Tagged: north

Stockton MP tells Parliament that police cuts are jeopardising public safety

Further cuts to policing budgets risks further jeopardising public safety, a Teesside MP told Parliament.

Despite assurances from the Prime Minister in 2010 that frontline policing would not be affected, some 8,000 police officers have already been lost from the frontline, said Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North.

Last month Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, confirmed that further cuts to the Police Grant Settlement will mean a reduction in local police funding of over £4.5m, warning it will place further pressure on an already stretched force.

Mr Coppinger called for the public and local MPs “to speak out about how far they are willing to let ministers go in juggling with public safety”.

During Parliamentary Questions to the Home Office in the House of Commons, Alex said:

“There has been a net loss of 293 police officers from the Cleveland police service since 2010, and our police commissioner says that the budget has been cut by another 5.1%, which could further jeopardise public safety.

“Does the Home Secretary agree that such losses and cuts are the reasons behind the drop in confidence in policing for the first time in a decade?”

But the Stockton MP said the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims was “unable to explain away this loss of confidence” – and sought instead to highlight the admirable manner in which Cleveland Police has dealt with cuts that will see the force £35m worse off than in 2010/11.

Speaking after the question session, Alex said:

“Despite already facing savage cuts, police forces around the country have been told to prepare for more of the same during the next Parliament.

“It is extremely worrying that the Association of Chief Police Officers is estimating that a further 6,000 frontline officers will need to be cut to meet budget reductions between 2015-17.

“Even more alarmingly, I understand that the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police has written to the Home Secretary warning that current funding arrangements will result in his force becoming unsustainable by 2019 and identifying a real risk that his may be the first force to fall.

“I am in no doubt further cutting of policing budgets will further decimate our police forces and place even more pressure on a service already under-resourced and overstretched.”

The MP said with similar cuts to local government services, police officers will be expected to do more with less – “an unrealistic proposition”.

“While Cleveland Police deserve praise for innovative collaboration with partner organisations in managing funding reductions to date, there is only a finite amount of pressure they can shoulder before the cracks start to emerge and these further cuts may breach that tipping point.”

Source –  Midlesbrough Evening Gazette, 07 Jan 2015

Stockton : Plea to end zero hour contracts becomes an internet hit

A stepfather’s impassioned plea to end the use of zero-hour contracts has become an internet hit after his stepson was forced leave his rented home when he could no longer cover the rent.

Stephen Thompson wrote an open letter to his stepson’s employer, JD Wetherspoon, after the family was forced to buy the kitchen worker a new pair of shoes so he could walk to work without getting his feet wet.

And since he posted the letter on Facebook a few days ago, he has been inundated with similar tales from other people who are struggling under the financial burden of a zero-hour contract.

With more than 12,000 likes and 13,000 shares, the post has attracted the attention of people from across the country.

Mr Thompson, who works at a university as a social entrepreneur-in-residence and community engagement coordinator, says he was shocked at how far reaching the problem was for people trying to find secure work.

“My stepson is in 40s and trained for three years to be able to work in catering,” he said.

“I never realised how common the problem was with zero hour contracts, people who just want to work take these jobs but their futures are never secure.

> And this is a large part of the problem – so many people who ought to realise what is going on in this country seem oblivious to it. Mainstream media barely reports it, of course, but even so … and you might at least expect someone who works as a community engagement coordinator to know what’s going on in that community.

Still, he does now, and has done something positive about it.

“When I wrote the open letter, I never expected the response that I have received. I have read some real horror stories in the last few days.

 “The use of these Draconian contracts is having a devastating effect on the lives of people who just want to work for a living.”

In his letter, he writes:

“He is “employed” on a zero-hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. He got into trouble with his rent and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment for this.

“He now lives two miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk this distance to and from work as he does not earn enough to afford public transport. Yesterday my wife was obliged to buy him new shoes as he had worn holes in his existing ones. I think it is appalling that you do not provide your kitchen staff with appropriate footwear.”

And he has contacted his local MP Alex Cunningham to garner his support for the abolition of zero-hour contracts.

 The Stockton North MP said:
“People are suffering, these contracts effect they way people are able to live. Some are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent and some are even struggling to put food on their tables.

“I believe it is time to end the widespread use of zero-hour contracts.”

A Wetherspoon spokesman said:

“Wetherspoon does operate flexible contracts for its hourly paid staff.

“The company operates in a seasonal sector and offer flexible hours to meet demand. Pub managers try to give staff the hours they want.

“Rotas are produced by the manager and published to employees at least two weeks in advance.

“Wetherspoon probably offers more hours per week than any other pub company.”

To read the letter visit facebook.com/Stmedia/posts/10152912900027184

Source –  Northern Echo,  03 Jan 2015

‘Dangerous’ fire cuts putting North East lives at risk – and the axe is to wield again

Hundreds of frontline firefighters have been axed across the North as part of “dangerous” cuts – with another round of job losses on the way.

An  investigation shows how more than 300 full-time firefighter roles have been cut in the North in the last four years.

And with brigades admitting there are hundreds more jobs still to go thanks to cuts in Government funding, campaigners claim “a tragedy is waiting to happen”.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has been the biggest casualty, with the axe taking out 18.4% of staff, some 173 workers – 143 of them frontline firefighters.

Cleveland has lost 17.5% of its workforce – 110 workers including 100 full-time or ‘on-call’ firefighters, and one station has closed.

Some 56 frontline firefighters have been axed in Northumberland, but 12 ‘on-call’ roles have been created. Overall, the brigade is 49 people (11.4%) – and two stations – down.

Meanwhile, Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service has lost 49 whole-time firefighters but has hired more ‘on-call’ and back office staff. It means the authority is 24 bodies lighter (4.1%) than it was in 2010.

The North East as a whole has lost 333 frontline firefighters – with that figure likely to double over the coming years.

Meanwhile Cumbria lost 16.5% of staff, including 30 full-time firefighters, while North Yorkshire is down 5% of staff, and 27 frontline firefighters.

Peter Wilcox, regional secretary at the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU), said cutbacks put both firefighters and the public “at greater risk” with fewer resources to respond to potentially life-threatening emergencies.

He said: “Firefighters witnessed a decade of 2-3% year-on-year reductions to fire service funding leading up to the coalition Government taking office in 2010.

“Since this time the level of cuts have been unprecedented, with frontline services being hit by losses of 20% on average and further cuts of 7.5% planned by central Government for 2015-16.

“In real terms, we have seen fewer fire engines available to respond to emergency incidents.

“This level of cuts is not sustainable and places the public and firefighters at greater risk from fires and other emergency incidents.

“Despite David Cameron’s pledge not to cut frontline services prior to his party’s election in 2010, this is one pledge too far and has not been honoured.

“Firefighters across the North are saying enough is enough. Members of the public anticipate receiving the right level of protection and expect the appropriate response in their hour of need.”

As well as fighting domestic fires, brigades here in the North cover large industrial areas where blazes can fast accelerate.

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, said the cuts should be stopped before it’s too late. She said: “The massive cuts this Tory-led Government has inflicted on fire services are not only unacceptable, they are dangerous.

“With more cuts due, I genuinely believe that a tragedy is waiting to happen. This Government needs to think again and fund our fire services fairly.”

The figures are set to make even grimmer reading by 2018, with more drastic cuts planned – but local fire brigades reassured residents they will be protected.

Cleveland Fire Brigade  said it needs to save a further £6m in the next four years, meaning 135 frontline firefighters will be replaced by 72 ‘on-call’ staff.

Chief fire officer Ian Hayton said: “Cleveland has been at the wrong end of the Government austerity cuts and tops the league table of authorities with the highest funding reduction at more than 13%. We believe these reductions are disproportionate.”

Six fire engines, 131 more staff and three stations will be lost as part of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s three-year plan of cuts.

The authority’s chief fire officer Tom Capeling, announcing the plan in January, said the move is expected to save £5m. He said: “There is no doubt that this continues to be a challenging time for the service.”

In Durham and Darlington, the brigade is looking to save £3.6m by 2018, but bosses said firefighters lost in the last round of cuts weren’t made redundant.

Chief executive Susan Johnson said: “The small reduction in the number of whole-time firefighters has been through natural wastage – planned retirements and leavers.”

Northumberland Fire and Rescue also said further savings may be needed in the next three years.

However residents can be reassured that in the future we will continue to work with partners to provide high quality prevention and protection activity along with a well-equipped and highly trained workforce,” said assistant chief fire officer Steve Richards said.

Cuts over the last four years mean the North East has lost 13.8% of its workforce, higher than the national average of 11.2% and the third worst region in England.

Nationally, 5,124 firefighters have been lost, forcing an FBU Ring of Fire protest tour of England, including stop-offs at Redcar and Sunderland.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the union, said: “The cuts, in our view, mean the service firefighters are able to provide is not as good as it could be or as good as it was.

“It means, for example, people are waiting longer after they dial 999 for firefighters to arrive. The ability to do the job safely is being undermined and this puts lives at risk.”

Source –  Sunday Sun, 28 Sept 2014

Benefits Street on Teesside? Stockton MP approached by producers

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has again insisted the makers of Benefits Street are not welcome in the town.

The Labour MP spoke out this morning after production company Love Productions requested a meeting with him.

He said the controversial programme preyed on vulnerable people and was “exploitative”.

TV crews were seen in Dixon Street, off Dovecot Street last month after previously speaking to families in Middlesbrough.

And Mr Cunningham tweeted today that they had requested a meeting:

 The MP told the Gazette: “The chief executive for Love Productions has offered a meeting but I don’t know how useful that would be, as I imagine that we would both have fairly entrenched opinions.

“We have not heard anything on the ground for a while about Benefits Street coming to Stockton, there have been a few bits and pieces but nothing concrete.

“My message to the producers would be the same as when it was first rumoured that they were interested in coming to film here – Benefits Street is not welcome in Stockton.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  20 May 2014

Northumbria Police announce huge job losses due to funding cuts

A huge restructure of Northumbria Police will see more than 400 jobs go and police stations closed as part of ongoing measures to save a total of £104m in response to “relentless” Government funding cuts.

The force will lose 230 members of staff – some by voluntary or compulsory redundancy – and reduce its number of senior officers by 200, through ‘natural turnover’.

They will also close “expensive” police stations, and reduce the number of area commands from six to three.

The restructure plans were announced last night as it was revealed that Northumbria Police has to save an additional £46m by March 2017, having already delivered £58m of savings since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, branded the cuts “unfair” but promised to protect frontline services working in neighbourhoods throughout the region.

> What does that mean ? We still wont see the coppers we already never see, unless speeding past in a car ?

She said: “The Government cuts are relentless and unfair. They impact far more heavily on our police service than on many others. The Chief Constable and I are very committed to maintaining the number of police officers and staff working in our neighbourhoods.

“To achieve this we need to do things differently, use technology more effectively and work from different buildings that are cheaper to run.”

The proposals, which the force stress are in the early stages, will see some “outdated” police stations closed and Neighbourhood Policing Teams relocated to bases within the communities they serve in shared accommodation facilities such as leisure centres.

> A plastic plod in the front of a supermarket, strictly 9-5, and able only to refer you to the police’s website, no doubt

However, a spokeswoman for Northumbria said that no police buildings will close until suitable new locations have been found.

Mrs Baird added: “We will relocate Neighbourhood Policing Teams to bases in the local community, usually shared with other services. We are currently doing this in North Tyneside where we are proposing to have police in the White Swan Centre at Killingworth following public consultation, rather than in an outdated, expensive-to-maintain police station in Forest Hall.

“We are keen to make further savings by relocating other neighbourhood policing teams into the communities that they serve, as this is what local policing is all about. However, we guarantee no police services will be relocated until we have found accessible bases within the community for neighbourhood teams to work from and they are working well.

“I am conscious that local people are feeling the effects of the economic downturn very acutely in our region. We have managed to protect frontline numbers and deliver the savings needed without the public having to pay more.”

> You’d never guess she used to be an MP, would you ?

Another change in the way Northumbria Police operate will be the down-sizing of the current six area commands – Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland – to three.

These will cover existing local authority areas coming under North, Central and South. North will cover North Tyneside and Northumberland, Central will serve Newcastle and Gateshead and South will cover Sunderland and South Tyneside.

> With the possible closure of Sunderland’s city centre Gilbridge police station being mooted  – to go with the probable closure of the city centre fire station. How long before someone decides the city doesn’t really need a hospital either ?

The force has said it has made every effort to safeguard the services the public say they value most, which is visible policing in their communities.

> Invisible policing, more like ! Otherwise only seen when there’s a football match on.

The proposed changes, which won’t see any increase in council tax, will not reduce the service to the public nor impact on the force’s ability to reduce crime and disorder, according to Northumbria Police.

> Truth is,  the region is never going to be a potential Tory electoral gain (Hexham aside), so why should  anyone in government really care what happens here ? 

On the other hand, it’s safe Labour seats, so they don’t appear to feel the need to stand up for us either – they take it for granted that they’ll get voted back whatever happens.

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place !

Perhaps, should Scotland go independant, they might consider extending the border down to the Tees…

Source – Newcastle Journal, Sunderland Echo, 09 Jan 2014

Durham University in ‘unpaid teachers’ row

THE North East’s  leading university has become embroiled in a pay row, after advertising unpaid “voluntary” teaching jobs.

On its own website, Durham University is offering what it calls a “voluntary development opportunity” for PhD students to design and offer “extracurricular seminars” for undergraduates in its Department of Theology and Religion.

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academics, said unpaid posts undermined the principles of equal pay, exploited people able to work for free and discriminated against those who could not afford to do so.

UCU regional support official Jon Bryan said: “The advert says its requires applicants to devise and deliver courses without payment, which is completely at odds with the firm commitment Durham gave us last year that it does not recruit unpaid staff.

“The university needs to make a clear statement outlining its position on people working for free.

“We simply do not accept the defence that teaching for free is a development opportunity – clearly it is not available to people who cannot afford to work for free.

“Universities should be striving for excellence, not seeking to exploit those who can afford to work for nothing as free labour.”

However, a Durham University spokesperson  said the seminars were set up in response to demand from its postgraduate students who wanted to broaden their teaching experience for their own professional development.

The spokesperson said: “Participation is entirely voluntary and feedback has been positive from both the postgraduates designing and delivering the courses and the undergraduates who take them; many said it improved their understand and appreciation of the subject area.

“A wide range of paid teaching assistant opportunities are also available within the department and our postgraduates have the opportunity to apply for these.”

Durham, one of the world’s top 100 universities, charges the maximum £9,000-a-year in student tuition fees and has been criticised by the trade union Unison for allegedly paying hundreds of its workers less than the living wage of £7.45 an hour while vice-chancellor Professor Chris Higgins picks up a salary of £232,000 a year.

 

Source – Northern Echo  22 Oct 2013