Tagged: Cleveland

Stockton MP tells Parliament that police cuts are jeopardising public safety

Further cuts to policing budgets risks further jeopardising public safety, a Teesside MP told Parliament.

Despite assurances from the Prime Minister in 2010 that frontline policing would not be affected, some 8,000 police officers have already been lost from the frontline, said Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North.

Last month Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, confirmed that further cuts to the Police Grant Settlement will mean a reduction in local police funding of over £4.5m, warning it will place further pressure on an already stretched force.

Mr Coppinger called for the public and local MPs “to speak out about how far they are willing to let ministers go in juggling with public safety”.

During Parliamentary Questions to the Home Office in the House of Commons, Alex said:

“There has been a net loss of 293 police officers from the Cleveland police service since 2010, and our police commissioner says that the budget has been cut by another 5.1%, which could further jeopardise public safety.

“Does the Home Secretary agree that such losses and cuts are the reasons behind the drop in confidence in policing for the first time in a decade?”

But the Stockton MP said the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims was “unable to explain away this loss of confidence” – and sought instead to highlight the admirable manner in which Cleveland Police has dealt with cuts that will see the force £35m worse off than in 2010/11.

Speaking after the question session, Alex said:

“Despite already facing savage cuts, police forces around the country have been told to prepare for more of the same during the next Parliament.

“It is extremely worrying that the Association of Chief Police Officers is estimating that a further 6,000 frontline officers will need to be cut to meet budget reductions between 2015-17.

“Even more alarmingly, I understand that the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police has written to the Home Secretary warning that current funding arrangements will result in his force becoming unsustainable by 2019 and identifying a real risk that his may be the first force to fall.

“I am in no doubt further cutting of policing budgets will further decimate our police forces and place even more pressure on a service already under-resourced and overstretched.”

The MP said with similar cuts to local government services, police officers will be expected to do more with less – “an unrealistic proposition”.

“While Cleveland Police deserve praise for innovative collaboration with partner organisations in managing funding reductions to date, there is only a finite amount of pressure they can shoulder before the cracks start to emerge and these further cuts may breach that tipping point.”

Source –  Midlesbrough Evening Gazette, 07 Jan 2015

Advertisements

Teesside councils suffer worse than average spending cuts in latest government settlement

Teesside councils have again suffered worse than average cuts in the latest government funding announcement.

Figures released today show Middlesbrough Council‘s ‘spending power‘ – the total amount it has at its disposal through central grants and council tax – will fall by £8.9m from £158.4mm in 2014-15 to £149.5m in 2015-16.

That is a cut of 5.6% – compared to an average cut for all English councils of 1.8%.

Redcar and Cleveland will lose £5.2m, or 3.7%, while Stockton emerged relatively unscathed – down £3.6m, or 2.1%.

The list of worst-hit areas is dominated by Labour-dominated parts of the Midlands and North.

> Well, what a suprise !

Tamworth in Staffordshire faces the biggest cut, of 6.4%, followed by Barrow in Furness and Chesterfield.

At the other end of the scale, a number of councils in the South of England will actually see their spending power go up.

Tewkesbury will see the biggest increase, of 3.2%, while Surrey will get an extra £27m, or 3.1%.

Other towns and counties getting an increase include East Devon (up 2.7%), Buckinghamshire (up 2.3%), Cambridge (up 2.3%), Dorset (up 1.9%) and Cheshire East (up 1.4%).

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 2014

North East Police and councils have been granted more than 22,000 warrants allowing them to intercept communications, including tapping phones

Police have used controversial anti-terror powers to fight crime across the North.

Thousands of ‘RIPA’ undercover warrants – which grant the power to trawl through telephone records – were used by Durham, Northumbria, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cleveland police.

The warrants, issued under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), entitle public bodies to intercept communications in a bid to expose crime and have been used by North East councils and other public bodies as well as the police.

Figures released by the government show 22,154 RIPA warrants were issued to police forces in the North in 2013 – with Durham police leading the way with 6,218 warrants.

Northumbria Police was granted 6,211, North Yorkshire police made 4058 successful applications, Cleveland received 2957 and the Cumbria force was granted 2,710.

RIPA was introduced as a weapon against terrorism and economic crime but its use has been criticised – with some likening it to the encroachment of a police state.

It requires only that the request be approved by a police officer of Superintendent rank or above, giving forces the right to sign off their own warrants without having to go before a judge.

Civil rights group Liberty hit out after the figures were revealed, with legal director James Welch saying RiIPA was “massively overused”.

Councils routinely use RIPA warrants for issues involving rogue traders and underage sale of alcohol and tobacco as well as taxi cab regulation and checking out businesses employing minors.

Police forces use them for more in-depth issues including the investigation of drug and paedophile rings, human trafficking and other forms of serious crimes.

Ripa was used by Cleveland police to snare a drugs gang which was jailed in May for 177 years, collectively.

Detectives were able to seize drugs worth £824,686 and £127,966 cash.

Codenamed Operation Cobweb, it was Cleveland police’s biggest ever drugs bust.

RIPA warrants issued up to March 2013 allowed officers to snare the 22-strong gang, with Middlesbrough’s top judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC praising police for their use of RIPA legislation.

York City Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council led the way for local authorities in the North, using the powers with 80 and 69 warrants granted respectively.

Redcar and Cleveland is host to the anti-fraud organisation Scambusters which the council said contributes to its high numbers.

Newcastle City Council was absent from the list while Northumberland County Council had just three warrants issued.

In August last year in Northumberland, warrants were used to track down through social media accounts an illegal 16-year-old tattoo artist. She was banned and her equipment was seized.

Warrants were also used to bust a phone scam that conned 400 residents across the UK after a Redcar pensioner was tricked into buying unnecessary anti-virus software.

Operation Hognose was launched when the pensioner told council officials he had fallen victim to what is known globally as the ‘Microsoft scam.’

Scammer Mohammed Khalid Jamil, of Luton, Bedfordshire, was handed a suspended jail sentence and £5,000 fine during a March 29 hearing at York Crown Court, after Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council’s trading standards passed the case to the National Trading Standards e-Crime Centre.

The conman was ordered to pay £13,929 costs as well as £5,665 in compensation to 41 victims.

The council said it had not used RIPA warrants to tap phones.

The police forces said they used the powers “only when deemed necessary and in order to detect crime and keep people safe.”

James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty, hit criticised the figures and said the legislation is over used by forces across the UK.

He said:

“The police and other public bodies massively overuse their power to get information from our phone and internet service providers – over half a million times last year.

This overuse is hardly surprising when there’s no requirement for prior authorisation from a judge. You can work out a lot about a person from knowing who they phone or which internet sites they visit. People don’t realise how badly their privacy is compromised by this power.”

Home Secretary Theresa May has ordered a review into claims Ripa is being misused.

Police forces on RIPA powers

All of the police forces we contacted said they used RIPA powers only when necessary.

A spokeswoman for Northumbria police said they would be ‘unlikely’ to discuss their use of the measures.

Our ultimate aim is the safety of the public and this is one of many ways we can gather information to help deal with those people causing most harm in our communities.

“It’s important for the public to have confidence that such methods are appropriate and proportionate.

“The public can be reassured applications for RIPA authority are made only when deemed necessary and in order to detect crime and keep people safe,” she said.

“RIPA authority is not entered into lightly and rigorous processes are in place leading to it being granted.

“They have to be absolutely satisfied that it is necessary to prevent and detect crime and that its level of intrusion is proportionate with the nature of the enquiry being carried out.

“Northumbria Police is inspected each year by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office to ensure correct procedures and processes are being followed.

“The number of authorisations made is comparable with our neighbouring forces and is part of a package of tools available to officers.”

Temporary Superintendent Rob O’Connor, of Cumbria police, said:

Cumbria Constabulary where necessary for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, or preventing disorder, will use the power given to them by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to obtain and disclose communications data and conduct surveillance. Police use of RIPA is subject to guidance and strict codes of practice.

“RIPA is a very useful investigative tool in order to prevent crime and disorder. The intelligence and evidence obtained enables us to make the correct decisions in terms of public safety and the prosecution of criminals. It has been used on many occasions to great effect to bring offenders to justice.

“Cumbria Constabulary’s use of RIPA is subject of oversight and regular inspections by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office and the Office of Surveillance Commissioner.”

Chief Superintendent Rob Coulson, of Durham Police, said:

“The powers RIPA provides are massively important to policing in our force area. RIPA is only used when absolutely necessary, how and when we use it is strictly governed.

“RIPA enables us to investigate serious crime and has played a key role in apprehending organised criminals and other serious offenders who have been making life miserable for the residents of County Durham and Darlington. There are many examples of this in the last year alone.

“Whilst Durham is generally a safe place to live we have to accept that these criminals exist and the powers provided through RIPA is a vital tool in the fight against them. We will continue to use the powers RIPA provides to follow, monitor, disrupt and capture offenders such as drug dealers, prolific thieves and sexual predators on a regular basis.

“In doing this can I reassure you that as a force we scrutinise our use of these powers and as with all Forces we are annually inspected by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, an independent body.”

A spokeswoman for Cleveland police said the force used RIPA powers to monitor serious organised crime and said the use of RIPA in Operation Cobweb was acknowledged by a judge as an excellent example of usage.

North Yorkshire Police did not comment.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  02 Nov 2014

How the ancient North East counties were lost – and with it our identities

It was refreshing to hear someone born outside of the region have a good word to say about Ashington.

And Matthew Engel had more than a good word in fact. He admires the people who live there and what they represent.

Why? Identity.

Engel, a writer for the Guardian newspaper for 25 years, some time editor of the ‘cricket bibleWisden and now a columnist for the Financial Times, visited the Northumberland town while researching his latest book.

Called Engel’s England, he spent three years re-visiting the old counties which disappeared off the map of Britain as a result of the Local Government Act.

Drawn up by Ted Heath’s Tory Government in 1972, it was implemented by Harold Wilson’s Labour on, appropriately I would guess in Engel’s mind, April 1 – April Fool’s Day – 1974.

It was a shambles,” he said. “Politicians are interested in political boundaries, people are not. We don’t care about local government and local government gets worse and worse.

“It caused a huge loss of local identity but there are still things left, things to celebrate that really have an identity, places like Ashington.

“What a tremendous place. Of course it has its problems but it has a tremendous richness of associative life.”

Associative life means a clearly identified way of life, from recognisable pass-times like growing leeks and racing whippets, something that hasn’t been lost despite the decimation of the coal mines in the area, he said.

> Is that associative life or is it a cliche ?  Most people, even in Ashington, probably never grew leeks or raced whippets.

And in any case, Ashington is still in Northumberland, same as it ever was. It never disappeared or changed name.

It is a place with its own accent, it’s own traditions, which are very, very strong,” said Engel.

In the book he explained how counties were formed historically and how they developed along locally defined lines which threw up their own idiosyncrasies.

There were the counties palatine, including Durham, which were directly under the control of a local princeling.

Then there were counties corporate and boroughs that were regarded as self governing and fell under the control of the local Lord Lieutenant for military purposes. Yorkshire, readers may well remember, was divided into three ridings.

As a result counties developed their own laws, dialects, customs, farming methods and building styles.

They formed the tapestry of the nation,” Engel says. “The very distinctions show just how important the county was in the lives of the people.

“Real places with real differences inspiring real loyalties.”

The Local Government Act of 1888 brought democracy to the shires by establishing county councils but, according to Engel, the integrity of the counties were respected.

Not so The Local Government Act of 1972 which binned centuries of local identity to see, for example, Teesside renamed as Cleveland and Tyneside becoming Tyne and Wear.

> Ahem – Tyneside and Wearside ! And in any case, I don’t think it was such a bad idea.

Cumberland – which had been around since the 12th century – became part of Cumbria, a name that Engel shudders with distaste at. “Always say Cumberland,” said Engel.

Yarm had formed part of the Stokesley Rural District in what was then the ‘North Riding’ of Yorkshire and remained so until 1974 – when it became part of the district of Stockton-on-Tees in the new non-metropolitan county of Cleveland.

Cleveland – like Tyne and Wear – was abolished in 1996 under the Banham Review, with Stockton-on-Tees becoming a unitary authority.

In May a poll inspired by the Yarm for Yorkshire group saw locals vote emphatically “Yes” to the idea of transferring Yarm from Stockton to Hambleton Council in North Yorkshire.

Last month Stockton Borough Council rejected calls to refer the matter to the boundary commission into it, but the debate rumbles on.

To add to the horror of Teessiders who pine for a return to Yorkshire was this bit of research from Engel after a talk with a dialect expert from Leeds University.

> Presumably that’s Teessiders on the south bank of the river. Those on the north bank were in County Durham.

He told me Middlesbrough accents have actually changed in the years since 1974. In those 40 years the Middlesbrough accent has become more North East and less Yorkshire.

Engel describes his work as a “travel book” – “I think I’m the first travel writer who went straight from Choral Evensong at Durham Cathedral to the dog track.”

He added: “The historic counties need to return to the map, the media and our envelopes, so future generations can understand where they live.

“Only then will the English regain their spirit the way the Scots have done. This is not about local government – it is about our heritage and our future.

* Engel’s England, is published by Profile Books at £20 on October 23, 2014.

> Sounds like another “intellectual”  telling people what they should be doing.

People know where they live, future generations will too. Names and boundaries have always changed and will continue to do so.

Matthew Engel, incidentally, was born in Northampton and lives in Herefordshire.  If he actually had some connection with the North East I might take him a bit more seriously. 

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 19 Oct 2014

Police chiefs blame welfare cuts for rise in shoplifting

Police chiefs have blamed savage welfare cuts for a sharp rise in shoplifting figures.

Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham, claims people are “stealing to live” after a 35 per cent rise in his force area in shoplifting cases.

Despite not having direct evidence to back up his claim, Mr Hogg says people are turning to crime as they do not have enough money to feed themselves after the Government’s welfare reforms.

He said: “Shoplifting is up 35 per cent year on year and an awful lot of people are stealing to live.

“We predicted this would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.”

Mr Hogg’s claims were echoed by Barry Coppinger, the PCC for Cleveland, after a 7.3 per cent hike in his force area.

He said: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black market to buy food and items they can’t afford.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said there was no evidence linking reforms to increased crime.

He said: “Ending the spare room subsidy was absolutely necessary in order to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, returning fairness to the system and making better use of social housing stock.

“These rules already applied to the housing benefit claimants in the private sector – introduced by the previous Government.”

A recent DWP report found 522,905 households were affected by the so-called bedroom tax by last August and nearly a fifth of claimants had registered an interest in downsizing.

More than half of claimants had cut back on household essentials, a quarter had borrowed money and three per cent had taken pay day loans.

Mr Hogg and Mr Coppinger advised people who have found themselves struggling financially to use credit unions.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  07 Aug 2014

Bedroom tax crime fears

Crime chiefs say the so-called bedroom tax is driving people to ruthless loansharks and committing crime.

Cleveland and Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioners expressed growing concerns over the financial pressures the benefit cut is having on households.

They say it is leading to a rise in crimes like shoplifting and people buying on the black market and worry the benefit cut will drive people to illegal and ruthless money lenders.

> And nobody ever speculated that this would be a likely consequence ? What will they do when they catch on to the effects of  benefit sanctions !

It is after a recent interim Government report on the spare room subsidy.

It revealed that 59 per cent of social housing tenants hit by the bedroom tax nationally have been unable to meet their basic housing costs.

Crime commissioner for Cleveland Barry Coppinger said: “Bedroom tax leaves many in severe hardship and I’m concerned that some families will turn to volatile loan sharks as a short-term solution.

“The pressure increases when they can’t pay what they owe the unlicensed moneylender, particularly if a threat of violence is looming over them.”

He added: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black-market to buy food and other items they can’t afford in the shops.

“I would reiterate the importance of seeking trusted financial advice, accessing credit unions and asking to be referred to a foodbank. Foodbank locations in Cleveland are on the information section of my website.”

And Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said he feared the problem will get worse with further planned welfare reforms.

Mr Hogg said: “We predicted that this tax would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.

“Many in our communities will struggle to put food on the table or pay their utility bills.

“As these financial pressures grow we would encourage the use of credit unions and urge those affected to seek trusted financial advice.”

The bedroom tax came into force on April 1 last year and affects social housing tenants in employment and those in receipt of housing benefits if they have any unoccupied rooms.

Households under occupancy have their benefits cut by around £13 each week for one bedroom or £22 for two bedrooms.

In Hartlepool, 1,581 households have been affected with the average weekly loss of housing benefit of £13.67 a week and the annual value of housing benefit reductions in Hartlepool is £1.123m.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  31 July 2014

Cleveland Police commissioner defends zero hour contract jobs despite ‘Living Wage’ pledge

A police commissioner has defended his decision to employ specialist investigators on zero hour contracts despite signing up to a Living Wage campaign.

Barry Coppinger decided to advertise the jobs following ‘the unprecedented level of serious investigations’ that Cleveland Police has had to handle in the last year.

The former Labour councillor and union representative has regularly spoken out about people earning a living wage but maintains the jobs are aimed at a specific market and would not expect anyone to work solely for the force.

Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “This is specialised work, suitable only for appropriately qualified and experienced applicants. The extra staff are being recruited to deal with the unprecedented level of serious investigations required over the last 12 months.

“Cleveland Police won’t be expecting successful applicants to work solely for them, therefore this is a long way from the kind of zero-hours contracted employment where people have no idea from one day to the next when they are working.”

The job description, which is posted on the force’s website, states that the salary range is £21,309 to £25,704, and clearly states that it is on a zero hour contract.

 Last year, Mr Coppinger signed the force up to the Living Wage campaign and has spoken at union meetings and Labour forums about people’s salaries and the impact of austerity on living standards.

Explaining the reasoning behind his decision to advertise the jobs, he added: “We have introduced a number of measures to ensure that major incidents are managed professionally and effectively. Measures include allocating experienced senior officers as advisers to all murders, and a weekly resourcing meeting to review staffing on major incidents.

“It was agreed that a temporary team would be created using staff from commands across the force and that additional funding would be provided to recruit “agency” staff, similar to models used by other forces.

“We made the decision to create a register of staff who would be available to the force to use on investigations during peak demand. The staff would be directly recruited by Cleveland Police.

“The terms of contracts issued to successful applicants (zero hours) mean that we are not tied into paying people during quieter periods when there is no requirement for additional staff.”

We have been transparent from the outset about the fact that this is a zero hours contract and we anticipate the posts will appeal to a variety of highly experienced and appropriately qualified people who will add significant value to any major incident investigation.”

Source – Northern Echo, 24 July 2014

Police forces in North East lose staff for fifth consecutive year

The North East has more than 1,000 fewer police officers than it did five years ago after five consecutive year of job losses.

New figures show that Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham police forces all lost officers last year, and though there were small rises in the force numbers for Cumbria and North Yorkshire, the total number of officers in the region fell below 9,000 for the first time since records began in 2003.

By contrast, there were 10,142 policemen and women in the North in 2010 when the coalition Government came to power.

Among biggest losers in numbers this year was Cleveland Police, which contracted by 5.6% this year, one of the biggest reductions in the country and far more than the 1.3% reduction nationally. 81 officers left the force in the past year – more than three a fortnight.

Northumbria, the region’s largest force, lost 104 officers in the year, a 2.8% drop, while Durham lost 74 officers. Its 5.4% reduction was also one of the biggest in the country.

Police Federation general secretary Andy Fittes said: “The latest police workforce national statistics for England and Wales show that numbers of police workers are now at a 12-year low.

“Cuts to policing have put a strain on all aspects of the service and while officers have been doing an incredible job to bridge the gaps, cracks are beginning to show and they are telling us they are feeling the pressure.

“The nature of offending is starting to change but we have seen many of our specialist teams and units, who work to address these changes, cut or under threat.

“While officers throughout the country continue to work incredibly hard on a daily basis keeping society safe, it would be wrong to assume these cuts aren’t starting to have a noticeable effect.”

Nationally, nine of the 43 police forces in England and Wales increased their numbers between 2013 and 2014. Cumbria added 29 new members of staff while North Yorkshire added 38. The biggest increase was to the British Transport Police, which got 260 new members of staff.

Nobody was available at the local forces for comment.

Source –  Sunday Sun, 20 July 2014

Teesside councils owed more than £27m in unpaid tax

Middlesbrough Council has the highest arrears amount – £13m – but Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland councils also saw a rise in the amount they are owed.

All three authorities say the rise in tax arrears is down to Government changes to council tax benefit in 2013 – which led to people receiving higher bills, and some paying for the first time.

Middlesbrough’s Deputy Mayor and executive member for finance and governance, Councillor Dave Budd, said: “The remaining balance will continue to be actively pursued on an ongoing basis.

“Our approach does recognise the impact on vulnerable individuals and those in real hardship.

“It should be noted that nationally, with only a few exceptions, the map of where arrears are highest mirrors the map of high deprivation, greatest cuts to councils and the hardest impact of welfare reform.”

The rising arrears emerged from figures announced from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This month, The Gazette revealed that almost £9m in council tax went unclaimed in Teesside in 2012/13 – with Middlesbrough having one of the worst collection rates in the country at 93.4%.

The total arrears amount also takes into account unpaid taxes from previous years.

Households in Middlesbrough owe £214 each on average, one of the highest per dwelling amounts in England.

Cllr Budd said that benefit changes “must be taken into account” as Middlesbrough received a £2.6m reduction in Government funding last year, which saw 13,800 residents having to pay more tax – with 10,000 paying for the first time.

Council tax arrears are £5,092,000 in Stockton – a 25% increase on 2012/13 – with households owing £61 each on average across the borough.

Stockton Council’s cabinet member for corporate management and finance, Councillor David Harrington, said: “We collected more than 98% of all Council Tax in 2012/13 and in 2013/14 we collected 96.9%, which is still well above similar authorities.

“It is important to note that the sums quoted do not represent arrears accrued in a single year but those accrued over a number of years and that we continue to work hard to collect outstanding Council Tax amounts after the years in which they first fell due. These figures should also be viewed in the context of the current financial climate and the major changes the Government has made to the welfare system.”

The arrears figure in Redcar and Cleveland is just over £9m – an average of £144 per household.

Norman Pickthall, Redcar and Cleveland Council’s cabinet member for corporate resources, said that the council expected difficulties in collecting tax from those who are struggling, but still collected nearly 96% of council tax last year.

He continued: “Changes to the benefits system mean some people are paying council tax for the first time while others are struggling with dwindling household budgets.

“The council has a statutory duty to collect all debts and will take legal or recovery action as a last resort.

“However, the council will always try to help whenever possible and would urge anyone who is having problems paying their council tax to get in touch.”

Source – middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 July 2014

North East public sector strike news – 2

SUNDERLAND –

Puplic services ground to a halt across Wearside yesterday as workers walked out in support of the strike. Schools, libraries, leisure centres, museums and other public buildings were shut.

Pickets were in place outside Sunderland Civic Centre.

John Kelly, secretary of Unite’s Sunderland City Council Branch, said: “Unite is proud to be taking part in strike action alongside our fellow trade unions.

“This is a fight for better public services, and for fair pay for those who work hard to deliver those services.

“Council workers have been targeted to bear the brunt of the austerity measures that have been imposed by millionaire cabinet ministers since 2010. Unite fully understand that Labour-run councils like Sunderland City Council are the scapegoats when implementing this Coalition Government’s austerity measures.

“Local government workers and the communities they deliver services to believe that local government workers should have fair pay, not poverty pay.”

Source – Sunderland Echo, 11 July 2014

SOUTH TYNESIDE –

There were pickets outside South Shields Town Hall, the town’s Middlefields refuse depot and at the JobCentre in Chapter Row, and more than half of schools in the borough closed for the day.

All the borough’s libraries were also shut, and all council refuse collections were cancelled, and the crematorium on John Reid Road, South Shields, closed for the day.

Despite the widespread disruption, Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, believes the public remain generally supportive of the action – and the reasons behind it.

Horn-beeping motorists expressed support for the dozen or so trade unionists gathered outside the town’s hall’s Beach Road entrance yesterday and, also on hand to show his support was Labour councillor Ernest Gibson, Mayor of South Tyneside last year.

There were pickets from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at Harton Technology College in South Shields.

The school was closed to pupils, although members of other teaching unions and non-union staff did go into work.

COUNTY DURHAM –

Striking workers picketed outside council offices, job centres, tax offices and courts across County Durham and North Yorkshire.

Workers from government agencies including the Student Loans Company in Darlington, the Passport Office in Durham City and the HM Revenue & Customs offices in Thornaby took part in the industrial action.

In County Durham, more than 130 schools closed for the day, although only a handful of Darlington’s schools shut.

Twenty North Yorkshire schools closed and a further 50 suffered disruption.

On Teesside about 35 schools in Stockton were closed or partially-closed.

A survey commission by Unite on the eve of the strike found that 50 per cent of people in the North of England agreed that the local government workers’ call for an £1 per-hour pay rise was justified.

The poll confirms that people across the North support workers who are fighting to end poverty pay in our local councils,” said Mike Routledge, Unite local government officer for the North-East.

Source – Northern Echo, 10 July 2014

HARTLEPOOL –

Picket lines could be seen around the town with the most prominent outside of the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, Hartlepool.

Other’s took place outside Hartlepool Borough Council-run buildings in Church Street, and also in Wesley Square, outside the Jobcentre.

Councillor Stephen Thomas, Labour representative for the De Bruce ward, was also on the picket line to offer his support.

Coun Thomas, who works for Health Watch Hartlepool but took the day off to take part in the action, said: “I’m here to basically show my support to the strikers because I think that the way the Government is treating government sector workers is absolutely appalling.

“The one per cent pay rise they’ve had in the last four years equates to a 14 per cent cut in real terms.”

Teachers were also included in the strike with a number of Hartlepool schools closed for the day.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) also joined forces in the strike action, with crews from Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Stranton Fire Station forming a protest.

Brian Gibson, the FBU chairman for Cleveland, said: “The action we took part in is particularly important because all the unions have got together to show our strength of feeling at getting one per cent pay rises. The FBU’s argument is also with the Government over pensions.”

He added: “We’ve had great public support, all we’ve had is support.

“We’re so pleased.”

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 11 July 2014

MIDDLESBROUGH –

Outside Middlesbrough Town Hall this morning, many office workers arriving for work crossed the picket lines.

Dawn Nicholson, Unison Area Organiser said: “It’s going well.

“Some people are crossing the picket lines but a lot of them are employed by Mouchel.

“Mouchel workers haven’t been balloted and can’t strike but many have signed our petition.”

However as one woman made her way into work she answered calls for her to strike saying: “People are still need to make a living.

GMB union, shop steward, Brian Foulger, said: “We’re quite surprised by how many people, even management, have gone out on strike.

“Since 2010, local government have been putting money away for a rainy day. Well, it’s pouring down.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 July 2014