An ambitious bid to solve the Greek debt crisis via a crowdfunding website has attracted more than £200,000 of donations in two days.
Thom Feeney has set up the campaign to raise €1.6bn to save the Greek economy on the IndieGoGo site, and is appealing for Europeans to donate a few Euros each.
Mr Feeney, 29, said:
“All this dithering over Greece is getting boring. European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not.
“Why don’t we the people just sort it instead?
“The European Union is home to 503 million people, if we all just chip in a few Euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy.”
One of the country’s leading unions called for Britain to leave the European Union at its Annual General Meeting in Newcastle.
The RMT said a vote to stay in the EU at the forthcoming referendum would “decimate” the health and education sectors because of “secret deals” it was doing with North America.
General secretary Mick Cash said:
“EU policies are at odds with the aspirations of this union as the various treaties and directives are demanding the privatisation of our rail and ferry industries.
“The EU is also secretly negotiating trade deals with the US and Canada which will decimate of health and education sectors and hand huge powers to transnational corporations over nation states and their governments.
“The Tories will be campaigning to stay in the EU come any referendum as they support this right wing, neo-liberal, anti-worker agenda,” he said.
People tempted to vote Labour or Green in Berwick should switch to the Lib Dems in order to keep out the Conservative candidate, a senior politician has said.
Tim Farron, former Lib Dem president and tipped to be the next leader of the party, made the call with less than a week to go before the General Election.
It comes as the polls show Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Lib Dem Julie Porksen locked in a dead heat for electoral victory in the Northumberland constituency.
Mr Farron said:
“We need everybody who is not a Conservative to get behind Julie Porksen.
“If you vote Labour or Green next Thursday, you might wake up and feel good about yourself, but in five years’ time if we have a Conservative Government, they may bitterly regret it.”
> Fuck me ! The arrogance of the man.
The voters of of Berwick voted Lib Dem last time… and in five years time they had a Conservative government, aided and abetted by those very same Lib Dems !
So did the rest of us, and yes, we do bitterly regret it.
He said Lib Dems candidates were winning the ground campaign in their heartlands and are poised to clinch victory in Berwick.
“Lib Dems are made of hardy stuff and there is a reason why people in Berwick and Westmorland have been so kind to us,” he said.
“We have a ruggedness and an industrialism that is reflected in those constituencies.
“We live and breathe community politics. We believe that national politics comes from what happens on the ground, not from focus groups or national opinion-testing.
“We find out what is happening by speaking to people all year round and that is why we will win Berwick.”
But Anne-Marie Trevelyan accused the Lib Dems of negative campaigning. She said:
“Voters should be able to vote for the party they support.
“It’s great to have a Green Party candidate here, especially one as capable and committed to Alnwick as Rachel Roberts.
“If the Lib Dems are worried about their vote share, perhaps they should try offering positive messages rather than running aggressive negative campaining against their rivals.”
Mr Farron, who visited Berwick this week, also criticised the Conservatives’ commitment to offering a referendum on leaving the European Union.
“There are two enormous risks to us leaving the EU,” he said.
“The agricultural policy brings in billions of pounds to the livestock and dairy farming industry, which are mostly in the North of the country.
“People don’t realise that direct and single farming payments from the EU are all that stand between the industry and ruin.”
Mr Farron said while this was a tough campaign for the Liberal Democrats after five years of coalition with the Conservatives, the future had a bright future.
“If we didn’t have a Liberal party, you would have to invent one that would stand up for rural communities; for traditional British civil liberties; for environmental issues; for affordable housing,” he said.
“Historically, there has been no other party that stands for that combination of things. I think the future will be strong for us.”
Mr Farron added the SNP and UKIP were a divisive and dangerous force in British politics, but that politicians of all parties had to respect the choices of the electorate.
“If you are a politician that plays on nationalism and on wrapping your politics in a flag, like Farage does, then you are a dangerous person.
“Nationalism is about excluding other people. Patriots love their country and nationalists hate their neighbours.
“I think it should be worrying to everyone in Scotland but we have to be big enough to accept whatever our neighbours choose on May 7.”
> The message that comes through, I think, is really the same as from Con and Lab… things may be starting to change, and it scares us. Therefore we must try to smear the newcomers, because we feel that political control is somehow our right… we don’t feel we should have to earn it.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 May 2015
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Redcar to voice concerns over jobs at a major new power plant.
Representatives from the Unite, GMB and UCATT unions protested in Redcar town centre.
It followed previous protests at the Wilton International Site near Redcar over the rate of pay given to foreign workers at the new £250m Sita facility.
Concerns have also been raised that the company was recruiting predominantly from overseas and was not adhering to nationally agreed terms and conditions.
Michael Blench, an officer for the GMB, said:
“The main reason for today is to keep up the pressure on Sita and Sembcorp, who are the landlords of the site.”
He added: “The ideal outcome from my point of view is that the site will be finished with the workforce that is there and that what we are doing sends a message.
“This situation hasn’t happened in the way we would have liked but the important thing is that if Sita ever came back to this area, they know our position from the start.
“This is a message for the future.”
Steve Cason, North-east regional officer for construction at Unite, added: “All we want to see is equality and fairness across the board.”
But Sita has denied claims made by the protesters and says it is paying the correct, nationally agreed rates to its employees.
A spokesman for the company said:
“Allegations continue to be made about the employment of foreign workers at the Wilton 11 construction site, including claims about low rates of pay and accommodation allowances.
“We continue to refute all of these allegations and there’s no evidence to support any of these claims.”
“Since construction began, a significant proportion of workers on site have been from the local area and we have made significant efforts to try and promote job opportunities to local workers. This included the organisation of a jobs fair at Redcar and Cleveland College on Thursday 19 February, to which 774 people attended.
“However, it is still necessary for a proportion of workers on site to be from wider European Union member states and it would be difficult to deliver a project of this nature without them.
“Energy-from-waste facilities require a great deal of specialist equipment which has had to be sourced from within the wider European Union. These elements are of a bespoke and sophisticated nature, meaning that some of our suppliers choose to use their own specialist and experienced workforce when they are fitted.
“All workers on site, regardless of their nationality, are employed because of their individual skills and abilities. They have a legal entitlement to work in the UK and contribute to the local economy while they are here, furthermore there is no substance to allegations that they are employed on site as a means of sourcing cheap labour.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Apr 2015
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.”
“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
Newcastle stood united against hate as thousands of anti-Pegida protestors marched through the streets of the city this morning.
Anti-fascists, trade unions, religious and community groups, and politicians all turned out to oppose the German “anti-Islamisation” group’s first visit to Britian.
“I wish this wasn’t necessary,” said Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, one of the speakers on the march.
“What we’d like is for Pegida to have Newcastle Unites: Thousands turn out for counter-march against Pegida protest not picked our great city to march in.
“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from across the political spectrum and including many football fans, turn out really shows Newcastle is united against these outsiders.”
Charlie Trotter, 21, a waiter from Morpeth in Northumberland, was among a group carrying a Morpeth 4 Peace banner.
“I came down to help make it known that the people of the North Eats are comfortable with immigration and people of different backgrounds and to show that we need to stand up to the far right,” said Charlie.
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said the number of people at the Newcastle Unites march, which travelled from the gates of the city’s Chinatown, down Gallowgate, and down Newgate Street, was “fantastic.”
“It really shows the solidarity among the people of Newcastle and the North East, and from the perspective that the Pegida protest only had numbers in the low hundreds, and the counter protest had thousands it’s very encouraging,” he said.
“But what I can’t understand is among the Pegida rally there will have been British Nationalists demonstrating alongside proud Europeans – it doesn’t make sense.”
Among the speakers who took to the Newcastle Unites stage was German MEP Arne Lietz, who travelled from Gelsenkirchen.
“For me it is very important to show solidarity and that we are together as Europeans against hate,” he said.
“This Pegida protest will have attracted other groups or individuals who will call themselves Pegida, but many of whom are right wing and nationalist, and who’s hate speak we don’t want to see in the European Union.
“I come from East Germany when I grew up we were singled out for being Christians under the Communist regime. I now want to ensure that we live in a fair Europe with the liberties denied to my own parents.”
The Newcastle Unites march on Newgate street and the Pegida protest on the Bigg Market were kept around 100 yards apart by police cordons and scores of uniformed officers enforcing a “sterile zone.”
It is not yet known if any arrests were made at either protest
> I had hoped to attend myself ( the Newcastle Unites rally, in case you were wondering !) but the effects of bronchitis made worse by a heavy cold dictated otherwise.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 28 Feb 2015
> Pegida supporters (for today, anyway – back to EDL tomorrow). As one comment for this video put it: “Never seen so many inbreed sister fuckers in one place, look like scum sound like scum tramps get a life..”
North East politicians are calling for government to tap into a £22m EU fund to ease pressure on foodbanks.
David Cameron has been criticised for allegedly failing to take the money over fears it reveals the UK’s dependency on the EU and weakens his position going into a potential in/out referendum in 2017.
However the Conservative Party have said they are not missing out on EU cash and have £2.9m to spend, and they – not Europe – will decide where it goes.
Labour MEPs have now written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to lift his block on support for the country’s most vulnerable people for what they consider is solely for ‘ideological reasons’.
The European Aid to the Most Deprived Fund is worth £2.5bn, and is available to all EU member countries to dip into to help people who are most in need. Foodbanks would have been able to apply for funding from the pot. However David Cameron decided to opt out of the scheme in 2013, which Labour members believe could have eventually totalled £22m for the UK between 2014 and 2020.
The Government has previously said it believes individual member states are best positioned to deliver social programmes for the poor through regional or local authorities. They’ve said they will take their Most Deprived Fund subsidy (£2.9m) and deduct it from their ‘structural fund’, the cash pot they would prefer to see money delivered through.
The North East’s two Labour MEPs, Jude Kirton Darling and Paul Brannen have said in their joint letter to David Cameron that he should ‘remove opposition’ to support for foodbanks. The letter has also been signed by leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes, and leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig.
Jude Kirton Darling, MEP, said:
“People are under intense financial pressure at the moment and many people will have used food banks this year.
“As the weather turns colder and people face increased heating bills we feel now is the time for the Government to remove its opposition to support for food banks.”
Paul Brannen MEP added that as well as accepting more money from the EU, in the medium term he would like to see food bank use decline through an increased minimum wage, less use of zero hour contracts and a youth job guarantee for young people.
A Conservative party spokesperson, said:
“We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation.
“Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”
> So nothing will happen this side of the General Election. Probably not after it, either.
In 2013, British MEPs alongside two other member states formed a blocking minority which meant the initial European-wide fund was spilt into two, with one fund for ‘material assistance’, which would have seen the UK receiving food and items like sleeping bags directly, and another for ‘immaterial assistance’ which could go towards the budgets of social programmes.
Britain chose to draw down only on the second fund ‘immaterial assistance’, and while it accepted a share of £2.9m – the same as the smallest EU member Malta with a population of just 450,000 – neighbouring country France accepted has taken its full €443m allowance.
The letter to Mr Cameron written by the pair, said:
“We feel now is the time to remove your opposition to support for food banks.
“We understand your opposition to the European Union but the fact is that the money is available and should be used as there is clear and desperate need. It is wrong to block support for the most vulnerable people for ideological reasons.
“You have claimed that support for food banks should be a national decision, yet the decision of your government is to not support food banks at all. We do not believe that is right.”
The Government announced in October that it plans to use some of the UK share of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to provide additional support for school breakfast clubs in England. Under the plans, which will be led by the Department for Education, this money would be allocated to schools with particularly high rates of disadvantage, as measured by free-school meal eligibility. This still needs to be agreed by the EU Commission.
Figures from by the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks, 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.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Jan 2015
The number of claimants getting legal aid to help with welfare benefits has plunged from 88,380 in 2012-13 to just 149 in 2013-14 due to coalition cuts. In addition, not one single application for exceptional case funding has been granted. The Lib Dems have expressed concern about the effect of their own legal aid cuts on children, but not about the effects on sick and disabled claimants.
Legal aid has been abolished for almost all welfare benefits issues, including appeals to first-tier tribunals, but is still available for appeals to the upper tribunal.
In addition, in theory, exceptional case funding is available where a claimants human rights or European Union rights would be breached if they did not get funding to bring their case. However, although 11 applications were made for exceptional case funding in 2013-14, every single one was refused.
The Lib Dem family justice minister has now called for a review of legal aid cuts that affect children, according to the Guardian, but no minister has shown similar concern about the effect of legal aid cuts on sick and disabled claimants.
Legal aid for other areas of law likely to affect sick and disabled claimants has also been almost wiped out in the same period. This includes debt, which has fallen from 81,993 funded cases to 2,584 and employment, which has fallen from 16,157 to 32.
Source – Benefits & Work, 26 Sept 2014
Air pollution will continue to kill hundreds of people every year in the North-East for at least another decade, the Government has admitted.
Ministers had predicted that European limits on deadly nitrogen dioxide – mainly from vehicle exhausts – would be achieved in the biggest urban areas by 2020.
But officials are now warning that people in Teesside and Tyneside will be exposed to dangerous levels of the gas for a further five years.
Meanwhile, separate figures put the current number of “excess deaths” from nitrogen dioxide and other particulate gases across the region at 1,273 every year.
They include significant numbers of deaths in Teesside, in Stockton-on-Tees (77), Middlesbrough (68), Redcar and Cleveland (61), Darlington (47) and Hartlepool (43).
However, the highest number of people die annually in County Durham (223), followed by Sunderland (143) and Newcastle (124) and Gateshead (99).
Three years ago, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) predicted that nitrogen dioxide targets would be hit in Teesside and Tyneside in this decade.
Its assessment read: “The annual limit value is likely to be exceeded in 2010 and in 2015 but achieved by 2020.”
However, revised estimates buried on Defra’s website have put back that target until 2025 – blaming the delay on higher-than-expected emissions from diesel cars.
Diesel has replaced petrol in many cars – because it produces less carbon dioxide, blamed for climate change – but emissions of nitrogen dioxide are higher.
To the Government’s embarrassment, the original deadline set by the European Union for meeting the limits was 2010.
Jenny Bates, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Failure to meet air pollution limits in our major cities would have serious impacts on the health of thousands of people.
“Rapid steps to ban the dirtiest vehicles and cut traffic levels must be taken – and road-building plans that will simply add to the problem should be abandoned.”
The EU’s air quality directive sets a limit of no more than 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air that we breathe, as an annual average.
But, according to the Defra figures, that figure will be 69 in Teesside in 2015 (Tyneside 68), falling to 47, in 2020 (Tyneside 46) and – finally – to 38, in 2025 (Tyneside 36).
The European Court of Justice will rule by the end of the year on what action Britain needs to take.
A Defra spokesman said: “As our understanding of nitrogen dioxide evolves this must be reflected in our projections, which is why we have revised these figures.
“Work is under way to ensure compliance with EU limits in the shortest possible time.”
Number of annual ‘attributable deaths’ throughout region (age 25-plus)
- County Durham 223
- Darlington 47
- Gateshead 99
- Hartlepool 43
- Middlesbrough 68
- Newcastle 124
- Redcar & Cleveland 61
- South Tyneside 84
- Stockton-on-Tees 77
- Sunderland 143
- Craven 24
- Hambleton 34
- Harrogate 68
- Richmondshire 17
- Ryedale 23
- Scarborough 56
- York 82
- Total 1,273
Source – Northern Echo, 22 July 2014
UKIP’s first MEP for the region has talked of his party’s ambition to shatter the dominance of long-standing Labour strongholds.
Former maths teacher Jonathan Arnott, who lives in Guisborough, Teesside, said Ukip is now challenging for power in areas across the North East which have traditionally voted Labour for half a century because Labour had lost touch with the working class.
Jonathan said: “At the recent European elections in Redcar, Ukip secured 11,087 votes, compared to Labour’s 8,548. In Stockton, Ukip got 13,862 votes, with Labour on 12,579. And in Middlesbrough, a long-standing Labour stronghold, UKIP gained 8,695 votes, with Labour on 8,429.
“We’ve got to build on those results so that we’re not just seen for our views on the European Union and immigration. Our no tax on the minimum wage policy is going down well in working class areas.
“At the moment, we’re gaining a lot of support in Blyth, Northumberland. Many of our supporters in these areas say they feel abandoned by Labour.”
During the May European elections Labour topped the North East poll with 221,988 votes and Ukip got 177,660.
The Conservative vote dropped by around 10,000 to 107,733 and under the European voting system the result was enough for Martin Callanan, leader of the Conservatives in Europe and a 15-year veteran on the parliament, to lose his seat.
Labour took two of the North East’s three European parliament seats, with one going to UKIP.
But that gain has not been matched elsewhere in the region, with UKIP not holding a single parliamentary seat and only having a handful of councillors.
> And in Tyne & Wear, lets not forget, they lost 50% of their councillors and now have just one.
It is not widely thought that UKIP will be actively targeting sitting North East MPs as it is more likely to concentrate its efforts on other parts of the country.
Mr Arnott said that Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure to block Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next president of the European Commission has left the prime minister “outnumbered, humiliated and utterly isolated.”
He said “The whole process is a sham, in so many ways. Whether you got Schultz or Juncker doesn’t matter anyway, virtually no-one in the UK has heard of either of them.
> But perhaps that’s down to the kind of coverage the EU gets in the British media ?
And Britain is not Europe – just a small part of it. The EU’s not just for our benefit.
“The Prime Minister went to war over the appointment of the next commission president but it was a war that he was clearly going to lose.
“There is an increasingly bad relationship between Britain’s leaders and the leaders of many other European countries.”
> Which UKIP would make even worse…
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 July 2014