A tribute to Alderman David Becket

I remain sad about David Becket’s death last week. He was a friend, a fellow councillor and local party activist, with whom I frequently enjoyed talking. To say he was an activist is an understatement; he was always ready to act and to comment, often critically. His critical comments included constructive suggestions. Indeed he contributed enormously to what we were able to say as a local party on a whole range of matters. At council meetings he would often open his voice with the words “I’m not happy” and that made officers prick their ears and listen, subsequently respecting the good that resulted from it.

His biggest contribution to the Borough was the way he revolutionised the organisation of waste and recycling on the Borough Council, enabling a huge rise in the amount recycled and gaining national awards.

I am grateful recently for the help he gave us in responding to the council’s proposed local plan; typically he identified key issues and did some research on these.

He contributed to our production of messages and leaflets on local and national issues; indeed he did so much, including for his ward of Halmer End and Betley, that he leaves a hole that should be filled somehow.

Although he was speedy in criticism, he also acknowledged when others made correct remarks and maintained friendship with everyone. He had high standards of behaviour.

He had a passion for community work and politics. His main concerns nationally were for the Environment, the Economy for the less well off and opposition to financial waste, bureaucracy and conservatism. He was a left-leaning Liberal of the best sort.

Nigel Jones

Secretary and former chair,

Newcastle under Lyme Liberal Democrats

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In memory of our dear friend, Alderman David Becket

I first met David when he attended the AGM of the party, having moved back into the area from Newbury. I was immediately taken aback by his enthusiasm for Liberal Democrat principles, and his strong desire to change things for the better in whatever way he could. My lasting impression of David is, he was a man of integrity, with strong principles which he did not let go of easily, even when times were tough and things were not going his way. He made his view known at every stage of a discussion and was not afraid of fighting his corner even if it made him unpopular for a short time, if he thought in the long term it was for the good of the cause.

Despite his determination to succeed he was a man who gained a lot of respect, even from those who did not agree with him. He would take time to listen to other people’s views and then put his forward. He was also a man with a great sense of compassion and would take time out of his busy day to talk to people and help them when he could. I, like many more will be indebted to David for the support he has given me on numerous occasions when I have wanted reliable advice, and a critical friend. He was a wise compassionate man.

David will be known across the Borough as the man who introduced recycling to every household, the man who was passionate about the environment. He was proud to be the portfolio holder who made kerbside recycling happen, and enabled the Council to win award after award for how Newcastle delivered the service. He was also an authority on transport, housing and green belt issues and was instrumental in our party’s submission of the local plan consultation process, to our local authority.

David was a family man who was happiest when in their company. He often spoke with affection of what they meant to him and was proud to share their achievements. David was an honourable man. A man of principles and high standards, and a genuine servant to many. I know he will be sadly missed by many and Newcastle is the worse for his departure from us. We send our condolences to his family.

Marion Reddish. Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Newcastle Under Lyme Borough Council

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Update from June and Marion, your Borough Liberal Democrat Councillors

Firstly we hope you have escaped the virus and are in reasonable health. It is true to say we live in very tough circumstances at the moment, and many of us now realise how important our family and friends are to us. We look forward to meeting up with them all again very shortly.

We work in unfamiliar circumstances on the Council too. Most officers are now working from home and so face to face contact is nil, however the business of the Council goes on, so many like us, have had a steep learning curve to work via video camera or Zoom. Not quite the same as interaction around a table! However decisions still have to be made. Some of the Scrutiny committees are suspended but the regulatory ones continue. Planning and the pending Annual Council meetings are two of those. Under emergency powers the final decision has to be made by the Chief Executive officer, having listened to the views of the Chair or Vice Chair of the committee, as I write this the other members of the committee do not take part in the decision making process on the night, but Marion tries to contact every member for their view with regard to a planning decision waiting to be made in their area, she feels it is quite a responsibility to speak for all.

When we gave you our last update, many of the senior officers were interim ones. We are pleased to tell you all the posts have been now filled with permanent appointments, and they are well embedded into Newcastle’s way of working. There is a totally different feel within the building, largely to the better. So to some of the issues across the Borough we have been involved in.

Those who live near Walley’s quarry or come into Newcastle to shop, will have noticed the rancid odour coming from the Silverdale/ Thistleberry direction. This is a long term landfill project and whilst we as your Councillors have spent the best part of 10 years trying to find a solution we are nowhere near getting there, sorry! Marion in particular is active on the liaison committee but she is frustrated that Red Industries seem to want to deny the smell comes from them, and the EA tell us it is not sufficiently strong or the time scale sufficiently often for it to be a public nuisance, and that they are acting within the law. Maybe a change in the law needs to take place to embrace the problems we as residents encounter. Please do take the time to report your experience to the EA ON 03708506506. The only good news is because we have increased the amount of journeys the lorries make to tip their rubbish, the project will end sooner, but the smell does not go away immediately afterwards!

June and Marion are pleased that there is every possibility that Kidsgrove leisure centre will reopen, after a major maintenance project. The Council are working with Kidsgrove Community group, who are the drivers of this project, to see if it is viable. Costing and design are a big factor, but it would be good to see this much needed facility back in use. Unfortunately meetings are suspended at the moment, but work continues in the background.

We as Liberal Democrats are keen to be active in the Climate Change agenda. We aim to make Newcastle carbon neutral by 2030. There is a working group set up of which Marion is a member, which is looking at how we can achieve that, through partnership working, especially with the university. June reminds us that we are the environmentally friendly party and always have been. If you want more information please look on the website about what we are up to. There is a presentation there.

Regeneration of the town centre has to be a priority, however there is no time for sentiment. Demand and trends change. Sadly internet shopping has taken away the need for chain shops in town, however we believe that there is room for individual specialist merchandise, and the Council are visiting other areas to look at their offer. We have to be aware that what works for some, will not necessarily work in Newcastle, but we continue to assess our need. June lives in town, and Marion sits on the committee that examines our findings so we are both very involved.

Recent work includes:

  • A 10 year car parking policy, looking at which parks we need to improve and which are no longer viable. BID have recently shown an interest in the Goose street car park.
  • A reduction on the cost of permits for businesses.
  • Improved CCTV in the Midway car park and we are asking that the flooding problems be addressed, alongside a clean-up. There is a proposal that we change the method of payment to include an app. June and Marion are keen that the option of paying with cash is still there.
  • There are to be more electric charging points on Council owned parks
  • The Council have commissioned a rough sleepers outreach service to address cross border issues with Stoke and we hold open door advice centres weekly. The number of homeless people remains in single figures, many more choose to sleep out and this is what needs to be addressed.
  • The Council are looking at how we can increase the footfall in town. Ideas include revitalising the historic market… new ideas please, not just old ones reinvented! There have been a number of successful ‘one off’ themed events, and we hope there are more to come.

The Civic offices are a concern to us, as part of the ground floor is still out of action, because major work needed to take place, costs are being met by the developers, but nevertheless, it is months now since we had a meeting room, so alternative arrangements are always having to be made, across the Borough. June and Marion are asking questions of Cabinet.

So to end, Covid-19 impact report:

J2 closed, staff are being redeployed to customer services or being retrained to support vulnerable individuals through the hub.

Likewise Museum staff redeployed to support vulnerable individuals via the hub.

Customer services focused on phone and online delivery.

Waste Management: as you will know we have a new system in place for the foreseeable future, normal service will be resumed post virus. Street Scene staff are supporting this operation.

Bereavement Service operating normally but with office/ reception contact only by phone/mail

Environmental Health Dog Warden and pest control suspended.

Homeless The Council has contracted with a local provider to ensure that places are available over the next 12 weeks.

Useful numbers

New Telephone service… The Council has established a phone line to ring if residents are concerned about friends and family and want support for them. Number 01782 742800

Staffs County Council have stood up a call centre on 0300 111 8050 also. Teams answering both numbers will be linking into volunteer and community support via Realise.

If you want Business support and advice on grants go to https://account.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk/xfp/form/215

Support Staffordshire have also got a dedicated page on their website hhps://www.supportstaffordshire.org

Take care all of you,

Marion and June

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Nigel Jones on Tactical Voting

Generally, people should not engage in tactical voting, which is different from two parties coming to an agreement. People should vote for what they believe in for the sake of the message the result sends and for the future of the party  which they truly support, locally as well as nationally.

This applies here in Newcastle about voting Liberal Democrat because the other parties are not Remain parties, including Labour.

The voice of Remain needs to be clearly represented especially since we find ourselves in a general election and have not had a people’s vote. In any case we now have the Brexit Party for Leavers as well as the Conservative Party.

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