Monday, January 30, 2006
Heart shock for Curly
The Big Thank You!
May I take this opportunity of thanking Trigger17 for kindly informing the blogosphere of my recent absence, and also say a big thank you to the 102 bloggers who took the time to email me expressing their concerns and support. Your prayers and thoughts are most welcome and comforting. May I also say a big thank you to my workmates and colleagues in the Corner Shop for their support and best wishes.
This has been a most memorable Christmas period in the Curly household, but not for the best of reasons; some of us were not looking forward to our first Christmas without a very important member of the family in our midst, yet circumstances prevented too much sentimentality on Christmas Day which was the normal bustle of frenetic activity transporting children and sacks of Santa's presents from house to house as we did the family rounds. It was the normal helter skelter of activity and included some quality time with my father before we were ready to crash out at home, long before midnight!
Boxing Day started with the confused indecisiveness of whether or not to run up to Sunderland early in the day to get tickets for the home match against Leeds United, I had a strange unworldly feeling, rather like being detached from reality, it's difficult to put one's finger on it, but I did not "feel right". Eventually I decided not to go to the match (I must have known we were likely to win, but ugly) and thought instead of taking a walk into the town centre to see which shops were open, perhaps in the hope of finding an early January sale bargain.
I had a light lunch and was just installing the software that came with the new graphics tablet when it happened, it came with a slight light headedness and a quick rise in temperature along with a massive feeling of tight compression on the upper chest, arms, and neck which led to breathlessness and sweating. Years of professional first-aid training told me straight away that I was suffering a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and that a 999 telephone call was required. Whilst Mrs. Curly summoned help the children both wanted to climb up on my knee, and couldn't understand my protestations as I pushed them away and sought to settle on the settee. It was hard to exclude them in such a brutal fashion and emotionally difficult to watch them witness my suffering, but fortunately a paramedic was with me in less than three minutes. Having quickly inserted an intravenous vent and administered morphine he then attached a portable heart monitor which confirmed my own diagnosis. The ambulance and crew arrived less than two minutes later and I lost the fight to remain lucid within one minute of settling into the interior of my saviours' transport.
To make matters that little more worse, as I came to at South Tyneside District Hospital it quickly became apparent that I was paralysed from the neck down! This was unexpected and caused my spirits to sink just that little further, the medical team at the hospital's coronary care unit were unsure how the paralysis had been caused and felt that more specialist resources were required to find the cause of my problems, so I was dispatched by ambulance through the pre-closed Tyne Tunnel to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, a journey that took little more than ten minutes! Sadly my wife and father had to stay behind in South Shields.
I have to say that at all times I felt very comfortable, paramedics, ambulance personnel, doctors, and nurses were all saying the right things to me, I felt reassured and calm (even when my heart rate dropped to 15 beats per minute and looked in danger of stopping.) It didn't take long for the coronary specialists in Newcastle to decide to reopen the theatre late at night to perform an emergency angioplasty, they whisked me through without any formal pre-op preparation and spent over two hours investigating then repairing the blockages found in my coronary arteries. I have their tenacity and skills to thank for being here to tell the tale. I give you many thanks guys. Years of smoking, before I eventually decided to give up in 2006, poor diet, lack of strenuous excercise, had all combined to produce the dreadful circumstances that create arterial sclerosis. The left anterior descending artery in the heart was 70% blocked, and two of the diagonals were 100% blocked, my existence was hanging by a mere thread! I now have the arteries reopened and kept open with three stents, small metal coil like inserts designed to prevent plaques building up in these locations again.
Remarkably by 7.30 on Wednesday morning I was feeling magnificent and fresh as a daisy, and full motion had returned! I returned to South Tyneside District Hospital on Wednesday evening and stayed there until this morning when I returned to my family armed with a carrier bag full of tablets and drugs which must now be consumed every day of my life. I now feel as though I have been reborn, or at least given a second chance. The National Health Service performed to it's best this week (although there were one or two issues that I could talk about) and the ambulance service was notable for it's speed, efficiency. and highly trained life saving paramedics, to these I give the greatest thanks of all.
Therefore, I hope you will excuse my absence over the next couple of days as I try to catch up on some lost sleep, regain some strength, relearn how to properly relax, and begin to plan the future. Blogging may be erratic, and visitors of Curly's Photoshop will be treated to one or images from my archives until such time as I am able to get out and about (armed with the camera) on a more regular basis.
My new life is about to start, a change of diet, a change of regime, a fitness plan, and a permanently positive attitude will help me launch the new me!
Once again thank you all for voicing your concerns and support.
Monkton Stadium, running on empty?
I have often wondered how Monkton Stadium in Jarrow ever managed to attract the type of funding that was required to bring the old Metupa Sports ground up to a standard where national junior level competitions could be held. It was due of course to the intensive lobbying and dedication of the small band of hardened enthusiasts who make up the Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club, and their lifetime mentor Jimmy Hedley (the man responsible for bringing us "the Jarra Arra" Steve Cram.) This small band of people helped to build, sustain, and develop this small facility into a decent arena where the budding athletes of tomorrow can be nurtured and trained.
To help save the Council Taxpayer some money, our Council wishes to close some of the facilities at Monkton Stadium during the day. The stadium benefits from having community facilities, weight gyms, etc. as well as the athletics track, and as one might expect when a decision such as this is announced, a few people start bumping their gums in annoyance. Today's Shields Gazette carries the story on it's front page, and one might be forgiven for thinking that the whole stadium was about to close forever!
This is not the case, some facilities will be available to help people get fit, remain, or improve their fitness and stamina, in the evenings or at weekends.It is a simple solution for reducing costs when people clearly are not supporting the centre during the daytime, it's rather pointless staffing the building, paying wages, heating, and lighting costs, when nobody is turning up to use the facility.
The athletics club will still use the stadium, it isn't about to be swallowed up by the earth, but if people feel so strongly about other facilities being available during the day, then they ought to shift there backsides along to Jarrow to make use of them. If there is little or no demand for these facilities then lock the doors!
I fully support this quite justified decision.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Circatex charges crippling company._________________________________________________________________
I have already indicated in this blog that the future of the British economy faces strong challenges this year, and that planned rises in costs of gas and electricity may force a considerable slowdown, which would have knock on effects on output and Retail Price Inflation.
Circatex, the printed circuit board manufacurer based in Eldon Street, South Shields, has become one of the first to suffer, having been forced to go into administration, despite having a full order book and operating at almost full capacity. David Miliband, Cabinet Minister, and MP for the town is today meeting with the management and administrators at the company in an effort to save the 210 jobs which are at risk there. Chairman Steve Jones said their electricity costs had risen by GBP 50,000 a month, a 60% rise, that's enough to cripple anyone!
I too hope and pray that the management, the union (Amicus), the administrators, and the workforce can formulate an agreed business plan that will enable the company to find an ambitious and solvent buyer who will make great use of this highly skilled workforce.
Newcastle Evening Chronicle
New money, Marble Arch style!
I've just read an article in The Times describing how Marble Arch, one of London's tourist landmarks is to be let on a self catering basis for those wishing to use it as a base to tour central London from.
Suddenly it occurred to me that here is a source of income that we may be missing out on in South Tyneside.
Some colleges and Universities around the U.K. allow visitors to rent student accomodation outside of term time (generally during the summer months) and it provides additional revenue to the institution.
The students' residence at the Winterbottom Hall, annexed to South Tyneside College at the head of Westoe Village, currently offers accomodation to scholars during term time on a bed and breakfast basis, or bed and breakfast plus evening meal (taken in the hostel's dining room.) The rooms are furnished with basic essentials but are clean and warm, more importantly they are situated within a twenty minute walk of the town centre , the Leas, and the Sandhaven beach. These rooms could provide an ideal haven for those wishing to make short stay, cheap visits to South Shields and the surrounding areas in the summer.
It is becoming a fashionable and economic way for small families to enjoy short break holidays around the U.K. as this search on Google illustrates. London, as the nation's capital becomes so much more affordable if you decide to stay at the Halls of Residence in High Holborn, (just five minutes from Covent Garden and Shaftesbury Avenue) at prices from just over twenty pounds per head, per night.
Winterbottom Hall is not large enough to house all of our students, and many of them rent flats and houses throughout the town, which again, will be unused, or under occupied in the summer months. Perhaps the landlords could be persuaded to put together a joint plan to attract more summer visitors to the town, involving letting their accomodation at attractive rates to the short term visitor.
We should always be receptive to new or imaginative methods of raising revenue or controlling costs.......as they say at Tesco;
"every little helps".
The Times, Marble Arch holiday flats
Dr. Winterbottom Hall of Residence
London out of term student accomodation
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Wonder drug to save 10,000 extra lives.
After wasting our lives away sitting on our fat behinds, in smoke filled bar rooms, drinking ale and spirits, before marching home with a pizza, curry, or kebab for company, the despondent and negative might feel that bad news follows more bad news as they contemplate a pint without a fag! However, good news has arrived today in the form of a recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the body which advises the National Health Service on the best treatments and sets the directions for future clinical trends.
How often has your GP told you that your blood pressure is too high, your cholesterol is too high, you drink too much, smoke too much, and you weigh too much? That's right...... you are a Wayne or a Waynetta!!
Disconsolate at the news that you are a full-fat, lazy, alcoholic, nicotine addicted, blubbering wreck of a being, you head for the nearest gym where some physical adonis offers to show you round and the receptionist beams an inviting smile as she tells you the latest going rate for an annual subscription. You've probably had enough of the shock therapy by now, so you head off to find your favourite stool at your favourite watering hole where you wonder whether or not to have salad with the kebab.
This is the life that so many of you knew so well, you wore it like a glove, or a comfortable pair of old slippers. Until the hospital appointment with the cardiologist arrived on your doormat, you quite naturally assured yourselves "that it will never happen to me."
Cardio vascular disease killed 238,000 people in this country in 2002, 79,000 of these people died prematurely, some were outlived by their parents. It's worth thinking about, even just for these few minutes.
So now, the good news, at last. A small family of drugs called statins have proved to be very effective in reducing and controlling cholesterol, lipids, and tri-glycerines, so much so that NICE is now recommending that GPs prescribe them free to all those considered as having a 20% chance of a heart attack in the next ten years. This action could save an additional 10,000 lives a year over and above the 7,000 which statins are thought to have saved in recent years.
Taken daily, these tablets will help you change your lifestyle, and will likely prevent a first life threatening heart attack or stroke. Although the initial costs of this recommendation may be around 82 million pounds, the final cost is estimated to be around 9 million pounds when the savings on future heart treatment is taken into account.
Perhaps this is also an indication of how far this government is prepared to go in order to prevent heart disease, with a view to treating fewer cases. Taken in unison with the proposed smoking ban, and threats to "not treat" overweight patients, this move if fully backed by GPs will see the NHS freeing up beds in intensive care units in years to come. It will also see a few more pensioners (happily).
So what are you waiting for? Stub out that cigarette, take a two mile walk to your doctor, get some statins and CHEW A CARROT!
The Times Online
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Public says no to smirking in the bar!
Having made a plea for our help before coming to a decision on how to vote in the debate over banning smoking in ALL pubs and clubs, David Miliband and Steven Hepburn have received a rather loud and resounding YES from the public.
Our Members of Parliament can be happy in knowing that their free vote (using their own beliefs, rather than following the party whip) will reflect the general concensus of the majority. Local people (at least the non-smokers) have made it plain that they prefer to drink in a public house, private members club, or working men's club where smoking is absolutely outlawed. The weight of arguement has fallen on behalf of those who work behind the bar and are regarded as needing the protection of the law to ensure their good health, and that any exceptions to the proposed ban would discriminate against those who would have to work in a smoking environment.
I have never visited Ireland, where a total smoking ban has been in place for some time, and I'm sure it would be an enlightening and informative experience to go. I've heard stories of pubs erecting tents and marquees in the garden as a haven for smokers, apparently one establishment has bought a bus and parked it outside so punters can use it to smoke in.
J D Weatherstones who already operate a smoking ban in some of it's outlets in the U.K. are already admitting to a downturn in sales at these pubs, so perhaps there may be a knock-on economic black cloud for public houses in general.
A total ban may well be good for the nation's health but will it be good for the health of the industry?
For smokers, such a total ban will be no laughing matter either, there may be no room for compromise as the matter comes before the Commons, no room for a dedicated smoking area or well ventilated smoking room. Will we see the day when small crowds gather outside the entrance to our "locals"under a haze of cigarette smoke, without a smile or a smirk to be seen?
Curly's Corner Shop Message Board ran a small poll on the matter, it was viewed 222 times, but only a few people cast votes, however, of those who did, 72% were in favour of a total ban, and only 22% were in favour of an exception for private members clubs. A telephone and web poll ran by the Shields Gazette also found 78% of respondents in favour of a total ban.
Curly's Corner Shop Message Board
Friday, January 20, 2006
Me a candidate
Flattery gets you nowhere!_________________________________________________________________
It has been fascinating and instructional to witness the growing popularity of this blog within the political circles in South Tyneside, and I know from private conversations with members of all political parties that it is well read and spoken about.
Perhaps, as a result of my comments here and my forays into the Letters to the Editor page in the local newspaper this past year, my own profile has been "accidentally" raised. So much so that I have been approached twice in the last month by leading members of two political parties outlining their intentions of seeking a "strong" candidate to represent them at the elections in May, and perhaps I might just be the person they are looking for. There are still two other parties who may like to find a "strong" local candidate and I might well be your man! You only need to ask!
However, flattery gets you nowhere, and as I have sadly indicated to the two who have approached me, I cannot be available for any election campaign this year because of the personal committment and care that needs to be given to my mother as she fights against the ravages of her dreadful illness. I am very grateful for the interest shown, but the reality is that other priorities are governing my life right now. Perhaps things may be a little different in 2007.
p.s. I suspect that one of the members of Curly's Corner Shop Message Board may be running for the Progressive/Alliance in May's election, could that be you Roadrunner?
I am sorry to report that my old friend and Council colleague Stan Smith is in poor shape after suffering a stroke on Monday of this week.
Stan and his twin George have made a massive contribution to the community with their political involvement over the course of many years in South Shields. They are both possessed of a sharp brain, acerbic wit, and gregarious humour and like nothing better than a good old chin-wag!
Stan was Chairman of the Progressive group of Councillors when I was elected in 1980 and has been an indefatigable supporter of many local groups with important issues in recent times. His most recent campaigns have included the fight against the proposed "super school" originally planned for Temple Memorial park, and the proposed building of the second Tyne Tunnel (where he strongly champions the fight against increased tolls.)
Both Stan and his brother George were leading members of the old South Shields Borough Council before joining South Tyneside District Council, George also served on the old Tyne and Wear County Council where he was Deputy Leader of the Conservative group. I first met Stan when he stood for election as the Parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in the General Election in February 1974 when he polled almost 19,000 votes, proving how successful a local man could be, he fought under the slogan "Stan's the man!" Stan stood again in the October General Election of that year.
I'm sure that my regular readers would like to join me in wishing Stan as full a recovery as possible, and my thoughts and prayers go to him, his wife, and his son.
General Election result February 1974
Trow Quarry row
NEW ROW ERUPTS OVER TROW SAFETY_________________________________________________________________
A new row has broken out over whether Trow Quarry is now safe for people to use.
South Tyneside Council and the National Trust insist the South Shields beauty spot poses no risk to the public, but environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) today demanded to see the evidence.
It follows the employment tribunal success of National Trust warden Peter Collins, who was sacked for talking to the Gazette about a controversial report into toxins discovered at the site, including asbestos and cyanide.
It must be remembered of course that the Friends of the Earth local group led by Bryan Atkinson (I wonder if he's related to Lewis?) intended to be part of the special scrutiny commission set up by the Council to consider the safety of Trow Quarry. However, because they claimed that the Council was unable to furnish them with a requisite amount of information within a reasonable time, they felt that they had to withdraw. Hence the scrutiny commission had a comfortable ride as it considered the Trow Quarry issue and the related Coastal management Plan without the input of one of the most specialised and interested bodies in the Borough.
One of the most frightening aspects of the whole saga is the apparent inability of The National Trust to even appear to be seriously concerned about public safety. Yes, they have erected new warning notices, yes, they may well be using the services of specialists to monitor the site, but unfortunately the public can still clamber around on the beach at Graham Sands and pick up and handle any debris they wish that has fallen from the eroded sea facing edge of the former landfill.
When the weather improves as we move into spring, there will be children playing there; critical receptors, in an uncontained contaminated environment free to wander as they please.
If anyone wishes, like Friends of the Earth, to see the evidence, just take a walk behind Trow Rocks down the steps and on to Graham Sands, the exposed face is on your right as you look south.
This..... is something to worry about!
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Lewis Atkinson 2
A quote from Lewis' blog
As far as I'm aware - correct me if I'm wrong - I'll be the first blogging local candidate in South Tyneside. Of course we already have the world-famous (well, he's been in the Shields Gazette anyway!) Curly, who I always enjoy reading despite the fact that I disagree with much of what he says. Some scope for future debate I hope Curly!
I am flattered! I have also tried to post the following comment in Lewis' blog, without success, therefore I will post it here (I'm sure he will see it).
I wish you well in your battle to win hearts and minds in your first campaign. It may interest you to know that in 1980 the electors in South Tyneside chose two Councillors, who were, at the time, the youngest ever elected in the Borough. Martin Lightfoot (Labour) aged 23 and myself (Progressive) aged 24, incidentally we were both products of South Shields Grammar and Technical School for Boys.
I campaigned as an election agent from the age of 16 and first stood as a candidate at the age of 19.
I therefore lay claim to being the first "official" political blogger in South Tyneside.
Potts thanks Collins
Hearty Thanks to Peter Collins
Contributor; Cllr. David Potts (Cleadon Village and East Boldon)
"I was so pleased to hear that Peter Collins won his tribunal. For those of
us who never doubted that Mr. Collins' actions were right and entirely in the interests of public protection, it was a wonderful result. One cannot imagine the pressure he and his family must have been put under. I wish Mr. Collins all the best for the future and would like to thank him for having the courage to act in the public good."
I too would like to express my thanks and appreciation for the public spirited stand that Peter Collins took on this issue, he carefully considered the very considerable risks to his own career before deciding that the interests of the safety of the public were a far more important principle to defend. It was a couragious act indeed to bring this issue out into the open, an act that put at grave risk his job, income, his family's home, and his reputation. Of these four, at least one remains intact, an unblemished reputation that diplayed passion for his field of excellence, and sincerity in his desire to protect the public.
Peter, understandably wishes to return to work with The National Trust, and whilst we must recognise that this may not be possible, I hope that an agreeable compensation settlement can be achieved and that he finds suitable work in a similar environment to that which he so recently loved so much.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
David Miliband wants your help.
Our member of Parliament, and Cabinet Minister, David Miliband wants your help in deciding which way to vote on the issue of a total ban on smoking in pubs and clubs. Labour members are about to be given a free vote in the House which means a total ban on smoking may be on the cards, irrespective of the opposition of figures such as John Reid, the former Health Secretary.
At present private members clubs are exempt from the ban, but this could change, and as a member of The Cleadon Club and The Whiteleas Club this may prove quite difficult for David's image!
I too am a member of a private club where the staff and the clients are used to smoking in the bar with a pint (all be it, a well ventilated bar). I personally have no objections to this exemption, there has to be some finally sanctuary for the smokers who are becoming increasingly marginalised and treated like criminals. The staff in private members clubs know very well that smoking will take place, and if it is uncomfortable for them they would probably seek work in a cleaner environment. If it is well known that these clubs allow smoking then many non-smokers will make their own decisions to frequent them or work in them, nobody will feel forced to breath someone elses smoke.
Smokers are now in danger of being made to smoke only in their own homes, it will be banned in the workplace, pubs, public buildings, hospital grounds, some public parks, football grounds, and near schools. Some local Councils are even introducing plans to serve fixed penalties on those who drop a cigarette butt in the streets, and some health authorities are threatening to make smokers forego treatment.
When one considers the arguements given for the additional expenditure incurred by the NHS through smoking, one should also consider the additional revenue generated from smokers by The Treasury.
I firmly believe that the status quo should be maintained for fear of alienating yet another section of society.
It seems that motorists and smokers are being treated like the Jews (God's chosen people - i.e. chosen for persecution!)
You can contact David (who is a non-smoker) through his website, which is featured in the side panel.
You might also like to take part in the poll running on the message board, and I'll make sure that David gets to see the results.
Curly's Corner Shop Message Board poll
Collins wins case - warden's actions vindicated!
A four day industrial tribunal held in Newcastle just before Christmas has found that Peter Collins was wrongfully dismissed from his job as the National Trust Warden for the Leas and Trow Rocks. Mr. Collins was sacked and forced to leave his National Trust home after details of a controversial report were leaked to the Shields Gazette.
The report, which South Tyneside Council sat on for fourteen months revealed details of a noxious mix of poisons, carcinogens, and dangerous gases buried in the former Trow Quarry, now a popular (if dangerous) beauty spot.
The Industrial tribunal's report vindicating Peter Collins' actions states that
"the (Council's) report showed that the environment has been, is being, and is likely to be damaged".
In a later statement for The National Trust a spokesman indicated their view that the Tribunal was concerned only with the procedures used to sack Mr. Collins and not with the way that Trow Quarry was managed. He also indicated that there has been no change in the management of the site. (It seemed to the public that the two issues were inextricably tied together, one could not talk about Peter Collins without talking about the management of Trow Quarry and the High-Point Rendell report.)
Peter Collins did the public a great service by ensuring that the contents of the Trow Quarry (Draft) reort were made public, he helped to heighten the awareness and concerns of people who had almost fell asleep with this report in their laps. His passion and concern for the land he worked upon was very apparent at the Tribunal which reported "that his sincerity shone through. we have no doubt that he had no ulterior motive, nor was he actuated by malice."
Of course, it is unlikely that Mr. Collins will be reinstated in his former job, there would possibly be too much ill will to make that tenable, so a suitable compensation fee is likely to be discussed between the parties. however the resultant publicity from the Tribunal may bring about a more open and direct approach to making Trow Quarry safe and secure for public use, for now and for the future. Despite assurances from the National Trust that they would do everything in their power to restrict public access to the most sensitive and fragile areas of coastal erosion at the site, to date nothing concrete (other than the erection of a couple of new notices) has been achieved, as the picture above clearly shows.
Collins finds dead seabirds in 2001
Lewis Atkinson wants to be elected!
I was drawn by my stat counter to the fact that I had received one single visitor from the website of Lewis Atkinson, Labour's "wannabe" in Cleadon and East Boldon next May.
It must be difficult for the Labour Party to enthuse anyone about fighting this ward (which is traditionally Conservative) so I must take my hat off to this young fellow, he has created a website to help publicise himself and allow electors to stay in touch with him. I think this site is in it's infancy, and we therefore have to assume that "content" is to follow. It tells us very little about young Lewis, his age. or occupation. It tells us that his village needs a stong voice, but, as yet, little else.
Lewis probably knows that I am not a natural supporter of New Labour, but what his site does tell us about him, is that he is a big reader of Curly's Corner Shop!
Thanks for the link Lewis, I hope you enjoy your election campaign and that you learn much from the experience, democracy needs more young men and women to "have a go"!
Speaking of Cleadon Village, I learn that our occasional contributor, Cllr. David Potts is once again extending his political ambitions north of the border. Having had a taste for the fight at the last General Election in Falkirk, (where he almost doubled the size of the party's vote) he is to seek election to the Scottish Parliament next year. I can only imagine that it must be part of a personal development plan to encourage the Tory party to eventually find him an attractive seat to win for them at the next General Election. There you are then, two ambitious young men in Cleadon!
Lewis Atkinson's website
Falkirk election result
Town Hall job cuts
Job cuts at Town Hall
As the Borough faces up to tougher financial restrictions following the limited central government allocation of cash, and the net overspend of more than GPB 4 million last year, a number of high ranking jobs have been cut at the Town Hall.
Executive Directorships including the posts of Trevor Doughty, Amanda Skelton, Julie Alderson, David Slater, and Kim Bromley-Derry have all been culled in a sweeping move to cut out a whole layer of high cost management. The savings in salaries will amount to over GBP 440,000.
Further reductions will see more senior managers lose their jobs as three Heads of Service see their posts cut.
The Council is also seeking an undisclosed number of voluntary redundancies as it attempts to reign in spending.
It will be remembered that Trevor Doughty's Social Care and Health Department was responsible for an overspend exceeding GBP 11 million last year , and that Amanda Skelton's Neighbourhood Services Department was embroiled in controversy after "burying" the Trow Quarry Report for more than a year, before National Trust Warden Peter Collins exposed it's damning details of toxic poisons to the Shields Gazette. Meanwhile, Kim Bromley Derry's department is bogged down in the details of the drawn out consultation exercise to help find a site for the town's new "super school" to replace King George and Brinkburn comprehensives, readers will recall the outright opposition to the "preferred option" (number 1) to site the school at Temple Memorial Park.
It seems, at last that the Council's Cabinet has awoken from it's slumbers, to discover that these acts of mismanagement of theirs were not bad dreams at all - it all happened for real! They realise that they now need to be taking very tough decisions in order to fulfill next year's budgetary requirements. The average salary of the Executive Directors to lose their jobs is 50% of the Prime Minister's and it will probably be found that Heads of Department, reporting to the Chief Executive will carry on doing the Council's business with no effect being felt by "Joe Public".
This should be seen as a first step, and if, as we keep getting told, our Council is "excellent" and "award winning" they should be able to demonstrate the ability to reduce spending much further without massive impacts on public services. Planned additional spending for medium term plans needs to be re-assessed and adjusted as necessary and policy ought to be driven towards "value for money" services.
The new Alliance opposition group and others, now need to be scrutinising next year's budget with a fine tooth comb to deliver an imaginative, realistic strategy to offer to the electorate in May's elections. Our friends in the indecisive Liberal Democrats also need to learn that their role is to oppose and offer "alternative" policies to the ruling Labour group if they wish to be taken seriously, they need to remind themselves that they were elected by people who preferred not to have a Labour Councillor. If their electorate were to know in advance that a Liberal Democrat would continually support the Labour Party, there would be little incentive for them to cast a vote for the Lib-Dems.
By working together, the opposition groups could find a way to propose a zero increase budget for next year, it's unlikely that Labour will wish to wear such a bright logo on the back of their shirt!
The Council is in the process of conducting a public consultation on it's budget plans for next year, Council Leader Paul Waggott says
"We have not made any decisions yet. We do want to include the whole community in our decision-making. This is genuine consultation and I want to reassure residents that their views will inform the final outcome."
You can access the consultation questionnaire here, you will need to post it back to the Town Hall by 31st. January.
My recommendation on question 2 is to strike through the three options to increase Council tax and add in your own "zero option", unfortunately the form is not big enough for me to include all of my proposals for further spending reductions or increases in income.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Education Secretary in for a caning?
The education Secretary Ruth Kelly after a weekend of torrid revelations regarding the employment of sex offenders in the nation's schools, is, astonishingly, still in post.
Parents dropping their children off at a school at the centre of a political row have spoken of their anger that a teacher there was a sex offender.
Portchester School, in Bournemouth, suspended William Gibson, 59, after his conviction for indecently assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1980 was revealed. Parents arriving on Monday morning said they were "disgusted" by the news.
It later emerged that Education Secretary Ruth Kelly had approved Gibson to teach, despite his history.
The same man had previously held a post in South Tyneside before being dismissed, as evidence of his convictions became apparent, yet incredibly Ruth Kelly and her departmental staff later approved his applications for teaching posts.
William Gibson, is the man at the centre of the furore, yet despite his conviction for sexual assault on a 15 year old girl in 1980, he later went on to marry the same girl and fathered three children with her. The marriage lasted nineteen years, so perhaps it is feasible to believe his own assertion that he is not a risk to children. Guilty of falling in love and foolishly failing to stay away until she was of more mature years!
However, after Ruth Kelly claimed in the Commons last week that the "99 list" clearly disbarred people from attaining jobs in the teaching profession, it has emerged that at least two people on this list have been cleared for working in schools. Furthermore, it seems that some are allowed to work "conditionally" with children (i.e. with those of the opposite gender to which they are "interested", or above or below the particular age groups that interest them), all with the requisite approval of Kelly's department.
What interests me more than anything else today is not the accounts revealed over the weekend, but the apparent lack of accountability of Government ministers these days. We have seen that the Deputy Prime Minister "two jags" John Prescott failed to pay Council Tax for years on a lavish property that he shamefully claimed was a second home, and now we see Ruth Kelly failing to tell the whole truth to the House of Commons and demonstrating that she has little grasp of her department or the letters pushed under her nose for signature.
Whatever happened to the "buck stops here" mentality? How bad do matters have to get before a Minister falls on his or her own sword? Where is the acceptance of responsibility? Why does the Prime Minister meekly acquiesce?
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Brown speech provokes interest
Chancellor Gordon Brown in a keynote speech to the Fabian Society has proposed that we celebrate a "National Day" to promote unity and for all Britons to show pride in the Union Jack, in an effort to wrest this symbol of our nation away from the far right of the political spectrum.
It is certainly not an idea to be rejected out of hand and has many merits, the only difficulty appears to be in agreeing an appropriate and suitable date which has some significance to being "British". Members of the Curly's Corner Shop Message Board have been debating the issue all weekend, with ideas connected to the date of the signing of The Act of Union, and the signing of The Magna Carta being proposed, amongst others.
The Acts of Union, were twin Acts of Parliament passed in 1707 (taking effect on 26 March) by the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. The acts were the implementation of the Treaty of Union, negotiated between the two kingdoms. The effect of the Acts was twofold:
* to create a new state: the Kingdom of Great Britain, although the name had been used on occasion since 1603 when speaking of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland together, which had shared a monarch from that date but retained sovereign parliaments. Wales was also part of this Great Britain since it had been absorbed by England by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542.
to dissolve both parliaments and replace them with a new Parliament of Great Britain (this event is known as the Union of the Parliaments). The new parliament was to be based in the former home of the English Parliament.
There was also a later Act of Union which brought Ireland into the British Isles;
The Act of Union 1800 merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain (itself a merger of England and Scotland under the Act of Union 1707) to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 January 1801.
The Act was passed by both the British and Irish parliaments. The Irish parliament had been given a large measure of independence by the Constitution of 1782, after centuries of being subordinated to the English (and later, British) Parliament. Thus, many members had guarded its autonomy jealously, including Henry Grattan, and had rejected a previous motion for Union in 1799. However, a concerted campaign by the British government, and the uncertainty that followed the Irish Rebellion of 1798, made Union a more palatable prospect. The final passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was achieved with substantial majorities, and was marked by mass bribery of Irish MPs by the British government, including the granting of titles and lands.
Under the terms of the union, Ireland had over 100 MPs representing it in the united parliament, meeting in the Palace of Westminster (more than would be proportionate according to population). Part of the attraction of the Union for many Irish Catholics was the promise of Catholic Emancipation, thereby allowing Roman Catholic MPs (which had not been allowed in the Irish Parliament). However this was blocked by King George III who argued that emancipating Roman Catholics would breach his Coronation Oath; it was delayed until 1829.
The flag created by the merger of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 still remains the flag of the United Kingdom. Known as the "Union Flag" (or Union Jack), it combines the flags of England and Scotland with St Patrick's Cross, representing Ireland.
Gordon Brown's Speech
Curly's Corner Shop Message Board
The Act of Union
Saturday, January 14, 2006
The Sun and Shearer
Sensationalist journalism at it's worst!
I make no apologies for this post, it is not related to politics and how it affects South Shields, but more to do with the most irresponsible aspects of British journalism as displayed by The Sun in particular. I make no apology, either, for republishing this photograph (for which, I have not asked permission from The Sun, it's in the public domain anyway.)
The lead story in the popular daily is about Iorworth Hoare, a man convicted and imprisoned for rape, a man now released from his last sentence for attempted rape and in the process of rehabilitating within the community. I have no sympathy for him, considering the crime that he has committed, nor do I feel any malice or hatred towards him; however, The Sun seems determined to hound and pester him and stir up ill will in the local community where he is trying to re-establish himself. The Sun, it seems, is very upset because he bought a lottery ticket whilst in jail and was lucky enough to end up winning near enough GBP 7 millions. With the proceeds he has bought a house in a nice suburb of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and by publishing this photograph on it's front page today, The Sun has materially breached the privacy of one Alan Shearer, the Newcastle United centre forward and former England captain (as well as that of Mr. Hoare.)
It seems that anyone with a broadband connection and Google Earth installed could now get a satellite image of the area, zoom in to Shearer's house, overlay the image with a map, find out the street name, measure the co-ordinates, and get his post code - I know, because I have just achieved it! Alan Shearer, despite the loathing I feel for Newcsatle United, does not deserve this, he is entitled to his peace and quiet, he is entitled to some privacy, and to the same extent, is Mr. Hoare (unless he commits another crime). This is the essence of my complaint, it is not good journalism, neither man, at the moment, is accused of a crime, they are both going about their daily affairs without causing upset or annoyance to anyone else, they do not appear to be breaking any laws, so why go ahead and divulge this information?
It might be alright for The Sun to use adjectives such as "monster" or "beast" but this will not help the man to integrate back into society or even begin to make a usefull contribution. His chances of a successful rehabilitation are being continually wrecked by The Sun's campaign of vilification and by linking in the locations of famous footballing personalities like Shearer, Dyer, Parker, McDermott, and Beardsley they are in danger of alienating themselves.
This is sensatialism of the worst sort!
Thursday, January 12, 2006
"Three pads", "two jags", failed to pay!
It has emerged today that John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, more popularly known as "two jags", has paid no Council Tax on his official residence at Admiralty House since 1997. Despite his claims that it was an "inadverdant error", the omissions of David Miliband's boss are hard to swallow. As the man responsible for adminstering the Community Charges that the rest of us pay, it is galling to think of his non-payment, whilst those pensioner protestors who have refused to pay part of their taxes ended up spending time in prison.
It hurts even more when we consider that some Councils are complaining about the poor level of central grant funding available for next year being responsible for "inflation plus" rises in Council Tax, whilst "two jags" allows the tax payer to pay his dues for over eight years. Over those years the amount of tax due for his apartment at Admiralty House was actually "discounted" on the grounds that it was his second home, since his apology today he has decided to declare that it is in fact his main home and he will pay over GBP 3,830 to reimburse the tax payer.
How long would this "genuine misunderstanding" have continued, if not for Caroline Spelman's lengthy campaign of questioning and probing?
Just remember "three pads" or "two jags" (I don't which you prefer), Council Tax bills have risen by a monstrous 76% since New Labour were first given the reigns of government!
Prescott apology on Council Tax bill.
A thumping great Prescott link
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
South Shields just got bigger!
In terms of the size of the Parliamentary Constituency, South Shields just grew with the addition of the Whitburn and Marsden ward, which will move from the Constituency of Jarrow and into South Shields. The addition of this ward, which has always returned Labour Councillors at local government elections, will help to bolster Cabinet Minister and South Shields MP David Miliband's majority, and will reduce the Labour majority in Jarrow by a tiny amount. The announcement from the Boundaries Commission has come as good news to the people of Jarrow who feared that another of their wards, Bede, would cross over the boundary, luckily the Commission recognised the strong cultural and historical links that the ward has with Jarrow.
You can download the Commission's news release here.
The South Shields Conservative Association's proposal to transfer the Simonside and Rekendyke ward to Jarrow, and the Cleadon and East Boldaon ward to South Shields was not warmly received by the Assistant Commissioner and the end result is that the two constituencies will hold around 65,000 electors each.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Pensioner's free travel
Free travel = no travel?
Bus services in South Tyneside could be decimated in a bid to finance free travel for pensioners, it was revealed today.Transport operator Nexus needs to find GBP7.3m to plug a gap in Government funding to meet the cost of the scheme.
A series of cost-saving proposals has been drawn up, including cuts to secured routes, scholars' services, special care buses and discounts for children and students.
The move comes after Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced free bus travel for pensioners last year. Read more here
It seems that once again the Chancellor has shot New Labour in the foot with his move to promote free public transport for pensioners; given the drive to promote adherance to the Kyoto protocol and reduce greenhouse gases, and initiatives to promote the use of public transport, this threatened reduction in public transport services is likely to keep even the old in their own private vehicles.
My own parents and their friends tell me that they would be quite happy to have paid half price fares, or a flat rate fare for certain journies, rather than contribute nothing at all. So now we face a situation that could see outlying estates marooned from public transport services at certain times of day, or weekends, school services removed, and little or no transport to Boldon Colliery.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Blow for Alliance_________________________________________________________________
I am a little saddened at the lack of a real strategy from the newly formed Progressive/Independent Alliance for this year's forthcoming local government election. One might have hoped, that having failed to persuade either the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives to join the Alliance, that they would have come to some agreement with those parties over which seats to fight. The greatest gift and advantage given to Labour in this Borough is the fielding of two or three opposition candidates in each seat. This effectively splits and dilutes the voice of the opposition.
In a two horse race one can imagine a few Labour seats being lost, but it looks as though the opportunity to inflict this damage will not occur. The Conservatives in South Shields have announced that veteran George Wilkinson will fight the Westoe ward. George is former Progressive colleague of mine, and whilst he has a good record of reducing Labour majorities, and was an effective Councillor, his addition to the list of Candidates for Westoe will only galvanise Labour as it attempts to take the seat from the Independents.
A few backroom conversations and agrements between the parties would have ensured that they do not field candidates against each other. We have had these discussions before, but alas they have come to nought. For the sake of the Borough, it is high time for the opposition parties to get their acts together!
I understand that the Alliance held interviews last week for prospective candidates and that an announcement can be expected soon over who will be their candidates in May.
David Miliband PM
David Miliband for PM?
It seems that everyone is now talking of the future possibility of our MP being a future Prime Minister, I came upon this Sky News picture (taken some time in the future) which indicates that Gordon Brown failed in his first general election campaign as Leader of New Labour.
For the moment, we will never know who led the Liberal Democrats in that campaign after "chat-show Charlie" resigned yesterday, his successor was likely to have been Sir "Minging" Campbell, Simon Hughes, or Mark Oaten. We will be able to update the Sky News story in about five months time after the obfuscators in the party eventually get around to voting for a new Leader.
Super School NIMBYs protest
In September 2005 I reiterated my belief that the most sensible of the original three options outlined for the Borough's new "super school" was the current site at Brinkburn. The Council is now making a third proposal for the site after losing the arguement for Temple Memorial Park and Chuter Ede, this third proposal is to build within the existing footprint of King George School in Nevison Avenue, and predictably the NIMBY's (not in my back yard) are out in protest again.
Some of the advantages of building at Brinkburn are that it is central for the area that most of it's pupils will reside in, there are few major roads to cause safety concerns, it has sufficient land (which is not "green belt) to build upon, the new school can probably be built on the current sports fields before the existing school is demolished, it has a decent sized car park, local residents are used to the large scale educational establishment on their door step.
The disadvantages are that financing the project may be fraught with a few more difficulties which may require more imaginative approaches to central government and the Sports Council.
I am dismayed that this was never considered as the "preferred option" in the first place, but officers were determined to append the school on to the leisure centre at Temple Memorial Park, a proposal which would always be greeted with huge protests.
Perhaps it is time to start firming up a scheme to build at Brinkburn, it will be seen as a compromise after the public had turned down three options, but as I have stated before, with the correct level of leadership this need not have been the case.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
South Shields PC charged over bank robberies._________________________________________________________________
22 year old Jason Singh,a policeman in South Shields has appeared in Gateshaed Magistrates Court charged with conspiracy to steal thousands of pounds from ATM's in Gateshead and Dunston.
Read more - here
Miliband in betting for Blair's job
David Miliband (pictured) said "It's this big! - talking of the chance of becoming Leader of New Labour after the Prime Minister decides to call it a day. Paddypower has him as a strengthening 14/1 shot in third place behind the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Interestingly, the boyish, Harry Potter lookalike MP for South Shields doesn't even make it into the betting for the Chancellor's job, should Brown win the Leadership.
He has also become the firm favourite of another blogger who has described him as a "gay icon", whizz kid, and future PM.
Of course he his not the first member of Parliament for this town to achieve cabinet rank, James Chuter Ede (South Shields 1945 - 1964) was Home Secretary, then Leader of the House of Commons.
David Miliband may be flattered to be mentioned as a possible party leader, but for now his "first priority is to be MP for South Shields. This will always be the case."
Tots and Toddlers for Lib-Dems.
In a tense emergency press statement today, Charles Kennedy, the leader, torch bearer, and toast master of the 200 year old Liberal traditionalists, has finally admitted that he has been struggling with alcoholism for some time; akin to viewing British politics through the bottom of a tot of whisky.
After months of sniping, back stabbing, and covert anti-Kennedy briefings to the press, those who had previously been scheming to remove the man who provided so many Lib-Dem seats, have now withdrawn to the shadows and declared no interest in taking part in the leadership election which was announced by Kennedy today.
Mr. Kennedy's style of leadership has been criticised as being laissez faire and too laid back, lacking in direction and substance, and indecisive since the emergence of David Cameron as the leader of the Tory party. Wait a minute - is that not the essence of the Lib Dems that we have been accustomed to for many years?
For those with severe leanings towards the Liberal cause, do not despair, a new generation is bracing itself to succeed where the current leadership is failing to resolve the hangover of the last party conference. 12 year old Oliver Smith (yes that's right 12 years old) was elected President of Amber Valley Lib Dems in November last year, and has just been installed in the post on New Year's Day. He succeeds a man in his fifties, more than four times Oliver's age!
Read more here
These two stories beg an awful lot when asking us to believe in the maturity of the Lib Dems. On the one hand they have asked their membership and Members of Parliament to accept and follow the leadership of a self confessed alcoholic, whilst on the other they elect a mere toddler to an important local position which carries, sometimes, onerous responsibilities, and a final casting vote on important issues (such as deciding who to vote for in the leadership election.) Heavens above, he may be the nicest most sincere young lad in Derbyshire, but what experience of life and alcohol does he have yet?
Do you really want this party to have any position of responsibility?
(If Charles doesn't find any floods of support for him amongst the party membership, he could always volunteer to help out with the regular floods at Kennedy's Bar in South Shields! )
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Top game this Christmas
I'll wager that some of you, like me, were the recipients of what appears to have been the biggest selling game this Christmas - Texas Hold'Em Poker.
Mine came complete with a nice aluminium case and green baize playing surface, along with a good quality deck of cards and a rack full of chips. I had noticed that even supermarkets such as Asda in South Shields were selling them in the run up to Christmas, but I had not expressed any particular interest in owning such a set. I had even noticed them whilst looking for toys for the children in Toys R us in the Metro Centre.
The only notional interest that I had shown in the game was a fascination in watching the body language and facial expressions of the players involved in TV tournaments, I guess I learned a little about the game on television, but have never harboured any ambitions to play it, and certainly not to risk any of my lowly earnings on the turn of a card! However, my wife must have thought differently, but how does one play a game of poker in a house consisting of myself, my wife (who struggles to play "snap"), and two young children?
My son, Junior Curly, aged eight, encouraged me to teach him the rudimentary rules as described in the leaflet, and then the two of us played for a few hours on Boxing Day and he swiftly deprived me of all of my chips! I'd better keep an eye on him as he grows older!
Now, having read of our New Labour Councilor's desire to slap another heavy tax on us to fulfill their spending wishes for another year, one has to consider if they have a pair in the hand before seeing the flop, they certainly look like they are prepared to go "all in" to win the game, and I doubt if they are "bluffing". Are the opposition prepared to "raise" or "call" and see them?
Britain's best selling Christmas game.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Political correctness suppressing freedom of speech_________________________________________________________________
For centuries Britain has been a beacon of liberty of thought, belief and speech, but now the freedom of its intellectual and political life is being subjected to a subtle form of 'censorship', according to a new study of political correctness published by the independent think-tank Civitas.
Anthony Browne argues in The Retreat of Reason that political correctness, which classifies certain groups of people as victims in need of protection from criticism and allows no dissent to be expressed, is poisoning the wells of debate in modern Britain. - Read more here
Planned Industrial Estate "needs" a new Metro station.
South Tyneside Council is preparing plans for a development that could sit on land north of the A184 Newcastle Road and west of Testo's roundabout.
It has been dubbed the Tyne Wear Park and could house up to 10,000 workers.
The idea has already courted controversy, particularly among residents, because the 240-acre site near the Fellgate estate in Jarrow is previously undeveloped land.
This goes against Government guidelines to develop what are known as brownfield sites instead of green-belt or farm land.
Sunderland Borough Council, in airing it's views as a "neighbour" states that the new industrial park will need a new Metro station, as well as cycle and footpaths to serve it. - Read more
The whole concept of developing this industrial behemoth on a greenfield site has already raised the hackles of many local residents, as well as contravening current guidelines on the use of green belt land. This is just one of a number of medium term plans that this Council of ours is considering, and which ought to be rethought. In the light of revenue forecasts and the ability to raise additional finances from the Borough's residents, it might be more appropriate to look at further development of a nearby brownfield site, the former (rather under-used) Monkton Coke Ovens. This site is already being slowly developed for business use and is very suited for the purpose, if it were to be reviewed and deemed feasible to enlarge it's capacity, then it is likely that much of the current protest would dissipate. Another advantage to using this site is it's very close proximity to the Nexus operated Metro line, a station at Mill Lane would obviate the need for additional footpaths and cycle ways .
We live in an age when the birth-rate in South Tyneside is falling and in future we will be caring for an ageing population, therefore it is important to develop a business park capable of employing 10,000 people, who will likely travel in to the Borough from outside. The success of any businesses located in the new park would bring in rate revenue to the Borough that we would be unable to gain from Council tax payers. Therefore it is vitally important to arrive at the right decision on this issue, the road and rail infrastructure is already in place, and grant aid is more likely to be available for a brownfield rather than a greenfield site, I would find it rather difficult to argue in favour of the Fellgate option.
Depressed by Council Tax bill?
After reading this you might wish to ring the Samaritans!
Following hot on the heels of yesterday's news of impending increases in Council Tax bills comes further eye-watering revelations of more price rises in the pipeline. It seems that pressure will be put upon the Retail Price Index and additional pressures on employers as workers bargain for inflation busting pay rises, and who can blame them?
If Chancellor Brown maintains a tight grip on the nation's economy whilst stealthily increasing his borrowing, then there will be fears, as Retail Price Inflation rises, that the Bank of England will be tempted to increase interest rates (their next meeting is on 12th. January). The Chancellor's, already flawed, growth estimates will take another battering, and by the time that Prime Minister Blair is ready to hand over the reigns of office we could be facing a severe economic downturn.
The current round of price increases could be the forerunner of worse to come if wage inflation starts to grow, and if we are to allay fears of an economic depression, then politicians at national and local level need to realise NOW that we are an over-taxed nation. By taking more and more of our income they will help to substantially reduce our spending power, and as usual, the people at the bottom end of the pile, the wageless and the low paid, will suffer the most.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Tony Bliar home video
The Prime Minister has published a video on his website describing a typical day at the office, in which he bemoans the fact that "nothing prepares you for the duties of being Prime Minister".
He also complains "The hours are very ....long. I've never actually totted up the hours I do in any week"
A couple of other quotes of his in the video are quite interesting
"It's very important, I mean, I always say in here whenever I'm getting briefed on anything - facts, facts, facts. Get the facts first.....
"You can work your way round both the policy and also how you answer difficult questions, but the quality of the research you get is very, very important."
I wonder if the thorny questions of weapons of mass destruction and the Iraq war came into his mind while talking about the importance of facts and research?
One thing for certain though is " that everything you say is on the record and is then subject to the most minute scrutiny". You are dead right there Mr. Blair!
Transcript of video
Watch video in Windows Media Player
Watch video in Realplayer
No "Happy New Year" message from Council!
South Tyneside Council has become the first in the North-East to make preliminary plans for this year's Council Tax charge, and it looks as though the hard pressed tax payers will be punished further over the excesses of those officers and Councillors who allowed last years finances to run out of control.
Fears were raised last night that council-tax payers in the North could face inflation-busting rises as the first authority to publish budget plans proposed a 5% increase, and take an even bigger slice of our hard earned earnings.
The move by South Tyneside Council would push the annual bill for a Band D house up to GBP1,303.91, a rise of GBP62.09.
There are concerns the rise will be mirrored across the North-East, where councils have the worst government-funding increases in the country.
North-East Pensioners' Association secretary John Berry said: "People can't pay what they don't have and I have no doubt in my mind that there will be a lot of anger generated."
A consultation paper from South Tyneside Council asks local people if they want a council tax rise of 4%, 4.5% or 5%. The council says it must find an extra £17.677m next year just to continue services, because of inflation. Read more here.
Once again we face a situation that has probably been driven by the recommendations of Council officers, who are clearly not being managed or controlled by elected members. Those who were responsible for overspending last year's revenue continue to administer our funds without serious penalties being applied, and with little fear of the consequences (let's face it, some of them will pay their Council Taxes to another Borough.)
The offer of consultation with the residents of South Tyneside is once again an annual "sham", we are never offered the option of proposing our own preferred rise, the only options available are those given year after year, 4%, 4.5%, or 5% increases. I have suggested in the past that this Council, if it's elected ruling group had the stomach to provide the necessary leadership, could exist for a financial year with no increase in Council Tax at all. Sure, it would require some tough decisions, sure it would require drastic amendments to the medium term spending plans, sure it would mean some reductions in services, sure it would mean some service charge increases, sure it would mean a reduction in staff numbers (through natural wastage), sure it would mean our Councillors having to take their responsibilities a bit more seriously, but it would not mean the world had suddenly come to an end! The Borough would survive intact, the Council would continue to operate, and some officers and Councillors would learn some new skills in financial regulation!
There has to come a time when someone questions if there is a limit to how much Council Tax payers can afford, and this year we will all face massive increases in gas and electricity charges to start with. If I am to be involved in this consultation exercise, I will strike through all of the options offered to me and state emphatically ZERO INCREASE! I suggest you do the same too.
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