Friday, 12 July 2013

Crafty Kids' Summer Workshops at Morecambe's Festival Market

Crafty traders at Morecambe’s Festival Market will be sharing their skills this summer with a series of craft workshops for children.

From July 23, the workshops will take place every Tuesday and Thursday at the market and include garden ornament painting, card making, knitting and jewellery making.

For just £1.50 per session to cover the cost of the materials used, children from the age of 5 can enjoy learning new skills and creating something special at one of the two sessions available each day - 11am – noon and 1pm to 2pm.

All children taking part must be accompanied by an adult.

July
23  Garden ornament painting
25  Card making
30  Jewellery making

August
1   Knitting
6   Garden ornament painting
8   Card making
13  Jewellery making
15  Knitting
20  Garden ornament painting
22  Card making
27  Jewellery making
29  Knitting

For further details and to book a place please contact the Market Office on 01524 414251 or e-mail markets@lancaster.gov.uk

Port in tax avoidance row as Link Road challenge goes to court

Otters at Halton on the proposed Link Road route
Photo by Stan Parrott. More pictures: www.polypics.co.uk
The Transport Solutions for Lancaster & Morecambe (TSLM)  legal challenge to the Heysham-M6 Link is due to commence in court on 22 July. In the meantime, a row has broken out over the tax dealings of Peel Holdings, owners of Heysham Port and the main potential beneficiaries of the massive publicly-funded roadbuilding project.

The current estimated costs of the scheme are moving inexorably toward the £140 million mark, with Lancashire County Council (LCC) committed to meeting all costs above the Government’s limit of £111 million despite facing £300 milllion budget cuts over the next 4 years.

The two main beneficiaries of the scheme were EDF, which originally had plans to build a new power station in Heysham - plans which have since been scrapped - and the Port of Heysham.

Peel Holdings, owners of Heysham Port, will benefit most from the Heysham M6 Link Road, but have declined to contribute a single penny to it. In March 2013 the conglomerate was the subject of a report by Liverpool-based research think-tank Ex Urbe who noted that it has received hundreds of millions of pounds worth of public UK and  EU funding over the years. (Download full report here as PDF)

They found that Peel has 320 registered companies and subsidiaries in the UK, and said there is “no doubt” Peel practices legal tax avoidance.  Peel Ports Holdings (CI) Limited, for example, which received £50m+   from the Ministry of Defence in 2008/09, is based in the Cayman Islands. The report states that:

"Peel’s parent company is an organisation called Tokenhouse Limited, registered  offshore in the Isle of Man. Its total assets are reportedly worth over £18 billion.   Tokenhouse Limited is also the parent company to Tokenhouse Investments   (Guernsey) Limited and to Peel Ports Holdings (Ci) Limited, which is based in the   Cayman Islands. All of Peel’s concerns lead back, through a complex web of   intermediate ‘parent’ companies and subsidiaries, to Tokenhouse Limited.  The Peel Group is thus a vast network of companies – it operates along “Russian doll” lines – a   company within a company within a company within a company and so on."

The report quotes a letter that Ramsbottom-born  millionaire John Whittaker wrote about the family business in 2011:

"The Peel Group is controlled by the Billown Trust, which was established by my father, John Whittaker, and whose discretionary beneficiaries and are myself and other members of the   Whittaker family. The Billown Trust is based in the Isle of Man and owns approximately 73 per cent, of Peel, of which I am Executive Chairman. The investment in Peel is by far the most substantial asset within the Billown Trust. The remainder of the Peel Group is owned by the Olayan Group" (The Olayan Group is a Saudi family-owned conglomerate).

In June 2013, Margaret Hodge, Committee Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, dubbed the firm a virtual ‘monopoly’ and attacked the BBC for handing it millions of pounds in licence fee cash.  During an outing to Salford’s MediaCity, Mrs Hodge’s powerful public accounts committee grilled BBC chiefs on the value of their £1bn move north.  She singled out its contract with landlord Peel for criticism, accused the Peel Group of tax dodging, and stated that some parts of the group pay on average 10% Corporation Tax, and that some of the more profitable parts of the Peel Group pay 0% Tax. (Read the report in the Manchester Evening News)

The property giant rejected the criticism (see Lancashire Telegraph report), noting that  it had not been asked to give evidence to the Parliamentary hearing. Their spokesperson added,

"Following comments made at the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Monday, The Peel Group would like to make it clear that it rejects any assertion that it is not paying its fair share of corporation tax.
All Peel operating businesses, including Peel Media (the developers and owners of MediaCityUK), are UK domiciled for taxation purposes and pay the appropriate level of UK tax.
"

The Ex Urbe report focussed on the influence Peel exercises over development and planning policy in the Merseyside area and noted that:

"Those democratically elected to represent the public interest  appear happy to throw the city region’s lot in with this organisation because it claims to offer a panacea to many of the area’s socio-economic ills. A cause and effect of this has been the blurring of the boundaries between public and private interests. The ever greater role of   a privately owned and run company in sub-regional strategy formulation, infrastructure   planning, decision-making and funding on Merseyside has, in our view, led to an increasing   lack of transparency and accountability, the ‘commodification’ of Liverpool and the wider Merseyside conurbation in the quest for investment, the diversion of political attention and effort into supporting Peel’s commercial goals and the triumph of marketing spin over hard fact, where public information is concerned."

The report goes on to look at connections between the 'Peel men'  and the North West political infrastructure. One of the examples they list is Robert Hough, a director of Peel Holdings and numerous Peel companies. Mr Hough was for some years on the board of the North West Regional Development Agency, a powerful supporter of the Link Road project,  becoming its unelected chair in 2009. In 2012, he was made chair of the board of the Liverpool City Region Local   Enterprise Partnership, the Government-sanctioned, increasingly powerful, strategic  economic driver for the sub-region, which last year enabled Urban Splash (developers of Morecambe's Midland Hotel), through the award of a public funding grant, to outshine a rival bid for a development - a move that appeared to benefit the Peel Group. (See Example 1, p177).

Now it appears that despite local budget cuts, which have already had harsh effects on local services and the public infrastructure county-wide, with worse to come, a significant portion of the County Council budget has been committed in an open ended promise to finance the Heysham-M6 Link Road scheme. We have yet to identify, when you cut through all the hype, any proof that, beyond the jobs created in the building of it (which must be offset against the hundreds of public service job losses required to finance it)  it will bring any economic improvement whatsoever to the region, with the sole exception of the Port of Heysham, which is likely to benefit from further publicly funded subsidy on the back of this 'too-big-to-fail' investment. We can find no grounds for the assumption that road haulage patterns will remain unchanged or even increase their custom, despite the rising costs of diesel and that they will not, as in the rest of the world, begin the expected transition to more sustainable models of rail freight over the next 20 years.

In fact the hard reality is that the completed sections of the link A683 which already connect Heysham to Morecambe Road are so underused that car retailers on the adjacent White Lund industrial estate use its long empty stretches for acceleration tests and the police complain of drivers speeding in excess of 90mph.

The Ex Urbe report noted: "The power and influence of the conglomerate across the North West generally .... has grown remarkably (and disproportionately) over the past few years. It now plays a quasi-political role in the sub-region, so entrenched has its role become in local governance."

All other proposals to reduce local traffic congestion over the years have been rejected by the County Council, which has stated that any works or improvements are contingent on the Heysham-M6 Link road scheme being accepted. This refusal alone has cost the area economically as the issue of local traffic congestion, which the M6 link scheme fails to address, continues to create a barrier to long-awaited city centre and South Lancaster developments.

David Gate, the chair of Transport Solutions for Lancaster & Morecambe has written to County Councillors requesting that they:

"hold a special meeting of full council so that councillors can scrutinise the financial implications of this project, ask questions on the information that has been put into the public domain, and get answers to show how the additional costs of up to £15 million will be paid for, and the impact that this will have on overall council budgets and service cuts, and the degree to which the project soaks up transport spending throughout the county for some years ahead."

Read the full text of the letter and the background to the campaign to prevent a pointless, unaffordable and destructive scheme at: http://heyshamm6link.btck.co.uk/.

At the bottom of their hompage you can see an animated simulation of the proposed scheme with notes underneath showing some of the impact that the monster elevated road will have on the area as it cuts through the previously peaceful and much-loved local greenbelt in a massive embankment.

UC graduate Jane delivers Outstanding Performance

Jane Marinovich
The University of Cumbria has acknowledged the dedication of new graduate Jane Marinovich by presenting Jane with an Outstanding Performance Award. In addition she  will enjoy a double celebration on 18 July when her graduation ceremony as a qualified teacher coincides with her 38th birthday.

Originally from New Zealand, but now living in Bootle, Millom, Jane’s route to success has been a tough  one. Living in West Cumbria she travelled the 130-mile round trip to attend the lectures in Lancaster for three years. This meant getting up at 5.30am to arrive on time for a 9.00am lecture and frequently having to stay for late lectures and arriving home around 8pm -  and then repeating the same schedule the next day.

Jane supported herself and her son financially throughout this time, working a minimum of 16 hours per week. During block placements, working as a full-time classroom teacher with all of the related responsibilities, she had to work seven days a week;  Monday to Friday at school and then at a pub at the weekends. A very hectic and tiring schedule!

Then, in January 2012 she suffered a recurrence of Graves Disease, the symptoms of which include increased heartbeat, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep, and fatigue. This made Jane’s struggle to get her teaching qualification even more challenging. She told us:

“I remember falling asleep in a lecture and falling off my chair – it wasn’t funny at the time, although I think it is hilarious now!”

At the start of her final year the course fees were raised to £9000 and as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, in the final term of her third year Jane became very ill with a bad bout of flu. Having applied for and been accepted for ‘extenuating circumstances’, she submitted three of her assignments, although in her opinion they were incomplete - and all were awarded A grades.

In the end Jane has been awarded a first-class honours degree, with her lowest grade being 70% and she is justly proud of her achievements. She believes that her marks do reflect the many hours spent early in the morning before work, and the many long days committed to achieving her best.

Jane feels positive about the future: “Now I’ve completed my degree I will achieve a much better work / life balance and my health will reflect this and improve. I’m also delighted to say that I have been appointed to a full-time teaching post, only fifteen minutes from my front door, in the school in which I completed my first placement.”

For information on undergraduate and postgraduate teaching courses at the University of Cumbria go to www.cumbria.ac.uk

Vascular Services cuts at RLI go ahead, users will have to travel to Preston for care


Tim Farron and team: vascular services
decision "ludicrous"
Despite a major campaign to keep them, campaigners have lost the battle to keep vascular health services in Morecambe Bay.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced yesterday that they would move to three regional sites, meaning the Royal Lancaster Infirmary will no longer offer on-site support for people suffering with circulatory problems - a decision Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron described as "ludicrous", but one which both local Tory MPs appear to have accepted, although Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw supported the campaign to retain them.

People needing such services - often after heart attacks and strokes - will now have to travel to Carlisle, Preston or Blackburn, with the three sites serving the whole of Cumbria and Lancashire, plus parts of Greater Manchester and South West Scotland.

"There is a strong clinical case for the concentration of vascular services in Cumbria and Lancashire at three sites," said Mr Farron in repsonse to the announcement, "but is it not ludicrous that the three that have been chosen are so geographically located that one is virtually on the Scottish border, then there is a gap of almost 100 miles, and then there are two that are nine miles apart?

"Does not that leave south Cumbria and north Lancashire dangerously under-provided for? Given the current difficulties, shall we say, at Morecambe Bay, does not robbing Morecambe Bay of those skills and that expertise make a difficult situation potentially even worse?"

But Jeremy Hunt was unrepentant. "I know that my honorable Friend has campaigned, rightly, to represent the concerns of his constituents about the extra travel that they will have to undertake," he responded. "I would like to reassure him that we considered that issue very carefully.

"The Independent Reconfiguration Panel recognises that travel is a consideration, but also believes that for his constituents, even for the people who have to travel further, there will be better clinical outcomes for specialist vascular surgery," he argued. "We are talking about not routine surgery, diagnosis or rehabilitation work but conditions such as aneurysms and carotid artery disease which require specialist care. Patients can get much better help if that is concentrated in specialist centres.

"As to why those particular centres were chosen, it was a genuinely difficult decision. There is a bigger concentration of population in the south of the region and there is also more social deprivation and more unmet need. I know it was a difficult decision, but it was decided that that would be best for the 2.8 million people in the area and also better for my honorable Friend’s constituents."

“I am completely dismayed by this decision and outraged by the total disregard shown to rural communities in South Cumbria and North Lancashire," Mr Farron says

“This decision to move vascular services from Morecambe Bay will have dangerous consequences.

"This decision to move vascular services from Morecambe Bay will have dangerous consequences. Our vascular services unit has not only developed a local reputation but also a national one and removing these services hugely undermines the Trust's efforts to recover. I am incredibly disappointed that the health ministers have let us down."

“I am incredibly disappointed that the health ministers have let us down.”

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock feels Mr Hunt had not done enough to reassure patients. : “Families from across South Cumbria who rely on the life-saving specialist vascular services provided at Royal Lancaster Infirmary will be dismayed by the government's decision to make them to travel all the way to Preston, Blackburn or Carlisle to get treatment.

“The medical evidence we presented was clear and the secretary of state has not done nearly enough to show that that vascular patients will not be put at risk by his very disappointing decision.”

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, campaigned against the move but its legal bid to stop  services being moved was rejected earlier this year.

West End Festival returns to Regent Park

The festival spirit will arrive in Morecambe’s Regent Park on Saturday 20th July for the West End Festival, featuring live music, entertainment plus fun and games for all ages.

The West End Festival, an annual event organised by community music charity More Music, will take place from 12noon until 5.00pm. There will be two live music stages featuring local groups and musicians, fun activities for children, bouncy castles, circus skills and street entertainers.  Community groups and local charities will also play a big part in the festival, bringing stalls with activities and promoting their services to the public.

Live music will include the Baybeat Carnival Band, Simon Doyle’s Family Band, Ark, Lucas Button, Joe McCorriston and Orbit to name just a few.

“This year’s West End Festival will be bigger and better than ever before with more activities and entertainment throughout the day," enthuses event organiser Kathryn MacDonald. "We had a fantastic sunny day last year with hundreds of visitors and we hope for more of the same this year.”

• To find out more, visit the website at www.moremusic.org.uk or call 01524 831997.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Lancashire County Council to tackle £300m budget challenge

County Council leader Jennifer Mein:
"challenging" times ahead as more
cuts demanded by government
Lancashire County Council is to develop a four-year budget strategy to find savings worth around £300m, in response to further cuts in funding from government and increasing costs.

The first routine meeting of the county council's new Cabinet took place earlier today and heard that the financial challenge facing the county council is set to continue for the next four years.

The anticipated £300m savings target from 2014 to 2018 is equivalent to 38% of the county council's current budget, and reflects reductions in funding on top of increasing costs and rising demand for many services.

By taking a longer term view, the council believes it can place a greater focus on ways of preventing cost increases, such as preventative measures and early intervention. This wouldn't be possible with a one year budget.

Leader of the county council Jennifer Mein said: "The county council has already had to save £222m over the current three-year budget but there is no doubt this next period will be even more challenging.

"As a new administration we have a considerable amount of work to do over the coming months to understand the options available and develop a strategy for finding these savings.

"What is already clear, however, is that this won't be a case of simply delivering the same services on a slightly smaller scale. We will have to do something more radical to enable the council to continue serving residents effectively, with an emphasis on those in most need."

Deputy Leader, David Borrow, holds the finance portfolio in the new Cabinet. He added: "Our objective will be to produce a four-year strategy that gives the public and employees alike some certainty and clarity a bout how we will overcome this challenge.

"The scale of the challenge is huge but we will strive to bring forward proposals that produce the best outcome for people across Lancashire and ensure the most vulnerable members of our communities continue to get the support they need.

"It is worth highlighting that the council has an extremely capable workforce and I've every confidence that we will get through this very difficult situation as an effective council whose services are valued by those who use them."

Senior managers will work with Cabinet members over the coming months to develop budget proposals for consideration by Cabinet later in the year, with a four-year financial plan and strategy considered for approval by Full Council in February 2014.

The Spending Review 2013 announced by George Osborne last month provided financial information for the whole of local government. While this helps with budget estimates, the ! council will find out its local government settlement towards the end of December.

The Cabinet's budget proposals are expected to be published for consultation early in the New Year.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Halton eco-housing development wins top building award

Pedestrian street at Forgebank
A group of Lancashire residents are celebrating after their homes won a prestigious national building award last week.

Lancaster Cohousing’s Forgebank development at Halton beat off competition from shortlisted schemes in Norfolk and Sunderland to receive the UK 2013 Passivhaus Award for a social housing project.  The 41 homes, on the old Luneside Engineering site by the River Lune, were designed by Eco Arc architects from Kendal, with the prospective residents heavily involved in the design process.

The project is part financed by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas, with Defra the grant managing authority.

The Passivhaus standard, which makes use of effective insulation, airtight buildings and solar gain, ensures that the homes are very comfortable to live in and use little energy.  But energy consumption and the quality of the indoor environment were just two of the six criteria considered by the judges: aesthetics, design philosophy / innovation, occupant feed back and other sustainability features were also taken into account.

Jon Sear, who managed the project for Lancaster Cohousing and now lives at Forgebank, travelled to the London Residence of the Austrian Ambassador to receive the award.  He said:

The whole point of a certified Passivhaus is that you can be confident that it will be comfortable and energy efficient, and our houses are certainly that.  But I think that what made our project stand out for the judges was the way we have looked beyond the buildings.  Homes are big users of energy, but the majority of energy use for most people comes from other sources such as travel and food.  We’ve been able to address these things too through our community based approach.”

The community has a car club on site, so fewer residents own private cars,  and food at the regular communal meals is vegetarian and vegan, which reduces the energy used in food production.

Having planned the development to minimise energy use, Lancaster Cohousing are working to make it carbon neutral.  Hot water and the single radiator in each house are heated by burning wood chip off-cuts from a local saw mill after the water has been warmed by solar thermal panels.  There are 50kW of solar PV panels with plans for more, and the development is ready to connect into the planned hydro electric turbine at the nearby Forge Weir on the River Lune.

For more information about Lancaster Cohousing or to find out about living there, go to www.lancastercohousing.org.uk or visit them on facebook

Morecambe Police hunt Chatsworth Road muggers

Police are appealing for information after a man was the victim of a robbery in Morecambe last month.

On Friday 21st June at around 4.00pm, a 36-year-old man was standing outside a friend’s house on Chatsworth Road when he was approached from behind and hit over the head with a bottle. He fell to the floor and lost consciousness and when he came round, realised that money had been stolen from his pockets and went to a local shop for help.

Officers investigating are appealing for anyone with any information to come forward.

DC Tris Hardwick said, “This was a nasty robbery leaving the victim needing stitches to his face and I am very keen to speak to anyone who may have information that could help.

“As the offenders have approached the victim from behind, there is no description available to us but I would ask anyone who may have been in the area at the time and may have noticed any suspicious activity at all to come forward.”

Monday, 8 July 2013

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.

Councillor June Ashworth, mayor of Lancaster, said: “Voluntary groups are vital to all aspects of community life, but very often they aren’t recognised for the outstanding contributions they make.

"This award celebrates the work of voluntary groups across 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 http://qavs.direct.gov.uk.

The closing date for nominations for the 2014 round of awards is 30th September 2013.

International Youth Games comes to Lancaster

The Lancaster district will be hosting the 2013 International Youth Games, a unique festival of sport and culture later this month

Young people from Holland, Germany, Denmark and Poland will be taking part in the event, which runs from 22nd-26th July.

The young people will compete in athletics, badminton, rowing, table tennis, tennis, golf,  karate, and swimming – and, for the first time, echoing the success of the London 2012 Paralympics, disability sports will also feature.

Salt Ayre Sports Centre will act as the main setting for the Games, but individual sports will also take advantage of the district's wealth of facilities. Lancaster University, Morecambe Community High School, Morecambe and Heysham Golf Clubs and the John O'Gaunt Rowing Club on the River Lune will all play host to competitors.

The International Youth Games have been taking place now for over 20 years and are a great way for young people to prove their prowess on the sporting field.  The Games also provide an opportunity for young people to learn about other cultures and people.

The International Youth Games could not take place without the invaluable support of our volunteers, sports clubs and arts partners.

Lancaster City Council has also received tremendous support from other partners including Stagecoach and Lancaster University.

• More information on the Games and how you can watch the action will feature on the City Council website: http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/sports-and-leisure

Lancashire police back new NSPCC national campaign to protect children

Lancashire police are backing a national campaign aimed at helping parents to protect children from sexual abuse.

Officers are urging parents to contact the police if they suspect their child or someone they know is being targeted. The message comes as part of the NSPCC’s Underwear Rule campaign which was launched today (Monday 8th July). The six week drive will help parents by offering them guidance to help teach their children about sexual abuse.

The NSPCC Underwear campaign will be aired on nearly 60 local radio stations throughout the UK and is being supported by Netmums and will help these parents teach the Underwear Rule’ to their children during simple conversations. The campaign complements the organisation’s ChildLine Schools Service which is visiting every primary school in the UK advising children on how to stay safe from all forms of abuse.

There will be supportive guidance for parents explaining the Underwear Rule. The NSPCC has developed an easy-to-remember guide – Talk PANTS – that helps children understand the key points of the Rule. (www.nspcc.org.uk/underwearrule)

  • Privates are private.
  • Always remember your body belongs to you
  • No means no
  • Talk about secrets that upset you
  • Speak up, someone can help


Head of Public Protection for Lancashire Constabulary Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley said: “We are pleased to be supporting this innovative campaign which aims to raise awareness about the importance of educating children about staying safe and speaking out.

“We know that for many it can be a difficult topic to broach but prevention is always better than cure and we can’t underestimate the importance of those early conversations to make children aware of the dangers.

“Parents and carers should be aware and look out for the warning signs and report any unusual behaviour to the police or local children’s services department.

“Young people, who regularly go missing from home, truant from school, are friends with significantly older people, have received money or gifts or come home with unexplained injuries or bruises are all warning signs.

“One of the biggest challenges in the majority of cases involving children who have been sexually exploited is that many of those involved don’t think of themselves as victims. The men groom the victims into believing they are in a relationship them. The reality is very different – sexual exploitation is child abuse and victims face huge risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health.

“We do a lot of work with children’s services, schools, GPs and parents about the issues surrounding child sexual exploitation in order to help them recognise the warning signs.”

He added: “Sexual exploitation of children is a predatory crime and will not be tolerated. We have specialist multi-agency teams in place across Lancashire, which means we are better able to identify and disrupt offenders and those who pose the greatest risk.

“These teams regularly visit schools to speak to pupils about the dangers and warning signs and to raise awareness amongst teenagers about sexual exploitation. Ultimately we need victims to come forward any report any abuse so action can be taken.”

• Anyone who is concerned that a young person in their care is being sexually exploited should contact their local police on 101 or the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000. Children can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or at www.ChildLine.org.uk. Always dial 999 in an emergency. Alternatively people can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.