North Heaton eFocus No 7

October 3, 2015 11:52 AM
By Greg Stone


Still working harder for you in North Heaton!

North Heaton e-Focus 7


Welcome to the autumn edition of our North Heaton newsletter reporting back on local issues - most readers will have received previous editions, but we are also sending this to a number of residents who have contacted us on local matters in recent weeks and months. If you would prefer not to receive these updates, we'll quite understand if you prefer to opt out (use the unsubscribe link below), and we apologise for troubling you.

We are always happy to receive feedback from residents and encourage you to get in touch if there are any local issues you would like to raise.

Best wishes,
Doreen and Greg - your local Lib Dem councillors

GCSE results:

Why the secrecy?


Doreen and Greg are bemused by the city council's refusal to publish citywide GCSE results this year - we fear this is because the picture is not as good as they'd like it to be. Education bosses at the Civic Centre have failed to publish the overall results despite requests from the Opposition Lib Dem group on the council. Greg eventually resorted to submitting a formal Freedom of Information request which revealed that Heaton Manor's performance has fallen considerably, as has Gosforth Academy's.

This year only 50% of Heaton Manor's GCSE students secured 5 or more A-C grade passes (including English and Maths), compared to 65% two years ago. Gosforth's results fell from 79% to 69% over the same period, although Benfield's performance rose from 39% to 54% and Walker's rose from 50% to 59%. St Mary's RC on Benton Park Road dropped from 73% to 66%. We understand that Heaton Manor and Gosforth High have requested reviews of their results this year.
We say: "We know how hard schools, teachers, and students work and we think it's right that schools are challenging results which they believe are out of kilter with expectations. But we also think it's very important that schools keep a close focus on improving attainment. We are very concerned that the council has declined to publish this year's results and we believe parents have a right to know the performance levels of local schools. The council's culture of silence on this issue is troubling."

Freedom of Information Act request

Citywide results 2013 2014 2015

Benfield 41% 39% 54.5%
Excelsior Academy 41% 41% 43.6%
Gosforth Academy 79% 79% 69.1%
Heaton Manor 65% 63% 50.9%
Kenton School 46% 46% 46.6%
Sacred Heart RC 75% 81% 73.8%
St Cuthbert's RC 75% 65% 68.7%
St Mary's RC 73% 62% 66.3%
Walbottle Campus 50% 47% 44.7%
Walker 50% 57% 59.4%

Lib Dems say:

Save our free school meals

Thousands of children in Newcastle could lose their right to a free school meal under Conservative plans to review the scheme. Universal free school meals, brought in by Lib Dem ministers in the last Coalition government, offer every infant child a healthy meal at lunchtime, which saves families more than £400 per child per year. Evidence shows where children have been given a free school dinner, their results improved, with these improvements most marked among children from the poorest backgrounds.
9121 children who currently receive free school meals in Newcastle would lose out if the Conservatives follow through with plans reported in the media recently.
North Heaton Cllr Doreen Huddart said: "By scrapping this policy the Tories would take food off the plates of thousands of children across Newcastle who now benefit from a free healthy meal at lunchtime.
"The Liberal Democrats fought tooth and nail to secure this in Coalition because we want every child to have the best possible start in life and be able to concentrate in class, and all the evidence shows that a healthy meal helps with that - the medical profession are strongly supportive of the policy. Instead of further investing in our children, the Tories are turning up at the school gate and stealing their lunch money."

Crazy Paving


GREG tabled a motion to the city council in September to protest at the Labour-run council's mismanagement of local road and pavement repair budgets. The council promised action on no fewer than 17 schemes in the ward for 2014-15 - but all are officially listed as "on hold", "not started", and "to be confirmed." Not a single scheme has actually been delivered in North Heaton ward. Something is going badly wrong in the way the Labour Council is allocating resources and managing projects when it comes to highways and pavements issues. Yes, resources are scarce and funds not as readily available as in the past. But we question the way in which the council is allocating what little funding is available - it is currently sitting on more than £500,000 of unspent funds for this purpose.
There appears to have been no consultation with ward members or communities about its allocation, and no reference to the highways and pavements condition surveys, which show that more than 600 streets across the city are deemed to be in the worst condition and are in urgent need of repair.
To our surprise, we were recently informed by council officers that the shopping area at Newton Road is to get expensive new paving, by order of the Labour council leadership. To the best of our knowledge no residents had requested it, and the inspection report says it's not a priority. We have pointed out that a matter of yards away, Newton Place is in exceptionally poor condition and is dangerous to the elderly residents of the Spinney and the users of High Heaton Library and the Sure Start centre. We have asked if this money can be redirected to this project which is clearly of greater need - we have been told it can't. Had we wanted repaving for shopping areas, we would have suggested the Red Hall Drive shopping area which is in need of improvement.
Sadly, Labour's councillor for North Heaton voted against our call for greater transparency and to restore ward budget allocations for roads and pavements. This is despite his election pledge in May to prioritise "clean and safe streets and pavements" - it hasn't taken long for Labour's election promises to be exposed as bogus (see pic below)



FOCUS Action File

Newsflash

Police Warning: Moped Robberies

Local police have recorded four robbery attempts by two youths on mopeds in the course of a week in the Heaton and Shieldfield areas - two of the attacks occurred on Cartington Terrace and Rothbury Terrace between 10pm and 10.30pm at the end of September and beginning of October. The two moped riders are described as being in their late teens - one was wearing a white helmet with red and blue, the other wearing a dark helmet. Police action is ongoing, but please be alert if you're walking in the area later in the evening.

Etherstone Avenue / Red Hall Drive


We have received a number of complaints from residents about parking problems which have re-emerged following the start of the new term at the UNN campus further up the road. We have called on affected residents and have made further representations to the highways department - GREG raised this last year but to our considerable frustration the council failed to act after they carried out a parking study in the summer months - when of course there was not a problem! We have asked them to revisit with a view to taking urgent action.


GREG spoke at the Planning Committee meeting on redevelopment of the old UNN site on Coach Lane for 150 new homes, and asked for conditions to be placed on planning permission requiring financial contributions to improving the local play area opposite Henderson Hall, and also for junction improvements at Etherstone Avenue / Red Hall Drive which is identified to be "over-capacity". We would like to see this include a pedestrian crossing which we have long campaigned for in this vicinity - we will keep up the pressure on transport planners to act!

Iris Brickfield / Paddy Freemans


We are thrilled to report that the park will benefit from a SITA Landfill Tax grant of more than £40,000 to improve the play area which has been looking tatty for some time since a number of items of equipment were removed on safety grounds. The money, topped up with ward grant funding supported by DOREEN and GREG, will hopefully see improved surfaces and new items of play equipment installed this year.

Meanwhile the Friends of Paddy Freemans Park are holding their AGM on Tues 10th Nov at 5pm at Millfield House. They are looking for new volunteers to help with efforts to improve the park - if you live in High Heaton, they would love to hear from you. Please contact GREG who will pass on details to FOPF.

St Albans Crescent / Bungalows

For some time we have received complaints about congested and/or irresponsible parking in some streets on the Bungalows estate and particuarly at St Albans Crescent. Pavement parking means inconvenience to pedestrians, parents pushing buggies and disabled people. We have been working with officers and residents to solve the issue and will be sending out some street letters with ideas to affected areas.

Floral Planting

We're pleased to see that some of the planting we've done over recent years has been blooming this summer - including the wildflowers opposite the Corner House (thanks to Marek Bidwell for the pic) and the planters on Chillingham Road which we've helped to tend. It's striking that Newcastle's Labour council says there's no money for floral planting except at the Civic Centre- we note North Tyneside seem to manage to have attractive displays at their side of the road at Four Lane Ends!


Back Lane Blues?

We've had a few reports that bin-raiders have been out and about around Chillingham Road's back lanes, leaving them in a very untidy state. As well as the importance of ensuring you shred personal information and bank/financial statements, please also remember to let us and/or Envirocall know if you experience problems of this kind. After the council cut Chillingham Rd street sweeping, DOREEN and GREG allocated some of our ward budget for extra weekend cleaning - £110 a week for Saturday morning sweeping. Money well spent? Did you notice an improvement? We're not convinced!


Refugee Crisis
DOREEN recently took part in an EU councillor delegation to visit the refugee camps at Calais to inspect conditions. Newcastle Lib Dem councillors are calling on the council to help accommodate 30 refugee families from Syria or other conflict zones. We'd be interested to hear from any local residents or groups involved in helping provide humanitarian assistance during this crisis.

DOREEN has recently had solar panels installed at her home on Biddlestone Road - and is pleasantly surprised at the amount of renewable energy they've generated over the summer! She says "I should have had it done years ago but I'm very happy I have now!"


Community News

Our work in campaigning to stop the closure of High Heaton Library has helped preserve this valuable community asset. There is now a programme of talks, and storytelling sessions for the children plus local volunteers continue to help out. Saturday morning are gaining in popularity and every cup of tea or coffee bought helps Library funds. Your Lib Dem Councillors hold surgeries on the 1st Saturday morning of the month.
We're also working to support the future of the Woodlands Children Centre building by increasing its usage by all age groups. We've recently worked with our Dene Ward colleagues to establish exercise sessions on Friday afternoons for older people as part of a falls reduction programme. If you know of a group who might like to make use of the facilities please contact Woodlands on 278 1350.
We recently approved a grant towards the running costs of Heaton Community Centre - although our preference is usually to fund activities programmes, HCC sought help with their utility bills to help keep the centre open and we have agreed, although our ward budget has been cut - unlike South Heaton ward we get no extra funding to support community buildings.

We have received six complimentary tickets from the council for the Rugby World Cup games in Newcastle - we passed these on to Heaton Hawks FC, Newcastle East End FC, & Woodlands Centre to raffle to raise funds. We hope the winners enjoy the games!

Once again lots of residents in the Bungalows area turned out in support of the annual Teenage Cancer Trust "Garden Party" organised by Jackie and Dorothy Jenkison (see pic below). We can highly recommend their cakes and scones!

STOP PRESS

The next North Heaton ward committee meeting will be on Tuesday 13th October at 7pm at Ravenswood School (drop-in advice session from 6.30pm).

Items of business due for discussion include police & crime report, hot food takeaway planning policy update, and feedback on the DIY Streets initiative for safer routes to school at Ravenswood Road.

All local residents, groups, and businesses welcome.

New Lib Dem Leader focuses on housing in his first conference speech

New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron used his recent first party conference leader's speech to identify housing as his top priority. He urged the building of 300,000 homes a year to meet growing need, extending affordable "Rent to Own" housing schemes, and pledged to oppose Conservative plans to sell off housing association homes.


Cllr Doreen Huddart: 144 Biddlestone Road

07984 333804 doreen.huddart@newcastle-libdems.org.uk
Cllr Greg Stone: 91 Rokeby Terrace, Heaton

07747 862582 greg.stone@newcastle-libdems.org.uk

Twitter: @nheatonlibdems

Facebook: North Heaton Lib Dems

Surgery: 1st Sat of month, 10.30, HH Library
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