Friday, 1 July 2011

MP plays the fool at NHS Question Time

Lancashire LINk played host to a 'Question Time' styled debate on NHS privatisation plans last Thursday evening at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster. On the panel were Eric Ollerenshaw MP for Lancaster & Fleetwood, Dr David Wrigley, Carnforth GP and elected BMA board member, Caroline Collins of Lancashire LINk and Brian Rhodes, Senior Consultant in Trauma Orthopoedics at the RLI and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Eric Ollerenshaw seems a strange man. While people asked their questions and panel members debated issues, they did so over the visual noise of Mr Ollerenshaw playing with his papers, vigorously shaking his head, pulling faces, rolling his eyes, clapping his hands over his head, his eyes, his ears and studiously doodling whenever anyone tried to speak to him. He bounced about so much I just couldn't get a still photo of him.
It was a bit like having a sign language interpreter gesticulating from the sidelines - but, in his case, a deaf one reading from a panto script. In fact it is, of course, what parliamentary hacks do all day in Westminster. He did deliver four arguments, in repeated rotation:

1. NHS cancer care is worse than any other European country.
2. The government has increased NHS spending and services are improving
3. There are more old people than we can afford to care for.
4. Everyone here is against me.

It was pointed out to him by Dr Wrigley (and others), that the cancer care study Mr Ollerenshaw quoted had said, in fact, that in Europe only France had better outcomes than the UK in cancer treatment. It had been published over two years ago. Intervening studies showed rapid improvement since then which pointed to even those misquoted statistics no longer being accurate. A German doctor present stated his opinion that the NHS was better organised for patient outcomes than German healthcare. Mr Ollerenshaw kept shaking his head, regardless.

The fact that the government has called for £20billion in savings from the NHS - almost one-fifth of its total budget, sat uncomfortably alongside Mr Ollerenshaw's assertion that the government had increased NHS spending. Wards have been cut and a host of medical procedures can no longer be offered to patients. Local mental health facilities, set up after the closure of the big regional asylums, have been closed and sold off - in favour of inaccessible regional treatment centres. Children and adolescents with mental health problems are routinely admitted to adult acute psychiatric wards, for lack of any suitable pediatric facilities. Clinics, accident and emergency centres and outpatients facilities have been closed and centralised. Waiting lists are growing and some have been lapsed entirely. Existing contracts with private healthcare companies under PFI have saddled the regional health authorities forced into them with crippling costs for decades.

The burden of meeting increasingly expensive healthcare costs for elderly people falls more heavily on the poor and their families. As do insurance costs that rise with age. US healthcare costs are triple those of the UK, per capita, with significantly poorer public health outcomes. More people out of every hundred get sicker, and stay sicker for longer in the US. This costs them three times as much, thanks to their private healthcare structure, than is currently paid by us in the UK.

In one unlucky day, in the US, you can lose your job, your savings and your home, to pay for one round of surgery, which may not be covered by standard insurance. Or you simply may not get the treatment you need to survive. Privatisation will draw a hard line between communities. Between the rich and the vulnerable.

It was pointed out that GPs are self-employed, working under contract to the NHS. The Bill would make them managers of all local commissioning of medical services to their patients. This means private businesses being given control of determining how public funds should be allocated to buy the treatments their patients need. GP advice has enormous influence on patient choice. It should be trustworthy, but some GPs consortia have already set up private operating theatres where they perform simple procedures. So they are in a position to direct NHS customers to their own business, which they can then pay out of their NHS budget and make a profit.

One audience member noted, to much agreement, that dentistry had been badly affected by privatisation, with most NHS patients now unable to access basic NHS dental procedures because of budgetary constraints and being routinely obliged to take up private options and insurance.

Certain medical procedures are done routinely, are simple and don't require very expensive equipment and aftercare. These can be done profitably. Others are complex, require specialist staff, expensive equipment and resources, and intensive follow-up. These cost, but every simple procedure was complex once. If private hospitals and clinics can cherrypick the profitable commissions and leave the expensive and pioneering work to the NHS, the NHS will not have the funds to do it. That money will have been paid in dividends to shareholders of private companies, not invested in patient care and the quality of the service will plummet even faster than it already is with the cuts.

Mr Ollerenshaw was largely correct in his fourth point, if confused on his others. The audience seemed packed with healthcare professionals and patients, potential and actual, expressing alarm and concern at the dangers the proposed bill presents. Dr Maggie Mort, chairing the meeting on behalf of Lancashire LINk, asked him if, having listened to the views of local constituents and health professional, he would take their views back to parliament. I couldn't make out his response but his attention seemed alsewhere and his body language seemed to say, 'yeah, whatever...'.

Tomorrow (Tuesday 5 July 2011) is the 63rd Birthday of the NHS, founded in 1948 at a time when thousands of war-injured ex-servicemen, ex-POWs and civilians needed care and when the national debt was proportionately three times what it is now.

From 5.30 - 7pm there will be a birthday celebration for the NHS in Lancaster's Dalton Square. All are invited to bring sandwiches, tea, cakes etc. Let's make sure that this isn't the last birthday of the most cost-effective national healthcare service in the developed world.

Join Lancashire LINk online at http://www.lancashirelink.org.uk/

Keep Our NHS Public

Spoil your garden rotten with free compost

Local residents can reap the rewards of food and green waste recycling by collecting free compost made from the waste collected from green bins.

Lancaster City Council will be giving away the compost at Sainsbury’s, Morecambe on Tuesday 12th July.  Everyone is welcome to come along from 9.00am to fill up their bags.

Bring your own bags if possible and arrive early to avoid disappointment.

The compost is made from the food and garden waste that people recycle in their green bins, and is suitable for all types of plants.

• To find out what food waste can and can’t be recycled visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/bins 

First Gay Secretary for local Police Union

Maureen Le Marinel, Branch Secretary for UNISON’s Lancashire Police Branch, was elected Vice President of the Union at its national conference in June 2011 and is the first gay woman to hold this office in the union.

Maureen’s long-term commitment to trade unions started in 1984. After being discharged from the Army for being gay, she took a job in Lancashire Constabulary’s control room. After her six-month review, she ‘came out’ at work.

“After coming out in the workplace I was targeted for bullying by senior members of the force," recalls Maureen of how she became involved in Trade Unionism. "But after one phone call to my union, NALGO at the time, which later merged to form UNISON, the matter was dealt with in very positive and progressive way for the time and it inspired me to get more involved.

"I soon became a steward, and my role grew as the equality laws were taking shape, and the force used me as an unofficial policy person.”

She was an assistant branch secretary for about ten years, and when Lancashire Police’s own branch was founded in 2006, she became its Branch Secretary. Maureen has been sitting on regional committees since the early 90’s. She became the police staff representative on the national police service group in 2000, and joined the National Executive Council, the union’s highest lay body, in 2003.

Through her time on the Presidential team, Maureen will be focussing on pushing the union’s agenda of fairness forward.

“Throughout my life, fairness has always been key," she says. "UNISON is not a banging on the table type of union – we want to find a fair and reasonable solution that is best for everyone. This is a guiding principle that will take me through my presidential term, as I help the union, and public services, face head on some of the biggest challenges that we have faced in my lifetime.”

No free lunch for some local businesses on rates, says Council

Lancaster City Council is reminding local businesses that new rules to reduce business rates only apply to those with a rateable value below £12,000.

In March, the Government announced that it was extending a temporary increase in Small Business Rate Relief for a further year for the period 1st October 2011 to 30th September 2012.

The measure doubles the usual rate of relief so that businesses with rateable values below £6,000 pay no rates at all for the period, while those with rateable values between £6,000 and £12,000 receive tapered relief from 100% – 0%.

However, the amended legislation is not yet in place so businesses must continue to pay their current instalments, if they have any. Current collection and enforcement procedures will continue to apply to ratepayers who miss scheduled instalments.

Anyone currently entitled to Small Business Rate Relief and affected by the changes will be issued with an amended bill automatically once the new legislation has been passed.

It is also essential that Lancaster City Council is informed of all changes regarding vacations and occupations of property to ensure ratepayers that are potentially entitled to relief continue to receive the necessary application forms.

• Any businesses that have not applied for Small Business Rate relief but believe they may be eligible can contact 01524 582920 or visit  www.lancaster.gov.uk/business-rates for more information.

Police Authority probes public on planned changes

Police Authority Chair,
County Councillor Malcolm Doherty
(Updated 1635, 1/7/11): Lancashire Police Authority, Lancashire Constabulary and police unions are making a determined effort to secure people's views on the proposed closures of police front counter services and stations in the region.

The public consultation starts today (1st July) for 12 weeks and, in an effort to encourage comments, they're urging people to leave their thoughts and ideas on the Lancashire Options On Policing website: www.getintheloop.co.uk

"Some people may be put off including messages on an official police site," explains Sarah Steele, the Community Engagement Administration Officer for the Authority, "so this is an alternative."

UNISON is concerned about both job cuts and fears that closing police stations would alienate community members.

"The review has suggested closing 21 ‘front counters’ and several police stations on the basis that the numbers of people actually using them are very low," outlines County Councillor Malcolm Doherty, who is Police Authority Chair.

"Most importantly, we are absolutely not moving out of communities, or becoming more remote from people, if anything it’s the opposite.  We want to explore alternative options with people so that we can create a police estate that is fit for the future – a future that includes increasing usage of mobile technology (keeping officers out on the beat for longer) and shared premises with other organisations for greater visibility.

"Equally, even without the reductions in funding, we would be looking closely at all the police premises, to ensure that they remain viable and necessary," he continues. "We totally understand that people place great importance on their local police station, but do they actually need or use it?

"We believe that residents would prefer us to invest our resources in people rather than property, to help us maintain the level of service provided.  Before we make any decisions though we need to know what you think."

There is a host of information on the Authority’s Website (http://www.lancspa.gov.uk/moneymatters/) telling taxpayers what is proposed for which area.

"We know that one size doesn’t fit all," acknowledged Councillor Doherty, "but we do believe that together we can develop solutions that are effective, affordable and practical."

UNISON’s Lancashire Police Branch takes a different view to the cuts and is urging members of the public to send a clear message to this government that cuts to policing and other public services that impact on the policing of our communities are unnecessary, uncalled for and will cause lasting damage.

“These police stations are staffed by members of police staff," notes Branch Secretary and UNISON’s newly elected Vice President Maureen Le Marinel, "who perform a very important and profession role and are a vital face to face link with the communities of Lancashire.

"If these stations are to close and this link is lost some of our most vulnerable people will feel isolated and lost. It also means that given the closure of stations there is a significant possibility that jobs will be lost.

"Whilst UNISON fully understands that the Constabulary needs to find savings due to the Condem Government imposed cuts this should not be at the risk to Public Safety."

• To comment, email with your views via LPA.Information@lancashire.gov.uk; Tweet via @LancsPA; FaceBook - www.Facebook.com/LancsLOOP or post your views via the web site at www.getintheloop.co.uk

Ambleside Allotments 'Incredible Edibles' Awards date set

The presntation of the 'Incredible Edibles' awards will take place on Sunday 10th July, 2.00 until 5.00pm at Ambleside Road allotments.

As well as awards in a number of pre-judged categories there will also be prizes on offer for the best 'miniature garden' and 'wobbly vegetables and funny fruit' brought along on the day.

Also during the day you will be able to take a look round Lancaster's newest allotment site and talk to a number of stall holders about growing projects across the district. There will be free edible plants for the first 100 people through the gate - and free refreshments.

There will also be a plant swap and a jam and chutney swap, so please bring along any surplus to swap on the day.

Plenty of cycle parking available on site and car parking available nearby at Central High School, just a few minutes walk from the allotment site.

• Ambleside Road Allotments are at opposite 176 - 196 Ambleside Road, Lancaster.

In Review: 'Shifting Registers' by Ian Seed

Ian Seed is lecturer for Creative Writing at Cumbria University and editor of the webzine Shadowtrain. Shifting Registers is his second collection of poetry.

You know there’s something admirable about poetry attempting to ascertain the truth: the truth about the world, the truth about reality, the truth about art, the truth about language – even if that truth happens to be that there is no truth.

All this sounds like thirsty work, and work is the word for this collection; the incessant labour of interpretation is simultaneously enlightening and infuriating.
If you’re a fastidious reader whose page flutters at the prospect of a challenge, or a disillusioned soul wishing to be plucked out of your comfort zone and shaken into a new mode of thought, then perhaps this Seed should be planted in your life.

What we have here is difficult poetry. No literal route is provided and meaning comes in slow drops like ‘rain’. So we must be active readers bravely braced for the semantic storm, not lounging in luxury, with poetry as sweet liquor resting in our glass. Each poem is like a closed flower, opening only when lit by our questions. Each word often points to more than its various dictionary definitions, reminding us with its sound of yet another. Each resonates with an emotional echo.

There’s no escape after we’ve put the book down either, and fragmentary shapes still haunt our most vulnerable moments of passivity and sleep: a steam train rushing through a landscape of snow, barely discernible beneath a plume of white steam. Disembodied. Unfathomable. Often the image received is contrary to what we would expect, for ‘there’s nothing/ literal about watching [a]…weightless/ train’. But patience, there’s method in the madness since the overall effect is one of reconciling otherwise disparate elements into a holistic image, albeit an image founded upon uncertainty, as when he writes that ‘the fusion of the face / with its shadow is total in verisimilitude’.

Seed’s work may be criticised on the grounds that it has little to offer the casual reader. Every poem keeps its cards close to its chest, insisting upon the reader’s sociable dialogue before revealing its hand. When all's said and done there’s a label for this kind of literature – postmodernism. Shifting Registers typifies postmodernism because it rejects structure and regimen in favour of a far more slippery kind of meaning. From the offing ‘Note-taking’ and ‘Theory’ give the impression of the academic nature of these pieces, even if the end result is to reject the absolutism of critical analysis and theoretical schools. There’re some more accessible moments in the prose poems of the collection but the vast majority aren’t so forgiving.

Sometimes we encounter a poem more like an obdurate stone than a proud flower. Words smugly resist interpretation, or jar dissonantly with the rest of the line, simply lying there looking increasingly worn, like those coins in the pavement inside Marketgate. What for instance does an ‘olive warning of destruction’ have to do with ‘moths and flying’? Yet one of the clever effects of these poems is their ability to provoke thought, even when we think we’ve got it sussed.

There’s no doubt time and energy has been invested in these poems, and to truly appreciate them we must commit time and energy too. Shifting Registers is ideal for those who want to be challenged by their reading, or better yet, to be the challengers themselves. The crucial point seems to be that there’s literature of value here, ideas worth rolling around in the tired grey matter upstairs; bringing both light and shadow, blending them, making you nervous.

Joe Downes
01/07/11

Ride the Shadowtrain here: http://www.shadowtrain.com/
Ian Seed is a regular face at Lancaster’s literature festival: http://www.litfest.org/

Lancaster Teachers on the Picket Lines


Picket lines stood outside Lancaster schools yesterday, probably the most courteous and kindly pickets in history. 'Good Morning' was the most revolutionary chant to be heard, as they handed out explanatory leaflets to the odd parent who turned up with children.
Supportive workers with slower unions, who supported the strike but weren't yet allowed to join it, brought out cups of tea.

I saw 3 members of Unison come up to strikers to apolgise for not being out on strike as well, and promising that their own union would be striking by the Autumn. I heard promises that the NUT would join them. One woman said her pay was cut by £800 a year, her pension contributions increased and her pension, that she had contributed to and worked for on a low wage, starting at 6am daily, over 20 years, cut to shreds.

Others were less friendly, the lollipop lady disgusted at their dereliction. 'I've never been on strike in my life! It's letting the children down.'

Fleetwood couple Anne & Nick Beenham were so unhappy at having to bring their children into work with them at Lancaster's Local Linkup marketing office that they appeared on BBC North West Tonight. Anne said, 'Things are hard for us in the private sector. I have no pension. My wages haven't been raised in the last few years.'

Anne worries me. The average Public sector pension is £6000pa. It's not much if your roof needs fixing or you need a stairlift, but it's better than nothing, which is where Anne sees herself. A private sector pension is an opt-in thing. You shop around, sign up and settle to making your monthly payments. You contribute to a pot. It's a bonded savings agreement for an annuity that will provide an income when/if you reach a certain age. But only if you have made the payments. Unlike Anne. Unlike most women in the private sector in fact, whose careers are often broken up by having children.

So when you lose your pension, you are losing your own savings. It's like a bank going broke and you losing your savings. Except the teachers' scheme is an opt-out scheme with a pot originally set up before the welfare state by a union of women teachers, who were not allowed to marry, so devised the scheme independently to avoid destitution in old age. It's unlikely they were better off then than Ann is now. They were desperate. As schools were taken over by the state their scheme and its pot was eventually passed over to be run by the employers as part of the state scheme, for the benefit of all teachers. It is designed for the welfare of the members, not a profit-making corporation. It has been audited, adjusted, contributions by the teachers were increased some years ago, and it is sound. The heritage of those diligent, careful women.

As one of the few remaining such pots, it is being raided, by the government, to fund tax avoidance and fiscal irresponsibility. Just as private interests already raided the less-guarded pension pots of their own companies. Employers took 'holidays' from making their contributions during the rich times and paid themselves dividends, instead of laying by for the hard times to follow. They invested the funds unsoundly with their own interests. This was tax-avoidance in another form.

At 11am the strike's supporters rallied in Market Square and bacame an unscheduled march by about 400 people around Lancaster City Centre, led by a marching band.

It wound around the town centre, with the assistance of just two competent police officers who happened to be on hand to complement the stewards.

Speeches followed in Market Square, not only from teachers but also other services under threat, most notably about the NHS privatisation. The most memorable came from schoolgirl Molly Pye, who said "Putting private business in charge of health is like putting Dr Frankenstein in charge of transplants'.

Others pointed out that half the UK's private wealth is owned by just the richest 10% of the people, who are getting even richer out of the recession, and set to get richer still through privatisation, while the rest of us are told we must make sacrifices.

I'd say this strike day was just a taste. Public sector workers haven't had a fight like this in a generation, and like all new things in the public sector, it will be long in getting started, with many meetings. But now the millwheels have begun to grind, there will be no stopping them until the whole loaf is sliced out.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Cyclist knocked off bike in Heysham

Police are appealing for witnesses after a teenager was knocked off his bike in Heysham, after being clipped by an HGV.

Around 7.30am today (Wednesday 29th June), the 18-year-old was cycling from the direction of Morecambe towards  Heysham along the A589 Heysham Road when he was clipped by a HGV at the junction of Seymore Grove.

The HGV failed to stop and the teenager, who is from Heysham, fell from his bike suffering a number cuts and bruises and was treated at Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

“I would appeal to anybody who may have witnessed this incident to contact police," says PC Shaun Canning of The Road Policing Unit. “The HGV failed to stop at the scene but it may well be that the driver didn’t realise he had collided with the cyclist. I would urge the driver to come forward.”

• Anybody with any information is asked to contact police on 08451 25 35 45 quoting log number 0223 of 29th June.

Local rail expert condemns £32 billion High Speed Rail route "madness"

high-speed-rail.jpgWith just 30 days left to comment on the government's plans for a High Speed rail line between London and northern England, local transport expert Professor John Whitelegg has described the scheme as "madness" and that it would have a serious impact on local rail services if it went ahead.

The public consultation on the Government's proposed high-speed rail line between London, Birmingham and the north of England will close on 29th July and campaigners are urging the public to take a few minutes to answer the seven consultation questions (listed below), and let the Government know what you think of their multi-billion scheme.

The scheme is one of the biggest construction projects the country has ever seen, and campaign group Wendover HS2, which is especially worried by the Link's route through the Chilterns, argues it would cost, in real cash terms, far more than the £33 billion claimed by Government.

The Government argues that a new high-speed line would create jobs, and help heal the North-South divide, but experts have shown that any economic benefits would be more likely to go to London, as the biggest economy.

The Government also says that only a new line would meet the predicted increase in demand for rail travel over the coming decades. But the HS2 Action Alliance has shown that all the extra capacity we need could be supplied much more cheaply, and quickly, through improvements to existing services.

"This is not a battle between North and South, as the pro-HS2 campaigners would have it, with their posters depicting southerners in bowler hats, worrying about their lawns," say Wendover HS2. "In fact some of the biggest losers from HS2 would be northern towns such as Carlisle and Lancaster, whose rail services would actually get worse if HS2 went ahead.

The proposed route runs through Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the Chilterns Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the remains of a Roman villa. It would destroy listed buildings and prime agricultural land and cut through 21 ancient woodlands.

"It has long been my view that spending £32 billion on high speed rail (HSR) is madness in this supposedly tough financial climate," argues Professor John Whitelegg, who has given evidence to House of Commons Select Committee on transport investigation into the strategic case for high speed rail (PDF link, see HSR 34, page 135).

Professor Whitelegg argues the case for HSR in the UK is deeply flawed, represents a very significant misallocation of resources and will not achieve its objectives in economic regeneration or carbon reduction.

"UK transport planning and thinking asserts the existence of a clear and virtuous link between investments in new infrastructure and jobs, regeneration and economic growth," he notes. "This assertion stands in stark contrast to the published literature on this subject. This
literature is clear that there is no direct evidence of regeneration and economic gain after the construction of a new road, railway line or other transport link."

Pointing to the conclusion of the Government's own study in 1999, titled Transport and the Economy, research revealed that improved accessibility between two countries (and similarly
between cities, areas or regions) may sometimes benefit one of them to the disbenefits of the other. On the wider economic impacts the report concluded: “Empirical evidence of the scale and significance of such linkages is, however, weak and disputed”.

"Rarely has £32 billion of public spending been based on such a flimsy evidence base," says John. "We're being told we must cut social care for the elderly, children's centres, bus services, pensions and get rid of thousands of public sector workers  and much more and yet government can find £32 billion to spend on very rich people travelling very fast to and from London on trains that simply won't stop en route at a place like Lancaster.  HSR will damage Lancaster train services on the London-Glasgow route.

"I suggest local residents ask some searching questions and take part in this consultation if they are concerned about reducing our trains services," he urges, "or about the ease with which a Conservative-led government can find £32 billion for this kind of thing whilst trashing the poor, the disadvantaged and the old.

"The country needs a proper integrated transport network," he argues, "not an experimental ultra-high-speed line with virtually no connections to existing services."

The project has the support of several business organisation in the North West, including the former North West Development Agency

•  Via the Wendover HS2 site, which also offers more arguments against the plans, below are the Government’s seven consultation questions and some points we are planning to make in our consultation response.


To take part in the consultation you can either:
  • Reply by post to Freepost RSLX-UCGZ-UKSS, High Speed Rail Consultation, PO Box 59528, London SE21 9AX

The Government's Questions

Question 1: Do you agree that there is a strong case for enhancing the capacity and performance of Britain’s intercity rail network to support economic growth over the coming decade?

Question 2: Do you agree that a national high speed rail network from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester (the Y network) would provide the best value for money solution (best balance of costs and benefits) for enhancing rail capacity and performance?

Question 3: Do you agree with the Government’s proposals for the phased roll-out of a national high speed rail network, and for links to Heathrow Airport and the HS1 line to the Channel Tunnel?

Question 4: Do you agree with the principles and specification used by HS2 Ltd to underpin its proposals for new high speed rail lines and the route selection process HS2 Ltd undertook?

Question 5: Do you agree that the Government’s proposed route, including the approach proposed for mitigating its impacts, is the best option for a new high speed rail line between London and the West Midlands?

Question 6: Do you wish to comment on the Appraisal of Sustainability of the Government’s proposed route between London and the West Midlands that has been published to inform this consultation?

Question 7: Do you agree with the options set out to assist those whose properties lose a significant amount of value as a result of any new high speed line?

The consultation closes on 29th July 2011.

More Links

• High Speed Rail Consultation Page: http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk

Against HS2

•  Stop HS2
•  Online petition against HS2
•  HS2 Action Alliance
Wendover HS2The Chilterns Conservation Board: "High Speed 2 - Caring for the Chilterns, The Chilterns AONB" (http://www.chilternsaonb.org/hs2)

For HS2

Yes to HS2
An "independent non-governmental campaign group" set up to promote High Speed Rail in the UK and the benefits both economically and environmentally that it will bring.
HS2 Ltd.
High Speed Two Limited (HS2 Ltd) is the company set up by the Government to consider the case for new high speed rail services between London and Scotland.
High Speed Two Ltd. Report (11 March 2010): "High Speed Rail London to the West Midlands and Beyond: A Report to Government by High Speed Two Limited"
Department for Transport: Background reports supporting the proposed high speed rail strategy for consultation

Public urged to have their say on police station future

A public consultation process will begin on 1st July 2011 which could help determine the future of police premises across the Lancaster and Morecambe area - and Lancashire as a whole.

As we previously reported, the Constabulary is considering a report outlining potential savings of up to £1 million annually and one-off sales of over £4 million.

The potential savings - which may see the closure and sell off of police stations in Carnforth, Over Kellet, Cowan Bridge, Caton, Cabus and Bowgreave (in Old Garstang) - are part of on-going work to identify savings in the region of £42 million over the next four years.

The 12-week consultation process will give local people the chance to have their say on Lancashire Constabulary’s plans to review front counter services and potentially close some of the county’s police buildings.

Consultation will begin with officers and Commanders speaking to members of the public as part of their daily business and conducting focus groups.

In addition, people will also be able to post their views on a special discussion board on the Lancashire Constabulary Facebook page www.facebook.com/lancspolice or e-mail their comments to consultation@lancashire.pnn.police.uk

In August, telephone surveys will be conducted with residents and people will be able to have their say via surveys on both the Lancashire Constabulary and Lancashire Police Authority websites.

Commenting on the consultation, Chief Superintendent Tim Jacques from Lancashire Police said: “As part of on-going work to identify savings in the region of £42 million over the next four years, the Constabulary has been reviewing the properties it uses and the services it provides at front counters in police stations.

“We’ve looked carefully at visitor numbers to identify those which are used the most in order to limit the impact on local communities but we recognise that any closures will cause concern which is why we want to consult before we make any final decisions.

“I would urge anyone with a view to contact us and let us know their thoughts. They can do this in a variety of ways, starting with Facebook and e-mail, followed by telephone and web surveys next month.

He added: “At the end of it, there will have to be some very difficult decisions made and some cuts are inevitable given the amount of money we need to save. However, it is our firm intention to make sure that we strike the right balance between finding these savings while limiting the impact on the public and protecting officer numbers in what is an already constricting environment.”

"Lancashire Constabulary is working hard to deliver a more effective, responsive and locally delivered service," argues the Chair of Lancashire Police Authority, Malcolm Doherty, "and to do this it needs a property estate that is reflective of the public's needs and one that is flexible enough for the Constabulary to adapt to meet new challenges within the current financial climate.

“We must quite rightly consider the balance between the provision of a flexible and responsive policing service that the public quite rightly expects, alongside the need to find savings of £42M over the next four years.

“We recognise that there is no 'one size fits all' approach when it comes to access and contact between the police and the public. Reviewing services, adapting to demand and making best use of resources are critical elements of delivering responsive, flexible policing services that best meet the demands placed upon it by the end user - the public.

"I encourage Lancashire residents to get involved in this consultation and give their views".

Proposals to change the services offered at some police station front counters were put forward earlier this month following a review of issues including opening hours, services provided to the public and working practices across the force.

The review found that 81 per cent of the total footfall of visitors across the county is catered for by just 17 of the front counters. The remaining 21 are dealing with only 19 per cent of the overall footfall and were therefore recommended for closure.

“It is our belief that closing the front desks which are currently underused and offering a standardised service in all of the remaining front counters, will result in an improvement on the current position," feels Tim Jacques, "which sees people being sent from one counter to another depending on the services they need to access.

“In addition, over recent years, we have extended our reach into the community and now operate out of 200 different bases across the county. This means we rely less on the public coming to us. The development of on line and digital services also provides additional opportunities for the public to access services differently and this will continue as technology moves forward.

“However all that said, we recognise that police station closures can cause anxiety and concern amongst local people which is why we are asking the Lancashire public for their views.”

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Man assaulted at Lancaster bus stop

Police are appealing for witnesses after a man was assaulted in an unprovoked attack in Lancaster.

Around 3.00am on Sunday 12th June, a 27-year-old man was waiting at a bus stop on South Road when he was approached by another man.

Without warning, the man hit the victim over the head with his arm which was in a plaster cast before getting on the same bus as the victim.

The victim attended the Royal Lancaster Infirmary the following day and was treated for a small cut to his head.

Police have released CCTV of a man they would now like to speak to and are appealing to anybody with any information to come forward.

PC Chris Smith said: “This was a completely unprovoked attack and we are determined to find the person responsible.

“If anybody has any information whatsoever about this assault then I would urge them to contact police.

“I am also keen to speak with anybody who recognises the man captured on CCTV.”

• Anybody with any information is asked to call 08451 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Take the Red Tape Challenge

Bemused by bureaucracy but worried that removing rules will simply let business and government play fast and loose with people's rights to a decent working environment? Then you might be interested to know that both the Government and the Health and Safety Executive are calling for people in the North West to give their thoughts on red tape.

The Red Tape Challenge is seeking views about regulations from the public, business and others like industry bodies and volunteers. The contributions to the Challenge will draw on the experience and ideas of those businesses and members of the public who deal with regulation every day.

Health and safety regulation is one of six cross-cutting themes on the Red Tape Challenge website and the public will be able to give comments on health and safety throughout the whole of the Red Tape Challenge campaign. But, from 30th June 2011 there will be a special three-week focus on health and safety regulation to encourage people to get involved and have their say.

Already under the spotlight were Road transportation, hospitality, food and drink and retail with other areas such as Media and creative services, the Environment, Utilities and energy just some of the other topics to be covered later in the year.

Quite coincidentally, the consultation comes just as the HSE releases new official figures which show the number of workers killed in the North West has increased and provisional data for the year April 2010 to March 2011 shows the number of workers killed nationally was 171, an increase on the previous year, when 147 died – the lowest number on record.

There were a total of 23 workplace deaths in 2010/11, compared to 17 in the previous year in the North West.

Comments received for the Red Tape Challenge will provide the Government with a clear picture of how regulations are perceived and will help them decide which regulations should stay, which change, and which go entirely.

“The Red Tape Challenge is an ideal opportunity for people to give their views on health and safety regulation and we hope people get involved in the debate," feels Geoffrey Podger, HSE’s Chief Executive. “The Health and Safety Executive is committed to protecting people from genuine risk and ensuring businesses don’t face unnecessary bureaucracy.

“This is a genuine consultation which will capture the views of people who are affected by health and safety regulations. We want to hear from all those with an interest with the aim of simplifying health and safety and making it more effective and proportionate for the benefit of business and the workforce of Britain.”

All health and safety regulations will be available for comment on the site, under the following four areas: general health and safety, major hazard industries, higher risk workplaces and dealing with hazardous chemicals and materials.

Commenting on the national rise in worker deaths, which show the rate of fatal injury is now 0.6 per 100,000 workers, up from 0.5 per 100,000 workers the previous year, Judith Hackitt, the HSE Chair, said the increase in the number of deaths in the last year is disappointing, after an all time low last year.

"However, we must remember that we still have one of the lowest rates of fatal injury anywhere in Europe," she notes.

“The fact that 171 people failed to come home from work to their loved ones last year reminds us all of what we are here to do. It is a stark reminder of the need to ensure that health and safety remains focused on the real risks, which exist in workplaces not on trivia and pointless paperwork.

“We all have a role to play - employers, employees and regulators - and leadership is fundamental to maintaining and improving our performance even further. In a world of work which is constantly changing we must all continue to review what we do and how we do it and strive to become even more effective at managing risks which cost lives.”

"Red tape" is a term for excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making. It is usually applied to governments, corporations and other large organizations. The origins of the term are somewhat obscure, but it is first noted in historical records in the 16th century, when Henry VIII besieged Pope Clement VII with around eighty or so petitions for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Traditionally, official Vatican documents were also bound in red cloth tape.

The tradition continued through to the 17th and 18th century. Although Charles Dickens is believed to have used the phrase before Thomas Carlyle, the English practice of binding documents and official papers with red tape was popularized in Carlyle's writings, protesting against official inertia with expressions like "Little other than a red tape Talking-machine, and unhappy Bag of Parliamentary Eloquence".

• The full regional breakdown of workplace fatalities across Great Britain is available at www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/fatalinjuries.htm#regional.

• If you have an opinion on Red Tape, get online between 30 June and 21 July 2011. Visit www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk or search online for Red Tape Challenge.  The Red Tape Challenge was launched by the Prime Minister on 7 April 2011.

Lancaster Skies

Lancaster Skies by JohnFreeman
Lancaster Skies, a photo by JohnFreeman on Flickr.

Lancaster's hot spell continues today. This photo was taken from the Millennium Bridge this morning.

Saheli brings local people together

Saheli women's group preparing card-making activity which
they will run together with Lancashire Adult Learning at their
Community Party on 9th July 2011, at
Lancaster Boys and Girls Club.
Saheli, a new local women's organisation, has organised a special free friendship event at Lancaster Boys and Girls club next Saturday (9th July) that aims to revive a tradition of summer street parties in Lancaster.

The event will offer plenty of interesting activities for young and old including face painting for younger children and table-tennis, pool and other games for younger people.  Dress up in a sari, have a beautiful henna design on your hand or write your name in Gujarati.

There will be live music by young bands and, of course, lots of delicious food. Plus, if it’s hot and sunny - and it looks like it will be - there will be a picnic outside in the Club's garden.

Organised by Saheli in partnership with the club, the event is being supported by a number of local organisations, businesses, individuals and a community grant from the Lancaster District Local Strategic Partnership.

Saheli, meaning friendship, is a newly formed women’s group which aims to bring together women of different faiths, cultures and backgrounds.

"I would like to get to know different kinds of women – young, old, women with children, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Western women, Asian and others," explains one of its members, Mrs Zubeda Chandia.

Another member, Mrs Nasima Suleman, tells us she is interested in learning about the similarities and differences in women’s lives around the district.

Lancashire Adult Learning has been working together with the group to build skills and confidence and to promote positive community relationships.

"In one of the sessions, the women talked about bringing people together and the street parties they used to have 30 years ago," says Shanaz Patel from the organisation. "We decided we could develop the skills to organise one and it was great that Lancaster Boys and Girls club offered to work in with us.

"The club is a very special place. It provides a variety of activities for young people and helps build their confidence. This benefits all of us. Please come along on Saturday!"

• Saheli is at Lancaster Boys and Girls Club, Dallas Road, Lancaster - 1 - 4.00pm, Saturday 9th July 2011

Monday, 27 June 2011

Heysham man sentenced to almost five years in jail for stabbing

A 40-year-old man from Heysham has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison after pleading guilty to wounding at Preston Crown Court.

Sean Hann of Brunswick Road, Heysham was charged with wounding with intent and possession of an offensive weapon following a serious assault in Morecambe last November and he pleaded guilty to the offences on the first day of his trial on the 23rd May.

The case was adjourned and he appeared at Preston Crown Court on Friday (24th June) where he was sentenced to four years and ten months in jail.

Just before 5pm on Saturday 6th November 2010, police were called to West End Road to reports of a serious assault. On arrival, they found a 43 year old man with stab wounds to his back and neck.

The 43 year old victim was initially in a critical condition but fortunately, has since made a full recovery.

Detective Inspector Nina Foley said, “This was a particularly vicious assault and the victim was lucky to survive. By pleading guilty, Hann has at least ensured that his victim and his family did not have to re-live the attack through a trial and can now hopefully move on from this.”

M6 Link route "not ideal", Morecambe MP admits

Morecambe MP David Morris has admitted the proposed northern route for the M6 link, backed by Lancashire County but not our City or Morecambe Council, is not ideal - but argues an imperfect route is better than nothing when it comes to improving the area's transport links.

Responding to constituent concerns about Lancaster County Council's apparent approach to the current Link road consultation process, Mr Morris wrote that he agreed "the route chosen for the M6 (sic) is not ideal and I believe the alternative would have been preferable.

"However, by the time I was elected as MP for Morecambe and Lunsedale the route had already been set and I was given the choice of this imperfect route or the road not being built at all."

Meanwhile, Lancashire County Council has responded to concerns raised about the way it has handled the consultation, which have met with criticism from various quarters, including Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe.

Critics argue the Council has deliberately given the impression only design elements of the Link road plan can be objected to. In fact, under the terms of the scheme's consideration by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (PDF), it is clear that it is possible for residents to protest about the entire scheme.

Defending its approach, the Council says the IPC process is very different from the previous planning process used for the Heysham Link.

"One of the main changes is the difference between the consultation and examination processes," says Steven McCreesh, who is Project Director for Heysham to M6 Link. "We are currently consulting on the design and look of the proposals that we will build if we get development consent.

"It is quite clear from our literature and the display boards at the exhibitions that we are consulting on the whole scheme," he argues. "We are highlighting the changes made to the scheme that already has planning permission so that residents know what has changed. This is a period to shape the proposals, not to object or support the scheme.

"After we submit our application to the IPC, the IPC will carry out an examination into the proposals and decide whether to grant consent or not. This will be the time for people to object or support the scheme. The notes from the IPC state that the examination will consider the whole scheme."

Neither Mr McCreesh or Morecambe's MP seem prepared to be drawn into how the County will pay for any cost over runs if  the £140 million road scheme does get the green light. As it stands, it appears any costs over and above the current estimates will have to be met at some stage by Lancashire taxpayers.

But David Morris is categorical that any increased costs will not be borne by local taxpayers. "I agree that taxes are putting far too heavy a weight on residents and for this reason Conservative Councillors recently voted to prevent any increase in council tax," he notes.

Nominations sought for prestigious volunteering award

Lancaster City Council is encouraging the community to nominate the district’s unsung heroes for a special award.

Nominations are being sought for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, a prestigious National Honour equivalent to the MBE.

“Voluntary groups across the Lancaster district are vital to all aspects of community life," notes Coun Jon Barry, cabinet member for the voluntary sector. "However, they sometimes aren’t recognised for the outstanding contributions they make.

"This award celebrates the work of voluntary groups across the UK who, in many cases, have dedicated themselves to improving local people’s lives for many years.

"If there is a group in your area who you believe makes a significant difference to their community and deserves recognition, please consider nominating them.”

Nominations by members of the public who have been helped personally or witnessed the benefits of a group’s work in their community can be made at any time of the year by visiting www.queensawardvoluntary.gov.uk and downloading nomination forms in pdf or word format.

The closing date for nominations for the 2012 round of awards is 30th September 2011.

Lancaster Comedy Club lines up Fringe Star Night

Justin Moorhouse
As the Edinburgh Fringe approaches, comedians from around the world are putting the finishing touches to their new shows in the hope of  being nominated for the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly known as the Perrier) or turning the heads of TV producers. The upside of this for comedy fans is July sees big names coming to smaller venues to road test their Fringe offerings at a fraction of their normal ticket price.

Never ones to miss out on a bargain, the Lancaster Comedy Club at The Borough in Dalton Square have snapped up two Edinburgh favourites for Sunday 17th July and you can see both shows for as little as £6!

Justin Moorhouse was already an accomplished stand up comic before having his face permanently painted as a tiger on Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights  endeared him to the nation. Since then sell out tours across the country and a multi award-winning prime time radio show on the UK's largest provincial station have made him a household name in the North. Appearances on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow and a lead part alongside Eric Cantona in Ken Loach's Looking For Eric have  established him as one of comedy's big hitters.

We booked Justin for this month's show in January and since then he has decided he wont be appearing at Edinburgh this year but, being one not to disappoint his fans, he agreed to honour the date anyway and will be performing an extended set of his greatest hits along with some snippets from his forthcoming UK tour.

Jason Cook
A firm favourite with Fringe audiences and critics is Jason Cook who hails from Newcastle, where he learnt his craft at the infamous Hyena Comedy lounge in front of baying Geordie stag and hen parties. The former merchant seaman featured twice in UK comedy website Chortle's '50 Most Memorable Gigs Of the Decade' and also won the coveted 'Best International Show' at the New Zealand Comedy Festival which has previously been won by none other than Eddie Izzard.

Jason's last three shows have been extemely well received by hardened Fringe critics, earning an embarrassment of four and five star reviews. Don't be surprised if he gets nominated for the main award.

• Admission is £8 on the night or £6 in advance from the venue or www.wegottickets.com. For fun loving foodies meal deals available to comedy goers at this Michelin recommended venue. Main course from the School Dinners menu and admission to the show only £10.75! Limited places ring now on 01524 64170

Moorside School throws open its doors for a day

Moorside School, Lancaster, is throwing open its doors for a day to give parents, children and other members of the community a chance to discover the hidden gems which make for an exciting primary school life.

The open day takes place on Friday 1st July from 9am until 3.00pm when everyone is welcome to freely explore the corridors and extensive grounds of the school and see for themselves the teachers and children in action during lesson time.

Moorside School is set within 10 acres of land off Bowerham Road, Lancaster which means that as well as an exciting creative curriculum, it can also boast the ability to offer its children a whole host of curricular and extra curricular activities both indoors and out.

The day offers the opportunity to discover how the school caters for children from the age of three and how provision at the school starts at 8.00am and finishes at 6.00pm to meet the needs of working parents.

Find out for yourself how Moorside makes learning fun, how every voice is heard and why Ofsted regard the school as outstanding in many areas of learning.

Parents can find out more about the school on the day when Year 6 pupils will be on hand to guide you around the school and teachers will be available to answer any questions.

• For more information about the open day or to arrange a private tour, please contact the school office on 01524 66516. Moorside is online at: www.moorside-pri.lancs.sch.uk