A bus company has been attacked by a Labour MP for “salami slicing” services after it emerges 80 journeys a day have disappeared under a rerouting programme.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has criticised Go North East for cuts to bus services across Tyne and Wear, citing a study by Passenger Transport Executive Nexus.
Sunderland is shouldering most of the burden, the MP says, with changes to routes and timetables to the 35, 35A, 35B and 35C services.
The MP says her office has fielded calls from people worried about links to schools and health facilities.
She adds it is difficult to compare the new route map and timetable information with previous versions and people have concerns that the re-routing of the 35 services will significantly disrupt journeys to nearby GP practices in Silksworth, Herrington and Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Children may also have to take longer journeys to schools such as the Venerable Bede Academy because they will have to change buses.
Go North East said the changes will simplify services, but four variations have already been made to routes 35, 35A and 36 since November.
The MP said:
“The volume of service changes implemented by Go North East this week is likely to cause a great deal of confusion and inconvenience to many people.
“I have received many emails and phone calls from worried constituents expressing their concerns over changes to the route 35 service.
“Go North East say this is about simplifying things, but there have been 15 variations in this route since 2011 and I cannot see how this constant chopping and changing is making things simpler. The new route maps and timetables are also presented differently from older versions.
“People are understandably angry about the fact that four services have been reduced to three. Across the region estimates show that as many as 80 routes a day will be cut.
“Go North East should explain why these changes are being implemented and how they are in the best interest of passengers.
“This salami slicing of services shows exactly why we must introduce a London-style bus network with stable routes, oyster style ticketing and fines for operators when they fail to live up to their promises.”
Managing director of Go North East Kevin Carr, said the changes were introduced after a consultation with Nexus and customers.
He said many of the services now travelled closer to shops.
He said: “We are the number one bus operator in Sunderland and it’s really important that we adapt our services to meet customers’ needs.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Jan 2015
A Wearside youth project has pledged to pay workers the Living Wage.
Staff at the Youth Almighty Project, based in Silksworth Community Centre, Sunderland, will now be paid £7.65 per hour – higher than the national minimum wage of £6.31.
The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. It is calculated according to the basic cost of living, using the “minimum income standard” for the UK, which is based on decisions made by the public about what it takes to make ends meet.
Coun Phil Tye, chairman of the project, said: “It was vitally important, due to the work that we do, to demonstrate not only to our staff, but for the people that use our services, that we respect our employees and recognise that the Living Wage is important.”
Employers choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis.
Living Wage Foundation director Rhys Moore said: “We are delighted to welcome the Youth Almighty Project to the Living Wage movement as an accredited employer. The best employers are voluntary signing up to pay the Living Wage now.
“It is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay. We have accredited more than 700 leading employers, ranging from independent businesses to well-known companies.”
The project works with young people aged between eight and 19.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 22 Aug 2014
Thousands of people flocked to Durham City for the 130th Durham Miners’ Gala.
Warm sunshine helped swell the crowds later in the morning.
About 65 banners from across the North East and elsewhere were joined by 50 bands for the procession to the Racecourse.
Banner numbers were swelled by mini-banners from several primary schools, including West Rainton, and banners from other unions.
Gala Day starts early for many with breakfast meetings in clubs and community centres in the outlying former pit villages.
There was an early start in Houghton for Pat Simmons and the members of the Lambton and Houghton Banner Group.
Their band for the day, from Elland in Yorkshire, was treated to breakfast at the Peppercorn Cafe in Houghton before accompanying the Houghton banner on the first of two processions.
“We processed the banner to the war memorial in Houghton before taking it to Durham,” said Pat.
“The band played the miners’ hymn Gresford to remember those miners who fought in the First World War.
“Houghton didn’t have a banner for a long time after the old one was lost in a fire in the 1960s.
“This will have been the first time for many years the banner has been taken through Houghton first before going to Durham.”
The Gala attracts not just former pitmen, but also people too young to have worked in the coal industry.
“I am only 22 so never worked down a pit,” said Robert Kitching, who was helping to carry the Silksworth banner.
“I’m interested in mining and heritage, and this is my fourth year with banner.
“If the Gala is to survive, we have to attract younger people.
“But it is difficult to get them involved.”
Richard Breward, 67, was parading the Easington Lodge banner.
“I left school at 15 and worked at Easington for 27 years,” he said. “I did more or less everything there in that time, and I finished when the pit finished in 1992.
“I’m at the Gala every year, and I want to see it continue.”
Guest speakers this year included the ever-popular left wing MP Dennis Skinner, and the general secretaries of four unions.
Further entertainment for the crowds was provided by music, stalls, and a funfair on the Racecourse.
Those for whom the temperature proved too high could cool down with free bottles of water provided by Northumbrian Water.
The good weather was matched by the general good nature of the crowd.
Police reported few arrests by mid-afternoon, although one man was ‘in the cells, drying out’ after jumping into the River Wear.
By lunchtime many people were already heading home, or heading back into Durham for the afternoon Gala Service in the cathedral.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, is determined there will be another Gala next year, and in the years to come.
“The cost is increasing each year,” he said. “For example, £26,400 is spent on subsidising the brass bands which are an essential feature of the day.
“The association no longer has subscriptions to its funds from working miners, and it is obvious we cannot fund the Gala indefinitely.
“But I am confident there are sufficient friends in County Durham and elsewhere who want it to continue.”
Anyone wanting contribute to the cost of future Galas can do so online: www.durhamminers.org
Source – Sunderland Echo, 13 July2014
Despite grassroots protests, including occupation of threatened buildings, by Hands Off Sunderland Libraries, nine libraries across Sunderland have been closed by the city council, in a bid to save 850,000 pounds.
The libraries affected are those at Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green.
Coun. John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture: “This is a very emotive subject and we recognise the strength of people’s feelings.
“As I’ve said before, we probably wouldn’t have gone down this route if the council didn’t need to make 110 million pounds savings as a result of cuts from central government. The fact is the library service needs to save 850,000 pounds, so we have had to look at changing how we do things as budgets continue to be cut and resources become ever more stretched.
“As councillors, we have to make difficult decisions . Had savings not been made here, they may have had to fall on children’s or adults services.
“But I firmly believe that the new library service will be much more flexible to fit in with people’s needs and will result in better services reaching more people across a wider range of locations.”
Eh ? How does closing public services across a wide range of locations reach more people across those same locations ? I suspect the only flexibility resulting will be the closed service users, who’ll have to be a lot more flexible to find an open library.
How much will be saved really ? Has any account been taken of vacant buildings needing to be maintained, books and equipment to be mothballed, staff who lose their jobs ?
“Had savings not been made here, they may have had to fall on children’s or adults services.” A nice attempt at emotional blackmail, but what exactly are libraries if not children and adult services ?
And should it be either/or anyway ? We know only too well about the nature of the current national government, but Sunderland City Council is Labour controlled. Shouldn’t they – and other Labour controlled councils – be providing, you know, opposition ? Getting together and going head-to-head with the government perhaps ? Making a moral stand ?
We’ve been promised years more austerity, whoever wins the next general election. Now the process has been started, which libraries will be next ?
As noted in no less an organ than Private Eye (#1349) –
Sunderland library chiefs have some handy advice on what can replace local libraries facing closure.
“Because of Facebook, because of gadgets, we dont need libraries the way we used to when I was 15,” Cllr Graeme Miller told a public meeting, which agreed proposals for the closure of nine libraries to save #850,000 a year.
Quite apart from how completely un-useful Facebook is for most homework, research or reading for pleasure, Sunderland is part of the UK region with the highest concentration of people off-line, with a recent survey finding only 42% of less well off people in the city had online access from any type of “gadget”, including computers, smart phones and so on.
Hands Off Sunderland Libraries on Facebook at –