Welcome to the 100th edition of eFocus! Your local Lib Dem Focus Team first produced eFocus in 2003 when it was sent to a list of 50 people. Now it goes to nearly 2000 local residents and the numbers are growing all the time! If you find eFocus useful, please feel free to forward it to others.
Councillors Peter Maughan, John McClurey and Sonya Hawkins are part of the team of Lib Dem campaigners who fought Labour's plans for bins to be emptied once every three weeks. Lib Dems warn Labour may try to bring back the plans.
Residents need to be on guard against another attempt by Labour Councillors in Gateshead to change bin collections from fortnightly to once every three weeks, warn local Lib Dem campaigners.
The warning comes after Labour Councillors backed down over the plans but council papers suggested the change of heart may be just temporary.
"The climb down was welcome," said Lib Dem Councillor for Dunston Hill and Whickham East, Peter Maughan, "but council papers simply talk of abandoning the plan 'for now'. The door has been left open for Labour to return with their plans in the future."
Lib Dem Councillor for Whickham North, Sonya Hawkins, said, "We led the battle against switching from fortnightly to once every three week bin collections. We've won the first battle but the campaign is not yet over. Only when Labour have publicly committed to sticking with the current system will we wind down this campaign."
Spring opening for Front Street School
Former Front Street pupil and now governor, Councillor Sony Hawkins, outside the new school building which is due to open in April.
Whickham's new Front Street School is only a couple of weeks away from opening. Children and teachers will be able to move in for the new school term in April after the Easter holidays.
The old school buildings are on different sides of School Street. Some of the buildings are over 100 years old and others are prefabricated. The school’s replacement was agreed by Liberal Democrats in the previous Coalition government.
Former Front Street pupil and now governor of the school, Cllr Sonya Hawkins, said, “I pass the building site every day and have watched as the new building has gone up. It will be a great boost to children’s education when the doors open in April.”
Deputy Chairman of Front Street Governors, Cllr John McClurey, said, “For decades, a replacement building had been talked about but never delivered. I’m delighted that it is now nearing completion.”
Executive homes plan for Dunston Hill expected soon
Lib Dems have been battling Labour's plans for housing on greenbelt for years. Pictured above: Councillors John McClurey, Peter Maughan and Sonya Hawkins.
A planning application to build 550 executive homes on former greenbelt land to the south of Whickham Highway is expected to be lodged with Gateshead Council shortly.
The land in question includes the former Central Nursery as well as agricultural land at the top of Dunston Hill. Labour councillors voted last year to remove the land from greenbelt so that it could be used for their stated objective of building a huge estate of up-market homes.
Councillor Peter Maughan, who has led the battle against Labour's greenbelt grab, said, "We warned that Labour's plans to offer greenbelt land to developers at the same time as offering brownfield sites would result in a gold rush of builders putting in plans for building on our countryside, and not enough using brownfield sites.
"This is exactly what is happening. On Whickham Highway and on former greenbelt in Ryton, developers are putting their finishing touches to building 1100 homes alone. And there are still lots of other countryside sites Labour have stripped from the greenbelt to go.
"I fear we will have unused brownfield sites whilst developers are pouring concrete onto our countryside. Labour have certainly shown where their priorities lie.
"Greenbelt land should not have been offered for housing whilst brownfield sites are still waiting to be used. But developers are less interested in brownfield areas as it costs them less to build on greenfield sites."
Call to cut number of councillors
Above: a recent meeting of Gateshead Council. Liberal Democrats want the number of councillors in Gateshead reduced from 66 to 44.
Local Liberal Democrats are calling for a cut in the number of councillors in Gateshead. The party is also calling for the local election cycle to be changed to save money and make the council more efficient.
There are currently 66 councillors in Gateshead, with three representing each of the 22 wards. One councillor is elected each year to serve for four years. Every fourth year there are no local elections.
Lib Dem Councillor John McClurey said, “Gateshead Council has 2000 fewer people working for it since 2010. As an authority, it does far less than it used to. The total of 66 councillors can no longer be justified. Liberal Democrats are therefore pressing for each ward to have two rather than three councillors.
“The cost of each set of local elections is around £200,000. Annual elections by thirds don’t make sense. Most councils in Britain hold their electoral contests only once every four years when all councillors are up for election.
“The functions of Gateshead Council have been reduced in recent years. The number of politicians needs to be reduced as well to reflect this. The savings from reduced councillor numbers and by switching from annual elections will save over £1 million over 4 years. This is money that can be spent on local services, rather than local councillors.”
Fugar, Washingwell and Watergate - A Hidden Heritage
Video: Jonathan Wallace looks at possible medieval remains in Washingwell Woods.
Sunniside History Society are leading a project to investigate and record the history of the Washingwell/Watergate/Fugar area. In the above video, local historian Jonathan Wallace looks at some of the possible medieval remains and structures. Click on the image to view the video.
If you are interested in getting involved with the project, or have any memories of the Fugar/Washingwell area, please contact Alan Guest, Secretary of Sunniside History Society, on email@example.com.
Jonathan chosen for police role
Local Liberal Democrats have chosen Dr Jonathan Wallace to be their candidate for police and crime commissioner (PCC) for the Northumbria force.
PCCs were created to oversee local police services. They are elected by people living in the police force area. The first elections took place in November 2012 but only one in six people cast a vote. The next election is in May 2016, the same day as the local elections.
Labour’s PCC has been invisible in many areas of the Northumbria force and Dr Wallace is promising to be a high profile commissioner in local communities if he wins in May.
“As a Lib Dem PCC, I will work within the system to ensure we get the best deal for Northumbria Police,” said Jonathan. “However, the PCC experiment has been a failure, especially under Labour. Not many people feel that they have a say over how the police force works for them. And community policing has been neglected by Labour.
“Ultimately, we could save a great deal of money by scrapping PCCs. If we could get rid of them, the money to pay them and run their offices could be used to employ more police in our local communities.
“If elected, I will lobby the government hard to scrap PCCs. Until they are abolished, I will battle to ensure community policing is at the centre of the Northumbrian Force’s activities. I will be high profile, in touch with residents and not hidden away in an office in Newcastle.”
Jonathan lives in Sunniside and is Leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council. He was first elected in 1987 at the age of 23 while still a student at Newcastle University. He is a video maker, keeps goats, bees and poultry and runs a small business making preserves.
Printed by Mailchimp, 512 Means Street NW, Suite 404Atlanta, GA 30318 United States. Published and promoted by John McClurey on behalf of Jonathan Wallace, Peter Maughan, Sonya Hawkins and John McClurey (Liberal Democrats) and Frank Hindle on behalf of Dave Fawcett (Liberal Democrats) all at 5 Burdon Park, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 5HA