Sunday, 22 October 2017

Will the Tories now achieve what the Tories Didn’t Want?

 From 2008 until 2013, the Liberal Democrat administration worked their socks off to transfer services from the County Council out to Parish Councils, the predominantly Tory led Parishes resisted with all their might, using the ‘white paper’ that formed an all purpose unitary County Council to bash any suggestion that precepts should be exploited to provide vital streetcare services.

Labour travelled a different path leaving the Parishes to decide for themselves if they wished to enhance services. Officers from the County Council worked closely with those who wished to try to deliver better more detailed or specialist services over and above those considered ‘core ‘ being delivered across the Unitary County.

People then welcomed the Tories in this May. Those Parish leaders who showed such resistance to change previously met at the Northumberland Association of Local Councils AGM this month where a major discussion was held to engage Parish Councils in leaving the comfort zone they enjoy in law and becoming the Rural and Urban District Councils from the past.

Abolished in 1974 Rural and Urban District Councils were second tier councils who delivered most of the people services including housing across England. They were forced to amalgamate and become the new second tier of Borough’s and Districts that we enjoyed and who’s local attitudes have been missed since 2008.

Now in late 2017 the County Council is back asking Parishes to take the strain, as the County Council manages grey austerity in order to run down services.

This time its Tories Speaking with a dominant Tory parish councillor group. Councillor Wearmouth of Stobhill Ward has said he will now look at precepts and those who put them up will have to expect to deliver services themselves or expect to engage in ever more joint working arrangements.

The Tory message for Councillors is to learn, learn, learn, about the Localism Bill. A similar message is being given by the Trade Unions, Unison, Unite and GMB insisting Councillors learn, about the Transfer of Undertakings regulations, the health and safety at work act, membership of the Local Government Pensions Fund, protection of workers rights, hours of work etc., etc.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Caravan Storage Park in Cramlington given the boot

A planning application for storage of over 1,500 caravans was refused at a packed planning meeting last month

The application was to store at least 1500 caravanson a small strip of land between the B1505 and A189 oppositeg Southfield Lea in Cramlington

Local ward Councillor Allan Hepple led the protests and objections from residents, having worked with residents for months including submittoing a petition against the application with hundreds of signatories. Over 40 local residents were at the planning meeting to support Allan who gave a passionate speech to councillors

Allan said "I'm so delighted by this decision which is testament to the efforts of local residents. The approval of the application would have caused significant road safety issues for local residents particularly to children as young as 3 attending the local primary school and nursery on the estate. The B1505 is a very dangerous road with emergency ambulances using this road along with local traffic and buses. Caravans entering the site from the dangerous Moor Farm would add increased road safetydanger too."

Allan added "Many residents have contacted me to say they are cock-a-hoop at the decision and I'm very grateful for all their help and support. It demonstrates the power of the community wfhen they unite together."

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Our Julie’ Forces Jeremy Hunt to Act

Under massive pressure from Health Professionals, in one of England’s worst performing clinical commissioning groups (rated inadequate in the NHS 2016/17 inspection reports), to make a decision in favour of closing Rothbury Hospital, Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing overview and scrutiny group held firm and listened to all parties involved in the decision.

Coquetdale residents were there in numbers, led by their independent Councillor for that area Steven Bridgett. They were determined to get their story across to the Scrutiny Committee, as they have already had a letter from the NHS to close off their dental practice and have been offered the ‘opportunity’ to travel 19 ml to  Morpeth  or 11 ml to Alnwick for NHS dental treatment.

Several local residents who spoke to our reporter after the meeting said they were disgusted at the antics and attitude of the chairperson, Conservative Councillor Jeff Watson, who they felt had talked down to them and showed no grace or favour towards their plight.
The argument of the inadequate Clinical Commissioning Group was that the hospital was underused and that bed occupancy had dropped from 65% occupancy down to 48% occupancy in recent years.

Rothbury has had a hospital servicing this remote community since 1904 and the new facility was built in 2007 on a twenty five year PFI scheme. Northumberland CCG will still have to pay the PFI fees for another 25yrs if the hospital is closed by Christmas, as desired by the CCG and Councils health professionals.

Labours three members in attendance at the meeting Julie Foster, Kath Nisbet and Liz Simpson asked very pertinent questions, leading the Tories to panic under public pressure and Labour questions. Alnwick Councillor Robbie Moore moved to refer the matter back to the secretary of state Jeremy Hunt to make the decision on the public’s behalf.

He was immediately challenged for the reasons for referral, looking blank at his colleagues, Labour’s Julie Foster stepped up to the plate and saved his paling skin, explaining that “there is insufficient data available from the CCG to assess the impact closure would have on health care in Northumberland” 

When being interviewed later, Councillor Foster said “I am concerned about the affect of closure on this rural community and its surrounding area and there was nothing shown in evidence that the removal of this hospital from the register, leading to closure, would lead to improvements in other facilities County–wide. The CCG didn’t put in enough detail to illustrate they knew what they were doing.”

Blyth Councillor Kath Nisbet said “I couldn’t support the CCG on this as they have begun to mothball Blyth community hospital in the same way as they have done in Rothbury, therefore their claim of an improved service across the County is miles away from reality”.  Lets see what Jeremy Hunt has to say.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

No Protection for Northumberland As Hammond and May to Allow Building IN THE GREENBELT.

In his November statement Phillip Hammond and the fading Theresa May are to announce the scrapping of austerity, allow Councils to ‘borrow to build’ and relax restrictions for development in the green belt. They feel that this will make their damaged Government popular in the eyes of the voting public again.

Most sensible Councils with green belt areas, have Core Strategy documents in place that will limit some of the development where green belt is the buffer between townships.

Northumberland who’s Tory administration have removed its core strategy from inspection by Government is the one out of step and has no hope of regaining its position to have the document inspected for several years to come and instead is relying on the Governments generic national planning policy framework for some help.

John Riddle, a farmer from the National Park in the County is the portfolio holder for planning, sitting in the National Park of course he is ‘protected from development’ but the rest of Northumberland isn’t.

Developers who find Northumberland’s attitude towards planning policy strange will be able to achieve a number of things that will change the face of the County and not deliver what John Riddle and the Tory Leader in Northumberland Peter Jackson want from their madcap scheme to withdraw a core strategy from inspection.

Their neighbour councils have core strategies in place, but may see the advantage of working with developers in areas close to Northumberland’s Borders as a way to increase Council Tax income. If Northumberland’s Tory administration want to fight everyone on Green Belt issues as they have aggressively said they will, then developers may want to force Northumberland to provide that green belt, increasing building against the County’s borders with Gateshead, City of Newcastle, North Tyneside, Cumbria and County Durham.

The Leader of Councils home town of Ponteland have recently accepted a neighbourhood plan that limits development to bungalows and no building in the green belt, neighbourhood plans haven’t been tested by developers or planning inspectors as free standing documents as they rely on land supply data and other figures contained within a prime councils core strategy. Without that core strategy, high class new builds may appear on the Newcastle side of the boundary and encompass Ponteland, removing its relaxed country feel making it part of suburbia, leaving the internal green belt within the County exposed to the Governments ‘planning for popularity’ changes.

I’m sure Phillip Hammond and Theresa May’s Government will increase something in the County, but popularity? Unless you’re a developer, possibly not.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Tories planning for the next major collapse of business in Northumberland

Northumberland Tories finance portfolio holder Nick Oliver of Corbridge is predicting a major downturn in growth across the County by 2021.

Its noticeable among Councillors across the region that Nick is being very cautious on the issue of Brexit and has decided early that Northumberland businesses will take the first and face the initial salvo and the  onslaught brought about by the mess his national Government is making of Brexit.

The Council has had a scheme running for the last four years under the last Labour administration to revalue business rates.

The business rate revaluation scheme contributes to the economic growth priority in the NCC Corporate Plan by providing assistance to businesses that will help to promote a more prosperous County that provides high wages, skilled jobs and opportunities to create thriving businesses.

Councillor Oliver along with his Tory team have decided that high wages and skilled workforces are not for them and they obviously predict thriving businesses will not exist by 2021.

The subsidy to help these very good businesses wasn’t huge but its being cut from almost £1000 down to £28 by 2021. For a small business that met the criteria £1000 was a good help.

We have seen the pressure a 5% levy on business rates has brought companies through the Hexham bid scheme with businessmen and owners facing jail sentences whether their business is successful or not. If they can’t see and a good number of them can’t see, what a bid scheme will do for them. Those businesses a number of whom may benefit from the revaluation scheme under Labour now need to ask Nick Oliver what on earth is he and his tight wad farmer led Council going to do to assist them now and into the future?

Another 2% of Northumberland planned to be Under Concrete before Tories accept Leaders new application figures.

In a rush to get some figures out before the Tory Government sets new planning application figures for Northumberland, due to be released to the public in the next couple of weeks, Councillor Peter Jackson of Ponteland ran out a story that his administration will only accept 707 new applications each year from developers.

That story issued by Northumberland Conservative Group prior to a cabinet report stating Peter Jacksons Government want to help pay for community groups to deliver an additional 27 affordable homes for rent each year in the Countryside is secondary to his most recent debacle.

In deciding that Northumberland County Council will accept 707 new planning permissions, the forgetful Councillor Jackson omitted to tell the public that Northumberland County Council already have 21800 planning permissions granted and have no core strategy to show that a five year housing land supply is available for his newly numbered quota.

Those permissions add up to an area the size of Blyth, with 9193 domestic dwellings, Cramlington with 7965 homes and the villages of Holywell, Seaton Delaval, Seghill, New Hartley, Seaton Sluice along with Old Hartley, all parts of Seaton Valley, that bring with them 4657 houses. These major areas in the South East of the County cover almost 2% of the Counties landmass and permissions are already in place.

Northumberland Tories who’s promise to “halt the march of the developers” are showing how some selective memory has been inherited to cover up the real deal, that their hiding behind the adage ‘its not us mate, its our Government, Honest”.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Carnegie Sanderson: 7% of Project Costs “Proves were Investing in Ashington”

On 10 October 2017 at Northumberland County Councils Cabinet meeting a capital and revenue program was agreed to revive the Hirst Park in the Town.

Sponsored by the cash spent locally on the Lottery, the prime grant has been supplied by the Heritage Lottery fund with a myriad of other partners such as the Labour led town council, the local leisure partnership, the full circle food project, Northumberland College, BAIT, local volunteers and Northumberland County Council.

Northumberland County Council who have deserted Ashington and Blyth have had to follow this Labour initiative through as the Lottery grant of £2.3M is huge and refusal to deliver would have stood them in poor stead for other grants from lottery funds.

Councillor Glen Sanderson the portfolio holder for Local Services part of the Conservative leadership group criticised by the Tory Led Local Government Association peer revue team in 2014 for its attitude towards the Council and part of the team who delivered the Tory Manifesto that brags about not investing in Ashington or Blyth or anywhere other than Ponteland, said at Cabinet “This scheme proves were investing in Ashington”.

The County Council who’s input into the scheme is 7% of the total value to ensure this revival happens have removed the opportunity for jobs and investment into Ashington Town Centre by stopping the £32M office block and car park project in the town centre that would have brought about a much needed major revival of the Town.

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: “It appears at first glance that Councillor Glen Sanderson was being his usual crass self, hiding behind his smile that covers all but the depths his party is stooping too in order to cover up their attack on ordinary people striving to manage in Northumberlands traditional working class areas. Just like Carnegie, rich farmer, Councillor Sanderson is claiming some sort of ownership when only inputting a misery 7% towards the cost of the project. It may look good that the Tories are continuing with Labours plans for a revival of the Park but this isn’t anywhere near what the town needs to enjoy an economic revival. He should feel ashamed of himself”.