Thursday, 9 June 2016

Flood recovery advice takes to the streets

Specialist advisers will be hitting the road later this month to help homeowners and businesses in the Lancaster area that were flooded as a result of Storms Desmond and Eva to access grants of up to £5,000.

The resilience grant presents an opportunity for those who have been flooded to better prepare their homes or business premises for future flood events, both to prevent flood water from entering the property and to speed the recovery if it does.

The Business Emergency Resilience Group (BERG) - which is part of Prince Charles' Responsible Business Network charity initiative 'Business in the Community' – is working with Lancaster City Council to help local residents and businesses apply for the money.

Starting on Monday 27th June, BERG will be taking their bus to some of the suburban and rural communities to give residents and businesses in those areas the opportunity to talk to advisers and receive help with the application process.

The bus will be in the following locations from 10.00am – 4.00pm:

Monday 27th June            Tunstall, Coneygarth Lane
Tuesday 28th June            Halton Community Centre car park
Wednesday 29th June       Warton, Malt Shovel car park
Thursday 30th June          Hornby, public car park on Main Street
Friday 1st July                  Skerton, Owen Road/Lune Street shopping precinct

Advisers will be on hand to guide people through the applications process, help complete the application forms and they can, if the applicant chooses, also help to arrange surveys and quotes for installation work through the BERG network of businesses.

• BERG can also be contacted on 01524 237190 and by email at or in person on Cable Street car park in Lancaster

Lancashire County Council's Property consultation reaches quarter-way mark

A screenshot of Lancashire County Council's interactive map identifying planned cuts to local services - as well as those that are continuing
Lancashire County Council is encouraging more residents to have their say on its property review, with around 1,000 responses already received since the launch of a public consultation on 18th May.

However, while the consultation on building use continues, virtual-lancaster has learnt the County Council has already begun the process of re-interviewing Council staff for their roles, such as library staff, even though no final decision has yet been made on the future of any library. It appears that the County Council are, for example, trying to reduce the number of higher-salaried staff ahead of any decision making made as a result of public response to their cost-cutting plans - the service reductions that in turn are the result of government spending cuts.

The property consultation, which runs for 12 and half weeks, is seeking 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.

Under the plans, services would be brought 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 to deliver Lancashire County Council services and the number of places at which some services are available would reduce.

County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council with responsibility for finance, said: "Through the property strategy we aim to ensure that we have the right buildings to provide good access to good services, with a significantly reduced budget.

"We've looked at a wide range of factors to try and make sure services are in the right place. We understand the strong attachment people have to local services and buildings and I'd encourage as many people as possible to respond to this consultation."

Most responses so far have been received via the county council website, which also features an interactive map highlighting the proposed changes.

Hard copies of the full consultation document, along with shorter versions which detail the proposed changes for each local district, have also been made available to pick up in children's centres and libraries.

Meanwhile anyone who has completed a response using the localised version is being invited to make any additional comments they may have after a production error was found in the original printed document.

County Councillor Borrow added: "The easiest way to take part is to use the website if you're able to. The interactive map is particularly helpful in understanding where services are provided now and where they're proposed to be in future.

"We've made hard copies of the consultation document available as well and unfortunately one of the consultation questions was omitted in error from the localised versions. This has been quickly rectified so few people will have completed one of these, but we'd like everyone who has done so to be aware of it and to feel free to complete the extra question if they have anything else to add to the comments they've already made. They can do this by getting an updated questionnaire in the same place they picked up the form, or provide an additional response online if they prefer."

Members of the public, community groups and organisations are also being urged to come forward if they have an interest in taking on responsibility for buildings included in the proposals.

County Councillor Borrow explains: "We want to fully consider proposals from groups that may want to take on full responsibility for any council-owned building which we've identified as no longer being needed, in order to use it for the benefit of the local community. I'd encourage any group in that position to read the consultation documents and contact us at the earliest opportunity."

Lancashire County Council needs to save £200m by 2020/21 as a result of ongoing government cuts to its budget and rising demand for services. The proposals for buildings respond to savings agreed by Full Council in February 2016, with fewer buildings being needed to deliver reduced services.

The consultation is due to end on Sunday 14th August. The County Council will take a final decision later in the year.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 8th to 16th June 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 seven new releases making it to the local screens. We have comedy in The Boss (15); comedy drama with Mother's Day (12A) and a comedy documentary Where to Invade Next (15). In addition there is drama with Criminal (15); police action in The Nice Guys (15) and surreal fantasy with Evolution (15). Finally a welcome return to horror comes with The Conjuring 2 (15).

The movies A Hologram for the King; The Trust and Top Cat Begins are no longer being screened. Also The Angry Birds Movie and The Jungle Book seem likely to be dropped soon. However we have the return of Bad Neighbours 2; Captain America: Civil War; Florence Foster Jenkins; How to be Single and Ratchet and Clank.

Films making it to this region in the near future include Independence Day: Resurgence and The BFG, both scheduled for later this month. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie and Ghost Busters, are both due for release in July.

One source of confusion is that from Friday, the Reel and Vue are showing different films having the same title. The Reel is screening the 2011 horror film Mother's Day (18), whereas the Vue is screening the 2016 comedy drama Mother's Day (12A). The latter is reviewed below.

With the return of Captain America: Civil War the superhero theme continues, as we also have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and X-Men Apocalypse. Alternative fantasy is provided with Alice through the Looking Glass; Evolution; The Jungle Book and Warcraft: The Beginning. There is also horror on offer with The Conjuring 2.

Comedy is well represented with the films Bad Neighbours 2; How to be Single and The Boss. By way of contrast, romance comes with Me Before You and Love and Friendship.

For more highbrow entertainment, there is RSC: Hamlet and NT Encore: The Audience.

The Dukes are making the news this week. They are holding another of their film quiz events on Monday 13th June, and in addition hosting the Lancaster University Film Production showcase and awards ceremony on the 15th June.


Alice Through the Looking Glass
Director: James Bobin
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Johnny Depp, Alice Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska
Alice (Wasikowska) has spent three years travelling and has now returned to London to contemplate her future. She uses a mirror to return to Wonderland but find things are not well, and the Hatter is more mad than ever. To aid him she must go back in time and face the Jabberwocky. This is Disney's sequel to the 2010 production of 'Alice in Wonderland' and all the major characters from the original movie make an appearance. The film is a visual feast, a lavish performance with a star studded cast. However for this reviewer the whole seemed more gloss than substance. It does not quite live up to the magic of the original.

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.

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.

Mother's Day
Director: Garry Marshall
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Jennifer Aniston, Shay Mitchell, Kate Hudson, Britt Robertson, Julia Roberts
Set in Atlanta, the film follows the lives of a number of middle class mothers as mother's day approaches. These include Sandy (Aniston) a mother of two boys who is now divorced but finds her ex is about to marry a younger woman Tina (Mitchell). There is a writer Miranda (Roberts) who gave her only baby Kristen (Robertson) up for adoption. However, when grown her daughter decides to try to find her birth mother. Yet more people give rise to a bewildering set of sub-plots that play out leading to a climax on Mother's Day. Despite a star studded cast, and some gags that work, this comedy drama never really takes off and the movie has received poor critical review.

The Conjuring 2
Director: James Wan
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O' Connor, Madison Wolfe
A sequel to the 2013 film 'The Conjuring'. Lorraine (Farmiga) and Ed (Wilson) Warren are psychic investigators. The hear of a haunting and travel to the UK to help Peggy Hodgson (O'Connor), a single mother of four, who is plagued by poltergeist activity in her London council house. However things get worse when Peggy's youngest daughter Janet (Wolfe) shows signs of daemon possession. The psychic investigators come to find themselves in peril. A superior horror movie which provides plenty of frights and has been well received.

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, 6 June 2016

Lancaster man wanted for robbery

Geoffrey Garth
 Lancaster Police are appealing for information after a 61-year-old man failed to attend court.

Geoffrey Garth, of Patterdale Road, Lancaster, was due to be sentenced in May. He was convicted following an offence in December 2013 where an elderly woman was robbed at her home in Morecambe.

Garth and another man entered a property in Christie Avenue and tied the victim to a stair lift. They demanded cash and tobacco, threatening to chop the woman’s finger off if she did not say where she kept her money.

The offenders made off with close to £1,000 before Garth was arrested in February 2014 and charged with robbery.

He was convicted earlier this year but failed to appear at court last month.

Detective Constable Paul Donnelly, of Lancaster CID, said: “Garth is a potentially dangerous individual and we are appealing for any information which could lead to his re-arrest.

“Garth was due for sentence but failed to attend court on May 13 and subsequently a bench warrant was issued for him for failing to appear.

“If you can help, please contact police urgently. Any information, however small, could prove crucial to finding him.

“This is not going to go away and police will not stop until he is found.”

Anyone with information should contact police on (01524) 596526 or email quoting crime reference BB1304904.

Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at