Almost £17m has been spent on making staff at Middlesbrough Council redundant in the past six years.
A report to be presented to the council’s Executive tomorrow shows that 869 staff have been made redundant since 2009/2010.
Of the £16,977,600 the authority has paid out, around £15.75m was spent on voluntary redundancy or early retirement schemes.
These schemes, according to the report, have been an “effective mechanism to avoid compulsory redundancy sitatuations arising” – with 84% of all redundancies since 2011 being on a voluntary basis.
As the election looms ever closer another political row has broken out – with the Middlesbrough Labour Party now reported to both the police and the Electoral Commission.
Three Labour councillor candidates – including the leader of Middlesbrough Labour Party Charlie Rooney – have been reported for the alleged publishing of a false statement about Independent mayoral candidate Andy Preston.
Mr Preston has been reported to the police and Electoral Commission regarding putting his parents’ Middlesbrough address on his nomination form.
The latest complaints regard Labour councillor candidates for Longlands and Beechwood Charlie Rooney, Jacinta Skipp and Theresa Higgins and a political leaflet that has been circulated across the Saltersgill area of Middlesbrough.
In it, they state that Mr Preston owns a piece of land on Saltersgill Avenue – the former Gospel Hall site – that they describe as “disgraceful”, suggesting that this shows he treats communities with “utter disdain” and claim that Labour candidate Dave Budd is the best man to be the town’s mayor.
Mr Preston said he has not owned the land since last year.
Cllr Rooney said they have issued a retraction leaflet clarifying Mr Preston no longer owns the land but did so at the time of the complaints to Middlesbrough Council.
The police complaint refers to Electoral Commission guidance stating that “It is an illegal practice to make or publish a false statement of fact about the personal character or conduct of a candidate in order to affect the return of a candidate at an election.”
Under the Representation of the People Act 1983, there are criminal penalties in place for those convicted of making or publishing false statements about election candidates.
Mr Preston said:
“This is getting ridiculous. The smear campaign against me has gone beyond stupid now and I’m getting really angry.
“This is just the latest grubby little instalment of the ongoing campaign to undermine me.
“My genuine advice to all the other candidates is to take a deep breath, come up with some decent ideas for the town and start talking to voters. Basically, they should stop slagging me off and focus on their own campaigns.”
Regarding the police complaint, Mr Preston added:
“A quick internet search would have revealed that I am not the owner of the land, nor have I been for some time.
“The statement that I own the land was not only false but deliberately designed to cost me votes and impact the outcome of the mayoral election – perhaps it already has.
“At a time when I have faced ridiculous and puerile allegations about minor paperwork anomalies, it’s important that this rather more serious matter should be looked into by the police.”
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said:
“We received an allegation of electoral malpractice. Any information provided to us will be assessed to see what, if any, offence has been committed.”
A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said it was a criminal matter and would have advised the complainant to report it to the police.
A Labour Party spokesperson said:
“Mr Preston has complained about comments made concerning the state of land on Saltersgill Avenue.
“We have put out a leaflet in the area affected by these repeated blights, providing residents with clear and accurate information.
“We all want a better environment and that means everyone taking responsibility for it. This means businesses, the council and individuals taking responsibility for the properties and land they own and carrying out proper maintenance and not letting the area be spoiled for everyone else.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 27 Apr 2015
A community bank in Middlesbrough town centre to challenge pay day lenders has been recommended by council chiefs.
A new community bank to be based in the heart of Middlesbrough is at the core of Labour mayoral candidate Cllr Dave Budd’s campaign to secure the position in May, when current Independent Mayor Ray Mallon will step down.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Budd, Executive member for finance and governance, has recommended in a report to be put before the Executive on Tuesday that Moneywise Community Banking be provided with a two-year grant totalling £85,000 to support its plans to locate to a town centre premises.
It aims to help over three years 4,000 new members, provide 1,200 training courses and issue loans amounting to just over £0.5m.
A loan from Moneywise of £300 with a typical APR of 26.7% over 12 months, the total repayable amount would be £342.79.
In comparison, the council report states the same loan from a doorstep lender (APR 272%) would cost £546 to repay; from an online instant loan (APR 1058%) it would cost £627.54 to repay; and from an illegal lender or loan shark (APR 1000%), it would cost £2,900 to repay.
Moneywise Community Banking – a not-for-profit member owned credit union – will deliver a number of financial support services including safe and easy savings; an optional Visa debit card service; low cost loans; Christmas savings club; white goods and furniture at discounted prices; free employability training; and debt and money management advice.
It was originally based in Hartlepool and now operates across Teesside, East Durham and North Yorkshire with offices in Redcar, Hartlepool and Scarborough. It is regulated by the Financial Services Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, which is also the case with banks.
All member savings within Moneywise are fully protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme so members can save safely in the knowledge that they cannot lose their savings, the report said.
Cllr Budd has said previously that a “modern, effective” credit union for Middlesbrough has to be “competitive and give an instant answer like companies such as Wonga do”.
“This has worked elsewhere and it can work in Middlesbrough. It will offer credit at fair rates and gives all Middlesbrough residents the opportunity for greater financial security.”
The report states that the two-year £85,000 grant would be funded through existing resources within the Community Support Fund.
Moneywise and Middlesbrough Council would work together to identify suitable premises.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 14 Jan 2015
Teesside councils have again suffered worse than average cuts in the latest government funding announcement.
Figures released today show Middlesbrough Council‘s ‘spending power‘ – the total amount it has at its disposal through central grants and council tax – will fall by £8.9m from £158.4mm in 2014-15 to £149.5m in 2015-16.
That is a cut of 5.6% – compared to an average cut for all English councils of 1.8%.
Redcar and Cleveland will lose £5.2m, or 3.7%, while Stockton emerged relatively unscathed – down £3.6m, or 2.1%.
The list of worst-hit areas is dominated by Labour-dominated parts of the Midlands and North.
> Well, what a suprise !
Tamworth in Staffordshire faces the biggest cut, of 6.4%, followed by Barrow in Furness and Chesterfield.
At the other end of the scale, a number of councils in the South of England will actually see their spending power go up.
Tewkesbury will see the biggest increase, of 3.2%, while Surrey will get an extra £27m, or 3.1%.
Other towns and counties getting an increase include East Devon (up 2.7%), Buckinghamshire (up 2.3%), Cambridge (up 2.3%), Dorset (up 1.9%) and Cheshire East (up 1.4%).
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 2014
Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon’s latest attack on the town’s beggars has split opinions across Teesside.
Last week Mr Mallon launched an unprovoked rant about those who beg for money on Middlesbrough’s streets, declaring they “are not homeless, they are criminals,” and later adding that they “diversify from crime to begging because it pays well.”
His views – which were expressed during a meeting of Middlesbrough Council’s Executive – split opinions of Teessiders who took to social media sites to make their feelings known.
Teesside Homeless Action Group (THAG) have backed the comments which were condemned by local anti-capitalist campaign group, Teesside Solidarity Movement (TSM).
Francis Owens, manager of THAG, said:
“I agree with the comments made by Mayor Mallon.
“The people begging in Middlesbrough and elsewhere are no more homeless than the people they are cadging money from.
“It is easy money for people who have no conscience about exploiting people’s compassion for the poor.
“In the past we at THAG have campaigned against the large numbers of beggars in central Middlesbrough who claimed that they were homeless.
“At first we tried to help them but soon realised that they wanted no help from our organisation because they already had homes.
“THAG gave up doing outreach work in Middlesbrough years ago because there were no rough sleepers to be found.
“This problem is almost all year round but at Christmas the streets seem to abound with young men sitting crosslegged asking for spare change, some have dogs usually a sleeping bag is positioned close by as if that is their only shelter from the elements whilst sleeping rough.
“I met a beggar on Redcar High Street recently, sitting with his dog.
“People were giving him money and food for his dog so I approached him and asked if he was homeless to which he replied, ‘No, I’ve got a home but I do this because I can’t hold down a job and it’s easy.’
“Needless to say the people nearby put their money back into their pockets.”
> Two things spring to mind – (a) the beggar was really stupid, if he admitted that in front of people, or (b) he was being sarcastic – some officious twat comes up and demands to know if you’re homeless, you might just reply “no of course not, I live in a mansion and my Rolls Royce is parked around the corner.”
But TSM representative Lawrie Coombs said:
“Even given official figures, we know that begging has increased by 70% in many areas but this is down to Government Policy not criminality.
“Millions are being sanctioned, using foodbanks and homelessness is becoming a common experience for many young people in particular.”
The former Nightshelter project worker, who has direct experience of working with homeless young people, added:
“Ray Mallon goes for easy rhetoric, says nothing and does nothing about the real criminals in society.
“At a time when our rulers are encouraging division, we know that Mr Mallon’s loose talk may well result in vulnerable people facing persecution rather than having their needs met.
“His comments ratchet up the agenda of scapegoating people on benefits.
“He may well think people down on their luck are scum but we think the tens of thousands of people surviving on benefits across Teesside are heroes, performing miracles getting through every day.
“Being hard up is not a crime.”
> Mallon’s previous rant can be found here: https://unemployedtynewear.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/beggars-are-targeting-car-parks-as-people-give-money-there-says-ray-mallon/
along with a brief history of Mallon’s less-than-snow-white career as a cop.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 16 Dec 2014
> The on-going campaign against begging has now arrived in Middlesbrough.
The campaign against the conditions that make people beggars has not yet started, nor is it likely to.
Middlesbrough‘s Mayor Ray Mallon has promised a clampdown on beggars to give retailers and shoppers in the town “a good Christmas”.
> Is he seriously claiming that beggars are affecting Middlesbrough’s economy ? But surely they plough money they make back into the tills of retailers too ?
The outspoken mayor launched a new attack on beggars at a meeting of Middlesbrough Council’s Executive today.
“Beggars are not homeless, they are criminals,” he said, claiming they “diversify from crime to begging because it pays well”.
“I know half of these people, I was locking their fathers up,” he said.
> Not pausing to reflect that he might have helped build the current situation when he was busy playing RoboCoop.
Mr Mallon went on: “These beggars are affecting economics because they are intimidating.
“It becomes quite difficult for shoppers to walk around and not be intimidated.”
The mayor said beggars were now targeting car parks as people give them money there because “they feel they could be robbed”.
“I know this as lots of members of the public have told me this,” he said.
> Oh, well… scientific survey and all that. Some people told me so it must be true, especially as it reinforces my prejudices.
I suppose if I’m being fair, I have my predjudices too. Ex-cops who get elected as mayors, for example, despite the fact that…
At a disciplinary hearing in February 2001, Mallon pleaded guilty to 14 charges of misconduct, 12 of which were serious enough to warrant his resignation.
He admitted that he repeatedly “lied, deliberately withheld evidence from senior officers, and turned a blind eye to detectives who took and dealt hard drugs, and supplied them to vulnerable suspects in custody.”
He was required to resign on leaving the police headquarters.
In 2011, Mallon came under fire over secret recordings in which he is heard making sexual comments about a colleague and describes Asian taxi drivers as ‘badly behaved’. These recordings were made during a meeting with Mohammed Bashir, the owner of local taxi company Boro Taxis. The remarks were perceived as sexist and racist by many, but Mallon subsequently offered an explanation and apology for his remarks.
The recordings also make reference to a disagreement between the council and Bashir over Boro Taxis’ trade. In dealing with this dispute, Mallon failed to declare his personal friendship with Bashir, as he was required to.
In the recordings, Mallon claims to have ‘played a fucking blinder‘ and goes on to say: “Well I’m the boss here but remember this, I’m prevented from doing my job because of my conflict of interest with you… because I have actually got away with murder because I’ve declared my friendship with you in that meeting and still been able to do what I want to do.“
The Standards Board for England, a watchdog for ethical standards in local councils, ruled against Mallon on a charge of bringing his office into disrepute and on two separate charges of failing to declare, when required, a personal interest. However the board did not recommend any sanctions be brought against Mallon.[
The subject changed to begging after the meeting heard how a free parking scheme was drawing Christmas shoppers into Middlesbrough.
Mr Mallon said parking was one of the barriers that can stop people visiting a town, and begging was another.
He said the council and its partners needed to “keep on top” of the problem with it being the Christmas period.
Councillor Steve Bloundele, Executive member for commercial assets and property, told the meeting that an ongoing clampdown had already reduced the number of beggars in the Linthorpe Road area.
“We still have the support of all the other agencies working alongside us,” he said.
Begging is an issue tackled regularly by Ray Mallon.
Back in September he told the Executive:
“The local authority must take this subject very seriously and do everything in its power to eradicate this problem.
“From now on I don’t want the public to give them any money.”
On another occasion Mr Mallon took direct action against a beggar by standing next to him and telling shoppers not to give him any money until he got fed up and moved away.
The mayor declared war against beggars as long ago as 2002, when he pledged to run a growing army of aggressive beggars on the streets of Middlesbrough out of town.
It was the new growth area in anti-social behaviour, he warned during a council debate on crime and policing in the town in September of that year.
In 2005 it was claimed the final ‘hardcore’ beggar had been run out of Middlesbrough.
Then in 2008 key agencies joined forces to tackle a new influx of beggars in the town.
The move came just days after Mayor Mallon warned that beggars intimidated members of the public and again called for offenders to be run out of town.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 09 Dec 2014
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Mallon
With temperatures dropping rapidly and winter well on its way, warm clothes are starting to make an appearance.
You may be pulling out some of your old favourites or hitting the shops to get a completely new winter wardrobe.
Either way, as you do this, spare a thought for those who do not have this option.
Over the winter months, people of all ages across Teesside will find themselves in need of warmth.
In the hope of helping as many of these people as possible, a major, annual appeal for donations of winter warmers was launched on Monday.
Wrap Up Middlesbrough – led by Middlesbrough Council and partner organisations – is a drive to get staff and members of the public to donate winter coats, jumpers and fleeces to be given out to homeless people, in housing need and/or suffering hardship.
These clothes will then be given out at the annual festive event In Out of the Cold, held in the Town Hall Crypt from 1pm to 3pm on Tuesday, December 23.
Councillor Brenda Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive member for supporting communities, said:
“I’m delighted to see so many organisations joining forces once again to support such a worthwhile cause.
“It speaks volumes about the community spirit in the town that people are willing to do their bit to bring warmth to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“Many of us will have spare coats, jumpers, fleeces and other warming items of clothing that we no longer wear and I know these will make a real difference to the lives of those most in need.”
Donations can be made from today until Thursday, December 18 and items should be in a good, clean condition.
Locations for donations are as follows: Teesside University Students Union, Information Desk and The Link, first floor Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm;
Teesside University School of Health and Social Care, Centuria Building South, opposite the lifts, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm;
Middlesbrough Cycle Centre, Middlesbrough Bus Station Monday to Friday, 8am-5.30pm and Saturday 9am-4.30pm;
Vancouver House, Corporation Road/Gurney Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm;
Civic Centre, Centre Square, Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 26 Nov 2014
Middlesbrough Council is facing the cuts axe again as Ray Mallon unveiled his proposals for another string of cost savings.
At Middlesbrough Town Hall Mayor Mallon set out his proposals for the budget for 2015/16.
Among the key proposals raised were:
:: The budget slashed by £14.1m;
:: 770 jobs affected – including 220 job losses, 350 staff transferring from Mouchel to council and 200 transferring out;
:: Council tax will rise by up to 2%;
:: Funding for books in libraries to be cut by half;
:: More automated systems, fewer staff;
:: Charging for Newport Road bus lane misuse to generate an income of £30,000;
:: Removing funding for speech and language therapy in schools – making schools are responsible for the cost. A saving of £30,000;
> Which will just be transfered to the schools, who can’t afford it either.
:: No subsidies for bus services 12, 28, 29A, 537, 603, 605, 606 and 607.
The budget comprises a list of proposed 45 cuts and charges to generate income for the local authority.
There will now be a consultation period until December 3.
There will be another full council meeting on December 10 regarding the consultation process.
Staff will begin a consultation period regarding their jobs tomorrow morning.
The latest savings come after £15m of cuts in the current financial year.
A further £40m had been slashed from spending in the previous three years, which has seen community centres and libraries closed and services such as grass cutting and street cleaning reduced.
There have been 728 job losses at the council so far – with a further 600 job losses expected between now and 2019/20.
Mr Mallon added that most job losses would be down to voluntary redundancy and retirement.
> Even if they were all met by voluntary redundancy and retirement, that’s still 1328 jobs that no longer exist.
He added that the council would endeavour to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 22 Oct 2014
Almost 600 people have committed suicide in Middlesbrough and Stockton since 1997.
Whilst the number of suicides has fluctuated over a 17-year period there has been a decreasing trend in numbers.
But preventing suicide is on the agenda for Middlesbrough Council, which is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
Between 1997 and 2013, 289 suicides had taken place in Middlesbrough, which was the second highest number in the Tees area behind Stockton with 293.
Men accounted for 76% of suicides, in line with national trends.
Statistically, the most common month for suicides was January followed by May and October.
The most frequent method used was hanging/strangulation at 45%, followed by self-poisoning at 32%.
However, there is a difference in gender with 52% of males using hanging compared to 24% of females whilst 57% of females used self-poisoning compared to 23% for males.
Jumping from a height was the third most frequent method of suicide in Teesside and it was noted in a report presented to the panel that there are many high points in the area.
The Overview and Scrutiny Board is to discuss the Tees Suicide Prevention Implementation Plan.
These include reducing the risk of suicide in key high risk groups; reducing access to the means of suicide; and providing better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide.
One of the recommendations of the panel is asking that the planning authority should receive the details of the action developers will take in terms of suicide prevention e.g. safety fencing.
The panel was informed at a meeting last month that nationally the current rate of deaths by suicide was 8.5 deaths per 100,000 of the population.
This figure was slightly higher in the North-east. The current figure for Middlesbrough was 10.8 per 100,000.
> Hopefully they might ask questions about why people commit sucide – not just how.
It would be interesting to know exactly how many were caused by the actions of the DWP and its staff – sanctions, etc – and, however indirectly, by politicians – bedroom tax, etc.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 20 Oct 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 05 Aug 2014