Tagged: Newcastle Central

Newcastle’s Jewish community heckle UKIP parliamentary candidate for ‘xenophobic’ views

A UKIP election hopeful has been heckled for his party’s ‘xenophobic’ policies by leading members of Newcastle’s Jewish community.

 Eric Josephs, a former co-chair of the North East Jewish representative council, shouted at UKIP parliamentary candidate David Robinson Young, ‘that’s xenophobic’ as he outlined his views on immigration at a synagogue in Gosforth, Newcastle during a hustings event.

He was backed up by a man whose family escaped Nazi Germany with three days before war broke out, who said that if there had been UKIP’s favoured Australian style points system in 1939 ‘believe me, I would have died’.

Mr Robinson Young, a leading city barrister running in the Newcastle East constituency , strongly denied the accusation.

He said: “I am not xenophonic and no-one in my party is xenophobic.

“We don’t have a problem with immigration, but we have a problem with the politically motivated immigration system at the moment.”

However German born Walter Knoblauch, who lost his grandmother, aunt and great-uncle in the concentration camps, backed up Mr Josephs’ outburst.

He said:

“What you are saying is abhorrent. If there had been a points system in 1939 when I arrived here, believe me I would have died. I left Germany three days before the war broke out. We did not have time to build up points.”

Mr Knoblauch, who lives in Gosforth, arrived from Munich to Newcastle, with the assistance of Newcastle man Stanley Holmes who worked for the Tyneside Industrial Development Board. Mr Holmes was instrumental in bringing many German Jewish families to Newcastle and invited Walter’s father Herman to set up a shoe businesses, Knorbrit Products, at Orchard Street, Newcastle, and later Laco Shoes.

Walter’s brother John also ran Victory Shoe shops at the Grainger Market, Shields Road and Gateshead High Street before he died in 1982.

Mr Robinson Young said during the hustings event ahead of the General Election that cases where refugees are escaping ‘tyranny’, including current African migration across the Mediterranean sea would be considered in a different light by UKIP if they were to get into power following the May 7 General Election.

He said: “If people are genuine refugees from tyranny by all means lets look at them as this country did for you.”

Liberal Democrat Newcastle city councillor for West Gosforth, Jackie Slesenger, said from the audience that she was immensely proud of the citizenship ceremonies that take place in Newcastle every year with up to a 100 people from around the world who have chosen to make Britain their home and asked Mr Robinson Young to think again about ‘what he says about immigration’.

He said: “No-one thinks carefully about immigration can possibly say they don’t like immigration.

“People who do that are ignorant. I’m not ignorant and we have nothing against immigration, it’s the system. We do not have a race problem, we have a space problem. This country is filling up.”

He also said it was important to focus not just on the number of immigrants coming to the UK, but the quality of the people arriving, and the skills and professions they have to offer the country.

The hustings event organised by the Representative Council of North East Jewry was held at the Synagogue Hall, Graham Park Road.

Also present were Newcastle Central parliamentary candidates, Chi Onwurah for Labour, Nick Cott for the Liberal Democrats and Simon Kitchen for the Conservatives.

Daniel O’Brien Thompson, the UKIP candidate for Newcastle Central, did not take part in the hustings, but was present in the audience.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Apr 2015

UKIP claims cycle lanes discriminate against the elderly because cyclists ‘are usually young’

Ukip has declared war on cycle lanes in Newcastle – by claiming they discriminate against the elderly.

The anti-EU party has distributed leaflets claiming it’s unfair to spend money on cyclists because they tend to be young.

And while Ukip acknowledges that Newcastle has received a £10m government grant for the lanes, it complains:

“Just because they receive a government grant they don’t have to spend it.”

> Uh, I think they probably do, you know. That’s rather the point of grants.

The leaflet highlights planned cycle lanes in Gosforth High Street, John Dobson Street and other roads in the city.

But it asks: “Are cycle lanes paved with gold?”

The Ukip leaflet continues:

“Cyclists are the chosen people, motorists are just a cash cow and have very few rights.

“How many elderly ladies will get on their bikes on a dark December night in Newcastle? Not many.

“Surely giving all the rights to cyclists, who are usually young people, is discrimination against the elderly and infirm?”

The leaflet goes on to complain that cyclists “carry no number plates or insurance” and suggests the council could improve road safety by ordering cyclists to put bells on their bikes.

But the claims were rejected by Newcastle Central Labour candidate Chi Onwurah.

She said:

“Cycling is a low impact way of keeping fit for people of all ages as well as a green and sustainable means of transport.

“The idea that this discriminates against older people is absurd and implies some kind of battle between cyclists and the elderly when in reality we all benefit from quieter, safer roads.

“Ukip have gone from picking on immigrants to picking on cyclists. Who is next I wonder?”

The leaflet from Ukip 

Earlier this week, Ukip launched its North East campaign and claimed it would be a “two horse race” between Ukip and Labour in the region.

Ukip and the Green Party are fielding a record number of General Election candidates as they seek to prove their credentials as emerging national political forces.

Provisional Press Association figures suggest Nigel Farage’s party is contesting 624 of the UK’s 650 Westminster seats – 66 more than it did in 2010.

Meanwhile the Greens, who have enjoyed a number of strong by-election performances, are putting up hopefuls in 571 seats – more than 70% higher than the 335 it fielded last time.

But in a signal of the dramatic decline of the far-right British National Party as an electoral force, it will be on the ballot paper in only eight constituencies, down from 338 last time.

The total number of candidates appears to have dipped slightly from 4,150 to 3,963 candidates.

A growing number are women – up almost a fifth from 854 to 1,020.

Ukip’s slate however is the only one of the major parties to be more male than in 2010, with only 77 women standing compared with 83.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Apr 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..”

Newcastle MP who criticised ‘pinkifcation’ of girls’ toys defends Labour’s pink bus

Harriet Harman launches Labour’s Woman to Woman election campaign bus at ASDA supermarket in Stevenage

A Tyneside MP who criticised the ‘pinkification’ of girls’ toys has leapt to the defence of Labour’s decision to use a pink bus to win women’s votes.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said the colour has been “stolen by the toy industry as a badge of girlhood” but it would have “patronising and defeatist” not to use it for the party’s ‘Woman to Woman’ campaign.

The Labour MP says the colour of the bus is the same as that used by leader Ed Miliband for his ‘One Nation’ conference speech.

She also says it is “ridiculous” for political opponents to link her views on children’s toys to the party’s campaign bus.

She said:

“Nine million women did not vote in the 2010 election, almost 400,000 in the North East. Women have been hit hardest by this Conservative Lib Dem Government and the Woman to Woman bus tour is part of putting women’s concerns at the heart of our Election campaign.

“The colour of the bus comes from the One Nation colour scheme – see Ed’s speech at last conference – and it would have been patronising and defeatist to avoid it because it has been stolen by the toy industry as a badge of girlhood.

“That said the controversy has raised the profile so a lot more people know about the bus and that’s great.”

 

MPs will take the pink ‘Woman to Woman’ bus on tour across the country in a bid to engage women and is due to reach the North East in March.

Ms Onwurah, who is a trained engineer, still has strong views on pink toys for young girls.

“I have and will continue to campaign against the pinkification of girlhood because I want choice for girls and for boys, to let colours be colours,” she said.

“But the idea that I am or ever have argued for some kind of colour bar against the particular collection of unsaturated wavelengths that comprise pink is ridiculous.

“It’s not the colour it’s the issues that impact women and girls that matter – like equal pay, public services, child care and gender stereotypes about what toys girls should play with.

“Equally in March when the pink and grey of Eastcoast is changed for the red of Virgin I will certainly not be celebrating.”

Simon Kitchen, the Conservative challenging Chi for the Newcastle Central seat, is among those who criticised Labour for the bus.

He said:

“The launch of Labour’s pink bus after Chi Onwurah criticised Geordie girls for playing with pink toys just highlights the double standards and muddled priorities of the Labour Party.

“It is patronising to pigeonhole ‘men’ and ‘women’ issues. This is clearly just another divisive gimmick that the electorate will see through.”

Nick Cott, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Newcastle Central, added:

“The Labour party is inconsistent. On the one hand, we have Chi Onwurah, challenging gender stereotypes whilst Harriet Harman seems to happy to play to them.

“I actually think there is election gimmickry in this debate. Gender inequality goes much deeper than commentary on blue and pink toys and creating pink battle buses.

“Labour politicians ought to take the issues more seriously and rightly deserve criticism.”

> Actually, I think it’d probably not gender stereotyping at all, merely Labour’s new colous – watered down red.  Though possibly mauve (pink with a hint of blue) might be more appropriate.

Anyway – housing, homelessness, poverty education, austerity, cuts, more cuts… it’s good to know that,  despite all those distractions,  the three main parties have found something really important to debate… the colour of a bus.

Really, polling booths should have “abandon hope all ye who enter here” set over them.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Feb 2015

Sunderland : landlord savagely beat dad in front of his family over unpaid rent

> Yet another peril of living in rented accommodation…

A drink and drug-fuelled landlord and his friend have been jailed after savagely attacking a dad in a row over unpaid rent.

Peter Jones, 52, and Robert Angus, 48, pushed the victim to the ground before repeatedly kicking and stamping on him in his own front garden, knocking out three of his teeth.

The attack happened on August 29, when landlord Jones, who had taken a concoction of alcohol and drugs, turned up at a property in search of rent money with Angus.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Jones – who has eight previous convictions including for football hooliganism at Newcastle’s Central train station – and Angus, turned up at a couple’s home at Fairgreen Close, Sunderland, at about 9pm.

After being refused permission to enter the house by the woman, Angus then manhandled her at the front door.

He husband, who was upstairs with their eight-year-old son, then came to his wife’s aid by throwing a punch at one of the men before being dragged outside into the garden of the property and attacked.

Prosecutor Mr Bunch told the court:

“The victim was repeatedly kicked and punched and stamped on outside his home. Their eight-year-old son was present and witnessed some of the attack.

“There was heavy contact blood staining on both of the defendants shoes and scientists revealed that both men had taken part.

“Police were called and they attended scene. The defendants had then left the house, but returned an hour later after one had left behind a mobile phone.

“Police were notified by a neighbour and the men were arrested after showing clear signs they had been in a fight.

“Jones was found in possession of a white powder later found to be an amphetamine.”

The court was told that in police interviews, Jones, of Benfleet Avenue, Townend Farm, Sunderland, said he had consumed 10 pints of beer and some of the white powder and claimed that the tenants owed him £1,500 in rent.

Angus, of Colombo Road, Castletown, Sunderland, made no reply to police questioning.

Michael Bunch, added:

“The victim suffered a swollen and bloody nose and wounded left cheek and jaw. He also lost his front three upper teeth and now struggles to eat certain foods, as he has had a bridge fitted for support.

“He has also received cartilage damage to his upper left chest and now requires physiotherapy. The family have since moved from the property.”

In a statement read out in court the victim said:

“This was an unprovoked attack. They assaulted my wife and my son watched some of what happened.”

Defence barrister Thomas Laffey, defending Jones, said:

“He pleaded guilty at the plea and case management hearing so should be given full credit.

“He rented out the property where the incident occurred and his sister looked after it and collects the rent. The money simply began to not get paid, despite his sister sending texts stating what they owed. He admits that he made an extremely irresponsible decision by going to sort the matter out himself after consuming alcohol and drugs.

“He now resides with his current partner and her daughter, his main concern is that his partner won’t be able to manage the rent if he loses his liberty.”

Defence barrister David Callan, defending Angus, said:

“In general Mr Angus is not a man of violence.

“He went on an ill-considered venture which he did for his friend. He has worked all of his life and has had health problems including a heart attack, which left some brain damage.

“He is a 48-year-old man in poor health and and who pleaded guilty at the first plea and case management hearing.”

Judge Simon Hickey sentenced Jones to 18 months’ imprisonment and Angus to 15 months’ imprisonment for assault causing actual bodily harm.

Jones was also charged for possession of a Class B drug and both men were given restraining orders.

Source – Sunderland Echo, 06 Feb 2015

Benefit sanctions raised in Commons by Hartlepool MP

> Part 93 of the ongoing Labour MPs Suddenly Discover Sanctions series….

THE cases of a Hartlepool benefits claimant whose money was cut because she missed an appointment due to roadworks and another who did not turn up for an appointment which had been cancelled have been raised in Parliament.

MP Iain Wright was speaking in a Commons debate on the effects of the DWP’s benefits clampdown on claimants across the North East, prompted by Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah.

Mr Wright said he accepted the need to tackle fraud, but the system had to take account of people who had genuine reasons for falling foul of the rules.

“Most people would accept the principle that if people flagrantly and persistently fail to adhere to mutually accepted requirements, they should face consequences,” he said.

“However, I have noticed a large increase in the number of sanctions imposed, often for a first or light transgression, and often with no regard to the context.”

Cases of people who had seen their benefits suspended unreasonably included:

– A man who realised he had missed an appointment, contacted the Jobcentre immediately and went in the next day, only to be informed by post that his benefits were being cut for a month;

– A woman sanctioned because she was late after her bus got delayed by roadworks in the centre of Hartlepool;

– A woman who was told her appointment for a work capability assessment had been cancelled who was then sanctioned for failing to attend;

–  And a woman who was sanctioned for a month because she missed an appointment to attend her grandfather’s funeral.

In all those cases, and in others, I have been able to get the sanctions overturned; but that itself raises some issues,” said Mr Wright.

“Is it an efficient use of taxpayer resources to apply a sanction, only for staff time to be employed in overturning it? How robust, efficient and effective is the process if that continues to be the case?”

The culture in JobCentres needed to change, he said:

“Front-line staff do not have any flexibility to determine whether a benefit claimant has failed to comply with a requirement. They have to see things in black and white and they cannot provide personalised support.

“The system is geared not to help individuals, but merely to process them.

“Claimants can suffer appallingly as a result of their treatment.”

The system was also failing to help workers whose traditional skills were not suited to the modern jobs market.

The JobCentre is simply not interested in helping them secure a new job,” said Mr Wright.

Through its indifference and latent hostility, it is consigning my constituents to the scrap heap long before their time.”

He highlighted the case of a former factory worker who had been told to apply for benefits on-line despite not owning a computer and never having used one.

“There are many people like my constituent in Hartlepool and the North East. The digital divide is creating social exclusion that is affecting the most vulnerable people,” said Mr Wright.

My constituents deserve better, as do many others in the North East and elsewhere.

“They are treated shabbily and with contempt.”

Work minister Esther McVey defended the Government’s record and told the debate the sanction rate for Jobseeker’s Allowance was between five and six per cent a month and less than one per cent for Employment and Support Allowance.

> Presumably depending on what targets for sanctions Jobcentre managers have set their staff….

In the past year, the number of people sanctioned actually decreased,” she said.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  10 Jan 2015

End ‘demonisation’ of benefit claimants, Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah demands

Benefit claimants are treated as “second class citizens” by Government officials, an MP is to claim.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah will call for an end to the “demonisation” of claimants, as she leads a Commons debate.

> Well, its nice to see that you’ve caught up, Chi, but this really isn’t anything new you know ?  Still, general election looming and all that…

She will warn claimants are being mistreated by the Department for Work and Pensions, for example by having benefits stopped for no reason – and this can have a devastating effect on their physical and mental health.

And she will recall that she was largely bought up in a single-parent family in Newcastle which depended on benefits.

It follows claims that claimants are being “sanctioned” by Department staff, which means their benefits are stopped, without good reason.

> “Claims” ?  Like there might be some doubt about it ?

Ms Onwurah will highlight the case of an IT worker who lost his job and applied “for every possible vacancy” but was sanctioned by the Jobcentre because his work search record was judged inadequate in the week his father died.

Speaking in advance of the debate, she said:

“Benefits claimants are by definition going through a tough time; they may have lost a job, have an illness or disability or are in low-paid or part time work, or they are caring for young children or relatives, making it harder to work.

“They need our support, our care, concern for and understanding of the challenges they face.”

Jobcentres and the HMRC offices that administer tax credits, are “vital public services that British citizens pay for with their taxes” and people who use them have a right to expect fair and respectful treatment, she said.

Ms Onwurah will point out that the number of people on benefits who abuse the system is a very small proportion, as estimates show that only 0.7% of welfare spending is lost to fraud in comparison with 1.3% lost to overpayment because of Department for Work and Pensions mistakes.

And she will ask why there is not more focus on catching tax evaders – when there are adverts on buses urging: “Think you know a Newcastle upon Tyne Benefits Cheat? Report them anonymously.”

Recalling her own childhood, the MP said:

“It was very hard for my mother who was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and also suffered breast cancer, not only because of our poverty but also because of her shame at taking hand outs.

“I am very glad she did not have to face the sort of vilification and abuse experienced now, abuse caused in part by a sustained campaign from some politicians on the right.

> Although lets not forget New Labour didn’t have such a good record either, and in some respects did the groundwork for the coalition’s excesses.

“Contrary to what many of them would imagine, I was brought up with a strong work ethic, and also to believe that the state would provide a robust safety net for those that needed it.”

> Now – what we really need to know is  what will Labour do to rectify the situation should they win the general election ?  Anything ? Nothing ?

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  06 Jan 2015

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

Figures reveal it is cheaper to drive from the North East to London in a supercar than travel by train

Campaigners have hit out at rail fares as it was revealed it is cheaper to drive to London in a Bugatti Veyron than catch the train.

Fares from Newcastle and Middlesbrough to the capital city work out more expensive by almost 10p per mile than driving the £850,000 supercar.

Rail travel to London at peak times costs even more – at 20p per mile more than the gas guzzling motor.

An investigation revealed the Veyron, which has an engine more powerful than that in a World War Two Hawker Hurricane fighter plane, costs a whopping 32p per mile to drive.

This means a journey in the Bugatti from Newcastle Central station to Kings Cross would cost a whopping £90.24. The same journey in a tiny Volkswagen Up! would cost around £28.

Travelling from Middlesbrough Rail Station to Kings Cross would cost £80.64.

But the journeys by rail were more even more expensive – at a cost of 45p per mile for an off-peak journey and 45p during rush hour.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said:

“Whilst East Coast has been a stunning success in public ownership, delivering a billion pounds back the taxpayer while the private train companies drain similar sums out, these figures show that in the run-up to the intended re-privatisation the route is being fattened up with eye-watering fares that can be exploited by any new private company taking over in the future.”

Andy Silvester, campaign manager of the Tax Payers’ Alliance, said:

“It’s totally understandable that taxpayers want a train line that they’re paying for to have more affordable ticket prices.

“The East Coast Mainline should be returned to private hands as soon as practically possible, as it is only by reintroducing competition that prices will come down.

> Do you think he really believes that ?  Against all the evidence ?

“Of course, passengers are paying even more for their train tickets than the price of the ticket, as they’re also funding it through their taxes.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Better Transport, said:

“For the vast majority of people, the 2 hour 50 minute train journey from London to Newcastle will still be better value than the five hour drive, and come at less cost to the environment.

“The Government must take stronger action to keep rail fares down to ensure this continues to be the case.”

The Veyron has an out of town fuel economy of 15.6 letres per 100km, which was used to calculate how it fared compared to rail tickets between Newcastle and the capital.

Booking a ticket in advance allows travellers to pay less for train at specific times of the day. But for flexibility passengers need to buy off-peak and anytime singles and their prices stay the same all day.

The Veyron’s impressive cost for the journey highlights rising rail fares in England. Comparisons made by the Sunday Sun show it matches the price of a train ticket between Paris and Lyon in France, at exactly 32p per mile.

The journey on the continent is 243.23 miles compared to 268 between Newcastle and London.

A distance of 407 miles between Madrid and Barcelona puts the high rail fares in the UK in even sharper light. A journey between the two Spanish cities would cost just 22p per mile.

But a taxi ride between the two UK cities would set you back the most at £1.80 per mile or an eye-watering £496.80 on the metre.

The cheapest option would be to take a coach, at just 11p per mile and £29 per ticket.

Source – Sunday Sun,  05 Oct 2014