In this edition of eFocus: Whickham Library is under threat of closure, the A1 improvements are completed, Whickham Community Festival was a success despite the best attempts of the rain and will Gateshead be in or out of the regional devolution and mayoral plans? Please feel free to forward eFocus to others who may find it useful.
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Whickham Library under threat of closure
Whickham Library Aug 16 (1)
Lib Dem Councillors are fighting Labour's proposal to close Whickham Library.
Gateshead Council's all-Labour Cabinet has agreed to consider closing Whickham Library as part of a cost-cutting exercise aimed at saving £700,000 from the library service by 2018.

4 options for making savings have been put out to consultation but only one of them includes keeping open Whickham Library. All the options include branch closures within the borough. Currently, Gateshead has the Central Library at Saltwell and 4 area libraries - Whickham, Blaydon, Birtley and Leam Lane.

In addition, there are smaller neighbourhood libraries at Pelaw, Chopwell, Rowlands Gill, Wrekenton, Crawcrook and Felling.

There are also 6 libraries which were previously part of the council's branch network but which are now run by volunteers with support from the council. There is  also a mobile library but 3 of the 4 options propose its discontinuation.

"Whickham is the second most used library in Gateshead and the services provided are more than just lending books," said Kevin McClurey, Lib Dem campaigner in Dunston Hill and Whickham East. "Many community groups use the building and its closure could mean the loss of many community activities."

"We have fought hard to ensure Whickham Village is prosperous despite being squeezed by the Metrocentre, Blaydon and Newcastle," said Peter Craig, Lib Dem Councillor in Whickham North and Swalwell.

"The Library brings many people into the Village who then use the opportunity to use local busnesses. Take away the Library and fewer people will come to the village. That could cost businesses dearly. If they close, the Council could lose more money than is saved as Gateshead owns the shops at St Mary's and will lose rent if businesses fold."

"It's not just local community groups that rely on Whickham Library," said Lib Dem Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside, Marilynn Ord. "Six local schools rely on Whickham for library services. Closure could affect the education of local children."
Whickham Library Aug 16 (3)
Lib Dem campaigner Kevin McClurey warns that local community groups could lose out if Whickham Library is closed.
Residents are being urged to complete the Council's consultation on the libraries service. Paper copies of the consultation are available at Whickham Library. It is also on-line on this link.

And please get family and friends to fill in the consultation as well.
Fayre success in Whickham
Whickham Community Festival (PC) July 16 (1)
Cllr Sonya Hawkins joins local police cadets and PCSO Sheila McWilliams at the Whickham Community Festival.
Despite the best attempts of the weather, the Whickham Community Festival on Saturday 9th July was a great success. It was organised by Lighting Up Whickham, the group of volunteers set up to raise funds for the Whickham Christmas tree which is no longer funded by Gateshead Council.

Chair of Lighting Up Whickham, Cllr Sonya Hawkins, said, "Sadly we have no control over the weather but people coming to the Festival had a great time. The 60s and 70s theme attracted lots of attention. There were lots of flared trousers and kipper ties!

"We will be organising another event later in the year to switch on the Christmas tree lights. We'll keep everyone informed of the details once they are sorted."
Whickham Community Festival (PC) July 16 (4)
Cllr Marilynn Ord running the hamper raffle stall.
Whickham Community Festival (PC) July 16 (3)
Cllr Peter Craig travels back in time to the 1960s.
A1 improvements completed
A1 roadworks completed July 16
Councllors Sonya Hawkins and Peter Craig at the official opening of the A1 upgrade.
It took 2 years but the work on improving the A1 from the south of the Team Valley Trading Estate to the Metrocentre is now finished and the official opening of the improved road has now taken place.

The improvements were agreed by the previous Coalition government and cost £65 million. There are now 3 lanes in each direction with an additional lane for local traffic between Lobley Hill and Askew Road.

"Improvements to the A1 Western By-Pass were needed and I am pleased that Liberal Democrats in the last Coalition government secured the funding for the work to go ahead," said Cllr Peter Craig. "Hopefully, we can all settle down to a road without the delays of the past."
20 mph zone review
Councillors Peter Craig, Sonya Hawkins and Peter Maughan met with Highways officers recently to discuss a whole range of traffic issues within Whickham. Top of the list was a review of the 20 mph scheme introduced by the Council last year.

Earlier in the year, we held several meetings with local residents and the police and they told us that the scheme is not working. Following this, your local councillors made a formal request for a review of the blanket 20 mph scheme in Whickham and this has now been agreed.

This is not a request to remove the scheme, only to review how it is working. We support the view of many residents that a scheme based around schools and on housing estates is a sensible way forward, but that a blanket zone is causing several problems, including incidents of dangerous overtaking and tailgating. And the arrangements that we had in place outside Fellside school have been lost in the overall scheme, with many drivers now ignoring it.

You may have noticed several speed sensors appearing on our roads – this is to gather information that will be used in the review scheduled for the Autumn.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included:

  • Coalway Lane – lighting issues.
  • Coalway Lane – problems with this being used as a ‘rat run’.
  • Abbots Way and Dene’s Close area – inappropriate parking.
  • Swalwell Bank - lane markings to be re-sited.
  • Front Street zebra crossing – pedestrians masked by queueing traffic.
  • Coalway Drive – potholes.
  • Oakfield Road – problems with speeding.
  • North View – problems with vehicles parked on both sides and difficulty for bus manoeuvring
  • Otterburn Gardens – continued problems with non-resident parking.

In addition, Councillors Marilynn Ord, John McClurey and Jonathan Wallace have been holding discussions with highways officers about the timing of the Sunniside Chapel traffic lights and the need for a yellow box to improve access in and out of Sun Hill/Starling Walk on Sunniside Front Street. These matters have not yet been resolved and discussions continue.
Gardening space at Sunniside
allotment Whinnies June 16
Gardening charity SIGN, based at the Whinnies in Sunniside, is looking for residents with a physical or mental disability to take over, rent free, some raised beds and greenhouses. Anyone interested, or who knows someone who could be interested or who could benefit from gardening should contact Cllr Jonathan Wallace by replying to this email.
greenhouse Whinnies June 16
Room at Marley Hill Community Centre
Marley Hill Community Centre July 16 (2)
Marley Hill Community Centre has a room available for rent which would be ideal for a start-up or small business or local organisation. The rent is £240 a month which includes rates, gas, water and electricity, rising to £400 a month after 6 months. Anyone interested should email Trevor Hartley on
Jonathan chosen as Blaydon candidate
Chase Park Funday Aug 16 (2)
Lib Dem candidate for Blaydon, Jonathan Wallace, with Pinkie, one of his goats, at a recent event in Chase Park. Jonathan lives "the good life" in Sunniside.
Local Liberal Democrats have chosen Whickham Councillor Jonathan Wallace to be their general election candidate for Blaydon constituency, which includes the Whickham/Dunston Hill area.

Jonathan lives in Sunniside and has been a councillor since 1987. For the past 15 months he has been Leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council. He went to Lobley Hill Infant and Junior and Whickham Comprehensive Schools. He has a first class honours degree and a doctorate in history from Newcastle University. Jonathan lives "the good life" in Sunniside, growing his own food, keeping goats, bees and chickens, and broadcasting about self-sufficiency through the internet. His YouTube videos have a worldwide audience of 4.5 million people.

"It is a privilege to have been chosen as Lib Dem candidate," said Jonathan. "We need a Liberal alternative to the Conservatives. With Labour in complete chaos and fighting themselves, they can't even form an opposition, never mind a government."
Labour’s shambolic dithering could cost residents millions
by Cllr Jonathan Wallace, Leader of the Opposition, Gateshead

Shambolic dithering by Labour in Gateshead over their own call to declare independence from the North East could cost residents millions of pounds in lost government cash and extra bureaucracy.
Despite recent suggestions Theresa May wants to drop elected metro mayors, the Government policy remains in place and therefore the North East is due to elect a mayor next May. One of the necessary orders to set up the mayoral combined authority is due to go before Parliament in early September.
The new governance system will run transport, economic development, training and region-wide planning and, in the future, health. The mayor, working with the leaders of the constituent North East councils, would control a pot of money worth £3.4 billion.
But in March, Labour-run Gateshead refused to back the proposals, hoping they would spark the revolution that would wreck a major Government policy. But they seriously miscalculated - all 6 of the other councils in the North East voted to go ahead, leaving Gateshead isolated.
If Gateshead stays out, the people of the borough will be denied a vote to choose the mayor in May next year. Not a single penny of the money under the control of the mayor would be spent in Gateshead. The Metro is already run jointly by the 7 councils and it will mean Gateshead will have to be removed from the management of the system.
There are serious question marks over what Gateshead residents would be charged to maintain the Metro under Labour’s “independence” plans. Gateshead will have to set itself up as its own transport authority, a function that has been performed at Tyne and Wear level since 1974. This bureaucracy all comes at a price Gateshead can ill afford.
Labour are now dithering about whether or not to rejoin the other 6 councils. The all-Labour council cabinet met on 12th July but deferred the issue to 21st July when they failed again to make a decision. Another meeting was called in August, but was cancelled at the last minute and rescheduled for September.
It seems there are tensions between the realists and the revolutionaries and if this remains unresolved, the default position is that Gateshead continues as a “non-consenting authority” – in other words, we are kicked out of existing regional structures and have to go it alone.
Labour needs to stop dithering, get their act together and rejoin the other councils in the North East to be part of the new system. Going independent will cost Gateshead residents dearly. That may be great news to the Revolutionary Comrades of Corbyn, but for the people of Gateshead it will be a disaster.
And no one other than Labour in Gateshead will be to blame for the resulting chaos and mess.
News snippets
The Square, Whickham

Planning permission is being sought to convert the retail shop at 5 The Square, Whickham into a drinking establishment.

Swalwell Depot

The former Public Works Depot off Swalwell Bank has been put up for sale by Gateshead Council. Bids for the site needed to be submitted by 24th August.
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Copyright © 2016 Gateshead Liberal Democrats, All rights reserved.

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