setting up of the Scrutiny Commission was the "coup de grace" as it could claim to have been inclusive of all interested party's views. I, for one, contributed, the Friends of the Earth withdrew because the Borough Council could not provide them with "timely" information to help them make their case. An "expert" witness was found who could claim the site was safe before High-Point Rendell has concluded their second detailed investigation! (It's a little odd that the Council should pay High-Point Rendell to produce three reports and at the same time find a witness to argue against the findings for the benefit of the exercise.)
Having been heavily leant upon once to water down the contents of their draft report - the final report's wording was a bit sheepish and more appealing - we should not now expect High-Point Rendell to confirm their findings with any strength. The original draft report clearly indicated that the greatest risks would be apparent in the medium to longer term, comments which are still true, but some of the comments about immediate high risks have been hidden by the fog of the enquiry. It's amazing that this declaration of safety can be made before the results of the latest scientific investigations are known, but site remediation must now be the primary aim, to preserve a level of safety for future generations.
Can I ask if it is now safe to remove the signs advising us not to pick up strange objects, or disturb the land?
Trow Quarry may seem safe for now, but the corridors of power in the Town Hall can only be described as a disaster area!
I would urge all readers of this blog to actively voice their displeasure and disgust at South Tyneside Council's "news management" and "laundering", as well as it's apparent non concern for the safety of the public at Trow Quarry by taking the time to write a letter to
Chapter Row ,
Tyne and Wear NE33 1BL
or use the email form in this link
Full report in South Tyneside Today please follow the in-site links
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Contaminated land - a more responsible reaction_________________________________________________________________
I'm quite pleased by the response shown by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council to the discovery of contaminants found in soil at Saltmeadows and Keelman's Way footpath alongside the River Tyne, showing a far more responsible approach to the problem than that displayed by South Tyneside Council and the National Trust after the discovery of carcinogens and other toxins at Trow Quarry.
Whilst researching for possible dioxins deposited by the former Byker incinerator on the North bank of the Tyne, Newcastle University researchers found a completely different set of dioxins.
Gateshead Council immediately decided to close off the affected areas to the public and issue strong advice to stay away from the area until more detailed investigations have taken place. People have been warned to stay off the site and not to use any footpaths that cross it, they have also been warned not to fish from the riverbanks or to touch the soil or mud at these locations. The Council has closed the site for at least three months and temporarily diverted the Keelman's Way footpath away from the area.
What a difference in attitude towards public safety compared to that displayed by the National Trust and our Council. A full sixteen months after the discovery of methane, carbon monoxide, mercury, lead, benzo (a) pyrates (carcinogens that cause cancers), brown, blue, and white asbestos and other toxins, all paths are still open, the site can be traversed by adults and children alike, and access to the most exposed parts of the former landfill site is still free and easy. This, despite an assurance from the National Trust in early February that a new fence would be erected to prevent access to the seaward exposed face of the site.
Why is it that one Tyneside Council can take a responsible attitude to public safety, yet the people of South Tyneside, and our visitors, have to continually be exposed to, as yet, unknown long term risks?
Surely it is time now for the Council and the National Trust to put it's house in order and close the most at risk areas until remediation work has started. It is time, finally, to put the health and safety of the public first, and the reputation of the relevant authorities last!
Gateshead Council's press statement - click here
Story as reported in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle - click here
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The Turd Way
Who's a right Charlie then?_________________________________________________________________
The South Tyneside Liberal Democrat Councillors, that's who!
Their party has just published it's ten point manifesto for the election, in it they propose the "scrapping council tax and replacing it with local income tax saving a typical family £450 per year"
Get that Councillors, your party would like to save us money! Yet you voted to increase our Council Tax, adding to my financial misery!
You have to laugh, if we had a local income tax here, we would probably experience a mass migration to Northumberland!
If you would like to laugh some more, Charles Kennedy went on to say "Our policies would make Britain better, fairer, safer. What they demonstrate is that the Liberal Democrats are the real alternative to Labour and the Conservatives. Increasingly, I believe it's an alternative that people really want."
Did you hear that Councillors, your Leader wants you to be a real alternative, not Labour's stooge!!
As my mate from Dublin said to me the other day - "Lib-Dem, isn't dat de turd way?"
Liberal Democrats ten proposals - click here
Monday, March 21, 2005
Town Hall Art
I'm in danger of almost forgetting a point that I wished to make over the weekend.
In the name of "art" a troupe of ballet dancers from our twin towns in France performed a most unusual repertoire at the Town Hall on Friday. Fetchingly dressed in red lycra oufits they performed to music whilst swaying to and fro on ropes suspended from the roof of the building, an eclectic mix of abseiling, dancing, and bungee jumping!
I have no interest in criticisng the artistic merits of the venture, (it was a bit like "Spiderman the Movie"), however, one does wonder, if they were dressed as Batman and Robin protesting against the Child Support Agency, they would likely have been arrested and charged with criminal damage!
Just goes to show, it makes you wonder!
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Blair to face anti-war opponent
In the forthcoming General Election, The father of a Royal Military Policeman from north Wales who died in Iraq is to stand against Prime Minister Tony Blair in the general election.
Reg Keys had previously said he would contest Defence Minister Geoff Hoon's seat, but has decided to switch his attack to Mr Blair's Sedgefield base.
Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, 20, was one of six Red Caps killed on 24 June 2003 by a mob of more than 400 Iraqis.
Mr Keys announced the change after an anti-war march in London on Saturday.
Speaking about the change of target, 52-year-old Mr Keys, from Llanuwchllyn near Bala, said it was to continue the fight for "justice" for his son and the other dead men.
He said: "This isn't a publicity stunt, it's a serious, full-blown political campaign to take the fight to Tony Blair's doorstep.
"There will be crackpots standing as independents but I shouldn't be confused with them. I want to make him accountable for his actions in taking us to war.
"I will be travelling to Sedgefield on Monday and, unlike Tony Blair, I shall not be a candidate who only visits the constituency once in a blue moon.
"I will be touching base with constituents to find out what they think I can do for them.
"I have got to be confident about this. My full intention is to remove Tony Blair from his seat in Sedgefield and I have to believe I can do that.
"It will be a David and Goliath fight, but Goliath was a Philistine and I think that word sums up my opponent."
Reg Keys, 52, called on the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats not to field candidates in Mr Blair’s Sedgefield constituency so that he had a clear run.
He also asked ex-MI5 officer David Shayler, who has announced he will stand in Sedgefield, to withdraw.
I always find it fascinating to see the array of independant candidates who decide to stand for Parliament and choose the Prime Minister's constituency to air their grievances. The natural result of course is that the more people who stand, split the votes amongst themselves even further, so that any real intentions of embarassing the Prime Minister become further watered down. Lots of deposits end up being thrown away in an honourable but futile attempt to gain further publicity for their grievances.
Reg Key's story as the Scotsman reports it.
The weekend sport
Another win for Sunderland saw them taking the top spot in the Championship, two points ahead of Wigan. It was not an easy game against Coventry City who provided stern opposition to a very flat footed Sunderland in the first half. Tactical substitutuions in the second half with the introductions of Sean Thornton, Chris Brown, and the superb Andy Welsh firmly changed the pattern of the game. Within minutes Chris Brown saw his first shot rebound off the post, a few seconds later another effort from Wright shaved the woodwork. Good interplay between Welsh, Thornton, Robinson and finally Chris Brown saw the young striker hit the back of the net from about twenty yards out.
The 29,400 crowd raised it's voice in a crescendo that sounded like 100,000 at the old Wembley, bringing back fading memories of the Roker Roar.
"We're on our way!"
Finally, in the first leg of the F.A. Vase semi-final, Didcott gained a 1-0 advantage over Jarrow Roofing, so all is not lost for this local team. Let's wish them well for the second leg next Saturday. Kick off is at 3.00 p.m. at the Boldon Colliery C.A. ground, behind the Shack.
It would be so good for this Borough to be sending two of it's teams to London to play in a national final this year.
Remeber, Westoe RFC will be playing in the final of the Powergen Intermediate Cup against Morley at Twickenham in April.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Private Johnson Beharry and Corporal Mark Byles_________________________________________________________________
I was delighted to read today of the public recognition for these two young men doing a dirty and dangerous job in Iraq. Their professionalism under extreme pressure is a credit to themselves and their units, the 1st. and 2nd. Btn The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (which has now become the most decorated regiment in the British Army.)
The Times Online carries a report on Private Johson Beharry and his citation, he may not be able to return to service following the injuries he suffered on two separate occasions when he saved 30c of his colleagues.
The Shropshire Star carries the story of Corporal Mark Byles who led his men and took out a trench of enemies when outnumbered three to one!
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Budget, Liberal Democrats, and other folk._________________________________________________________________
Where shall I start today?
The phoney budget, that's where! You could be forgiven for thinking that a General Election is only a matter of weeks away, Gordon Brown's budget hasn't exactly set tongues wagging around here, there doesn't appear to be anyone remotely excited by his "give aways".
The £200 Community Charge refund for pensioners will be welcomed by many, however, seeing as pensioners over 70 get a huge discount and often pay a lot less than £200 per annum, they won't feel the full benefit. It will also need to be pointed out to them that this is a "one off" refund and won't be repeated next year. The introduction of free bus travel for pensioners is nothing other than an election sweetener, and if the Conservative Party were to win the election they would find it difficult to remove this benefit.
The biggest laugh is the raising of the stamp duty threshold to £125,000, this will only be of immediate benefit to a few (likely to be those buying with the intention of renting out, i.e. the investment market.) The Finance Bill normally takes some weeks to pass through Parliament, and then there is the election to contend with, it's quite usual to experience a "bull market" following a General Election, so it's probable that property prices, particularly in the South will soon rise above the new threshold. This means that by the summer of this year new buyers will still be subjected to about £1000 stamp duty. Wow, thanks Gordon!
Freezing the duty on petrol was also another con, Mr. Brown already knew that the Exchequer would harvest massive increases in revenue on the back of the rising oil price, indeed, we know today that the price at the pumps is about to rise again.
I cannot fathom why successive Chancellors insist on annual rises in excise duties on tobacco and alcohol. It only serves to produce a reducing tax revenue and a growing black market in pirated wines, beers, spirits, and counterfeit cigarettes to add to the problems faced by the National Health Service. When will they learn that the only way to beat the smugglers is to take their market away, i.e. reduce the taxation levels on these products to bring them in line with the near continent!
Despite all of the recent reductions in Defence budgets, Mr. Brown has had his hand forced to provide an extra £400m to maintain operations in Iraq.
So, for my money, (and according to a budget calculator that I used on the BBC website this morning I'm 14p. per week worse off) this is hardly an election winning budget.
If the Tories can convince people that they can maintain services, reduce waste and cut expenditure, and still reduce direct taxation, then, as Michael Howard said "Bring it on!"
Liberal Democrats in South Tyneside
I've been critical of the Liberal Democrat Councillors in South Tyneside for repeatedly supporting Labour policies in votes at the Council. I've called for them to disband and stand under the banner of New Labour after they helped the socialists increase our Community Charge by 4.9%.
I seem to have hit a nerve, one such Councillor wrote to the Gazette stating that they valued their independance (some independance when you are tied by Labour's apron strings!) Today, a socialist correspondent in the Gazette came rushing to the defence of the Lib-Dems accusing me of "childishly" "ranting". A swift riposte has been posted!
It is wrong that a party which proclaims itself to be the "third way" in British politics should align itself so closely to the ruling group. People who are elected as an alternative to Labour in this Borough should provide exactly that, an alternative. You were not elected to join the Labour group, your constituents elected you as an alternative to Labour, whether as a tactical vote to keep someone out, or as a protest vote aginst Labour.
Whatever, it is your duty and responsibility to provide the opposition that your mandate gave you.
By the way, have you Liberal Democrats, with such "green" credentials, got anything to sat about Trow Quarry. If so, we haven't heard a peep yet!
BBC Budget Calculator - click here
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Jim Perry forbids questions_________________________________________________________________
Cllr. Jim Perry, Chairman of the Council's Scritiny Commission into the Trow Quarry debacle has firmly rebutted questions from opposition Cllr. David Potts.
Cllr. Potts, it is reported, intended to ask the National Trust questions about it's handling of Peter Collins (their former warden of the Leas) and his loss of employment and home. However, he was not allowed to pose his questions as Cllr. Perry firmly refused him permission on the grounds that there may be an Industrial Tribunal into Peter Collins' dismissal.
Cllr. Potts wished only to know why the National Trust was hiding behind it's own press and publicity protocols in not wishing to discuss matters that were very high in the public interest.
The longer this saga continues, the more convinced I become that the Scrutiny Commission will announce that Trow Quarry is perfectly safe for the public to use - and yes, I am prejudging! I am allowed an opinion!
The "finalising" of the High-Point Rendell report, the subsequent internal Council audit, and the appointment of a Scrutiny Commission, have all been an elaborate exercise in damage limitation; and I'm not talking about damage to the coast and it's environment, I'm talking about damage to reputations!!
Read the Gazette story about Cllr. Potts - click here
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth withdraw from Scrutiny Commission_________________________________________________________________
Reported in the Gazette
Environmental group Friends of the Earth has dropped out of the Trow Quarry Scrutiny Commission amid allegations that vital letters to South Tyneside Council have gone unanswered. Even though yesterday's meeting heard that past problems of delayed communication on the part of the authority have been sorted out, the group claims letters sent as recently as January have been largely ignored. As a result the group has turned down an invitation to attend the meeting today. But the council has hit back, claiming it has answered letters as quickly as possible and within the law. Bryan Atkinson from the South Tyneside branch of Friends of the Earth said: "The council has failed to provide the information that we requested and that they are bound to provide us through the Environmental Information Regulations, which became law at the beginning of January. "It really is a bit of a farce that this information, which includes the consultations carried out between the Environment Agency, South Tyneside Council and the National Trust, has not been forwarded. "They have invited us to act as expert witnesses, but how can we be expected to do that if we do not have the relevant information to hand? "Under the circumstances we have refused to take part in this process." But a spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: "We believe we have fully complied with the law, and responded as quickly as we could to the requests. "All the material requested under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 was supplied by the council on March 2. "The regulations require the council to respond within 20 working days, but allows authorities to extend that period to 40 days. "Assurance was also given that information had not been destroyed or put beyond anybody's reach. "The council is disappointed with Friends of the Earth's decision to withdraw from the scrutiny commission."
Why should the Council decide to extend it's period of reply to 40 days?
To ensure that Friends of the Earth did not have timely information to use at the Scrutiny Commission?
Does anyone else tend to think that the findings of the Scrutiny Commission will be a forgone conclusion?
All is well, nothing to worry about?
No National Trust warden to get in the way of the "facts"?
No Friends of the Earth to dig up further trouble?
An "expert witness" to denigrate the findings of High-Point Rendell?
News management on a scale to match Alastair Campbell.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Trow Quarry Scrutiny Commission_________________________________________________________________
It comes as no surprise that South Tyneside Council's Scrutiny Commission has found an "expert witness" in the shape of Professor Paul Younger, who happily asserts that he would take his family to Trow Quarry for a day out. "I'd be more worried about the dog dirt that gets into the grass", said Proffessor Younger.
Of course he has the benefit of many years of higher education, and would therefore be a good judge as to what was, or what was not, safe for his children to pick up (or ingest). He also looks a relatively tall man, certainly over two meteres, so would be unlikely to walk into a heavy cloud of methane sitting at 1.00 metre high, yes he is rather taller than the average toddler.
At his age he is unlikely to be spending his hours digging with a bucket and spade on this secluded beach (or on the asbestos spoiled Sandhaven beach), neither does he look the sort who might be digging for bottles, or an enthusiast of metal detecting.)
Judged by his comments on dog dirt, I would hazard a guess that he may not be a dog owner either.
In short Professor Younger does not fit the profile of the "critical receptors" defined in High-Point Rendell's original draft report and restated in the "finalised" report. He is not amongst that group (particularly younger children) who are described as being at greatest risk. So his comments, as publicly reported in the Shields Gazette should be read with a little caution.
The more worrying aspect is the fact that South Tyneside Council should introduce a so called "expert witness" at this stage. It seems to me that having paid High-Point Rendell to conduct the initial investigation as an independant consultant, then paid them again for a further detailed investigation, the Council appears to be doing everything in it's power to damn their findings. Fourteen months were spent negotiating with High-Point Rendell in order to produce a finalised report with a more "comfortable" set of words which the Council could accept, and now they wish to "rubbish" the finalised report with the findings of Professor Younger.
I made an earlier post which illustrated that these practises would never be allowed in the private sector. An independant report, which had been commissioned and paid for, who be acted upon immediately. The recommendations would have been carried out, otherwise heads might roll! In the private sector there would be no negotiations with the independant assessors to water down the contents of their report - they would remain completely independant.
Professor Younger's Comments in the Shields Gazette - click here
BBC News Report -click here
Tyne Tees Television report - click here
Anti Terror Laws
Tebbitt speaks out_________________________________________________________________
Lord Tebbitt the former Conservative Party Chairman has attacked Tony Blair over the handling of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Tebbitt (the "Chingford Skinhead") and his wife almost lost their lives when the IRA bombed the Brighton hotel used by the Tory Party as their base for their conference. He points out that the IRA has killed more British citizens than Al Quaida killed Americans on 09/11 yet Tony Blair is quite prepared to release them all from prison.
BBC article - click here
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Last week I was challenged by a reader of an American message board (from Western Australia) to produce some pictures of South Shields taken from the North bank of the River Tyne. This morning I left the house at 07.30 and arrived in North Shields at 07.50, just a little too late to catch that "magic light" that appears 30 minutes before dawn or 30 minutes after sunset. However I took about a hundred shots from locations such as Tynemouth Haven, North Shields Fish Quay, and the old Smith's Docks site, and I've published one of them in the post above. Despite missing the good light, I'm quite pleased with the shot, the tide was very low and one could climb down from the North Pier and shoot from within the field of the Black Middens below the Spanish Battery.
I still have over 50% of the shots to "post process" in Photoshop, so perhaps when I'm finished, I might publish another one in this blog.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Tony Blah, in his haste to get the Prevention of Terrorism Bill through Parliament announced in the Commons that it was necessary to pass this legislation without watering it down on "the strongest advice of the Security Services and the police". Another example of the arrogant spin imparted by the Prime Minister.
According to Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, no such advice has been offered to no. 10. Is it right that the Prime Minister should mislead the Commons in this manner? This is the same man who took us into a war in Iraq based upon a spurious Security Service document which claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed within 45 minutes notice - remember that?
800 years, or more, of the right to habeous corpus is at stake here, a British Citizen's right to know the charges or allegations made against him, a right to know the case (the body of evidence) that his prosecutors wish to use against him. We cannot allow the current situation where people have been locked away for three years without charge to continue. European Laws preclude such action.
This is a poor Bill, which is over draconian in it's intent, and the Government ought not to be steamrollering it through Parliament in such a dashing hurry.
As I post it has become apparent that the Prime Minister has authorised a huge concession on behalf of the Government by agreeing to allow a "sunset clause" in all but name, by proposing to revisit and/or revise the legislation in 12 months time.
The present batch of terror suspects held at Bellmarsh Prison have been released today on bail with strict conditions. Amongst the eight is Abu Quattada (known to Sun readers as "hook".)
Story in the Los Angeles Times - click here
Article in the Daily Telegraph - click here
Thursday, March 10, 2005
South Tyneside Borough Council's Scrutiny Committee for Trow Quarry was this morning visiting the site to make an inspection whilst contractors for High-Point Rendell carry on their detailed investigations.
I only hope that the weather was favourable and that our Councillors got a good whiff of methane as they meandered the site. Methane does not have a pleasant smell. I also hope that they were able to get on to the beach at Graham Sands to witness how much waste material is openly exposed on the seaward facing wall of the "made ground". I hope they appreciate how easy it is for the public to access this beach and how simple it would be for children to pick up and play with any items deposited on the beach from the former landfill waste.
They will continue their investigations tomorrow.
If any reader has details of the Councillors findings or opinions today please let me know! E-mail me at this address: email@example.com
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Blair in bother!_________________________________________________________________
The Blair government has suffered another torrid night in attempts to get it's new anti-terror legislation through the House of Lords, their Lordships have just about rewritten Charles Clark's Bill and made a firm stand in favour of retaining "habeous corpus", and protecting the civil rights of all of us.
This legislation is pooorly thought out, and poorly written, it was drafted in haste because the current legislation expires at the end of this week. Parliament needs to decide whether to extend the current legislation by a further nine months (despite it contravening the European Convention on Human Rights) or to accept the new legislation with an inbuilt "sunset clause".
These are the only real choices available if we would like to see parliament thoroughly examine, consider, and debate new anti-terror laws which manage to protect our centuries old rights and liberties.
If we are accused of a crime we expect our accusers to present a case outlining the alleged breach of law. We can further expect to be able to defend ourselves in a court of law. If we are "suspected" of planning a crime, then surely the current laws against conspiracy ought to be strong enough to gain a conviction.
If the "evidence" of those who "suspect" is that presented by the Security Services, then there is a grave risk that people will be subjected to "control orders" quite wrongfully. It is only a short step to take before political dissidents, environmental campaigners, animal rights activists etc., find themselves "suspected" of planning a crime and subjected to Clark's "control orders".
Daily Telegraph article - click here
BBC News - click here
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Interesting blog article in the Daily Telegraph today_________________________________________________________________
I was captured by Vicki Woods' article "Notebook" in the Telegraph today extolling the virtues of the political blogosphere. She emphasised the way in which the American right tapped into this resource to help defeat the Democrats at the election.
Wonderfull introduction to the article describing how a Google search for f***wit returns John Prescott at the top of the list, Oh how much IDS must have laughed!
Telegraph blog article - click here
Monday, March 07, 2005
Westoe v Staines_________________________________________________________________
I am very gratefull to the lads at Westoe RFC for granting permission to publish some of Phil Haswell's photos of the match against Staines last Saturday, thanks for your cooperation guys, hope you bring the cup home to Shields!
Congratulations to Westoe RFC_________________________________________________________________
Hearty congratulations to Westoe R.F.C. who defeated Staines on Saturday to earn a well deserved place in the Final of the Powergen Intermediate Cup at Twickenham on April 16th against Morley. An all North final at HQ in front of a full house for a full day of rugger, ending with the Powergen Cup Final.
Richard Arnold has done a great job in motivating the injury and work depleted squad along with Jeb Shabbilla, and now the struggle will be on to get tickets.
If anyone has pictures of the semi final, I'd love to be able to publish them on one of my websites, if you can help out please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Final score Staines 13 : 18 Westoe
Read the Shields Gazette game report here
Staines RFC website
Westoe RFC website
Sunday, March 06, 2005
The National Trust_________________________________________________________________
Today the Shields Gazette reports that Peter Collins, the National Trust warden for the Leas, South Shields has been suspended from his post for three months and informed that he will be no longer required following his suspension - sacked!
His misdemeanor, "apparently", was answering questions from the press after the contents of High-Point Rendell's draft report about the pollution in Trow Quarry were reported in the Shields Gazette back in December of last year. If the National Trust has it's way, (something which he intends to resist), then perhaps the end result will be seen as inevitable; however, the National Trust must not view itself as being blameless and devoid of responsibility to the public on this issue.
As the owners of the land they ought to have been open and honest with the visiting public as soon as they were aware of the contents of High-Point Rendell's draft report. Even now, since the report is in the public domain, they have singularly failed to protect the safety of site visitors in as much as they have failed to act on their commitment to erect safety fences to prevent access to the most vulnerable area of the site, the seaward facing edge of the former landfill area.
Peter Collins spoke to the press to raise public awareness of the environmental problems at Trow Quarry, his personal priority was to warn of the dangers of the toxicity of materials being exposed to the general environment. He has now lost his job and his home (it was a "tied cottage") for the crime of speaking out about something that was clearly in the public interest, an interest, which it seems, his employers were doing their best to ignore.
Let us not forget the Shields Gazette's interest in this story, it made fullsome headlines for them and they made a lot of mileage out of it, it is still a major story three months along the line.
Perhaps the editor has a few contacts throughout the North-East who he could talk to in an effort to help find a new job for Peter Collins, he owes him that - at the very least!
Friday, March 04, 2005
Shields Gazette Story_________________________________________________________________
As a rider to the previous posts about Trow Quarry, I offer this article in the Shields Gazette where Amanda Skelton clearly states that security fences and warning signs will be in place whilst High-Point Rendell carry out their investigations. Additionally, way back on December 17th. the Council issued a press statement following the public forum in the Town Hall to view the High-Point Rendell draft report, and in that statement Amanda Skelton said "I want to reassure them that the Council's role is to protect the public and work with our partners to formulate a medium to long term strategy for the coast."
How can we be protected without a fence Amanda?
The photographs on this page clearly show that this has not happened, and I am reliably informed that members of the public have been approaching the contractors and discussing their work with them!
Read the Gazette article here.
The Council Press Statement of 17th. December 2004
In a new twist tonight's edition of the Gazette carried a story on it's front page about the discovery of another landfill site of old. This time it's slap bang on the beach! The dunes on what we call Sandhaven beach were once a landfill site, this "made-up" land consists of building/demolition debris, and asbestos has been found on the beach after high winds and tides. the site was used for landfill in the 1940's.
Our ancestors were certainly not mindfull of future generations when they buried waste material all over the town. the important thing to do now - rather than excitedly apportion blame - is to make these areas safe and clean them up as fast as possible. It now becomes our responsibility to ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty of our coastline in as much an environment of safety as we can possibly be certain of.
I've had an email from George Wilson of Hebburn along with some photos (thanks very much George, much appreciated) asking me "what's going on down at Trow Rocks?"
The answer is further environmental investigations George. The men in your pictures are from the independent consultants High-Point Rendell, and they are performing further tests in new bore holes. I guess that is a drilling rig that they are working with. They intend to investigate further the risks and dangers posed by the toxic waste buried beneath your feet as well as to measure the migration of methane gas (you mentioned a particular strong odour as you walked past.)
I also note from your pictures that it appears that the National Trust has still not got around to erecting a new safety fence along the seaward edge of the former infill site.
Come on guys, stop dragging your feet!
Thursday, March 03, 2005
I've always been fascinated by our regional heritage and by the development of regional accents within the U.K. and the British Library have compiled a collection of audio clips. These are from a survey of English dialects and accents and the Millennium Memory Bank Document. You can play the clips in your media player, I really liked the lady from Backworth in Northumberland describing the old colliery house that she uded to live in, it was very reminiscent of my childhood in a terraced house in John Williamson Street.
Baking bread in Welwick, Yorkshire was also a great audio clip. There are loads to choose from, and as well as hearing the dialect, you also gain from a little social history.
Click here for the British library downloads
My apologies for being behind with my posts again. It's almost 01.00 Thursday and I've been awake three hours after solidly sleeping from 13.00 till 22.00 yesterday. This has probably been the best sleep I've had in months.
I had a bout of illness last week and should have recognised what my body was telling me, instead of taking the time off work and seeing my GP, I decided to soldier on - the old protestant work ethic. Wrong decision - I should have seen what was coming around the corner.
I ended up with what feels like a good dose of influenza (not a heavy head cold), high temperatures, shivers, aching legs, neck, and back, massive chest congestion and a hacking dry cough. Since Sunday evening I think I had an average of two hours good sleep each night! Now I've been banished to the sitting room couch, so the rest of the family can get some rest.
I went to work as usual at 06.00 yesterday but by 08.00 my voice had been obliterated and I had become a total unproductive waste. It was time to go home and learn how to recover! So a trip to the GP tomorrow is a must - even without an appointment!
So why did I carry on working when I was obviously ill?
A sense of duty and responsibility?
Not wishing others to carry an extra burdon because I would be missing?
A fear that I might breach new absence trigger points?
A feeling that nobody else might be able to carry out my tasks?
I'm the only one there to let the staff in so early in the day?
I guess there is some truth in all of them, but there has to come a time to admit to yourself that I was wrong, my actions have damaged my own health just a little further, and risked passing on this infection to others. It is now my responsibility and duty to get myself fit and healthy so I can return as a fully productive member of the team!
The guys from High-Point Rendell have returned to start making further investigations into the toxic material buried there, and to measure methane gas migrations. I will be very interested in their next risk assesment, and hope that they do not allow themselves to speak the rhetoric of the Borough Council.
Just speak as you find guys!
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Anti Terror Laws
Anti Terrorism Bill_________________________________________________________________
The Labour government is getting itself into a bit of a pickle with it's new anti-terrorism legislation, at one point during last night's debates it's majority was down to 14 votes. Charles Clark has made a major concesion by agreeing that the Home Secretary should apply to a judge in the High Court for the granting of "control orders", thus agreeing that some of the power of the politicians will be ceeded to the judiciary. It's a step in the right direction.
However, the bill is likely to be substantially rewritten during during it's passage through the House of Lords, and the Conservatives have already given notice of their intention to add an amendment limiting the life of the eventual Act to November 2005. This means the legislation will die then, and whichever party is in government after the election will need to draft new legislation.
This is a very astute move, the Tories are seen to be "on message" by not voting against the bill, and it allows a new administration plenty of time to draft a more sensible Bill.
Born in 1956
Former Borough Councillor
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