South Tyneside Council’s social care budget is set to take the biggest financial hit as plans are drawn up to make savings of £22m over the next financial year, it has emerged.
The local authority has already made an estimated £90m in efficiency savings since 2010 – shedding 1,200 jobs in the process.
The pain is set to continue in 2015/16 with further cuts of £21.978m identified from across all council departments.
Yesterday, members of the People Select Committee were given an outline of the proposed savings by Coun Ed Malcolm, the authority’s lead member for resources and innovation, and Stuart Reid, its head of finance.
The biggest target is in the area of Commissioning for Independent Living – covering the money the council spends on helping borough people to live independently.
A review of the services provided and the sharing of costs with health colleagues is earmarked to save £7.5m.
No specifics on where the cuts would come were given – leading to one councillor to call for “more meat on the bone”.
A further £3.9m will be saved from the council’s corporate finance pot, specifically through maximising council tax collection.
Meanwhile, bringing more services in-house, maximising the authority’s relationship with its strategic partner BT and combining the council’s and South Tyneside Homes’ customer services were also highlighted as areas of savings.
Amid the financial gloom, Coun Malcolm did make a commitment that the local authority would retain, at a cost of £150,000, its Local Welfare Provision Scheme – which provides vouchers for people in emergency need to use at Morrisons, Asda and other retail outlets, in addition to fuel top-ups and household goods provision.
Many local authorities nationwide plan to drop the scheme from April due to the withdrawal of government funding.
In reference to the savings to be made from the social care budget, Coun Malcolm said:
“Everything that we have done will ensure that the people we represent get the services that they need.
“No one will go without services, no one will go without care. It’s the highest area of spend and presents a significant challenge for the council.
“It is a demographic strain that has been placed on the system.
“There is a national focus on independence and personalisation because people want to be able to decide the level of care that they want and that’s how we’ve approached this particular subject.
“But let me repeat that we will still be providing a service that will ensure that no one will suffer.”
Committee chairman Coun John McCabe said he believed the cutbacks had reached “saturation point” and called for more work to generate income by attracting new businesses into the borough.
He also urged caution when “selling off the family silver” – referring to the sale of council-owned buildings to generate income.
Coun McCabe added:
“We don’t always have to give away our assets. Yes, we should be maximising our assets but we should always retain the freehold on those assets. It’s an important pointer for the future. We can’t sell away the family silver.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 14 Jan 2015
Labour leader Ed Miliband is to turn his fire on Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct chain, in a major speech attacking “zero hour” contracts.
Mr Miliband will accuse the chain of “Victorian practices” in the way it treats staff.
And he will highlight plans to change the law – so that workers with regular shifts have the legal right to a regular contract, if Labour wins the next election.
It comes as the Labour leader continues his fightback following reports that some MPs had concerns about his leadership of the party.
Earlier this week he delivered a speech pledging to stand up to “vested interests”, to ensure hard work was rewarded and to stamp down on tax avoidance by the very wealthy.
Today he is set to focus particularly on zero hours contracts, in which work is not guaranteed and staff are called in as needed.
Mr Miliband is to say:
“A graphic symbol of what is wrong with the way this country is run is the army of people working on zero-hours contracts with no security while a few people at the top get away with paying zero tax.
“This zero-zero economy shows we live in a deeply unequal, deeply unfair, deeply unjust country run for a few at the top, not for most people. It is a country I am determined to change.”
And he will highlight Sports Direct, which has 400 stores and is estimated to have 17,000 people on zero hours contracts.
“Sports Direct has thousands of its employers on zero-hours contracts, the vast majority of its workforce.
“Sports Direct has predictable turnover, it is a modern company with stores on many high streets and, judging by its success, where many people shop.
“But for too many of its employees, Sports Direct is a bad place to work.
“This is not about exceptional use of zero-hours contracts for short term or seasonal work which some employers and workers may find convenient. This is the way Sports Direct employs the vast majority of its workforce.
“These Victorian practices have no place in the 21st Century.”
Mr Miliband will set out plans to legislate to give employees the legal right to a regular contract if they are working regular hours; to refuse demands that they are available over and above their contracted hours, and to compensation when shifts are cancelled at short notice.
An inquiry commissioned by Labour and conducted by businessman Norman Pickavance, former HR & Communications director at supermarket chain Morrisons, reported earlier this year:
“Sports Direct has expanded dramatically since 2008 and gained a large share of the sports retail market. About 17,000 of their 20,000 strong staff are employed on zero-hours contracts.”
Last month the firm said it would make its employment terms clearer in job adverts for zero-hours posts, following legal action brought by a former employee.
Mr Ashley, an entrepreneur who built up his business from a single sports shop in Maidenhead, bought a majority share in the club in 2007.
Meanwhile, controversial payday lender Wonga has agreed with Newcastle United to remove its logo from all children’s replica shirts and training wear from the 2016/17 season.
Wonga said it followed a review of its marketing launched by new chairman Andy Haste in July to ensure that none of it could inadvertently appeal to the very young or vulnerable.
It has already ended its puppet advertising campaign.
The company said the logo was being removed from children’s kit at the earliest possible opportunity, and that due to kit production schedules this would be from the start of the 2016/17 season – the last season of the current shirt sponsorship deal.
Darryl Bowman, Wonga marketing director said: “As a responsible lender we believe removing our logo from children’s replica shirts and training wear is the right thing to do. We appreciate the club’s support in this matter.”
Newcastle United managing director Lee Charnley said: “We understand and respect Wonga’s position and are happy to support their decision.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Nov 2014
Foodbank bosses fear there will be a huge rise in hand-outs during the school holidays as desperate families struggle to feed their children who would have received free school meals.
Families picked up almost a TONNE of goods from Hartlepool Foodbank in the first week of the school holidays.
The foodbank, in Church Street, usually hands out around half that amount each week to families on the breadline struggling to make ends meet.
But on the day many town schools broke up for their six-week break, volunteers at the Foodbank dished out more than 30 parcels to feed families.
Hartlepool Foodbank manager Al Wales said: “We were very busy this time last year, but as it was our first summer in operation it is difficult to say that is purely down to the school holidays as there are no previous figures to compare it to.
“But there is no doubt that the school holidays are a key factor in the increase in parcels we give out.
“Children who normally have their lunch at school are now at home, and they need to be fed.
“So the families are having to get more food than they normally would.
“We were extremely busy last Friday, and the collection on the Tuesday was also quite large.
“On a busy week, we can hand out about half a tonne of food across the week. “Last Friday, we did that in one day.”
The Foodbank opens twice a week, for two hour periods on Tuesdays and Fridays.
People deemed to be in need of handouts are referred to the Foodbank by health professionals, social workers or other agency staff.
Al added: “We carried out a collection in Morrisons recently because we knew we would be busy during the summer.
“The schools help us with regular donations, but when they are on holiday they obviously drop off.
“We’re well stocked, and we’re coping, but obviously more donations are always welcomed.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 26 July 2014
Thoughtful school students got an insight into food poverty by fasting and raised half a tonne of vital supplies for Hartlepool Foodbank.
A group of teenagers from English Martyrs School in Hartlepool raised just over £200 from family and friends by going without food for a day.
And they quickly spent the cash on stacks of food which they delivered to Hartlepool Foodbank in Church Street.
Project co-ordinator Al Wales said: “We were delighted and blown away by the donation.
“It is great to see students engaging with food poverty issues and doing something about it.”
The Year 10 students are all part of newly-formed St Vincent de Paul youth group in English Martyrs.
Laura Howe, co-ordinator of the group, said: “St Vincent de Paul Society is a charitable organisation which rather than donating money goes out and does things to directly help communities and works with the underprivileged.”
It has been a busy time for the foodbank after Hartlepool’s Tesco Extra store collected 2.6 tonnes of food in three days.
And last Friday, volunteers held a successful collection at Morrisons, in Clarence Road.
Al added: “We would like to say a huge thank you to the customers, the response from them was really positive.
“We haven’t had chance to weigh it up yet but it looks to have been very successful.
“Last August was our busiest month of the year so we wanted to ensure our warehouse was fully stocked and ready in of an increase in demand.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 16 July 2014
A housing group has handed £500 to a foodbank.
Riverside, a social housing group with offices in Gateshead, made the donation to Durham Foodbank.
Since starting in September 2011, the foodbank has distributed 177 tonnes of donated food, feeding more than 23,500 people in crisis across County Durham.
Diana Pearce, a Riverside board member, said the group was pleased to be able to support the cause.
Peter MacLellan, Durham Foodbank co-ordinator, said: “We are very grateful for the recent cash donation from Riverside.
“Fundraising and donations are absolutely vital in order to cover the basic running costs of the foodbank so that we can continue to get food and support to local people in crisis.”
Durham Foodbank urgently needs more volunteers for its supermarket collection day at Morrison’s, Chester-le-Street, on Saturday, June 14. For more information, email: email@example.com
> DWP – getting you off benefits and into a career in crime…
A thief snatched a trolley-load of goods from a South Tyneside store because his dole had been stopped, he said.
Thomas Hay was spotted by a store detective putting £131 of goods into a trolley and leaving Morrisons in Jarrow on January 21 without paying.
The 30-year-old was detained by security staff outside, and the goods were recovered.
Paul Anderson, prosecuting, said: “The defendant was seen putting items in a trolley and went past all points of payment. He was detained outside.
“He was arrested and, when interviewed by police, said he did it because his dole had been stopped.”
Michelle Stonley, defending, said: “He was going to sell the items to pay for rent and food.”
Hay, of Perth Road, Sunderland, was given a 12-month conditional discharge.
He was also ordered to pay a surcharge of £15.
Source – Shields Gazette 12 April 2014
A conditional discharge has been imposed on a man who stole £21.59 worth of meat from Morrisons, Darlington.
Fred Patterson, 46, of Darlington, had been sanctioned, the court was told, leaving him with no money to buy food. That didn’t stop them telling him to pay a £15 victim surcharge – rather stupid, if he can’t afford food, and the store will no doubt throw away far more than £15 worth of food in the average day.
I suspect that we will be seeing more and more cases like this in the future – the way things are going, I might well be one of them.
Source – Northern Echo 10 Feb 2014
FEARS are growing over a rise in beggars who are “blighting” South Shields town centre.
Police, traders and charity workers have all expressed concern over an increase in the number operating in South Shields Town Centre.
Where once it was rare to see homeless people in street doorways it is now commonplace, with up to six individuals in the centre at any one time.
Gazette research has located several locations in and around King Street where beggars have been operating.
These have included outside of McDonald’s restaurant, the PDSA charity shop in the Market Place, the doorway of a vacant premises beside the British Heart Foundation, Lloyds Bank, at the Games Workshop in the Denmark Centre and at Morrisons in Ocean Road.
Today, the public were advised to give food and clothing to beggars but not money, as many are believed to be using cash handed over to buy drugs and alcohol.
Gill Peterson, assistant manager at Age UK in the Denmark Centre, regularly has beggars operating on either side of her shop.
Mrs Peterson says she has reached the “end of her tether” at their activities, claiming they scare off customers, hurl abuse and rifle through bins at the back of the premises.
She added: “I’m sick of them. They scare customers off, particularly our elderly ones and we are losing trade as a result.
“Any money they get just goes on buying bottles of cider. Every morning, I have to get in early to sort out the bins they have emptied through the night.
“If I approach them, I just get a mouthful of abuse. They are blighting the town.”
Amelia Luffrum, project director with Hospitality and Hope, the borough-based food bank and soup kitchen, said the public should only offer beggars food.
She said: “Homelessness is definitely rising from our experience.
“Some of the people who are out in these doorways, asking for money, come to our soup kitchens. They are in genuine need.
“Dependency on drink and drugs is a major issue. Our policy is never to give money. We feed them, give them sleeping bags and clothes, and direct them to different agencies.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton, of the Riverside Police Team, acknowledged there was a problem and said the situation was being monitored.
He added: “We are aware of the issue and are actively working with our partners on how the situation can be addressed, as concerns have been raised around criminality and vulnerability.”
Latest statistics show a 54 per cent rise in people seeking homelessness assistance from the local authority last year, from 187 to 534.
The impact of welfare reforms, including the ‘bedroom tax’, and a struggling economy, are among the reasons for the increase.
Source – Shields Gazette, 20 Jan 2014