Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 30th July to 7th August by Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

We have a good selection of new releases this period. Comedy is represented with the family animation The Nut Job (U), and there is more adult humour with The Inbetweeners 2 (15). There is science fiction Guardians of the Galaxy, whilst drama is represented with Meet the Firm: Revenge in Rio and the musical romance Step up 5: All in. In addition we see the return for just one day of Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys.

Films that we have lost include 22 Jump Street and The Fault in our Stars. Also it seems likely that this is the last week to catch Pudsey the Dog: The Movie, Postman Pat: The Movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Mrs Browns Boys D'Movie, Maleficent and Rio 2.

Reviews

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell
This movie is already proving a success at the US box office and has the makings of a summer blockbuster. The film is set a decade after 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'. Much of humanity has been wiped out following an outbreak of an artificial virus which killed humans yet increased the intelligence of apes. Human and ape live in a state of fragile peace and the film explores the conflict that arises when the humans try to start a hydroelectric dam that is located in the apes territory. The first part of the movie builds the characters of both humans and apes and later there are very impressive special effects as hostilities commence between the two sides. Both apes and humans have understandable motives and thus the film is much more than a simple war between right and wrong. An excellent movie.

Earth to Echo
Director: Dave Green
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Teo Halm, Ella Linnea Wahlestedt, Reese C. Hartwig, Jason Gray-Stanford
A construction project is destroying a neighbourhood when a group of friends start to receive strange signals on their phones. They search for the origin of the signals and discover an alien who has become trapped on earth. The film tells the story of the youngsters as they battle the government and help the alien return to his home. It is hard not to compare this film with 'E.T.' However the movie is really about the youthful friendships rather than an extra-terrestrial. A entertaining if rather average family film.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace
An action packed space adventure from Marvel. Adventurer Peter Quill (Pratt) steals a mysterious artifact which is wanted by the villain Ronan (Pace) who wishes to use it to destroy the planet of Xandar. This forces Quill into a truce with a group of misfits (including Rocket a talking raccoon and groot a walking tree) who find they must make a stand to determine the fate of the galaxy. This is a very 'busy' film with lots of spectacular action, plenty of great characters, great one liners and lots of jokes. The plot seemed a little convoluted, but just go with it and enjoy the action. The movie does not take itself very seriously and will be loved by teenagers and adults alike.

Maleficent
Director: Robert Stromberg
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Angelina Jolie, Miranda Richardson, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley
In part a re-telling of the tale of sleeping beauty but from the point of view of the villain of the story, Maleficent (Jolie). Maleficent was driven to evil following an act of betrayal which cost her the ability to fly. She battles to save her shadowy forest kingdom and plots revenge by placing a curse on the infant Aurora (Fanning), daughter to the king. Aurora herself becomes caught in the conflict between forest and human kingdoms. This is a rather dark fantasy for a Disney film, but a great tale with powerful characters and impressive special effect.

Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
Director: Ben Kellett
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Brendan O'Carroll
Agnes Brown (O'Carroll) is a market trader who finds her livelihood under threat from a property developer. Supported by her family she embarks on a crusade to save her stall. This is a movie adaption of the well known and much loved BBC comedy and the film was extremely successful in its opening weekend. This is a very capable comedy that captures the spirit of the TV series.

The Nut Job
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl
Set in the 1950s, this animation follows the adventures of Surly the squirrel who, with his friend Buddy the rat, plan to steal from Maury's Nut shop. However the shop proves to be a front for gangsters who are planning to rob the nearby bank. This combination leads to action, car chases jokes and general mayhem. This is an inoffensive film that will amuse children but leave parents a little bored. An enjoyable romp, but not destined to be a cartoon classic.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Protesters call on Morecambe Bay Trust board to halt Pharmacy sell-off

Photo: No Health Sell-Off at Morecambe Bay

Community campaigners from across Morecambe Bay will hold a lobby outside the Royal Lancaster Infirmary tomorrow (Wednesday 30th July) to call on the Morecambe Bay Trust Board to halt the sell-off of pharmacy services and hold an inquiry and public consultation over the sale.

Last week the No Health Sell-off at Morecambe Bay campaign handed in their petition to the acting Chair of the Trust, John Hutton on Wednesday (23rd July) with over 9000 signatures on it.

Health campaigners in Morecambe Bay are also furious over revelations about a tax loophole which stacks the cards against NHS pharmacy providers. An unfair loophole in VAT rules means pharmaceutical companies like Lloyds and Boots don’t have to pay 20 per cent VAT but NHS providers do.

Cat Smith from No Health Sell-off at Morecambe Bay said: “Today we are demanding that the Trust halts the process of selling-off pharmacy services because we need transparency. Instead the Trust should hold an inquiry and a public consultation over the sell-off.

"Growing numbers of people from across the Morecambe Bay area are getting angry about the agenda to sell-off NHS services," she addd. "They were never consulted and when we ask straight forward questions we can’t get straight forward answers. The last time we wrote to the Trust to ask about the sale the deputy chief executive’s response never mentioned the VAT loophole that lets private companies off paying VAT. It’s time to halt the sale.”

Monday, 28 July 2014

Details of car park closures for cycling event

A number of car parks in Lancaster will be closed for this year’s city centre cycle race on Wednesday 6th August, organised by Lancaster Cycling Club.

LC3 (Lancaster City Centre Crits) will be taking place in the residential area adjacent to Dalton Square.

Lancaster City Council is helping to facilitate the event by closing the following car parks:
  • Charter House, Moor Mills 1, 2 and 3 from 6.00pm on Tuesday August 5 until 1.00am on Thursday 7th August
  • Nelson Street from 5.00pm on Wednesday 6th August until 1am on Thursday 7th August 

Anyone who lives or travels through the area where the cycle race is taking place should be aware roads in this area will be closed so should plan ahead and make alternative arrangements.  Roads which will be closed on Wednesday August 6 to enable the event to take place are:
  • Dalton Square, Friar Street, Bulk Street, Bryer Street and Sulyard Street from 9.00am
  • Robert Street and St Peter’s Road from 12.00pm
  • George Street, Quarry Road, Nelson Street and Moor Lane from 5.45pm


The first race in the event will start at 6.30pm and the last finishes around 9.00pm.

• For more information visit the event website – www.lc3.org.uk

Lancashire Bus Fares set to rise



The government might be crowing about having turned the corner on the global recession they'd rather entirely blame on Labour than the City of London and international market speculators, but the cost of living for those of us without mansions and MP's salaries just keeps rising.

The latest price hike is an impending rise on bus routes subsidised by Lancashire County Council, which will go up from Sunday 3rd August following an annual review of ticket prices.

Lancashire County Council provides around 100 local bus service contracts throughout the county. These are a mixture of subsidised daytime rural and urban services, together with evening and weekend services which complement the overall commercial bus network. 

In line with inflation, it has announced fares will rise on average by 1.7% with most single fares increasing by 5p for journeys costing below £4, or 10p for journeys costing above £4. 


Weekly ticket prices will stay the same as they are now.

A number of fares which operate alongside commercial routes will be revised to match, as fares on subsidised services must not be lower than those offered commercially.

The Council is still reviewing the bus services it subsidises, after backing down on wholesale service cuts to many Lancaster estates and rural areas earlier this year after a vocifierous protest campaign.

Stagecoach, which provides many commercial bus services in Lancashire, made nearly £220 million in pre-tax profits in 2013.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Morecambe Bay health campaigners furious over NHS privatisation VAT dodge

Health campaigners in Morecambe Bay are furious over revelations about a tax loophole which stacks the cards against NHS pharmacy providers. The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMB) is currently proposing to sell off pharmacy services in Morecambe Bay (see previous reports).

An unfair loophole in VAT rules means pharmaceutical companies such as Lloyds and Boots don’t have to pay 20 per cent VAT - but NHS providers do - meaning publicly owned medical providers must pay tax where private corporations are exempt.

A contract for pharmacy services, worth in the region of £25 million, is currently up for grabs in Morecambe Bay. Campaigners found that in the advert (tender) which announced that pharmacy services in Morecambe Bay were up for sale, the tender explicitly stated that a “key business driver” for the sale was “VAT savings”.

On Wednesday campaigners from local group No Health Selloff at Morecambe Bay  handed in a petition of more than 9,000 signatures opposing the pharmacy sell-off to John Hutton, acting chair of the UHMB Trust. Later that day Labour's local parliamentary candidate Cat Smith told a public meeting at Lancaster Town Hall that:

Since the introduction of this government’s Health and Social Care Act, the number of NHS contracts awarded to non-NHS providers has more than trebled. This leaves the future of our NHS in the hands of companies whose main objective is making profit for shareholders, rather than the provision of quality healthcare which is free at the point of use.”

Cuts and the government’s Health and Social Care Act have prioritised privatisation over service quality, putting NHS pharmacies at even more at risk. Since the Act came in to force, 70 per cent of health services put out to tender have gone to the private sector.

According to the union Unite, at least 31 NHS trusts have already chosen to use private companies to run outpatient pharmacy services and a further 18 are out to tender.  Lloyds Pharmacy has been the biggest beneficiary of the tax loophole, having secured around 18 contracts to run hospital pharmacy services. Boots have won 5, Sainsbury’s 3 and the Co-op 5. Boots has further reduced its tax bill by moving its 'base' to Switzerland.

The VAT loophole means that tax exempt private corporations have an overwhelming competitive advantage when tendering, while taxpayer-owned public NHS services must pay tax again, increasing their costs and making it impossible for them to offer competing bids. It also means £millions of taxes lost to the public exchequer as more and more public contracts go to tax-exempt and tax-avoiding private corporations.

Corporate pressure is being exerted to maximise the number of NHS contracts being put out to tender and awarded before the loophole is closed - after which these contracts will become more expensive than the current services. Although Whitehall has managed to rush through legislation favouring corporations at the expense of the public, such as the Infrastructure Bill, within a matter of weeks, it is dragging its feet sorting out a tax anomaly that distorts the market in breach of EU rules and does real harm to the public. Hospitals are forced to accept the tender that is the cheapest on the day, regardless of how much the costs are likely to be adjusted upwards post-legislation.

Conservative MPs Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) and David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) were both invited to the meeting at Lancaster Town Hall but failed to attend.