Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Week Commencing 19 March 2018

Monday 19 March 2018  

Attended the 21 Annual Stockton Children’s Book of the Year Event at the Jim Cooke Conference suit, Church Road, Stockton

Stockton Children Book of the Year 2018 is a high profile library event for children in Stockton on Tees. This successful and popular event has been running for over 20 years. Their aims are to provide an exciting and fun vehicle for demonstrating the pleasure of reading and literature. To hold a high profile event, which will be far reaching in the local community. To contribute to the development of library skills.

We had the pleasure to be invited to this event by Lucy Carlton-Walker, Children and Young Persons Librarian, for Stockton Library. The Children’s Book of the Year is an Event that involves children, teachers, parents, authors and library staff in the promotion and celebration of good, modern children’s literature.

We were welcomed by Mark Freeman, Libraries and information Services Manager at Stockton Borough Council and asked to say a few words of welcome to authors Peter Bunzl, Horatio Clare, Ross Mackenzie, Teachers, children representing 23 schools across the borough of Stockton, and other honourable guests.

I welcomed the guest to this event and it was good to see so many avid young readers with keen interest. Reading is very important for lots of reasons. People who read regularly have a wider vocabulary, an improved attention span, and a better concentration. Reading also gives a greater general knowledge as you learn about people, places and events around the world.


With Maisie Wright from St Patrick’s School Thornaby, winner of the book review of the year award

This year, five short listed titles have been chosen by an experienced team of librarians, and children from all the Schools involved have not only voted for their favourite book but also written their own reviews.

I then presented certificates and vouchers to winners of the most consistent effort and the most outstanding review awards to schoolchildren, then there was a presentation to Maisie with a certificate and the Book Review of the Year Award shield to the winning school, which was Laraine’s old school, being St Patrick’s of Thornaby, both were really chuffed.


We then announced the winning book and author for the Stockton’s Children’s Book of the Year for 2018, which was Silversmith by Ross Mackenzie.

We talked to the children who won awards and said they drew excitement and inspiration from being in the company of the authors. We thanked Ross and the other authors for giving a wide and varied collection of stories for children to provide enthusiasm for reading and the written word. 

The authors were available to sign their books for all who purchased or those that had been given prize vouchers at the awards. It was an excellent and rewarding event.


Wednesday and Thursday 21 & 22 March 2018

Travelled to London to attend the LGC Awards for 2018, Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane


John Snow presenting the Awards

I had the privilege of attending the Annual LGC Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane London. I was joined by our Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive, the Council and Deputy Council Leader, Council members and staff of the Council.

We were proud to represent the Council as one of only six Councils from across the country to be short listed for this prestigious LGC of the Year Award. We were not the winners unfortunately. As Nick Golding, Editor for LGC, said the judges had a difficult task selecting the overall winner, but gave thanks to all entries and local authorities who devoted time and effort to entering the awards, despite ongoing pressures.


SBC Team being represented at the LGC Awards & the Grosvenor Hotel in London

But once again it shows the resilience of the borough and the attitude and commitment of our employees, with the strong working relationships between elected members and officers and our collected focus on serving people of Stockton on Tees.


Friday 23 March 2018

Attended the Economic Growth and Development Services Event for the Highest Service Satisfaction Rating

It was a great pleasure to be invited and attend the National Highways and Transport Network Customer Services Survey Staff Celebratory Event at the Georgian Theatre, in Stockton.


My brief review to our Transport & Service Team

It was good to be invited along to be part of such a positive good news event. Unfortunately over the years, due to the continuing financial pressures, it’s not often we’ve had the opportunity to celebrate such successes especially one that comes direct from the public we serve. 

For those that are not too familiar with the National Highways & Transport survey this is an annual public satisfactory survey carried out by independent market research survey specialists Ipsos MORI, collecting local resident’s perspectives on, and satisfaction with, Highway and Transport Services in Local Authority areas. During the survey’s 10 year history virtually all the English Highways Authorities have now taken the opportunity to ask for their public’s views, by using the survey at one time or another.

In 2017 a record number of 112 Highway Authorities across England and parts of Scotland took part in the survey. Amazingly but deservedly Stockton on Tees Highways and Transport services were ranked the country’s best overall Highway Authority for 2017 in the survey. This is down to the hard work and dedication all of the staff have shown over the years despite the challenging circumstances.

To achieve such high standards of service delivery and to be recognised by the residents we serve you should be very proud. In local Government we all too often have to deal with the negativity and complaints from the public but in this instance they have given us a huge vote of confidence and thanks.

Without going in to all the detail I think it’s important to note that relatively small Authority, as we are at Stockton, was not only voted No 1 overall Highway Authority in the Country by the public but also:

  • No 1 for Road Safety,
  • No 1 for Provision of Street Lighting,
  • No 1 for Community Transport,
  • No 1 for Provision of Safe Crossing points.

We were also in the top five of many other categories but the list is endless so basically to sum it all up it is a word of thanks to everyone involved.

Thank You for all the great work that’s been done, not only in 2017, but over the years gone and the years to come. This couldn’t have been achieved without all the hard work by the staff. So thank you so much.


With our Highway & Transport Service Team celebrating their success



Attended the Charter Trustees for the City of Durham, at the Town Hall, Market Place Durham City


With other civics from North Tyneside and Gateshead

At the request of Bill Kellett, the Mayor of Durham we were invited to the Mayors Civic Dinner, at the Town Hall in Durham City. The evening began with Grace from the Dean and Precentor of Durham Cathedral, the Reverend Canon Dr David Kennedy.

The Royal Toasts were delivered by Superintendent Chris Curtis, Billet Master for the City of Durham. The Toast to the City was delivered by Eric Bulmer, Durham City Freeman.



Mums in Durham City choir

A  Welcome message to the Guests was delivered by Bill Kellett and on behalf of the Mayoress, which read:

Jean and I extend a warm welcome to you all on the occasion of our Civic Dinner in this magnificent Town Hall. May I thank everyone who has contributed in any way to this special event. We would like to thank the individuals and groups that have made a donation over the last year to the Mayors Appeal, the Great North Ambulance Service; your generosity is very much appreciated. We hope you have an enjoyable evening.

The guest speaker was Mr Ron Hogg, Durham Police, Crime and Victims Commissioner who gave an account on his past experiences. We were entertained by a wonderful group of ladies ‘Mums in Durham City’, who sang in chorus to local and sea shanty tunes which were excellently delivered.

We thanked Bill for a great evening especially the fare as it was of exceptional taste, we wished him and Jean well in their charity endeavours to the end of their Mayor Year.


With Bill Kellett, Mayor of Durham


Inside the Great Hall, Durham Town Hall



Saturday 24 March 2018

Attended the second part of the 21 Anniversary Celebration Weekend of the Children’s Book of the Year Award

At the invitation of Mark Freeman Head of Libraries and Heritage Manager, we attended the Anniversary Weekend of the Children’s 21 Birthday celebrations at Stockton Library.


Authors books ready for purchase

The Mayors host for this event was Emma Tennant, Libraries Development Officer, who introduced us to a number of writers celebrating the 21st Birthday Weekend, those included Vivian French, Megan Rix, Kaye Minsky. Piers Torday and the 2017 winner Tasmin Cooke.


With author Tasmin Cooke

Stockton Children’s Book of the Year began in 1996, with the first Award ceremony being held in 1997. Now in its 21 year this annual project has gone from strength to strength, engaging thousands of school children with a carefully selected shortlist of outstanding, newly published children’s book each year. In 2018 we recognised this successful and long running award with a 21 Anniversary Celebration Weekend. We will spread the joy of taking part in this reading experience, reaching out to current and past participants, as well as raising awareness within communities and embracing a range of art forms to create an inspiring event that will benefit the whole of the Borough and beyond.

The aims of the event is to try and stimulate the imagination of children and giving them the opportunity to meet real authors on whose books they have been reading. It’s also a great opportunity for authors to receive feedback from the very audience they are writing for.

From discussions with children on the day they found the experience meeting the authors very rewarding and learnt a lot about how the authors constructed their imaginations in producing some great reading material. We were suitably impressed with the way Stockton Library Service put this event together and congratulated them on a wonderful experience celebrating good, modern children’s literature. 


Attended an evening with Robin Horsfall at the Don War Memorial Bar, Calverts Lane in Stockton

At the invitation of Julia Cooper of the Don Bar we spent an evening with Robin Horsfall. Robin has led a very interesting life, a journey which took him from being bullied as a boy, through to his adventures in the armed forces, to this time now as an author.


Robin Horsfall

Robin started in the Army at the age of 15 years, he became a member of the SAS, and he recalled his exploits during the Iranian Embassy siege in London which he was part of. He also recalled his days with the Parachute Regiment and his Special Air Service exploits, he left the forces after serving 17 years. He became a body guard for the Sultan of Oman, during that period became a 6 Dan in Karate. After breaking his neck, being bored and wanting something to do he got a University post and graduated in English Literature and Creative writing at 59 years of age. Robin married in 1981 and is the proud father of five children. He has written two novels ‘'Unleash the Lioness' and 'Fighting Scared' and also a book on short stories and poetry collection 'The Words of the Wise Old Paratrooper'. A must to be read.

It was a great privilege to be able to meet Robin and listen to his stories and his fantastic life. I wished him well for his future and raised a toast to him and all those who have or currently are in the Armed Forces, for serving our country.


Sunday 25 March 2018

Performed a Sky Dive Event at Peterlee Parachute Centre in the County of Durham.

This being my last charity engagement, on Sunday 25 March 2018 I took a great leap out of an aeroplane and Sky Dived over the Shotton coal fields in County Durham on behalf of two charities, the Moses Project in Stockton and Rocsolid at Marsh House in Billingham.


Oh that exhilarating feeling

The Moses Project provides daily support mentoring and activities for men who have become disengaged from society through circumstances such as unemployment, mental illness, or addictions etc.

Marsh House provides accommodation, round the clock on-site support, shared activities, and learning opportunities for vulnerable women.

Anyone taking part in a Sky Dive must be fit and over 16 with parent consent or 18 years of age and over, normally there’s no age limit after that except you can’t be dead. The maximum weight limit imposed is 16 stone; you can work it out if you’re in metrication. After a medical check the doctor said I was super fit, or thereabouts, insurance was no problem since I was super fit or thereabouts, then it was jolly well go to the Para Centre for training.

With 45 minutes of training and instruction I was ready, willing and able or so they say. I was well prepared for the elements with an abundance of layers of warm clothing as it could be a minus temperature at 15000 feet. After donning my flying suit given to me by the centre and a cap to match I looked in the mirror and envisaged I was shooting off to mars with the outfit I was wearing, astronaut or cosmonaut in the thinking, as some wag said out of a cannon. 

I was excited and raring to go, got into the Aircraft and soured up to the dizzy heights to let me dive. Can you imagine sitting on the edge of an open aircraft doorway in an aircraft flying at 15000 feet, the noise of the engines and the wind ringing in your ears with only the outline of distant fields below, seeing Newcastle in the north, Saltburn to the south and beyond.

Now imagine leaning forward out of that doorway and letting go, falling forward into the blue sky, skydiving down through the air as you start freefalling up to 120mph. I’m getting excited already just writing this.

It was magic, it was brilliant, it was exciting, oh the adrenaline rush, it was better than I imagined, freefalling to about 10000 feet then the pull of the parachute brought you back to a gentle fall, no noise, was very silent and the solitude of that moment was breathtakingly awesome. After about 10 minutes diving we hit the deck on X marks the spot with a gentle touch down, as if you were jumping off the front doorstep, it was so easy.

Friends and family were in attendance, to see who would get their inheritance early, as well as Brian and Stella Jones and staff of the Moses project in Stockton. Brian imagined if the wind got up during the dive I could land in Holland or some foreign parts. My only bit of concern was whether I would land in some cow pat but as my driver said he did have two spades in the back of his car for emergencies. No worries.

It was a brilliant event, with family and friends enjoying the day at the centre, some even thinking about having ago themselves, I shall wait with baited breath on that. But the event was to raise as much as we can for the two worthwhile charities.


Gliding over Shotton countryside


Perfect landing

Would I do it all again, you bet I would!