Saturday, 6 August 2011

Animal Care Adoption Spotlight: Keisha and Jess

Lancaster's Animal Care should be your first port of call when considering a new pet. Right now, they have many dogs, cats and other animals looking for homes, and here's some information on a pair of cats hoping to find a new place to live together.

Five month old Keisha and Jess (who is just over a year old) came to the Centre after their former Morecambe owner became too ill to look after them. Ideally, the Centre woul love to re-home the pair together.

"Keisha is adorable," we're told. "She is very pretty and friendly and loves getting a nice long cuddle from anyone who goes to see her. She is also full of fun and loves to chase around after her toys and then when she’s tired she likes to have a nap somewhere cosy!

"She is a real little cutie-pie who would make a great addition to almost any family who will love her."

As for Jess, she is an extremely friendly lass who craves love and attention and is never happier than when she is getting lots and lots of cuddles and hugs from anyone she meets.

"She purrs the whole time you are with her and what a purr she has for such a little one! There really is nothing bad you can say about her at all and she would make a fantastic addition to almost any family. She’s fab!"

- If you'd like to adopt Jess and Keisha, get in touch via email via or call 01524 65495.

- Animal Care is at Blea Tarn Rd, Scotforth. Web: Registered Charity Number: 508819. Volunteering and other Enquiries

Friday, 5 August 2011

Armchair Auditing: the City Council's accounts under the spotlight

Regular readers of virtual-lancaster will recall we reported how the government had announced the launch of 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.

Frankly, here at VL we think this was a waste of public money -- and we'd love to know how much money it cost when the government is bleating about making budget savings, often, it seems, at the expense of the poor and physically and mentally challenged. It is quicker to type'accounts + the name of your local authority' into Google to get there.

Lancaster City Council's statement of accounts for 2010 is here. Apparently,  there is still some £4 million stuck in Iceland that we have some hopes of recovering. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, local 'armchair auditor' Rick Seymour who has gone through the Councils 29,000 plus payments from 2010 and has been putting their accounts through the wringer and has thrown up some interesting data which he's published on his web site, including details of Lancaster Council spend per department 2010.

The data below comes from spending data released as part of the Public Right of Inspection period (July 2011) to cover financial period 2010/11 and does not include internal costs such as wages, pensions etc (external costs only)

Department Name Total
Property Services 6191344
Financial Services 5739670
Environmental Services 5533901
Council Housing (HRA) 4959293
Regeneration and Policy 2960272
Community Engagement 2532631
Health & Strategic Housing 1065147
Information Services 535891
Governance 215007
Democratic Services 202444
Office of the Chief Executive 10231
Corporate Strategy 1429

 He's also neatly laid out a list of all new contracts (over £50k), for you to browse at, which include the £1,012,950 spent on refurbishing Morecambe Town Hall.

You can request to view any of the contracts by contacting Lancaster City Council finance department or going into town hall.

Finally, he's created a way for you to see every payment the Council has made: just click on the name of a company below and you'll find out how much they were paid. The full list is here. For example, here's how much the Council spent on rail travel last year - £3803.44 in total. It's an intriguing snapshot of just how many local businesses benefit, large or small, on Council spending - and how the reduction of such spending could impact on them.

If anyone would like to get in touch with him to help go through more detailed stuff, you can contact him through his website.

Sample Local Businesses

32090-35666 Taxis Ltd
848848 Taxis
A1 Supaskips
Animal Zone
Apollo Cinemas
A R Hyslop (Lancaster) Ltd
Arnside Post Office
Bargain Booze
Edge Cycleworks
Evans Marquee Hire
Harrison Willis & Moore
Heritage Cards And Souvenirs Ltd
J Atkinson
Kings Arms Hotel Lancaster
Nicholas Evans Designer & Screen Printer
Pagefast Print & Publishing Ltd
Quite Simply Food
Ryelands Service Station
Sun Hotel
The Animal Zone
The Borough

Sample Marketing and Advertising

Ad Boards
Bay Radio
NCBI Lancashire
Fat Media Ltd
Johnston Press
@Lancaster Community Magazine
Lancaster Guardian
Morecambe Press Ltd
Newsquest (North West) Ltd

Sample National Businesses

Adobe Store UK
Amazon US
Dell Products


Airport Direct
British Rail
First TransPennine Express
First UK Railways
Fishergate Car Parking
IOM Steampacket
London Underground
National Express
Network Rail
Northern Rail
Northern Rail Ltd
Northern Trains
Stagecoach Services Ltd
Thomas Cook
Train tickets
TransPennine Express
TransPennine Trains
Virgin Rail
Virgin Trains
Virgin West Coast
West Coast Trains Ltd


British Gas
British Gas Business
BT Business Direct Ltd
BT Openreach
BT Payment Services Ltd
E.ON Energy
Southern Electric
United Utilities
United Utilities Utility Solutions (E&CS) Ltd
United Utilities Water Plc
Vodafone Ltd
TV Licence
TV Licensing

Other Councils

Cumbria County Council
Eden District Council
Lancashire County Council
Preston City Council
Wyre Borough Council
West Dorset District Council

Postage and other Delivery Services

Post Office
Post Office Counters Ltd
Post Office Ltd
The Post Office
The Post Office Ltd

Local Community Organisations

Age Concern Lancashire
Cancer Care
Gregson Community Association Ltd
Lancashire Wildlife Trust Ltd
Lancaster Citizens Advice Bureau
Marsh Community Centre
Morecambe FC Community Sports
Morecambe Football Club Ltd
Storey Art Gallery Ltd
Storey Creative Industries Centre
The Dukes
The Dukes Playhouse Ltd
The Rainbow Centre
The Ramblers Association
The Storey Creative Industries Centre

Sample Government Departments

Health Protection Agency
Northwest Development Agency

Some Local Education

Heysham High School
Lancaster University
University of Cumbria


Accounting Officer Ministry of Defence
Ken Dodd
Manchester Utd

New deal for charity collectors.

Fed up with running the gauntlet of charity fundraisers every five minutes while you're trying to do your errands in town? Or those fake 'charity' clothing collectors who drop their bags through your letterbox? Lancaster City's Licensing Department is responding to complaints by setting out new regulations to govern both.

Street fundraisers sign up for new deal
Charity fundraisers are to have new controls over where and when in Lancaster City Centre they can ask people to make donations by direct debit.

Lancaster City Council has signed a Site Management Agreement with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) to regulate direct debit ‘face-to-face’ fundraising in Lancaster.

The agreement, which comes into force on 22 August, will restrict fundraisers to two separate sites in the city centre between 9am and 6pm on certain days of the week. Fundraisers will not be permitted in the city on market days.

Up to five fundraisers will be allowed to operate in the following areas at the following times:

Market Street (Monday and Friday): Penny Street to Market Gate and the Museum to King Street/China Street. Market Square is not included in the area.
Penny Street/Cheapside (Tuesday and Friday): Common Garden Street to James Lane and Church Street to Market Street. Horseshoe Corner is not included in the area.

Coun John Harrison, chairman of the council’s Licensing Regulatory Committee, said: “While charities play a vitally important part in our society, members of the public equally have the right to go about their business without being inconvenienced. As we had received some complaints about the locations where fundraising was taking place, we approached the PFRA to seek a solution.

“This agreement does not prevent charities from raising much-needed funds – it balances their rights with those of the public and puts into place a form of control over where and when they can and cannot fundraise in the city centre.”

Toby Ganley, from the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, said: “People have a right to decline to give to a charity, but a charity has an equal right to ask them to support their cause and their beneficiaries, and this is what the new agreement with Lancaster City Council enshrines.

“Any time a fundraiser breaks the agreement or the best practice code, such as straying outside their zone, the council can come straight to the PFRA and we’ll put it right.”

Anyone who believes fundraisers are breaking the agreement can email or telephone 01524 582033.

The details will be passed on to the PFRA who will act on the complaint.

85% test for house-to-house clothing collections
Bogus house-to-house charity clothing collectors are being given their marching orders by Lancaster City Council.

The council has brought in a new policy to further regulate collectors operating in the Lancaster district in light of a flurry of applications for licences from private companies.

Many of these donate only a small percentage of their proceeds to charity, misleading householders who make donations in the belief that the proceeds are going to charity.

The new policy will mean operators applying for a collections licence will have to donate at least 85% of their proceeds - allowing for a small element to cover administrative costs - directly to charity.

Collections will also be limited to prevent more than two companies operating within the district at any one time.

Coun John Harrison, chairman of Lancaster City Council’s licensing regulatory committee, said: “Clothing collections are a crucial source of income for many UK charities.

“Unfortunately a few rogue operators are costing them dear and are damaging the many legitimate charities who operate legally in collecting clothing and other items for good causes.

“The message from us is clear – companies who purport to be operating on behalf of a charity, but take the vast amount of the proceeds for themselves, have no place in our district.”

House-to-house collections are regulated by the House to House Collections Act 1939.
All house to house collections for a charitable purpose in the Lancaster district must be licensed by Lancaster City Council, and the collectors authorised by the promoter.
All genuine house to house collectors are licensed and you can contact the council on 01524 582033 to check them out.

Improve your Review Writing with Lancaster Litfest

How do you distinguish yourself from the groaning internet multitudes to earn yourself a devoted following who trust what you have to say? Peter Wild, editor of Bookmunch, is running a one day Lancaster Litfest course later this month will take you through what constitutes a good review, including the importance of truth and integrity, the need to temper your temper and the balance needed between telling your reader enough to whet their appetite without spoiling what you’re reviewing.

All attendees will also be given the opportunity to review something for Bookmunch.

Peter Wild is the founder and editor of, an award-winning book review site that launched in 2001. In the last ten years, he has reviewed over 1,000 books. His writing and reviews have appeared in Big Issue, Time Out, The Guardian, The Independent, the LA Times and Svenska Dagbladet.

• Review Writing with Litfest with Peter Wild, at Poetry Bookcase, The Storey, Lancaster LA1 1TH - Saturday 10th September 10am-4pm. Cost £40 (£30 concs.) Book by 25th August.

• To book call LitFest on 01524 62166 or send a cheque to Get Writing, Litfest, The Storey, Lancaster LA1 1TH, with course name, ticket price and your full contact details
online: on this page of the Litfest website

Dukes is "Top of the Ops"!

Glyndebourne Festival 2011 in Cinemas from Glyndebourne on Vimeo.

Top opera comes to Lancaster this August – courtesy of The Dukes.

Glyndebourne Opera’s latest production, Turn of the Screw, will be screened live into The Dukes cinema on Sunday 21st August.

Benjamin Britten’s adaptation of Henry James’ chilling novella twists and turns the themes of childish innocence and adult corruption to a disturbing and ultimately devastating effect.

Seating is allocated and advance booking is recommended for this opera screening.

• Tickets cost £13/£12(concessions),and can be booked in advance from The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or online at

Appeal after man is chased in Morecambe

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a 22 year old man was allegedly chased down Regent Road in Morecambe during a dispute on Tuesday 26th July.

The incident is alleged to have taken place between 6pm and 7.00pm when a woman, brandishing a knife, has chased after the victim down the street making threats. It is believed she was joined by a group of around 20 other people wearing hoodies. 

Nobody was hurt during the incident and police are now reviewing CCTV evidence and investigating the circumstances of what has taken place.

They would keen to speak with anyone that was in the Regent Road area of Morecambe in the early evening of 26th July, or anyone that witnessed anything to come forward.

“This incident happened in broad daylight at a busy time of day," notes PC Rebecca Rooke from Morecambe Police, "when people would have been finishing work.

"Anyone with any information should contact police on 08451 25 35 45 quoting log reference 1154 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Youngsters reel in prizes at Carnforth police fishing competition

From left to right: David Lewthwaite, Nathan Stretch, Chief Inspector O'Gara, Carnforth Town Mayor, Councillor Pat Woofe, Lewis Nolan (3rd place), David Taylor from Bardon Aggregates, Matt Dent from The Environment Agency, Rhys Douglas (2nd place), Steve Griffiths from Borwickfishing and John Blowes from Carnforth Rotary
PC Marc Saycell (off duty) helping a young person
Over 50 youngsters took part in a police fishing competition in Carnforth last weekend, in a bid to reel in prizes.

The competition was held at Borwickfishing, near Carnforth, on Saturday with the aim of providing children with a diversionary activity that would also help them gain new skills.

Organised by PC John Bassinder, PC Kath Bromilow and a number of community volunteers, the event has taken place for several years, with this year having the highest number of entrants so far.

Following a day of fishing 16-year-old Nathan Stretch was presented with the Lewthwaite Shield for catching a total of 20.1 kg of fish. Rhys Douglas, 16, from Bolton-le-Sands came second with a total catch of over 7kg and Lewis Nolan, 15, also from Bolton-le-Sands came third with a total catch of over 3kg.

The winner of the 12 and under category was 12-year-old Lucas Barnes, from Torrisholme, who landed over 3kg of fish and was presented with the Myles Bateman trophy. The top 10 fishermen will also receive a free day pass to Borwickfishing. Everyone involved was given a fishing tackle gift bag courtesy of Gerry's Fishing Tackle Shop at Morecambe.

“We had brilliant weather and the sun shone all day," enthused  PC John Bassinder. "Excellent conditions for the youngsters to get fishing. The sport is a really good discipline for young people to get involved in as it combines competitiveness with patience and a dose of fresh air.

“Everyone involved – experienced anglers and new ones – had a great day and I’m really appreciative for the help and support we received from Gerry's Fishing Tackle Shop, Bardon Aggregates, Carnforth Rotary Club, Lancaster Anglers and Lune and Wyre Fisheries, together with the Environment Agency, because without their help and support these events would not take place.”

Appeal for missing Fleetwood man

Police are appealing for the public’s help in tracing a 53 year old man from Fleetwood who has gone missing.

Kenneth Lancaster was last seen at his home address on Warrenhurst Road around 6.20am on Wednesday 3rd August.

He is described as white with receding, ginger hair and of medium build. He was wearing blue jeans and brown boots.

Police are growing increasingly concerned for Mr Lancaster’s welfare as he suffers from mental health problems.

Inspector James Edmonds said: “If anybody knows of Kenneth Lancaster’s whereabouts I would ask them to contact the police as a matter of urgency.

“If anybody thinks they may have seen him at any point today (Wednesday) then I would urge them to come forward.

“Finally, I would like to make a direct appeal to Kenneth – please get in touch and let us know you’re safe and well.”

• Anybody with any information is asked to call police on 08451 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Morecambe's 5th Annual Sandcastle Festival this weekend!

Internationally renowned sand artists Sand in Your Eye will amaze the crowds again at Morecambe this weekend with an array of expertly crafted sand sculptured masterpieces and tableaux on the Prom, inspiring you to join in the massive sandcastle building practice session on Saturday and hopefully dig up first prize in the Super Sandcastle Competition on Sunday. Of course, calling it a 'sandcastle competition' is like calling Heston Blumenthal a chip-fryer! Each entry has its unique theme and the sculptures are celebrations of creative teamwork and joie de vivre that you can only ever see this once.

And that's not all. You can enjoy a free exhibition of local artist Chas Jacob's uniquely loved artwork at the Platform. Chas himself will also be inviting you to join him in the arena marquee for a painting workshop.

Morecambe's Championship Section brass band will be entertaining an audience outside the Platform on both days plus the 'Key Loco' sessions with Santana, Ricky Martin and Shakira tributes as well as originals Poco Besos and the Reggiementals. The Lifeguards and the Fairly Famous Family will bring fresh comic street theatre to the prom on the Sunday

Beach events include activities provided by Morecambe FC and entertainment organised by Poulton Children's Centre. Plus traditional donkey rides for children on the beach which are guaranteed to put a smile on their faces as they take them for a gentle stroll along the sand.

Events generally run between 10am and 4pm. The Super Sandcastle Competition is on the beach itself, viewable from the prom, and starts at 11am on Sunday. Registration takes place between 9.30am and 10.45am. But you'll have to be quick - places are limited and allocated on a first come, first served basis.

For further info, and details of the Sandcastle Competition, contact Morecambe and Lancaster Visitor Information Centres (Tel. 01524 582808)
Or visit: for a handy printout of each day's full schedule of events and entertainments!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Holiday Watch launched to keep local holiday visitors safe

The police have launched a special text messaging crime prevention scheme has been launched to keep holiday makers safe.

The Holiday Watch scheme allows those staying at the South Lakes Leisure Village, Carnforth, to receive up-to-date information on suspicious and criminal activity in the area, along with tips to protect their property, via their mobiles.

It echoes similar schemes, such as Canal Watch and Farm Watch, which have already been used in the north of the county to prevent crime and provide information to transient or more difficult to reach members of the community.

The launch of Holiday Watch at the site was attended by members of the neighbourhood policing team, crime prevention officers and an Emergency Services Community Support Officer (ESCSO). Members of 2246 Carnforth Air Training Corps also assisted with the event and postcoded a number of bicycles.

Residents were able to seek advice on a variety of safety and security measures and all of the lodges on the site have been provided with property marking kits by the Leisure Village management team to enable residents to security mark their valuables.

The scheme will be rolled out to other local holiday sites and caravan parks over the coming months.

“People want to go on holiday to relax and have a good time," says PC Linda Head, community beat manager for the area. "Unfortunately, becoming a victim of crime can spoil all of that. The leisure village has a lot of long-term and repeat visitors to the site and we want to be able to give them the information they need to take steps to prevent this from happening to them.

"The visitors that we have spoken to have been keen to get on board and the management team have also been very supportive – we hope that other sites will also get involved in the future.”

• Anybody wishing to register should contact the neighbourhood police team on

• Further information about the Holiday Watch scheme can be also be obtained from PC Head at Carnforth police station on 01524 63333

Lancaster MP to muck in as "Business Buddy"

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw is taking part in a scheme to make our politicians more aware of modern business later this month.

The "Business Buddy" scheme - organised by the Forum of Private Business - aims to offer MPs work experience placements to “learn about the realities of running a small business.”

The Forum invited every MP, MSP and Assembly Member in Britain to take part in its ‘Business Buddy’ scheme, which will see the politicians placed in small businesses in their constituencies.

The FBP tells us Mr Ollrenshaw has been partnered with Fleetwood-based company Boris Net.

Run by John Howard, Boris Nets is an international company specialising in the design and manufacture of nets and netting support systems for various markets including the aquaculture, fishing, construction, Sports and Leisure sectors -- as well as for many other specific industrial applications.

Almost 100 MPs have signed up to the scheme so far, including Cabinet Office ministers Vince Cable and Oliver Letwin, the latter spending time at a pie shop in his West Dorset constituency in September. Tourism Minister John Penrose went to work in a company in the tourism industry in his Weston-super-Mare constituency.

The FPB are asking each MP to spend at least half a day with the business they visit and hope to match ministers “with businesses relevant to their roles wherever possible”.

“It’s all well and good for lobby groups like the Forum to tell the government about the issues facing small businesses," explained the Forum’s head of campaigns, Jane Bennett, "but there’s no substitute for first-hand experience.

"We want politicians to see for themselves what it’s like to run a small business – that’s why we developed the Business Buddy scheme.”

So far, Morecambe and Lunesdale David Morris hasn't signed up for the scheme - but as a former hairdresser and property developer, he's probably well aware of the issues faced by small business.

The Business Buddy initiative forms part of the FPB’s campaign, ‘Get Britain Trading’, which launched earlier this year.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Anja McCloskey date at Lancaster's Yorkshire House

Photo by  and © Gillian Sore - used with permission

Southampton-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Anja McCloskey is touring the UK, playing Lancaster's Yorkshire House on 20th August.

Half-American, half-German and raised in Northern Germany, Anja has played in various bands including the 10-piece performance orchestra The Irrepressibles and Haunted Stereo, and worked with solo artists (Katy Carr, Jake Flowers, Helen McCookerybook, Ana Silvera), and  decided to start her own project in 2010.

Her love for music evolved as she grew up listening to her grandfather playing the button accordion, which led to it becoming her main instrument, although her wider interest in music meant that not only is she classically trained as an accordionist, but as a gospel pianist too.

In 2000, Anja won the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and two years later moved to the UK to continue her musical journey, which last year saw the release of her EP "Turn-Turn-Turn" on Sotones Records, which features a multitude of instruments such as piano, violin, viola, guitar and clarinet and combined her classical knowledge and her new found inspiration for folk music.

After a recent US tour, she's now recorded her debut album and a first single ("And Her Head") will be released on Sotones Records on 5th September 2011.

Anja has quite a following - students from Southampton University have even made a dcumentary about her work, which you can view on her official web site ( Well worth checking out.

Anja McCloskey Official web site 

•  Anja McCloskey on MySpace

Anja McCloskey official Facebook page

Anja McCloskey Profile on Badge of Friendship 

New Vice Chancellor takes charge at University of Cumbria

Professor Peter Strike today begins a new chapter in his career as new vice chancellor of the University of Cumbria.

The University Board approved the appointment of Professor Strike in February following an extensive recruitment process which was overseen by a selection committee appointed by the University Board.

Born and raised in Barrow in Furness, the 62-year-old professor was previously Deputy Vice Chancellor at University of Sunderland, and Professor of Genetics. Following a highly successful career in research and teaching at the University of Liverpool, he was Vice Principal at Edinburgh Napier University, and then Deputy Vice Chancellor at University of Northumbria in Newcastle.

“It's great to be returning to the region in which I grew up," says Professor Strike, who is looking forward to his new role. "Although the university itself is relatively new, many of its component parts have, for many years, played a major part in the cultural and economic life of the region. The challenge for me, and for my senior team, is to continue to build on this legacy, creating a vibrant institution of high academic merit that provides opportunities for all those who wish to benefit from the experience of higher education.

Outside of work, Peter's interests include hill and mountain walking, long-distance walks and sailing. An RYA Yachtmaster Offshore and an RYA-approved teacher, he also served for 17 years with the Royal Navy Reserve as senior training officer with the Liverpool Universities’ Royal Navy Unit.

“I'm confident that Peter will continue to lead the university through its next stage of development," says Stephen Henwood, Chairman of the University Board. "Peter’s distinguished academic career and extensive experience in management and leadership positions makes him well qualified for this role.”

I look forward with keen anticipation to working with the staff and students of the university, and with our partners and stakeholders within Cumbria and beyond, to deliver that outcome.”

The appointment has also been welcomed by the University of Cumbria Students’ Union, which also pays tribute to the work of the outgoing vice chancellor, Professor Graham Upton.

"Graham started his tenure as interim vice chancellor 14 months ago when the university faced significant challenges," says Liam Walker, the Students' Union Representation Sabbatical of the University of Cumbria and a former Lancaster campus student, "and has managed in that short time to stabilise the institution despite facing difficult operating circumstances in the entire higher education sector.

"His leadership has enabled the university to secure not only its short term future but clearly state its long term ambitions within achievable timescales.

"It has been an incredible turnaround, and students particularly note the university's stable financial position and established senior management team."

"We're confident having met Peter Strike that he can build on Graham's successes as vice chancellor. Peter is originally from Cumbria and has many personal interests in developing the university in the years to come. The Students' Union is certainly looking forward to working closely with Peter and the university on key issues which face our members both academically and in 2012 under the new fee regime.

"Having met the senior management team, we feel that the university is really driven to tackle key issues head on and succeed in delivering top quality education. It is certainly an exciting time to be involved at the University of Cumbria."