Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 24th February to 3rd March 2016

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.


There are just three new releases during this period. There is the mystery/drama Exposed (15); the action sequel London has Fallen (15) and horror with The Forest (15).

The movies Jungle Shuffle and Ride Along 2 are no long being screened. However, we do have the return of Room; Steve Jobs; The Big Short; The Danish Girl and the excellent The Martian.

Adult comedy is very well represented this period with the movies Dad's Army; Daddy's Home; Dirty Grandpa; Grimsby; How to be Single and Zoolander 2. Drama is also strong this period with the following films on offer: Room; Spotlight; The Finest Hours; The Hateful Eight and Triple 9.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still going strong as is The Revenant. Movies harder to classify include super-hero action with Deadpool and the tongue in cheek horror Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Family entertainment comes with the classic Aladdin; Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip; Goosebumps; The Good Dinosaur and Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Move.

High culture this period is represented by NT Live: Hangmen; and NT Live: As You Like It.

Reviews

Creed
Director: Ryan Coogler
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tony Bellew
Adonis "Donnie" Jackson (Jordan) is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed. He is determined to become a fighter and looks up his fathers old friend Rocky Balboa (Stallone), who agrees to become his trainer despite problems of his own. Jackson gets a chance to prove his worth by fighting the world light heavyweight champion "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Bellew). The movie closely mirrors the original Rocky with fighting underdog making good. However this is very much a film in its own right with Stallone and Jordan giving excellent performances, making for great entertainment.

Dad's Army
Director: Oliver Parker
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Blake Harrison
After some fifty years, the famous Dads army TV sitcom makes it to the big screen. It is 1944 and the end of the second world war is in sight. Morale in the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard is low until Rose Winters (Zeta-Jones) a glamorous journalist, arrives to report on the exploits of Mainwaring (Jones) and his platoon. In addition evidence is uncovered of a local German spy who must be caught. The movie makes references to the original series and surviving members make a couple of cameo appearances. This is a very amiable movie, quietly amusing rather than riotously funny. One is left with the impression that a star studded cast should have been capable of making something a little more spectacular.

Daddy's Home
Director: Sean Anders
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini
A comedy. Conservative radio executive Brad (Ferrell) marries Sarah (Cardellini) and tries to be a good step dad to her two children. However his wife's charismatic and musclebound former husband Dusty (Wahlberg) comes for an extended visit. Brad finds he must now compete with their real father for the affection of his step children. There is a real on-screen chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg as they vie with each other and this provides plenty of opportunity for gags and comedy set pieces. However some of the gags are rather predictable leaving a film that is genuinely funny but seldom hilarious.

Deadpool
Director: Tim Miller
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Ryan Reynolds, T L Miller, Morena Baccarin
Another Marvel comic super-hero makes the big screen. Wade Wilson (Reynolds), a mercenary, is diagnosed with cancer. He agrees to take part in an experimental cure and this gives him super powers but leaves him disfigured. He escapes from the laboratory but feels he can no longer return to his girlfriend and his previous life. Taking advice from his best friend Weasel (Miller), he decides to become a masked vigilante and subsequently is invited to join the X-Men. He finds that his girlfriend Vanessa (Baccarin) has been kidnapped and so seeks her safety and his revenge. Made on a low budget, this is an enjoyable movie. It makes fun of the super-hero movie genre and does not take itself very seriously. Full of wise cracks, one liners and excessive violence this is still a very entertaining film.

Dirty Grandpa
Director: Dan Mazer
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Dermot Mulroney, Aubrey Plaza
Dick Kelly (De Niro) is a foul mouthed old man who has recently lost his wife to cancer. He coaxes his grandson Jason (Efron) into driving him to Florida on the pretext of seeing an old army buddy. However, once there Dick follows his ambition of getting drunk, getting high and bedding a younger woman Lenore (Plaza). This is a bawdy comedy, with an unrelenting stream of bad language and tasteless jokes, few of which are funny. It has received poor reviews. Not De Niro's finest work.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director: J J Abrams
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver.
The movie is set some thirty years after 'The Return of the Jedi'. The power vacuum left after the Empire was vanquished has been filled by the 'First Order' who start to control the galaxy with their stormtroopers. The movie tells of the adventures of Han Solo (Ford), Chewbacca and Princess (now General) Leia (Fisher) as they join new characters including Rey (Ridley), a scavenger, Finn (Boyega) a First Order Conscript and a spherical droid BB-8 as they battle the First Order led by the ominous Kylo Ren (Driver). This movie follows the style of the first star wars trilogy and, for this reviewer, was much better than the prequels. Old characters make a welcome appearance to supplement the newer heroes and villains. An excellent movie in all respects and the best Star Wars yet.

The Danish Girl
Director: Tom Hooper
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw
The film is based on a novel by David Ebershoff and inspired by the lives of Dutch artists Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Vikander). Set in the mid 1920's Geida is a portrait painter, but a sitter is late for an appointment. Hence Geida gets her husband Einar to stand in for the missing female sitter. This has consequences. Einar has been harbouring a drive to become a female and the finished portrait attracts favourable attention from art dealers. Einar decides to become his alter ego Lili Elbe and becomes one of the first people to received a surgical sex realignment procedure to change from a man to a woman. The movie follows both the artists as they come to terms with the change from Einar to Lili. A serious movie, well acted and well received that highlights the issues of gender reassignment.

The Forest
Director: Jason Zada
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney
Sara Price (Dormer) learns that her identical twin sister Jess is missing after heading into the Aokigahara Forest in Japan. The forest is infamous for the number of suicides that occur there and rumoured to be haunted by restless spirits. Sara heads to Japan where she teams up with travel reporter Aiden (Kinney) and together they enter the forest. Here they find a tent belonging to Jess and so stay the night. This is when the hallucinations and the violence begins. Dormer gives a good performance playing both of the sisters and the director has tried the novel approach of building tension without too many shocks. This makes for a frightening and entertaining film, thought the lack of real shocks explains why it has received some rather poor reviews.

The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Certificate: 18
Cast Includes: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins
A mystery western set in Wyoming some years after the American civil war, and told in six chapters. A stagecoach bound for Red Rock picks up a number of passengers. These include John Ruth (Russell), bounty hunter, Daisy Domergue (Leigh) a criminal, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) another bounty hunter and Chris Mannix (Groggins) the prospective sheriff of Red Rock. Due to a blizzard, the stage coach is forced to make a stopover at Minnie's Haberdashery and here the travellers meet a local hangman, a loner, a Mexican and a Confederate General. These eight must spend the night together. However, one of them is plotting evil and the night descends into violence and death. This is an excellent movie, stylish, well acted and with excellent dialogue. Tarantino slowly builds up tension and suspense during the first half of the movie, leading to a final climactic resolution.

The Martian
Director: Ridley Scott
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
A manned mission to the planet mars is aborted when the crew face a huge sandstorm. However astronaut and botanist Mark Watney (Damon) is left behind, presumed dead. Yet he lives and must now find a way to survive and contact Earth in the hope that a rescue mission can be mounted. The movie is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Andy Weir. This is a homage to the ingenuity of man in desperate circumstances. The movie is visually effective, scientifically accurate and is well seasoned with humour. An excellent film that has received glowing reviews.

The Revenant
Director: Alejandro G Inarritu
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy
Set in Montana and South Dakota in the year 1823 and based on the book by Michael Punke, this is a tale of revenge. A party trapping for pelts in the American wilderness come under attack by native Americans of the Arikara nation. With most of the hunting party slain, the remainder escape. However one of their number, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is attacked and nearly killed by a bear. The remainder of the hunters split up. The larger group go back to their barracks whereas a couple of men including John Fitzgerald (Hardy) stay to look after Glass. However Fitzgerald tries to kill Glass and then abandons him to the wilderness. Against the odds Glass survives and is intent on revenge. The scenery in the movie is breathtaking and the action shots are stunning. The bulk of the film shows the tribulations of Glass as, wounded, he tries to return to safety after his abandonment. An emotional, well acted and very convincing movie.

Big Stink over Waste Collection changes as PFI cost of closing plants is questioned

Local County Councillor Gina Dowding at last week's County Council Executive Scrutiny Committee 
There could be a big stink brewing over changes to waste collection in Lancashire, after the County Council decided to call time on its £2 billion waste recycling scheme at Farington and Thornton, which could see 260 people losing their jobs.

We reported yesterday on changes that mean household food waste will no longer be collected from April 2016, and the City Council is advising householders to stop separating that waste from general rubbish now, or, if they can, compost it.

Last week, councillors on the County Council's Executive Scrutiny Committee voted to mothball the two plants, which cost £125m each to build, and instead send the green and food waste they processed to landfill.

But even if they're closed, it seems LCC could still be paying for them for the next 20 years, if they are not sold off to a third party.

The building of both plants was funded by a massive Private Finance Initiative contract with the original Global Renewables company from Australia, which supplied the two huge organic waste recycling machines.

The two plants were designed to separate recyclates and biodegradeable waste from bin bag rubbish. The biodegradeable waste, including food was used to produce biogas and subsequently electricity and compost. But virtual-lancaster understands that even before the plant opened, Lancashire County Council directed that the district councils should collect food waste with green waste, which goes to a different part of the plant.

“The plants are closing not just because food waste collection is stopping, but because LCC want to save an alleged sum of money and send bin bag waste to landfill,” one irate worker facing redundancy notes, “which is cheaper than running the plant and recovering recyclables and energy.”

The County Council says the very severe financial situation they face means they had to take advantage of more cost-effective ways to process some types of waste.

"Our current processing facilities were designed to prevent organic waste being landfilled,” commented County Councillor Clare Pritchard, “as landfill taxes at the time meant it would cost vastly more to continue landfilling organic waste. However, the government abolished the penalty for landfilling organics in 2013.”

The decision doomed the two multi-million pound plants which the Evening Post reports have had a controversial history, even before they were built, with some councillors at the meeting noting their huge cost. 

260 workers now face redundancy – and an award winning education service which has worked with 40,000 Lancashire and Blackpool children teaching them about sustainable living has also been scrapped.

The MRF at Leyland will operate but the two MBT processes will cease operation from 1st April.
  
The decision certainly seems to require further scrutiny and challenging. As the plants were, we understand, the second biggest PFI project in the country, virtual-lancaster has to wonder why the people responsible have not been held accountable for the procurement with public money? And, of course, we note that council tax payers will continue to pay for the plants for next 20 years, whichever option the council replaces their waste collection with in the short term.

Green campaigners say it's now even more important to continue separating your recyclates because no plant to recover it for you. It always has been important as there are more markets for it with a wider range of products.

• The film of the County Council’s Executive Scrutiny Committee meeting's discussion on the waste changes can be viewed here on the LCC web site

• The agenda and documents for the entire Executive Scrutiny Committee meeting can be viewed here




Could County Council Bus Service Cuts Be Illegal?

Original image via Stagecoach (Mash-Up via Internet)

Bus Users UK has warned Lancashire County Council that they could be in breach of Section 63 of the 1985 Transport Act after they decided to cut all bus subsidies in Lancashire - and opposition councillors have also warned the decision could be subject to judicial review.

The end of bus subsidies - saving the Council £7.5m - was agreed by the County Council at their budget meeting earlier this month.

The County Council made the decision as part of its wider cost saving measures in an effort to save £65 million over the next two years following reductions in central government funding.

Bus users protested in force at the Council meeting, with some Lancashire villages now effectively cut off for non car users.

14 bus services in the Lancaster area have been affected by the cuts (details below) and there are fears for local school children's safety after some of the cuts, especially when Autumn returns and daylight hours are shorter.

According to Dawn Badminton-Capps, Director for England at Bus Users, the planned cuts could be illegal.

“Under Section 63 of the 1985 Transport Act every Council and Local Authority has a responsibility to provide funding for socially necessary services.," he says.

“While Lancashire County Council might save money in the short term, they could face huge costs in the long run defending this decision.

"Even more importantly, they will cause massive disruption and distress to all those people who rely on subsidised bus services to access education, health services, shops, or simply to go about their daily lives.”

Responding to concerns, the County has at least put some money aside to fund solutions for areas worst-hit by the cuts and a cross party group is now meeting to consider how to best meet local needs.

The County Council has also decided that transport to day care centres for the elderly and disabled will continue with new arrangements, by merging them with services taking disabled youngsters to school and adults to day centres.

The Lancashire Evening Post reported the council will use its own fleet of travel care buses to provide transport for more than 1,000 elderly and disabled people.

The buses will also continue to be used separately for their current role of taking children with special educational needs and disabilities to and from special schools.

In an effort to save some services, the Lancaster District Bus Users group put forward plans to the council to use a £2 million fund designed to create parish minibus services to build a basic services for villages that have been completely cut off.

“The County Council seem to think that this community minibus service is the way forward, but having spoken to parish councillors there’s not a lot of interest," Jim Davies, chair of the group told InTheBay.

“What we are suggesting is that the council use that money to create a reduced service for villages that no longer have any buses.

“There has also been more enthusaism for a scheme where local parishes could raise money themselves to support or enhance a bus service for their local areas.”

Local Bus Service Reductions and Service Withdrawals - Full details

1. Silverdale Shuttle

Service withdrawn

5 Overton - Morecambe - Carnforth

Late evening service is withdrawn. The last through buses will be at 1840 from either end of the route and a 1940 from Overton and Carnforth as far as Morecambe.

The Sunday service will continue but will close down one hour earlier than on weekdays.

5B Brookhouse - Morecambe

Service withdrawn

5C Carnforth - Crag Bank - Morecambe

Service withdrawn

7 Vale - City Centre - Marsh

Evening and Sunday journeys withdrawn. On Mondays to Saturdays buses from Marsh will run through to Ridge every 30 minutes via the Bus Station.

Vale will have a separate service to George Street running every 20 minutes.

Journeys to Marsh will operate as service 9. Last buses to Marsh at 1855 and Vale at 1820

10 Lancaster - Ridge

Evening and Sunday journeys withdrawn. On Mondays to Saturdays buses from Ridge will run through to Marsh on service 9 via the Bus Station every 30 minutes. Last bus from Bus Station to Ridge at 1928

33 Morecambe - Bare (Circular)

Service withdrawn

42 Lancaster - Blackpool

The evening journeys operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire will be withdrawn.

The situation over the Sunday service (which is subsidised during the winter) is unclear. Stagecoach has confirmed that the Sunday service will continue during the winter months but that the last journey of the day in each direction will be withdrawn

49 Lancaster - Halton

Off-peak journeys will be extended to Warton via the Kellets and Carnforth, replacing service 51. Evening journeys on service 81 that run via Halton are withdrawn but Halton will keep a service on 49 up to 1900 hrs.

The Sunday service is withdrawn.

51 Lancaster - Carnforth - Silverdale

This service is withdrawn, replaced between Lancaster and Warton by a revised service 49 (see above), but there will be no service beyond Warton.

Locals have pointed out the dangers the withdrawal of this service could have on school children, especially during the winter when roads they may now have to walk to get home on will be in darkness.

Evening and Sunday service is withdrawn.

55 Lancaster - Carnforth

Late evening journeys operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire are withdrawn. Daytime journeys will run to a new timetable.

The last bus from Lancaster at 2200 and Carnforth at 2223

80 Lancaster - Ingleton

The 0655 from Ingleton to Lancaster will start at Hornby at 0741. There will be other changes to the timetable but a basic two-hourly daytime service will continue. Buses will return from Lancaster at 1015, 1215, 1415, 1525 (Hornby only) and 1715 (Not Saturdays)

81 Lancaster - Kirkby Lonsdale

Buses will run every two hours via Hornby, Melling and Tunstall (i.e. not serving Wray or Wennington, which are served by service 80). The only buses via Gressingham and Whittington will be those serving QE School in Kirkby Lonsdale.

There will be no evening or Sunday service. Last bus from Lancaster will be at 1730 and from Kirkby Lonsdale at 1715.

89 Lancaster - Knott End on Sea

Service withdrawn

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Lancaster City Council to support Syrian refugees

Lancaster City Council has confirmed it will participate in the Government’s Syrian refugee resettlement programme from 2017.

In its bid to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK, the Government has written to all local authorities confirming it will provide funding to help to resettle Syrian refugees.

At a Cabinet meeting last Tuesday (16th February) city councillors considered the funding package and agreed it will participate in the programme.

The city council will be working closely with other local authorities in Lancashire that are also participating in the scheme.

By working collectively with other local authorities the county as a whole will take 500 refugees over the five years of the programme. It is estimated that this will mean each local authority identifying, on average, two suitable properties a year.

With other local authorities in the county fulfilling the allocation in the first year (from April 2016), the Lancaster district will start accepting Syrian refugees from April 2017.

Coun Karen Leytham, Cabinet member with responsibility for health and housing, said: “The world has been shocked by the continuing conflict in the Middle East and the mass displacement of people - estimated to be the largest since the Second World War - is a humanitarian crisis.

“The council is committed to playing its part and will work closely with other agencies to identify suitable accommodation in the Lancaster district.

“We would like to do more but by joining the scheme in year two we will be able to build on and learn from the experiences of other local authorities that resettle refugees this year. It also allows us to concentrate on assisting the asylum seekers dispersal programme in Lancaster, which we already participate in.

“Crucially the Government will be providing funding for the resettlement programme which is important to ensure that those we welcome to our district, along with the council and our communities, have the support and resources they need until they are either granted asylum or safely returned to their own country.”

Life sentence for Heysham woman who murdered her boyfriend

Terri-Marie Palmer
A woman has been given a life sentence for murdering a man in Morecambe last year.

23-year-old Terri-Marie Palmer of Warton Avenue, Heysham was handed the sentence after being found guilty following a week-long trial at Preston Crown Court, which ended on Friday.

On Friday 14 August 2015, police officers were called to a caravan on Stud Farm Park in Morecambe after a 23-year-old man had been found with a serious stab wound to his chest.

Victim Damon Searson
Terri-Marie Palmer had alerted the emergency services stating that the victim, her boyfriend Damon Searson, had stabbed himself in the chest after they had been play-fighting with a knife and she had accidentally knocked the knife into him.

Damon was found on the floor near to the door inside the caravan with a duvet over him, while Palmer was sat on the floor near to him. A blood stained knife was found on the sofa behind Mr Searson.

Paramedics tried to get Mr Searson to Royal Lancaster Infirmary to be treated but he sadly went into cardiac arrest whilst en route to the hospital and was pronounced dead at 1.28am on arrival.

Following the result, senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Nina Foley from Lancashire Constabulary’s Force Major Investigation Team (FMIT) said “this was a tragic case where a young man received a single stab wound to his chest during a domestic dispute with his girlfriend.

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of police officers and paramedics, the injury proved fatal.

“Palmer had attacked Damon Searson following an argument that night, giving different accounts to the ambulance service and attending police officers. She went on to give a further different versions during interview and her trial this week.

"The events of that night have had far reaching consequences and two families have been left devastated. Sadly, Damon Searson lost his life but Terri Palmer will have to live with the knowledge that she was the one responsible.”

Palmer will serve a minimum of 12 years before she is eligible for parole.

Food Waste Collection to End as part of County Council Savings Measures


Food waste in the Lancaster district will no longer be collected and taken away for recycling soon, following a decision made by Lancashire County Council to change the way that garden waste is composted.

Residents who have been recycling food waste in their green bins along with their garden waste, or putting it out for collection in the specially provided caddy, should either put their food waste in their grey bins or compost it at home.

Although the collections will not officially end until April, the Council told virtual-lancasterpeople may as well make the change now.

"This will ensure that by the time the changes do come into force, there will be less chance of green waste being contaminated by food waste," a spokesperson explained.

The change has been made because mixing food waste in with garden waste means it has to be sent to special indoor composting facilities, where the composting takes place at a controlled temperature. This is necessary to kill any bacteria in the food waste and control the potential spread of disease like foot and mouth.

With food waste accounting for only around one per cent of the mixed food and green waste collected from households, there are more cost-effective options available to deal with green waste if the food waste is removed.

The indoor facilities are therefore closing and Lancashire County Council will save money by taking your garden waste to an outdoor composting facility.

County Councillor Clare Pritchard, Lancashire County Council lead member for waste, said: "The very severe financial situation facing the county council means we need to take advantage of more cost-effective ways to process some types of waste.

"Our current processing facilities were designed to prevent organic waste being landfilled, as landfill taxes at the time meant it would cost vastly more to continue landfilling organic waste. However, the government abolished the penalty for landfilling organics in 2013.

"At the same time, people are throwing far less food away, meaning the proportion of organics in our waste has greatly declined, leaving us with a process which is costly to process a relatively small proportion of organic waste.

"We will continue to compost green waste, but to allow us to do this it's vital that people no longer put their food waste in the same bin."

Coun David Smith, Lancaster City Council Cabinet member with responsibility Environmental Services, said:  “Due to massive reductions in Government funding we are by now all well aware of the need to make cuts to services at both district and county level.

“We know this was a service valued by many and the fact it can no longer be provided reflects well the precarious financial situation councils have been placed in.”

"Clean for the Queen" project gets Council backing




Lancaster City Council is encouraging local residents and community groups to get together and clean up the district to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.

Presumably this national initiative is the brainchild of some Tory wag who wants us to clean our streets for free because councils can't afford to pay their staff to do the extra work thanks to government funding cuts.

Update 29th February: The project is being fronted by Justice Secretary Michael Gove, pictured above. His involvement has prompted social media shenanigans, like the revised photograph below...




As we reported yesterday, the County Council has just announced it will no longer be weed spraying from April as it seeks to save money, which is hardly going to keep some places very tiday.

However, perhaps we shouldn't be too grumpy - after all, volunteer litter picks are already regular occurrence across our District thanks to a lack of funds for such work - they just don't get the kind of high profile they should when Her Maj isn't involved.

The City Council is supporting the official ‘Clean for the Queen’ weekend, which takes place on March 4, 5 and 6.

If you want to take part, Lancaster City Council is keen to help get you started.

As well as offering the free loan of all the equipment and taking away the litter collected at the end of the day, you will also be given the information you need to carry out a safe and successful litter pick.

Coun David Smith, Cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Clean for The Queen and we would encourage as many groups, individuals and organisations to take part.

“We can all do our bit to improve the appearance of our neighbourhoods and keep them litter free.

“We would like to hear from any communities, schools, companies and any individuals who would like to take part.”

• For more information and to find out how to take part please email hryan@lancaster.gov.uk or telephone 01524 582822.



• Details of the ‘Clean for the Queen’ campaign are available at the website www.cleanforthequeen.co.uk

New vice chancellor appointed for University of Cumbria

Professor Julie Mennell
The University of Cumbria Board has approved the appointment of Professor Julie Mennell, currently Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development) at the University of Sunderland, as the next vice chancellor of the university.

The appointment followed an extensive recruitment period which was overseen by a search committee appointed by the University Board and resulted in the board having a very large and wide ranging field of strong applicants which was reduced to a final short list of six candidates to consider.

“I am delighted to find such a strong candidate for vice chancellor to take the University of Cumbria through its next stage of development," says Chairman of the Board, Euan Cartwright. "Julie’s strong academic career and extensive experience in management and leadership positions makes her particularly qualified for this role. I was sure that, following the final day of interviews, she would be an excellent successor to Professor Peter Strike, and I am confident we have made a first rate appointment.

"I want to pay tribute to Professor Peter Strike for the excellent job he has done in positioning the university so that it is able to look forward to the future with confidence and I am sure Julie will build on the strong foundation laid by Peter and his colleagues.”

Professor Mennell is looking forward to joining the University of Cumbria.

“I am honoured to be given the opportunity to lead the University of Cumbria into the next phase of its development," she says. "Although the university itself is not yet 10 years old, many of its component parts have, for many years, played a significant role in the cultural and economic life of the region. The challenge for us moving forward is to continue to build on this legacy, creating a vibrant institution of high academic merit that provides opportunities for all those who have the potential to benefit from the experience of higher education, with reach and impact across Cumbria, Lancashire and beyond.

“I look forward with enthusiasm to working with the staff and students of the university, and with our partners and stakeholders, to deliver that outcome.”

Professor Mennell is expected to start her new role on 1st August 2016. Professor Strike leaves the institution on retirement on 31st July.

Julie is currently Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development) at the University of Sunderland, where her responsibilities encompass leadership of the university’s development activities including oversight of major development projects, international and transnational activities, University of Sunderland in London, student recruitment, new product development, relationships with key partners, employer engagement, graduate employment, and access and widening participation work.

Prior to this, Julie held the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) for the University of Sunderland for five years, having responsibility for the academic and research provision, student experience and graduate outcomes; including academic programme development and delivery, careers and employability, student and learning support and quality assurance and enhancement.

She has held senior positions at Northumbria and Teesside universities and is a former President of the North East Association of Science Education and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, The Chartered Society for Forensic Sciences, Institute of Measurement & Control and the RSA.

Professor Mennell has an international reputation in the field of forensic science, having made significant contributions to forensic science education and workforce development in the UK and overseas.

Professor Mennell is a mathematics and physics graduate from the University of Leeds and holds a PhD in Applied Physics from Teesside University. Married, with three teenage children, she was born in Middlesbrough and is a life-long Middlesbrough Football Club supporter. She counts her family, cycling and walking among her interests and enjoys spending time in the Lake District. Last year saw her complete the Whitehaven to Sunderland coast to coast cycle route.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Lancashire County Council budget cuts to hit local services

Budget cuts by Lancashire County Council will have a huge effect on services in the Lancaster district, city councillors heard last Tuesday.

Although the county council and Lancaster City Councils are separate local authorities with their own budgets, numerous services rely on funding from both organisations.

Many city council services are supported by money from the county council or delivered on its behalf.  With the county council cutting its budget this means that city council services will be affected and reduce as a result.

An initial assessment by the city council has found that services for vulnerable people and also environmental services will be most affected:

•  Homelessness prevention will be affected with the ending of funding for supported housing schemes. As a result there is expected to be an increase in applications from people in crisis situations.

•  Support for community alarms used by council housing tenants will stop by March 2017 and tenants will have to pay the charge for the service.

•  Funding to subsidise charges for sheltered housing scheme managers will cease, meaning tenants will have to make up the shortfall.

•  Weed spraying will not take place, leaf sweeping will continue but will take longer, grass cutting on rural verges will reduce.

•  From April 2016 the county council will no longer allow district councils to collect food waste for recycling.

Reductions in funding that supports the city council’s museums and arts organisations that the city council also supports are also predicted to have an effect on both what's delivered and the local economy.

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “Not only do we now have to deal with the huge government cuts to our own budget, but some of those faced by the county council are inevitably being passed on to us. The county council has been left in an impossible position.

“This ‘double whammy’ is a major blow to many of the services which support some of the most vulnerable people in our society, as well as many of those basic services relied upon by the public in general.

“The city council will do its best to limit the effect these cuts are having on our communities but the overall scale of cuts being faced is unprecedented in living memory.

“Their effect cannot be underestimated and local government and the services it provides will be decimated as a result.”

Lancaster City Council will meet to agree its own budget on 2nd March. Councillors will be recommended to approve a city council basic tax increase of £5 (at Band D). With the majority of properties being in Bands A-C, the actual increase will be less for most households.

While as the billing authority Lancaster City Council collects Council Tax, it only receives around 13% of the total bill to spend on its services.

Of the remaining bill, excluding parishes, the majority goes to Lancashire County Council (73%), with precepts from Lancashire Police Authority (10%) and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority (4%) making up the rest.