Curly's Corner Shop, the blog!

South Shields premier political blog

Sunderland AFC close season advice

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Note to Messrs. Martin O’Neill and Ellis Short

I know I haven’t written much about the club recently, or it’s new fully American ownership and business plan, but the season lurched from disaster to comfort before slipping towards the nervy end of the scale again as mid season promise withered away. There will need to be some rebuilding of the squad at The Stadium of Light before the next season begins at Arsenal, Gyan will be gone along with Craig Gordon and three or four others, Sessignon may be difficult to hold on to, but it is imperative that we pull all of the stops out to keep him. The two of you don’t need me to remind you that we have not had a consistent goal scorer since Bent was tempted by huge wages. It will also be important to try and keep Bryan “Pop” Robson on board, his scouting abilities improve year by year, and if he finds us another James MacLean he’ll be almost a legend! Far be it for me to tell you who to buy, I’m sure that you both have your own ideas and a “shopping list” to work from, but if you will accept just a little football advice from a long suffering South Shields based fan then please please DO NOT sign any “talent” from the Australian Football League, a place where the two top stars are Harry Kewell and Michael Bridges.

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Written by curly

June 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm

What has happened to South Tyneside Council?

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Doing things we’ve yearned over for years!

I don’t know what’s going on, South Tyneside’s Labour Party must have had an injection of pragmatism, or they are riding on the crest of a popular wave, or something like that.

Councillors are to be threatened with legal non niceties and even fines for failing to declare pecuniary interests, there has been a reinforcing of older rules about seeking favours or influencing decisions, respect is the flavour of the month, and to really upset any opposition they’ve managed to underspend the budget and put money away for a rainy day!

My head is in a spin, I don’t quite know what to make of it, let’s just hope that they keep it up and manage to keep council taxes at the current level leaving us with some money to spend as consumers trying to reinvigorate our local economy. After all a low taxed borough must surely have a chance of winning over investors and job creators.

However, the biggest shock is this – council and committee meetings taking place on an evening when it is easier for members of the public to attend – this is an outrage! How dare they do what we’ve been wanting for years!

Before you know it they’ll be opening a Facebook page so we can “like” them, or even worse they’ll install a webcam in the council chamber of South Shields Town Hall so we can watch them in action.

This flourishing of populist policy will have to stop I tell you, after all we need something to complain about.

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Written by curly

June 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Olympic Torch arrives in South Shields

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Olympic Torch Relay, South Shields
Our moment to shine

I don’t know what compelled me to set the alarm for 06:30 this morning after a decent night of celebrating England’s win over Sweden in Euro 2012, it seemed a rather silly thing to do considering that I’ll be working until 10:30 pm this evening, but I’d promised “Missy” that I’d take her to see the Olympic Torch Relay as it reached South Shields. I was even more surprised that she managed to be out of bed and ready on time, most weekends she doesn’t surface until about 08:30 am. So we  passing the Town Hall in Westoe Road at just after 07:15 really surprised to see so many people already waiting in the rain – yes the incessant rain. I’d decided that anywhere between Crossgate and the back end of the Town Hall might be a bit busy, as well as the top end of Ocean Road, so I’d go for the South Marine Park opposite the Wouldhave memorial. My guess is that the area around the Leas and the Bamburgh would also be choc-a-bloc full as Haile Gebrselassie and Brendan Foster put in their appearances.

So whilst waiting in the rain I bumped into one of your Labour councillors also getting a good soaking, but already working hard for local charity Cancer Connections today, puts some of us to shame I thought.

There was a lot of hooha and fanfair about the event as Met. Police motorbike outriders drove down Ocean Road with all of their flashing blue lights, shaking hands with children as though it were a carnival, they were followed by the sponsors buses, the sounds of music and a DJ announcer as hawkers tried to sell Union Flags along the pavement, it occurred to me that there were far more policemen from the Met than there were sponsors, organisers, and torch bearers, just made me wonder how much money is being spent sending these lads around the UK as the “security bubble”. As two of the bearers made their relay swap one torch was ignited from the other before the preceding one was extinguished, I was asking just how many torches were made as each bearer ends up keeping the torch as a personal memento (or disposing of it on eBay at a mighty profit.) I’m guessing that there are an awful lot of used butane cylinders to dispose of too, or do they use a different fuel? Fuel, yes fuel, how much petrol and diesel is used during this relay?

Anyway, the event passed through South Shields on its way to Whitburn rather quickly and everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially the little children who had been dragged out of bed rather early on a weekend.It must have been a great occasion for those local torch bearers who had been chosen to carry the flame along our small part of the route, they’ll be proud, pleased as punch, and have stories to relate to their grandchildren.

There all sorts of mini events taking place along the sea front and beaches today to mark our part in this journey, all planned in the hope of glorious sunny warm weather…….oh well that’s one thing you can never guarantee.

Now I just need to force myself into getting excited about Greco-Roman wrestling, equestrianism, fencing, and archery.

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Written by curly

June 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

How to encourage growth

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Better cuts and more Keynesian spending programmes says Iain Malcolm

Following this post I posed the following questions to a number of our South Tyneside politicians of ALL parties, including the new “South Tyneside First” group of councillors, I also asked for opinions from some of our local businessmen and nationally recognised prominent bloggers and commentators:

If you were in a position to be advising the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, what would you be telling them about efforts to achieve deficit reduction and balance the budget?

How would you advise them to promote growth in the British economy to increase Treasury revenues?

What steps would you advise taking to help our local authority in South Tyneside promote the right conditions for job creation and improve consumer demand locally?

Sadly, some haven’t even bothered to engage or contribute to the discussion, one decided he could only contribute if I gave him space to openly criticise officers of South Tyneside Council (which was not within the remit of the discussion because officers do not decide upon policies), another said he would contribute but failed to do so. The ONLY local politician who took the time to send some carefully considered comments was Labour’s leader in South Tyneside Cllr. Iain Malcolm, who told me this:

The deficit, caused by the greed of the bankers not the last Labour Government’s spending on infrastructure,  needs to be reduced. However the Tory-led Government are using the deficit as an excuse for making deeply ideological cuts in public expenditure. The Government should be clawing back the unpaid tax by multi-national corporations and taking a leaf out of local government for ways of streamlining their civil service budgets. The Prime Minister has admitted that Councils are the most efficient part of the public sector, so send in the Local Government Association to review Whitehall expenditure with a aim to making drastic savings in their budgets.

But we also need growth in the economy and that means Government spending on economic infrastructure projects, I would rather pay people to work and receive their taxes than pay them for being unemployed. The Chancellor himself is starting to realise his austerity plans are not working and the deficit will need to be reduced over a longer period of time.

The greed of the banks nearly led to a total collapse of the economic system, if Gordon Brown had not stepped in (where other world leaders failed to lead) and reassured the public that their savings, pensions and homes were safe, we would have been in a far grave state than we are today. There would have been public panic (as witnessed over Northern  Rock) on an unprecedented scale with possible social disorder.  Whatever else one feels about our former Prime Minister remember it was his bold leadership that prevented a complete melt-down.

Finally, there needs to be greater regulation of the banking system – the light touch of the former Government (supported by the Conservatives at the time) clearly didn’t work.

It’s a fairly straight down the middle “follow the party line” sort of statement, but it does not show any real vision or initiatives to help the local economy in South Tyneside return to growth. there is no commitment. for example, to retain zero growth in Council Tax rises which would help maintain the little spending power that consumers have right now, and spending power is what lights the blue touch paper of economic growth.

However I’m very grateful and thank him for his participation.

In the table below are the combined thoughts and initiatives of the independents, Conservatives, UKIP, bloggers, and business people.

South Tyneside Opposition ideas for growth

Not very encouraging is it?

Perhaps this is one part of the explanation as to why we have such a heavily Labour dominated council here.

Update 1

This is from UKIP Cllr. David Potts

It never fails to amaze me that Labour politicians have the sheer nerve to blame the financial sector for the global economic situation. Coun Malcolm states that the crisis has been “caused by the greed of the bankers”. This is a pathetic throw-away comment backed up with zero evidence, and Coun Malcolm is intelligent enough to know this. Gordon Brown sold UK Gold reserves in the $200-300/oz range. Today, it is trading at $1600/oz. The Labour Government spent money like a drunken sailor, and the mantra that they “didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining” could not be more accurate.

It really annoys me when governments blame the financial sector for operating within the regulatory boundaries that THEY create in the first place.

However, we must move away from national and global issues and focus upon what matters to us as councillors; South Tyneside. The highly respected think tank, IPPR North has warned that the South Tyneside jobless rate is set to skyrocket, particularly among our young people. It is deeply concerning that Coun Malcolm and his £170’000PA Chief Exec, Martin Swales publically comment that it is nothing to do with them and it is ‘all the evil Tory Government’s fault’. That is nonsense. II speak to local business people regularly. I know one energy broker who offered to save the council hundreds of thousands of pounds by switching their suppliers. His exact words were “I tried, but it was pointless, it’s a closed shop”. There is an active movement among the business community in South Tyneside to push ahead an agenda of progress and growth through directly influencing Council policy via peaceful protest and diplomatic pressure.

Now would councillor Malcolm like to tell us how many local firms are involved in the building of our new swimming pool complex? Would he also like to explain why suppliers of materials to South Tyneside Homes were based hundreds of miles away down South?

Look after the people of your Borough first.

Coun Malcolm and Mr Swales take people for fools and playing on this nonsense assertion that they are socialists. If they are socialists, I’m a Dutchman.

Update 2

This from George Smith, President of South Shields Conservative Association.

I asked our Campaign Director (Dorothy) for a brief, but they “don’t do Blogs”.
Sorry about this, according to the Levenson inquiry they do Twitter, a bit too much for me.

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Great North Dog Walk 2012

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South Shields hosts another “record breaker!”

This is becoming a bad joke, little more than a publicity stunt, even CBBC cameras and crews were in attendance as the Great North Dog Walk organised by Tony Carlisle set about bursting the Guinness World Record once again. Am I the only one in South Tyneside who finds the figures rather less than credible? Am I the only one in South Shields asking the right questions at the wrong time?

I’d like to know just why these numbers are apparently going up and up year after year, yet the event looks only a little larger to me, and the crowds and tents have all dispersed by late afternoon. I was down on the Leas this morning to photograph the start of the Great North Dog Walk 2012 which now claims to have more dogs taking part than the first Great North Runs organised by Brendan Foster, yet I parked easily behind the Bamburgh, as far as I am aware there were no extra Metros or buses today, there were no road closures at all, and nobody to police such a huge gathering, no safety stewards or metal barriers. The start line did not stretch  a mile and a half and the first participants passed by my camera in little more than twenty minutes. I’d like to know if anyone either in South Tyneside Council or close to Mr. Carlisle has any interest in trying to answer the questions that I have posed in previous years.

I guess someone thinks that the publicity factor is good to have at the start of summer, it puts South Shields on the map and makes a news story for a few outlets which lasts for a couple of days and if all of the money that is claimed to be raised is going to good local causes then hip hip hooray!

However I estimated that around 3000 dogs at most walked by in that first hour, and so to realise figures of over 24000 would need that rate of participation to be sustained until at least 6:00 pm and clearly it was not, do we really need to be accepting these claims without scrutiny?

The questions that I posed last year:

  • How do the organisers confirm how many dogs take part on the day?
  • Is there any involvement by any official from Guinness World Records Ltd on the day, and on site, to validate the “world record” claim?
  • How much does the event cost to organise and run?
  • How much sponsorship is raised and from whom?
  • How much money is raised for charities and which charities benefit?
  • Are any accounts published, and where can the public read them?

A comment left last year by Steve G:

Curly, originally, was querying whether the reportage of the Great North Dog Walk was accurate.
The claims made suggest there were over 22700 dogs on the Leas on Sunday over a three or four hour period.
This equates to 5600 dogs on the Leas at any given hour.
For the sake of argument there is one dog owner with each dog.
Curly is simply pointing out that given the amount traffic this mass attendance would create – are the claims made in the Gazette true?
Bearing in when I was jogging, a few years ago now, the figures for people running the Great North Run was around the 18000 figure – less than the dog walk. This involved road closures along the Leas, additional public transport, police attendance, stewarding etc.
The Great North Dog Walk should have been decidedly noticeable and quite frankly it was not. Not this year, not last year or previous years.
The video of last year on the Great North Dog Walk (on the website) does not appear to show the crowds that 16000 or so dogs would require last year.
If the number of dogs attending is exaggerated, then logically, so is the amount raised for charity. How can this sum be checked? It is only an estimate. Though £45 per dog per walk, since inception, seems achievable.

The Guinness Book of World Records website gives no indication of how the numbers involved are validated. In fact in the 2010 video neither the owners nor the dogs appeared to be allocated numbers as per the Great North Run. As the picture in tonight’s (14th. June 2011) Gazette confirms – how are the numbers checked and entrance fees collected?

Does this event show the borough in a positive and record breaking way?
Well, it was not reported in the Sunderland Echo, nor the Evening Chronicle – I did not check the Journal. So only we know about it!!

I am not concerned over the relatively small amount this event received from the council, what I am concerned about is that there appears to be little or no accountability regarding this small and many other larger amounts distributed by our council.
Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

Also, I am getting tired of the Gazettes inaccurate reporting or rather the reprinting of other peoples press releases. But that is another issue in itself.

I hope my pictures show that these numbers require answers to the questions, they were all shot between 10:00 and 11:00 am this morning.

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A great day out for families and pooches, Deputy Mayor Ernie Gibson showed true bulldog spirit manfully and doggedly reading through his speech as the wind tried to whippet away, but you’d have to be pretty barking to believe that this is a Great North Run sized event which one day may end up spilling egg on our chins with some explaining to do!

Update

This picture shows a small section of the crowd at the start line of the 1982 Great North Run when 20000 people competed, call me hard to please if you wish, but I’m not convinced that we saw anything like these numbers at the Great North Dog Walk.

Great North Run 1982

Here is a section of the crowd at the Great North Dog walk

Great North Dog Walk

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Great North Dog Walk

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Written by curly

June 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

It’s party time!

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What is beneath the gloss?

So now that the Diamond Jubilee parties are over and we bask a little longer in the glow, the next party is upon us from tomorrow in the shape of a footballing feast known as the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Another few weeks of supermarket prodding will have us overfilled with lager, beer, and frozen pizzas, our homes and cars will be draped with the flag of St. George, the “red tops” will exhort the England football team to glories well beyond their reach (they have only ONCE reached the semi final of this tournament), the new flatscreen TVs will be overheating, and when it all ends……….well there are the Olympics and Paralympics to look forward to in London, along with commercially sponsored torch bearers. One only hopes that South Tyneside Council is NOT tempted to mount the giant screen in the park again, I fear the demand will not be there to sit and watch in a South Shields park!

Of course our politicians will probably be a little more sanguine than myself, especially having invested so heavily in the London Olympics, and I confess most of the Olympian sports hold little interest for me even though there will be some football in Newcastle, but for others this will indeed be a veritable feast of summer sports with Wimbledon and Test Match cricket thrown into the mix. David Cameron and News International will be hoping to share the glory of English and British sportsmen and women as the medal count increases the “feel good” factor and the national index of good cheer. Parliament will be enjoying its long summer break with only the Leveson inquiry interrupting the good news, yet quietly gurgling away beneath the veneer of good cheer and “gloss” will be ……………………the economy.

Let’s not forget, that this is the main event!

After two years of a Conservative led coalition government the track record is not that impressive, the deficit continues to grow (albeit at a slower pace), the national debt is still woefully out of control, borrowing is still at record levels and getting higher, public expenditure is higher now than in the last years of Brown’s disastrous administration, so much for the cuts eh? The slight saving grace is that unemployment has not yet broken past levels which might lead to the sort of civil unrest witnessed in Greece. The Eurozone crisis refuses to go away, banks still appear to need recapitalisng (again) and none of the major European players seem willing to take the bull by the horns and dismantle the single currency. All the while the pan European policy appears to be one of further austerity, less public spending, and increasing taxation, as near every nation in the EU other than Germany slumbers along on virtually zero growth.

Growth? Did I mention growth?

Ah yes, who has the secret elixir which will put more money into the hands of consumers or savers? It is they alone who can provide the demand and stimulus that economies need, and any person in South Tyneside who tells you that they couldn’t use a few extra quid a month is madly deluded. Banks rely on savers to swell deposits, greater deposits create more capital, more capital creates greater liquidity which normally leads to easier lending and investment, yet the current economic cycle has brought us interest rates which creep closer to zero and discourage any saving at all. Similarly current personal and indirect taxation levels do nothing at all to inspire consumer confidence and help us to prioritise our spending on essentials such as mortgages and rents, fuel, and keeping our older cars on the road for even longer. It is almost a pan European deflationary cycle. Our own government is caught up in the very same frame of mind as Labour’s outgoing Chancellor Alistair Darling who was equally determined to reduce the deficit whilst raising taxes and sending out hopeful signals on government expenditure. Neither Labour nor the current coalition appears to have had a “plan B” that might have included some major initiatives to promote economic growth and rekindle consumer demand.

So, sadly, whilst we are in the summer party of love mood we have to remind the politicians that “it’s the economy stupid”, and with that in mind I’ve asked some of our prominent politicians in South Tyneside, along with some business people and other bloggers for their ideas on what we need to do to get our local and national economy on the move. Of course your own ideas are very welcome too.

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The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on South Tyneside

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Queen Elizabeth ll

How will you remember it?

I have some pretty vague memories of the Queen’s visits to South Shields, way back in the 1960s I stood with my classmates from Barnes Road Junior School along with a clutch of parents and teachers as we waved our little flags watching the Queen and Prince Philip opening the Marine and Technical College in St. George’s Avenue. I think it was my earliest recollection of what our monarch looked like, later in life I had a similar vague encounter at Gypsies Green Stadium in 1977 when she visited as part of her Silver Jubilee tour, I cannot quite remember how I blagged my way into that event, something to do with someone who I knew in the Conservative party no doubt. It was the highlight of the day and after several pints in the Vigilant she was hailed as the talk of the town. Somehow a few of us managed to get down to the North Marine Park to witness our beacon being lit. Strangely I recall nothing at all of the day we celebrated the Golden Jubilee ten years ago, if indeed we did.

Yesterday was more of a family event almost in an Australian style as we joined the in laws for a “Royal Garden Party” barbecue and a few “tinnies” in the sun, the children found the pageant along the River Thames very interesting and it was quite fascinating to watch their faces as the afternoon unfolded on one of today’s gigantic flat screen TVs, and today we will hopefully join hundreds of other South Shields and South Tyneside folks sitting in the South Marine Park watching a giant screen and enjoying this evening’s concert in London before moving up the hill to see one of the beacons being lit. I must congratulate and thank South Tyneside Council for staging this event and the little afternoon tea dance in the park yesterday, it would have been wonderful if the 1977 visit could have been beamed back to a giant screen in the park if only they’d had today’s technology available then.

I’m hoping to photograph the beacon being lit in the Arbeia Roman Fort with the reconstructed west gate as a backdrop, I just hope this new beacon is in a good location, don’t fancy showing South Shields to the world with a collection of “Coronation Street” back yards as a backdrop.

I like these occasions, they help create unity and spread a little joy, they transcend the politics of the day, and bring people together. Queen Elizabeth has helped to modernise the monarchy and make the institution that little bit more accessible, she stands as a symbol of stability stretching over sixty years, she has also managed to transform our thinking about the old Germanic values of her ancestors and portray a family that seems to have endured some of the same marital and economic problems of many others. As the years of economic parsimony have passed through her reign she has adapted the Royal household to meet the needs of Parliament and the British economy without severing that thin golden thread that stitches the tapestry of this island’s history.

Personally I’m now looking forward to the Platinum Jubilee in ten years time!

How have you celebrated the Jubilee weekend readers? What will your memories be?

 

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Written by curly

June 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

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