Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grant Davey’s Christmas message to the Trade Unions

 Dear All
I’m going to make no apologies for the sentiments expressed in this year’s Christmas message given the very difficult years ahead of us and the strains and stresses many of our members are facing because of the actions of the coalition government.
This message is going to be political and I’m going to give you food for thought.
I’ve always been aware that Labour politicians sometimes have to say things which put strains on our fraternal relations but we’re comforted by the recognition that we’re all on the same side, campaigning to make the country a fairer and more equal place to live.
Looking at Northumberland over the last four years of Liberal Democrat decisions and direction, we’ve seen the loss of 1500 jobs directly and 1000 jobs indirectly, the removal of £105m from the Councils budgets and the absence of a proper plan which heaped unnecessary strain on services already creaking under the pressure. Working under the uncertainty of privatisation and not knowing the real direction of travel of your employers isn’t the way to encourage people to give their all.
The general lack of communication and ‘misinformation’ about the Liberal plans for the council hinders good working relations and 2012 will go down as the year before the ‘storm’.

My background and beliefs may be a little different to the politicians you have lived with in Northumberland, as I am a Trade Unionist at the core. I want to work with Trade Unions because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve spent 23 years as a Branch Secretary and I’m proud of that. My colleagues within Labour Group have also grown up as Trade Unionists; many are also members of the Co-op party and from these backgrounds have fought against this administration and the second administration the Tories run through the scrutiny process.
What I’m saying is I want to see an authority that is ‘at ease with itself’ and one that sees its workforce as partners and people not ‘cogs in a machine’ to be manipulated and cast aside.
We recognise we’re in a minority in this council with a Liberal Democrat majority which is often supported and propped up by the Tories. Not a single Liberal Democrat budget would have passed unless it had Tory support and make no mistake; the Tories are still the ‘nasty’ party whichever way they try to ‘spin the facts’. Next year is a big year. For the first time in 5 years the voters of Northumberland can make their voices heard and we need your help to win where it matters, at the ballot box and by winning the battle of ideas.

In 2013, we’ll continue to campaign to make the economic case for ‘in-house’ provision and will continue to tackle the dogma that lies at the heart of the Liberal Democrat decisions – private is best and public means 2nd class. We’ll continue to campaign on ‘what matters is what works’.
We’ll be launching our manifesto in January 2013 and we can promise it will be underpinned by a partnership between communities and their council. We’ll be setting out our plans to build council houses to tackle a scandalous waiting list, a ‘jobs plan’ aimed at securing good quality council jobs and increasing apprenticeships and the general aim of making Northumberland a fairer place. We’ll be concentrating on getting the basics right by investing in our clean and green services which have been damaged by Liberal cuts.

Labour has a vision for the whole county, and you are a central part of that vision. The last five years have been wasted years.
The people of this County gave a mandate to the coalition parties to make Northumberland a better place to live, work and visit. What the people of Northumberland have got back instead is job cuts in the public and private sector, the imposition of policies from the council’s masters in government, implemented without a squeak of opposition, which have seen working families bear the brunt of ‘austerity’ created in the City by unaccountable bankers and reckless traders and the rise of the ‘stealth tax’ in Northumberland with unfair charges for car parking and rising parish council precepts.

We are able to make the clear case for public services against those who would put their prejudice against public services above the needs of the people and workforce of Northumberland and we can make that case more powerfully by working closely with the Trade Union movement and its members.
Make no mistake, 2013 is a crunch year. It’s decision time for the people of Northumberland, it’s a time when ordinary people will be feeling the ‘coalition crunch’ nationally, it’s the time when the fight back starts.
The spirit of co-operation and comradeship in pursuit of our collective interests has never been more vital. I hope 2013 will be a year for all linked to the Labour movement to look back on with pride and a year we can all say – I was part of the fight back.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year

Councillor Grant Davey
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Instead of defending the indefensible, Councillor Tebbutt should stop bandying around ‘voodoo figures’ and enter into a mature discussion about why it’s okay to levy charges for parking in towns like Morpeth and Berwick and not in other parts of Northumberland? His answers so far just aren’t good enough and I hope he takes notice of this petition and campaign. It’s Councillor Tebbutt who makes the decisions in County Hall and he needs to acknowledge the importance of this issue. I’m sure local Liberals and Conservatives will back our campaign and I’m calling for them to support the petition and send a message to Councillor Tebbutt in County Hall.

Fair’s, fair – the free parking petition gets underway
Labour launches car parking charge petition
Labour councillor’s and it’s county party have launched a new campaign ‘fair’s, fair’ to tackle the current council policy on charged parking in Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Alnwick which has been branded as ‘unfair’ and a ‘tax on motorists and residents alike’.
Northumberland Labour group are pushing a policy which would give local town and parish council’s, the casting say over whether free car parking would benefit the local economy and environment and have launched a petition on the council’s website aimed at sending a clear message to the Liberal Democrat cabinet which is currently drawing up its budget for next year and beyond. Activists will be collecting signatures around the town and residents and traders can sign the petition on the council’s ‘e-petition' section of the website
The petition will mean that the car parking issue will be subject to a full debate in the council chamber if the website collects over 1,000 signatures. 
MP’s for Wansbeck and Blyth have backed the plan and Labour hope Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith will also back the call for fair parking in the county by supporting the campaign. Labour is also calling for Councillor Hunter to back the campaign to boost trade in the town. 
Labour is also challenging Councillor Tebbutt, Cabinet member for Corporate Resources who claimed last week ‘that removing charges could cost the council up to £5m’. Comments by Councillor Tebbutt (Berwick Advertiser) seemed to indicate the cost of removing charges would cost between £3m and £5m which are contradicted by figures released to the Labour group which indicated ‘an estimated cost would be £1.95m’. 
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘Instead of defending the indefensible, Councillor Tebbutt should stop bandying around ‘voodoo figures’ and enter into a mature discussion about why it’s okay to levy charges for parking in towns like Morpeth and Berwick and not in other parts of Northumberland? His answers so far just aren’t good enough and I hope he takes notice of this petition and campaign. It’s Councillor Tebbutt who makes the decisions in County Hall and he needs to acknowledge the importance of this issue. I’m sure local  Liberals and Conservatives will back our campaign and I’m calling for them to support the petition and send a message to Councillor Tebbutt in County Hall. 

End
Notes for Editors
Paper copies of the petition can be requested from northumberlandlabour.press@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.

Press Release
Labour slams Liberals over ‘car parking stealth tax’
Labour calls on council to think again on free car parking
Labour councillors on Northumberland County Council have urged the Liberal controlled council to ‘think again’ on car parking charges as figures show the council has ‘raised’ £1.95m in fees and fines from towns like Hexham and Berwick.
Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.
Labour are now urging the Liberal administration ‘stop playing politics’ with car parking and equalise free parking across the whole county in line with free car parking enjoyed by the South East area of the county.
Labour says it is unfair and an ‘effective stealth tax’ for areas without free car parking and ‘the shoppers permit has been ineffective, costly and bureaucratic’.
Labour group leader said
‘The arguments put forward by Jeff Reid and his Liberal party show how reliant this administration has become on car parking fees and fines. By taking, £1.95m out of the local economy, they’ve effectively levied a ‘stealth tax on motorists’ which hits local economic activity. At a time when the council should be supporting local economies like Berwick and Hexham, it’s counting on money raised through fines and fees. This is a question of fairness and we’re urging the Liberals to adopt our original plan to let local towns and parishes decide whether free car parking is good for their communities. This shouldn’t be a decision for County Hall’.     

Monday, December 10, 2012

Open Letter to News Post Leader

11 Craigmill Park,
10 December 2012                                       Blyth,
                                                                   Northumberland,
                                                                   NE24 5JL.
                                                                   01670 369725


Dear Sir,

In his Autumn statement George Osborne has announced another round of transport investment. None of it, as usual, is coming to Northumberland, although Northumberland residents might benefit from the generous gift of new roads around the Metro centre to the property companies who own the shopping centre that sucks the life out of the rest of the North east.

What’s clear though is that even if George Osborne knew where Northumberland is, or who Alan Beith, his LibDem comrade in arms is, Northumberland County Council has been so badly run that it had no shovel ready schemes to offer for funding.

As soon as George Osborne indicated that he might have money to spend the Tory party’s leader in waiting, Boris Johnson was ready with another scheme to lavish more money on London at the expense of the rest of us. Gateshead Council were ready with schemes to protect the shopping centre that will shore up their finances once business rates are retained locally. For Northumberland, facing a massive loss of grant once business rates are localised in order to subsidise the south east’s prosperity, had nothing to put on the table as a shovel ready scheme.

Five years ago all the major parties in Northumberland supported the re-opening of Belford station, a simple project given that trains already go there, and stop. It still isn’t ready. No progress has been made on the Ashington Blyth and Tyne line in the last five years. Nothing has been done about the traffic congestion on Cowpen Road in Blyth, Northumberland’s most congested road. The A1 is no nearer being dualled, and the proposed line of the improved A1 is being threatened by other developments.

The most significant projects carried out by Northumberland’s LibDems have been in their Morpeth heartlands, and the less said about the disaster that is Morpeth’s new traffic lights, the better. They’re a sideshow to the central problem; that this hand to mouth government, limping from missed target to missed target will increasingly be looking for shovel ready projects as it finds a few more millions down the back of the sofa. Under the LibDems Northumberland will never be ready.

J Grant Davey
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Free parking across Northumberland

Sir
I noted Councillor Andrew Tebbutt comments regarding the vote to provide 1 week free car parking to benefit Berwick and its economy were devoid of any fact.
Fact – the Labour party has consistently campaigned for free car parking across Northumberland because we don’t think it is fair that Councillor Tebbutt’s Liberal Council ‘soak’ the local economies outside of the South East in towns such as Berwick and Hexham to the tune of £1.95m per year.
Fact – His administration have stripped £2m from the environmental budget while pursuing vanity projects such as a £440,000 ‘state of the art’ fish pass at Hedgley. That shows the Liberals have their priorities wrong.
Fact – His administration has doubled the council debt while sacking over 2,500 workers so to take lectures on financial decision-making from the Liberals should come with a health warning.
The real fact is this Liberal administration has had four and half years to ‘show the county’ what it could do. Instead they’ve been the willing hand maidens of their Westminster masters and haven’t stood up for Northumberland.
That’s the real issue.

Council under attack as councillor claims ‘Cramlington is the forgotten town’

Press Release
Council under attack as councillor claims ‘Cramlington is the forgotten town’
‘Footbridge problem is a sign of the problem’ as Labour lead calls for replacement bus – Councillor Ian Ayres
A Labour councillor on Cramlington Town Council has accused the county council of ‘forgetting the Town’ after fears he raised over the lack of action over a dangerous footbridge link with the Town has been ‘kicked into the long grass’ by the county council’s Liberal administration.
The Beaconhill footbridge link with the town is vital for many elderly and vulnerable residents and it is now out of action for the foreseeable future and Councillor Ayres is pushing the authority to ‘come up with a plan such as a replacement bus service while urgent repairs are started and completed’.
Councillor Ayres said
‘I’m afraid that it seems the Liberal authority in Morpeth seems to have forgotten Cramlington. We’re losing bus services; we’ve got vital links between communities out of action and all the council can say is ‘they can’t do anything about the matters at this time’. It’s not good enough and residents are now isolated and local businesses are losing out on vital footfall. I’m urging the council to back my idea for a replacement bus service to help alleviate the pressure while the bridge is repaired

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A 13% default rate in Northumberland would mean the council would need to find over £1m to cover the shortfall.

Press Release
Warning to council on ‘hidden cost’ of Bedroom Tax
Estimates show council could be ‘millions’ worse off after controversial rule change

Northumberland County Council’s ruling Liberal Democrat are being warned that they face an ‘unprecedented squeeze’ on council budgets after Labour group leader Grant Davey unveiled figures that show the introduction of the coalition welfare changes in April 2013 could mean a ‘shortfall in council rent of over £1m’*.

Research by the Labour party in Northumberland shows that the most recent figures reveal that the council is paid £8,427,423 of rent income direct to the council but changes due to be introduced in April 2013 mean that rent will no longer be paid direct to the Council incurring an increase collection cost of £50,156.
The government has conducted 6 pilot programmes across the country to measure the impact of ‘direct payment’ and while the DWP have refused to give definitive figures of default on monthly rent payments, they did confirm that average defaults were ‘in the low teens’**.
A 13% default rate in Northumberland would mean the council would need to find over £1m to cover the shortfall.
Labour group leader Grant Davey who has called for Liberal leader of the council Jeff Reid to make a statement on the council’s preparedness for the changes in April 2013 said
‘First we’ve had Liberal cabinet member Tom Brechany deny that some people may lose housing benefit in the county because of the government welfare changes, then the Liberals denied there was a ‘growing housing problem’ in the county despite the independent National Housing Association confirming the council’s record waiting list ‘was a potential housing time bomb’*** and now these figures show the council may have to find a further £1m to cover potential defaults after the introduction of Universal Credit in 2013. It’s time the Liberals got to grips with this issue and it’s time that Jeff Reid showed some real leadership. We’ll be pushing him to release the facts on the true impact of the Universal Credit changes in the county’.

End
* Agenda Item: 4.5 - IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM - Report by Allan Hepple Director of Neighbourhood Services
** BBC website – Mark Easton http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20459252
*** - Berwick Advertiser New report warns of ‘housing timebomb’
Published on Sunday 2 December 2012 10:00 – NHA Home Truths: North East 2012

Labour has previously drawn attention to its own motion tabled over one year ago which would have given the powers to grant free parking to town and parish council’s across the county. Labour have insisted the motion was fully costed and it now forms a plank of its election manifesto in 2013.

Press Release

‘A recipe for car parking chaos’ claim Labour
Latest Tory motion – ill judged, too late and not enough

A Tory motion due to be debated at Northumberland County Hall on Wednesday has been described as ‘ill-judged, too late and not thought out’ after it emerged the motion was ‘unsustainable’. Labour and Liberal Democrats have both questioned the complicated formula out lined by Tory group leader Peter Jackson which sought to rely on savings from council buildings which had already been sold.

The Motion was described as ‘an exercise in spin over substance’ as it proposed to ‘suspend car parking charges’ in defined areas across Northumberland even though the Liberal Council was ‘unilaterally’ dispensing with charges in places like Hexham which will see charges dropped on a Sunday. The council has come under fire for suspending charges on Sunday’s when the town is at its quietest and for continuing to use patrolling wardens even though charges have been dropped.

Labour has previously drawn attention to its own motion tabled over one year ago which would have given the powers to grant free parking to town and parish council’s across the county. Labour have insisted the motion was fully costed and it now forms a plank of its election manifesto in 2013.

Labour group leader Grant Davey said

‘The current council policy on car parking charges across the county is a shambles. A new policy seems to be announced every week. Into this confusion comes this Tory motion which is not costed, clearly opportunistic and lasts only four weeks. Both Liberal and Tory parties voted against our motion last year and we’ll be voting against this motion because it fails two key tests. Firstly, it doesn’t take into account local feeling, we happen to think that local town and parishes are best placed to tell us if free car parking will benefit their towns and shopping areas. Secondly, this motion only sets out effective policy for the Christmas period. We think this is a major issue all year round and we should be supporting businesses throughout the year. After all, business support should be all year round, not just for Christmas’.

End

Sunday, November 25, 2012

So for the benefit of Councillor Castle and any other Tories who are ‘in the dark’ about how school building is funded under their own coalition government, he we go.

Grant Davey
Leader of the Labour group
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
Morpeth
Sir
As Alnwick’s resident Tory Gordon Castle has kindly asked me to explain the complexities of the school funding deal Northumberland’s Liberals have entered into, I’ll see if I can do him justice. In Voice of the North (23 Nov), Councillor Castle reminded me (and readers I hope) that council motions can be revisited ‘in 6 months’ and he asked why I hadn’t acknowledged that fact when commenting on his wholly irrelevant and piecemeal motion to last Full Council.
So for the benefit of Councillor Castle and any other Tories who are ‘in the dark’ about how school building is funded under their own coalition government, he we go.
The council was asked by his own government to give a commitment to ‘set aside funds’ to assist with the construction of three schools; Alnwick, Bedlington and Prudhoe. His motion, and he admits this too, asked the council to commit even further than his own government and then give a promise to fund more equipment. So in times of austerity, where councils are being asked to sack thousands, cut services to the most vulnerable, reduce its basic services and basically shrink, Councillor Castle wants to go even further than his own government funding for three schools which won’t be built under this current council which concludes in May 2013. In fact, the next council will build one and start up another but the third (Prudhoe) won’t be built until after 2017. So I’m afraid Councillor Castle and his Tory colleagues are ‘playing a political game here’, making reckless promises and ‘spinning’ for all their worth.
They need to consider that with real time inflation running out of control, his ‘political promise to fund any gaps’ doesn’t take into account the cost of borrowing and leaves all of the counties other schools with a smaller pot to find money which they might need. This really is putting the needs of the few against the needs of the many.
So I’m afraid that Councillor Castle has to take his place with his leader, Councillor Jackson in the class ‘that must do better’. He needs to get his sums right before sallying forth on his latest wheeze and I’m just wondering where both the Liberals and the Tories have found a ‘money tree in Northumberland’ because all of this additional spending has to be paid for?
Councillor Castle BA Hons

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Council waiting list ‘out of control’

Press Release

Council waiting list ‘out of control’
Fears grow that ‘bedroom tax’ will ‘wreak havoc on communities’.
Northumberland Liberal administration has come under fire for ‘failing local people’ as figures released show that the council’s standard ‘Homefinder’ waiting list has rocketed to a record 13,424. The figures also show that countywide around 5000 families are also affected in ALMO and Housing Association properties by the new Universal Credit due for introduction in April 2013.
The council is currently assessing its stock as changes brought in under the new Universal Credit rules will introduce the ‘so-called Bedroom Tax’. The council currently estimate that the ‘bedroom tax’ will affect over 1500 HfN tenants in ‘under occupied’ properties across the county. Latest figures released by YOUGOV estimate that the average housing benefit claim of £80 will be reduced by £40 for each empty room.
The changes introduced by the coalition government are due to be phased in from April 2013 and Labour group leader Grant Davey is calling for an urgent statement from Liberal Council leader to set out how the council is proposing to deal with what he describes as ‘a ticking tax time bomb waiting to blow up in the faces of the most vulnerable people in the county’.
One of the biggest problems facing the Liberals at County Hall is a chronic shortage of one bedroomed properties which would be needed as the ‘under occupancy’ issue hits working age families some of whom who have lived in their communities for many years.
Labour group leader, Grant Davey said
‘The changes heralded by the ‘bedroom tax’ will come as a major shock to communities and it comes as a direct result of the coalition government. Before this is dismissed as scaremongering, local Liberals and Tories have to let us into their plan to deal with their government’s ideological attack on communities in Northumberland. For example, a couple living in a three bedroom house (married couples only qualify for one bedroom) will have their total housing benefit removed if they stay in their historical home.
Not only will this law, made in Whitehall but delivered in Northumberland by its very own version of the ConDem alliance, break up communities and families but it will wreak havoc with the council’s already stretched finances. This policy could see people moved out of properties against their will and there are no plans currently to deal with the fallout. The Liberal Democrat administration is failing its own people and we need an urgent statement from the Leader of the Council.
End
Notes for Editors
This release was based on information released by the authority to questions put by Labour members
  • The Homefinder waiting list stands at 13424 as of last Thursday (15 Nov)
  • County wide 5000 families are affected dwelling in Almo and Housing Association properties. The rural urban split is similar.
  • Most underoccupiers require 1 Bedroom properties.
  • HfN have 24 x1 bedroom properties empty.
  • Homefinder have a total of 136 x 1 bedroom properties
  • Yougov  tell us the average housing benefit claim of £80 will be reduced by £40 for each empty bedroom under occupied
  • A couple living in a three bedroom house (married couples only qualify for one bedroom) will have their total housing benefit removed if they stay in their historical home.
  • 1 bedroom properties: 1898
  • Bedsits: 20
  • We have an estimated 1500 affected by the under occupancy charge.
  • It will always be difficult to be precise without direct contact but we are still door knocking to get a full picture.
  • Some of those cases will be under occupied by more than one bedroom. These are only working age people.
  • There is more widespread under occupancy in the older age groups
As of today the voids by bedroom are:

HfN
Blyth
Alnwick
1 Bed
24
19
5
2 Bed
79
70
9
3 Bed
32
25
7
4 Bed
2
2
0
5 Bed
0
0
0
Total
137
116
21






Thursday, November 22, 2012

It seems Councillor Jackson has jumped in and got his sums wrong yet again.

Sir

It’s nice to see in Voice of the North 21 November 2012 that Peter Jackson and his Northumberland Tories wish to degrade public properties and create slum areas on our high streets in order to fund his ill-judged cardboard discs.
Where do we start on the weaknesses of Councillor Jackson’s ‘big idea’ on car parking? 
The administration costs and added bureaucracy of managing an individual per car scheme will be immense and hasn’t been acknowledged by the Tories, he’s ‘flip flopped’ on last year’s ‘big idea’ of a £15 charge ‘for free parking’ and the building asset ‘fire sale’, he describes as funding his basic scheme is on very shaky ground as I’ll set out below.

It seems Councillor Jackson has jumped in and got his sums wrong yet again.
The administration of Northumberland County Council has transferred 50% of building assets out of the Councils budget to a partner provider, lowering the maintenance cost of empty buildings well below the level of savings required to replace car parking revenue.
If he and his chums wish to fund car parking losses from building maintenance then they must be planning to lower the working conditions of staff because that’s the only cost to reduce.
I'm sure he hasn’t consulted staff bodies and trade unions before making his ‘phony pledge’ in print.

Peter Jackson needs to remember that he had an opportunity to vote with Labour to introduce free car parking in a fully costed motion. They sought to vote with the Liberal administration which they are so at pains to distance themselves from to deny free car parking.
If Labour is successful and able to form an administration in May 2012, we’ll introduce a locally determined fully funded free parking scheme in consultation with our Parish partners.
We won’t dictate from high what local people want which seems to be the objective of Councillor Jackson’s Conservatives and our plan isn’t an attempt to score cheap political points.

Grant Davey

Leader, Northumberland Labour Group


‘This shows that the Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Norman Baker has ‘forgotten’ his Liberal colleagues at County Hall with the net effect of leaving our rural communities isolated and without means to connect to the very basic amenities. We’ve been snubbed on the extension to the Enterprise Zone leaving Lynemouth out on its own and now the coalition are taking our busses away leaving communities to their own devices’.

Press Release
Fears over bus changes in Northumberland
‘Northumberland will be left behind under current bus plans as routes changed and downgraded’ - East Chevington Councils Chairperson, Councillor Scott Dickinson
Fears have been raised that changes outlined in Northumberland County Council’s November bus service newsletter will prove the ‘tip of the iceberg’ after it outlined significant changes across the county such as the withdrawal of bus services to Brockwell Health Centre from East Hartford, the X18 Berwick to Newcastle via Seahouses, Alnwick, Amble and Morpeth and the 472 where Shillbottle and Alnwick will lose significant services.
East Chevington spokesperson Scott Dickinson said
"Many local people rely on our ever dwindling bus services to travel to work, shop and for their leisure time and the loss of bus services is a disaster for local communities. It will increase isolation in our countryside and it’s the duty of this council to stand up for local communities on vital bus services. This is yet another example of a Liberal council in Morpeth failing rural communities’.
Labour group leader Grant Davey added
‘This shows that the Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Norman Baker has ‘forgotten’ his Liberal colleagues at County Hall with the net effect of leaving our rural communities isolated and without means to connect to the very basic amenities. We’ve been snubbed on the extension to the Enterprise Zone leaving Lynemouth out on its own and now the coalition are taking our busses away leaving communities to their own devices’.
End
Notes to Editors
  • On 3rd October 2012 the Coalitions Norman Baker MP released his plans to increase bus passenger numbers in England. It had its centre how councils and bus companies should work closely together to improve services boosting passenger numbers.
  • This week, Northumberland County Council issued their November bus service newsletter.
  • In the light of experience gained from the extensive changes introduced by Arriva in September 2012, the operator is introducing further modifications on some routes, mainly to improve the reliability of operation. The details are as follows:
  • X4 Blyth – Newcastle via Seaton Delaval, Seghill, South Gosforth
Buses omit Gosforth High Street and run once again via Haddricks Mill Road into Newcastle; most journeys are retimed. Most journeys also no longer divert into the Quorum Business Park in North Tyneside and call instead nearby on Benton Lane.
  • X5 Blyth – Newcastle via Bebside, Cramlington, Freeman Hospital
All journeys retimed by a few minutes. Most journeys also no longer divert into the Quorum Business Park in North Tyneside.
  • X18 Berwick – Newcastle via Seahouses, Alnwick, Amble, Morpeth
On Mondays to Fridays the bus at 0647 from Alnwick to Newcastle starts 10 minutes earlier at 0637, improving the connection with a train at Alnmouth, and allowing extra running-time into Newcastle to arrive Haymarket bus station at 0851.
  • 43 Cramlington – Newcastle via Dudley, Wideopen, Gosforth
Most journeys are retimed by a few minutes, to improve reliability.
  • 53 53A Cramlington – North Shields and Whitley Bay via Killingworth
Journeys on route 53A run via Weetslade Road in Dudley instead of Fern Drive (Tyne and Wear).
The new timetables on all these routes will very shortly be posted on the county council’s website, on the following page:
Amble, Links Estate and Shilbottle:
The council fully support the service 472 between Alnwick and Amble. We are in discussion with our operator, Travelsure, regarding opportunities to find some running time that could be used to serve Links Estate. We will look at the timetable to try and provide connections with south services. This may have a detrimental effect on parts of Shilbottle or Alnwick.

Hadston

The Council have noted the revised route mentioned above and the implications for the loss of service in Hadston.

At this particular time, there are no alternative options available to the council to reinstate a service. There is no available budget to subsidise such a service.

We would again refer interested parties to the community based ‘Get Going’ fund (see below) and the the WRVS supported ‘Getabout’ voluntary car scheme.


Invitation to hear the latest Arriva changes to their network of bus services:
Arriva will be represented at the North and South East Area Committee meetings where they will give a detailed presentation on further changes they intend to introduce to local bus services in late January. These changes will affect services mostly into the south east where ongoing difficulties with timekeeping etc still need to be resolved.
These are being held on:
NORTH AREA COMMITTEE – Monday 14th January at 6pm: location tbc
SOUTH EAST AREA COMMITTEE – Wednesday 16th January at 6pm: location tbc
Get Going Fund’ – Northumberland Sustainable Community Transport Initiative
There will be a third round of awards considered in January.
We have previously circulated information on the scheme. The closing date for new applications from Community Transport providers, Community and voluntary organisations to apply for funding is:
11th January 2013
Please be aware that there are revised application forms and documents.
Please contact Jan Chisholm at Northumberland County Council for further information.
Applications are processed by Adapt (North East) (call 0845 388 0042)
  •  


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Free car parking’s for all year round not just Christmas say Labour

Press Release

Free car parking’s for all year round not just Christmas say Labour

Tory/Liberal ‘pact’ too little to help business in Berwick

Labour group leader Grant Davey has labelled Northumberland County Council promise to ‘relax car parking charges for Christmas’ which won’t provide the support hard pressed businesses are looking for in tough trading conditions. They’ve called for the county council to stop ‘milking motorists’ and to get behind local businesses and back a Labour plan to let local communities decide how they want to ‘set car parking policy’ locally not at county hall in Morpeth.

The Council plan to offer to ‘relax car parking charges in Berwick’ for 8 weeks has been branded as ‘too little and a smokescreen’.

Labour has called for the Liberal run council to ‘introduce free car parking all year round’ as part of a town and parish council traffic management plan decided at local level. The plan would give local traders a direct say in whether car parking charges would be levelled in the locality.

Labour leader Grant Davey said

‘The Liberal/Tory pact to suspend car parking charges for Christmas is a superficial attempt to buy a few day’s good headlines. We’ve put forward a perfectly reasonable proposal to allow local communities to decide if they want to introduce free car parking to meet local needs and when we put forward a motion to full council equalising parking across the county (introducing free car parking), the Tories voted against it. Car parking policy is in a mess across the county and we want to make car park charging a local call not dictated from County Hall. It’s yet another example of two faced policy making from both Liberals and Tories, acting together’.

Labour has previously raised questions about the amount of revenue collected from car parking charges disclosed by the council. For instance, when Labour tabled the motion rejected by Tories and Liberals in coalition two years ago, it was revealed that the council picked up £1.92m from motorists. In the most recent figures revealed by Councillor Tebbutt, Cabinet member for corporate services, he revealed a figure of £4m. That would mean car parking charges would have doubled over two years.  

Labour believes that ‘free car parking is for local determination, not just for Christmas’.

End
Dear Sir,

I find your article Dated Monday 19th November 2012 on the relaxation of car parking charges quite perplexing, with the one time independent now Tory Councillor Gordon Castle and his Leader Peter Jackson, banging on about the necessity to suspend charges because of Christmas.
I wish to remind them and your readers that their interest in the commerce of Berwick and their desire to improve opportunities for Berwick's populous didn't show through when their whole group voted against the Labour motion to equalise parking charges across Northumberland by making all Parking free.

On the second part of your report do any of your readers have a clue what Dougie Watkin is on about? is he simply being anti Scottish  or is he simply being simple?

Regards

Grant Davey,
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group


Calls for festive free parking vetoed by council
The Parade car park in Berwick

Published on Monday 19 November 2012 16:07
CALLS for Northumberland County Council to provide free parking for local residents in the week before Christmas have been rejected after warnings that it could have dire consequences for Berwick which relies so heavily on trade from north of the border.
Conservative councillor Gordon Castle had requested the relaxation of parking charges to encourage Northumberland residents to stock up on last minute Christmas presents in their market towns.
However, the move was blocked by Lib Dem members at the council’s north area committee meeting last week.
Berwick resident Tom Forrester, a Conservative campaigner, said: “Two years ago the county council made the much appreciated move of suspending parking charges in town during the week before Christmas. We were asking them to do the same again in order to put money back into local pockets and reinvigorate local businesses in the run up to Christmas.
“It is very disappointing that this request has been turned down. With the internet and out of town shopping centres, there is so much competition now for where people do their Christmas shopping. It is madness to handicap our market towns by forcing people to pay for the privilege of shopping locally.”
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland Conservatives, added: “Christmas is a very important time of year for business in Berwick and all our market towns. Free parking will encourage people to do their Christmas shopping locally.”
But Coun Dougie Watkin, Lib Dem member for Norham and Islandshire, believed such a move would have severe implications for Berwick.
He said: “Half of the people who work in Berwick live in Scotland, half of the businesses in Berwick are owned by people living in Scotland and most of the trade in the town comes from Scotland.
“If the Conservatives have their way, what sort of message would Northumberland be sending to half of the people who travel into Berwick every day for work? The Conservative plan is even more ridiculous in the context of Scotland’s referendum on the breakup of the United Kingdom.
I will give the Conservatives this, however – their plan would certainly work wonders for traffic management in Berwick, as half the people working in, visiting and shopping in the town would see the unfairness and head elsewhere.”