We have Middlesbrough Council led by the no nonsense Robocop Ray Mallon who has tremendous public support because of his tough, common sense approach to matters which affect the community.
But Sunderland gets more column inches in the press and minutes in the media than Newcastle, Gateshead and Middlesbrough combined...but all for the wrong reasons.
- It was Sunderland Council that launched the first ever metrication prosecution of the late Steve Thoburn
- It was Sunderland City Council that sold off its housing stock (and the freehold to go with it) for less than £6500 per property to the Sunderland Housing Group.
- It was Sunderland Council that has dropped the biggest parking clanger in the country and featured in THREE national documentaries on the subject.
- It was Sunderland City Council that failed to buy the biggest piece of real estate that came available right next to the City Centre and have now stopped Tesco developing the site leaving a 15 acre wasteland.
What chance will we ever have of taking this City into the 21st Century with this bunch in charge?
AND NOW... 'NICE ONE SUNDERLAND'
HOWEVER, WHAT WE DO HAVE IS AN INCREASING NUMBER OF PRINCIPLED POLITICIANS NOT PREPARED TO ACCEPT BULLYING AND SLEAZE IN THIS CITY, AND PREPARED TO PUT PRINCIPLE AND THE PEOPLE OF SUNDERLAND BEFORE PARTY. BRYN SIDAWAY JOINS GEORGE BLYTH AND MIKE TANSEY AS INDEPENDENTS. IT IS EXPECTED THAT THEIR NUMBERS WILL GROW.Daily Mail
Sleazy Labour's £2m raid on Council Tax funds
By Tim Shipman
23rd November 2006
Police have launched a new investigation into Labour sleaze after a whistleblower revealed the party is creaming off at least £2m a year of taxpayers' money directly into party coffers.
Tony Blair has ordered thousands of his local councillors to hand over hundreds of pounds each from their publicly-funded allowances to Labour slush funds for electioneering and party propaganda.
• Councillors' payments and how Labour is benefiting
• Tories hold four seats as Ukip and Greens advance
The scam - also under investigation by sleaze watchdogs – has been branded a "national disgrace", an "outrageous abuse of taxpayers' money" and an "affront to democracy".
News that their money is being used to line Labour's pockets will enrage council tax payers who have seen their bills soar as town halls have been starved of cash.
Council tax has more than doubled since Labour came to power. In Sunderland it rose last year by 4.9 per cent, double the rate of inflation.
Read the Daily Mail story here
The multi-million pound funding scandal came to light after the former leader of Sunderland council resigned from the party in disgust earlier this week after refusing to pay £215 - a three per cent levy on his £7,106 councillor's allowance - to Labour bosses in Sunderland.
Bryn Sidaway has now reported the matter to Northumbria police. He told the Daily Mail:
'It is a national disgrace. 'We are talking about millions of pounds a year going into the Labour Party war chest via the taxpayer - but without them even knowing. This is their money. They elect local councillors in the hope that it will improve their lives - not to fund Labour's bid to be re-elected.'
Tony Blair, who once pledged Labour would be "purer than pure" is set to become the first sitting prime minister to face police interrogation as part of a criminal inquiry.
Mr Sidaway said: "It was brought in via the back door in the hope that it would go unnoticed and unchallenged. They have identified Labour councillors as cash cows to fund the black hole in the party's accounts created by the cash for honours scandal and the reduction in the contributions they received from the trade union movement.
"The money is taken directly from the council's payroll accounts - even before any of the tax is applied - and we, as councillors, are expected to sign up to it without question or hesitation.
"I feel ashamed. I have been a Labour Party supporter for 48 years - ever since I was 15-years-old. Corruption is rife. It is shambolic and disgusting. The public is being deceived and betrayed by a Government hell bent on staying in power. We are being run by a dictatorship. Democracy has simply been swept away."
He accused party chiefs of using "intimidation" and "bullying" to get others to fall into line.
"The sad fact is this: The Labour Party is desperate for money and will do just about anything to make sure it has enough money in the kitty to win the next election," he said. "The stench of desperation is horrible."
A CID detective took a statement from Mr Sidaway on Monday. Northumbria Police are investigating whether the plans breach the terms of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums 2000 Act, which calls for all donations over £1,000 to be reported to the Electoral Commission. He believes that local parties may be failing to declare donations to the Commission.
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that we have taken a statement from Bryn Sidaway and are deciding whether this is a police matter." The intitial probe is expected to take one month.
Lee Martin, the Tory leader on Sunderland council has made a separate complaint to the Standards Board for England claiming that the plans breach the local government code of conduct, which states that councillors must ensure public cash is "not used for the activities of a registered political party".
They claim it is an abuse of council funds - and a breach of the code - to let council payroll staff devote their time to arranging direct debits from councillors into Labour accounts.
A spokeswoman for the Standards Board of England said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Ged Fitzgerald, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, insisted that the council had been reinbursed by the Labour Party for funnelling the payments from the council payroll.
A Labour party spokesperson said: "Labour councillors agree to abide by Labour Party rules including the payment of a Group levy. This levy is from councillors personally and not the council.
"The rule changes adopted by the NEC and the Full open annual conference this September in Manchester established that all Labour Groups should, as many do already, levy all councillors to contribute to Group activities and administration