Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Why Labour Can’t Support the Costly Northumberland Core Strategy Debacle

Labour voted AGAINST the withdrawal of the Core Strategy from final inspection by Government that has brought many of the costly problems and issues now facing Northumberland residents and the County Council.

Labour’s plan was designed to shape the future, control development, create sustainable jobs and ensure communities views were heard. It was created over 10yrs and had all-party input. The plan received tens of thousands of positive comments from Northumberland residents.

So, since the crucial vote in July 2017 what have we learned?
  • Labour were right to vote against its withdrawal.
  • The withdrawal has cost over £2m of taxpayers cash to date.
  • Developers are making allegations and starting legal proceedings which could cost the Council tens of millions.
  • Advice has been withheld from opposition Councillors and decisions made without the sharing of vital legal information for Councillors from all sides to make informed decisions.
  • Councillors have been misled to date around what’s been going on.
  • Developments plans which are refused are being overturned at appeal, costing millions which inspectors indicate the lack of a Plan being a prime consideration which Labour said would happen.
  • A rushed consultation has begun closing after a brief period that is simply a token gesture and not true consultation.
  • The new plan is being introduced without an economic plan being put in place.
  • The new Tory plan does not line up with the Strategic Economic Plan for the Region.
  • Its designed to reduce the number of younger families living in Northumberland
  • Labour were prevented from introducing a motion to save the Council from the threats of litigation by reinstating its Core Strategy in June 2018
And the row rumbles on and continues to cost the Taxpayers a fortune for complete Tory incompetence who are putting political brownie point scoring before the interests of Northumberland’s residents.

Friday, 13 July 2018

How do you account for this Cllr Jackson?

Will the Walkergate development in Berwick be the leaders new 'Watergate'? 
Northumberland Tories view of Arch is pretty clear. They didn't like it because it provided a new route to take profits from redevelopment and regeneration and turn it into dividends for the County Council. Arch often took on the development projects which the private sector had turned its nose up at. Take the development of the old Kwik Save site in Berwick.

The private sector swerved redevelopment for years. The building was an eyesore until Arch bought the site to tackle the redevelopment of the site. They turned it into a fully functioning hub for office workers specifically for a company called Greaves Western Ayre (GWA).

A well established employer in the town looking after the finances of many a company and individual across North Northumberland and beyond. A Berwick success story which was helped to stay in the town by the efforts of Arch. Northumberland Tories mounted a campaign to halt the development and many a vicious word and allegation was turned against Arch employees, the council and the company itself. 

There were allegations of corruption, double dealing and skulduggery which filled the pages of the local newspaper for over a year and half. 

Arch should be proud of the development and its legacy for Berwick - GWA firmly ensconced in the Walkergate building, employees boosting the town centre and Berwick benefitting from a Labour decision. 

Now scroll on to the proposed demise of Arch announced with the kind of smug and insular pomposity championed by Arch enemy of Labour Richard Wearmouth., the chair of Arch and the man who discloses so many directorships in his register of interests at the council that it's a wonder he finds time to machinate at Arch. 

But now as we start to discuss register of interests (that legal requirement for all councillors) its worth looking at the directors of Arch in the past and now.

You may be surprised but the two constant directors at Arch are Peter Jackson and Jeff Reid, Jackson's very, very junior 'coalition partner' in the new Tory led administration. 
But our interest was heightened by Cllr Jackson's choice of accountant and auditor, GWA. The company are Cllr Jackson's accountant of choice for the dozens of companies that have spawned from the Greenshields Agri tree. Companies formed in Scotland and now registered in the Isle of Man where tax is lax. Lots of companies linked with Cllr Jackson have links with GWA. 
Not many people will know that GWA negotiated a long time (over two years with Arch) to strike a deal on the Walkergate building, the long term lease and associated spin offs and we think it was a great deal. 

But did Cllr Jackson ever declare a direct interest while Arch negotiated the commercial terms with his firm of accountants GWA?
Has he ever declared an interest in Arch on his massive land holdings which were logged at over 5,000 acres in Northumberland and in Scotland? Before we go any further we should say that figure came from the share prospectus that Cllr Jackson sought to launch in 2015 when he tried to float Greenshields Agri on the AIM.

Did Cllr Jackson ever bother to declare his financial interest in any deal involving GWA? When he took the decision to dispose of Arch's assets we wonder what other interests are not transparent? As a director of Arch, Cllr Jackson was privy to commercially sensitive information. 

We've noticed Cllr Jackson has been busily disposing of land, his register of interests has been updated on 30 May to finally reveal he's a director of Greenshields Agri but we wonder if he's finally declared his long term business relationship with that excellent Berwick based company GWA? 

Or will Walkergate become the next Watergate for Cllr Jackson? The motto for Richard Nixon's downfall was 'follow the money'.

Maybe lightening does strike twice and maybe Arch's infamous Tory inspired 'year long, never ending governance investigation' which has cost the tax payer over £350k and formed the basis of the Tory phantom police investigation that isn't an investigation. But it did uncover that Arch once spent £58 on a bottle of wine in Cannes, one of the most expensive venues in Europe but seems to have missed Cllr Jackson's 'omissions' - maybe the Tories should ask for the council tax payer's money back from the private investigators they brought in to 'dig the political dirt'.  

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Its ‘Plain’ to see his Black Hole is his to fall into!

Councillor Nick Oliver of Corbridge the portfolio holder for Finance at Northumberland County Council is also the man famed for the loss of a long established company ‘Penny Plain’ when his business planning and his desire for acceleration of the business failed.

He now looks after the Budget and Financial Matters of Northumberland County Council valued around £1Bn in total yet he doesn’t know how to describe his most recent failures.

Just like his counterparts in Government who have sat there for the last eight years in office, the copycat Oliver is continually harping on about the last Labour administrations failures, particularly what he calls ‘Labours Black Hole’.

Today we have decided to expose why his well known lack of business planning skills when exposed in the Council financial sense has damaged his ability to understand why the Black Hole is actually the ‘Tory Black Hole’, always has been and always will be and its been caused through his failure to manage his own Government cuts and savings package.

In the last Labour Councils financial plan 2017-2020.  A savings requirement was identified of £36 million split over the following years, 2017-2018 £6 million, 2018-2019 £20 million, 2019-2020 £10 million. 

The new Conservative administration who’s finances are managed by Councillor Oliver, presented a plan which covered the period 2018-2022. He stated at the time that his administration would ensure sound business planning took place for every project they undertook.

Oliver’s 4 year plan including two of the years covered by the Labour Group administration plan.  He altered the savings plan over the two years common to both plans from £30 million to £29.3 million.

The two years added at the end of his plan period included further savings totalling £35.8 million.  Councillor Jackson in his budget speech spun this matter out as discovering a black hole of £65 million left by Labour. 

Councillor Oliver of Corbridge has continually run this misnomer as fact at each and every Council meeting he has spoken at, enhancing the knowledge to all in business and politics that his financial skills although never high are Titanically sinking fast.

For editors

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Revealed: The Tory Leader's secret offshore company hypocrisy

Tory leader company is Isle of Man registered yet they smear others 

Has Tory leader Peter Jackson authorised a smear attack on a company that wants to create 5,000 jobs in Northumberland and build thousands of affordable homes in Ponteland?

The Tories have claimed the company was 'offshore based' (presumably they want to highlight the tax efficiency of offshoring since so many of their donors engage in the practice) but they are conveniently forgetting that their leader Peter Jackson's company, Greenshields Agri PLC is 'offshored' in the Isle of Man. Greenshields Agri is the 'parent' of a complex structure of companies including Greenshields Properties. Cllr Jackson is one of 4 directors. The Greenshields Agri PLC and its spin offs 'own' Cllr Jackson's 5000+ acres of land in the Ponteland area and in the Borderlands area on both sides of the Scottish Border. Greenshields Properties bought Harlow Hill Farm from Cllr Jackson for £2.65m two years ago.

The land is in the vicinity of the Dissington Garden Village site.

It's hypocrisy of the highest order to claim offshoring is wrong when you're engaged in it yourself. 

This post is especially directed to Cllr Oliver, who is the leader of the fastest growing Tory 'enterprise in Northumberland, 'social media monitoring'. 

We look forward to his explanation at Full Council on Monday why offshoring is okay for his leader yet not a company which has now commenced a legal action against Jackson, Riddle and Lally and has also referred evidence of potential criminal actions to the Crown Prosecution Service who have referred it to Northumbria Police. 

Nick Oliver is the Cabinet member for Corporate Resources who is spectacularly misunderstanding the difference between speaking for the council and speaking for his party. The motto for this one and for all instances, language is important and the council's Code of Conduct should be King (or Queen). For evidence of Cllr Oliver's long history of 'mis-speaking' readers should look at his pronouncements on Dissington Garden Village on 11 Nov 2017 at the gift that keeps on giving, 'the independent Audit Committee and compare with his sentence today  'this issue will be dealt with at the planning committee (sic)'. 

His credibility is now in question and he needs to talk to his leader about his concerns about 'offshoring'.   

Monday, 18 June 2018

Increase in Child Protection Plan’s in Northumberland Prove Poverty driven plans rocket by more than 300% in just one year under Tories

Last week's report of the massive rise in the number of Child Protection Plans issued by Northumberland County Council since May 2017 is extremely concerting to Councillors working on behalf of residents in the Counties more deprived areas.

From 2013 to 2017 the County Council saw a steady fall in CPP’s as Labour invested heavily in the most deprived wards particularly in charities who aided people to gain maximum benefit from the state and the Council.

Since May 2017 we have seen massive cutbacks in help for Sure Start schemes a huge rise in the use of food banks and poverty increasing rapidly across south east Northumberland and the rural coalfield as the disgraceful wait and high benefit loan payback rates for people who are moving over to Universal Credit bite at family budgets harder than ever before.

Those people who are in employment and classed as strivers pre universal credit, are also struggling, as their access to help to define what if any benefits are available to them is almost non-existent.

Susan Davey, Councillor for Cowpen in Blyth which is one of the wards worst affected said: “Since the Conservatives took office at County Hall and decided to expose people to the full force of austerity and non-investment if you live in a deprived ward, things have gone from bad to worse for children and early help for both the unborn and new child. 513 CPP’s were issued in the year up to March 2018 making Northumberland one of the highest problem areas nationally with just over half of them due to neglect. Labour Councillors are well aware that neglect is driven by poverty and demand that the Tories on the County Council forging the creation of a ‘them and us society’ change their stance and begin to help some of the most deprived wards nationally and improve the chances for both unborn and young children and their families”.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Cut Grass not Services in Northumberland

With the current Tory administration at County Hall delivering wholeheartedly on their own Governments austerity programme, we decided to look at what that means to local people and what local people have told Labour Councillors about the changes they’ve seen since May 2017.

In the towns of Ashington and Blyth where the Tory pre-election promises extolled the virtue of no spend in either of those two towns or in the Labour heartlands there is eyesight on how well they are keeping that promise Matters are so far behind that we’re seeing local Tories on photo shoots armed with plastic bags to try to convince people their austerity measures don’t have a profound effect on their neighbours.

Across the rest of the Labour held seats in Northumberland people can see a huge downturn and deterioration of services. In areas where parish councils are able to support services from their precepts grass cutting is up to cut five out of twenty yet its midsummer next week, weed control is miles behind and litter collection seems to be suffering from an enhanced lack of people on the ground. In areas where the parish can’t or won’t pay the ransom, the County commitment is down to two cuts per year.

Cllr . Glenn Sanderson is the portfolio holder for local servIces, In his press statements his concentration is centred on potholes. His parties manifesto promised to spend £100M repairing them.

On behalf of the people we represent we want some of that promised expenditure to be earmarked to support the entire Local Services programme and demand from Cllr. Sanderson a better offer for the Council taxpayers input into supporting your departments budget and require you to ‘Cut More Grass Not Services’.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Police need to STOP vile Social Media Sites

With the release this weekend of an attack on the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird on the ultra right wing Northumberland Murky Blogspot facebook page, a site who seems to extract great pleasure from bullying, intimidating and libelling local politicians and ex-councillors; Labour is asking where is the policy on the use of social media sites from the Conservative led Northumberland County Council as this site is obviously linked with current Council members?

Labour Group a team who represent over a third of the electorate on the County Council yet have been cut off from need to know information by the Tories, have openly asked that a policy be derived, fed through a cross party working group, to ensure the safety and duty of care a Council must show towards its workforce and members is fulfilled.

During February 2018 Labour Group raised the issue of bullying and anti-social behaviour being run out into the public domain, intimidating those who may cross the Tory party in Northumberland in any way. The Chairperson of Council agreed that a working group should be set up to look at the matter and that members would be informed about meeting dates.

Nothing has been heard on the matter since that date.

The well documented in the press bullying of staff at Northumberland County Council spills over into the arena of members regularly with the most recent episode being the switching off of a members microphone whilst she was making a speech live on air  that the Tories didn’t want a public response on.

The recent staff survey issued out on 30th May 2018 indicated that 48% were willing to report that they had been subject to anti-social activity and actions that are recorded as physical or verbal abuse at work. The main question has to be if 48% felt they could report how many actually have been subject to this behaviour who feel they can’t report.

Its time to sort out these bully’s once and for all and get this working group up and running as soon as possible with open reporting on its progress.