Friday, 29 July 2011

Thumbs up for Youth Games 2013?

Labour councillors on Lancaster City Council have given a massive thumbs up to hosting the International Youth Games in Lancaster in 2013. When the Games were last due to be held in the District in 2009 the council withdrew support as a cost-cutting measure.

Now councillor Eileen Blamire, leader of the council, has suggested that the cost could be spread over two financial years.

“All my Labour colleagues were strongly in favour of hosting the games which are likely to cost around £53,000 in total," she says. "We have been sending out teams to our twin towns each year, and not to take our turn in hosting the event every four years would have seemed very unsporting.

"The Games will attract parents, competitors and supporters from our twin towns and will benefit our visitor economy," she argues. "They will provide a uniquely rich experience for participants and spectators alike”.

“Competitors are not just confined to sports like athletics, badminton, rowing, tennis and swimming, but will also provide opportunities to participate in cultural activities such as drama, dance and music," added Councillor Ron Sands, cabinet member responsible for young people said. "There will also be provision for youngsters with disabilities”.

“The window of opportunity for schoolchildren at these games is very narrow," Coun Blamire notes. "If we did not host the games in 2013 those children would be denied an opportunity that they will remember for the rest of their lives”.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Police appeal after Lancaster road rage incident

Police are appealing for information to help identify the driver of a Ford Mondeo who was involved in a road rage incident in Lancaster earlier this month - who might be a local care worker.

The incident happened around 4.45pm on Monday 4th July on Owen Road, Lancaster near to Skerton High school when the female driver of a blue coloured car, possibly a Ford Mondeo got out of her car and approached the female driver of a car which had pulled in front of her at traffic lights.

The woman shouted abuse at her and slapped her across her face before walking back to her car and driving away.

The victim, a 19 year old girl from Heysham suffered a minor facial injury but was left badly shaken by the incident.

Geographic Inspector Sheralee Duckworth said: “Enquiries to trace the driver of the car are on-going but I am hoping that someone will be able to identify the woman.

“She has been described as aged between 30-40 years old, with brown hair worn in a bun and was wearing a blue coloured carers uniform showing a white motif with the initials NFDK.

“We have been given a partial registration number of the offenders vehicle which we believe is similar to ‘Y947’ and so we would appeal to anyone who may either recognise the descriptions of the woman and the car or who may have seen anything at the time to come forward and contact police.”

• If anyone has any information can contact police on 01524 63333 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Lancaster man in court on burglary charge

James Stovold, 28, of Windholme Close, Lancaster, will appear at Lancaster Magistrates Court today charged with an offence of burglary with intent to steal.

This relates to a distraction burglary at the home of an elderly female at Green Lane, Lancaster on 27th July 2011.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lancaster City Council more than ready for "armchair auditors"

Lancaster City Council is prepared for a potential army of 'armchair auditors' set to be unleashed on their books after recent announcements by the government.

Earlier this week, the government announced the launch of a new online search engine that shows local taxpayers when they can inspect their council's detailed financial spending and ledgers as part of greater public transparency.

Every council is required by law to make its accounts available to the public for 20 days a year. This includes every invoice, payment and receipt registered in the council's ledgers. It applies to all expenditure, not just amounts over £500.

The aim of the government's search engine is to help residents and armchair auditors to find out when they have a right to inspect and directs them to the relevant information for the open day period for over 280 councils - usually on a Council's web site.

Ministers have said they would like to see all councils sign up to the catalogue. Accounting rules have already been amended to require councils to publicise these little known rights to inspect.

For the majority of taxpayers the window of opportunity to see these documents is open now or due to begin shortly. Government minister Eric Pickles is urging citizens not to miss out on the chance to view their council's books.

"Transparency is the foundation for a strong local democracy," he noted. "It strengthens the hand of citizens by opening up the processes that show where their council tax goes. It helps councils do more for less, protect frontline services and save taxpayers' money.

"For the next few weeks, Town Hall ledgers across the country are open to the scrutiny of armchair auditors. Every concerned citizen should use this opportunity to dig into the intricacies of their council's coffers."

For all the fanfare about this search engine, almost every English local council is ready for scrutiny, including Lancaster.

The city council’s external auditor has appointed Monday 1st August 2011 as the date from which any local government elector for the city council of Lancaster may exercise their rights under sections 15 and 16 of the Audit Commission Act 1998, to request an opportunity to question the auditor about or to make objections to the accounts for the year ended 31st March 2011.

"The council always publicises the annual inspection of accounts period," a Council spokesperson told virtual-lancaster, "both in the local press and on the council's website.  In addition, we publish all spend over £500 on a monthly basis."

More than 1,000 celebrate start of Olympic countdown

More than 1,000 local people took part in over 40 sports, art and games events taking place across the Lancaster district as part of the 2012 Open Weekend.

The Open Weekend took place from 22 to 24th July and saw over 20 clubs and community organisations join forces with Lancaster City Council to give residents access to free activities.

This year was the first time that the Open Weekend took place within the district and event organiser Stuart Glover was thrilled at the results.

“The Open Weekend could not have happened without the support of the local sports clubs across the district," he said. "In volunteering their time and their facility space, we have made sure that more than 1,000 people got to experience activities that they may not have tried before.

"In the run up to the London 2012 Olympics next year, it’s great to see so many people want to get involved with sport. This year’s Open Weekend has kick-started a great year of sport within Lancaster and Morecambe and we’re thrilled to announce that we will be doing the same event next year.”

• To register your club or venue’s interest in taking part in next year’s Open Weekend 2012 please visit or call 01524 582854.

Summer time... and burglary is easy...

It seems hot weather is finally upon us, so it's time for the annual reminder not to leave windows open and doors unlocked when you leave your home in a bid to beat the burglars.

Police warn that the warm weather provides a temptation to leave windows open for ventilation purposes – but this can also provide an opportunity for a thief to gain easy access to your home.

They're also asking residents to make sure that their front doors are locked if they are enjoying the sunshine in your back garden. At this time of year, there is often an increase in 'sneak-in’ thefts, where the thief has entered a property by an insecure front door, whilst the occupant is out enjoying the sunshine – even if it is just in their own garden. (This happened to my Mum - Ed)

Residents are also reminded to put away any tools which they have been using, as they can be used to break into either your home or someone else's property. Check that sheds and garages have substantial locks and padlocks and even consider marking their postcode on tools and other gardening equipment as this will make property identifiable and therefore create a further deterrent to theft.

Jan Brown, crime prevention officer, said: "I hope that people will heed the crime prevention advice and always leave their homes secure each time they leave the property empty. The risk of burglary may be greatly reduced, just by closing windows and locking doors."

• Further crime prevention advice can be obtained from your local police station or the Lancashire Constabulary website

Visiting Views: Morecambe Seagulls

Lancaster and Morecambe gets plenty of visitors -- and many of them come armed with cameras. One recent visitor is Indian photographer Mridula Dwivedi, who happened to be in Morecambe during the Kite Festival, and took this fabulous photo of seagulls in the Bay earlier this week - which she's kindly given us permission to publish here.

"I started 'Travel Tales from India', my India Travel Blog, quite reluctantly," she tells us. "But it has become an anchor for my writing now.

'Travel Tales' was named best travel Indiblog at the India Weblog Awards in 2007 and her blog has also been praised by the BBC and the Guardian.  In December 2010 she featured in a National Geographic Skoda Yeti Video.

"I have two passions," she reveals. "To travel in India (mostly) and then talk about it. My second passion is reading.

"I got thoroughly interested in birds after I bought a 70-300mm zoom lens," she explains. "A list of all the birds I have clicked till date."(It's an impressive list).

• All of Mridula's stories published at Gonomad can be viewed from this writer profile page. You can contact her via mridulablog at gmail dot com.

• Photograpgh © 2011 and Mridula Dwivedi used with full permission

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Winmarleigh burglary victim receives apology from offender

A teacher whose home was burgled while she slept has received an apology after meeting with the thief who targeted her house.

Victoria Draycott lost valuable and sentimental items in the raid on her Winmarleigh (between Lancaster and Garstang) home in May 2009. Although some of her property was later recovered, she was left feeling vulnerable and wanted to know why she had been selected as a victim.

The 27-year-old man who broke into her home was later jailed but on his release from prison he agreed to discuss why he had committed his crimes with a number of the victims he targeted. This restorative justice approach, where a victim and an offender are brought together to talk things through, is often used to give victims the chance to gain closure over an incident and to help offenders think about their behaviour and how it has affected others.

Victoria met with the man at a police community building in Lancaster and found their discussion extremely useful.

“Victoria had felt as though she had been specifically targeted," explained PC Phil Ladlow, who chaired the meeting. "Understandably, she worried that her home may have been watched for some time before the actual break-in and felt uneasy that strangers had been in her home. When she met the offender, he apologised for causing her such distress and explained that he had been high on drugs when he committed his crimes, picking houses at random just to fuel his habit.

“Talking this through put Victoria’s mind at rest and she feels as though she can put it behind her and move on.”

“It was an emotional meeting and the offender himself was anxious that Victoria would be angry with him," he added, "but in fact she was very understanding and accepted his apology.

"Seeing the distress he had caused to another person made the offender really consider his actions and will hopefully prevent him from carrying out further crimes.”

Folk at the Gillow: August line-up revealed

There's another great line up of folk music planned for Lancastr's Robert Gillow pub next month. Here's the rundown...

Thursday 4th August: Paul Reynolds with special guest, Howard Haigh

Paul Reynolds is usually listed under: “Acoustic World Music, Acoustic Percussive Guitar, Acoustic Jazz, Acoustic Blues, Contemporary” or such like. Actually, he just plays what he enjoys but does it much, much better than most.

Howard Haigh will be known to all acoustic music fans. He plays classical, flamenco, folky, jazzy guitar with an exceptionally large dose of genius.

Thursday 11th August: Pete Scott

The following review, we think, sums Pete up very well. “Pete Scott showed what a marvellous performer he is with a mixture of serious contemporary songs and funny songs, interlaced with a spoken delivery that often had the audience splitting their sides. He has a terrific, easy voice, is masterful with the guitar and is blessed with an amazing sense of humour that held the audience in the palm of his hand for the far-too-brief hour long set.

'So get to see this artist as soon as you can. You are guaranteed a terrific night’s entertainment and, like this audience, you will be chuckling for a long time to come!”

Thursday 18th August: Pat Simmons

Local multi-instrumentalist, singer and digital artist Pat Simmons comes to the Gillow to celebrate his 65th birthday. The organisers are sure he will sing, play the guitar, the fiddle and the whistle at various times -- and are equally sure he will play some traditional folk songs and tunes, some blues numbers and some original compositions.

"We are not sure, however, if the evening will be a solo performance or whether other friends will come and lend a musical hand – and actually neither is he," they add. "But.. it will be excellent music and it will be a party and you are invited!"

Thursday 25th August: Paul Pearson and Friends

Sheffield-based, Paul is known amongst his friends as the Steel Town Troubadour. He's an ace guitarist, writer and singer of songs both contemporary and traditional. He usually plays with his trio - him, a bazouki player and a harmony singer who also plays fiddle and flute - but tonight’s performance may involve some other musicians.

The last time he was in Lancaster we are told: “he certainly captivated the audience when he appeared at The Platform as a support and I seem to recall the words 'spellbinding' and 'pin drop' in the review”.

• The Robert Gillow is at 64 Market Street, Lancaster, LA1 1HP. Tel: 01524 36092. Official web site:

Animals seized in Morecambe raid after dog attacks

Dog owners are being urged to think carefully about their choice of pet and its subsequent care after two animals were seized in a police raid.

The dogs, believed to be pit bull cross breeds, were confiscated from an address in Deanpoint, Westgate, Morecambe, after police executed a dangerous dogs warrant at the property on Friday 15th July and the dog owner has now been cautioned for possession of a dog dangerously out of control in public.

Police were acting on complaints from local residents after two people suffered dig bites.

“The dogs were being allowed to roam free in the garden when their owner was out, but the property’s fences and gates were not substantial enough and the dogs would then get out into the street," explains PC Robert Brookbanks, Poulton's community beat manager.

“On two occasions people were bitten by the animals, causing injuries which fortunately were not too serious – although this may not have been the case if it was a child that had been bitten.”

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act and other legislation, it is an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place or in a private place where it is not allowed to be. In addition, the ownership of certain types of dog, such as the Pit Bull Terrier, is prohibited. It is also an offence to breed from, sell or exchange (even as a gift) a prohibited type of a dog.

“Owners need to carefully consider the type of dog they are getting before they bring home a pet," he added. "They need to consider if they have the resources and energy to look after the dog properly, train it thoroughly and then keep it under control.

"Pets should not be bought purely as a status symbol, they need love and attention as in the wrong hands they can become dangerous.”

• If you have concerns about dogs in your area you can contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or the council dog warden 01524 582 757.

Dogs that are banned in the UK 

Advice on controlling your dog in public

City Council backs broadband rollout to rural communities

Lancaster City Council will host a workshop in Hornby on Monday 8th August so rural communities can discuss the future of superfast broadband.

Lancashire County Council is leading on a new project to improve broadband provision across the county, a venture supported by the City Council on the basis that rural communities in the Lancaster area will be the first to benefit.

The meeting on will hear from two companies - BT and Commendium - who are bidding to take the project forward.

Earlier this month, telecommunications watchdog Ofcom instructed BT to cut wholesale prices for broadband in the countryside. Money Today reported that BT still remains the only internet provider in nearly two thirds of its 5,500 exchanges, which serve 12% of the UK population - and rural internet users currently pay up to £15 per month more than their urban counterparts for their service.

Commendium, who have offices in Penrith, Omagh and Belfast, are a well established business engaged in the improving of communications between clients and their customers. You can download their brochure here (PDF link).

Rural communities are being offered the chance to hear more about the project, discuss the issues and put forward their own views.

Several councils across the UK are preparing bids in connection with the roll out of rural broadband that are being co-ordinated by the Department of Media and Culture, which took on full responsibility for Broadband rollout across the UK from the Broadband Delivery UK department earlier this year.

Cumbria County Council completed its tender process for broadband services in May.
Computing UK notes that the  government pledged £530m last November to ensure that 90 per cent of households in each local authority could access super-fast broadband as part of its Comprehensive Spending Review.

Computing UK also reports that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has also gone out to tender for up to 12 suppliers to participate in a framework agreement that will support the roll out of rural broadband until 2015. The framework is set to last for up to four years and is estimated to be worth between £750m and £2bn.

• The workshop will take place at the Hornby Institute, Main Street, Lancaster LA2 8JR and will start at 5.30pm. Anyone who is interested in taking part in the workshop should telephone 01524 582375 or email to reserve a place.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Views sought on local poll review

Voters are being asked to comment on future polling arrangements in the Lancaster City Council area. 

The Council is reviewing its arrangements for voters on polling day by reviewing polling districts and places.

It is looking for feedback on any aspect of polling districts and/or polling places currently used - and a map of current polling districts and places can be found at

Alternatively, contact the elections office on 01524 592915 or email

The deadline for responding to the consultation is 31st August 2011

Police appeal after Morecambe teenager killed in M6 crash

Middleton teenager Hayley Marie McGinn, who was killed in a road traffic accident on the M6 this weekend

Police are appealing for witnesses following a fatal road traffic collision on the M6 in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The victim has now been named as 19-year-old Hayley Marie McMinn from Middleton, Morecambe.

The incident happened at around 3.40am this on the Southbound carriageway of the M6 between Barnacre and junction 33. Hayley's silver Ford Ka somehow lost control and skidded on the road before colliding with the banking on the side of the road.

Hayley received multiple injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Hayley was full of life; she was loved so much by her family and friends and lived life to the full, with never a dull moment," her family have said in a public statement.

"She will be sadly missed by her mum, dad sister and brother.”

The carriageway remained closed until 9.20am to allow Accident Investigation to carry out their work.

“I would appeal to anyone who was on the M6 at the time and witnessed what happened to come forward," urged Sergeant Sean Cunningham from the Road Policing Unit.

• Anyone with information is asked to call Lancashire Constabulary on 0845 1 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.