Saturday, 21 December 2013

Evofit appeal after woman sexually assaulted in Lancaster



Police have released an Evofit of an Eastern European man police need to speak with after a woman was sexually assaulted in Lancaster this week.

 

The offence took place sometime between 2.00am and 3.00am on Monday 16th December when the 25-year-old victim was approached by a man as she walked home along St Peters Road after a night out.

 

As the woman walked along the path that cuts between St Peters Road and Moor Lane the man asked the victim for a cigarette before grabbing the victim around her hips and pushing her to the floor before sexually touching her over her clothing.

 

The victim has screamed and managed to fight off her attacker. Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward.    

 

DC Rachel Killinger from Lancaster Public Protection Unit said: “This was obviously a very distressing incident for the victim but fortunately she was not hurt. I would appeal to anybody that recognises this man or with any information that could assist us with our investigation to contact us on 101.

 

“I would reassure people that police patrols have been increased in the area and we are doing all we can to find the man responsible.”

 

The offender is described as being between 25 and 32 years old with short blonde hair, dark eyes and a pointed nose. He was wearing a grey baggy hoody and spoke with an Eastern European accent.

 

 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Teenage pair sentenced for two burglaries in Morecambe



An 18-year-old man from Morecambe and a 17-year-old boy were today sentenced for committing two burglaries on one street in Morecambe.
Daniel Bell, 18, of Princes Crescent, Morecambe, was sentenced to two years’ detention in a youth offenders’ institution at Preston Crown Court having previously pleaded guilty of one count of dwelling burglary and one count of non-dwelling burglary relating to a shed break-in.

The 17-year-old boy was sentenced to a twelve month supervision order and 240 hours of unpaid work having previously pleaded guilty to two counts of handling stolen goods for his part in both offences.

The offences took place sometime between the night of Saturday 14 September and the morning of Sunday 15th September when Bell and the 17-year-old boy broke into a property on Hest Bank Road, Morecambe, stealing cash, a purse and the 98-year-old victim’s engagement ring from her bedside table as she slept. The engagement ring had particular sentimental value to the victim as it was given to her by her late husband in 1943.

The shed break-in was carried out at an address also on Hest Bank Road, Morecambe, during the same time period, stealing electrical tool equipment.

DC Sarah Houghton of Lancaster CID said “I am pleased to report we recovered the ring and returned it to the victim. The disparity of the two offences shows the clear disregard Bell and his accomplice had for who may be the victims of their offences, and, on this occasion, one of them was a 98-year-old lady.

“I welcome the custodial sentence given to Bell today, and hope it provides some solace for the victims.

“Although dwelling burglaries are low in Lancashire, there have been a number of burglaries into sheds, garages and outbuildings, often targeting electrical equipment, tools and high value bikes, around Lancaster and Morecambe in recent months. We would encourage homeowners to use strong locks and security lights on their sheds and outbuildings, and ensure the hinges and locking mechanisms on all doors are in good order.”

The sentencing comes as Lancashire Constabulary come to the end of Operation Julius, targeting criminals and detecting burglaries across the county.

It will run until the end of this month and will see officers using a range of overt and covert tactics including visits to Lancashire’s top 30 burglary suspects, executing warrants and high-visibility police patrols.

Consultation begins on proposed cuts to local evening and Sunday bus services

Eric Ollerenshaw
Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw has raised concerns about Lancashire County Council's proposal to make massive cuts to evening and Sunday bus services in the House of Commons.

The Labour-run County Council, which is consulting on the plan, says it will save £3.8m over the next two years by withdrawing subsidies which enable the services to operate, which Mr Ollerenshaw says will affect most of the villages and outlying council estates in the Lancaster area.

Bus services to Freehold, the Ridge the Marsh and Vale estates in Lancaster and Skerton, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth, Hest Bank Railway Station (yes, this is ironic, isn't it?), Bolton-le-Sands and Overton are among those that would be lost if the plan goes ahead.

Perhaps forgetting it was a previous Tory government that privatised bus services, he suggested a serious review of the need to maintain vital bus services for rural and difficult-to-reach areas was overdue.

Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of Sate for Transport, acknowledged Mr Ollerenshaw had made a vaild point.

"The truth is that, while we have seen a huge amount of growth in the railways, more people are using buses every single day, particularly in rural areas and rural communities, which rely on bus services," he says. "My honorable Friend raises important issues and his ideas certainly merit further consideration."

Announcing the proposal which would affect 72 services from May if approved, the County Council, which is now consulting on the idea, says it would focus on "maintaining daytime services" and invest more in Dial-A-Ride community transport.

The consultation comes as national charity Campaign for Better Transport warned that bus cuts across the country are hitting “critical levels”.

"In some parts of the country, cuts to bus services are now reaching critical levels," says the campaign group. "Our new research shows how entire networks of bus services are at risk of collapse. The report Buses in crisis reveals 47 per cent of local authorities reducing their support for buses for 2013 with a number threatening to remove all support in the next financial year.

"If Government doesn’t take action to help support buses we will see whole networks disappear."

Cuts vital as government funding cuts bite

The proposals are just part of the County Council's budget proposals for 2014 to save  £300m over the next four years due to central government funding cuts.

Four-fifths of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies such as Stagecoach on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20 per cent are not commercially viable and are currently subsidised by some £8 million annually by the county council. The proposal suggests that subsides be withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from 18th May 2014, but would continue to 103 bus services which operate during the day.

However, each subsidy would be reviewed on a case by case basis when its current contract expires to ensure it remains sustainable.

Any withdrawals will take place during the middle of 2014 so for the meantime all these services are continuing to run as normal.

"This proposal would maintain the bulk of that spending," argues  County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, "while saving £1.8m next year and £2m a year after that, by focusing on subsidising routes during the day when they are most used by people going about their business."

"I'm fully aware that the withdrawal of any bus service would have an impact upon the people who use it," he added.

"These are proposals at this stage and no decision will be taken without carefully considering the results of this consultation."
Despite the proposal to cut subsidies, the County Council hopes to soften the blow with an additional £500,000 investment in community transport such as dial-a-ride services.

“We would never have chosen to be in this financial situation," Mr Fillis told the Lancashire Evening Post, "but we have to find ways to drastically reduce our budget.

"Our first priority is to safeguard the most vulnerable members of society, but to achieve this we have to look at everything we do.”

• The consultation period ends on 10 January with the 2014 budget decided at a full County Council meeting on 20 February. The county council would like to hear any comments you may have on the proposals that have been put forward: www3.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/consultation/responses/response.asp?ID=225

Campaign for Better Transport "Save Our Buses" Camapign 

View the Campaign for Better Transport's interactive bus cuts map which makes transparent the extent of the problem of local authority funding cuts to buses. This map is a crowd sourcing project, which means the CBT are asking you to help us track bus cuts 

County Council documents on affected services (PDF links)

 



Local MPs accused of sending seasonal message of ill-will and bad cheer

Councillor Chris Coates
Lancaster Green Councillor Chris Coates has condemned local MPs for voting not to investigate the increased use of food banks in the UK.

Eric Ollerenshaw
As we reported yesterday, both local MPs Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris voted against a proposal on 18th December in the House of Commons that called on the Government to publish the results of research into the use of food banks that it had promised to make public in the summer and for action to be taken to reduce dependency on food handouts.

"The message that this sends to people struggling to make ends meet is that our local MPs don't care about you," feels Councillor Coates. "To turn away from those in need at this time of year is unbelievable.

David Morris
"The number of people using food banks is on the increase across the country driven by things like the bedroom tax, low wages and rising energy and food prices," he continued. "It is a basic human right that people should have sufficient food and that they should not go hungry. We should spare a thought for those who are going to struggle to have any sort of Christmas at all this year.”

The call on the government to do something about the rising use of food banks follows on from calls earlier in the year by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, that the UK government was “Shirking its responsibilities.”.

The number of people using foodbanks provided by the Trussell Trust has increased from 41,000 in 2010 to more than 500,000 since April this year

• Read the debate in Hansard: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131218/debtext/131218-0003.htm#13121855000003

Local Food Banks

Olive Branch Food Bank
1 Westbourne Road, Lancaster LA1 5DB
Tel: 01524 555715 Mobile: http://www.the-olivebranch.org.uk

Morecambe Bay Foodbank
The G.Y.M. Methodist Church, Green Street, Morecambe LA4 5HN
Tel: 07591 763 130

• Trussell Trust Food Bank network map
if you want to donate, volunteer or seek help - http://www.trusselltrust.org/map. You can also send cheques payable to “The Trussell Trust” to: The Trussell Trust, Unit 10, Ashfield Trading Estate, Salisbury SP2 7HL

To donate to the Mirror's Food Bank appeal visit justgiving.com/Mirror-Foodbank-Appeal
.
Alternatively you can donate by calling 01722 580 208 between 9.30am and 5pm or text FBOX99 £1 or £2, £3, £4, £5, £10 to 70070 e.g: text “FBOX99 £5” to 70070

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Local MPs support government block on a full House of Commons Hunger Debate

Eric Ollerenshaw
Local MPs Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris voted with the government against a proposal calling on the Government for a full Parliamentary Debate on hunger in the UK and investigate the increased use of food banks in the UK yesterday.

The vote came after nearly 150,000 people signed a change.org/foodbanks petition started by Oxfam and Child Poverty Action group campaigner, mother Jack Monroe, backed by the Mirror newsaper, the Unite union and The Trussell Trust calling for an inquiry into the growing dependence on food aid.

Labour leader Ed Miliband called for a House of Common Opposition Day debate on the plight of Britain's poorest famillies - but Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs banded together to defeat Labour’s motion for a full Parliamentary Debate by 294 votes to 251, a majority of 43.

The Mirror newspaper reports Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith refused to answer for the Government, leaving it to his deputy, North West MP Esther McVey, who sparked fury by claiming it was a good thing that more people were turning to food banks.
David Morris
Government ministers from the responsible departments – including Iain Duncan Smith – left the debate after just an hour of the crucial Commons debate.

The Mirror claims the debate saw a depressing lack of concern from some Tory MPs about the plight of hungry families forced to rely on food banks, with some laughing and jeering as Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart told of shocking scenes at her local Tesco in Slough as people battled over cut-price fruit and vegetables, desperate to snap up discounted items.

Senior Labour politicians later described the Tories’ callous reaction as “shameful” and “a total disgrace”, while the Trussell Trust, the nation’s largest provider of food banks, said it was “disappointed” by the attitude of those who jeered.

Duncan Smith's deputy, Tory Wirral MP Esther McVey, claimed that food bank use was a good thing, saying it was a positive "that people are reaching out to support other people.

“In the UK it is right that more people are going to food banks because as times are tough, we are all having to pay back this £1.5 trillion debt personally.

"We are all trying to live within our means, change gear and make sure that we pay back all our debt." the minister, who receives a three-figure salary and has claimed some £170,000 in expense this year, claimed.

The Mirror reports Labour veteran Sir Gerald Kaufman her speech as the “nastiest” he had heard in his 43 years as an MP.

Food banks give a minimum of three days’ emergency food to people facing crisis in the UK. The Trussell Trust runs the Morecambe Bay Food Bank, based at the G.Y.M. Methodist Church in Green Street, Morecambe. The Olive Branch runs the Food Bank in Westbourne Road, Lancaster.

People are referred by care professionals though a voucher system to ensure only genuine cases receive help. Vouchers are also held by Jobcentre Plus for emergency distribution.

Each food bank is run in partnership with a local church or community. All food is donated by the public.

The Mirror and Sunday Mirror’s Christmas Appeal for the Trussell Trust has revealed that 60,000 people in the UK will go hungry over Christmas – 20,000 of them children. The Trust has already fed more than 500,000 people just since April.

" This Christmas, my son and I will have food on the table," says Jack Monroe, who was forced to turn to food banks in the past to get by.  "But 60,000 others won’t. It’s not just the festive season – 350,000 people received three-days emergency food from foodbanks between April and September this year. Yet supposedly the economy is recovering, and banker’s bonuses are back?

"Please join me by signing this petition calling for a Parliamentary Debate. Make politicians confront what is happening. We need to stop turning a blind eye."

You can still sign Jack Monroe's petition here

• Read the debate in Hansard: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131218/debtext/131218-0003.htm#13121855000003  

The 296 MPs who voted against the motion are listed here

• Read the Mirror's report and watch video from the debate: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/food-banks-debate-video-iain-2941100#ixzz2nw4hVTwy

Local Food Banks

Olive Branch Food Bank
1 Westbourne Road, Lancaster LA1 5DB
Tel: 01524 555715 Mobile: http://www.the-olivebranch.org.uk

Morecambe Bay Foodbank
The G.Y.M. Methodist Church, Green Street, Morecambe LA4 5HN
Tel: 07591 763 130

• Trussell Trust Food Bank  network map if you want to donate, volunteer or seek help - http://www.trusselltrust.org/map. You can also send cheques payable to “The Trussell Trust” to: The Trussell Trust, Unit 10, Ashfield Trading Estate, Salisbury SP2 7HL.

To donate to the Mirror's Food Bank appeal visit justgiving.com/Mirror-Foodbank-Appeal .
Alternatively you can donate by calling 01722 580 208 between 9.30am and 5pm or text FBOX99 £1 or £2, £3, £4, £5, £10 to 70070 e.g: text “FBOX99 £5” to 70070

Crook O' Lune bridge to reopen tomorrow


The east pedestrian and cycleway bridge at the Crook O' Lune will reopen tomorrow (Friday 20th December) after a restoration costing around £1million was completed by Lancashire County Council.

Extensive work on the listed structure began in March to replace the timber deck, repoint masonry and repaint ironwork after an inspection had unearthed problems with the timber beams supporting the deck.

The bridge, near the Crook O' Lune picnic site, links Caton with the River Lune Millennium Park. The area attracts 250,000 visitors a year and is popular among cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

More improvements are to be made nearby in January with the creation of a landscaped picnic area alongside the river beneath the bridge. Native trees such as oak and wild cherry will be planted, along with hawthorn and holly hedgerows and wildflowers. Benches in the style of railway sleepers will also be installed, as well as wooden sculptures of the otters which inhabit the Lune.

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning, and cultural services, said: "I'm sure that regular visitors, as well as the thousands of people who come each year from further afield, will appreciate the high quality and sympathetic restoration to this historic bridge.

"The Crook O' Lune is a beautiful part of Lancashire - the county council's major investment to improve the bridge and surrounds will support local tourism and ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the area.

"We're sorry for the inconvenience while the bridge has been closed, and thank people for their patience, but hope they'll agree that the result has been worth it."

Work was delayed for a number of weeks during the summer when nesting birds were discovered beneath the bridge deck. The blue tit and jackdaw chicks were given time to mature and fly the nest before progress resumed.

Traffic management will be removed from the Caton Lune Bridge on Low Road, which has been in place to allow pedestrians to cross alongside traffic while the pedestrian bridge was closed. Workers will return in January to remove scaffolding and the site compound.

The restoration was carried out by Rochdale-based contractor Casey.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Applications open for Lancashire Police Audit Committee positions

Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner and the Constabulary's Chief Constable are looking to recruit independent members for their Joint Audit Committee.

A new chair for the Audit Committee was successfully recruited earlier this year, and now Clive Grunshaw and Steve Finnigan are seeking to appoint four members to serve on the committee.

The people appointed will help play a vital role in ensuring public money is spent wisely and proper controls are in place for the two organisations, which have a net budget of more than £260 million.

As committee members, they will be expected to ensure the committee provides advice and support to the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable to ensure governance arrangements are adequate and sound across both organisations. The committee's role includes ensuring there are correct governance, risk, internal control and financial arrangements in place.

Applicants will need to demonstrate they have the correct skills and experience to take on this role, and will be paid a daily rate for attending meetings in line with the Home Office Tribunal Rates. The committee meets at least four times a year.

• An information pack with further details and an application form can be requested by emailing sophie.carter@lancashire.pnn.police.uk. The closing date for applications is 10th January 2014, with interviews scheduled to be held on Wednesday, February 5.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Appeal after hit and run in Morecambe

Police are appealing for information after a collision in Morecambe yesterday (Monday 16th December)

At around 4.30pm, there was a collision on Green Street where a man was hit by a car which failed to stop at the scene.

The man suffered serious leg injuries and was taken through to Royal Lancaster Infirmary where he is still receiving treatment.

The vehicle, believed to be a white car, hit the man then made off from the scene down Townley Street.

The road was closed until around 7.20pm for accident investigation to take place

Officers are investigating the circumstances of the collision and the events leading up to it and are appealing to anyone with any information to contact them.

If anyone witnessed the collision or has any information that could be of assistance, please contact police on 101 quoting log number LC-20131216-0853.

Lancaster City Council gets homes funding boost from government despite scheme criticisms

Lancaster City Council is to get £2,450,288 from government as a "New Homes Bonus", despite criticism of the schemne from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee in October.

The Government estimates that 232,000 extra households will need homes each year to 2033 but in 2012 only 115,600 new homes were built in England. The New Homes Bonus incentive is designed to reward councils and communities for helping to build more homes. It match funds the additional council tax raised for new homes and empty properties brought back into use for six years – with extra funding for new affordable homes.

The government says councils across the country have made the most of this additional funding to ensure their communities directly see the benefits of growth in their areas.

However, the Labour Party has criticised the policy, saying it disproportionately favours wealthier areas –  and an Inside Housing survey of every English council last summer found six in 10 local authorities are stockpiling new homes bonus cash rather than spending it on specific projects.


Despite the concerns, councils countrywide are due to receive a £16.5 million bonus next year for enabling nearly 9,500 new homes to be built in the county, the government has announced.

Across England, councils have received over £2 billion through the New Homes Bonus since it was set up in 2011/12 for helping to provide 550,000 more homes.

The allocation for 2014/15 means Lancashire will have received £36.7 million over a four year period for helping to provide 9,490 newly-built homes and conversions, and bringing 2,781 empty homes back into use. These figures also include 3,013 affordable homes.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has published details of the latest New Homes Bonus payments being made to England’s 353 councils, in recognition of their contribution to building new homes. Official figures last week from the Official for National Statistics showed that housing construction has risen to its highest levels since 2007.

Under the New Homes Bonus, councils have been rewarded for helping to provide 550,000 newly-built homes and conversions and bringing 93,000 empty homes back into use. This total includes over 160,000 affordable homes.

Mr Hopkins said these payments are finally giving communities a reason to say yes to new sustainable development – with councils free to spend the money as they see fit to benefit the local area, including freezing council tax.

“Top-down Regional Strategies and eco-towns failed hardworking families who aspired to own their own home, and built nothing but resentment," argues Kris Hopkin.

“In stark contrast, councils have received over £2 billion for their part in getting Britain building, and leading to housing construction reaching its highest levels for seven years.

“And they are free to spend the money any way they like to benefit their local communities – whether that’s supporting frontline services, providing new facilities or freezing council tax.”

Communities Minister Stephen Williams also welcomed the number of empty homes being brought back into productive use. “The Government is doing everything possible to tackle the problem of empty homes and urban blight," he said, "and the New Homes Bonus is a shot in the arm for councils tackling the problem of abandoned homes and urban blight locally.

“The number of long term empty homes has already fallen by 93,000 and we are now going further, giving councils the incentive to bring people, shops and jobs back to once abandoned areas, and to provide extra affordable homes we so badly need.”


In October, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee published its 29th Report on New Homes Bonus, and argued there was no credible data to show New Homes Bonus is working.


“The New Homes Bonus was introduced as a financial incentive for local authorities to encourage the building of new homes, commented the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

“The scheme is funded from existing local authority grants. £7.5 billion will have been redistributed between councils by 2018-19, so there is a lot of money at stake. It is clearly vital that the incentives work and the Government achieves its aim.


“It is therefore disappointing that after more than two years of the scheme being up and running, no evaluation is in place and no credible data is available to show whether the scheme is working or not.

“So far the areas which have gained most money tend to be the areas where housing need is lowest. The areas that have lost most tend to be those where needs are greatest.

“The Department has yet to demonstrate whether the New Homes Bonus works. Is it helping to create more new homes than would have been built anyway? Is it the best way for Government to use its limited resources to create more homes where they are needed most?

"Its planned evaluation of the Bonus scheme is now urgent.” 

• A full list of provisional allocations of New Homes Bonus for the 2014-15 financial year can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/increasing-the-number-of-available-homes/supporting-pages/new-homes-bonus