Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This is a nonsense!

Recycling rumpus.

So, if you have a business, a commercial enterprise, no matter how large or small, and you decide to 'do your bit' by recycling you rubbish, then South Tyneside Council will penalise you for your efforts.

The Mid-Boldon Club has been doing it's best to be environmentally aware and responsible, they separate their rubbish into clean 'kerb it' containers for paper, glass, and aluminium, but now the Council has decided not to collect it! Instead, because of the amounts, they advise to take it to the Recycling Village in Throckley Way, South Shields, where you can separate it there, and put it in the correct skips, and drive away, after paying for the privelege of doing it yourself!

This is sheer nonsense, if people choose to use the recycling facility, and are prepared to do the donkey work themselves, and they have paid their Council Tax, then why on earth should there be a charge for voluntary recycling at a place where the staff have stood and watched you 'doing your bit'? Simply because the waste came from a business is not excusable, if the team at the Recycling Village do not handle the job, it should remain as free as it is for a normal householder!
Reviewing the 'potential' to collect recyclable waste in partnership with Groundwork South Tyneside and a private company is all well and good, but for those businesses who are prepared to do the job themselves?

I thought we were trying to encourage recycling.


Shields Gazette.


Seen in Shields (3)

Treat, or dastardly trick?

Chief Constable Craik said:

"Trick or treat can be enjoyable for those who are happy to take part and organise the occasion.
However, for others who find it inflicted upon them, it can easilyu become a nuisance or lead to intimidation. Parents should know that it can be quite frightening for vulnerable and elderly residents to have a series of callers coming to their door at night and asking for gifts, particularly if the youngsters are not known to them, and are persistent and become unpleasant if the householder has nothing to offer them."

This bloke ought to have chose a less frightening mask this evening before deciding to intimidate the population! Wonder where we've seen him before?


Shields Gazette


Stern Report slapped down

Ruth Lee attacks 'green taxes'.

In an article in today's Daily Telegraph, Ruth Lee, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, reiterates some of the points I made in this post, that David Miliband's demands for extra fiscal revenue might be seen as just that - extra revenue.

The point surely should be that we move taxation away from some areas in order to regulate our carbon emissions, i.e. a shift in taxation not an increase in taxation. Ruth additionally makes the point that some nations (India and China presumably) are unlikely to take a jot of notice of Britain's lead and will continue to emit more carbons than the rest of us could ever offset. The world's fastest growing economies are also it's worst polluters!


Daily Telegraph


No racial motive in Phipps murder

21 year old admits murder

One the one hand we should be relieved that 21 year old Scott Trevor Nichols had admitted murdering Lee Phipps, and saved the victim's family the anguish of sitting through a trial reliving the details of the horrendous knife attack. On the other hand, we should question, like Phipps' father, why such a dangerous young man was walking freely around the streets of South Shields.

Phipps was a keen amateur photographer, and on March 2nd. of this year had walked from the home he shared with his mother to capture scenes of a recent snowfall on Cleadon Hill, South Shields. Whilst he was making his way up Occupation Road, known to us as The Ash Path, Nichols pounced with the intention of stealing Phipps' camera and equipment, but 31 year old Phipps resisted the attempted mugging and tried to hang on to Nichols. It was at this point that a knife was produced and Nichols stabbed his victim a number of times inflicting a fatal wound to the heart. Phipps body was found slumped nearby in the doorway of a house in Cleadon Hill Road, South Shields where he had made his way to look for help.

It emerged in court yesterday that Nichols had no fewer than 37 previous convictions for robbery, violence, burglary, and carrying a knife. At the age of 21 this young and very dangerous man had not been sufficiently dealt with by our legal system, had still not learned any hard lessons in life, was not in any way 'reformed', and was still wandering around carrying a knife, with the intention of using it to aid his greedy attempted thefts and make good his escape. One needs to question WHY?
Curly has run into Nichols at the Corner Shop in the past, and I found him to be wholly untrustworthy and wildly unpredictable, the type who deserved a 'wide berth' and relished his 'reputation'.

Nichols will return to Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday to face what is known as a Newton inquiry, so that Judge David Hodson can hear further evidence surrounding the events before deciding on the minimum tarriff of the inevitable life sentence.

Without wishing to add to the family's grief and heartache, I have to ask whether Barbara Yuuf-Porter, Phipps' mother, was right to insist on pursuing relentlessly, her contention that there was a racial motive behind her son's murder? It is reasonably well known that South Shields has an excellent reputation for racial integration and social harmony, the town has enjoyed a very long history of social inclusion since her ancestral Somalians first began arriving here on ships in the late 1700s. The pressure applied to the investigating police team was already high, as in most murder cases, and they cannot have been helped by this distraction (probably made in error during a period of extreme anxiety and grief.)


Shields Gazette
Newcastle Journal.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Strange edm from North-East MPs

North East Motorway Link

A number of North-East Mps have signed the following Early Day Motion calling for our region to be fully integrated into the country's motorway system.

That this House welcomes the call from the Northern Way initiative for the North East of England to be fully linked to the UK motorway system as a step in the right direction and a major contribution to the aims and objectives of the Go for Jobs campaign in the region; and recognises that, while it is true to argue that congestion cannot be resolved by simply building more roads, a fully integrated motorway system throughout the nation is nevertheless an essential part of promoting economic growth in the regions and reducing regional disparities and that the current isolation of the North East from the rest of the motorway network unfairly and unreasonably discriminates against the North East.

Perhaps one of them would care to explain what exactly they mean by this, where does the A1M lead to? I'm sure Stephen Hepburn has travelled this road a number of times when supporting Sunderland at away matches!

picture of map of north-east England


Des Browne's new toy.

Action Man

Hat tip - Beau Bo D'or

picture of Action Man


Trow Quarry still not safe - Collins

Former warden speaks out!

This blog has tracked each piece of dirt, sniffed the wind, watched the tides of trouble, and sought each piece of news on the Trow Quarry issue on a number of occasions. Today the former National Trust Warden, Peter Collins, states again that Trow Quarry is not a safe place to visit, and gains another ally in South Tyneside's Lib-Dem Leader Cllr. Joe Abbot.
Collins said:

"I am still very worried that people are still visiting the site. I lost my home and financially I am worse off as a result of being sacked, but I don't regret it at all. I shouldn't really be speaking, but this is a point of principle. I will not be gagged about the chemicals at Trow Quarry.

I had an expert examine the site and he was convinced of the dangers. How can they say all the chemicals are underground when there is clear erosion which is exposing them? They clearly know something is wrong at the site, but have done nothing about it. They say they have put up signs warning people not to play in the soil, but people just don't pay attention to them."

Like Joe Abbot and Peter Collins, I too remain unconvinced of the area's safety, one only has to look at this photograph to appreciate the effects of coastal erosion, this is still an area of open access without any form of serious restriction, despite previous promises of action.


The Journal


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Have a word with him David

Ben Bradshaw environmental dumper of the week!

Ben Bradshaw MP (pictured)picture of Ben Bradshaw MP is an Environment Minister working in David Miliband's department. He is much used to telling us that we should recycle our waste and make good use of the facilities provided by our local councils to do so. It seems that this has become a very popular Sunday pastime in South Shields, I waited in a very long queue of cars at our new Recycling Village in Throckley Way, South Shields to 'do my bit' today, yet Mr, Bradshaw, apparently cannot be bothered.

Another display of hypocracy amongst the nuLabour ranks I would say!
(Have a word in his ear David.)


The Mail on Sunday


Miliband behind "secret" green taxes.

Eco taxes by stealth.

David Miliband must be well pleased that Google's Blogger network has been plagued with problems today, millions of bloggers around the world have been unable to upload posts, and thousands in the U.K. will have been unable to comment on the contents of the 'leaked' letter that he sent to Gordon Brown.

Miliband, it seems, is behind moves to introduce a swathe of green taxes in an effort to encourage us, through market forces and pricing measure, to reduce our personal carbon emissions, and reduce the U.K.'s 2% contribution to global emissions. I am much in favour of environmental taxes, but they must not be used simply as a source of additional revenue for H.M. Treasury! Whatever revenue is raised through these measures MUST be offset by reductions elsewhere, using the environment as an excuse to fatten Gordon Brown's coffers is not acceptable.

His ideas to reintroduce a fuel tax escalator producing even more funds for the Treasury, even when the price of oil is falling, is an outrage, it is a hidden stealth tax of the worst kind. If New Labour can't be up front on fiscal measures then how on earth do they expect to earn respect?

HOWEVER, if the government were to make solid concrete green commitments, with well thought out plans to invest the additional revenues in imaginative workable solutions to the greenhouse gas problems, then perhaps we might come on board. We need to see responses such as a new contract to include solar panels and wind turbines and renewable materials in all new commercial and housing developments, decisions to build wind turbines and tidal barrages to support the U.K.'s energy needs, a commitment to phase out the petrol engine by subsidising the building of biofuel engines in the U.K. or building hybrid fuel cell cars such as driven by Mr. Miliband (we need them too at a price WE can afford.)picture of toyota prius There are other measures to be taken too, landfill needs to be phased out, complex incineration needs to be considered, large scale composting needs to be encouraged, - you will note that I used the word 'encouraged' - we do not need measures forced down our throats such as the spy in the bin! Recent attacks on householders through the courts will only provoke people to be belligerent, recycling will go out of the window, along with most of our refuse along roads and hedgerows.

As our MP, I know that Mr. Miliband is well intentioned and has a passion for delivering on the Kyoto Agreement, but the plans he has outlined to the Chancellor, as reported in the Mail on Sunday will need a concensus to be generally accepted, they will not be popular if introduced by either 'stealth' or 'dictat'.


The Mail on Sunday

Iain Dale Guide to Blogging


Blair struggles

"If I want to work in the factories after I leave school............." (schoolboy)

"No they aren't all going abroad......er, er...........(looks blank)..................did you know that China and India have about.....er, er.......billions of people each.............er, er.......jobs change you know".........Blair.

You can see the video - here


Wasting our cash

Cabinet Office on YouTube.

I have featured a few videos on this weblog, some of which were produced by myself, using nothing more than my digital camera and couple of hours of my time with Windows Moviemaker. You could say, I did it for free, all to help promote tourism and attract visitors to South Shields, just 'doing my bit' you understand.

The average cost of video clips produced for the ever popular YouTube site is somewhere between nil and a fiver, yet the good people in Blair's team at the Cabinet Office have somehow managed to spend over 18,000 pounds of tax payers' money to produce this drivel! Staggering isn't it!


An Inconvenient Truth

Perhaps I should thank Miliband.

I first read about private screenings of this film in David Miliband's blog, where he boasted that DEFRA organised the first private screening in the UK, that was way back in July.

This is not a film, as such, it's a ninety minute documentary about the science, history, and impact of climate change. Presented by the 'ex-next' President of the United States, Al 'bore' Gore, and titled An Inconvenient Truth, it is something that really is worth seeing. I recently visited some old friends in Sheffield and took the opportunity of going to see the film there, unfortunately it is only showing in 21 UK cinemas at present.

It is an eye opener in more ways than one! Al Gore comes across as a much better lecturer than campaign politician, he manages to inject some real human humour into that wooden frame of his, perhaps he has found his 'niche' at last - America's Attenborough perhaps? There is plenty of doom and gloom to be portrayed by the man with the lap top, and being American it is packed with scientific anecdotes but a little short on solutions, however, there is sufficient there to prick the conscience and to make one think rather more deeply about our own impact on the planet.

I have been a little sceptical over some of the claims made in the name of climate change in the past, particularly over rising sea levels, but in An Inconvenient Truth there is compelling content, enough to make me question my own previous conclusions. The sequences showing the melting of pack ice at both the North and South poles is quite revealing, I had previously believed that it was a greater than normal melting of the sea ice around Antarctica and Greenland that was the cause for concern - it is not! Land based glaciers and shelf ice is melting and breaking up at an alarming rate! Just eighteen days ago the River Tyne was flooding parts of Newcastle's Quayside and lapping over the pavement at the Mill Dam in South Shields, and this was the result of an unusually high tide coupled with the effects of a full moon, it only requires a little imagination to picture the effects of a one metre rise in sea levels to think about it's effects in parts of South Shields and Jarrow!

If you get the opportunity or chance to see An Inconvenient Truth, take it! It is entertaining and instructive and thought provoking. Thank you Mr. Miliband, for bringing it to my attention!

You can view a trailer - here.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Combatting obesity in children

22% overweight in reception classes.

Figures reveal that 22% of South Tyneside's children in reception classes are overweight and this rises to 37% by the time they reach year 6. Whilst the figures only reflect the national average, this Borough is no better or worse than others, they do give cause for concern.

Our Council is achieving high standards in the provision of school meals to a prescribed nutritional balance, with reduced sugars, salts and fats, and increased vitamin and mineral content, so this is not an issue.

What perhaps is an issue, is the diet followed by children outside of school, at home, and also the exercise regimes of modern children. We see fewer groups of youngsters actively playing in back lanes and front streets these days, as parents become wary of the dangers of increased traffic, we also tend to see fewer children playing actively in the boroughs parks and open spaces, perhaps because many families have two working parents, hence the children are not taken to these places. This is a great shame, when I was a youngster, children played outside from the time they arrived home from school and stayed outside until after sunset when parents would gather them in. Of course we didn't have such easy access to the range of convenience "fatty" foods that are available now, and relied on a more stable but healthy diet of fresh foods cooked in the home by mother. A quick snack might consist of an apple, orange, plum, or peach. However, when it was time to come in, we came in physically tired having enjoyed hours of strenuous exercise. We played football in the back lanes, girls had their own type of running about games, we climbed trees and walls, we chased each other, we ran about playing hide and seek, we ranged about for miles collecting the most mundane items for some of our games, a bus ticket, a leaf, a sweet wrapper etc. The first back to base with a full collection was the winner.

At school we also excercised strenuously, and this is an area I have concerns about today. Each school split it's pupils into "houses", and these houses gained points for their sporting exploits to determine the annual winner of a house trophy. Houses, often named after local luminaries, would compete in such sports as soccer, rugby, netball, cricket, hockey, tennis, cross country running, swimming, badminton, etc. This was just the level of competition in each individual school (Hogwarts Hall has something valuable to teach us here).

At town and county levels there were sporting leagues for schools to partake in for football, rugby, hockey, netball, etc. We had representative teams for South Shields, indeed I played football for South Shields Boys at under 12, under 14, and under 16 levels, and I played rugby for Durham County.

Now I read regularly of mini soccer leagues for lads in the local paper but these seem to be organised outside of the education system by groups of enthusiastic parents, supported by sponsorship from local businesses. I no longer see reports of results from schools leagues, is it because they no longer exist? Do we still enter a team in the English Schools F.A. Cup for example?

If Councillor Smith wishes to consider action plans to combat childhood obesity, may I suggest that her committee starts by rebuilding the foundations of sport in schools, I'm sure it is greatly missed and was a great contributor to the overall fitness levels of children decades ago. Many schools still have the sporting facilities and fields required but perhaps do not have the level of qualified staff (Loughbrough College was a massive resource for sports graduates years ago.) Apart from increasing the fitness of our children, and reducing their propensity to balloon to enormous proportions, it also instills a competitve spirit, team working ethics, and collective pride in achievements.


Shields Gazette.


He'll make an effing awful Prime Minister!

Osbourne get's under the Chancellor's skin

In Treasury Questions yesterday the Shadow Chancellor, George Osbourne, managed to upset the monotone rhythm of Gordon Brown, who reacted in a manner most unbecoming of one who sees himself as the next Prime Minister.

Gordon spat out the dummy and threw the toys out of the pram!

Having been goaded by Osbourne over the state of the nation's pensions crisis, and questioned over his own role in the destruction of private final salary pension schemes, Brown found himself at a loss for words as emotions and gestures took control.

Mr Osborne, David to Mr Brown's Goliath, came to the Dispatch Box and asked about the lamentable state of pensions: "I know the Chancellor doesn't do humility but does he accept any blame for what's gone wrong?"

The Chancellor responded by dwelling on some of the blunders which he says a Tory government would make about pensions. The Speaker rose and said: "He can't dwell on what is Conservative Party policy."

Mr Brown's lower lip chattered as he struggled to arrest the flood of words in which he was trying to drown Mr Osborne, who instead continued goading the Chancellor: "No one believes what he says about his own policies, let alone ours."

At this point Mr Brown lost his cool and threw his papers towards Mr Osborne. They landed beside the shadow chancellor's glass of water. This marked an amazing loss of self-control by Mr Brown. It was as if, like an adult who starts screaming at a naughty child, he had allowed himself to be dragged down to the level of his tormentor.

The interest in watching Mr Brown lies in wondering whether the red-hot passions that one can sense blazing within him will ever result in a volcanic eruption, or whether he can go on channelling all that fire into his relentless oratory.

Mr Osborne followed up by quoting an assessment which John Hutton, the pensions secretary, is supposed to have made of Mr Brown: "He'll make an effing awful Prime Minister."

The Speaker ordered Mr Osborne to withdraw, prompting the cheeky Tory to rise and say: "I of course unreservedly withdraw the quote from the Secretary of State for Pensions."
Curly wonders if the Blairites will eventually find a "stop Gordon at any cost" candidate?


Daily Telegraph

Iain Dale Guide to Blogging


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New use for Westoe Pit?

Geological repository proposed.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, and South Shields MP, David Miliband has proposed the construction of a geological nuclear waste repository, probably in advance of a decision to upgrade our nuclear energy production facilities.

Perhaps a new use for the sunken tunnels that were Westoe Colliery, nine miles out at sea and thousands of feet under the sea bed? Now that would get a few tongues wagging! (Cue Mr. Paget.)

Remember the almighty rows caused when the trains ran through the Boldons and Jarrow on their way to Sellafield?

(Actually I'm in favour, in principal, so long as the sites are VERY carefully considered.)


BBC News


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Old Co-op warehouse flattened.

Victory for residents - Tesco to move quickly?

It was heartening to see in this evening's Shields Gazette a picture of Cllrs. Hanson and Stewart with a couple of residents, celebrating the demolition of the old Co-operative Society warehouse on Shaftesbury Avenue. The current owners, Tesco, are probably just as relieved to see the back of the place after it became a haunt for teenagers, with all of the risks involved in scurrying around derelict buildings.

We can only hope that Tesco come to a quick decision over a possible future use for the site, and that the Council gives the requisite permission, it is possible that they may wish to expand the size of the current store to add to their competitiveness. Alternatively they might like to open a strip club to utilise the products that they currently have on sale!

It would be a shame if this land ended up wallowing in the doldrums like so much of the town centre in Jarrow. This land on either side of Ormonde Street and Walter Street has lain fallow (I have on good authority) since 1952, whilst one side of Jarrow High Street has been empty since the 1960s.

A testament to solid progress over the decades by local Labour politicians!


Jarrow girl admits false rape claim.

Isn't it time for a change in the law?

A man gets arrested under suspicion of rape, his name is made public, he becomes a pariah, treat like a leper in society, he will be forever remembered as the man in "that rape case" (even though there was never a case). The fact that his fifteen year old accuser has withdrawn the allegation and admitted her story was a tissue of lies, is neither here nor there, "mud sticks" as they say!

Poor Mr. Molloy will carry this episode around with him for a long time indeed, he will become used to the gossip and whispering behind his back, (or perhaps not), whilst his juvenile accuser will be able - after swallowing the official police caution - to get on with building her life.

This is SO WRONG!

Surely it is time to look at some amendment to the current procedures under the law: my view on rape allegations is that the names of both the accused and the accuser should remain confidential from the time of arrest until the conclusion of any case. Mr. Molloy's only path for restoration of his reputation is through a civil court, with all of the costs that it will involve, and a fifteen year old girl is unlikely to be able to afford to may much in the way of damages.

Perhaps our MPs might like to think of raising these matters in higher circles!


Shields Gazette.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Cameron and Age Concern

Tories move to capture the "grey vote"

David Cameron in his Vblog is seen preparing his keynote speech to Age Concern after noting that Tony Blair was elected on a "cool Brittania" theme, which made it appear that Blair's Britain was designed for the young!

I'm much impressed with Cameron's weblog with it's video clips, let's be honest, when was the last time you were treated to such intimate moments from a leading politician? In this clip he is surrounded by his colleagues and aides as they thrash out ideas for inclusion in his speech.

Another great idea is the inclusion of the embeddable code so that local Tory Associations (take note in South Shields) can add the clips to their websites. I guess it saves others like me the tedium of reading through the source codes of a web page to filch the contents!


Postal vote charges

More controversy over postal ballots.

I have been increasingly concerned at the headlong rush into increasing the take up of postal ballots, which has been a bit of a "pet project" for Labour Deputy Leader on South Tyneside, Cllr Iain Malcolm. I have noted on more than one occasion in this blog the fraudulent activities of a few councillors and candidates in other parts of the country who have been so quick to exploit the inherant weaknesses in the system.

My fears are exacerbated today with the news that Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman (pictured) agrees that election results can be rigged through postal ballots.
In a report to the Metropolitan Police Authority he writes:
"It is the view of the SPU (Special Prosecutions Unit) that widespread use of postal votes has opened up a whole new area to be exploited by the fraudster and the opportunity has been taken. It is difficult to assess if abuse of postal voting has altered the outcome of local elections but it is possible. It is the view of the SPU that the postal voting system must be properly managed and scrutinised otherwise the integrity of the electoral system will be compromised. Anecdotally some community contacts have remarked on how some practices that are seen as acceptable outside the UK have been adopted in respect of UK elections. For example, the head of an extended family instructing family members to vote for a particular party or candidate."
Curly thinks it would be wise to restrict, rather than expand, the issuing of postal ballots to those who are genuinely infirmed and unlikely to be able to get to a polling station, or those who will genuinely be out of the constituency on the day of the poll. Experiments in "all postal ballot" elections ought to be stopped forthwith, and students at the age of seventeen should be educated and informed about the need to participate in our democratic processes through the traditional secrecy of the ballot box.


Daily Mail


H.M.S. Calliope for South Tyneside?

R.N.V.R. move proposed.

Gateshead Council for some time have been unhappy at seeing the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve H.M.S. Calliope in the midst of their plans to redevelop Gateshead Quay and are keen to sweep the land based "ship" out of the way. Naturally the Royal Navy are not too keen on the idea, fearing it would slow recruitment if they were to move away from their historical base.

Informal meetings and talks have taken place proposing a move to one of two sites within South Tyneside, either adjacent to H.M.S. Kelly Sea Cadit unit in Hebburn, or adjacent to McNulty Marine in South Shields. Curly would like to suggest a third - land adjacent to H.M.S. Colllingwood Sea Cadet unit in Wapping Street, South Shields (Comical Corner).

I understand that outline plans have already been made for this riverside site, but perhaps they can be reviewed? It would make sense to have most of the maritime activities grouped close together (Sea Cadet Unit, Marine College Seafarers Centre, and the Yacht Club).


Shields Gazette.


Council - Police crack down in Horsley Hill

Partnership toughens up!

Curly is glad to note that South Tyneside Council, through it's agent South Tyneside Homes, in partnership with Northumbria Police and their community beat managers, have taken positive steps to relieve the residents of Horsley Hill estate of the drug takers and dealers in their midst. The anti-social too are being dealt a blow along with the thieves and burglars. In a matter of a few short months good decent people who have spent their lives building strong community relationships will see a profound benefit from these actions.

Having spent months berating our Council through this blog over it's apparent inability to match the actions being taken by it's neighbours in North Tyneside and Newcastle, and fearing that my emails had fallen on deaf ears, it is now clear that South Tyneside Council's Anti-Social Behaviour Unit have taken the bull by the horns and are determined to enforce the Council's tenancy agreements, with the full backing and support of it's partners. It is now up to local residents to put away their fears of the yobs and to carry on gathering evidence of anti-social behaviour to bring to their local councillors. They can now be safe in the knowledge that the message has got through, and that they can be instrumental in making our estates safe, happy, friendly places to enjoy the hospitable community spirit that Geordie folk are famous for creating.


Shields Gazette


The Great Pensions Robbery

Brown's 100 billion raid

I've had a fairly long and tiring weekend with little time left to blog, but I managed to keep the Daily Photos running and had time to take in Sunderland's win against Barnsley. However, having recently turned fifty, I was contemplating my later life and considering how much less well off I might be as a result of Gordon Brown's raid on my final salary pension scheme. I'm not alone, as thousands of others too will likely take part time employment well past the time when we had planned to stop working altogether.

As a result of the Chancellor's very first budget after NuLabour came to power in 1997, at least 100 billion pounds has been wiped off the value of private pension funds.

The Sunday Telegraph seems to have been the only paper in the mainstream media to have taken up the tale and it makes horrifying reading - here's an extract;

Last week, The Sunday Telegraph made public an authoritative new research paper which showed that a seemingly innocuous tax change by Gordon Brown, a mere footnote to his 1997 budget, has cost UK pension funds more than 100 billion pounds.

Delivering his first budget, Mr Brown told the Commons that the abolition of "advance corporation tax relief" was a "long-needed reform". At the time, the move went almost unnoticed. Nobody, save for a handful of government and private-sector actuaries, understood the implications of what he had done. And given New Labour's awesome power at the time - fresh into office and with a huge parliamentary majority - few credible voices were raised in protest.

But, over the years, the impact of Mr Brown's "pension stealth tax" has become all too clear. By removing relief on share dividends, the Chancellor denied pension funds income to the tune of about 5 billion pounds a year. When you take into account the fact that those dividends are often re-invested, the true financial impact of this move soon escalates to eye-watering levels.
It is the power of such compounding that means that even our new estimate of the full impact - 100 billion pounds - may still be too low. Even so, it is more than twice as much as the combined pension deficits of this country's biggest 350 companies.

You can read the full five page article - here

Some of the readers comments to the follow up article this week are scathing. This is just a selection.

Simon Coulter said;

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Gordon Brown mortgaged the futures of millions of workers in Britain almost as soon as he came into office.

The hypocrisy of all this allegedly socialist government has done in power in the area of pensions is palpable.

Self-provision (or private) pension schemes have been ruined by Brown's annual tax raid.

Employer schemes have been utterly bankrupted in the same way - so that today they are now closing to new entrants, being redrawn on far less favourable terms for existing members (who are in shock at their bleak future - having always thought they would be OK) - or even becoming insolvent at an unprecedented rate.

Meanwhile the government has not the spine to tackle Civil Service pensions - still gold plated and available at 60 - underwritten by the poor taxpayer."

At the same time they have the gall to flag up that the already pitiful state pension will soon not be available to workers until 68 or even 70.

Bryan Lewis said;

"The strategy of New Labour was very clear. To move 100 billion pounds of pension fund money from the future to be spent today. Bravo! This is typical of modern politics, but rather surprising that we do not have enough mathematicians to do the calculations until now."

It is something worth thinking about for everyone currently contributing to a private pension scheme, the Department for Work and Pensions for years sought to shift workers away from state pensions into the private sector: its leaflets assured people that "final salary schemes give you a guaranteed pension". While all this was going on, however, Gordon Brown was draining billions of pounds from pension funds. His levy, coming at a time of rising longevity and falling stock markets, bankrupted many company schemes. As a result, more than 100,000 people found themselves without the pensions they had been promised (needless to say, MPs are not in this category: their final-salary schemes are underwritten by taxpayers).

The Parliamentary Ombudsman blamed their predicament on "Government maladministration", and asked ministers, not only to cover the workers' losses, but to make a further payment to compensate them for their travails. The Government took the extraordinary step of rejecting the report. Although a small fund was established, its payments have been grudging and niggardly: fewer than 400 victims have received any money.

Chancellor Brown is being thoroughly shameful in failing to offer a proper level of compensation to those who have lost out through Labour's "maladministration" and it would cost just a tiny proportion of the billions the treasury has accrued in order to make a one off payment to put the matter right. This mortgaging of Britain's future by Brown in 1997 has cost us dearly and will continue to affect this and the next generation, and as a result we will see our workforce working on until much later in life because the promised comforts of our private pension schemes will not be sufficient to sustain us until we receive our meagre state pension.


The Sunday Telegraph

Iain Dale Guide to Blogging


Friday, October 20, 2006

12% not enough

Busmen to strike

Negotiations between Stagecoach and it's drivers in South Shields have broken down, and members of the Transport and General Workers Union have voted to strike next Monday and Friday. The company has offered a pay rise of 12% over the next 28 months, but the drivers have rejected the offer.

At a time when we are trying to encourage greater use of public transport to lessen the effects of carbon emissions produced by private vehicles, this news can only be described as disappointing.


BBC Tyne


Weather report

Tyne Dock holding well.

Just travelled from South Shields town centre to pop home for a cup of tea at lunchtime, it's been raining cats and dogs for the last hour with some very heavy and prolongued showers. The good news, as far as Northumbria water is concerned, is that their work to improve the position at Kennedy's Bar at Tyne Dock appears to have been a success!

I can report that the car park of B&Q in Station Road(pictured above) is heavily flooded, there is a serious flood in Commercial road just past it's junction with Smithy Street, and there is a surge of water now rising from the manhole covers at Tyne Dock (but no flooding yet). Oddly, the latest Met. Office forecast is for "scattered showers"!


No Tory Tax Cuts

Cameron cautious.

David Cameron, although not wishing to serve a snub to the Forsyth Commission, is ruling out immediate tax cuts should the party win the next election. He is urging caution until the state of the nation's finances are accurately assessed in a post Labour state; writing in today's Daily Telegraph Cameron reiterates his preferred position of looking for a stable economy with the gains of growth being equally shared between public services and tax reforms - in other words 'don't hold your breath'.


The Daily Telegraph.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Should he stay or should he go

"The Clash" in Manchester

This video is hilarious, I find it best to let the whole thing download before replaying to get the best result.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Win Ugly

Keane looking for win at any cost?

After Sunderland's dismal defeat at the hands of Stoke City, manager Roy Keane will be happy to "win ugly", three points in any style will do! Our defence is so static we may as well hire a couple of bricklayers and wall up the goalmouth!

Perhaps what we need at Sunderland are some tough tackling, no-nonsense midfielders and rock solid defenders.

Note to Keano - when January arrives, sign Boris!


Postal votes under the microscope again.

Council of Europe to investigate

I have often opined in this blog about the inadequacies of our postal voting and registration systems, which have led to criminal cases coming before the courts for electoral fraud. I am therefore pleased that the Council of Europe is being asked to investigate alleged human rights breaches over the issue.

Scandals arising from Tony Blair's strategy to improve turnouts by giving everybody the right to vote by post risk placing Britain in the same league as newly toppled dictatorships.

The Council of Europe was created in 1949 as a postwar bulwark against communism, with Britain among the ten founders. Today it brings together 46 nations from Iceland to Russia. Much of its work involves supporting ex-communist states to introduce democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

David Wilshire (pictured above), a Tory MP on the council's assembly, persuaded centre-right and liberal parliamentarians from across Europe to demand an inquiry.

In a motion they complained of "the growing body of evidence that widespread absent vote fraud is taking place in the UK". Such cheating would breach the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires nations to "hold free elections . . . which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature".

Chris Ruane, the Labour MP for Vale of Clwyd, urged the team to look also at the voters missing from the roll. "Postal voting fraud is totally unacceptable but it is also totally unacceptable to have up to 3 million people missing off the register," he said.

Curly hopes some good will become of this move, and that we see a great slowdown in the growth of postal voting applications, which in some constituencies have grown at an alarming rate!


The Times Online

Iain Dale Guide to Blogging


"First Lady" cashing in while she can!

Cruella de Blair off to the U.S.A. again.

Probably delighting at being described as Britain's 'First Lady' (even though that title belongs to the Queen), Cherie Blair who has just returned from the States after visiting young Ewan in hospital is going back again. Not to visit her son, who had an appendectomy, but to cash in on a few speaking engagements before she and her husband think about finding new accomodation away from Downing Street.

Gordon Rayner in the Daily Mail reports that she will be making up to 60,000 pounds for two lectures including one to a women's conference in Chicago.

Curly says make hay while the sun shines, time is running out, but the mortgage repayments aren't!


The Daily Mail


Disabled parking update.

Disabled Bay abusers "criminals"

Curly is indebted to Mike in Huddersfield (an ex-pat Sanddancer) who having read yesterday's post about the abuse of disabled parking bays, got in touch with the Corner Shop and sent me a copy of a policy paper written by West Yorkshire Police for the Home Office in 1999. It's an interesting read and shows that a great number of people who park in disabled bays without proper authority are more than likely criminal. West Yorkshire Police and their traffic wardens decided to target these cars for in depth investigation and found a high number without licences, without insurance, without tax, or the vehicle had been stolen, or the driver had criminal convictions. They described the abuse as "self selection" crime.

One sentence is particularly apt: 'It takes a special kind of selfishness to park there illegally'.

You can download and view this .pdf - here

Perhaps it might be worthwhile taking a closer look at some of the abusers of disabled bays in this area?

Iain Dale Guide to Blogging


Driving us mad (Part 3)

Borough resident loses the plot over car parks!

Ahmed Khan, a former election candidate, has his "head in the shed" thinking about the town centre car parks allocated for the use of Council employees. The car parks in Winchester Street and Claypath Lane, South Shields have 175 bays available for Town Hall staff and are available for the public to use after 6.00 p.m. and at weekends. Mr. Khan believes that the Council should charge it's staff up to two pounds per day to park there, thus generating 91,000 pounds per year to help offset our council tax. He also thinks the car parks are presently not being used to their full capacity (he has a small point here.)

However his analysis and conclusions are terribly flawed, one only has to take a walk down the rear of Westoe Road, South Shields, and Derby Street to see these areas choked with cars parked by our Council staff, those who have misplaced or lost their permits. If, like the Health Service employees at the General Hospital, they were made to pay a charge, they would simply park elsewhere, choking up most of the streets behind the Town Hall and causing untold distress to the residents!

The rest of us would lose the use of the only free weekend car parks in the town centre, thanks for your efforts Mr. Khan, but the status quo is the best option.


Shields Gazette


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Driving us mad (Part 2)

Looking after the disabled

(Warning - strong language!)

One of the obligations placed upon Corner Shop owners and other retailers by the Disability Discrimination Act, is that any parking bays marked specifically for disabled users should be monitored and as far as possible kept clear for those who have a special need for them. At the Corner Shop we have six such bays, just a matter of yards from the front entrance, conveniently situated for disabled and wheelchair users. I like to play my part in monitoring these bays from time to time, but the job does not permit time for constant surveilance. I believe it is a matter of simple courtesy to refrain from using these bays if one is not entitled to do so, others can be so less fortunate than ourselves and have greater needs.

So at around 7.30 p.m. today, as I was helping one of our customers load their van, a taxi came rushing into the car park, headed straight for the disabled bay area and parked there. The driver was shaven headed and had an elderly lady with him. As he got out of the car I asked him if he had a disabled badge to display in the vehicle? His reply was (verbatim):

"What the fucking hell are you on about! It's half past fucking seven, how many fucking disabled fuckers are going to come out shopping at this time of bastard night?

"Sir", I replied
"If you aren't entitled to park there, would you mind moving forward into the next vacant bay?"

"You can go and fuck right off, you little fucking jobsworth, who the fuck do you think you are? Little twat, I'll take this to the top, the head man! You're not going to fucking well tell me where to fucking park!"

As he and the lady made their way into the shop he muttered "I'll rip his fucking head off, stupid little c**t"

I was left wondering whether I should bar him completely, or have further words with him when he left, however, other customers intervened and vociferously shouted that he shouldn't be talking to anyone like that. The most annoying parts of the whole episode are that (a) I did not believe that we allowed such pig headed so and so's to drive taxis in this borough, and (b) I couldn't believe that he seriously thought that disabled people ought to kept at home when it's dark!

I feel that I ought to get in touch with the authorities on the Licensing sub-committee so that they can consider his less than helpfull and considerate actions when his Hackney Plate becomes due for renewal, I feel too that somewhere hidden away in South Tyneside there is a code of conduct for taxi drivers (albeit voluntary) which needs to be reiterated and in some way reinforced.

In conclusion, may I say, Driver with South Tyneside Hackney Plate number 173, you are a self-centred obnoxious foul-mouthed individual, you are a disgraceful representative of South Tyneside's fleet of taxis, and you don't care a jot about the disabled, you are undeserving of your badge and no tears will be shed if you lose it!


Driving us mad (Part 1)

Hold up.

There is an unusual story headlining the Shields Gazette this evening, all about a huge traffic jam on the A19 approach road to the Tyne Tunnel. The hold up was caused by an old gentleman on a motorised 8 mph scooter! The Gazette are anxious to find out who he is.

As you will see from the picture in the Gazette, this man was foolishly riding his scooter in the outside lane of a 70 mph dual carriageway with wreckless abandon. His actions put himself and other road users in extreme danger, heaven knows how he was lucky enough to get so far without having a nasty collision!

Readers in other parts will recognise that there is an abundance of these electric motorised scooter/shopping trollies around these days, our town centres and shopping malls are full of them. Unfortunately the owners of them (well at least a sizeable minority) are quite thoughtless and wreckless and care little about the safety of pedestrians. I have lost count of the number of times I have needed to quickly avoid one of these machines. I have had my ankles and shins bruised on a number of times, especially inside supermarkets.

Of course they are quite easy to access and buy, and there is nothing at all to prevent the immediate use of an electric scooter on the pavements or roads. Perhaps it is time to consider some regulation, at the very least the users ought to pass a simple and standardised proficiency test that will enable them to appreciate the risks to themselves and others.

I can understand the need for improved mobility amongst the elderly and the disabled, but the massive and rapid growth in the use of these machines leads me to question whether some people are actually reducing their motive capacity, as massive muscle groups become totally underused and wasted by the immediate convenience of an electric scooter!


Shields Gazette


Monday, October 16, 2006

Seven years bad luck?

Cash for peerage suspects could be jailed for seven years

The Daily Mail reports today that prosecutors may charge suspects with false accounting, in the cash for peerages scandal. If proven and found guilty, these suspects could face jail terms of up to seven years!

This extract from the report outlines the disgust of a sitting Labour Peer;

The development came as a Labour peer of 30 years said he was leavingpicture of Tony Blair the party benches in protest at the cash for honours row and Tony Blair's policies.

Lord Wedderburn, a renowned legal expert, said he could no longer support the party's 'malodorous practices' and would sit in future as a crossbencher, meaning he has no party allegiance.

He told the Daily Mail: 'I have been concerned about what appears to have gone on for some years.'

Lord Wedderburn said he could not understand why Lord Drayson, a major Labour donor, had been given a peerage and then appointed to the Government front benches.

'I was surprised he was made a peer and amazed he was made a defence minister,' he said.

Police have so far have questioned at least 48 people - more than a dozen under caution. Three have been arrested and bailed: Lord Levy, Mr Blair's chief fundraiser; Sir Christopher Evans, a biotechnology tycoon who lent Labour £1 million; and Des Smith, a headteacher and Government adviser who helped recruit wealthy backers for specialist schools.

All those arrested and questioned deny acting illegally. But the investigation appears to be closing in on Downing Street.

Mr Blair is expected to become the first serving Prime Minister to be questioned by police investigating alleged corruption - a grave embarrassment in the dying days of his Premiership - within the next few weeks.

Downing Street said last night there had been 'no change' in terms of a request from Scotland Yard for the Prime Minister to be interviewed.

You can read the full article - here

Curly thinks it would be nice to see that smile removed - hope they have some comfortable beds in the local nick (the prisons will be too full by then!)

Iain Dale Guide to Blogging


Sunday, October 15, 2006

A tribute to Margaret Thatcher

A reminder of why we needed her.

I am grateful to Iain Dale for reminding us of why the country needed the Thatcherite radicalism, and how the "Great" was put back into Britain. I somehow doubt if Tony Blair will be remembered for his spin and trickery!


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Arresting Officer

Cllr. McCabe in new guise!

The former Independant Councillor John McCabe is one of those political turncoats on South Tyneside Council who can change his allegiances without resort to the electorate to seek their approval. Having taken the Labour whip on the council and promising to wear the red rose of NuLabour, he now has a new disguise, a policeman's uniform!

It was reported during the week that he'd answered an agency advertisement for extras in Robson Green's next movie and ended up as a policeman making an arrest in King Street, South Shields, he confessed to being well suited to the role having spent time as a constable in the Durham force.

Mrs. Cannybody, on hearing that Cllr. McCabe was having a "walkabout surgery", didn't bank on being arrested for her over enthusiastic protest at the lack of a new lamp post in her back lane!

pictur of John McCabe dressed as a bobby


Environmental protest, or misplaced fears?

A&P Tyne want to recycle

I find myself mildly astonished that the good people of Hebburn are up in arms and gathering signatures in protest at A&P Tyne's plans to break up and recycle former Royal Navy ships at it's yard on the riverside near Hebburn Village. They seem convinced that any such operation will result in widespread environmental pollution of the worst kind, drawing parallels with the planned operation to break up the so called U.S. "ghost ships" in Hartlepool.

Not withstanding the fact that such an operation will be performed under a strictly regulated license from the local council, with all the necessary inspections that will take place on a regular basis, nobody, as far as I can remember, uttered a word of protest when the same materials were being used when building ships on the Tyne! Asbestos was widely used as a fire protection control in the building process, along with other materials thought to be hazardous. They were strictly controlled then, and I see no reason to believe that they will not be strictly controlled in the future.

Do these people want jobs or not?


Shields Gazette


Friday, October 13, 2006

Sion Simon, complete prat!

Spoof "Dave" video

Labour MP Sion Simon has caused quite a stir by making a spoof video in a parody of the WebCameron entries, in his poorest attempt at comedy he extols us (talking as "Dave") to take his wife and kids "it's cool".
Jack Straw has already criticised him for taking politics down to a much too personal level, meanwhile Cameron is quite relaxed about it having seen his web traffic boosted from about 200 visits per day to over 2,300.

Labour MP Stephen Pound described it as "a new low in British politics". He said the remarks about Mr Cameron's children were disturbing and he thought Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha, would be hurt and insulted. "It's one of those areas you don't make jokes about," he added.

Here is Sion Simon making a complete prat of himself!


The Guardian


Sion Simon and Tom Watson, the goons responsible for this video have issued an apology and removed it from YouTube, but of course you cannot delete anything from this internetwebby thing, it's back there courtesy of Biased BBC.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Keane offloads.

Poor players passed on!

Whilst Roy Keane may well claim that it is to ensure certain players are getting games under their belts, it will be welcome news to some of us that some "underperforming" players will be leaving the club on loan deals.

Irishman Rory Delap has joined Stoke City on a three month loan (and has permission to play against Sunderland), Jon Stead looks as though he will be loaned out to Derby County, and Tommy Miller is still attracting the interest of Ipswich Town, even though he may be reluctant to move whilst his wife is pregnant.

You will note that the loan deals being considered are all for three months, a sure sign that these players do not fit in with Keane's plans and perhaps he might be hoping that permanent moves can be arranged by January.

You just know that he's doing the right thing, as well as building a nice little "kitty" for the January sales!


Sunderland Echo


New shops for King Street

Local trader takes empty unit

Curly notes (and Cllr. Anglin will no doubt also be pleased) that two new retailers have started, or are about to start, trading in South Shields town centre. The former premises of the Virgin Shop next to Minchellas in Ocean Road has been refitted and is now trading as YWCA, unfortunately another charitable purveyor of used clothing. One would have hoped that we had seen enough charity shops in the town centre, but if they are prepared to pay the rent!

On a more optimistic note GHI Computers currently based in the Viking Centre, Jarrow, are to open a new branch in King Street next door to Currys Digital (formerly Dixons), this is more like it! A local (South Shields) businessman taking the challenge directly to the big boys. Gavin has built a growing reputation for providing custom built and packaged PC's and periferals, as well as digital cameras, flat screen TVs, memory cards, printing papers, cartridges, etc. etc. His prices are VERY competitive and his customer service is reasonably good too. GHI will certainly give Currys a good run for their money on the range of products stocked, and will save me making regular trips to Jarrow. I recently purchased from them a Logitech webcam with built in microphone at nearly half the price advertised in Argos!

It's the GHI move that I will find the most appealing, not least because it fits with my beliefs in having variety in the shopping area, but is a local independant business, not another national chain.

Let's carry on saying NO to cloned town centres.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blair on the run!

picture of Tony Blair
Cameron chases down PM.

In the first PMQ's of the new parliament Prime Minister Tony Blair had a nightmare engagement with "Dave", twice refusing to clearly back Gordon Brown as his successor. Bliar was so rattled that when he attempted to move the debate away from the leadership issue by quoting from a Tory policy document, the Speaker put him firmly in his place before resuming his seat to face a further onslaught from Cameron. "Dave" pounced by saying he was sorry and understood that 'he wouldn't be having many more turns.'
Cameron continued;

"Everyone can see this government is divided and paralysed.

We have got a Prime Minister who doesn't trust his Chancellor; a Chancellor who's been accused of blackmail; the latest Home Secretary wants the Prime Minister's job; the Deputy Prime Minister hasn't got a job, but he's still being paid - and all the while, hospital wards are closing and prisons are in chaos.

How many more months of this paralysis have we got to put up with?"

Most commentators agree that it was a poor performance from Bliar and that Cameron produced a more effective line of attack than we have previously seen from him. You can listen to the Telegraph's podcast of the event - here


BBC News


Top marks for Quadrus

Beauty or beast?

The Quadrus Centre near Testo's roundabout in Boldon has been judged "highly commended" by the Society of Chief Architects in Local Authority.

They were impressed by it's use of environmentally friendly materials, it's striking appearance, the individuality of it's office suites, and the landscaping and setting. There are many people within South Tyneside Council who are highly enthusiastic about the building's design, and some outside of the Council who positively abhor it. The lakeside setting looks great from the outside, but from the inside they will get a view of the horrendous amounts of traffic on the A194. Personally, I find the design reminds me of a large cardboard box often seen being used by the unfortunate homeless population of some of our larger cities.

What do you think of it?


South Tyneside Council


The Ant and Toddy Show

Fountain of laughs

As indicated in this post, these two were photographed in the Fountain Inn, Horsley Hill Road on 9th. September (click picture to enlarge).

One of them is a barrel of laughs the other works with some guy called Dec!

Picture sent in by Corner Shop customer Neil Todd, who is also a regular customer, and comic after a few lagers, in the Fountain. Just goes to show how much the stars, such as Ant McPartlin love to come to South Shields.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Enough is enough!

Council threatening evictions at last!

Having banged the drum on a number of occasions about "neighbours from hell" and the success of other Tyneside councils in dealing with anti-social behaviour, (most recently in August), it is good to see that South Tyneside Council has eventually decided to go down the road of seeking evictions.

The message has finally got through that on some of our estates we want a better, more peaceful life, and a community to be proud of. The anti-social misfits are at last being dealt with and unless they take the opportunity to change their ways they will find themselves evicted.


Shields Gazette.


Heritage site for Jarrow

Bede to be honoured.

The government has decided to back a joint partnership bid for the twin sites of St Paul, Jarrow and St. Peter, Monkwearmouth to become a World Heritage site, with all the added tourism benefits that it will bring to South Tyneside.

Curly thinks that the father of English history, the Venerable Bede, had a hugely influential role in the growth not only of Christianity within these Isles, but also the growth of education and literature. It is fitting that the sites of his monastic works should be considered for the richly deserved honour of being called a World Heritage site. I hope the partnership's bid will prove to be successful, and if so, will only strengthen the case for the Lindisfarne Gospels to be displayed at St. Paul's, Jarrow.


The Journal


Pushy parkers put in place!

School safety sorted!

Congratulations must go to Mr. Geoff Seagrove the headmaster of Mortimer Primary School in South Shields. Since children returned to school in September there has been a gradual increase in the amount of motorists attempting to make use of the school's small car park for the morning and afternoon school runs. Some parents still insist on driving children to school, and collecting them, when they only live a few hundred yards away! As a consequence it has become normal to see a backlog of traffic in both directions on Mortimer Road from it's junction with Caldwell Avenue.

These parents, who have forgotten what it is like to walk to school, cannot be bothered to park in the nearby streets and insist on jamming as many vehicles into the school's small car park and leaving them in the most haphazard fashion, worse still, they insist on parking directly in front of the school entrance on this small loop, clearly marked with double yellow lines!

To be fair, the school has tried to point out to parents (using it's regular newsletter) the dangers in parking here, and risks presented to children when trying to enter or exit the building. But has anyone taken notice?

So Mr. Seagrove, on Friday of last week and today, called on the assistance of the local police who parked a marked car across the entrance to the loop, thus preventing cars from using it. Police were on hand to advise parents on how and where to safely park, but today they were on the receiving end of a lot of complaints from frustrated drivers, some complaining of a "heavy handed" approach - why is it that nobody wants to walk more than 15 yards these days?

May I suggest that the school, through it's governors, suggests to the Council that they make use of a private parking management company who will collect fines from those who regularly insist on parking on the double yellow lines, and taking risks with children's lives.

I think this headmaster deserves a little bit of praise and congratulations for the stance he has taken - well done sir!


Monday, October 09, 2006

Food for thought

Education and growth

Here's an idea that perhaps someone within South Tyneside Council, or even the Environment Secretary, might like to take on board.

Council allotments have long been a favourite place for some of the older generation (without gardens) to spend their time, growing their own fruit and vegetables, and enjoying a little bit of peace and quiet. We have a number of such allotments in South Tyneside, some of which are not in the best state of repair, and others, such as at Holder House Estate, are the target of young vandals always adding to the security costs and maintenance. Some other allotments have seen a change in purpose and are now no longer used for growing, but for the stabling of horses!

One of the best ways to improve "pride in our communities" is to start by introducing a level of personal pride and self esteem, and there is nothing better than the feeling one gains when seeing the results of your own achievements, and being able to say "I did that", or "It's all my own work". I see something in our allotments that could play a part here, and it's alwys best to "cvatch them early".

My ideas are in the formative stage, others could expand upon them and improve them. I would like to see either Allotment Associations adopting a local community school, or the Council trying to create or donate an allotment to a local community school. I would prefer the first option as it involves some voluntary action and a two way dialogue between gardners and schools. The idea would involve schoolchildren having organised access to an allotment and being involved in the growth of organic fruits and vegetable, which when harvested could be used in the school kitchen as part of the school dinner.

Perhaps schools could create a "gardner's club" as an out of hours activity and the Allotment Association could operate a rota system where someone could be available a couple of afternoons per week to help and assist the children as they learned gardening techniques under supervision. The excess and unwanted produce at harvest times could be donated to the school which helped provide the labour.

If the schools were to have an allotment of their own it would require more management, expense, tools, and stricter controls, not unattainable but less attractive than the first option.

I believe such a programme would have many benefits, it would provide a great community building exercise where gardners and schoolchildren prosper from their own endeavours, it would help to maintain and improve the health balanced meals available at schools, and most importantly it would introduce a level of personal pride and achievement within the schoolchildren which they would take back to the classroom and into the community.

Curly believes the Jamie Oliver revolution is not just about stuffing the face!


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