Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Dust everywhere!

For generations Hartlepool people have made their living from the sea as fishermen, deepwater sailors or working at the port. In recent years, however, residents living on the historic town wall, who are closest to the water front, have become concerned about possible health implications of the port’s operations.

A member of the Town Wall Action Group, spoke out at a recent public meeting attended by the local authority, port operators and ship owners. “Dust from the port covers our homes and cars every time a ship is being loaded,” he explained. “It discolours window frames and eats holes in the paintwork of our cars. God knows what it’s doing to people who breathe it in?”

Irvines Quay is the area of the port being blamed for the problems. The quay is used for loading bulk carrier ships that take crushed scrap for recycling. Some of the scrap is stored under cover but large piles are left exposed to the weather on the quayside. When lifted by grab crane these piles produce clouds of dust, which is spread by prevailing winds over homes on the Hartlepool Headland. It is this dust that is causing health fears amongst residents.

The local authority, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, regulates any nuisance from a port, including the loading and unloading of cargos. The Port Operator stresses it complies with all appropriate health and safety regulations and has been licensed by the local council.

The company loading the ships has funded an independent laboratory to carry out monitoring of the operation. This monitoring identified that the dust contains mainly iron oxide (rust) but also with traces of titanium, nickel and heavy metals. The analysis showed the levels detected are within the permissible health and safety limits for these substances set by the UK Environment Agency.

The Tees Valley Public Health Authority were asked to reassure the Headland residents that there was no evidence of unusual health problems in patients registered with the GP’s Practice in the in the area. An analysis, by the Chief Public Health Consultant, Professor Peter Kelly, of 4,000 medical records showed no significant statistical increase in liver problems or skin complaints, these being the two conditions most commonly associated with metals contamination. “I found that in terms of heath deprivation the Headland is not significantly different from the overall Hartlepool average.” said Professor Kelly at the public meeting. Professor Kelly did then agree that a further study should be undertaken, to look at levels of cancers in the area affected by the dust.

During the heated public meeting correspondence about the issue was produced that went back over 20 years. Local Councillors demanded that the Borough Council needed to do something about these problems. “It is well past time that these operations were shut down once and for all! “said one Councillor.

Residents were not reassured by the results of the meeting. There are still very real and unaddressed fears that a long term health problem is building up.

While waiting for the results on the cancers study the campaigners are compiling a dossier of evidence from people in the Headland area who think they have been affected by this dust problem. “Everyone should ensure their problems are included in the dossier” said a local campaigner “We are taking this right to the top, all the way to Downing Street if necessary. We are not going to just let it drop for another 20 years!”

Monday, 9 November 2009

why did Robin Hood steal from the rich?

Why did Robin Hood steal from the rich? Simple: the poor haven’t got anything worth nicking. I tried that joke in the Nottingham Archers’ shop and it didn’t even get a groan. They’ve heard every Robin Hood joke ever told. Modern bows, using space age materials, mean that today anyone can participate in Archery. You no longer need a huge chest and an arm of iron. Being able to punch your arrow through the armour of a charging knight is not a requirement. Contests are now decided on accuracy, not who can shoot the furthest or fastest. A competition standard bow and quiver full of personalised arrows will cost less than £400. Compare this to a set of golf clubs or tickets to Leeds Festival and it’s not a huge entry price to pay to enjoy a sport that is a bit different from the usual student activities.

Just don’t mess with me!

It’s been three hours since I shook down my illegal gambling den. The ‘take’ will be building up nicely. It should give me enough money to fly to Cuba and make a few investments. No, I’m not a big time international criminal; I’m addicted to ‘Mafia Wars’ on Facebook. One of over 6 million people now playing on line, every day. I started as a humble ‘Street Thug’ doing muggings for a few dollars to increase the size of my ‘family’. Progress can make you a ‘Big Boss’ raking in millions from deals around the world. I now own casinos in the USA and cigar factories in Cuba and have reached sufficient status to allow me to ‘wet my beak’ (as we Mafia say) in the Russian organized crime scene. So far I’m only running an unlicensed Moscow taxi rank, but I’m not stopping there! Just don’t mess with me!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Freemen and Aldermen

In a heated meeting last night Hartlepool Borough Council approved seven names to go forward for consideration as Freemen and Honorary Aldermen of the town. Speculation that Peter Mandelson was one of the potential new Freemen has already been reported in the local newspaper and been the subject of some correspondence in the Hartlepool Mail Reader's Letters Page.

The names being recommended had been selected by the Council’s Civic Honors Committee from nineteen original nominations. The Full Council met tonight in closed session to debate the selection and to confirm, or reject, the recommendations.

According to the Agenda each of the seven names would be debated individually and voted on individually. This gave the Council the opportunity to accept or reject each nomination on their own individual merit. The Labour Group, detecting that possibly not all seven of the names had an equal level of support, proposed that the list should be accepted as a single package, thereby removing the requirement for discussion of individual nominations.

This "all or nothing" proposal was opposed by several Councillors who felt each name should be debated on its own merits. The choice of individual debate or a single "all or nothing" decision was put to the vote and the Council tied 19 votes to 19 votes. The Council Chairman, Councillor Carl Richardson (Labour) used his casting vote to force through the all or nothing option. One Councillor at the meeting described the decision as "Democracy as they know it in North Korea".

At times after this the meeting descended into chaos with the Chairman rejecting potential points of order and failing to recognise Councillors indicating they wished to speak. When the vote was called for confusion reigned over what exactly the Council was being asked to vote on.

The vote on the Freemen and Aldermen nomination was finally taken on a roll call basis, with individual members being asked to register their vote so that it could be recorded in the minutes.

To approve a Civic Honour requires a more than two thirds majority of the votes cast to be in favour. When the Roll Call was completed 22 Votes were recorded in favour of the seven names and 10 were recorded against. The majority of the Liberal Democrat group showed the courage of their convictions and abstained from the vote. Of course "Courage" and "Convictions" are not two words normally associated with Liberal-Democrats. All the Conservative Councillors present voted against the motion with the exception of Conservative Councillor Pauline Laffey of Park Ward, who voted for the motion. Councillor Laffey’s support was enough for the motion to approve the seven names by a single vote! The look the Conservative Leader's face when he realised it was one of his members who saved Labour's blushes was a picture! Once again Laffey shows her "Blue Labour" rosette. I am sure she will get her reward from her Labour Comrades in the future. After all it was John Bercow's tactics of sucking up to Labour that got him the Speaker's Chair in the House Of Commons. I wonder which chair Pauline Laffey is expecting in return for her loyalty to the Labour Cause?

Although reports in the local press have identified Peter Mandelson as one of the new potential Freemen of the town this cannot be officially confirmed. The names of the individuals to be honoured will not be officially released until they have been approached to confirm they will accept the honour should it be formally offered to them. Until this time Hartlepool Council are applying the Local Government Act 2000 to officially keep the names confidential.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Shorthand and Blog Review

I've been a bit busy the past few weeks. Too busy to blog to be honest! I am trying to learn T Line Shorthand in order to pass the NCTJ Exams and qualify as a 'Junior Reporter' and this has been takingup almost my every waking moment. The shear frustration of learning one way of doing it, trying to apply the rules and then being told about all the exceptions! Drives me mad! And in fact I've just seen its 8.59am so I've got to go to Sharthand NOW!

Before I go I must share one website I found recently, http://www.politics.co.uk and in particular http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/stephen-allison-$1325866.htm which is about ME, yes someone has actually gone to the trouble of reviewing my blog! and here was me thinking no-one actually read it apart from me amd my mother!

Anyway they say:

"A strange personal-diary-cum-political commentary that is occasionally unintentionally funny.

Mr Allison must be a refreshingly unaware sort of chap for someone involved in politics, and that makes this blog both rather endearing and occasionally, we have to say, hilariously pompous at times.

Overall it's rather sweet and enjoyable, although as hardened hacks we admit to finding the publication of his daughter's A level results a little much to stomach."

They rate me at 5.5/10. Not sure if that's good, bad or just an average score given to most people. When I have time I'll investigate more. NOW I'M OFF TO SHORTHAND!