Sightseers could be banned from taking snaps of North landmarks and uploading them to social media sites if proposals in Europe get the go-ahead… or maybe not – UKIP circulating scare stories again.
The law would change what is known in the UK as the ‘freedom of panorama’ exemption that lets people to take use photos of modern buildings and artworks such as Gateshead’s The Angel of the North or Bottle of Notes in Middlesbrough how they like.
Jonathan Arnott, UKIP MEP for the North East, said the law would be an attack on the country’s freedoms but his opponents accuse him of scaremongering over EU proposals.
He said: “This would end up being another example of unintended consequences which so often happens when the EU passes laws.
“It is idiotic and would mean that visitors would not be able to snap views of the Angel of the North and other famous works and use them commercially if they so wanted.
“This attempt to restrict the freedom of panorama, by allies of the Lib Dems in Brussels, strikes at the root of our liberties. It will destroy an explicit British freedom guaranteed in our copyright legislation for over 100 years.
“Art and photography are valuable because of their intrinsic freedom. Freedom is constantly undermined by the European Union as we have seen time and time again.”
Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone said the amendment has no connection to his party in Europe and accused the MEP of creating “scare stories”.
He said: “This proposal has had nothing whatsoever to do with the Liberal Democrats or the ALDE bloc of EU Liberal parties and it is frankly pretty desperate stuff from a party that trades exclusively on Euro myths and scare stories.”
> But the bad news is that “the council is not legally permitted to use proceeds from the sale of assets to fund public services.”
Cash-strapped councils could make millions of pounds at auction as they sell off their assets.
Both Newcastle City Council and Middlesbrough Borough Council are selling houses, industrial units and a care home in an attempt to claw back money following a series of cuts.
In an auction next month both councils are expected to make millions of pounds – cash they say will be used to develop Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
In Newcastle, leaders are expected to make nearly £2.5m from the sale – on top of £7m they made at a similar auction last month. The news comes just after council leaders announced their £40m cuts package.
Lib Dem Coun Greg Stone said:
“I think Newcastle City Council have a case for reviewing the property. Given the council’s rationalisation of accommodation and with that there will be surplus property.
“It is reasonable to dispose of these but what we need to know is what the council will be spending the money on.”
Houses on the prestigious Jesmond Road West, in Jesmond, Newcastle, and three properties on Great North Road, in Jesmond, are some of the assets being put up for sale.
Other properties to go under the hammer include Craghall Care Home, also in Jesmond, which could bring in as much as £850,000, and the Co-Operative Store, on Newton Road, in High Heaton, for a guide price of £120,000 to £130,000.
The council said it no longer uses the buildings and cash from the auction will help fund future developments.
A council spokesman said:
“As part of the rationalisation of our estate we are in the process of auctioning off former council offices which we no longer use.
“The proceeds will go into our capital investment fund and be used to fund infrastructure improvements at development sites for the future growth of the city and the creation of employment opportunities.
“The council is not legally permitted to use proceeds from the sale of assets to fund public services.”
Leaders in Middlesbrough are also expected to sell property on Brewsdale Road, in North Ormesby and The Park End, on Penistone Road.
A Middlesbrough Council spokesman said: “There is an ongoing review of the assets and we are making the best use of them.”
He said the cash would be invested in other capital projects.
The properties which have come under the hammer will be sold at the Lambert Smith Hampton auction on February 23 at the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square in London.
Source – Sunday Sun, 01 Feb 2015
Plans to tackle ‘aggressive and persistent’ city centre beggars have stirred plenty of debate.
Newcastle City Council’s Safe Newcastle Board is setting up a project team to assess and plan the use of injunctions to tackle the ‘top 10’ offenders in the city.
The injunctions, which could come into force in October as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, would compel them to accept accommodation and drug or alcohol treatment.
Since plans of the crackdown first came to light, readers of ChronicleLive.co.uk have had their say online and on social media.
Matt O’Malley said: “Instead of wasting money on creating ASBOs and all the paper work and man hours put into them, why not put the money towards helping them sort their lives out.”
But Michael Hall responded: “That’s a good idea Matt, like that’s not tried week in, week out. They don’t want it.
“They are offered loads and throw it back in the faces of people who are trying to help them because they are content to live off handouts from the public, to which they get quite a bit from.”
The new powers start on October 20 and the purpose of the injunctions is to prevent nuisance and annoyance by stopping individuals engaging in anti-social behaviour quickly, nipping problems in the bud before they escalate.
The new act replaces 19 existing powers, with six which include an injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance.
Writing on the Chronicle’s Facebook page, Jacob Pattern said: “Persecution of the disadvantaged without solving the real source of the problem. They will be lost in the system once put through this petty scheme.
“The council should be ashamed of themselves for ranking the most vulnerable of our society.”
Nicola Birkett posted: “I’ve never met an aggressive homeless person yet in town and I’m there on a daily basis.
“I always give what I can and they’re always polite and very grateful.”
Michael Wass added: “I’ve noticed that over the last few years, the number of rough sleepers has increased dramatically.
“A friend of mine who lives by the Gate regularly had rough sleepers breaking into the building and sleeping in the stairwells.
“The street people aren’t usually aggressive but there is quite clearly a serious substance problem going on in town that isn’t being talked about.”
Lib Dem city councillor for North Heaton, Greg Stone, previously said the term ‘top 10’ was inappropriate.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Aug 2014
Cash strapped Newcastle City Council has had to fork out £50,000 to put right an error in a letter sent to around 180,000 voters.
The council wrote to all electors in the city on July 18 to inform them of changes in how they register to vote.
However, it contained a blunder in the section of the letter which stated whether or not they were on the open register.
Electors who were not on it were incorrectly informed that they were, and those who were, told they were not.
The error was confined to the wording of the letter, and the register is correct.
It’s understood it was down to human error – not a computer glitch – and that no data protection breach has occurred.
To sort out the mistake, the council has now rewritten to all the electors again which should arrive on Thursday, this time with the correct wording and has apologised for the confusion.
Council chief executive Pat Ritchie, speaking in her role as Electoral Registration Officer, said: “We got it wrong and I would like to apologise for any confusion.
“I’d also like to reassure everyone that although the wording in the letter was wrong the register is correct and no one’s details have been compromised in any way.”
Lib Dem Councillor Greg Stone said: “I was contacted by a number of concerned residents who were worried their data would be disclosed to marketers and used by cold callers.
“I contacted the council and asked for clarification and I was told it was down to incorrect wording.
“It’s caused a lot of anxiety and I don’t think it has been well handled.
“At a time when the council says it is strapped for cash, and with people complaining about the state of the streets, this is money that could have been better spent.”
The open register is an edited version of the electoral register which can be bought by companies to check voters’ names and addresses.
Everyone is on it unless they request to be removed from it which they can do by contacting the council’s Electoral Services by phone on 0191 2787878 and asking for Electoral Services, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Aug 2014
> Meanwhile, down on Teesside…
Residents who have requested that their electoral roll details are not available for sale to businesses have been assured that this will remain the case.
It comes after Middlesbrough Council sent out letters explaining a new way of registering for the electoral register.
An error by the printers meant that some letters include incorrect information on the open register – previously known as the edited register – which is available for all businesses or organisations to buy.
But the authority has now issued an assurance to anyone who has previously asked for their details to be omitted from the open register that this will still be the case.
The letters were sent out to residents as part of the annual canvass of electors.
For the first time the majority of electors will not need to take any action to be included on the new electoral register.
Any Middlesbrough residents who might have any concerns about the register can contact electoral services on 01642 729771 or email email@example.com
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 05 Aug 2014
A special “tax” on fast food takeaways to help fund obesity programmes and deal with litter left by customers has been called for in Newcastle.
The suggestion follows the city being the first in the country to introduce a late night levy on bars and clubs to help police deal with drink-fulled crime and disorder.
It was proposed by Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone and follows a recent controversial planning application by McDonald’s for a site near Kenton School, the city’s largest secondary school with around 2,000 pupils.
The application is to go before the council’s planning committee later this month and has provoked a storm of protest from residents, local councillors and the head of Kenton School, David Pearmain.
In a motion put to a full Newcastle City Council meeting, Coun Stone asked for it to investigate the feasibility of asking businesses with negative socio-economic effects to help offset these by paying an annual “sustainable retail levy” to support initiatives such as local high street improvements, anti obesity schemes or financial inclusion projects.
It also asked for the council to consider greater controls on changes of use to things like hot food takeaways in identified local retail centres and streets.
The Lib Dem Opposition group’s motion highlights the findings of the council’s own Retail Health Check Analysis, which was instigated by the Lib Dem administration in 2010.
He asked for a report to be carried out to assess how the council is progressing with implementing its recommendations.
Coun Stone said the issue of local retail vitality and the “healthiness” of high streets is a concern, and the number of takeaways in the city is continuing to proliferate.
He said: “Local communities should have more say. I don’t want to ban takeaways but they do affect the local way of life and can lead to later problems.”
He said takeaways contributed to “toxic High Streets”, which also included the effect on them of pawn shops, money lenders and bookmakers.
Labour Coun Joyce McCarty rejected the levy idea, saying: “We don’t want to see another tax on small businesses. If we’re going to try and work with the businesses we need to look at issues case by case and deal with it as the need arises.”
There were also criticisms of the easing of planning laws by the Coalition Government which makes it easier for retail outlets to change to fast food takeaways.
In the amendment to the Lib Dem motion, which was accepted, the council agreed to continue to support local retail diversity and vitality as well as the introduction of “localist” retail planning policies to improve the health and vitality of local retail centres.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 03 July 2014
Investigators have cleared a councillor caught up in accusations of dodgy lobbying.
Liberal Democrat Greg Stone (North Heaton) will face no further action from Newcastle Council after he was secretly recorded by a national newspaper offering “tricks of the trade” on how to get planning permission.
The councillor, who works as a lobbyist, faced calls to resign as two Labour politicians put in complaints over Mr Stone’s role.
Further questions were raised by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who discovered emails he says showed Mr Stone had contacted the council’s chief executive to raise the concerns of “business interests” over the council’s refusal to grant an alcohol licence to the proposed Tesco Store on Grainger Street, Newcastle.
Mr Stone offered to put the chief executive in touch “with the parties concerned”, but was told the council would be fighting plans for more city drinking. Since then Newcastle Council has granted the Tesco store a smaller drinks licence.
Labour MP Mr Brown called for a tougher investigation because Mr Stone’s employers at Indigo Public Affairs have worked for Tesco in the past. In a statement put to the council as the investigation continued last year Mr Stone lists 10 possible reasons why he might have been sending the email to the chief executive.
Further questions regarding the Tesco lobbying were put to Mr Stone, who then said he was asking on behalf of the Lib Dem group.
Mr Stone said: “This investigation arose as a result of unethical reporting, which failed to fairly reflect the context of my comments, and complaints from opportunistic political opponents.
“I have maintained throughout that I have acted properly in my professional and council roles.
“I am therefore unsurprised by the finding that I did not breach the code of conduct, and I am glad that this protracted process has been resolved in a very clear way.”
A council spokesman said: “The council received two complaints against Coun Stone that he had allegedly breached the Code of Conduct for members. These complaints were thoroughly investigated. The investigating officer concluded that there had been no breach of the Code of Conduct. The council’s monitoring officer was satisfied with the conclusions in the investigating officer’s report and therefore closed the matter.”
Mr Brown said questions remained unanswered over the council’s licensing policy.
Source – Newcastle Journal 01 April 2014