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What would Maggie have said?

with 11 comments

Margaret Thatcher and Progressive councillors

High level talks

Click pictures to enlarge

I’m very grateful to former South Shields councillor George Wilkinson who unearthed these pictures from his family album showing George and a very younger yours truly in talks with the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The pictures were taken in March 1982 at the Five Bridges Hotel in Gateshead at a Conservative Party function, Maggie was fond of visiting the regions to find out first hand what the feelings of the party were, and always relished the opportunity to meet others too, as she kept herself well informed about the state of the nation. She visited the north-east many times whilst Leader of the Opposition and also as Prime Minister and this was one of a number of occasions that I was fortunate enough to bend her ear!

I wonder how she might have handled our recent woes? How would she have dealt with the Northern Rock collapse and the banking crisis of 2008? Would she have allowed the UK to participate in such a massive banking bail out, and would she have contributed so much to the IMF and the ECB to bail out other European nations who were unable to deal with their own deficits and debt mountains? Would she have allowed any Chancellor of hers to build up such massive debts as those accrued by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling?

I was about 25 years old at the time of this meeting, having been a mostly green and wet behind the ears Progressive councillor for the Beacon and Bents ward, to be honest and truthful until George told me about these photographs I’d forgotten all about this visit, even now I haven’t got a clue about what we might have been discussing. I do recall a later meeting in Seaton Delaval Hall when she discussed the beauty of The Leas and the coastline in South Shields and how she hoped that they would always be there for the public to enjoy, that was long before they were entrusted the The National Trust for safekeeping, at a meeting at the late Lord Elliot’s home in Northumberland we discussed how the miner’s strike was affecting their families and the hardships they were enduring, I was a little surprised at her concern. However, this meeting has me beaten, perhaps George can help out.

So readers, what do you think Maggie was telling us? How do you think she would have dealt with the debt crisis?

(Note to George Elsom – we weren’t discussing future charity events such as Movo, or my film star looks!)

Margaret Thatcher, George Wilkinson, Graham Rigg

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Written by curly

November 21, 2011 at 9:19 am

Rebranding

with 7 comments

Scottish ConservativesMacFool

Murdo Fraser is the hot favourite to be elected as leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, and as part of his election campaign he is already promising to break away from the party in England and  Wales to form a new party of the right in Scotland, seeing the present associations with the Conservative Party as “toxic”.

He wants the present members of the Conservative Party to vote themselves out of existence and transfer all of their assets to a new party, as yet unnamed, a communal suicide pact such as has never been witnessed before in British politics  – or has it?

Fraser himself has not exactly set the world of Scottish politics alight, in the old North Tayside constituency he has progressively fallen further and further behind the SNP’s John Swinney over the past ten years, but amazingly becomes an MSP through the present regional list system used by Holyrood, and since the resignation of Annabel Goldie has set out on a course to try and reverse the fortunes of the centre right in Scotland. Having seen their representation in Westminster reduced to one seat Fraser sees the burning of the old party and a rebirth from the ashes as the only way out, rather than formulating new and attractive policies that counter the “Independence” argument with a free market alternative to the broadly socialist tendencies of all of his opponents.

There is a very strong traditionalist and Unionist tendency within the Scottish nation that does need to be re-awakened, I personally doubt that a referendum right now about Scottish Independence would be won on behalf of the SNP, there are many constituencies which retain the Shire like nature of their English counterparts, there are strong historical links to economists, historians, and politicians of the three major British parties that suggest that the appeal of the Union is still strong, besides a breakaway would lead to the end of the Lothian Agreement. This alone would force the hand of those without the experience of leadership and governance as much as the taxing problem of raising revenue and setting spending constraints every bit as tight as those felt in England and Wales. These are far more important issues for those of the centre right in Scotland to be concerned about rather than a re-branding exercise under a new banner, in what appears to be an act of appeasement towards the SNP.

Breaking away from the mother party has not been a fruitful exercise in recent history, as numbers of hopeful SDLP MPs found out when they were assimilated into the Liberal Democrats, they lacked the financial muscle to survive after the initial launch funding from some industrialists, and Murdo Fraser is about to run into the same brick wall as Sir Jack Harvie, who leads the Focus on Scotland group, is determined NOT to contribute any funding to Fraser’s breakaway party. Harvie’s group has donated over £1m to the Scottish Conservatives in the past three years, he is reported to have said:

“Focus on Scotland is the vehicle that currently provides the majority funding for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (SCUP).

“This funding arrangement would most certainly not apply to Mr Fraser’s breakaway party.”

“For having scandalised SCUP (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party) by word and deed they would surely have no place within SCUP in the future!”

In other words any new re-branded party could immediately be scuppered!

Some MSPs see a name change as “radical” as the party continues to sink in Scotland, one in the BBC report even goes so far as to say:

“We haven’t even been treading water, we’ve been slowly sinking, there is a desperate need for a radical new agenda.”

My own view is that like some football teams in a very bad run of form, falling down the pyramid with successive relegations, the Scottish Tories have developed a losing mentality, and the reason that they are unable to even tread water is that many of their members don’t want to get their feet wet these days. We see the same tendency in areas of Tyneside after so many years of banging doors to garner just a few votes! What they need is an injection of confidence and youth, a set of modern policies openly formulated in a very transparent manner where party members feel as though they are part of the team playing for each other and not just for the manager or the board. A set of policies tailored to suit Scottish needs should not be a great issue for them, the Scottish Conservatives have always had their own identity and constitution within the broader party and they have produced some heavyweight politicians in recent decades to send to Westminster such as Teddy Taylor,  Michael Forsyth, and  Malcolm Rifkind.

The great lesson that members should remind Murdo Fraser of is this, re-branding simply has not worked in the past, it did not work for Labour’s “Gang of Four” and the SDLP, and David Cameron’s exercise in re-branding his party as “the heir to Blair” failed to win an outright election victory as recently as last year! It is ideals, ideas, and policies which meet modern aspirations that win elections not slogans and badges!

Mr. Fraser can sleep easy in his bed, despite the threatened lack of funds, he still has the whole hearted support of a South Tyneside man steeped in the history of recent Scottish politics, our very own “virtual councillor”.

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Written by curly

September 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Riot narrative heading in wrong direction

with 15 comments

Ill considered words and gestures ramping up repression

It’s OK talking and acting tough if you are getting results that matter to the rest of us, but David Cameron’s performance in the House of Commons yesterday, whilst good for his own authority as PM, does not portend well if he actually means what he says.

The overall impression that Cameron saved the country from burning down by returning from holiday early might look great to some but there is a lot of discomfort behind the headlines. Talking of tracking down and punishing the rioters would be fine if that is what he actually meant, the courts so far have sent out very mixed signals with some lenient sentences and some heavier sentences, but what is apparent is the lust of ordinary people up and down the country to lock young people away and throw away the key. Cameron latched on to this as he abandoned his “hug a hoodie” attitude promising jail terms for those convicted of involvement in the riots and looting, yet surely what we really need to see is armies of strictly supervised young people working at least 40 hours per week in their communities putting right the damage that they have caused. Surely this will have more productive long term benefits than locking them away for foolishly stealing bottled water, in six months some of them may even be on their way towards learning a skill or a trade!

Cameron talked of legislating to increase the sentences available to magistrates, instead of thinking about toughening up referral orders where offenders may only be required to work a few hours per week in the community, and what did he mean by a review of dispersal rules to give a “wider power of curfew”? Something which perhaps might be a terrible burden on the innocent and unaffected. He made pretty overt and open criticism of the Met Police’s failure to deal with the initial outbreak of violence in Tottenham, perhaps unfairly without first praising the bravery of the individual officers who faced that first unruly mob, and it is already coming back to bite him as sections of the police feel rather slighted and Sir Hugh Orde rounded on politicians and the Home Secretary in particular.

On taking office as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher immediately had the police on side with a 40% pay increase, David Cameron does not have that advantage, he faced increasing frustration in the House of Commons yesterday over future police budgets and this argument is now spreading into the wider public forum, his only counter balance is to offer more powers to the police which always carries the risk of repressive policy which does not convey the “consensual policing” that many regard as the cornerstone of British law enforcement. Talking of closing down or restricting the services of certain social networking sites is dangerous and unnecessary,  it is not the services at fault it is the users. Conservative MP Louise Mensch has waded in with this:

“Common sense. If riot info and fear is spreading by Facebook & Twitter, shut them off for an hour or two, then restore. World won’t implode,”

Yet we baulk at the suggestions that other countries such as Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or China take such oppressive action to censor the internet, those few small hours certainly would represent the thin end of the wedge and lead us down a darker path! Paradoxically it might even prevent the emergence of real community spirit evidence by the “broom army” in London. The whole concept of censorship and the choking of information is not something that I welcome, it is inherently not the British way and will damage good journalism (and yes we have to acknowledge that some of the news coverage fed the ambitions of the rioting crowds for a couple of days) resourceful journalist made very good use of Twitter to get around London, Manchester, and Birmingham to cover events and some of their stories and pictures have led to the identification of suspects and consequent arrests.

So we heard a few knee jerk reactions yesterday, the dust is settling, the politicians can resume their holidays, the magistrates will continue to confound, but has this emergency session of Parliament really changed the game? Well, yes it did a little, but not for the common good.

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Written by curly

August 12, 2011 at 10:44 am

#LondonRiots

with 40 comments

police baton Standard issue Met Police baton

This is the standard Met issue Arnold baton, I don’t think it has seen a lot of use over the past couple of days, and while plenty of commentators are advocating the use of water canon and armoured vehicles, and even suggesting an imposed curfew (which hurts the innocent law abiding citizen) perhaps we ought to allow the police in London to use what they already have.

For too long now we have treat the feral youths of our capital and other large cities with kid gloves, mollycoddled them at the breast of the mother state, nurtured them with welfare handouts, protected them with Elf ‘n ‘safety concerns, awarded them ASBO badges, Nike shoes, Adidas track suits and hoodies, gold bling, PS3s, Black berries and McDonald’s burgers. Whenever they come into contact with the law they get another caution until after a score of them they face a magistrate and get told to do some community service which is then never carried out, instead they return to do service for the gang scoring a few more deals, and earning a crust by caching knives and “nines” for those hiding further up the drug supply chain. They pay no attention to mother and often do not even know who father is, teachers are only there to be abused or stabbed, and life is no good to them unless they have a 42 inch plasma screen to play Battlefield 3 on. Thuggery is just part and parcel of their street “culture”, it’s a tough life out there man!

Meanwhile the rest of us go to work, strive to make an honest living, pay our taxes to provide more and more “services” for those who refuse to contribute a penny towards them, and over the last three days we have seen the results of our work. Didn’t they thank us for our largesse in the most generous fashion, looting and burning, killing off businesses, scaring people with their insane violence, making some folks homeless, and challenging authority in the most horrible manner imaginable. Perhaps they don’t feel included in our society because they have contributed nothing towards it, but they want, they want, and want more, and even more if it comes freely!

Where the hell did we go wrong? (oops, I think I answered that above.)

David Cameron’s return from holiday makes the riots look even more like a crisis, but at least the recall of Parliament might tie all of our political leaders into a unified deal on how to police the streets, we might hear less of the silly arguments about social conditions, deprivation, joblessness, economic cuts etc. They may be a very small factor, but the overwhelming factor is lawlessness, thuggery, robbery, and violence that has little at all to do with the shooting of Mark Duggan now. It is all about grabbing as much as you can, knowing that the police may be stretched to the limits, it is all about acquiring new status symbols which they feel “entitled” to have.

My hope is that whatever violence ensues around the country tonight or tomorrow will be met by a much stiffer and robust response from the police who are charged with protecting life and property, being overwhelmed by numbers may not be the fullest answer, but it will help them, their foes are not in the business of respecting authority, they might only respect those who stand up to them. Therefore I hope that the Met take advantage of the polycarbonate Arnold baton that they carry, and make bloody good use of it, and perhaps avail themselves of a few plastic baton rounds to cause a little pain and suffering. These riots must be quelled quickly and effectively, the youths must not be allowed to develop guerilla tactics, they do not have a cause to rally to any longer other than sheer greed. Let them be dragged kicking and screaming off the streets of our cities, they must not be allowed to think they own those streets.

And finally, let’s not make the mistake of locking them away for a few weeks at Her Majesty’s pleasure where they will only learn new tricks, they should be physically forced to go out strictly supervised into their communities to put right the damage that they have caused. They should be made to understand the effects of their hideous actions, feel some pain and suffering of their own, they should be kept away from their Blackberries, PS3s, XBoxes, laptops, iPods and iPads, kept away from their fellow gang members and made to stay with mother for twelve hours each night. Mother should be made to forfeit a heavy long term fine too, clearly she doesn’t understand the responsibilities of parenthood!

The events of the last few nights have angered and embarrassed me as an Englishman, so much that it has constrained my libertarian tendency for now, come on what rights without responsibilities do these teenage thugs think they have!

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Written by curly

August 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm

A Northumbrian Tale

with 4 comments

Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne

How low can we go?

Let’s be honest there’s nothing like a good old moan is there?

South Shields has its fair share of moaners and ne’er-do-wells particularly when it comes to car parking, charges, visitors, and shopping, Jarrow of course is a safe haven for many in South Tyneside, but really are we beating a well worn path that leads to nowhere or are we justified in our protestations?

Yesterday the Curly family took a ride out into Northumberland for a little history and culture in the hope that it may provide some inspiration for “Junior” and “Missy”, learning something of how other councils treat their visitors can be an eye opener too and Northumberland County Council is not short of detractors! The 160 mile round trip took in stops at Alnwick, Berwick, and Lindisfarne Island with the first being an unplanned emergency toilet stop in the market town of Alnwick where I discovered that the local Morrisons supermarket did not have customer toilets and the £1 parking charge was only refunded after the purchase of £10 of produce, not the £5 limit that we have in South Shields. Furthermore after a hasty walk down to the market place we discovered that the public conveniences in Northumberland carry a 20p usage fee! Parking in charges in Berwick were £1.8o per hour and again the same 20p toilet ticket, so by time we’d taken lunch and made another natural relief visit I was already £5.40 out of pocket. On returning to the car I discovered that the Edinburgh family parked next to me were in a furious fighting mood having picked up a £60 fixed penalty notice because one of their tyres was more than six inches over the white line marking out the bay! I was pretty glad that I know how to park straight!

And so we returned south to visit Lindisfarne just in time to see the last of the sea retreating across the causeway leaving us almost as much time as we wanted to explore the island, charges at the visitor’s car park were £2.80 for up to three hours, which should be long enough for most people, so I happily filled the machine with more coins but blast it did not print a ticket! So I repeated the operation at another machine and took note of the minuscule telephone number and rang the County Council, alas the 0845 number rang and rang and rang! Another few pounds wasted and I’m now down by £11.00, and then to add insult to injury the kids got bored and Mrs. Curly was disappointed not to see any monks distilling the famed Lindisfarne Mead, not sure where she picked up that misconception, but we purchased a few bottles as gifts for the family. So after an hour and a half I reluctantly admitted that I have a family of Philistines lacking in any real education about the north-east and its cultural and religious history, perhaps its the education syllabus to blame, perhaps its the multi-religious approach of the schools, or more likely it was my own fault for not fully advising them in advance of what to expect. However, having to take a reluctant decision to leave after such a short time was pretty gnawing and I rightly or wrongly thought that once again my day had been marred by the British bureaucrats.

The important point about this Northumberland tale is that once you get away from South Tyneside you realise that our 1p a minute parking charges really are a reasonable amount to ask, the current charges at supermarkets are not “out of the box”, and we still have public conveniences that are clean, well maintained, and free! This does not negate the previous comments that I have made about a shoppers car parking scheme. Whether we think that these things are right or wrong is immaterial, the fact is that we are cheap,  how low can we go? Perhaps too cheap, and perhaps, as the picture illustrates, higher charges will not necessarily put off visitors, oh if only Bede had been brought up as a skyetender and built a monastery next to the Roman Fort on the Lawe Top!

Northumberland County Council’s parking charges work out at roughly about £1 per hour, but after the first few hours the charges ramp up steeply, I’m not saying that they have the correct formula for retaining visitors and encouraging trade and they have managed on more than one occasion to upset the traders in Morpeth, but seriously here in South Tyneside we probably have gone as far as possible now in setting reasonable charging rates for car parking.

Another important point to note  is if a place is worth visiting, if it has important historical artefacts, if it has a place in history, if it has something to entertain and amuse, it will attract visitors in droves without any real problems. Tourists do take a day out expecting to spend money!

Now, who bets that 25000 people would not have been willing to part with £10 to watch Joe McElderry? 

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Written by curly

July 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

Labour cock-a-hoop in South Tyneside

with 8 comments

Tory scalp in Cleadon and East Boldon is biggest prize

I’m still pretty tired after yesterday’s elections and a fairly long night attending the count at the Temple Park Centre in South Shields, which although it was hard on the legs for the gathered politicos was well organised by Val Stephenson on behalf of the Returning Officer, I hear that similar praise is also due for the officials at Jarrow Community Centre. They were never in any sort of race to beat Sunderland into declaring results but at least the counting was all but over at the time they predicted it ought to have started!

It would be churlish of me NOT to congratulate the Labour Party in South Tyneside for some good results last night so I’ll do it now, well done boys and girls, you have a well oiled election machine which some of the rest of us sneakily admire and envy. Biggest prize of the night went to Joan Atkinson, who after years of hard graft chipping away at the Conservative majority in Cleadon and East Boldon ousted Donald Wood. It was not a shock to some of us but there was some surprise at the size of the Labour majority and the fact that they took over 50% share of the vote on a very healthy turnout of over 55%, I felt terribly sorry for Don Wood who is a real gent and really did not deserve to be the victim of the “Potts factor”, I had predicted a tough uphill fight for the Tories in Cleadon but expected them to hold with a slim margin. One veteran Conservative (and former councillor) who I spoke to put the blame for the loss firmly on Jarrow Conservative Association for the failure to “sort out Potts” when the had the chance prior to his last reselection, he too saw the writing on the wall.

I was right too in predicting victory for Ian Harkus for Labour in Hebburn North as Lib-Dem John McKie was ousted on a night which has so far seen 295 of his colleagues lose their seats. South Tyneside now has just one Liberal Democrat councillor within its ranks. Labour’s other gain came in South Shields where “long legs” Joyce Welsh romped home with a health majority over the sitting Progressive Marjorie Robinson, the result was not as close as I predicted. Speaking to Joyce after her victory I realise she doesn’t mind being called “long legs” at all and thinks it may be an easy way to distinguish her from the similar named Cllr. Walsh!

Elsewhere former Mayor’s Secretary Fay Cunningham returns to South Shields town hall this time as a Labour councillor having held off the challenge of Tom Defty in Bede ward, we see a new “independent” in Fellgate and Hedworth in the form of Linda Hemmer who beat Labour’s Moira Smith by just over 100 votes, and already rumours are circulating that Ms Hemmer may shortly defect to the Labour benches. Real Independent George Elsom held his seat in Cleadon Park but with a reduced majority against Labour, but perhaps he would have polled better without the intervention of Colin Campbell who also took a reasonable handful of independent votes. As a side note George is convinced he was the real media star of the Shields Gazette’s videos!

The Independent Alliance candidates had a miserable night, they arrived en masse for the count (someone even suggested they marched in singing “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees” but I took that with a pinch of salt, they just didn’t look in singing mood) Jim Hodgson failed for the second year running to take Beacon and Bents ward where débutante Conservative Ali Hayder put in a strong showing holding the Conservative vote up to last year’s general election levels, the result was a comfortable win for Labour’s Audrey McMillan, although she had a nervous disposition early in the counting. Independent Alliance leader Jane Branley who probably had what most people would consider a rock solid majority in Westoe, must have been taken aback and shocked to see it wither away to around 200, and her party failed to make any real impact or improvement in other wards, perhaps the writing may be on the wall for the “Indies” who remain the largest opposition grouping on the council. Having spent a small fortune on literature and having produced and delivered more leaflets than anyone else in South Tyneside, I wonder if they feel happy with the yield on their investment?

The Conservatives surprised with a reasonable return of votes at about the same level as last year’s big turnout general election and in many places improved from fourth to third place finishes so they shouldn’t be massively dismayed with their performance other than losing one key seat – and they may well fear what may happen next year in Cleadon Village, the Liberal Democrats will be seriously worried that their presence in the council chamber may soon be gone altogether as Nick Clegg’s leadership took real punishment in England, and the Progressives will also be ruminating on their long term future as traditional independent alternative to Labour in these parts, Lawrence Nolan garnered a fairly healthy bucket of votes in Harton but it was nowhere near good enough to threaten Labour’s Rob Dix. The Progressives are now down to two seats in South Tyneside, which is not good news for a party which had previously controlled the old South Shields council.

As the dust settles I wonder what negotiations will take place amongst the fractured opposition parties and what manoeuvres we will see as they try to determine who will be seen as the “official” opposition, there are many who do not wish the six Independent Alliance councillors to dominate, the nine others may wish to upset the applecart in one form or another.

So Labour’s position is once more cemented and strengthened in South Tyneside, the people have made their choices and the turnout was pretty good for a local government election at just under 40%, so they will feel very confident that they have a strong mandate. Their policies will be tempered by the amount of available cash from central resources and the main opposition to any contentious proposals will come from within their own group or from within the community. I expect them to continue treading that line which is fairly closely linked to the Blairite tendency to mirror centre right attitudes towards acceptability and financial restraint and responsibility, they know it works and they won’t wish to throw away the gains they have made. We must now wait and see just how they display that level of responsibility in the manner that they set about spending our cash.

Sadly, ALL of our opposition councillors and parties have some serious thinking to do regarding how they approach the coming years and avoid becoming totally eclipsed.

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Enterprise Zone good news for North East

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logoTyneside not forgotten in Budget

One of the better pieces of news from this week’s Budget was the announcement, from a Tory Chancellor who some decried as wanting to kill off the north-east, of the creation of two “enterprise zones” for the region, one to be in Teeside and the other to be on Tyneside, the exact locations to be determined by the members of the respective Local Enterprise Partnerships. I am glad that the announcement has received a “warmish” reception from the Labour Leader of South Tyneside Council Iain Malcolm who said:

“Clearly we have a decision to make, and we have until May until we need to advise the Department for Business on where we want this, but it is a welcome situation.”

The legacy of the last Enterprise Zones created in the 1980 Budget from Nigel Lawson is mixed with evidence of some lasting success and evidence of job transfers where employment had moved into an Enterprise Zone but had been lost from its previous location, from 1981 to 1986 the Enterprise Zones had cost nearly £300 million, but 2,800 firms were established in them, employing over 63,000 people. Some estimate that only around 13000 net jobs were created in the areas attracted by low local tax rates but the government at the time probably saw low tax revenue as being far better  than no tax revenue at all. Some locations such as the Merryhill Shopping Centre in Dudley, the Metro Centre in Gateshead, and the Canary Wharf redevelopment in London are seen as longer term successes where the employment provided probably equalled or bettered the employment that had previously been lost.

For us here in South Tyneside the location of the North East Enterprise Zone will be of paramount importance, as will the transition towards “wind down” as tax breaks and incentives inevitably need to be phased out, the hope being that capital flight will not occur as it did in Scotland in the 80s and to some extent other parts of the UK. Local councils will need to budget carefully in those areas where revenue will be lessened during the life of an Enterprise Zone and then carefully nurtured after the wind down in order to keep any new net jobs and encourage continued economic growth.

One of the most important factors will be the close proximity to the A19 with its new cross Tyne link and the availability of  The Port of Tyne as a major logistics facility, the partnerships arranged with other local authorities will need to be strong and effective in countering the claims of those on the north bank of the Tyne who may well have closer links to government than we do on the south side, although it ought to be appreciated that Cllr. Malcolm has been wisely networking with Conservative and Lib-Dem ministers for at least the past two years from a time when it became clear that Labour would have difficulty in winning an election under Gordon Brown’s leadership. His astute use of his business and political connections via lobbying firm Sovereign Strategy will have put him in a good place to promote South Tyneside as a place to do business, and a borough worthy of continued government support on whatever scale could be managed.

The Local Enterprise Partnership for the north east comprises members of seven councils covering areas of Durham, Tyne Wear, and Northumberland and it will be chaired by former Sage CEO Paul Walker, who after 16 years at the helm of the company was one of the longest serving CEOs of a FTSE100 listed company at the time of his departure, and it is important to recognise that the driving force behind this vehicle will have years of business and enterprise experience, rather than someone steeped in public sector service.

So now the difficult discussions need to begin on where we want an Enterprise Zone to be established, early suggestions include Wallsend with its green renewable energy plan, and land near the Nissan plant at Washington, I’m not sure if it is a requisite that one major zone needs to be created or whether it is possible to outline two or three separate areas that can be dovetailed together to provide a better mix of opportunities, in which case I’d like to see the Monkton business area in South Tyneside expanded to participate in the scheme. Wherever the LEP decides to locate the Enterprise Zone I believe that it is absolutely essential to look at the region’s infrastructure and quickly source more funding to improve the road networks that facilitate easy access to the A19 north and south of the Tyne to eradicate the “pinch points” that currently exist at Testo’s roundabout and the Silverlink, otherwise the eventual completion of the new Tyne Tunnel crossing will not provide as much relief as was first envisaged.

There is an opportunity being offered here for some sustained local economic growth which must not be missed, and our local council leaders need to be prepared to take bold and imaginative decisions which may shape the development of Tyneside for many years to come. They also need to be cognisant of the risks involved by the type of development allowed in the Enterprise Zone and how it impacts upon the livelihood of our existing town centres.

Do readers have any preferences or ideas about where and what type of development we would like to see from a north east Enterprise Zone?

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