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
Residents of a former colliery community plan to take over the running of dozens of boarded up homes themselves.
A total of 160 homes out of 361 properties managed by Accent housing association stand empty in East Durham – 130 of them in Horden, near Peterlee.
They have become a magnet for antisocial behaviour, fly-tipping and rat infestations.
Horden residents decided to act after Accent announced it was seeking a “programme of disposal”, with a Government minister suggesting last week they could be flogged off for as little as £1 each.
Accent has blamed the controversial bedroom tax for contributing to the low demand for the homes, but residents argue it is the failure to invest in the properties which has made them undesirable.
At a packed meeting convened by the Horden Colliery Residents’ Association (HCRA) on February 18 backed the formation of a community association with the view to acquiring and renovating the properties.
HCRA spokesman John Barnett said:
“Over the many years Accent have invested little or nothing on the properties.
“Although Accent claims the bedroom tax is to blame, we believe it is the lack of investment and the state they have allowed the streets to degrade into that has put people off. The appearance of all the boarded up houses is devastating.”
Residents have approached community housing expert Jo Gooding to help them examine the options.
Accent is hoping many of the homes will be purchased by would-be homeowners under a homesteading initiative, subject to approval by the Homes and Communities Association.
Claire Stone, Accent’s director of communities and assets, said:
“We have worked really hard to find the best possible solution for these homes and have had a dedicated project team in place with Durham County Council and the Homes and Communities Agency to explore all the options.
“We had hoped that other social landlords with stock in the area would take them on, but unfortunately this has not proved possible.
New prepayment meters are being installed in hundreds of homes to help residents pay for their gas and electricity.
From the end of the month, Derwentside Homes will install the new smart meters, which display how much gas and electricity is being used and how much it costs, in 200 homes.
Under the pilot project, the meters will be installed in the company’s properties as they become vacant.
It follows a deal between Derwentside Homes and energy provider Ovo.
Vicky McCourt, new business development manager at Derwentside Homes, said: “The deal we have struck with Ovo will go a long way to helping our residents to reduce their energy use – and to cut their bills.
“Prepayment meters can be very expensive for customers on low incomes, who often have no choice but to have this type of supply arrangement.
“However, Ovo are consistently very competitive on the market when it comes to prepayment deals and by supplying customers with real time information on their energy use, and its costs, we can help to bring prices down even further for our residents”.
The first meter has just been installed at a house in Moorside, near Consett and Derwentside Homes says it ultimately hopes to have smart meters installed in all of its properties.
Ms McCourt added: “New residents will be set up with Ovo as their supplier – but, importantly, they will have the choice whether to stay with them or switch to an alternative provider.
“We believe this exciting initiative has the potential to reduce fuel poverty among Derwentside’s residents.”
Source – Northern Echo, 25 July 2014
Art venues could have their £1.2m budget slashed as Gateshead Council sets in motion plans to make multi-million pound budget savings.
Giving up the running of leisure centres, making residents pay for garden waste disposal and a review of the council’s remaining 12 libraries are other suggestions put forward in a consultation document released by the authority today.
Councillors need to save £45m from the budget over the next two years and are asking residents to comment on a range of ideas for where savings could be made.
Leader of the council Mick Henry said: “There’s never been such a financial challenge since 1974 when this council formed.
“What we need to do now is share this problem with workers and businesses in Gateshead so we can all work out how to mitigate the unbearable impact of this coalition Government.”
In the document Budget 2014/2016 Your Views Count’ residents are asked whether the £1.2m spent on funding the Sage Gateshead, BALTIC and Shipley Art Gallery should be reduced.
The borough’s 12 leisure centres, which cost £3.1m a year to run, are also identified as an area in which possible savings could be made with people asked if they agree or disagree with facilities being reduced.
Withdrawing support to youth services and reducing funding to teenage parents is also offered as a budget solution.
Coun Henry said at this stage the docunent puts forward a series of choices and not concrete proposals or decisions.
The savings come on top of £75m budget cuts made by the authority since 2010 and last week the council annouced a further 400 job losses.
David Newton from the GMB union, said: “We realise that things get harder every year but we want to look at alternatives because this isn’t the Gateshead way to cut essential services like this. Out-sourcing for children and families could be done in house. We need to look at this again.
“We understand that this Government has given up on the people of this county by these proposals but we don’t want to see Gateshead giving up on its young people.”
Council tax may also rise for the first time in three years as residents are consulted on whether they should take a one per cent grant in exchange for freezing rates.
However Councilor Henry said he wanted to get across to people the impact this would have on civic funds.
He said: “It means that you don’t grow your budget and that your base budget stays the same.
“As more cuts occur there’s a real argument about whether you accept that freeze or increase council tax. We want to ask people what they think.
“We have done it in the past because at that time we thought it was one hit too much for the people of Gateshead.”
He also added that this current round of cuts strengthens yet again the case for a combined local authority to lobby central Government on behalf of the North East.
Between now and 17 December, people can give their views on the choices for saving money by filling in a survey at www.gateshead.gov.uk/budget . Copies are also available at most council buildings or on request by calling 0191 433 3000, The council will agree the budget for 2014/16 in February.
Newcastle Journal, 16 Oct 2013