Friday, 13 May 2016

Delight from bee keepers and campaigners as Government rejects renewal of neonics use

Bee.jpgThere's good news for local beekeepers today, as the Government has just rejected plans to allow bee-harming pesticides back into our fields - to the delight of numerous campaign groups.

There are as many as 20,000 amateur beekeepers across the UK - and Lancaster has its own active Lancaster Beekeepers group.

Last year the Environment Secretary, Liz Truss MP, agreed to let farmers use banned neonicotinoid bee-harming pesticides – despite the overwhelming evidence that they are toxic to bees.

Despite predictions of widespread crop losses without the use of neonics proving unfounded, the National Farmers’ Union applied to use them again this year. But they have been turned down, and a report funded by Friends of the Earth supporters was referenced in the decision.

The decision has, however, been shrouded in secrecy and campaigners are still being kept in the dark over the evidence submitted. The National Farmers Union is also likely to submit a new application in coming weeks.

"This is all part of something bigger – a wider movement against neonics that we’re all part of," commented a delighted FOE campaigner, praising those who have argued the case for a ban. "From persuading Devon County Council to ban the use of neonics on its land, to pressuring supermarket chain Aldi to keep them out of its products or asking your MP to speak up for bees in Parliament – it all adds up. Whatever you’ve done to help our bees, thank you.

"Right now we’re winning, but it’s not over yet," she cautioned. "The scientific evidence that neonics harm bees is overwhelming (plus there is now some evidence they threaten butterflies, birds and even earthworms too). But whilst the use of some neonics might be restricted across Europe the Government can grant exemptions to those rules."

Defra is trying to make sure that they are aware of the need to alert the National Bee Unit (NBU) to bee health problems and encourage them to register on BeeBase, its database of beekeepers. This will help ensure that new or existing health problems are identified.

Friends of the Earth is running a national bee count next week (19th May) until 30th June 2016.

• Lancaster Beekeepers:

• Find out more about the National Bee Unit's Healthy Bees Plan

Join in with the FOE National Bee Count

Back the Friends of the Earth campaign to help save bees

County Council Cut Plans Revealed: local libraries, children's centres face the chop

Photo: Alexandrr P. Kapp
(Updated 14th May 2016): Lancashire County Council's Cabinet has agreed to seek people's views on plans to change the way frontline services are delivered and save millions of pounds by reducing the number of buildings the council owns and rents - and a full list of buildings and services potentially under threat has been released.

It includes Balmoral Children’s Centre in Morecambe, Ryelands Young People’s Centre, and Bolton-le-Sands, Carnforth and Silverdale libraries.

Reaction to the proposals has been swift and furious, with some pointing out how Preston-based Lancashire County Council has earmarked just three services for closure there - Fulwood Library and two children's centres.

Lancashire County Council says it needs to save £200m by 2020/21 as a result of ongoing government cuts to its budget and rising demand for services. In total, 54 Lancashire County Council buildings in Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle, Ribble Valley, Rossendale and Chorley may shut their doors within the next 12 months if the plans go unchallenged or alternative ways to keep them open aren't found.

Condemning the cuts, Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris told the Lancaster Guardian - which local councillor describes as "Thatcherism on steroids" - that the County Council has £325m in reserves and could afford to keep the buildings open.

“The County Council have more than enough money in reserves to adequately run their services," he claims, "and have some serious questions to answer about why they are proposing yet more unnecessary cuts.”

Responding, County Councillor Janice Hanson said the council had to keep money in reserves for potential future cuts, and said Mr Morris was in denial about the issues.
Tories jump on a band wagon to stop cuts they're
responsible for. No, we don't get it, either.

Incredibly, Tory Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard has criticised plans to shut 29 libraries as part of a multimillion-pound cost cutting exercise, reducing the number from 73 to 44 - apparently brushing over the fact that it's the reduction in government fuding that has led Lancashire Ciunty Council to make these proposals.

Writing on his Facebook page, he urged Lancashire County Council to "properly consider" social enterprise plans, which have seen community groups taking over library services and said a petition will shortly be launched urging the council to seriously consider the model as a solution. He cites how this has model has been a success for York Council and hopes the County Council will consider the idea.

Wigan Council was also one of the first councils to use the model, but at present, while leisure services offer obvious revenue streams, libraries are harder to "monetise", and sustainability is also an issue, as noted in this national Guardian article.

The plans which form part of the council's property strategy propose changes to where some services including libraries, children's services, children's centres, young people's centres, youth offending teams, older people's daytime support services, adult disability day services and registrars are delivered in the future.

As part of implementing savings agreed by Full Council in February 2016, the council is also proposing to bring services together to form a network of multi-functional buildings known as Neighbourhood Centres, which would provide a base for a range of different services in one place.

Meanwhile many buildings would no longer be used and the number of places at which some services are available would reduce.

The Cabinet gave the go-ahead to a 12-week consultation period yesterday, beginning on Wednesday 18 May, to invite comments and suggestions about the proposals, before taking a final decision later this year.

"The severity of the county council's financial position cannot be overstated," says County Councillor Jenny Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, who has been accused of 'dirty tricks' with the timing of the announcement by critics.

"The ongoing cuts in central government funding combined with rising demand for our services mean the only way we can maintain the services that people rely on is to deliver them in a different way," she argues.

"Whilst people can have a strong connection to individual buildings, our focus has to be on how we deliver our services effectively. Although these proposals are very difficult ones for councillors to have to consider, our aim is to come up with a solution that still gives everyone in Lancashire good access to good services, even though some will have to be further away than they are now.

"These proposals are the result a lot of hard work to assess where services should be located, taking account of things such as geographic spread, the needs of different communities, and access issues such as how easily they can be reached using public transport.

"We're very keen for people to express their views and help shape the final proposals. We'll be holding a comprehensive 12-week consultation to make sure everyone has the chance to tell us what they think, and will have the information people need available at libraries and children's centres throughout Lancashire and online."

• The proposals will now go go out to a 12 week public consultation from Wednesday 18 May where you can share your views on the proposed changes. The Council will then consider all of that feedback before making any final decisions in September.

"We know how important these services are to the people who use them and will be keen to hear your views," say the Council.

Proposed Local Closures

Lancaster and Morecambe

  • Lancaster Balmoral Children’s Centre (Morecambe) (designated)

  • Lancaster Barton Road Young People’s Centre

  • Lancaster Bolton-le-Sands Library

  • Lancaster Carnforth Library

  • Lancaster Firbank Children’s Centre (designated)

  • Lancaster Galgate Children’s Centre (Ellel)

  • Lancaster Heysham Children’s Centre and Young People’s Centre (designated)

  • Lancaster Lancaster Registration Office

  • Lancaster Morecambe Registration Office

  • Lancaster Poulton Children’s Centre (Morecambe) (designated)

  • Lancaster Ryelands Young People’s Centre

  • Lancaster Silverdale Library


  • Wyre Cleveleys Library and Children’s Centre

  • Wyre Fleetwood Children’s Centre (designated)

  • Wyre Garstang Young People’s Centre

  • Wyre Northfleet Library

  • Wyre Over Wyre Children’s Centre (Hambleton satellite)

  • Wyre Over Wyre Children’s Centre (Preesall satellite)

  • Wyre Poulton-le-Fylde Children’s Centre

  • Wyre Preesall Young People’s Centre

  • Wyre Rural Wyre Children’s Centre (Garstang) (designated)

  • Wyre Thornton Library

  • Wyre Thornton Young People’s Centre

  • Wyre Thornton Youth Offending Team (Marsh Mill)

• There's a full list for all of Lancashire here via the Clitheroe Advertiser (heaven forfend the County Council would actually post it in an obvious position on their own web site)

See Also:

• Lancaster Guardian 10th May 2016: Libraries and kids centres to close

• Lancashire Telegraph: County Council boss accused of ‘dirty tricks’ after building closure plans announced

• Lancashire Telegraph: Anger as county reveals libraries and childrens centres hit list

Hill’s Pet Nutrition cat food pouches recalled over vomiting and diarrhoea risk

Hill’s Pet Nutrition is conducting a voluntary recall of limited production lots of certain Hill’s cat food pouches. The earliest these products were available for sale in the UK and the Republic of Ireland is December 2015.

Due to an error by an ingredient supplier, the products being recalled contain high levels of iron. Although an essential nutrient in a cat’s diet, too much iron may cause digestive upset, including diarrhea and vomiting, and have more serious health effects.

The issue in the UK and the Republic of Ireland is limited to the products and date codes listed below.

No other Hill’s products, or other date codes of the below products, in the UK and the Republic of Ireland are affected by the recall.

If you have purchased the recalled product, do not feed it to your cat, and consult your veterinarian in case of concern.

"At Hill’s we take great pride in the quality and safety of our pet food products," the company said in a statement. "We deeply regret this situation occurred and can assure you that we are working with our suppliers to further improve product safety procedures and prevent a similar mistake from happening again."

  • Science Plan Feline Adult Light Ocean Fish 12x85g SKU: 2109PA Best Before Date: 07-2017
  • Science Plan Feline Mature Ocean Fish 12x85g SKU: 2110PA Best Before Date: 10-2017
  • Science Plan Feline Adult Light Favourite Selection Multipack 4 (12x85g) SKU: 2119V Best Before Date: 04-2017 & 07-2017
  • Science Plan Feline Mature Adult Favourite Selection Multipack 4 (12x85g) SKU: 2120V Best Before Date: 08-2017
  • Prescription Diet Feline c/d Stress Reduced Calorie Chicken 4 (12x85g) SKU: 2742U Best Before Date: 09-2017
  • Science Plan Feline Young Adult Sterilised Cat Multipack 4 (12x85g) SKU: 3766V Best Before Date: 06-2017 & 10-2017

The Best Before Date is found on the back of the pouch or bottom of the box

07 2017 xxx xx xxxx
xx xxxxxxx

• If you have purchased any of the recalled products specified, return it to the place of purchase for a full refund under Hill’s 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. The recalled products should have been removed from store shelves so that what is currently available on shelf is safe to feed as intended. If your product of choice is not available, store personnel can suggest a suitable alternative product or you can contact the Hill’s Helpline at 0800 282 438 or email for advice.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Prize-Winning Poet Kim Moore back at Spotlight Next Week, with Ron Sowcroft, comedian Kriss Foster and more

Kim Moore
Lancaster's popular Spotlight Club is back at The Storey on Friday 20th May, offering a heady mix of music, poetry and comedy.

Come along at 7.00pm to grab your five minutes of fame. Read a poem, sing a song, tell a story - Be experimental - Do your own thing! Spotlight encourages diversity. Every genre of writing is welcomed from the comic to the cosmic.

After the open-mic session, Spotlight - compered by Simon Baker - will showcases four different writers and two music acts featuring some of the best live-writing and musicianship in the region.

Prize winning poet Kim Moore will headline on the night.

‘Spotlight was where I read a poem in public for the first time," she says. "This was how I got my first paid poetry reading. It meant everything to me. That moment at Spotlight, when I was offered encouragement and a paid gig was a turning point in my life.

"Eight years on and I'm working as a writer, running workshops and reading at festivals. The mentoring and workshop programme Spotlight offer have been hugely beneficial to me over the years."

Kim Moore's first collection The Art of Falling was published by Seren in 2015. She will be reading from this collection and new work from a collection-in-progress called All the Men I  Never Married.

Kriss Foster
Comedian/ musician Kriss Foster will be offering a taste of the Edinburg Fringe at the event.

"Spotlight has been irreplaceable in my development," he enthuses. "They gave a stage where it was possible to try anything and also see anything.

For the last three years, I have taken a new show up to the Edinburgh fringe and perform around the country at events and festivals. If Spotlight had not helped me when I was starting I genuinely believe I would not be doing this."

Kriss will be showcasing the new show he is taking up to the Edinburgh Fringe: ‘Kriss  Foster and the Very Small Museum’ in which he tells stories and performs songs about taxidermy, the Pencil Museum and Vimto.

Sam Steele

Making the move from Open mic to main bill, Sam Steele is a first year English Lit student, writing poetry with a strong sense of rhythm and rhyme.

Spending most of his time juggling creative projects, Sam also directs short films and music videos that have been screened at the Southbank, Florida, and even Glastonbury, as well as rocking out in pop band Girls Girls Girls.

Billy Pook
The first music spot on the night is taken by Billy Pook, who has performed at various clubs and festivals including radio over the years.

"I’m really looking forward to my spot and will be joined on stage by Rob Lowe who will accompany me with squeeze box," he reveals. "This gives you some clue as to the nature of what I will be doing which is literary items with music. These will range from the present refugee crisis to Morecambe Prom to Indian song and Australian myth."

Ron Sowcroft

There's more poetry on the bill from Ron Scowcroft, winner of the McLellan Prize, Ron is widely published in magazines and prize anthologies. His poems have been highly commended in the Yorkshire Open and by Magma, shortlisted in the National Poetry Competition and commended by Strokestown. Ron has worked in collaboration with visual artists John M Morrison and Jayne Simpson.

His poem ‘Peninsula' was featured in a video by Morph Films. Along with Carole Coates and Mike Barlow, he is a founder member of Lancaster's April Poets.

Poet Rachel McGladdery  was winner of the Liverpool Lennon Performance Poetry prize in 2010. She is published in magazines, online publications and anthologies, including the ‘Mother's Milk’ (mother's milk press) and the 'Live From Worktown' anthologies.

• Doors open 7.00pm. Open Mic session 7.15 - 7.45pm. Open Mic - 7.30 - 8pm. Event ends 10pm Find details of this month's line-up at: Admission £5 / £3 (conc.) 

•  To book your 5 minutes in advance or for information about Spotlight events call Spotlight on 01524 381642 or e-mail: Open mic performers admitted half-price!

Lancaster Comics Day Challenges Comic Creators to Create Local Heroes

Art by Nick Miller

Are there aliens in your dustbin? Is a gorilla living in your ginnel? As part of Lancaster Comics Day on Sunday 5th June 2016 at Lancaster Library, organisers are again looking for comic strips that tell stories of life as it might be in Lancaster.

The team behind the event - which will include appearances by artist Sean Phillips, writers Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel and many more - are looking for comic strips featuring Lancaster as it (probably) has never been seen in real life.

"We ran a similar competition last year and we had some fun entries," says co-organiser John Freeman, "but this year we're widening the age range so anyone can enter!

"We're looking for comic strips (no more than two pages in length) featuring your very best ideas, whether it’s rockets blasting off into outer space from the Ashton Memorial or stories of a chance encounter on a Lancaster street. "The stories can can be true or completely made up – as long as it's a story you have told and doesn’t use copyrighted characters."

The competition challenges artists (and writers, working with an artist) to create your own heroes, or simply tell a comic adventure set in or around Lancaster and Morecambe. Just make sure there's something distinctively Lancastrian about your tale!

"If you'd rather just draw a one-off illustration inspired by Lancaster or nearby, that's fine, too," says John. "We just want everyone to have fun with this competition.

Entries must be received at Lancaster Library by Sunday 5th June 2016 and the LCD team will pick five winners from each entry age group, who will win some comic-related prizes.

The winners will either be decided on Lancaster Comics Day or announced on the Lancaster Comics Day web site and social media after the event, depending on the number of entries received.

The Rules
  • Your comics must be presented at A4 (210 mm width x 297mm height) or A3 (297 x 420mm) size and can be in pencil, ink or full colour.
  • All entries must be handed in at Lancaster Library reception by 12 noon on Sunday 5th June 2016. You can also email your entries (using the same dimensions as for paper entries) to – use WeTransfer or other services for big files)
  • All entries must be accompanied by a contact name, address and parent’s telephone number (if under 16) or email which will be used solely for the purposes of informing the competition winners. Include these separately to the entry or written on the back of paper entries.
  • There are three age groups: 10 and under11-16 and 18 plus. Five winning entries overall from all three groups will be selected by the judging panel which will include John Freeman, former Marvel Comics editor
  • The judges’ decision on winners is final.
  • The LCD team regret that posted or hand delivered entries cannot be returned without a stamped addressed envelope

• For more about Lancaster Comics Day visit | Find Lancaster Comics Day on Facebook | Follow Lancaster Comics Day on Twitter @LancasterComics

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 11th to the 19th May 2016

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

This period sees three new releases making it to the local screens. There is family animation with The Angry Birds Movie (U); Fantasy adventure in X-Men: Apocalypse (12A) and Holocaust drama with Son of Saul (15).

Quite a few films have been lost, including Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip; Bastille Day; My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2; Ratchet & Clank; The Huntsman: Winter's War and Zootropolis. In addition it looks like Norm of the North is nearing the end of its screening. However we do see the return of Capture the Flag and the comedy Dad's Army.

This is a good period for caped crusaders with Captain America: Civil War; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the recently released X-Men: Apocalypse all being shown. Also, for one night only the Vue is offering an X-Men triple bill with X-Men: First Class; X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men:Apocalypse on the 17th May.

Family comedy this period is represented by Dad's Army and the well received Florence Foster Jenkins. Somewhat more adult humour comes with Bad Neighbours 2.

Drama is provided by Eddie the Eagle; Eye in the Sky; the second in the classic colours trilogy Three Colours White and the deeply moving Son of Saul. In addition there is supernatural adventure with Friend Request.

For family entertainment there is Capture the Flag; Norm of the North; Robinson Crusoe; The Angry Birds Movie and the excellent The Jungle Book.

For high culture, the Vue is screening NT Live:A View from a Bridge and the Royal Opera House take on Frankenstein


Bad Neighbours 2
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Zac Efron
A sequel to the 2014 Bad Neighbours. Mac Radner (Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Byrne) are expecting their second child. They are in the process of selling their old house when a newly established female sorority, Kappa Kappa Nu led by Shelby (Moretz), moves into the house nextdoor. Excessive partying on the part of the sorority makes life a nightmare for the Radner's and will jeopardise the sale of their house. Their requests for the girls to keep the partying quiet lead to an all out war. Teddy (Efron) from the previous film has not coped well outside of college and he is enlisted by the Radner's to be their ally in the battle with the sorority. This movie is little more than a re-run of the first Bad Neighbours, but the film still has more than its share of very funny moments. Good entertainment.

Dad's Army
Director: Oliver Parker
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, blake Harrison
After some fifty years, the famous Dads army TV sitcom makes it to the big screen. It is 1944 and the end of the second world war is in sight. Morale in the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard is low until Rose Winters (Zeta-Jones) a glamorous journalist, arrives to report on the exploits of Mainwaring (Jones) and his platoon. In addition evidence is uncovered of a local German spy who must be caught. The movie makes references to the original series and surviving members make a couple of cameo appearances. This is a very amiable movie, quietly amusing rather than riotously funny. One is left with the impression that a star studded cast should have been capable of making something a little more spectacular.

Eye in the Sky
Director: Gavin Hood
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman
Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) is tasked with capturing a terrorist who is attending a meeting in Kenya. The meeting room is bugged and a drone used to provide surveillance. Powell discovers the terrorists are actually planning suicide bombing attacks and so she seeks authority to call in a missile attack on the building. However there is a chance any attack will result in civilian casualties. The movie is a gripping and well received drama that explores some of the moral issues of drone warfare.

Florence Foster Jenkins
Director: Stephen Frears
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant
A period drama based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep). Jenkins is a rich heiress with ambitions to be a singer despite a terrible singing voice. Her husband St Clair Bayfield (Grant), despite being something of a cad, arranges for her to sing in a concert, having carefully selected the audience to ensure her efforts will be well received. This is the second recent movie based on the life of Jenkins and it provides a more light hearted approach to the 2015 film Marguerite. The movie is has been well received and provides a good share of laughs, though, for this reviewer, it was something of a one joke film.

Friend Request
Director: Simon Verhoeven
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Liesl Ahlers
Laura (Debnam-Carey) is a popular college student and an avid user of social media. She received a friend request from an unknown girl Marina (Ahlers) but finds her new friend is stalking her. Subsequently Marina commits suicide but her spirit continues to stalk Laura. Despite some occasional rough lines, this is an effective horror story that delivers enough twists to keep the plot interesting and provides some real scares.

The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Certificate: PG Cast includes: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba
Based on Rudyard Kipling's works, this is a reworking of a the well known classic using live action and CGI. Mowgli (Sethi) is an orphaned boy raised by a wolf and thence by Bagheera (Kingsley) a black panther. Mowgli alienates the Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Elba) and so must make his way to humankind for safety, meeting the well known characters Baloo and Kaa on the way. Subsequently he returns to the jungle to face Shere Khan. The movie is a good example a remake that improves on the original. An excellent movie that will entertain all ages.

Monday, 9 May 2016

New county councillor elected in Lancaster East

Lizzi Collinge, local Labour Party members and some of her election team. Photo via Facebook

A new county councillor has been announced for Lancaster East, following the by-election held on Thursday 5 May.

Lizzi Collinge (Labour) was elected with a majority of 350, with only the Green Party giving her any serious opposition in the poll. which followed the death of Richard Newman-Thompson (Labour) on Monday 22nd February.

The election results are:

• Lizzi Collinge, Labour Party, 1,758 votes (elected)
• Tim Hamilton-Cox, Green Party, 1,408 votes
• Robin Eamonn Long, Liberal Democrats, 231 votes
• Steve Metcalfe, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, 60 votes

Eligible voters: 9,559. Number of Ballots: 3,457. Number of spoilt Ballots: 49.

This by-election result does not affect the political composition of the county council:
• Labour: 39 seats
• Conservative: 35 seats
• Liberal Democrat: 6 seats
• Independents: 3 seats
• Green Party: 1 seat

A total of 84 seats

Clive Grunshaw re-elected as Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner

Following the Police and Crime Commissioner elections carried out across Lancashire last Thursday , Clive Grunshaw has been re-elected to the post of Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire. 

Following two rounds of voting, as no candidate received the required 50%+ of the vote in the first round, the results were as follows:

 Clive Grunshaw (Labour) - 152,714
Andrew Pratt (Conservative) - 118,941

The turnout was 29% - in some areas such as Lancaster and Morecambe the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner was the only election on the day.

• More info: