A Green Party candidate has waded into a row over a Labour MP’s refusal to debate with a Ukip politician from out of the area – saying the Labour Party itself fielded a candidate from Teesside at an earlier event.
Sunderland Central Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Labour, Julie Elliot declined to debate with Ukip North East MEP Jonathan Arnott in an event at Sunderland University on Monday.
Mr Arnott had attended in place of his party’s parliamentary candidate for the constituency Bryan Foster, whose wife Dorothy’s chronic illness had taken a turn for the worse.
Mrs Elliot’s reasons were that Mr Arnott is a candidate for Easington and not Sunderland Central.
Now Green Party candidate Rachel Featherstone has hit out at her decision because she was substituted with a candidate from Teesside at an event held at St Aidan’s School in Ashbrooke, in March.
Ms Featherstone said Mrs Elliott had no objections in the past, when in the second debate, a local election candidate stood in for LibDem candidate Adrian Page.
“I was happy to debate with the Ukip representative,” Ms Featherstone said. “I believe that in the interests of democracy, all the parties should have been represented.
“I’m concerned that this may affect the willingness of the university to host this kind of event in the future.”
She added: “The organisers are to be commended for the efforts they made to ensure this was a lively and informative debate.”
A Labour Party spokesman said the debate at St Aidan’s was a regional event, with parliamentary candidates from outside Sunderland taking part, while the Age UK debate was a whole of Sunderland city debate not a Sunderland Central hustings.
“It’s odd to see the Green Party cosying up to Ukip,” he said.
“But our position remains the same our candidate debates with other Sunderland Central parliamentary candidates in hustings for Sunderland Central constituency.”
Also standing in the Sunderland Central constituency is Jeffrey Guy Townsend (Conservative) and Jospeh Young (Independent).
Source – Sunderland Echo, 23 Apr 2015
Cuts have hit the region’s town halls nine times harder than wealthy parts of the South, a new analysis shows – despite the North facing much higher care bills.
The study highlights the areas where people suffer most from poor physical and mental health, disability and early death, imposing huge extra costs on local councils.
The worst-hit fifth of 325 authorities includes no fewer than ten North-East areas, a list headed by Middlesbrough which is ranked fourth for “health deprivation and disability”.
Not far behind are Newcastle (13th), Hartlepool (14th), Gateshead (17th), Darlington (20th), Redcar and Cleveland (21st), Sunderland (25th) and County Durham (28th), followed by Stockton-on-Tees (51st) and South Tyneside (65th).
On average, those ten councils have lost £213.04 of their overall ‘spending power’ for every resident since 2010, according to finance chiefs at Newcastle City Council.
Yet, the average loss in the ten areas with the fewest sick and disabled people, and much lower care costs, is calculated at just £23.19 per head – more than nine times less.
Incredibly, spending power has actually risen at one authority, Elmbridge, in Surrey (up £8.14 per head) – while it has plummeted in Middlesbrough (down £289.02).
The gulf is seen as crucial because social care is the biggest financial burden for cash-strapped councils, which are now also responsible for public health.
Recently, the charity Age UK warned that older people have been left “high and dry” by council cutbacks to help with washing and dressing, to day care places and meals on wheels services.
Hilary Benn, Labour’s local government spokesman, condemned the much-bigger cuts in areas with the biggest ill-health and disability burdens as “deeply irresponsible and unfair”.
Councils hit by the biggest cuts are already known to have slashed spending on adult social care by 12.7 per cent on average – against just 1.2 per cent in more protected authorities.
Labour has promised a new “fairer formula” for distributing local authority grants, but has yet to give details, or say when this would be introduced.
The ‘spending power’ measure bundles together grants, council tax, business rates and the New Homes Bonus, but is widely criticised for disguising the true scale of the pain.
Newcastle’s finance department calculated the changes since the 2010 general election, after the Government refused to produce official figures.
Source – Northern Echo, 14 Feb 2015
In a statement on their website, updated on 14th July 2014, Age UK say: “Age UK, the national charity which includes our 453 shops, is not involved in the mandatory welfare to work scheme.”
This will come as a surprise to G$S who have recently announced that an Age UK training centre in Preston will be acting as Placement Brokers for the recently launched and very much mandatory Community Work Placements. Age UK’ have claimed up until now that only local branches, who are managed independently of the national charity, are involved in workfare. But according to the charity themselves these training centres are a division of the national organisation, they are not locally run.
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Charity shops in South Shields town centre are being hit by a “Marks & Spencer effect”.
The retail giant vacated the town’s King Street on March 29.
Now some local charity stores say that has resulted in a noticeable reduction in footfall in and around the town centre, threatening their continued existence.
The Age UK outlet has just closed its Fowler Street store after profits plummeted and now St Clare’s Hospice has admitted its nearby store may also need to consider closure.
David Briers, chief executive of Age UK South Tyneside, said the decision of M&S to move out of the town proved a particularly “big blow”.
He expressed hopes that a new premises could be found as part of the council’s £100m ‘365’ masterplan to regenerate the town centre, but admitted “real disappointment” after the charity’s income-generating shop had to close its doors.
That decision had become increasingly inevitable in recent months.
The outlet was taking around £2,000 a week just 18 months ago, but that figure had fallen to between £700 to £800 this year.
Mr Briers added: “Closure was not a decision we took lightly, but the closure of Marks and Spencer was a particularly big blow.
“The footfall in the town centre is just not very good now and our income in the last 18 months has fallen by more than half.
“This coincided with an agreed policy nationally to close under-performing shops and the lease being up for renewal on the Fowler Street premises.
“There was also a double blow with South Tyneside Council phasing out discretionary rate relief. Profits were falling but rents were remaining the same.“
“I’m really disappointed we don’t have a shop in South Tyneside now that generates income for the charity and provides a good service and good quality toys and clothes for families on lower incomes.
“But we remain committed that if a suitable site becomes available, perhaps as part of 365, we will look at the situation again.”
David Hall, chief executive for St Clare’s Hospice, admitted the long term future of its Fowler Street store was also uncertain, again citing the M&S effect.
He said: “We have noticed a drop off in trade in recent times. Marks and Spencer and other big high street names obviously drew people into town.
“We’ll be considering the future of the premises when a release clause on the lease can be activated in a couple of years time.”
Lynn Hansom, of the Salvation Army shop in Fowler Street, added: “M&S was obviously a big loss, a lot of the older generation went there because of the quality of goods and we’ve felt the impact. Thankfully, we still have loyal customers.”
Marks & Spencer re-located staff at its King Street store to its Silverlink outlet in North Tyneside.
The closure angered loyal customers in South Tyneside, with thousands signing a petition urging the company to consider returning to new premises in the town at the earliest opportunity.
Council officials stressed its commitment to supporting borough retailers.
A council spokesman said: “We know that the economic climate is making things tough for retailers.
“This is by no means a problem confined to King Street, with high streets across the country facing tremendous pressure and competition from out of town retail outlets and internet shopping.
“We are doing everything we can to support South Shields Town Centre and only this week revealed the first steps in our very exciting masterplan for the area.
“Working with our development partner, Muse, the 365 vision will help us to create a vibrant town centre, offering a high quality shopping and leisure experience and helping to draw in more shoppers.
“We are not complacent and hope our investment in the town centre will act as a catalyst for further economic growth in the future.”
Meanwhile, a charity shop boss has expressed concern for the long-term future of Fowler Street in South Shields.
A section of the street is to be demolished as part of the town’s long-term ‘365’ regeneration strategy.
But in the meantime the top half of the street, on the road towards the town hall, looks “desperate”.
That’s the view of Helen Hill, manager and director of the Feline Friends charity shop in nearby Winchester Street.
She said: “Apart from the pizza shop there’s no reason to go up that part of the street and there’s uncertainty about plans for the block across the road which is due to be flattened as part of the 365 plan.
“We manage to get by because of our regular customers but we could do with the street being more vibrant.”
A source for the Scope charity shop, in Fowler Street, said the charity would “monitor” the impact the closure of the nearby Age UK shop has on its own trade, adding: “Obviously there is a concern its closure could result in a knock-on effect for other traders.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 05 June 2014