Tagged: Ian Mearns

Thousands could lose benefits in Government plan to end youth unemployment

Thousands of unemployed young people across the North East could be stripped of benefits under tough plans in the Government’s Queen’s Speech.

David Cameron insisted the crackdown was designed to end youth unemployment, as he set out his plans in the House of Commons.

But Labour MPs said the plans effectively meant young people would be forced to work for as little as less than £2 an hour – payment far below the minimum wage.

The North East has the highest youth unemployment rate in England.

Office figures show 21.4 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 are unemployed.

The figures cover people who are “economically active”, which means they are in a job or looking for work. Full-time students are not included.

This is a higher proportion than in any other part of England. It’s also higher than Scotland or Wales, and roughly equal to the Northern Ireland figure of 21.8 per cent.

By contrast, the unemployment rate for people aged 18 to 24 in the south east is 11.4 per cent. And in the West Midlands, it is 16.1 per cent.

Official figures also show that 4,000 people in the North East aged 18 to 24 have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for six months or longer.

But under Government plans, anyone aged 21 or under will lose the right to this benefit – and be put on a new “youth allowance” instead.

They’ll get the same amount of money as before, up to £57.90 a week, but if they are unemployed for six months then they will be given compulsory community work such as making meals for the elderly or working for local charities – and they’ll lose the right to claim benefits if they refuse.

If they will have to work 30 hours a week as expected, that would be a payment of £1.93 for each hour worked, well below the minimum wage of £5.13 for people age 18 to 20 and £6.50 for those older.

 

The Government says it plans to prepare young people for work and will create 200,000 new apprenticeships in the North East.

And Conservatives point out that the number of people aged 18 to 24 in the North East actually in work has risen by 13,000 over the past year.

David Cameron told the House of Commons: “One of the most important things we can do is give young people the chance of an apprenticeship and the chance of work.

“What we have done is expand apprenticeships and uncapped university places, so that there is no cap on aspiration in our country.

“We now want to go further by saying that every young person should be either earning or learning.

“Leaving school, signing on, getting unemployment benefit, getting housing benefit and opting for a life out of work—that is no choice at all, and that is why we will legislate accordingly.”

And Conservative MP Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said:

“This Bill will provide assistance to young people to earn and learn, and give them the skills which they need to have a long term future in employment.

“We need to address the skills gap and using apprenticeships will really make a difference to do that.”

Labour Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said:

“If young people are expected to work in order to get benefits then they should be entitled to the minimum wage.

“To tell them to work for £2 an hour is ridiculous. We have legislation which says there is a minimum wage in this country and that should be the minimum level people can expect.”

Conservatives will face a battle over plans to stop people aged 18 to 21 claiming housing benefit – with Labour MPs and other critics warning it will put young people who are forced to leave home because of abuse in danger.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 May 2015

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Hundreds join Tyne and Wear May Day march and Rally in Newcastle

Around 300 people took part in the Tyne and Wear May Day March and Rally in Newcastle on Saturday.

The event coincided with the 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ international May Day celebrations.

Back in 1890, the international demand was for an eight-hour maximum to the working day. This call united workers in the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and many other countries.

One of the organisers of the Tyneside event, Martin Levy, said:

“There’s a lot of people on zero hours contracts today who would love to get the chance to work eight hours.”

“The march is as relevant today as it was 125 years ago. It’s very important as a statement of the principles of the Trade Union and Labour movement – solidarity, fighting inequality and fighting for social justice.

“These issues don’t just go away.”

Speakers at the event included Christine Payne, general secretary of actors’ union Equity; Ian Mearns, Labour’s candidate for the Gateshead constituency at the forthcoming general election and Andrew Murray, chief of staff of Unite the Union and deputy president of the Stop the War Coalition.

Professor Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, had been due to speak but had to cancel at the last minute.

His place on the platform was taken by Ann Schofield of the Tyneside Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

Those taking part assembled at Princess Square then walked along Northumberland Street and then past St Thomas’s Church towards Exhibition Park, where the rally was held.

The Tyne and Wear May Day March, at Exhibition Park in Newcastle 

Music on the march was provided by the Backworth Colliery Band, while local musicians DrumDin (OK) and The Backyard Rhythm Orchestra performed at the rally.

Mr Levy added:

“This 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ May Day was an opportunity to make clear our opposition to austerity and privatisation, and to express solidarity with all those struggling for a better world, particularly the people of Palestine.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  02 May 2015

Newcastle : Thousands turn out as counter-march outnumbers Pegida protest five to one

Newcastle stood united against hate as thousands of anti-Pegida protestors marched through the streets of the city yesterday.

The German “anti-Islamisation” group’s first visit to Britain was outnumbered by more than five to one as families, anti-fascists, trade unions, religious and community groups all turned out in opposition.

And though five people were arrested the potential powderkeg passed off relatively peacefully.

But Pegida have vowed Saturday was only its “first of many” appearances in the UK.

> And the first of many humiliating put-downs…. the standard has been set.

I wish this hadn’t been necessary,” said Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, who spoke at the counter protest.

“What we would have liked is for Pegida to have not picked our great city to march in in the first place.

“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from across the political spectrum and including many football fans, turn out really showed that Newcastle is united against these outsiders.”

Official figures from Northumbria Police suggested 2,000 people had turned out for the Newcastle Unites counter protest, which marched from the gates of the city’s Chinatown, down Gallowgate before rallying before a stage on Newgate Street.

Among them was record dealer Adrian Farquhar, from Gateshead, and Katherine Reed, a carer, who said they felt it was important to show their son the importance of standing up to groups like Pegida.

We came for our seven-year-old son,” Adrian said. “We can’t let these people like Pegida dictate the kind of world he grows up in.”

The demo was also attended by Respect MP George Galloway, a number of Newcastle councillors, Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, and German MEP Arne Lietz, who travelled from Gelsenkirchen.

“For me it was very important to show solidarity and that we are together as Europeans against hate,” said Arne.

This Pegida protest will have attracted other groups or individuals who will have called 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.”

George Galloway said:

“All right-thinking people in Britain condemn the idea of a German Nazi group coming to the North East of England trying to stir up trouble.

“The vast majority of British people respect that and the people who are on here on the counter-demonstration are representing millions.

“We have problems in Britain without racism and Islamophobia being further stoked.”

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who joined the counter-rally, said the number of people at the Newcastle Unites march 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.”

> Well, clear-thinking was never their strong point… or indeed thinking at all.

One hundred yards in front of them, on the other side of a large police cordon filled with scores of uniformed police and mounted officers, around 375 Pegida supporters congregated in the Bigg Market.

Among the German-founded group, which insists it is neither fascist or racist, banners supporting the English Defence League and National Front could be seen.

One male supporter said:

“This has nothing to do with race. It is about Islamification of our country and nobody is doing anything about it. We want people to integrate when they come here and that is not happening.

“When we bring up these issues we are called bigots and racists but we just want to protect our heritage.”

Speakers at the one-hour gathering, which called for an “end to Islamification of the west”, had called for a peaceful protest but some supporters attempted to break through the police line after the Bigg Market demo closed, and around 100 Pegida supporters formed a line at Grainger Street in an effort to goad those on the Newcastle Unites side.

However police officers and mounted units swiftly moved in to prevented further disorder.

> Meanwhile, Pegida tried to put a positive spin on their laughably pathetic turn-out by blaming – wait for it – transport problems, without which there would have been an extra thousand there, honest.

Pegida said: “Thank you all for the first peaceful Pegida rally in UK today!

“The early hour made us lose about 1,000 people that had booked transport for 1pm which was our goal.”

> Which suggests that the extra thousand would have been rent-a-mob bused in from elsewhere.

Though it does beg the question why – since the time of the demo was known for some time – they couldn’t change their travel times.

Of course, it’s more likely they never actually existed at all, and so the non-racist Pegida had to rely on the like of the EDL to boost their attendance to the heights of, er, 375.

Newcastle Unites: Thousands turn out for counter-march against Pegida protest in Newcastle

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..”

Rally against council cuts in Gateshead to take place on Saturday

Library users, keen swimmers and pensioners will unite to take part in a rally through Gateshead town centre on Saturday.

The demonstration against Gateshead Council’s budget cuts will bring dozens of protestors together, as well as three MPs, who will speak out on Central Government’s current financial deal for local authorities.

Those affected by proposed library and swimming pool closures, and cut backs of hours at Gateshead facilities, will meet with people who use the borough’s older people’s and mental health services.

Gateshead Council’s leader Mick Henry must make up to £46m worth of savings over the next two years and proposals include reviewing how they run the Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre, Dunston Activity Centre and Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre.

Other cut backs – including the older people’s service which helps people with their shopping and paying bills on time – could lead to job losses.

Together service users will march from the Gateshead Interchange towards the Civic Centre at 2.15pm on Saturday (07 Feb), in a protest organised by the Gateshead Public Services Alliance which is part of the union Unison.

Speeches will be heard from Labour politicians, Dave Anderson MP for Blaydon, Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow and Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead.

Alison Chapel, area organiser for the Public Services Alliance, said: “We have people coming on behalf of the libraries, and older people’s services in Gateshead which are all under threat with closure of the scaling back of hours.

“We know that the council have to make cuts because the Government is reducing their budget.

“The council has to decide how these cuts are going to be implemented and we are trying to show that they are not just dealing with statistics.

“These cuts affect real people because they use the service and they need the service and in some cases, particularly the older people’s service, it’s a false economy anyway because it’s quite a low level service but it means people can stay in their homes and it prevents them taking up beds in hospitals.

“It is Central Government who are cutting the council finances and we do understand the difficulty the council is facing but they need to make the decision in the face of people’s actual experiences and needs.”

Councillor Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council said:

“Setting our Budget is a fine balancing act as we have so many competing priorities. It’s getting harder and harder to continue to protect those services that people want and need, but we will do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities.

“We know that in future there will be some significant changes to services that people hold dear, but we need to start making those decisions now as the money simply won’t be there to continue to provide them in the same way.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  05 Feb 2015

North East Labour MPs call for lurch to left and 83% of party grassroots back them

The vast majority of Labour supporters back a set of left-wing policies proposed by three North MPs, a poll shows.

Ian Lavery, Ian Mearns and Grahame Morris, MPs for Wansbeck, Gateshead and Easington, signed a letter calling for a number of changes to their party’s policies, and a poll by Labour List shows 83% of supporters back them.

The statement called for the re-nationalisation of the railways, ahead of the East Coast Main Line returning to private hands, and an end to austerity measures.

It comes as Labour figures make the finishing touches to the election manifesto, eyeing both a surge by the Greens and the threat of Ukip.

The poll shows that Labour’s grassroots are for the party lurching to the left. Ed Miliband is unlikely to sanction such a move, however, in the wake of recent criticism from business leaders, including that of Boots boss Stefano Pessina, who said the party winning power would be a “catastrophe” for the country.

> So he should do it just to piss Pessina off ! Him and his ilk aren’t likely to be Labour supporters anyway, so where’s the problem ? Are you really for the people Ed, or for big business interests ?

No, don’t bother answering that. I think we already know the answer.

Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, said the MPs’ proposal is “hardly revolutionary” and called for the party to be “a little bit bolder”.

He said:

“Currently the party policy makers are drawing up the long-awaited manifestos.

“It’s a critical period when politicians should ensure the voice of their constituents should be heard. Rail Nationalisation, Trade Union Rights and collective bargaining in the workplace and a change in focus on austerity are issues the general public are hankering for, and why not.

“These simple policies are hardly revolutionary and would impact greatly on those who have faced the brunt of the relentless attacks of the coalition Government.

“Report after report show it’s the less well off who are shouldering biggest burden in today’s society we must endeavour to change this unacceptable situation.

“Politics is about decisions it’s about choice, despite the excellent policies on offer from the Labour Party we need to move a little further and influence the decision makers these issues are exceptionally appealing to our natural voters.

“Being that little bit bolder under the excellent leadership of Ed Miliband would undoubtedly pay dividends for the party, and the constituents we represent.”

> Ed Milliband an excellent leader ? Sections of the media, of course, try to portray him as something of a weirdo. Speaking as someone who has spent much of his life in the company of weirdos and who, truth to tell, is probably a weirdo too, my complaint is that Ed is not weird enough !

He just comes over as another identikit career politician, to be honest. He could be leading the Conservatives and not look out of place.

Most damning of all, he comes across as Blair Junior, which is a bit like being Satan Junior to many of those people who used to vote Labour before it became New.

Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, added:

“Most people, including the former head of the Bank of England, know that it wasn’t the last Labour Government that crashed the economy, it was an international financial and banking crisis – yet it seems that the people who crashed the economy, the bankers, are the individuals who are personally profiting from the situation while urging cuts, pain and austerity for the vast majority of the population.

“Austerity and the pain that goes with it, is not necessary – it is a set of political and economic policy choices. There are alternatives and we should explore those alternatives for the benefit of the many rather than the few.”

All of the main parties have yet to publish their manifestos.

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 04 Feb 2015

MPs urge Miliband to lean further Left in alternative election manifesto

Four North-East Labour MPs have urged Ed Miliband to swing to the Left and rip up his “tragic” commitment to further deep spending cuts.

Grahame Morris (Easington), Ian Mearns (Gateshead), Dave Anderson (Blaydon) and Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) are among 16 rebels issuing the challenge to their leader.

Their alternative election manifesto demands:

* A £30bn investment package – an “alternative way out of endless austerity” – funded either by higher borrowing, the state-owned banks, or a levy on the super-rich.

The MPs call on Mr Miliband to exploit 0.5 per cent interest rates, arguing it would cost just £150m a year to finance the package – which they say would create more than a million jobs, within three years.

Instead, they say: “All three main parties, tragically, seem to agree that deep spending cuts must continue to be made until the structural budget deficit is wiped out in 2019-20.”

* Rail nationalisation, by taking train operating franchises back into public ownership when they expire.

The MPs reject Labour’s plan to allow not-for-profit firms to bid for franchises, condemning it as timid and “wholly unnecessary”.

They claim privatisation costs £1.2bn a year, adding: “Over 80 per cent of the public want the railways re-nationalised, which must include a significant proportion of Tories.”

* Stronger trade union and employment rights, with a return to collective bargaining “as a check against excessive corporate power”.

The alternative manifesto blames the disappearance of union-negotiated agreements for a sharp fall in the share of national income going to salaries and wages – from 65 per cent in 1980, to 53 per cent in 2012.

And it says: “We should therefore actively promote sectoral collective bargaining and strengthen the rights of trade unions to recognition, and of their members to representation.”

The move laid bare how Mr Miliband will struggle to carry his party to make the deep spending cuts planned, even if he wins a small majority in May.

The left-wing group of MPs are keen to take advantage of the rise of the anti-austerity Green Party and of the SNP to push Labour in a more radical direction.

Meanwhile, Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, has made repeated threats to establish a new workers’ party if Labour loses after offering a “pale shade of austerity”.

Last year, Mr McCluskey urged the likes of Mr Morris, Mr Mearns and Mr Lavery to “put the brakes” on Ed Miliband if he tries to take Labour to the right

> Even further to the right, I think he means…

It followed the trio’s criticism of Labour support for an overall welfare cap and vote against compulsory unpaid work experience.

Source – Northern Echo,  26 Jan 2015

Bosses at HMP Northumberland are using zero hours contracts, Parliament hears

A privately-run jail is using the controversial zero hours contracts to plug gaps in its workforce, a debate in the House of Commons has heard.

HMP Northumberland, which has been described by prison officers as “like a tinderbox”, is using the contracts after cuts stripped away its staff from 441 to 270 from 2010 to 2013.

Labour MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery described the measure at the Sodexo-run Category C jail as an “outrage” during a debate on a bill aimed at abolishing the contracts.

He said:

“Is my honourable friend aware of the situation at HMP Northumberland, where Sodexo, a French catering company, has privatised the prison and sacked or made redundant more than a third of the work force?

“It does not have enough people to make the prison safe, but it is bringing in people on banked-hours and zero-hours contracts. That is an outrage.”

It comes after a riot at the jail in March and a stash of Class A drugs worth in excess of £100,000 were found last month.

The private members bill, brought by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, is aimed at abolishing zero hours contracts and the debate will continue next week.

MPs heard use of the contracts is rife in the care and hospitality sectors with the average wage of a zero hours worker is £236, – and that this is a figure £246 less than the average worker.

 

Mr Mearns said:

“Today, I am fighting for the same thing that people of every generation have fought for: the right to decent and secure conditions and terms of employment.

“It is not a great ask. A well-paid and steady job is the bedrock on which people build their lives. It is the starting point for planning for the future, and the platform of stability needed to pay the bills, meet the rent, pay the mortgage and start a family.

“Those are not extravagances, but the minimum that should be available to any person who is prepared to work to pay their way in a wealthy nation such as ours.

“Yet that stability and security is denied to millions of workers in this country. Increasingly, people are finding themselves plagued by job insecurity, not knowing from one day to the next whether they will be working or earning.”

The bill has strong support from North East Labour MPs.

Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, said:

A constituent who came to see me highlighted just how little economic sense zero-hours contracts make for the taxpayer as well.

“From one week to the next, he may or may not be able to pay his rent and may need housing benefit support.

“That creates a total mess for the support systems that have to provide support to these people on very insecure work contracts. The cost to the taxpayer of sorting out that mess is adding to the problem. Employers need to step up to the mark.”

Conservatives, however, accused Labour MPs of using zero hours contracts themselves.

Grahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington, denied he was among them, but said Labour-led councils need to do more.

He said:

“I absolutely do not use zero-hours contracts. I think part of the problem is that many local authorities do not have tight enough procedures with subcontractors; I would encourage them so to do.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  22 Nov 2014

Gateshead MP proposes bill to end ‘scandalous and unreasonable’ zero hours contracts

A campaign against the controversial zero hours contracts will be taken to Parliament by a North MP.

Ian Mearns, who represents the Gateshead constituency for Labour, is proposing a private members’ bill on Friday in the House of Commons in a bid to end the contracts.

He says that the contracts erode workers’ rights and that businesses need to take more responsibility.

The MP’s bill will require employers to treat zero hours contract workers on the same basis as comparable workers on regular working hours contracts.

It would also allow zero hour contract workers who have been employed for 12 weeks to receive a contract for fixed and regular hours and employers to give reasonable notice.

It would mean that if a shift is cancelled with less than 72 hours’ notice then the employee will be paid in full.

The bill would also see that exclusivity clauses are banned so workers would be free to seek additional employment.

It comes as Labour makes wages and zero hours contracts central to their General Election campaign.

> Only because there’s a general election ? Although its good to see some movement on this, its hardly a new problem. It’d be better if things were done because they’re the right things to do, rather than because there’s an election looming. Still, you have to take what you can get…

It also comes just days after leader Ed Miliband took aim at retailer Sports Direct for their use of what he called the “exploitative contracts”.

Labour claims 17,000 of Sports Direct’s 20,000 UK staff are not guaranteed regular hours.

In response the company has said it was reviewing some of its employment procedures.

Defenders of the contracts say they offer employees flexibility.

Ian Mearns said:

“It is downright scandalous and unreasonable for companies such as Sports Direct to employ regular staff on zero hours contracts.

“Zero hours contracts are supposed to be for short-term or seasonal work, but it is clear that they are being used by unscrupulous employers who seem to think that we still live in Victorian times to dodge their responsibilities towards their staff.

“If the Government is serious about wanting to tackle in-work poverty and job insecurity then they will back my Bill to ban the abuse of zero hours contracts this Friday.”

The bill will be debated by MPs on Friday.

Source –   Newcastle Journal,  18 Nov 2014

Buses are better in council hands, North East MPs tell combined authority

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