Monday, 28 July 2008

Freedom Of Information....

Due to poor drafting, the Freedom Of Information Act is a very effective tool for the public to find out what our politicians are up to. It actually works very well, as our chastened members of parliament have found out. Locally, it has its uses too:

Spot the difference -
On the 22nd November 2007, Mayor Harrison (yes him again) answered a question made by a resident as to the cost of his administration hiring DTW Advertising and Marketing Ltd. He publicly stated a figure of £150,000. Freedom of Information later revealed this figure to be way off the mark, at the time it was £238,945 and rising. At present the cost is rattling towards £500,000.

Mayor Harrison has also created a "Communications Unit" - that's a 'spin machine' to you and me - and that gobbles up £515,976 per year in wages alone. All this information and much more came from a single Freedom of Information request......

Friday, 25 July 2008

Gordon Brown to go ?

Telegraph: "Gordon Brown is being undermined by Cabinet ministers who are now publicly questioning his future as Prime Minister following Labour's disastrous defeat in the Glasgow East by-election."
"We cannot go any lower," the minister said, following Labour's disastrous defeat in the Glasgow East by-election, one of the biggest upsets in political history.
"We are at rock bottom. The evidence is there for all to see. We are not a one-nation party any more. We are now a no-nation party. We cannot win in Scotland, we cannot win in England, we cannot win in Wales.
"There is only one thing that can be done, and it's a change of leader."

Saturday, 19 July 2008

"little evidence yet of the regeneration scheme.."

There is no doubt about it. Had Mayor Harrison gone ahead with
the regeneration plans of the coast as laid out and costed by his predecessor, then locals and visitors would be looking at the finished product by now. As it is, there is a boarded up Leisure Pool and an empty Dome covered in scaffolding, promised to a ‘preferred developer’. To add to the suspense, the residents are not allowed to know the exact details of the proposed contract, well, not until its too late to have any say in the matter.

Referring to Whitley Bay, The Sunday Times of 13th July, puts it beyond doubt “….there is little evidence yet of the regeneration scheme promised for the area."

It is reasonable to suggest that the subject of the shambles that is the regeneration of the coast has become ‘the elephant in the room’. It is an undeniable fact that there is no regeneration. No amount of glossing over that fact will fool the residents. It didn’t fool the writer in The Sunday Times. Three years of announcements and residents have an empty Dome, an empty Playhouse and an empty Leisure Pool. In nine months time it is possible that Mayor Harrison may have to empty his desk too.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Speaks For Itself.....

"After crossing the Tyne, I pause to mourn in Whitley Bay. Not so long ago, this was to Newcastle what Brighton is to London, with notorious nightclubs and a funfair called the Spanish City. Now it’s what Gaza is to Jerusalem, the clubs boarded up, the seafront a litter-strewn no-go zone. But there is little evidence yet of the regeneration scheme promised for the area."

TimesOnline Article (View here), July 13th 2008,The Sunday Times.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Now the summer holidays are upon us.....

Monday, 14 July 2008

Now the summer holidays are upon us, and mindful that the true rate of inflation is 18% (Daily Mirror 14/07/08) and that the crumbling Spanish City Dome is not what it was, or will be in the near future; Playhouse closed along with the leisure pool. The Telegraph is extolling the virtues of Hadrians Wall, and there are bits of it in Wallsend (Segedunum), with Arbeia - a Roman Fort- in South Shields. They are in better condition than the seafront too.

Or... you can buy the book 'Wife in the North', by former Sunday Times journalist Judith O’Reilly (...her husband still works there) who makes their holiday home (?) near Alnmouth the family home and presents it as if it were on the Shetland Islands. Rubbing along on just £120k a year, and with a curious amount of spare time (quote:"My husband might have been missing in action but I do have help with the children".... "Five of us squished together (six if you count the nanny)" .....), Ms O'Reilly moans on about missing London (Islington),having to struggle, (with a nanny for the children! and pots of cash),and how lonely she is etc; But she finds solice in 'blogging' her thoughts,then shamelessly(?) exploits all her media contacts and bags a book deal of £70k (advance). Don't expect to recognise this as the Northumberland we know, it's all of 35miles from the Metro Centre. Another world you know.....

Even wealthy middle class mothers can struggle, can't they?

An addendum to the 14th July Blog.

How is it that a former investigative journalist such as Judith O'Reilly omits the significant role of her nanny who provides the childcare. Is it 'Faking it in the North' ? I enjoy a good yarn like anyone else, but I know first hand - and still do - the time consuming but rewarding work that is required by a parent in looking after a child. I don't have a nanny, but those that do should acknowledge the significant help they enjoy.

Letters to the Editor

Friday, 11 July 2008

Letters to the Editor
For a while now I have looked forward to reading the letters by Councillor Muriel Green in the local newspaper. Quite often they are, I suggest, difficult to read due in part to the healthy dollop of 'spin' that is often added. Considering that at present the good ship S.S.New Labour is so low in the polls that it could easily be a submarine,and would, I further suggest, be a danger to shipping, an eye for a lifebelt might be a wiser choice...A letter from Cllr Green in the News Guardian (3rd July) exudes,I suggest, the properties of a very long excuse, and considering the local election results clearly indicate that Mayor Harrison after May 2009 Mayoral elections could well be spending more time with his family, would it not be wiser to address the very real concerns of the residents?. We have for example, the spectre of Mayor Harrison wishing to privatise (?) what remains of local leisure facilities such as the lighthouse, to make 'savings' of £500,000. No mention of the mayor parting company with his legion of 'policy advisor's' (they cost the same amount in annual wages). No mention of the advertising and marketing company employed by Mayor Harrison's administration (nearly £500,000 spent on them so far). No mention of the endlessly delayed and virtually non-existent regeneration of the coast.

The residents of Cullercoats have now placed a petition before a full Council meeting for a proposed ban of alcohol on the beaches, resulting in a very luke warm reception to the proposed ban by a Council official aired on local television. If Cllr. Green, in her capacity as leader of the Labour Group, wishes to retain any credibility I suggest that it would be prudent for her to have a word with our financial guru Mayor, and get him to support this ban.

The inflation rate is ....?

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The inflation rate is ....?
Inflation (as per Gordon Browns Govt) officially hits 3% today. The truth is thats its nearly 20%. The papers say its "As bad as the 70's" (daily mail 17/06/08). The truth is out there, but you will not get it from this failing Labour Government. Perhaps they don't go to the shops or run a car....

Letters to the Editor

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Letters to the Editor
The smoke of the local elections has cleared; who would have guessed that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was Labour's very own John Major, but without his luck and charisma. The seismic political change cannot be underestimated, and you have to go back to 1995 for a comparison. Even the governments “spin doctors” could not deny the implosion of the New Labour project. With just 24 percent of the national vote, behind the Lib Dems on 25 percent, Gordon Brown admitted it was a very bad day for Labour. But wait, our very own elected Labour Mayor of North Tyneside was quoted in a local newspaper (on hearing the local election results) as saying “I think we have done extremely well”.With the clock now steadily ticking down to next years mayoral elections a reliance on “spin” is very unwise. It is reasonable that the residents will examine the achievements, if any, by this administration. It is right to ask if their money is best spent on a very expensive “communications unit”, and the current engagement of an advertising and marketing company by Mayor Harrison. Freedom of information reveals that the annual wages bill of the “communications unit”is £515,976. The cost of employing the advertising company now exceeds £400,000. The mayor has moved the council administration into rented accommodation at a cost of £3.7 million a year. Staggering sums of money are being spent with very little to show for it. The regeneration of the coast has become a joke, but remember the voters will always have the last laugh. Enough is enough.

The Day After...

Friday, 2 May 2008

Not on this planet award
The Labour Mayor of North Tyneside, Mr. John Harrison, on hearing the election news is quoted as saying "I think we have done extremely well".

Its official - Gordon Brown's a loser
BBC research suggests Labour won 24% of votes cast in England and Wales, behind the Tories on 44% and Lib Dems on 25%. The party suffered its worst council results in at least 40 years.

Is Gordon Brown a loser not a leader ?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Is Gordon Brown a loser not a leader ?
When it is not a problem to prop up the Banks with a staggering 50 Billion pounds, and bail out Northern Rock to the tune of some 100 Billion pounds, why were nearly 50 Labour MPs forced to put forward an amendment to the Finance Bill to make Gordon Brown "rethink" the scrapping of the 10p tax band. This must be the U-turn of all u-turns.

Blatant Media Lie/Spin of the year (so far)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Blatant Media Lie/Spin of the year (so far)
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the BBC and Guardian newspaper reported "..that a police study has found that a rise in crime in Britain was not fuelled by the surge in immigrants from eastern Europe". The Police study did not say this; '....the report in full bore no relation to the BBC or Guardian headline claims'. The Police Federation says that the BBC / Guardian story is 'bizarre and contrary to what our members are telling us'.Hang on, the Local Elections are nearly here.......

Gordon Brown's whopper of the week....

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Gordon Brown's whopper of the week....
Downing street says that inflation is :CPI annual inflation – the Government’s target measure – was 2.5 per cent in March, unchanged from February. But the Prime Minister also said "..Oil and gas prices are up60 percent,wheat and rice prices have doubled.." says an average shopping basket is up by 11 percent on a year ago. Gordon Brown's shopping basket for 2007 is here . "An average family spending £100 a week on groceries a year ago would now have to pay an extra £572 a year...." (Daily Mail 15/04/08)So the Whopper of the week award must go to Gordon Brown.What do you think the rate of inflation is when you shop or fill up your car with fuel ?

By popular request.....

Saturday, 12 April 2008

By popular request.....
Transcript of the imaginary speech given by Mayor Harrison to the members of the North Tyneside Council Tax Payers Terminus Club on the 1st January 2008…..
Is the microphone on?. Testing, testing. Ladies and gentlemen …can you hear me at the back?. Right, let me first thank you for inviting me along today, on this the first day of 2008. I get a lot of invitations to functions as Mayor, and this is my first of this year. That is speech, and of course the fine spread the club has laid on, so it’s my firstfree meal of the year (laughs). When I was elected in May 2005, many unkindly referred to me as a second choice Mayor, but I would like to state that I have never offered the residents a second choice. One of the first things I did when taking over from Mayor Linda was to look at the finances, and I was shocked. There it was, a financial ‘black hole’. So in the interests of the long-term stability of the CouncilI had to take swift action. It was clear there was no provision for the extra press officers, secretaries and policy advisors I had to hire. Not to mention the transition officers I had to employ to help the policy advisors.Lately, after the recent Mori poll showed that the satisfaction and approval rating by the residents in the Council had dropped from 75% under Mayor Linda to 46% under my administration, more firm action was required. My cabinet and I wasted no time in employing the services of a reputable advertising and marketing company, who conducted a survey into the work of my secretaries, press officers, policy advisors and transition officers, and how they are working closer with the communities. Well, Mayor Linda missed this one as well. The result of the consultation by our strategic partner – that’s what we call them – it was not the services the council is providing, it was ‘communications’. So we have hired a Head of Communications, and have given him a budget. As you can see, the financial ‘black hole’ I spotted when I took over was a lot bigger than I thought.Now, none of this comes cheap, and financial ‘black holes’ have to be paid for. So again, tough decisions have had to be made. Mayor Linda’s fully costed plans for the regeneration of the coast were not fully costed at all, it was clear as day, -no communications. Well it was a shock, but the decision had to be made to move into rented accommodation, not rubbish mind you, it’s going to cost £3.4 million a year in rent; it’s all to do with ‘image’ our strategic partner told us. So with the old town hall and other buildings surplus to requirements, and with a more modest regeneration of the coast, we should be able to plug financial ‘black hole’ Mayor Linda left us.What is this about ‘transition’ I hear many say, but again it’s that financial ‘black hole. We needed to make ‘efficiency savings’ and that had to be about reducing Council staff numbers. So we needed to employ the extra press officers, secretaries, policy advisors and transition officers to identify those we had to let go.Our new strategic partner, that’s the advertising and marketing firm, after the Mori poll results, told us that it was clear that the residents were not getting the message.One of the recommendations from the ad people was that, and let me read it to you, is that we must “Develop new ways of communicating with the audience using digital media.”. So after my speech I would be grateful if one of the audience here today can take my picture with this very nice digital camera I got for Christmas. It’s for the newspapers.(Mayor Harrison’s mobile phone rings, he takes short call, then continues)To close, I regret to say that I cannot take questions from the floor as my policy advisor was unable to come here tonight due to a subsequent engagement. So I would like to thank the Chair and committee for inviting me here, and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a prosperous and merry new year. Goodnight.Note: Transcript by: Miss Rose Fort-Pop, reporter from the Waged Air Nuns weekly.(This is a spoof report)