Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Local Labour joins national protest against VAT rise

Morecambe and Lunesdale Labour Party protest against VAT in Morecambe


The local Labour Party is campaigning against the proposed rise in VAT, which rises to a 20% rate in January.

Labour Party members manned a stall outside Morecambe's Arndale Centre last Saturday, and many shoppers signed a petition against the coalition Government's plans to increase VAT, which the party says will hit lowest-paid earners and pensioners the hardest.

“It was a great opportunity to get out on the street and listen to what people thought about the new Government’s proposals and how it would have an impact on their lives," says Ian Pattison, Morecambe and Lunesdale Constituency Labour Party’s Youth Officer, who is leading the local campaign against the VAT rise.

"The problem with the VAT increase is that it will hit the less well off the hardest and also public sector workers who have had their pay freezed.

"We'll continue to fight against this rise and battle against proposals this Government attempt to make that could hurt the pockets of lower paid workers and pensioners.”

Labour, which has an online petition against the VAT rise, also says pensioners will be hardest hit by the VAT increase and have not been compensated for the extra costs with increases in tax allowances or benefits.

The party also argues no one voted for this unfair VAT increase. During the election, now Prime Minister David Cameron said the Conservatives had absolutely no plans to raise VAT - but neither the Conservatives, Labour nor the Lib Dems ruled out the possibility before the general election.

"Our plans don’t involve an increase in VAT," he told Sky News, when they even launched a campaign themselves against any rise. "We’re saying it should be wasteful government spending that’s cut rather than putting up taxes as the government suggests. And the only party that has had plans to put up VAT has been the Labour Party."

Some Conservatives and some Left wing campaign groups argue the rise is wrong, but for different reasons.

Parliament voted for the VAT rise in July. Ministers claimed the tax rise is "unavoidable" to reduce the deficit. Chancellor George Osbourne estimated the tax hike will raise £13bn towards reducing the £155bn deficit over the next two years.

A Labour amendment to the increase, would have exempted groups such as charities, local authorities and other groups from the VAT rise, was defeated during the Commons vote.

• Labour has an online petition against the VAT rise at www2.labour.org.uk/vat

BBC News, 13th July 2010: Government sees off VAT opposition in Commons vote

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Police warn about cold-calling Alarm Company's fake claims

Local residents are being warned about an alarm company that is falsely claiming to be working with the police.

The company are currently operating in the Lancaster and Morecambe areas and sales staff and are contacting householders by telephone before using high pressure tactics to make arrangements for their sales teams and installers to call at the address.

Often, residents are offered a burglar alarm for just £1 – but hidden ‘maintenance’ costs can then bump this up to £7,000.

Elaine Betts, neighbourhood watch co-ordinator, said; “If anyone is approached by this company, they must not feel pressured into agreeing to business on their doorstep. Often what may seem like a bargain at the time can be found cheaper from alternative retailers and advice is available from the crime prevention office who can supply information about choosing a domestic intruder alarm for your home.”

The crime prevention office also offers free crime prevention advice about any issue and we would encourage people to come and talk to us if they need any advice.”

• For further advice, you can either visit or call the crime prevention team on 01524 596988 or Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.

New Chief Executive for Storey Centre

Well-known North-West businessman and consultant to small and medium creative enterprises Tom Clark has been appointed as the new Chief Executive at the Storey Creative Industries Centre. For the past six months, he has served as a Board member with particular responsibility for finance.

"I am very excited by the great potential of my new position, and by the challenges and opportunities facing the Storey Creative Industries Centre," says Tom of his new role.

A Financial and Development Director with experience in all aspects of financial and general management, Tom is the Chief Finance Officer for Southport-based Chequespread and a director of the management consultancy firm Convecto. He's had plenty of experience with media, print, venture capital and general fund raising - the latter probably vital skills as arts organisations compete for a dwindling supply of public funds.

"Despite the difficult economic climate at the moment, the Centre has already established itself as a unique venue in which creative industries and arts organisations work in partnership to produce a vibrant and exciting environment," says Tom.

"My objective in the next few years will be to identify major investment from the private sector to enable the Centre to operate on a self-sustaining basis and to become nationally and internationally recognised as an innovative hub for creative industries and the arts."

The Storey is a not for profit organisation set in the heart of Lancaster’s conservation area. Based opposite Lancaster Castle, it's described as a place "where art and industry spark" and home to numerous creative companies and individuals as well as home to litfest and the Spotlight Club.

"I am delighted to welcome Tom as our new Chief Executive," says Baroness Ruth Henig, chair of the SCIC Board. "Under his guidance, and with the benefit of his wide experience, I believe the Storey CIC will develop into a major creative industries and arts centre of which the building’s founder, Thomas Storey, would have been proud."

Snorkels at the ready for Carnforth Swimming Pool reopening

Carnforth_Swimming_Pool.jpgImprovements to the disabled facilities at Carnforth Swimming Pool are on schedule to be completed on time ready for the reopening on Monday 23rd August.

Members of staff from Carnforth Swimming Pool will be at the Tesco supermarket in Carnforth on Wednesday 18th August from 10.00 to 4.00pm to launch their new programme of activities, which include a children’s ‘Learn to swim’ session that will take place every day from Monday 23rd to Friday 27th August.

The course, which runs from 10.00 - 10.30am costs £19.50 and is ideal for the complete non-swimmer, aged four and over. Youngsters will gain in confidence and learn the basic skills to gain propulsion through the water.

If you fancy some fun in the water, why not try the brand new snorkelling session. Race through the slalom or play ‘bingo’ and other underwater games. Sessions are for age 8 – 16 year olds and are running on Tuesday 24th August and Thursday 26th August from 12.00 to 1.00pm for only £3.80. Y

ou can bring your own snorkelling set or you can order one in advance from Carnforth Swimming Pool, only a small number will be in stock and available to purchase on the day.

As well as the new activities, they will also be launching the fantastic offer of a £1 swim available for all, every Friday from 5.30 until 6.30pm.

There are many other existing activities returning by popular demand including the parent and child sessions, ‘aqua fit’ classes, and a new programme of swimming lessons for adults and children is being launched.

• For more information on these sessions, please contact Carnforth Swimming Pool by telephone: 01524 734699, email: carnforthpool@lancaster.gov.uk or visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/carnforthpool


• Image courtesy and © Lancaster City Council

Monday, 9 August 2010

Lancaster takeaway owner fined after copper wire found in curry

Idris Jasat, owner of IKY’s Pizza and Balti House takeaway in Lancaster, has been ordered to pay a total of £865 after pleading guilty to serving a chicken curry containing a fragment of copper wire approximately 16mm long.

Jasat pleaded guilty at Lancaster Magistrates Court on Friday 6th August and was fined £350, plus costs of £500 and a £15 victim surcharge.

The curry meal was delivered to a customer living in Morecambe from the St Leonard Gate-based takeaway on 27th October 2009. The customer contacted Lancaster City Council’s Environmental Health Service, who investigated the matter and found the piece of metal came from a make-shift handle from a pizza oven.

“This was a very serious incident which could have had devastating consequences," says Coun David Kerr, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health.

“I hope this case sends a clear message to food businesses that serving contaminated foods is an offence under the food hygiene legislation and that action will be taken if any business is caught breaking the law.”

Over the last year, the city council’s food safety team visited 692 catering premises, from corner shops to large food manufacturers, and dealt with 89 food complaints and 41 complaints about premises.

Lancaster City Council’s Environmental Health Service

• Online food hygiene Inspection reports are currently not available pending consideration of the introduction of the Food Standards Agency national "Scores on the Doors" scheme.

Ring thief apologises to pensioner

A burglar who stole a widow’s precious engagement ring and then sold it for cash has apologised to his victim at a restorative justice meeting.

The 18-year-old broke in to the 76-year-old’s Lancaster home earlier this year, and stole the sentimental jewellery, along with cash and a signet ring belonging to her husband who had recently died of cancer.

The burglar was later arrested by police and, with his help, officers were able to trace the engagement ring and return it to its owner.

The 18-year-old was convicted at court and was ordered to pay compensation to his victim, as well as carry out community service.

The teen decided to take part in the restorative justice session voluntarily and without obligation, as he wanted to make amends for what he had done.

Afterwards, the 18-year-old said: “I took part in the meeting because I thought I had done something wrong and I want to change and make the lady feel better. I just wanted to tell her I was sorry.

“Now that I’ve met her, I feel even worse - I feel bad for making an old lady cry after what I’ve done.”

Restorative justice projects are designed to bring victims and offenders together to decide on a response to a particular crime. It not only gives victims the chance to move on by speaking to the offender about the incident and why it happened, but also encourages offenders to face up to their actions by hearing how their behaviour affected another person’s life.

The teen, who wants to join the army, said the meeting had made him think differently about the future.

“I just want to get my head down now, get on with things and get a career in the forces," he says. "I'll keep things she has told me and try to act on the advice she gave me about getting training.”

The meeting, held in the victim’s home at her request, was also designed to help the pensioner recover from the trauma of the burglary by getting the youngster to explain his actions. The theft of the ring had been particularly upsetting for the widow, as her husband died in March following a long battle with cancer.

“I was most devastated about the theft of my lovely engagement ring," she said. "It’s the only real jewellery that I have ever owned.

“It was also the idea of the violation of my own home, the fact that someone had wandered through my home and gone through my belongings," the pensioner added.

"With the recent death of my husband this incident intensified the distress that I felt, not only that of losing my husband but the insecurity of it all as well.”

The victim felt that meeting the offender would help her gain some closure on the incident.

“I wanted to see his face," she explained. "After the burglary it was 10 of the worst days, I didn’t feel safe in my own home and I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to know why he had done it and show him that it’s not just a house, it’s a home. I also wanted to give him something to think about the next time he’s considering doing something like this.”

Meetings between offender and victim are rarely easy, and the pensioner approached the encounter with some trepidation.

“I was apprehensive before we met," she says, but added "I was surprised at how intelligent and well turned out he looked. I thought if you met him in the street you’d think he was a nice lad. I requested the meeting be at my home address where the burglary occurred as I wanted to show him what he had done to me.”

The experience has been a valuable one for the victim. She said: “I feel that by doing this, the young man has faced up to his criminality. He has 13 GCSEs so he’s an intelligent lad. With support and firm, loving guidance he should mend his ways.

“This has helped me to have closure on the whole incident and has helped me on the road to recovery," the pensioner hopes. "My respect for the local police force knows no bounds now. I can not speak highly enough about the way that they have dealt with this case. I realise what wonderful support systems we have within the community and the speed at which the offender was dealt with was impressive.”

DC Corinne Cleasby and DC Ian Wright were the two officers involved in bringing the pair together.

“The meeting has really benefitted both the victim and the offender," feels DC Wright. "The offender did not have to take part in this process at all – he had been dealt with by the courts, but he wanted to say sorry and that shows some promise for him in the future.

“The victim, having also got her ring back, was satisfied that the offender deeply regretted what he had done and has even offered him further support to help him achieve his new goals.”

“All restorative justice meetings are considered carefully before they take place, so that we know that both sides will benefit from it, explains DC Cleasby. "The meeting was very emotional with positive feedback from both parties.

"This was the first time that the two had met, never meeting during the course of the investigation, and both now feel that they can move on from what happened.”