Tagged: Scarborough

Hartlepool’s debt nightmare laid bare by worrying figures

Hartlepool‘s  debt nightmare has been highlighted in a national league table of towns suffering from high levels of personal insolvencies.

The town ranks 16th in the country for towns with the worst record of people with critical levels of debt.

Statistics from information services company Experian show 13 out of every 10,000 households in Hartlepool had an insolvency problem during the survey period which was the last three months of 2014.

Torquay topped the table with Scarborough and Penzance close behind – but Hartlepool’s problem is getting worse.

 Figures show three more people per 10,000 households were in difficulties last year than at the same time a year earlier.

The study also showed hard-pressed and vulnerable young families with squeezed budgets were the worst affected.

Jonathan Westley, managing director of Experian’s Consumer Information Services UK & Ireland, said:

“Insolvency rates within young families and across some key coastal towns and locations in the North remind us there is still some way to go in terms of recovery.

“Many people are still on stretched budgets further highlighting the need for credit providers to recognise circumstances unique to each individual, enabling their money to go further and help support them against debt.”

Overall, the picture is improving and the signs for 2015 are positive with personal insolvencies in Great Britain falling from 10 in every 10,000 households in 2013, to nine in every 10,000 households in 2014.

Mr Westley added:

“The good news is that we’re on the right path and it’s promising that overall insolvency rates are steadily declining. The current low mortgage interest rates may well have aided the improvements we’ve seen among many groups.”

A breakdown of the statistics showed some sections of society were in bigger difficulties than others.

Families with children who have limited budgets were struggling to make ends meet, often found in areas with fewer employment options, the study showed. This group had an insolvency rate of 19 per 10,000 households.

Single people who pay modest rents for low cost homes – and who often live in a property for only a short length of time before moving on – were also struggling to make ends meet.

People on long-term rent deals, who are living in low-value flats or in small terraces on outlying estates, were also shown to be among the at-risk groups.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  01 Apr 2015

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Half of North-East part-time jobs pay less than living wage, report reveals

Almost a quarter of all North-East workers – and nearly a half of part-time staff – are not being paid a living wage, new research shows.

Local authorities in the region are facing fresh calls to pay employees and contractors more after a study by the GMB revealed that 23.4 per cent of North-East jobs paid less than the living wage.

Jobs held by women – 29.9 per cent – and part-time roles – 46.8 per cent – were disproportionately affected, the report based on data from the Office for National Statistics showed.

The living wage is a recommended rate of pay that takes into account the true cost of living in the UK.

In November 2014 the national living wage increased to £7.85 per hour outside London.

GMB is publishing the figures to mark the launch of its 2015 campaign to get every local authority signed up to the living wage. 134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far made the move, up from 103 a year ago.

So far only two authorities in the North-East – Newcastle and South Tyneside – have implemented or committed to implement the living wage.

In North Yorkshire, two councils – York and Scarborough – have taken the step.

Billy Coates, GMB regional secretary for the North-East, said:

“No area is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the living wage in their communities, beginning with their own staff and contractors.

“There are 446,300 council employees paid less than the Living Wage, the majority of them women working part-time.

“The living wage matters because it takes into account the income that people need for a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is a first step towards a rate of pay that people can live on without relying on benefits.”

In the North-East, Hartlepool has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 34.7 per cent, followed by Redcar and Cleveland – 30 per cent – and Middlesbrough and Northumberland, both 26.8 per cent.

At regional level, the East Midlands has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 24.7 per cent.

Source –  Northern Echo,  07 Feb 2015

Middlesbrough Council to provide £85,000 to establish ‘community bank’ in town

A community bank in Middlesbrough town centre to challenge pay day lenders has been recommended by council chiefs.

A new community bank to be based in the heart of Middlesbrough is at the core of Labour mayoral candidate Cllr Dave Budd’s campaign to secure the position in May, when current Independent Mayor Ray Mallon will step down.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Budd, Executive member for finance and governance, has recommended in a report to be put before the Executive on Tuesday that Moneywise Community Banking be provided with a two-year grant totalling £85,000 to support its plans to locate to a town centre premises.

It aims to help over three years 4,000 new members, provide 1,200 training courses and issue loans amounting to just over £0.5m.

A loan from Moneywise of £300 with a typical APR of 26.7% over 12 months, the total repayable amount would be £342.79.

In comparison, the council report states the same loan from a doorstep lender (APR 272%) would cost £546 to repay; from an online instant loan (APR 1058%) it would cost £627.54 to repay; and from an illegal lender or loan shark (APR 1000%), it would cost £2,900 to repay.

Moneywise Community Banking – a not-for-profit member owned credit union – will deliver a number of financial support services including safe and easy savings; an optional Visa debit card service; low cost loans; Christmas savings club; white goods and furniture at discounted prices; free employability training; and debt and money management advice.

It was originally based in Hartlepool and now operates across Teesside, East Durham and North Yorkshire with offices in Redcar, Hartlepool and Scarborough. It is regulated by the Financial Services Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, which is also the case with banks.

All member savings within Moneywise are fully protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme so members can save safely in the knowledge that they cannot lose their savings, the report said.

Cllr Budd has said previously that a “modern, effective” credit union for Middlesbrough has to be “competitive and give an instant answer like companies such as Wonga do”.

“This has worked elsewhere and it can work in Middlesbrough. It will offer credit at fair rates and gives all Middlesbrough residents the opportunity for greater financial security.”

The report states that the two-year £85,000 grant would be funded through existing resources within the Community Support Fund.

Moneywise and Middlesbrough Council would work together to identify suitable premises.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 14 Jan 2015

Thousands to benefit from Durham’s ‘local living wage’

Thousands of low-paid workers are in line for a pay rise, with the North-East’s biggest council poised to introduce a “local living wage”.

Labour-led Durham County Council is expected to adopt a minimum wage of £7.43 an hour next month (December) – meaning more than 2,500 of the lowest paid workers, including cleaners, catering staff and lollipop men and women, could get a pay rise of up to £1,000 a year from January 1.

The raise is still below the national Living Wage of £7.85, but would cost the cash-strapped authority more than £1m a year.

Councillor Alan Napier, the council’s deputy leader, said the scheme was a fair, affordable and sustainable way of introducing a realistic and deliverable living wage.

“We believe its introduction would not only make a significant difference to the lives of our lowest paid employees but would also have knock-on benefits for the authority and wider county,” he added.

Howard Pink, from Unison, said it was a step in the right direction.

“Local government is the worst paid of the public service sectors and it’s really important to address this issue. The vast majority of people to benefit will be women,” he added.

The council has been considering adopting the living wage for at least two years.

Liberal Democrat Mark Wilkes, whose attempt to force it through by the spring was defeated in July, said: “I’m delighted. A well paid workforce returns the investment in them many times over. We will continue to push for our lowest paid workers to get a fair deal.”

No North-East council has yet adopted the official Living Wage.

Newcastle, Northumberland, North and South Tyneside and Northumberland are working towards increasing their lowest pay levels and Scarborough adopted a minimum wage of £7.45 last November. Sunderland is committed to becoming a Living Wage employer by April.

Durham cannot force its will on schools, where the majority of the lowest paid work, as their pay is controlled by governors.

But Mr Pink said: “If schools are reluctant to bring it in, we will want to discuss that with them.”

The proposals will be debated at a full council meeting on Wednesday, December 3, at Durham’s County Hall.

Source –  Durham Times,  19 Nov 2014

North East is suffering a pay fall as wage gap emerges

A widening pay gap between the region and the rest of the country has emerged, alongside a pay fall for the nation as a whole this year.

According to the Northern think tank, IPPR North, real wages have fallen in the past few years in the North-East and North Yorkshire, where workers are generally earning less than the national average.

Between 2009 and 2013 real annual wages have fallen three per cent in the North-East (£740) and five per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber (£1,249.)

Over the same period, the cost of living has risen sharply across the nation.

Social research charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) say the cost of goods and services has gone up 28 per cent since 2008.

Luke Raikes, a researcher with IPPR North said:

“Low pay is a severe and growing problem for both the North East and for Yorkshire and the Humber, as it is for the country as a whole.”

“Workers in the area earn less per hour: nationally the average wage is £13.13, but in North East it’s £12.14, and in Yorkshire and the Humber it’s £12.”

The news has come during Living Wage week, where it was revealed one in every four workers is earning less than the living wage in the region, which now stands at £7.85 an hour.

Most of the districts with the lowest average hourly gross pay were in rural North Yorkshire, which included the districts of Ryedale (£10.43) followed by Scarborough (£10.82) and Hambleton (£11.17).

In the North-East, the average hourly pay in Middlesbrough was the lowest, at £11.05 per hour and the highest was in Stockton-on-Tees, where it worked out at £13.29 per hour.

It comes as a report show a national pay fall. Wages have been “dragged down” this year because of changing trends in the workforce, including younger and less experienced employees, according to a new study.

> But surely changing trends in the workforce are caused by decisions made by  employers ?  If anyone is guilty of dragging down wages, its surely not the employees !

The Resolution Foundation think tank said a downward shift in the mix of occupations towards lower-paying jobs has prevented 2014 from being the year of the pay rise.

But some of this was due to increase employment; changes which led to reduced earnings growth include fewer managerial jobs, rising youth employment and increasing numbers of people starting a job.

> Or, as a comment to the original article pointed out :

It also appears to be due to a cultural change in companies pushing their luck with employees. They know there are less skilled jobs available allowing them to cut wages, implement pay freezes and cut benefits such as pensions. This is definitely the case with my employer. I cant see this changing in a hurry. My employers regularly state if you don’t like it, you know where the door is! Inflation continues, my wage increase doesn’t.

Source –  Northern Echo,  08 Nov 2014

Fewer than half of claims for new disabled and sick benefit approved in parts of Teesside

Fewer than half of claims for payment under a controversial government benefit for disabled and sick people are being approved in parts of Teesside.

Figures released today show that, nationally, 51% of Britons applying for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) ended up receiving the money.

But the proportion is as low as 26% – or just over one in four claims – in some parts of the country.

On Teesside, Redcar parliamentary constituency had the lowest approval rate at 47%.

In the two Middlesbrough constituencies, 1,090 claims have now been determined.

The approval rate was 49% in Middlesbrough and 48% in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

In Stockton North the figure was 55% while Stockton South’s was 51%.

PIPs were introduced in April 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance for 16-64 years olds.

Payments are worth between £21 and £134 a week and go to sick and disabled people with a long-term health condition.

Eligibility is determined by medics employed by private companies, usually at a face-to-face assessment lasting up to two hours.

Department for Work and Pension figures showed the approval rate for new claims was 26% in the parliamentary constituency – the lowest in the country.

That compares with an approval rate of 68% in Scotland’s Western Isles and Stoke-on-Trent South.

Nationally, around 100,000 people have either withdrawn their claim or had it refused.

Reassessments of the existing 1.7m claimants of DLA began in October but was effectively paused after a backlog of 780,000 cases built up.

In June this year the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee said the new system had been ‘rushed’ through, creating a ‘fiasco’ in which ‘many’ people faced six-month delays, and terminally ill people were waiting one month on average for their payment.

Payments had been due to begin in the north of England from April 2013 but only 360 assessments had been done by the time the programme was launched nationally two months later.

The Department for Work and Pensions expects 600,000 fewer people will receive PIP by May 2018, compared with its projections for DLA. It expects this will lead to annual savings to benefit spending of £3bn from 2018/19.

The latest figures, up to the end of July 2014, show 80,100 PIPs were awarded nationally under ‘normal’ rules, out of 177,000 new claims considered closed by the department. Some 22,100 PIPs have been awarded under special fast-track rules for people with a terminal illness, out of 23,100 closed claims.

In all, 490,400 new claims have been lodged under the new system.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  17 Sept 2014

Services at region’s “little used” railway stations under threat

Rail services at around 20 of the region’s “little-used” stations are under threat, under new Government plans.

Ministers are proposing cutting the number of trains that serve 67 stops with “particularly low levels of use”, when a new contract is brought in for a private operator.

They include ten in North Yorkshire, four on Teesside, three in Tyne and Wear and a further five in Northumberland.

Some have extraordinarily few passengers, in particular the station at Teesside Airport which – notoriously – had just eight passengers last year, on only two trains each week.

Five other local stations attract fewer than ten passengers a day on average; British Steel Redcar (2.44), Battersby, North Yorkshire (4.31), Kildale, North Yorkshire (4.99), Dunston, Gateshead (5.93), Blaydon (7.59) and Ruswarp, North Yorkshire (8.07).

And the list stretches down as far as stops with nearly 10,000 passengers a year, but still small numbers each day; Marton, Middlesbrough (27.02) and Danby, North Yorkshire (27.13).

The Department for Transport (DfT) has vowed that 30-year-old ‘Pacer’ trains – condemned as “cattle trucks” by critics – will finally be replaced, as part of the new contract.

 Now the consultation for the franchise seeks support for improving the quality of the trains “at the expense of some reduction in lightly used services”.

It asks: “What are your views on giving priority to improving the quality of the Northern rolling stock at the expense of some reduction in lightly used services (e.g. fewer calls at low-use stations)?

The proposal is included in plans for the new Northern Rail and Trans-Pennine franchises, which are due to be awarded late next year and to start in February 2016.

The operators run services to Darlington, Durham City, Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool, Redcar, Sunderland, Newton Aycliffe, Redcar, Northallerton, York and Scarborough.

Controversially, the DfT has already warned that rail fares may have to soar to pay for the new trains, regardless of whether some services are culled at less popular stations.

> So business as usual –  fewer services costing more… to be followed by big payouts to shareholders .

Commuters in the region pay up to 60 per cent less than in other parts of the country for short journeys, according to officials.

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, pointed out that James Cook Hospital had just opened a new platform linked to Marton.

And he said: “They’re probably less used because services are few and limited. South Bank hardly has a service that stops there, so it’s a bit cheeky for Northern Rail to highlight stations it hardly services.

> It’s a good point – if there are very few services to start with, the number of users is going to be less. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if services were increased.

Teesside Airport station always  attracts headlines for its lack of use… but it only gets two trains per week.  What the hell else does anyone expect ?

“Perhaps if it increased services and improved rolling stock, it would improve the frequency of use.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin insisted that no decisions have yet been taken on the proposals in the document, arguing it was normal to seek views in a consultation.

Source –  Northern Echo,  26 July 2014

Poverty is driving people to sell their internal organs on the black market

> At one time I’d have maybe filed a story like this under ‘Urban Myth’… nowadays, who knows ?

Britain today – everything is for sale.

Cash-strapped Britons are lining up to sell a kidney on the black market, a Sunday Post investigation has revealed.

Advertising organs for sale is illegal in the UK and anyone caught attempting it can face a three-year jail term.

But a Sunday Post investigation found people across the country so desperate for cash they were willing to flout the law.

Our reporter posed as the brother of a woman desperately needing a transplant and placed an advert on a Facebook page specifically set up to buy and sell organs.

Within a week he had received 11 offers from desperate people worldwide willing to risk their lives to drag themselves out of poverty.

Many of the black market operations take place in India, Pakistan or China in an underground industry controlled by ruthless gangs.

Donors from Britain would need to travel abroad to avoid tough checks — including medical assessments and in-depth interviews — carried out by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) on all live donors in the UK.

Among the people to contact us was a man from north-east England who claimed he realised it “would be a big thing to do but for the right amount I would be willing”.

Our reporter held detailed discussions with the self-employed dad-of-three, including his blood type, the state of his health, a £30,000 payment for the donation and arrangements to meet in person.

A 22-year-old dad living in Northampton was happy to accept £20,000 for his kidney because he and his pregnant fiancee desperately need to raise enough money to return to their native Hungary.

The cash-strapped dad, who has studied at two colleges in Northamptonshire, became frustrated our reporter was not progressing the deal quickly enough and has since placed a new advert, wanting a sale “as soon as possible”.

Others to respond included three Indians willing to travel abroad, a Mexican man who revealed he was desperate for cash and a woman from Tanzania.

Meanwhile the site also contained recent adverts placed by desperate Britons willing to risk their lives and freedom for cash.

A 28-year-old man from Banchory, Aberdeenshire, placed a message online in which he claimed he would talk to anyone willing “to make an offer”.

The man who works as a chef in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, had several replies to his message.

A mum from Hampshire has placed two adverts online describing herself as having an O-negative blood type and “has a passport” suggesting she is prepared to travel abroad.

Experts at the World Health Organisation, which in 2012 revealed 10,000 black market operations involving organs were taking place every year, reacted with shock at our probe.

Luc Noel, a special advisor based in Switzerland, said: “Your Facebook experience is revealing. It demonstrates the vulnerability of some people and the power of easy money. This is one of the reasons to prohibit payment.

“Meeting patients’ needs also demands that there should not be any divide created by financial incentives.”

Jeff Powell, campaigns and policy director at anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: “It is shocking that people are so poor that they would be willing to sell a kidney for cash. This level of desperation is a direct result of governments, both at home and abroad, prioritising corporate profits and the interests of the rich over the fight against poverty and inequality.”

Alan Clamp, chief executive of the HTA which regulates live organ donations throughout the UK, said“It is illegal to offer or seek payment for organs for sale under the Human Tissue Act, and no operation from a living donor can go ahead without our approval.

“Before a transplant from a living donor goes ahead, the hospital transplant team will assess if the donor is suitable and run several tests to ensure the transplant will be as successful as possible.

“An independent assessor, acting on behalf of the HTA, will then carry out interviews with both parties and report back.

“We need to satisfy ourselves that the donor knows the risks involved, that the donor has given consent freely and no reward has been offered or received.”

Kidney transplants should take place when tests show the damage is so great the patient will require dialysis within six months.

But because of a chronic shortage of available organs this seldom happens, unless the patient receives a live donor from a family member of friend, with a compatible blood and tissue type.

The average wait for a transplant is three years but for people with rare blood groups and tissue types the wait can be much longer.

NHS Blood and Transplant has revealed across the UK there are currently 7,044 patients on the transplant waiting list of which 5,668 are for kidneys.

Currently there are around 10,000 people in the UK needing a transplant and three people die every day due to a shortage of organs. During 2012/13, 4,212 transplants took place, the majority of which were from dead donors, with 1,000 from living donors.

In 2011 broadcaster Jon Snow launched a campaign to encourage altruistic kidney donations after it was revealed wiping out the kidney transplant waiting list would save the NHS £650 million over five years.

The campaign led by Charity Give a Kidney — One’s Enough revealed the average cost of treating a patient in the final stages of kidney disease is £150,000 over five years.

By contrast, the average cost of transplantation per patient over five years is £50,000.

Source –  Sunday Post  09 March 2014

Local government UK councils benefit from half a million hours of unpaid labour

Scores of UK councils have benefited from more than half a million hours of unpaid labour through government back-to-work schemes, a series of freedom of information requests has found.

The FOI requests filed by the group Boycott Workfare, which campaigns against workfare schemes, found 62% of the 271 councils that responded had used unpaid workers on government schemes during the past two years.

Boycott Workfare, which says unpaid schemes such as work experience and mandatory work activity (MWA) exploit tens of thousands of unemployed people, found Newport council had used 112 people, mainly in its street cleaning and rubbish collection department for about four weeks at a time.

Scarborough council has used 120 people through the MWA scheme since 2011. Seventy one people completed the placements, all in the parks department.

Bexley borough council in London has taken more than 100 unpaid placements, including 71 through the mayor of London’s unpaid work scheme, which is funded by the European social fund. One person was offered full-time employment (!)  and 15 an apprenticeship.

The council said most of these placements were in library services, where 35 paid jobs were lost after services were merged with neighbouring Bromley in 2012.

Of the reported 1,929 placements, only one in 14 led to jobs according to Boycott Workfare, though this figure did not include apprenticeship placements.

Northumberland county council said it had put 44 people into unpaid work in its council services during the past two years.

“These work placements are intended to be positive experiences, not punitive and must be of community value and not replace anyone’s job,” the council said.

Boycott Workfare said half of council placements were part of the voluntary work experience scheme. But nearly 300 placements were on MWA, where the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can compel people to work without pay for a month or have their benefit cut for up to three years.

A further 300 people were sent to work for councils through the Work Programme, with placements lasting up to 26 weeks.

Since February 2012 the DWP has resisted a series of rulings from the information commissioner that it should make public the locations of people sent on government employment schemes, saying the data was commercially sensitive and a public outcry could damage the schemes’ operation. A high court hearing on the matter is expected to take place in the spring.

“data was commercially sensitive and a public outcry could damage the schemes’ operation.” But aren’t we always being told that if we’ve done nothing wrong we have nothing to fear ?  What are they scared of ?

Boycott Workfare said it was “disturbing to find so many councils putting local people at risk of destitution by using schemes that threaten people with up to three years’ benefit stoppages.

“Workfare doesn’t help people find work and councils aren’t offering people jobs at the end of their placement. Instead local authorities are clearly using workfare in an attempt to plug the gaps left by government cuts to public services.”

The group said a six-month employment scheme due to start this year would extend this trend of unpaid work in councils and charities.

“Unless it is stopped, it will mean both more devastating welfare sanctions and fewer paid jobs for everyone,” it said.

The DWP said: “Most of these placements are undertaken voluntarily and work experience is successful in helping people off benefits and into work.

“Mandatory placements give jobseekers in need of more help the vital workplace skills and experience – especially if they’ve never worked before – to find work.”

“Claimants are expected to complete placements which are of benefit to the community, including helping charities. It is only right that people claiming jobseeker’s allowance take part in programmes to improve their skills.”

> Fine – then if it’s work at least pay them the minimum wage. Even New Labour’s New Deal fiasco used to pay you 15 quid a week extra.

Forcing people to work for nothing under threat of sanctions for not complying = slavery.

And talking of Labour, New or present, I dont hear any protests coming from that direction. Of course, it seems most likely that they, should they win the next election, will just continue along the same course as the present government – in the same way that the Tories are using measures brought in by New Labour, like sanctions, to such devastating effect.

Different arseholes, same old shit.

Source – Guardian, 03 Jan 2014