Saturday, 28 May 2011

Lancaster Slutwalk Makes Herstory!

A personal report:
Something happened today that we haven't seen in years, and I've never seen with such strength in Lancaster. Women marching together as women against sexual violence and for justice for women. Around 100 women and at least 20 men (several of whom supported the march by serving as stewards) joined the Lancaster Slutwalk, marching through Lancaster to denounce that British legal mindset that lets too many rapists go unpunished and blames the victim for the crime.

Women have been told, and many believe, that 'dressing like sluts' is asking for victimisation. Women's bodies are increasingly seen as 'porn', the female body a shameful thing, contraband that a 'decent' woman smuggles along as she goes about her business, or risks the blame for persecution. Images of women's objectified bodies are used to sell every object under the sun, creating appetites that can't be satisfied, with the delusion that they must.

It was a very noisy march, with a lot of chanting: 'Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!' And 'Hey ho, hey ho, patriarchy has to go!' and 'Slut, slag, cow whore, we won't take it any more!' Chants had been suggested at an organising meeting and approved. The latter of the three was gallantly started off by a very earnest male marcher with a meg.

There'd been some (fairly wary) heckling on the internet, and some fear expressed too that this blatant wearing of short skirts and fishnets might 'attract abuse'. That it was playing into the hands of 'sleaze seekers'.

It didn't. Shoppers on Penny Street, and throughout the route, women and men, stopped, and looked, and actually smiled. Some of the younger ones looked a bit confused, but interested. The older ones clearly understood (and heard) what all these marching, chanting women were about. Almost with pent-up relief, it looked like. I heard cheering and applause. I saw some serious nodding and some smiling approval. Or amusement. I heard a voice warm with support call, 'It's about time too!' Well, you had to be there.

The march ended in a rally in Dalton Square, where a crowd listened rapt to speakers, enthusiastically cheering points. It helped considerably that the speeches were good. What follows is my personal summary / mashup of those speeches:

Ellie Best, one of the Lancaster Slutwalk's original organisers spoke about the lack of interest or training shown in parliament when this issue is debated. That the Secretary for Justice, without research evidence or consultation, can propose his personal fantasy league of rape, as a means of assessing the rights to justice of victims of non-consensual sexual assault.

Other women and men spoke about means used, the labels and the blame. About the need to speak out against terms that denigrate women as women. Not letting these terms pass in conversations and situations without challenging them, and the objectification and pornification of women that they feed. Indeed, to speak out against any term that denies humanity in others, objectifies them to excuse abuse.

One woman mentioned Nadine Dorries MP. Her 10 minute rule bill calling for 'abstinence to be included in sex education teaching’ has recently been passed in parliament. Nadine's bill calls for girls to be compulsorily taught 'abstinence' in sex ed. Without the boys. Just the girls. If it was the girls sexually assaulting the boys, that plan might come to something. As the girls actually don't get to say who rapes them, that being the essence of rape, it's a further callous abuse of their dignity and value. It is due for its second reading in Parliament on 20 January 2012. That's what parliament thinks of women.

Parliament is consistently loading pressure onto women's jobs, wages, services, healthcare and lives to keep 'the economy' healthy. (Whose economy?) And now wasting taxpayer's money, that we work so hard to earn, teaching girls to blame themselves when they are forced to bear the burden, maybe even the unwanted pregnancy, of someone else's violent crime.

Research studies of offenders show that rapists choose their targets not because of their clothing (the most common outfit of rape victims is jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt), but because they identify a lack of confidence in them. They look for targets they see as being too frightened to fight well, and too traumatised to make a complaint.

Women should complain to the police when a sexual assault is committed. Even if they don't believe they can win their case. A complaint will go on the rapist's record. If he attacks again, a second complaint will resonate against the first, and the case should be better investigated. No man should hope to get away indefinitely with sexually assaulting women.

The attitude of the police was illustrated in 2010 by the case of Raoul Moat, the gunman. When Moat said that when he got out of prison he was going to kill his ex-partner, his warders warned the police in her area. The Northumberland police did nothing. Not even a phone call to warn her, the mother of a small child, both of them trying to rebuild a family life after years of bullying and abuse.

She was his ex, and the current enquiry will investigate this police approach that held her liable to his abuse. It seeems they were busy with more important things. But as it turned out (and as she might have informed them, had they rung her) she had attempted her own defence by lying in a letter to Moat that her new partner was a policeman. So once he'd shot her, he went after policemen as well, shooting her partner and then an actual policeman, who was blinded. At which point the police lept off their sexist cloud and went into full overdrive. Suddenly Raoul Moat was public enemy No.1. One phone call to warn a woman might have changed everything, and saved all those victims. The police didn't make it. And don't they wish they had. The circumstances surrounding Moat’s case are now subject to investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Their report is due in 2012. They welcome your comments.

Ken Clarke and Nadine Dorries have to go, back into the dustbin of old mistakes and crusty ideologies. Men are not beasts, uneducable, unevolved. Is that what the Tories see when they look at themselves? We see the skillful proofs of men's discipline in every walk of life. Women are not prey. We see the skillful proofs of women's discipline in every walk of life. In addition to which they are largely tasked with raising the nation's children, at immeasurable cost. Women are oppressed and it wastes their valuable time, skill and energy, crucial to the nation, the human species and the planet. The world has way too many problems. Only equals can solve them.

Women face sexism in every arena. There are mountains to climb. But the suffragettes had it tougher. If each person that went on this march, and each person who wants this to change, picked a foothill, of their choosing, put some energy into breaking the prejudices on one issue, challenged even one thing, and supported one another, it would make a difference.
Things change. The trick is; never give up.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Recycling boost for Carnforth

Recycling is on the up in the Lancaster district, but there are still some items that cannot be put in the kerbside collection boxes.

Tetra Paks require a specialist recycling process and should be taken to special collection banks.

The good news for Carnforth residents is that there is now a recycling bank for Tetra Paks at Keer Bridge recycling centre.

There are also Tetra Pak banks at Tesco in Morecambe, Asda, the George Hotel in Torrisholme and Greaves Park in Lancaster.

• For more information about what can and can’t be put into your recycling boxes visit

Still Missing: Brook

The owners of a Chocolate Labrador stolen from Forton in April are offering a substantial reward for his safe return.

Four-year-old Brook was taken from his owners' garden on Saturday 16th April and Aubrey and Caroline Hoyles have since mounted a nationwide campaign to try to get him back,  including an appeal on ITV's This Morning earlier this month and leaflets and posters circulated around the Lancaster area.

Brook has a small white fleck on his chest and a slight kink in his tail. It's possible he was picked up and not reported to the Council Dog Warden (which is the law), but his family would dearly love to see him returned and are offering a £2000 reward.

"Brook came to live with us when he was just a few weeks old," says Caroline Hoyle via the Find Brook Facebook Group. "Not only was he a birthday surprise for me, but the first time I met him he had an engagement ring tied around his neck! This makes him even more special to Aubrey and myself.

"He has always had a lovely life with us, and we dread to think what life is like for him now... he will be missing home so badly!"

Since the appeal,  a chocolate Labrador was spotted a week last Tuesday in Elswick, eating a rabbit at the side of the road: and there has also been a sighting in Great Eccleston, much closer to Forton. Neither of course, not be Brook - there are a lot of lost dogs out there - but over 800 people are now helping the Hoyles track him down on Facebook.

• If you have any information about Brook, please call 07721 381975. For more information about Brook, visit his DogLost information page or the Find Brook Facebook Group

• Doglost is a free service run by volunteers reuniting dogs with their owners:

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Go Walkies for Guide Dogs!

Oatie the Guide Dog
The local arm of Guide Dogs for the Blind is organising a "Go Walkies" fun raising event in July.

Taking place on Sunday 17th July 2011, the event starts at 10.00am on Morecambe Promenade, from the Cupid and Venus statue (or Mother and Child statue as some call it) near Morecambe Golf Club.

Registration starts at 10am with walk commencing 10.30am from the go walkies stand. There will be 1, 2 or 3 mile walks to choose from. The route is all flat, paved and has good wheel chair and pushchair access.

The Coastal Road has parking and so does the golf club (please note you may have to pay at some places) and there are lots of cafes along the way.

• For more information call Jackie Manning on 07879 843588 or register online at

Appeal for information after garden thefts in Lancaster

Slynedales, home to Cancer Care - one of
the garden theft victims. Photo: Cancer Care
Police are appealing for information after a series of thefts in Lancaster - including a summer house from the grounds of a much-loved local charity, CancerCare.

Overnight on Tuesday 17th May, two aluminium greenhouse frames were stolen from the allotments on Torrisholme Road. A wheelbarrow and some gardening tools were also stolen from two sheds that were also broken into.

Two nights later, on Thursday 19th May at around 11.00pm another greenhouse frame was targeted. On this occasion, three people were disturbed by one of the plot owners in the process of removing it.

The three people have been described as men, aged between 16 and 19 years old. They were between five foot six inches and five foot ten inches tall and were wearing dark trousers and lighter coloured hooded tops one of which had ‘Adidas’ written on the back.

On the same night (19th May) at around 1.00am, a summer house that was in the process of being built on the site was stolen from the grounds of Slynedales Cancer Care on Slyne Road.

“Each of these thefts is obviously upsetting for the victims," notes PC Nikki Kay who is investigating the crimes, "but in particular, staff and patients at Slynedales Cancer Care are particularly upset and frustrated as the summer house had been donated to them.

“Due to the size of the items taken I believe there is the possibility that there would be a vehicle involved so I would appeal to anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity in the area to come forward and contact police.”

• Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 08451 25 35 45 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

• If you'd like to suport CancerCare visit

Drug dealer jailed for four and a half years

David Owen
A drug dealer who was one of the main suppliers in Lancaster and Morecambe has been jailed for four and a half years.

28-year-old David Owen, from Liverpool, was behind an organised gang selling class A drugs on the streets of the two towns.

Following his arrest in February, he appeared before Lancaster Crown Court yesterday where he pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine and supplying cocaine. He was jailed for four years and six months.

“For many years, Owen was one of the main suppliers of Class A drugs into Lancaster and Morecambe from Merseyside," says Detective Inspector Neil Drummond of Lancaster Police. "This sentence is an excellent result, which has taken the main member of an organised gang off our streets for a number of years.

"The key to dismantling this gang was to remove the principle player and a number of other drug dealers in the ring have also been put before the courts.”

“Drug dealing blights our communities and will not be tolerated," DI Drummond added. "I would urge anyone who has information or concerns about drugs in their neighbourhood to contact us so that we can take action.”

• Information can be given to Lancashire Constabulary on 0845 1 25 35 45, or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.

Appeal after violent Heysham robbery

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward following a violent robbery at an address in Heysham on Sunday.

The offence took place at approximately 11.00p on 22nd May at an address on Robin Crescent, when four men wearing dark clothing and balaclavas forced their way into a house and threatened the occupants with a weapon, described as a machete.

They escaped with mobile phones and a large quantity of cash, running from the premises onto Mossgate Park towards Middleton Road.

Two of the men are described as having Liverpool accents.

Sergeant Colin Forsyth from Lancaster Police said: “This is a very serious offence where thankfully no one was seriously injured.

“I would urge anybody with any information about the identity of the offenders or information about any people or cars acting suspiciously on Windermere Park Estate to contact police.

“I’d also ask people to be vigilant and to report anybody that may have recently obtained a large amount of cash."

• Any information can be treated in confidence. Please call Lancaster CID on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Conservative councillors question council tax rise

Council Revenue Spending Power per
head, 2011-12 - Full size map
(pdf, 1330 kb)
(Updated 27/5/11, figures clarified): The Conservative group on Lancaster City Council has voiced their disapproval of the draft corporate plan and medium term financial strategy which includes the council's aim to keep Council Tax increases to no more than two per cent for 2012/13 and 2013/14.

"In the Conservative campaign literature we promised not to increase council tax and we oppose the Corporate Plan based on these principles," says Councillor Peter Williamson of the Conservative group.

"The main concern that was voiced to the Conservative candidates on the doorstep during the election period was not necessarily the quality of the services the council provides but the level of council tax that people had to pay.

"Many other councils all over the country have managed to freeze council tax and some even to cut it. Why is it that Lancaster City council is unable to do this? It seems this council needs to start living within its means and stop putting their hands into the pockets of the tax payers."

The Group issued their statement just as Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, announced that the public will be given the power to veto excessive council tax rises. A 'spending heat map' issued last week by the government suggests councils' revenue spending across England will be almost £53 billion this year to spend on services, despite the need to reduce the inherited budget deficit.

Figures released by the Government indicate the average Band D council tax set by local authorities in England for 2011-12 will be £1,439, (2010-11 £1,439). The average Band D council tax will be £1,308 in London, £1,399 in metropolitan areas and £1,484 in shire areas and £1,469 in the North West.

The combined Band D rate within the Lancaster City Council area for 2011/12 is £1,510.47  according to figures released, before any discounts such as single occupancy are applied, but is higher in areas such as Wennington, where the Band D rate is £1,562.05.

Data indicating Council tax (average Band D and average per dwelling) and % change: individual local authorities 2011-12 (Excel document) indicates that for Band D households, the overall council tax has risen by one per cent in South Lakeland; 0.3% in Preston; 0.6% in the Fylde; and 0.1% in Lancaster.

The City Council points out that this is the combined overall Council Tax we pay, which, locally, includes elements paid to Lancashire County Council, the police and fire authorities as well as Lancaster City Council.  

The city council's Band D precept in 2011/12 is actually £192.25 of that overall tax and of the 12 district councils in Lancashire, six have higher rates - the highest being Preston at £260, £67.25 more than Lancaster.

However, it's clear the government is out to try and push councils to look toward greater "efficiencies" and "best value" - which probably means we won't see the last of cuts to valued services, which were already under attack from the previous government even before the financial crisis that prompted the Comprehensive Spending Review.

"Despite the need to pay off the budget deficit, councils are spending £53 billion this year, equivalent to an average of £1,000 for every man, woman and child," noted Mr Pickles. "Local taxpayers should now go compare and check they are receiving value for money for the spend they get.

"The poorest areas receive the most money," he claims. "But some of the councils with the best services receive the least. Whether you live in north and south, rural and urban, metropolitan and shire, what people want to see is value for money."

Council Tenants run a fine tooth comb through new housing documents

Tenants of Lancaster City Council have developed a stamp of approval for all housing documents that go out to the public.

All new or updated documents are scrutinised by the new Customer Services and Resident Involvement Quality Group who ensure they are tenant friendly and free of jargon before being published.

The tenants group, which meets at least twice a year, has designed their own “Publication approved by tenants” logo which has already been used to approve the new waiting list application form for Ideal Choice Homes - the new choice based lettings system for rented accommodation in the Lancaster district.

The group are now in the process of reviewing the Tenants Handbook.

All documents that have been checked by the group will carry the logo so that everyone will know that tenants have approved them before they are published.

The City Council is one of the largest providers of affordable rented housing in the district, with responsibility for the management and maintenance of approximately 4,000 homes.

The brief of the new Customer Services and Resident Involvement Quality Group is to review, monitor and make recommendations for improvement to the Tenant Involvement Service and the Customer Care service.

• City Council Housing Information:

City Council 'Quality Groups' Page

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Special Schools should also be academies, says Lancaster MP

Schools specialising in teaching children with special educational needs should also be considered for academy status, according to Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw - and the government appears to agree with him, despite opposition to the sheme already.

Mr Ollerenshaw made his appeal during an education debate in the House of Commons earlier this week.

After asking how many schools had converted, or applied to convert, to academy status in the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency, Lancaster's MP asked the government to ensure that every assistance is given to schools that specialise in teaching children with special educational needs so that they can enjoy the benefits of academy status.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education said he shared a commitment to ensuring that all children, particularly those who have special educational needs, can benefit from these additional freedoms.

"I am working with the Minister of State, Department for Education, Sarah Teather to bring forward proposals to allow special schools to become academies," he told the house.

Academies are publicly funded independent schools, free from local authority and national government control. Other freedoms include setting their own pay and conditions for staff, freedoms concerning the delivery of the curriculum, and the ability to change the length of their terms and school days.

So far, three schools have applied and have opened as academies in Lancaster and Fleetwood: Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Lancaster Girls Grammar School and Ripley St Thomas.

The total number of open academies nationwide now stands at 658, and more than 1,000 schools in England have applied to convert to academy status since June 2010.

Despite the claimed success of the government initiative, the Anti Academy Alliance notes Ministers have have been forced to turn down nearly nine out of 10 applications to set up new schools as part of the Government's flagship education scheme. (Full list here, including Lancashire)

The AAA describes the Academies Act as a "savage attack" on the education system in this country.

"It is an attempt to destroy a democratic, planned, state education system and replace it with a two tier, market driven collection of independent schools at the mercy of education companies driven by profit."

- More about Academy Schools on the Department of Education web site

- Anti Academy Alliance

Scrap Metal Swoop by police

Officers from Lancashire’s neighbouring police forces joined together to target criminals travelling in to the county to sell or steal scrap metal - one of the fastest growing crimes in the country.

Lancashire Constabulary officers worked with those from Cumbria, North Yorkshire and British Transport Police to carry out stop checks on vehicles on the A6 Carnforth and the White Lund industrial estate in Morecambe on Tuesday. A visit was also made to a scrap metal merchant to check the items being brought in by prospective sellers.

Seven vehicles stopped by officers were given prohibition notices for being unroadworthy. Once a prohibition notice has been placed on a vehicle, the driver must repair the defect or submit the vehicle for a full MOT before it can be removed. The vehicle should not be used until this has been done.

Five people are also now subject to investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to benefit issues.

“The theft of metals is a nation-wide problem,"  says Inspector Dave Vickers of Lancashire Constabulary. "Thefts can range from waste metal taken from skips to lead stripped from school roofs, or even parts stolen from cars."

Reporting on thefts in Wiltshire earlier this month, the BBC noted metal theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK. Most commonly, lead, copper pipes and cables are stolen.

The British Metals Recycling Association is working with authorities such as the Association of Chief Police Officers and the British Transport Police to halt the problem of metal being stolen from its members' sites and to identify stolen materials.

“It has become apparent that some criminals are coming into the county to steal scrap metal, or are bringing stolen scrap metal from their own counties into Lancashire in an attempt to try and sell it on without being noticed,” says Inspector Vickers.

“We hold regular operations targeting this kind of criminal activity," he added, "but this most recent operation has shown the benefit of working with neighbouring police forces to share knowledge, intelligence and expertise.”

“The operation was really successful in gathering intelligence of potential offenders," notes Detective Chief Inspector Mike Forrester of Cumbria Police. "Metal theft can be a profitable business and we want communities to be confident that we are doing all we can to target these criminals."

Earlier this year, Channel 4 reported that most of the stolen scrap metal in UK eventually finds its way to the Far East and its value has increased sharply over the last decade.

“Theft of common metals such as copper piping can cause a real disruption for vital everyday services such as water, gas and electricity," Inspector Forrester points out, "and can have a negative impact on local people, so we hope that members of the public will support us and come forward to report suspicious vehicles or individuals.”

• Information about scrap metal thefts can be given to Lancashire Constabulary on 0845 1 25 35 45, or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.

Lancaster City Council seeks your views

Lancaster City Council is inviting residents to submit their ideas on which local issues should be considered by its Overview and Scrutiny Committee this year.

Whether it’s a problem with a local park, a council service or an issue you feel the council should lead on and help to improve, the committee wants to hear from you.

All suggestions will be considered and those which would benefit from further investigation may lead to a task group being formed to focus on the issue and determine the best way forward.

Coun David Kerr, chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: "In recent years various task groups have made a number of recommendations to Council, Cabinet and other agencies, with the intention of helping to make real improvements to the lives of residents in the district. It is therefore important that local people get in touch, let us know what concerns them or how the council can improve the services it provides."

If you have a particular issue that you wish to be examined in this way, please send it to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, c/o Democratic Services, Town Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ, by email to or telephone 01524 582065.

All the meetings are open to the public and normally held at Morecambe Town Hall.

• For further information on the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, visit

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lancaster Slutwalk - A Rose by Any Other Name....

This Saturday 28 May will see a 'Slutwalk' march organised by students and local women taking place in Lancaster, assembling at 1pm in The Thurnham St Carpark (note new location, across the road and a bit uphill from the Kwikfit garage) to march together through Lancaster City Centre. The Slutwalks, in which women march dressed as they choose, currently taking place in cities throughout Canada, the US and Europe, began in Toronto, where Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti had been giving a talk on health and safety to a group of students at Osgoode Hall Law School when he made the now infamous remarks.

"You know, I think we're beating around the bush here," he reportedly told them. "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this - however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised."

Tired of 'slut-shaming'
Sanguinetti has since apologised, but on their website, Slutwalk Toronto state:

"We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

"We are tired of speeches filled with lip service and the apologies that accompany them. What we want is meaningful dialogue and we are doing something about it:

"With your help, SlutWalk has become a mechanism for increased dialogue on victim-blaming, slut-shaming, misogynist and oppressive ideas that need to be challenged."

Can you reclaim a term of abuse?
Dialogue has been intense in Lancaster women's circles, as getting behind a label that has invariably been experienced as abusive is not an easy choice. While words like 'hag' or 'witch' historically had positive connotations there for the reclaiming, the concept of 'sluttishness' has never been good news for women, with its implications of dirtiness, failure, lack of control and sexual exploitability.

Is it ok for a woman to dress revealingly? Are human rights down to a fashion choice? If one is tried for beating up a man in a pub carpark, could it be a defence to point out that he was dressed in trackies? Asking for it? Women's clothes in the 21st century are certainly more revealing than their great, great grandmothers' were. Does that make it their fault if someone rapes them?

Just keep smiling and bring in the pudding
Rape is the great mixed dinner party conversation-killer, filling a room with clumsy elephants of violent imagination. It probably used to be the same talking racism in the Deep South while the cook was still in the room. And which is tougher, to be denigrated by strangers as a slut, or to be denigrated by colleagues as a feminist? Too slack or too uptight? The dialogue is a challenge.

The potential inference of sluttishness is crafted by usage to shape the rape victim's shameful fear. We say 'Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!' But even so, if the chips rain down, how confident can we be that those around us will not see us as beslutted? Marked out? Then how do you deal with other people's projections of shame and still get that promotion? Make that sales presentation? Make out? Deal with any gender-related subject without being seen as 'warped'?
How does one own a rape one didn't commit? How do one's kids? Or partner?

The Ken Clarke 'men are naturally pigs' theory
The Ken Clarke theory of rape 'seriousness' boils down to a notion that the more friendly a woman is, the more she is setting herself up for rape, for women are forever understood to be a target, as men are just immutably men (ie driven by hormones to be greedy, selfish, bullying pigs) etc. The Taliban operate on similar principles.

It's fair to say that more women are raped by people that they know, and that it can be almost impossible to prove against someone one has previously treated as a friend, despite evidence of violence, which requires specialist assessment, in Preston. In the case of date-rape, one can't always tell what a new date's's little predilictions are going to be, until they begin to manifest. If they aren't compatible with yours, and he can't do else, it's reasonable to call it off and go put the kettle on. It's supposed to be a mutual pleasure, not a social service. Guys can change their minds too. It's no excuse for violent assault. So how to address it? Presumably by actually trying. Comments I have read this week include 'at school I was taught how to use a condom safely - but nobody taught me how to ensure that my partner consented - or how to cope with rejection'.

Slut: A woman who can't control men?
In recent history it was a given that men must always press for more and it was the woman's responsibility to draw the lines - and her fault if they were overstepped. It was assumed that women could skillfully address every circumstance, like a lion-tamer in a cage. Failure automatically implied sluttishness, penalised by immediate loss of credibility or value.

Given the relative size and strength of the average male and female though, this is hardly practicable. (I've fought off two violent attacks by strangers, one underwater, and managed to get through a kidnapping by a border guard, but I'm not recommending the experience.) Nor is it necessary. Men, throughout the world, control themselves very well in situations where they have to. The most ardent boyfriend is not generally so driven by hormones that he can't break off even from consensual carousing if his partner's father / brother / headmaster walks into the room. Their 'no' is reflexively understood.

For women to overcome the slut stereotype, men must liberate themselves from the pig stereotype. It's not worthy of them. I've loved a great many men and still do. Every man I care about is so much better than this.

The 'pornification' of female sexuality
Some women have expressed concern that the event might be exploited by the mainstream media in its endless pursuit of the 'pornification' of women's sexuality. Is there any 'respectable' manifestation of female sexuality to which the slut label cannot be applied? (A virgin and child?) Every display is a feast for media pigs. And there's a fear, after having resisted that for years, one could maybe end up slutwalking alongside women pole-dancing in boots and fishnets to perhaps excited non-pc companeros. Is this a liberated choice? I think that's exactly the point. Every woman has equal rights of consent or refusal, from hookers to police chiefs. A builder doesn't have to fix your wall if he doesn't want to, and a hooker doesn't have to have sex when she doesn't want to.
Q, Can women flaunt sexuality without risking the dangerous connotations of the 'slut' label?
A. When there's a few hundred of you together on an anti-rape march, so far, yes.

No means no.
Slutwalk is a declaration that rape is the responsibility of the rapist, not the victim. It doesn't matter what women wear. Collar or cleavage, suspenders or dungarees, stilletos or Docs. Smart or scruffy. Skinny or fat, big breasted or flat. If they are serious or silly. Loud or quiet. Bouncy or steady. Drunk or sober. Nice or nasty. Busy or lazy. Generous or scrounging. Neat or sloppy. Fags or omega 3. X Factor or Question Time. Lager or camomile. Good mother or bad mother. Wise or ignorant. Servile or selfish. Rich or poor, loved or alone. Student or townie, young or old, disabled or acrobat, professional or manual, common or posh. Lesbian or straight. Hooker or nun, partnered, divorced or single. No means no. Suck it up, Ken Clarke.

A great many women - and men - clearly think it's time this issue got more attention. Over 200 people have signed up to attend on the event's Facebook page.
If they do, it will be the first time in history that so many women have acted together on a women's rights issue in Lancaster. When your granchildren ask you, you can say you were there.

So I'm for it whatever its called or whatever they wear. Even if it's pink.

Lancashire County Council face High Court challenge to care cuts

A legal challenge being brought against Lancashire County Council over cuts to care services will be encouraged by a High Court ruling last week that found that Birmingham City Council had acted unlawfully over a decision to cut its provision of care for disabled people (see Guardian report)

The judgment, involving four severely disabled people who brought a test case against Birmingam CC, has widespread implications for local authorities. A disabled person's need for assistance is assessed as 'moderate', 'substantial' or 'critical'. Birmingham planned cuts to care services from all but those whose needs were described as critical.

The Lancashire County Council budget (view budget PDF), passed last January, cut services to all but those whose needs were assessed as 'substantial to critical'. These cuts were expected to save £2.5 million a year for the next two years. Lancashire also approved cuts to spending on personal budgets and home care by £12 million over three years; and to increase revenue from charging by more than £5.5 million over four years.

In practice this meant that thousands of frail elderly or disabled people lost or are to part or all of their services and many more would never come to receive them. Women were particularly affected - not just that many lost paid caring work, but also that the thousands of people, mainly women, supporting disabled friends, neighbours and relatives found their unpaid duties doubled as support was cut, and themselves struggling desperately to cope with this, work, potential redundancy and loss of income and childcare.

One severely disabled gentleman found that he was entitled to help with getting dressed -but not with going to the loo - which was reassessed as a 'health' need, for which he was referred to the NHS! Others have lost help with shopping and cleaning, not just necessary services but also vital human contact points for frail, isolated people. Respite and daycare services to children and adults were also reduced.

While the budget was approved in January, Lancashire CC began implementing them as early as last November.

Justice Walker described Birmingham's policy as potentially devastating and found that the cuts failed to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. He said said there had been a failure to take proper account of the duty to promote equality and that, when setting its budget and altering its eligibility policy, Birmingham had not given proper consideration to the impact on disabled people and had failed to adequately consult on its proposals.

The issue Birmingham council needed to address was "whether the impact on the disabled of the move to critical only was so serious that an alternative which was not so draconian should be identified and funded to the extent necessary by savings elsewhere".

Disabled groups throughout Lancashire protested against cuts to care. In Lancaster's Dalton Square disabled groups held a candle-lit vigil and an all-Lancashire protest march took place in Preston prior to the Budget. A rally was called outside County Hall on the day the budget was passed (see report). Parents of disabled children who were facing cuts to respite care, disabled adults and carers were ejected from the council chamber after attempting to address the council and were ridiculed on BBC’s North West Tonight, by Council Leader Geoff Driver (pictured), who complacently labelled them 'rentamob'.

A disabled Lancashire woman and the parents of two disabled boys – Boy A and Boy D – are seeking judicial reviews of decisions made by Lancashire County Council (see DisabledGo report)

The woman’s case is likely to be heard by the High Court at the same time as the case brought by the parents of Boy A and Boy D over funding for respite care. Irwin Mitchell, the solicitors representing all three claimants, said the way the council had reached its decisions relating to respite care had breached the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the Children Act.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: "We are looking carefully at the Birmingham judgement. Whilst there are some clear differences between their case and the claims brought against us, we will consider any implications it may have for us."

On Thursday 26 May at 7pm in the Gregson, Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts are holding an open organising meeting to prepare for UK mass strike against public sector cuts on 30th June. "We will be organising a rally in Lancaster on the 30th June to unite all the struggles."

See also Protests Planned as County Council to Vote on Service-Slashing Budget for the care budget breakdown.
"Carry on Council" ignoring Government spending warning on new road?

City Council's Cabinet line-up announced

Councillor Elieen Blamire is the new leader
of Lancaster City Council
Lancaster City Council has appointed Coun Eileen Blamire as its new leader for 2011/15. 

Under new executive arrangements, as a result of new legislation, adopted by Council in December last year, the city council’s new Leader, Coun Eileen Blamire was elected by full Council at a meeting held last night (Monday) for a four year period.

Coun Blamire then appointed a Cabinet of a further seven members in a joint administrative arrangement between the Labour Party and the Green Party.

The members of the new Cabinet are:

Leader: Coun Eileen Blamire (Labour) 

Coun Blamire is one of the Councillor for Lancaster's John O'Gaunt Ward along with Richard Newman-Thompson and Elizabeth Scott. She also sits on the Lancaster District Regeneration Partnership and the Planning and Highways Regulatory Committee, and is a a director of The Dukes as well as being a member of Lancaster University Court.

She's also Cabinet Member and Portfolio Holder for Safety, and her remit includes Community Safety, Legal and Human Resources and Governance.

Deputy Leader:  Coun Janice Hanson (Labour)

Coun Hanson represents Morecambe's Habrour Ward along with Ian Pattison and David Whitaker. She also sits on the Appeals Committee and the West End Partnership Management Committee.

Coun Abbott Bryning (Labour)

Coun Bryning reperesents Skerton East along with new Councillor Janet Hall and Robert Redfern. A long standing member of Council, he also sits on Lancaster District Regeneration Partnership, the Luneside East Regeneration Partnership Advisory Board and the Planning and Highways Regulatory Committee.
He also represents Council interests on external bodies such as the Historic Towns Forum and Morecambe Bay Partnership.

Coun Karen Leytham (Labour)

Karen represents SkertonWest along with John Harrison and Roger Sherlock. A Skerton resident, she also sits on the Appeals Committee and is chair of the Council Business Committee.
Coun Ron Sands (Labour) 

Ron represents Heysham North along with Margaret Pattison. Another longtime Councillor with a long record promoting our area as a tourist destination, Ron sits on Council committes such as the Older People's Task Group and the Planning and Highways Regulatory Committee. He also represents the Council on such bodies as the Heysham Nuclear Power Station Local Community Liaison Committee; Lune Valley Transport Enterprise and the West End Partnership Management Committee.

Coun David Smith (Labour)

David represents Westgate Ward along with David Kerr and Vikki Price. He also sits on the Council's Personnel Committee.

Coun Jon Barry (Green)

Jon represents Lancaster's castle Ward with Melanie Forrest and Tracey Kennedy. One of the longest-serving Green Party councillors, he also sits on the Council's Audit Committee and represents the Council on bodies such as Lancashire Waste Partnership and the Marsh Community Centre Management Committee. He has a remit that includes local Markets and the Cycling Demonstration Town Project.

Coun Tim Hamilton Cox (Green)

Coun Cox represents Bulk Ward with Andrew Kay and Ceri Mumford. He' a newly-elected Green councillor with no other committee reponsibilities.

Also elected at the Council meeting were the chairmen of all the council’s committees.

Coun David Kerr was elected as chairman of Overview and Scrutiny, and he is joined by Coun Susan Sykes as Chairman of Budget and Performance Panel.

Coun Keith Budden was elected as chairman of the Planning and Highways Regulatory Committee.

Other Committee chairmen appointed at the meeting were: Coun John Harrison (Licensing Regulatory Committee); Coun Joyce Taylor (Licensing Act Committee); Coun Paul Gardner  (Personnel Committee); Coun Helen Helme (Appeals Committee); Coun Malcolm Thomas (Audit Committee); and Coun Karen Leytham (Council Business Committee).

Labour and Green Party join forces on City Council

The Labour and the Green Party have entered into a joint administrative arrangement to run the Cabinet of Lancaster City Council. 

In a joint statement Councillor Eileen Blamire (newly elected Leader of the City Council) and Councillor Jon Barry (Leader of the Green Party on Lancaster City Council) said:

“We will be working in partnership for a strong Council that maintains frontline services for the people of the Lancaster District and to protect the vulnerable.

“Together we share a number of common principles for the Council including a determination to keep our streets clean and safe, to reduce energy costs and increase income, and to work with Partners to make efficiencies and to strengthen our District in tough times.  We will be working on a list of policy priorities throughout the summer

“We live in a beautiful area and are determined to protect it.”

Monday, 23 May 2011

Vintage Fun This Friday at Lancaster's Assembly Rooms

Lancaster's Assembly Rooms - actually part of Lancaster Market's offering, but nestling between the city's famous alms houses and Crows Restaurant on the other side of King Street - is holding a Vintage Fair this Saturday (28th May).

Stall holders hope this will continue to help promote this lesser-known part of thr market, which recently got a boost thanks to the success of Free Comic Book Day activities organised by First Age Comics.

The Assembly Rooms is a hidden gem of Lancaster's market offer - a heritage building full of stalls selling antiques, retro and vintage clothing and collectibles to fascinate either the obsessive or the investor.

Clara's Vintage Boutique, Bebe Babette, Bab's Antiques and Wonders Fair Trade will all be offering 10% off on the day.

The Assembly Tea Rooms is also on hand, selling home made dishes and hot drinks to slake your appetite while you take a break from shopping or work.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Protests at Lancaster's Miss England Beauty Contest - Stopping the traffic?

When NLP hypnotherapist Mark Darlington organised a beauty pageant for for young, single women without children in Lancaster, he picked the wrong town. Lancaster women mounted a hilarious protest outside the Grand Theatre on Friday, during the Miss Morecambe & Lancaster pageant, with a giant banner and sashes bearing titles such as ‘Miss Behavin’, ‘Miss Chief’ and the like (and in the case of the man supporting the demo ‘MissTer’).

A joke flier bearing a picture of pageant organiser Mark Darlington posed much as a pageant winner might, in a Mr England sash, was much in evidence. It’s safe to say the image was photo-shopped as that union-jack pouch didn’t seem to meet with approval from pageant organisers.

Security was high, with three bouncers on the door, and the Grand’s manager popping in and out like a cuckoo clock to check on the protest. Younger women attending the event came outside to complain to protesters that leaflets handed out to them were being taken off them by security men as they entered. They weren’t being taken from men, or older women. Just young women. Security said they had instructions from the Grand Theatre management, but would not explain why young women alone were being singled out in this way. The manager of the Grand also would not explain why the younger women in the audience were alone in being threatened. Perhaps the women planning to march in this Saturday's 'Slutwalk' protest in the city centre could come up with a reason.

Protesters were much in evidence outside the Grand but people actually attending the contest were very thin on the ground; the handful of competitors, mums and bfs who trickled in would barely have filled a portakabin, let alone the Grand.

The Miss England regional heats are largely run in the North West by hypnotherapist and weight-loss coach, entrepreneur Mark Darlington of MDC Events Ltd, based in Deeside, near Wrexham, also known as Mark Jones.

Looking at the handful of MDC websites (eg for the various Miss England NW heats Mark Darlington organises, it’s difficult to assess what is going on with the pageant. There are few sponsors in evidence and a photographer featured on the Miss Burnley website no longer appears to be trading.

Bizarrely, several Miss England NW websites display tweets from ‘@MissEnglandNW to comedian Sarah Millican such as:
"@SarahMillican75 Loved Chester last night, thank you! See you in June".
A quick look through Millican’s tweets shows no reference whatever to the Miss England pageants, though she was in Chester testing out a TV pilot on the day, and will be trying out her Edinburgh show there in June. It’s not clear why unsolicited fanmail from Mark Darlington’s business twitter to Sarah Millican is featured on a Miss England website. One might almost think he was trying to give an impression that they were connected in some way, although it doesn't feature on his personal twitter.

Round the corner on the same evening the Dukes Theatre was hosting a youth streetdance festival. At 7pm about twenty teenage girls and boys stopped the traffic on Moor Lane with a big, choreographed outdoor piece that drew crowds along the pavements and had everyone clapping along. Without wasting a fortune on hair, nails, eyelashes, nose jobs, shoes and fake tans, they had worked hard to put on a great, witty show, often self-parodying. You couldn’t imagine anyone bullying them.

It’s time the Grand got the 21st century too.
Teenagers stopping the traffic for art and to lift the public spirits is better than teenagers being trafficked for sponsorship. As North West businesses seem to agree.

See Also: Warning! Beauty pageants many be damaging your health.
and This week at the Grand: Girl Traffic

Photo of Mark Darlington from:
'the better way to find a therapist'