> UKIP’s intention of becoming the people’s party in the North East doesn’t seem to be going too well.
First one of their Newcastle candidates managed to upset both Jewish and Muslim voters in less than a week. Then their office in Blyth was targeted.
Now reports of more grassroots action on Wearside…they could be excused for thinking someone doesn’t like them much….
UKIP have hit out at vandals who tore down advertising hoardings and attacked a home, accusing them of an “attack on free speech”.
Party officials say six incidents have been reported to police in the space of one week in Hetton, Houghton, Newbottle and East Rainton.
It started on Tuesday, April 14, when a 4ft by 4ft board was stolen from a residential garden in South Street, East Rainton.
Then, on Saturday, the acts took a more sinister turn when a Wesleyan Chapel – converted into a home in Front Street, Hetton – was attacked.
On Sunday, a board on private land at Grasswell was sawn down.
It was replaced on Monday, this time only lasting half an hour before being chopped down again.
On Tuesday, two boards were stolen from a private field at the junction of Murton Lane and Colliery Lane.
The party’s parliamentary candidate for Houghton and Sunderland South, Richard Elvin, said:
“Our parents and grandparents, many of whom gave their lives, fought to preserve our democracy and the right to free speech.
“It appears that many people, especially those who describe themselves as left wing, seek to deny these hard-won freedoms.
“UKIP supporters do not invade private property or steal or vandalise other political parties’ promotional material.
“We appreciate that people have different political views to ours and we show due respect, which is the way everyone in a civilised democracy should behave.
“There is no place for intimidation, theft or damage in a British society, against anyone who does not agree with your personal political beliefs.”
Chief Inspector Sarah Pitt, of Northumbria Police, said:
“Police take any incidents of criminal damage very seriously.
“We have been made aware of a number of incidents in the Sunderland area regarding advertising boards being damaged or removed.
“We are working closely with the victims to carry out a full investigation.
“I would ask anyone who may have any information about these incidents to contact police.”
Also standing in the parliamentary election for Houghton and Sunderland South are Stewart Hay (Conservative), Jim Murray (LibDem), Bridget Phillipson (Labour) and Alan Robinson (Green Party).
Source – Sunderland Echo, 24 Apr 2015
UKIP is set to win its first seats on a Labour-run town council.
Labour will not field candidates in all 21 seats on Hetton Town Council being contested on May 7, which means Ukip will automatically win six seats on the local authority.
The remaining 15 seats will be contested between Labour, Ukip and Independent candidates.
Richard Elvin, Ukip’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Houghton and Sunderland South, said:
“This is a clear illustration that the traditional dominance of Labour in the North East is coming to an end.
“A healthy democracy thrives when there is an effective opposition.
“For too long the North East has been a one party state and this has not been good for the region”.
> Not so healthy for democracy if councillors are elected by default, though ?
Not so democratic if you get a Ukip councillor without the chance to vote against them.
Source – Northern Echo, 13 Apr 2015
Houghton and Sunderland South: currently held by Bridget Phillipson (Labour)
Richard Peter Elvin (Ukip),
Stewart Thomas Hay (Con),
Jim Murray (LD),
Bridget Maeve Phillipson (Lab),
Alan Michael David Robinson (Green).
Sunderland Central: currently held by Julie Elliott (Labour)
Julie Elliott (Lab),
Rachel Sara Featherstone (Green),
Bryan George Foster (Ukip),
Adrian Page (LD),
Jeffrey Guy Townsend (Con),
Joseph Young (Ind).
Washington and Sunderland West: currently held by Sharon Hodgson (Labour)
Aileen Casey (Ukip),
Bob Dhillon (Con),
Gary Stephen Duncan (TUSC),
Dominic John Haney (LD),
Sharon Hodgson (Lab),
Anthony Murphy (Green).
> Interesting to see that Gary Duncan has found (yet another) new home. It seems no time since he was a pround member of Respect. And before that, the SWP.
A councillor has come under fire from political rivals ahead of this May’s elections after she binned a banner belonging to an opposition party.
Houghton and Sunderland South Labour Party group launched its campaign in Houghton earlier this month, with a banner put in place on railings at the town’s Rectory Park.
However, just hours later, the banner had disappeared, with a member of the public contacting police to say she had seen it being cut down by independent councillor Sheila Ellis, who serves Houghton ward,
Coun Ellis said that the item was removed as part of a weekly litter pick by the Friends of Rectory Park group, and added that she had tried to find the owners of it.
Labour officials are upset that the banner has not been found and are calling on Coun Ellis to reimburse the cost of it,
Leslie Scott, parliamentary and local government election agent for Labour and a former mayor of Sunderland, todaysaid:
“I find it hard to remember such high-handed behaviour of an elected member in the 50 years of involvement in local politics.
“If she felt so strongly about the banner being on the railings for a matter of hours, she could have taken it down and returned it to us, rather than destroying it.
“Mrs Ellis may have great pride in Rectory Park, but she is not park ranger or the sole custodian of the park.
“Furthermore, we learn that her own group displayed posters on the railings at Christmas advertising an event.
“Yards from her home the council has a large banner on the footbridge over the A690.
“The banner cost £40 and should be replaced by Coun Ellis.
“We are advised removing and destroying of the banner can be viewed as separate acts.
“The latter may give us the opportunity to seek legal redress, but this is an avenue we don’t want to pursue.
“Some of my colleagues have suggested she be referred to the Standards Board that monitors the conduct of councillors.
“However, I personally will settle for the banner being replaced.”
In response, Coun Ellis said:
“We do a litter pick twice a week and always remove advertisements that are left in the park, or on the railings.
“This was an abandoned advertisement and there was nobody around to claim it.
“We walked up and down Newbottle Street, Sunderland Street and even the Wild Boar pub, but there were no Labour people around.
“There are often banners put up for events like exercise classes or pizza places and we remove them if the people who have put them there haven’t.
“If we put adverts up then we take them down ourselves.”
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said:
“On Tuesday, March 17, police received a report that a banner had been stolen from Rectory Park, in Broadway, Houghton.
“Inquiries were carried out and it was established that the banner had been taken down as it was thought it had been left as discarded property.
“Police updated the person who made the initial report and they no longer wish to report it as a crime.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 25 Mar 2015
A UKIP candidate who was set to contest the Sunderland Central seat in May’s General Election has resigned from his post and the party over a row about his military background.
Paul Tweddle was selected by the party at the end of last year to contest the seat, which is held by Labour MP Julie Elliott.
But today he said he has stepped down from the candidacy after the way he feels he has been dealt with by party officials.
Ukip bosses say that with all candidates, all claims about past careers must be checked and Mr Tweddle was asked to provide evidence, which he claims he did but then decided to resign instead.
“I served in the RAF regulars and before that I was in the Parachute Regiment.”
“I said that in the hustings when I was asked questions about myself but then I got a phone call from someone in the party asking me to provide discharge papers so I could prove it.
“They were demanding documentation so I had to send off to the MoD for them.”
Mr Tweddle, a qualified criminologist, said the actions of the officials led him to resign from the candidacy and end his Ukip membership.
He says although he is currently not a member of any party, he will be supporting Labour at May’s elections.
“Ukip is not for the Forces or the ordinary common person,” added Mr Tweddle.
“They’re the type of party that do well in times of discontent.
“Most people would never look at these parties most of the time, never mind join them.
> But you did, Mr Tweddle. Join them and go so far as to intend to stand at the General Election…
“I’m proud of Sunderland and the North East and I don’t think these people have any intention of representing the people of this area properly.”
The Sunderland branch of Ukip was formed in 2011.
The party has contested most seats in the city’s council election since then but has failed to win any.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 06 Mar 2015
A bus company has been attacked by a Labour MP for “salami slicing” services after it emerges 80 journeys a day have disappeared under a rerouting programme.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has criticised Go North East for cuts to bus services across Tyne and Wear, citing a study by Passenger Transport Executive Nexus.
Sunderland is shouldering most of the burden, the MP says, with changes to routes and timetables to the 35, 35A, 35B and 35C services.
The MP says her office has fielded calls from people worried about links to schools and health facilities.
She adds it is difficult to compare the new route map and timetable information with previous versions and people have concerns that the re-routing of the 35 services will significantly disrupt journeys to nearby GP practices in Silksworth, Herrington and Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Children may also have to take longer journeys to schools such as the Venerable Bede Academy because they will have to change buses.
Go North East said the changes will simplify services, but four variations have already been made to routes 35, 35A and 36 since November.
The MP said:
“The volume of service changes implemented by Go North East this week is likely to cause a great deal of confusion and inconvenience to many people.
“I have received many emails and phone calls from worried constituents expressing their concerns over changes to the route 35 service.
“Go North East say this is about simplifying things, but there have been 15 variations in this route since 2011 and I cannot see how this constant chopping and changing is making things simpler. The new route maps and timetables are also presented differently from older versions.
“People are understandably angry about the fact that four services have been reduced to three. Across the region estimates show that as many as 80 routes a day will be cut.
“Go North East should explain why these changes are being implemented and how they are in the best interest of passengers.
“This salami slicing of services shows exactly why we must introduce a London-style bus network with stable routes, oyster style ticketing and fines for operators when they fail to live up to their promises.”
Managing director of Go North East Kevin Carr, said the changes were introduced after a consultation with Nexus and customers.
He said many of the services now travelled closer to shops.
He said: “We are the number one bus operator in Sunderland and it’s really important that we adapt our services to meet customers’ needs.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Jan 2015
Control over bus services looks set to be placed in the hands of councils in the biggest shake-up of public transport for a generation.
Members of the North East Combined Authority have voted unanimously for the Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) for the Tyne and Wear area.
The proposals – if passed by an independent review board – will signal a new era of London-style bus services where passengers carry a pass similar to the capital’s Oyster card and councils decide on fares and when/how often services run.
Tyne and Wear would also stand alone outside London operating a QCS system in the biggest change since buses were de-regulated in the 1980s.
North East bus companies who bitterly opposed the plans – which will see them compete for contracts say they will continue to fight.
Councillor Nick Forbes, regional transport lead for NECA, said:
“We realise that the bus companies will find this decision disappointing. But leaders took their decision balancing the wider public interest and concluded that the voluntary arrangements proposed by the bus companies could simply not deliver our ambitions for better bus services.”
The proposals, put together by Nexus, came about after bus fares in the region rose by around 3% above RPI inflation each year since 1995.
> Not to mention all the routes the private companies, especially Stagecoach, axed. Paying more for less – it’s the British way.
Vicki Gilbert, chairwoman of Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group, welcomed the decision and said:
“Only a QCS will introduce any sort of democratic control over bus services, and allow decisions about services and fares to be made in the interests of all of the public as opposed to the interests of the bus operators.
“Only a QCS will place a limit on the near monopoly profits enjoyed by the bus operators. Only by making the bus operators compete for contracts will the cost of running buses come down to a level that we can afford.”
Kevin Carr, Chair of the North East Bus Operators’ Association (NEBOA), said:
“We are very disappointed, but not surprised, at the decision to press on with the contract scheme.
“Nexus has convinced the leaders to take a huge gamble, needing an £80m contingency fund on top of £51m in guaranteed funding every year. It’s not the best way of securing vital bus services for communities in Tyne and Wear.
“The latest Nexus proposals don’t offer a single extra bus or any expansion of the bus network. Bus passengers in Tyne and Wear deserve better than this scheme, which will lead to higher fares, worse bus services and higher council tax bills.”
Mr Carr added NEBOA would continue to oppose the plans at the review stage.
“Today’s decision is not final. We expect a far more rigorous examination of the bus contracts proposals by the independent review board.
“The board has a duty to determine whether these plans meet key legal, economic and value for money tests.
“We do not believe these tests have been met and we will make robust arguments to the review board to demonstrate this. Unless all of the tests have been met, the bus contracts scheme as it stands cannot be implemented.”
Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, however, said the bus companies must accept the decision.
She said: “The bus operators should now respect this democratic decision and work to support passengers.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 22 Oct 2014
Bus services are better in council hands, MPs have said ahead of a vote that could dramatically change the future of public transport in the North East.
Twelve Tyne and Wear MPs have written to the North East Combined Authority leadership board ahead of their meeting this afternoon to decide whether to establish the first council regulated network of buses outside of London since 1986.
They believe the proposed Quality Contracts Scheme run by Metro operator Nexus will deliver £272m in economic benefit to the North East.
However the plans have been bitterly-opposed by bus companies Go North East, Stagecoach and Arriva, who instead want to run the network under a Voluntary Partnership Agreement called the North East Bus Operators’ Association.
They believe handing back control of buses to councils would create new risks for ‘cash-strapped’ local authorities.
Bridget Phillipson MP, who has been leading the campaign in favour of the Quality Contracts scheme, said:
“The members of the Combined Authority have a clear choice when they meet today. They can either maintain the status quo where bus operators funnel profits out of our region or support real and lasting change with a Quality Contract Scheme.
“If a regulated transport system is good enough for our capital city then it’s good enough for the people of Tyne and Wear.”
She added in her letter that the present deregulated system allowed operators to cut routes and an investigation in 2011 by the Competition Commission was critical of the service in Tyne and Wear.
Tom Dodds, secretary of the North East Bus Operators’ Association, said:
“Ms Phillipson misunderstands the partnership agreement. There are 17 successful partnerships around the country. The partnership for Tyne and Wear would be the most comprehensive of all, offering cheaper fares for 16-18 year olds, new ‘Bus2Bus’ tickets for people who use the buses of more than one company but don’t need to use Metro, and up to 50 extra buses on new services. The contract scheme promises none of that, and allows politicians to increase fares and reduce services at will to balance their books.
“If the bus network is inadequate, then the contract scheme does nothing to improve it – in fact, it freezes the bus network until 2018.”
He added that there was no action taken by the Competition Commission following their report in 2011.
Nexus claims their system would see £8m saved or re-invested into the service, reducing the profits going to bus company shareholders from £20m to £12m a year.
The letter has been signed by the following MPs
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South), Nick Brown (Newcastle East), Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Mary Glindon (North Tyneside), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), Chi Onwurah (Newcastle Central), Ian Mearns (Gateshead), David Anderson (Blaydon), Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) and Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West).
The North East Combined Authority’s leadership board, which is made up of the leaders of seven local authorities, will take a vote today at the Civic Centre in Newcastle whether to proceed with the Quality Contracts Scheme after it was endorsed by its transport committee earlier this month.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Oct 2014
A damning report today reveals the “totally unacceptable” inequalities driving a widening health divide between the North East and the South.
Experts are warning the current approach to tackling the gap is failing, and the situation is only likely to get worse.
According to the report, a baby girl born in Coxhoe, County Durham, can expect to live for 15 fewer years in good health than a baby girl born in Richmond, London.
Public health experts have now highlighted how devolved powers from central government to the North East could play a vital role in helping close this gulf.
Due North: the report of the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North, is the outcome of an independent inquiry, commissioned by Public Health England.
Professor Clare Bambra from Durham University’s Department of Geography and an Inquiry panel member, said:
“The differences in people’s health in the north compared to other parts of the UK are totally unacceptable. Without a radical change to the current approach to health inequality, we are likely to see things getting worse.”
In the North East, 18% of residents are classed as living in poverty, compared to 12% in the South East. During the past 20 years the region has consistently had lower employment rates than the South for both men and women. These factors, among others, have had a subsequent knock-on effect on general health.
In more recent years, massive efforts and tens of millions of pounds have been spent across the North East on schemes aimed at improving wellbeing. Newcastle and Sunderland are just some of areas that have implemented ways of reducing inequality by campaigning for the payment of a Living Wage.
But the report sets out a number of recommendations including the use of devolved powers to ensure decisions about health issues in the North East are made in the North East. It states:
“Devolution is central for addressing health inequalities with the rest of England. Devolution means regions in the North retaining more power and resources to collectively develop solutions that build on the assets and resilience of the North.”
Ms Bambra said:
“Central government takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach to health spending. Devolution would allow us to address the problems we have here. In recent years we have lost our regional agencies in the North East so there is less focus on us.”
The report also recommended “collecting better data on children in the early years” so they can be tracked over time, monitoring inequalities in development.
In Sunderland over the last two years, figures showed 10% of reception-age children are obese, with local variations of 13 to 17% in some areas. By Year 6, the figure is 21% average, with some areas spiking at 26 to 34%.
Just days ago, plans to build a McDonald’s near a Newcastle school were rejected by councillors. Hundreds of people objected over fears the restaurant would promote unhealthy eating to children from nearby Kenton School.
Ms Bambra said:
“Lots of children’s life chances are determined before they are even born. We need to improve peoples’ access to affordable, healthy food.”
Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said:
“This report highlights the need for Government to take action on poverty and the underlying causes of health inequalities.
“Many people in our region also still suffer ill health as a result of our industrial past. Ministers should prioritise those parts of our country with greatest need, not shift resources into more affluent areas.”
However, Coun Lee Martin, leader of Wearside’s Conservatives, said:
“If Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had done exactly what the coalition are doing on jobs, welfare reform, and education then the gap would have closed in the last 20 years. If anything we need to go further in tackling poverty and poverty of aspiration. Some of the North East’s councils adopting the Living Wage would be a start. I’m all for more powers being devolved but let’s have them devolved to people the public can elect directly rather than faceless council leaders.”
Prof Eugene Milne, director of Public Health at Newcastle City Council, said efforts were underway on Tyneside to address some of the most prolific health concerns. He added:
“We know that we have an extensive public health programme which aims to improve the general health of the local population – as a result we have made progress in key areas over recent years.
“However, this report correctly points to a continuing divide across the country, and between the rich and the poor in our society. We welcome that debate.
“Even with the rate of progress that we have, we know that it would take many decades to close the gap between the north and the south. Larger scale action is needed if the problem is to be addressed.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 Sept 2014
A Wearside MP has visited a local foodbank to find out more about the help it gives to families.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson joined volunteers at Loaves and Fishes foodbank in Easington Lane.
She is campaigning for the Government to take action to help families who are struggling to make ends meet after being hit by higher food bills.
A report from the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks across the country, said that between April and September 2013 more than 350,000 people, 120,000 of them children, received at least three days emergency food from them – three times more than the same period last year.
Ms Phillipson said: “The cost of living crisis means that those both in and out of work are finding themselves in the same line waiting for their weekly food parcel. It’s not right and the Government need to take action.
“The volunteer staff at Hetton New Dawn Group are supporting the local community during these difficult times. I would encourage as many local people as possible to support them in their work.”
Paul Finch, manager of the foodbank, said: “People are desperate. Naturally, local people want a hand up, not a handout, and it takes a lot for someone to admit they need support because we are proud locally. The economic difficulties we are facing has increased the need for foodbanks. Our volunteers do all they can to support hard hit people and will continue to do all we can.”
Hetton New Dawn Foodbank is open 11am to 1pm on Mondays.
Source – Sunderland Echo 18 April 2014