Tagged: North West

Universal credit ‘a nightmare’, says claimant who advertised welfare reform

A Universal Credit claimant who featured in a government film to promote the reform now says the system is riddled with computer problems and could make people destitute.

In the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advert, Daniel Pacey explains how the reform helped him to find work.

But he now says a six-week delay before the first payment and subsequent monthly payments are “a nightmare“.

The DWP said monthly sums replicate the world of work and tackle dependency.

A spokesman said:

“Universal credit is simplifying the benefit system and [makes] the transition into employment smoother.

“Our work coaches discuss budgeting support with all claimants and nearly 80% say they are confident in their ability to manage a monthly budget.”

> Is that 80% of work coaches or claimants ?

Mr Pacey, 24, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, said:

”It might be easy for a government minister to make their wages last a month. But I’d like to see them make £250 last four weeks while looking for work.”

The government has announced that a national roll-out of universal credit is starting in earnest across the country. The aim is for it to be offered in all job centres in England, Scotland and Wales by 2016.

> Whether it works or not, presumably.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told BBC News the new benefit was £600m under budget and had been implemented gradually on advice.

But Mr Pacey, who lives with his father, said his job centre struggled with failing computer systems, adding:

“I hate to think about how I would have coped had I lived on my own. I know I couldn’t have.”

The DWP spokesman added:

“People can apply for advanced benefit payments if they need extra support and we are working with local authorities to make sure people get budgeting and debt advice.

“The IT system adapts smoothly to claims as they become more complex, which we have already seen across the North West.

“Computer problems in offices are separate issues and are resolved quickly but these do not impact the operating system, or have an impact on claims.”

The scheme was initially piloted in Ashton-Under-Lyne nearly two years ago.

Under the old system, payments were bi-weekly, with housing benefit paid directly to landlords.

Under universal credit, claimants are instead paid monthly and are expected to pay their rent themselves.

Housing Associations in Ashton-Under-Lyne say rent arrears and debt are on the rise amongst universal-credit claimants.

The chief executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said:

“This scheme isn’t even ready to fully roll out in Ashton-Under-Lyne, where it’s been piloted for two years, let alone the rest of the country.”

The DWP spokesman said:

“In some cases, we can arrange for alternative payment arrangements, including rent being paid direct to landlords.”

The government says it is important for people to learn how to handle their own monthly budgets, as this replicates the world of work.

> Oh for fucks sake – how stupid do they think we are ?  Do they think every unemployed person has never worked ?  Do they think anyone having to survive on benefits doesn’t already know all about handling budgets ?

But Mr Pacey’s new job in a call centre pays bi-weekly.

He said: “In my experience, most low-paid jobs pay weekly or every other week, not monthly. You can’t make small sums of money last a month.

“It’s not about dependency, it’s about living, being able to get a bus to go to the job centre. The government needs to rethink this.”

 

The scheme has also been criticised by the National Audit Office as badly managed and failing to deliver on its targets.

It is concerned that a roll-out from pilot areas in north-west England is taking place with fewer resources to spend on staff training and less time for staff to get accustomed to the changes.

About 50,000 people in selected areas have claimed the benefit since it was introduced in April 2013 – far fewer than the government originally said would be getting it by now.

Computer problems have also caused delays and seen ministers write off tens of millions of pounds.

Source –  BBC News,  16 Feb 2015

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Survey claims North-East is worst place nationally for empty shops

Falling incomes and the growth of the internet are major factors for almost one in five shops in northern English cities being shut, experts believe.

Figures released by The Local Data Company (LDC) show that businesses in the North are struggling in terms of empty shop numbers.

The LDC states that the North-East is the worst area nationally for shop vacancy rates, with 18.8 per cent of shops empty in the second half of last year.

This represents a slight improvement on 2013, when more than 20 per cent of shops stood empty.

The LDC found that 20 per cent of North-East shops, or nearly 10,000 outlets, have been empty for more than three years.

In comparison, one in ten businesses in southern cities are standing empty.

London has the fewest empty shops, with 8.7 per cent of shop vacancies in the second half of 2014, representing a fall on the previous year of 0.4 per cent.

Nationally the rate of shop vacancies stood at 13.3 per cent at the end of last year representing a fall from a peak of 14.6 per cent in February 2012.

Mark Stephenson, policy and research manager for the North-East Chamber of Commerce, said:

It is concerning to see the North-East at the top of this table.

 “Sadly, this is something that is happening in all but the busiest shopping destinations because of the advent of the internet and e-commerce.

“That said, many of our members in the retail sector have reported strong performance, so this is not a simple straightforward issue to resolve.

“It’s also worth remembering that incomes have been falling for many years and are only now just now picking up.

“The purchasing ability of the man on the street has been hit, which will impact on the high street.”

The North-West had topped the charts for the number of shop vacancies since 2008 but it has now been toppled by the North-East.

The list of top ten worst town centres nationally for vacant space contains Hartlepool at number three, with a vacancy rate of 27.3 per cent.

Source – Northern Echo, 04 Feb 2015

Hilton Dawson – North East party leader

It seems that Hilton Dawson has a history of triumphing against the odds.

The native Northumbrian has twice overcome substantial Tory power bases at council and parliamentary level to get into office.

That was in the North West where he lived and worked for around 20 years.

Now back home, he hopes to repeat his David and Goliath act at the next general election in May with the North East party he helped form and is chairman of.

And this time three of the four seats his party are contesting at Easington, Redcar, Stockton North and Newcastle North are held by Labour with who he was a member for 30 years.

But he doesn’t see it as a betrayal of his political roots, just loyalty to his personal roots.

“There isn’t anyone who stands up for the North East directly,” he said.

“My experience of parliament and working with national policy makers is that huge decisions are made in London by people who don’t know about the region.

“We need to get these big decisions – about jobs, housing, health, wellbeing, transport – made here.”

To do this, it aims to secure devolved powers similar to those enjoyed by Scotland and Wales.

“We want real powers to borrow and invest, which will produce high-quality integrated public services,” Hilton said.

“In Scotland in particular, they have far better public services than we do a few miles south over the border.”

The idea for it was born out of a debate in 2013 at the Newcastle Lit & Phil Society about whether it was time for ‘Wor Party’. A lot of people attending thought it was.

The North East Party was officially registered last May. It had its first annual general meeting in June then in December after a three day meeting it thrashed out its manifesto.

Read what you will into the fact these discussions took place in a room above a funeral home in Shotton Colliery.

“Very salubrious surroundings,” laughed Hilton at the memory but he is very pleased with the result and hopes to cause as much of a stir as his first attempt to change things as an eight-year-old schoolboy.

Born in Mona Taylor’s Maternity Home in Stannington, his parents were both teachers. He was raised in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea where he was a pupil at Moorside First, locally known as the Colliery School.

It was there he recalls he became second in command in a pupils protest about the state of the school’s food.

The soup was particularly terrible that day,” said Hilton.

“We marched up and down the playground all over dinner time. We all really enjoyed it.”

The Head, Mr Kirsopp (none of the kids knew his first name, of course), “emerged lugubriously at the end of lunch time” recalled Hilton.

We looked at him with some trepidation then he ceremonially rang the bell and we went inside. Nothing more was said about it.”

This obviously whetted his appetite. After later completing his studies at Ashington Grammar School he gained a place at Warwick University to study philosophy and politics.

“Philosophy to understand the world and politics to change it,” he said.

Hilton recalled Warwick as a bit of a political hotbed in the 1960s with plenty of sit-ins and protests.

It was after his first year there he married Susan, who he met at school.

After graduating they went to stay for a time on a Kibbutz in Israel.

“We wanted to experience a collective way of life. We had idealistic expectations of it. The work was very hard but rewarding.”

Then they returned home as Susan was pregnant with their first child, Catherine.

He found work at the Choppington Social Welfare Centre, moving into a council house in Scotland Gate.

“It was one of the most educational experiences of my life,” said Hilton.

“I worked with the people of the community on many fantastic things. I was part of this rough, tough, incredibly warm hearted community organising anything from play groups for youngsters to events for the older residents, working with the people there to make things happen.

“At different times I would run the bar, put three tons of coal in the central heating, paint the walls, but most important of all I learned how to talk to people.

“The teachers’ son grew up an enormous amount.”

Having worked with social workers on projects there he became interested in the profession, getting a job at Bedlington.

“The attitude of people on the estate changed straight away. While they were still friendly it was a case of you’re a social worker now, there’s a difference.”

Hilton said he worked with a fantastic team determined to make a difference to the community and it was when he became involved in mainstream politics, joining the Labour party in 1978.

The university anarchist saw at Choppington what a group of dedicated local politicians were doing for the community,” he said.

Hilton got onto a well respected course at Lancaster University.

“It was the top place to go,” he said. “It had the Centre for Youth Crime and The Community.”

He and wife Susan packed their bags and with daughter Catherine headed to the North West.

Soon after his second daughter Helen was born.

“She always says you lot speak funny. She is from the North West the rest of us are from the North East,” said Hilton.

He got heavily involved in child care and child protection issues, managing children’s homes as well as fostering and adoption services.

He worked his way up to social work manager, on call 24 hours a day.

“I could be called out at any time of the night dealing with all sorts of matters – a child on the roof, what are we going to do about it. Six kids who need housing now at 2am. It was stressful but I loved the job.”

His job resulted in a lot of community involvement and he decided to stand in the Lancaster City Council elections for the Ryelands ward in 1987.

“It had always been Tory and no-one ever understood why – it had a huge housing estate on it,” said Hilton.

The penny eventually dropped that while Tory supporters would vote come election day, hardly anybody from the estate ever did.

After much canvassing, that changed.

It was one of the most seminal moments of my life,” said Hilton. “A huge phalanx of people came out of the estate to vote, knocking on doors as they went to persuade other people to vote.”

Hilton won the ward for Labour.

Then 10 years later in 1997 he stood for parliament in the Lancaster and Wyre constituency, formed after boundary changes from the old Lancaster constituency.

Since the Second World War Lancaster had been won by the Tories at every election bar the 1966 poll.

No-one expected us to win,” he said.

The media, even an eminent professor of politics. told me I had no chance.

“But I’d learned if you just engage with people, have a clear message and work hard at the grass roots you can win,” he said.

After winning the seat after a re-count he became well known for his championing of child related issues – he was named the 2004 Children’s Champion in the House of Commons – however it led to run ins with party bosses.

He objected to its policies on asylum seekers suggesting they be refused benefits would see their children left destitute.

Hilton described it as “immoral” in a Commons debate.

And then there the Iraq war – “a terrible time,” he recalled.

Hilton was one of the Labour MPs who backed a rebel backbench amendment that the case for war with Iraq was “unproven”.

So while he loved his first four years in Parliament, his enthusiasm waned considerably after he was re-elected, again after a recount, in 2001.

By 2005 he had decided it was time to move on and quit before the general election to return to children’s services.

He became CEO of Shaftesbury Young People which works for children both in care and in need and later chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers.

In the meantime he had returned to his native North East, he and wife Susan buying a house in Warkworth which boasts a spectacular view of Warkworth Castle.

“I found I was able to commute to London from Alnmouth which is on the East Coast mainline.”

He also found time to fight for the Lynemouth and Ellington seat in the 2008 Northumberland County Council elections.

“It was the only safe Labour seat I have ever fought – and I got whupped,” said Hilton ruefully.

“I had the arrogance to think I could do it all in a month thinking I could repeat what I did in Ryelands over a much shorter period of time.

“It proved a very important political lesson.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 31 Jan 2015

Children in care are next victims of savage cuts, warn North-East councils

Children in care will be the next victims of savage cuts to local council funding, North-East leaders warned yesterday.

They raised the alarm over a planned 17 per cent reduction in grants for children’s services buried in the 2015/16 funding settlement – even bigger than the overall cuts.

And they warned it would punish the North-East hardest, as the region has the joint highest number of children in care, after a sharp rise over the last five years.

For every 10,000 youngsters in the region, 81 are in local authority accommodation or the subject of care orders – up from 61 per 1,000 as recently as 2009.

It puts the North-East on a par with the North-West, while the figures are much lower in Yorkshire (65), London (54), the South-East (48) and elsewhere.

In Durham (91 per 1,000) and Newcastle (101 per 1,000) the figures are even higher, according to the Association of North-East Councils (ANEC).

Speaking at Westminster, Simon Henig, Durham’s Labour leader and ANEC’s chairman, said:

“We have seen a big increase in pressures in this area – and the amount of Government funding has been cut significantly – but local authorities have filled the gap, by raiding money from elsewhere.

 “The question that has to be asked is ‘how long can that go on’? And I suggest it won’t be able to go on very much longer.”

The warning came as ANEC – in partnership with major urban authorities – launched a fresh blast at the “unfair” 2015-16 funding settlement.

They ridiculed the Government’s claim of an average 1.8 per cent cut in funding, arguing the true figure was close to ten per cent in the North-East – a total grant reduction of around £240m.

ANEC said:

“This level of reduction has dramatic and damaging consequences for councils’ ability to fund statutory services such as children’s and adult social care.”

And Kevan Jones, the North Durham Labour MP, said:

“This Government has directed cash to areas not in the dire need that we are in the North-East.”

However, there were signs of future tensions with Labour, which will not halt next year’s cuts if it wins May’s general election and has made only vague promises of a “fairer formula”.

 Ed Miliband has also pledged that councils will keep 100 per cent of business rate growth – not the Coalition’s 50 per cent – replacing the existing system of redistribution to poorer areas.

ANEC warned such a scheme “potentially allocates extra resources to wealthy and business-rich parts of the London and South-East”.

Source – Northern Echo,  14 Jan 2015

Northern Rail evening rail commuters facing ticket price increases of up to 100%

North East rail users face fare hikes of up to 100% after some off-peak fares were axed on Monday.

The price rises affects a number of evening services run by Northern Rail – with a return ticket from Hexham to Newcastle jumping from £3.55 to £7.10.

The increases, which were announced in the summer, came into effect a day after Chancellor George Osborne announced he was knocking 1% off the January 2015 national commuter fare rise for England, meaning regulated fares like season tickets will going up by 2.5% rather than the planned 3.5% next year.

Nevertheless, Northern Rail’s changes have been fiercely criticised by rail unions and campaign groups.

The RMT union is marking the rise by launching a new wave of protests against plans for the new Northern franchise and also for the new franchise for TransPennine Express, which links the region with the North West.

The union says the rises are “a kick in the teeth for the travelling public” and a “taste of what’s around the corner under the new franchises”.

And the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said the Northern Rail rises would hit part-time and shift workers worst.

Martin Abrams, CBT public transport campaigner, said:

This fare increase threatens to make rail travel unaffordable to tens of thousands of part-time workers.

“Despite Government promises, there are no flexible tickets for the increasing numbers who work part time or anything other than traditional nine-to-five hours.

“Their only option is to pay for individual tickets, which will now be double the price on Northern Rail’s most popular routes.”

Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary, added:

The axing of off-peak fares is a savage kick in the teeth for people already struggling with the burden of low pay and austerity.”

Northern said the fare changes were being made after the Department for Transport (DfT) asked the company to look at several options to help reduce subsidy as part of its current franchise agreement. It added that it had heavily publicised the fare changes.

Richard Allan, Northern Rail commercial director, said:

“The majority of customers who travel at peak times will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening and what options are available to them.”

Labour MP Mary Creagh, shadow transport secretary, said:

“This is a direct result of the Government’s West Coast franchise fiasco and commuters travelling to Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield and Newcastle are paying the price.

“People shouldn’t have to choose between paying more or waiting until after dark to travel.”

However, a DfT spokesman said the changes would help build a “rail network that is better for the passenger and better value for the taxpayer”.

He added:

“Such restrictions are relatively common on other parts of the network, including in the Mersey travel area, and we expect only a minority of passengers to be affected.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  08 Sept 2014

North East BNP activist replaces Nick Griffin as party leader

A North East BNP activist has been appointed acting chairman of the party after Nick Griffin stepped down as leader.

The party’s website said Adam Walker had been appointed acting chairman after Mr Griffin “stepped aside”, two months after he lost the party’s only seat at the European Parliament in a disastrous set of election results.

Mr Griffin, who has been the public face of the party for more than a decade, has taken on the new role of party president.

Mr Griffin, who was declared bankrupt in January, had “taken up the position of President”, it said, adding that the national executive was “united in their support” for his replacement.

After voters in the north west ousted him as an MEP in May, Mr Griffin accepted the BNP – which now has only two local councillors – would be described as a “racist” outfit.

Its supporters wanted to “send them all home”, he said – suggesting they would end up disappointed if they had voted for Ukip as an alternative.

The BNP published a statement on its website announcing the change at the top, which reads: “Recently appointed deputy chairman, Adam Walker, has accepted the role of acting chairman of the British National Party after Nick Griffin stepped aside at a meeting of the BNP National Executive held on 19 July.

“The full national executive are united in their support for Adam in this role. Nick Griffin has taken up the position of president.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  22 July 2014

Job Creation 20% Below Pre-Recession Levels, New Report Shows

Trade Union Congress (TUC) Press Release:

Inner London is the only area of the country to have a higher rate of job starts than before the recession, while job creation in some parts of the country is down 31 per cent on pre-recession levels, according to a new TUC report published today (Monday).

The TUC Touchstone pamphlet Equitable Full Employment: A Jobs Recovery For All (pdf) shows that the recent rise in employment is being driven by fewer people leaving their jobs, rather than more people finding new work.

Job starts – the number of people starting a new job within a three month period – are currently around 20 per cent below pre-recession levels across the UK, and are still falling in parts of the country. The fact that fewer people are leaving their jobs helps to explain why the employment rate for older workers is increasing so much faster than for young people, says the TUC.

The report, written for the TUC by Tony Wilson and Paul Bivand of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (Inclusion), compares job start rates before the recession, at the height of the crash and during the recent recovery. It finds that metropolitan areas such as London, Birmingham and Tyne and Wear are recovering faster than their neighbouring rural areas.

Inner London is the only area of the country where jobs are being created at a faster rate than before the crash. Outer London, the South East and Eastern England have recovered since the crash but job starts are still 11 per cent, 16 per cent and 21 per cent below pre-recession levels.

Job creation across the rest of the country is more mixed, says the TUC. Job creation in Tyne and Wear is recovering (though still 11 per cent below pre-recession levels) but getting worse across the rest of the North East.

> In fact, as a whole, North East unemployment continues to rise…

Job creation in the West Midlands metropolitan area is recovering but the rest of the region continues to decline (down 31 per cent), while South and West Yorkshire are both performing far better than the rest of Yorkshire and Humberside. Job starts in Greater Manchester have fallen slightly since the height of the crash but the city is still doing far better than Merseyside and the rest of the North West, where job starts are 30 per cent down on pre-recession levels.

Strathclyde is the only major metropolitan area that is performing worse than its neighbouring area, with job creation across the rest of Scotland recovering faster.

The report shows while the UK’s employment rate is rising, there are huge swathes of the country – particularly rural areas – where job creation remains depressed and is getting worse, say the TUC.

The report also looks at job starts across different age groups, qualification levels and types of work. It finds that while job creation rates for graduates are back above pre-recession levels, the number of people with lower-level qualifications starting new jobs declined during the boom and has continued to deteriorate since the crash.

The proportion of jobs starts to non-permanent work is now higher than it was before the crash, with three in ten job starts in temporary work. Fixed-term contacts are the most popular form of temporary work.

The continuing shift from permanent employee jobs to self-employment and temporary work, such as fixed-term contacts and agency work, suggests the nature of the UK jobs market is changing permanently, rather than being a short-term response to the recession, says the TUC.

> The final victory of Thatcherism – smash the unions and the rest can be exploited…

The rate of people moving from unemployment to work is still lower than pre-recession levels across all age groups, say the report. ‘Hiring rates’ have recovered fastest for older workers, but they remain far less likely to move from unemployment to work than any other age group.

Hiring rates for 16-24 year olds, who traditionally have moved from unemployment into work at a far quicker rate than all other age groups, have declined considerably over the last 17 years. People in their late 20s and early 30s are now finding work as quickly as younger people, says the report.

The report makes a number of recommendations to boost job creation and raise employment levels further, including:

• Offering targeted employment support programmes, such as a job guarantee for any young person out of work for at least six months.
• Identifying low skills as a reason to provide more intensive employment support.
• Establishing bodies in each industrial sector so that government, unions and employers can work together to identify skills gaps, promote decent workplace standards and fair pay.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Many people assume that rising employment levels are simply down to more people getting new work. In fact, the recent recovery in our jobs market is mainly due to people holding onto their jobs, rather than finding new ones. This is great news if you want to keep earning as you approach retirement, but less positive if you’re trying to take your first step on the career ladder.

“Job creation is as important for people looking for work as it is for those already in work and looking to boost their incomes. It’s worrying that across huge swathes of the country – and particularly in rural areas – job creation levels remain depressed and that where jobs are being created far more are temporary positions than before the crash.

“We need to see far more high-quality jobs being created, not just in our cities but across the UK, if we’re going to achieve full employment and a return to healthy pay rises.”

CESI Associate Director Paul Bivand said:

“What we are concerned about is inclusion, which isn’t just our name. Growth in employment should help to close gaps in our society. We don’t want a rising tide to lift just the most buoyant, while leaving others behind. We want all areas and groups to benefit and we need to close gaps.

“We are already hearing that there is a risk of the Bank taking action because of overheating high-end London house prices. For the economy to benefit all, then rises in jobs have to occur in the rural areas as well as the cities, and Glasgow and Merseyside as well as the South East.”

 

Source: Inner London is only area of UK to have returned to pre-recession levels of job creation

 

Source – Welfare News Service, 23 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/job-creation-20-pre-recession-levels-new-report-shows/

Newcastle can form an “economic powerhouse” with Glasgow and Edinburgh after Scottish independence

Alex Salmond has raised the prospect of Newcastle teaming up with Glasgow and Edinburgh to form an “economic powerhouse” pushing for influence.

The Scottish First Minister told an audience in New York that while he has “no territorial ambitions” on Northumberland or the North East, he does see the sense in teaming up with the region on issues such as High Speed Rail.

Mr Salmond said that plans to build the new railway line from London up to the North showed the bias in the UK, and questioned why the line could not be built from North to South instead, joining up major Northern and Scottish cities along the way.

That transport focus prompted one North East MP to last night call on the First Minister to “put his money where his mouth is” on dualling of the A1 north of Newcastle and through Scotland.

Speaking at an event organised by US paper the Wall Street Journal, Mr Salmond said: “I have no territorial demands but we have encouraged a borderlands initiative, about economic cooperation between the North of England and Scotland.

“The North East and the North West get the hind end of just about everything, the worst deal.

“We have a parliament in Scotland we have our own economic initiatives, that’s not the case for the North of England.

“What sort of initiatives could we have? Well, transport for a start. Fast rail is coming, the greatest misnomer of all time, fast rail in the UK means something that will take 40 years to build.

“But the important point is that it is being built from south to north. It would be a rather interesting concept to see it built from north to south, the advantages there of the combinations of the great city conurbations of Glasgow, Edinburgh and for example Newcastle, which would present an interesting economic powerhouse.

“So cooperation doesn’t depend on territorial ambitions.”

Hexham MP Guy Opperman, a campaigner in the Better Together group, said: “All of us would welcome any action by the Scottish Government to improve transport links from Edinburgh to the North East, whether that is dualling the A1 north of the border or a commitment to High Speed rail from Edinburgh to Newcastle.

“But I would urge Mr Salmond to put his money where his mouth is.”

In Newcastle, council leader Nick Forbes has already met with Alex Salmond in Newcastle to discuss High Speed Rail, alongside visits to Edinburgh and Glasgow councils.

He said: “I strongly believe that the North East needs to be around the table discussing how we get the best deal for the region after the referendum.

“The Borderlands initiative shows we’re working closely with Scotland on a range of issues, and it is interesting to hear how much Scotland values its links with cities like Newcastle. It’s not all just about London.”

Source – Newcastle Journal   12 April 2014

BNP food banks ‘are for indigenous Brits only’ says Nick Griffin

> The BNP, no doubt starting to worry that UKIP are muscling in on their natural support base,  move into charitable works… but only for the ‘deserving poor’ of course – deserving in their blinkered world-view meaning  “indigenous Brits”, whoever they are

British National Party leader Nick Griffin has said that the party’s mobile “food banks” are for “indigenous Brits only”.

He also described a leading anti-fascist campaigner who criticised the scheme as an “orc”.

The BNP says it has started sending activists from door to door, offering canned goods, tea and washing powder to people in need in parts of London, the Midlands and the North-West.

But Mr Griffin, who is an MEP, tweeted yesterday: “For the avoidance of doubt, our BNP food banks are for indigenous Brits only. ‘Minorities’ all have their own (taxpayer-funded) charities.”

He also dismissed criticism from Weyman Bennett, the general secretary of Unite Against Fascism, who said the offers of free food were reminiscent of “Hitler’s soup kitchens” and, more recently, the tactics of the far-right Golden Dawn movement in Greece.

“Crazed reaction from the UAF orc shows it’s the way ahead!” Mr Griffin said.

Mr Bennett said Mr Griffin’s comments exposed the donations for what they were.

“To say it’s only for indigenous people is blatantly racist,” he said. “No charity in this country is based itself around racist ideas and discriminatory ideas.

“Nick Griffin is seeking to exploit people’s poverty and pain and twist it to racist and fascist ideas.”

He reiterated his call for an investigation into the BNP by the Electoral Commission, saying they were “using racist policies” to try to win votes illegally.

Mr Bennett, who is black, said the word “orc” was used by far-right groups in the same way as the Nazis used the word “untermensch”, meaning under-man or sub-human.

“It’s a racial thing. I’m not surprised he uses racist terminology towards anybody who disagrees with him,” he said.

The Commission’s website say that it is “an offence to publish or distribute threatening, abusive or insulting material that is intended to stir up racial hatred or which is likely to stir up racial hatred”.

Source – The Independent   02 April 2014

Northumberland blocked from Government tourism cash bid

Tourism projects vital to Northumberland will be denied a chance to bid for Government cash.

Hopes of building on Northumberland’s tourist hotspot status were dashed when planners were told the latest Government advice was that new projects would not bring in enough jobs and so will not get any cash from a £2bn local growth fund.

Officials in Northumberland were told the news when they asked for £2m from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, the business-led group backed by Government tasked with co-ordinating job creation efforts. Cash would have gone towards The Sill project, a visitor centre which would have created more than 100 jobs.

The partnership told Northumberland the blame lay with the Government, saying cities minister Greg Clark made the blunt assessment of the likelihood of funding bids being successful when he met business and council leaders last week.

But last night the Cabinet office said it was “absolutely wrong” to rule out tourism projects, and insisted the North East could try for cash if it could prove that the tourism project would create jobs.

Tourism in Northumberland alone is said to support some 16,000 jobs, but, Northumberland County Councilhas been told, strict funding rules for the new cash pot will rule out supporting visitor centres, galleries or hotels. The snub has raised fears at County Hall that money handed to the region through the Local Growth Fund will almost entirely benefit urban Tyneside and Sunderland.

 Liam Carr, Labour’s Hexham candidate and a Newcastle College lecturer, said: “This shows how out of touch the coalition is in the North East.

“To say that ‘tourism isn’t an economic priority’ downplays the significant role this sector plays in the wider Northumberland economy but especially in Tynedale. Last year it accounted for over £700m in the county economy and underpinned over 13,000 jobs. The Conservative-led coalition doesn’t understand our needs.”

The Sill project, based near Haydon Bridge, is for a discovery centre and office space bringing in an expected 100,000 visitors, with 15,000 expected to stay overnight.

The partnership’s tourism advice also raises question marks over further tourism cash for other Northumberland projects, including a share of the £7m needed to further develop Kielder Forestwith a tree top walkway adventure centre and wildlife support.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “It is absolutely untrue to say that tourism projects are less likely be successful in bids for local growth deals.

“Any bid must be able to show good evidence of benefits for the local economy in terms of jobs and growth, and bids from the tourism industry will be considered on their individual merits alongside every other sector. It is for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to decide what priority they give to the individual bids in the region, according to the evidence provided.”

A spokesman for the partnership said they were still finalising plans, adding that: “We have been advised that tourism and cultural projects are less likely to achieve these ambitious measures.

“This does not mean the end for the Sill or other projects which could not be prioritised at this time and we will be working with partners to identify alternative funding sources wherever possible.”

Source – Newcastle Journal,  25 March 2014

And on a similar theme…

 

The Trust set up to safeguard Hadrian’s Wall is to be closed down as a result of funding cuts.

Staff at the Hadrian’s Wall Trust face an uncertain future after English Heritage decided it had no option but to pull the plug on support.

The body had being tasked with managing the World heritage Site, but control will now have to be shared among various councils along the route.

English Heritage, Natural England and the eight local authorities who part fund the Hadrian’s Wall Trust are working with NorthumberlandNational Park Authority and the Chairman of the World Heritage Site Management Plan Committee, to put new arrangements in place to safeguard one of the country’s most famous landmarks.

Henry Owen-John, English Heritage planning and conservation director for the North West, said the funders were left with little choice.

He said: “The Trust as a charity is working in a pretty tough financial climate, as are the people who contribute funds to it, such as English Heritage.

“The Trust has been very successful in raising money for specific projects, but the difficulty is finding funding to cover its core costs, the day to day costs, and it is this which has led us to our decision.

“These are difficult times that we all have to operate under. The Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site is unusual in that we do not normally cover the management sites, it is really just this and Stonehenge where this happens, and we have to bring that situation here to an end, and try to get the management self sustaining.

“The people who will take over after the closure of the trust are committed to the future management and coordination of the sites.

“Northumberland County Council will take a lead role in coordinating this now.”

Mr Owen-John said promotional work this year will continue.

“It will take approximately six months to bring the affairs of the trust to a satisfactory conclusion, and the spring and autumn promotional work will continue as planned this year.

“We want to continue marketing Hadrian’s Wall as a whole rather than each council just marketing its bit of the wall.”

English Heritage has had a hard time when it comes to securing Government cash. In 2010 it had some 30% of its budget axed.

In 2013 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport came back for more cuts, asking for 10% from the heritage group’s 2015/16 budget.

Last month The Journal revealed concerns among North East councils that plans to reform English Heritage could see it cherry pick the best sites for its new management arm at the cost of less glamorous sites.

The changes have prompted fears from former Newcastle council leader Lord Beecham and former regional minister Nick Brown that the moves were akin to privatising the service.

In response, Sir Laurie Magnus told The Journal he wanted to “make clear that English Heritage considers its sites in the North East to be among the most important, interesting and beautiful in England. The advantage of the proposed change is that we will be able to invest more in them not less.”

In Northumberland it is hoped the staff currently working for the trust will, where possible, be found work with the councils and other bodies helping look after the wall in future, with decisions being made over the next six months.

Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council: “Hadrian’s Wall is a core part of the county’s tourism industry. We are working alongside our partners with businesses, communities and all other stakeholders along the route to support them and keep them informed of developments. Our priority is safeguarding the Wall into the future.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 25 March 2014