Friday, 19 November 2010

"Bring Down this Unelected Government!" Anger Grows as Cuts Protests Planned:

‘Bring down this unelected coalition government’, was the message repeated again and again at a packed meeting on Thursday evening organised by Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts.

Union members, public sector workers, community organisations and students demonstrated a level of agreement which began by being surprising and ended by being inspiring as one person after another got up to describe their experiences. Working people losing both their livelihoods and their pensions; the poorest teenagers losing the Education Maintenance Allowances that make it possible for them to stay on in education after 16; essential public services such as midwifery being cut; the resource – grabbing that was being encouraged in the privatisation of education and of the government and its attendant media’s attempts to divide different groups against each other.

One man spoke of the fear in his workplace of reprisals for being involved in union activity when jobs were being cut. But he believed it would be too late for people who were compliant now to get angry later when their jobs were gone and their sacrifices exploited.

The fact that that no-one had voted for this coalition government meant it had no authority or mandate to attack every part of society and dismantle within months an infrastructure that had taken generations of struggle to establish. It had become clear to many that the government acted for a rich multinational elite whose sole interest was to strip every asset from this country on a pretext of debt that they themselves had amassed.

A common thread was anger against companies such as Vodaphone which owes around £6 billion in unpaid taxes, which, to the disgust of the Inland Revenue, the government simply wrote off, preferring to cut services and keep low income families from education instead. And then they made the Vodaphone finance officer Andy Halford a government advisor on Business Tax Rates.

Many people spoke in favour of direct action and mass protest, and were positively received by the 250-strong audience in a way that is unprecedented in any public meeting that anyone present could recollect. There was a strong consensus against passively waiting for the axe to fall.

A number of events are planned and all are invited.
Friday 20 November: Students picket University Council Meeting on campus.

Wednesday 24 November: BBC presenter David Malone gives two talks in Lancaster on how the National Debt came about and exactly how the government let the financiers walk away with all the money and started forcing the people to take on their debt. 1pm at Lancaster Library, 7.30pm at the Gregson Centre.

Saturday 4 December. 12 noon. Mass Protest Rally in Market Square, Lancaster, which, coincidentally, happens to be where Vodaphone have a shop.

Dismay as Tesco finally comes to town

An photograph of the artist's impression of Lancaster's new Travelodge, courtesy of Tim Hamilton-Cox.
When local businesses go under now that Tesco have finally got their way and will open a Metro store in Lancaster, remember it was Councillor Roger Sherlock who proposed approving their plans - united with fellow Labour councillors and Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues at this week's Planning Committee.

Despite the evidence presented that granting Tesco permission for a Metro store on the ground floor of the new Travelodge in Spring Garden Street, due to open next month, would cause traffic problems and affect independent traders, Sherlock proposed accepting the plans, which were then backed by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors on the Council's Planning committee.

Green and the Morecambe Bay Independents councillors voted against the plans on Monday.

Sherlock, a councillor for Skerton West Ward, even went so far as to dismiss traffic concerns - Tesco might deliver to their store up to 14 times a day - with today's Lancaster Guardian reporting him claiming this wouldn't be a problem, because only buses and taxis used Spring Garden Street.

His views have already angered Guardian readers. "A Tesco Express opened on a busy main road through a village I know," says one in an online comment on the web version of the news story. "They promised they wouldn't deliver at peak times. They promised they wouldn't use large lorries to make the deliveries. They made promises on opening hours so as not to affect other businesses.

"They lied on every single one of those and the subsequent traffic chaos was astonishing... Expect the City Centre to seize up on a more regular and spectacular basis from now on."

"Tesco has evolved in the last 30 years from plucky underdog to corporate bully," feels Tim Hamilton-Cox, a local cyclist who presented detailed objections to the Planning Committee. "I am in favour of a mixed economy – both in terms of ownership and scale: but Tesco has nearly a third of the UK grocery market already and is now seeking to hoover up convenience store sales with its Express format.

"The Tesco Express on King Street could have a turnover of £3.5m, based on data supplied by White Young Green to the council. According to a study by Tesco itself, a third of an Express store’s turnover comes from local, independent stores. Even if it is only £1.2m (and it could well be a lot more), that is a lot of turnover to lose between the last independent greengrocer; the city centre florist; food stalls in the market; and the newsagents and convenience stores in and around the city centre.

"An impact of this scale could undermine the vitality and viability of the independent sector in the city centre and on its fringes," he feels. "Local traders in Leicester city centre have recently seen for themselves the damaging impact of a new Express store in their midst."

The officers’ report presented to the Planning Committee did not discuss the retail impact of Tesco's potential arrival, presumably because planning policy rightly favours directing retail developments to town centre sites. "Few have objected to the redevelopment of the cinema site and the additional retail units if there’s a demand for them," Tim notes. "But other councils (for example in Darlington and Barnet) have resisted Tesco Express stores on the basis of the planning policy principle of protecting the vitality and viability of their own town centres."

Regardless of councillors position on Tesco in principle, support for independent traders was not among the reasons why their application has been slated for refusal by officers in the past.

These reasons have concerned highways congestion, highways safety and cycling infrastructure, but the report councillors on Monday that led to permission being granted failed to discuss many of these issues, becuase, Tim feels, misleading representations from the developer prompted a change of tack.

Sadly, councillors decided not to defer a decision in order to allow a full analysis of the issues to be presented before a final decision was made. Those protesting at the plan feel the developer should have been made to submit a new highway safety audit, a Transport Assessment and an Air Quality Assessment and note that Tescos won't be the only store taking deliveries at the new premises.

Despite presented evidence and reports from other Councils on how the supermarket chain have behaved when a store opens, councillors voted in favour of the plan and Tesco will be coming to town very soon.

Tescopoly: Every Little Hurts

Former Hornby Head Teacher Goes Green

Former head of Hornby High School Caroline Jackson has announced that she is intending to stand as a Green Party candidate in Lancaster's John O'Gaunt Ward in the 2011 City Council elections.

"Over the last 20 years, working with many, many parents and young people from all over Lancaster has given me great insight into the problems and ambitions they have for the area and for the future," says Caroline.

"For many years I've been uncomfortable with the throwaway society, with its huge inequalities and disregard for the impact on nature.

"On these and other green issues, I now feel I must stand up and be counted and work for the best possible future for people in Lancaster."

Pursuing these aims, Caroline has been a member of Transition City Lancaster for a year and co-ordinated their launch back in April. Sh also helps create their monthly Diversity Radio programme.

"To me, only the Green Party addresses the real issues of today – I respect the way the local party puts local people and local issues first and want to be part of the team of councillors that serves John O’Gaunt and the whole city."

Lancaster and District Green Party web site

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Morecambe FC kick start new Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's Supermarket opening, Morecambe with Store Manager Martin Corban (left) and Morcambe FC manager Sammy Mcllroy Image courtesy Sainsbury's. © Chris Bull/ UNP 01274 412222

Morecambe FC helped to kick off Sainsbury’s newest store opening in Morecambe today.

Manager Sammy McIlroy, players, and team mascot Christie the Cat joined in the celebrations as the store celebrated its opening, providing employment to more than 280 locals.

“As the store is on the site of where the football ground once stood, what better way to mark the site’s heritage than inviting the team to cut the ribbon?" said Store manager Martin Corban. "We’ve even erected a plaque on the site of the old centre spot.

“We’re delighted The Shrimps are helping us to kick things off this week, and are hopeful that the store will score with the customers. We’re proud to be able to offer not only high quality groceries, homeware and entertainment products, but also a real career opportunity to so many locals who are joining us.”

The 40,000 sq ft space features hot food and pizza counters, salad bar, pharmacy, plus large TU clothing, homeware and entertainment sections. The store also has a mezzanine café, 370 car park spaces, and offers Sainsbury’s Click and Collect service, which gives customers the freedom to order garden and homeware products not available in store and pick them up at a time convenient to them.

Joining the football team in the celebrations were pupils from Lancaster Road school choir, as well as representatives from the store’s new charity partner. A Breath for Life, the hyperbaric oxygen treatment centre, will be presented with a cheque for £250 to mark the start of support from store.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Ready, steady… go, Santa, go!

With just over a week to go until Santa Dash 2010 - Lancaster’s festive fun run that marks the start of the city’s Christmas celebrations – it’s time to dust off your jingle bells and get in on the action.

For the first time in many years, the city is getting a Christmas tree for all to enjoy in Market Square and the first child across the Santa Dash finish line will get to flick the switch on the tree’s lights. There’s also a fantastic line up of live musical entertainment in Market Square and late night shopping so it’s the perfect occasion to bring out that festive feeling.

The dash starts from Salt Ayre sports centre at 6.00pm on Thursday 25th November so there’s plenty of time to get there after school or work. Why not get a group of your colleagues, friends or family together and take advantage of the special rates for group entries? Advance entries qualify for a discount but don’t worry if you just don’t managed to get organised in time… you can still turn up at Salt Ayre on the day to register.

The short, flat route from Salt Ayre Sports Centre, along the traffic-free riverside path into the city is suitable for all ages and abilities and is fully accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

If running’s not your thing, that’s fine… it’s not a race and you won’t be timed so whether you run, jog, walk, dance, prance or jingle all the way is entirely up to you. Last year’s dash saw Santas having three legged races and one Santa on a mobility scooter being towed by a couple of trusty reindeer… anything really does go!

Santa suits for the big kids and reindeer antlers and noses for the under 11’s are included in the registration fee with all proceeds from the event going to local charity, CancerCare.

CancerCare is dedicated to providing free of charge, supportive care to more than 1,500 people in the local area each year who are facing cancer, whether as patients, carers or family members. Demand for their services continues to grow and it is hoped that this event will make a positive contribution to the charity’s fundraising efforts.

• For more information or to register for a place in The Santa Dash & Reindeer Run, check out, look out for flyers in local shops or telephone CancerCare on 01524 381820.

Recession boosts take up of Morecambe Festival Market stalls

With local retailers feeling the pinch as the recession continues and the number of devastating public service cuts continues to grow by the day, business amongst market traders appears to be booming at Lancaster City Council’s Festival Market in Morecambe - although Lancaster Market still seems in the doldrums.

The Council reports three of the six vacant units from its 108 stalls and shops were recently snapped up within one week, introducing new commodities not previously sold at Morecambe’s Festival Market.

One stall holder took the opportunity to expand his hobby and model business to a second stall, selling a wide range of sports equipment including badminton racquets and fishing rods. Another is expanding his kitchenware and household business to a third stall selling sledges and Chinese lanterns.

New to the market, Matthew Cottam has brought Red Rose Mobility aids to the market selling vehicles, walking frames and other accessories.

“I decided to set up my business at the Festival Market because I really wanted to work for myself and spotted an opportunity in Morecambe," says Matthew. "I feel I can serve the local community as well as those visiting Morecambe and think the Market will be the perfect venue for my commodity. The rents are reasonable, there’s a good footfall from both tourists and those living in the area and great access for the disabled.”

Although times are difficult it is reassuring that we continue to receive daily enquiries to join the Festival Market," notes Festival Market Manager Tracey Bruce. "The support of the local community is very important to the market's success and if anyone else is interested in taking a stall, they should contact me as soon as possible. We only have two vacancies remaining.”

All of which begs the question - if the Festival Market is such a success, what on earth is happening at Lancaster Market, where many stalls remain empty? What is the Festival Market management doing right that, it could be argued, Lancaster Market's management is not?

• All the new stalls on the Festival Market will be up and running by 18th November. For further details contact Tracey on 01524 414251, send an email to or visit