Tagged: Blyth

General Election 2015: Where are all the party leaders? Not in the North East !

Not one leader from any of the major political parties has visited Tyne and Wear or County Durham as part of the General Election campaign.

David Cameron is the only leader so far to even venture into ANY part of the North East since the dissolution of parliament.

He visited Northumberland’s Alnwick and Stockton, the two areas where his party has a chance of winning next month, but bypassed large swathes of the region.

Labour leader Ed Miliband – whose party is favourite to win EVERY seat in Durham, Tyneside and Wearside, most seats in Teesside and half of those in Northumberland – has failed to make a public appearance anywhere in the North East.

The Liberal Democrats are defending Redcar and Berwick-upon-Tweed, yet Nick Clegg has been nowhere to be seen.

Nigel Farage claims UKIP is targeting parts of Teesside and has a strong interest in Blyth, and yet the leader of the “people’s army” has not made a public appearance anywhere in the North East.

And despite evidence of a Green surge in pockets of the region, Natalie Bennett has not visited to show support for her party’s candidates, either.

The North East is widely-regarded as safe Labour territory and this may explain the lack of interest from the parties’ top politicians in campaigning in this area.

Nonetheless, voters will be disappointed when they compare the region to, say, the Greater Manchester area, where the parties are fighting a higher number of key marginals.

Nick Clegg has visited seats in Greater Manchester four times, David Cameron twice and Ed Miliband four times.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Apr 2015

Wearside ; more anti-UKIP action

> UKIP’s intention of becoming the people’s party  in the North East doesn’t seem to be going too well.

First one of their Newcastle candidates managed to upset both Jewish and Muslim voters in less than a week. Then their office in Blyth was targeted.

Now reports of more grassroots action on Wearside…they could be excused for thinking someone doesn’t like them much….

UKIP have hit out at vandals who tore down advertising hoardings and attacked a home, accusing them of an “attack on free speech”.

Party officials say six incidents  have been reported to police in the space of one week in Hetton, Houghton, Newbottle and East Rainton.

It started on Tuesday, April 14, when a 4ft by 4ft board was stolen from a residential garden in South Street, East Rainton.

Then, on Saturday, the acts took a more sinister turn when a Wesleyan Chapel – converted into a home in Front Street, Hetton – was attacked.

 Two children were asleep inside when a window was smashed by vandals who also tore down another 4ft by 4ft Ukip board.

On Sunday, a board on private land at Grasswell was sawn down.

It was replaced on Monday, this time only lasting half an hour before being chopped down again.

On Tuesday, two boards were stolen from a private field at the junction of Murton Lane and Colliery Lane.

The party’s parliamentary candidate for Houghton and Sunderland South, Richard Elvin, said:

“Our parents and grandparents, many of whom gave their lives, fought to preserve our democracy and the right to free speech.

“It appears that many people, especially those who describe themselves as left wing, seek to deny these hard-won freedoms.

“UKIP supporters do not invade private property or steal or vandalise other political parties’ promotional material.

“We appreciate that people have different political views to ours and we show due respect, which is the way everyone in a civilised democracy should behave.

“There is no place for intimidation, theft or damage in a British society, against anyone who does not agree with your personal political beliefs.”

Chief Inspector Sarah Pitt, of Northumbria Police, said:

“Police take any incidents of criminal damage very seriously.

“We have been made aware of a number of incidents in the Sunderland area regarding advertising boards being damaged or removed.

“We are working closely with the victims to carry out a full investigation.

“I would ask anyone who may have any information about these incidents to contact police.”

Also standing in the parliamentary election for Houghton and Sunderland South are Stewart Hay (Conservative), Jim Murray (LibDem), Bridget Phillipson (Labour) and Alan Robinson (Green Party).

Source – Sunderland Echo, 24 Apr 2015

Threat to behead Newcastle UKIP parliamentary candidate probed by police

Police are investigating a threat to behead a UKIP election candidate after the 62-year-old reported a disturbing phone call.

David Robinson-Young, a 62-year-old barrister who hopes to be elected to represent the Newcastle East constituency, has said he fears for his personal safety after the “chilling” experience.

He described the man as an “irate” constituent who he says identified himself as a Muslim and angry with the Government.

He said the man was initially calm but after some minutes began to shout and swear at which point the former policeman hung up.

Mr Robinson-Young said:

“He said the Muslim community is really annoyed with the British government supporting bombing Muslim countries and that the community here just wants to get on with their family lives.”

UKIP's Blyth headquarters vandalised a second time
UKIP’s Blyth headquarters vandalised a second time

Mr Robinson-Young said the man swore at him before making the beheading threat.

Northumbria Police confirmed they had received a complaint and are investigating the matter.

Mr Robinson-Young added:

“I’m not a man who is easily intimidated, I’m an ex-policeman and I’ve been subjected to numerous physical threats in the past. I left the police service because of injuries received in an assault on duty.

“I found this man’s threats to be particularly chilling and it as really shaken me. However I will not let this incident prevent me from continuing in the campaign to try and change our country for the better.”

> How very ironic – it’s only a few days since Robinson-Young was coming under fire from Newcastle’s Jewish community for his party’s xenophobic policies. UKIP certainly seem to be uniting the local population.

See: https://unemployedtynewear.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/newcastles-jewish-community-heckle-ukip-parliamentary-candidate-for-xenophobic-views/

Meanwhile, the UKIP campaign office in Blyth has vandalised this week for the second time.

Crosses and the word ‘No’ were daubed on to the shutters of the office.

Jonathan Arnott, North East UKIP MEP, said:

“This is now the second time that anti-democracy protesters have vandalised our office in Blyth.

“Sadly some people don’t respect our fundamental British freedoms.

“This comes at a time when some of our candidates have received death threats, showing the ugly face of some of those who oppose our message of freedom, independence and democracy.

“Ultimately this kind of criminal activity will prove counterproductive as it will simply spur our activists on to work harder and campaign for longer.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Apr 2015

Regional parties hoping to give London-based parties an election ‘bloody nose’

 

Regional parties hoping to give London-based parties an election 'bloody nose'

 

It was ultimately unsuccessful, but the campaign for devolution in Scotland has fanned the flames of regional rule in the North-East that were never quite extinguished by the 2004 ‘no’ vote.

The North East Party was launched less than a year ago as the independence campaign north of the border was in full swing. On May 7, it will field four candidates in Easington, Redcar, Stockton North and Newcastle North.

Vice-chair Susan McDonnell, who formed the party with former Labour MP Hilton Dawson, admitted they had hoped to have more candidates standing, but people who had initially shown an interest backed away when they realised the effort involved.

“They also had to find £500 for the deposit from their own pocket which may have put them off,” says Mrs McDonnell, who will contest the Easington seat.

The party wants to see a referendum for the the region’s 12 unitary authorities to be replaced by a single North-East government, however Mrs McDonnell stresses that it is not all about devolution.

“It’s about decision making taking place in the North-East by people from the North-East – we’re sick to death of being the poor relation in the North.”

 The party’s manifesto includes other proposals such as replacing council tax with a property tax. £1 billion would be invested in North-East enterprise and jobs from a new land tax, and older people would get free care.

The party has enjoyed some early success with two councillors voted on to Peterlee Town Council, and Mrs McDonnell says its membership is growing fast.

“We’re got quite a large presence on social media and are getting people from all over the region travelling to our meetings – Blyth, Newcastle, Redcar, Hartlepool and Stockton.”

The candidate accepts she may not be able to defeat the standing Easington MP, Grahame Morris, who has a majority of almost 15,000, but she adds: “I’m having a whale of a time.

“I am taking it very seriously but I also understand it’s a game. I’m not so naive to think that I will win on May 7 but I will give Grahame Morris as good a run as he’s ever had – I hope to give him a bloody nose.”

 The candidate welcomes Ukip‘s decision to field current MEP Jonathan Arnott in the Easington constituency, saying the North East Party believes it will split the Labour vote considerably.

The party is one of several regional parties which have appeared around the country in recent years, with many forming an allegiance under the Vote Local banner.

Mrs Mc Donnell says the parties have been launched because of a combination of being disillusioned with the mainstream Westminster centred parties and the referendum in Scotland. The new parties include Yorkshire First, which wants to see a Yorkshire parliament.

Devolution and regionalism expert Arianna Giovannini, who lectures at Huddersfield University, said the idea of regionalist parties was not new.

However, she adds: “What is certainly new is the emergence of regionalist parties in the North of England, ie Yorkshire First, the North East Party, and the Campaign for the North.”

Dr Giovannini says the emerging regionalist parties have great potential, especially if they succeed in joining forces with other organisations and movements, and manage to achieve grassroots support.

But she adds:

“Whether regional devolution in the North of England will succeed or fall may well hinge on the ability to generate democratic momentum, creating a clear, bold, confident and concerted vision for the future.

“However, the story of the Scottish Constitutional Convention tells us that such a process will take time, and cannot be rushed or accomplished overnight. In this sense, the following months and the results and effects of the imminent general election will be crucial in shaping the path ahead.”

The North East Party may not yet be big enough to change the course of the devolution debate in this region, but it is certainly a sign of the growing desire to see greater powers handed over.

Source –  Northern Echo, 09 Apr 2015

UKIP to target Blyth but sitting MP calls their campaign ‘ageist’

UKIP’s deputy leader has confirmed the party is targeting Northumberland’s Blyth Valley seat.

Nigel Farage’s second-in-command, Paul Nuttall MEP, was in the coastal constituency for the second time in a matter of weeks and said the seat – which is widely regarded as safe Labour territory – is a target for Ukip, while neighbouring Wansbeck was also “of great interest”.

Sitting Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell’s majority has dropped to 6,668 in 2010 from 17,736 in 2001.

The 71-year-old – who is for having a referendum on membership of the European Union – said Ukip was running an “ageist” campaign.

He added this election will be the last time he stands but he was nonetheless confident of a Labour victory.

It comes three months after Ukip opened its North East headquarters off Blyth high street, just a stone’s throw away from Mr Campbell’s office.

“Demographically, it is perfect for Ukip if you look at the people who came over to us at the recent election,” said Paul Nuttall, who is an MEP in the North West.

“We are investing in the constituency and building for the future.

“We are going to put in a very good performance – but it isn’t just about the short-term political gain, this is a long-term target seat.

“With Hartlepool, Blyth sticks out and we did very well in the South Shields by-election too, remember.”

Ukip has remained tight-lipped about its target seats but the MEP could not deny Blyth is now ranked among them.

He could not cite any polling data which says Blyth voters are shunning Labour but confirmed the party will be throwing resources at the campaign there.

“The reports that we hear are very positive, as are the ones we get from Wansbeck,” said Mr Nuttall.

“I’m not going to deny that we are parking our tanks on Labour’s lawn in Blyth. Barry Elliott is a great candidate and he has a good team around him.”

 

Mr Campbell said:
“This will be my last election. I will fight this but then no more. After that, I will retire.

“Ukip has nothing to offer Blyth. We do not have a problem with immigration at all.

“Ukip has talked about being a target for a while. In the North East for them, it is Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, South Shields and us.

“I don’t know why they are targeting me. We are canvassing every day, I was out knocking on doors this morning. I hear that they tell people that I’m too old and that I should retire.

“I have a few years left in me yet. People don’t like ageism. Ageism is just as bad as racism.

“If they can manage to turn over my 6,668 majority then I haven’t done my job for the people of Blyth.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015

How the North East’s former coalfields are coping more than 25 years on

During the heyday of coal-mining, Ashington in Northumberland was considered the “world’s largest coal-mining village.”

The town had a working pit and was part of a corner of the county where the industry thrived with sites also at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Blyth and Ellington.

However, by the end of the 1980s, things had changed.

By 1967 Newbiggin Colliery had closed and – with Margaret Thatcher in power – in 1986 Bates Colliery at Blyth was shut down with Ashington following suit two years later.

Men were left out of work with 64,000 jobs lost across Britain as Thatcher’s government went to war wth the miners.

Today, the former Ashington mine is the home of a business park with a large pond at its centre.

It looks pleasant enough.

But has the restoration of the site seen the revitalisation of the town, and Northumberland’s former coalfields as a whole?

The local MP – who is a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers,  a charity set up to regenerate Britain’s former coalfields in which 5.5 million people live, and academics commissioned by that charity, certainly don’t think so.

30 years on from the 1984/85 miners’ strike which followed the announcement that pits were to close, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust commissioned Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research to takes stock of social and economic conditions in former coalfields.

The report for the charity, set up to “champion coalfield communities, generate resources to respond to their needs and deliver programmes that make a positive and lasting difference,” revealed deprivation, ill health and poor employment, with just 50 jobs for every 100 people of working age, 11.7% of people reporting long-term health problems and 14% of adults claiming out-of-work benefits.

Labour MP for Wansbeck,  Ian Lavery, whose constituency covers Ashington and Newbiggin, says it is a familiar picture locally.

He said:

“The stark thing from the report is that it shows that despite the attention in these former coalfields towns and villages up and down the country, there is still huge problems in terms of the high unemployment, the high youth employment, the low wage economy.

“Sadly the North has got the highest level of unemployment. We have got associated problems.

“Lack of business opportunities, and there is wide scale child poverty in the towns and villages which is something we should not be looking at in this day and age.

“Some of my wards in my constituency child poverty is 40 per cent.”

Mr Lavery, who has lived and worked in a mining community all his life, has called on the powers-that-be to address what he has deemed a lack of investment in the former coalfields over the years.

There is a whole number of problems arising from that report, that local authorities and the government need to take a look into that report and make sure more investment is made.

“I believe the North East has been left behind. We have not had the resources aimed at other industries.

“I would call on the government to scrutinise what has happened in the North East. Where it has went wrong and make a pledge to put it right.

“We are a cash rich nation, to have children in poverty is a political choice. Money is being spent on different projects.

“My simple project would be to eradicate child poverty.

“We can not have kids can not go to school because they have not got enough food in their bellies.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for that level of poverty in areas in any region.

“What needs to be done is there needs to be more investment in the coalfield communities, there needs to be more job opportunities, more business investments, better skills and knowledge and more job creation.

“If we get that with decent terms and conditions, the rest will follow in line.

“The government need to look at how best to assist the North East region, to eradicate the problems which are clearly identified in this report.”

He felt Northumberland County Council is doing its best to help, given its limited financial clout.

“I think the county council the last couple of years, they are doing their damnedest.

“They have tried to put a lot of things in place.

“They are absolutely cash strapped because of the cuts to local government. They have not got the finance they once had.

“A lot of the service Wansbeck (District Council) provided are not being provided any more.”

Since 2011, the trust has created and safeguarded 911 jobs and secured full or part-time employment for a further 2,921 people living within the coalfields communities throughout England.

Since it was established 15 years ago, programmes delivered by the trust have benefited hundreds of thousands of people in the British coalfields, including helping more than 21,000 people into work and over 187,000 to gain qualifications and new skills.

Chairman of the charity Peter McNestry said:

“We welcome Ian’s support and absolutely agree that additional finances are required if we are to make a difference in these areas.

“We have come a long way in the last 15 years but the recession had a disproportionate effect on the people living and working in the coalfields meaning they continue to need our support, guidance and funding.”

He added:

“The coalfields simply want the opportunity to get back on their feet. An entire industry ceased to exist, which employed directly and indirectly most of the people living within these areas. We cannot just turn our backs and walk away. “These towns and villages could thrive and make a positive contribution to the country if we give them the chance.”

The government said its investment in the trust is proof of its support for former coalfields, with over £200m given to the body over the last 15 years, and money ploughed into the areas from other sources.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Long term economic planning has helped to secure a better future and deliver much needed growth.

“We have given over £220 million to support to the Coalfields Regeneration Trust since 1999.

“They have been moving to a self-financing model and the trust now has a strong portfolio of investment and an opportunity to concentrate on the areas where they really add value.

“Regeneration is essential to building a strong and balanced economy, which is why we have given extensive support to many of these areas with the £1.4billion Regional Growth Fund, Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Deals.”

The county council said it is working to improve the former coalfield areas, drawing in investment from elsewhere in addition to spending money of its own.

The authority said its top priority, along with the hoped for dualling of the A1 North of Morpeth, is to secure around £65m to re-open the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne rail line to passenger services.

Furthermore, the council is leading the project for a new £30m South East Northumberland Link Road.

In addition, Arch, the authority’s county development company, is leading creation of a ten year investment plan for Ashington.

This could see a potential £74m ploughed into the town and bring 1,000 high-quality jobs.

Arch is also leading the delivery of a new £20m leisure and community facility at Ashington while the council is proposing to move its headquarters from Morpeth to the town.

The authority furthermore cited its support for the opening of a new £120m Akzo Nobel factory at Ashington.

It also highlighted the new £8m Blyth Workspace building being led by Arch, the first part of the town’s Enterprise Zone.

The council has furthermore secured £600,000 for preparatory work on the former power station site at East Sleekburn which could host 500 new jobs.

The authority also highlighted the £1m being invested at Lynemouth by the Big Lottery Fund and its setting up of a poverty issues task and finish group.

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of the county council, said: “The council is putting former coalfield communities at the heart of our future plans for growth as part of creating a balanced economy across the county.

“I believe there is real cause for optimism in the former coalfields and increasingly we can look to a future that is not defined by but always remembers and celebrates the legacy of our industrial heritage.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  17 Nov 2014

Council cuts driving rise in child adoption says Blyth MP

Saving councils cash is driving a rise in fast-track child adoptions in the North, an MP has claimed.

The British Association of Social Workers has launched an inquiry into why adoption in the North East has shot up by 26% in the last year after Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell highlighted concerns about the issue.

He believes dwindling numbers of under-pressure social workers are spending less time trying to keep families together and that councils, navigating central Government cuts, are pushing adoptions.

It comes as the Department for Education revealed the number of adoptions increased to 390 in 2013/14 from 290 the previous year.

Local authorities say they are doing all they can to keep parents and their children in a unit, and any claim adoption was used as a money-saving measure is “completely wrong”.

Mr Campbell said:

“I think it is about money at the end of the day. It is cheaper to adopt than it is to foster a child.

“We should be helping parents to get back on the straight and narrow.

“I have seen parents who have turned themselves around.

“Because of all the cuts, social services don’t seem to be there to help anymore. I don’t see why adoption has to be the be all and end all.”

He added social workers may also be afraid to manage intervention in the wake of some high profile cases, such as the failure of Haringey Children’s Services in the lead up to the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, who suffered appalling abuse at home.

Mr Campbell said:

“With Baby P and everything that came out, I think our social workers are frightened of their own job.

“Adoption is the easy option and it doesn’t cost the council anything. If you foster a child it is costing rate payers £500 a week. Why can we not try and keep the family together and help the mothers to bring themselves round.”

Bridget Robb, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said quick decisions were being made to get children out of the public care system.

She said:

“Due to the impact of austerity, many services which have been around in local communities to support children and their birth families are no longer around as they have closed due to lack of money. This makes it harder to provide the help those families need to stay together.

“Our current UK adoption legislation enables children to be adopted without the consent of their parents. This aspect of the legislation is being increasingly used to speed up the adoption process. While there are extreme circumstances where this may be necessary, its widespread use is causing us real concern as a profession.”

In Gateshead the number of looked after children adopted leapt from 15 in 2013 to 35, while there was an increase of 25 looked after children adopted in Newcastle to hit 60 in 2014.

In County Durham, adoptions shot up to 75 from 40, while in Middlesbrough, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland the figures remained the same.

In Darlington, the number of adoptions doubled from 10 to 20, while the number rose by five to 15 in both Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland. In Stockton-on-Tees, the number rose by ten to 30.

Councils stressed adoption was a last resort and had to be agreed by a court.

A Newcastle City Council spokesman admitted all services were coming under pressure, but said:

“It is totally wrong and misinformed to suggest that adoption is in some way a replacement for adequate social care support to families. Adoption is a way to provide a loving family home for children who cannot be cared for by their natural parents for a whole host of reasons. For many of these children the alternative would be a childhood spent in local authority care. Newcastle City Council is proud of the fact that it is giving more children the best possible start in life by increasing the numbers of adoptions, and this is something we will continue to try to do.

“At the same time, through the Newcastle Families Programme, the council is working with a range of partners in the city to provide intensive support to families who find themselves in trouble, providing the help and challenge they need to turn their lives around. The programme is one of the most successful in the country – helping around 300 families a year to overcome difficulties and get back on the right track.

“Government cuts and rising costs are forcing councils to make difficult decisions about services. Newcastle City Council has ensured that service to vulnerable people have been prioritised to avoid the deepest cuts, but it is true that these services are coming under increasing pressure.”

Karen Robb, strategic manager, looked after children and permanence at Durham County Council, said:

“We will always work with families to see if the children can remain with their parents or another family member. Where this is not possible children are only adopted after we have received a mandate from the courts where they are satisfied that there is no possibility of the birth parents or extended families being able to provide satisfactory care.

“We actively ensure that children who cannot live within their own families are placed permanently with their new families as quickly as possible.”

Councillor Angela Douglas, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Gateshead added:

We are committed to achieving the best outcomes for our children and young people and we know that for some children the best way to achieve this is through providing new forever families.

“Placing a child with adoptive parents only ever happens if it is felt by everyone that this would be in the best interests of that child. No other factors are involved in that decision.

“To suggest that adoption is taking place as a money-saving measure – and that the specific needs of that child are therefore being ignored – is completely wrong.”

Newcastle MP Catherine McKinnell said:

“There’s no doubt that the number of children in care in the region has risen over recent years, with over 500 children in the care of Newcastle Council alone.

“This comes at a huge cost not just to the local authority and society at large, but also to the children themselves as those who’ve grown up in care have historically had significantly worse outcomes.

“Clearly, it’s vital for local authorities and other organisations to provide early intervention services to support troubled families, in order to prevent family breakdowns and children being taken into care in the first place.

“But for those children already in care, I support moves to help them find permanent, secure, loving and stable families, and an increase in adoption rates – where it is appropriate for each individual child – is a positive step.”

Source – Sunday Sun,  16 Nov 2014

Work Programme Isn’t Working, Say Local Authorities

Local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales are issuing a call for a radical re-think of welfare-to-work policies.

The Industrial Communities Alliance, the all-party association representing more than 60 local authorities in Britain’s older industrial areas, says that welfare-to-work policies have nearly always been based on the false premise that there are plenty of jobs available.

The Alliance also says that the unemployed are now being blamed for their own failure when the true cause lies with the weakness of so many local economies.

> the unemployed are now being blamed for their own failure – now ?  You mean like that hasn’t been government policy right from the beginning ? 

Well its nice that they’ve finally caught up with reality, but I do wish they’d spoken out before… like several years ago.

In a new report (pdf), the Alliance highlights disturbing evidence on the failure of current welfare-to-work policies:

  • Participants on the government’s flagship Work Programme are almost twice as likely to be sanctioned as to find sustained employment
  • The official target is still that only 36 per cent of Work Programme participants will secure sustained employment.
  • The Work Programme is failing claimants with health problems or disabilities – only 11 per cent of new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance are finding sustained work after two years, and only 6 per cent of claimants transferred across from Incapacity Benefit

In older industrial Britain the numbers out-of-work on sickness and disability benefits generally outnumber the conventional unemployed (on Jobseeker’s Allowance) by two-to-one.

The Coalition Government in Westminster and the Labour Opposition are both considering devolving more responsibility for welfare-to-work away from Whitehall. The local authorities in the Alliance are calling for more fundamental changes:

  • A greater emphasis on growing the economy in weaker local labour markets
  • A targeted job creation programme to provide routes into work
  • A new focus in welfare-to-work on the obstacles of low skills and poor health
  • Less emphasis on compulsion, more on working by consent

Cllr Terry O’Neill, Chair of the Industrial Communities Alliance, said:

Most men and women have a fair grasp of their chances of finding work, and the value of the help on offer. Welfare-to-work should be about supporting them in ways they find relevant and appropriate.

“Too often it has become the mechanism for imposing punitive and unnecessary sanctions, fuelling business for food banks, pay-day lenders and loan sharks.”

Bernard Pidcock, Manager of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Blyth, Northumberland, adds:

“Every day we see decent men and women not only being pushed onto failing welfare-to-work programmes but also being squeezed financially by welfare cuts. This adds up to little short of a vendetta against many of the most disadvantaged in society.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  18 Oct 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/work-programme-isnt-working-say-local-authorities/

Blyth could be UKIP’s next target

Blyth could be the next target for UKIP in their mission to conquer Labour heartlands.

Strategists for Nigel Farage’s party have announced they are to open an office in Blyth town centre as they predict a huge swing toward UKIP in the 2015 General Election.

But if they are looking for a parliamentary seat they will have a fight on their hands from Blyth’s Labour MP Ronnie Campbell.

And Mr Campbell said he would never be tempted to switch allegiances to the party – despite numbering among the MPs who asked Labour for a referendum on Europe earlier this year.

He said: “I am Labour through and through, just like a stick of Blackpool rock. I will die Labour.”

UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott said his party would rise as the main challengers to Labour in May and could capture a number of North East seats in 2020.

He added the party planned to open an office in Blyth “just off the high street”.

He said: “I think it is objective to say that the Labour party has been complacent in the North East.

“So what will UKIP do? We will see a number of seats in which UKIP will become the main challenger to Labour moving forward.

“I would be very optimistic about the prospect of taking several seats in the election in 2020 in those seats where we have seen UKIP move into second place.

“In terms of winning seats in the North East [in 2015], I would say there are places where we have a chance: Hartlepool, for example; we are clearly already in second place in Redcar; South Shields where we have just taken a council seat; Blyth.

> It should be noted though, that in the council elections earlier this year UKIP lost one of the two seats they had on South Tyneside Council (the surviving one wasn’t up for re-election). Across the rest of Tyne & Wear, UKIP won a grand total of 0 seats. Their challenge back in May therefore amounted to them losing 50% of what they started with. Difficult to spin that as a triumph…

“All of those are areas where I think that if we have the right campaign and things go right in terms of the media and nationally then they will come into place next year.”

He added: “I would love to see a poll in Blyth, I have a gut instinct we will do well there.

“Obviously we have not released our target seats yet but if I had to make a prediction as to where we would target in the North East my prediction would be Hartlepool.”

> Actually, UKIP have already gone on record as targetting Hartlepool. Pay attention Mr Arnott !

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Oct 2014

MPs ‘Lying’ About Benefit Sanction Targets, Says North East Whistleblower

Dear Sir/Madam,

Following the recent/continuous denials from Central Government about there never having been targets imposed in Jobcentre Plus offices for Advisers and sanctions, I wish to strongly disagree with the official line.

 I have spent over twenty years working in the Civil Service and for the last two years (contracted staff), I was working as an Adviser based in North Shields office. I worked for eighteen months as a New Deal Adviser and for the remaining six months I was (for the vast majority of the time) carrying out interviews for (again mostly) where there was a doubt on a customer’s job seeking records. This is classed as ASE or Actively Seeking Employment and could lead to an initial loss of benefit of two weeks (JSA is paid two weeks in arrears).

What I can confirm is that every Wednesday morning, the office would not open until 10am as we would have an open office meeting and during this various topics were covered: changes to policy/procedures etc, and also raised was the District League Table.

This was a table that listed all of the offices in the District (Wallsend/Blyth/Whitley Bay/North Shields amongst others) and has usually headed up by S Smith the most senior manager in the office.

We were originally informed that we had to reach a target of 1 sanction a week and once it was realised that this could be reached by lunchtime on the Monday, this was increased to four a week.

This was submitted sanctions – not those sanctions that actually took effect after a decision maker had made their judgement. So the stupidity was that you could suspend a customers benefit at your desk (with them in front of you), submit the paperwork to the Decision Maker, who could then either decide to implement the sanction to decide that there was no case to answer.

The end result was that Advisers were suspending benefit on the flimsiest of reasons – simply to hit targets. Never mind the fact that this annoyed the customer – thus raising the risk level to staff and security staff and also wasting the advisers time, the decision makers time, the customers time.

So to summarise – whichever MP is stating that targets were never implemented, is either:

A) Lying – to keep on message and protect their career.

B) Has been misled by those who are there to support him/her – to protect their careers they say whatever the MP wants to hear.

Regards,

Mr P Black

Source –  Welfare News Service, 06 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/mps-lying-benefit-sanction-targets-says-whistleblower/