Monday, February 27, 2006


Why are some people never happy?

For a number of years our Council, Ward Councillors, pensioners' representatives, publicans, and myself have been involved in a running dispute with Northumbrian Water about serious flooding problems at Tyne Dock and the Brinkburn area (particularly Ullswater Gardens). A search of this site will reveal a number of postings on the subject. Countless approaches to our water supplier resulted in equally countless investigations, and little else.

Until recently, that is - a massive 3.5 million pound investment has seen contractors dig a gargantuan hole in the earth at what was once Brinkburn playing fields. The hole is now being lined with concrete, it's size is arguably larger than an Olympic swimming pool, it occupies the space previously covered by two football pitches and one rugby pitch. This engineering work will become a water tank capable of holding the same volume of water as six swimming pools, rainwater and drainage water will be stored here and gently released into the sewers leading to Tyne Dock , rather than flooding homes and gardens in the local area.

Northumbrian Water are so convinced that they finally have the answer to solve the dreadful problems experienced in recent years, so much so that they despatched high ranking managers to the homes of protestors, such as I, in order to "sell" the scheme. I bought it, I'm happy that a great effort is being made to resolve this long standing flooding problem for the people of Ullswater Gardens, Ascot Drive, Bisley Drive, Eldon Street, and Armstrong Terrace.
Once the tank has been capped, the earth will be replaced over the top of it, and the sports pitches reinstated, within a short period life will return to normal and most people ought to be happy and satisfied.

I wrote recently in this blog about my concerns at the amount of NIMBYS (Not In My Back Yard) popping up all over the town, and this issue is starting to suffer from the same intolerance. The Shields Gazette recenly reported the concerns of a small group of residents in Bisley Drive who are worried that the flood prevention scheme will create additional problems for them. After reinstating the sports pitches, the level of the land will be one metre higher than before, consequently they are worried that an occasional football may land in their garden!

I'm sorry to appear to be so intolerant of these views, but I'd rather have a football once in a blue moon than see my garden flooded three or four times a year! In fact, unless Wayne Rooney decides to make a guest appearance, it is unlikely that any of the users of the pitches will be able to deliver a shot of sufficient velocity to reach the boundary fence, never mind the gardens.


The Shields Gazette

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Alliance attacks waste

During yesterday's full Council meeting to rubber stamp the increase in next year's Council Tax rates, the opposition Alliance took heed of this blog's suggestions and proposed a tax freeze, with the exception of the precepts for the fire brigade and the police force. In making their proposal they indicated that they would wish to see massive cuts in expenditure on outside consultancies and Councillors' allowances, Cllr. Allen Branley in moving the motion described the proposal as an attack on waste, he added

"We have proposed a balanced budget and a prudent budget, which cuts out unnecessary expenditure without affecting front-line services."

Despite the debate, the ruling Labour group forced through the increase.


Shields Gazette



Further bad news for Circatex

Circatex in Eldon Street has announced a further 80 redundancies as the administrators continue their efforts to find a buyer for the company. Tough competition from the far east markets and massive increases in gas and electricity charges have caused trouble for the printed circuit board manufacturer which used to be one of the town's largest employers. Despite the best efforts of the management and the local MP, David Miliband , the highly skilled workforce has now been reduced to about 100.


BBC Tyne


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Council redundancies

Annus Horribilis.

Today the hierarchy at South Tyneside Council must be having similar feelings when they look back on the financial legacy left by 2005.
Part of the impact of a 4.9 million pound deficit in the council's budget became clear yesterday when plans for major job cuts were revealed.
As part of the plans, 132 council posts that currently lie vacant are not to be filled.
And perhaps even more significantly, 87 redundancies need to be found among existing staff.
The council say the job axe will fall in "non-priority" areas.
But it's hard to imagine that redundancies on such a scale will fail to have some impact on council services.
The worrying news comes at a bad time for the ruling Labour group, with the May local elections just weeks away and a new political threat looming from the recently-formed Alliance opposition group.
Yet the politicians have been forced to take the flak for a crisis which, in reality, was out of their hands.

For once I find myself at odds with our local newspaper this evening; by making a statement that infers that elected Councillors had no powers to control spending is rather naive. Not only do they have the power, they also have a duty and responsibility, as well as accountability to the electorate! If the Members were unaware of the monthly expenditures in the executive departments then procedures must surely have been circumvented. If Lead Members, for instance, were unaware of the spending within their departments then at the best they have allowed themselves to be complacent, or at the worst they could be seen to have been negligent. The massive overspend did not happen overnight, it happened over the course of many months.

The expenditure of public funds must always be seen to be in the hands of our elected Councillors, and to suggest otherwise would be to make a mockery of local democracy. No man has yet suggested that our Councillors are simply puppets to be played with by the Officers, or at least I hope not!


The Shields Gazette

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Monday, February 20, 2006

BBC NEWS | England | Somerset | City history database goes online

City history database goes online

Georgian newspapers detailing life in 18th Century Bath have been made electronically available to the public.

Microfilm copies have been created of the Bath Chronicle dating from between 1770 and 1800.

It has taken 15 volunteers more than three years to complete the cataloguing work, which is still continuing.

What a tremendous idea, can you imagine what a valuable tool we would have if The Shields Gazette (reputed to be Britain's oldest regional newspaper) had all of it's archives in the local library committed to microfilm and reproduced as an online database! How about it guys, if a sleepy little culturally intense city like Bath can manage it, could Johnston Press get a few volunteers together to make it happen here?


BBC Story
Bath Georgian Newspaper project


New School

Building Schools for the Future

Proposed new school in Nevison Avenue

I have always held the opinion since the first draft proposal was released (in respect of building at Temple Memorial Park), that one of the options available had more merit than the others. It has since proved problematic, after public consultation, to gain a reasonable concensus for the location of the proposed new school to serve our teenagers in the South and West of South Shields.

The first preferred option for building at Temple Memple Memorial Park was always likely to run into a barrage of public criticism and fervant opposition, particularly in the current climate of protecting green land, and so it proved. The next proposal to build at the current Chuter Ede site in Galsworthy Road also proved problematic because of it's proximity to an old landfill site, increased traffic in the locality, and the loss of certain community amenities. The third proposal, to build at the current King George School site in Nevison Avenue is also not without it's shortcomings; local opposition to development on the edge of the green belt between Cleadon Village and South Shields is historical and can be linked to the opposition in previous years to the proposed new Temple Park school. In my opinion the proposals to build at Chuter Ede and the King George School were both flawed, mainly because each site is too close to the edge of the town.

However, a plan originally conceived at the outset, appears to be overlooked. Contained within the original public consultation documents was a plan to use the site of the current Brinkburn school in McAnaney Avenue. It's merits, I thought, were considerable. The site is almost centrally located and on current public transport routes, the local neighbourhood is quite used to living cheek to cheek with four schools (Brinkburn, St. Wilfred's, Margaret Sutton, and Ashleigh Road), traffic has never been a great issue in the area, and road safety measures are already good. Additionally, the school has plenty of land currently available for development, as well as rudimentary sports facilities. It ought to be possible to develop a workable option for developing this site, or indeed the land adjacent to St. Wilfred's and Ashleigh primary school. There is sufficient land available for sporting as well as academic use, a major consideration when seeking further central funding if the proposed school is to have special sports status.

Without doubt, our children of the future deserve to have an establishment that will more than meet their needs and allow them to flourish and grow, both physically and mentally. The community around the new school needs to be assured that there will be minimal disruption to their way of life by having this facility within it's midst, and that they too can make use of the new school's facilities to improve fitness and health. By allowing this new school to be developed at Brinkburn, I believe that most of the original aspirations could be met, and if presented in a positive manner, opposition could be nullified, or at the worst minimalised.

Building at the Brinkburn site would also allow the current King George site to be returned to "green" use, and added to Temple Memorial Park, perhaps as a nature reserve or dedicated "wetland". This was part of the scope of the plan when developing the idea for using Temple Memorial Park for the new school site. Such a decision would be most welcomed by the people of the Borough, and would help to maintain the separation between South Shields and Cleadon Village, thereby minimising urban sprawl.

Finally, if a decison could be reached to develop the Brinkburn site, I would suggest a name for the school including the words "Central" and "Sport" - perhaps "South Shields Central Academy for Education and Sport" might be appropriate.

These are my thoughts to be added to the melting pot, and perhaps
they may be seen as having some workable compromises amongst them, I sincerely hope so because further debate and consultation exercises will only serve to delay the project further. The Council seem determined, at present to develop the new school at the current King George site, a decision which I cannot support. However the consultation exercise is not yet complete, so local residents can have a say but must submit their comments by 30th March 2006. You can do so by using the form on the Council Website.


School proposal - have your say.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Quit Smoking

South Shields Quitters

The biggest queue to be seen for a long time in South Shields was witnessed this morning, not at a shop, a sale, or a cinema, but at the old St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Westoe Road. The building is now the Centre for the Community run by Community Regeneration Trust North East. In a joint venture with South Tyneside Primary Care Trust smokers were being offered the opportunity to get advice and support to help them quit, as well as free nicotine replacement therapies. Four sessions are being offered on Saturday mornings from 10.00 a.m. till 12.00 noon, and the demand today was enormous, a constant queue of wannabe "non-smokers" tailed down Westoe Road and round the corner into Robinson Street.

I asked one of the voluntary workers giving out leaflets if the impending decision to ban smoking in pubs and clubs was an influencing factor in encouraging so many people to want to give up.

"We think it is, listening to the people here this morning, many of them have come to the decision to give up after hearing of the government's plans. Perhaps they just needed a trigger to help them make the decision"

Mr. George Allen of Marsden said he had tried to give up twice before but found the nicotine patches expensive and without any outside help and support his efforts were ineffective.

The queue never seemed to shorten and parking was almost impossible in the back streets around Westoe Road.

Perhaps this new legislation may well be the catalyst to thousands of smokers stubbing out the habit once and for all.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006



We seem to have a surplus of this "social class" at the moment, every time that a proposal to improve something in this town is floated, up pop the NIMBYs (not in my back yard). It started with the proposed "super school", it wasn't wanted at Temple Memorial Park, it wasn't wanted at Chuter Ede, it appears that it isn't wanted at Nevison Avenue either! Perhaps it ought to be built at Brinkburn after all? Don't even suggest it, there is already a group of NIMBYs preparing the case to fight it there too.

An ambitious plan to redevelop part of the riverside (the SAFA site) has also come under attack from those living nearby simply because the plan includes two "rotundas", eight storeys high and very modernistic. On the artist's impression of the plans they look futuristic and in keeping with the adventurous development of the river frontage, they don't look as though they will be any higher than the land behind them at Greens Place, and they don't look as though they will obstruct riverside views from that vantage point. I can't imagine that North Shields residents will complain about the view from their side either.

We will of course have a lengthy and necessarily expensive period of public consultation about the issue, counter proposals will be submitted, and further consultations will be held. Eventually the whole development may be transposed to another part, and the whole process might start again.

Sometimes, it's time to be decisive (I think).


Council tax Rise

Council Tax rises by 3.7% (Councillors to keep some for themselves.)

South Tyneside Council's Cabinet is to recommend a rise in Council Tax of 3.7% for next year, the full Council is expected to "rubber stamp" the proposal on Friday 24th. February. It seems that all are happy and delighted at such a small increase, it was at the lower end of the scale of proposals produced for public consultation, not the lowest, but less than some of us expected. Following the disastrous mismanagement of the public finances last year involving an 11 million pound overspend (4.25 million nett) one could have hoped for a more stringent and tighter approach to spending budgets for next year, and in the medium term. I have argued that this Council could have reduced it's spending plans for future years and held Council Tax at the same rates as last year. This would have given the right message to the public about politicians' intentions to control the budget and would not have necessarily hurt services in the drastic fashion that some feared.

Hidden in the news is the fact that Councillors' Allowances will increase by 2.2%, a nice little reward for failing to control last year's spending! Granted this is just above the current rate of inflation, and is on a par with some of the wage increases being accepted in industry, however, many employees in the Borough will enjoy no wage increase at all this year. There are a great many whose employers have productivity deals, and if last year's targets have not been achieved then there will be no rewards for the employees. My colleagues in the Corner Shop for example will receive no profit bonuses at all this year, despite their superb efforts in producing a very respectable profit in the business unit. The whole company, however, failed to achieve it's target, therefore - no bonuses.
For our Councillors, there are no such scruples - after frittering away millions of pounds last year - the snouts are stuck firmly in the trough!

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Return to blogging

Stubbed out!

The time for your pleasure is now severely limited, if you want to enjoy a fag with your pint, do it now, or consider quitting! The fact is (barring some unlikely rearguard action in the House of Lords) that smoking in "enclosed public spaces" such as pubs and clubs will be outlawed from next year, it seems that this is what the public wants, as represented by the House of Commons. There will be no exceptions, pubs that do not sell food will not be treated any differently from other pubs, private members clubs will not be considered any less "public" than any other bars, those who fail to "police" the new Act will be liable to fines of up to 2,500 pounds!

The government and our House of Commons knows what is best for us and all matters of choice are not included in the menu! It makes you wonder how long will it be before the sale of tobacco products is also outlawed to safeguard public health; smoking in the home should also be targeted for legislation, particularly if non smokers reside in the same building - why should their health be compromised? This government ought to act NOW! Why wait for the new Health Act to have beneficial effects, let's do it! Why should anyone be allowed to exercise personal choice and run the risk of ruining there own health, as well as becoming an increasing financial burdon on the National Health Service. Just think of the money that could be saved if we didn't have to treat so many people suffering from lung cancer, arterial sclerosis, heart diseases, bronchitis, emphasemia, and other chest ailments. Yes - let's do it!

Just think of the benefits to us all if the sale of tobacco products was made totally illegal, advertising would come to a sudden halt, as would sponsorship of sporting events too. No more Embassy World Snooker Championship, no more Embassy World Darts Championship (yay!), no more money from Phillip Morris for Ferrari, - that'll scupper their chances of another title for Schumacher! No more boring Benson and Hedges cricket! Oh yes, let's do it!

Why stop at tobacco? Alcohol is surely also affecting the nation's health as well, it's time to legislate, let's have total prohibition, we demand no less! Just look at the amount of people with liver disease, if alcohol hadn't been so readily available we could all have enjoyed many more years of footballing brilliance from George Best, and by George, George Brown might have become Prime Minister! The Lib-Dems could have had a leader to be proud of! Yes - let's do it!

Why stop there? Why not legislate against the petrol engine too? It produces tons of toxic material every day on streets and roads up and down the length and breadth of this unhealthy nation, engulfing us all in carbon monoxide, carginogens, lead substitutes, and other health threatening chemicals. Just think of how healthier we could all be if the petrol engine was outlawed, and there are grounds for believing that David Cameron's "green" Conservatives would support the government here. Yes - let's do it!

The supermarkets and the food industry ought not to be left alone either, they are responsible for half of the obesity of this nation. Think of the money that could be saved if the National Health Service didn't have to treat overweight patients with heart disease. Let's outlaw bread, sausages, pre-packed ready meals, salt, sugar, sweets, burgers, frozen chips, ice cream, pizzas, E's, additives, colourants, preservatives, sodium monophosphate and everything else that we eat. You know it makes sense. Yes - let's do it!

Let's do it quickly whilst the momentum is there, strike while the iron is hot - sorry.........what did you say?

What do you mean................we can't do it?

Oh... the money..........ah, tax revenues......the Treasury!

Worried?..... Why should we be?...... Our politicians know what's best for us!

The scenario above is not that fanciful is it? In this country of ours, the politicians that we elected are becoming more and more draconian, they are churning out legislation which is irreversibly changing the course of our lives, they are systematically removing so much individual choice and freedom. We will be banned from smoking in a pub, hospital grounds, near schools, in some designated public places. In some towns it will be an offence against local byelaws to drop a cigarette butt. We may not speak ill of certain religions but we may of others. We may not support or defend "freedom fighters" in foreign lands for fear of imprisonment here. We may not enter certain towns or cities in our cars without a hefty charge. We may not improve our homes without the fear of a massive rise in Council Tax (ergo "two jags" revaluation plans). We may not save for our retirement, or plan to give away our property in our wills, the government will take it's slice "for the people". We may not apply for a new passport without our biometric profile being added to the "big database". Oh yes - they've done it!

Big Brother is here, and it's not just a t.v. show!

I need to state that I am an ex-smoker, whose mother has died of cancer, I am not one of those self righteous types who forces it down the throat of others, smoking is not good for you, I know that. I also know that it is a terrible addiction to walk away from, trust me, I know. There is a lot of help and support out there for those wishing to give up - just see a chemist or your GP.

I also have a friend who is currently dying with cancer, neither he nor any member of his family has ever smoked. I had two dogs, both died of cancer, neither smoked.

It's your choice.

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Friday, February 10, 2006



My sincere apologies for the maudlin' and sombre nature of my posts today, normal blogging will resume next week.

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I needed the quiet

I needed the quiet

I needed the quiet so he drew me aside.
Into the shadows where we could confide.
Away, from the bustle where all the day long
I hurried and worried when active and strong.

I needed the quiet tho at first I rebelled
But gently, so gently, my cross he upheld
And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things
Tho weakened in body, my spirit took wings
To Heights never dreamed of when active and gay.
He loved me so greatly He drew me away.

I needed the quiet. No prison my bed,
But a beautiful valley of blessings instead...
A place to grow richer in Jesus to hide.
I needed the quiet, so He drew me aside.


Mary Agnes Rigg

Mary Agnes Rigg (13.09.32 to 07.02.06)

Mary was born into a poor family before Europe became embroiled in the politics and turmoil of World War ll, her father died when she was little more than a child leaving her mother to bring her up with an elder sister and three older brothers. She spent the vast majority of her life close to the riverside in South Shields and during the course of the Second War lived in sixteeen different properties.

She did not enjoy the happiest of childhoods, her mother remarried twice and Mary suffered abuse at the hands of both step-fathers, for many years she lived with her sister Gladys and her husband Samuel, she also lost two of her brothers during the War. The War years were particularly harsh for those living in the terraced streets between Dean Road and Commercial Road with the main Newcastle to South Shields railway line and the shipyards being favoured targets for German bombing raids, many people were often rehoused after the damage and destruction caused by errant ordinance from the Heinkels and Dorniers.
Food and clothing rationing meant that the family never had everything that it really needed, Mary ended up being treated for tuberculosis in the Deans Hospital and Cleadon Sanitorium, she also suffered a major concussion after being struck on the head by a falling lampost during a bombing raid. Her survival during the War was a signal that she would continue to fight and survive over every scrap, scrape, crisis, or illness during the course of her 73 years.

In 1949 she joined the Civil Defence Force which met in Anderson Street and it is there that she met a young man from Jarrow who was to change the course of her life. Having been "dunked" at the Baptist Tabernacle in Laygate, and immersed in the Temperance Society, it must have been something of a cultural shock to take part in activities that were being enjoyed by all of the other teenagers at the time (dancing at The Majestic, and drinking three Babychams on a date), Tom was responsible for introducing her to these things! They courted for two years before arranging to marry at St. Jude's Church, Alice Street in 1953.

The new Elizabethan era saw them honeymoon in Edinburgh before departing for the bright lights (or was it the thick foggy smog) of London, where they both found jobs and made lots of new friends. However, the strong ties to her roots forced Mary to persuade Tom to return to Tyneside after only nine months in the capital. On their return she took a job at Wrights biscuit factory in Boldon Lane, whilst he found employment as an industrial chemist for the National Coal Board at Monkton Cokeworks, they lived in H.S. Edwards Street in a flat vacated by her mother.
It would not be long before they moved to a flat at 230 John Williamson Street at it's junction with Bertram Street, where the couple would live for almost twenty years. Two children were born here, in this small three roomed flat (which did not benefit from hot running water, or central heating, or a bathroom, or toilet). Tom now worked for Pyrex in Sunderland whilst Mary could afford to stay at home to nurture her two young boys, now being educated at Barnes Road school.

In the early 1960's Tom realised that spending half of his life in the Unionist Club in Frederick Street, instead of at home with his young family, wasn't a good idea. He had been pestered by the Reverend Norman Moses (who had baptised the children at St. Judes) for donations on a weekly basis - it was always an embarassing situation when the vicar arrived to the sounds of "it's holy Moses" from a very well trained budgerigar. This pestering for money was to lead to Tom's "Damascus Road" conversion and his life changed irreversibly. The couple spent more and more time at St. Jude's Church, which was almost like a community centre at the time. The children were taken to mass on Sundays, followed by Sunday School, and then Evensong. During midweek Tom and Mary would attend other services as well as joining in clubs and societies which met in the church hall. The church would eventually play a major role in the life of the couple, Mary took a job there as Verger/Caretaker, a position she held for over fourty years, and recently relinquished, (Mary also worked part-time as a senior care worker in Mapledean House, Beach Road until she was 70 years old.) Tom would do theological studies at night until he was licensed as a Lay Reader, and became well known throughout the town conducting baptisms or funerals. The two sons joined the church Boys Club and the Scout troops at St. Mary's and St. Francis and forge friendships that would last a lifetime.

In 1973 the family moved to a new Council house (semi-detached) close to Derby Street baths, but maintained the close contact with St. Jude's church. The boys passed through their respective educations, got married and left home; but like most geordie lads there were two women in their lives, their wives and their mother! So never a week went by without visiting their parent's house at least two or three times.
The two boys had been raised in a loving environment with a lot of liberalism and latitude, they were allowed to grow and learn at their own pace, and much of this was due to the patience and fortitude of their mother Mary. She was never seen in an angry mood, she was hardly ever seen shedding tears, she was rarely pensive, and she was always the "life and soul of the party" Her house was a palace of laughter, rich in humour, and decorated with a thousand stories, it was lit by her personality and of those she gathered around her.

It was remarkably similar when the family went away on holiday, in the earlier days we all enjoyed camping (probably as a result of the Boys Club and the Boy Scouts), before we were able to afford holidays abroad. When we went abroad, a few times it was as a large group, ten or more, and as usual it was Mary's humour that is often remembered first, before the scenery, weather, or local customs.

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The last holiday that Tom and Mary enjoyed abroad was in July 2005, a two week stay in Cyprus, they always had a soft spot for the Eastern Mediterranean, after their return Mary complained of back ache, so bad that it had caused her a few sleepless nights. Her GP prescribed painkillers but they proved ineffective. Eventually she was sent for an x-ray and further tests which revealed she was suffering with lung cancer and a secondary tumour was present near her spine, fifty years of smoking had taken it's toll perhaps. The news was devastating, and hit her like a hammer blow. For the first time in her life she actually felt ill. Four courses of radiotherapy and three courses of chemotherapy were endured with great bravery and fortitude, she never complained, and indeed, kept her normal cheerfull, happy outlook on life. She was always very positive about her treatment and hoped for a recovery. However, metastatis and neuropathy resulted in tumours spreading to the brain and spinal cord, she lost her mobility, and with it, some of her dignity, but she would not be defeated. With the aid of a multitude of appliances she carried on as normally as possible, with family and friends taking her out on shopping expeditions to ensure that all of the family, and especially her grandchildren were catered for at Christmas. This was typical of the woman, her own problems and difficulties were always put to the back of her mind, to her it was a duty to help others first. It had been this way as far as any of us could remember.

Mary spent four weeks in South Tyneside District Hospital in December, being treated for a chest infection, and returned home on December 23rd. in time to spend a quite magical Christmas Day with her family. She ate with the appetite of a front row forward and had great fun with the grandchildren. A final blast of radiotherapy enabled her to enjoy a brief period of improved mobility before the aggressive tumour in her back began to control her destiny. She returned to the hospital on Sunday 5th. February 2006 suffering from, what appeared to be, a deep vein thrombosis in the left leg. She was still lucid, alert, and very aware of everything that was happening around her, but she was tired, very tired. She never complained of being in any physical pain and her pain control measures were very small compared to other cancer patients (she was only using 30 mgms. of morphine each day), she had also maintained her weight during the whole of the last seven months. In all of this time, from the waist up, she looked quite healthy. The following day she was again tired having suffered a restless night, she spent a lot of time sleeping on Monday. She waved good-bye to her family on Monday evening looking in good spirits and slept well all night long. On Tuesday morning Mary awoke at 06.00 to take her anti-biotic medication then went back to sleep, she passed away peacefully at 06.50

She was a remarkable woman, small in stature, with the heart of a lion, she had the patience of Job, and a generosity in her life which was unequalled. Never a complainer, she had a "let's get on with it" attitude, her laughter was infectious. Until 2005 she had been blessed with good health and retired from working at the age of seventy only two years earlier, it seemed that walking about six miles a day had kept her in such good shape. I loved her with a passion, she was my mentor, support, and helper, my best friend for most of my life, my carer and provider, my nurse and my scolder, she was everything and more than she should have been. I'm proud to have called her my mother.

Mary's funeral will take place at St. Jude's Church, Alice Street, Laygate, South Shields at 10.45 on Tuesday 14th. February, all those who knew her, or were touched by her are cordially invited, the cremation at South Shields will follow at 11.30.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Rebel Alliance

Rebel Alliance

I recall the first announcement made by Cllrs. Jim Capstick and Jane Branley proclaiming a new era in South Tyneside's politics with their formation of an Independant Alliance. The Shields Gazette described the grouping as "The Rebel Alliance" because of the united stand that these Councillors took against moves to locate a new "super school" at Temple Memorial Park, and their joint proposal of an alternative budget last year.

However, I begin to wonder whether our local "press johnnies" had wind of another scheme to create this new electoral grouping. The South Shields Progressive Association evolved from the remnants of the South Shields Rent and Ratepayers Association almost fourty years ago. As an organisation it has faded and is now ailing, it has a very small membership and no assets or property to call it's own, it exists only because of the efforts of people like Jim Capstick, Ken Hickman, and the family of Harry Marshall. In all probability, no other activities take place other than the fighting of elections, i.e. no coffee morning fund raisers, no social occassions, no regular dinner clubs for businessmen etc. In other words it has become a very loose grouping of Councillors of independant thought who oppose strongly the rule of Labour in this Borough.

They, at present, are quite apolitical, leaning this way or that without any strong direction. In a previous life the Progressive Association was fairly right of centre, certainly in the seventies and eighties when people like George and Stan Smith, Ken Charlton, Derek Thorpe, Maurice Piggott, George Wilkinson, Eddie Russell, John Webb, and myself populated their ranks of elected Councillors (incidentally, we were all members of The Conservative Party also.) In an earlier age people like Bob Bainbridge, Warden Newby, and Harry Marshall had quite Liberal views, yet never, in my experience has the Progressive Association chrysallised in the manner that it is doing now.

As an independant body, it's main aim has always been to oppose the edicts of the local Labour Party and to offer an alternative that is not based upon the ideaologies and ideas of any of the national parties, but seeking only to represent the views of the local population. You may think that in previous years that they were only a "cover" for the Conservatives, this is not true at all, we were never in any danger of becoming the majority block within the Progressive Association. The worry now is that the independant thought and mind of the Association is about to be turned to the left.

Recent announcements of Candidates to stand for the Alliance in May are beginning to display a distinctly "rebellious" streak, an influx of members and candidates who have spent a former life in the Labour Party, before being elbowed out or leaving dissolutioned. It is less than three years since some of them represented Labour on the Council, or fought under it's banner at election time. Husband and wife team Allan and Jane Branley, George Elsom, Tom Defty, and now John Hodgson are all former Labour "rebels" who upset the party whips before suffering at reselection meetings.
It is starting to look like the acquisition by a predatory entrepreneur of a virtually dead "shell" company, ready to be rebuilt with new and different trading purposes.

It will be rather interesting to see, after next week's public meeting, how the Alliance prepares to present policy.

* What direction will they take?
* What alternatives to Labour will they offer?
* If given the reigns of power, what would their spending plans be?
* Would they continue as a fully united opposition if they fail to make big inroads into Labour's majority?
* Will they have radical new ideas for us?
* For the floating voter is the choice to be between one socialist and another?

It is little wonder that the Conservative Councillors decided against joining the new Alliance opposition group.

My crystal ball sees solicitors preparing divorce papers sometime in the future.


2003 election results

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Alliance choose candidates

Thirteen, it's happening so fast!

This unlikely romance between the Progressive Association and former members of the Labour Party seems to be growing in ardour at an alarming rate! Like a couple of passionate thirteen year old teenagers embarking on their first adventures with the opposite sex, Cllr. Jimmy Capstick and Cllr. Jane Branley have gathered thirteen of their mates around them to provide comfort and support to the relationship.

You can be certain to have found them when you see this growing band gathering in the schoolyard with sheepish grins embedded between their cheekbones. The Progressive/Independant Alliance has announced today that they have thirteen candidates so far lined up to fight the local elections in May. Cllr. Jane Branley, Campaign Manager for the Alliance is well pleased at the progress made by the group in less than two months since the Alliance was formed.

What the Alliance do not have, at present, is thirteen items of policy. However, if the public has taken such a speedy liking to the new group, then perhaps it won't be too long before thirteen new ideas emerge. A meeting will be held next Wednesday in the Town Hall at 7.00 p.m. when members of the public can come along and meet the thirteen candidates and discuss areas of concern.

Cllr. Jimmy Capstick, the veteran Progressive is urging the public to turn out and take the chance to influence the group's policy.

I notice amongst the group photograph in tonight's Gazette, that Stephen Pattison is standing as the Alliance candidate in the Biddick Hall and All Saints Ward, this is adventurism at it's very best, (I believe that it was one of the first wards that I cut my teeth in). Steve is well known for his tireless campaigning to prevent the building of the proposed "super school" on Temple Memorial Park last year. I wish him well, he learned so much about networking with new people and organisations last year, that he should find the jump into local politics a reasonably comfortable move.

Thirteen may be an unlucky number, but has proved lucky for some - we may well yet see announcements about the fielding of candidates in wards outside of South Shields (it is not unknown for the Progressives to be willing to field candidates in Jarrow or Hebburn).

My real worry, of course, is that the anti-Labour vote is split and splintered. This will happen as the Liberal-Democrats and the Conservatives announce their lists of candidates, we already know that former Progressive Councillor George Wilkinson will stand as a Tory in May. It is such a shame, because any serious analysis of the votes cast in local government elections over the past thirty years in South Shields shows that in a two party fight, Labour would struggle to form a majority on the Council.


Shields Gazette

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Teens sexual health

Our teens to be screened for sexual infection

Girls as young as 15 are to be routinely tested for sex infections.

A new service is being launched in the region to screen women aged 16 to 24 for chlamydia, a symptomless infection that, left untreated, can cause infertility.

Newcastle Primary Care Trust has been given the cash to run the free screening programme across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

Gateshead has secured £500,000 from this to help set up a Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) service, due to be introduced in April.

Despite having the highest rate of sexually-transmitted infections in the country, our region has the longest waits for genito-urinary medicine clinics.

South Tyneside of course is no different to the rest of the region with youngsters becoming sexually active at what appears to be much earlier stages. One only needs to look at the incidents of childbirth amongst the under 21's, and the rising number of young single parent families supported by the rest of the community, to understand that some phase of the educational process is failing. So why have our Primary Care Trust not come up with such an innovative idea to reduce the risks of sexually transmitted diseases in future years?

Lack of finances because the family silver was given to Mrs. Awotona?


The Evening Chronicle


Religious Hatred Bill

Government defeated by one vote, (Prime Minister failed to turn up......oops!)

Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an error of judgement, failed to appreciate the rising tide of opinion against certain clauses in the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, so he didn't bother turning out at the sound of the division bell yesterday. Consequently, his government lost another vote in the House of Commons following the defeat over anti-terror laws recently.

Protestors against the Bill were led by North-East comic Rowan Atkinson, better known as Mr. Bean or Blackadder. The entertainer has campaigned for months against clauses in the Bill which have been seen as an attack on our rights of free speech. In it's original form the Bill would have outlawed the telling of jokes which ridiculed religious or racial customs. These clauses were removed by votes in the House of Lords, but those on the Treasury Bench hoping to have them reinstated were in for a shock as many Labour MPs failed to vote. Many were away campaigning in a bye-election, and a handful rebelled against the party whip.

Questions are likely to be asked about the government's management of it's back benchers and of the inability of the Chief Whip, Hilary Armstrong, to deliver the votes. South Shields MP and Cabinet Minister David Miliband voted to keep the Bill in it's original form.


The Times Online


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