Saturday, 13 April 2013

Northumberland County Council has come under fire for ‘dragging its feet’ over the issue of parking charges in Berwick.

Chamber chairman criticises delay over petition discussion


John Haswell John Haswell

Northumberland County Council has come under fire for ‘dragging its feet’ over the issue of parking charges in Berwick.

The authority is yet to process thousands of signatures calling for an end to unfair parking charges in market towns across the county.
The petition, set up to highlight the cost of parking charges, closed on February 27.
The council posted a message on its petitions site promising to ‘shortly’ process over 3000 signatures from Berwick alone. Hundreds more signatures were collected in Morpeth and Alnwick.
Now the Labour Party and the newly formed Northumberland Market Towns Chamber of Trade is challenging the council to set up a meeting of its petitions committee as soon as possible to allow the issue to be debated.
John Haswell, chairman of Berwick Chamber of Trade, said: “I’m very disappointed that the council has chosen to ignore this petition which has gathered thousands of names, all calling for free parking across the county.
“Over 3,000 signatures were gathered in Berwick alone from some very angry people. The residents have spoken clearly and signed up to the petition which closed on February 27 and because of the council’s failure to fulfil its obligations and convene a meeting, thousands more residents of Berwick
and the other market town are still being bled dry in parking charges.
“Now over four weeks have passed and we’ve not heard anything from the council. I appreciate this issue may not be comfortable for the current administration but it deserves to be heard.
“We’re calling for the petitions meeting to be convened as early as possible.”

Friday, 12 April 2013

Blyth should be connected to Metro as part of the regional growth strategy. It's on page 30 Jeff, in case you haven't looked.

Ken Ellis  
79,Devonworth Place                                                                                                                 

 Blyth                                                                                                                      
Northumberland  
 NE24 5AE  

 12 April 2013

Sir

You have to feel sorry for Jeff Reid.
Two years ago I started a petition calling for the Metro to come to Blyth. Thousands of people signed it.
Ill-advised by officers appointed after he took over as Leader at County Hall, Jeff Reid rejected the petition and said heavy trains were the answer, even though he's made zero progress with the idea.

Now along comes Lord Adonis, appointed by the government Jeff supports, and what does he say in his North East Economic Review?
Blyth should be connected to Metro as part of the regional growth strategy. It's on page 30 Jeff, in case you haven't looked.

That's precious reward for all Jeff's support for the coalition, that their expert should so publicly rebuke Jeff for being so wrong about connecting Blyth to the Metro.
And it's two years wasted when we could have been working on this project, instead of Jeff fiddling while the economy of South East Northumberland shrinks.

Regards
Ken Ellis

The Food Standards Agency uncovered “significant concerns” about how Northumberland County Council carries out its food hygiene enforcement regime in the near-4,000 premises it is required to watch over.

Fear over Northumberland food safety after watchdog audit
by David Black, The Journal 12 April 12, 2013
County Hall in Morpeth
A CATALOGUE of concerns about how a North East council handles food safety checks and enforcement has been revealed in an official audit carried out by national watchdogs.
The Food Standards Agency uncovered “significant concerns” about how Northumberland County Council carries out its food hygiene enforcement regime in the near-4,000 premises it is required to watch over.
FSA auditors called on the council to carry out a fundamental review of its service delivery – including taking a number of urgent actions – and to demonstrate how improvements could be made to improve public safety. Findings of the critical audit included concerns about a large backlog of food businesses which were overdue an inspection, inspections being carried out by unauthorised officers, and inadequate record keeping.
They have raised questions about the council’s performance at a time when public concerns over food safety have been heightened by the horse meat scandal.
Yesterday, opposition councillors said they have been kept in the dark about the FSA report until told about it by The Journal, and will be asking urgent questions about its findings.
The FSA audit revealed there were about 600 lower-risk businesses in Northumberland which required assessment and intervention to make sure they continued to comply with the law. In addition, there were more than 700 registered food businesses that had yet to receive an intervention from the authority – contrary to the Food Law code of practice.
Auditors were told that about 600 premises inspection records and registration details had been “lost” during the formation of the unitary authority for technical reasons, although the council later said these files had been successfully retrieved.

Yesterday, Anita Romer, the council’s executive member for health and public protection, said she had been made aware of the audit findings before Christmas.
“Obviously, I was not pleased with the findings and I asked about the staffing arrangements that would happen as a consequence. Immediate measures were taken to act on the recommendations of the audit.”
Peter Jackson, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said: “I didn’t know about this matter and it is regrettable, to say the least, that the council has not seen fit to report this to councillors, whose role is to hold them to account and suggest improvements.
“They have had four years to get this right and it is not down to under-funding or staffing, so by the sound of it it’s a pure management failure. This is obviously a matter of public concern because people need to know that the food they are eating is trustworthy.
“If this FSA audit has not been reported to a scrutiny committee it suggests the council is trying to hide it from public scrutiny.”
Labour group leader, Grant Davey, said: “I am unaware of this audit and feel it is a disgrace that it has not been brought before our risk appraisal panel, which meets monthly.” Auditors found inadequate food establishment and intervention records were being kept across all enforcement activities, and those that were available were frequently incomplete.
Some officers were authorised to carry out enforcement activities under certain food regulations, but it was not clear whether there was sufficient in-house expertise to effectively carry out such duties.
The audit found there had been a past reliance on warning letters and return visits to businesses, but it was clear this approach had not always been effective in securing compliance, with repeated breaches frequently noted on consecutive inspections.
Following the audit, urgent actions required include confirmation that two businesses had stopped using equipment for both raw and ready-to-eat food, and a re-assessment exercise of all overdue and unrated businesses to make sure they were not affected by the FSA’s latest guidance on e.coli.
The FSA report says: “The authority fully co-operated with the agency, taking appropriate follow-up action as required.”
The audit examined the council’s enforcement records on hygiene improvement notices, and a voluntary closure, and concluded that these appeared to have achieved the desired effect in protecting public health.

The Link to the report on  FSA Report on failing foods stardards in our county

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A spokesman for the newly formed Northumberland Market Towns Chambers of Trade, John Haswell of Berwick said

Labour calls foul as free parking petition stalls
Thousands of people have backed this ‘referendum’ for county wide free parking yet the council is dragging its feet’ – Grant Davey
Liberal Democrat led Northumberland County Council has come under fire for ‘dragging its feet’ over the issue of parking charges in Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth after it emerged that the council was yet to process thousands of signatures calling for an end to unfair parking charges as part of its official petitions policy.
The petition, set up by the Labour party, to highlight the cost of parking charges which they estimate to be £5m, closed on 27 Feb. The council then posted a message on the petitions site promising to process over 3000 signatures (from Berwick alone) ‘shortly’. Hundreds more signatures were collected in Morpeth and Alnwick.
Now the Labour party is challenging the council to ‘get on with it and set up a meeting of the council’s Petitions Committee as soon as possible’ to allow the issue to be debated and to give the petitioners a chance to highlight the problems parking charges are causing in towns across the county. Labour have branded the parking charges ‘a tax on motorists’ and are planning to give local town council’s the final say on whether parking charges should apply.
Labour have been joined by local Chambers of Trade who collected many of the signatures for the petition who are also demanding the council gets on with it and holds the Petitions meeting.
A spokesman for the newly formed Northumberland Market Towns Chambers of Trade, John Haswell of Berwick said
'I'm very disappointed that the council has chosen to ignore this petition which has gathered thousands of names, all calling for free parking across the county. Over 3,000 signatures were gathered in Berwick alone from some very angry people. The residents have spoken clearly and signed up to the petition which closed on 27 Feb and because of the Councils failure to fulfil its obligations and convene a meeting, thousands more residents of Berwick and the other market town are still being bled dry in parking charges. Now over 4 weeks have passed and we've not heard anything from the council. I appreciate this issue may not be comfortable for the current administration but it deserves to be heard. We're calling for the Petitions meeting to be convened as early as possible to allow the thousands of residents who took time to sign up to the petition to make their voices heard'.



A Labour party spokesperson said
‘This petition is effectively a referendum on the Liberal Democrat administration unfair ‘parking stealth tax’. Thousands of people have taken the trouble to sign up to a petition which shows the strength of feeling against this policy. It’s clearly unfair that Jeff Reid and his Liberal colleagues are sitting in County Hall deciding a policy which should be decided in the towns themselves. They need to act now and set up the Petitions meeting to allow the people to hear the real facts about the Northumberland ‘parking tax’.

End

Yesterday Mr Dromey said: “Northumberland is hit by high unemployment and a generation of young people growing up with no hope.

Labour house building pledge to get Northumberland economy moving
by David Black, The Journal

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey
LABOUR will get the economy of Northumberland moving again by building hundreds of much-needed homes if it wins control of the county council next month, a senior party figure claimed yesterday.
Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said the party’s pledge to provide 1,300 affordable, social and intermediate homes over the next four years will put unemployed builders back to work and create vital apprenticeships for jobless young people.
Mr Dromey was in Ashington to kick-start the party’s campaign to win overall political control of the county council, which has been run since 2009 by a minority Liberal Democrat administration. One of Labour’s main manifesto pledges is to oversee the building of at least 1,300 affordable homes – more than 450 each for the west, north and south east areas of the county by 2017.
The pledge followed the recent publication of the council’s latest housing needs survey, which revealed the authority needs to build a minimum of 240 homes a year over the next decade to make inroads into the current waiting list.
Yesterday Mr Dromey said: “Northumberland is hit by high unemployment and a generation of young people growing up with no hope. Labour will get the economy of Northumberland moving by building 1,300 badly-needed homes, putting thousands of unemployed building workers back to work and creating apprenticeships for our young people.
“Britain is gripped by a toxic combination of the biggest housing crisis in a generation and a flatlining economy.
“Labour will build Britain out of recession with a new generation of homes to rent and buy. History shows that, from the depression of the 1930s on, there has never been sustained economic recovery without a major programme of house building.”

He said the party was taking nothing for granted, but had worked hard locally and was “optimistic” that the people of Northumberland would, in hard times, “turn to a Labour council they can trust”.
Mr Dromey also visited North Tyneside to support Labour candidate Norma Redfearn, a former headteacher who is trying to wrest control of the borough council from elected Conservative mayor Linda Arkley.
He said: “North Tyneside needs a local champion who will stand up for a fine community. Norma Redfearn is a local woman with a remarkable track record of turning round failing schools, who will get the area moving. Her number one priority is jobs, particularly for young people.”
Northumberland Labour group leader Grant Davey said he is increasingly hopeful the party will win the 34 seats it needs to take overall control of the council on May 2.
“We believe our popularity has risen quite strongly since the coalition Government came in. We are desperate to tackle what is a burning issue for the county.”

Sunday, 7 April 2013

LABOUR politicians have unveiled a ‘We’re backing Northumberland’ pledge in their election manifesto.

Grant Davey, Leader of Labour Group, Northumberland County Council.  Published on 07/04/2013 07:00  Morpeth Herald
LABOUR politicians have unveiled a ‘We’re backing Northumberland’ pledge in their election manifesto.
The Party’s campaign focuses on actions to boost the local economy, with affordable house building top of the agenda.
The group says that at least 1,300 affordable homes would be built, with a presumption to ‘buy local’, if it wins control of Northumberland County Council in May.
It is estimated that the project would protect up to 3,000 jobs and keep around £60million circulating in the local economy, while at least 100 new apprenticeships would be created every year for the four years of the house building programme.
The Party has also stated its intention to scrap parking charges in Northumberland’s market towns after setting up a petition on the issue earlier this year.
It says that the ‘unfair car parking tax’ on Morpeth, Alnwick, Hexham and Berwick is sucking up to £5million from the economy.
Another pledge would see council services modernised, but ‘in-house’ provision would be promoted, rather than privatising services, which the group says has already cost an estimated £1million in consultants’ fees.
Staff would be given a prominent role in developing the services and local public sector jobs that benefit the economy would be protected.
There are plans to work with Northumberland’s town councils to develop local service hubs.
The Labour group says this will help to breathe new life into towns, including Morpeth, Ashington, Blyth, Hexham and Berwick.
And there are also proposals for rural areas, with a promise to set up a Rural Business sub-committee.
The body would have powers to draw up a Rural Action Plan, which would set out measures to help tackle problems faced by countryside businesses, including the farming sector, and to address poverty. There would also be support for the renewable energy sector.
Meanwhile, a dedicated arms-length body would be created to promote Northumberland’s tourism industry across the country and internationally.
Labour Group Leader Grant Davey says the plans will concentrate resources on strengthening rural and urban economies.
He said: “We’ve been subjected to a parking tax which has sucked £5million out of the economy of Berwick, Hexham, Morpeth and Alnwick.
“We’ve had a rush to prepare council services for privatisation and a complete lack of interest in supporting key rural industries like farming and tourism.
“Our plans tackle this neglect and we’re keen to make sure that big council projects under a Labour administration will have a presumption to buy local“For example, our 1,300 affordable homes pledge will create at least 500 construction jobs, along with 100 apprentices per year, but we’ll move to make sure local firms get a fair crack in the procurement process.”