Friday, 23 August 2013

County Council offers help with the workers' commute

Lancashire County Council Sustainable Travel Team offers FREE support to businesses in delivering sustainable travel initiatives ie. activities based around car share, walking, cycling and using public transport.

They hope to help local businesses meet corporate social responsibility targets and  improve staff health & wellbeing - as well as reducing traffic congestion. They want local businesses to consider if help with any of the following would be useful to them:

• Advice on cycle storage
• Advice on setting up a Cycle to Work Scheme
• Promoting car sharing
• Mapping of employee postcodes – useful for showing potential car sharing clusters
• Arrange cycle training for complete beginners to employees who haven’t been on a bike for a while and aren’t confident about cycling to work
• Arrange cycle maintenance sessions
• Maps of local cycle and walking routes
• Leaflets raising awareness of health benefits of active travel
• Help with organising Health & Wellbeing promotions/Non-Drive to Work event
• Personal journey planning
• Help with the design of a Travel Survey – you can ask the questions you want to know the answers to e.g. how many employees would like to buy a bike through a company Cycle to Work scheme?
LCC host and analyse a Travel Survey for employees either online or hard copy - Travel Surveys typically show around a third of employees are interested in changing travel habits

Grants up to £5000
Grants of up to £5,000 are available to individual businesses and organisations based in and around Lancaster. What can the grant be used for? Some examples of possible sustainable travel initiatives are:
• Showers
• Lockers
• Cycle storage
• Pool bikes
• Personal Travel Plans

Amy Coulson  of the County Council's Travel Plan Team tells us that tailored support is available to meet your business needs from 'light touch' around sustainable travel, to in-depth support on a sustainable travel strategy. If you would like to view their short videos about a few Lancashire based employers who have implemented various sustainable travel measures just visit:
http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/web/?siteid=6698&pageid=39974

For further information please contact: Amy Coulson, email:  amy.coulson@lancashire.gov.uk or Telephone - 01772 530201

First Fridays - Fun in this world, in Lancaster Arts City

Lancaster is the place to be on September 6 if you want to start your weekend with an eclectic mix of theatre, dance, art, music and storytelling.

For these are all on the menu this First Friday thanks to the Lancaster Arts Partners initiative which is rapidly growing momentum.

The fun begins with Wonderlore’s Travelling Story Shop calling into Lancaster Library from 4-6pm. Presented by Litfest, this is a free drop-in storymaking activity for families led by Miss Wonderlore and her blue suitcase full of tales.

Music fans are spoilt for choice with free gigs by the Groove Cutters at the Stonewell Tavern and President Roots at The Penny Bank both from 9.30pm.

The Jazz Mansion opens its doors again at Forrest Hills from 8pm (tickets £15); and you can even enjoy The Art of Wine at the Robert Gillow from 7.30pm featuring music by Boogie Bill Roberts plus introductions to winemaking and viticulture for £13.50.

The first ever exhibition devoted to innovative local portrait artist Becky Mann, featuring paintings of criminals, office workers and famous activists, takes place at The Lord Ashton from 7pm. Christine Rooney’s exhibition at The Storey Institute features a colourful mix of her local scenes, her Olympic paintings and her ‘happy’ paintings from 5pm. Both exhibitions are free.

And if all this art puts a spring in your step, why not join the Silent Disco Walk, back by popular demand from 7.30pm. Be part of the latest dance craze and join the 30 minute Silent Disco around Lancaster followed by a half hour silent boogie in the Ludus Dance studio. This is a free event, all you need is headphones, something to play your favourite tunes and comfy shoes.

Among the theatrical highlights to enjoy on September 6 are Uncanny Corner, a silent, movement-based piece, at The Gregson from 8pm (tickets £5/£3).

A free season showcase at The Dukes includes a production preview and plenty of backstage gossip about the forthcoming romantic comedy No Fat Juliets from 6.30pm (reservations advised).

Morecambe’s not missing out this First Friday either as from 7.30pm, Morecambe Warblers youth productions present Bugsy Malone at The Platform (tickets £10/£8).

For full details on the events above and booking info visit our what's on calendar at www.virtual-lancaster.net

First Fridays are organised by Lancaster Arts Partners and take place every month. They offer special events, most of them free, to encourage more people to experience the wide variety of arts activities available in the district. First Fridays also promote Lancaster Arts City.

For  the free ‘what’s on’ app, visit www.artscity.co.uk, and for more information, visit Lancaster Arts City on Facebook

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Make your mark on plans for Morecambe's Happy Mount Park

Lancaster City Council is inviting everyone to share their views on the future design and development of Happy Mount Park with a drop-in session at the park on Thursday 29th August.

Earlier this year, as part of the first stage in creating a masterplan for the park, the council held a number of events in the park gather the views of park users on how the park could look in ten years time.

A drop in session will take place in the park between 12.30pm and 3.30pm where people will be able to view a large model map of the park and have the opportunity to attach their views on the plans to develop ideas further.

“The continued support of local people at these events is crucial in developing a plan for the park which includes the sort of facilities and attractions everyone truly wants," explains Councillor David Smith, Cabinet member with responsibility for parks and open spaces.

“The park means different things to different people and we want to capture all of these diverse experiences and views.

“We also want to know what attracts people to the park both from within the district and from further afield and what they would like it to look like in the future.”

The ideas put forward at the event will be collated by members of the park's new Friends Group and be used to further develop the masterplan. There will be further opportunities for people to have their say once the masterplan starts to come together.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Concern grows over government's Anti-Social Behaviour Bill

Parliament is considering new laws that would allow police to disperse people taking part in a lawful assembly and arrest those that did not comply. If passed - and protest against the changes is growing fast – there would be no need for the demonstration to have been disorderly or violent – the only requirement would be that the dispersal was ‘necessary to reduce the likelihood of anti-social behaviour’.

If passed, the changes proposed could conceivably be used by Lancashire County Council, for example, to prevent protests against fracking, especially after seeing how protests against that have gathered pace elsehwere in the UK in recent weeks.

Several charities have also expressed concern that the Bill's proposed Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs) to replace ASBOs could, potentially criminalise children as young as ten,  if they are considered to be behaving in a way that is capable of causing "nuisance and annoyance". (This is instead of causing "harassment, alarm and distress", as defined by ASBOs).

Subject to its parliamentary progress, the Government says the Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent by the end of the session in spring 2014.

Among others, Justice – an all-party law reform and human rights organisation – has already outlined its opposition to the Bill, suggesting changes.

NetPol - which seeks to monitor public order, protest and street policing - reports the Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, which is currently at the 'Report' stage, proposes new powers of dispersal that allows any police officer of the rank of Inspector or above to order people to leave an area for up to 48 hours. It allows the police to specify the time at which a group must disperse, and the route by which they should do so.

The police would be able use this power whenever they considered that dispersal is ‘necessary to reduce the likelihood of’ anti-social behaviour, crime or disorder. Failure to disperse would be an arrestable offence, with a maximum sentence of three months imprisonment. Those who the police believe are under sixteen could be removed to a ‘place of safety’. The police would also have powers to seize items that they believe could be used in anti-social behaviour.

The proposed Public Spaces Protection Orders in the bill could also be used to clamp down on public protest, as Andy Boddington notes on Liberal Democrat Voice, warning it  is set to join a growing list of parliamentary acts that are used in ways that were not intended by lawmakers.

NetPol notes the term anti-social behaviour’ is interpreted widely by police, who have often applied it to any behaviour they consider unwelcome and unwanted.

"This has often included protest, and they have an extensive track record of using existing anti-social behaviour legislation against lawful protest," the group cautions. "It is inevitable that any new powers to disperse on the basis of a likelihood of anti-social behaviour will also be used against people taking part in political assemblies and demonstrations."

There are protections built-in to the statute, but these apply only to trade union pickets authorised under section 220 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 or political protest where written notice has been provided under section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986. Many lawful political gatherings do not meet these criteria. Yet, as the legislation stands, participants could be faced with the choice of ceasing their protest or facing arrest, merely on the say-so of a police Inspector.

"The broad nature of these powers suggests that they could also be misused in situations unconnected with protest," says NetPol, "where no human rights protections apply. Any gathering of people could be dispersed without the need for suspicion of criminal activity, merely on the assessment of a police officer that anti-social behaviour is ‘likely’ to occur. The potential for this power to be misused is enormous, particularly in areas where there is little existing trust between local communities and the police.

The proposed new power combines and replaces two existing dispersal powers – s27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act and s30 of the Anti-social behaviour Act. But in doing so it removes restrictions on the way these dispersal powers could be used. Section 30 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, currently in force, allows the police to act in areas where there are on-going problems of anti-social behaviour. The new power allows the police to disperse without prior notice, and on their discretion alone.

"Like so much modern legislation, the bill is something of a miscellany, dealing with dogs, drunks and druggies," Notes Andy Boddington. "What drives the bill is the perceived failure of existing antisocial behaviour measures and the desire for a simpler, comprehensive package. So it is ushering in IPNAs – Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance –and throwing ASBOs out. Designated public places orders, gating orders and dog control orders will be replaced by the all-embracing Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which aims to tackle a wide range of dysfunctional behaviour.

"This all sounds good in principle, but I fear it will not be long before local councils, often acting for the police or commercial interests, will use PSPOs to clamp down on public protest," he warns.


Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act, also currently in force, allows police to disperse where they perceive a likelihood of alcohol related disorder. This has been criticised by organisations such as the Football Supporters Federation, who say that the power has been used in a blanket fashion, meaning that law abiding football supporters have been turned back after hours of travelling and stopped from attending games for which they had bought tickets. Netpol have also recorded instances in which s27 has been used to force people to leave an area, including a group (and legal observer) at the ‘Thatcher Party’ in Trafalgar Square earlier this year.

The police already have extensive powers to disperse or contain where there is a real threat of violence or criminality, or where there is an on-going pattern of anti-social behaviour in residential areas. There is no need for these extended powers, which can only result in further restriction of freedom of assembly, and will increase the potential for discriminatory behaviour that will inflame community tensions.

Critisicising the proposals for IPNAs, Matthew Reed, chair of the Children's Society told the Huffington Post "We believe that such sanctions are extremely disproportionate for young people involved in anti-social behaviour, let alone those involved in behaviour perceived as annoying or a nuisance. Nor are they in line with the youth justice system.

"Prison is counter-productive, harmful for children and in such cases, extremely disproportionate. Once in prison, children become trapped in criminal networks and re-offending cycles that they cannot escape for the rest of their life.


DirectGov epetition against the Bill

Change.org Petition against the Bill

View the progress of the Bill in Parliament  

Government anouncement on the Bill

Read the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill (PDF Link)

Family Fun Day to make a difference to animals

This Saturday 24th August come along to a Family Fun Day at St Paul's Parish Hall (opposite the Church) on Scotforth Road, Lancaster, LA1 4SA. It will be hosted by the youth group Make A Difference. The fun starts at 11am and goes on 'til 3pm, and all proceeds will be donated to the local charity Animal Care in Lancaster.

Stalls include Apple Bobbing, a craft stall, Hook A Duck, Tin Can Alley, biscuit decorating, face painting and many, many more.  Refreshments will also be available, and a range of music will be played to suit all. It is just 50p on the door and children under 5 go in free. So enjoy a great family day out, supporting a brilliant charity.

To find out more about Lancaster's Animal Care sanctuary and the charity's work in rescuing and rehoming stray and unwanted animals visit http://www.animalcare-lancaster.co.uk/.
You can also find and like Animal-Care on facebook and you can make friends with Ani Care too.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Councillors fight to stop Skerton High School closure gathers pace

Skerton Councillors Karen Leytham and Janet Hall dispute the claims made by Lancashire County Council in last week's Lancaster Guardian that the closure of Skerton Community High School is not linked to the £330m the Council has to save by 2015.

They refute the Council's claims because the recommendation to begin stage 1 consultation to close the school, signed by the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools on the 5th August, quite clearly states that the decision is based on ‘concerns around educational and financial viability as being reasons for making a closure proposal and the school’s most recent Ofsted inspection’.

Skerton Councillor Karen Leytham commented: “The County Council were quoted as saying that it has more than 50 assets, made up of land and property in the Lancaster area worth around £20m and these could be assets that they no longer require and are in the process of disposing of. Call me cynical but the Skerton school site springs to mind as prime land!

"I’ve just found out that the County’s idea of a consultation is to send officers in to the school to meet with concerned parents on a one to one basis by pre-arranged appointment. What sort of public consultation is that?"

Karen has begun an online pettion against the closure on change.org, backing up door to door campaigning to stop the closure.

"So far our petition is just short of 1000 signatures, 1000 reasons to save the school. Janet and I are absolutely gobsmacked by all the support we have received.

"There's an unbelievable amout of love out there for all the work Skerton school has and continues to do," she enthuses, "ranging from current pupils and parents, teachers past and present and old pupils.

"I truly believe that where there’s a will there’s generally a way and we should be able to find a mutually beneficial solution if all sides come together to talk. That is my plea to the County Council”.

• Anyone who wants to sign the petition or has any concerns about local issues can find Janet, Karen and Nikki Penney at Salt Ayre Sports Centre, Sunday 25th August between 10.00am and 12 noon where they will be holding their next monthly ‘drop in’ surgery. They will again be joined by members of the local Neighbourhood Policing team who will be there to address any policing issues.