Friday, 12 November 2010

Appeal after Xeon bike stolen from Morecambe car

Morecambe police are appealing for information after a bike was stolen from a vehicle parked in the town.

The Renault Megane car was targeted overnight on Friday night (29th October) into Saturday (30th October) while it was parked in an alleyway on Tunstall Street.

A Haro Xeon pedal cycle and a satellite navigation system were stolen from the car.

This is quite an unusual make and model of cycle," notes PC Ben Hanley of Morecambe police, "and I hope that by issuing a photograph of a similar bike, this will help jog people’s memories if they were either in the area at the time and have seen anything suspicious or if they have seen someone with a similar bike in the area around the time of the theft.

"I would always urge cyclists to take measures to prevent cycles being stolen," he added, "including locking bikes away in garages or sheds when not in use – and if this is not possible then use a good quality lock and chain to secure the bike to something sturdy.

"Even better, if you can use two locks on your bike, and wrap them through the frame rather than the wheels as these can be removed by thieves.

"I would also urge people to keep a record of your cycle frame number. This could help the police identify and return your bike back to you if it is stolen. You can register your cycle frame number on the immobilise website"

• Anyone with information can contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Free parking for Christmas shoppers in Lancaster and Morecambe

Shoppers will be able to enjoy free parking at selected times in Lancaster and Morecambe in the run up to Christmas.
On Sundays between 28th November and 26th December there will be free parking at all of Lancaster City Council’s pay and display car parks in Lancaster and Morecambe.

There will also be free parking for anyone coming into Lancaster to enjoy late night Thursday shopping.
From 25th November until 23rd December all of the city council's car parks will be free to use after 6.00pm and until 8.00am the following morning.

Marketgate Car Park in Lancaster is also providing the same free parking arrangements at Christmas.
Coun Stuart Langhorn, Cabinet member with responsibility for property services, said:  “This concession is designed to support local retailers and our local economy by making it less costly for visitors and local people to take advantage of the late night shopping and Sunday shopping facilities offered in the run up to Christmas.”

Local Stop the Cuts Poster Released

Lancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts have released a poster for next Thursday's (18th November) public meeting at Lancaster Town Hall.

Around 25 local people from diverse political backgrounds, trades unions and community groups got together to organise a protest group in protest at the sweeping cuts to public services being planned by the Con-Dem government. Around 300 people attended LMAC's first event, a public protest rally in Dalton Square back in October.

Students from the 52,000-strong demonstration in London organised by the National Union of Students will be giving eye-witness accounts of their experiences, including what happened at Millbank Tower (an event mainstream media reported as a riot) at the meeting, joined by public sector workers and community campaigns. 

The meeting will include speakers from the worlds of politics, the arts and media, the sciences and academia and from community campaigns and trades unions.

LMATC's says its task is to build support for all those fighting back against cuts, and solidarity between these various fightbacks.

Click the link here for PDF file of poster (A4 size) 

New Statesman: Inside the Millbank Tower riot

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Council Tax freeze recommended for 2011

There will be no increase in Lancaster City Council’s element of Council Tax next year, if recommendations from the council’s Cabinet are approved.

But the lack of any rise will not help the Council protect services already under threat from massive cuts in government funding and the Council's Liberal Democrat leader warns these will be substantial.

The recommendation to freeze Council Tax rates, made by Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday, will save residents in an average Band D property around £7.21 over the year, against the previous recommended increase of 3.75%.

Future increases could also be pegged at between 0 and 2% if the Cabinet’s recommendations are approved by Council in March.

Stuart Langhorn
Lancaster City Council’s element of Council Tax makes up 13% of the overall bill. Precepts from Lancashire County Council (74%), Lancashire Police Authority (9%) and Lancashire Fire Authority (4%) make up the remainder.

“This year, the Government has offered to provide funding equivalent to a 2.5% increase to councils that freeze their Council Tax," Coun Stuart Langhorn, leader of Lancaster City Council explains. “This is good news and we’ve recommended that Council take up the offer – but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Government is also substantially reducing our funding.

“Next year, these reductions look likely to be in the region of £2.4 million – with more to come in future years.

“This will mean real cuts to services," he warns. "The council cannot expect to continue to deliver the same range and standard of services that it currently provides. It also means that those organisations that receive grant funding from us will be hit hard.

“The reality is that this will mean service cuts and we face some difficult decisions over the coming weeks and months as to where the axe will fall.”

The Council's Chief Executive has already warned that Lancaster and Morecambe may lose some of its CCTV coverage as well as its Police Community Support Officers as part of new savings the Council will need to make as government funding cuts bite (see news story).

The final Council budget will be set at a meeting of full Council on 2nd March 2011.

Lancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts, a coalition of local people is fighting hard to defend public services and jobs in the face of the cutbacks and is holding a public meeting at Lancaster Town Hall on Thursday 18th November.

A campaigning stall in Lancaster's Market Square on a Saturday afternoon between 11.00am and 2.00pm.

More details about the Lancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts Meeting

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Don’t be left in the dark when it comes to home security

Lancashire police are urging people not to be left in the dark with their home security now the clocks have gone back.

Officers are reminding householders to check lighting and security and to brush up on those good security habits that may have been relaxed during the summer.

Neighbourhood Policing Inspector Debby Carter said: “Crime levels, including burglary figures, are currently at an all time low across Lancashire but it is important that homeowners don’t become complacent.
“With the dark nights upon us, now is an ideal time to double check security and lighting and make sure that your home is adequately protected.”

Inspector Carter urged homeowners to:

  • Consider fitting a burglar alarm system – which provides a visible deterrent to the front and back of your home as well as audible warning. Even a cheap DIY one is better than nothing at all
    Check your outside security lighting is working.

  • Check that your tools, spades, ladders, etc that may be left out in your garden or yard are securely locked away.

  • Make sure doors and windows are locked and secure when you leave your home.

  • Beware of the ‘bogus caller’ at the door. Keep them out, and call the Police.

  • Leave a light on in a room and remember to draw the curtains when you go out at night. Or invest in a timer switch for lights when next shopping. They are now cheaply available from many of the main stores and supermarkets.

  • Mark your postcode and house number on your expensive electrical equipment and property with a UV security pen, permanent marker or engraver.

  • Keep the garden tidy with shrubs and trees cut back so they can’t provide a screen for thieves.
    Put house and car keys away safely where they cannot be seen when they are not in use and well away from the doors they unlock.

“Crime is extremely low and by working together we can keep it that way," Inspector Carter added. "If people follow these handy hints and tips they can reduce the risk of being targeted by thieves even further."

Girl, 17, missing from Morecambe

Morecambe police are appealing for information about the whereabouts of a 17 year old girl who has been missing for five days.

Olga Karfikova was last seen at West End Park in Heysham around 5.00pm on Friday 5th November. She failed to return home that evening and hasn’t been seen since.

Originally from the Czech Republic, Olga is described as being around five foot six inches tall and of slim build. She has brown eyes and long brown hair, which is usually tied in a pony tail.

Detective Inspector Brent Jackson said: “Olga hasn’t been in touch with her family or friends since Friday and we are becoming more and more worried about her welfare.

“I would appeal to anybody who knows where she is or may have seen her at some point since Friday to contact police.”

• Anybody with any information should contact police on 08451 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Music Co-op's 25th Birthday Weekend Bash Line-Up

Lancaster Music Co-op's 25th birthday Weekender takes place this weekend at The Yorkshire House, Lancaster, with Morecambe's The Heartbreaks headlining the special music festival.

The band have been heard a lot on national radio and have been tipped for the top by the NME. Thy're to record with Ivor Novello Award winning Scottish musician Edwyn Collins soon, so it's a real coup for the Co-op to get them to headline.

Some 15 bands will take to the stage on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th November for a two day festival showcasing some of the area’s best new music.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” says David Blackwell, director at Lancaster Musicians Co-op. “We've picked bands that do their own original material so there’s going to be everything from metal and indie to folk and alternative rock. It really reflects the diversity of bands and music played at the Co-op at the moment.”

The non profit making rehearsal rooms and recording studio in Lodge Street was set up by a group of students in 1985 and has seen a number of famous faces pass through its doors including Tom English from Maximo Park, Mark Hunter from James and Keith Baxter from Three Colours Red.

“We’ve being doing things all year to celebrate," David explained. “This is just a bit of a party at the end of the year to celebrate the importance of having a place where people can develop their own skills in their own time in a dedicated space.”

Friday night kicks off at 8pm with performances by Consecrated Flesh, The Charm, The Dead Puppeteers, Joyeaux, Stuart Anthony, Sound Assembly and Three Dimensional Tanx. Saturday’s entertainment starts at 7.30pm and includes sets from Beyond The Sun, Phonefish, Miniking, Pick Up The Gun, Liar Liar, The Lovely Eggs, Orphans and The Heartbreaks.

• The Weekender costs £4 on the door each night. All proceeds to Lancaster Musicians Co-op. Web:

Full Line Up


9-9.20 THE CHARM
10-10.20 JOYEAUX
10.30-10.50 STUART ANTHONY

8.30-8.50 PHONEFISH
9.30-9.50 PICK UP THE GUN
10-10.20 LIAR LIAR
10.30-10.50 THE LOVELY EGGS
11-11.20 ORPHANS

City Council seeks views on Fireworks Night Show, safety concerns raised

Lancaster City Council is asking for local views on the way Lancaster's Fireworks Spectacular was run this year, after an estimated 10,000 people watched the display from the four official viewing areas at Ryelands Park, Williamson Park, Salt Ayre Sports Centre and Giant Axe.

The fireworks were complemented by a special programme of daytime events which included a Guy Fawkes themed market, lantern making, street entertainment and a live outside broadcast by BBC Radio Lancashire.

Reports about the viewing areas have been mixed, with at least one local raising serious safety concerns online.

The Council took the decision earlier this year to prevent viewing from Castle Hill on health and safety grounds, creating viewing areas across the city instead. But virtual-lancaster has received complaints from locals who watched the display from both Ryelands and Williamson Park which are fiercely critical of the way things were organised.

"We decided to head on down to Ryelands Park as it was their new official viewing area," notes local Dean Clinton in a post on his blog. "When we got there, we were greeted by a large area of mud as well under 18s drinking (with four Police / PCSO officers stood chatting); despite the posters and leaflets saying that alcohol was not permitted.

Dispirited by the amenities there, Dean took his party to Wiliamson Park.

"I wish we hadn’t," he declares. "The Quernmore Road entrance and path was completely unlit. It was like shambling through the dark – we had to use our mobile phones just so that we could see the path without falling over the plants and bushes.

"... When the fireworks started, lots of people appeared from nowhere, climbed onto the railings, stood on the grass and then blocked our view.

"A few moments later, the event stewards walked along, said that everyone needed to move back and carried on walking. No one moved; the event stewards were being ignored.
Looking behind us, people were surging up onto the grass hills which were closed off. Barriers were falling, the red and white tape snapped. At this point, we decided it wasn’t safe anymore and decided to leave the park.

"So…. we missed the fireworks, got covered in mud and ended up going home."
 You can read Dean's full account of events here on his blog.

Despite the problems, the Council says thousands enjoyed the display from around the city but has launched an online consultation to find out people’s views to improve the event for future years and find out what spectators thought of the viewing areas. Everyone who completes the short questionnaire will be entered into a free prize draw with £50 in Sainsbury’s vouchers up for grabs.

Coun June Ashworth, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism, said: “It was a fantastic display and it was great to see so many people enjoying the various locations. As well as local people a large number came from across the north west including Oldham, Preston, Barrow and Blackburn.

“We really want to know what people thought of the new arrangements and we’ll take their views into account when planning the event in future years.”

Inspector Sheralee Duckworth, geographic inspector for Lancaster, said: "The event was well planned, organised and advertised and the stewards at the various venues were well briefed and able to ensure public safety. The introduction and spread of the additional viewing sites resulted in a much more even and safer dispersal of the crowds. All in all it was a successful joint operation."

“Lancaster's retailers reported that the increased firework festival activities in the city centre brought improved customer numbers throughout the day and generated a terrific atmosphere on the city's streets," says Jerry North, Lancaster Chamber's retail spokesperson

“Particularly impressive was the effort made by the street market traders to enter into the fireworks spirit with themed displays and extended trading into the early evening.

“All in all, the fireworks theme would appear to be one to build on in successive years."

Steve Spencer, manager of Lancaster’s Sainsbury’s store, added: “The success of the Fireworks Spectacular can only be measured by your feedback. By completing the online questionnaire you’ll be helping to make next year’s event even better.”

• To take part in the short consultation and be in with the chance of winning £50 in Sainsbury’s vouchers visit

Morecambe assault suspect charged

Police have charged a man in connection with a serious assault in Morecambe at the weekend.

Just before 5.00pm on Saturday afternoon (6th November) police were called to West End Road to reports of a serious assault. On arrival, they found a 43-year-old man with stab wounds.

The 39 year old man, Sean Hann of Brunswick Road, Heysham who was arrested in connection with the assault has tonight been charged with wounding with intent and possession of an offensive weapon and appeared before Lancaster Magistrates court on Monday morning.

The 43-year-old local man who was injured is currently in a critical condition and has been transferred to Royal Preston Hospital.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Greens condemn councillor's censure over ASCO

Green Party councillors have hit out at a City Council Standards Committee case against Coun Jon Barry dating back to earlier this year, which has only just been heard and resulted in his censure.

Coun Barry has been unable to say anything about the case since he was reported to the Standards Board in the spring of this year by a Conservative councillor after mentioning the name of controversial retailer ASCO in a press release on 2nd March (see related news story).

ASCO, which has since gone into administration, were the company the Council had lined up to take over Lancaster Market as a single occupier, a plan subsequently rejected by Full Council after massive public protest (see news story).

Coun Barry was found guilty of breaking the councillor’s code of conduct because he mentioned the name ASCO, which was considered by the Council to be confidential information. The complaint was made against the councillor and pursued by the Standards Committee even though the name of the retailer was already widely known after a council staff member named them at a Market Traders meeting.

virtual-lancaster had also named it in various reports before the Green Party press release was issued and the Lancaster Guardian had published a story alluding to ASCO as the potential retailer.

One day after the Green Party release, the Morecambe Visitor published a front page story naming ASCO, using visuals supplied by the company. (It seems the Council may have considered the proposed deal confidential, but ASCO did not).

Despite ASCO being widely-known as the proposed retailer, the Standards Committee, which heard evidence that included witness statements from virtual-lancaster's John Freeman and Market Trader Peter Corker, argued Coun Barry could not have known about the Morecambe Visitor story when he issued the Green Party release. Therefore, he had released confidential information. Previous news reports had only 'suggested' ASCO was the proposed trader.

Coun Barry, who has been censured by the Standards sub-committee, clearly finds the whole case bizarre. The Green Party describes it as a gross waste of public time and resources.

“My view is and was that the name ASCO was already in the public domain when I mentioned the name," says Jon. "ASCO had been in the front page story of the Lancaster Guardian the week before and was widely being talked about by market traders and a number of news websites such as virtual-lancaster.”

“ASCO had confirmed they were the company to the Morecambe Visitor several days before my press release went out. Everyone and their dog was talking about ASCO.”

“I think that to go through all of this procedure was a very bad use of the Council officers’ time," added Jon. "The authority is faced with £2.4 million of cuts in the coming financial year and the last thing it should be doing is prosecuting councillors over trivial matters that were already well known to the public.”

“I think that the sub-committee recognised that my ‘crime’ was of very little practical consequence. The censure I received seems to be the legal equivalent of being slapped round the face with a wet haddock.”

“I'm very glad that ASCO did get into the public domain," commented Coun Chris Coates. "If the Council had had its way and kept the whole thing secret then it would never had been revealed what a huge risk ASCO would have been. The company was founded last year by a man who had already been involved in a string of failed ventures including a football club and newspaper in Darwen. He has since been disqualified from being a company director.

"ASCO already had several county court judgements against it and the lowest possible credit rating when officers proposed the deal over the market. Lancaster City Council voted to reject in the deal in March, and ASCO went bust because of debts from its only existing supermarket in Warrington in May.”

The Council has been questioned in detail about the whole matter of the way the ASCO deal was reached but despite the huge amount of publicly available information about ASCO's director Ted Ward before the Council's Cabinet agreed to push forward with the deal back in February, the conduct of the officers involved still seems to remain impossible to call into question.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

In Review: Chess

The huge amount of information on the internet about Chess shows that critical reception of this 1980s musical has been mixed. Despite going along with an open mind and in positive mood, this AV Productions' version I'm afraid left me on the negative side of the fence.

I would hazard a guess that this was in part because of the musical itself. The subject matter is interesting - the international chess tournaments of the 1980s, which held real propaganda value for both sides. Politics and musicals do go well together, and defections are common in both.

Yet the love elements of Chess seem unconvincing, shallow, and not at all moving. Just what compels Florence Vassy (manager and lover of American chessmaster Frederick Trumper) to leave Frederick for Anatoly Sergievsky (the Russian chessmaster) in the first place? And then to go back to Frederick? And Anatoly to return to his wife Svetlana who takes him back with barely a murmur? What?

Tim Rice's lyrics come across as sometimes prosaic, sometimes overdone, and sometimes simply cheesy. Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus's harmonies occasionally echo those of the earlier Jesus Christ Superstar, but never in the same inspiring way (or perhaps that was the production).

In this production of Chess, there seemed to be an overall problem with sameness. The set itself barely changed, and, ususually, most of the characters were on stage most of the time. Because the stage of the Grand is so small, this often came across as cramped and confusing - given that the dramatis personae included the 'Chess company' as well as the main cast members. The songs lacked variety of pitch, most being sung loudly rather then quietly. The smoke machine was on lightly throughout, to no obvious purpose.

What else? There were minor technical errors, and, more seriously, errors of timing. Because there were no explict scene changes, the locations were announced, often by the Arbiter (Andy Vitolo): innovations like this do sometimes work, but this one jarred. Jeremy Clark reached the high notes in 'Pity the Child', but not in a mellifluous way.

Let me finish with the strengths, because there were strengths. There are some excellent voices in this company, and I would single out Michael Cosgrove (Anatoly) and Mairi-Claire Connor (Florence) here. Cosgrove's rendition of 'Back where I started' (actual title 'The anthem?') was excellent, and, Chess's most famous song, the beautiful 'I know him so well', sung by Mairi-Claire Connor and Gemma Palmer (Svetlana Sergievsky), proved to be worth waiting for.

Jane Sunderland

• Chess was performed at Lancaster Grand Theatre, St. Leonardgate, Lancaster LA1 1NL. Box office 01524 64695. Web:

• AV Productions on Facebook: Vitolo Productions
• AV Productions on Twitter:!/A_V_Productions
• AV Productions on MySpace: