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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

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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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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Inflation busting pay rises are bad politics

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20% rise for South Tyneside cabinet members described as “slight”

OK, so the full amount in the pot has not changed, but this comment by Cllr. Iain Malcolm the Leader of South Tyneside Council is simply flabbergasting:

Because cabinet members are now expected to attend more meetings, their allowance rises slightly.

Slightly?

In these days where the average lucky employed person has to settle for a rise of 2% or less, and shareholders are at last rebelling against corporate pay rises as large as 4.8%, this award seems designed to cause an uproar with news being revealed just days after a strong election victory.  This is simply bad politics, a faux pas on the level displayed by the coalition government on almost a daily basis.

How on earth Cllr. Malcolm believes this will sit comfortably with the people of South Shields and Jarrow is beyond me, the independent panel appears to have taken some money from the leader of the (heavily defeated) opposition and doled it out to Labour’s favourite sons, I guess they are hoping that this will all be forgotten about over the next two years – the next time any councillors face an election around here.

I will forgive these cabinet members for accepting this grotesque increase in special responsibility allowance only if they can maintain their financial stewardship and deliver NO council tax increases before the next local government election, that will be fair payment for results don’t you think?

 

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Written by curly

May 13, 2012 at 11:13 am

All in it together

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Brown bookOf course they are!

“We are all in this together”  may have been the most prophetic words uttered by Conservative Leader David Cameron following the post crash demise of the last Labour government, leaving an economy in tatters and the whole of Europe drowning in debt after the sage advice of Brown and Obama to governments and central banks to borrow more and print more money to keep the world floating happily along towards oblivion. Cameron’s words were meant to galvanise public opinion as we entered an age of austerity to tackle the worldwide mountains of debt and return the UK to a “balanced budget” after the profligacy of the Brown/Blair years, yet after two budgets from the coalition government the achievment of that aim does not seem to be approaching with any speed.

We had just gone through a Parliament awash with excess, the MPs expenses scandal had left a very nasty taste in the mouth and the reforms put in place have not done an awful lot to assuage public anger and resentment at what politicians are perceived to be doing with their time and our money, the News International phone hacking revelations and the subsequent Leveson inquiry will probably also confirm the public’s suspicions that our politicians are easy to influence and are seen to be far too close to some journalists and newspaper proprietors for the sake of good honest and open public governance.

Having taken what they think is statesmanlike stances during their years in office it may seem unedifying to some that former holders of great office now hawk themselves around on the world’s stage making an absolute fortune and banking their income not in a personal account, but into the account of a privately owned company specifically set up to reduce their liability to pay the full rate of UK tax. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and South Shields MP David Miliband all operate such companies and manage to reduce their tax liabilities by sums that some of us may never manage to earn in a year. Don’t get me wrong, we should all praise success, but if we are all in this together we should all be paying our fair share of taxes.

This “being in it together” though, is now becoming a catch phrase of the left, perhaps Cameron may regret having uttered those words in the first place, there are many who would just love to push them back down his throat, and if they have a reasoned cogent argument then why not? Trouble is, some are none too careful about republishing these words, take for example the septuagenarian Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart, invited by David Miliband to deliver one of his South Shields lectures:

“I have nothing but contempt for the expression ‘we’re all in this together.

That’s bullshit – we’re not all in this together,”

“The members of the cabinet are not in the same position as the people who live near me in Bermondsey. What we have seen is not so much a response to a global crisis but Tory policies as usual, masquerading under the claim of necessity.”

Putting aside the fallibility of memory, Stewart seems to miss the response to the UK crisis as well as missing the point on worldwide debt reduction, it does not look or sound so good bleating about the phrase “we are in this together” when one has resided in such luxurious surroundings as these in California:
Patrick Stewarts Californian residence

Picture via Guido Fawkes

The lofty left certainly do not so sound so chummy and down to earth when their wealth is revealed, the folks of Queensferry, Westoe, Trimdon, or Bermondsey must be choking with contempt at any politician/actor (hard to tell the difference with Tony Blair) talking about “being in it together”.

Beam me up Scotty, I want to be in it together with you 🙂

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Cllr. McCabe’s finest moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Written by curly

February 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm

South Tyneside Council prefers to tax widows, divorcees, and single people!

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Council amongst group who wish to see discount abolished.

Currently, if you are a single person living in a household you are entitled to a 25% reduction on your council tax bill, presumably because you make far fewer demands on your local council in areas such as waste collection, water and sewerage, education, library services, care services etc. A household with two adults or more, or with a number of wage earners will make greater demands on these services and can justifiably be charged the full rate.

Now some councils want this automatic discount to be abolished to help them increase their revenues from council tax, and amongst those deemed to favour ” widow’s tax” according to Eric Pickles, is South Tyneside.

“There is clearly a well-orchestrated campaign being run by the Labour Party to target the elderly, single mothers and the most vulnerable,” Mr Pickles said.

“They want to punish people who have worked hard all their lives and paid their taxes simply because they live on their own. There is a gross sense of injustice at raising taxes that could force people out of their homes. This is a widows tax and shows how out of touch Labour is.”

In it’s submission to the consultative government body South Tyneside Council said it would be

“easier to collect an increase in council tax as a result of a discount being withdrawn from someone who can afford it than someone on benefit who can’t”.

Not sure that I see the logic in that argument of course, there must be hundreds of widows, single pensioners, single young people, or single mothers in South Shields whose earning capabilities are far smaller than those of the larger family next door. I also personally know many South Shields folks single, or living with family, who cannot achieve the same aspirations of some on benefits despite going out to work and earning a living!

There are times when the thinking of South Tyneside Council is so far “out of the box” that it is imaginable that the box once belonged to a magician.

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Written by curly

January 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm