Friday, 19 September 2014

Lunch Time Office Opening

My good friend Maxine Johnston officially launched her new office premises today which are situated in the West Wing of the Prospect Business Park in Leadgate.

Maxine, who previously worked at One North East before launching a party business before diversifying into marketing services, offers a range of help which includes social media campaign management, assistance with brand design and implementation as well as consultancy services.

I dropped into the launch event today and saw her new office during my lunch break. The new office looked great and Prospect Business Park seems a great place to work in. There is ample car parking space and a great view and it looks like a place I'd love to work in if I had my own business. You can rent a room there from £50 per week so if you need business premises, I'd recommend you taking a look.

If you want any business assistance from Maxine, who was an #SBS winner in 2011 receiving recognition from business magnate and former Dragon, Theo Paphitis, visit her website at http://www.maxinejohnstonmarketing.co.uk/ Follow Maxine on twitter by visiting @maxjmarketing

Scotland says "No" and Crook says "Yes"

I am very pleased Scotland said no to independence. It is clear there is an appetite for further devolution there but this must be tempered by considered thought towards what this means for England. We must avoid becoming further divided in both national terms and in our local areas.

Alex Salmond's defeat speech and Nicola Sturgeon's interview showed why many members of the public remain suspicious of politics. They attempted to claim some sort of deferred victory when, in truth, it was a resounding defeat and a reminder to them that when the SNP gained their majority government, none of their main pledges were for an independent Scotland. They pursued dogma over pledges and will now attempt to spin that this was all a plan for further devolution from Westminster. This debate had started already, as the main parties agreed that more independence within the union was preferable to separation. It was never going to be the case where Scotland said 'no' and it was 'as you were'.

We enjoyed a glimpse into the past as Gordon Brown made a series of rallying speeches. I do, however, believe that calls for him to return to front line politics are not likely to happen.

Maureen Stanton, Labour's candidate for Crook in the by-election, swept into office with 47% of the vote. I was delighted for her and had campaigned for her. She received 753 votes with the UKIP candidate finishing in 2nd place with 336. Joanne Carr was selected as Labour's candidate for the Burnopfield & Dipton by-election, following the resignation of Cllr. Bob Alderson. This election will take place on 23rd October.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

14th September 2014 Political Podcast with Malcolm and Liam

Here is our latest politics podcast. It is hosted by Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the North West Durham Labour Party (me) and the Labour Party Candidate for the Hexham Constituency for the May 2015 General Election, Liam Carr.

This week we discuss Thursday's Scottish referendum vote and the escalating media coverage. We give our usual updates on our local activism and campaigning as well as covering the tragic news item of the British hostage being murdered by Isis and how we might respond to such terrorism.

Please press play to listen to the podcast or subscribe via our talkshoe page by clicking this link.

Our political podcast is now available to subscribe on iTunes which is completely FREE from their iTunes store. Click here to subscribe to our Politics Podcast on iTunes. There is no better way of ensuring you do not miss a show as any new shows automatically downloads to your computer each time you open the iTunes application and we have uploaded a new show.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to listen in and we hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

£20 Garden Waste Bin Charge from 2015

More than 190,000 households are being invited to join the County Durham garden waste collection service next year.

From spring 2015 there will be an annual fee of £20 for garden waste collections from the kerbside. It will also be offered to an additional 35,000 properties which are not covered by the current scheme.

Letters are being sent out this month to all eligible households. By signing up, residents will receive 16 fortnightly garden waste collections between spring and autumn. Anyone opting to take up a three year subscription will get a discounted rate of £50.

Durham County Council's Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, Cllr Brian Stephens said:

"With government spending cuts, the only way we can continue to provide this service is to charge a small annual fee.

"From next year, residents will need to choose whether or not to join the scheme and I’m pleased that the option is going to be available to more households."

Local authorities are not obliged to provide garden waste collections. Out of those that do, some 35 per cent already charge separately for the service. The £20 annual fee is lower than the national average.

Households are invited to subscribe by 1 February to ensure they receive all 16 collections next year. Those subscribing will receive a sticker for their garden waste bin to show they are part of the scheme.

For more information about the service or to find out if a property is part of the scheme, go to www.durham.gov.uk/gardenwaste

These changes only apply to garden waste collections. Rubbish and recycling collections will continue to be collected throughout the county as normal.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

6th September 2014 Politics Podcasts with Malcolm and Liam

Here is our latest politics podcast. It is hosted by Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the North West Durham Labour Party (me) and the Labour Party Candidate for the Hexham Constituency for the May 2015 General Election, Liam Carr.

This week we discuss the government suffering a defeat with the Affordable Housing Private Members Bill, the PM sending 1,000 troops to a multi-national force and what we have both been doing on the local campaigning front in the past week.

Please press play to listen to the podcast or subscribe via our talkshoe page by clicking this link.

Our political podcast is now available to subscribe on iTunes which is completely FREE from their iTunes store. Click here to subscribe to our Politics Podcast on iTunes. There is no better way of ensuring you do not miss a show as any new shows automatically downloads to your computer each time you open the iTunes application and we have uploaded a new show.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to listen in and we hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

31st August 2014 Political Podcast with Malcolm and Liam

Here is our latest politics podcast. It is hosted by Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the North West Durham Labour Party (me) and the Labour Party Candidate for the Hexham Constituency for the May 2015 General Election, Liam Carr.

This week we discuss many issues in a slightly longer show, including Liam's commentary on TTIP, his visit to a paper factory in Prudhoe with the Labour MEP's, Mal's campaigning in both Crook and Scotland and much more.

Please press play to listen to the podcast or subscribe via our talkshoe page by clicking this link.

Our political podcast is now available to subscribe on iTunes which is completely FREE from their iTunes store. Click here to subscribe to our Politics Podcast on iTunes. There is no better way of ensuring you do not miss a show as any new shows automatically downloads to your computer each time you open the iTunes application and we have uploaded a new show.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to listen in and we hope you enjoy it.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Are We Better Together?

My reason for visiting Leith in Edinburgh today to help the campaign for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom was simple. I want the voters of Scotland to understand and appreciate the benefits of remaining part of the United Kingdom before they choose to leave it. I support the Better Together campaign, but then it's not up to me.

Alex Salmond has been very sketchy with the detail and preferred to beat his chest as a proud Scotsman and proclaim the Scottish right to govern themselves which in itself is completely understandable, however, I have concerns about how they will truly be independent when they retain the pound which is controlled elsewhere, how they will sustain themselves as an economy and I am concerned the SNP seem ignorant that their entry into Europe is not a given and this could lead to further issues.

Here is a photo I took whilst on the eighth floor of a large high rise block of flats in Leigh having earlier campaigned with both Mark Lazarowich MP and Andy Love MP. From left to right on the photo below is Pat Glass MP (@PatGlassMP), Jenny Duncan (@JennyDuncan), Alan Gibson, Thomas Kalditz (@ThoKaGer), Cllr. Bob Glass (@bobthehuskyman)

Here is a podcast that I recorded this evening which I hope you find it interesting. The topics covered is Scottish Independence and the Ice Bucket Challenge and it lasts twelve minutes.


The Scottish Referendum takes place on September 18th. It looks set to achieve a very respectable 85% voter participation. This demonstrates that when issues connect with the public, they can engage in politics.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

24th August 2014 Politics Podcast with Malcolm and Liam

Here is our latest politics podcast. It is hosted by Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the North West Durham Labour Party (me) and the Labour Party Candidate for the Hexham Constituency for the May 2015 General Election, Liam Carr.

We had a short break for the summer after our last podcast on 27th, so it is nice to be back. This week we discuss the rising price of train tickets, what we have done since the last show, the escalating and worrying situation in Iraq, issues surrounding GCSE results and our experiences at the Elect Energy debate (see my previous post).

Please press play to listen to the podcast or subscribe via our talkshoe page by clicking this link.

Our political podcast is now available to subscribe on iTunes which is completely FREE from their iTunes store. Click here to subscribe to our Politics Podcast on iTunes. There is no better way of ensuring you do not miss a show as any new shows automatically downloads to your computer each time you open the iTunes application and we have uploaded a new show.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to listen in and we hope you enjoy it.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Elect Energy Discussion at Durham University Report

Liam Carr, the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Hexham and I visited the Durham University Psychology Department for the #ElectEnergy Debate, which was arranged by their PhD research students. Liam was on the panel representing Labour and was joined by Jonathan Arnott MEP (UKIP), Cllr Wendy Nicholls (Lib Dem), James Wharton MP, (Conservative) and Jonathan Elmer (Green Party). The debate took questions from Twitter as well as from the 150-strong audience and a live twitter feed was displayed on the big screen throughout the discussion, which lasted from 7pm until 8.30pm.

It was a lively and positive debate, getting a bit more lively when in response to Liam challenging government policy James Wharton MP declaring, "...an end to the motherhood and apple pie of these types of discussions"! There was some light-hearted moments, particularly at the end of the discussion when the chair asked how everyone got to the event and Liam, getting the biggest laugh of the night and a round of applause replied, "I drove here, but I car shared".

The "energy mix" was referred to on a number of occasions, where it was generally agreed there was no "silver bullet" or easy answer and that future energy policy must be diverse, combining solutions like shale gas extraction, nuclear energy and research into new technologies that enable renewable energy sources to become more available to consumers at affordable and attractive prices. Promoting the use of such options was also noted as being important and the discussion covered how this could be done, as expensive renewable energy options does not encourage people on lower budgets to adopt them.

I was surprised by a very measured and largely positive view regarding fracking, which if you follow the news appears to be a toxic word, similar to 'Atos' where benefits are concerned. The toxic reaction I expected was not present and the audience was honest enough in another context to admit, in a show of hands, that around 60% - 70% or us thought wind turbines were aesthetically acceptable. My enjoyment of the event was greatly enhanced by the engagement and knowledge of the audience, who did not once slip into any anti-political sentiment and easy quips, to their credit. They were determined to have an issue based discussion, which is exactly what they got.

It was an interesting and positive discussion which I greatly enjoyed. It was a sensible discussion, which is exactly what this important issue needs rather than superficial political points scoring, a point made by a number of the panellists. Liam did very well, offering a number of good points on all the subjects covered, demonstrating his range of capabilities as a Labour Party candidate.