News Archive A full archive of older news stories dating back to 2004 


Pressure to be eased at the Gallowstree Roundabout
4th February 2010
Staffordshire County Council have announced the partial re-opening of Cemetery Road as part of the Gallowstree Roundabout improvement scheme in Thistleberry. Delayed works because of the bad weather are nearing completion and the re-opening will take place during week starting 8 February 2010.

County Councillor for Thistleberry and Keele Simon Tagg welcomed the move, he said: "The roadwork's on the roundabout have caused a lot of disruption for local people, so to see pressure eased by the partial re-opening of Cemetery Road is encouraging. It will though still be a few months yet before things are back to normal."
The length of Cemetery Road that is currently closed between the A525 Keele Road and the residential caravan park will be opened in a one-way direction only. Motorists will be able to leave the roundabout to travel towards Silverdale, but measures will be put in place to prevent drivers from accessing the roundabout when travelling in the opposite direction. Three-way traffic lights will continue to operate at the junction to control the flow of traffic through the works.
This change will still allow access to all businesses and residential properties in Cemetery Road, although motorists will only be able to exit via Silverdale crossroads at the north end and then follow the signed diversion route where necessary.

1.5% Council Tax increase
1st February 2010

Newcastle Borough Council is on course to set an historically low 1.5% council tax rise this year.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “This small increase follows on from the low council tax increases over the last 3 years. The Council has tightened it belt in these tough economic
times and delivered a low council tax, yet further significant investment in local services.”
Along with the low increase the council is committed to improve services to the public. A big difference from Labour-run councils in the past which cut services such as road and pavement repairs while raising council tax to the maximum.
The Audit Commission have recently praised the Borough Council for it sound use of resources and value for money for local people.


Bad weather performance under the spotlight

6th January 2010

Following the unprecedented spell of bad weather over the last few weeks and criticism about its response Staffordshire County Council makes the following statement:


The main aim is to prevent ice or snow forming on the roads in the first place. To this end we carry out precautionary salting whenever the road surface temperatures are predicted to drop to near
freezing and the roads are likely to be wet or damp or when snow is forecast. This precautionary salting covers 43% of the network which is well above the national average. By comparison, Shropshire treat 22% and Derbyshire 27%. The precautionary gritting routes include all A and B roads together with other roads selected on the basis of traffic flows and other special circumstances. These are reviewed periodically. Current gritting routes can be found at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/transport/staffshighways/winterdriving/
Timing of salting operations is critical if we are to prevent the ice/ snow forming in the first place. If we grit when it's raining the salt washes off. If we grit on dry roads the traffic sweeps the salt away. Timing is even more critical with snow when it's important to get salt down just before the snow starts - clearing packed snow is much more difficult than preventing it in the first place. This means that rain turning to snow is particularly difficult to deal with. To get the timing and rates of salt spread right we use sophisticated monitoring systems based on climatic models of the County, specialist forecasts and road side weather stations which continuously monitor air and road surface temperatures, humidity, surface state, etc. This enables us to predict to within a few minutes when surface temps. will reach freezing and when roads are likely to become damp and usually predicts fairly accurately when snow is likely.
Duty officers monitor these systems throughout the winter and use them to plan ahead in order to make sure that crews are on standby at the right times and that salt and machines are in the right place at the right time. Provisional plans are laid several days ahead, 24 hour plans are more refined but final decisions are often taken at very short notice, particularly when conditions are marginal or forecasts uncertain, to make sure that the very latest information is used.
We do not routinely treat footways or roads that are not on the precautionary gritting routes. However, during prolonged cold periods where snow and ice is widespread and likely to persist then gritting operations move onto other roads once the main routes are clear. Again this is done on a priority basis having regard to traffic flows, risk locations, availability of alternative routes, etc. The extent of these secondary operations can be limited by driver hours, particularly when the main road network has required continuous operations over a prolonged period and also by the ongoing availability of salt. In addition, we do respond to requests for assistance from the emergency services.
During prolonged periods of snow we also deploy crews to treat footways at priority locations, again after the main road network has been secured. Grit bins are provided at various locations across the County and they are regularly topped up. However, in many cases they are not particularly effective and most of the salt is used by residents on their driveways.

Current Situation ( Jan 2010)

· Gritting has been continuous on all the precautionary routes since mid Dec. Generally two runs per day (evening and early morning) but there have been lengthy periods of continuous gritting around the clock during spells of snow.
· The salt supply situation nationally is deteriorating and we are currently carefully managing salt stocks. This means that only the normal gritting routes are being treated with no secondary gritting except in case of emergency. During periods of snowfall operations are concentrating on the major routes.
· Crews have been deployed to grit box locations to hand spread grit.
· Crews have been deployed to hand spread grit on footways at priority locations - these crews are largely responding to serious risk situations identified via the help desk and by our own inspections.
· About 300 calls per hour are being made to the Helpdesk with generally between 40 and 60 calls waiting at any one time. The vast majority of calls are requests for specific roads to be gritted. Officers are very aware of the condition of the roads that have not been gritted but as explained above we are only able to respond in cases of emergency or very serious risk to people.
· Salt stock capacity in Staffordshire is 13,300 tonnes.
· Current salt stocks stand at 2,800 tonnes. Average usage in recent days had been around 700 T per day. During periods of significant snow this usage can double.
· The effectiveness of salt reduces with temperature. Below -10 the salt will have little or no effect and below about -4/-5 the effect is significantly reduced. A number of complaints have been received about roads not being salted when in fact they have been, particularly in the north of the County where temps have been lower.




Further meeting to discuss Keele University Hawthorns plan

3rd January 2010

Keele University is currently preparing a planning application to develop its Hawthorns site in the village. County Councillor for Keele Simon Tagg said, "The process is still in the pre-application phase and the specific details are not finalised. I am keen for all people in Keele that would be affected by any development, or who have an interest should be able to make their views known at this early stage."

A further pre-planning application public meeting is to be held at 7pm on Monday January 11th at St John’s Church in Keele Village. It is anticipated that the meeting will be chaired by a member of the village community. Local Councillors will be present and the University will send development staff. The concept plans will be on view.

Simon Tagg has been out this New Year's weekend delivering a local matters leaflet to residents in Keele making them aware of the upcoming public meeting.



2009 Christmas card competition winner revealed!

24th December 2009

Pupils from Langdale Primary School in the Westlands have designed Cllr Simon Tagg’s official Christmas card after winning his painting competition. Around 60 young artists were asked to come up with their best Yuletide designs.
First prize was awarded to eight-year-old Charlotte Woodward for her simple snowman painting, which will appear as the main design on the front of the card. Hannah Bethwaite, aged nine, won second prize for her traditional Father Christmas scene. her design will feature on the back of the card. The Council Leader paid a special visit to Langdale Primary School to present the winners with book vouchers.

Cllr. Tagg said: “It was really difficult to choose my favourite designs but I had the help of the council’s Cabinet members and senior officers. I was very impressed by the standard of designs and would like to thank all the pupils who took part for their excellent effort.”

Around 150 Christmas cards will be sent out to civic dignitaries, including Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Cllr. Tagg organises the painting competition every year and has previously worked with St. Margaret’s Junior School, Wolstanton, St. Giles’ and St. George’s Primary School, Newcastle and St Wulstans in Wolstanton.




Town centre pool plans given the green light

17th December 2009

ExternaI designs of Newcastle's new £12m Health and Wellbeing Centre have been approved by members of the borough council's Cabinet. Senior councillors gave the green light to the designs, created by leading sports architects the William Saunders Partnership, which means an application for full planning permission for the scheme can now go ahead. The landmark development is earmarked for a site in Brunswick Street, Newcastle, next to the existing Jubilee Pool.

“This is a very important site which is on a major gateway into the town centre,” said Cllr. Mary Maxfield, Cabinet member for culture and active communities. “Our design team has tried to make sure that the building’s appearance reflects the modern nature of its interior while also fitting in as sympathetically as possible with the edge of town character of the Brunswick Street area.”

The council-led complex - which will provide high quality swimming and leisure facilities - is being supported by NHS North Staffordshire and Sport England. Features will include a 25-metre, eight lane swimming pool, learner pool, fitness suite, health suite, dance studios, climbing wall, wet and dry changing facilities, multi-purpose areas and cafeteria.

“We are working to a very tight timescale to ensure that the new centre is open by the end of 2011," said Council Leader Simon Tagg (pictured right at the pool site with Robert Jenrick). “We have undertaken a major consultation and engagement exercise to raise awareness of the project and we are delighted that most of the 930 residents who responded were very supportive. We’ve also modified elements of the scheme as a result of the feedback.”



Autistic Society benefits from cash injection for town centre base

14th December 2009

An Autistic charity has benefited from a donation from a council leader. Councillor Simon Tagg, Newcastle Borough Council leader & a County Councillor, has given £1,000 from his local community fund to Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society, towards computers and printers. The society will open a new headquarters in Newcastle in January and the computers will be set up there.

Mr Tagg said, "There are a lot of people with autism not getting the support they need. Kevin Healey and SAAS are doing a great job raising awareness of the condition."

Mr Healey, society chairman said, "This is great news. It will help us enormously. We have recruited all our volunteers this week, and our new office launch will be on January 13."



Planting for a colourful Spring

13th December 2009

Local Conservative Councillors spent time over the weekend planting daffodil bulbs in a prominent green open space. Councillors John Tagg, Simon Tagg and Ian Matthews were joined by Ian's son Adam to plant over 1000 daffodil bulbs on the green at Hanbridge Avenue in Bradwell. 

Bradwell Councillor John Tagg led the initiative to bring a splash of colour to the area next spring, he applied to the Council for the bulbs and submitting a planting plan for approval.

John Said, "Next Spring the bulbs will add a wonderful splash of colour to the green open space in front of the shops on Hanbridge Avenue. The paths are well used so the maximum amount of people will get enjoyment out of seeing them."

Simon Tagg said, "Though it was cold! We all enjoyed giving something back to the community. Next Spring there should be a good show of daffodils. This green space in front of Hanbridge Avenue shops has benefited from recent investment by the Borough Council. The paths have been resurfaced and it boasts a very nice Christmas tree complete with lights"

Daffodil bulbs will also be panted on the grass verge by the traffic lights at the end of Bradwell Lane. 



'Oneplace' success for Council

9th December 2009Oneplace

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is “performing well” according to the latest assessment of the organisation by the Audit Commission. It has achieved Level 3 in an Organisational Assessment carried out by the Government appointed watchdog. The Report gives a glowing endorsement of the Conservative-led administration since 2006. It says:

'Newcastle under Lyme District Council performs well overall. It works successfully, both on its own and with partners, to tackle issues that are important for local people. Levels of crime and anti-social behaviour have gone down and the streets are kept very clean. Services for collecting waste are efficient but the amount of household waste recycled has been very low. This has recently improved a lot because of changes to the service which have increased the types of waste people can recycle. The time taken for planning and benefit applications to be dealt with has been cut significantly. Contacting the Council has become easier because the Guildhall centre in Newcastle has opened. The Council has had some success in improving local job prospects, improving housing and improving the health of local people. However, the Council needs to do more with its partners to measure the impact it is having. The Council's finances are well managed, many services are becoming more efficient and it is giving better value for money. The number of sick days taken by staff has significantly reduced and, overall, the Council is well led and managed.'

Council Leader Simon Tagg said, "We are absolutely delighted with the assessment from the Audit Commission which is recognition of the incredible improvement journey our council has been on in recent years."

To read the full report click here



Go Festive shopping for safety

6th December 2009

Father Christmas drops into the Freeport Shopping Centre in Talke this week to pick up some festive safety advice from firefighters. Members of Newcastle Fire Safety Risk Reduction Department will be manning a unit in the Centre for a week, starting on Saturday, December 12th. The public can access the ‘Safety Shop’ to receive safety advice and have electric blankets tested. Faulty blankets will be replaced with a new one free of charge. (blanket tests on Tuesday, December 15th only)

Fire Safety Manager, Kelvin Chell, said: “The event is geared around fire safety which is important at this time of year, especially for elderly people. In support of Young at Heart, Safe at Home we will provide people with free advice and information on all matters relating to fire safety in their home, from smoke alarms, fire risk checks and potential hazards.”

Young at Heart, Safe at Home was launched last month to raise awareness of fire safety among the elderly and the people who care for them. The campaign is driven by the fact that all five fire deaths suffered in Staffordshire since the start of the year have involved elderly people.

“Our first day at Freeport Shopping Centre will be Santa’s first day in the centre so we are hoping to take advantage of the fact there should be plenty of people around,” added Kelvin.

A number of agencies are supporting the initiative including police, Newcastle Borough Council and Age Concern, Trading Standards, Community Reassurance Team, Smoking Cessation, Newcastle 50+ Forum. Offering people free electric blanket tests on the 15th following the success of a similar project at the recent Audley Safety Day.”

Funding to establish the Safety Shop has come from the Staffordshire Local Community Fund.

Lead Fire Authority member for Newcastle & Newcastle Borough Council leader, Simon Tagg, said: “We are giving this important safety initiative our full backing. I would urge residents to pay a visit to Freeport Shopping Centre to make the most of this free opportunity to find out how to protect themselves and their families.”

To book a free Home Fire Risk Check contact: 0800 0241 999. For all other non emergency enquiries contact: 08451 22 11 55 or log onto: www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk or www.direct.gov.uk/firekills. In an emergency dial 999.


Public meeting kicks-off debate about Keele Village plans

24th November 2009

More than 100 people packed out Keele Village Hall for a public meeting on plans to demolish student accommodation and to develop the site for housing. Keele University wants to knock-down its Hawthorns complex, a 12-acre site which caters for 651 students, to build homes and retirement accommodation. Villagers were told the scheme was still in the very early stages but most of the questions put forward related to traffic related issues and the affect on the character of the historic village.

Keele County Councillor Simon Tagg who attended the meeting said, "There were a number of serious concerns raised that I hope the university will take into account as they consider a planning application for the Hawthorns development. I hope this public meeting was the first of many opportunities for local residents and councillors to input and shape this development in the heart of Keele for the benefit of present and future villagers."



Council backed housing plan gets the go-ahead

18th November 2009

Long awaited plans to build dozens of houses on a former factory site have been given the go-ahead. Developers Kier Ventures have now received planning permission to construct 80 properties on the old Collins and Aikman site in Lower Milehouse Lane, Cross Heath. Members of Newcastle Borough Council's planning committee said the development was the culmination of years of effort by local politicians and partner agencies.

The Collins and Aikman factory, which used to employ 300 people, was demolished in 2004, and most of the site has remained vacant ever since. Kier's housing development, which will include 72 affordable homes, will be constructed on land next to the Milehouse primary care centre and Mill Rise extra care village, which both opened earlier this year. The homes will be between one storey and two-and-a-half storeys high, and all will be built to the Eco Homes "very good" standard. Kier has now submitted a separate application for 130 additional homes, which would complete the redevelopment of the Collins and Aikman site.
Council leader Simon Tagg said the new homes would complement the existing buildings on the site. He said: "This development will stand next to the well-designed extra care facility, and I think it will be very welcome. This is what we've been trying to do for many years, and it is good to see something finally being done."
Deputy council leader Robin Studd said: "These proposals are extremely welcome. It has been a long process to get exactly the right kind of development on this particularly desired site, but this will be a quality development for the borough. Too often in the past we have been fobbed off with sub-standard developments.

The development was the only one in Staffordshire to receive a share of the HCA's £450 million Kickstart pot and the scheme includes a £300,000 investment by Newcastle Borough Council.



'Change for Newcastle' hits the streets!

17th November 2009


Our latest newspaper 'Change for Newcastle' will be going though letter boxes across the area in the next few weeks.

The newspaper paid for through local donations and fund raising promotes the work of local Conservatives and highlights the achievements of a Conservative-led Council.


To view the newspaper online click here




Tributes paid to long serving Councillor

8th November 2009

Long serving Conservative Councillor Nora Salt passed away Friday (6th Nov) after a period of illness aged 85.

Nora was elected to represent the Newchapel Ward on Newcastle Borough Council in 1973 (following the inclusion of Kidsgrove into the Borough Council) after a period off the council in the late 1980s and 90's she was re-elected (for Newchapel Ward) in 2003, and again in 2007 serving on the Planning Committee and Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Conservative Group Leader Simon said, "Nora was a much loved member of the Conservative Group and an active councillor to the end, despite illness. She was well known in Newchapel and Kidsgrove after her many years of service as a councillor and will be greatly missed by her colleagues.

Christian Barber, who was elected Newchapel's other Conservative Borough Councillor in 2008, says that Mrs Salt's wealth of experience was invaluable to him as he found his feet. He said, "Nora was serving as a councillor when my dad was a child and she has been a role model, not only for myself, but for all the other councillors. It is a shame there aren't more people like Nora. I'd like to pay tribute to all of Nora's work over the years, which has been of such value to the people of Newchapel and Kidsgrove as a whole."

It is believed that prior to1973 Nora had served on Kidsgrove Town Council since the late 1940's. She retired from the town council in 2007



Eric Pickles MP visits Newcastle

31st October 2009

Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative Party visits Newcastle and was given a tour of Newcastle Borough Council's regeneration projects in the town centre, including the restoration of Lancaster Buildings and of the Guildhall.

Eric had visited the Guildhall in 2008, when renovation work was still underway and was suitably impressed by the finished job and the warm welcome being given to members of the public who came in to use the services on offer. Nearly 25,000 have visited and done business in the Guildhall in recent months.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said, "It was great to welcome Eric Pickles back to Newcastle and show him how things had moved on since his last visit. The Guildhall has been a great success and the refurbishment of Lancaster Buildings is almost complete."

Pictured right, Simon Tagg with Eric Pickles and Newcastle PPC Robert Jenrick.




Simon Tagg welcomes Ann Winterton MP to Newcastle

16th October 2009




TA petition goes to Number 10

2nd October 2009TA Petition to Downing Street

After weeks of collecting signatures the petition to save Newcastle's TA Centre has been handed to the Prime Minister at No. 10, Downing Street. Newcastle PPC Robert Jenrick accompanied Jenny Elson of Cross Heath, who has led the petition campaign and who is passionate in her defence of the 58 Signal Squadron and cadets that  many members of her family have served in.

Jenny is one of Newcastle’s unassuming hero’s, travelling to London for the first time and in considerable discomfort to ensure that the Prime Minister received the petition. It is hoped that the Government recognizes the importance of maintaining Newcastle’s TA centre and the invaluable opportunities it provides for TA servicemen and women and young people through the cadets.

Councillor Simon Tagg who help to collect signatures for the petition said, "I hope the Government will listen to the overwhelming views of local people."




Stoke's decision threatens Boroughs regeneration

1st October 2009

A strongly worded letter has been sent by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to Stoke-on-Trent City Council. This is following a decision on 16 September 2009 by City Council’s Planning Committee to pass a development for a new Tesco store at Trent Vale.

Councillor Simon Tagg, Leader of the Council said, "This decision by the City Council undermines the whole idea of partnership working between Newcastle Borough and Stoke. There have been a number of issues recently that threaten the effectiveness of sub-regional working in North Staffordshire and my Council will need to consider how to respond in the best interests of the residents and businesses of the Borough, as well as future investors. The problems lay fairly and squarely at  the door of Stoke-on-Trent's elected councillors. If the Tesco development goes ahead it will undermine the retail viability of Newcastle Town Centre." Below is a summary of the points made in the letter to the City Council:

1) The City Council’s decision completely undermines national retail planning policy and, ironically, the key retail policies in the new joint Core Strategy. Furthermore it was contrary to both unequivocal officer advice and guidance sought by the City Council from a specialist retail consultant.
2) The said decision completely undermines the spirit and intent of our sub-regional partnership working under the auspices of the North Staffs Regeneration Partnership.
Further to the latter, the ‘raison d’être’ for the NSRP has been seriously undermined and caused this Council to question its ongoing support for, and involvement in, the Partnership.
3) The City Council, at its Council meeting on 6th October 2009, should be asked to reflect on the purpose of adopting the joint Core Strategy given that it was so recklessly set aside in their decision to support the proposed new Tesco store.
4) If the said development is implemented this Council is concerned that the health and vitality of Newcastle Town Centre will be seriously harmed, at a time when the NSRP is, purportedly, supporting our ambitions to strengthen the centre’s viability. Tesco’s offer of £100k as a contribution towards environmental enhancements in our town centre was regarded as both derisory and insulting.

Other issues recently that have threaten partnership working in North Staffordshire are: The City Council appears to be disengaging from the plans to establish a sub-regional Choice-Based Lettings Scheme  (originally agreed by both Councils). The City Council are pulling out of Instaffs, the Staffordshire inward investment agency.




Focusing on the front line

29th September 2009

Politicians and senior officers will experience life on the front line at the council as part of an initiative to improve services. Cabinet members and directors will get to grips with key services on Wednesday, 30 September during an event called “Meet the Leadership”. They will deal with stray dogs, collect residents’ waste, pick up litter, respond to pest control requests and observe bereavement services. An informal question and answer session will also be held to give council staff the opportunity to meet the council’s leadership.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “We like to keep in touch with what is happening on the ground and work with colleagues at all levels of the council. “I will help the dog wardens undertake a variety of duties to help keep Newcastle a clean and safe place.” The idea is to help council staff feed information on key services and potential improvements and for the leadership to gain an insight into the issues that employees face. Cllr. Tagg added: “The work done by council staff on the front line every day is vital to the council and the people visiting, living and working in Newcastle-under-Lyme.” Other services covered include recycling, neighbourhood wardens and the garage workshop.



Fun Day heralds climax of Community Pride Week

26th September 2009

Hundreds of people attended a Fun Day at Wolstanton High School today to mark the end of May Bank & Wolstanton Community Pride. The weather remained fine as visitors young and old enjoyed attractions such as archery, face painting, music & DJ and a bouncy castle & slide. Vintage fire engines and state of the art Borough Council Streetscene cleaning vehicles & tractors were on display. The School Hall was open where books and toys were on sale and agencies such as Aspire Housing, Fire & Rescue and the Police had information stands.

Borough Councillor for May Bank Simon Tagg said, "The Fun Day brings to an end a successful Pride Week where local agencies and residents join forces in a bid to make the area cleaner and safer. Community Pride is an excellent example of teamwork and community spirit. We will be evaluating its success in the coming weeks and looking at where the collaboration by the key agencies can continue on a permanent basis."

Activities during the week included: Community drop-ins to gave residents the chance to pick up valuable advice on a range of issues including swine flu and general health, employment, crime, housing, fire safety and recycling. The borough council’s Streetscene team carried out extra streets cleaning throughout the week and County Council Highways teamed carried out highway pot hole repairs in the area. A community litter pick was held in Morris Square, Wolstanton.

(Pictured left, Local Councillor's Julie Cooper, Ian Matthews, John Copper and Simon Tagg. Pictured above, Councillor's Ian Matthews and Simon Tagg with a street cleaner)




Newcastle's Bloom success

24th September 2009

Newcastle has won a Silver Gilt award at the national Britain in Bloom competition. The borough was a finalist in the Large Town category of the competition, following its victory in the Heart of England in Bloom contest earlier this year. Representatives from Newcastle Borough Council were among 450 community and gardening champions who attended the awards ceremony in Torquay last night. Newcastle came close to repeating the victory it achieved in the category in 2005, but in the end it was Harrogate, which took the title.

Council leader Simon Tagg said: "We are delighted to have done so well in the national In Bloom competition – reaching the finals is a great honour for all concerned." Councillor Mary Maxfield, cabinet member for culture and active communities, added: "We have had a great year, winning the Heart of England small city category earlier this month and now being declared among the best in the country."

More than 1,100 communities across the country compete in Britain in Bloom, making it the largest horticultural competition in Europe. (Simon Tagg is pictured right with the Silver Gilt certificate)




58 Signal Squadron march for the last time as petition grows

21st September 2009

Newcastle's Territorial Army soldiers have marched through their town for the last time. 58 Signal Squadron is due to be disbanded next March as part of Army restructuring. On Saturday, residents had a chance to bid a final farewell to the 81-strong unit. Hundreds of people lining the streets applauded as the reservists marched from Barracks Road to Merrial Street, where borough mayor Marion Reddish took the salute from the Civic Offices. The troops were then invited into the council chamber to formally hand back to Miss Reddish the squadron's Freedom of the Borough, awarded in 2000.

Miss Reddish said: "I have to say I was personally very sad to learn of the decision made by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to disband the squadron. But I was very proud to take the salute from them, knowing I would be the last mayor to be able to take that role on."

Squadron commander Major John Scott, from Hanley, has been a member of the unit since 1993, when he left the regular Army. Like many of his comrades, he will be hoping to join another unit once the squadron disbands on March 31. Major Scott said: "We're all feeling proud and sad today. This was always something we knew would eventually happen in the future, but I didn't think it would happen under my watch. I was hoping to take the squadron further forward, and we had a good recruitment base, but sadly we'll have to curtail that."

The squadron has been based at the TA Centre, in Liverpool Road, Cross Heath, for 40 years. But after a review found that the unit's equipment was obsolete, the MoD made the decision to disband it and offer its members alternative TA roles. Jenny Elson, who has three family members in the squadron, is leading a campaign to save the unit and the TA Centre, and was gathering signatures for her petition on Saturday. The 36-year-old, of Albermarle Road, Cross Heath, said: "Every November the TA comes out for the Remembrance Day commemorations, and the guards at the Cenotaph in Newcastle are always from the 58. This year that might not happen, and so it won't be the same."

Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly, Conservative prospective Parliamentary candidate Robert Jenrick and Newcastle Borough Council leader Simon Tagg are supporting the bid to save the centre (Simon is pictured above with Jenny Elson & Robert Jenrick collecting signatures for the petition). The building, also home to Newcastle's RAF and Army Cadets, faces an uncertain future. Mr Jenrick said: "If we cannot save the squadron itself there is still the battle to save the TA Centre itself and the cadets."



Pride in May Bank and Wolstanton

17th September 2009

Streets in Wolstanton and May Bank will be the focus of a week of action by service providers in Newcastle. Agencies and local residents will join forces to make both areas cleaner and safer during Community Pride week. The multi-agency operation will take place from Monday, 21 September to Friday, 25 September. The borough council’s Streetscene team will make sure that the streets are sparkling throughout the week.
Chief Superintendent Mark Bates will launch the week’s activities and is appealing for green-fingered residents to roll up their sleeves and take part in a litter pick around Morris Square, Wolstanton on Monday between 11am and 1pm.Community drop-ins will also be held to give residents the chance to pick up valuable advice on a range of issues including swine flu and general health, employment, crime, housing, fire safety and recycling. The drop ins will be held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at St Wulstan’s Community Centre, from 9.30am to 3.30pm.

Community Pride has been organised by the Eastern Newcastle Locality Action Partnership, which includes Staffordshire Police. Inspector Neil Hulme, Newcastle NPU Commander, said: “Community Pride week is an excellent example of teamwork and community spirit. Partners will be working hand-in-hand to put pride back into the community for the residents. A whole host of agencies will team up to provide local people with a pleasant, clean and tidy environment where they feel safe and are safe.”

Families are invited to a free fun day at Wolstanton High School on Saturday, 26 September, from 11am to 3pm. There will be a range of attractions including music, competitions, Stoke City FC football sessions, bouncy castles, an indoor roller disco and a “Wolstanton’s Got Talent” contest. Cellarhead boxer Scott Lawton will also stage a boxing and sparring session.

Newcastle Borough Council Leader Simon Tagg, Councillor for May Bank added: “The Community Pride scheme is very successful as it reassures local residents that their concerns are taken seriously by agencies and that they are working together to make Newcastle a better place to live, work and visit.”

The Eastern Locality Action Partnership includes local residents and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, NHS North Staffordshire, Aspire Housing and Staffordshire County Council.



Support for fight to save 58's & TA centre 

12th September 2009

Newcastle's Territorial Army unit will be disbanded next March, according to plans announced by the the Ministry of Defence. 58 Signal Squadron, which is based at the TA Centre in Liverpool Road, Cross Heath, has been under threat since a review found its equipment was obsolete. This means that the future of the TA Centre itself, which is also home to Army and air cadets, is now58 Signal Squadron Lines in doubt. A farewell parade is planned for later this month, but campaigners have vowed to continue their fight to save the squadron and TA Centre.

Jenny Elson, has three family members in 58 Signal Squadron and is determined to help save the unit. Jenny, aged 36, of Albermarle Road, Cross Heath, said, "I don't understand why they can't just retrain the soldiers if their equipment is obsolete. "The nearest TA unit is Cobridge, but I've heard they've been under threat as well, so the TA members in Newcastle may need to transfer to units in Crewe or Birmingham." Jenny's sister Joy Gilford, and Joy's daughter Leanne Gilford are TA members. Joy may be deployed to Afghanistan early next year, and Jenny fears her sister will not have a squadron to return to. Jenny added: "Leaving the TA will be like losing a family for a lot of people." Jenny is organising a petition against the decision, and the campaign is being supported by Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly and Conservative prospective Parliamentary candidate Robert Jenrick.

Simon Tagg, leader of Newcastle Borough Council, said there would be a petition to save the squadron at the Guildhall. He said, "We fully support the fight to save the 58's and the TA Centre. There is a strong link historically between the borough and its local squadron, one that should be protected."

An MoD spokesman said signal units would no longer be part of the TA, meaning there would be no point in retraining the 58 Signal Squadron to use new equipment, but they would be offered places on other units. He added: "We really don't want to lose people, so will try to find places they can go. They can either be placed in other TA units, put on the unposted list, or, if they wish, be discharged from service." The spokesman said that while the fate of the TA Centre would not be known until the completion of an estates review in six months time, it would probably be closed down. The squadron will march through the town on September 19, exercising its Freedom of the Borough for what could be the final time.



Fresh start at County Council as Chief Executive bows out

10th September 2009County Map

Recruitment is to begin for a new chief executive for Staffordshire County Council following the announcement of Ron Hilton's retirement. Mr Hilton took over as chief executive in October 2007, after previously serving as deputy. He will retire next spring once his successor is appointed and installed in the job. He took over the post at a time of crisis, after his predecessor Nigel Pursey had faced calls for his head over   his handling of the controversial proposed closure of care homes and the council's job evaluation scheme. Former chief executive Mr Pursey was paid an annual salary of £176,033, in 2006/7, while Mr Hilton was then on £153,312. No-one at the authority was available to comment on Mr Hilton's current salary or what pay the job will be advertised for.

Conservative Simon Tagg, who represents Keele & Westlands on the county council, said, "When a new administration comes in, it makes changes to move things forward. Ron was not a permanent appointment and I think it's right that we have a fresh start."

Staffordshire County Council leader, Conservative Philip Atkins said, "Since Ron became chief executive in October 2007, he has introduced a real can-do culture. "Much has been achieved and all the evidence shows we are moving in the right direction. The time when Staffordshire was prepared to be a sleeping giant has now gone."

Mr Hilton, aged 63, was born in Washington, then County Durham. He first joined Staffordshire County Council in 2001 as director of development services. He was promoted to deputy chief executive in February 2007. He has been married to Frances for 40 years and has two sons, Neil and Mark.

Ron said, "I've been looking forward to retiring for a while, but at the same time I will be sad to say goodbye to the fantastic colleagues I have worked with across the county. I'm very proud of the improvements we have made as an organisation. "Great people work for the county council and I have no doubt they will go on to achieve excellence for the people of Staffordshire under the leadership team of Philip, the cabinet and the new chief executive." The formal recruitment process has now started.




Simon Tagg becomes a Governor at May Bank Infants School

2nd September 2009

Councillor Simon Tagg has been appointed a School Governor at May Bank Infants. He will serve a 4 year term as an LEA representative at the school he attended as a pupil in the early 1980's.

Simon Tagg said, "I am please to join the Governors group. The school currently has an excellent OFSTED report which is a credit to the Head and staff. I will being looking to support them. I have a long association with the school as an ex-pupil and my niece and nephews have attended the school. My nephew Joe started in reception class this September." For more about May Bank Infants School click here.




Recycling 'cluster' set to ease the financial pain of government targets

28th August 2009

Four councils are considering whether they can work together to deliver waste and recycling services in a new way. Councillors in East Staffordshire Borough Council; Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council; Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council are looking at whether to sign up to a “Memorandum of Understanding.” This would put in place a framework to enable the authorities to work together to explore operational and financial efficiencies in waste services through partnership working.

Initially, the four councils will explore the potential for joint trade refuse and trade recycling arrangements. This would be followed by examining other suitable areas. The proposal is the latest step in an initiative first discussed in 2008 by the Staffordshire Joint Waste Management Board (JWMB) which comprises all councils in Staffordshire. This supported the notion of authorities working together as a local cluster to explore potential efficiencies and improvements that may come through closer working or sharing services. That cluster initially involved Newcastle-under-Lyme, the Staffordshire Moorlands and Stoke-on-Trent. East Staffordshire joined in February 2009. Staffordshire Moorlands already has joint working waste arrangements in place through its strategic working alliance with High Peak Borough Council.

Before the four Staffordshire councils commit resources to develop any options in more detail, each of the authorities is being asked to give its commitment to the general principles of joint working. This is the basis for the “Memorandum of Understanding.” The four councils involved have stressed that no decisions have yet been taken on partnership working and this is “very early days.”

Cabinet members from all four authorities will be considering their positions during meetings which take place in September. A joint statement from the four councils said: “Most authorities in the country are facing challenging economic circumstances. There is a constant need to balance the needs of continual service improvement with financial efficiency. To achieve value for money and deliver excellent, quality services for local residents and businesses, it is important that councils explore the potential for working with others to see if there are new areas for potential efficiency savings and service improvements. The Memorandum of Understanding which councillors are to consider during September would allow this to take place. It will enable officers to explore in more detail operational and financial efficiencies through partnership working.”



Door-to-door communication on recycling

26th August 2009

Newcastle Borough Council Waste Strategy Team will be out and about knocking on doors in May Bank, Basford & The Brampton on the morning of Monday 14th September 2009 to raise awareness of the Borough Councils extended recycling service.

May Bank Councillor Simon Tagg said, "The door-to-door communication is designed to help residents adapt to the new service, and answer any queries or concerns that they may have. This will be used to evaluate participation rates and assess whether the current communications campaign is successful. If a resident is not in a calling card will be left with the Councils contact details."

If the project is successful it will rolled out to other areas with the aim of increasing participation in recycling.



Newcastle Area Fire Commander retires

26th August 2009

Area Commander for Newcastle, Chris Bromley is retiring from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service after 31 years service. Chris (pictured right) joined the fire service in 1978 and after his initial training period he was posted to Hanley as a Firefighter where he remained for seven years. He was then promoted to Leading Firefighter serving at Newcastle, Stafford and Headquarters. Chris moved up through the ranks throughout his career, stationed at Burslem, Stone, Longton, Codsall and finally ending his 31 year career as a an Area Commander at Newcastle. He was promoted to Area Commander at Newcastle in 2006 and will serve his last shift at the end of the month.

Chris who has been Area Commander at Newcastle for the past three years was this week presented with a ‘Certificate of Outstanding Service to the Borough’, by Mayor of Newcastle Cllr Marion Reddish. The certificate, which is signed by both the Chief Executive Officer and the Mayor, is only awarded to those people who have demonstrated a clear commitment to the Borough of Newcastle under Lyme.

Chris Bromley said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my career with the fire service, it has been an extremely rewarding role and I have worked with some fantastic people. As well as my colleagues I’d like to thank the many partners who have worked with me to help make our local communities safer places to live and work.”

Despite retiring from the Service Chris won’t be leaving the field completely as he’ll be taking up a new role as Fire Safety Advisor at Keele University next month.

Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive, Peter Dartford said: “Chris is a true professional and he has been an asset to the Service. He has been extremely dedicated and has made a positive contribution to the safety and well-being of communities across Staffordshire. We’ll be sad to see him go, as I’m sure will many of our of partners. We wish him all the best for the future.”

Chris will be replaced by Becci Bryant who is currently Area Commander for Tamworth, she will take up the role on 1st September.



Residents invited to comment on future plans for Library

18th August 2009

Clayton Children's CentreClayton Library, in the Westlands will hold a coffee morning on Friday 21 August to offer local residents an opportunity to view plans for an extension to the existing Children’s Centre at the library. The proposed extension will enhance the Clayton Children’s Centre to increase the range of services at the heart of the community.
Between 9.30am – 11.30am local residents can view plans and discuss the building and its impact with Staffordshire County Council officers representing property services, library services and Children’s Centres, before the plans are finalised and submitted.
Local County Councillor Simon Tagg said: “Libraries are at the very heart of the community and this event provides an ideal opportunity for local people in the area to find out more and have their say about the proposed improvements for the Children’s Centre within the library. I would urge anyone interested to come along where they can speak with representatives involved with the project."



Agreement reached to screen Keele Road Barrier

13th August 2009

Councillor Simon Tagg has  now finalised an agreement with Persimmon Homes for erection of a screening wall in front of the ugly crash barrier along Keele Road which was erected following the demolition of the historic dry stone wall  on one side of the road. The specifications of the new wall are as follows:


450mm wide x 150mm deep concrete strip footing , with 100mm wide wall built off centre of footings.  Wall to maximum 150mm below ground level to concrete trench block. Wall above 150mm below ground level to be Tobermore ‘Country’ slate colour cast stone, laid random coursed with 10mm natural colour mortar joints to height indicated.  Wall to be capped by 65mm x 150mm wide Tobermore ‘Country’ cast stone ‘slate’ colour capping stones. Top of wall stepped to maintain height between 900mm and 975mm.


Simon Tagg said, I feel that the final outcome, though not leading to the reinstatement of the original wall, is the next best thing. It will add a quality gateway feature, not only to the new housing estate but also on the approach to Newcastle through Keele Road. This will complement the historic wall that remains on the opposite side of the road. We can expect the work to begin on the new wall when the Gallowstree roundabout work is complete next summer.” (Right, Daniel Jellyman at the Keele Road Barrier)




Newcastle's new swimming pool moves a step closer

10th August 2009

Some of Britain’s leading architects are bidding to link up with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council in a multi-million pound health and wellbeing project. Just under 40 companies contacted the authority to put their names forward to design the £12 million scheme. The calibre of those hoping to be appointed as project architect has been so high that council officers have had to double their proposed short-list from four to eight.

Simon Tagg, Leader of the Council and portfolio holder for customer service and transformation, said: “This is an extremely important project for the borough so we were delighted to receive such an excellent response to this process. This is a very important appointment and the preferred architect will have been selected by the end of August. This will enable us to move forward with the development which will be built on Council owned land, firmly putting us in the driving seat for seeing this project through to completion.”

The council has also gone through a procurement process aimed at recruiting expert help from structural engineers and mechanical and electrical consultants. Officers have drawn up a project plan for the centre and established a small number of groups - involving the council and its partners - who will take responsibility for driving the scheme forward and making sure deadlines are hit.

Cllr. Mary Maxfield, Cabinet member for culture and active communities, pictured right with Simon Tagg at the site of the new pool, said: “This is one of the biggest projects the borough council has been involved in and I am sure it will provide our residents with state-of-the-art facilities to enjoy for years to come.This is not just about providing a gym and a pool, it is about providing facilities and activities which make a bigger contribution to the health and wellbeing of our residents."

The council has already confirmed the facilities for the new centre – earmarked for the former Subaru garage site in Brunswick Street, Newcastle – and it includes:-

● 25 metre eight-lane swimming pool
● 15 metre learner pool
● 80-station fitness suite
● two dance studios
● health suite
● treatment and seminar rooms
● cafeteria

A detailed environmental investigation of the site has been carried out by a specialist team and those results are now being analysed. Residents and staff will be consulted on elements of the building’s appearance as well as the range of activities, classes and tuition they would like to see provided. Once the building opens in the autumn of 2011, the aging Jubilee Pool and Knutton Recreation Centre will close.

Comment on this story here.



New Fire Station for Newcastle

4th August 2009

Newcastle is to have a new, multi-million pound fire station with space for education and community work. An application to build the centre 250 metres away from the current station on Knutton Road was approved by Newcastle borough councillors last night. The current base was built in 1965 and is in a poor condition and deemed not fit for the modern, community-centred approach to fire prevention. It has insufficient parking, a large amount of asbestos in the fabric of the building, and is not big enough to accommodate public gatherings. The new station will be built on part of a depot owned by Newcastle Borough Council and the works could be completed by 2011.

Councillor Simon Tagg, Fire Authority lead member for Newcastle, said: "This development is a contemporary design and will create a modern, civic building. A key part of the design is the provision for a community facilities. This will enable the fire service in Newcastle to carry on its programme of fire prevention."
The station is one of seven being rebuilt under Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority's development programme. Its modern design will feature steel screening and a mixture of brick and terracotta materials. Once complete, it will have space for four fire engines and will house a fitness suite and assembly rooms. The community suite, with storage, toilets and a kitchen, will be available to residents' groups throughout the day. There will be 11 parking spaces and two disabled bays near the visitor entrance off Silverdale Road. Fire service staff will be able to park in a further 39 spaces and two disabled bays. The plans faced opposition from the Environment Agency because of concerns about the site, which is in a flood risk area. But after further assessment, the objections were dropped on Monday.
Councillor Phil Maskery said: "It's superb for the borough and will ensure the safety of the residents and all the visitors to Newcastle. We are very lucky to have it. There were a few problems about where to site it but now it has been approved it will be a pivotal development for the town".



Local Community Fund launched

3rd August 2009Community Fund logo

Staffordshire's new community fund, the Staffordshire Local Community Fund was launched on 1st July, 2009, and replaces the Local Member Initiative Scheme (LMIS). Staffordshire's county councillors each have £10,000 to spend on community projects in their area.

Are you looking for funding for a community project or initiative or do you think that county council services need to be delivered differently in your area?  If so, you can apply for money to make your community dreams a reality. The Community Fund will be expanded in the future. Keep checking the County Council's website for more details. Apply now for your chance to join with your county councillor to make a difference in your area!

Simon Tagg County Councillor for Westlands, Thistleberry & Keele said, "Please visit the County Council's website for more information and to download the forms. If you require any help with making an application please give me a call on 07768 440380".



Council switches to payment cards

1st August 2009

Residents will find it easier to pay their Council Tax at the Guildhall from now on, following the introduction of payment cards. Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has introduced cards for the payment machines at the Customer Service Centre. People can now scan their card and go straight to the payment screen, whereas before they had to type in their reference number as well as contact information.

Council Leader Simon Tagg, Cabinet member for customer service and transformation, said: “The cards make it much easier for residents who choose to pay their Council Tax at the Guildhall. A single transaction took an average of three to four minutes to complete before, which was a cause of difficulty and frustration for some visitors. I’ve already got a card myself – it’s made a real difference by speeding up the whole process.”

The cards are being sent out to regular users of the payment machines and they are also available from the Guildhall’s main reception.



£30 million investment for the road network announced

1st August 2009

Mark Winnington, Mike Maryon and Phillip AtkinsStaffordshire County Council's new Conservative administration has announced it will double the money spent on maintaining Staffordshire's roads network over the next three years by pumping in an extra £30 million.The news comes within the first 50 days of the new look council leadership taking charge.

County Council Leader Phillip Atkins described the cash injection as, "the biggest single local issue raised on the doorstep. £30m is an enormous increase in funding. It will help boost this critical network and reinforce the team's innovative maintenance programme, underpinning future prosperity and security for Staffordshire people. The previous administration placed a low priority on highways. This has seriously hampered Staffordshire's economic competitiveness and left communities frustrated. Staffordshire's highway team have rightly been praised over recent years for delivering real value for money. They have made year on year savings during a severe squeeze on budgets. But this has meant a managed decline in the condition of some of Staffordshire's roads. Those days are now over.

The highways team have fought hard to keep on top of the symptoms but their hands have been tied. There was just not enough investment in the infrastructure.  We are determined to get Staffordshire back on track, not just apply temporary sticking plasters."

The first £5m will be invested before April next year, adding 50% extra to the £10m highway maintenance budget for the period. And next year will see the budget double with £10m extra.

  • £3.3m on an extra 46 highway upgrade projects
  • an extra £1m on patching and potholes action
  • an extra £600,000 on pavements
  • £300,000 more on drainage action

The programme was already committed to spending £9m on 65 highways improvement projects and £1.3m on 38 pavement projects. County Cabinet member for Highways Mike Maryon said the doubling of spend, kicked off half way through the year, had meant real pressure to deliver. Mr Maryon said the team were up for it but warned against over expectation, he said, "This programme of extra investment in the Highways is like turning a super tanker around - it takes time to change course and the results will be seen over the long term. This is just the first bit hit. So if you don't see action near you now, there will be something in the pipeline in the years ahead. This extra money is much more that a belated drive to plug the potholes problem, It's about an carefully targeted investment in the future of network."

While the team has planned for a significant growth in heavy duty highway upgrades - the maintenance programme is always subject to operational change. The highway is packed with other essential services such as gas, water, electricity, gas and telecoms companies. Works could be integrated, or rearranged, to maximise the benefits for the community. This will affect the programme schedule. 

Full details will be published on the about the programme on the County Council's website in the next few weeks.



Gallowstree Lane roundabout works set to begin

31st July 2009

Work is programmed to commence on the upgrade of Gallowstree Roundabout, starting 10 August 2009 with completion by the spring / summer of next year. As a consequence of building the scheme there will be Gallowstree Layoutdelays to traffic. The traffic management will in the main necessitate the use of temporary signals at the junction for most of the time. Every effort, though, will be made to keep the delays to a minimum with the situation being continually monitored.
Also, in order to be able to carry out the construction in compliance with the required safe methods of working, there will have to be a closure of Cemetery Road for a number of weeks during the early part of the scheme. As the works progress this will be relaxed such that a one-way system for traffic will be introduced in it’s place to allow vehicles to exit the junction in a northerly direction towards Silverdale. In introducing these restrictions to vehicular traffic, all residents and businesses on Cemetery Road will be kept fully informed with, in addition, the advertising of the restrictions for the wider public. Access and egress for residents directly affected by the works will be maintained at all times, along with routes for pedestrians and cyclists. More information and regular updates can be found on the
County Council's website.

Simon Tagg County Councillor for Westlands, Thistleberry & Keele said, "As this massive scheme gets underway I am pleased that the County Council is trying its best to minimise the disruption for local people. I think that most local residents would agree that something needs to be done to make the roundabout safer, but the county council has yet to inform us of how it expects to make roads leading to the roundabout safer after absorbing the extra traffic predicted when the third phase of development at Keele University opens. I will be pressing for further traffic calming measures in the Westlands area."



Residents to be quizzed on customer services

30th July 2009

Services to be provided at a new Customer Service Centre in Kidsgrove are being shaped by residents. Officers from Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council have been out and about to ask people who live in the town what they want to see provided at the facility when it opens. More research is planned in the future as the local authority looks to repeat the success of its first customer service centre which opened at the end of 2008 in the historic Guildhall in Newcastle town centre.
Jeanette Hilton, Head of Customer Services at the council, said: “We have been into the community and asked people for their views on the services they would wish to access or enquire about at the Kidsgrove centre. We will be repeating that process in the coming months and will then look to see if we can make the resources available to meet that demand. Our efforts will be focused on seeing if we can match what the residents want with what we can feasibly provide.”
The council’s first Customer Service Centre at the Guildhall is the location for all residents who want to access borough council services face-to-face. Council Tax and benefit enquiries, planning, bulky waste collections, recycling and leisure information are among the services provided at the landmark building which has been transformed by the council. The council is aiming is to produce a similar high quality, customer focused centre for residents who live in the northern part of the borough.
Council Leader Simon Tagg, whose Cabinet portfolio includes customer service and transformation, said: “The Guildhall has helped to dramatically improve the way residents in Newcastle access council services and this exciting scheme for Kidsgrove will build on that. This project is a key part of the borough council’s commitment to becoming more effective, efficient and accessible. One of our core values is ‘putting people first’ and by putting access to services on the doorstep of thousands of residents in the Kidsgrove area we are doing just that. The idea is to bring key services closer to residents so that it is easier for people to get the services, help and information they need.”
As well as providing a one stop shop for accessing borough council services face-to-face, the facility will also include improved premises for Kidsgrove Citizens’ Advice Bureau which is currently located in rundown premises at the rear of the town hall. It is anticipated that the new Customer Service Centre in Kidsgrove will open in the current financial year.



Residents create recycling success

21st July 2009

Residents have helped the borough council to dramatically improve its recycling rate in the first two weeks of a new enhanced service. Figures that have just been released show that a total of 318.18 tonnes of recycled materials were collected from the kerbside in the fortnight starting 6 July, compared to a total of 199.16 tonnes in the previous two weeks.

The success comes as residents now have the chance to recycle plastic bottles and cardboard from home for the first time. All households are now benefiting from a fortnightly recycling collection which also includes glass, tins, cans, paper and textiles.




Playground swings into action

10th July 2009

Youngsters who helped to design an adventure playground were invited to try out the equipment at its launch. Pupils from Westlands Primary School were the first to enjoy the cable ride and basket swing at Thistleberry Parkway. The former children’s play area has been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility for four to 14-year-olds thanks to £100,000 of funding. Plans were developed with the local community and children voted on a number of proposed schemes. The Mayor, Cllr. Marion Reddish, officially unveiled the playground at 9.30am on Friday, 10 July.
Lafarge Aggregates contributed £60,000 from its Landfill Communities Fund, while the remaining amount was secured as part of an agreement to build housing on Keele Road, Thistleberry. Roger Dodman, National Waste Manager at Lafarge Aggregates, added: “We are able to contribute funding to local community and environmental projects from tax credits generated by our state-of-the-art landfill site in Silverdale, which deals with waste that’s left after recycling. We were delighted to work in partnership with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to provide this exciting outdoor play area for local children.”
The original playground was dismantled some years ago as part of a borough-wide review (Pictured right, Daniel Jellyman at the new playground)



Enhanced recycling service gets underway

6th July 2009
The Blue Box Scheme
The borough's new enhanced recycling service has been launched. Residents now have the chance to recycle plastic bottles and cardboard from home for the first time. All households will now benefit from a fortnightly recycling collection which also includes glass, tins, cans, paper and textiles. Residents have received detailed information about the new kerbside scheme including a calendar giving clear information on collection times. Each home has also received a reusable green bag for cardboard, a roll of single use red sacks for plastic bottles, a new blue bag for paper and a textile sack for clothes and shoes. The new collections are complementing the blue box that householders have for tins, cans, bottles and jars.

Cllr. David Becket, Cabinet member for environment and recycling said, "We now feel that we are offering a first-class service for residents,” said Cllr. David Becket, Cabinet member for environment and recycling.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said, “People told us they wanted to recycle a wider range of materials and we are happy with the improvements that we are introducing. "Our target is to recycle 50 per cent of all rubbish in the borough by 2015 and residents can now join us as we work towards this." For more information please visit the
Councils recycling website.



Cemetery project enters second phase

3rd July 2009

A major scheme to create the borough’s new main cemetery has entered its second phase. Thomas Vale Construction has started work to create the main cemetery building, car parking, a road network, footpaths and landscaping. The second phase follows the creation of an access road to the site, which is situated off the A525 at Keele.

Cllr. Mary Maxfield, Cabinet member for culture and active communities, said: “This is a major milestone in the project, which is going ahead because new burial space at Newcastle cemetery will soon run out. This site will provide for burials, including the interment of cremated remains and woodland burials. The burial site itself, although it will include headstones, will retain a green and landscaped appearance.”

The cemetery building will include a multi-purpose room which can be used for small committal services and meetings, a public reception, interview rooms and toilets. The £2,665,000 scheme, funded by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, is scheduled to open in February 2010.

Council Leader Simon Tagg added: “This is a significant long-term investment for people who live in the borough. Our new service will be multi-denominational and every possible provision will be made for differing religions, beliefs and faiths.”



Council slashes complaint handling times

30th June 2009

The Local Government Ombudsman has praised Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council for dramatically reducing the amount of time it takes to handle complaints. In his annual review for the 12 months to 31 March 2009, the watchdog says the council cut its average response time from 61.5 days to 28 days. He said: “This now meets the 28 day target response time that we request and I commend the council for this welcome improvement.”
Council Leader Simon Tagg, whose Cabinet portfolio covers customer service and transformation, said: “We take complaints about our business very seriously indeed. During the last year our Customer Relations Officer attended a seminar the Local Government Ombudsman organised and we also invited the Ombudsman’s team into the authority to provide a training course on Good Complaint Handling to our staff. We have restructured the way complaints, comments and compliments are now dealt with by the service to ensure any issues are dealt with promptly, that they involve residents and keep them up to date with the progress of their issue. As well as seeing an improvement in the speed with which we handle complaints, the Ombudsman also tells us in his review that of the 11 complaints his Advice Team received about our council, none resulted in evidence of maladministration against us which is very pleasing.”

The Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service in considering complaints about the administrative actions of councils. A change in the way the service operates means that statistics about complaints received in 2008/09 are not directly comparable to those from 2007/08. The full review document reveals 11 complaints were received during the last year. Three were about planning; one about children and family services, one about housing, one about transport and highways and five were about other matters. The Ombudsman treated five of those complaints and enquiries as premature and in a further two cases advice was given. The remaining four complaints were forwarded to the investigative team as new complaints. Of these four cases, the independent watchdog decided in one case there was no evidence of maladministration. In another case the complainants decided, after discussion with the Ombudsman’s team, to withdraw their complaint and pursue the matter further with the council. And two complaints were decided as local settlements.


Customer Service Centre for Kidsgrove

19th June 2009

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is bringing its services closer to home for many residents by opening a customer service centre in Kidsgrove. The modern facility will be based on the ground floor of the historic Kidsgrove Town Hall. Services will be tailored to people’s needs and will include Council Tax and benefits, waste management and environmental health. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau will still have a presence, while other public sector partners will be encouraged to operate from the centre. The move follows the successful creation of a customer service centre at the Guildhall in Newcastle town centre.
Council Leader Simon Tagg, Cabinet member for customer service and transformation, said: “This project is a key part of Newcastle Borough Council’s commitment to becoming more effective, efficient and accessible. The idea is to bring key services closer to residents, so that it’s easier for them and their families to get the services, help and information they need.”
The facility will house technology which will enable the borough council to continue service delivery in a disaster. Additional CCTV coverage for Kidsgrove town centre will also be provided. It is estimated that the customer service centre will open for business in the 2009/10 financial year.
Cllr. Tagg added: “The borough council is committed to delivering excellent public services and aims to put the customer first in all that it does.”


Simon Tagg re-elected for Westlands, Thistleberry & Keele

5th June 2009

Simon Tagg said, "A big thank you to everyone that supported me in the election. My majority in Westlands, Thistleberry & Keele increased from just 60 in the 2007 by-election to over 1000 votes. The work starts now to change Staffordshire County Council for the benefit of local people."

Candidate Party Votes %  
Simon Tagg          Conservative 1819 39%
Wenslie Naylon Liberal Democrats 800 17%
Maria Foy UK Independence Party 752 16%
Eileen Robinson Labour 515 11%
Catherine Murray Independent 381 8%
Andrew Dobson Green 341 7%


County election: Final push for change!

3rd June 2009




County election campaign launched

1st May 2009

Dr Liam Fox MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence met all the Conservative Candidates for Staffordshire County Council in Stafford and led the launch of their 2009 election campaign and manifesto.
Commenting on the Manifesto, Dr Fox said, “The Manifesto is clear, simple to understand and to the point. It says Staffordshire Conservatives will bring down Council Tax and offer fresh ideas, releasing essential services from years of old-Labour interference.
It is time for change from a Labour Council that has been in office so long in power that they have forgotten that they were elected to serve the needs of the population. A Conservative County Council in Staffordshire will transform this and give Gordon Brown a message that is unmistakable in its content.”
Philip Atkins Leader of the Conservative County Group remarked, “On June 4th the people of Staffordshire will elect a new County Council for the next four years. We wish to create a County Council that looks outward, focusing on the people it serves. Our ambitions are to make Staffordshire a competitive county, packed with innovation, winning new investment and employment and see communities having a greater say in how the services they pay for are delivered.
We believe it is time for a change and this manifesto sets out our plans for that change and our first steps. We wish to see Staffordshire County Council work for local need, not central government easy targets with hidden risks that impact on the quality of our services. We believe the County Council should be run for the people and taxpayers it serves, not the politicians.”

For information about the campaign visit: www.staffsconservatives.com

Pictured right with Dr Fox are Simon Tagg, Stephen Sweeney, James Bannister, Stephen Blair, Chris Barber and Nicola Ralphs.




Simon Tagg speaks out after Bourne and Hankins letters

Letter printed in The Sentinel 28th April 2009

INACCURATE: I would like to respond to the letter from Janette Bourne, Chief Officer of Newcastle Community & Voluntary Service (NCVS). Her inaccurate and ill-informed letter gives me the credit for 'intervening' to allocate badly needed founding to the North Staffs Special Adventure playground (NSSAP).

This was, in reality, a democratic decision taken by all Newcastle Borough Council's Cabinet at our meeting of March 25, 2009. What we did was to put more money into the pot so that funding would then be available to those organisations that had just missed out on being allocating any during the council's Third Sector Commissioning process. Two organisations benefited from this – North Staffs Relate and the NSSAP.

It is the role of NCVS to work with and support Community and Voluntary organisations to ensure that they have the necessary skills, governance in place to operate. This includes providing training and support in relation to making submissions for funding.

I suggest that Ms Bourne and co, who are also funded from the public purse, concentrate on fulfilling that role and leave the allocation of funding to those of us who are elected and accountable to the public.

SIMON TAGG, Leader, Newcastle Borough Council



New signs offer warm welcome to Borough

27th April 2009

Visitors to Newcastle borough can be sure of a warm welcome now that a set of new boundary signs has been installed. The 13 signs have been placed at key “gateway” locations by the borough council.

The aluminium signs, which welcome people to the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme and display the relevant place name, are situated at Newcastle, Kidsgrove, Butt Lane, Talke, Basford, Balterley Heath, Blackbrook, Onneley, Clayton, Loggerheads and Porthill.

''The previous boundary signs were in place for around 20 years and had become worn and battered," said borough council Leader Cllr. Simon Tagg. The new signs are eye-catching and give the borough a real sense of identity in all areas, including the border with Stoke-on-Trent."




Leadership joins staff on the front line

27th April 2009

Council leader Simon Tagg will spend a morning working on his customer service skills as part of a council scheme.  Cllr. Tagg will pay a return visit to the council’s Customer Service Centre at the Guildhall four months after the venue opened to the public following a £1.2 million refurbishment. He will work alongside customer service staff in a number of areas including benefits and Council Tax. It is part of an event called ‘Meet the Leadership’, where Cabinet members and directors spend time on front line services. The idea is for politicians and senior officers to identify service improvements and to communicate with council employees.
Cllr. Tagg, Cabinet member for customer service and transformation, said: “Meet the Leadership is a simple way of reinforcing the link between the leadership and members of staff who deliver the council’s services.The borough council unveiled its new Customer Service Centre in December 2008 so it will be interesting to see how the service is working. I’m also looking forward to talking with residents to find out what they think.”
Deputy Council Leader Cllr. Robin Studd will spend his morning with the housing team. Cllr. Studd, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and regeneration, added: “Getting stuck in alongside our members of staff sends out the message that we care about them and the services they deliver to members of the public in Newcastle.”



Borough Council set to recoup Heritable cash

23rd April 2009

Administrators acting for a failed bank have given the clearest indication yet that Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council will get its money back. Ernst and Young have just given a six-month update on the position concerning the Heritable Bank which collapsed last year.Cllr Helen Morris
They say creditors could get up to 80 per cent of funds back – although the borough council is hopeful all of its £2.5 million will still be returned. Heritable is a United Kingdom bank which was placed into administration after the parent bank, Landsbanki, was nationalised by the Icelandic government.
Cllr. Helen Morris, Cabinet member for resources and efficiency (pictured), said today: “This is a positive statement by Ernst and Young and we certainly welcome what is being said. However, the borough council’s position remains the same – we are trying to get all of our investment back.”

Ernst and Young are administrators for the Heritable Bank and their 25-page report only relates to this bank which is governed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) because the bank was based in the United Kingdom. Negotiations over investments with Icelandic banks Glitnir and Landsbanki – where up to £1 billion of UK public money is thought to have been invested – are a separate issue.

Cllr. Morris said: “The Audit Commission has said that any authority which invested after 30 September 2008 should carry out an investigation into that investment - and that does not apply to our council. Our £2.5 million was invested in an organisation governed by the FSA – which the Icelandic banks were not – and that is why we are hopeful we will recoup our investment.”

It is understood councils will get their first payment from Ernst and Young within the next few months.



Newcastle Borough Council is Most Improved in England

12th March 2009

New figures reveal that Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is the most improved council in England in the way it uses its resources and spends its money. The borough council was one of just two borough and district councils in the country to jump up by two grades in the Audit Commission’s recent Use of Resources assessment. The council leapt from a level one in the 2005 assessment to a level three in the 2008 assessment And figures that have just been released show that nowhere has moved faster than Newcastle-under-Lyme in five key areas - financial reporting, financial management, financial standing, internal control and value for money.
"In 2005, when the Use of Resources assessment was first introduced, the borough council was given an ‘inadequate’ level one rating in all five areas," said Newcastle Borough Council Chief Executive Mark Barrow. "Just three years later we have achieved level three, which is classed as 'performing well', in four of the five categories, with a level two, or ‘adequate’, in the area of value for money. We have worked hard in recent times to achieve efficiencies for our council taxpayers and we are delighted that this has been recognised nationally. Our challenge now is to keep standards high and continue to achieve the best possible value for money for residents."

Council Leader Simon Tagg welcomed the the Use of Resources assessment. He said, "There has been marked improvement since 2006 when we took over the council from Labour." The only other borough or district council to climb up by two levels between 2005 and 2008 is North Shropshire District Council.



Honour for Burgesses of the Borough

3rd March 2009

 A map and plaque honouring the history of Burgesses in Newcastle has been unveiled at the Guildhall. The map shows the ownership of land held in trust for the Burgesses in 1847. Burgesses in Newcastle date back to 1189 - or ‘time immemorial’ - and have claims to be the most long-standing freemen in the country. They were landowners and businessmen who could vote or take part in the management of the borough from 1235 until Government reforms were introduced by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The town’s leading traders formed a Guild Merchant in 1235, which later led to the construction of the Guildhall.

Council Leader Simon Tagg unveiled the map with Brian Simpson, chairman of the trustees, and Ray Mason, vice-chairman, on Tuesday, 3 March. Cllr. Tagg, who is a Burgess himself, said: “The Burgesses of the loyal and ancient borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme in the County of Stafford form an important part of the borough’s long history and residents can be proud of this.The map complements the Common Seal in the Victorian Minton flooring, which forms part of the emblem of the Burgesses.”

The role of Burgesses today is similar to the ceremonial position of the Mayor. Brian Simpson added: “I’m delighted that the borough council is paying homage to the Burgesses of Newcastle in this way.”



Borough Council delivers 2.5% (or eight pence a week) Council Tax rise

25th February 2009

A below inflation Council Tax increase has been agreed by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council for the second year in a row.
Councillors agreed a budget tonight which will mean an average Band D property paying just 8p more each week to Newcastle borough during the financial year ahead. The 2.5 per cent increase mirrors the same percentage rise agreed during the current year. It means an average Band D property will pay the borough council £174.32 from April – a £4.25 rise.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “Our Council Tax proposals follow on from a low increases last year. We have tightened the belt at the council. We have reviewed spending and identified efficiencies. Yet we are still managing to invest in our priorities as set out in the Corporate Plan and improving services. We aim is to improve service delivery to the people of Newcastle-under-Lyme while delivering a below inflation budget."



Online petition launched

16th January 2009

A campaign has been launched to stop Marks & Spencer from closing one of its Simply Food stores. The high street chain's decision to shut its Newcastle branch has been met with public outcry since the move was announced earlier this month. Credit crunch victims Woolworths and Adams have already quit the town and there are fears losing the Simply Food store could damage Newcastle's retail reputation.
Now, community leaders have launched an online and paper petition to try and save the Castle Walk store and prove to Marks & Spencer how popular it is. The store opened in 2003 and attracted 2,000 customers on its first day.
Newcastle Borough Council leader Simon Tagg, who is organising the petition, said he would be doing everything he could to keep the store open. He said: "We are currently arranging a meeting with representatives from the company to discuss the situation. Just before Christmas, council officers had been in talks with Marks & Spencer about expanding their presence in the town, so news that they were thinking about pulling out has come as a complete shock. Since it was announced, the council has been contacted by a lot of people who want us to do something to keep the store open. If Newcastle is to remain a vibrant town centre, we need stores like Marks & Spencer to stay."
The Castle Walk outlet, which employs 19 people, is among 27 branches facing the axe as the chain tries to cut costs in the face of the economic downturn.



Turf cutting Ceremony at Borough's new £2.5 million Cemetery

20th January 2009

A turf cutting ceremony to mark the start of a major project to create the borough's new main cemetery took place on Monday 19th January. Council Leader Simon Tagg, and Cllr. Mary Maxfield, Cabinet member for culture and active communities cut the first turf at the cemetery site off the A525 at Keele.
Work to build a highway access to the site has now begun and is expected to be completed in March. Contractors will then start to create the main cemetery building, car parking, a road network, footpaths and landscaping. The £2,665,000 scheme, funded by the borough council, is due to be finished by the end of 2009.
"The project is going ahead because new burial space at our existing Newcastle cemetery will soon no longer be available. The new site will provide for burials, including the interment of cremated remains and woodland burials." said Cllr. Maxfield.
The new cemetery building will include a multi-purpose room for some services, an office and facilities for visitors.
Cllr Tagg said, “I welcome the launch of this scheme, which represents a significant long-term investment in our borough, Our new service will be multi-denominational and every possible provision will be made for differing religions, beliefs and faiths."
The new cemetery is being created on land that was formerly used for agricultural grazing.




Council leaders take steps to ease Economic Downturn

9th January 2009

Council leaders have approved measures designed to support businesses and residents in the recession. Newcastle Borough Council's cabinet yesterday outlined its recession-busting steps three days after 1,000 jobs were axed in Staffordshire, with 367 posts at Wedgwood and 684 at JCB being cut.
Immediate action includes setting a target of 14 days to pay local suppliers, compared to the normal 30 days. Other initiatives include speeding up the payment and processing of benefitsand holding 'business survival clinics', where solicitors, accountants and tax advisers will offer help.
The council is also working with colleges, universities and Jobcentre Plus to promote training courses and monitor employment in the area. Borough council chief executive Mark Barrow said North Staffordshire was likely to be severely affected by the recession because of the make-up of the local economy. He said: "At a time of crisis, communities look to councils for strong community leadership." The council will also support and promote a new credit union that will help people save and take out loans.
Council leader Simon Tagg said, "We are facing difficult economic times but residents and businesses should feel confident we will do all we can to help."
In Newcastle town centre, traders have been rocked by the loss of big name stores recently. On January 5, Woolworths shut its doors for the last time. Two days later, Marks & Spencer said it planned to close its Simply Food branch in the town.



Council makes commitment to Plain English!

5th January 2009

Newcastle Borough Council is set to endorse the use of Plain English in all it communications with the public. A report set to go before the Council's Cabinet will recommend the introduction of a Plain English Guide which will advise staff on how to cut down on jargon, acronyms and contain tips for communicating the Councils message clearly and simply.  Council leader Simon Tagg said, "Sometimes council publications and reports baffle even the most experienced councillors with jargon and Government speak, so similarly the average person in the street must find it difficult to follow what's going on. With our Plain English Guide for staff we hope to cut out some of the waffle and communicate clearly with the public."
The guide would be used in the preparation of leaflets, committee reports and the council's newsletter, The Reporter.



Restored Guildhall  opens for business

19th December 2008

The £1.2 million restoration of a Grade II-listed building into a customer service centre has been completed. Most of Newcastle Borough Council's public services have relocated to the Guildhall following six months of restoration work. Scores of residents attended the opening yesterday when mayor John Cooper unveiled the transformed, 300-year-old building to the sound of a jazz band. Visitors went on guided tours and viewed original windows, doors, flooring and staircases, as well as a new customer lift and payment machines.

Jeanette Hilton, head of customer services, said the council had worked closely with English Heritage to retain many of the building's original features. She said: "Some of the outside building dates back to 1713 and other parts to 1866. We have worked hard to restore the historical features of the outside, while turning the inside into a customer service centre suitable for the 21st century." One of the attractions of the new building is a restored Minton floor, which was discovered by workmen at the beginning of the month. The Victorian floor was installed in 1860 when the Guildhall was a magistrates' court and features a distinctive depiction of the borough's common seal.

Simon Tagg, leader of the council, who spoke at the opening ceremony, said: "This is a proud moment for the whole borough. I think the restoration will help the town centre and boost trade." Around 15 borough council staff will be working at the new customer service centre. Council tax and benefits will be based on the ground floor and planning, community services, waste management, environmental services and pest control on the first floor. Customers will be able to use payment machines on either floor.

Ms Hilton said it was hoped to make the meeting rooms in the building available for use by organisations such as the police, Credit Union and Citizens' Advice. She said the rooms would be loaned out on a daily basis so that members of the public could drop in for advice. The Guildhall is owned by the borough council, but in 1997 it was leased to Regent Inns on a 35-year contract. It was last used as a pub but since that closed down in 2005, the building has remained empty and fallen into disrepair.

Jim Worgan, chairman of Newcastle Civic Society, said the group was "absolutely delighted" about the restoration. He said: "We were totally opposed to the building being used as a pub. After the pub closed, it had become derelict and we were pressing the council to do something with it. It is fabulous that the building has been restored for public use once again."



Council Leader goes back to school for Christmas card competition 

10th December 2008

Newcastle Borough Council Leader Simon Tagg returned to his former school after pupils there designed his official Christmas card. Councillor Tagg, visited St Margaret's Junior School, in Wolstanton, to present book vouchers to three pupils.Two classes from St Margaret's entered a competition to design the leader's yuletide card. The winner was eight-year-old Laura Jeffries who created a design of a festive snow scene, pictured right, which is on the front of the card. Second prize went to Bethan Roberts, eight, and third prize to Dean Lockett, aged nine. Their pictures are on the back of the card.

Cllr Tagg said, "We received around 60 entries, which were all of a very high standard. Cabinet colleagues and council officers helped me to choose the winners, which was quite a difficult job."

Mr Tagg has sent more than 100 Christmas cards, including one to Conservative Party leader David Cameron. He organises the competition each year and the cards have previously featured designs from St Giles and St George's Primary School, Newcastle, and St Wulstan's Primary, in Wolstanton.


Keele fire latest: Enforcement action taken over underground fire

5th December 2008

A landowner is to be instructed to install safety measures to safeguard members of the public from an underground fire. Newcastle Borough Council’s public protection committee approved on Monday a series of actions in relation to a burning coal spoil heap at Hollywood Lane, Keele.
An enforcement notice will be served under the Highways Act 1980, requiring the landowner to fence off the boundary of the spoil heap adjacent to the public highway. The owner has also been ordered to display signs on the fencing warning the public not to enter the site. The actions were highlighted in a report, commissioned jointly by the Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council, which recommended that several safety issues be addressed while the fire is allowed to expire naturally. Two potential methods of extinguishing the fire were ruled out due to the physical constraints of the site and the extent of the burning.
Cllr Simon Tagg, Leader of the Borough Council and County Councillor for Keele said, "Council officers and partners such as the fire service have been closely monitoring the situation over the summer. I am pleased that the committee has decided to serve a notice requiring the fencing of the site between the highway and the fire and that there is a deadline of two months for the landowner to comply. The priority is to make the area as safe as possible.” The condition of the fencing would be monitored to ensure it remains secure during the duration of the fire, which it is estimated could remain alight for two years. Cllr Tagg added, " We are continuing to liaise with the Environment Agency on possible ways to put the fire out completely."



Eric Pickles MP visits Newcastle

24th October 2008

Eric Pickles MP (Shadow Secretary of state for Communities and Local Government) visited Newcastle town centre on Thursday 23rd October 2008 as part of his tour of Staffordshire. Eric was welcomed by Conservative Council Leader Simon Tagg and toured the Guildhall and the Civic Offices.


Simon Tagg said, "I am pleased to welcome Eric Pickles to Newcastle so he can see the positive action we are taking that will improve the way our residents can access services. Work is well underway to transform the Guildhall. It will offer access to almost all front line Council services via brand new facilities.

We see this as a great opportunity for one of the Borough’s key buildings to be brought back into use in a way which benefits the Council’s residents and nearby traders too - by bringing more people into the town centre, while at the same time preserves the Guildhall for future generations."




Job swop for council leaders

 1st October 2008

Collecting residents’ household rubbish, emptying litter bins and dealing with pests was all in a day’s work for politicians and senior officers. Cabinet members and directors joined front line staff on their rounds as part of ‘Meet the Leadership’ recently.
The idea is to help employees feed information on key services and potential improvements, and for the leadership to gain an insight into the day-to-day issues that employees face. Other services covered included the garden waste and kerbside recycling collections; the dog warden section and bereavement care.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “It’s all very well making decisions in the Council Chamber, but I feel it’s essential to see how key operational services, such as refuse collection, actually work on the ground. Meet the Leadership also reinforces the link between the leadership and members of staff. Our employees are the experts at their jobs, so they have a very important role to play in the decision-making process.”
It follows last year’s event, which was hailed a success. Cllr. Tagg added: “I found the day extremely useful. I certainly picked up a lot of points, which I will be discussing with my Cabinet colleagues.”




Simon Tagg working to keep Post Offices open

 29th September 2008

Post Office ®Post offices across Staffordshire could soon be offering council services to their customers. Residents will be able to pay council tax and fines and access other services at their local branch if Post Office Ltd's latest ideas for sustaining its network go ahead.
Representatives from local authorities across the county attended a meeting at Staffordshire County Council where Simon Burman, senior marketing development manager at Post Office Ltd (POL), explained the proposals. A number of pilot schemes are already running around the country, and POL hopes authorities in Staffordshire will be the next to test the ideas. Both councils and post offices have reacted positively to the proposals.
Newcastle Borough Council leader Simon Tagg attended the meeting and said he was planning to invite Mr Burman to the borough council to discuss the ideas further. He said: "Obviously this has come too late to save the post offices which have already closed, but it could help to sustain those that are left. The borough council wants to bring services into neighbourhoods, so this could be one way of doing that. As well as allowing people to pay council tax bills at post offices, it could also help when we are carrying out consultations."
Ted Manders, head of regeneration at Stafford Borough Council, said: "We are certainly interested in this. We are looking at how we can use post offices to improve our services and the ideas that came forward were very encouraging."
Pilot schemes are currently running in Leeds and Wiltshire.
Mr Burman said: "We have two pilot schemes running, one for improving our expertise in validating identification, and another for the paying of housing benefits." During the latest wave of post office closures, 26 branches across North Staffordshire were axed.
Mike Johnstone, sub-postmaster at Little Madeley Post Office, said: "I think anything that brings in extra business would be beneficial. We've lost a of things, like television licenses, and car tax, as most people sort these things out online."



Borough Council pledges cash to Madeley community project

 27th September 2008

Newcastle Borough Council’s Cabinet is set to approve in principle support for the Madeley Community Development Project to the tune of £160,000.
The project has been put together by members of the community to develop a new village hall complex in the heart of Madeley which will provide a joined-up hub for service providers such as the police, PCT, Staffordshire County Council, Housing 21 and Newcastle Borough Council. More details of the project can be found  at:
The project was recently given planning permission by Newcastle Borough Council and the project team have made a bid to the Big Lottery for further funding. The Borough council is supporting their application.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said, "The Borough Council is keen to be involved in the Madeley project. The Council is committed to improving it services to residents and we believe we can do that by being based out in the community in which we serve. This project can be of benefit to all our resident on the rural western side of the Borough. Services that they we would hope to provide in Madeley include: Housing support services, Community Safety and a one stop shop & specialised surgeries to provide access to all council services. The cash we are willing to pump in to the project will allows us to do this."



Evidence points to keeping Pay Phones

 2nd September 2008

An investigation ordered by Newcastle Borough Councils Cabinet into the usage of BT pay phone has been received by members. Evidence suggests that there is a valid case for retaining a number of the threatened phone boxes because of high usage numbers and their proximity to busy highways and accident blackspots. A number of others are recommended to be retained because of the their historic interest.

Council Leader Simon Tagg who represents May Bank said, " One of the BT pay phones threatened with the axe is on May Bank High Street. Our research shows that in the last financial year 1350 calls were made from that pay phone. This proves that even in this age of mobile phones it is still an important community resource. It is centred in the heart of May Bank on a busy road that has got busier recently since the opening of the Wolstanton Link Road and is an accident blackspot. I would like the Council to use its veto to stop the May Bank pay phone and others on the BT hit list being removed."

"A number of payphones especially in the rural areas are traditional red boxes. Even though they have relatively low usage they are worthy in my view of retaining because of their historic value and as emergency phone in isolated areas.”



 New ID for the Borough Council

29th August 2008

Residents are being asked for their comments on a proposed new logo for the Borough Council. It is intended to use the striking new image to replace the existing logo used by the local authority on its stationery, vehicles, uniforms and all other corporate materials.
The Council’s Graphics and Design team together with marketing officers have produced the logo and based it on the three turret castle which forms a central part of the civic shield. The existing logo - which comprises the words Newcastle-under-Lyme in blue and green lettering with the ‘A’ in Newcastle represented by a green triangle under a blue arch - has been in use since the early 1990’s.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said, “Residents in the Borough are incredibly proud of its history and tradition. This striking, bold image is an obvious link to that heritage. We also think it is a better visualrepresentation of our area. I don’t think many people locally would be able to tell you what the old logo was supposed to represent. The design has been produced in-house by the Council’s graphics and design team and our marketing specialists. It will be introduced incrementally to ensure the authority faces no additional costs. As materials such as paper supplies, business cards, uniforms etc come to the end of their lives or we run out of stock, they will be replaced with items bearing the new logo.”

Deputy Leader Robin Studd said, “The castle means something to the people of Newcastle – it is after all where the Borough gets its name from. The Borough Council is a multi-million pound operation and it is important we brand our services with a strong, bold image. This means that when residents see staff with the logo on their uniforms, or see our waste or Streetscene vehicles bearing the logo, they are aware that it is the Borough Council providing those services for them. It should strengthen our profile in the community and enhance the link between residents who receive our services and the services themselves.”

Cabinet members will discuss the new logo at their meeting on September 10 and comments from residents will be fed into the meeting. Comments can be made by completing the form at the bottom of this page. The Council is retaining the corporate blue and green colours in the proposed new logo.

Cllr. Tagg added, “The logo is at the heart of the Council’s corporate identity and a stronger and bolder image would now be more relevant as the Council enhances its role as a community leader with a range of new, customer-orientated front line services including the transformation of the historic Guildhall as a Customer Service Centre; the overhaul of the Council’s waste services; a community focused Streetscene service.”



Keele spoil heap fire should expire naturally

8th August 2008

An underground fire should be allowed to burn itself out, consultants have recommended. For three years a mining spoil heap at Hollywood Lane, Keele, has been smouldering away, destroying woodland and leaving the earth blackened and unstable. The burning has created cavities beneath the surface, and there is also the risk of explosions. Some residents living nearby have called for the fire to be extinguished, but consultants from White Young Green believe this would be too difficult and costly, due to the constraints of the site and the extent of the fire. The consultants, whose survey of the site was jointly funded by Staffordshire County Council and Newcastle Borough Council, have instead recommended a series of alternative actions to make the area safe.

These include: A secure fence around the perimeter of the tip, Warning notices to warn the public of the dangers of the burning spoil, Existing vegetation and trees should be removed from areas where the fire is not yet established, The closure of Hollywood Lane should be continued until the tip is deemed safe, The tip should be carefully monitored while it remains alight, Consideration should be given to full restoration of the tip when the fire is finally concluded.

Extinguishing the fire, which would require excavating the site and removing all the combustible material, would cost £600,000. But the consultants found that the fire is contained by a layer of clay and estimate it could burn itself out in the next two years.

Borough council Leader Simon Tagg, who is also the county councillor for Keele, has asked the borough council's public protection committee deal with the issue “as a matter of urgency”. The committee has the power to issue an enforcement notice to the landowner to ensure the recommendations are carried out.

Mr Tagg said: “Obviously people could still climb over a fence or break in, but I think as long as there are warning signs telling people about the risks of the land burning, of the cavities underneath, and of possible explosions, that's all we can really do.” Mr Tagg has also written to Keele Parish Council asking it to contact the landowners about erecting temporary signs in the meantime. Residents were told about the report, and what would now be done, at a recent public meeting.

Borough councillor for Keele, Wenslie Naylon said: “There was a lot of concern expressed at the meeting about the smoke and pollution coming off it, but we were assured by the borough council that it is being monitored, and is non-toxic. “But the issue of access to the site is difficult, as there are various ways where people can come into it on foot. It seems to me that it must be fenced off. Most people in the area are aware of the problem, but we still get some people going on to the land. Some people go there to collect wood. The message must go out very clearly that it is a very dangerous area, so dangerous that firefighters have been told to stay off it.” Peter Abbotts, aged 61, who lives close to the fire in Station Road, Keele, said: “I don't really know enough about it, so I suppose we just have to trust what the professionals are saying.” A spokesman for the county council said: “We are continuing to work with Newcastle Borough Council on this problem, particularly on the concerns over fencing and re-opening Hollywood Lane.”

Any residents concerned about the fire should contact Newcastle Borough Council on 01782 717717.




Former Council trainee accountant struck off by CIPFA

5th August 2008

A trainee local authority accountant who used more than £44 million of the council's money to play the stockmarket has been struck off by his professional body. Andrew Pate borrowed the money on behalf of Newcastle Borough Council – almost tripling its debt in the process. The money was then invested through a stockbroker friend whose business he was trying to help. His activities went undetected for more than seven months in 2004 until the alarm was raised.

Pate did not benefit personally from the investments but exposed the council to the risk it would lose the money. Today, CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy found Pate, of Kensington Court, Trent Vale, guilty of misconduct. In 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped criminal charges against Pate due to insufficient evidence.Cllr. John Williams

Council Leader Simon Tagg, said, "I remember back in 2004 we were all shocked that this could have happened. What was even more shocking was the way that the then Labour cabinet tried to cover it up. I was an opposition councillor at the time and it was almost impossible to get any information about it. It was all top secret. The full details have never really come out.

The Council officers involved have now left the Council and I can assure people that stringent procedural checks were put in place when the Conservatives & Lib Dems took control of the Council in 2006 to prevent this happening again".

Labour Councillor John Williams (pictured left) is the only member of the 2004 Labour cabinet still on the Council. What is his view now on how open he was about this at the time? Head of communication at the Newcastle Borough Council at the time was Barry Schofield. Mr Schofield now works for Labour MP Paul Farrelly.



£36,000 Marsh footpath project almost complete

17th July 2008

A £36,000 project to do up footpaths on Wolstanton Marsh is almost complete. Earlier this year the Conservative-led Cabinet at Newcastle Borough Council decided to use money given in developer contributions,  following the commencement of various building works in the area to fund the renovation work of the popular path network.
Borough Council Leader & May Bank Councillor Simon Tagg said, “This has been one of the biggest investment by the Council in the area in over 30 years. The footpaths when finished will be coated with protective light coloured resin that is similar to the colour of the paths before work began. These paths are really well used so we feel this a great way to spent the money gained from developers. As a result of these improvements they will be safer for everyone to use.”
Fellow May Bank Councillor Ian Matthews said, “The paths had been in a poor state for a long time so we are pleased that this work is being done. In the past flooding was a issue in bad weather when potholes filled with water. With the new surface this has become a thing of the past.”



Royal Mail. With us it's personal. Registered trademark.United front over future of North Staffs Royal Mail sorting office

15th July 2008

Council leaders are calling for a meeting with Royal Mail over its decision to close its sorting office in Stoke-on-Trent. Royal Mail is proposing to relocate operations from the sorting office in Leek Road, Stoke, to Wolverhampton.

Mark Meredith, elected mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Sybil Ralphs, leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Simon Tagg, leader of Newcastle Borough Council and David Ward, deputy General Secretary of the CWU, are calling for a meeting with Royal Mail to try and stop the closure.

In a joint statement the group said: “While we recognise the need to move from the Leek Road site, we are disappointed that Royal Mail is not seeking to keep its sorting operation inside Stoke-on-Trent. Moving the sorting operation to Wolverhampton will lead to a loss of jobs in Stoke-on-Trent.”



Exposing Labours 'veil of secrecy' scam

Letter printed in The Sentinel14th July 2008

Dear Sir,

I would like to respond to the claim by Newcastle Labour councillors, the local Labour MP and his staff that there is a “veil of secrecy” at Newcastle Borough Council. I have looked into this matter and my findings are as follows.

The council abides by Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, which governs the way that confidential information is dealt with by local councils. In other words, we don't keep thing secret unless the law requires us to do so. The council responds to freedom of information requests in a timely manner, as it is required to do under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The council conducts itself within the required government legislation and in line with the way other local councils operat

Let me turn to the people who are making the claims of secrecy. Labour councillors Edward Boden and John Williams were a part of the previous Labour administration that used to control Newcastle Borough Council. It appears to me that they have still not got used to the idea that the electorate no longer wishes them to run it. Since 2006, the number of Labour councillors has been reduced from 32 to just 12. As a result, they are quite rightly out in the cold and away from the decision-making process. This is now done by Conservatives and Lib Dems.

Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly admitted to me recently that he doesn't have time to read all the council documents that are sent to him because of his busy life as a Member of Parliament – that's fair enough. He has, for the past year or so, employed an assistant in Newcastle – Barry Schofield, who by all accounts runs Paul Farrelly's PR machine and is no doubt behind the many charges of secrecy levelled at the council.

Your readers will not be aware that Mr Schofield was head of policy review and communication at Newcastle Borough Council until 2006. He was removed from that position in a shake-up of senior management after the Conservatives and Lib Dems took control of the council. I urge readers, next time they see a headline 'Labour claims a veil of secrecy in Newcastle' to bare in mind the above information and take note of individuals at Labour's HQ who may have an axe to grind!

 Simon Tagg

Conservative Leader of Newcastle Borough Council.



Historic Guildhall transformation begins

25th June 2008

Residents can now see concrete evidence of the Council’s progress over its Guildhall transformation programme. Approved contractors Paragon Interiors Plc have now moved on site and begun the task of transforming the Grade II listed building into a one-stop customer service centre. The first visible signs of the works are now evident, after a compound was placed around the building.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “This is a very exciting stage of the Guildhall project, where we will see the Borough Council’s vision become a reality. The scheme is a win-win situation - we will not only improve the way our residents access Council services, but we can also bring an iconic building back into public use. The end result will be a building which acts as a focal point for the town centre of which we can all be proud.”
The Guildhall will become the main venue for customers’ Council enquiries when the project is completed by the end of the year. Visitors will be dealt with by customer service advisers who will ensure that the vast majority of requests are dealt with at the first point of contact. Revenues and benefits customers will be catered for in a special area on the building’s ground floor. A range of services will be found on the first floor, accessible by the Guildhall’s restored staircases or by a new customer lift. Residents who need detailed or specialist advice or services will be seen at the Civic Offices by appointment only.
In the meantime, arrangements have been made to ensure disruption to visitors and businesses is kept to a minimum. Temporary detachable bollards in the area will replace fixed posts to help improve traffic movement and enable swift deliveries.
Flower planters have been removed to facilitate the monthly Farmers’ Markets, while the compound will be reduced in size to accommodate Newcastle’s historic outdoor market.
Jeanette Hilton, customer services manager, said: “This project is a complete contrast – on the outside people will see little change to the building, whereas on the inside it will be completely modernised, while preserving the character and architectural features of this beautiful eighteenth century structure. There will be quite a lot of activity on this site during the next few months so we apologise for any inconvenience and ask that the public bear with us during these important changes.” Scaffolding is due to be erected next month, to enable some minor external improvements to be carried out.



Leaders Blog launched

30th May 2008

Computer users can now keep in touch with Newcastle Borough Council Leader Simon Tagg by clicking onto his monthly weblog. Cllr. Tagg is keeping residents up to speed with his activities as Council Leader and providing details of his busy schedule. The ‘blog’, which can be accessed via the Borough Council’s website homepage, will be updated on a monthly basis.

Current information includes details on the Council’s ‘Meet The Leadership’ initiative and the PARINS anti-racism campaign. Another new service launched by the authority’s communications department is a weekly news ‘podcast’.The podcast produces audio versions of a range of news items to keep residents informed of various Council initiatives and policies. Users can download the podcast from the authority’s website homepage as well as from Apple’s iTunes service.

Simon Tagg said, “More and more people are keeping up to date with the news by using electronic forms of communication. By launching the Leader’s blog and weekly podcast we are expanding our e-media outlets even further.”

News Podcast

Leader's Blog



Election 2008: Labour meltdown!

5th May 2008

New make up of Newcastle Borough Council

Conservative  25  +5
Liberal Democrats  19  +1
Labour  12  -8
UKIP  4    +2



Declaration signed for equality and diversity


A campaign fighting to stamp out racism in North Staffordshire is set to add a new supporter to its list. Newcastle Borough Council has agreed to pledge its support to the work of the PARINS Partnership by signing its declaration.

PARINS (Partnership Approach to Racial Incidents in North Staffordshire), is leading the drive to create a society where people from all racial, religious and cultural backgrounds can live together in harmony. A joint venture between North Staffordshire Racial Equality Council and Stoke-on-Trent’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau, PARINS also supports victims of racism and encourages them to report incidents. The declaration contains a set of principles to ensure every individual is treated fairly and equally, regardless of colour of skin, race or religion.

Mark Barrow, the Borough Council’s Chief Executive, said: “This is a commitment on behalf of the Borough Council to support the important values that PARINS contains. We want to make a clear commitment to the community about the values we have across all levels of our business, whether it’s through our employees, our partners, or the services we provide to the public. This declaration is racially-based but actually the principles of equality apply to all groups, including disability, age and gender. It’s about treating people with respect.”

The signing of the declaration forms part of the Borough Council’s ongoing equality and diversity agenda.

Cllr. Simon Tagg, Council Leader, added: “Members of staff in all contact points have received training to enable them to deal effectively with reports of racial incidents. As a Council we are committed to providing services that are accessible to all sections of our community, irrespective of racial, ethnic, religious or cultural backgrounds.”



Meet the leadership 'on the job'!

25th March 2008

Planning has already begun for the next round of ‘Meet the Leadership’ which will take place in September 2008. Cabinet members and corporate directors are gearing t
 hemselves up to work in front line services such as waste management and Streetscene, which are based at Knutton Lane depot, for the day.
Meet the Leadership is a fairly new venture which is aimed at ultimately improving services. We are the ones making the decisions in the council chamber after all, so it makes sense to make time to find out how our decisions work on the ground. It’s also a simple but effective mechanism which allows two-way, face-to-face communication, a valuable tool that sometimes gets forgotten about in our technological day and age.
Getting stuck in alongside our members of staff sends out the message that we care about them and the services they deliver. It’s also another way of reinforcing the link between the leadership and members of staff who deliver the services. This week, councillors and directors each spent a day in services based at the Civic Offices, Jubilee Pool and the Museum and Art Gallery.
I spent my morning in the customer services area, dealing with the public’s enquiries. I handled a number of calls from all our service areas, including Streetscene and enforcement. I found it the experience valuable, as did my colleagues. We subsequently fed information back to officers, which is where service improvements can be identified.



Newcastle can keep over £1 million of Government 'blunder money'

11th March 2008

The Government will let Newcastle keep more than half of the £2 million it wrongly received in an embarrassing grant blunder. Newcastle Borough Council has been told that it will only have to repay £970,000 over two years, after it argued that the money, which came from the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive (Labgi) scheme, was needed to help regeneration. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) overpaid the borough council by £2,020,000 over a two-year period after it confused Newcastle-under-Lyme with Newcastle Upon Tyne, with the latter being underpaid by a similar amount.
Council leader Simon Tagg, pictured right, today welcomed the Government's decision to let the authority keep more than £1 million, and insisted the repayment would not affect council tax levels.
Mr Tagg said: "I am very pleased with this outcome, as Newcastle doesn't usually get much out of the Government. Right at the start we said we would keep hold of the money until we had argued our case for keeping it. We showed the Government the council finances and told them what we would spend the money on, and in the end they allowed us to keep the money."
The borough council will pay back £370,000 straight away, with two further payments of £300,000 being made by April 2009 and April 2010. The initial repayment will come from the authority's Labgi reserve fund, and a report will go to full council in April proposing that the remaining £600,000 should be paid from contingency reserves.
Mr Tagg added: "Taking £300,000 out of the contingency reserves will have a minimal impact on the budget, and it definitely will not affect service delivery."
A spokesman for the DCLG said: "It is clear that the overpayment is a significant sum. "The council has shown a strong commitment to efficiency and is able to point to a full and imaginative programme of economic development in the area."



Civic Pride as Guildhall is brought back to life

20th February 2008

 Plans have been unveiled which will breathe new life into one of Newcastle’s most historic buildings. The Borough Council has today announced plans which will see the Guildhall in the heart of the town centre brought back into public use. It will be transformed into a Customer Service Centre where all the Council’s face-to-face enquiries with customers will be dealt with.

The Grade II landmark building – which dates back to 1713 – has been empty for the last couple of years but has previously been used as a pub, provision market, civic offices and court building. Proposals approved by the Borough Council’s Cabinet today (Feb 20) will see the Guildhall transformed before the end of the year.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “This is fantastic news on two fronts. Firstly, it means we are taking positive action which will improve the way our customers can access services. And secondly, the proposal will breathe new life into one of the Borough’s most iconic and historic buildings. We propose offering access to almost all front line Council services via the new customer facilities in the Guildhall. Only complex or specialised services will be provided from the Civic Offices, by appointment.”

Deputy Leader Robin Studd added: “This proposal not only enables the Council to bring the Guildhall back into community use in the shortest possible time but also supports regeneration proposals for the town centre.The report considered by Cabinet members today revealed the Borough Council plans to provide welcoming, efficient and modern facilities in a well-appointed, central location which customers can easily access.

People who visit the Guildhall will be dealt with by Service Agents whose job will be to ensure the vast majority of requests are dealt with at the first point of contact. Revenues and Benefits customers will be catered for in a specially provided area on the ground floor of the Guildhall. A range of services will also be found on the first floor, accessible by the Guildhall’s impressive and newly restored staircases or by a new customer lift that will be installed for the first time. The proposed design also allows for partners to utilise the building at various times with discussions set to take place involving the PCT, police, county council, CVS, community groups, CAB and others.

In parallel to the transformation of the Guildhall, a new reception with modern interview and meeting rooms will be established in the Civic Offices to receive visitors who need detailed advice in specialist areas, by appointments only. Access to the County Council’s Children’s Services reception in the Civic Offices will be unaffected by these changes.

Councillor Tagg said: “This is a terrific opportunity for one of the Borough’s key buildings to be brought back into use in a way which benefits the Council’s customers while at the same time preserves the Guildhall for future generations.”



Labours £2 Million '2 Newcastles' blunder

13th February 2008

The Government has overpaid a grant to Newcastle Borough Council by £2 million - after confusing the town with Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Over the past two years Newcastle has received more than £2.5 million in Government cash as part of the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive (LABGI) scheme.
But now the Department for Communities and Local Government has written to the council saying the amount was calculated for a city the size of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, population 259,536, rather than a borough such as Newcastle-under-Lyme with 122,000 residents. The authority should have been paid around £600,000, and the department has asked for the overpayment to be returned.

But council leader Simon Tagg says the council has no intention of returning the money at this stage as it has already been set against a number of regeneration projects.  Mr Tagg said: "I'm flabbergasted that someone could have made this mistake. It's like when the Government lost those discs. The council accepted this money in good faith. It was a large amount, but we assumed it was in recognition of the work we've done to encourage business growth in the borough. Stafford received a similar amount, and I don't think Stafford is a better place to do business than Newcastle. In Newcastle was have things like the Lymedale Business Park which is full of companies all paying the full business rates, and so we thought the LABGI grant was the Government paying some of that back to us."

The LABGI scheme was conceived as a way of rewarding local authorities that encourage business growth in their areas. Last year the amount allocated to Newcastle soared from £458,000 to £2.066 million. The council had been planning to use the money on projects such as the refurbishment of the Lancaster Buildings in the High Street.
Mr Tagg added: "We have no intention of giving the money back at this stage. We want the Government to look at its figures again. If we do have to pay it back it should be over something like 20 years! We can't hand over £2 million just like that."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "This is a regrettable error, and we have taken action to rectify it. We are working closely with the councils involved, and are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again."

Newcastle business leaders back Borough Councils stance while Newcastle Labour signal they would capitulate to their masters in London

14th February 2008

Business leaders believe Newcastle should be allowed to keep the £2 million it wrongly received from the Government, in order to help regeneration. Newcastle Borough Council has received more than £2.5 million over the last two years as part of a business growth incentive scheme, after civil servants confused Newcastle-under-Lyme with Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The borough should have actually received around £600,000 and now the Government is asking for the overpayment to be returned.
But council leader Simon Tagg says that while the council has not spent this money, it has been ring-fenced for a number of regeneration projects. Newcastle Chamber of Trade believes the money from the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive (LABGI) scheme is desperately needed in the borough to help create employment and regenerate the area.
Trevor Miles, vice-president of the chamber, said: "I think it's quite amusing that central Government could send the money to the wrong place like this. It's not just the Government that makes mistakes like this, the Post Office sometimes gets the Newcastles confused as well.
"The chamber of trade welcomes any money that comes to Newcastle Borough Council. The council has done a good job in keeping costs down, but we really do need grants to improve the situation in the borough, and to help our businesses grow and expand. It would be sad if they had to give this money back, because of a mistake that the Government has made. Newcastle does need the funding to improve its deprived areas and create opportunities for employment."
The money had been earmarked for projects such as the refurbishment of Lancaster Buildings and the old St George and St Giles school building in the town centre.
But councillor Sylvia Butler, who leads the Labour Group, thinks the council will have no choice but to pay the money back and questions why nobody had queried the large grant payment until now.
She said: "I'm surprised this wasn't picked up sooner as it was a huge amount. People were surprised it was so big at the time. But the council has to give the money back. Unfortunately mistakes happen but this is money that was allocated to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and so we can't keep it. The money will be missed but if someone wrongly put some money in your bank account you wouldn't be able to keep it. I have asked an officer about the grant money, and he said some of it has gone into the budget, despite what Simon Tagg has said about it being ring-fenced."

Mr Tagg responded by saying that when the first LABGI payment was made in February 2006, the Labour Group was still in power. He said: "Nothing wrong was found at the time, and last year's payment was based on the same figures. As Stafford had received nearly £3 million, we didn't query it. The money is declared in the budget, as it has to be, but it has been ring-fenced. The Labour Group wanted to use the LABGI money to fund a zero council tax increase, and if they'd got their way that there would be no money left to pay back."
Mr Tagg says the mix-up will also not affect next year's council tax levels. Newcastle City Council, which was underpaid by more than £2.7 million, has also been contacted by the Government, and told the shortfall will be paid to the authority on March 3. A spokesman for the city council said: "The council is pleased the Government has spotted this error. Services were not affected and we have received the full amount."



Christmas card artists meet Leader

14th December 2007

Young artists from a Newcastle school have receive prizes at a special assembly after designing Council Leader Simon Tagg’s official Christmas card. Cllr. Tagg visited St. Giles’ and St. George’s Primary School on Tuesday, December 11 to give gift vouchers to Adam Pemberton, Lucy Hope and Billy Seru, all aged eight.
Adam’s design featuring Santa in his sleigh was selected for the front of the card. Lucy’s picture of a Christmas tree and Billy’s design of Santa delivering presents are depicted on the back of the cards.
A total of 27 Year Four pupils entered the competition, which was judged by Cllr. Tagg and colleagues from the Borough Council. “The standard of the designs was very high – it was difficult to choose a winner,” he said. “I would like to congratulate Adam, Lucy and Billy and their classmates for all their hard work.”
The cards will be sent to civic and community leaders in Staffordshire and the West Midlands and beyond. The children’s Christmas card designs will be on display in the main reception at Newcastle’s Civic Offices from December 12 to 24.



Thistleberry Latest: Investigation ordered into demolition of historic wall

17th November 2007

Newcastle Council's Planning Committee has ordered an investigation into the demolition of a historic dry stone wall on Keele Road, Thistleberry.

Councillors on the Planning Committee raised residents concerns about the lack of information from both the developer - Persimmon Homes and the highway Authority - Staffordshire County council. A report will now be brought to the next planning meeting (in December) outlining reasons why the wall was demolished, what has happened to the stone and what is going to be done about the metal barrier that replaced the wall.

Council Leader Simon Tagg who represents Thistleberry on the County Council said, "Local residents are rightly asking why no one was consulted about the removal of this wall which dates back to the 18th Century. Persimmon Homes and Staffordshire County Council have been slow to provide any detailed information.
We also have concerns over the unsightly barrier that has replaced the wall. It looks so out of place on a gateway road in to town. Hopefully the report ordered by the Planning Committee will shed some light on theses issues."




Letters tell true story over Road resurfacing

Letter printed in the Sentinel17th November 2007 from John Pye Chairman of R.A.G.G.S

Sir, - As chairman of the Sidmouth Ave, Gower St, Granville Ave and Northcote Place residents' association, and in response to A Watson's letter of November 14, let me firmly set the record straight. A Watson clearly implies that Councillor Stephen Holland seeks to take undue credit for the recently completed and very necessary and overdue road resurfacing.
The road resurfacing scheme apparently referred to by A Watson concerns Granville Avenue, Newcastle, which is an area covered by the residents' association of which I am the current chairman.
It is an undisputable fact that Mr Holland is, with the assistance of councillors Simon Tagg and Ian Matthews, responsible for this road being resurfaced.
Mr Holland has worked tirelessly with our residents' association, and attends almost every meeting we hold. It is a fact that without him, this road would still be in the disgusting state that it had been in for many years. I would go further than this and say that, had it not been for the equally tireless efforts of Simon Tagg some 18 months ago, Sidmouth Avenue, another road within our association boundary, would also still be in the same dangerous state that it had been in for many years. Indeed, The Sentinel reported on this issue and featured photographs of Mr Tagg with residents examining the terrible state of the road surface in Sidmouth Avenue.
Who is A Watson? Do they live anywhere in the vicinity of our residents' association? Possibly not, as they seem so very ill informed.
If they do, however, reside within our boundaries, I would like to invite him to our next meeting which will be held on November 26 at 8pm at St George's Church hall. He could then meet personally with Stephen Holland, and possibly also meet other very helpful, hard working councillors, who strive constantly to improve the quality of life of all the residents.

JOHN PYE Newcastle



Planning appeal victory for Lower Oxford Road campaigners

1st November 2007

An appeal by a developer against a decision by Newcastle Council's Planning Committee has been thrown out by Government Planning Inspectors. The application to convert an historic family house in Lower Oxford Road, Basford into 3 apartments (on 3 stories) was refused by Councillors in September 2006 because of concerns about over-development of the site, parking issues and lack of amenity space for resident.
Now a year later the Inspector has agreed with Councillor on parking and also considered the lack of usable outdoor space would result in 'unacceptable living conditions for future residents of the upper flats'.
May Bank Councillor Simon Tagg, who proposed refusal of the original application at the planning Committee said, "It was the right decision. I am pleased that the Planning Inspector has backed the Planning Committee on this and agreed with local residents' concerns. There is no doubt that the developer was attempting to maximise the use of this property, and therefore it would appear potential profit. It is the local councillors' job to speak up for residents, both present and future. This was overdevelopment of this particular site."
The property, the former Vicarage to St Marks Church, Basford hit the headlines in 2004 when 10 preserved trees were illegally cut down in the garden of the house. The then owner was forced to replant the trees a year later. A series of controversial planning applications were then submitted with permission finally being granted for 2 town houses on the garden site.



Conservatives vote to continue weekly collection

11th October 2007

Conservatives on Newcastle Borough Council's all-party Scrutiny Committee have backed a plan to increase home recycling to include plastic & cardboard while continuing a weekly collection of kitchen waste. The scheme will now go out to consultation with the public.




Council Leaders join workers delivering front line services

3rd October 2007

Residents saw some different faces in their neighbourhoods when Council leaders joined front line staff on their rounds. Politicians and senior officers from Newcastle Borough Council went out and about with depot staff on Friday, September 21 in a bid to gain first-hand experience in important services.          
Members of the Cabinet and Corporate Board joined teams in Streetscene, waste and recycling services and environmental services. The initiative helped staff feed information to the Council leadership on key services and potential improvements. And it gave the Cabinet and Council directors an insight into the day-to-day issues of staff on the front line.
Council Leader Simon Tagg, Chief Executive Mark Barrow and Cabinet member Mary Maxfield (pictured right) collected residents’ household rubbish.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “We didn’t do this because we were told to; we actually requested to do it. The Cabinet makes decisions but it was good to see how they actually work on the ground.




Simon Tagg elected on to Staffordshire County Council

12th July 2007

Newcastle Conservatives have won the by-elections brought about by the untimely death of Newcastle Borough & Staffordshire County Councillor Glennis Deakin in May 2007.

Newcastle Borough Council Leader Simon Tagg has won the fight for the Westlands, Thistleberry & Keele County Council Division.
While Linda Hailstones, wife of Seabridge Conservative Borough Councillor Peter Hailstones has been elected for the Westlands Ward on the Borough Council. (Simon & Linda pictured right, outside one of the threatened day care centres in the Westlands during the campaign)

Candidate Party Votes % of Vote
Simon Tagg Con 1,067 41.94% of vote 41.94
Marion Reddish Lib Dem 1,005 39.50% of vote 39.50
David Beardmore Lab 268 10.53% of vote 10.53
Wayne Harling UKIP 204 8.03% of vote 8.03



Partnership at Newcastle Borough Council set to Continue

The Partnership of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is set to continue running Newcastle Borough Council. Both Groups joined forces last year after the local elections resulted in no party having overall control of the authority.
The joint working arrangement will now go on for a further 12 months after voters went to the polls earlier this month and once more left no single party with an outright majority. Both Groups gained three seats each in the May elections with Labour losing six.

The make-up of the Council is now 20 Conservatives, 20 Labour, 18 Liberal Democrats and two UKIP members. Conservative Leader & Leader of the Council Simon Tagg said: “The Partnership has started down the road to improving the Council and we have agreed to carry on this year. The Conservative Lib Dem partnership worked well last year, both Groups recognise there is more to do and our efforts will focus on translating this into better services for the residents of Newcastle.”

Robin Studd, Liberal Democrat Leader & Deputy Leader of the Council, added: “The Government Inspectors, the Audit Commission, have recognised we are beginning to turn things round at the Council. Our challenge now is to keep our foot on the pedal and keep moving forwards. The result of the election showed that people don’t want Labour back in power. They lost seats to both ourselves and the Conservatives.”

Among the councillors who lost their seats was David Leech, the Labour group leader. He lost in Knutton to UKIP’s Derrick Huckfield. Other Labour members who lost their seats were John Macmillan (Butt Lane); last year’s Mayor Bill Sinnott (Madeley); Ray Astle (Ravenscliffe) and Michael Clarke (Wolstanton).



Simon Tagg re-elected to the Borough Council

Simon Tagg has been re-elected as May Bank ward councillor for another 4 year term. Also, in a day of drama in Newcastle the Conservatives picked up 3 seats from Labour and are now the joint largest party on Newcastle Borough Council.


Candidate Party Votes % of Vote
Tagg, Simon John CON 1227 62.89% of the vote 62.89
Harrison, Stephen Peter LAB 310 15.88% of vote 15.88
Lewis, Barbara Mary UKIP 223 11.43% of the vote 11.43
Wain, Chris LIB DEM 191 9.78% of the vote 9.78

New makeup of the Council

Conservative 20 conservative ccouncillors 20
Labour 20 Labour Councillors 20
Liberal Democrats 18 Liberal Democrat Councillors 18
UKIP 2 UKIP Councillors 2

Party Gains/Losses

Party Swing
Conservative blue Conservative +3
Labour red Labour -6
Liberal Democrats yellow Liberal Democrats +3
Independant grey Independent -1
UKIP yellow UKIP  



Final Election leaflet:




Delivering you a low 2.7% Council Tax

The Conservative/ Lib Dem administration led by Simon Tagg on Newcastle Borough Council has agreed its first budget, delivering on an election pledge and increasing council tax at the below inflation level of just 2.7% - the lowest rise in years and well below the 4.9% hike by Labour-run Staffordshire County Council.

The Budget was presented to the full council and approved on 28th February 2007.


Champion for Borough's children

Young people in Newcastle are set to benefit from the creation of a new trust. The Borough Children's Trust aims to bring together organisations throughout the area to support young people up to the age of 19-years-old - especially those with special needs or disadvantages.The Children's Trust

Members will include representatives from local schools, the police and the borough council.

The trust will focus on the specific needs of children in Newcastle to deliver the aims set out in the Children Act 2004 - enjoying and achieving, staying safe, being healthy, making a positive contribution, and economic wellbeing.

It will have a two-tier structure, with the board supported by Community and Learning Partnerships based around secondary schools in the area. The partnerships are currently in development in Clayton, Kidsgrove, Chesterton, Knutton and Silverdale, and Wolstanton and Cross Heath.

Council leader Simon Tagg, who will represent the borough council on the trust, said: "A children's trust will bring together all services for children and young people in the borough. It is focused on improving outcomes for all children and young people in Newcastle up to 19-years-old.

"It will support those people who work very hard every day with children, young people and their families in schools, social services and the important voluntary sector."



Inspectors praise improving Council

 Article printed in The Sentinel, 21st February 2007

Inspectors have praised Newcastle Borough Council more than a year after it was heavily criticised. A new Audit Commission report says the current political leadership and improved council structure has provided a solid foundation for the authority to move forward.
It was previously slammed for having over-ambitious vision statements which stretched available resources in order to deliver seven corporate priorities and work on 23 areas of improvements.
Now, the latest report shows since the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition seized power from the Labour group in May's local elections, it has brought about better clarity over roles and responsibilities.

Simon Tagg, council leader, said: "Every member of staff at the council and the residents of Newcastle should be heartened by the messages coming out of this report. Although it's early days and we shouldn't get carried away because there is still much more to do, it shows we are now heading in the right direction. We have ended the drift of the Labour years and we are honouring our promise to the electorate last May to change the culture at the council."

The full report also sets out how the council can ensure it remains on track - by including 'obvious measurable benefits or targets' in plans and making sure major changes do not overlap.

Councillor Stephen Holland added: "Credit should be given to those people who have led these improvements since May - the council leader and deputy council leader, the officers including the council's improvement programme manager; and other members who have been involved both directly and indirectly. But we should not rest on our laurels as the report makes clear - councils have to evolve as they improve their services and meet the changing needs of their residents. It is important that as elected members we strive for the best for our council. We owe it to the people we represent."

Since inspectors were on site the council has also appointed new chief executive Mark Barrow, who takes up his post at the end of March.



Keeping Council Tax down and delivering on our promises

Families in Newcastle will have to pay the borough council just £4.36 extra a year in council tax. Annual tax bills are poised to rise by 2.7 per cent in the borough after the council agreed its budget for the 12 months from April 1.
It means residents in average Band D homes will pay £165.92 for the year, compared with £161.56 last year.
It is the first budget set by the ruling Conservative /Lib Dem coalition which took control in May 2006 and is among the lowest rises in recent years.
It will be presented to full council on Wednesday, when it is expected to be passed by a majority. Under the previous two budgets passed by Labour, the council tax rose by 4.9 per cent, the maximum allowed by the Government.

Simon Tagg, (pictured right) leader of the borough council, said: "When we were in opposition, we put forward a budget below the rate of inflation and below the rise in state pensions. Now, we are carrying that through. Council tax does have to increase to keep pace with rising costs. The council is subject to those costs, and we want to invest in our priorities."

Those priorities are:

Keeping cleaner and safer streets - an extra £200,000 has been set aside for improved CCTV monitoring
Creating a borough of opportunity -
the council wants a wider range of leisure, cultural and sporting facilities. Up to £5 million will be used to fund investment projects and large scale regeneration programmes
Waste management and recycling -
£220,000 is to be spent on collection of more green waste and recyclable materials
Transforming the council -
about £250,000 will be set aside to develop one-stop shops where residents can drop in to sort out any council related problems.

Mr Tagg added: "I think residents will appreciate what we are doing." The borough demand has to be ratified by the full council next week.
Taxpayers in Newcastle welcomed the council's attempts to keep bills low. Annie Deakin, aged 56, of Kidsgrove, said: "It's another bill but I'm thankful that it can be kept low. When everything creeps up, it adds up." Meredith Birch, aged 62, also from Kidsgrove, added: "If the money is being spent on things like CCTV and good causes, it takes the sting out of the bill."


Please sign the Save Our Care Homes e-petition 

Sentinel article from 1st Feb 2007   Elderly patient

Following the news that Staffordshire County Council plans to close all council-run Care Homes & Day Care Centres in the Borough by March 2008 Cllr Simon Tagg has launched an online petition. Cllr Tagg said, "I am very concerned about what is happening, some of the most vulnerable members of our community have been made very afraid for their future. I am shocked at how this has been handled. We need to send a message to Staffordshire County Council asking them to think again about this". The e-petition states:

'We the undersigned are completely opposed to Staffordshire County Council's policy to close every Council-run Care Home and Day Centre in Newcastle Borough by March 2008. We ask Staffordshire County Council not to carry out this heartless cut in basic welfare services.'




19th Century map reveals Borough's past

 Article printed in The Sentinel, 3rd February 2007

An ancient map which was discovered at a church has been donated to a museum.

The map, which was found at St Giles Church in Newcastle and dates back to 1840, details the land which was owned by the Burgesses of Newcastle Borough. It has now been donated to the Borough museum at the Brampton. Burgesses traditionally held powerful positions in Newcastle and used to run the Borough alongside the town's mayor.

Pictured right - Councillor Simon Tagg, a Burgess of the Borough along with fellow Burgesses Jack Vernon & Geoff Davies and the current Mayor of Newcastle Bill Sinnott with the map.





Why are we still waiting?

May bank Councillor Simon Tagg has hit out at more inaction by Labour-run Staffordshire County Council. This follows their continued failure to deal with a problem related to the grass verge on May Bank High Street (see picture right). The muddy and chewed up stretch outside the flats was reported by Cllr Tagg to County Council Officers before Christmas.

Cllr Tagg said, "I reported this as urgent to  County Council officers not just because it is an eyesore but because many local elderly people have to cut across this grass verge to get to the shops and it is a muddy mess at the moment. Cars are continually parking on this grassed area after it appears County Council or Aspire Housing vans had parked on it to carry out work nearby. Whatever the reason, this now needs to be put right, with the soil reinstated and bollards erected  if necessary. This is not the first time that Staffordshire County Council  has failed to act. They really need to get their act together and stop letting local people down."

Cllr Tagg has now contacted Staffordshire County Council again and sent them a copy of the picture showing the state of the grass verge and requested their immediate attention.

After pressure from local May Bank Councillors the problem was finally dealt with by Staffordshire County Council.




Labour come under fire for link road misery

My letters to the Sentinel, January 2007 about the controversial Wolstanton link road

Sir - A Bloor has got a cheek calling May Bank residents 'nimbys' for being concerned about road safety (The Sentinel 11th January 2007).
What residents and myself were calling for in the recent Sentinel article about the Wolstanton link road was for Labour-run Staffordshire County Council to honour its pledge to make improvements to help alleviate the increased road safety issues that the new road will bring to May Bank and parts of Wolstanton. The issues of congestion on the High Street and rat-running on Basford Park Road will be made much worse by this new road. That's not just local councillors and residents saying this, it's the Council's own traffic survey!
May Bank's three Borough councillors will continue to press Staffordshire County Council and the local Labour County Councillor, who is in charge of funding for the roads in May Bank to act NOW!

(Right) Every picture tells a story: Labour-run Staffordshire County Council is responsible for the Wolstanton link road.

Sir, - Further to the letter from Mervyn Edwards (January 3) regarding the Wolstanton link road. This road, which many local people have long dreaded, is about to become a reality. In the 2003 May Bank and Basford Traffic Study, it stated that the road would lead to a 25 per cent increase in traffic though the already congested May Bank High Street. Labour-run Staffordshire County Council, which is in charge of our highways, has been aware of this for four years, but has done nothing to implement the road improvements that could reduce the impact of the extra traffic, and make our roads safer for the young and old alike. During this period, Labour county councillor Mick Clarke has promised many times to carry out these badly-needed improvements, but the people of May Bank are still waiting. A second crossing point is needed on the High Street, and an improved parking lay-by needs to be designed. Are you listening, Mick?
Mervyn Edwards points out that the Wolstanton link road is part of some dubious "grand plan", but we must not forget its effect on May Bank's pensioners and children. May Bank folk will never forget the fact that this link road was passed by Labour councillors while most Lib Dem councillors sat on their hands. All Conservative councillors voted against it.


Work on controversial Wolstanton link road begins

Article in the Sentinel 22nd December 2006

Work has finally got under way on the long-awaited Wolstanton link road, but residents and community leaders fear the project will create more traffic problems. Some people believe that the scheme linking the A500 with Wolstanton, will increase traffic in nearby May Bank High Street.
They say motorists wanting to get on to the D-road will choose to cut through the neighbourhood to use the link road, rather than travel on the congested Basford bank route.
Councillor Simon Tagg, who represents May Bank, said: "They might call this the Wolstanton relief road, but it will not bring any relief for May Bank.
"It was estimated in the 2003 May Bank Traffic Study that if this new link to the A500 at Wolstanton were built, it would lead to extra traffic through the already congested High Street in May Bank.
"Staffordshire County Council has known about this since 2003, and has done nothing to put improvements in place to help May Bank cope with the extra traffic the new road will create."
Eva Lycett, who lives on the High Street, said: "The traffic gets worse and worse. Sometimes you can wait for more than five minutes before you can cross.
"It's dreadful now, it really is. There is a crossing, but it's at the other end of the road, and we're all elderly people here."
Work on the £2 million link road began earlier this month - 28 years after proposals were first mooted. The 650-metre route, which will connect Wolstanton to the A500, will also serve 250 new houses being built by Bloor Homes, which is picking up
bill for the development.
Campaigners fought against the plans, although its supporters insist it could bring about benefits for businesses in the area. The route will take A527 traffic out of Wolstanton High Street via Grange Lane, across former mining land above Asda, to link with the A500. Staffordshire Highways has hired Wrekin Construction to complete the 35-week project.
All earth-moving operations will take place from 8am to 6pm, and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays. Sundays will be quiet, unless the contract gets severely behind schedule.



A Happy Christmas on the cards

15th Dec 2006

Prizes have been awarded to the winners of a competition to paint a Christmas picture for Newcastle Borough Council Leader Simon Tagg's official Christmas card.

5 and 6 year olds from St Wulstan's Catholic Primary School where Cllr Tagg is a school governor all took part and painted pictures with a Christmas theme. These were then judged by Cllr Tagg and colleagues at the Council.

The winning design (pictured below), a nativity scene by Katharine Fairweather aged 6, has now been pictured on the card which will go out to over 130 civic and community leaders and officials all over Staffordshire and beyond.

Cllr Tagg said, "There were some wonderful pictures and it was hard to pick just one winner. I'd like to thank Katharine for doing the painting, and to the runners-up and all the children from St Wulstan's well done!"

"I'd also like to thank the members of staff who work so hard all year round for the children and wish the staff, children and their parents a Happy Christmas. It's nice to do something different for the Leader's card this year rather than the usual snowy scenes."

Katharine was presented with a book voucher, as was 2nd place Edward O'Malley (age 5) whose painting depicts the 3 kings and 3rd place Holly Newman (age 5) for her colourful nativity scene (pictured above: Simon, Katharine, Edward & Holly).

Cllr Tagg also awarded the whole class who took part with a tin of sweets when he visited the school for the prize giving.

A pick of the paintings and the winner and runners-up will be displayed in the reception at the Civic Offices in Merrial Street in Newcastle from now until Christmas.



CCTV cameras now monitored in town!

Article in the Sentinel 4th December 2006

A Private contractor is monitoring Newcastle town centre's CCTV network on busy weekend nights in the run-up to Christmas.The pilot scheme was launched this month in a bid to make the town a safer place for clubbers and Christmas party-goers to visit.
It is the first time that live footage has been monitored in the town. The move is intended to ensure a fast response from police to any violence. The contractor, based at Newcastle Borough Council's CCTV control centre in Knutton, informs police at the first sign of any trouble. Officers patrolling in the town centre are then directed to the scene of any fighting or confrontation.
Better CCTV coverage was named by the borough council's ruling Lib-Dem and Tory coalition as one of a number of priorities for the next year. Five new cameras have recently been installed in the town centre - three at the south end of High Street and two covering Paradise Street - taking the number of cameras in the town centre from 12 to 17. That is on top of the 33 cameras which the council installed at Midway multi-storey car park.
Council leader Simon Tagg said: "At the moment, the CCTV cameras are just recording and if anything happens the footage is studied after the event.
"With monitored CCTV, our officers will contact police as it happens. They will then be able to gather evidence from the scene, rather than look at it two weeks later. If there's an incident, an officer can use the cameras to track a suspect. A common complaint now is that recorded footage will often lose the offender as he walks out of view.The aim is to make the town centre safer, especially during the busy Christmas period."
If the scheme is a success, the council will look to bring in regular monitoring of CCTV footage, and, ultimately, 24-hour monitoring.
Inspector Mick Boyle, of Newcastle police, said: "It will assist us with crime reduction in the town centre and provide a deterrent. I'm sure it will make Newcastle a safer place."
Publican Mike Fallows, licensee of Brassingtons in the town centre, said: "I welcome this. If it's going to help put police in the right place at the right time, it's good." The council has also identified priorities over the next year to make streets cleaner and safer, improve recycling and enforce on-street parking restrictions more effectively. Councillor Tagg added: "We have also started to honour our election commitments on improved CCTV and better car-parking enforcement and we will be putting the emphasis firmly on cleaner streets and targeting litter and grot hotspots."

update on CCTV <click>



Disappointment as Lap Dancing  Club gets the go-ahead in the Town Centre

Press release 4th Dec 2006

Council Leader Simon Tagg has commented on the news that permission has been granted for an adult entertainment venue (lap dancing club) in Newcastle's town centre.

 He said, "I am disappointed by the outcome of the Licensing Committee hearing. Is this really the direction we want our town centre to go in?  The Newcastle Police raised no objections to this, therefore torpedoing the opposition to this venue by very many people - church groups included."

"The Council was never consulted by the Police before they came to their decision. They must now tell us how they intend to police the problems that could arise from having this type of venue in our town centre."



It's a matter of priorities

2nd Dec 2006

Newcastle's Conservative / Lib Dem administration has started the process of setting out the Council's priorities. A report to the Council's Cabinet sets out the new administration's plans in a number of key areas. This follows on from the joint agreement between the Conservative & Lib Dem Groups after the May 2006 local elections which saw them wrestle power away from Labour for the first time in over 30 years and reflects the manifestos on which the two Groups fought that election.

The Council will move towards a more focused set of priorities based around - cleaner safer streets, improved recycling, and creating a Borough of opportunity for Newcastle's residents.

Cleaner Safer Streets - means:
1) Moving towards a monitored CCTV system starting with a 'peak hour' monitoring pilot over Christmas at the Council’s new CCTV control centre based at the Knutton Depot.
2) The creation of multi-skilled streetscene teams to target litter hotspots in the Borough.
3) Better on-street car parking enforcement around the town centre area.

Improved Recycling - means:
1) Start to meet the Government‘s recycling targets.
2) Increased investment in recycling - green waste, plastic and cardboard.

Borough of Opportunity means:
1) Roll out of Neighbourhood Renewal Initiatives across the Borough.
2) A 20 year Town Centre Action Plan & Regeneration
3) Set up a Borough Children’s Trust.

There is also a commitment to transform the way the Council works through the Council’s Improvement Programme which is already underway, through developing a Contact Centre and through the introduction of multi-skilling and more flexible ways of working.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said, "The document will set the Council on a new course for the next few years and is a necessary document as it will provide a focus for the improvements in service delivery we desire. We have also started to honour our election commitments on improved CCTV and better car-parking enforcement and we will be putting the emphasis firmly on cleaner streets and targeting litter & grot hotspots.

“Along with the things that we are doing outside to make the streets cleaner and safer, we also recognise that the Council has to continue to change and improve so it can deliver the service improvements. That’s why we want to transform the way the Council works and interacts with the public - our customers. We will manage performance and we will create a multi-skilled and mobile workforce to do that."



MP Caroline Spelman visits Newcastle

Press release 25th Nov 2006


Caroline Spelman MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government paid a visit to Newcastle on the evening of Thursday 23rd November 2006 as a guest of Newcastle Conservative Association.

Caroline rounded off her tour of the West Midlands by meeting with a group of Councillors from Newcastle - headed by Council Leader Simon Tagg. She then attended the Newcastle Conservative Association Annual Autumn Meal at the Borough Arms Hotel.

Caroline met with Councillors who have recently taken control of Newcastle Borough Council in partnership with the Lib Dems which ended over 30 years of Labour rule in the town.

She heard about the improvements taking place at the Council and also  discussed the Government's White Paper on the future of Local Government.



Pictured from left to right: Simon Tagg, Stephen Holland, Jeremy Lefroy, Ann Heames, Betty Cartwright, Andy Fear, (the late)Glennis Deakin & Caroline Spelman.





Update: Inspectors' positive report

Audit commission Inspectors have given the Improvement Programme at Newcastle Borough Council a significant boost. They have provided informal feedback to Council Leader Simon Tagg and acting Chief Executive Ian Jenkinson following their visit last week to the authority.
The Inspectors made a number of positive comments in a number of areas. This follows the last inspection in March 2006 (before the new Conservative / Lib Dem administration took over the council) which was critical of the Council in many areas.

Positive comments including:-

Leadership – “the new organisation structure shows clarity”; “visible leadership is being demonstrated through the Meet the Leadership sessions”; “there is increased trust between members and officers, particularly in financial areas.”

Organisation – “there is an increased understanding in this area”; “there were no dissenting voices during the inspection.”
Employee development – “reviews are now built into a planning cycle.”
Direction – “the Improvement Programme and restructuring are well-documented and clear.”
Capacity – “new structural design is helping this”; “recruitment and retention issues are also being addressed.”
Internal Communications – “really good improvements”; “team briefs are consistent and becoming embedded.”

Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “Every member of staff at the Council and the residents of Newcastle should be heartened by the messages coming out of this informal feedback. Although it is very early days and we shouldn’t get carried away, it shows we are now heading in the right direction.”
Deputy Leader Robin Studd added: " The Council has not had too many inspections in recent years where Inspectors have had positive things to say, so we should enjoy this moment and then roll our sleeves up and press ahead.”
Acting Chief Executive Ian Jenkinson also welcomed the feedback. He said: “Many thanks to everyone who took part in the inspection. We now await the formal draft report setting out the Inspector’s key messages. This review comes before the Use of Resources inspection which will look back at our achievements over the last 12 months. Although the impact of the changes we are making are not yet fully developed or embedded, our direction of change is positive and that is excellent news for the Council.”




May Bank latest: You decide on school's fence plan

Leaflet 27th Oct 2006

Cllr Simon Tagg would like to thank all those people who wrote letters to him recently about the May Bank Infants School headmistress’ proposals to erect a fence (with gated access) around a part of the Marsh next to the School.
Simon said, “The plans were discussed at last week’s Cabinet meeting which I chaired as Council Leader. We decided that whilst we all support safer access to the Marsh for the schoolchildren, it would have been premature to make a decision on the proposals at the moment because it became clear that inadequate consultation had been carried out.
The Council will now write to residents who live around the Marsh to ask them for their views. We believe that this is the correct way forward.”
Stephen Holland said, “A number of residents have been telling us that they were unaware of these plans, otherwise there has been a mixed response. Therefore more consultation is the best way ahead.”
Ian Matthews added, “The Marsh holds a special place in people’s hearts so it is only right that they be asked their views. I was surprised to hear Labour Councillor Mick Clarke on Radio Stoke saying that he believed there had been enough consultation and that people had already decided in favour of these proposals. You have been telling us different!”



Exclusive: Labour's £1.6 Million addiction to consultants

Press release 12th Oct 2006

New figures to be released shortly are expected to show that Labour spent £1.6 Million on consultants during their 2 years in full control of Newcastle Borough Council  - a period that ended on May 24th 2006 when they were voted out.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said, "The figures will show that  people (such as ex Council Leader David Leech and Cllr Mick Clarke) in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Labour's attack on the new administration for engaging consultants on vital Council restructuring will now seem at the very least - foolish. The true scale of their involvement with consultants while in power is indeed shocking."  



Historic night as new structure gains Full Council approval

Press release 28th Sept 2006

New positions in the new structure proposed by Council Leader Simon Tagg and adopted by the Full Council tonight:

Ian Jenkinson - Acting Chief Executive, Head of the Paid Service and Returning Officer
Paul Clisby -      Monitoring Officer
Alan Campbell - Deputy Monitoring Officer
Alan Hill -         Interim Corporate Director (Resources)
Alan Hudson -   Corporate Director (Community Services)
Neale Clifton -  Corporate Director (Strategy, Development and Regeneration)
Ian Jenkinson - Corporate Director (Assets and Operations)

Full Council also adopted a 17 strong Senior Management structure. Full story can be found <here> 



Councillors go back to school

Council press release 23rd Sept 2006

Councillors in Newcastle will be going back to school, in an effort to encourage children to take an interest in local democracy and vote when they are old enough. Council leader Simon Tagg and fellow May Bank councillors Ian Matthews and Stephen Holland will make a number of visits to Wolstanton High School.

Councillor Tagg will visit the school of which he is an ex pupil  on October 4, 11 and 18, and November 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, when he will give pupils an insight into life as the leader of the council.He will also talk about local elections, and the session will include questions and answers.



Council restructuring gathers momentum after passing Scrutiny test

Press Release 11th Sept 2006

Council Leader Simon Tagg has indicated it is the joint Conservative / Lib Dem administration's intention to move forward with the restructuring and improvement of Newcastle Borough Council after the plans passed unscathed through the Council's Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday night. He confirmed that the plans will now go to the Full Council at the end of the month for ratification.
Cllr Tagg said, "Our restructuring plans met no real obstacles at the Scrutiny meeting, just a bit of political point scoring by the Labour opposition but for all their talk in the end they didn't even force it to the vote. We can now progress to the Full Council at the end of September (27th) and start the improvement of Newcastle Borough Council."
Cllr Tagg also pledged that he and his Cabinet colleagues will intervene to stop any drop in service level to the public.
"I have made it clear to my Cabinet colleagues that it is our job to ensure that the restructuring of the Council moves as smoothly as possible. Each one has been given an area of the Council's activity to monitor in order to prevent any problems arising and ensure that officers don't take their eyes of the 'service delivery' ball over the next few months."
He conceded that the next few months could be difficult as the new structure 'bedded in' but he had confidence in his Cabinet colleagues.
"Both the public and Council staff can I believe be confident that they have the right team running Newcastle at the moment. That team is changing the culture in the Civic Offices and leading a Council striving for excellence."

Cabinet member Cllr Glennis Deakin said, "The rest of the Cabinet and I are determined to see the Council improve and we intend to monitor the situation closely. It is important that we work with officers to ensure that the restructuring is managed properly."



Picture exclusive: Borough set to sweep up & recycle

Article in the Sentinel 6th September 2006












Conservative Group Leader Simon Tagg & Cllr David Becket (pictured top right) viewing the ground breaking recycling process for street sweepings.

Newcastle Borough Council is set to increase its recycling efforts by recycling street sweepings for the first time. The move is part of the new Conservative/Lib Dem administration's new recycling strategy that has replaced the Labour Group's stated policy of moving the Borough immediately to fortnightly bin collections.
A report that goes before the Council's Scrutiny Committee on 6th September says that there is the potential for 1,300 tons of recyclable materials to be obtained from the street sweepings, which equates to an additional 2.6% towards the Government targets for the Borough of 18% in 2006/07 and 20% in 2007/08.
Council Leader Simon Tagg & Lib Dem Environment Spokesman David Becket paid a visit to a local recycling plant to view the groundbreaking process for the recycling of street sweepings on Thursday.
Simon Tagg said, "I was impressed with the process to recycle the street sweepings. Why should all that material go to a landfill site or be incinerated as is happening at the moment when it could be recycled? This will not only help us to reach the recycling targets but also protect the environment. The soil/grit material extracted can be reused as backfill on building sites and the other sweepings (leaves, wood, plastic) can be recycled in the normal way."
David Becket said, "This is a groundbreaking process which more councils are becoming alert to. Newcastle is at the forefront of this. The recycling of street sweepings along with the additional garden waste collections and the introduction of plastic bring sites as set out in our new recycling strategy will help us towards the Government's tougher targets for recycling."


Simon Tagg blasts Labour criticism of Council restructuring

Letter to the Sentinel 22th August 2006

 I write following the Sentinel article on the decision of Newcastle Borough Council’s Cabinet to restructure the top tier of the organisation (August 18th).

The case for restructuring is compelling.  In March 2006 Government Auditors slammed the Council, then Labour-controlled, for lacking leadership and said there were no signs of improvement and that services to the public were suffering.

 The consultants’ report which we commissioned using available funds already specifically earmarked by the Council involved extensive consultation with staff at all levels through one-to-one interviews and group meetings.  This revealed significant frustration with the lack of leadership from the top of the organisation but there was also real hope vested in the new Conservative/Lib Dem administration to bring about the change required.

 We are not reinventing the wheel with a new organisational structure.  It is similar to ones used by other councils up and down the country.  It does not involve a mass cull of staff - a scare story put about by the Labour opposition and the proposals are cost neutral over the medium term.

 The Council has been held back by backward-looking and weak political leadership from Labour for a number of years.  We intend to improve it and provide the excellent services which Newcastle’s people deserve - restructuring is the first step.


May Bank action: Vandalised bus shelter replaced

Press release in the Sentinel 16th August 2006

A vandalised bus shelter has been replaced. The shelter situated by the Marsh on Basford Park Road, May Bank had been the constant target of vandalism and graffiti culminating in part of it collapsing in on itself in May.

May Bank Councillor & Leader of Newcastle Borough Council Simon Tagg said, "After part of it 'collapsed' one Saturday night back in May there has been a desperate need for a new bus shelter. The side which collapsed was open to the elements so it can't have been a nice experience waiting for a bus there. This new shelter is dark green similar to others across the Borough. The other shelter was a disgrace - not in keeping with the Marsh at all."

Cllr Stephen Holland said, “I am very pleased there is a new bus shelter at last.  Since I was elected in May, I have been working hard to get this shelter on Basford Park Road.  Quite a number of residents from May Bank use the buses on this popular route every day with buses going to Hanley and Stoke.  The old shelter had been vandalised and covered in graffiti.”




Simon Tagg leads the improvement at Newcastle Borough Council Cultural Change factors

Press release the Sentinel 1st August 2006

The Council's new political administration has unveiled a proposed restructuring of the authority. The planned changes are intended to raise standards of service delivery and have been drawn up along with external consultants 'Excellence in Business'.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said, "We believe that these changes are necessary to ensure that the people of our Borough receive excellent local services. This restructuring will affect only the top tier of the Authority and our aim is to empower staff at all levels to achieve the improvement that they and the new administration would like to see. As a Council we are currently rated as 'fair' by the Audit Commission. For us, fair is not good enough and we want to move towards being an excellent authority with a reputation for good governance on behalf of the people of the Borough."

The current Chief Executive Felix Harley has decided to take early retirement.
Simon said, "On behalf of the Council we would like to offer Felix our warmest thanks for the significant contribution that he has made to the life of our Borough.The process of recruiting a new Chief Executive will begin immediately."



Newcastle hosts International Summit

Article printed in the Sentinel 19th June 2006

They may have come from four different continents, but a group of special visitors to Newcastle this week have one very special thing in common. All are residents of towns and cities which share the same name and, together, they have been celebrating their similarities at the latest Newcastle's Summit.
The get together marks the first time North Staffordshire has hosted the biannual event and the festivities got off to a spectacular start with an opening ceremony at the New Victoria Theatre yesterday. Delegates have travelled from as far a field as Japan, South Africa, France, Germany, Switzerland and the U.S.
Walter Friemal is from Neuburg, which is the German name for Newcastle, and is a veteran of the international summits. He said: "The whole idea started in Shinshiro, in Japan, where the first summit took place in 1998. I've been to summits in Switzerland and America since then. During the week we will be going to Wedgwood and Spode and I'm looking forward to that. I have some Wedgwood porcelain at home."
Betty Lou Heintz is representing New Castle, in Indiana. She said: "Our New Castle is fairly flat farmland, so it's interesting to see the hills, trees and gardens over here. We are finding that although we are far apart, we have many things in common, such as uptown regeneration."
Besides yesterday's opening ceremony the delegates also attended the opening of an international friendship garden at The Brampton, in Newcastle, as well as a special dinner at Keele Hall.The visitors are staying at Keele University during their visit and South African representative Laurence Short maintained that he would like to see his native Newcastle form a partnership with Keele. He said: "We are trying to develop a university back home. My Newcastle has over 300,000 people and we are a big city. I've never been to England before and I'm looking forward to meeting more people. We are all part of one big Newcastle family."
The 29 delegates attended a seminar about getting more people involved in their local communities, and will also be taking part in an education symposium at Newcastle College and will be given a guided tour of the borough. Other trips include going to the Dorothy Clive Garden near Woore, plus Apedale Heritage Centre where they will find out about the area's mining history. The group will also visit Trentham Gardens, Shugborough, and Audley Cricket Club. They are also set to tuck into an English fish and chip supper before attending an international salute at St Giles' Church, in Newcastle.
Simon Tagg, leader of Newcastle Borough Council, said the historic borough and surrounding area has lots to offer. He hopes a spin-off from this year's summit will be setting up school exchanges between Newcastle and its namesakes overseas.



New Cabinet meets for the first time

Article printed in the Sentinel 1st June 2006

The first meeting of Newcastle Borough Council's new-look cabinet was taking place today. The meeting follows an historic Annual Council Meeting which saw the Labour Party lose control of the authority for the first time in three decades. The partnership of Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors will now take their places around the cabinet table for the first time.
The cabinet's leader will be councillor Simon Tagg, who has the portfolio of corporate and service improvement. The deputy leader, Liberal Democrat Robin Studd, will be cabinet member for regeneration and planning.
Councillor Tagg said: "The new cabinet committee is made up of some of the best talent from our two groups. It's a team that can take Newcastle forward and bring about the changes necessary to improve services and value for money."
Other cabinet members include Conservative councillor Jeremy Lefroy, who is in charge of finance, resources and efficiency and Liberal Democrat councillor David Becket, responsible for environment and recycling.



Historic night for Newcastle: New Tagg team to lead Newcastle

Article printed in the Sentinel 25th May 2006

Labour has lost control of Newcastle Borough Council for the first time in more than 30 years. Although still the biggest individual party on the council, with 27 seats, an alliance forged between the Conservative group and the Liberal Democrats has wrested control of the borough away from Labour with a combined seat total of 31.
The Labour Party, which had lost its majority in the May 4th elections after losing five seats, is now facing up to the unfamiliar role of opposition.

The swing was brought about after a deal was thrashed out between the Tories - who won three new seats in Porthill, May Bank and Clayton to bring its total to 17 - and the Lib Dems, who increased their representation on May 7 by two to 14.
Now Conservative group leader Simon Tagg has been voted in as the new leader of Newcastle Borough Council, with Lib Dem leader Robin Studd his deputy.
Councillor Tagg said: "We are pleased that we have reached an agreement that will offer the change that the people of Newcastle clearly voted for in the recent elections.
"This is an historic opportunity and there are many challenges and difficult decisions that need to be taken to set Newcastle on the right course.
"The work will start straight away with addressing the poor financial position of the council that we will inherit form Labour."

The two parties have agreed a list of priorities for the coming year, which includes addressing the council's financial problems, improving recycling in the borough, tackling litter and anti-social behaviour, better on-street parking enforcement and working towards a fully monitored CCTV system around the town centre.

Click here to see how I got there!       Click here to see me on TV!


May Bank election 2006: Stephen Holland elected

Stephen Holland    1,126

Lib Dems                371

Labour                   326

Stephen, Simon & Ian say -Thanks for your support!

Conservatives win Newcastle's Borough wide election!


Con             9,029     32%

Lab              7,873    28%

 Lib Dem       7,198     25%



Its a scandal: Civic Office refurbishment overspend

My comments printed in the Sentinel 16th March 2006

Newcastle's civic offices have been branded the borough's Wembley Stadium after the costs of refurbishing the council chamber spiralled. Latest borough council figures show an estimated £301,560 spend on furniture, decor, blinds and curtains and other refurbishments at the civic chamber, plus £29,295 on general repairs and renewal to carpets, lighting, electrics, ceilings and linings. The council is also spending £263,221 to make the building compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.
But when the borough council approved the works 18 months ago, the anticipated cost was £245,000, £56,560 less than the present estimate. Despite this the council's cabinet had set aside £319,000 for the works.
Councillor Simon Tagg, the Conservative group leader, hit out at what he sees as a major overspend at last night's scrutiny committee meeting.
He said: "Members may recall that the estimated cost quoted to the cabinet in November 2004 was £245,000 - so it is £50,000 over budget. At the time council leader David Leech joked that, "we hope to come well under that figure", in poking fun at Conservative objections.
"Who's the joke on now? I'd say the people of Newcastle."
After the meeting, Mr Tagg compared the civic offices refurbishment with England's national football stadium, which has run £100 million over budget.
He said: "I think it's safe to say that the council is heading for a large overspend on the project. I feel people should know about it.
"There was outrage at the idea of spending £245,000 - now it is £300,000. All for something that the public will very rarely see or use. I feel it is turning into Newcastle's Wembley Stadium."
Mr Tagg had asked for the figures to be released to the scrutiny committee.



CCTV latest: Monitoring is the key

My comments printed in the Sentinel 3rd Feb 2006

New town centre CCTV cameras must be monitored constantly to protect late night revellers and provide extra help to police, say councillors. They say the £40,000 investment in cameras in Newcastle can only be justified if incidents picked up by CCTV are dealt with as they happen.
Members of the borough council have welcomed the five new CCTV cameras, which will be installed on High Street and Paradise Street, but are concerned that footage will not be constantly monitored.
Councillor Simon Tagg said a team of operators keeping a constant watch on the cameras, particularly during busy Friday and Saturday nights, would ensure police receive a quick call-out should any violence flare-up. Similar fears have been raised in Stoke-on-Trent after it was claimed a £25,000 camera in Chell Heath had not picked up criminals and troublemakers, although council-run cameras in the city are monitored throughout the day.
Mr Tagg, the Conservative group leader, said: "Real time monitoring is the key to getting the most from the CCTV investment the council is making. Instead of just looking at a tape recording of an incident an hour or in some cases weeks after it has happened, it would be beneficial to have operators monitoring the CCTV and for them to be in contact with police so that a rapid reaction can be made enabling police to intervene to stop disturbances as they happen and allowing arrests to be made. At the same time monitoring can lead to enhanced evidence gathering potential from CCTV. With the present unmonitored CCTV tape review system, if a camera is pointing the wrong way, then you lose the suspect and the evidence."
Councillors have approved the scheme to put two poles on High Street and one in Paradise Street, which will hold a total of five cameras - taking the number of cameras in the town centre from 12 to 17 at a cost of about £40,000. That is on top of the 33 cameras which the borough council has just finished installing at Midway multi-storey car park.

Go to my dedicated CCTV page <click>



Message for the year ahead from Newcastle Conservative Group Leader Simon Tagg

 Press release 1st Jan 2006

Newcastle Conservative Group Leader Simon Tagg has welcomed in the New year with a message to the people of Newcastle to embrace change and ditch Newcastle's failing Labour Party. Cllr Tagg accused Labour Councillors of losing control of the Council's finances whilst presiding over a deterioration in services to the public and planning more cuts in the Council's core services in 2006.  He said "Since Labour regained control of Newcastle in 2004 they have shown breathtaking incompetence in the way they have run the affairs of our Borough. They have chosen to use the Council's reserves to support the Council's budget and then cut funding for community groups as well as  putting off important decisions.  Now they appear to want to empty our bins only once a fortnight. How could they possibly consider this when the blue box recycling is not up and running properly meaning that for an average family, the grey wheelie bin will be full after only a few days.  This is all about Labour cutting local services again."

"This situation cannot be allowed to continue.  Labour councillors cannot be allowed to blunder on  as they have in the past.  It's time for change in Newcastle.  Only the Conservative Group offers a way forward which protects local services whilst keeping council tax increases down.  The forthcoming elections in 2006 will provide voters with an opportunity to deliver their verdict on the last two years that Labour have been in full control of Newcastle Council.  Things can be different!  My Conservative team and I will be working to bring about the change needed in Newcastle in 2006."



Latest: Brewery respond to residents pub petition

Sentinel article 26th Dec 2005

A Boarded-up pub shut down after a rat infestation is set to reopen next year after a major refurbishment. More than 100 residents have been calling for answers over the future of the Hempstalls Pub, in Hempstalls Lane, Newcastle, since the venue was boarded-up in May. Now Punch Taverns, the pub's owners, has pledged to transform the pub into a food-led family inn.

Punch TavernsFamilies living near the venue have given the plans a cautious welcome. Susan Smith, aged 47, who lives opposite the pub, said "When we moved here 20 years ago the pub was fine, but about five years ago it went downhill very quickly and is now an eyesore. We need a decent landlord with a strong personality to bring in customers who won't cause trouble."
The pub company's decision comes two months after 140 residents signed a petition organised by Newcastle Borough councillors Simon Tagg and Ian Matthews to spur senior management into action. The petition stated: "We feel that this is no longer an appropriate place for this type of licensed premises with its associated noise and anti-social behaviour problems. We understand that you are reviewing plans for the future of the site and we would like you to take local residents' concerns into account when you come to your decision."
Environmental officers at Newcastle Borough Council shut down the pub in May after reports rats had infested the cellar and mice were in the upstairs living quarters.
A spokesman for Punch Taverns said: "We are putting together a substantial investment project for this pub. Once these plans are finalised we will go on to make the necessary planning applications and, all being well, refurbishment work can begin. The current project schedule means we expect to open by the middle of next year."



Taking Cameron's message onto the streets of Newcastle

Press release 6th Dec 2005

Newcastle Conservatives will hit the streets early to take the message of the new party leader, David Cameron, to the people of Newcastle. Councillors and party activists will distribute a newspaper from David Cameron in Newcastle town centre on Saturday 10th Dec 2005.

Newcastle Conservative Group Leader Simon Tagg said "It's great news that David Cameron has been elected Leader by a 2 to 1 vote. This really is a fresh start for the Conservative and having a leader with the qualities of David Cameron will help us in our campaign in Newcastle."
"We want to get out bright and early on behalf of the new leader to get his message of change to people. That's why we will descend on the town centre to distribute our newspapers on Saturday."




Simon & CF raise over £200 for Children In Need!

 Press release 8th Nov 2005

A local councillor and students from Keele University dyed their hair blue for Children In Need on Friday 18th November 2005.  May Bank Councillor Simon Tagg and student members of Newcastle and Keele Conservative Future (NKCF)  took up a challenged laid down by members of NKCF and raise over £200 for Children In Need by being sponsored for the act.

The group dyed their hair blue for the whole of Children In Need Day and paid a visit to the Civic Open Day and met the Mayor of Newcastle, Colin Brooks, at the Civic Offices in Newcastle and toured the town centre in the afternoon with money buckets and then attended a meeting of NKCF members in the evening at Newcastle's Conservative Club.

 May Bank Councillor, Simon Tagg, who is President of NKCF  said “This was great fun and  we raised a bucket full of cash for Children In Need. We promised to be ‘visible’ with our blue hair during the day and not just hide at home. I'd like to thank everybody that gave money.”




Simon Tagg comments on the scrapping of Newcastle Carnival

My comments printed in The Sentinel on 26th Oct 2005


The axe as fallen on Newcastle's annual Carnival at Wednesdays Cabinet meeting. The controlling Labour Group voted to discontinuation the annual Bank Holiday event after more than 30 years.
Conservative Group Leader Simon Tagg blames poor planning in recent years and the spread of the compensation culture for the weakening of the event, so that now it has become the victim of the council's budget cuts.
He said "It will be a sad day if the annual town Carnival is scrapped. The poor planning of recent years have left this 'community building' event open to criticism. The hiring of 'tacky' Posh and Becks impersonators last year costing £900 brought ridicule from all quarters. Heath & safety concerns have lead to the annual parade, the centre piece of the day, being decimated. Floats and troopers were lost because of worries of injury and compensation claims. The Carnival would have been see as untouchable until recent years but now its seen as expendable"
Cllr Tagg went on to urge the continuation of events in the Brampton Park, which were very well attended and popular - such as steam engine rallies and vintage cars as well as a fun fair.
He Said "I would like to see some sort of event continue in the Brampton Park, perhaps a Fun Day. It is a great place to hold an event on a smaller scale and would be well attended as it always was on Carnival Day".


May Bank Action: Petition on boarded-up pub's future

My comments printed in The Sentinel on 3rd Oct 2005

More than 100 residents living near a boarded-up pub have signed a petition demanding answers over the site's future. People living near the Hempstalls Pub, in Hempstalls Lane, Newcastle, say the venue has become a magnet for vandals since being boarded up earlier this year.
The pub's owners Punch Taverns has said it is reviewing its plans for the site. But 140 residents have so far signed the petition organised by borough councillors Simon Tagg and Ian Matthews in the hope the brewery will listen.
Mr Tagg said: "We have responded to residents' concerns about the state of the Hempstalls pub and approached the brewery, which says it is reviewing their plans for the premises. We will be sending them this petition which is signed by local people who have to live with the state the pub is in on a daily basis. All the windows are covered in metal grilles, the fence is broken and the site has become a magnet for youths and vandals. Residents have had enough and want something done."
Mr Matthews added: "The pub is an eyesore. We will also be making the borough council aware of the concern of local residents."
Environmental officers with Newcastle Borough Council shut down the pub in May after reports rats had infested the cellar and mice were in the upstairs living quarters.
Residents were delighted when the pub closed after complaining pub-goers were urinating in the car park and being loud and abusive to passers-by.
The petition states: "We feel that this is no longer an appropriate place for this type of licensed premises with its associated noise and anti-social behaviour problems. We understand that you are reviewing plans for the future of the site and we would like you to take local residents' concerns into account when you come to your decision."


Save Staffordshire Ambulance Service: Big isn't better

My letter printed in The Sentinel on 23rd Sept 2005One of Staffordshire Ambulance Service's response vehicles - pic by Staffordshire Ambulance Service

May I give my support to colleagues from the Staffordshire Moorlands over the awful proposals to merge Staffordshire's Ambulance Service with others. Our ambulance service, the envy of the rest of the country, is being put at risk because of the Government's regionalisation agenda. When will they realise that bigger isn't necessarily better and that what people want is locally-run services? The rejection recently by voters of a Regional Assembly in the North East proves there is no appetite for powers transferred to a regional 'super body'. Newcastle Borough Council will be debating this issue at a special meeting shortly and I hope councillors will reject these proposals and send a strong message to the Government.



Simon Tagg condemns decision to close Etruria Station 

 My Letter printed in The Sentinel on 28th July 2005

I would like to add to the condemnation of the decision to close Etruria Station (Sentinel, July 22). From a Newcastle perspective, we see the station as an important building block in creating the integrated transport system that North Staffordshire so badly needs. Newcastle does not have a railway station and Etruria is the closest. It is in an ideal place for a transport hub for rail, bus and car to serve Newcastle town centre and Hanley via a park and ride system. Its closure, I feel, would be a missed opportunity and undermine one of the key pillars for the regeneration of the area - a transport system that works.



Conservative reform agenda for the Council

 My comments printed in The Sentinel on 2nd & 20th June 2005 (Stress at work policy & reform of the councils constitution)

A Stress-busting policy for staff could prevent a council making further mistakes, according to a leading opposition councillor. Newcastle Borough Council aims to tackle the problem of stress among workers through initiatives in its draft Stress At Work Policy and Guidance document.
Annual staff surveys are just one proposal put forward in the document, which is set to be approved and put in place by October, In the last financial year to April 2005, council workers each clocked up an average of 11 days off sick, but it is not known how many of those were stress-related. The figure is an improvement on the 13.4 day-average from the previous year, but not as low as the 9.5-day target officers were hoping for. The eight-page proposal states the council "recognises there is no such thing as a pressure-free job", adding that "increasing demands placed on the organisation to provide quality services, the need to face legislative challenges and the continuing restrictions on available resources are likely to increase the pressures that have to be faced by employees".
Conservative group leader, Simon Tagg, hopes the stress policy will prevent the council making mistakes similar to ones he has highlighted recently, including a refused phone mast application in Clayton getting permission by default after an administrative mistake, and confidential details of the town's carnival accidentally being leaked to The Sentinel.
He said: "When people are stressed they make mistakes and I'm sure there's a lot of stress going on in the council's planning department. I think this policy could maybe help avoid future mistakes and I'm behind the policy as long as it helps those people delivering services on the frontline."

Conservative councillors have hit out at a council's ruling group after failing to set up a watchdog to combat mistakes. Simon Tagg, May Bank councillor and Newcastle's Conservative group leader, branded Newcastle Borough Council a "laughing stock" after calling for a Constitution Review Working Party to be established, following what he claimed were errors made by the authority.The council has faced a storm of criticism after a refused Orange phone mast application at the junction of Clayton Lane and Clayton Road was given permission by default after an administrative mistake.
And Mr Tagg has highlighted further "errors" which he says could have been stopped if the working party was established Speaking at the meeting, Mr Tagg said: "The constitution is the nuts and bolts which holds the council together.It sets out how it should operate, how decisions are made, and the procedures which are followed to ensure that it is run efficiently and is accountable to local people. At the moment, when things go wrong, we are told no individuals are to blame and that it's the system's fault. Well if that's the case, then lets have a look at the system.
The Conservatives want the group to review rules and regulations regarding meetings, decision-making responsibilities, financial regulations, and protocols on member and officer relations.  Mr Tagg said "We have seen in recent months a number of cases where this council has let people down - the fiasco over masts in Wolstanton and Clayton, preserved trees cut down in Basford, confidential documents accidentally leaked about the town's carnival plans and a ticking off from the District Auditor over the way the council does its financial accounting."


May Bank mast victory !

 My comments printed in The Sentinel on 10th June 2005  (picture: Cllr Ian Matthews and local campaigner Abi Smith) 

Controversial plans for a phone mast near an infants' school have been knocked back. T-Mobile wanted to put a 12-metre mast near the traffic lights at the junction of Alexandra Road and High Street in May Bank, Newcastle, just metres from May Bank Infants' School.
A meeting was held with residents after families living close to the proposed site - near the Cricketers Arms pub and She Devil clothes shop facing Wolstanton Marsh - said a mast would be totally out of character with the area and far too close to homes. More than 40 letters of objection were sent to the council and 163 residents signed a petition opposing the plan.
May Bank resident Mick Purcell owns Mayfield Garage just 10 metres from the site and lives in nearby Mayfield Place. The 46-year-old said: "I know we've all got mobiles but they're trying to site them too close to properties. My son's and daughter's bedrooms would have been facing the mast and we just don't know about the long term impact the emissions from these masts will have."
May Bank councillor Simon Tagg told Newcastle Borough Council's cabinet meeting the mast would be in a "sensitive area". He said: "This mast would be an eyesore in a prominent position on the Marsh and would be seen on all approaches to the High Street lights."
Mr Tagg, who said the mast had been "met with overwhelming opposition from local people", also raised concerns over possible interference with a traffic management antenna already on the site, which gives priority to buses and emergency vehicles.
Fellow May Bank councillor Ian Matthews said: "I am pleased this mast has been refused. The people around the Marsh didn't want it. It would have ruined a lovely area."



Transport Working party says NO GO! to congestion charging in Newcastle

 Press release 11th April 2005


Newcastle Councils Transport Working Party has given the thumbs down to the idea put forward by The North Staffordshire Transport Study (NSITS) in relation to congestion charging of motorist in Newcastle. In the working  parties final report to Wednesdays Scrutiny Committee it states  -  road charging and workplace charging is not an option for North Staffordshire at present and could only be contemplated after visible improvements in public transport provision and as part of a national policy for such measures (Report, Findings: G)

 May Bank Cllr Simon Tagg who is a member of the Transport Working Party said "The idea of road charging such as the congestion charge which they have in London really is a no go for Newcastle and the City too. The alternatives to a car are just  not  viable  for people to use - the buses for example"

During the working parties evidence gathering stage it met with various transport providers including the local bus companies (Report, finding: I)

 Cllr Tagg said "We met with all the local bus companies large and small but the one which really interests me is First Bus - which is the main bus service provider for the area. First Bus has taken a lot of stick over the last few years - a lot of it rightly so because of inconsiderate and badly publicise timetable changes, frequent cancellations and lateness. They have brought new people in to run the operation and we were promised improvements but only time will tell. At the moment though the only thing that seems to have improved is their PR!"

The working party gave serious consideration to the towns bus station - which the Borough council owns. Members made a site visit during the rush hour to see problems first hand (Report, page 3 & 4)

Cllr Tagg Said "We are recommending a number of improvements. The bus station is one of the entry points into our town centre it should be cleaner and safer. It should contain reliable, up to date and accessible time table information - this is lacking at the moment. Personally I would like to see the return of a bus station manager"

The working party also investigated the possibility of setting up a Shopmobility scheme for the town centre.

Cllr Tagg Said" Newcastle must be one of the few towns without a shopmobilty scheme - even a small town like Whitchurch operates one part time. Our town centre is for everyone so should be accessible to all. The council should investigate setting one up in Newcastle with the help of local traders - who can only benefit from such a move"



Lower Oxford Road: Trees replanted

My Comments printed in the Sentinel 24th March 2005

The trees illegally cut down at 1, Lower Oxford Road, Basford have at last been replanted. The property developer who axed the original 100 year old trees has complied with the Tree   Replacement Notice (TRN) that Cllr Simon Tagg pressed the council to serve on behalf of local residents.

Cllr Simon Tagg said “This is a victory for people power and I was pleased to fight for this   issue on behalf of Basford residents. Seeing the new trees in place shows that local people will not be taken for mugs by a guy trying to make a fast buck at the expense of the loca environment.”

Cllr Ian Matthews said, “It will be a long time before the new trees resemble the ones cut down but this is an important step in righting this wrong.” 




Community Chest move slammed

My Comments printed in the Sentinel 22nd Feb 2005

Community groups say they will struggle to survive if plans to axe a lifeline fund are passed by council leaders. The Community Chest Fund was set up by Newcastle Borough Council about four years ago, providing groups and organisations with vital funding to help with everyday costs.
But under this year's budget plans Labour councillors are proposing to remove the £50,000 annual fund while setting a council tax rise of 5%. Conservative Group Leader Simon Tagg - whos group is  proposing a rise of below 3% - attacked the move.

The Conservative budget proposal includes keeping the Community Chest Fund and committing the council to paying for peak-time monitored CCTV in the town centre and extra street cleaning. Councillor Simon Tagg said: "People have put forward a message strongly that their streets are dirty and littered, so we have put more money into increasing this valuable service.
"We have also proposed reinstating funding for the Community Chest Fund that Labour propose to cut. We feel this cut is a spiteful move, attacking voluntary and community groups who do so much, for free and in their spare time, for our communities.
"This money is not charity, but cash well spent towards building a better community. This cut has been extremely unpopular with the public and shows how out of tune Labour councillors are with the public."


Save our Court House !

My Comments Printed in the Sentinel 4th Feb 2005

Councillors are demanding to keep a magistrates court in Newcastle amid fears a proposed North Staffordshire super court is to be built in Stoke-on-Trent. Newcastle Borough Council first objected to the plan in 2003 after the Magistrates' Courts Committee (MCC) approved the merger of Newcastle and Stoke-on-Trent justices at a combined court somewhere in the region. The Department of constitutional Affairs (DCA) has issued a consultation paper requesting views on where the single court should be. Stakeholders are being asked to agree on a "red line area within which the new courthouse is to be located.But councillors in Newcastle have rejected the notion of any red line area and are taking a firm stand that they want justice administered in the borough.

Conservative group leader Simon Tagg said the council should demand that two courts remain - one in Newcastle and one in the city. He said: "We have said all along there should be two courts because of the size of the population and we should stick to that.
"If we agree to a red line area, the court will end up on the other side of the A500. We want a court in Newcastle administering justice for Newcastle people and I hope the county council and MPs will join us in this stand."
Seabridge councillor Andrew Fear, Conservative Deputy Leader added: "We need to be firm that this borough justifies its own court house, that there are sites that are suitable and we must stick to our guns and not let them sneak this in through the back door."
Councillors voted unanimously to retain a court in Newcastle, to request there be two courts covering North Staffordshire, to inform the DCA of suitable sites in Newcastle and to reject the notion of a red-line area



Half want a parish council - half don't

My Comments Printed in the Sentinel 28th Jan 2005

Residents are divided on whether they want a parish council in their village. Families in Wolstanton have given a mixed reaction to the proposal during consultation by Newcastle Borough Council.The authority sent out voting slips to more than 4,000 homes after receiving a 900-signature petition from villagers backing the move.But the results - from the 1,169 returned slips - show 616 (52 per cent) supporting the petition and 553 (47 per cent) against

Comments made by residents during the consultation ranged from the parish council being "a good thing" to there already being too much administration.The move toward a parish council would mean residents paying an extra parish precept on top of their existing council tax.
The council would have to pay a grant to the parish council of between £7,000 and £10,000. Councillors will meet next week to decide what comments to pass on to the ODPM with the petition.

May Bank councillor Simon Tagg, Conservative group leader, has already raised concerns about the impact on council tax bills. He says people living in certain areas of Wolstanton class themselves as residents of other areas such as Porthill, May Bank and Cross Heath and would not welcome the prospect of paying for improvements to Wolstanton. Mr Tagg feels the closeness of the vote reflects the concerns that residents have about the plans.
He said: "I wanted there to be a full and frank debate about the parish council plans and I believe we have had that in the last month and the people of Wolstanton have given support by a small margin (63) to the plans."


Families left to clean up

My Comments printed in the Sentinel on: 14th Jan 2005

Fed-up residents claim their streets were left littered with glass and paper by waste collectors. Families living in Woolliscroft Avenue and May Avenue, May Bank, say blue box recycling workers left smashed glass and rubbish behind when they collected the boxes. they say Mondays collection left behind 'an absolute mess'.

May Bank councillor Simon Tagg, whose parents live in Woolliscroft Avenue, said he had to get his own dust pan and brush out to sweep up smashed glass left behind after the collection. He said " Leaving broken glass lying in the street is very dangerous and I would have expected better from Cheshire Recycling, which operates the service. I can't believe they didn't have a dustpan and brush to hand to clean up the glass. It was just left lying there, on a route home from a local school. People want cleaner safer streets, but in Woolliscroft Avenue, we didn't have either"

No one was available for comment from Cheshire Recycling, who operate the fortnightly service for Newcastle Borough Council.



Money going to the wrong place - Labour and Lib Dems have warped priorities

My letter printed in the Sentinel on: 8th Jan 2005

Further to the letter by N Lewis, Kidsgrove (Council makeover not needed January 1, 2005), it really shows the warped priorities of the Labour and Lib Dem councillors, who voted to spend £245,000 on refurbishments of Newcastle's civic suite. Over Christmas, I took a walk around Newcastle town centre and found dangerously uneven pavements, water-filled potholes in various places, and benches in need of repair. In Castle Walk, there is not a litter bin along the entire stretch and the pavement is covered with sticky chewing gum. There are dark, badly-lit alleyways dotted around the town, which are a muggers' paradise.

Conservatives on the council voted to spend £53,000 on replacing worn and threadbare carpets and minor redecoration - a thrifty repair job on civic offices - freeing money up for what people have said is their priority - cleaner and safer streets. Labour and Lib Dem councillors would rather spend that money on plush comfy seats and expensive video display screens.

For more info on the scandal of Civic Suite refurbishments <click>


Wreaths are not political footballs

My comments printed in the Sentinel on: 20th Nov 2004

A Political party has been slammed for attempting to make political capital out of Remembrance Day by laying wreaths with the group's logo. The United Kingdom Independence Party laid a wreath at Newcastle's Remembrance Day ceremony  marked with the group's bright yellow and black pound-sign logo.

Councillors criticised the party for using Remembrance Day as a "political football" and say advertising political parties at such services is in bad taste.
Newcastle Conservative group leader Simon Tagg  took part in the Newcastle ceremony and Said " UKIP's David Nixon's wreath-laying left a bad taste in my mouth. Political parties don't put down their own wreaths because the Newcastle Mayor does so on their behalf"

"When the sergeant at arms called on local organisations and charities to come forward and lay wreaths, it was inappropriate for Mr Nixon to lay his. These wreaths are not political footballs".


Pensions - creating a partnership in saving for retirement

Pensions have been in the headlines recently and also the subject of many wild claims by supporters of a minority party in theFresh approach needed on pensions Sentinel letter pages.
Tony Blair promised to strengthen and support occupational pension schemes, yet Gordon Brown has introducing a £5billion a year tax on pensions, and the small increase in the basic state pension has been more than swallowed up by massive council tax increases. More and more pensioners are having to go through intrusive means testing under the Pension Credit scheme to get anything extra.
A mountain of research is showing that we could all be wasting our time building up retirement funds - this is creating a disincentive, especially in the young to put anything aside for their old age, yet Labour politicians still claim there is no pensions crisis!
Conservatives have pledged to restore the link between pensions and earnings increasing the pension for a single person by £7 and a pensioner couple by £11. We will also create new lifetime savings accounts which would ensure that individuals' contributions would be matched by the Government - creating a partnership for saving to give people confidence in putting money aside for retirement.



Telecommunications working party (TWP) - Branded a toothless talking shop

Press release: 22nd Oct 2004 


Conservative Group Leader Simon Tagg today branded the TWP to be set up by Newcastle Borough Council  a  'toothless talking shop'

This comes after its was revealed that the committee which is due to hold its first meeting on Nov. 3rd will not be able to review controversial mobile phone mast application before they go to the Planning Committee or give any recommendation on whether applications should be allowed or blocked.
The committee will also have  no scope to alter any of the councils substantive policy in relation to masts.
Cllr Tagg said "After  making enquires with the council as to what the role of the TWP will be, I was disappointed to learn it can do very little and will not be able to review controversial mast application before they go to the Planning Committee or give any recommendation on whether applications should be allowed or not."
 "A lot of councillors have put a lot of store by this working party particularly in the local press in response to residents fears of heath risks associated with these masts. It now turns out it will be a 'toothless talking shop' because its the Government that drives policy on this topic"
Cllr Tagg went on to call on councillors, particularly Labour ones, to lobby Government Ministers for a change of policy on masts.
"I call on Labour councillors to write to the Deputy PM to force a change of policy in the interests of the public - Conservatives have already taken steps on mast policy. In August we adopted a 5 point plan on masts - under this all mobile phone mast developments would require full planning permission and councils would be allowed to take precautionary health concerns into account where masts are near homes, hospitals and schools where current national planning guidance prohibits this".



Conservative Councillors press Council to ban roadside car sales scourge

May Bank, Basford and Porthill Conservative Councillors have pledged to press the Council to banish the scourge of road side car sales from their area. These cars are parked up by the roadside mainly at Lower Oxford Road, Upper Marsh, and Porthill Bank and display eye-catching ‘for sale’ signs in the windows.

May Bank Councillor Ian Matthews said, “This issue was raised at a recent meeting of the Scrutiny Committee, and following publicity from the Sentinel, there was a noticeable reduction in the number of vehicles for sale at the side of the road in May Bank, Basford and Porthill. However since then cars have gradually crept back.”

 “These cars are an eyesore in the area, and often cause a distraction for passing motorists, potentially leading to more accidents in the area. We also believe that the sales are some sort of “organised racket” and not single cars put up for sale by local individuals.”

Porthill councillor John Cooper added, “The Council has recently been considering its enforcement powers, and have not included this particular problem, which we would like to see included. May Bank, Basford and Porthill are all proud their small bits of open space, and local residents do not want to see them covered in second hand cars.”

 Borough Council Officers and the Police, Trading Standards and County Highways officials held a meeting Monday 6th Sept to discuss the problem.
Conservative Group Leader and May Bank Councillor Simon Tagg commented "At the previous Scrutiny meeting when this was discussed, I suggesting that offending vehicles should have stickers saying “sold” or “illegal business put on them - people might then not bother looking at the cars and the owners would have to come and take them away. This idea got cross party support and I hope the meeting on Monday 6th Sept looked into my idea".


Mast issue fudged again

My Letter printed in the Sentinel  14 December 2004

Once again this week Labour Ministers have blocked tougher controls on the location of mobile phone masts. Despite calls for a change in policy by opposition MPs, health experts and scientists, the current voluntary process by which the mobile phone companies are merely asked to consult local communities about the siting of most masts will continue. Mobile phone masts have changed our landscape. Anyone who lives in Wolstanton village will tell you that. There are also the health concerns every new mast brings.

Councils, through the full planning process, should be allowed to adopt a precautionary principle and take health concerns into account when mast sites are near homes, schools and places of work.



Lower Oxford Road, Basford: The illegal cutting down of preserved trees

Go to my page about this crime <more about this Story>



The Borough can not afford another false dawn on CCTV

Go to my dedicated CCTV page <click>



Liam Fox sees the problems in  Newcastle firsthand

Just days after the announcement of his appointment as joint Party
Chairman Dr Liam Fox visited the Newcastle constituency at the end of 2003 to see some of the problems in the town. This included meeting Newcastle's taxi drivers who are currently working with the Conservative Group to overcome the Borough council's lack of enforcement of its policy on illegal taxis
plying for trade in the town.

Dr Fox spent time talking to shoppers and business people, along with myself and my fellow Cllr Jeremy Lefroy  (pictured right).





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Simon Tagg  2010