Friday, September 30, 2005

End of an era

On Tuesday morning we heard the sad news that Cllr Stephen Smailes, leader of the Conservatives on Stockton Council until recently, had died. He'd suffered for a long time and no doubt for him it was a release but for family and friends it's a huge loss.
I didn't know Stephen well, but he'd been on Stockton Council for 38 years and his name was known to hundreds who never met him. I expect the church to be full today for the funeral service. Much as I disagree with Tory policies I admired the way he always knew how to appeal to the electorate. His calls to preserve the architectural heritage of the "jewels in the crown of Stockton" will be missed. His will be a hard act to follow.
Rest in Peace Stephen. You will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Way back in the Spring, Egglescliffe Parish Council decided to invest some of the Council Tax in new play equipment for two of the play areas we manage. The recreation committtee duly studied catalogues, relived our own childhood (through rose coloured glass of course!) and chose some wooden adventure equipment which didn't need to have safety surface under it and would appeal to a wide age range.
Last week was installation time - while I was away at Conference. Certain young people declared that we were spoiling their football pitch and they would take the equipment out. Now I admit that the positioning was partly designed to stop them kicking their ball against the fences and walls of adjoining houses, but the grass was never, never designed for football games. It's too small an area for that. Sure enough, some of them had a good try and Stockton Council's Play Area inspection team had to be contacted to go out and make the area safe!
On Sunday evening I had an e-mail from a resident to say that said youths were trying to demolish part of the equipment. Yesterday morning I had a phone call to say that she thought they'd succeeded! The Parish Council Clerk and I paid a hasty visit and concluded that the installation was probably sub-standard. However, we're not experts so we await a written report from those who are.
Meanwhile the area has had to be fenced off so the children who were enjoying the new equipment are now deprived by the selfish revenge action of the few.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What a Week!

Back from conference with a mass of useful ideas and information - thoughts on improving recycling rates; better policies for children and young people; ideas for working towards being a Fair Trade Town; lots of questions to ask about all kinds of things. That's the beauty of Conference - the fringe meetings and the casual chat throw up all manner of ideas that make me want to come back and get on with changing the world!
The debates weren't bad either, not that you'd know it from some of the press coverage. There were some powerful arguments for and against motions, some intense listening and some thoughtful voting. The Urgent Issues debates were particularly good - no arguments over wording to distract attention from the issues under consideration but some really deep thoughtful arguments. Excellent stuff.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


My second visit to Blackpool, but my first stay there and my first conference there. First impressions weren't particularly good, arriving after a difficult weekend and driving through some pretty run down areas to reach the hotel.
Subsequent impressions were mixed - the Promenade is beautifully laid out and litter-free, some of the shopping areas new and shiny bright, some super hotels and guest houses, but also lots of flaking paint, shops selling souvenirs that were popular in the fifties, restaurants that close before 9pm.
The Illuminations certainly brightened the night scenery, even though some of the designs were distinctly tacky. I was sorry the trams stopped running when they did, as I'd have liked to have taken a tram ride along the full length of them. Maybe if there's another conference there I'll forgo one of the fringe events and enjoy the Illuminations in all their glory.
I must say how much I appreciated the shuttle bus between the Winter Gardens and the Imperial Hotel which made getting to the majority of the Fringe Venues very easy.