Saturday, 26 February 2011

Conservatives "Call In" Lancaster Market Move Decision

Conservative Councillors have initiated a "call-in" of the City Council Cabinet's decision to investigate a proposal to move Lancaster Market to the City Museum building (see news story).

The Conservatives told virtual-lancaster they consider that the current cost of Lancaster indoor market based in the Market Building - estimated at £500k per annum and increasing - is unacceptable, and that action to reduce these costs is required.

But, while welcoming the fact that alternative locations for the Lancaster Market are under consideration, they do not consider that relocating market tenants into the Lancaster City Museum building is an idea worthy of investigation at the present time.

"I have initiated a call-in of Cabinet's decision to undertake further investigations into the conversion of the City Museum to accommodate Lancaster Market," says Councillor Roger Mace. "In this, I have been supported by members of the Labour Group.

"It is anticipated the call-in will be heard at the regular meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee which is scheduled for 9th March."

The Cabinet proposal has already met with opposition from groups such as the Friends of Lancaster City Museum and Lancaster Civic Society.

Halton to Host Eco-Fair next month

On Saturday 26th March - the end of Climate Change Week – The Centre@Halton will be hosting an “Eco-Fair”, as part of the community’s move towards a carbon neutral status.

The event will offer a wide range of advice and products that can help reduce fuel bills and cut carbon emissions and will have stalls with everything from loft insulation and UV panels to eco-friendly cleaning products .

The day includes short presentations on a range of topics like the Co-Housing project and home energy audits. Alongside all this will be stalls providing food and snacks, soup, and home baked bread.

Organised by Global Link, the Halton Eco-Fair is an initiative of Halton Carbon Positive, a partnership between the Halton Community Association, Lancaster Co-Housing and LESS.

• For more information contact Anthony Finnerty at Global Link on email: a.finnertyATgloballink.org.uk, or phone 01524 36201. Centre@Halton web site: www.haltoncentre.org

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Labour councillors back retention of Police Community Support Officers

Local Labour councillors have joined those pressing for the jobs of Police Community Support Officers in the Lancaster and Morecambe district to be protected from public spending cuts.

Next Wednesday’s City Council budget meeting (2nd March) will be urged by Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of the Labour group, to consider funding of PCSOs as a growth item.

“Funding from the Community Safety Partnership has gone,” said Coun Blamire, chairman of the partnership.

“If we are to lose police officers, it is vital that we keep our PCSOs, who are doing such a good job and are so valued by the public.”

Of 43 posts in the local police division part-funded by Lancashire Police Authority, 14 are at risk.

In addition, neighbourhood policing and response teams may have to be looked at in future by the authority.

Skerton county councillor Niki Penney, a Labour member of the police authority, said budget cuts would amount to £42 million over the next four years, which would mean about 1,000 jobs would go as staffing represented 85% of the budget.

Even so, she said, the police had a strong ambition to maintain their good performance.

Labour county councillors have objected to the “unevenness” of cuts being imposed on local authorities by the Government.

“While we in Lancashire are facing a devastating reduction, that will see many thousands of employees lose their jobs, some authorities in the south of England are seeing minimal reductions or even increases in their budgets,” said County Coun Jenny Mein, Labour leader at County Hall.

Heroin found following Morecambe drugs raid

Police have seized £500 worth of heroin following a drugs raid at a Morecambe address.

Officers executed a warrant at a property in Kensington Road at 6.20pm on Tuesday.

A 48-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drugs. She has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Members of the local neighbourhood police team have since visited residents in the street and the surrounding area to deliver Crimestoppers leaflets and speak to anyone who may have concerns.

Detective Inspector Neil Drummond, Morecambe police, said: “The action taken by police has already had a positive impact in the local area and we have had really good feedback from residents.

“Drugs can blight our communities and I want residents to feel reassured that if they come to us with information or concerns we will listen and take strong action.”

Green Party seeks candidates for upcoming Council elections

Lancaster's Green Party is urgently seeking serious candidates for the forthcoming Lancaster City Council elections (5th May 2011).

“Many Green Party members work full time or have young families, so we are struggling to find enough people with spare time to devote to being a City Councillor," Emily Heath, who has been a Green Councillor for the last 12 years, told virtual-lancaster.

"It is a four year commitment, requiring about 6-8 hours per week for attending meetings, reading agendas and emails, and dealing with issues in our wards. We would love to hear from anyone who isn’t yet a Green Party member but who supports our aims and is willing to get more involved.”

“Elected Greens have made a big difference to this area," she continues. "We have achieved lots of visible improvements in our wards (eg. play areas, road safety, green spaces, community centres), changed the Council’s priorities (climate change is now a top priority, for example), held officers and other parties to account, and won some significant victories such as saving the Storey Institute and Indoor Market and funding for local arts and voluntary sector organizations.

"It would be a great pity to throw away the hard work that many people have put into winning 12 city council seats over the last 14 or more years, for want of willing candidates this time.”

Being a City Councillor is a great way to serve your local community and help to shape the future of our district. Incentives include a basic annual allowance of £3,300, plus a laptop with broadband, carer’s allowances, and lots of training opportunities. Councillors with special responsibilities (such as cabinet members and committee chairs) put in more time but get additional allowances of up to £6,530pa.

Candidates must be over 18, EU or Commonwealth citizens, on the electoral register anywhere in the Lancaster District, and not employed by the City Council.

“There are lots of big issues for Councillors to get stuck into," adds Gina Dowding, Chair of North Lancashire Green Party," such as reducing the district’s greenhouse gas emissions, redevelopment of the Canal Corridor, St Georges Quay and Morecambe Prom, protecting greenfield sites, implementing a district-wide 20 mph speed limit in residential areas, and securing new land for allotments.

"The City Council’s budget is in pretty good shape at the moment, but if cuts are unavoidable in future years, we need as many elected Greens as possible fighting to defend things like services for vulnerable people.”

• Please contact Emily (emilyATheath.greenisp.org, 01524 380169) or Gina ginadowdingATbtinternet.com, 01524 841645) if you are interested in becoming a Green Councillor.

• Lancaster Green Party Official Web Site: www.lancastergreenparty.org.uk

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Appeal after collision at A65 Cowan Bridge

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a road traffic collision occurred on the A65 at Cowan Bridge yesterday (21st February 2011).

The collision happened just after midnight this morning when a blue Peugeot 205, driven by a 19-year-old man from Kirby Lonsdale, has been travelling from Ingleton towards Kirby Lonsdale.

His car left the road on a bend and collided with a dry stone wall and he was thrown from the car.

After being freed from underneath the wreckage by Cumbria Fire and Rescue he was transported to Royal Lancaster Infirmary where he is being treated for a number of serious fractures to his head and body.

He remains in Intensive care at Lancaster Infirmary.

Sergeant Mick Young from Lancashire Constabulary’s Road Policing Unit said: “A full investigation is underway but I would appeal to anyone that witnessed the incident to contact police on 08451 25 35 45.

The road was for half and a half hours to allow for an investigation.

Morecambe Visitor Information Centre shortlisted for prestigious national tourism award

Staff at Morecambe Visitor Information Centre are celebrating the news that the centre has been shortlisted to receive a prestigious award at the national Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2011.

Last September, Morecambe VIC (run in partnership with Lancashire County Council) picked up gold in the regional awards after beating off stiff competition to win North West TIC of the Year.

News has just come in that the centre has been shortlisted to take its North West title through to the national final where it is set to receive either a gold or silver in the Visitor Information Services category.

“My congratulations go to all the staff," commented Coun June Ashworth, City Council cabinet member with responsibility for tourism. "This is fantastic news for which everyone at the centre can be justly proud. Once again their achievements in delivering exceptionally high standards of professionalism, dedication and commitment to fulfilling the needs of each and every customer have been recognised putting Morecambe and district firmly on the map."

The Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2011 ceremony will take place on 15th April at Birmingham University's Great Hall when the centre will be competing for gold against three other regional winners in the Visitor Information Services category.

Runners prepare for 2011 Three Bridges Race

Local runners are being invited to take part in the next running of the well known 3 Bridges
10k Race
, organised by Lancaster and Morecambe Athletics Club

This year's race will start at at 11am on Sunday 3rd April from the Clubhouse at Salt Ayre Sports Centre.  The route will follow the cycle track and quiet roads and, of course, the run will also cross three bridges -- Millenium, Skerton and the canal Aqueduct -- giving a very pleasant route.

Entry fees are attached £7; unattached £9 and £1 extra on the day.  There will be a memento for all finishers, and prizes for the first three men and first three women.  There will also be  veteran age group prizes.

• Entries can be made on the John Schofield website (http://www.ukresults.net), or on an entry form obtainable from Steve Perry by calling 01524 64892 or emailing steveperry10parkATtiscali.co.uk

Dog owners urged to keep pets under control after harassment reports

Dog owners are being urged to keep their pets under control in the countryside following reports of livestock being harmed by the animals when they are off their lead - which have included the death of one animal.

Carnforth police have received a number of complaints from farmers after a series of incidents in which pregnant ewes and new-born lambs have been harassed by dogs. This can cause not only stress to the animals but can also have financial implications for the farmer if the sheep or lambs are injured or killed.

It is particularly important that dogs are kept on a lead during the lambing season, which is now underway.

Owners can be fined under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if their pets are found to be worrying or chasing livestock.

"Unfortunately, each year sheep are killed by dogs which have been let off their leads in fields that contain livestock," notes PC Antony Marsh, Community Beat Manager for Silverdale and Warton. "Owners may believe that their pets will not harm the animals but a loose dog is distressing for the sheep and on occasion dogs do attack, and these attacks can be fatal.

“This can be a traumatic experience, not just for the sheep and the other animals in the field, but also for the farmer, whose livelihood is intrinsically tied to these animals, and the dog owner, who is often taken completely by surprise by their pet's behaviour.”

The warning to keep pets on a lead also comes after a sheep was killed at a farm in Warton, near Carnforth, on Sunday, (20th February). The animal’s body had been dumped in a bush after its throat had been torn out in what appeared to be an attack by a dog.

“Owners can be fined if their dogs are worrying livestock but there is also the risk that their pet may be shot by a farmer trying to protect his flock," PC Marsh added. "I would like to remind all dog walkers to ensure that their pets remain on their leads where required.

"It is important that they remain obedient and under control at all times to ensure there is no potential for them to chase or worry sheep that may be in lamb. We will be taking positive action against irresponsible owners.

"Livestock are an important part of farmers' livelihood and they would appreciate the public's assistance in protecting their animals at this important time of year."

• If anyone would like to report any incidents of sheep worrying they can contact Carnforth Neighbourhood Team on 01524 63333.

Conservative councillors condemn Council's plan to raise Pool and other admission charges

(Updated 23/2/11): Conservative councillors have hit out at a decision by Lancaster's Cabinet to raise the fees and charges for a range of services, saying they are excessive and unnecessary - and are challenging the decision.

Last week, the Cabinet voted to raise admission prices for Salt Ayre Sports Centre, Community Pools, Williamson Park, Parks and Recreation Grounds and Morecambe's Platform venue as part of a review of "Wellbeing Fees and Charges" (PDF Link), a move which will increase revenues by an estimated £77,700.

In the report, Council officers argued the agreed fee rises make "a small additional contribution to the 2011/12 budget process, whilst retaining fees at competitive levels".

An ammendment by Green councillors not to raise fees for physical activities was defeated.

The accepted proposal to raise charges also included a request that John Gilbert, Chairman of the Council's watchdog, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, be consulted with a view to waiving call in, so the price rises could be implemented immediately.

Conservatives say the rises are the equivalent of a 0.9% increase in Council Tax from these sources alone, at a time when Council Tax itself is frozen, and incorporating hidden taxation into charges for physical activities is contrary to the public policy of encouraging such activities.

Now, they are challenging the Cabinet to justify claims that rises in charges to pool users are necessary to recover the City's costs in keeping the Pools open for community use.

Roger Mace
"It is wrong to suggest that the future of the Pools is at risk unless huge increases are made in the charges to users" says Councillor Roger Mace. "Rises to recover the extra VAT - rounded up to the next 10p may be justified - but increases above that could easily be seen as unwise and largely unnecessary."

"If the Council wants to increase income from the pools, it should set charges at levels to encourage new users. It should not set prices that serve only to frighten users away from the recreational resources the Council has to offer".

The Conservatives argue the total impact of the fee rises is designed to recover the full impact of the extra 2.5% VAT rise for the Council, plus 2.4% for inflation - and an increase in the underlying charge going to the Council.

The report to Cabinet estimates the rises will generate an extra £23,900 for the extra VAT, £39,400 for inflation and £14,400 for the City Council above the notional inflation increases.

The Conservatives point out that last year's offer from the County Council to provide the City Council with additional income and savings to enable community pools to be kept open was accepted by the Cabinet this January, so there should be no reason to raise their admission charges.

23 February 2011 Update: The item has now been "Called-in" and the call-in is expected to be considered by a special meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at about 6.00 pm on 1st March at Lancaster Town Hall.

Conservatives are also calling-in the cabinet decision 109 about Lancaster Market.

Minutes of the Cabinet Meeting - 15th February 2011 (PDF)

Monday, 21 February 2011

Police appeal after Lancaster muggings in Denis and Shaw Street

Denis Street, Lancaster. Image via Google
Lancaster Police are investigating two robberies that occurred in the city in the early hours of Saturday (19th February) morning.

The first incident happened on Denis Street when a 32-year-old man was attacked by the two offenders and had his phone and wallet stolen. The second was nearby, on Shaw Street, where two students aged 20 and 23 were also attacked and also had their phones and wallets stolen.

The first attacker is described as a white man aged around 25 years old. He is around 6’ 2” tall with a large build and short dark hair. He has a local accent and was wearing a smart black jumper and dark coloured jeans.

The second attacker is described as being a white man with a Scottish accent, aged around 40 years old with a slim build. He is about 5’8” tall and was wearing a white baseball cap and a long dark coloured coat with a fabric dog lead around his neck.

“I would appeal to anybody who was in the area to come forward and contact the police," asks Detective Sergeant Colin Forsyth from Lancaster CID. "The people responsible need to be caught.

"Luckily, neither of the victims was seriously hurt -- however they have been left shaken following their ordeals.”

• Anyone with any information is asked to contact Lancaster CID on 01524 51212 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Drugs worth £2,300 seized in Morecambe

Police seized suspected heroin with an estimated street value of £2,300 during a Morecambe drugs raid.

Officers executed a warrant at a property in Westminster Road on Wednesday 16th February and found around 23 grams of a substance that is believed to be heroin.

A 25-year-old female was arrested on suspicion of possessing class A drugs. She was later released on bail, pending further investigations.

Members of the local neighbourhood police team have since visited residents in the street and the surrounding area to deliver Crimestoppers leaflets and speak to anyone who may have concerns.

Inspector Dave Vickers, Morecambe police, said: “We have seized a considerable amount of harmful drugs from the streets of Morecambe. Protecting our local communities is our primary role.

“Information from the public plays an important part in this police and community action. I thank our local communities for their support and ask members of the public to come to us with information, so we can continue to tackle drug dealers.

"Your information can take us to the door of a local drug dealer or criminal who has been blighting the lives of Morecambe residents.”

• Anyone with information about drugs or drug dealing is asked to contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency dial 999.