Saturday, 16 February 2013

Lancaster pensioners slam social care policies

North Lancashire’s foremost pensioners’ campaign group, The Lancaster District Pensioners’ Campaign Group (LDPCG) has described the government’s plan to reform social care funding as lacking in basic credibility.  The LDPCG believes that the proposals do not include sufficient funding to tackle the problems that pensioners face.

Eric Jones, LDPCG’s spokesperson said:
“The social care system needs urgent and radical reform, but these proposals simply tinker at the edges. The current system is dogged by means-testing, a postcode lottery of charges, a rationing of services and poor standards.  Nothing in the plan looks like it will address any of these concerns.

"Setting a lifetime cap on care costs of £75,000 will help just 10% of those needing care, whilst the majority will be left to struggle on with a third rate service. The government needs to be much braver and bolder if it is really going to sort out the problems – otherwise in a few years time we’ll be back again having another look at the issue. Using inheritance tax or money saved from the state pension system simply won’t raise enough money to bring about the change that’s needed.

"It’s time we merged health and social care and had a truly integrated system which was funded through general taxation - like the NHS - rather than putting all the responsibility on pensioners and their families. Getting older and needing care isn't a lifestyle choice and so why should the cost of care not be shared by society as a whole? Frankly, the plan as it stands is not a credible solution and the Government should have a re-think.”

The Lancaster District Pensioners' Campaign Group can be contacted by emailing:                                              or tel:  01524 61585

Missing Sussex woman sighted in Lancaster?

Sandra Hall, who lives in Bognor Regis, went missing on Sunday 3rd February – and police think seh may be in Lancaster after sightings of a woman in Sainsbury's supermarket of who fits her description.

Sanfra left home to go to church – but she never went. She was seen on a train between Bognor Regis and Barnham but after leaving the station has not been seen since.

Sandra is 56 and does suffer from depression but Sussex Police do know she has connections to Lancaster and Cumbria as well as West Sussex where she lives.
It is thought she has been spotted in a supermarket in Lancaster.

Inspector Nick Bowman, who is leading the investigation in West Sussex said: "A friend of Sandra's thought she saw her in the supermarket but was unable to speak to her and confirm it was her. We are hoping someone in the area might have seen her and can help us confirm this is Sandra.

"It is very out of character for Sandra to be out of touch with her family for so long and they are obviously very concerned and want her to return home."

Sandra was last seen wearing knee length black and white tweed coat, a scarf and black hat.

Sandra's daughter, Emma Cullingford, said: "My mum suffers from depression but she has touched the lives of so many people she has met or befriended over the years in West Sussex, Lancaster and Cumbria.

"She is a generous, loving spirit always prepared to go that extra mile to help and support others. She is deeply loved by her family, who hope that she remains safe and can re-start her life with the care and support she needs to start flourishing again. We just want her back."

• If you have seen Sandra or know of her whereabouts, contact Sussex Police on 101 quoting Operation Leeson.

Lancaster's hidden art gems uncovered by BBC 'Your Paintings' project

Lancaster with its old bridge by an unknown artist, held by Lancaster City Museum
Working with the Public Catalogue Foundation, the BBC is creating "Your Paintings": an amazing online archive in galleries large and small around the UK.

Your Paintings aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings and water colours, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country and you can search through it by artist, subject, location or individual gallery or museum.

It's an incredible endeavour, with 21,000 paintings featured so far, including art from several local museums and galleries, including the two very different images of Lancaster and its old bridge featured here, the first by an unknown artist painted in about 1750 and this one attributed to Robert W. Salmon, painted around 1790.

Lancaster with its old bridge atributed to Robert W. Salmon, held by Lancaster City Museum
One bonus to the Your Paintings archive is that it includes paintings that are not on display as well as those that you can go along and view in our area.

The Public Catalogue Foundation is a registered charity set up to create a complete record of the United Kingdom's national collection of oil, tempera and acrylic paintings and make this accessible to the public.

Your Paintings: Lancashire Galleries

Local Gallery Links

Your Paintings: Ashton Memorial

Your Paintings: Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry Museum

•  Your Paintings: The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, Lancashire Infantry Museum

Your Paintings: The Judges Lodgings

Your Paintings: King's Own Royal Regiment Museum

Your Paintings: Lancaster City Museum

Your Paintings: Lancaster Maritime Museum

Your Paintings: Lancaster University Management School

Your Paintings: Lancaster Town Hall

Your Paintings: Morecambe Town Hall

Your Paintings: The Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University

Your Paintings: The Ruskin Library, Lancaster University

Your Paintings: hire Hall, Lancaster Castle

Friday, 15 February 2013

County Council acts on horse meat found in school cottage pies

Lancashire County Council has withdrawn a beef product from 47 school kitchens after it provisionally tested positive for traces of horse DNA.

The provisional results of the tests on a pre-prepared cottage pie from an external supplier were reported late yesterday evening, 14th February, and have been passed on to the Food Standards Agency.

Since concerns over the contamination of horsemeat arose, Lancashire County Scientific Service has played a key role in the analysis of beef products. Lancashire's is one of seven laboratories in the UK accredited to carry out the tests that have been requested by the Food Standards Agency.

In response to those ! concerns the county council's catering service submitted a range of beef products from its suppliers to be analysed by Lancashire County Scientific Services, in accordance with Food Standards Agency guidelines.

County Councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: "We share the concerns people have about what is clearly a major problem in food supplies across the UK and Europe.

"Because of those concerns we decided to seek extra assurance that our external suppliers were not providing any products containing horsemeat DNA, and one of the products has returned a positive result.

"Relatively few schools in Lancashire use this particular product but our priority is to provide absolute assurance that meals contain what the label says – having discovered this one doesn't, we have no hesitation in removing it from menus.

"This does not appear to be a food safety issue but I've no doubt parents! will agree we need to take a very firm line with suppliers and it is a credit to our officers that we have been able to quickly identify the problem and take the product off the menus."

Local Voluntary organisations to benefit from Welfare Grants

18 local voluntary organisations have been allocated a share of £4,000 to improve the lives of older people in the district.

Each year, Lancaster City Council allocates welfare grants to voluntary organisations whose activities include providing recreation, meals and special events for older people. The maximum grant to any one organisation is £500.

Voluntary groups were invited to apply for funding from Lancaster City Council’s welfare grant budget in August last year. Total requests for funding amounted to more than £7,200.

The groups which will be receiving grants this year are:

East Lancashire Deaf Society - £200
The Olive Branch (faith in action) - £300
Caton and Brookhouse Friendship Club - £190
Lancaster Boys and Girls Club - £240
Wesley House Residents Committee - £200
Caton Leisure Club- £150
Warton Methodist Church – Holiday At Home - £240
Caton and Brookhouse Senior Citizen’s Club - £200
Heysham Art Group - £275
Kingsway Court Residents' Association - £240
Thursday Coffee Club - £240
Dolphinholme Residents' Association - £100
The Friendship Centre - £240
Galgate Bowling Club - £225
Warton Village Society - £240
Slyne With Hest over 60s - £240
Lonsdale Arthritis Group - £240
St. John’s Hospice - £240

Councillor Jon Barry, cabinet member with responsibility for the voluntary sector, said: "Organisations such as these make a huge difference and I am delighted that the council is providing support for all these very worthwhile activities.

“The amounts of money we have been able to allocate may seem small but for many of the organisations who applied for funding even the smallest sums can make all the difference.

"I hope our contribution enables them to maintain the important care and assistance they already provide."

Councils to enforce no parking in Lancaster precinct

Action is being taken to solve the growing problem of cars being parked in part of one of Lancaster’s historic precincts - but changes are potentially bad news for motorcyclists.

Complaints from businesses in Sir Simon’s Arcade in the city centre have led Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council to bring enforcement action against vehicles being parked in the area.

The area is a designated car free zone but enforcement action has been limited up to now due to the interpretation of the rules about parking enforcement. This has meant that because of a long standing practice that allows motorcycles to park on Sir Simon’s Arcade, no enforcement action could be taken against other motorists.

A solution has now been agreed and formal enforcement against any vehicles parked in the area will start on 2nd April.

In the intervening period motorists will be advised that they should not use the area for parking.

Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox, cabinet member with responsibility for parking at Lancaster City Council, said: “Cars and other vehicles should not be parking illegally here and I’m glad that a way forward has been found to enforce restrictions.

“The current free-for-all causes a nuisance to businesses, creates a safety concern and makes it difficult for pedestrians to walk through the area, particularly those with prams or wheelchairs.

“This is a really good example of the city and county councils working together to resolve an issue that is causing problems for people making their way in the city centre.”

Unfortunately, as a consequence of the laws surrounding the classification of vehicles, this will also mean that motorcycles will no longer be able to park in Sir Simon’s Arcade. This arrangement also applies to the parking facilities in Lower Church Street outside St Nicholas Arcades Car Park and the traffic island in the north-west corner of Dalton Square.

However, there is ample free parking for motorcycles at the nearby Market Gate Shopping Centre Car Park and in St Nicholas Arcades Car Park. Free parking is also available on all city council pay and display car parks. Additionally motorcycle parking is available at Parksafe which is open 24 hours per day and provides guaranteed security.

Further information on all these facilities can be found at

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Police appeal after cyclist dies in Lancaster

Police are appealing for witnesses after a cyclist was killed in Lancaster on Wednesday.

59-year-old Morecambe man Mervyn Watson was riding home on Wednesday 13th February on East Road, close to Glebe Court. Somehow, he came off his bike, receiving severe head injuries.

He was taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary but sadly died.

“I would appeal to anyone who was in the area at the time and who witnessed the incident to come forward and contact the police," urged  Sergeant Steve Wignall from the Road Policing Unit.

“We have specially trained officers supporting the man’s family during this difficult time and an investigation is underway to establish exactly what happened.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Road Policing Unit 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.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lancashire plays key role in horsemeat tests

Lancashire County Council is playing a key role in identifying the full range of products that have been contaminated with horsemeat, as part of the national investigation led by the Food Standards Agency.

Trading Standards Officers have been out sampling beef products around the county for DNA tests at the council's Public Analysts laboratory. Lancashire Trading Standards is one of 28 services across the UK selected to take part in the FSA programme.

And scientists at the lab, based on Riversway Docklands in Preston, are pulling out all the stops to test samples for Trading Standards and hundreds of concerned businesses.

County Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said:! "We have a big part to play in the current investigation with our officers being engaged on two fronts - Trading Standards are visiting businesses to take samples and carry out inspections at meat suppliers to ensure products can be traced to their source.

"At the same time our Public Analysts laboratory is very busy, being only one of seven laboratories in the country accredited to carry out the tests which retailers have been asked to do by the Food Standards Agency.

"I'd like to reassure people we're doing all we can to assist with the Food Standards Agency investigation, to ensure that consumers in Lancashire and further afield know exactly what they're eating."

Analysts at the lab have ordered in dozens of extra testing kits and are working at weekends to try to meet the demand from businesses keen to check their own products after horse DNA was discovered in beefburgers, readymade lasagne and spaghetti bolognese.
Tests for Lancashire-based businesses are being prioritised, though samples have been sent from as far afield as Gibraltar. All are being charged the standard rate for such tests, though it is believed that some private sector competitors have upped their fees because of high demand.

The county council's Trading Standards officers regularly carry out inspections and sampling of meat products at establishments where they are manufactured.

Andrew Smith, Lancashire County Council's public analyst, said: "We've had to take swift action to be able to cope with the amount of testing that we're being asked to do, but I'm pleased to say that the team has responded fantastically.

"It's a great opportunity to be able to let people know about our service, which works with environmental health and trading standards teams from across the north west, ensuring that goods are safe and don't contain bogus or dangerous substances.

"Essentially, all retailers have been asked to have their meat tested within a! week which is a huge undertaking. We have ordered further testing kits so we can cope with the demand, and so far we are ahead of schedule."

• For more information and advice on the investigation into horsemeat in beef products, visit the Food Standards Agency website

• If you have any suspicions about the use of any undeclared ingredients in food products, please contact Citizens Advice Consumer advice line on 08454 04 05 06

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Council, children and national charity unite to improve Ryelands Park

Children from Lune Park Children's Centre join forced with Lancaster City Council, Friends of Ryelands Park and Groundwork to plant 1000 bulbs in Ryelands Park. Photo courtesy Lancaster City Council
Budding gardeners descended on Ryelands Park this week to help Lancaster City Council add a splash of colour to the park with the planting of 1000 bulbs.

Last week more than 30 children from Lune Park Children’s Centre worked alongside the council's Ground's Maintenance Team to plant anemone blanda bulbs as part of a masterplan to improve the look and feel of the park.

The bulbs were funded by the national community charity Groundwork, which was set up in the 1980s and whose mission is to "keep working until everywhere is vibrant and green, every community is strong and able to shape its own destiny and everyone can reach their potential."

The children and visitors to the park can now look forward to seeing the results of their hard work come into bloom later this year, joining this year's annual snowdrops and other plant life that makes the park a popular attraction.

Local volunteers have also been busy undertaken other improvement works to the park by clearing paths and work is also continuing to provide a safe and exciting play facility which is scheduled to open in time for the summer.

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet member with responsibility for Environmental Services, said:  “It's great that so many children enjoyed working alongside council staff to help make something special happen in their park this year.

"There is a fantastic amount of work taking place in Ryelands Park and everyone who has volunteered so far to help shape its future for the benefit of those living in their local community and beyond should be rightly proud of what has already been achieved."

Groundwork was established in the early 1980s as a radical experiment to engage government, businesses and communities in collective action to improve the physical, social and economic fabric of disadvantaged communities. The driving force behind the establishment of Groundwork was the late John Davidson, an inspirational environmental thinker working at the time for the Countryside Commission.

John sadly passed away in 2012, but his vision of the Groundwork approach – start local, put the right tools in people’s hands, engage all those who have a stake in a place and solve as many problems as possible with the same investment – holds true to this day.

More about Groundwork in the North West here ion their official web site

Monday, 11 February 2013

In Review: The Haffner Orchestra in the Great Hall

Haffner Orchestra
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University
Saturday, 9 February 2013, 7.30 pm
Reviewed by Henry Prince

I must declare an interest at the outset in that I am listed among this orchestra's patrons and have been delighted by it for three decades, from the days when it used to play in a steamed-up Princess Margaretha Hall (RIP 2007) at the former St Martin’s College.  Saturday’s players could just about have squeezed into that venue but there wouldn’t have been any room left over for the rest of us. How far this orchestra has advanced over those years!

It remains an amateur orchestra but it no longer sounds like one. In the old days, one could tell immediately which piece had absorbed most of the rehearsal time. And the strings sounded like amateur strings, by which I mean that the intonation was insecure.

The vast improvement in the intonation of this orchestra’s strings was demonstrated tonight in the opening bars of the opening piece. Search ‘Britten Dawn’ on YouTube (or try this Bernstein version) to hear the huge risk that this orchestra took. Sixteen amateur violinists starting cold on a note somewhere on the E-string way up the fingerboard! None of the old ‘you, you and you just pretend to play’ trick. No re-arrangement of the score, as in ‘Julian will start off alone so that the rest of you can get the right pitch.’ No, all 16 went for it and they nailed it! If there had been 15 not quite right notes, what chance would there have been to pick out and follow the leader’s true pitch?  But there were 16 bang on notes!  There is no way they could have done that in the old days!

Was it a huge risk? Probably not anymore. Yes, there can still be bum-clenching moments from time to time with this orchestra but there were none tonight. Even the horns were secure! (Horns, you have never sounded better and did not deserve to be hidden away so far from the front of the stage!)

If 16 violins can play as one, why can’t 12 lower strings do the same? There was a point in the Prokofiev when I would have gladly de-coupled the rear carriage from the rest of the train. Is it a lack of sectional rehearsals? Or is it simply that these clearly equally-talented people don’t get enough TLC? I have noticed a tendency in the conductors of this orchestra to give more attention to players on their left - the opposite of the way QI’s Stephen Fry tends to give his attention to those on his right.

Audiences seem to demand that every band have a flamboyant frontman (Bernstein, Mercury, Dudamel), even though that person be largely decorative once the rehearsals have been concluded and the public performance begins (OK, not Freddie). But the frontman of an amateur orchestra must expect to have to work during the performance itself. Inevitably things will go wrong when amateurs play together and they will need help. Something did go wrong a couple of times, with players sounding uncertain where the beat was.  They knew they were not playing together but could not agree who was ‘right’. Effectively, they were crying for help and, frankly, not getting much.  It happened in the third movement of the Britten and again in the Prokofiev, as players struggled to reach consensus as to exactly where the pulse lay. A clear and unambiguous indication of the beat is all that was needed and the fa-lump fa-lump fa-lump would have evaporated.

But that was all that was wrong with the Romeo and Juliet. What a marvellous performance! An atmospheric viola solo and a scary but confident high woodwind contribution to the final orchestral chord (which lasted forever). Lovely music, very well delivered.

The curiosity on the programme was John Carmichael’s Concierto FolklĪŒrico, written as a conventional piano concerto and arranged later by the composer for four hands (that is, played by two pianists on one piano). In the pre-concert talk - always an excellent value for money event at Haffner Orchestra concerts because it is free! - the composer himself and the two pianists (Geoffrey Pratley and Anne Applin) spoke at length about the piece, which was premiered by this duo in 2011, and about the tribulations of performing piano duets. We learned that players commonly annotate the score with ‘high wrist’, ‘low wrist’ and ‘lean out of the way’ to avoid collisions during performances. We were also told that sometimes a scale passage conventionally fingered 3-2-1-4-3-2 might sometimes have to be played 5-4-5-4-5-4 to avoid obstructing the other player and that it was not unknown for one player to be holding a note when the other was required to play that note as well! So we anticipated contortions and were not disappointed.

I am not convinced that there were enough notes for three hands, let alone four, and suspect that the arrangement for four hands grew out of the friendship that exists between the composer and the evening’s two performers.  But that doesn’t matter because duets are so very entertaining.  I enjoyed the piece very much and was particularly enchanted by the second movement, with its Russian influence, and the 3-time lyrical mid section of the last movement.  Strong cello and violin solos.

So which piece absorbed most of the rehearsal time? Frankly, I couldn’t tell. If you were not at this concert, you certainly should have been. You missed a treat!

H. Prince

Artist website:

Concert Programme:
Britten: Four Sea Interludes
John Carmichael: Concierto Folklorico
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suite No.2

Tickets were priced:  Adults £12.50, Concessions £11.50, 18 and under free

Start something new in Lancashire's libraries

Lancashire residents are being encouraged to try a new hobby as part of the national Start Something campaign.

From today until 10th March, people will be able to find out more about a range of interests at their local library.

Tracing family history, eBooks and online music are some of the subjects people can explore at free sessions.

County Councillor David Smith, lead member for community services, said: "We're running a variety of events across the county to encourage people to try something different.

"People can find out more about where to search for their family history, or explore the different eBooks available.

"They can also get help with practical skills suc! h as ICT or writing a CV.

"There's something for everyone and all the events are free."

• More information about Start Something and other events at local libraries is available by visiting or for events announced so far (none yet for Lancaster Library), visit

• The national Start Something campaign is run by UK Online Centres. To find out more about the Start something campaign, visit or follow #startsomethingonline on Twitter