Tagged: Newcastle City Council

Newcastle Lab & Lib Parties oppose repeal of Human Rights Act

Political parties in Newcastle have united to oppose the Government’s proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour will come together on Wednesday night at a Newcastle City Council meeting and are likely to vote in favour of lobbying the Government to abandon plans.

They also plan to write to Home Secretary Theresa May, expressing concern.

Normally fierce political rivals, councillors from both parties say this move shows the strength of feeling against the proposed changes.

The new Government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act in favour of a British Bill of Rights has prompted outcry from politicians and legal rights groups as well as several celebrities. However those in favour believe severing the formal link between British court and the European Court of Human Rights would be welcomed.

The Conservatives believe the move would strengthen the powers of British supreme court with less deference to Strasbourg, however the plan was noticeably absent from the Queen’s Speech prompting concerns over a struggle within the Tory party to gain backbench support.

In line with the views of their national parties, both the Liberal Democrat and the Labour parties in Newcastle have submitted motions to the council with deputy Lib Dem councillor Dr Wendy Taylor asking members to reject any proposal made by the Government to repeal the act.

She wants other councillors to agree that these ‘fundamental rights and freedoms’ enshrined in the act ‘are crucial for a fair, free and democratic society.

She said:

“At a time when we are honouring those who fought in the Second World War and the purpose for which so many lost their lives defending our liberty and freedoms, we reject the Government’s proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.”

Read rest of story here :

http://northstar.boards.net/thread/43/newcastle-parties-oppose-repeal-rights

David Cameron trying to ‘muffle’ voice of the North East with boundary review, it was claimed

The Conservatives are attempting to “muffle” the voice of the North East in parliament, it is claimed, as a shake-up of boundaries could leave the region with three fewer MPs.

David Cameron’s Tories want to redraw the dividing lines of the UK’s parliamentary constituencies and cut the number of MPs by 10% from 650 to 600.

The say it will save money and make the system fairer but now stand accused of trying to “gerrymander” votes by the region’s Labour MPs, who fear their party could be locked out of power in 2020 because of the move.

The proposal was first put forward in 2013. It came after a review by the Boundary Commission, which found there should be three fewer constituencies in the region – one each from Tyneside, County Durham and Teesside.

But the Lib Dems blocked the move after being forced to abandon the House of Lords reform they had campaigned on.

Boundary reform was in the 2015 Conservative Manifesto, however, and the Prime Minister is reportedly ready to defy his backbench MPs, whose own constituencies will be placed under the microscope.

The current boundaries are said to favour Labour because the party tends to do better in urban seats tend be smaller – Newcastle, for example is split into three constituencies – than the suburban seats where the Tories pick up more votes, like the relatively large Hexham constituency.

But Labour say the reduction comes after a switch from household to individual voter registration in December 2014, which saw a million people drop off the electoral roll nationally, and any review must be started afresh.

Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, said:

“This is a clear attempt by the Tories to gerrymander the constituencies on the basis of an electoral register from which they deliberately excluded seven million people by implementing individual voter registration.

“It is my contention that the Tories made that change in order to reduce the number of people on the register, just like the Republicans did in America.

“The people that have gone from the register are those in insecure housing, those on low incomes and young people.

“I think everybody knows that the voice of the North East was not heard by the Tory-led Government over the last five years, and this is a further attempt to muffle it.”

 

In the Newcastle City Council area, individual voter registration saw 18,000 people fall off the electoral roll. A local campaign saw 11,000 sign up, but Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, said the North East risks being sidelined.

He said:

“Our region already feels bruised and battered from the last five years of the Coalition Government and it looks like the Tories boundary review could further marginalise us.

“In Newcastle, we have a growing population and yet this isn’t matched by electoral registration statistics as the voter registration system seems deliberately designed to deter people from joining the register.

“Reducing the number of MPs in the North East will work to the Tories’ electoral advantage and make it even more less likely we will have a Labour Government in 2020.”

Mr Cameron appointed his Cabinet this week and is expected to push through a number of policies within the first 100 days of Parliament having won a decisive majority at last week’s election.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 May 2015

Newcastle’s most vulnerable families hit when council leaders slash loan support scheme

Thousands of Tyneside’s most vulnerable families will go hungry when a voucher support scheme is scrapped because of austerity cuts, leaders have warned.

A scheme which sees supermarket vouchers given to 2000 families in Newcastle to help feed their children over the school holidays has been axed as the Government slash £40m from the city council’s annual budget.

Under Newcastle City Council’s Crisis Support Scheme, families with children aged five and six, who have had their housing benefit reduced by the bedroom tax and are paying council tax for the first time, received Asda vouchers to help feed their youngsters during the Easter, Christmas and Summer school holidays.

But the council say they are forced to slash the service as the Government roll out their next round of cuts.

Leaders warned that cutting the benefit would lead to an increase in the number of people turning to foodbanks for emergency food parcels.

The announcement comes shortly after a teacher made claims some of his pupils returned to school after holidays “visibly thinner”.

Simon Kennedy, from teacher’s union NASUWT, said:

“It’s easy to point the finger at Newcastle City Council and say it’s their fault but this is the coalition government’s fault.

“This Government are hitting the most vulnerable and least well off families. I don’t think we can blame the council. The reality is when you get millions cut from your budget you have to cut it from somewhere.

“On May 7 people will be given the chance to vote and these are the sort of things people will take into consideration.

“We know people are going hungry and it’s not just over the holidays, it’s week in week out. We know that parents are missing meals to feed their kids.”

 

In April 2013 the Government abolished the Social Fund and asked local authorities to set up replacement schemes for Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants and the council set up the Crisis Support Scheme.

The funding falls under three areas and supports people in crisis, disaster or emergency, provides council tax assistance and did provide meals vouchers to schoolchildren in the holidays before it was cut.

In 2013/14 the council spent £214,000 to spend on the crisis support fund, and a further £173,000 in 2014/15. It will spend £116,000 in 2015/16, which includes a £50,000 overspend from the previous year.

In order to manage the reductions the council said they had no choice but to slash the voucher scheme.

This week letters went out to the affected families as they received their final set of vouchers over the Easter holidays.

Deputy leader of the council Joyce McCarty said:

“We are really disappointed this has been left to the local authority to fund.

“The Government have dumped the austerity cuts with local authorities who can’t afford to pick up the pieces and it’s the least well off in the community that are suffering.”

In Easter 2014 families with one child were awarded a £10 voucher, while families with more than one child were given £20.

A further £40 was handed to families with one child in the summer and an extra £60 to families with more than one child.

And at Christmas 2014 the vouchers were increased to £40 with families with one child and £60 for families with more than one child.

Ms McCarty added:

“It will add to the growing problem. It’s the same families who are struggling, it’s those families having to pay the bedroom tax and it’s things like this that tips people over the edge.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said they would be unable to offer comment in the run up to the general election.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Apr 2015

Meet the Newcastle family hit by the Bedroom Tax and who are fighting to get it abolished

The reason why so many people in the North East are against the Bedroom Tax can be answered by what’s happened to Ray O’Connor and his wife Bridget.

Bridget suffered a stroke in 2011 and as a result needs round-the-clock care in the three bedroomed home in Walker, Newcastle, she and Ray have shared for eight years.

Because of her disabilities, one of their bedrooms has been adapted for her needs with a hospital sized bed and specialist equipment thanks to a £15,000 grant.

As a result Ray sleeps in the second room while their third room is used by carers who stay overnight to help with Bridget’s care.

With the introduction of the tax, it at first looked like they would lose 25% of their housing benefits for the rooms used by Ray and his wife’s carers.

They successfully fought against the carer’s room but are still left with the threat of losing £11 a week in housing benefits for Ray’s room.

After advice from their social landlord, ISOS Housing, they successfully applied to Newcastle City Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to cover the shortfall but they have to re-apply every few months, rather than have a long term or permanent exemption.

Their situation was used as a test case to challenge the Bedroom Tax in court, but the attempt failed.

Ray, 56, explained:

“The judge said he’d checked and checked but the wording of it was that if you were married you had to stay in the same bedroom.

“ISOS and Newcastle City Council have been brilliant, with the advice they have given and the help with the filling in of the forms for the discretionary payment.

“But there is just so much they can do. This payment looks like ending after the next election if the Conservatives get in.

“If we have to move to a two bedroomed house I’ll still have to pay the bedroom tax on one of them because it will be classed as mine.

“If we moved to a one bedroomed house – if there is one available – I’ll have to sleep on the sofa and share the room with the carer.”

Ray and Bridget’s situation is further complicated by the fact that a stipulation of the £15,000 grant was that they had to stay in the house for five years after the work – until 2017. If they move out earlier, they’ll have to pay a percentage of it back.

“I don’t know what the amount is but that will have to come out of our benefits,” said Ray.

He added:

“I think the Bedroom Tax is disgusting and should be scrapped. It puts so much pressure on people like us.

“In the court hearing the council was asked by the judge if there were any more cases like ours and they told him there were plenty. They been hoping to successfully challenge it through our case but that isn’t going to happen because of the specific wording of it.

“We had hoped this was our home for life. The harm it is doing to vulnerable families is unforgiveable – where is the money that it is supposed to be saving going to go?”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Apr 2015

Government changes a boost for rogue landlords

Councils could lose powers to clampdown on rogue landlords under new government reforms.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has slammed government plans to revoke local authorities’ ability to introduce selective licensing of privately rented homes.

Since 2004, councils have had powers to regulate private landlords in areas of low housing demand or significant anti-social behaviour.

In March 2010, rules were relaxed granting councils greater powers.

Now, to avoid a ‘blanket licensing approach’, the government is wrestling back control and Coun Forbes argues this hinders the council’s ability to help residents.

He said:

“It is taking away our abilities as a local democracy. It makes it harder to tackle the problems in some areas of the city.

“Government has created an extra hurdle to jump before we can tackle the issue.

“Despite all of the talk around devolution, central government stripped away important powers from local councils. We have lost the ability to respond to residents.”

The government argue reforms will help councils focus their enforcement where it is needed most and stop good landlords being punished.

But the Labour leader of the council accused Whitehall of being influenced by the powerful private landlord lobby.

He said:

“Up to now local authorities have had the ability to introduce selective licensing successfully, wherever there has been a problem.

“Now the government has taken away that power and forced us to beg for the ability to do it. I can only assume government has been lobbied by the vested interests of private sector landlords.

“There are some really good private landlords but there are some terrible ones. Some privately rented properties end up becoming eyesores, and a blight on otherwise clean streets.

“It’s one of the things people consistently complain about and it is important we are able to licence these properties to ensure the safety of tenants.”

Bruce Haagensen, local representative for National Landlords Association, believes selective licensing has failed in the city.

He said:

“The NLA is fully behind efforts to improve the standard of housing in Newcastle and believe that selective licensing when carried out properly and fully resourced is a useful tool for councils to use.

“However this does not seem to be the case in Newcastle.

“The existing scheme has not achieved sustainable tenancies, improved prices or the reduced the number of empty houses and after consulting with interested parties (landlords, tenants, businesses and others in the community) it was found that over 60 per cent suggested there had been no change during the scheme; essentially the scheme has failed.”

The city currently has two selective licensing schemes in Benwell and Byker which have been running since September 2010 and March 2011 respectively.

Landlords have been hit with massive fines for failing to apply for the correct licences.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Apr 2015

Councils in the North East CAN make more cuts, says David Cameron

The Prime Minister has been accused of ‘living in a parallel universe’ after announcing that councils in the North East could make more cuts.

In an interview with us, Conservative leader David Cameron has said that more budget reductions would be imposed – whichever party won the next election.

He insists that councils could make further savings without damaging services, however leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes has said cuts in the North East had already been “savage and brutal”.

Coun Forbes said:

“The Prime Minister is living in a parallel universe The disproportionate cuts his Government have made to northern councils like Newcastle have gone far beyond anything that could reasonably be met through efficiencies – they have been savage and brutal.

“I’d like the Prime Minister to visit Newcastle so he can see for himself the devastating impact of his policies on the most vulnerable in our society – but we’re not his kind of people up here so I doubt he’ll come anywhere near.”

However Mr Cameron said that local councils can continue ‘to find efficiencies’.

He said:

“I think local government has done brilliantly at being more efficient.

“And I think when you look at councils’ finances they can continue to find efficiencies by continuing to work together and sharing chief executives, sharing finance teams, sharing back office costs.

“Most councils have seen a large increase in their reserves over the last four or five years, so they do have financial capacity.

“And just like any business you don’t make efficiencies and then say, right, that’s it, I’ve finished.

“Businesses are always asking, how do I get more efficient next year than last year?

“So I think there is still more efficiency to be delivered.”

The comments came despite claims by local authorities in the North East that they have already been cut to the bone.

For example, Newcastle City Council has set out plans for £40million of cuts in 2015 to 2016, on top of £100m saved from budgets since 2012. The measures will lead to the loss of a further 260 jobs.

Coun Forbes said:

“Newcastle City Council has had to cope with budget losses of more than 40% over six years and has lost 2,200 staff since 2010 – the equivalent of the closure of Virgin Money HQ, or Fenwicks department store, or the shutdown of the entire offshore sector on the North bank of the Tyne.

“If this was the private sector there would be a national task force in place to deal with this scale of job losses but we’ve had to deal with this challenge without any assistance from Government.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015

New report reveals human cost of Government cuts in North East

A report published today reveals the “human cost” of Government cuts in the North East.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the most deprived areas of England have seen the largest cuts in funding since 2010.

‘The Cost Of The Cuts’ report finds that local authorities have been able to protect front line services by finding new, innovative ways of working, but that capacity for further efficiency savings is fast running out.

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, who last week oversaw £40million budget cutbacks and a council tax increase which will see the city’s Band B residents paying £20 more a year, said:

“This research highlights the human cost of the cuts to service users and staff and reinforces the case Newcastle has made for a fairer and more equitable settlement.

“We have long argued that disproportionate Government cuts have had a bigger impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have now added their independent voice to the many who now confirm that, sadly this has indeed been the case.

“Whilst we recognise the need for reductions in public spending, the cuts have been implemented far too quickly and at a pace and scale which has led to service reductions which could otherwise have been avoided. This approach is causing real harm to our communities.

“In Newcastle we have responded by doing all we can to safeguard services to the most vulnerable, and to continue to invest in our city to create the jobs and economic growth which are fundamentally important to tackling the inequalities in health, wealth and quality of life which blight our communities.

“More innovative approaches are possible based on greater devolution of public service budgets to places, and multi-year financial settlements which give local councils and their partners greater certainty about their finances. This would allow us to plan ahead together for a more transformative approach to sustaining public services in the face of continuing austerity.”

Analysis of local government expenditure data reveals that the poorest English authorities have seen reductions of £182 more per head than the most affluent, breaking the historic link between the amount a local authority spends per head and local deprivation levels.

In 2010/11, the most deprived councils had an extra 45% of expenditure per head to cope with additional needs. By 2014/15, this had been reduced to 17%.

Services such as housing and planning have been worst affected across the country, seeing cuts of around 40%.

The report highlights an important difference between the situation in England and in Scotland. It claims the slower pace of cuts in Scotland may have given local authorities more room to invest in preventative measures, which could drive down costs in the medium term by reducing the need for services in future years.

Professor Annette Hastings from the University of Glasgow said:

“Local councils find themselves in an incredibly difficult position. At a time when the agenda is about how to make public services work better, particularly for those that need them the most, councils are being subjected to year on year funding cuts.

“Their capacity to deliver positive change is being reduced just when it is needed the most.”

Josh Stott, policy and research manager at the Foundation said:

“The cuts have forced the pace of local service reform and there have been some positives, in terms of service redesign and new ways of working.

“However, we are now beginning to see the impacts of the cuts filter through on to the quality of local services. There is a general consensus that we are only half way through the cuts and, if we continue on this course, it seems inevitable that the poorest people and places will be even harder hit.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Mar 2015

Newcastle: ‘Stay out of our city’ Final message to Pegida ahead of Tyneside demo

You are not welcome in our city.

That was the overriding message from residents, community leaders, political parties and union bosses just 24 hours before an “anti-islam” protesters arrive in Newcastle city centre.

Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida supporters will be taking to Tyneside’s streets amid claims they are trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.

Saturday, will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.

A growing counter-demonstration, now expected to attract in excess of 2,000 people, will simultaneously march through the city centre in protest over Pegida.

The counter-demo, organised by Newcastle Unites, is also aiming to attract a string of high profile speakers including George Galloway MP.

 

Police said they were fully prepared to cope with the extra influx of people into the city centre just hours before Newcastle United kick off their home match against Aston Villa.

Today, opponents to Pegida made one final rallying call.

David Stockdale, councillor for Blakelaw, who will also be speaking at the meeting, said:

“Newcastle is a friendly, tolerant and inclusive city of sanctuary. We thrive on the diversity of our communities which make our city one of the truly great cities of the world.

“We have a proud history of standing up to intolerance and hate and to groups like Pegida who seek to do harm to our Muslim sisters and brothers.

“Pegida paint a brutal misrepresentation of Islam. It’s important to stand up to that and for me as a non-Muslim it’s important to speak out against Pegida’s twisted prejudice.

“The Newcastle Unites counter-demonstration will show Newcastle at its best. Islamophobia targets Muslims but it hurts us all and I’m so proud of how our wonderful city has come together to march in peace and solidarity against Pegida and everything they stand for”.

The Pegida movement started in Germany but has reportedly launched a number of other European off-shoots in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Jeremy Beecham, former leader of Newcastle City Council, said:

“This city has a deserved reputation for welcoming people and for good relations between the communities which enrich its life.

“It has welcomed the contribution made by people from a variety of cultures across a range of activities, from the NHS to St James’s Park. Pegida is an extreme right wing movement driven by hatred of Muslims, on whom they have focussed their resentment for problems they perceive in Germany.

“Their Islamophobia is totally unacceptable, and it’s difficult to understand why Newcastle has been singled out for their malign attention. I hope the people of this city will unite to reject the message of division which they seek to bring to our streets.”

David Kelly, 33, from Newcastle, will be part of the counter-demo.

He said: “We don’t want these people in our city. They don’t belong here. We are a friendly, tolerant and welcoming place.”

Pegida claim to have chosen Newcastle for their first UK march due to having already established a following in the city.

 

Chi Onwurah,  Newcastle MP, said:

“We are a city of diverse communities and shared values where we both respect and look out for each other. We have a history of facing hard times together and growing stronger.

“People coming from outside to spread a message of division and hatred are not welcome. Pegida is targeting Muslims in our community and we have to stand up and say it is wrong, Islamaphobia is wrong, anti semitism is wrong, all racism is wrong, we can do better than this, we have done better than this when we saw off the National Front and the BNP.

“The idea that there might be children in Newcastle who feel unwelcome or unappreciated because of the religion they practise I find absolutely obscene. That is why I’ll be there on Saturday.”

Police say they have had open dialogue with parties from both demonstrations and say they are satisfied the demos will pass “peacefully”.

Chief Superintendent Laura Young, from Northumbria Police, added:

“I have had guarantees from both organisations that this will be a peaceful demonstration.

“People should not be put off coming into the city centre on Saturday. People will still want to come shopping, there is a football match on in the afternoon and people will be coming for other events.

“I would just say that they should give themselves some extra time to get in and out of the city centre as there have been some road closures.”

The march, which will begin at 10.30am, has attracted national, and international interest.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 26 Feb 2015

Pegida Newcastle: Thousands due to flood streets for counter Pegida demo

Organisers of a counter-march against a planned “anti-Islam” demonstration in Newcastle say they are expecting more than 2,000 people to flood the city centre this Saturday.

Newcastle Unites say representatives from the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Islamic communities will unite in one voice against Pegida’s first UK demo, due to be held this weekend.

Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.

This Saturday will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.

But counter demonstrators say they are expecting low numbers to turn out in support of Pegida.

Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Elswick and part of Newcastle Unites, said:

“Their Facebook page suggests more than 700 people have agreed to come but the reality is there will probably only be a couple of hundred.

“As far as they are concerned, it is looking as if it will be a bit of a damp squid.”

> Damp squid ?  I think he means damp squib.

Northumbria Police have met with both groups to discuss policing on the day.

Newcastle Chief Superintendent Laura Young said:

“It will be a busy day in Newcastle on Saturday with a number of events taking place and with lots of people coming into the city centre for things like shopping, socialising and the football.

“The city is a busy place on a Saturday anyway and with all of the extra things taking place then we are advising anyone who is thinking of driving into Newcastle to give themselves extra time and be aware of how their journey might be affected by the delays.

“To minimise disruption to the public we will have motor patrols officers out on the roads to ensure traffic flow and we will do everything we can to keep the roads open and to reduce the impact on the public.

“We have spoken with the local authority and local bus and travel companies about the road closures and we are looking to have all roads re-opened as soon as possible on Saturday.”

Councillor David Stockdale, Newcastle City Council’s Labour ward member for Blakelaw, will be one of the counter-demo’s speakers on the day.

He said:

“I will be talking about Newcastle and how it is a city of sanctuary; how it is a community with a proud and long history of standing up to injustice.

“I intend to tackle some of the brutal misrepresentations of Islam which Pegida paints. I think it’s important that a non-Muslim stands up and does that.

“I do wish Pegida were not coming on Saturday but I believe everyone has a right to express their views, no matter for distorted and wrong they are. The best way to deal with these kind of views is to challenge them.”

A public meeting by opponents of Pegida will be held at the city’s central library on Thursday. The event will take place at the Bewick Room at 6pm.

Journalist Yvonne Ridley, who converted to Islam after she was arrested in Afghanistan, will be speaking at the event along with Coun Ahad.

The meeting is intended for supporters of Stop the War Coalition and those who oppose Islamophobia and racism and begins at 6pm.

John and Jennifer Martin, of North Shields, are among those planning to take part in Saturday’s counter-demo.

Mr Martin, 36, a car showroom manager, said:

“My wife and I feel like we have an obligation to take part on Saturday because Newcastle is our home and we don’t want groups like this thinking they can come here and disrupt the harmony we have.

“I don’t know much about where Pegida have come from but I know we don’t want their messages spreading in the North East.”

On Saturday, the following roads will be closed to allow for the demonstrations to take place:

  • The Bigg Market will be closed to traffic from around 10am.
  • A small section of Gallowgate will be closed from around 10:30am to 10:45am Newcastle Unites march begins.
  • A section of Newgate Street will be closed from 10:30am.
  • There are no plans to close Clayton Street or Grainger Street.

Officers say they may need to temporarily close other roads on the day depending on activity, however they will look to re-open them as soon as possible and keep the city road network flowing.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 Feb 2015

Pegida urge other right-wing groups to keep Newcastle demonstration peaceful

The controversial anti-Islam group Pegida has urged extreme right-wing groups planning to join its first British demonstration, in Newcastle, to keep protests peaceful.

It has admitted the 11am start on Saturday, February 28, was a “pain” for supporters travelling from elsewhere, but accepted police and the local council had “a lot to contend with” as there was a Premier League fixture in the city that afternoon.

There will also be a counter-demo which left-wing comedian Russell Brand and Respect MP George Galloway were understood to be joining.

Pegida UK is an offshoot of the group which started in Germany and whose name translates as Patriots of Europe against the Islamisation of the West.

On Facebook, it said it was aware extreme right-wing groups were planning to join them in Newcastle, and insisted the rally in the Bigg Market must remain non-violent.

It said: “Pegida is an organisation that believes in freedom of expression and speech. We welcome everybody. No matter of political nor religious background…

“All we ask is that people acknowledge our agenda of peaceful protest and unite under the Pegida flag for the day….. In a perfect world we would love the extreme right-wing element to leave us to it… but this isn’t an ideal world… as long as everyone behaves themselves, this should go without incident.

“The subject about Islam’s influence of our culture is a very sensitive issue… and it is a topic that lays heavy on our hearts… it is true this stirs emotions and sometimes anger… but we are not angry at the Muslim community, but the Governments that have allowed such acts to take place.

“Pegida asks that all aggression and ill conduct to be ruled out completely. This is a public and political awareness campaign… The only awareness a violent attitude will bring, is the awareness that we are out of control thugs that have no agenda except cause destruction.”

In a separate message addressed “Dear loyal and proud patriots” the group said it was too late to alter the February 28 date.

That afternoon a crowd of around 50,000 is expected to watch Newcastle United play Aston Villa at St James’s Park.

Pegida said Northumbria Police and Newcastle City Council “have a lot to contend with on the 28th, our hands are tied”.

> Well, you could just stay away…

The statement continued: “It is a pain for us all we can appreciate this. Newcastle will be the first of many demonstrations held. The next will be planned better with city events and logistics sorted out prior.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Feb 2015