Welcome to the first email newsletter of the Liberal Democrats in BIrtley and Lamesley wards. In this edition we report on the council tax rise imposed by Labour run Gateshead Council and report back on our campaign to stop opencast mining near Kibblesworth. Our Parliamentary Candidate Dr Jonathan Wallace visits Lord Lawson School and campaigns across the Birtley and Lamesley wards. Please feel free to forward to others who may find eFocus useful.
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Council tax hiked up by Labour
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 for Blaydon and Birtley, 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 candidate for Birtley in the local elections, Sandra McClurey. “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 Carol Hubbard, Lib Dem candidate for Lamesley ward. “Nationally they claim there is a ‘cost of living crisis’ but locally they simply pile on the costs residents have to pay.”
Kibblesworth saved from opencast
Cllr Jonathan Wallace hands in his petition opposing opencast mining in countryside near Kibblesworth and Marley Hill.
Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace, who led the battle against opencast mining at Birklands, near Kibblesworth and at Marley Hill, has welcomed news that plans to extract coal from the sites have been abandoned. Though appeals had been expected, time has now run out.

The application at Birklands had been rejected by Gateshead Council after Jonathan, who is also Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Blaydon and Birtley constituency, led the campaign to have the plans defeated.

Labour Councillor for the area, Christine Bradley, even wrote to Jonathan to thank him for winning the battle. She said, "
Congratulations on the fact that your efforts and objection speech won the day and the application was refused."

The Marley Hill application had a different history to it as it was initially approved by Labour Councillors in Gateshead but was then rejected by Durham County Council under whose area part of the site lies.
Both Councils had to approve the plan before it could be put into operation. An appeal had been expected but time has now run out.

“Residents will be breathing a sigh of relief that these plans will no longer be going ahead,” said Jonathan.
“There was considerable anger when Labour in Gateshead approved the plan," said Carol Hubbard, Lib Dem candidate for Lamesley ward. "Thankfully, Durham County Council took a different decision to Gateshead and without agreement by both councils, the Marley Hill plan was rejected and an appeal is no longer possible.”
Jonathan also led the successful campaign against opencast plans at Skons Park, between Whickham and Rowlands Gill.
The best question of the campaign so far
Jonathan Wallace, Lib Dem candidate for Blaydon and Birtley, at Lord Lawson School, Birtley.
Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Blaydon and Birtley, Dr Jonathan Wallace, visited Lord Lawson School on 13th March at the invitation of teachers to talk to year 7 pupils about the general election. Two classes came together to listen to what he had to say and be quizzed on various issues. The questions were quite thought provoking. His short speech and the Q&A session were recorded on video and will go onto the school's website. The children will also be voting in their own general election.

After about an hour the children were divided back into their classes and Jonathan went with one of them to talk about what he does outside politics. Jonathan lives the "good life" in Sunniside where he grows his own food and keeps chickens, bees and goats. He is also an internet broadcaster. His videos and programmes about gardening, food and self-sufficiency have been viewed nearly 4 million times on YouTube.

Jonathan answered questions about raising goats and poultry and keeping bees.

"By far the best question so far of the entire campaign came from one of the children," said Jonathan. "What would I do if my goat had her babies on the day of the general election!? Fortunately she is due to give birth in late May, but if she is early, it will no doubt cause untold problems on polling day!"

You can read about Jonathan's attempts to be self-sufficient on his green living blog "Self-Sufficient in Suburbia" on this link.
Pinkie, one of Jonathan's goats, is due to give birth after the general election.
Campaigning in Birtley and Lamesley
Dr Jonathan Wallace, Liberal Democrat candidate for Blaydon and Birtley, has been on the campaign trail recently. You can find out more about Jonathan's campaign and his work as a local councillor on his blog on this link.
At the A1 near Lamesley. Jonathan has welcomed the investment by the Coalition of over £60 million in improvements to the A1 from the south end of the Team Valley to the Metrocentre.
In Kibblesworth to catch up with residents about opencast mining.
Visiting the Team Valley Trading Estate. Recent transport improvements, paid for by the Coalition Government, are making the TVTE even more attractive for business.
Visiting the Global Newsroom on the Team Valley to see first hand how the news service operates for one of the biggest commercial radio operators in the country.
Jonathan took the opportunity to visit Lamesley Church to see the graves of his grandfather and great grandfather John and Henry Wallace. Both had been born at Trench Hall, Ravensworth, in the Victorian period. Henry was agent to Lord Ravensworth until his death in 1901.
Campaigning across Blaydon constituency
You can catch up with Jonathan's campaign across the whole of Blaydon constituency in March on this 2 minute video.
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Copyright © 2015 Gateshead Liberal Democrats, All rights reserved.

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