January: What’s been going on?

As January draws to a close here’s a run down of the things I’ve been doing in my councillor role. It’s fair to say it’s been a busy start to the new year…

Here’s a snapshot of some of my local casework in the ward…

  • I was able to tick a couple of long-running repair items off the list, as contractors from Capita came out to resolve on-street drainage issues near Fenwick Terrace and BT Openreach repaired the broken telecomms manhole cover that has been causing a footpath obstruction.
  • In Preston Village I had a walkabout with residents concerned about blocked gullies, problem puddles and parking issues. These have all now become live cases that I will see through to resolution.
  • We saw the return of Sunday matches to Preston Playing Fields, and with that the return of the parking problems that we had managed to get on top of last year. I’ve been coordinating again with the clubs and the Council’s marshals to ensure better management. The planning paid off and yesterday was much better.
  • Combatting speeding drivers continues to be a priority and I have now had word that the improved road markings that Cllr Cath Davis and I have been pushing for at the tricky junction where Lansdowne Terrace West meets Billy Mill Road will go ahead in the new financial year.
  • In the aftermath of Storm Arwen there has been continued work to do ensuring that fallen trees in our ward are removed. The council’s arborist team are still playing catch up but I think the end is in sight. The next step is to organise meetings to discuss re-planting, with an emphasis on including resident voices on what trees should go where.
  • Finally, I’ve continued my advocacy on behalf of what is now a growing group of residents who drive electric vehicles. They feel that on-street charging infrastructure isn’t growing quickly enough. I agree and so I am working behind the scenes to see what solutions can be brought forward.

In the borough-wide part of my role…

  • The Full Council met this month, with reduced numbers present due to the Omicron variant, which has caused covid numbers to hit their highest ever levels in the borough. The Labour Group agreed to only send one councillor per ward to the meeting. This meant £1000’s were saved for local taxpayers because a larger venue didn’t need to be hired. I was disappointed to see that the local Tories used this as an opportunity to suggest Labour councillors had not attended in order to avoid key votes. They know this is nonsense and it is just another example of them wilfully trying to mislead the public.
  • My work chairing the Economic Prosperity sub-committee re-commenced on 4th Jan with a meeting to review our work plan for the year ahead. This was followed up by the first of our “Green Skills” evidence-gathering sessions on the 6th, at which members heard from, and put questions to, the council’s key people on the Environment and the Climate Emergency. A further evidence-gathering session was held on the 24th and several more are scheduled for February.
  • The Covid-19 Engagement Board, which I attend along with the Mayor, met again this month. We gather bi-monthly with cross-sector partners such as NHS, Police, Business representatives, Transport and Voluntary Sector to look at the latest data, coordinate responses and try to stay one step ahead, in order to safeguard the health of local people.
  • The Children, Education and Skills sub-committee sat this month. To be honest it was a tough one this time as we sought to get a handle on how the council is dealing with incidents of missing children, and the wider issue of child exploitation. I have such respect for the professionals working in this area as the situations they often have to deal with are not only complex but emotionally heavy too. We also took time to consider emerging policy in RSE (Relationships and Sex Eduction).
  • The Overview, Scrutiny and Policy Development committee also sat this month. This is the overarching forum into which the other thematic “subs” report. We took time to go over a very important financial report setting the context for the forthcoming council budget-setting for 2022-23. Another agenda item looked at a proposed set of overall performance metrics to track how the new “Our North Tyneside Plan” is going. Plus, we received an overdue performance update from the council’s outsourced services partner Capita, drilling down into some detail around how well services were reacting to the relaxing of covid restrictions.

And finally…

  • This month I began a new ‘External Body’ appointment. These are wider roles that councillors pick up in order to ensure that North Tyneside has a seat at the table of the larger organisations serving our borough. Having completed my induction earlier this month I have now become a Governor of NEAS – the North East Ambulance Service. I attended my first full Governors meeting on the 20th so I’m still getting up to speed, however, if you do have any questions about NEAS and the services it provides in our area I hope I might be able to help.
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