Tagged: Chester-le-Street

Fencehouses – New Foodbank opens

A new foodbank distribution point has opened in a small village.

The County Durham Foodbank food collection point will operate from the YMCA at Fencehouses near Chester-le-Street every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm.

Stuart Hudson, Foodbank distribution centres manager, said:

“We are always looking for areas that will benefit from a Foodbank presence to meet the needs of those within communities who are in crisis.

“YMCA Fencehouses have identified that their local community would benefit from Foodbank support and we are looking forward to building relationships with referral agencies, local communities and the YMCA.”

Project lead David McCreedy said:

“For any Foodbank, feeding people in financial crisis is what they do.

“At Fencehouses YMCA Foodbank however, we consider that it is equally important to identify why people are becoming hungry and to take action to reduce food poverty. We will work with those using the Foodbank to support them in other areas of their difficult predicament.”

The County Durham Foodbank takes referrals from various agencies and currently runs 27 distribution points. Last year it provided 15,500 three-day food parcels to 9,963 individuals, many affected by welfare reforms or benefit delays.

Source – Durham Times, 27 May 2015

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Tyneside Samaritans report an alarming rise in the number of desperate pleas for help

Tyneside has seen an alarming rise in the number of people calling Samaritans.

Figures released by the charity show more than 37,000 desperate pleas were made last year, with nearly 5,000 of those coming from people considering taking their own lives.

The suicide rate in the North East is the highest in England, 13.8 per 100,000, compared with 7.9 in London, a figure which gives great concern to Samaritans.

Libby Hibbert, Director of Samaritans of Tyneside, said the number of callers has risen steadily over the past few years.

She said:

“Callers talk about a wide range of troubles that they may be unable to share with the people closest to them. Others are lonely and have no-one close to speak to.

“Some people have mental health difficulties that may affect their relationships or ability to work, some have other illnesses, and some have split up with their partners, some have financial worries, others are upset about bullying and some want to talk about their addictions.”

Samaritans of Tyneside is based at Jesmond, in Newcastle, where more than 100 volunteers answer the telephones.

Shirley Smith, of Chester-le-Street mental health charity Ifucareshare, urges anyone having suicidal thoughts to confide in someone.

She said:

“We have seen an increase in the demand for our service. That could be because people are coming more and aware of what we do. But, I would say the impact of suicide devastates communities and one suicide is one too many.

“Often for those left feeling suicidal there is always something that can be done. Terrific services like Samaritans help people at times of crisis are imperative.

“The most important thing is to reach out for that help. Speak to somebody, let somebody know how you are feeling. Talk to your GP, talk to a friend, that’s the most important thing; start the conversation.

“One of the things most families who have been affected by suicide say is that they didn’t know their loved ones were feeling that way. As a charity we believe there is always a way out. People do not feel suicidal forever. It can be a very temporary feeling. But feeling so low you can think of nothing else.

“Getting the right help at the right time is really important.”

Some of the concerns raised by people contacting Samaritans of Tyneside include financial problems, illness, job loss, bullying, low self esteem, bereavement, guilt, stress/anxiety, divorce, and access to children.

Ifucareshare can be reached on 0191 397 5661.

CALMCampaign Against Living Miserably– specialise in male’s mental health and can be reached on 0800 58 58 58.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  20 Apr 2015

North-East businesses which are paying below the minimum wage

More businesses in the North-East have been ‘named and shamed’ by the Government for not paying the national minimum wage.

The businesses were revealed by Business Minister Jo Swinson and included employers not complying with minimum wage rules and having arrears of more than £100 owing to staff.

Those named and who are based in the region were:

  • Mrs Karen Aitken, trading as Angel Hair Design, of Gainford, Darlington, neglecting to pay £703.33 to a worker
  • Mrs Deborah Adcock, trading as LJ Beauty and Hair, of Seaham, neglecting to pay £463.60 to a worker
  • Inn2inns Ltd, of Hemlington, Middlesbrough, neglecting to pay £323.10 to two workers
  • Mr Assad Madani, trading as Dona Papa Pizza, in Chester-le-Street, neglecting to pay £101.64 to a worker

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which published the 70 strong list, said each case had been “thoroughly investigated” by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Ms Swinson said: “Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal, immoral and completely unacceptable.

 

“Naming and shaming gives a clear warning to employers who ignore the rules that they will face reputational consequences as well as financial penalties of up to £20,000 if they don’t pay the minimum wage.”

The GMB union said there were still far too few “wage dodging employers” being brought to justice and “bucket loads of evidence” that big firms in particular could afford to pay more.

The Government said it was increasing HMRC’s enforcement budget by a further £3m a year in a bid to recover hundreds of thousands of pounds owed to workers.

The GMB also said a wage offenders register should be kept by Company House with those on it deemed unfit to hold further directorships.

The current national minimum wage for those aged 21 and over is £6.50 an hour, although the Low Pay Commission yesterday recommended to ministers it increases by 20p to £6.70 an hour.

COMPANIES NATIONALLY PAYING LESS THAN THE MINIMUM WAGE

  • East Midlands Crossroads – Caring for Carers, Nottingham, neglected to pay £37,592.56 to 184 workers.
  • Delcom Systems Ltd, Salisbury neglected to pay £11,731.52 to a worker.
  • S Hanns LLP, Chatham neglected to pay £8,448.84 to a worker.
  • The Apostolic Church trading as James Kane Nursery, London, neglected to pay £8,347.71 to 2 workers.
  • Young Friends Nursery Ltd, Hove, neglected to pay £6,789.71 to a worker.
  • Station Garage (Little Weighton) Ltd, Little Weighton neglected to pay £5,440.77 to 2 workers.
  • KRCS (Digital Solutions) Ltd, Nottingham, neglected to pay £5,161.85 to 5 workers.
  • Mrs Shirley Elvin trading as Seaton Garage & Engineering Co, Hull, neglected to pay £4,840.31 to a worker.
  • Pontcanna Hair Studio Ltd, Cardiff, neglected to pay £4,784.34 to a worker.
  • Carol Ann Daker trading as Swan Hill House Residential Home, Shropshire, neglected to pay £4,395.78 to 27 workers.
  • Hobby Horse Ltd, Plymouth, neglected to pay £4,049.31 to a worker.
  • Fylde Coast Pizza Ltd trading as Papa Johns, Blackpool, neglected to pay £3,949.62 to 14 workers.
  • Manleys Ltd, Belfast, neglected to pay £3,797.83 to 3 workers.
  • J B Howard and Son Ltd, Leyland, neglected to pay £3,469.96 to 7 workers.
  • Mr L Tolman & Mr S Blanchard trading as Mardi Gras Hotel, Blackpool, neglected to pay £3,206.76 to 3 workers.
  • Stafforce Personnel Ltd, Rotherham, neglected to pay £3,044.79 to 63 workers.
  • Best Start Ltd trading as Tiny Treasures Day Care Nursery, Birmingham, neglected to pay £2,928.95 to two workers.
  • Maybury Automotive Ltd, Woking, neglected to pay £2,670.88 to 2 workers.
  • C&R Tyres Ltd, Kelso, neglected to pay £2,261.60 to 3 workers.
  • SSE PLC, Perth neglected to pay £2,233.95 to 5 workers.
  • Encore Envelopes Ltd, Washington, neglected to pay £2,060.09 to a worker.
  • SmileyWorld Ltd, London, neglected to pay £1,729.00 to a worker.
  • Mancroft Ltd, Leeds, neglected to pay £1,172.97 to 3 workers.
  • Kevin & Bernadette Farrell trading as Derrygonnelly Autos, Enniskillen, neglected to pay £1,690.35 to a worker.
  • Delves Food & Wine Stop Ltd trading as Loco, Walsall, neglected to pay £1,152.48 to a worker.
  • Webe (Chelmsford) Ltd, Chelmsford, neglected to pay £1,521.98 to 4 workers.
  • Gregson Lane Garage Ltd, Preston, neglected to pay £1,431.57 to 2 workers.
  • Ms Julie Ann Wright trading as The Worx, Portadown, neglected to pay £1,110.60 to a worker.
  • Mr S Partridge & Ms M Shead trading as Cobblers Fine Sandwiches & Pastries, Wakefield, neglected to pay £1,003.83 to a worker.
  • Mr Phillip Campbell & Mrs Lorraine Campbell trading as Supervalu Kells, Ballymena, neglected to pay £905.86 to 2 workers.
  • Mr C Pask trading as Pask Hair & Beauty, Derby, neglected to pay £900.00 to 2 workers.
  • J&G Salon Ltd trading as Jealousi & Garlands, Tamworth, neglected to pay £881.28 to a worker.
  • Faster Fit Tyres Ltd, Scunthorpe, neglected to pay £719.30 to a worker.
  • Mrs Karen Aitken trading as Angel Hair Design, Darlington, neglected to pay £703.33 to a worker.
  • Clearshot Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £684.94 to a worker.
  • Everest Express Ltd, Lincoln, neglected to pay £657.03 to a worker.
  • Leisure Emporium Ltd trading as Brown’s Cafe Bar & Bistro, Nottingham, neglected to pay £643.86 to a worker.
  • Mrs S Walker trading as Alleyways Fish & Chips, Scarborough, neglected to pay £601.59 to a worker.
  • Gary & Toni Valentine trading as The Harbour Inn, Seaton, neglected to pay £584.42 to a worker.
  • Shreeji Barnsley Ltd trading as Coffee Delight, Buxton, neglected to pay £555.70 to a worker.
  • Rowe Sparkes Solicitors Ltd, Southsea, neglected to pay £530.96 to a worker.
  • Fish Hairdressing Company Ltd, trading as Fish Hairdressing, Maidstone neglected to pay £521.82 to 3 workers.
  • Mrs Deborah Adcock trading as LJ Beauty & Hair, Seaham, neglected to pay £463.60 to a worker.
  • D&D Dies Ltd, Nottingham, neglected to pay £446.37 to a worker.
  • G Joynson, D Joynson and C Joynson trading as Headquarters, Withernsea, neglected to pay £430.07 to a worker.
  • Matchesfashion Ltd, London, neglected to pay £375.61 to 2 workers.
  • Colin Saich trading as Lindcoly Kennels, Bury St. Edmunds, neglected to pay £338.41 to 9 workers.
  • Inn2inns Ltd, Middlesbrough, neglected to pay £323.10 to 2 workers.
  • 99p Land Ltd, Swindon, neglected to pay £315.26 to a worker.
  • General Tarleton Ltd, Knaresborough, neglected to pay £300.62 to 6 workers.
  • Western Computer Group Ltd, Bristol, neglected to pay £287.54 to a worker.
  • Matrix Electrical Engineering Ltd, Harlow neglected to pay £286.60 to a worker.
  • Honeybees Childcare Ltd, Preston, neglected to pay £276.30 to a worker.
  • Mr G J Pearce trading as Sheppards Wood Service Station, Nottingham, neglected to pay £268.56 to a worker.
  • The Mirrors Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £262.87 to a worker.
  • A1 Techsol Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £233.47 to a worker.
  • Mrs J Cole trading as Rayleigh Retreat, Rayleigh £231.73 to a worker.
  • Hamlet Homes Properties Ltd, Westcliff-on-Sea neglected to pay £226.40 to a worker.
  • Smartmove Property Specialists Ltd, Aldershot, neglected to pay £206.36 to a worker.
  • EYFS Ltd trading as Oak Tree Day Nursery, London, neglected to pay £181.41 to a worker.
  • Mr & Mrs P Munn trading as Merry Maids of the Weald, Tonbridge, neglected to pay £169.56 to a worker.
  • Mr H Singleton trading as Willowbank Builders, Huddersfield, neglected to pay £163.89 to a worker.
  • Professional Referral Services Ltd, Wigan, neglected to pay £156.93 to 2 workers.
  • Amtec Computer Corporation Ltd, Ferndown, neglected to pay £149.64 to a worker.
  • Lychgate Coffee Ltd, Wolverhampton, neglected to pay £124.39 to a worker.
  • Finite International Logistics Ltd, Penarth, neglected to pay £119.92 to a worker.
  • Drummonds Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £113.58 to a worker.
  • Grove Mechanical Services Ltd, Magherafelt, neglected to pay £107.00 to 2 workers.
  • Lin Chinese Takeaway Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, neglected to pay £103.00 to a worker.
  • Mr Assad Madani trading as Donapapa Pizza, Durham, neglected to pay £101.64 a worker.

The current National Minimum Wage rates are:

Adult rate (21 and over)  – £6.50 per hour
18-20 year olds – £5.13 per hour
16-17 year olds – £3.79 per hour
Apprentice rate – £2.73 per hour

The apprentice rate applies to apprentices aged 16-18 and those aged 19 and over who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage rate for their age.

Source – Northern Echo,  24 Feb 2014

County Durham Socialist Clothing Bank

Durham Community Support Centre

The Clothing Bank opened its doors today at Brandon Miners Welfare Hall from 12 until 2. As always we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of people who donate clothes, toiletries, their time and, in the case of the GMB Tyne and Wear branch, a £25 cheque. Thank you all.

001

The Clothing Bank was busy for the two hours it was open. We were pleased to welcome colleagues from Destiny Streetworx who feed up to 150 homeless people every Saturday at Pilgrim Street, Newcastle. They also offer a freshly prepared hot meal and drinks and  provide a Food Bank for those in need. We were happy to help them with clothes and toiletries to take back to their street  friends (check out their facebook page for more information)

004Another success today was an elderly lady who was desperate for a winter coat. At a size 6 this had been proving difficult…

View original post 201 more words

North East foodbank workers having to drive hundreds of miles to meet demand for parcels

Foodbanks in the North are so desperate for supplies they are having to travel hundreds of miles South to collect parcels.

One bank in the region needs a staggering four tonnes of food every week just to meet the massive demand in the run up to Christmas.

While another is even handing out hot water bottles and thick coats in a bid to keep children warm this winter.

The Sunday Sun newspaper has joined forces with foodbank charity The Trussell Trust to help boost stocks and make sure everyone can enjoy the festive season.

Matthew King, assistant manager at Newcastle’s West End Food Bank, the busiest in the UK, said:

“We’re at the stage now where we are having to drive to places like Surrey and Sussex just to pick up parcels to help meet the demand.

“We have a shortage up here at the minute so we’ve been driving down South to stock up and bring the food back up.

“Last week we gave out 300 parcels of food and this is increasing as we get deeper into winter.

“All contributions would be gratefully received.”

Mr King said they are currently only able to meet the demand by looking outside the North East.

He added:

“We estimate we will have fed 55,000 mouths by the time this year ends.

“We are the busiest foodbank in the country, mainly because of the large areas of poverty we have here in the parts of the West End of Newcastle.”

Now, we are urging people right across the North to pack a food parcel and hand it in to their local foodbank in the coming weeks.

Nigel Perrott is from Middlesbrough Foodbank.

He said:

“We often find it’s that period right after Christmas when there’s a real shortage.

“In the run up to the festive season people can be very generous and helpful but, once that Christmas spirit has gone, it becomes harder to meet the demand.”

Jill Coyle, from Billingham and Stockton Foodbank, said they were also taking in items like hot water bottles and children’s winter coats.

She added:

“We’ve seen children coming in with flimsy clothing on and, of course, it’s getting much colder now.

“People have been so generous in the run up to Christmas, but there is always that demand for more.”

Figures released by the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks across the North, show that between April and September 2014, over 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead, Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks alone.

That breaks down to 4,289 a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.

Meanwhile a further 912 were catered for at Middlesbrough’s foodbank during the six-month period.

Critics of the Government’s welfare reforms claim organisations like the Trussell Trust are becoming an unacknowledged and unpaid part of the welfare system.

Changes to benefits since 2012 include raising the minimum job seekers’ sanction from one to four weeks and the start of the so-called “bedroom tax”.

Mr King said there were no signs of the demand for foodbanks slowing.

He added:

“Everyone who comes here has been assessed, it’s not just like people are walking in off the street.

“They have perhaps received vouchers from health workers, school liaison officers, Citizens Advice staff or social workers.”

Naomi Stevens, from Durham Foodbank, said they have 26 distribution points right across the county.

She added:“There is always the need for more and we welcome any contribution people can make.”

Mandy Martin, of Chester-le-Street, County Durham, has had parcels to help get her and her two children through the winter.

Mandy, who has a three-year-old and a five-year-old, said:

“The hardest thing was to accept that I needed help.

“The changes to the benefit system have really affected how much money we had coming in so I felt coming to a foodbank might help get us back on our feet.”

Christopher Gallin,  who lives in Throckley said:

“The foodbank stops people from going hungry. They do so much for families who are struggling and provide hot meals to keep us going in the winter.”

The region’s foodbanks desperately need:

  • Tinned vegetables
  • Tinned meat
  • Dry pasta
  • Rice
  • Tinned fish
  • Dried milk
  • Tinned soups
  • Jam
  • Cereals
  • Tea bags
  • Biscuit and snack bars

How to give to foodbanks:

To find out about where to drop your food parcels off at go to newcastlewestend.foodbank.org.uk or middlesbrough.foodbank.org.uk or Billingham.foodbank.org.uk or durham.foodbank.org.uk

> But don’t forget, these aren’t the only foodbanks in the North East. There may be one nearer to wherever you live, and they need donations just as much.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  07 Dec 2014

More people from the North East contacting a homelessness helpline than ever before

More people than ever before are contacting a homelessness helpline fearing they are about to be forced onto the streets.

The charity Shelter has spoken to more than 2,000 people in the North East in the last year on the brink of homelessness – a 28% rise since 2012.

They also found that 28 households in the region are at risk of losing their homes everyday through mortgage and landlord possession claims.

Stephanie, who lives near Chester-le-Street, said she rang Shelter after her husband was injured in a serious accident and she could not keep up with mortgage payments without his wage.

She said:

“I found myself facing homelessness when my husband had a serious accident. He ended up in hospital in intensive care for months, and with his wage no longer coming in, we really struggled to keep up with the mortgage payments.

“We weren’t able to get assistance with my husband’s care, and without his wages, we just couldn’t keep up.”

At the same time as Stephanie was trying to secure specialist care for her husband, she said she was inundated with calls about the house from her mortgage company.

Eventually this culminated in a warrant for repossession which was issued a year ago – prompting Stephanie to call Shelter for the first time.

Shelter helpline adviser Nadeem Khan, who helps people in the North East, said:

“It’s so heart-breaking to hear from families struggling to keep a roof over their heads, especially around this time of year.

“Hearing the panic in a parent’s voice when they’ve just been evicted or had their home repossessed never gets any easier. Sadly, every year we get more and more of these calls over the holidays, and this Christmas will be no different.”

The number of people at risk of homelessness who called the Shelter helpline in the North East from October 2013 to September 2014 rose to 2,055 from 1,609 between October 2011 and September 2012, an increase of 28% or 446 people over two years.

As England’s shortage of affordable homes continues to push housing costs sky high, the charity is expecting even more families to be in desperate need of its help this Christmas.

Stephanie said calling Shelter after her husband became ill has changed things around for her family and they will now have a roof over their heads this Christmas.

She said: “There was no talking down to me, no telling me what I had to do.

“They referred me to a great adviser and they were absolutely fantastic, they’ve helped me so much.”

After securing more time from the court to look for somewhere else to live, Durham County Council helped her find a suitable bungalow that will accommodate her husband when he is out of hospital.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  19 Nov 2014

Sunderland Jobcentre staff stole claimants’ benefits after getting into debt

A civil servant siphoned off nearly £2,000 from people’s benefits after struggling to meet the payments of his pay-day loan.

Anthony Osborne was paying £700 from his monthly salary to meet the “exorbitant” interest rates of his loan, Sunderland magistrates were told.

He turned to crime and took £1,932 in just five weeks after realising he could alter bank details on customers’ electronic records.

But he was caught after two claimants complained they had not received their benefits and an internal audit was carried out.

Osborne, 42, was arrested and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position before Sunderland Magistrates’ Court in June.

At a sentencing hearing this week, Osborne blamed mounting debts and depression for the deception, described in court as being totally out of character for a man who had never been in trouble with the law.

Osborne, who gave his address in court as Wark Street, Chester-le-Street, carried out the fraud at Job Centre Plus in Sunderland, where he had worked for seven years.

Prosecutor John McGlone said over five weeks from December 6, the benefits processor helped himself to the cash, which was paid into two bank accounts he had access to.

Chris Wilson, defending, said Osborne was struggling to keep up with the demands from his loan.

It was not frivolous spending,” he said, “but more a case of making ends meet.”

Vulnerabilities in the system were identified by him and effectively it was to his benefit. The actions of Mr Osborne on this occasion were completely out of character.

“He has never come under the spotlight of the police or his employment.

“He is embarrassed and ashamed and wishes he could wind the clock back.

“Against the background of depression and the downward spiral he was in, he made an erroneous decision.”

Mr Wilson added that Osborne had moved out from the home he shared with his partner of five years, after they rowed over the court case and he was living at the tattoo removal business in Chester-le-Street which he had set up.

His financial situation is now stable because of this. He has built up a customer base and it seems he will be successful, going forward,” he added.

Chairman Peter Devere ordered Osborne to serve a 12-month community order and to repay the stolen money back to the Department for Work and Pensions.

> Now, if the defendant had been from the other side of the counter – a claimant – we’d be getting headlines about Benefit Cheats and Taxpayer’s Money.

It’s still benefits fraud, and it’s  still taxpayer’s money, but somehow it doesn’t seem to generate the same lurid headlines.

In fact its far worse, because he was in a position of responsibility and in receipt of a wage. And he stole from the worst off in society. 

Which to my mind makes him the worst kind of benefits cheat.

Source – Sunderland Echo, 21 Aug 2014

Crusade march to stop the ‘privatisation’ of the NHS begins in South Tyneside

Hundreds of people gathered to give a rousing send off to the crusade launched by a group of North East mums protesting against the “privatisation” of the NHS.

One of the organisers, call centre worker Joanna Adams, 41, said she was “totally taken aback” at the turn out at their starting point, Jarrow Town Hall in South Tyneside.

There must be seven or 800 people here,” she said. “It shows how many people care about the NHS. It’s really moving. It shows the majority of people are decent human beings, not the self serving and greedy people some would have you believe.”

Those taking part in the ‘People’s March for the NHS’ are to follow the historic Jarrow Crusade route of 1936 when over 200 men – and local MP Ellen Wilkinson – marched to the Houses of Parliament to protest about the lack of work.

The march this time is in response to government legislation they feel is leading to the privatisation of the NHS.

At the town hall send off speeches were given by politicians, union officials and Lizi Gray, the great granddaughter of one of the original marchers.

It was a lovely symbolic gesture,” said Joanna.

Then, to the strains of the Proclaimers song ‘I’m Gonna Be (500miles) which the Scottish duo “gave” to the campaign and is now being used as their signature song, they set off.

The group will actually be walking 300 miles and are due to arrive at the Houses of Parliament on September 6, in time for Prime Minister’s Question time that day.

The idea stemmed from a group of 11 Darlington mums who wanted to highlight the damage caused by the Health and Social Care Act which has led to the increasing privatisation of the NHS

The idea was floating around for a while – it seemed such a crazy idea – then in March we decided just to do it,” said Joanna.

As the marchers headed on their first leg to Chester-le-Street with many of those who originally come to give them a send off actually joining in, she added: “This is what British values are. We’re generous, we care about equality and justice, something that isn’t acknowledged. There is such a thing as society.

“They talk about choice, well this is our choice. We want the NHS. We want public services properly funded. We own it and they have no business trying to take it away from us.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Aug 2014

Services at region’s “little used” railway stations under threat

Rail services at around 20 of the region’s “little-used” stations are under threat, under new Government plans.

Ministers are proposing cutting the number of trains that serve 67 stops with “particularly low levels of use”, when a new contract is brought in for a private operator.

They include ten in North Yorkshire, four on Teesside, three in Tyne and Wear and a further five in Northumberland.

Some have extraordinarily few passengers, in particular the station at Teesside Airport which – notoriously – had just eight passengers last year, on only two trains each week.

Five other local stations attract fewer than ten passengers a day on average; British Steel Redcar (2.44), Battersby, North Yorkshire (4.31), Kildale, North Yorkshire (4.99), Dunston, Gateshead (5.93), Blaydon (7.59) and Ruswarp, North Yorkshire (8.07).

And the list stretches down as far as stops with nearly 10,000 passengers a year, but still small numbers each day; Marton, Middlesbrough (27.02) and Danby, North Yorkshire (27.13).

The Department for Transport (DfT) has vowed that 30-year-old ‘Pacer’ trains – condemned as “cattle trucks” by critics – will finally be replaced, as part of the new contract.

 Now the consultation for the franchise seeks support for improving the quality of the trains “at the expense of some reduction in lightly used services”.

It asks: “What are your views on giving priority to improving the quality of the Northern rolling stock at the expense of some reduction in lightly used services (e.g. fewer calls at low-use stations)?

The proposal is included in plans for the new Northern Rail and Trans-Pennine franchises, which are due to be awarded late next year and to start in February 2016.

The operators run services to Darlington, Durham City, Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool, Redcar, Sunderland, Newton Aycliffe, Redcar, Northallerton, York and Scarborough.

Controversially, the DfT has already warned that rail fares may have to soar to pay for the new trains, regardless of whether some services are culled at less popular stations.

> So business as usual –  fewer services costing more… to be followed by big payouts to shareholders .

Commuters in the region pay up to 60 per cent less than in other parts of the country for short journeys, according to officials.

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, pointed out that James Cook Hospital had just opened a new platform linked to Marton.

And he said: “They’re probably less used because services are few and limited. South Bank hardly has a service that stops there, so it’s a bit cheeky for Northern Rail to highlight stations it hardly services.

> It’s a good point – if there are very few services to start with, the number of users is going to be less. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if services were increased.

Teesside Airport station always  attracts headlines for its lack of use… but it only gets two trains per week.  What the hell else does anyone expect ?

“Perhaps if it increased services and improved rolling stock, it would improve the frequency of use.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin insisted that no decisions have yet been taken on the proposals in the document, arguing it was normal to seek views in a consultation.

Source –  Northern Echo,  26 July 2014

Housing group help for Durham foodbank

A housing group has handed £500 to a foodbank.

Riverside, a social housing group with offices in Gateshead, made the donation to Durham Foodbank.

Since starting in September 2011, the foodbank has distributed 177 tonnes of donated food, feeding more than 23,500 people in crisis across County Durham.

Diana Pearce, a Riverside board member, said the group was pleased to be able to support the cause.

Peter MacLellan, Durham Foodbank co-ordinator, said: “We are very grateful for the recent cash donation from Riverside.

“Fundraising and donations are absolutely vital in order to cover the basic running costs of the foodbank so that we can continue to get food and support to local people in crisis.”

Durham Foodbank urgently needs more volunteers for its supermarket collection day at Morrison’s, Chester-le-Street, on Saturday, June 14. For more information, email: brianhunter1951@gmail.com