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Council tax hiked up by Labour
Jonathan Wallace council tax speech Feb 15
Speech by Cllr Jonathan Wallace to Gateshead Council calling for a council tax freeze.
Council tax in Gateshead is to rise for the first time since 2010 after Labour Councillors turned down cash from the Coalition Government to pay for a tax freeze.

Over the last 4 years, the Council has accepted cash from the Government to freeze council tax bills. This year, ministers offered Gateshead £900,000 to keep council tax at the same level.

Instead, they chose to put up bills by 2%, lumping local residents with a collective bill of £1.4 million. This rise is completely unnecessary. Why? Because over the past two years, Labour have collected £5 million more in taxes than they have spent on services.

That’s £5 million of YOUR MONEY. £5 million that has gone into council reserves rather than being spent on services or going back into your pockets.

Liberal Democrats are the opposition to Labour in Gateshead (there are no councillors for any other parties here). On the Council, Cllr Jonathan Wallace, who is also Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate, argued that council tax should be frozen and the extra money taken from the Government. Labour refused to listen.

“I find Labour’s actions incredible,” said Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Ord. “They are trying to make a party political point and are doing so at the cost of £1.4 million to local residents. Furthermore, Gateshead has one of the highest council taxes in the country. Raising council tax when the council was offered money to freeze it whilst having £16 million in reserves is inexcusable.”

“I’m left wondering whether Labour actually care about local people,” said Kevin McClurey, Lib Dem campaigner in Dunston Hill and Whickham East. “Nationally they claim there is a ‘cost of living crisis’ but locally they simply pile on the costs residents have to pay.”
Bid submitted for Chase Park Lottery cash
Cllr Peter Craig, who helped set up Friends of Chase Park, has welcomed the bid for Lottery funding of Chase Park.
The Friends of Chase Park in partnership with Gateshead Council and Southern Green Limited have now submitted a detailed plan to the Heritage Lottery Fund - if successful this will release an additional £921,800 of Lottery funding to bring about the renaissance of Chase Park.

The Friends of Chase Park was established in 2010 as a community group dedicated to the protection, promotion and enhancement of Chase Park - and a small but dedicated band of volunteers have worked steadily since then to achieve this.

The HLF bid focusses on the conservation and restoration of the heritage features whilst improving the park as a leisure facility for the whole of the local community.

Restoration works will be carried out on the listed windmill, entrance gates, path system and the former Whickham House garden. The existing toddler play area will be remodeled, a tennis court resurfaced and new facilities provided including teenage play, a skate park, an outdoor gym and a community orchard and garden.

The scheme includes employment of a part-time Community Participation Officer, over a three year period, who will work with the Friends to further develop the existing events programme and create additional funding strategies, building on previous successes.

Cllr. Peter Craig, who set up the Friends group said “I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible, with a special thank you to the individuals who have stuck with this project since the start.

“It has taken us 5 years to reach this point and we are very much hoping that the bid will be successful, so that a rejuvenated Chase Park can continue to play an important part at the heart of our community. We will find out the result in July and if we are successful, work will then commence on activating the plans.”

If you would like to know more about the project or become a Friend, please contact Peter by calling 488 0787 or by emailing him on this link.
20 mph update
A Traffic Order has now been issued by Gateshead Council for a 20 mph zone covering the whole of Whickham. This is despite representations being made by Ward councillors that around 70% of our people replying to the survey carried out by Lib Dem councillors are in favour of a 20 mph zone around schools but opposed to a blanket zone.
 
All observations - for or against - need to be made in writing to Mike Barker, Legal and Corporate Services, Gateshead MBC NE8 1HH and received by the Council on or before 10th April 2015.
Work starts on new Front Street School
Councillors Sonya Hawkins and Chris Ord visit the site of the the new Front Street School where rebuilding work has started.
Work has started on building the replacement Front Street School. The land on North View, Whickham, to the north of the Gibside Arms, has now been fenced off. Front Street was chosen by the Coalition for replacement in the first wave of the school rebuildling plan announced in 2012.

School Governor Cllr Chris Ord said, "The school is on a split site with a road running through the middle of it. Some of the buildings are 100 years old. The replacement is badly needed."

Kevin McClurey, who is also a governor of Front Street, said, "We are all pleased that we will have a new school ready to move into next year. It will be a great boost to children's education."
Community pub at Marley Hill Community Centre
The next community pub at Marley Hill Community Centre will be held on Saturday 28th March. The first one held in February was a great success with young families. Mums and dads were able to bring their children to play in a safe environment in the main hall whilst they could relax in the the bar and meet up with friends.

This Saturday the pub will be opening an hour earlier, at 5pm. The play equipment will be set up in the main hall. There will also be children's toys and colouring books for them as well. There will also be a children's meals as well as food for adults.

The bar and kitchen will continue to be open after the families have left until 10pm, but if there are still people around, the bar will stay open until 11pm.

The community pub is one of a series of events the Centre is planning to encourage greater use of the building by local residents.
Street surgery
Your local Lib Dem Focus Team will be holding a street surgery outside Whickham Library on Saturday 28th March, from 10am to 11am. We normally hold the monthly surgery in the library but this month we will be out on the street. If you are popping by, stop and have a chat. You can raise any local issues with us. If it's raining, we'll be back in the library!
Sun eclipsed in Sunniside
The partial solar eclipse photographed by Cllr Jonathan Wallace from Sunniside.
Did you see the partial solar eclipse on Friday 20th March? If you missed it, have a look at the above photo. It was snapped by Cllr Jonathan Wallace from his front garden in Laburnum Grove, Sunniside. The next partial eclipse in the UK is not until 2026 and the next full eclipse here is not until 2090. We hope eFocus will still be going in 75 years' time (it's been going for 11 years already) but Cllr Wallace is expecting someone a bit younger to be taking the photos!
Jonathan interviewed for Whickham's BBC School Report
Jonathan Wallace at the Sunderland University Media Centre where he was interviewed by Whickham School pupils.
Local Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace is used to being in front of a camera. He is an internet broadcaster and his videos have been viewed nearly 4 million times on YouTube. Earlier this month, he was back in front of the cameras, but this time as a guest of Whickham School pupils who were recording a programme for BBC School Report.

Jonathan was interviewed about why it's great to live in the North East and things he'd done on Red Nose Day. But as is often the case with Jonathan, he was questioned about his self-sufficiency lifestyle and inevitably, his goats came into the conversation.

"I live the 'good life' in Sunniside where I grow my own food," said Jonathan. "People are often more interested in that than the latest twists and turns of politics! The pupils were very interested in my goats and chickens. Sadly, I wouldn't have been able to bring any of my livestock to the studio!"

Recording took place at the Sunderland University Media Centre.
Planting Up Coniston Avenue
Planting up Whickham was formed in the summer of 2013 after Gateshead Council had taken the decision not to maintain flower beds within the borough.
 
You may have already seen the group’s work, as over the last two years they have planted up Church Green and several other flower beds in the village, including the Butterfly Beds.
 
Now the group is attempting to create a rose bed at the top of Coniston Avenue and is looking for people to help:
  • Could you volunteer to help for half an hour on Sunday 29th March any time between 10:00 am and 11:00 am? We will be preparing the bed and filling it with new rose plants.
  • Or do you happen to have a spare rose plant that you could donate?
 
Organiser Cllr. Peter Craig said, “We would be most grateful for help of any kind. We’ll be delighted if you are able to come along next Sunday or if not, please contact me on 488 0787."
Labour attack Lib Dems for producing Focus
Keeping in touch - local Lib Dems have a good read before delivering another newsletter to residents. Labour have attacked the Lib Dems for sending out newsletters.
There is an election coming. We know that because people have received a "newsletter" from the Labour party. As far as we can make out, it is the first "newsletter" they have produced since the local elections last May. Labour have come out of hibernation because they want your vote. And once they have your vote, they go back to sleep until the following election.

Whether you describe yourself as a Liberal Democrat or not, there's one inescapable fact in the Whickham area - the Lib Dems keep in touch all year round. We produce a regular Focus newsletter. And of course there is eFocus, which we produce monthly (we are on to edition 94).

But we now have learnt directly from a Labour Councillor, Allison Thompson, who clung on by just 78 votes over the Lib Dems in the local elections last year in Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward, an explanation as to why Labour newsletters are so rare. Apparently, Labour "don't want to face criticism for killing that many trees". As for sending people information about what is happening in our local communities, Cllr Thompson announces, "I have more respect for my residents and I don't believe I need to do that as it's treating people as being foolish."

The Labour Councillor's explanation of Labour's inactivity were made on a Whickham residents' Facebook site in February in the full knowledge that thousands of people could read them.

"Cllr Thompson has thrown a great deal of light on how Labour behave and think in this area," said Kevin McClurey, who came within 78 votes of defeating Cllr Thompson last year in the local elections.

"Labour openly believe that keeping people informed is treating them as 'foolish'. This is an appalling view to take. Everyone knows only the Lib Dems in the Whickham area are active all year round. Labour's admission is clear proof that they will not keep you informed and they will only be interested in you when they want your vote."
Kevin McClurey delivering Focus newsletters in Dunston.
Council Parking Charges Rise
Cllr Peter Craig takes a look at the potholes in Whickham car park. Despite Labour raising cash from car parking, there is little evidence to show they are spending it on repairs and improvements.
In addition to raising Council Tax rise this year, Labour councillors have also voted to increase car park charges in Whickham - from 20p to 30p per to hour.
 
“Many residents battled to stop parking charges being introduced,” said Cllr Chris Ord, “We warned that once Labour had brought in the charges, they would rapidly start increasing them. This is exactly what has happened. We are concerned that the Village as a shopping centre could be hit by the increased price of parking when free parking is available down the road at the Metrocentre.
 
“We are also asking what's happened to the money raised for the charges so far. We can't see any evidence of it having been spent on the Whickham car parks even though Labour said the charges were a way of funding them. We are pressing for the money raised in Whickham to be spent in Whickham."
Jonathan elected Leader of the Opposition
Cllr Frank Hindle, left, who stood down as Leader of the Opposition in Gateshead, congratulates Jonathan Wallace on his election as new leader.
Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside, has been elected as the new Leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council. Jonathan's promotion from his previous position as Deputy followed the decision of Low Fell Councillor Frank Hindle to step down after 4 years in the role.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as Leader of the group and leader of the Opposition in Gateshead,” said Frank. “These have been challenging years for the Lib Dems but we have held our ground.
 
“Last year we held all our council seats in Gateshead in the local elections and came within 78 votes of taking Dunston Hill and Whickham East from Labour.
 
“But the current Parliament is about to end and the next one will face big challenges which will affect local government. I decided now is a good time to get a new team in place to take the Lib Dem group forward over the next five years."
 
Jonathan said, “I am determined that the Lib Dems will continue to punch above our weight and increase our strength in Gateshead. Everyone knows that the Conservatives, Greens and UKIP can't win any seats in Gateshead. Lib Dems however have denied Labour their hope of creating a one-party state in Gateshead.

"Over the coming years I will be working hard to ensure the Lib Dem group on Gateshead Council holds Labour to account whilst growing our support across the borough.”

Jonathan keeps a blog about his activities as a councillor and campaigner. He almost always has a camera with him and he posts nearly every day his photos and articles about what he's doing. You can visit his blog on this link.
Dunston Staiths opened
Dunston Staiths were reopened at a ceremony on Tuesday 24th March following restoration of much of the structure. Members of the public will be able to walk along the upper deck for much of the length though the section beyond the fire damaged area will remain closed. Access to the Staiths will allowed until the autumn.
Printed by Mailchimp, 512 Means Street NW, Suite 404Atlanta, GA 30318 United States. Published and promoted by John McClurey on behalf of Jonathan Wallace, Chris Ord and Kevin McClurey (Liberal Democrats) and Frank Hindle on behalf of Dave Fawcett (Liberal Democrats) all at 5 Burdon Park, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Copyright © 2015 Councillor, All rights reserved.


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