Saturday, 13 August 2011

Health care cut at Lancaster Farms

The Government has revealed that it has cut the health care budget at HMP YOI Lancaster Farms) by £562,000 - but says the cuts are in proportion to the number of offenders in the prison.

Responding to a parliamentary question from Morecambe MP David Morris, who challenged the Secretary of State for Justice to explain why there has been a reduction in the budget cut of the medical services at Lancaster Farms Young Offender Institution, Paul Burstow, Minister of State (Care Services) said the the overall budget cut of £562,000 represented a 29 per cent reduction in the health care budget issued to Lancaster Farms and directly correlates to the removal of 130 places for people under the age of 18 by the Youth Justice Board.

"The YJB’s decision to remove 130 places, and the funding adjustment itself, reflect the current absence of young people under 18 being held at HMP YOI Lancaster Farms," he said. "The Department and NHS North Lancashire are confident that appropriate services are deliverable within the confines of revised funding."

Mr Burstow did not, it seems, answer Mr Morris question - as it appears the cuts were going to be even higher.

Health care cuts could prove just one of many problems for the local prison service. Concerns have already been raised by service personnel about cuts in post-sentence support, which now means many prisoners who have served their sentence are put back on our local streets with no career or accommodation assistance.

Staff at prisons fear these 'invisible cuts' leave ex-prisoners vulnerable to a return to the very lifestyle that put them in prison in the first place.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Court Matters

The following people will appear in local courts in coming weeks:

Karl Manley, 28, of Goldfinch Close, Heysham, has been charged with encouraging / assisting the commission of an offence and will appear before Lancaster Magistrates Court on the 19th August (see news story)

Warren Calvert, 19, of Kingsway, Heysham has been charged with intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an either way offence believing it would be committed and will appear before Lancaster Magistrates on 25th August. (See news story)  

• Carl O’Brien, 19, of Sycamore Grove, Lancaster and Kieron Halsall, 18, of Peel Crescent, Lancaster, will appear before Lancaster Magistrates Court on Friday 26th August charged with theft. This follows an incident at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where lead was removed from the roof overnight on 11th August.

Stefan Johnson, 21, of Greenfield Street, Lancaster has been charged with intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an either way offence believing it would be committed - under the Serious Crime Act 2007.
He has been bailed to appear before Preston Magistrates Court on 30th August. (See news story)

Morecambe's MP calls for baton rounds and water cannon against rioters

Morecambe MP David Morris has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, calling on the government to allow the use of water cannon and plastic baton rounds in the event of future riots - tactics that have been rejected, so far, by the police and condemned by civil rights activists.

The test of Mr Morris motion reads:
That this House notes that work-shy thugs are attacking the homes and businesses of ordinary hardworking Britons; further notes that these people cannot be allowed to succeed; believes that bullies only ever respond to strength; and further believes that it is right to encourage the police to use water cannons and plastic baton rounds to stop them in the future.
You can view the Motion - which has yet to gain support from other MPs - here.

Speaking on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron has already indicated that water cannon is ready to be used in the event of more unrest. But police chiefs have been robust in rejecting calls for military intervention, water cannon and plastic bullets – and have instead redeployed and inflated the number of officers on the street to good effect.

Civil rights activists also point out that once given such powers, the police could also use them in other situations - where the justification for such extreme tactics might not be so clear cut.

Civil rights organisation Liberty notes that Tim Godwin, acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that he would rather be the last man left in Scotland Yard, with all his management team out on the streets, than call for the army. Sir Hugh Orde, head of ACPO, dismissed the use of both water cannon and baton rounds as inappropriate for the current circumstances and flatly stated that "to suggest human rights get in the way of effective policing is simply wrong".

"Since 1934, Liberty (the National Council of Civil Liberties) has been a critical friend to the police and has never shied away from holding them to account," notes Liberty's Director of Policy,Isabella Sankey. "However, similarly we must also give credit where it is due.

"Past use of plastic bullets in Northern Ireland resulted in at least 14 deaths, including nine children. This time in England, wise police leadership has resisted the temptation to resort to dangerous riot control weapons and has instead tackled the problem without fanning the flames. We urge politicians to hold their nerve and do likewise."

Morris has tabled a mix of EDMs since his election, including the constructive suggestion for a means for the parents of autistic children to register the problem once, rather than have to fill in forms annually for health care; support for the High Speed Rail link, providing local rail stations are included as stops; support for Sainsbury's Switch the Fish campaign, enouraging people to try different fish rather those that are endangered; and the registration of hairdressers. (Mr Morris is himself a qualified hairdresser)

Lancaster man charged after encouraging disorder on Facebook

(Updated 13/8/11) A Lancaster man has been charged after posting a message encouraging disorder on Facebook - bringing the total number of Lancashire residents charged to four after recent unrest across the country.

Stefan Johnson, 21, of Greenfield Street, Lancaster has been charged with intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an either way offence believing it would be committed - under the Serious Crime Act 2007.

He has been bailed to appear before Preston Magistrates Court on 30th August.

Responding to concerns about the use of social media that might encourage criminal behaviour, Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons on Thursday that the Home Secretary was going to have meetings with organisations such as Twitter and Facebook about the issue, "but even before that they should recognise their own social responsibilities and stop broadcasting the images if they are inappropriate."

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Local TV for Lancaster?

(Updated 12/8/11): Local TV could be on the cards for Lancaster and Morecambe if government plans for the medium gain ground.

Ofcom - the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries - has assessed the available spectrum on around 70 terrestrial television transmitters that serve the largest number of people in the UK. Now it has identified 65 locations where there is the potential for local TV services to be licensed and broadcast on digital terrestrial television (Freeview).

The Lancaster and Morecambe area is one of the initial locations and the public have until mid-September to give their views.

Ofcom points out that in many cases, more than one town or city will be covered by each spectrum footprint and these are also indicated.

Lancashire already has its own TV channel - Lancashire One - which broadcasts on the Showcase TV across Europe. Based in Preston,  with an eye over the whole of Lancashire, the channel aims to bring to screen some of the best events the county has to offer, "from tractor pulling in Leyland to scarecrows in Wray.

The company remain unconvinced by the financial viability of a "micro-TV" station, however.

"We're very pleased to see that Lancaster has been selected as one of the 65 pioneer locations across the UK for Local Television," director and producer Nigel Sharples told virtual-lancaster. "However, we maintain that no single town or city, apart from the  major conurbations as Manchester and Liverpool, is large enough to support a Local TV Channel.

"This is why we created Lancashire One as a channel which could focus on a wider area and believe that this is the optimum way forward" .

A list of potential locations for local TV are set out in the Pioneer locations publication which also invites views on which towns and cities should be licensed in the first phase. The closing date for responses is 23rd September 2011.
• Send your comments or if you have any queries about this consultation to: or by post: Peter Bakewell, Media Team, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DH

• Further information can be found on the Ofcom website

Another local man charged with "encouraging disorder" on Facebook

Two more men from Lancashire - one from Heysham - have been charged after posting messages encouraging disorder on Facebook, bringing the total number of people arrested for this offence to four.

Warren Calvert, 19, of Kingsway, Heysham and Christopher Schofield, 25, of Eckroyd Close, Nelson, have been charged with intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an either way offence believing it would be committed.

They have both been bailed. Calvert will appear before Lancaster Magistrates on 25th August and Schofield will appear before Burnley Magistrates Court on the 15th August.

This action follows swiftly on the the charging of another Heysham man for a similar offence. Yesterday Karl Manley, 28, of Goldfinch Close, Heysham, was charged with encouraging / assisting the commission of an offence and will appear before Lancaster Magistrates Court on the 19th August (see news story).

A third man, aged 21 from Blackpool was also arrested last night on suspicion of encouraging or assisting in the commission of an either way offence believing it would be committed but was released no further action.

Lancaster couple charged with baby murder

A Lancaster couple have been charged with the murder of a four month old baby boy.

Christopher Roberts, 18, of Great Dockray, Penrith and Karen Irvine, 18, of Lark Field, Penrith have both been charged with murder and causing or allowing the death of a child.

Both have been remanded in custody to appear before Lancaster Magistrates Court on 11th August.

The baby was admitted to Royal Lancaster Infirmary on 17th November, 2010 having been found collapsed at his home address in Scotforth.

His was transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with a bleed to the brain but sadly passed away a few days later.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Lancashire Police warn against "unhelpful rumour mongering" amid riot concerns

Lancashire police say they will prosecute residents inciting disorder on social networking sites - and have asked people to avoid "unhelpful rumour mongering" alleging riots and other social unrest.

The warning and request comes after riots eleswhere in the UK and today's announcement by the police that a 28-year-old Heysham man has been charged with encouraging / assisting the commission of an offence on Facebook.

“Fortunately in Lancashire, we have had no major incidents of the kind of disorder seen elsewhere over recent nights," notes Assistant Chief Constable Peter White from Lancashire Constabulary. "There have been some isolated incidents of criminal damage in some areas of the county overnight, which is usual for this time of year, but given the wider national picture we will be investigating the circumstances surrounding the motivations for such behaviour.

“I would like to reassure people that although there is nothing to suggest to us at present that there will be any disorder in Lancashire, a force-wide operation is in place to ensure that the situation remains under close watch and that resources are readily available should they be needed.

“We have seen lots of speculation across the social media about things allegedly happening in Lancashire," he added, "and we would urge people not to get caught up in this kind of unhelpful rumour mongering.

“These actions are causing unnecessary concern for people living in Lancashire and in the worst case scenario, may encourage unrest in our county."

Police have warned they will act if people are seen to incite disorder on social sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Earlier today Karl Manley, 28, of Goldfinch Close, Heysham, was charged with encouraging / assisting the commission of an offence and will appear before Lancaster Magistrates Court on the 19th August.

“Social media sites are routinely monitored by the Constabulary and anyone found to be inciting violence or disorder in this way will be dealt with by police," the Assistant Chief Constable notes.

“In fact, a 28-year-old man from Heysham has been arrested and charged in connection with a message placed on a social networking site.

“We are really fortunate in Lancashire to have strong, law abiding communities and this is invaluable to how we are able to police the county.”

Council's "Just Bin It" campaign against litter continues

A weekend's worth of litter collected from our district's streets

Lancaster City Council continues to encourage us all to have pride in where we live this month by cleaning up our patch and putting litter where it belongs…. in the bin!

The council's district wide ‘Just Bin It’ campaign was launched in Market Square, Lancaster last month with a jaw dropping display of all the carelessly discarded rubbish that was picked, swept and sucked from the centres of Morecambe and Lancaster following a busy weekend of shopping and revelling.

To spread the word on the street that litter is everyone's problem - just bin it, the council’s litter enforcement team is currently out and about issuing golden tickets worth prizes to people who show some pride in where they live and on the spot fines worth £80 to those that don't.
So watch out – you could be the next lucky, or unlucky member of the public, depending on whether you drop it or bin it!

The council are also keen to help local people and community groups roll up their sleeves and get involved in making the district and wonderful place to be for everyone.

• If you want to know how you can show how proud you are of where you live and need some assistance in putting litter where it belongs, visit or join the campaign on Facebook: or Twitter@Lancastercc.

Rally for fair fares as tickets prices set to rise

On Tuesday we'll find out just how much fares will rise in January – the start of the whopping 28 per cent increases planned over the next four years if the Government gets its way.

To coincide with the announcement the Campaign for Better Transport has joined up with a host of other organisations to organise a rally in the morning rush hour outside Waterloo Station in London to send a message to Government: affordable public transport is vital – cancel the fare hikes and don’t price people off the train. 

Now they're inviting supporters of lower train fares to join them to hear speeches and pop giant balloons to show that it's time to burst the bubble on inflation-busting fare hikes.  

"We’ll also be inviting commuters to sign the petition, and write messages to the Government on giant rail tickets.

The organisation isn't just campaigning on train fares right now, either. Back in January their chief executive, Stephen Joseph, told the House of Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry about our concerns for local bus services and explained how cuts are affecting ordinary bus users up and down the country. The Committee's report on the cuts comes out tomorrow and the CFBT will be calling on the Government to reverse their planned 20 per cent cut to the Bus Service Operators' Grant next year. 

Cutting the grant, the only direct support for all bus services, could be the final straw for many bus services - including some in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

" We also want to give you a platform to tell MPs exactly how important your local buses are, so we are taking a double decker campaign bus to the three big party conferences," says CFBT's Campaign's Director Richard Hebditch."We're inviting bus passengers to get on board! So if you're in Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester at the end of September and beginning of October and want to get your voice heard, let us know by filling in our online form.

"I've been going to the party conferences for some years now, and I know how important it is that politicians hear first-hand from the people affected by their decisions rather than just staying inside the conference venue meeting the same people over and over."
• If you're within reach of London on Tuesday 16th August join the CFBT for their rail fare protest between 8 and 9.30am across from Waterloo Station

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Lancashire police head south to aid riot-pressed Met

Lancashire police have been drafted in to help bolster police numbers in London dealing with riots in the capital.

“Lancashire Constabulary can confirm that it is providing mutual aid to the Metropolitan Police Service during the ongoing disturbances in and around London," said Assistant Chief Constable Peter White.

“Three Lancashire Police Support Units – a total of 76 officers – have been deployed along with a Public Order Commander to assist colleagues in the Met with the operation.

“We would reassure the public of Lancashire that the Constabulary’s ability to deal with and prevent crime during this time will not be affected.

“Whilst we have not cancelled rest days or annual leave at present, we have made a decision not to approve any new requests for leave or rest days for the duration of the operation in London.”

Dukes says goodbye to 'sparkling' Merlin

Alsas! Alack! There’s just a few days to go before Merlin the wizard casts his final spell over Williamson Park in Lancaster.

The Dukes very successful 25th anniversary season of walkabout shows ends on 20th August – after extending its run for a week.

Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur has received 4-star reviews in the national press and proved a bit hit with audiences too.

Here on VL, our reviewer praised the show as "a great night out, a real treat and well worth the money."

Next year, The Dukes will stage Sabbat in the round inside a large marquee in Williamson Park as part of the 400th anniversary commemorations of the Lancashire Witch Trials.

• To book tickets for the final week of Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit 

Read virtual-lancaster's review of the show

Monday, 8 August 2011

High Five for Morecambe Sandcastle Festival

Despite the weather, thousands of people ventured down to the golden sands of Morecambe beach at the weekend to visit the resort’s fifth Sandcastle Festival.

The event, which was organised by Lancaster City Council, took place over the weekend and provided visitors with a free weekend of seaside fun and Morecambe was packed with people enjoying the free entertainment on offer.

Europe’s leading professional sand artists, ‘Sand in your eye!’, created an array of expertly crafted sculptures and children’s entertainment from Poulton Children’s Centre put the smile on hundreds of tiny faces, as did the popular donkey rides and fun and games on the beach.

Adding a musical twist to this weekend of vintage seaside fun, this year’s festival also incorporated the Morecambe Town Council funded Key Loco Salsa and Latino event on the arena. There was also music from Morecambe Brass Band as well as an art exhibition by local artist Chas Jacobs.

Staff at Morecambe's award winning Visitor Information Centre were kept busy during the weekend and dealt with more than 763 people calling into the centre.

But the highlight of the weekend was the Sunday as more than 32 teams battled it out to be crowned the king, queen, prince and princess of this year’s Sandcastle Competition.

“It was a wonderful weekend and it was great to see Morecambe so busy with people despite the weather," enthused Councillor Ron Sands, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism. "Morecambe has made great strides over the last decade to reinvent itself and this festival showcased everything that is good about the town.”

The judges of the Sandcastle Competition had a hard task on their hands as they struggled to decide between the entries and who would win first prize of £75 in cash and a commemorative bucket and spade to mark their efforts.

The Sand Rockers with ‘The Sand Rock Band’ won the Family/under 12s, prize with runner-up The Happy Hippos with ‘Harry the Hippo’
In the Open category, Team Duffy won with with ‘Larry the Sand Lobster’, with The House Martins with ‘Fish out of Water’ runners up

• Many of the entries are available to view at

• The Sandcastle Festival is just one of the great events taking place this summer in the Lancaster district. For more information on forthcoming events visit

• Morecambe Sandcastle Festival and Key Loco was part of Morecambe’s Top 20 season of festivals. View for sponsorship details.

Woman, 75, dies following Singleton collision

A local woman has sadly passed away following a collision on Fleetwood Road in Singleton last month.

At around 2.20pm on Thursday 21st July, there was a collision between a Vauxhall Agila and an HGV at the traffic lights at the junction of Fleetwood Road and Garstang Road, known locally as Windy Harbour crossroads.

Both the driver and passenger in the Vauxhall were taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital but sadly, the passenger passed away in hospital on Saturday evening (6th August) from her injuries.

She has been named as 75-year-old Moira Roberts from Hambleton. Her husband who was driving the car remains in hospital receiving treatment for his injuries.

• An investigation into the collision is continuing and police are appealing for anyone with any information to come forward and contact police on 08451 25 35 45.

Lancaster Tennis Club announced Singles Tennis Tournament for Juniors

Lancaster Tennis Club is building on the success of its junior coaching programme and its Saturday Play Tennis sessions, by organizing a singles tennis tournament for juniors on 27th and 28th August.

The Club, which is based in Lune Road, tell us the tournament is intended for juniors from all parts of Lancaster, Morecambe, Heysham, the Lune Valley and South Lakes and not just for its own junior members. There will be singles events for both boys and girls in three different age categories - based on the junior’s age on 1st September 2011 – under 12s, under 14s and under 16s. Play will start at 9.30am on each day.

The entry fee for each player is £5 and the round robin format will ensure that all juniors will play a number of other players in their age category. There will be prizes for the winners, and CRB checked adult members will supervise the games at all times. The Club can provide racquets, but if juniors already have their own this is preferred.

• The closing date for entries is 23rd August 2011 and entry forms can be obtained from the Club’s junior organiser Pat Clelland on email: or by phoning her on mob: 07870 642267 or (01524) 31173