A Hexham man is leading a campaign to prevent Tynedale‘s rich mineral deposits from being exploited by high-tech mining interests.
Rather than digging for coal and lead though, the modern day miners want to use the controversial techniques of fracking and underground coal gasification to win natural gas from shale and coal deposits.
Fracking is the process of hydraulic fracturing of rock by injecting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals so that energy sources such as gas, petroleum and brine can be extracted.
And while there are currently no sites designated for such activities on the books of Northumberland County Council, campaigners want to be prepared should any applications come along.
Dr Jonathan Boniface, from Fellside, has become one of the leading lights in the newly-formed Keep Northumberland Frack Free group, which is to hold its first public meeting to discuss the threat of fracking and UCG in Hexham Community Centre on 27 June at 2pm.
Tynedale has been known over the centuries for its rich deposits of valuable minerals, from the lead, silver and zinc of the Allen Valleys, to the vast coalfields which underlie much of the district, from Haltwhistle and Halton Lea Gate to Prudhoe and Mickley.
Only a decade ago, Australian company Roc Oil found “gas saturated tight sands” in a £1m drilling exercise at Errington Red House, close to the Roman Wall near Bingfield.
> I’ve always thought that working in a call centre must be a pretty grim job – I didn’t realise quite how grim…
A call centre manager has launched legal action against one of the region’s biggest employers after being sacked following an incident in which a man was kicked unconscious at his desk.
Mother-of-two Fay Hand was dismissed after bosses said she had not done enough to tackle bullying and harassment among staff at the EE offices, in Darlington.
But the 37-year-old from Wynyard Village, near Stockton, has taken the mobile phone company to an employment tribunal, claiming she was unfairly sacked after 17 years with the company.
The hearing at Teesside Magistrates’ Court was told that an investigation was launched after a call handler kicked a colleague in the head as the man was sitting at his desk, leaving him unconscious.
The attacker later alleged that he had been provoked after being bullied by members of his team.
The man claimed that in one incident three weeks earlier a Fifa computer game was taken from his bag.
The game was later recovered, but a colleague took his car keys from his pocket and removed the game from his car, before holding it to ransom.
Fake disciplinary hearings were also held by team members, the tribunal heard.
Operations manager Mrs Hand was told about the incident with the game by the men’s team leader.
But EE claims Mrs Hand should have done more to prevent the alleged bullying and taken action when she was made aware of it.
Tracey Dawe, EE employee relations specialist, who was involved in Mrs Hand’s disciplinary case, told the hearing: “There should have been an investigation into the alleged taking of the keys.
“She didn’t do enough when she became aware of it.”
However, Ms Dawe agreed it was unfair that Mrs Hand had never been asked to explain during the investigation why she had not taken further action.
The hearing was also told Mrs Hand was not made aware of what Judge Gerald Johnson described as ‘schoolboy pranks‘ which took place among the team – one of eight she managed at the time.
Judge Johnson asked Ms Dawe: “How can she possibly fail to prevent something she doesn’t know anything about? She can’t can she.”
Seven people were sacked following the assault, including the victim, the attacker and the team leader.
The Northern Echo reported in January how Darlington MP Jenny Chapman held talks with EE bosses after concerns were raised about working conditions at the call centre.
Staff claimed that bosses at the company’s Darlington site were acting in an unreasonable and heavy-handed manner.
In response, the company said it took seriously its responsibilities to its staff.
The tribunal continues
> The impression I get after reading that is of battery chickens pecking each other out of frustration. I think I’d rather be on the dole than work in an environment like that.
Source – Northern Echo, 08 Aug 2014
This article was written by Hilary Osborne, for The Guardian on Sunday 25th May 2014
In the first three months of this year, the charity helped 27,000 people who had fallen behind with council tax bills, a 17% increase on the same period of 2013, and one in five of those reporting debt problems had an arrears issue. The charity said the increase had come in the wake of the abolition of council tax benefit in April 2013, and its replacement with new support from local councils. Levels of help vary from council to council, and as of March this year, 244 out of 325 councils in England required all working-age households to make some contribution, regardless of income.
The first wave of changes drove up the number of council tax arrears cases Citizens Advice dealt with to the point that they overtook problems with credit cards and unsecured personal loans for the first time.
Of those contacting the charity about council tax arrears, 42% were employed and 28% unemployed. The rest were full-time carers, or similar.
Of those seeking help with debt generally, one in five had problems with an unsecured loan and the same proportion had a fuel debt issue. One in six had problems with a credit or store card and 5% were behind on a mortgage or secured loan.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Consumer debts like credit cards and personal loans have traditionally been the most common debt problems that come through our doors, but since the end of council tax benefit we’ve seen council tax arrears problems go through the roof.”
Guy said that for some households, council tax bills were the tipping point that plunged them into debt.
“Last year, more than 90,000 people came to Citizens Advice looking for help with council tax arrears as they struggle in the face of low incomes, rising prices and reduced financial support,”
“As their budgets shrink, local authorities are increasingly stretched, but they must ensure that the resources available for their local council tax support scheme are focused on those who are most in need.”
The areas with the largest proportion of clients with council tax arrears were all outside London, and include Salford near Manchester, Stoke on Trent, Rutland and Redcar & Cleveland.
Local authorities can instruct bailiffs to recover unpaid bills or apply to have payments deducted from wages.
Source – Welfare News Service, 26 May 2014