Friday, 10 February 2012

Lancaster set to join 'No Second Night Out' project to tackle homelessness

Lancaster City Council looks set to join other Lancashire councils in a county-wide partnership to tackle homelessness, part of an ongoing roll out of the No Second Night Out campaign started in London across the country.

Local authorities are encouraged to carry out counts and estimates of rough sleepers in their area between the beginning of October and end of November using intelligence from local agencies such as outreach workers, the police and the voluntary sector etc. In some cities, monitoring is caried out by specific services, such as Brighton and Stoke-on-Trent's Rough Sleepers unit, who assess all "rough sleepers".

National figures for counts and estimates are published by the Government's Department for Communities and Local Government (Excel file, includes macros) and indicate in our area that in 2010, the figure for the Lancaster district was two and in 2011, four.

Across the North West, some 100 people were assesed as being "rough sleepers" in Autumn 2010.

But getting acurate figures is not easy and becasue of this, the CLG recently overhauled the rough sleeping count methodology to ensure that there is a complete picture of rough sleeping across the country.

New estimates show that the number of rough sleepers could be as high as 1,247 because, for the first time, all councils have been asked to submit estimates of the number of people sleeping rough on the streets in their area.

In contrast, the total number of people found rough sleeping by local authority street counts was 464 in 2009.

As a member of the homelessness forum, Lancaster City Council currently works in partnership with the voluntary sector and other agencies to assess, prevent and provide an outreach service for rough sleeping in the Lancaster district.

These include the Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service, who have a day centre in Edward Street and support the roofless and those in housing poverty. (LDHAS also provide food daily and shower and laundry facilities, provided by a small number of staff and many dedicated volunteers).

No Second Night Out

However, following the introduction of a Government backed cheme - 'No Second Night Out'  which has already been piloted in London – the Government now intends to roll out this initiative across all regions and steps are currently being taken to adopt the NSNO model across Lancashire.

19 Communities across England have already been granted up to £250k each to adopt the No Second Night Out – an initiative that aims to ensure that anyone who ends up on the streets gets helped quickly so they don’t spend a second night out.

The grants are part of an £8m pot being awarded by the Homelessness Transition Fund to 41 projects that aim to help ensure that no one lives on our streets.

The £20m independent Fund was set up to help support the national rough sleeping strategy Vision to end rough sleeping: No Second Night Out nationwide.

"Lancaster City Council is currently working with other authorities in Lancashire and partners to develop a collective approach to NSNO and a Lancashire-wide action plan is currently being developed," a spokeperson told virtual-lancaster.

"This will establish the role of each organisation in jointly responding to rough sleeping across Lancashire with the aim of putting an end to any one person spending a second night on the street.

"The outcome of this will provide each district with a bespoke action plan which will tackle the individual needs of each district."

Rough Sleepers on the rise?

The adoption of NSNO will be wecomed by homlessness campaigners amid concerns that the number of rough sleepers could be set to rise, the result of the economic downturn and, perhaps, changes in housing benefits, especially for younger people.

Speaking to the national Guardian last October, Jenny Edwards  who heads up Homeless Link, the organisation that created th4e NSNO project, describe it as an "early warning system" for homelessness. The signals she is getting from the umbrella organisation's 500 members, which run homeless services across England, are that youth homelessness is on the rise.

"Tensions in families who are coming under economic pressures, parents being more called to account for the behaviour of their older children, and the withdrawal of the education maintenance allowance are some of the reasons why teenagers could be leaving home in greater numbers with nowhere to go," she says.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps acknowledged last year that factors like relationship breakdown can lead to sudden homelessness, but said that the Government is committed to its the No Second Night Out policy. The Minister slept rough himself in 2007 in order to highlight the plight of rough sleepers and recalling his night on the street he said "In a civilised society no one should have to sleep on the pavement."

Tackling the problem

Since April last year, NSNO has been running as a pilot project in inner London, delivering a 24/7 emergency service for rough sleepers, funded by the mayor and the government. London boroughs' own homelessness outreach teams or the public call an emergency number for a dedicated street rescue service, which will remove a newly identified rough sleeper and take them to a centre where they are offered an alternative to homelessness. Those offers range from accommodation to being reconnected with the area or country they have come from, or being put in touch with a service such as drugs rehabilitation.

In Liverpool, which has already begin to roll out NSNO, councillors ae enthusiastic about the scheme.

"This initiative is about teaming up with our partners and putting services in place to ensure nobody has reason to spend a second night out," says Coun Ian Maher, Sefton Council's Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing.

"Every night, someone sleeps rough for the first time," says Mark McPherson, Director of Practice and Regions at Homeless Link. "We know that the longer they stay out, the worse their problems can get and the harder they can be to overcome. A life on the streets can lead to substance misuse, crime and serious physical or mental health problems.

"No Second Night Out is a simple standard that means putting the right services in place so no one spends more than a single night on the streets. The Liverpool Region is leading the way on this commitment outside of London.

Posters advertising the No Second Night Out phone number will appear at Livrpool bus stops, rail stations and in areas where people have been known to sleep rough.

Seen someone who you suspect is sleeping rough?
Call one of the 24-hour hotlines to get them urgent help

No Second Night Out - London

Read the interview with Jenny Edwards

Homeless: Facts and Figures

Proposed charges for replacement bins look set to be thrown out

Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet will be recommended not to introduce new charges for the replacement of bins and boxes at their meeting next week - even though the cost of doing so has escalated at an alarming rate.

Next Tuesday, Cabinet members will consider a report on the possible introduction of charges due to the increasing costs of providing new bins and boxes to residents.

Between January 2011 and December 2011, a staggering 4,470 replacement bins, 4,332 replacement boxes and 5,000 replacement lids were delivered to householders.

The actual cost to the council was £110,000 and further costs are also incurred in administration, delivery and storage.

The current policy of replacing them for free means it is difficult to control this area of expenditure and this in turn creates pressures on the overall waste collection budget.

Currently, many other local authorities in Lancashire charge for replacement bins and boxes, with charges ranging from £10 in Blackburn for a replacement wheeled bin to £43.40 in Chorley.

However, Cabinet will be recommended to not introduce charges now and monitor the situation over the next 12 and see if it improves.

"This is a really important issue and we’ve now reached the situation where replacing bins and boxes for free is costing us more than £100,000 a year," said Coun David Smith, Cabinet member with responsibility for Environmental Services.

"That’s a huge cost to the council and means massive additional pressures on our waste collection budgets.

"However, at this stage Cabinet will be recommended not to introduce the charges and wait 12 months and see if it improves.

“I really hope it will encourage residents to take as much care as possible of their bins and boxes and number or label them so they can be found and returned if lost.

"Hopefully the situation will improve but if it doesn’t then costs will continue to increase and we will have to look again at the issue of charging."

Motorway Work news for Lancaster area

Works on the M6 motorways will travel plans for some time, the Highways Agency has warned.

Locally, daytime investigation work is being carried out on the A683 Caton Road between the M6 north and southbound slip roads at junction 34. Work will take place between 9.30am and 3.30pm from Monday 13th to Friday 17th February.

M6 Garstang to Carlisle: There will be overnight lane and hard shoulder closures along the M6 from Garstang in Lancashire to Carlisle in Cumbria until Saturday 3rd March while routine bridge inspections are carried out.

The work is taking place at Barton Old Hall, Anyone Lane, Lawtland House, Bousfield, Catterlen Interchange and Monks Lane bridges. Traffic management will be in place for two nights only at each bridge between 9pm and 6am, and will run for approximately half a mile.

M6 Junction 40, Penrith: Work is underway to renew traffic signal equipment on the roundabout at Junction 40 of the M6 at Penrith. There will be night time lane closures from 8pm to 6am, and the work is expected to be completed on Sunday 19th February.

•  Real-time traffic information for England's motorways and major A roads is available:
- From the web at or if using a phone or mobile device.

Before using any mobile, find a safe place to park. Never stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency. Make sure it's safe and legal before you call.

• By phone from the Highways Agency 24-hour voice activated phone service on 08700 660 115. (Calls from BT residential landlines to 0870 numbers will cost no more than 8p per minute; call charges from other landlines and mobile networks may vary).

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Could Morecambe be set for a cash windfall?

A new fund to help support much loved seaside towns like Morecambe create new jobs and prosperity was launched today by Government Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.

The £23.7million Coastal Communities Fund has been created to provide struggling coastal communities all across the country with money to support new opportunities that can make their town prosper.

Today a variety of organisations are being invited to apply for the funding, first announced by the Chief Secretary, to diversify and transform seaside economies by allowing them to rejuvenate traditional assets or exploit new emerging industries.

Seaside groups could use the money to start programmes that can deliver skills training, offer apprenticeships to school leavers, create new workspaces or support small-scale transport improvements.

Successful applicants can expect to get a grant of between £50,000 and £2 million. Mr Pickles said he would especially like to see quality bids come in from social enterprises, charities, local businesses or local enterprise partnerships.

"Seaside towns and coastal communities have huge potential for economic growth that we simply can't afford to waste - this fund can make all the difference to these places we all know and love," said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

"This is a great opportunity for long overlooked seaside towns, large and small, to grab a chance to grow through imaginative and innovative projects that create, skilled workers, and provide year round jobs that build stronger local economies."

"Having grown up in a coastal community in Scotland, I am only too aware of the vital role these communities play in the UK," added Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. "It is fair that we share the Crown Estate's marine revenues equally and I am delighted to launch the Coastal Communities fund prospectus today.

"We look forward to receiving innovative bids from charities, businesses, social enterprises and local organisations, which support the economic development of the community."
The Fund will be financed by the Government from revenues from the Crown Estate's marine assets. It will be UK wide, with funding allocated to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the basis of revenue generated by these marine assets. The Fund will be delivered by the Big Lottery Fund's 'BIG Fund'.

• A prospectus setting out eligibility, suggestions of how to use funds and details of how to bid was published today: Applications will be accepted in April.

"Ice Network" hits M6 traffic, drivers warned to slow down

Drivers using the M6 in Lancashire and Cumbria between junction 33 and 39 are being advised to stick to lane one as the Highways Agency works to clear the network of ice caused by freezing rain.

As warned by the Highways Agency last night (and as we noted earlier after a warning from the police) a combination of freezing rain and sub zero temperatures on carriageway surfaces has led to ice patches along the M6 even where lanes have been treated.

Service Delivery Manager Andy Withington said, "Our contractors have been out treating the network continuously since last night and we are working to clear ice from lanes along the M6. 

"As the action of tyres on treated surfaces activates salt more effectively, drivers will find it safer to stay in lane one if travelling through north Lancashire and Cumbria rather than the less trafficked lanes 2 and 3.

The A66 has also closed at Bowes because of ice. However, drivers who have to use this road are also advised to stay in lane 1 on the dual carriageway sections.

Drivers are also been urged to make extra time for journeys, slow down and leave extra room for braking as well as heeding electronic message signs.

Lancaster Police issue motorway weather warning

Lancaster Police are warning motorists to slow down and drive to the conditions as freezing weather has caused a number of accidents on the M6 motorway.

"We are experiencing difficulties on the M6 between Junction 33 and junction 36 on both carriageways," they say. "This morning we have attended 10 damage only road traffic collisions. This is because of the weather conditions. Gritters are out in force."

It is raining and the rain is turning into ice, however motorists still insist on driving to fast and not to the conditions.

Police advice to motorists is

• Slow down and drive to the conditions
• Only travel if you need to
• Beware of the ice on the road

Icy pavements - just what is the Council's strategy?

(Updated 13:30): Local pedestrians are furious about what's perceived as a confused strategy from Lancaster City Council about the gritting of pavements, after overnight rain and freezing conditions turned some local streets, Lancaster-Morecambe Cycle Path and the Millennium Bridge into dangerous ice rinks.

But the Council has told virtual-lancaster it does have a bad weather plan and acted on it from dawn this morning in an effort to minimise disruption caused by the ice.

School children, students, cyclists and commuters struggled to work alike with locations including the Lancaster to Morecambe Cycle Path, the Millennium Bridge - one of the city's main pedestrian and cycling arteries - left treacherous by suddenly-freezing rain.

West Road, Beaumount Street, Baker Street, Moorside and among other areas that were all also danger zones for pedestrians.

Some feel there continues to be inconsistency in the Council's pavement gritting strategy, despite concerns raised by councillors last winter.

Last week pavements near the Town Hall and on Quarry Road - were gritted, but not the Cycle Path.

But the Council is adamant they acted as soon as it could to address problems caused by the inclement weather.

Staff tld virtual-lancaster they began gritting the Cycle Path at about 7.30am, but did not reach the Millennium Bridge until after the "rush hour". This requires special treatment with a substance called urea, because of its aluminium construction.

Staff out at dawn to deal with ice menace

"Lancashire County Council is responsible for gritting public highways and pavements and they have a strategic plan in place to deal with weather such as that we experienced this morning," a spokesperson told virtual-lancaster.

"The city council has an agreement, as part of this plan, that we will assist them with gritting priority paths and pavements when they request us to do so.  This is the same approach as was taken last year and, under the agreement, the request came from them earlier this morning.

"City council grounds maintenance, cleansing and highways maintenance staff were out from 6.00am onwards gritting pavements and the cycle track and worked hard to clear areas as quickly as possible."

Readers Reports

"My mum's day care bus for Vale View came early today," virtual-lancaster team member Satori reports from central Lancaster. "It seems they couldn't get up the hills on the east side of the city centre to collect some people because of the ice so they have to stay home on their own.

"Pavements here treacherous though," she adds. "I had to sand it. Luckily our pavement is flat so we manage ok, but it's impossible to load a wobbly elderly person safely when your door opens onto a greasy slope and your own footing is insecure."

"My daughter slipped off her bike coming out of our back garden onto Beaumont Street," Chris Drury told virtual-lancaster via Twitter. "Pavements in the area are deadly."

"Kids slipping all over the place outside Moorside and St Bernadettes," said another. " School pavements should be gritted."

"This is supposed to be a cycling town," one downed cyclist raged this morning. "Why the **** hasn't anything been done?"

Gritting Strategy

Lancaster City Council told virtual-lancaster it assists Lancashire County Council with its gritting operation. Gritting of roads and pavements in Lancashire is the responsibility of the County Council, except for motorways and trunk roads, which are the responsibility of the  Highways Agency.

"Today we have received instruction from Lancashire County Council to grit priority pavements which cover main areas of footfall in Morecambe, Lancaster, Heysham, Carnforth and cycle tracks.  This also includes the Millennium Bridge.

"It is unrealistic to think that in a district of our size, and given the finite resources that are available, that every area can be cleared at once," a spokeperson explained. "Staff cleared areas as quickly as they could and the Millennium Bridge was treated as soon as reasonably practicable.

"It must be realised that our staff are not employed to solely do this particular job - they have to be diverted from other duties - and the grit that is used is provided by the County Council.

"The city council's role is to provide the staff - the decision as when to grit and which areas is the County Council's.

Some virtual-lancaster readers were sympathetic to the Council's plight. "There is not funding to grit everywhere," said one Twitter user. "People's definition of main areas that should be gritted are always the ones they use."

"The Snow Code"

virtual-lancaster has previously reported on the Council's gritting strategy in 2010, after the Department of Transport advised then local MP Geraldine Smith councils should, perhaps, done more to clear pavements and roads during the recent snowy weather.

The government minister told her the Department for Transport did not issue guidance on responsibility for clearing footways in adverse weather conditions, but it did endorse the UK Roads Liaison Group's code of practice, "Well-maintained Highways" (available at:, direct link (PDF) here) when it came to keeping traffic and pedestrians moving safely.

The City Council's web page on Gritting says that if you clear snow and ice yourself, be careful - don’t make pathways more dangerous by causing them to refreeze. But don’t be put off clearing paths because you’re afraid someone will get injured.

"People walking on snow and ice have responsibility to be careful themselves," they state. "Follow the snow code to make sure you clear pathways safely and effectively."

The cost of gritting pavements across the Lancaster and Morecambe area are unknown but in Leeds it was estimated gritting every pavement would cost about £1 million a day in 2010.

In the UK, facilities for non-motorized traffic are not normally salted or gritted in icy conditions, potentially making them dangerous or unrideable.

Bring on the Quad Bikes?

Other Councils with cycling networks have their own strategies for delaing with icy conditions. Cambridgeshire has a Quad bike and brine sprayer which is used to treat some longer lengths of the network within Cambridge City and knapsack sprayers in other areas.
The quad bike is being used to treat the primary on- and off-road network of cycle routes and is deployed when there is a forecast of five days or more of icy weather.

Parishes and towns interested in gritting their own cycleways and footpaths can take part in Cambridgeshire's volunteering scheme.

Last year, Essex County Council bought Quad Bikes to grit even the narrowest of roads and pavements.

Despite cost concerns, after a long-running campaign last year, County Down council instituted an agreement that campaigning councillor Andrew Muir said would hopefully provide a framework for action in dealing with icy pavements.

"Whilst it will not be possible to grit every pavement after every sprinkling of snow it provides a basis for a more co-ordinated approach focused on key areas during extreme and prolonged cold weather when snow and ice make Town Centre’s inaccessible," he said.

Suffolk County Council has contracts with over 200 farmers and contractors across the county to help with clearing snow and ice, as well as using their own equipment, we. In severe snow conditions, they carry out snow ploughing throughout the night to try to keep the most important roads passable (this is normally confined to the busier A class roads).  They also clear snow from heavily used pavements, with main shopping streets in town centres given the highest priority, followed by other town pavements and well used cycle tracks.

"If you want to clear snow and ice on the pavement outside your property or from public spaces, it's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully," they state. "Follow the snow code when clearing snow and ice."

Useful links

• Council's Customer Services (01524 582000)

• Gritting is the responsibility of Lancashire County Council. Tel 0845 053 0011. 

• See the County Council's advice for pedestrians 

Lancaster City Council Severe weather advice 

Cycling advice for Chilled Out Cyclists

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Watchdog threatens closure of RLI A&E Department

Royal Lancaster Infirmary
Health Watchdog The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued a formal warning to University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, saying it must do more to improve standards of care or face further action.

The Trust was authorised by independent regulator Monitor to become an NHS Foundation Trust in October 2010. In October 2011 Monitor found the Trust to be in breach of its authorisation and a formal intervention was announced. A further announcement of intervention was issued by Monitor on Monday. 

CQC and Monitor have different powers and look at different aspects of the Trust’s performance - CQC assess quality of services while Monitor looks at leadership - but both regulators stress that they are working together to ensure that action to improve services for patients is co-ordinated. 

Debbie Westhead, North West Regional Lead for the Care Quality Commission said:
“An unannounced inspection of the Accident and Emergency department just before Christmas raised real concerns about staffing levels – staff themselves told our inspectors that these were “at crisis level”.

‘The advice CQC gave earlier this month still holds - local people should continue to use accident and emergency services if they need to. However, we are telling the Trust in very clear terms that they must urgently address their staffing issues to make sure that the department is safe going forward."

RLI Accident & Emergency Department failed inspection

The inspection of the accident and emergency department at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary took place on 21 December, with subsequent examination of staffing records. CQC inspectors found that staffing levels did not always meet the needs of people using the department. They noted a number of failings, including:

  • On 6 December, three of the registered nurses on shift were occupied in resuscitation bays, leaving only one nurse in the main department for medication administration
  • On 9 December, by 23.00 hours, the department was ‘blocked’ and only one resuscitation bay was available
  • On 15 December, the corridor was full with people awaiting attention and assistance. The shift report showed 11 four-hour waiting time breaches and five six-hour breaches.
  • On 17 December, no cover was provided for a registered nurse who was off sick
  • On 20 December, patients were waiting in the corridor and the staff shift reports stated that staff were unable to complete all the paperwork required clinically – staff were drafted in from wards to help.
  • Staff told inspectors “often staffing is at crisis level”

Maternity Unit deaths in Barrow linked to race?

The Morecambe Bay NHS Trust has been under investigation by the police since September 2011 on the coroner's advice following the deaths of four babies and two mothers in eight months at the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital in Barrow in 2008.

Out of the six deaths in 2008 involving women and babies, five were from ethnic minorities. Hospital data also showed that although just 2 percent of mothers treated at the baby unit in 2008 were from ethnic minorities,  83 percent of “serious untoward” cases involved ethnic minorities.

An inquest heard how nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe was killed by a common infection which could have been cured if hospital staff had not ignored the concerns of his mum Hoa, 32, a charity worker from Vietnam.

Former Army medic Carl Hendrickson, 46, told an inquest he had pleaded with a midwife for his Thai-born wife Nattaya, 35, and their son Chester to be examined by a doctor after she had collapsed, but his pleas were ignored and both died.

While the hospital denied any wrongdoing the health watchdog, Care Quality Commission, condemned the hospital in a report, particularly the poor standards of the maternity services.

Changes in staff have been made in the maternity unit at Furness general hospital, including the removal of a matron and the suspension of a paediatrician. However the independent regulator Monitor said Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust would continue to be "red rated" until further notice as concerns about leadership at the trust had been reinforced by the findings of reviews into maternity services and overall governance.

Backlog of missed appointments

Monitor also noted that the Trust failed to recognise that a backlog of missed appointments was a major clinical problem. Guaranteed access dates on 37,000 access plans on the trust’s system, which covers Furness General Hospital, the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Westmorland General Hospital, had been missed. The number of patients who missed this date and needed to be seen is thought to be around 14,000.

Monitor ordered a review into the problem, which was carried out between November last year and January this year. It found that there was no one single cause for the backlog, but the biggest problem was that trust staff had not recognised the problem. There were also concerns that false assurances had been made to the hospital management team, there was a shortage of staff and staff capacity to handle the volume of follow-ups, and changes had been made to the booking system without a full risk impact assessment being carried out. Other problems highlighted as a result of the review were the failure to bring anyone to account and poor governance.

Monitor said in recent weeks the director of operations, chairman and one of the trust's non-executive directors had resigned. It deemed the trust's governance processes and systems to be inadequate. Executive directors spent too much time on operational issues and operated "in a largely reactive manner. They should focus on making key decisions more quickly and in setting a clear direction for continuous improvement of quality," the regulator said.

Clinical leadership roles were poorly defined and clinical leadership was weak, according to Monitor. Where policies existed they were not consistently applied and understood by staff.

Morecambe Bay NHS Trust chair Professor Eddie Kane resigned in December 2011 five months before his contract was due to expire.  On Monday the independent regulator Monitor intervened in the running of the hospital trust, bringing in an interim chair, Sir David Henshaw, from Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool.

Trust's response

Responding to the Monitor reports, Chief Executive Tony Halsall said:

"The three key reports undoubtedly make uncomfortable reading for the Trust but we accept their findings. Everyone has been working hard to make the changes that are needed to resolve the current issues at the Trust and considerable progress has already made.

"However, the appointment of Sir David Henshaw as interim Chair and two new directors will give us the additional resources and expertise at the top of the Trust to drive through the changes that we still need to make, whilst also ensuring longer term improvements to our services.

"This has been a difficult time for the organisation and the on-going commitment and hard work of our staff during this time is very much appreciated." He went on to itemise a number of improvements that have been made in the Trust's services in response to regulators' findings and you can read his full response here.

May Day mobilization planned as cuts protests continue

Lancaster and Morecambe TUC will be holding an open meeting on Thursday 1st March 2012 to plan a week of events for May Day.

The TUC are keen to hear ideas about celebrating May Day (either as International Labour Day or as the more traditional festival), demonstrating against cuts, celebrating trade unionism, celebrating occupation, or whatever you want May Day to be.

They are hoping to see a week of events from the 1st to the 6th, with rallies, speakers, gigs, performances, etc. in the Lancaster area, complementing events already being prepared by other local groups.

The usual TUC march and rally in Lancaster will take place on Saturday 5th May.

Lancaster's May Day-releated events are to take place against a backdrop of increasing attacks on working people, on claimants, on those on benefits of every kind and the NHS.

There's also concern that the ConDem government is doing its utmost to remove the May Day holiday from the calendar, a time known across the world as the day to celebrate trade unionism and workers' organizations.

Given that many of the cuts already put in place will come into force on 1st April, there are likely to be a lot of people seeing the impact in their pay packets at the end of that month and the TUC see this as an ideal opportunity to mobilize public opinion.

• The venue for the meeting has yet to be confirmed, please see Lancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts for info

Line your food waste caddy for free

Lancaster City Council is encouraging more residents to start recycling their food waste, by giving away free compostable liners for food waste caddies.

Most residents in the Lancaster district have a silver kitchen caddy for food waste, which can be lined with newspaper or compostable bags. The caddy is emptied into the green garden wheelie bin or for those with less space, a green outdoor food caddy.

Compostable bags are currently available free of charge from Morecambe or Lancaster Town Hall while stocks last. They will be limited to one roll per household.

Bags are also available to buy in local supermarkets.

UK households currently throw away around 7.2 million tonnes of food every year.  However all food waste can be recycled, including leftovers, peelings, dairy products, pasta, bread, cakes, meat, fish and bones.

Food waste is combined with garden waste to make compost for use in parks, gardens and on agricultural land.

• For more information on food waste recycling visit 

Kitchen caddies, green garden wheelie bins or green outdoor food caddies can be ordered from Customer Services on 01524 582491.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

CancerCare announces Cross Bay Challenge run

Local charity CancerCare has announced this year's Cross Bay Challenge will take place on 12th Augsut 2012 and you cvan sign up for it now.

All proceeds to CancerCare, our local cancer support service.

The charity is proud to be the organiser of the UK’s favourite half marathon, and the only race in the world to cross a tidal area. Despite being run mainly on the flat, the Cross Bay Challenge certainly lives up to its title as runners battle sand and sea through the numerous water channels running down from the Lake District hills, crossing county borders from Cumbria to Lancashire.

For those who prefer to take in the beauty of their surroundings at a calmer pace, there is also a shorter walk that is open to all and proves popular with families and friends of runners as it offers the opportunity to experience the incredible scenery of the bay and the Lake District peaks, finishing in the same place as the half marathon in time to cheer to runners across the finish line.

"Last year nearly 700 runners and over 300 walkers took part," the organisers tel us. "The 13.1 mile run and 6 mile walk are carefully marked and marshalled, and we’ve received high praise for how well this event is organised.

"We’re aiming for 1000 runners this year, and already getting sign-ups from all over the world."

• If you want to be running, jogging or strolling across the sands in August don’t leave it too late to sign up.  Register at or call: 01524 381820

Armed robbers target local shops

Police are appealing to the public to come forward with information after two shops in Lancaster and Garstang were targeted by armed robbers on Saturday night (4th February).

The first offence took place around 8.40pm when two masked men entered Leas Grocery store on Coulston Road, Lancaster, demanding the 20-year-old shop assistant open the till. When he refused he was hit over the arm with a stick and the two men then left empty handed and were seen to run off down Cork Road.

Both men are described as being around 5ft 10” tall, slim build, wearing grey clothing and hoods with scarfs or similar disguising the lower part of their faces.

Almost an hour later at 9.30pm, two men entered the off license on Croston Road in Garstang with an iron bar.

One of the men reached over the counter where the female shop assistant was stood and stole part of the till containing a small amount of cash. Both men then run off towards Garstang town centre.

The following day the stolen till was recovered at Fowler Hill layby, the cash taken.

The first offender is descried as white, quite pale, with possibly light coloured or ginger eye brows, about 5ft 8” tall, average build with a local accent. He was wearing dark clothes with his hood up and trainers.

The second man is described as being around the same height and build with the same local accent but was but not as pale and had dark eyebrows.

“Both incidents are serious and have left the shop assistants badly shaken but thankfully no one was injured," commented Detective Sergeant Colin Forsyth from Lancaster CID.

“We are still at the early stages of the investigation but we believe both offences could be linked and would appeal for any witnesses in Lancaster or Garstang who saw any suspicious people or vehicles around the times of the incidents to contact police.

• Anyone with any information should call Lancashire Police on 101. People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Top tips to beat the burglars and their break-in wish list

Police are giving residents their top tips to protect their treasured possessions from burglars trying to tick off items on their ‘wish lists’, as part of a county wide crack down on house crime.

Crime reports show trends in certain types of property that are commonly stolen during break-ins, with items being selected because of their value or the ease with which they can be sold on.

“The thing at the top of a burglar’s wish list is an open door or window because it provides them with easy access to whatever you have inside your home," says Detective Constable Sean Burrell said.

"The most important tip of all is to make sure you lock your doors and windows both when you go out and when you are in, especially when you are in bed.

“However, the wish list also contains items that a burglar would hope to find inside your home and there are certain crime prevention measures that can be taken in order to prevent these items being stolen, or give you a better chance of getting them back if you are broken into and the items are later recovered by us.”

The warning comes as part of a major drive to reduce burglary across the county. Operation Julius will run until the end of March and is aimed at preventing crime, targeting criminals and detecting burglaries. Officers will use a range of overt and covert tactics during the crackdown to tackle suspected offenders - some of which may involve filming them to prevent burglaries.

Jewellery: High precious metal prices mean items such as necklaces, earrings and watches are desirable to burglars. Keep these valuables out of sight – don’t leave them on display on bedside tables or near windows. Take photos of valuable or sentimental pieces so that you can provide them to police if the items are stolen - this will make them easily identifiable to officers who are searching through stolen property.

Laptops, notebooks and tablets: Burglars love the latest technology – especially if it is portable. Store these things away once you have finished using them. Mark them with your postcode using a UV or marker pen.

You can also register items with a serial number at:, which creates a quick and easy list of your property in the event of a break-in.

Cash: Large amounts of money kept in your home provide an instant profit for burglars. Don’t store big wads of cash in your house– deposit it into your bank account.

Games consoles: There is a large second hand market for these – and the games that come with them – and some people have no scruples when it comes to buying stolen property. Mark them with your postcode and avoid leaving these items near windows for thieves to see.

Mobile phones: People can be careless with their phones, even though handsets can be expensive and therefore easy money for burglars. Record details of your electronic serial number (ESN) and consider separate insurances. Some phones have an IMEI number which is a unique identifier for the phone; you can obtain this number by typing *#06# (star hash 06 hash) into your mobile phone and it will display a 15 digit number. This can later be used to prove it is yours.

Car keys: Advanced security systems on cars can deter thieves so some burglaries are committed so that they can get their hands on keys. If possible, store your car in a locked garage at night. Keep keys in a safe place, away from doors, windows and letter boxes.

Sat navs: These items are more usually stolen from cars – so it is a good idea to remove temptation and bring them into your home when you have finished your journey. If you do leave your device in your vehicle, put it in the glove compartment so it cannot be seen and wipe away the tell-tale suction marks from the windscreen.

DC Sean Burrell added: “Most burglars are opportunistic so if they see something they like, or they think no one is home, they will try their luck. If you remove the opportunity you can prevent the burglary.”

• Visit for further crime prevention tips. People can follow the police activity throughout the operation on Twitter @LancsPolice and on hashtag #OpJulius.

Charity Box Thefts: New CCTV Released

Police are again appealing for help tracing a man they want to interview in connection with a number of charity box thefts - relasing new CCTV images.

Police would like the public's help identifying an elderly man they need identify after at least a dozen charity boxes were stolen from shops across Lancashire, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

As we previously reported last month, the offences appear to have begun back in July 2009 when the Royal National Lifeboat Institution charity box was targeted at the Barclays Bank in Carnforth - and most recently on 27th January 2012, when a Childline charity box was stolen from Barclays Bank in Ingleton, North Yorkshire.

There was also a spate of offences at Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria in November 2011.

Police believe all the incidents are linked and that the person responsible may be using public transport to travel between the various crime scenes.

The man is described as white and aged in his 60s. He is believed to be around 5ft 6inches or 5ft 7inches tall with receding dark hair and usually wears glasses.

He is often captured on CCTV wearing the same medium length camel coloured coat and has previously worn woollen hats, and shirts underneath a jumper.

PC Ben Hanley from Lancashire Police said: “This is a despicable crime and I would urge anybody that recognises this man or with any information about the offences to contact Lancashire Police on 08451 25 35 45.”

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Lancashire Thefts

1st July 2009 – Barclays Bank, Carnforth (Royal National Lifeboat Institution)
22nd November 2011 – Harris Pantry, Morecambe (MenCap)
10th December 2011 – Post Office, Scorton (North West Air Ambulance)
17th December 2011 – Cabus Garage, Preston (Help for Heroes)
21st December 2011 – Co-op Travel, Poulton-le-Fylde (MenCap)
21st December 2011 – Booths, Poulton-le-Fylde (Trinity Hospice)

Cumbria Thefts

14th November 2011 – HSBC Bank, Kirkby Lonsdale (Poppy Appeal)
14th November 2011 – NatWest, Kirkby Lonsdale (Poppy Appeal)
11th November 2011 – Post Office, Kirkby Lonsdale (Unknown)

North Yorkshire Thefts

6th September 2011 – Barclays Bank, High Bentham (MacMillan Cancer)
23rd November 2011 – HSBC Bank, High Bentham (NSPCC)
23rd November 2011 – Post Office, High Bentham (Bentham Christmas Lights Appeal)
27th January 2012 – Barclays Bank, Ingleton (Childline)

Night raiders sought after attempted Lancaster burglary

Lancaster Police are appealing for information after a man tried to force his way into an elderly man’s home in the early hours of Tuesday morning (31st January 2012)

Just before 2.00am, an elderly man living on Coolidge Avenue in Abraham Heights was was disturbed from his sleep by someone ringing his doorbell. When he and his wife answered the door, they were confronted by three men wearing balaclavas.

One of the men tried to push past the gentleman to get inside the house but he and his wife were able to push the door closed and the three men ran from the house.

“Fortunately, in this case, the couple were able to prevent these men from getting in to their property," says DC Tim Dodgson of Lancaster CID, "but understandably, they have been left shaken by their ordeal.

“I would appeal to anyone who may have any information to come forward, particularly anyone who saw anything around the time of the incident itself or any suspicious activity in the area in the time leading up to it.”

It is believed that after the offence the three men ran off down an alleyway onto Willow Lane.

One of the men was described as around six feet two inches tall, of slim build and he was wearing a balaclava, a dark fleece jacket with a zip and dark trousers. The two other men have been described as around five feet ten inches tall and of slim build. They were also wearing balaclavas and dark clothing.

• Anyone with any information is asked to call police on the new non-emergency number 101 or alternatively, information can be passed to the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at

Lancaster University graduate wins £30K book prize

Author Andrew Miller
Lancaster graduate Andrew Miller has won the 2011 Costa Book of the Year Award, netting a £30,000 prize for his novel, Pure, set in pre-revolutionary France.

Miller, who gained a PhD in 1995 from the Department of English and Creative Writing, was presented with the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000 at a ceremony in London last week.

He beat the bookmakers’ odds-on favourite, poet and debut biographer Matthew Hollis for his work Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas, Poet Laureate (and regular Lancaster LitFest guest) Carol Ann Duffy for The Bees, debut writer Christie Watson for Tiny Sunbirds Far Away and first-time author, Moira Young for Blood Red Road.

Set in pre-revolutionary Paris in 1785, Pure is the story of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an ambitious young engineer, who is assigned the task of emptying the noxious, overflowing Parisian cemetery Les Innocents, and of demolishing its church.

Geordie Greig chaired a final judging panel that included actor and comedian Hugh Dennis, actress  Dervla Kirwan, broadcaster Mary Nightingale, novelist Patrick Gale, author Jojo Moyes, historical  biographer Flora Fraser, author William Fiennes and children’s writer, Eleanor Updale.

Grieg said Pure was "a rich and brilliant historical novel of death and superstition. It is a morality tale which engrosses with its vivid evocation of pre-revolutionary France."

Born in 1960 in Bristol, England, Andrew Miller has lived and worked in several countries, including Spain, France, Holland and Japan. He studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 1991 and finished a Ph.D. in Critical and Creative Writing at Lancaster University in 1995.

His first novel, Ingenious Pain, was published in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction), the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Italian Grinzane Cavour Prize. Set during the eighteenth century, it tells the story of surgeon James Dyer and his extraordinary inability to feel pain. It was followed by Casanova (1998), a fictional portrait of the infamous libertine and writer.

Both novels are currently being adapted for film.

His next novel, Oxygen (2001), set in England in 1997, was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread Novel Award. The book narrates two loosely connected narratives, those of a dying mother attended by her two sons and a Hungarian playwright living in Paris. His other novels are The Optimists 2005), the tale of a photojournalist who returns to Britain from Africa where he was involved in reporting on an atrocity, and One Morning Like a Bird (2008).

Originally established by Whitbread PLC in 1971, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s book prize in 2006.

2011 marks the 40th year of the Book Awards which, due to its unique category system, has seen 187 awards being given to writers since its launch in 1971, including literary giants such as Iris Murdoch, Roald Dahl, Ian McEwan, JK Rowling, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Philip Pullman, Salman Rushdie, Claire Tomalin, Michael Frayn, William Boyd, Michael Morpurgo and Beryl Bainbridge.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Lancaster University announces Anuj Bidve Memorial Scholarship

Anuj Bidve

Lancaster University is to set up an annual scholarship in memory of Anuj Bidve, the Indian postgraduate student who was murdered on Boxing Day in a suspected racist attack in Salford (see news story).

The Anuj Bidve Memorial Scholarship will fund a graduate from India's Pune University, where Anuj studied, to study M.Sc. in Lancaster University's engineering department where he was reading postgraduate micro-electronics.

“The scholarship is a fitting and lasting way of remembering Anuj, who was an outstanding student,” said University head, Vice-Chancellor Mark E. Smith.

The scholarship, which would cover the fee and accommodation cost, had been agreed in accordance with the wishes of Anuj's family and it's hoped the first beneficiary would come to Lancaster in October.

23-year-old Anuj, whonwas a graduate of Pune University, was shot dead in an unprovoked attack on Boxing Day while out in Salford with friends.

20-year-old Kiaran Stapleton has been charged with Anuj's murder and is due to appear in the Manchester Crown Court next month. Three other people arrested on suspicion of Anuj’s murder have been granted bail until March pending further inquiries. A fourth man, aged 19, had his bail cancelled.

Despite the tragic incident, which sparked widspread outrage, the UK is still regarded as a safe place for overseas students and migrants. This week, web site Immigration Matters reported that UK universities had seen a 13.7% increase in applications from overseas candidates from non-EU countries, despite changes to Tier 4 student visa rules and the abolition of PSW this April.