Organisers of a counter-march against a planned “anti-Islam” demonstration in Newcastle say they are expecting more than 2,000 people to flood the city centre this Saturday.
Newcastle Unites say representatives from the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Islamic communities will unite in one voice against Pegida’s first UK demo, due to be held this weekend.
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
This Saturday will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.
But counter demonstrators say they are expecting low numbers to turn out in support of Pegida.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Elswick and part of Newcastle Unites, said:
“Their Facebook page suggests more than 700 people have agreed to come but the reality is there will probably only be a couple of hundred.
“As far as they are concerned, it is looking as if it will be a bit of a damp squid.”
> Damp squid ? I think he means damp squib.
Northumbria Police have met with both groups to discuss policing on the day.
Newcastle Chief Superintendent Laura Young said:
“It will be a busy day in Newcastle on Saturday with a number of events taking place and with lots of people coming into the city centre for things like shopping, socialising and the football.
“The city is a busy place on a Saturday anyway and with all of the extra things taking place then we are advising anyone who is thinking of driving into Newcastle to give themselves extra time and be aware of how their journey might be affected by the delays.
“To minimise disruption to the public we will have motor patrols officers out on the roads to ensure traffic flow and we will do everything we can to keep the roads open and to reduce the impact on the public.
“We have spoken with the local authority and local bus and travel companies about the road closures and we are looking to have all roads re-opened as soon as possible on Saturday.”
Councillor David Stockdale, Newcastle City Council’s Labour ward member for Blakelaw, will be one of the counter-demo’s speakers on the day.
“I will be talking about Newcastle and how it is a city of sanctuary; how it is a community with a proud and long history of standing up to injustice.
“I intend to tackle some of the brutal misrepresentations of Islam which Pegida paints. I think it’s important that a non-Muslim stands up and does that.
“I do wish Pegida were not coming on Saturday but I believe everyone has a right to express their views, no matter for distorted and wrong they are. The best way to deal with these kind of views is to challenge them.”
A public meeting by opponents of Pegida will be held at the city’s central library on Thursday. The event will take place at the Bewick Room at 6pm.
Journalist Yvonne Ridley, who converted to Islam after she was arrested in Afghanistan, will be speaking at the event along with Coun Ahad.
The meeting is intended for supporters of Stop the War Coalition and those who oppose Islamophobia and racism and begins at 6pm.
John and Jennifer Martin, of North Shields, are among those planning to take part in Saturday’s counter-demo.
Mr Martin, 36, a car showroom manager, said:
“My wife and I feel like we have an obligation to take part on Saturday because Newcastle is our home and we don’t want groups like this thinking they can come here and disrupt the harmony we have.
“I don’t know much about where Pegida have come from but I know we don’t want their messages spreading in the North East.”
On Saturday, the following roads will be closed to allow for the demonstrations to take place:
- The Bigg Market will be closed to traffic from around 10am.
- A small section of Gallowgate will be closed from around 10:30am to 10:45am Newcastle Unites march begins.
- A section of Newgate Street will be closed from 10:30am.
- There are no plans to close Clayton Street or Grainger Street.
Officers say they may need to temporarily close other roads on the day depending on activity, however they will look to re-open them as soon as possible and keep the city road network flowing.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 Feb 2015
Fraud squad detectives are probing claims jobseekers were conned out of cash in an elaborate ‘Hustle-style’ scam from luxury city centre offices.
Applicants were interviewed by ‘Options 4 Families’ at a rented office in the Manchester One building on Portland Street, but heard nothing from the company after paying £65 for background checks upon offers of employment.
The £18.5k-a-year ‘trainee child counsellor’ jobs were even advertised on the government’s own Universal Jobmatch website – but the Department of Work and Pensions has since removed the adverts and has sent a warning to those who applied.
> Maybe they want to take a look at all those non-jobs that clutter up UJ – leaflet distributors, etc. But I suppose if they did, they’d have virtually nothing left – few respectable advertisers use UJ.
Other candidates are understood to have left their current jobs after being offered positions.
Burnley-based businessman John Sothern, 44, interviewed candidates at the start of January and is understood to have offered at least 12 people roles based in Manchester city centre following two days of interviews.
He is now at the centre of a police investigation – but denies any wrongdoing.
Greater Manchester Police were called to Manchester One by an interviewee on January 8 but Mr Sothern had fled the premises by the time officers arrived.
The M.E.N has spoken to jobseekers who were told they would begin their roles – which would increase to £34k-a-year after a training period – at the start of February but have still not heard from the company six weeks after transferring money.
Lancashire Police confirmed allegations regarding the Manchester-based jobs were passed to them by national agency Action Fraud on January 28.
It is understood a fraud probe into Mr Sothern’s activities is currently examining around 70 alleged offences across the north west.
A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm officers have received a report in relation to an allegation of fraud. An investigation has been launched and enquiries are on-going in relation to this matter at this time.”
A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The vast majority of those employers offer genuine roles for jobseekers to apply for – however we won’t hesitate to ban anyone who tries to break the rules and post fraudulent jobs. When possible, it can – and has – led to criminal prosecutions.”
Options 4 Families was dissolved as a limited company in 2010.
Matthew Bourton, 24, thought he’d finally ended his two-year search to find work when he was offered a ‘trainee child therapist’ job by Options 4 Families.
He applied through Universal Jobmatch and was interviewed just hours before police were called to the office on January 8.
Matthew, who has been out of work since leaving university, was offered the position the following day. He was then asked to provide a ‘refundable’ payment of £65.60 for a Disclosure and Barring Service background check to be carried out.
Six weeks later, he’s had no contact from the company.
Matthew, of Wigan Road, Leigh, said: “The job itself seemed too good to be true, but I’m so desperate to find work I was ready to believe everything I was being told. John Sothern was very friendly and charming. I gave my details for the bank transfer and that’s the last I’ve heard from them.
“I tried to get in touch with them but the number was a dead line. There was no mention of them on the internet apart from their own website and I came to the realisation that I’d been had. I feel taken advantage of and totally devastated.”
Businessman John Sothern insists job offers with Options 4 Families were genuine and he has done ‘nothing wrong’.
Mr Sothern is aware of a police investigation into the interview process at Manchester One but insists applicants will be given the jobs they were offered with Options 4 Families. He intends to contact candidates ‘within seven to 10 days’.
He said: “We’ve applied for funding with different organisations, including the Big Lottery Fund, and with private investors. As soon as we get that funding through, we’ll be in a position for people to start those jobs. We’ve had to put everything on hold but those people offered jobs will be getting e-mails – the jobs are still open. Background checks are standard industry practice and those people will get their money back.”
Source – Manchester Evening News, 03 Mar 2014
Newcastle City Council has announced that it will not proceed with its plan to completely withdraw free Sunday parking permits from churches in the city centre. Instead, worshippers will now be charged a nominal annual fee of £20, “to cover administration” while parking charges for everyone else will be raised substantially to bring in an estimated extra £500,000.
Churches had originally been told that the free parking scheme would end in March 2014 but since then the council has met with church leaders to negotiate the nominal fee.
Newcastle Council is making swinging cuts in all other areas of its services, including those for children and the elderly. Libraries, museums, art venues and leisure facilities are also being cut as the Council struggles to save £100 million.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “Although this privilege won’t make a huge amount of difference to the savings that Newcastle is being forced to make, it is still discrimination against every other motorist in the City who has to pay the full cost of parking.
“Many people consider their own Sunday morning activities – whether it is visiting relatives, going to the cinema or out for a meal – to be just as valid as going to church, but they have no alternative but to pay the new inflated costs of parking.
“Treating church-goers more favorably than everyone else is discrimination pure and simple”.
Source – National Secular Society 18 Feb 2014
SUNDERLAND will be without a fire station in the city centre for the first time in more than 100 years, it was decided today.
The announcement comes as Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service faces making cuts of £5million.
The Fire Authority met today opting to close the central station in a move that will also see the loss of 131 frontline firefighter posts.
The move was condemned by union bosses.
FBU Tyne and Wear Brigade Secretary Dave Turner said: “Reductions in Government funding have already seen years of cuts to our service, and during the consultation process Fire Brigade Union members across the region made it clear that further reductions will jeopardise the safety of firefighters and the public.”
The move to close the station will leave the city without a central station for the first time since 1908.
It comes just weeks after Northumbria Police announced proposals to close Gill Bridge police station, leaving Wearside without a police base in the city centre for the first time in 100 years.
Today, the FBU has also questioned the necessity of further cuts while the fire authority is holding unprecedented reserve levels of £25-£35 million.
The authority is also considering the introduction of ‘targeted response vehicles’ — vans staffed by two firefighters — to compensate for losses of firefighters and fire engines, and the construction of a new fire station in the Benton area of Newcastle to compensate for the closures.
It is hoped the job losses can be met through natural wastage.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 20 Jan 2014