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A chat with a UK snooker champion.

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John Maughan, former UK Snooker Champion

John Maughan: an interesting but undersold South Shields success story

It all started for me way back in 1987 when  my mate, who was to become my best man, challenged me to a game of snooker over a couple of pints. I was wondering where he was thinking of taking me, back then I could only recall the old snooker hall in Union Alley which ran towards Queen Street and was accessed from South Shields Market Place, or through the rear doors of Woolworths, and as far as I could recall it certainly did not have a license to sell alcohol . Additionally the place had been closed and demolished years earlier.

As far as I knew there were no other snooker halls in South Shields, which I thought was a pity seeing as we were all used, by then, to staying up late watching Steve Davis grind out wins on the television. Little did I know that a relatively new private member’s snooker club had opened in Chichester Road in the former premises of Buck Ryan’s car and helicopter showroom (it had originally been the Chichester Picture House). So one Saturday evening I was taken there, and taken aback by the friendly atmosphere and remarkably modern facilities, I never knew that one could play a few frames of snooker and afterwards enjoy a few pints in a comfortable, but small, bar with such engaging staff and a raconteur who turned out to be mine host!

This chap behind the bar cut a bit of a dash with his slicked back hair, three piece suits, immaculately shined shoes, garish waistcoats, and always sporting a bow tie. He was typically enthusiastic about the game and spun long tales of competitions in Prestatyn, Carlisle, or Skegness, and spilled so called secrets about a young Jimmy White, John Virgo, and one or two tales about Terry Griffiths, a typically chummy sort of bloke chuntering on as he pulled pints of Bass Scotch. Well we didn’t mind listening, but there were times when perhaps his stories were so far fetched that we could be forgiven for thinking that he’d just fabricated them to improve the atmosphere of the place. What was worse was the constant interruptions if a major snooker tournament was being shown on the TV, we got the commentary in advance, the analysis of the shot came long before it was taken, it was a bit of a distraction to be honest. Trouble was……..he was always right, this guy behind the bar genuinely knew his snooker!

Back then, the bar was very small, and the snooker hall housed eighteen full sized tables, many of which were Georgian or Victorian in origin, there were a few Rileys but most of the others were hand carved works of art, especially the robust legs, so this bloke behind the bar was able to hold forth and everyone could hear him whether they wanted to or not. So where are these big star names these days was the question we wanted answering, why are they not up here playing exhibition matches if you know them all so well? I think some of us just “took the Mick”, knowing that any sort of spectator event in the Shields Snooker Centre was never going to happen, the place just wasn’t created or styled with that in mind. That was until Mr. Maughan, the manager, challenged us to go and find the evidence that he had indeed been a pretty major player in his day.

I must have been a hard to convince member as I found myself down at the Central Library borrowing a copy of Clive Everton’s “Guinness Book of Snooker “ which showed that John Maughan had indeed won a UK amateur tournament once, but John Maughan was adamant that he’d won two titles! The 1965 under 16 title was shown in the Everton book, but strangely the 1968 amateur youth title was not, in its place was a blank space suggesting that the tournament did not take place that year. Sadly Clive Everton’s book is no longer in print and the library service disposed of its copy a few years later because of its poor condition. Well at least we then knew back in 1988 that we had a UK champion showing off his tricks on the tables, but it would be nice to put the record straight and confirm his status. A more recent visit to the Central library in Denmark Square came about after myself and John’s daughter Lucille had spent hours scouring the internet for any references to UK amateur or junior championships for the years in question, sadly not a single site was found to be listing them, either in “official” snooker sites or fanzine type places, John’s name was not even mentioned! Luckily the library in South Shields now has a copy of the Hamlyn’s Encyclopedia of Snooker in the reference section and this provided the pages and the proof that we needed to show the world and those few doubters at the Shields Snooker Centre, you can view those pages below.

So this little chat with John grew from this frustration that the official records for the period are so well hidden, and certainly until today were NOT available to look up or reference online. So now whenever people are searching for UK amateur snooker champions at youth or junior level, at least they will find some sort of result from the search engines, albeit this article is slanted towards one man living and working in South Shields!

This is his story.

John Maughan began life in 1949 in Consett with his family where his dad was the caretaker of the local billiards hall, he tells me he was only 11 years old when he acquired his first cue. A typical hard working family in the north-east of England, his dad was his greatest influence in taking up the game. By the time that John was 13 he’d won his first tournament, the Consett and District Senior Billiards, the proud young lad had taken home his first trophy having beaten grown men! From then on he made use of every opportunity to practice hard whilst his dad brushed and cleaned the tables. He tells me times were hard and that everyone in his family would take whatever jobs were available to help support themselves. John, at that stage had no intentions of taking up the game on any sort of full time or regular basis, and after leaving school took a job at Consett steelworks, as one might expect. However, he was at a stage of development in snooker where he needed better competition against better opponents, he was determined that he would try to be as good as his favourite player. “Who was that?”, I enquired, –  well it was the “legendary Joe Davis” of course.

Hence John used most of his spare time and money pursuing success in local and regional competitions, often sleeping in the back of an old white transit van with his dad if the venue was too far away from home, or more likely because funding was not sufficient to afford a hotel room – he was prepared to make sacrifices. He was making a name for himself on the amateur snooker circuit, and had reached the stage of playing in national events. In his early teens the family would go with him as John and his father traveled the north of England and southern Scotland chasing down more snooker competitions and trophies, they were by now regular entrants at the Prestatyn Pro-Am competition held each summer in the Welsh resort, playing three or four matches each day. John tells me that in later years he’d enter the competition with the aim of winning it solely because part of the prize was a free week holiday the following year! It was by rubbing shoulders with the new television stars of snooker that helped John improve his game, and in 1965 he beat P. Demaine to become the UK Junior Champion, and in 1968 he won the UK Youth Championship by beating Dave Clinton in the final, his aim now would be to become a full time professional player.

UK under 16 snooker champions 1944 – 1985

UK under 16 amateur snooker champions

UK under 16 amateur snooker champions

UK under 19 snooker champions 1949 – 1985

UK under 19 snooker champions

UK under 19 amateur snooker champions

He met his future wife Angela at the Freemasons Arms in Consett,  whilst she was visiting from Carlisle to see members of her extended family, and she soon came to realise that chasing the snooker dream came with the territory. Every summer John, Angela, and their young family would make an annual pilgrimage to Prestatyn in north Wales where John would again take part in the invitational week long tournament that included many of the top professionals of the day. Snooker was probably more elitist back in those earlier days, the EPBSA (English Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) maintained a sort of “closed shop” only allowing 32 players to become full time professionals and take part in its money winning tournaments, John Maughan had tried hard, so it seems, to become one of them, and according to him back in 1987 he’d been in a number of ranking tournaments and had done the annual summer stint at Prestatyn winning competitions which won him his annual holiday back to the same place next year! Aspiring professionals needed to garner not just ranking points but also had to be “accepted” by a committee which included World Champion Terry Griffith’s, John Maughan had done that, got the points, got the wins but failed to impress the Welshman Griffiths, who he had squarely beaten on the table a week earlier, consequently in 1978 he was not able to join snooker’s ranks of the elite professionals.  At this point John was one of the highest ranked English players in the world (he was ranked 13th.)  outside of those 32 elite professionals and he tells me he was gutted by the committee’s decision not to allow him to join their “club” – he nearly gave it all up.

Despite the setback he continued to play snooker regularly and was installed as the resident “professional” at the Richmond Snooker Club in Carlisle before later moving to Newcastle, then in 1986 came the opportunity to move to South Shields when he was offered the job of managing the Shields Snooker Centre. After more than 25 years he still loves his job there and continues to buck the national trend for licensed premises with club going from strength to strength. South Shields is now firmly his home where he has developed many friendships and strong ties.

When conversing with him about the big name stars he’s played against we hear a stream of talent and only wish that one or two of them might visit South Shields and have an impromptu match against John, people like John Parrot, John Virgo, Steve Davis, Mike Hallet, Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, Willie Thorne, Joe Johnson, Jimmy White, Ray Reardon, fellow northerner George Wood, and late greats such as Alex Higgins and elder statesmen of the game like Rex Williams.. We’ve lost count of the stories that he tells of Thorne and White and their various exploits and horseplay at tournaments!

John is now content to indulge most of his sporting interests during the course of his day at work, he is a keen football fan, loves horse racing, tennis and darts. He has promoted a strong sporting ethos within the Snooker Centre over the past 25 years and helped form and manage a football team, and once arranged a day out karting for club members. His club now hosts 17 dart teams, a pool team, a couple of fives and threes teams, and is also the regular meeting place for the Westoe Fishing Club!

South Shields Snooker Centre now has 16 full sized snooker tables, a much enlarged bar area complete with pool table and four dart boards, and can offer a multitude of live sporting action from its satellite TV system, it also offers a good variety of hot bar snacks, hearty all day breakfasts, and beers and lagers from only £2 per pint. Membership is available at only £6 per year and table rates are very reasonable, the club on Chichester Road (next to The Cyprus) is open daily from 10:00 am (telephone: 0191 4567097 for table bookings or membership enquiries).

John said:

“I’ll be here for quite a few years yet, I’ve no intentions of retiring, my eyes may no longer be good enough to play top level snooker but you can guarantee that my staff and myself will ensure that South Shields has a first class facility here for any youngsters wishing to learn the game, and give other members comfortable surroundings to play and relax in. If any other sporting teams need a venue or a meeting place they just need to get in touch and have a chat. I might not have made it to the top in the world of snooker but I certainly feel as though I’ve a moulded a top job for myself here in South Shields. The family grew up here and we love the place, I guess I’m part of the fixtures and fittings now”

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Written by curly

February 21, 2012 at 9:34 am

Cllr. McCabe’s finest moment.

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Why does one councillor spend so much time effort and risk in attempting to stop a legal action?

Cllr. John McCabe has some fine words published in the Shields Gazette this evening, as we learn that Cllr. Khan’s appeal will add massively to the sums expended by South Tyneside Council as they attempt to umask the mystery Monkey blogger:

“Let’s be clear. The Monkey blog is not some whistle-blowing caped-crusader seeking justice for the underdog. It is a vile, filthy and tawdry blog full of lies, slander and frankly horrendous filth against councillors, council staff, their families and reputable businesses in the borough.

“The council has a duty of care to its staff. Cyber bullying should not be tolerated. Four people, who have been libelled the most, agreed to allow their names to be used in the US Courts to seek to unmask this pathetic individual.

“We don’t know who it is, the council has never suggested it is Coun Khan, but given his frantic attempts to undermine this case it is hard to understand why he would spend so much time, effort and risk so much money trying to stop the legal action.

“Coun Khan’s anti-SLAPP motion was an attempt to stop the council unmasking the individual operating as Mr Monkey, but Coun Khan’s actions were dismissed by a judge as ‘frivolous’ at a hearing in September and costs were awarded in favour of the council. In my view, he owes the council taxpayer more than £40,000.”

It is a strange day which sees the passing of one councillor who cost the council taxpayer so little over 45 years  and another intent on costing us so much over a much shorter period. Instead of prolonging the legal actions in the US why doesn’t Cllr. Khan bring matters to a head and call the plaintiffs’ bluff by inviting them to launch a libel action in the UK?

I’m sure that the majority of us in South Tyneside would like to see the end of this affair in a more clear cut manner than the Suarez/Evra long winded  handshake and subsequent apologies.

 

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Written by curly

February 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Blowing your own trumpet……….

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Cllr. Jimmy Foreman, South Tyneside

…….or even a saxaphone Jimmy?

Funny what the internet throws at you from time to time.

As South Tyneside councillors start to avail themselves of every possible photo opportunity before the elections in May, with nightly appearances in The Shields Gazette, and newletters littering your doormats, I find a one without a fistful of dominoes and not a dinner lady in sight! Does Labour’s Jimmy Foreman have a hidden talent that he was trying to keep secret?

Original photo courtesy of my mate Grouser.

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Written by curly

February 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Relaunch No.6 “Doing the right thing”

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Keeping Ed Miliband may be the “right thing” for Cameron

Video courtesy of Guido Fawkes.

I don’t know how you feel, but I find it rather difficult to “connect” with this bloke, he may want to do the “right thing” but he never sounds right, nor looks right, and as Leader of the Opposition he just appears to be the “right thing” for providing target practice for David Cameron at the Dispatch Box.

However, talking of doing the right thing, at least Ed Miliband appears willing to join the Prime Minister in forcing the hand of Alex Salmond, the SNP’s First Minister in Scotland. This is an interesting position considering how many seats Labour might lose in Westminster should Scotland be broken away from the Union and attain independence, but fighting a move in a referendum on the matter is surely the right thing to do. Salmond the populist leader of his party has been invited by South Tyneside Council Leader Iain Malcolm to speak in the north-east at a meeting of the North East Economic Forum organised by Malcom’s Sovereign Strategy lobbying company. This is a good move as it will help to define relationships between Scotland and this region irrespective of the outcome of any referendum, whenever it may be held, our economic prosperity may suffer heavily should Scotland be in an independent position in regard to taxes, subsidies, and “sweeteners” to businesses and it is right that Salmond should come down here to clarify what he really wants for Scotland and to take back our views on how our joint prospects may pan out if Scotland is no longer part of the United Kingdom. Iain Malcolm said:

“I’m not in favour of Scotland becoming independent from the rest of the UK, we are stronger together, but that is a matter for the Scottish people.

“Whatever happens it is vital the North East has a stronger relationship with our partners across the border.

“That is why yes we do have to look at what might happen, say after 2014.”

The prospect of a nation on our doorstep offering better incentives to business, or smaller tax rates may well be something to fear, or will it? Perhaps such a scenario may lead to wholesale revision of business taxes in England introducing a necessary level of competition. Other worries may surface about areas such as VAT or sales taxes which could result in cross border shopping expeditions to Edinburgh or Dumfries furthering the decline of our north east shopping centres, a major worry for places such as South and North Shields, Wallsend, or Gateshead.

Like Malcolm, I do not want to see the eventual break up of the United Kingdom , and I do not believe it would lead to increased prosperity for the people of Scotland, I do not believe that they could cope economically without the levels of subsidies provided via Westminster. Like Cameron and Ed Miliband I think the “right thing” politically is to force Salmond’s hand and hold a definitive referendum at a time not of his choosing, with the legal framework clearly outlined so as there can be no doubt about the differences between a yes and a no vote.

Also, whilst we are on the subject of the “right thing” it is comforting to see that stumbling Ed Miliband at last recognises that cuts in public spending are necessary and right, and that deficit reduction needs to be ongoing, just a shame that he has spent the opening period of his leadership campaigning against such measures along with Ed Balls. The “right thing” to do now, surely, is to apologise for the mistakes made during the years that both of them spent in Gordon Brown’s government as the spending spree with other people’s money piled debt upon debt adding to the problems that we all face now.

So, Labour is starting to see the benefits of doing the “right thing” (and here’s another), now Miliband just needs to pull the rest of his party along with him. Unfortunately, and this will remain for  some time, the presentation is abysmal, lacklustre, weak, and dull as dishwater,  with major players in his own ranks bemoaning his performance – long may he remain as Labour’s leader!

 

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South Shields’ girls in X Factor win!

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Little Mix chased the dream.

Exactly two years ago I used this video to illustrate this particular post where I said

“I think that South Shields girl Jade Thirlwall should think seriously about having another go at the X Factor, she could well emulate Joe McElderry next year.”

OK, so it took a little longer, but after initial rejection she was thrown in, along with fellow Shields girl Perrie Edwards,  Leanne Pinnock amd Jesy Nelson to a girl group later to be known as Little Mix.  It has been a hard road for the four girls as they went through the pressures of public votes in ITV’s flagship reality show but yesterday evening they won the coveted X Factor prize and that important contract with Simon Cowell’s music company. Another feather in the cap for South Shields  and a great advert for the young talent that we have in South Tyneside. It takes some “bottle” to be knocked down, get up, dust yourself down, and come back fighting, but as many girls from Laygate or Simonside can attest this determination to succeed is a requisite in the tough streets of Tyneside.

To be fair we knew that Thirwall had it in her as a former winner at the Pride of South Tyneside Awards, but how many of us saw Perrie Edwards coming through? I wonder too, how much of an influence “Mark” was in Jade’s success?

Winning the X Factor is no guarantee of fame and fortune, and the winners see little of Cowell’s £1m contract, it is rumoured that they are advanced as little as £150000, and must spend the rest promoting an album on behalf of Cowell, however some are now reckoning that the four girls could be in for a huge windfall as advertisers, and promoters see the marketing opportunities presented by a bunch of young vibrant girls put together as much for their looks as well as their singing prowess. They have already featured in a Marks and Spencer’s advertisement, and will no doubt be signed up to promote hair and beauty products at home and in the UK as Cowell looks to exploit a gap in the market. Little Mix could be on the verge of reaping rewards running up to £10m. Don’t begrudge them this success, they will see very little of their home towns or families over the next 12 months, they will need bags of strength and enthusiasm to cope with Cowell’s demands, there will be travel and sleep deprivation, their lives will no longer be under their own self control – they now belong to Simon Cowell.

What does it mean for this region though?

We become seen as a nursery for talent, others may become inspired to emulate this level of success, we get a little more national press attention, and sometimes it may not be for the best of reasons as personal lives become laid bare to reporters, our youngsters may become seen in a more positive light too. Most importantly, we may see young entrepreneurs in business and commerce become more emboldened and self confident as they follow their own dreams. They may be inspired by the competitive attitudes of girls like Little Mix, and we may find that other more diverse young talents on Tyneside succeed in building bigger contracts that lead to some growth in our regional economy, the experience of the hard knocks that eventually lead to a winning position might hopefully rub off on many of Tyneside’s teenagers, upon whom our future relies.

Damian Rice’s Cannonball, great song, would not have been my choice for the winner’s single.

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Nigel Farage – Eurosceptic Rave

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Let’s make this viral

I came across this via one of the UKIP leader’s tweets, and well goodness me he’s a dance track!

The track is called Star Circle 2 by Johnny Slide you can download it from here and perhaps embed it in your own site, spread it around – at least in South Tyneside! Please be generous and leave a link to the original artist.

See, told you I had some sympathy with UKIP!

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Written by curly

November 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Cllr. David Potts joins UKIP

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Party gains first councillor in South Tyneside

Cllr. David Potts, the former Conservative then independent representative for Cleadon Village and East Boldon ward in South Tyneside has officially joined the UK Independence Party, there now appears to be little chance at all of him resigning his seat in the near future. He becomes the first UKIP councillor in the borough, albeit he has never been elected under their umbrella flag.

29 year old Councillor Potts works as a currency trader and is a director (or Vice President) of Craigmile and Potts LLC, a company based in Iowa, USA. He lives with his girlfriend Laura and splits his time between his homes in Hertfordshire and Tyneside, where he mainly operates. On his company website he is described as a head currency trader and VP who is incredibly successful in the money markets. As of September when he was publicly welcomed to the company, the CEO had never met him, but David was described as a  “hard right, pure capitalist” believing that the market is always correct and governments should never interfere in capitalism other than to provide a “basic” regulatory structure.

His autobiographical book on the culture of alcoholism in politics and finance, “Bitter… Who me?”, is due to be published early next year.

Only last month David Potts warned:

I do not believe a word that comes out of a politician, bureaucrat or rating agency’s mouth, AND NOR SHOULD YOU.

We shall take heed of the “pin-striped pioneer“.

David Potts was pictured yesterday outside of South Shields Town Hall with UKIP’s  North East regional organiser Gordon Parkin, (it was alleged in the past that party officials had been funded by the EU in a Sunday Times investigation)

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Written by curly

November 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Not the right way

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not the right waySo many things that I said “No” to during the past week.

It didn’t help that “Dave’s” coalition government and the Opposition sort of joined forces to whip their MPs to vote against giving us a new referendum on our relationship with the EU, after all it is a totally different beast to the one which we last had a say about in 1973. The idea that people could register their ePetitions on the No. 10 website and if they had enough support (over 100000 signatures) they would result in a debate in the House of Commons is essentially a good one, especially as there are, from time to time, issues where it seems our MPs might be slightly out of tune with the public. However, a second petition relating to the price of petrol will apparently NOT be debated because of a lack of time in the Parliamentary calendar! Come on Dave, your government is devaluing the importance of these petitions if you cannot find time to debate them.

I profoundly disagreed too with the whole “solution” to the Eurozone crisis, this managed default of the Greek debts is a signal of much worse to come, we have spent the last two years throwing more debt at the Greeks and the Irish with other economies also being drip fed bail out funding, and let’s not forget how much was borrowed by Gordon Brown to increase the liquidity of British Banks either, I fail to see how you can solve anyone’s debts by piling more debt upon them! But we are led by the (European) nose to help create a 1.2 trillion Euro fund to assist member states who cannot manage to spend   around the same amount that they earn in revenue. Surely a result of the Brown/Obama plan to solve the banking crisis, invest spend your way out of trouble! Italy, Spain and Portugal will be next to feel the pressure of the mountain of Eurobond debts, as once again we see economies that are introducing austerity measures rather late in the day to balance their books. If we ran our household budgets in this way we would soon be looking towards a voluntary bankruptcy! Which brings us to the UK, where we too have come to realise, late in the day, that our national debts and budget deficit needed to be urgently addressed, and despite the efforts of the coalition government to bring public spending under control, those debts continue to rise and public spending continues to be a massive burden, George Osborne tells us that we are not contributing much to the European Stabilising mechanism but with deft sleight of hand we are increasing our contributions to the IMF instead, any wonder that we fail to meet spending targets? The hand of Brussels lies heavily upon the decisions made by our politicians and the whole mess has the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel musing over the future peace of Europe, possibly a rather far fetched view in my opinion, but it shapes the ridiculous writing in some of our newspapers this weekend.

Solution, allow the Eurozone to collapse and let member states reintroduce their own floating currencies, allowing a managed default based upon the exchange rate of the remaining Euro at the time of conversion to the new currency. Tell these member states that the European Central Bank will not be bailing them out in future, perhaps then we might see some fresh starts and some  growth slowly emanating from the ashes, this whole sorry affair of the last week has been more about saving the single currency and the European dream of political unity more than it has been about saving the economies of individual member states, and by playing their own small part our coalition government has nailed its flag to the mast as a lukewarm supporter of European integration. I firmly believe that ALL British politicians were wrong, wrong, wrong, not to allow their MPs a free vote during the EU debate, and that sometime in the far future the EU will collapse as a result of its utopian political and economic dreams.

Next disagreement is with Iain Malcolm, the Leader of South Tyneside Council who wrote in the Guardian during the week that councils were taking the flak for the government’s spending cuts. Was this a paid for article Iain? Anyway, pretty good at playing politics, perhaps the first stage in an election strategy for next May blaming the evil wicked Tories and Lib Dems for wreaking misery on us all but good old Labour in South Tyneside has managed to produce a budget which will not increase your council tax for e second year in succession! Can you see it coming? It may have been better and more honest of him to admit that Labour frittered away £ billions when in office, and saddled us with larger debts than we accrued through fighting the Second World War, perhaps he should have done a Liam Byrne and admitted that the cupboard was bear at the end of Gordon Brown’s tenure. He said:

The government’s cuts are brutal and ideological. Our task isn’t just to protect residents from the worst effects – it is to make them fully appreciate whose hand is on the axe.

Brutal? Idealogical? What then would Alistair Darling’s cuts have been described as if Labour had won the last election? There is no doubt that you could hardly have passed a cigarette paper between Labour and the Tories public spending pronouncements at the time, £2 bn difference within a national debt amounting to £1.2 tn is minuscule. That is where I find my disagreement with the Leader of the Council, a fair lack of honesty and a total lack of clarity over who put us all in the financial mess that we are in, he was quite happy to accept the cash that Gordon Brown’s government kept producing, quite happy to keep increasing council taxes year after year when even Brown’s largesse was deemed as insufficient. He knows, I know, and we know, that the party had to come to an end.

Because it doesn’t have to be like this. Local government has been a force for good in Britain. We will work to defend our communities by examining new and innovative models of service delivery – through trusts and co-operatives, asset transfers to the voluntary sector, strategic partnerships with the private sector or more joint working between councils.

Ah, now here are the clever little secret caveats, we WILL do it the way the coalition wants, because we DO want to make sure that there will be no increase in council taxes again! Look, yes, I know and understand that it is tough going, with very difficult spending decisions to make, but I also know that we knew this latest tranche of cuts was coming, it was NOT a complete shock,we knew twelve months ago that the “front loading” was only the first phase, this is probably the press release was made by Martin Swales rather than a Labour politician. Please take time to look again at the Gazette article, because therein lies another disagreement, some fool writing in the comments section reckons we somehow managed in the past without a Chief Executive, beats me how this sort of stuff gets into some minds. No council could be administered without a manager at the top, it matters not what he/she is titled, Chief Officer, Chief Executive, Director, or Town Clerk, we have always had a one!

Finally car parking in South Shields, perhaps one of my hobby horses, I wrote at the time of the introduction of the first “pay and display” areas in Beach Road, South Shields that it would not necessarily kill off the town centre, but also warned that it was the thin end of the wedge and that Town Hall bosses would soon extend the pay and display schemes to other areas, and I was right. I published a picture showing Beach Road populated with parked cars using the new meters, more recent evidence suggests they are not quite so popular now, for instance I can never remember seeing Beach Road so empty opposite the Town Hall, yet places such as Derby Street, Claypath Lane, and back Westoe Road are totally choked! There are even decent amounts of spaces in the town centre car parks since the charging scheme was amended, 1p per minute for just one hour is simply not giving the average shopper sufficient time, the 1p per minute charge should extend to the first two hours as a good compromise. If we can go somewhere toward attracting these motorists back to the areas where they want and need to park, then we won’t be creating as many problems for local residents who see their streets choked by other motorists, then we won’t have the thorny and expensive problems of resident permit areas!

“Big society” parking operators? OK I can go along with that, but more and more “pay and display schemes” at the wrong prices and in the wrong places is now something that seems to be creating additional problems in areas where we don’t need them.

OK, end of rant, I now have a pumpkin to carve, if I can manage to get Iain Malcolm’s face on it I’ll post a picture, I seem to remember that George Elsom looked pretty ghoulish a few years ago :-)
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Revealing figures

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leg showThe intrigue is quite alluring

Councillor David Potts the independent representative for Cleadon Village and East Boldon, continues to tease us with quiet revelatory Tweats concerning his rival representing the Beacon and Bents ward on South Tyneside Council, as it appears that the court case surrounding the infamous Mr. Monkey blogs in California rumbles on tediously.

In this Tweat he invites us to look at the figures regarding the business owned by Cllr. Ahmed Khan, Simply Workwear in Dean Road, South Shields: we have often had local businessmen and women represented on our local council, names such as Warden Newby, Albert Surtees,  Harry Marshall, Derek Thorpe, Bill Upsall, Maurice Piggott, and Lawrence Nolan are just a few of the many who come to mind as running successful businesses in the town. Their acumen and experience in understanding financial matters gave them valuable assistance in the examining and challenging of public finances in a way that brought some clarity to debate in the council chamber. It is also worth noting that there have also been successful businessmen representing the Labour Party in South Tyneside too.

Yet one must ask if it reasonable to assume that the public expects a level of success and competence when it comes to number crunching which can be applied in the public forum, which gives us confidence that good decisions will eventually be the outcome.

Whilst we can see that the finances of Simply Workwear do not appear to be the “rosiest” amongst those listed at Company House, and that two other companies operated by Cllr. Khan (Skorpion Recruitment Services Ltd., and Skorpion Property Services Ltd.) have been dissolved, Cllr. Khan continues to involve himself in expensive litigation. The ongoing case in the US at the San Mateo County Court in California now moves on to January 5th. next year when all parties are to present an updated case management statement. Yesterday Mr. Barrage for Cllr. Khan stated that an appeal against the Judge’s denial of the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion and a cross complaint will be filed, all of this adds to the legal costs which might fall on Cllr. Khan if he is not successful as the plaintiffs are determined that he carry all of their costs, including those so far expended by South Tyneside Council. You can keep up to date with the progress of the court case here, by searching under “case number search” for “unlimited civil” using case number 482779.

With all of the revealing seduction of a femme fatale one wonders just exactly how much we will eventually see.

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Written by curly

October 5, 2011 at 9:32 am

Wouldhave House, South Shields

with 19 comments

wouldhave house south shieldsWhy all of the big fuss?

I cannot understand why the decision of South Tyneside Council to demolish Wouldhave House in the Market Place, South Shields has caused such verbose reaction amongst some of the regular readers of The Shields Gazette (from whom I link to this picture). It is an eyesore, it belongs in a bygone era when buildings needed to be erected quickly and cheaply after wartime damage, function was of far more importance than style or context, and for many years two sides of our Market Place have looked distinctly “out of place”. It’s architecture resembles post war East Germany and we were left with buildings that one could not in all honestly be proud of, but they served a purpose.

The regeneration of the riverside and the Rekendyke Ward has been something that this council of ours, and this blog, have been talking about for at least four years now, and only recently are we starting to see some solid forms rising on land that has been under-used, I actually believe that many of us will eventually get to like the design of the new BT South Tyneside HQ on Harton Staithes, its overall shape evokes the history of the river and its strong links to shipbuilding and repair, especially being so close to docks that once thrived with activity. Its two triangular shaped frontages resemble two giant hulls and point in the general direction of the two docks , Brigham and Cowans and Middle Dock, which operated nearby. We also have a new supermarket in Coronation Street which sympathetically matches the designs of new shops in Waterloo Square and the BT building (many square panels of glass.)

Houses are in the process of being constructed opposite the site of the old Eureka public house in Frederick Street, and much land has been cleared ready for development along the riverside former site of Middle Docks and the former site of Plessey/Circatex. It is good to see, at last, that some progress is being seen to be made, one constant criticism I have made of South Tyneside Labour Council has been its ability to drag its feet on town development, although I must concede in this case that many parcels of land needed to be bought up to make available for developers and this does take some time.

I wonder how many of the verbose critics in the local paper took the time to involve themselves in the consultations which began in 2007 and offered some views or opinions as to how they wanted the future shape of South Shields to evolve?  I wonder too if the constant shrill calls for free car parking are really the answer that we all seek to regenerating the borough’s economic viability and our ability to attract and retain visitors, I think that we have already proven that our parking charges are modest in comparison with our neighbours and that new pay and display areas are not succeeding in turning visitors away! You won’t find hundreds of free car parks in North Shields or Tynemouth, but the shops are still there!

For a while, as Janis Blower rightly asserts, we will have another wide open vista of the riverside which people will be reluctant to lose, but lose it we must! We must hope to find a developer who can create a modern scheme with a traditional background that should include retail units, cafes and restaurants, pubs, and commercial opportunities above and around. For those of you who have visited Hartlepool Marina, I hope you were impressed by the presentation of shops and hotel on the seaward side, I think it is a smart development with its iron palisade and glass covering, attractive enough for a visitor to take an interest in and filled with a good variety of outlets, I honestly could live with something like that on one (or even two) sides of our Market Place. However, what is vitally important to attract the right developer is that the land is available, serviced, and ready to build upon, there is little sense in leaving the north side of the Market Place as it is, it will not attract interest and postponing demolition will only increase the cost needlessly.

Lets get it down while we can, and be determined not to place a car park on it!

What form of development would readers like to see on the north side of South Shields Market Place?

Do readers believe that free parking is the answer to our many problems?

How best should South Tyneside prepare for an eventual upturn in the local economy?

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Written by curly

August 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm

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