Friday, 29 October 2010

Brian Kennedy performs at The Platform

Ireland's most successful ambassadors of music, Brian Kennedy will be performing at the Platform on Friday 12th November.

Brian is not only a prolific songwriter but also a master interpreter of lyrics. Audiences around the world continue to praise his exceptional vocal talent.

Performing live has always been at the core of Brian’s success, a fact recognised by Van Morrison who approached him to perform as part of his Blues and Soul revue which travelled the globe to critical acclaim.

Brian has also toured with The Corrs, Tina Turner and Riverdance and represented Ireland in the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest.

He was selected to perform at the funeral of George Best where his powerful renditions of ‘You raise me up’ and ‘Vincent’ resulted in the release of a charity single ‘George Best – A Tribute’ from which ‘You Raise Me Up’ shot to number 4 in the UK charts.

• The show starts at 8.00pm. Tickets cost £15 adults, £14 concessions and are available from the Platform box office – 01524 582803 or in person at Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres. For more information visit www.briankennedy.co.uk

In Review: The Silver Dogs at Lancaster Priory


Who: Silver Dogs
Where: Lancaster Priory
Reviewed By A.M.Beddows

A Lancashire audience was enraptured by a special folk rock concert at the Priory Church, Lancaster on the 15th October.

Fresh from their theatre tour of the North West, premier folk rock band Silver Dogs played two faultless and brilliant sets to a full audience /congregation of music lovers last Friday evening. Familiar with large well lit theatre stages and special sound experts, the Silver Dogs band coped well with what was to them – a somewhat unusual, though spectacular setting.

These gifted musicians used a variety of superb instrumental and vocal sounds to share their love of folk music with a large and enthusiastic audience. The band that live and work in various parts of the North West were highly motivated playing much of their own arranged material.

The musicians include Richard Curran, a classically trained violinist, who amazed us with exciting sounds on the violin, viola and mandolin. He gave a most passionate rendering during his solo spots. While captivating with his competence and brilliance, lead guitarist Darren Dean was also compelling and flawless in his musicianship.

The accomplished vocalist and song writer Becky Haslam held us captivated with her lovely voice, her imaginative use of her rich and subtle singing in various registers clear and expressive. She reached her receptive audience with encompassing warmth.

Andrew Turner, an able and vastly experienced performer, challenged the listeners with calculated risks on keyboard bringing out unexpected sounds. His singing being mature and rounded was most enjoyable. The newest band member, Alan Partington, punched powerful and succinct rhythms on his bass guitar.

Already he has stamped his musical personality on the band with his particular talents. Neil Aspinall gave his all, thrilling us with percussive sounds. His vigorous drumming roots the Silver Dogs completeness with additional drive and excitement.

This excellent band delivers wonderful folk rock music and a brand new package. It is clever and innovative, interesting and uplifting and, in my opinion, the best live band in this area for a long time. They have played many venues and had a most responsive audience in the different environment of the Priory Church.

It was apparent that the Silver Dogs gained many new fans from their rich sharp rhythmic performance and fine musicianship. Not a surprise! This band is going places. Their new CD album will be out in the New Year.

For more on the band visit: www.silverdogs.co.uk

Challenging times for Council, says Leader Langhorn

Council leader Stuart Langhorn has told virtual-lancaster the next few years will be "challenging" as it adapts to the cuts to its funding from central government announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

"The headline figure of a 28 per cent cut to local government budgets over the next four years will be very challenging for the District Council," he confirmed. "It will inevitably lead to the council providing less services than it does now."

The full detail of the funding cuts have yet to be detailed, he points out.

"The precise amount of the reduction in the government’s settlement to the concil will not be known for another six weeks," he says.

"The Council is not taking any knee jerk reactions – and has in fact been preparing for this news for some time. The Cabinet has been looking at a range of opportunities to share services and to reduce costs.

"Only last week the City Council held a series of listening events to explain the budget situation and to listen to what the public had to say on which services they would be prepared to see a reduction in. The results of this process will be fed into the next Cabinet meeting.

Despite hard times ahead, Langhorn feels administration changes such as the Decentralisation and Localism Bill, due for publication around 18th November, which is intended to return power to local authorities and communities through a number of measures including control of housing and planning decisions, may present new opportunities that might benefit the Council in the long term.

"Councils will have more discretion than ever before with the money they receive from government because of the coalition’s commitment to cutting rules and regulations on how money is spent," he notes. "It reverses the trend of increasing centralisation of local government funding by the last government that saw the number of ringfenced grants increase from 23 to 91. The move will soften the blow to local authorities from the expected heavy cuts to central government funding. It will also make administration simpler, helping them meet efficiency savings.

"Cuts are unavoidable because of the huge deficit left to us by Labour," Langhorn argues, "but these changes are freeing up Local Authorities’ to spend money how they want to not how Whitehall wants to.

"It’s hard to think of a time when more control, money and responsibility will be decentralised by any modern UK government. The Localism Bill will make clear this transfer of power. This is the Liberal Democrat influence over the direction the government is taking.

"Added to this will be an extra £7 billion to give the poorest pupils a better start in life – the pupil premium," he added.

"So though it is going to be challenging, it will also provide new opportunities for local communities."

• The city council’s budget questionnaire is available online at www.lancaster.gov.uk/consultation. Hard copies were distributed in October via Your District Council Matters.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Dukes starts a search for 'A Little Voice'

A Little Voice will be in big demand at The Dukes in Lancaster in the spring.
In its first outing since an award-winning run in the West End last year, The Dukes will be staging its own production of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, from 24th March - 16th April 2011.

Now, the search is now on for a Little Voice to outshine those who have taken on this challenging role - so if you think you can outshine the likes of  Jane Horrocks and Diana Vickers, it might be time to get your pitch to the theatre.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, a heartwarming, down-to-earth comedy written by Farnworth–born Jim Cartwright, will be a highlight of The Dukes spring season and upholds its reputation for producing plays rooted in the North.

“This is a modern classic and I think it’s the best play I know that also incorporates music which is another of our interests," says Dukes director Joe Sumsion.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice focuses on the life of a painfully shy young woman who disappears into a world of music to escape the chaotic life of her fun-loving drunken mother.

Surrounded by vinyl and memories of her father, Little Voice imitates the great divas; Bassey and Monroe, Garland and Holliday.

But this Lancashire fairytale takes a dramatic twist when Little Voice is overheard by wannabe talent scout Ray Say.

The play premiered at the Royal National Theatre in 1992 with Jane Horrocks in the lead role and won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 1993. Horrocks recreated the role for the big screen version in 1998, which also featured Michael Caine and Brenda Blethyn .
The Dukes production will see the return to Lancaster of director Amy Leach, who directed the theatre's record-breaking run of Sabbat, My Mother Said I Never Should, and Peter Pan, this summer’s walkabout show in Williamson Park.

• Bookings are already being taken for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice: call The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org

NSPCC Christmas Fair next week

Lancaster NSPCC committee have organised their first ever exclusive NSPCC Christmas Gift Fair at the Midland Hotel on Thursday 4th November from 10am – 3.30pm

Over 20 fabulous stalls will be offering a wide range of gifts for adults, teenagers and children, including: toys and games, children's books, jewellery, kitchenware, gentlemen's accessories, ladieswear, food and drink, crafts and homeware.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to stock up the larder with yummy goodies from local producers to enjoy during the festive period and there will also be a tombola, offering the chance to win some great prizes.

The Fair is being organised by two NSPCC committees: the NSPCC Lancaster committee and the Westmorland NSPCC fundraising committiee.

Tickets for the Christmas Fair are priced at £3 each and are available on the door on the day. For those keen to see what's on offer, there's an opportunity to attend an exclusive VIP reception evening on Wednesday 3rd November from 5.30pm – 8.00pm for which there are a limited number of places. Tickets cost £10 each and include a complimentary glass of wine and festive canapés.

• All tickets for the VIP reception must be purchased beforehand: please contact Melissa on 01524 812654 for more information.



Five investigated for benefit fraud following scrap metal operation

Five people will be investigated for benefit fraud following an operation targeting scrap metal thefts in Morecambe.

Officers and PCSOs carried out checks on vehicles, their drivers, passengers and contents at the White Lund Industrial Estate on Monday in order to clamp down on the amount of stolen scrap metal being transported across the area.

Checks were also carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions, Trading Standards, Lancaster City Council and VOSA. As a result five people will be investigated for potentially making fraudulent claims for benefits whilst working. VOSA issued six prohibition notices to vehicles.

“Metal theft is not only a problem in this area, but all over the county due to the increasing value of scrap metal," says PC Sean Brady from Morecambe's neighbourhood police team.

“Thieves often go to extraordinary lengths to take metal from people’s private property – even climbing on roofs to get it. I would urge anyone who sees such suspicious activity to contact police.”

He added: “This operation has been targeting people that seek to profit from crime by cashing in on stolen metal. Anyone found in possession of stolen scrap metal can expect to be arrested and detained whilst we make further enquires into the origins of the metal.“

UK’s top outdoor writers and photographers descend on district

The UK’s top outdoor writers and photographers will be descending on Lancaster next weekend (5 - 7th November) for their annual general meeting.

As well as discussing business and holding their prestigious awards presentation at the Lancaster House Hotel, members of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild will find time to enjoy some walking in the Forest of Bowland, mountain-biking in Gisburn Forest and a day exploring Arnside and Silverdale.

OWPG President Roly Smith, said: “We hold our AGM in a different location each year and Lancaster, which we’ve visited once before, looks set to be one of our best destinations yet. We’ve got a busy programme of activities lined up, exploring the beautiful Lancashire countryside.

“All eyes in the industry will be on us on the Saturday evening when we announce the winners of our annual awards.

“As well as rewarding excellence among outdoor writers and photographers, the OWPG also presents awards for product innovation in the outdoor industry and the coveted Golden Eagle, awarded for distinguished contribution to the outdoor world. Past recipients have included Sir Chris Bonington CBE, Sir David Attenborough, Doug Scott CBE and the late Chris Brasher CBE.”

Welcoming the guild to Lancaster, Coun June Ashworth, cabinet member with responsibility for tourism, said: “Our district is blessed with stunning countryside, an impressive coastline with panoramic views and a city steeped in history. There is so much of the outdoors to explore in this beautiful area and I hope the guild take many fond memories home with them to share with others through their work.”

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Police appeal after canal viaduct stonework stolen



Police are appealing for information after eight ornamental stones were stolen were stolen from the viaduct over the River Lune at Caton Road in Lancaster.

The incident happened at the between Monday 27th September and Friday 1st October.

Offenders have approached the bridge and dislodged some of the balustrades before moving them to a concealed location by the bridge. They have then made off with the others.

PC Simon Harrison said, “I would appeal to anyone who has information on who may have stolen these stones to come forward.

“Given the size and weight of the stones, it is not something you can walk down the street with so anyone who has spotted anything suspicious in the area or perhaps vans and pick up truck acting suspiciously then I would ask people to come forward and contact us.”

The bridge has been vandalised before, but this time the stones were taken, not simply damaged.

•Anyone with information is asked to call Lancaster police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Award-winning play blows in to The Dukes

What happens when family becomes just a game for other people to watch?

Find out at The Dukes on Friday 12th November.

The Lancaster theatre will be hosting the award-winning play Blowing, a darkly comedic story of a disintegrated family which no-one has got round to leaving yet.

Jules Bradley has it all. Devoted husband, high achieving kids, 45-years-old  but she doesn’t look a day over 21. She organises a special birthday brunch to celebrate but her children are not prepared to play along with the lies any more.

Blowing is a new piece of international theatre about dreams, destruction and deceit,  written by one of the most talented contemporary playwrights in the Netherlands, Jeroen van den Berg.

And Fanshen’s production won the Young Angels Award in 2009 presented by Company of Angels who were set up in 2001 to foster and produce new and experimental theatre for young audiences.

Blowing is recommended for anyone aged 11 and over.

• Tickets are priced  £11/9. Under 26s go free. For more details and to book, ring The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org.

Local Friends of Chernobyl's Children group launched, seeks volunteers

Following a successful launch meeting earlier this month, the Lancaster Group of the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children has been formed.

The group is affiliated to the registered charity Friends of Chernobyl’s Children GB which launched in 1994 and its aim is to bring a group of disadvantaged children to Lancaster in summer 2011 from the areas of Belarus which are still suffering from the radioactive fallout of 1984, for a month of recuperative care.

The children are brought over for a month each year for five consecutive years and this helps fight the damage to their immune systems caused by a constant diet of contaminated food.


Friends of Chernobyl’s Children GB has 33 groups around the country and brings several hundred children to the UK each year. The Lancaster Group will be the 34th.

• If you are interested in helping in any way, as potential host families or in the fund raising or organisation, then please contact Mike Cowan at mikehcowan@hotmail.com


• For more information about Friends of Chernobyl’s Children GB visit www.focc.org.uk

Local author (and virtual-lancaster slave) launches SciFi Art Now book

virtual-lancaster contributor John Freeman has been involved in comics and science fiction for over 25 years, but this month  sees the publication of his first factual book – SciFi Art Now.

The book features a number of Northern artists, including David Hughes, who works at Lancaster University; Preston-based illustrators Paul Drummond and Matthew Soffe; Doctor Who illustrator Adrian Salmon, who lives in Lytham St. Annes; Manchester-based games designer Stuart Jennett and comics artist John Royle; veteran comics artist John Ridgway, who hails from Bolton; Blackburn artist and publisher Tim Perkins; and cartoonist Dave Windett, who’s also from Preston.

The work of of these talented artists rubs shoulders with illustrations from creators from across the globe, including Dan Dare and Marvel artist Gary Erskine, Star Wars concept artist Dermot Power and acclaimed SF artists such as America’s Ron Miller and Italy’s Max Bertolini as well as many newcomers whose work was selected from a huge number of submissions for the book.

Science fiction is a perennially popular genre always attracts the most visionary artists, and this coffee table book showcases the crème de la crème of contemporary science fiction painters, illustrators and creators. All aspects of classic science fiction themes are given a fresh perspective by artists examining popular sub-genres such as Sirens of Sci-Fi, Spacecraft and Spacenauts, Aliens and Alien Worlds, Radical Robots, Incredible Cities, Future War, and Steampunk. Crammed full of exquisite art from around the world and fascinating insights from the artists and creators, Sci-Fi Art Now is perfect for fans of the science fiction genre, whether in movies, computer games, comics, book covers or illustrations.

Published by ILEX in the UK and Collins in the US, with a foreword by world-famous SF artist Chris Foss, the book has already received plaudits from contributors and press alike, earning a four star review from top SF magazine SFX.

John Freeman is a freelance writer and creative consultant and a mainstay of the science fiction, fantasy and comics worlds. At Titan Publishing he oversaw the launches of Star Trek Magazine, Star Wars Magazine and many others, and prior to that was Editor of Doctor Who Magazine and several Marvel UK comics titles.

“I grew up reading science fiction in books and comics,” enthuses John, “and working on this book was a dream come true. I’m hoping the art featured will offer plenty of inspiration to artists and casual scifi fans alike.”

SciFI Art Now is on sale in all good bookshops, including First Age Comics – ISBN-10: 1905814984/ ISBN-13: 978-190581498. 

• You can read more about the project, including interviews with some of the artistsat: http://scifiartnow.blogspot.com

M6 Link Road given go ahead despite spending cuts?

Local campaigners arguing for cheaper alternatives to the planned M6 Link Road north of Lancaster have slammed the government's decision to give it a qualified go ahead.

The Government gave a qualified go-ahead to the £140 million Heysham M6 Link Road yesterday, along with a number of other road schemes around the country, just as Lancashire County Council announced that it will have to cut £180 million in services over the next three years.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced that the go-ahead is “subject to a best and final offer from local authorities on costs”.

Commenting on the decision, County Councillor Tim Ashton, Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "This is great news. The M6 link is more than just a road - it will be an engine for economic growth for the whole of the region.

"Its construction will generate thousands of jobs and a six-fold return for every pound invested in it," he claimed. "The scheme enjoys widespread public support and will greatly improve access to the major port of Heysham and the rest of the peninsula." 

The Council claims construction of the road alone will employ over 3,000 people and a minimum of 100 local unemployed people will receive training and jobs during construction.

The road plan is also backed by both local MPs and local businesses, who argue it is vital to improve transport links -- but campaigners are wondering just who will pay for the road if it does finally get the green light.

The Department for Transport has asked for the total cost of the scheme to be reduced as a result of the wider Comprehensive Spending Review before a final funding offer is agreed.

"It appears the Government wants authorities to cut costs, but it is not clear who is going to pay," says David Gate, Chair of Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe. “If they change the scheme by big cost cuts, it will no longer be the scheme that has planning permission.

“Complementary measures, such as better public transport and park & ride are also a condition of the scheme – it can’t go ahead without them – but the government won’t fund them.

“If the County Council asks for local contributions, who will stump up the cash? Local businesses will want a return, and Lancashire's hard-pressed taxpayers would object to the Council borrowing for this speculative extravagance when they are obliged to cut essential jobs and services.”

A recent report described an alternative package of integrated transport measures that would tackle congestion and so bring regeneration to the area, AND save £100 million on the Link Road (see news story).

“That package should be the way forward,” said Mr Gate, “not a divisive £140 million road scheme that won’t solve congestion or bring jobs.”

Local Greens have also poured scorn on the announcement.

"The County Council is facing cuts to services of over £70 million next year," Green County Coun Chris Coates points out. "It's a criminal waste of money to be committing to spend £140 million plus on a road scheme at this time.

"When we are facing cut backs in youth services, closure of swimming pools, cuts to the Arts and jobs losses in nearly all public services, it seems crazy to be spending what little money we do have on miles of tarmac just to make the journey to the M6 10 minutes shorter.”

“This road will do little to reduce congestion in Lancaster and will destroy a swath of countryside north of the city, increasing noise and pollution for hundreds of residents," added Green City Councillor, Anne Chapman. "It will increase emissions of carbon dioxide at a time when we should be investing in infrastructure to reduce, not increase carbon emissions. This reveals the hollowness of the ConDem Coalition’s promise to be ‘the greenest government ever.”

"I fully understand why the Department for Transport is asking us to reduce the costs of the scheme within the wider context of the Comprehensive Spending Review," says County Councillor Ashton.


"We've already been looking at how we can save money on the scheme and I look forward to being able to finally agree funding with the Department for Transport before the end of the year."

An inquiry now has to be timetabled to hear objections to Compulsory Purchase Orders for land needed for the scheme. Depending on the new timescales, construction could begin in 2012 with the road opened to traffic in 2015.

• The James Report, presenting alternatives to the road can be accessed on line at www.heyshamm6link.info or you can view it online here

Have the Police found your bike?

Local police are hoping to reunite owners with their bicycles after a stash of suspected stolen bikes were found in a Morecambe house.

Officers discovered around 12 - 15 bicycles – some of which had been broken down into parts – in a basement workshop in Oxford Road in September.

A 32-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of theft and is currently on bail pending further inquiries.

Sgt Tristan Heaword, Morecambe Police, said: “A number of the bicycles, including a £1,800 mountain bike, have serial numbers stamped on them and we are using this information to cross reference them against reports of thefts so that we can determine who owns them.

“I would urge bicycle owners to ensure that they make a note of the bike’s serial number, which can be found on the frame, and to have their postcode marked on to their property so that they can pass this information on to officers if they are unlucky enough to have their bike stolen. Taking these precautions means you are more likely to have your bike returned to you.”

Around one bike is stolen every day in Northern Division, which covers Lancaster, Morecambe and Wyre. Cyclists can take measures to prevent this happening in the first place.

Sgt Heaword said: “I would recommend that bikes are locked away in garages or sheds when not in use – and if this is not possible then use a good quality lock and chain to secure the bike to something sturdy.

“It is even better if you can use two locks on your bike, and wrap them through the frame rather than the wheels as these can be removed by thieves.”

He added: “If you are out and about on your bike, always lock it up when you need to leave it – even if you are just nipping into a shop for a few minutes. Use a bike locker if there is one available and, if you can, remove your seat and take it with you – a bike without a seat is an uncomfortable prospect for a thief.”

• Anyone with information about bike thefts, or who wants to report a stolen bike, can contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

People have their say on public services

Officers from Lancaster City Council were out and about last week asking people their views on public services at a series of ‘listening days’.

The events were an opportunity for the council to gauge the public mood in the week of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and for people to talk about priorities and reductions in services provided by the council and other public bodies.

The listening days were part of the council’s budget consultation, the aim of which is to ask the public their views on where the council can save money and which services could  be reduced or cut to balance the books.

Following the announcements made in the CSR this is more important than ever as the council stands to see its budget slashed by approximately 30 per cent over the next four years.

Coun Stuart Langhorn, Leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The council will be carefully studying the announcements made in the Comprehensive Spending Review to determine their impact on the services we provide directly or help to fund.

“But while the CSR gives a clear indication that the council’s budget will be cut significantly, we won’t know by exactly how much until the Government tells us our level of Revenue Support Grant in November.

“It is clear, however, that the council will have to make fundamental changes to the way it works and reduce the services it is able to provide.”

Many people have already taken part in the council’s budget consultation by filling in a budget questionnaire or attending one of the listening days.

An invited panel of people from consultation panels run by the city and county council were also invited to take part in one of three budget forums.

So far approximately 400 questionnaires have been returned, 200 people took part in listening days and 40 members of the public took part in budget forums.

The results of the budget consultation will be presented to Cabinet.

• There’s still time for those that haven’t already to take part by filling in a budget questionnaire which is online now at www.lancaster.gov.uk/consultation.  Hard copies were distributed in October via Your District Council Matters.

Comical Hallowe'en Horror stalks the streets of Lancaster!

Lancaster's First Age Comics is making its annual Hallowe'en celebrations something of an event, offering prizes to anyone who turns up in costume to buy their favourite comics this weekend.

We doubt few will sport this fabulous mask created by ace artist Bill McConkey (because it's a limited edition and as far as we know, only our very own John Freeman has a copy in Lancaster, the weird man). But we're sure there will be some zombies roaming King Street on Saturday, perhaps hoping to pick up copies of The Walking Dead, drawn by Britain's very own Charlie Adlard, back issues of Marvel Zombies, or maybe even some of DC Comics relaunched House of Mystery...

Whatever you're after, the First Age Comics Hallowe'en Bash starts at 10.00am this Saturday 30th October and you're all invited!

The annual celebrations - which were a huge success for the comic store last year - will run all the way through to 5.30pm, offering free comics, free candy and ghoulish goodies for those who turn up in costume.

"The dead may rise, but it's OK," says shop owner Mark Braithwaite. "They love comics too!"

• First Age Comics is at the Assembly Rooms, King Street, Lancaster LA1 1JN. Buy From First Age Comics On E-Bay: http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/First-Age. You can also find First Age Comics on Comic Space: www.comicspace.com/first_age or stalk them, vampire fashion, on Twitter: http://twitter.com/FirstAgeComics

Hallowe'en horror at The Dukes!

Celebrate Halloween at The Dukes this weekend with one of the most frightening films ever made...

The Shining (15) stars Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying masterpiece and was the choice of regular filmgoers at The Dukes who were asked which scary movie they would like to see screened for Hallowe'en.

The overwhelming favourite was The Shining and fancy dress is encouraged with spot prizes for the best dressed.

For the uninitiated, The Shining follows the story of disgraced schoolteacher Jack Torrence who accepts a job as the winter caretaker at the remote Overlook Hotel which soon reveals its dark, disturbing secrets.

The Shining: Saturday 30 October, 8.30 pm. For tickets priced £5.50/£4.50, call The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org

CCTV to be cut in Lancaster and Morecambe?

Lancaster and Morecambe may lose some of its CCTV coverage as well as its Police Community Support Officers as part of new savings the Council will need to make as government funding cuts bite, the City's Chief Executive has told virtual-lancaster.

Respoding to our recent stories about Lancashire Constabulary's proposal to sack all its Police Community Support Officers and the local Green Party suggestion that funds could be found to keep some from the Council's CCTV budget, Mark Cullinan, Lancaster City Council’s chief executive, told virtual-lancaster that: “Following the [Government's] Comprehensive Spending Review we now know that the city council is facing unprecedented expenditure reductions of approximately 30 per cent over the next four years.

“It is therefore too early to say what the council’s priorities will be as it looks to make savings of this nature and all options remain open.

“However, CCTV is a discretionary service and inevitably it will therefore be one of the first areas that the council looks at to make savings.”

Responding to concerns over potential cuts to Council funding, Council leader Stuart Langhorn warned last week of  the "enormous challenges" facing the public sector, telling the Lancaster Guardian that "local authorities are coming under increasing pressure to reduce services and focus on the services that people most need.

“In the same way as we did last year, the council has launched a budget consultation and suggestion scheme for people to get involved and have their say.”

• The city council’s budget questionnaire is available online at www.lancaster.gov.uk/consultation. Hard copies were distributed in October via Your District Council Matters.

Keep Safe - Keep a Light on to stop Crime

750 free timer switches were given out to people in Carnforth, Lancaster, Morecambe and Silverdale
last week in a bid to improve home security. Photo courtesy Lancashire Constabulary

Local residents are being asked to leave a light on when they go out – so that it looks like someone is still at home.

As the days get shorter and evenings arrive earlier, it is easier for criminals to work out if a property is empty if it is in complete darkness.

Neighbourhood police teams in Lancaster and Morecambe will be looking out for homes without lights on while they are out on patrol and will then pop a card through the letterbox asking residents to leave a light on next time they go out.

The action comes after 750 free timer switches were given out to people in Carnforth, Lancaster, Morecambe and Silverdale last week in a bid to improve home security.

The crime prevention devices turn lights on at set times so it appears someone is in, even when they are not.

Crime prevention officer Jan Brown, Lancashire Police, said: “Although crime is low in Lancashire, a house in darkness can provide temptation for a passing criminal, as they believe they will go undisturbed.

“Residents can help us keep crime low by leaving a light on while they are out, drawing their curtains and making sure their doors and windows are locked and secure.”

Jan added: “There are a number of other measures people can take too, especially if they are preparing for the winter. Check walls, hedges and fences are in good order; fit good quality padlocks on gates, sheds and garages and make sure all tools are locked away when they are finished with.”

Planning the Future: Council Calls for Public Help

Lancaster City Council has put out an appeal to local people to help shape the future development of the district.

You can help decide which sites should be used for future housing, retail and employment, which areas of the district should be protected from future development and the main tests that the council should take into account when deciding whether to grant planning permission for new development.

The ‘Call for Sites’ is the first stage of the process and by telling the council about land which you would like to see identified for new uses, you can influence the future allocation of land across the district.

Submitted sites will be assessed for their suitability and the most appropriate sites will be taken forward for wider consultation during 2011.

This information will build on work undertaken in the summer of 2008 when prospective housing sites were submitted to the council for consideration as part of the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, which issued its first report in March last year (PDF Link).

Unless circumstances have changed there is no need to re-submit information on the sites already listed.

“This really is an exciting time for the district," feels Coun Eileen Blamire, chair of the council’s planning committee, "representing a real opportunity to shape the area we live in for both ourselves and future generations.

"This is one of the first stages in this process and is an opportunity for local people to tell us about land which they think should be identified for new uses”.

• You can suggest sites up until 28 January 2011.  Anyone wishing to suggest a site can do so by visiting www.lancaster.gov.uk/ldf.  For further information contact Rebecca Richards on 01524 582591 or email: planningpolicy@lancaster.gov.uk. The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment can be fund at www.lancaster.gov.uk/shlaa

Monday, 25 October 2010

Local Greens condemn Lancashire Constabulary proposal to sack PCSOs

Local Green Party councillors are urging the Lancashire Police Authority not to dismiss all of Lancashire's Police Community Support Officers to make savings cuts.

As we reported last week, the county's 427 PCSOs have been handed redundancy notices that could lead to them all being dismissed in March 2011. Even Conservative Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris seems clearly alarmed by this, calling for alternatives.

The Lancaster and Morecambe district has about 40 PCSOs, of whom 10 are part funded via the Lancaster District Community Safety Partnership.

"PCSOs are a vital part of the community's fight against crime and anti-social behaviour in our wards," argues Castle Ward councillor Jon Barry. "Anti-social behaviour has reduced massively since PCSOs were introduced.

"Before this, it was left to ward councillors and overworked police officers to try to sort things out - but this was rarely successful. I could perhaps understand reducing PCSO numbers but not eliminating them altogether. I urge the police authority not to take this action."

Bulk Ward councillor John Whitelegg added: "If the Police Authority goes through with its threat, I would be strongly in favour of switching the hundreds of thousands of pounds that the City Council spends on CCTV to keeping PCSOs as a visible presence on our streets."

Fireworks stolen from local Garden Centre

Police in Morecambe are appealing for witnesses after nearly £4,000 worth of fireworks were stolen from a garden centre.

The incident happened overnight between October 18th and 19th at Broadoak Leisure on Lancaster Road, near Torrisholme.

The offenders climbed the perimeter fence and broken into a secure shed and stolen 39 boxes of fireworks before making off.

“I would appeal for anyone who has any information to come forward and contact us," asked Detective Constable Paul Donnelly. "I am keen to hear from people who have been offered cheap fireworks perhaps in a pub or via word of mouth.

“The fireworks stolen are what would be classed as domestic, the sort we use to set off in our gardens on bonfire night. As November 5th is only a couple of weeks away, people in the Morecambe and Lancaster area may be offered them at a discounted price as the offender tries to get rid of his stolen goods.”

• Anyone with information can call Lancaster police on 01524 63333 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Lancashire Police joins North West crack down on cash-in-transit robberies

Lancashire Police is stepping up its fight against cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies, following major success over the past year with 15 offenders sentenced to more than 180 years in prison.

The action is part of a north-west wide campaign, which will see officers from Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside, Cumbria and North Wales working with the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and other partner agencies to safeguard commercial and financial businesses, along with CIT vehicles during their delivery and pick-up times.

“The number of cash in transit robberies taking place in the county has significantly reduced over the past four years," notes Detective Superintendent Steve Brunskill of Lancashire Police. So far this year we are down by around 80 per cent, compared to last year.

"However, Christmas is approaching and this is traditionally when we see a rise in these sorts of offences. We know from some of the robberies in the past that these criminals do not hesitate to use violence and we are determined to keep our communities safe from harm.”

He added: “We will be targeting, deterring and disrupting criminals who carry out cash-in-transit attacks and robberies on commercial and financial premises.

“This regional approach allows us to gather and share intelligence more effectively and I would reassure the public that everything is being done to target those criminals who travel into the county to commit crime.”

A variety of tactics will be used to prevent these robberies, including police vehicles escorting high-risk security vehicles as they carry out cash deliveries; the use of overt and covert CCTV monitoring; patrol cars following cash-handling vehicles; plus all cash containers will include either Smartwater or a dye, which will be released when they are opened.

In addition, acting on intelligence, the force helicopter will shadow the vehicles from the air during collections or deliveries, enabling any activity to be monitored.  All North West police forces will continue to share intelligence and provide assistance for cross-border deliveries.

Last week, 21-year-old David Jordan Evans had his 10-year sentence increased to 15 years after the court of appeal reviewed his involvement in the shooting of a Blackburn security guard in a £20,000 robbery in December 2008.

Detective Superintendent Brunskill said: “The sentences that are given to these offenders reflect not just the serious nature of the offence but also the hard work that Lancashire Police put in to bringing these people to justice.

“Last year, those committing cash in transit robberies were sentenced to a total of over 180 years in prison - with one person being jailed for life. The success we’ve had in arresting and convicting these offenders should be a warning to anyone thinking of committing this type of crime, there is no hiding place for them and they risk spending Christmas behind bars.”

He added: “This is a devastating and often violent crime that can cause deep distress for the victims, and for those who witness these often terrifying attacks.  Without key information from the public we wouldn’t be able to remove these offenders from the street.  Therefore, we would ask the public to be vigilant and contact us if they have any information to help us catch those responsible.”

• Information can be given to Lancashire Police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency dial 999.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Local "Against the Cuts" group sets first Public Meeting

Stop the CutsLancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts has announced its first public meting will take place on Thursday 18th Novmber at Lancaster Town Hall.

The meeting will hear the case against the cuts and discuss possible alternatives to the swingeing cutbacks planned by the ConDem government. There will also be opportunities to discuss what people can do to fight the cuts and defend  public services.

The meeting follows LMAC's recent 300 strong launch protest rally, and will be the campaign group's first big open public meeting. A range of speakers will be announced soon, including speakers from the worlds of politics, the arts and media, the sciences and academia and from community campaigns and trades unions.

Accountancy firm PwC forecasts that the planned cuts would result in up to one million job losses, 108,000 in the North West, half of which would be in the private sector due to the impact on firms supplying the public sector.

The group, a coalition backed by the Lancaster and Morecambe TUC, community groups, public service users, students, pensioners and activists of all shades, is seeking volunteers to help with their campaign and needs volunteers to help publicise the event and help run it. They also plan to have regular organising meetings.

• For more information visit: www.lmatc.org.uk/ 

• Join the discussion on Facebook: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=133073206741907

Canaries stolen in Bolton-le-Sands

A Portuguese Harlequin canary similar to birds stolen from a garden in Bolton-le-Sands on 19th October 2010.
Image courtesy: http://canariospfreixo.blogspot.com
Police are appealing for information after a number of rare canaries were stolen from a house in Bolton-le-Sands, near Carnforth.

Between 6.30pm on Tuesday 19th October and 8.30am the following morning, 12 rare Portuguese Harlequin canaries were stolen from an aviary in the back garden of a property on Sunnycroft Hillcrest Avenue.

The birds are described as being of varying colours with a crown on their head and usually sell for £25 each in pet shops. The breed has very distinctive criteria (this Word document identifies many of the types).

“It's possible that these canaries may have been stolen specifically due to their rarity value," says PC Peter Bennett, from Morecambe police. "However, an opportunist theft cannot be ruled out.

“I would appeal to anybody who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously on Sunnycroft Hillcrest Avenue on the evening of Tuesday 19th October to contact police.

“I would also like to speak with anybody who may have recently been offered any canaries for sale in the area.”

• Anybody with any information should contact police on 08451 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.