Saturday, 29 September 2012

Concrete slabs stolen from Lancaster city centre

Police are appealing for witnesses after 30 concrete slabs worth around £500 were stolen from outside Lancaster Auction Mart.

The offence took place sometime between 4.30pm on Wednesday 26th September and 7.30am the following morning.

The surplus concrete slabs have been taken from outside Auction Mart car park, quite close to Lancaster Police Station on Thurnham Street, after being left by construction workers employed on the new flats that have just been built opposite.

“The offenders would likely have used a van or similar vehicle to transport the concrete blocks," said PC Martin Wilcock, " and I would appeal to anybody that thinks they may have witnessed this crime or with any information that could assist with our investigation to come forward.

“It is a busy part of town and people may have thought the blocks were being removed legitimately.”

The slabs are 400 x 400 x 14mm in size and white in colour.

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.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Clairvoyant Sean Roper at the Platform

Clairvoyant Sean Roper will be bringing his skills as a medium to the Platform on Thursday 11th October.

Widely regarded as the UK's best up-and-coming psychic, Sean is originally from Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Sean has been a clairvoyant for around ten years and has an ever growing fan base.   This in demand psychic is popular among the north east spiritualist churches and a regular on the north east club circuit.

The show starts 8.00pm and is for over 16s only. Tickets cost £10 and are available from the Visitor Information Centres at Lancaster and Morecambe. You can also buy tickets over the phone on 01524 582803 and online at

Free Physics lectures at the Storey

The public is being invited to a series of free science lectures in Lancaster city centre from 9th October, given by physicists from Lancaster University’s world-ranking department.

Entitled 'Making Waves', the series of six lectures will showcase the cutting edge research that takes place in the UK's top-rated physics department.

From the smallest subatomic particles, to the daunting scale of the cosmos, from the lowest temperatures possible to the super-heated atmosphere of the Sun, Lancaster University physicists will take you on a journey through our understanding of the Universe.

The first lecture on 9th October will be given by Dr Laura Kormos, who will be using ice cream to illustrate the nature of subatomic particles called neutrinos.

Other topics include the “Holy grail of Particle physics” the Higgs boson, the question of what existed before the Big Bang, extreme cold, solar storms and the mysteries of invisible waves.

• The lectures at the Storey Institute in Lancaster run from 9th October to 13th November at 7.00pm. Tickets are free but registration is required here or call 01524 592067. Web:

Robb Johnson headlines major anti-cuts concert at The Yorkie

This Saturday at Lancaster's Yorkshire House (Sept 29th), don't miss a night of anti cuts folk featuring Robb Johnson, Chris Butler and Jezabellezza.

The Guardian describes Robb Johnson "as as one of the finest songwriters working in the UK today". His songs feature in the repertoires of a wide variety of musicians, from folk legend Roy Bailey to acclaimed cabaret diva Barb Jungr and he enjoys a similarly diverse spectrum of critical acclaim. “A modern-day Dostoyevsky” said the US’s Dirty Linen, Mojo made the double CD Gentle Men Folk Album Of The Month, while The Daily Telegraph made it their Folk Album Of The Year.

He returns to the Yorkie with his full band The Irregulars... so expect this folk to be punked up with much fun and merriment, but with a serious message about the struggles of ordinary folk in Tory Britain!

Support comes from Derbyshire protest folk singer Chris Butler. Fusing early Guthrie and Dylan with the DIY energy of punk, Chris’ unique sound has been described by Four Dogs Music as “where punk meets folk and protest meets resistance”. Heavily inspired by the anarcho wing of punk-rock and by political folk singers such as Dick Gaughan and Christy Moore, it's not surprising to find that Butler's songs are "high on political commitment."

Kicking off the night, Manchester's Jezabellezza - offering keyboards, punk and social critique! Jez plays songs that sometimes sound like nursery rhymes.. Don't be fooled by the playful tones - there is a multi-headed political monster at work here, you will be left with questions and confusion..

• Doors open at 8.30pm - £5 On the door.

Local charity wins National Diversity Award

Wayne Clinton
Congratulations are the order of the day to Morecambe-based Disability Online, who have won a National Diversity Award for their work helping local people with issues ranging from benefits advice, appeals, hate crime and access issues.

The National Diversity Awards are designed to showcase the efforts of those who have demonstrated an outstanding devotion to enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion within today’s society. They aim to recognise and reward positive role models, entrepreneurs and community organisations from a grass roots level for all their hard work within their respective communities.

Members of the Disability Online team attended the National Diversity Awards last Friday at Manchester's Midland Hotel, hosted by television celebrity Brian Dowling. During the ceremony, it was announced they had won the Community Organisation Award for Disability, which was received by Wayne Clinton from Ruth Munday, the Human Resources Director from Mouchel.

Disability Online were shortlisted as one of the top three candidates for the award back in August after being whittled down from thousands of potential winners/nominees..

“I can’t believe that we've won," said Wayne after the event. "We’ve worked so hard since we started. "In my eyes, all the shortlisted individual and group entries are winners – we’re all working towards change and make a difference in our own way. We are so proud of the work we do, and whilst we still consider ourselves relatively new, we are absolutely over the moon to have been chosen as the winner for our category at a national level. "Awards like this that acknowledge the work that we do are rare to come across and we will cherish this award… and we will continue to serve the local Disabled community as we have done up to this point; with compassion and care.”.

Since its beginning in February 2012, Disability Online has served 142 individual clients with issues ranging from benefits advice, appeals, hate crime and access issues. During this time, they have achieved a staggering 40 benefit awards and have attended 10 appeals with clients.

Disability Online is run by Disabled people to help Disabled people in the Morecambe and Lancaster District (and online). They offer support and advice where they can – and also offer free private and confidential Benefit Health Checks for those who are unsure of which benefits they are entitled to; and help with the Benefit application forms – including Employment Support Allowance, Atos Medicals, Benefit appeals, Disability Hate Crime, Access issues and more.

• For more information about Disability Online visit, call 01524 412044 or call in at their drop-in’s or our new office at The Lighthouse Centre in Morecambe.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Lancaster Arts City preps for launch

Chameleon Company who will bring Push to Lancaster Market Square on Friday 5th October. Photo: Brian Slater
Lancaster Arts City will be launched next Friday (5th October) with the first in a series of special monthly events showcasing the variety of cultural activities on offer across the district.

And the promotion of Lancaster as an Arts City will also see the launch of a new free mobile app which aims to ensure people never miss out again on the array of exciting events taking place locally.

Lancaster Arts City promotes excellent arts activity in Lancaster, Morecambe and district, encouraging residents and visitors to see the area afresh.

And on the first Friday of every month there will be a special chance to try out something new on the arts scene.

The inaugural First Friday takes place on 5th October, right in the centre of Lancaster when live music courtesy of young musicians from More Music will play in Market Square from 6.00pm.

At the City Museum and Lancaster Library, information on Lancaster Arts City will be available at the launch of the free smartphone app intended to make it easier to access what’s on information when planning a day or night out in the district.

Lancaster’s reputation as a dance hub will be demonstrated from 7.15pm in Market Square with a performance of Push by Company Chameleon. (Who are back in Lancaster on 1st November at Lancaster University's LICA with another production, Gameshow).

Zena Edwards who'll present film and spoken word at during the First Friday event at The Dukes
You’re then invited to follow the crowd to The Dukes for Afrovibes Festival Friday, where you can enjoy free live South African music in the Township CafĂ© from 6.00pm, a dance performance in The Rake from 8.00pm and spoken word plus film in the gallery from 8.45pm.

The organisers of First Fridays and the promoters of Lancaster Arts City are Lancaster Arts Partners who include The Dukes, More Music, Ludus, Live at LICA, Litfest, Green Close and Storey Gallery.

Every First Friday of the month, many of Lancaster Arts Partners will be offering special events to enjoy for free in a bid to encourage more people to experience the wide variety of arts activities available in the district.

“Lancaster’s reputation as an historic city is well established and now it’s time to shout about its status as an arts city too," says Lancaster Arts Partners chairman, Joe Sumsion.

“This project signposts the professional performances, exhibitions and events taking place on our doorstep and celebrates the fantastic cluster of arts organisations in Lancaster, Morecambe and district.”

November’s First Friday is entitled Light Up Lancaster and will be a free event where all the family can stroll through the city on the evening of 2nd November and enjoy music, film, dance and art lighting up Lancaster’s beautiful buildings and squares.

• For more information on Lancaster Arts City, First Fridays and the free app, visit

Dukes nabs Nobby Clark's Broadsides photos for new exhibition

20 years of the acclaimed Northern Broadsides Theatre Company is captured on camera in a new exhibition at The Dukes this October.

To mark Northern Broadsides milestone and their visit to the Lancaster theatre with their production of A Government Inspector, a special photographic exhibition takes place in The Dukes gallery.

All the images have been taken by Nobby Clark, the exclusive photographer for Northern Broadsides since it was established.

The photographs have been selected from a large scale exhibition which took place earlier this year at Northern Broadsides home in Halifax and include some of the famous faces who’ve appeared in their productions throughout the years, including Lenny Henry.
The images offer an object lesson in stage photography and illustrate how a theatre company’s profile benefits from a consistent ‘house style’. They also offer a chance to recall, admire and even regret having missed the many acclaimed productions over the last 20 years.

Nobby Clarke is a renowned theatre photographer who has worked for the Observer, the Sunday Times, The Times and the Guardian newspapers and for all the major English theatre, opera and ballet companies including the Royal National and Royal Shakespeare Theatre companies and both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. He's worked with such directors as Sir Peter Hall, Sir Trevor Nunn, Sir Alan Ayckbourn and John Schlesinger and several comedians on their live shows including Billy Connolly, Dave Allen, Rik Mayall and Ben Elton and, for Noel Gay Television, he took the photographs of the last series of Red Dwarf, which were used in the book of the making of the series.

His work has been exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Theatre Museum, the Royal National Theatre and toured both the UK and Australia. He has produced photographic books on London, on portraiture and on The Rolling Stones.

20 Years of Northern Broadsides runs from 8th - 14th October at The Dukes gallery which is open from 10am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday.  Please call the box office on 01524 598500 to check opening times if you’re making a special journey as occasionally the space is closed to the public.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Planned council tax benefits cuts attack on 'working poor'

Gina Dowding
Gina Dowding
Lancaster Green Party co-ordinator Gina Dowding, has called for Council Tax discounts on empty and second homes to be scrapped to help make up the shortfall in Government grant reduction for Council Tax benefits.

Under Government plans, Council Tax Benefit is due to be abolished in April next year and local councils have been told to develop new localised schemes to replace the benefit.

The Government is reducing the amount of funding it gives to councils to fund their schemes by 10 per cent (£1.112 million in Lancaster ) while at the same time insisting that the changes must not affect pensioners.

This reduction in Government funding means the amount of financial support for working aged people who are currently entitled to help with paying Council tax will be cut by about 18 per cent on average. They will have to make increased payments of around £180 a year on average.

“The reduction in benefits from the Government is an assault on the working poor," says Gina. "For many people trying to survive on minimum wage, on unpaid workfare, or incomes of around just £70 a week, any reduction in the help they receive with paying Council tax will seriously affect their ability to meet basic needs of heating and food bills.

"However, by removing discounts from empty and second homes," she argues, "much of this reduction in benefits can be made up.”

New local government minister Brandon Lewis this week published estimates of how much second and empty home discounts cost individual councils - totalling £425m across the country but varying widely between councils depending on the number of such properties in the area.

The new flexibilities in the way councils charge for Council Tax have been championed by ministers as one way councils can cope with the 10 per cent funding cut due in 2013-14, the Local Government Chronicle reports.

Comparing the government’s estimates for the size of each council’s cut with the estimated extra tax yield available to councils by making use of the flexibilities suggests that 80 (64 per cent) single-tier authorities would be able to cover the amount they are expecting to lose in council tax benefit grant.

Local Government Chronicle: Empty homes discounts: winners and losers emerge

Hansard: Responses to questions about second homes and empty shop tax discounts

Lancashire Police scoop prestigious diversity award

Lancashire Police has scooped a prestigious award which celebrates diversity in the workplace and the community.

The Constabulary was presented with first prize in the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) ‘Public Sector Partner of the Year’ award during a special ceremony on Thursday 20 September. The LGF Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals, groups and organisations working towards equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Chief Superintendent Bob Eastwood, Strategic Lead for Equality and Diversity, said: “I am delighted the Constabulary has been recognised by this prestigious award which is a clear reflection of our commitment to diversity and the communities we serve.

“We recognise both as an employer and a service that Lancashire is made up of many diverse communities and we will continue to make equality and diversity a key part of the way we work.”

• More information on the LGF awards can be found at

Council launches Housing Needs survey

Lancaster City Council is launching a public consultation on new planning guidance for the district for new private housing.

Views are being sought on the Draft Meeting Housing Needs Supplementary Planning Document.

The document has been prepared to support and guide proposals for new housing so that they address the district’s housing needs.  It focuses on private housing – sold or rented on the open market, affordable housing, rural housing and specific communities. It also provides technical guidance regarding the planning process.

This follows earlier consultation with organisations who could be involved with developments in the district, including land owners, property developers, social housing providers and local parish councils.

Members of the public are able to view the document and have their say online at or at council buildings and local libraries during normal opening hours.

The consultation will run for six weeks from 1st October until 9th November 2012.

Coun Janice Hanson, Cabinet member with responsibility for economic regeneration and planning, said:  “It is vital that local people are given the opportunity to ensure they can access appropriate housing in the right locations.   Your views on guidance to achieve this are important to us and I would urge people to come forward with their feedback on the proposed document.”

Duo set to celebrate Neil Young at The Gillow

The Duo will be performing this Thursday, 27th September, in The Robert Gillow, Lancaster. 

Amongst other things we will present a special Harvest Festival. It's 40 years since the mighty Neil Young released the album Harvest and the band will mark this by playing half of it on Thursday.

The Duo are Dave Emptage and Tony Cooke, who do what they says – perform songs and tunes from folk to Pink Floyd with two voices and two guitars. 

Local critics have noted The Duo’s “eclecticism and brilliance”, “superb playing and vocal harmonies”  and called them “Lancaster’s numero uno acoustic act”.  They are, in these instances, quite right!

The show starts at 9.00pm.

Read an anniversary interview with Neil Young on the New York Times web site

Is 'Vertigo' really the greatest film ever made?

Make up your own mind whether Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is the greatest film ever made when it’s screened at The Dukes cinema in Lancaster on Sunday 7th October.

The Hitchcock classic has recently replaced Citizen Kane which had a 50-year reign at the top of a poll of the world’s leading film critics and directors taken every ten years by Sight and Sound magazine.

Vertigo (PG) stars James Stewart as a San Francisco detective with a fear of heights as he investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife with whom he becomes dangerously obsessed.

The Vertigo screening will include a 10 minute introduction at 7.30pm by Dr Bruce Bennett, a Film Studies lecturer at Lancaster University.

The Dukes wants to know whether you agree with the poll which crowns Vertigo as the best film ever made. If not, send your favourite three film titles by Twitter(@The DukesTheatre); Facebook (The Dukes, Lancaster) or email (

A list of the results will be compiled and The Dukes hopes to screen the top film at a later date.

• Tickets for Vertigo are priced £5.50 (£4.50 concessions). To book, call The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit

Appeal for Skerton man wanted on prison recall

Police are appealing for information about a Lancaster man who is wanted on prison recall.

Gary Hall, 25, who is previously of Aldrens Lane in Lancaster, was sentenced to 14 months in February 2012 at Preston Crown Court for an assault which happened on Alexandra Road in Morecambe on 14th August 2011.

He was later released from prison on licence but has since breached the terms of that licence and has therefore been recalled to prison.

Gary is described as being white, around 6ft tall, medium build, cropped short dark brown hair and blue eyes.

He has connections to the Lancaster and Morecambe areas but his current whereabouts are unknown.

DI Colin Forsyth said, “We would ask the public to be vigilant and to report any sightings to the police - any details could be crucial.”

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, 24 September 2012

Appeal after 76-year-old woman robbed in Morecambe

Kilnbank Avenue, Morecambe. Image: Google

(Updated 26/9/12): Police are appealing for information after a senior citizen was attacked and robbed as she walked home through Morecambe at the weekend.

At approximately 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon (22nd September 2012) the 76-year-old lady was walking along the pathway by Kilnbank Avenue in Morecambe when she was approached from behind by two men.

One of the men grabbed the strap of her handbag, pulling it from her shoulder and causing her to fall to the ground. The two men then ran from the scene.

Fortunately, the lady only received minor injuries but has been left extremely shaken by what has happened and officers are appealing for anyone with any information to come forward.

Detective Sergeant Mark Stephens said, “This is an appalling offence against an elderly lady and I am very keen to catch the people responsible.

“If anyone was in the area at the time and saw anything at all then I would urge them to come forward if they have any information that they think might help.”

The person who grabbed the bag from the lady has been described as wearing a dark top and a balaclava. The second person who was with him has been described as having blonde hair and was wearing white/light coloured clothing.

The handbag which is still outstanding is described as beige in colour and about 12 inches by 10 inches in size, with a beige and white diagonal pattern on the front.

• Anyone with information can contact police by calling the new non-emergency number 101 quoting log number LC-20120922-1045 or alternatively, information can be passed via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Update, 26th September: A 16-year-old Heysham boy has been charged with this robbery. He appeared at Lancaster Magistrates Court on Tuesday 25th September where he pleaded guilty. He will be sentenced later in the year.

Police public counters set to close, but service will be better, Lancashire Constabulary claims

Members of the public who need to visit a Police Station front counter to make an enquiry can look forward to a better quality of service from 1st October, according to Lancashire Constabulary.

14 front counters will close but the 24 remaining will offer more consistent opening hours and a wider range of services. The majority won’t close for lunch, training purposes or for any other reason outside of those hours either.

In addition, they will all offer the same services which means that members of the public will no longer be sent from counter to counter to access the service(s) they need.

The review of front counter services was sparked by cuts resulting from the Coalition government's Comprehensive Spending Review and a need for the Constabulary to save £43 million by 2015. The changes will save the force £386,000 through the 14 closures; £4.5million through the sale of 31 other police buildings; and around £500,000 in the running costs of those buildings.

However, whilst the review presented opportunities in terms of savings and service provision, the decision to close some less well used front counters was not taken lightly.

Extensive consultation was undertaken with over 11,000 people expressing a view on the closures and, as a result, Lancashire Constabulary decided to keep seven front counters that were originally earmarked for closure, reducing the closures from 21 to 14.

The review of Front Counter services looked at a range of issues including opening hours, services provided to the public and working practices across the force. It found that 81% of the total footfall of visitors across the county is catered for by just 17 of the front counters. The remaining 21 were dealing with only 19% of the overall footfall.

A front counter is not the entire police station. Of the 14 front counters that will close, just under half of the police stations they are based in will remain operational, meaning that police officers and staff will continue to work in them. However, they will not be open to the general public.

The front counters which will close are: Southshore and Lytham in Western Division; Garstang and Cleveleys in Nothern Division; Bamber Bridge in Southern Division; Preston Town Hall and Fulwood in Central Division; Longridge in Eastern Division and Rawtenstall, Bacup, Haslingden, Briefield, Padiham and Earby in Pennine Division.

“The changes to front counter provision were necessary, not just to save money but also to bring some level of consistency to the level of service provided to the public," commented Chief Superintendent Sarah Oldham from Lancashire Police.

“When considering changes we looked very closely at visitor numbers in particular to identify those which are used the most in order to limit the impact to a potentially smaller number of people.

“We also listened to the views of the public and changed our proposals in response to some very strong opinions where we were able to do so.

“We fully appreciate that where closures happen the public may be concerned but the majority of people will have less than five miles to travel to an alternative front counter where they should experience a much better quality of service.

“Members of the public can also contact the police in others ways now too. You can call us on 101 for routine incidents or enquiries or contact us through our website.

"Of course, people can always call 999 if there is an emergency and if you need to speak to an officer urgently and you are outside a police station that isn’t open you can use the ‘Yellow Phone’ facility which connects you directly to our contact centre.

“Over recent years, the Constabulary has also extended its reach into the community and now operates out of almost 200 different bases across the county," she concluded, "meaning it replies less on the public coming into stations. It also has dedicated neighbourhood policing teams so officers will remain in the heart of local communities.

“Furthermore, the continued development of on-line and digital services also provides more opportunities for the public to access services differently and this will continue as technology evolves.”