Tyneside has seen an alarming rise in the number of people calling Samaritans.
Figures released by the charity show more than 37,000 desperate pleas were made last year, with nearly 5,000 of those coming from people considering taking their own lives.
The suicide rate in the North East is the highest in England, 13.8 per 100,000, compared with 7.9 in London, a figure which gives great concern to Samaritans.
Libby Hibbert, Director of Samaritans of Tyneside, said the number of callers has risen steadily over the past few years.
“Callers talk about a wide range of troubles that they may be unable to share with the people closest to them. Others are lonely and have no-one close to speak to.
“Some people have mental health difficulties that may affect their relationships or ability to work, some have other illnesses, and some have split up with their partners, some have financial worries, others are upset about bullying and some want to talk about their addictions.”
Samaritans of Tyneside is based at Jesmond, in Newcastle, where more than 100 volunteers answer the telephones.
Shirley Smith, of Chester-le-Street mental health charity Ifucareshare, urges anyone having suicidal thoughts to confide in someone.
“We have seen an increase in the demand for our service. That could be because people are coming more and aware of what we do. But, I would say the impact of suicide devastates communities and one suicide is one too many.
“Often for those left feeling suicidal there is always something that can be done. Terrific services like Samaritans help people at times of crisis are imperative.
“The most important thing is to reach out for that help. Speak to somebody, let somebody know how you are feeling. Talk to your GP, talk to a friend, that’s the most important thing; start the conversation.
“One of the things most families who have been affected by suicide say is that they didn’t know their loved ones were feeling that way. As a charity we believe there is always a way out. People do not feel suicidal forever. It can be a very temporary feeling. But feeling so low you can think of nothing else.
“Getting the right help at the right time is really important.”
Some of the concerns raised by people contacting Samaritans of Tyneside include financial problems, illness, job loss, bullying, low self esteem, bereavement, guilt, stress/anxiety, divorce, and access to children.
Ifucareshare can be reached on 0191 397 5661.
CALM– Campaign Against Living Miserably– specialise in male’s mental health and can be reached on 0800 58 58 58.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Apr 2015
We haven’t yet ordered our coffee and already Shirley Ford, a school administrator and lead campaigner for the North East Green Party, is racing through her lines.
“As of this morning, we had 22 candidates selected with another five possibles,” she says, as we find seats at a quiet South Shields seaside cafe.
“But things are changing so rapidly now. If you had asked me before Christmas, I would have told you something entirely different. We are a small party, we don’t have much money so it is all about candidates’ enthusiasm.”
She seems nervous, but it is an extraordinary time for the Greens. The so-called surge is in full swing.
Calls for Natalie Bennett to be included in the TV leaders’ debates intensified until the dam broke and broadcasters changed their stance in what has been celebrated as a watershed moment for the party. Now, after 20 years on the sidelines, the region’s handful of Green councillors find themselves in the spotlight and, sometimes, the firing line.
“Yes, but that is exactly what we wanted – to be taken seriously,” said Shirley.
And, it seems, times are changing. The party in the region has tripled its number of parliamentary candidates since 2010 and, Shirley, who is sporting a fern green jumper and matching coat, does not by any means predict a win, but she is brimming with optimism.
“Five years ago, we ran just seven candidates and that tells you where local parties’ strength was at,” she says, with a wry smile.
“We stood someone in South Shields, Gateshead, the three Newcastle seats, Tynemouth and Wansbeck. This time round we are looking at standing candidates in all but two seats. We might struggle to stand in Sunderland but things are changing every day.
“We didn’t think that Blyth Valley would have a candidate but suddenly we have had some key people joining there that have made it possible for members to select.”
The media glare, she says, is winning the party support but the Greens’ operation on the ground is gathering strength.
“I think that national and local media does make a difference as to what people think something is happening,” she said. “We don’t have very much money. It is up for members of each local party to raise the money for their deposit and for any research or materials.
“We have to be creative. We don’t have the resources to go and knock on everyone’s door or to carry out a poll of the constituency, but we are doing what we can.”
Shirley, who will stand in South Shields, was an organiser for the local Stop The War Coalition and has lobbied government as part of the Women in Black campaign against injustice, war and militarism.
“I joined the Green Party 11 years ago but I grew up in a family interested in politics,” she said. “I campaigned against apartheid when I was a student and I was always interested in human rights.”
She says people are finding the party via the Greens petitioning on specific issues, such their campaign against the Newcastle/Gateshead One Core Strategy, which could allow for homes to be built on greenbelt.
Greens are renowned for their passion for the environment and so have been smart in joining with organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage to organisation clean-ups.
But what does it all add up to? Where does she think the Green Party will do well in the North East?
“Newcastle East is one to watch – we have been focussing campaign work in the Heaton area and we are very active in Jesmond,” she said.
“We campaigned during local elections on local issues, including on transport and housing. We have been in that area for two or three years building that campaign level up.
“We have been championing more affordable housing and we have seen a good response in the Newcastle North area. I think in Northumberland, in Hexham and Berwick, we will do well. The two parties wanted to link up on energy campaigning issues, such as the Druridge Bay opencast coal mining campaign.
“There has been a lot of – what’s the word – a lot of synergy. They have been linking up on local issues that they are passionate about and I think that comes across.
“We want people to get the message across we want renewable energy projects that are small scale that are not going to be having such a huge impact.”
While it isn’t likely the Greens can unseat the former Labour Minister Nick Brown in Newcastle East, it shows which demographic supports the Greens – students.
“In Durham, the party had been quite dormant but in the county council local elections we stood 15 candidates and we came second in the City of Durham division of Neville’s Cross,” she said.
“A good number of student residents live there. We also did well in other wards in the city where there is a high proportion of students.
“We have maintained the momentum that that gave us.”
So, the Green Party is relying on the region’s student vote?
“That is part of the strategy, to engage students and to encourage students to stand. Some of our parliamentary candidates are students. Middlesbrough and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland are students, while others are Young Greens.”
The Greens are also popular among socialists after announcing the party would scrap Trident, renationalise railways and offer everyone a single payment ‘citizens income’, though the party has yet to set out exactly how that will be paid for.
> Well, just scrapping Trident alone would save around £1.5 BILLION a year, not to mention the plans to spend over £100 billion on a replacement for Trident.
But, Peter Pinkney, the President of the RMT Union, is standing for the party in Redcar as a result, proclaiming that “the Greens are now the party of the left.”
Shirley said the move was welcome news:
“Peter has been a member for quite a long time now and he spoke at the Green Party conference 18 months ago on the whole railway issue. The national part is very excited about it.
“It is really exciting.”
It comes as the Greens announce membership nationally has grown by 120% this year. Now, their leader will share a platform with David Cameron and Ed Miliband.
“It gives people a sense of a change and there might well be a place for a smaller party,” said Shirley.
“This lets people hear our policies and gives people a chance to make their own mind up.
“Last time, we imported the American presidential debate but that isn’t how our system works. You vote for your local candidate on policies and the debates last time didn’t reflect that.”
And it is on local issues that the Greens stand to make the most ground in this election.
The Coal Authority has granted licences for companies to explore parts of the North coast to see if underground coal gasification is possible.
The Green Party is mobilising its forces and it is when talking about this that Shirley is most animated.
“We are going to campaign on this off-the-coast, underground coal gasification because this issue has been bubbling along,” she said.
“We are keeping an eye out to see if there are any actual planning applications for anything onshore for both the drilling rigs and the processing plants.
“The argument that is always made is that we have got to have jobs – jobs jobs jobs – but they don’t think about the jobs that will be put at risk, such as tourism jobs and fishing jobs.”
Shirley is keen for the party not to be seen as an extension of eco-charities but as a party with a social agenda.
“We have petitions on particular issues in lots of places,” she said.
“Here in South Tyneside we have a schools campaign to bring back glass bottles and in Jarrow we have a petition to save the walk-in centre.
“We are trying to find solutions to the things that really matter to people.”
Winning in a region where Labour is so strong will be tough. On this issue, Shirley found herself agreeing with the leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, who branded the North East a “one-party state” ruled by Labour.
Shirley says because of this dominance by the big parties, the Greens’ long game will be to campaign on voting reform.
“It is sad,” she said “It is partly our electoral system. All of the focus is on those marginal seats and if you are in a safe seat then you are very much taken for granted.
“That is one of the things we want to change.”
She added: “In 2010, a lot of people in the North East told us that they support Green but that they were going to vote Labour because of fear that the Tories could get in.
“Well, the Tories did get in anyway.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 11 Feb 2015
> 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
A scheme to force bad housing landlords to clean up their act will be introduced after being approved by councillors.
A Selective Licensing scheme will see private landlords in 13 Hartlepool streets require a licence to operate.
It aims to clamp down on nuisance tenants and drive up housing standards for 544 properties.
There were calls from councillors and members of the Public for more streets to be included in the Hartlepool Borough Council scheme.
But officers warned they should only include streets where there was evidence to show there were problems to protect them from a potential judicial review by private landlords.
The council included streets where at least 50 per cent are privately rented and there was a repeat antisocial behaviour rate of 15 per cent.
Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said:
“If you’ve got bad landlords and bad management agents who don’t do proper reference checking and bung anybody in you end up with problems such as antisocial behaviour and drug dealing.
“This is all about driving up standards.”
He added selective licencing has worked in other areas of the town and elsewhere in the country.
The streets that will be the subject of the new five-year scheme are Cornwall Street, Kimberley Street, Richmond Street, and Rydal Street in the Burn Valley ward. In Foggy Furze ward it includes Borrowdale Street and Sydenham Road.
Five streets in Victoria Ward of Dent Street, Furness Street, Sheriff Street, Straker Street, and Stephen Street.
Burbank Street and St Oswald’s Street are also included in the Headland and Harbour and Jesmond wards.
Julie Rudge, secretary of the Dent and Derwent Street Residents’ Association said she was disappointed other streets around Dent Street were not included.
“I know there are issues in streets you are taking out,” she said.
Councillor Carl Richardson said residents of Belk Street also wanted to be included.
Councillor Pam Hargreaves said: “Picking out one or two streets makes it toothless.”
Officers agreed provide details of other streets that could be included if they lowered the criteria standards at the next meeting.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 19 Jan 2015
The victory means Gerry Keating, returns to Newcastle City Council two years after not standing in Blakelaw following 26 years as a councillor.
The by-election took place on Thursday due to the resignation of Peter Andras in July, who took up a teaching post at Keele University.
Cllr Keating, who registered 711 votes, said he had expected second place Labour candidate Peter Smith (320 votes) to run him closer but said communal bins plans from the authority’s Labour leadership helped his cause.
The former Royal Grammar School teacher explained: “There was a real swing in my favour over the last two weeks, which meant it went from being a two-horse race to a comfortable hold.
“It is difficult to be sure what exactly happened and how Labour managed to lose out on many of the votes it was expected to get, but I think it partly came down to the Labour council’s plans for communal bins which is not popular in Jesmond, as well as us being much better organised.
“What is clear is that West Jesmond does not want a Labour candidate.”
Labour’s cabinet is pushing for the scheme – in which wheelie bins six times bigger than normal ones are placed in back alleys behind properties and shared by residents instead of having individual ones – to enter wards neighbouring South Jesmond following a pilot scheme in early 2013.
Cllr Keating added: “I will bring a lot of experience to the role, and can ferret around in the nooks and crannies of local government.
“I have been out of the council for a couple of years but have been rejuvenated by the break and am up for it. When I became aware a seat was available in the ward where I live, I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity.”
The Lib Dem, who admitted he benefitted from the absence of students during Thursday’s ballot, said improvements to transport, particularly Acorn Road, was a priority, alongside the communal bin issue.
The by-election reflected a swing of 13.6 per cent from Labour to the Lib Dems since May when the latter party won by only 32 votes.
Conservative Duncan Crute received 117 votes,
UKIP’s Daniel Thompson scored 112 and
Shehla Naqvi of the Green Party took 94.
The current composition of Newcastle City Council is Labour 52, Lib Dem 24 and Independent 2.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Aug 2014
I’ve only seen a few final results so far, but it seems that overall Labour retain control. Not much of a suprise perhaps, but it’s good to see that the wheels appear to have come off the much-vaunted UKIP targeting of the North East.
They did achieve a number of second places, but generally a very long way behind Labour candidates – which seems to suggest that they were taking votes from the Conservatives, not Labour.
Of the 25 seats up for grabs, Labour took a total of 21, with the Conservatives winning three and one Independent. The overall turnout across Sunderland was 33 per cent
Mayor Bob Heron (Labour) lost his seat in the Copt Hill ward (Houghton-le-Spring) to independent Anthony Allen by 75 votes.
Sunderland remains a UKIP-free zone 🙂
There seemed to be a feeling that UKIP were going to make big inroads in South Tyneside. They didn’t. In fact, they lost one of the two seats they already held.
Labour maintained control, retaining 49 of the 54 seats.
It held 16 seats of the 18 seats up for grabs and took Fellgate and Hedworth from UKIP – though it lost Bede to the Independent – Putting People First group.
The overall percentage turnout was 34.4 per cent, compared to 34.1 per cent in 2012, with 39,462 votes cast out of a total electorate of 114,813.
The highest turnout was in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward with 44.7 per cent, while the Biddick and All Saints ward was the lowest at 27.7 per cent.
The new political make-up of the Council is: Labour: 49, Independent: 1, Independent – Putting People First: 2, Conservative: 1 and UKIP: 1.
Labour councillor Nancy Maxwell enjoyed the biggest majority of the night, romping to victory in Hebburn South ward.
She won nearly two-thirds of the vote, to record a majority of 920 over her nearest rival – UKIP.
Seems to be the nearest thing to a UKIP triumph so far…
Labour maintained its control of Hartlepool Borough Council winning six out of the 11 wards that were up for grabs.
UKIP won 2 seats, including the Jesmond ward from Labour by just two votes – after five recounts had taken place.
Labour maintain their 19 out of 33 seats on Hartlepool Council and overall control.
The UKIP winners were aged 63 and 72 respectively – which seems to be the age group they appeal to, if the various vox pops I’ve seen in various media sources locally over the past few weeks are any guide.
Which raises the interesting question of what will happen to UKIP in the next decade or so, as their candidates and voters die out ?
Also interesting to note the virtual abscence of the BNP in these elections. A few years ago they were standing in most Sunderland wards – this time, nothing at all. Did their voters transfer to UKIP ?