Friday, 10 January 2014

Slyne Care Workers Sentenced for ill treatment

Darren Smith
Four care workers have been sentenced for abusing elderly and vulnerable residents in their care at a North Lancashire nursing home.

Darren Smith, 35, of Howgill Avenue, Lancaster was sentenced to eight months today (Friday 10 January 2014) at Preston Crown Court.

He pleaded guilty to eight offences of being a carer involved in the ill treatment of a person with lack of capacity contrary to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in August last year.

Katie Cairns, Gemma Pearson and Carol Moore were all found guilty of offences under the same Act following a trial at Preston Crown Court in November.

Cairns, 27, of Riverview Court, Morecambe, was sentenced to five months after being found guilty of three offences.

Moore, 54, of Ripon Avenue, Lancaster, who was also found guilty of one offence, was sentenced to four months.

Pearson, 28, of Hill Street, Carnforth, who was convicted of one offence, was made the subject of a 12 month community order and a 12 month supervision requirement. She is also required to carry out 40 hours unpaid work in the community.

In May 2012, Lancashire County Council Adult Services Social Care department made police aware of a complaint they had received about the level of care provided to some residents at the Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with –Hest.

A multi-agency investigation into the alleged mistreatment of residents at the home immediately began and following a complex enquiry Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson, who were all employed as carers, were charged with the offences under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Katie Carirns
The charges related to the mistreatment of seven men and one woman between May 2010 and September 2011. All the victims had been diagnosed as suffering from dementia. The group were found to have abused residents in their care in a number of ways: they mocked them, bullied them and on occasions deliberately assaulted them. Most of the neglect and ill treatment related to instances of throwing bean bags and balls deliberately at the residents.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Hulme said: “Darren Smith, Katie Cairns, Gemma Pearson and Carol Moore showed complete disregard for the wellbeing of the people they had been entrusted to care for. Further to that, their ill treatment was directed at some of the most vulnerable members of our community; these people couldn’t speak out or defend themselves.

"Their behaviour was utterly contemptible and I can only hope they will now reflect on their actions and see just how cowardly their conduct was.

“I would once again like to take this opportunity to commend those members of staff who displayed great courage and decency in speaking out against this despicable behaviour. This couldn’t have been an easy thing for them to do, but what I must emphasise is the families’ gratitude towards them for coming forward.

Carol Moore
"I would like to reassure the public that Lancashire Constabulary will rigorously investigate all such matters and will not tolerate behaviour of this kind. The outcome of this investigation will hopefully encourage people to report all incidents of abuse to the police and other appropriate agencies, in the knowledge that such reports will always be treated seriously and with the upmost sensitivity. 

“I would also like to praise the families of the victims. They trusted these people to care for their relatives and treat them with courtesy and respect. To learn that they failed in their professional duty to do so must have been extremely distressing, yet they have conducted themselves with great dignity throughout. Having listened to the families, I know that they are still struggling to come to terms with the terrible acts inflicted upon their loved ones. I can only try to understand what an incredibly difficult period this has been for those affected, but I sincerely hope that these sentences provide an element of closure for all of the families concerned.

“The safety and wellbeing of all residents being cared for by the Hillcroft Group was of paramount importance and has always been a priority. Lancashire Constabulary continues to work closely with Lancashire County Council, CQC (Care Quality Commission) and NHS North Lancashire and is confident that all appropriate safeguards are in place.

“A multi-agency learning review has also been commissioned to ensure that any lessons learnt will be fully explored and all recommendations will be addressed accordingly. The review, which has been running parallel to the investigation and judicial proceedings, aims to ensure better protection for vulnerable adults in residential care.

“I don’t believe that the behaviour shown by Smith, Cairns, Pearson and Moore is a true reflection of the majority of staff at Hillcroft. and I am satisfied that the care home in Slyne-with-Hest, is now a completely different environment, with the quality of care afforded to all residents, being carefully managed and monitored.”

Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate for CPS North West Complex Casework Unit, said: “Darren Smith, Katie Cairns, Carol Moore and Gemma Pearson have today been sentenced for the appalling offences they committed against elderly and vulnerable victims they were supposed to be caring for.

“The CPS takes all instances of abuse against older people extremely seriously, and we have been determined to bring these defendants to justice for their crimes. We are committed to prosecuting crimes against older people and protecting the vulnerable, and where there is evidence of abuse or ill treatment, the perpetrators of that abuse can expect to be brought before the courts and prosecuted robustly.

“I would once again like to thank the witnesses who came forward and supported the prosecution case and I would also like to pay tribute to the victims’ families.  Although no sentence can compensate for the hurt and distress caused by the actions of these defendants, I hope that today’s sentencing offers them some sense of closure following what has been an extremely distressing time for them.”

A statement has also been issue on behalf of the families, which is as follows:

Because of their illnesses, we do not know how the victims feel about what happened to them, but we do our best to speak on their behalf.

The guilty pleas and verdicts provided final confirmation that our relatives had been the victims of abuse at Hillcroft and this saddened us greatly.  The investigation and court case have been extremely distressing for us all and we do not take any pleasure in the outcome.

There are lessons to be learnt from this case and we are contributing to the ongoing Learning Review, which we hope will provide meaningful recommendations and result in changes to the law.

In the first instance, managers at the home covered up the initial allegations and did not involve the safeguarding authorities when they should have. The Directors and management of Hillcroft failed in their basic duty to ensure safe care for residents.  We do not feel that the CQC have held Hillcroft properly to account for these failings.

Secondly, following the first contact from whistle-blowers, it took an unacceptable length of time for the authorities to involve the police and we hope that those responsible canreflect on the consequences of their inaction and make changes accordingly.

We are still waiting to receive formal apologies from Moore, Cairns and Pearson, from Lancashire County Council and from the Directors of Hillcroft.

Smith, Moore and Cairns have received custodial sentences and we hope that this sends out a clear message that this type of crime will not be tolerated, however it disappoints us that Pearson will not serve time in prison for the crime she committed. Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson will never able to work in care again.

Once again, our thanks go to those who persevered in reporting these crimes andto Lancashire Police and the CPS for their hard work in achieving successful prosecutions.

Junction 33 Roadworks start next week

Work to install four of the latest giant electronic message signs near Junction 33 of the M6 will start on Monday 13th January for two months. The signs will give drivers better warnings of incidents and other information about the motorway such as weather conditions.

New CCTV cameras will also be mounted on the signs – allowing the Highways Agency to monitor and manage motorway incidents more effectively.

The work should be completed by Friday 14th March. Lane one of the motorway is likely to be closed around the clock in both directions while the work takes place, and some overnight closures of lane two will also be necessary.

Fees and charges to be considered by Cabinet, future of St Leonards House to be debated


Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet will discuss fees and charges across a range of council services at its next meeting on 21st January, which will include price rises for charges for facilities at Salt Ayre Sports Centre, Community Pools, Williamson Park, the area's Parks and Recreation Grounds.

The meeting will also discuss the future of St Leonards House, home to numerous small businesses, who have been told their leases will not be renewed "for 'strategic development reasons and planned major redevelopment and refurbishment".

One tenant has told us they have to move out by October. The discussion on the future of St. Leonard's House is restricted as discussion relates to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information). We have put a number of questions to the Council about the future of the building and we are awaiting a response.

Every year, the Council examines its fees and charges to ensure that they represent value for money while maintaining a valuable source of income for the council.

With the council having to find savings of £2.8million by February 2015, due mainly to a reduction in the grant it receives from the Government, the pressure on its budget is tighter than ever.

The cost of providing services is also on the increase due to inflation.

The Cabinet report represents a comprehensive review of fees and charges across the council, set in the context of this challenging financial climate.

Charge increase proposals include:
  • Increase the up to 1 hour charge on all Short Stay and Long Stay car parks from £1.20 to £1.30
  • A fee increase of 5% is proposed for most pest control fees - with the aim of making this discretionary activity as close to full cost recovery as possible whilst retaining fees at a level that is affordable for those citizens wishing to access the service
  • Return of stray dog from dog warden service (prior to kennelling) - increased to £40.20 (5% option)
  • Pest control of rats: up to £31 per hour (5% option)
  • A 10p rise on one off admission to Salt Ayre Pool ((up to £3.80 for adults)
  • A 10p rise in admission to Butterfly House in Williamson Park

“Deciding at what level to set fees and charges is always a tricky balancing act," says Mark Cullinan, chief executive of the Council.

"The council will want to ensure that they are reasonable while at the same time making sure that it can cover its own costs and maintain the revenue that helps to fund its many vital services.

“Unfortunately the council is being faced with a decrease in funding from the Government while at the same time the costs of running  services are increasing.

“The pressure on council budgets is therefore tighter than ever and unless some of the fees and charges increase some of our services face an additional risk of being cut.”

A range of increases are proposed across the council’s facilities.  These are based on an assessment of the actual cost of provision - balanced against customer and market awareness - with the aim that any charges recoup the costs of providing the service.

The agenda for the full Cabinet meeting is here

(Cabinet Members with Special Responsibility Councillors Bryning, Hamilton-Cox, Leytham, Sands and Smith)


Additional documents:


Lancaster University student develops way to transfer computer files with your eyes

Image via Lancaster University
A new way of dragging and dropping files has been developed by Lancaster University student Jayson Turner.

The system, called EyeDrop, enables the user to move items on screen by gazing at the object through an eye tracker. This automatically selects the object which can then be transferred to a tablet or smart phone via the touchscreen.

The system relies on the two devices being connected wirelessly and was developed by PhD student Jayson Turner at the School of Computing and Communications, along with Andreas Bulling and Hans Gellersen.

“It’s very swift and smooth because I wanted to eliminate the unnecessary steps in the interaction  and let people move things quickly and fluently," he explains.

"Selected content can contain metadata allowing it to be used for varying purposes. It’s useful if, for example, you want to drag objects to an interactive map and plot a route. It will allow you to manipulate the object – like a photo – as you transfer it and share it.”

He said there are still many issues to be overcome, including the problem of needing to wear eyetracker glasses to be able to use Eyedrop.

“But this could be overcome if instead, the gaze tracking technology was included within say a display so it lets you select and cut and paste an image being displayed. But that has privacy issues since not everyone would want this, so all this needs to be resolved at the same time the technology is being developed.”

Jayson presented his research at the twelfth Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia in Sweden, in December.

• The proceedings of the Conferenceare now available in the ACM digital library. They are not indexed yet, but soon will be. Using the direct link and then table of contents will show and all publications incl. the bibtex and pdf files: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=25418

Here's a direct link to a page where you can buy a copy of Jayson's original paper, Extending the visual field of a head-mounted eye tracker for pervasive eye-based interaction

County Council consults on plans to combat future flooding

Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council have launched a new plan aimed at reducing the risk of floods causing damage to property or threat to life in the future.

A special event about the proposals will take place at Lancaster Library in early February.

The councils have been designated Lead Local Flood Authorities after the government introduced changes to the way flood risk is managed following widespread flooding across the UK in the summer of 2007.

They have a new role to coordinate activities by councils, water companies, the Environment Agency, communities and other partners to improve the way flood risk is managed in future and want to know what people think of the plan during a consultation period which starts today (Friday 10th January).

A vital element of the plan is a proposal to ensure communities at high risk are better-equipped to protect themselves and their properties when floods occur.

The Lancashire Local Flood Risk Management Strategy explains the nature of flood risk across the county, who is responsible for managing the various types of flooding, and outlines proposals for further work to improve understanding of the causes, as well as specific objectives and measures to reduce the risk.

"One of the lessons learned following the major floods of recent years was that management of risk can only be improved if the many organisations and individuals which have an influence on this complex area of work share responsibility and coordinate their activities," commented County Councillor Janice Hanson, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for public protection.

"Flooding can happen for a number of reasons, whether its drains, sewers or sea defences becoming overwhelmed during a storm,! rivers bursting, pumps shutting down, or groundwater levels rising over a prolonged wet spell.

"Equally, Lancashire has a diverse geography, from coastal communities to those in steep-sided valleys, which means the level of risk and methods needed to manage flooding vary considerably.

"This plan explains how we will work with our partners to better understand what causes flooding in places which have historically experienced problems so we can take action to manage the risk in future.

"A vital element is the need for those at high risk to have a say in how people in their community can best prepare themselves for the possibility of flooding and increase their capacity to bounce back if the worst happens."

Councillor Fred Jackson, cabinet member for urban regeneration at Blackpool Council, said: "As a Lead Local Flood Authority it is our responsibility to work with partners to understand the causes of flooding and ! improve flood risk management.

"The new strategy will help us take the correct action to manage flooding in the future. Being prepared will enable us to better protect our communities and will help reduce the risk of damage to our resident’s properties, local businesses and infrastructure.

"We are encouraging people to let us know what they think of the strategy either online or at one of the consultation events so we can ensure it takes into consideration the needs of those in high risk areas."

Other key features of the plan include an overview of how improvements could be resourced and funded, how flooding will be taken into account by councils when deciding planning applications for future development, and how a new register will be developed of environmental features and assets which need to be maintained to manage flood risk.

• A six week consultation on the plan starts on Friday 10 January and ends on 21 February. You can view and comment on the plan at www.lancashire.gov.uk/haveyoursay.

Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council, along with the Environment Agency will be hosting a series of events for people to discuss flooding issues and find out more about the plan, as follows:

• Burnley Library – Monday 13 January 11am - 7pm
• Ormskirk Parish Church – Friday 17 January 12pm - 7pm
• Bacup Library – Monday 20 January 11am - 7pm
• County Hall, Preston – Wednesday 22 January 11am - 7pm
• Central Library, Blackpool – Monday 27 January 11am - 7pm
• Fleetwood Library – Tuesday 28 January 11am - 7pm
• Lancaster Library – Wednesday 5 February 12.30pm - 7pm

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Volunteers needed to create Nature Park near Lune Aqueduct

The Lancaster Canal Trust is seeking volunteers to help create a Community Nature Park near the Lune Aqueduct, Lancaster.  It is anticipated that work will run from January to end of March.

You can contribute as much or as little time as you can spare. Just contact David Hennessey on 07500 606030 or email
david.hennessey@canalrivertrust.org.uk.

The Lancaster Canal Trust has regular working parties restoring sections of the Canal as well. You can find out more about the activities of this group dedicated to protecting and preserving our remarkable, useful and beautiful man-made waterway at http://www.lctrust.co.uk/.

Creative Classes in Williamson Park

If you are looking to become more creative in the New Year, why not join artist Janet Mary Robinson for her weekly classes at Williamson Park, Lancaster.

The courses are perfect for beginners and experienced artists. They start on Wednesday 15th January and take place every week costing £10 per session.

Art in the Park is a course that explores the art of drawing and painting plants, animals and the beautiful landscape in and around the park. This friendly and supportive class is ideal for those with a love of nature.

The classes cover a variety of techniques from life sketching to detailed botanical studies, and are held out and about in the park whenever possible.

The class is taught by Janet Mary Robinson who is an experienced artist, natural history illustrator and art tutor. You can visit her website at  www.jmr.org.uk

A student who attended the course, said: "I have never drawn or painted anything in my life before. I thought art just wasn't for me, that I wasn't artistic. After only 3 classes I feel really confident. Janet Robinson is a very good, encouraging teacher. I'm so pleased I joined."

The classes run every Wednesday morning from 10.30am-12.30pm and cost £10 per session. If you wish to attend the course, you should contact Janet in advance by email to jmr@jmr.org.uk or by telephoning 07786 868783.

• For more information about Williamson Park visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/williamsonpark 

Lancashire County Council Launches Budget Consultation, council tax rise to save services?

Lancashire County Council has announced the beginning of a consultation on proposals for its budget for 2014/15.

As part of the consultation, the council is asking for views on a proposed 1.99% increase in council tax for the coming financial year.

Speaking about the proposed increase, Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said:

"The council is under unprecedented financial pressure because the Government – which provides the bulk of our funding – is going to make huge cuts to the county council's budget for another four years, on top of the three years it has already done so. This has a direct impact on the services we can provide to lo! cal communities.

"In proposing this 1.99% increase, we're actually asking people to pay slightly less council tax than they were paying two years ago, but the extra funds would make a real difference to local services.

"It means 41.5p per week more for a band D property but would bring in an extra £7.3 million a year for the council which could pay for 180 children's social workers, or repair nearly 300,000 potholes. It will certainly go some way to close the £300 million funding gap the council faces.

"We realise that times are tough for most people in Lancashire but hope council tax payers will understand why we are proposing this and that it really will help to protect local services."

Proposals for savings have been presented to the last three cabinet meetings, identifying £133 million of the required £300 million savings needed over the next four years.


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Local Cinema Round-up for 8th to 16th January 2014 by Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, official film links and reviews.

Only one new release during this period with The Railway Man (15), a drama based on a true story (Read on for review).

However there remains a good selection of films on offer with comedy in the form of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Harry Hill Movie and Last Vegas; action/drama with 47 Ronin  and American Hustle and family entertainment with Moshi Monsters: the Movie plus Walking with Dinosaurs.

The Dukes continues with its Gothic Season with Eyes Without a Face. Also they are screening Kill Your Darlings, an account of William S Burroughs (hero of the beat generation) involvement in the murder of David Kammerer.

Reviews

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Director: Adam McKay
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Adam McKay, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell
San Diego's newsman Ron Burgundy returns for the sequel to the original 2004 Anchorman film. The film is set in the 80s at the GNN 24 hour news network. We find Ron little changed; egomanical, blunt and as idiosyncratic as ever and the action again has a strong element of the surreal. The film has a few cringe-worthy moments but is a real 'laugh out loud' comedy that is a worthy successor to the original movie.

Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
A dramatisation of the 2009 hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates who kidnapped the eponymous Captain Phillips.  This is an excellent must see thriller movie  featuring superb acting. Characters are well developed and the film takes a sympathetic view of both pirates and the crew of the ship.  In keeping with the subject the film has a documentary feel about it which makes for compelling viewing.

Free Birds
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Owen Wilson, Keith David, Colm Meaney, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler
Two turkeys (as in birds, not films), Reggie and Jake, use a time machine to attend the first Thanksgiving meal in an attempt to get turkey removed from subsequent thanks-giving dinners. Reggie is from a free-range turkey farm and he realises why turkeys are being fattened!  Jake has the vision of commandeering the time machine in an attempt to change history. The film has some romantic interest with Reggie falling for Jenny, a turkey he meets during the adventure. In all the plot of this animation seems a little over complicated and the film contains some rude humour that may not be appropriate for the very young. In all an entertaining movie but one that is not destined to become a classic.

Frozen
Director: Chris Buck
Certificate PG
Cast Includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad,Alan Tudyk, Jonathan Groff
This Disney musical animation is loosely based on the fairy tale 'The Snow Queen'. The queen has condemned a kingdom to eternal winter. It is up to Anna (her sister) and loner Kristoff to undertake an epic journey to find the Snow Queen and convince her to lift the icy spell. This is a magical movie destined to become a classic. It will appeal to families and children of all ages and makes an ideal movie for Christmas.

Saving Mr. Banks
Director: John Lee Hancock
Certificate PG
Cast Includes Emma Thompson, Bradley Whitford, Colin Farrell, Tom Hanks
A film exploring the tribulations as Walt Disney battled to make the musical 'Mary Poppins'. Disney promised his daughters that he would make a film of the book, but the author, Mrs Travers, proved to be difficult to work with and had very fixed ideas regarding the interpretation of her work. She hated the sentimentalization of her book and the use of animation. She only gave grudging approval as she needed the money. This film is more sentimental than accurate, and includes numerous flashbacks regarding Traver's rather troubled life. Acting is great and the friction between Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) makes for compelling viewing.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Director: Peter Jackson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage
In this second installment of The Hobbit, we find Bilbo Baggins and his group of comrades continuing in their journey to the Lonely Mountain in order to extract gold from the dragon Smaug whilst being pursued by an army of Orcs. This film is a splendid action adventure, more so than the first of the trilogy. It is imaginative, with plenty of special effects and a block buster feel about it. However it again puts action above developing the characters of the protagonists. A great Christmas movie that will leave you anticipating the concluding film in the trilogy.

The Railway Man
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Certificate: 15
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth
The story of Army Officer Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), this film is based on Lomax's memoir. Lomax was a POW during world war II, tortured and brutalized whilst forced to work on the Burma Railway. The film, set in 1980, tells of his meeting, courtship and subsequent marriage to Patti (Nicole Kidman). The background of Lomax is shown in flashbacks as Patti herself learns of his history from one of her husband's fellow POWs. Patti encourages Lomax to face his demons and return to the place of torture. Here he discovers an ageing Takashi Negase, who was one of his torturers. The acting of Kidman and Firth is excellent and the flashbacks of Lomax's experience as a POW are strong and harrowing. However the end of the film does not quite live up to the tension built up during the movie.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Director: Ben Stiller
Certificate: PG
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine
A re-telling of James Thurber's 1939 story. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) relieves his humdrum existence in a boring office job by escaping into a fantasy world of action and adventure. However when his job becomes threatened he is forced to take action in the real world, undertaking an adventurous journey that rivals those of his daydreams. This film has some entertaining moments but on the whole proved to be a rather lightweight comedy.

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, official film links and reviews.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Government consults on new nuclear reactor design



The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency has announced that they are progressing to the next phase of their assessment of a new nuclear reactor design for the UK – a design which could be used should a third nuclear power station get the green light at Heysham Power Station.

If built, the units at Wylfa and Oldbury would be the UK's first commercial boiling water reactors.

Heysham Power Station
The UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) is proposed to be used in new nuclear power stations at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in South Gloucestershire. The assessment follows nine months of preparatory work by the reactor designer, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, and the regulators.

Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy have launched a comment process, as part of the early phases of this regulatory assessment, which enables anyone to submit comments and questions to the company for their response.

Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy have developed a website which presents an overview of the technology which you can visit at the following website: www.hitachi-hgne-uk-abwr.co.uk and offers the opportunity for comments or questions on the design of the reactor, or on the submissions which have been made to the regulators. Hitachi-GE will respond to these comments and share both the questions and their answers with the regulators.

To date, the ABWR is licensed to operate in Japan, the United States and Taiwan. In comparison with comparable designs, the International Atomic Energy Agency notes that the four ABWRs in operation are often shut down due to technical problems. IAEA statistics documents this with the 'operating factor' (the time with electricity feed-in relative to the total time since commercial operation start). The first two plants in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reach total life operating factors of 70%, meaning that about 30% of the time, since commissioning, they were not producing electricity.

No doubt some of these issues are being addressed in the ongoing re-design of the reactor for UK use, but there remain the long-standing concerns of security and waste management raised by many concerned groups for as long as nuclear energy has been in use.


Holocaust Memorial Day events taking place through January


A series of events are taking place throughout January in Lancaster to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place on 27th January.

On Sunday 19th January from 12 noon, a journey around Lancaster entitled ‘Exploring The Journeys Of Strangers And Neighbours’ starts with a bagel brunch in the Jewish Rooms at Lancaster University Chaplaincy Centre and then moves on to the Maritime Museum to find out more about Lancaster’s role in the slave trade.

The journey will finish at the new mosque on Dallas Road, hosted by the Imam with an invitation to observe the late afternoon prayer session. Everyone is welcome for the whole journey or to join for just part of the tour.
Please contact Robbie Smith at robbie.rob.smith1@gmail.com for further details.

On Thursday 23rd January from 6.30pm, a candlelight commemoration will take place at Lancaster Town Hall in the Garden of Remembrance followed by events in the Town Hall, which will feature live music from young people from More Music.

On Saturday 25th January from 6.30pm until 8.30pm, all are welcome to come to Friends Meeting House in Lancaster for Havdalah, which marks the end of the Jewish Sabbath, and to take part in a culture share on the theme of ‘Journeys’.
Please contact Robbie Smith at robbie.rob.smith1@gmail.com for further details.

On Sunday 26th January from 6.30pm, an interfaith service will take place at the Priory Church in Lancaster using music, stories and prayers from a variety of faith traditions to reflect on experiences of journeys.  Please contact Revd Dr Joel Love at priorycurate@gmail.com for more details.

On Wednesday 29th January from 6.30pm, the film Orchestra of Exiles will be shown at the Dukes in Lancaster, which tells the story of the four year odyssey of Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, culminating in the founding of the orchestra that would become the Israel Philharmonic. More information can be found at http://www.dukes-lancaster.org/film/orchestra-exiles

• You can find out more details online of all events in Lancaster commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day at www.moremusic.org.uk/hmd-2014. For more information, please contact Liz Neat on lizn@ncbi.org.uk or call 07947 484727

Monday, 6 January 2014

Have your say on councillor expenses

Lancaster City Council is inviting local people to have their say on councillor allowances by becoming members of the Independent Remuneration Panel.

The IRP recommends the level of allowances and expenses paid to city councillors under the Members Allowance Scheme.

There are up to three vacancies on the panel,  so it’s an ideal time to get involved and be part of the panel that make recommendations on allowances and expenses your city councillors receive.

On average meetings take place three or four times a year at Lancaster Town Hall but will be held more frequently in years when a full review of the scheme is to take place. The next review is due this year, to take effect in May 2015.

Members of the IRP must not be employees of, or current elected members of the city council or a parish or town council within its district.  They must also not be disqualified from becoming a councillor.

The duties of the post may require travelling and if so, travelling expenses will be reimbursed.

Further information and an application form is available to download from the city council’s website at www.lancaster.gov.uk/independent-remuneration-panel, by writing to Town Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ, or by emailing STaylor@lancaster.gov.uk.

If you would like to know more about the appointments, please telephone the council’s Chief Officer (Governance), Mrs S Taylor, on 01524 582025.

• Completed application forms must be received before 5.00pm on Friday 31st January 2014

County's bus cuts plan will bring "harm and misery", argues local transport expert

Professor John Whitelegg
Local transport expert Professor John Whitelegg has hit out at proposals from Lancashire County Council to cut bus subsidies for evening services across the district.

As we reported just before Christmas, Lancashire County Council has launched a consultation on its proposal to make massive cuts to evening and Sunday bus services, which has already raised concerns from local MP Eric Ollerenshaw.

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 across the county.

Bus services to Freehold, the Ridge the Marsh and Vale estates in Lancaster and Skerton, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth, Hest Bank Railway Station, Bolton-le-Sands and Overton are among those that would be lost if the plan goes ahead.

"The bus cuts announced by the county council are a savage attack on public transport in this area," says Lancaster-based Professor Whitelegg, who is a visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute. "They will damage the lives of older people and those who do not own a car and they are yet another attack on low income groups and those who live in rural areas."

As for the County's consultation, he says he doesn't have any expectations that they will pay any notice to opposition to their plans.

"In line with all other county council consultations, such as school closures, the results will not make a jot of difference to the outcome," he told virtual-lancaster.

The author of ten books and over 100 papers, John Whitelegg has worked on sustainable transport projects for 30 years, working extensively on consultancy and research projects for the UK local authorities, the European Commission, the Australian federal and state governments and many private sector clients including Pfizer, the US Pharmaceutical manufacturer.

He has worked extensively in China and India including projects to produce transport strategies for Kolkata (Calcutta) and Beijing, and is clearly depressed that the vision of other countries when it comes to public transport is not reflected locally.
"The cuts show the reality that lies behind the political rhetoric," he argues. "Politicians claim to support public transport and yet make savage cuts in bus services. They claim to support rail services and yet we have some of the highest fares in Europe.

"They claim to support walking and cycling as a contribution to health, reducing congestion and greenhouse gases – and then they support more road building, more traffic and more pollution.

"Lancaster already has a serious air pollution problem and has done nothing to improve air quality since it was given the statutory responsibility for improving air quality in 1995," he notes. "29,000 people die every year in Britain as a result of poor air quality, the majority of which is traffic related, and some of these are from Lancaster.

"Cutting bus services will increase traffic levels and directly contradicts national and local transport and planning policy."

Professor Whitelegg also feels it's no coincidence that the propose public transport cuts have been announced just as the County gets the full go ahead for new road building.

"The proposed cuts to bus services have come very rapidly on the heels of the final approval for the Heysham M6 Link Road," he notes. "The County Council is facing huge budget cuts from a socially irresponsible government and these cuts will produce harm and misery for bus users and those who need to use other vital public services like care for the elderly.

"The county has taken a big 'hit' with central governement cuts but in its determination to get the bypass built and against a background of its own admission that it will not reduce congestion it has put £17 million of its own money into the bypass to top up the government’s contribution to the scheme. This shift of resources to a road and away from buses is a clear attack on the most vulnerable in society.

"The County Council has chosen to transfer resources from public transport to car owners," he argues, "and national statistics show that this is a direct transfer from the relatively poor to the relatively rich."

• 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)