Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category
Ocean Road suffers again.
The brief but intense thunderstorm which hit the north east of England this afternoon was not in any way an exceptional summer weather event, the storm lasted less than an hour and the volume of rain was far less than the last storm to hit us in South Tyneside. Yet once again a familiar story unfolded as parts of South Shields were dealt a miserable hand due mainly to inadequate drainage solutions. Ocean Road once more bore the brunt of the weather as shopkeepers and guest house owners reached for the sand bags and plastic sheeting in a hurried attempt to prevent damage to their flooring. A similar picture was emerging at Tyne Dock at its junction with Eldon Street.
After scores of promises of action, millions of pounds worth of investment from Northumbrian Water, a similar level of activity from South Tyneside Council, we still see scenes such as these in South Shields and other parts of the borough. People that I spoke to this afternoon were almost distraught and bitterly frustrated that their businesses could be put at risk by a simple summer rainstorm and the apparent inability of local officialdom and utility players to keep a few drains running clear. The residents know exactly which drains will block, how quickly, and can almost accurately count the minutes before the waters will subside, yet they still have to suffer.
We can count ourselves lucky that South Tyneside Council were only having three free concerts in the Bents Park as part of the Summer Festival this year, otherwise the usual final concert would have been an ordeal to say the least.
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.
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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It explains my absence
I haven’t gone away and left you all alone, I’m just busy processing the almost 400 pictures that I shot on Sunday as the Great North Run made its way through South Shields. I always shoot RAW files, which I process myself, unlike .jpgs you have no idea what your picture looks like on your computer monitor until this is done. I won’t go down the road of explaining how the image on the back of your camera display is only a .jpg and not totally representative of your full 32 bit RAW file, however I will tell you that I am trying to tell a complete story of the Great North Run in South Shields Daily Pictures related in a “Polaroid ” style and hope to have about thirty days worth ready to show by next week.
Meanwhile, I have to say that I’m a little annoyed that Cllr. Potts chooses this place to carry out his incoherent arguments about public sector pensions, just as public sector legal teams are doing their utmost to make it easier for himself and three other plaintiffs to pursue litigation against a so far un-named Monkey, and to stoop to using personal insult against another of my readers here is pretty poor form. I’m sure Cllr. Potts knows that he is capable of a far higher standard of debate than this, as he has demonstrated in the past.
We should all know by now, that pensions provision for all of us, whether in the public or the private sector, is unlikely to be sustainable at current rates as the UK’s population gets forever older. We all need to understand that those of us working now, are working to provide the pensions of our children, our father’s generation worked to provide our pensions, and that we will all need to either contribute a higher annual amount to our pension pot, or work additional years to fill it up. Otherwise we face certain penury.
Still, I cannot see any point in striking or withdrawing labour over the issue, it won’t go away.
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!
Public officials need some sort of protection from this behaviour!
When will Cllr. Khan and his South Tyneside Independent Alliance colleagues learn that this sort of behaviour is simply not acceptable!
They have had a penchant over the years for attacking public officials and now seem to think it is quite OK to link them to the Labour Party.
Well it is simply not OK!
The Chief Executive of South Tyneside District Council deserves a little more respect than this. This “tweet” is an abuse of the man and of his position, let me be quite clear (particularly as I am noted for not being the world’s biggest supporter of the Labour Party) that the position of Chief Executive, or an other Executive Director at the council, or even a lower ranking manager or official should always be regarded as apolitical, neutral, and out of the reach of party politics. They are public servants paid by us to administer the policies of the party that was democratically elected by the people of South Tyneside. I may not like Labour’s policies but fully accept that they have an overwhelming popular mandate here to enact them, I also understand fully that officers of the council would have to administer the policies of any other party should they be elected in the sort of numbers that Labour enjoy. Therefore it is no use having any sort of openly held political viewpoints if you are a paid public official.
Is there no way to protect our officials from these demeaning, denigrating, presumptuous and sniping tweets from this South Shields councillor?
Please give Sunderland’s young lads a chance.
I don’t know how much spare time you will have over the next few days, but in the hope that you do make use of this interwebz thing and happen to search Google for anything to do with Sunderland AFC and its supporters in South Shields, then you may well come across my words, it is after all a long while since I last wrote about the love affair with my lifetime favourite football club Sunderland.
The Lads have had a bit of a torrid time during the second half of this season, and for supporters we have seen a strong promising position at the turn of the year when we were genuinely threatening to break into the top four of the Premiership, melt away as fast as a dropped Minchella’s ice cream on Shields’ beach! Yes, we have had an injury crisis that is true, we have a relatively small squad, that also is true, but I have questions, quite a few of them to be sure, about the management regime and style that you brought to the Stadium of Light. Despite our great Premier League position at the turn of the year, which we might have hoped would be sustained, you must recognise that it was not attained by playing the most attractive football in the world, we didn’t get there by playing like the Barcelona of the Costa del Monkwearmouth. We had managed somehow to get there with an ever changing back four who at times must have struggled to remember each others names, I don’t recall that we ever played the same back four for three consecutive games, and of course on the back of the goals of one certain Darren Bent. Bent gives us a clue that something was amiss, he’d already made plain his intentions to seek a move to another club during the previous season but remarkably he was persuaded to stay on the promise of beefing up the team’s attack, so out went Kenwynne Jones and in came Asamoah Gyan and before you could shout hurrah Bent was off after the sniff of a huge pay packet turned his head. Don’t get me wrong, Sunderland were right not to have been panicked into signing a quick replacement during the January transfer window, that could well have been short sighted, but in the supporters eyes there did not appear to be any longer term plan or option available either.
I was involved in a “discussion” with a rival Newcastle fan yesterday evening here in South Shields and, to his credit, he had a clear view of some of the problems at Sunderland football club, he rightly suggested that we have far too many midfielders on the books, all solid workhorses but none of them with any real pace, no traditional wingmen, and nobody with creative flare or ability, I could not disagree. It was galling to recall that we had missed out on the opportunity to buy both Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson, both now making a good impact in the Premiership and with England caps behind them. He also pointed out that your South American buys collectively had all of the impact of a cold burrito, how could I disagree? Paulo da Silva just couldn’t cope with the pace and physical presence of Premiership attackers, Marcos Angeleri and Christian Riveros would struggle to make their mark in the Coca Cola Championship, err the idea might have been right to save money by shopping on the South American continent, but it appears as if Ricky Sbragia’s scouting operation was hopelessly out of its depth – and by the way Steve, is it true that you will be inviting Bryan “Pop” Robson back to Sunderland to head up the scouting team? We do need a bit of fizz!
My “Mag” mate also asked what is up with the training regime to cause so many injuries these days? I had to tell him that you had a different work ethic to Mick McCarthy, have the lads in for an extra hour each day, run less fitness drills and play more eleven aside football. That’s the problem I was told, over training and too much physical contact during the sessions, no wonder Keiran Richardson’s stress fracture was hushed up for a while, he suggested. And another thing Steve, and my Mag mate was effusive on this point, Sunderland AFC have far too many loan players at the Stadium of Light, how can you expect maximum commitment and the fulfilling of an ambition when so many players know they wouldn’t be there to either enjoy the fruits of success or face the music of failure?
The most damning failure, so far, of your management and footballing style has been to play unadventurous teams in solid, no I think I shall say stolid, formations, which while grinding out a few wins and quite a few draws did nothing to excite the fans on the terraces. So much so that chairman Niall Quinn was forced to come out and plead for us to return to the stadium, he blamed foreign television stations beaming matches into pubs, we blamed the football for ensuring that the Stadium of Light has been all but two thirds full for most of the campaign. A little more expansive play on the ground and to feet would help engender a sense of hope for the future, but it has never been realised.
Did I just mention the future Steve? Oh yes, that’s what it is all about now, I’m sure that you are aware that we have one or two young lads playing in the reserves who ought to represent Sunderland’s future, they ought to have been ready to play Premiership football by now, they ought to be in your thoughts for next season (on the assumption that you will still be with us). So, can you please explain to me and hundreds of other Mackem fans in South Shields that whilst we have gone through a thoroughly rotten injury crisis, which has now left us with NO fit first team strikers, why you bothered pushing Nedum Onuoha up front in a desperate tactical move against Fulham? You have Ryan Noble available, you put him on the bench, he has a goal scoring track record, yet this lad of the future has still not been used on the pitch in the Premiership. I thought you were a protege and product of the great Sir Alex Ferguson Steve, a man who has done so much in nurturing young talent in the game and brought names like Ryan Giggs, Phil and Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Johnny Evans, Darren Fletcher, and Darron Gibson to our attention. I hope you are seeing my point Steve, from being four games out from the season’s end, and now down to two, you have had the opportunity to bring a few of our young lads on to the pitch. Our Premiership survival was all but confirmed, we have an injury crisis, these lads such as Ryan Noble, Craig Lynch, Billy Knott, Robbie Weir, and Adam Reed deserve to be given a chance to prove themselves alongside Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback. The future may well be in their hands as financial constraints may prevent the club from spending all of the transfer fee received from Aston Villa for Mr. Bent, it would not have done any harm for some of them to be recalled from their loan clubs and thrown into our first team, the worst thing that might have happened would be them picking up an injury.
So please Steve, in the two games left against Wolves and West Ham, can you give the fans some entertainment? Can we please go out with a young striker or two on the pitch? Can you send out a team capable of winning all six remaining points and ensure that we end this campaign in the top ten and ahead of our rivals up the road?
Do that, and I might be happy for you to stay another season, but I’ll be honest Steve, you wouldn’t be my first choice.
Now if club vice chairman and South Shields MP David Miliband were to find time for a little chat over the summer………