A furious row broke out last weekend when UKIP Darlington falsely claimed their candidate David Hodgson had not received invites to two recent hustings events.
A post on the group’s Facebook page says:
“It may be of considerable interest to our supporters that David Hodgson did not receive any official invitation or notification to attend the two previous hustings despite the fact that his personal contact details are widely publicised.”
Mr Hodgson later admitted receiving an invite to the environmental hustings but maintained he was not invited to the LGBT event – despite organisers insisting he was.
He claimed he did not write the contentious Facebook post and said he would ask for it to be amended to reflect the true circumstances.
Peter Plant, secretary of Darlington’s Friends of the Earth group and organiser of their recent hustings, accused UKIP of openly lying and suggested Mr Hodgson was “swerving” issues he had no political stance on.
Mr Hodgson said a previous engagement prevented him from attending the environmental hustings and claimed he would have welcomed an invite to the LGBT event.
However, Mr Hodgson pledged support for the LGBT community and said he would be interested in organising a gay pride event in Darlington.
He said: “Gay and lesbian people have my support and sympathy as I have gay friends myself and go through to Blackpool for gay pride events there.”
Mr Plant said: “I think he was frightened to turn up as UKIP don’t have the policies – they have one, blame foreigners.
“I’d respect them if they turned up and put their case, even if I don’t agree but by doing this, they’re showing they have no respect whatsoever.”
“The hustings was an opportunity to speak face-to-face with them about these issues and I’m not going to turn that down.”
Mr Hodgson’s agent, David Williams, added:
“Following negative comments an assertions regarding Mr Hodgson regarding his non-attendance at two recent hustings meetings, it must be made clear that no official invitation was received using the accepted official protocols.”
The average homeowner in parts of Teesside has lost £25,000 off the value of their house since the coalition came to power in 2010 – while prices in London have soared.
Exclusive analysis of Land Registry data show the average house price in Redcar and Cleveland has dropped by 21.3% since May 2010, the date of the last election.
The average price is now £92,785 – or £25,134 LESS than it was then.
Only two places in the country – Merthyr Tydfil (down 27.1%) and Blackpool (down 24.9%) – have seen a bigger percentage fall.
In Middlesbrough, prices are down 6.6% since May 2010.
That means the average property is worth £5,904 less now than then.
And Stockton-on-Tees has seen a 2.6% fall, equivalent to £2,944.
Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have actually gone up by 10.8% since May 2010, with the average property worth £17,595 more than it was then.
Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have risen by 10.8% since May 2010.
The biggest increases have all been in London – with the 29 top-rising areas all in the capital.
Top of the list is Hackney, where house prices are up 76.3%.
The average house is now worth £634,045 – or £274,491 more than it was five years ago.
In the City of Westminster, meanwhile, the average price is up £464,941 from £610,767 to £1.07m.
When London is taken out of the equation, Tory-run areas seem to have done markedly better than those controlled by other parties.
Ten of the 20 ‘non-London’ areas that have seen the biggest rises are held by the Conservatives, with nine in no overall political control and just one – Slough – held by Labour.
Tory Wokingham (up 25.7%), Hertfordshire (up 24.6%) and Surrey (up 24.6%) have seen the biggest rises outside London.
By contrast 19 of the 20 areas to have seen the biggest falls in house prices are run by Labour.
The only one that isn’t is Lancashire (down 13.6%) – which is in no overall control.
Source – Middlesbrough Gazette, 13 Apr 2015
Labour leader Ed Miliband has announced plans to scrap the House of Lords as it currently exists and replace it with an elected “Senate” – with members representing the regions of England as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Every region will be guaranteed a fair share of representation in the new senate, Mr Miliband said.
A paper by researchers in the House of Lords itself warned that the North East was under-represented.
The study, published earlier this year, found there were 21 peers whose main place of residence was the North East, compared with 152 who lived in London, 114 who lived in the South East and 63 who lived in the South West.
House of Lords reform has been a difficult issue for both Labour and the Conservative Party since the majority of hereditary peers were removed in 1999. There has been widespread agreement that further changes are needed, but little agreement on what those changes should be.
Under Mr Miliband’s plan, senators will represent large regions and nations to ensure they to not step on the toes of MPs, who will continue to represent constituencies.
A Labour government would hold a constitutional convention to debate precisely what powers the new senate should have and how senators should be elected.
However, proposals published today suggest some form of proportional representation would be used.
The convention will also consider whether there should be rules to ensure potential senators can only stand for election in a region they have lived or worked in for a number of years.
Labour says the proposals complement plans announced yesterday to devolve power to regions, including a proposed English Regional Cabinet Committee which would be chaired by the Prime Minister, and attended by the relevant Secretaries of State and leaders from the major English cities and county regions.
A Labour government would also introduce new laws to ensure councils can seize control of bus services without fear of a legal challenge, giving them a role setting fares and timetable similar to the one played by the Greater London Authority in the capital.
And Labour would also pass an English Devolution Act, enshrining in law new powers for local councils and combined authorities to manage funding for transport and housing, further education and support for employers, as well as giving them a formal role in commissioning health and social care.
Speaking at Labour’s North-West Regional Conference in Blackpool on Saturday, Mr Miliband said:
“I am announcing plans to give the regions and nations greater power and a stronger voice in Westminster too.
“When people say that they are turned off from politics and that it doesn’t represent them, we have to do something about it.”
“London is our capital and one of the world’s great cities but it cannot be right London has more members of the House of Lords than the East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales, Northern Ireland, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber added together.
“We will make the second chamber of Parliament truly a Senate of the Regions and Nations of our whole country.”
Tories are pushing their own plans to devolve power, with Chancellor George Osborne urging regions to create powerful mayors.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Nov 2014
The North East is more dependent on anti-depressants than anywhere else in the UK, according to a recent report.
The region takes up eight places in a list of ten locations with the highest anti-depressant prescription rates in the country.
With 303.2 antidepressant drugs per 1,000 people, Redcar and Cleveland is second only to Blackpool in the list collating figures from former Primary Care Trusts.
Darlington, County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle and North and South Tyneside also appear in the list.
The report, prepared by the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, found that the use of anti-depressants countrywide rocketed in recent years – soaring by 165 per cent between 1998 and 2012 and showing significant acceleration during the recent recession.
No concrete reason for this is given but researchers have established a connection between the economic downturn and the escalating figures.
The report says: “There are strong links between socioeconomic disadvantage and deprivation, and poor mental health… it is likely that the recent growth of unemployment, poverty and inequality caused by the economic recession will lead to an increase in mental health problems, and a subsequent demand for health services.”
The recession was inevitably going to take its toll on the area, according to Redcar MP Ian Swales.
A spokesman for Mr Swales said: “The rapid decline of industry in the North-East under previous governments and the economic crisis led to some tough times here – with high unemployment and limited aspiration, an impact on local wellbeing was inevitable.”
A senior mental health nurse working in Teesside echoed his sentiments, while calling for greater access to community based support.
“But environment has an impact and we’ve lost a lot of industry, there’s high unemployment and it’s bound to have an effect on people.
“People are struggling to afford anything, whether it’s a holiday or even just feeding their families.
> And not forgetting the fact that they’re being portrayed as scroungers in the media, and treated like criminals by the DWP…
“We’ve lost many community-based support groups because of funding issues so help with mental health is not as easily available.
“We need more investment in community support and easier access to therapies as anti-depressants don’t solve everything and are often too easily prescribed.”
Source – Northern Echo, 28 May 2014
Shocking new figures show that the North is the anti-depressant capital of Britain.
The region takes up six of the top 10 places in England for use of the drugs, with poverty and deprivation being blamed for the widespread problems with people’s mental health.
NHS data shows doctors here prescribe more anti-depressants per head than anywhere else in the country, with more than one million prescriptions handed out in the last three months of last year.
In the former industrial heartland of East Durham there are 45 prescriptions for every 100 patients – the second highest rate in the country.
And six of the 10 most-prescribing areas are in the North East, including Sunderland, Gateshead, South Tees, Newcastle West, and North Durham.
Mental health charities said depression and anxiety were strongly tied to deprivation, with some laying the blame at the government’s door. Easington MP Grahame Morris, a member of the Commons Health Select Committee, said: “We’re fighting a rearguard action to protect our community.
“I see in my surgeries every week people displaying symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression as a consequence of the government’s policies.
“I had a gentleman come to see me on Friday who was 60-years-old, had worked from being 15, and he’d had to give it up due to a crumbling spine.
“He’d been put in a fit for work category when he couldn’t walk for 20 paces, and his benefits were suspended for eight months while the appeal is heard.
“There’s a definite link between the Government’s policies of austerity and welfare reform and the impact it’s having on people’s mental health.”
Doctors in Sunderland made 41.2 prescriptions for every 100 people in the area, while Gateshead gave out 40.7.
Other badly affected areas included Salford, St Helens, Barnsley and Blackpool – all former industrial areas. Richard Colwill, from the mental health charity SANE, said the figures should be treated “with caution” because they might be inflated by repeat patients for drugs which are used for a range of other conditions.
But he argued they “should be no surprise” because of the strong links between depression and “unemployment, debt and homelessness”.
He said: “SANE’s own experience suggests that it is not only the high demand for treatment that is concerning, but also the dwindling supply.
“The Government’s relentless agenda to cut expensive community and inpatient services often leaves healthcare professionals with little to offer other than medication.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “We know that reforms to the welfare system are taking their toll on the mental health of many people. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of background, but there are certain factors that can increase the risk of someone developing depression.
“Unemployment, financial difficulties, a problematic housing situation and physical health problems can all put stress on people, which in turn can lead to mental health problems.”
A spokeswoman for clinical commissioning groups in the North East said: “It’s well-known that poverty and mental health are linked, just as poor housing and mental health are linked.
“As the North East has some of the highest areas of deprivation in the country, it’s not surprising that there are higher numbers of people who need support for mental health issues.
“It’s important that people realise that while sometimes medication is required, there are alternatives for those with mild to moderate depression or anxiety.
“Talking therapies work very well and can act more quickly than perhaps antidepressants or other medical treatments.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the Universal Credit making three million households better off.
“We have also expanded the ESA Support Group so greater numbers of people with a mental health condition now qualify for the benefit.
“We are transforming the lives of the poorest in society and bringing common sense back to the welfare system – so that we can continue to support people when they need it most right across Britain.”
> But then, they always say that… whatever the question was.
Source – Newcastle Evening chronicle 20 April 2014
Sunderland has the lowest number of businesses out of any city in the UK, according to the latest report from think tank Centre for Cities.
Authors of the annual ‘health check’ of UK cities for 2014 also found Sunderland had the slowest-growing population, and was second bottom for business start ups.
The central spine of the report was the trend which showed the economic gap is widening between London and other cities.
Highlighting Sunderland, the report’s authors also listed Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the bottom ten cities for businesses in the UK.
The report also found there almost 10 times more jobs being created in the capital than the next best area.
Centre for Cities research revealed that London accounted for 80 per cent of national private sector employment growth between 2010 and 2012.
For every public sector job created in the capital, two have been lost in other cities, the study found.
While London is “booming”, cities such as Bradford, Blackpool and Glasgow have seen jobs lost in private and public sectors, said the report.
There has also been a significant number of jobs created in private firms in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool which have helped offset the impact of public sector job cuts.
In the two years to 2012 there were 216,000 private sector and 66,300 public sector jobs created in London, compared with losses of 7,800 and 6,800 in Glasgow, said Centre for Cities.
Other cities where jobs have been created in private companies included Nottingham (8,900), Brighton (6,400) and Aberdeen (4,900), but they were all hit by cuts in public sector employment.
The report said: “London remains the UK’s economic power house and is pivotal to the UK’s future success.”
Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “The gap between London and other UK cities is widening and we are failing to make the most of cities’ economic potential.
“Devolving more funding and powers to UK cities so they can generate more of their own income and play to their different strengths will be critical to ensuring this is a sustainable, job-rich recovery.”
Sunderland Echo, 27 January 2014