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Leader's blog - Thursday 23 November

Highlights for November 2023


First of all can I say thank you to everyone for taking the time to listen to this broadcast. It is the first of what I hope will be the start of a regular update.

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support through challenging times. You know, like many local authorities, Gateshead has had huge challenges through the pandemic but also because of the general financial position facing local authorities. We've had a reduction in funding from local government of 60%, that's £1000 less per resident that we have available to support our services. You also know the issues we've had in the reduction of leisure services in Gateshead, with the closure of Gateshead Leisure Centre and Birtley Pool as a consequence of the lack of funding.

At a time when people are facing enormous challenges in terms of the cost of living crisis and the really difficult winter we are going into and at a time when people depend on local council services more than ever its important that we speak directly to the residents of Gateshead and you tell us what you see as the priorities.

So we're facing a difficult challenge going forward, as despite the reductions we've had we are facing a further £50million gap over the next five years. We are carrying out a consultation with the people of Gateshead to ask if you agree with the priorities we have identified and having identified these priorities how best do we target the resources we have to meet your needs and spend our money effectively. (link to budget consultation)

I would ask everyone to take an active part in this consultation because by listening to the people of Gateshead we can reflect on the services we provide and our priorities.

The second area I would like to talk about is, a topical issue, the ongoing dispute in bus services in the region. We have had two one week strikes and are now in the third week of an ongoing strike, which seems to have no resolution.

I understand the huge disruption that's being caused to people's lives in Gateshead, people having difficulty getting to work and the huge cost implications of people having to travel by alternative means of transport. This is having a hugely disruptive impact on people's lives, which is why I've repeatedly urged Go North East, which is a private company, and Unite, the union, to get round the table and negotiate a settlement. It seems to me that, in 2023, in an advanced economy its absolutely outrageous that we are left without virtually any bus services across the whole of Gateshead as a result of an industrial dispute.

I've made it clear to Go North East that although they are a private company, they receive support from us, the Council, for certain services and as these are not being provided we will not provide funding for these until the dispute has concluded.

This includes funding for:

  • concessionary fares for elderly and disabled residents
  • subsidised services that wouldn't otherwise run as they are not profitable routes so are subsidised by the council.

I will continue, as the Leader of Gateshead Council, to continue to speak out on behalf of the people of Gateshead. Our priority is to get our communities travelling again, to make it possible for people to live their lives and get to work. I'll put the maximum pressure on Go North East and Unite to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible.

I would welcome people, as part of this process, sending me your views both positive and negative. In taking part in these regular blogs and keeping you up to date on what the Council is doing we will benefit from your feedback. Email