Today’s posts round-up –
As I’m moving operations over to the North Star forum, I shall from now on (excepting special circumstances) be posting a summary of daily posts with links instead of the posts themselves on this blog.
Readers can choose which ones, if any, they want to view, and it saves me time and extra work.
You can still repost stuff on your blog if desired, you’ll just have to cut & paste it. A link back to the forum would be nice.
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A far-right extremist organisation, the North East Infidels is holding a demonstration in Stockton on Saturday.
Police have been negotiating with the group, a splinter group of the English Defence League, ahead of the march, which is understood to be taking place at about 2pm, starting from Green Dragon yard.
A counter-march held by North East Anti Fascists is being planned for the town centre for about 12.30pm, with unions and community groups believed to be joining them.
Apprenticeship numbers have fallen sharply for the second year running in spite of the government making workplace training a cornerstone of its jobs policy.
Provisional numbers released by the Department for Business show 66,000 fewer people started apprenticeships in the last academic than in 2013/14.
Across the North-East 26,730 apprenticeships were started in 2014/15 – down by 3,750 from a year earlier, and a drop of almost 12,000 on the figure for 2011/12.
In Darlington the provisional year-on-year figures showed 220 fewer people started apprenticeships this year, while in Stockton there we 460 fewer.
A Government spokesperson said the provisional figure could be revised upwards when the final numbers are published later this year.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Small, medium and large employers in the North-East are playing a crucial role in creating a modern and competitive workforce that boosts the country’s productivity and prosperity.
“I want to work with as many of these businesses as possible to ensure they continue to shape the future of apprenticeships so that we can reach the target of 3 million by 2020.”
However, the drive to boost skills appears to have stalled amid a steadily downward trend in apprenticeship take-ups over the last three years.
Police are continuing to review footage from the controversial TV show Benefits Street.
Officers from Cleveland Police say inquiries are ongoing into circumstances surrounding some of the scenes and also what unedited footage is available.
The show featured residents living on Stockton’s Kingston Road.
One of the criticised scenes featured Neil Maxwell. The 36-year-old was shown apparently dealing in cannabis and claiming £700 a month in benefits.
Maxwell, who has since been jailed for his role in a double stabbing, was also filmed smoking the drug.
When the first show aired on May 11, Cleveland Police issued a statement confirming they would assess footage from the show to see whether it can assist in criminal investigations.
A headteacher has praised four pupils who were photographed buying food for a homeless man on their way home from school.
Jack McGill, Cameron Turner-Neill, Charlie Hirst and 11-year-old Sam pooled their money to buy chocolate biscuits, water and cereal bars for the man after noticing he looked upset and unwell.
The boys, who attend Woodham Academy in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, spotted the man, aged about 50, sitting on a bench in the town centre and were concerned about him.
A passer-by photographed their act of kindness and posted it on Facebook, prompting widespread praise for the boys.
Cameron, 12, said:
“Jack went over to see if he was okay and sat down next to him. The man asked if he had had a nice day at school and they started chatting. He said he was from London and had been homeless for nine years.
“He was very nice and you could tell he was well educated.
“He used to be a joiner and a carpenter and lived in a flat but it got rented out. He has been walking around the country and had just walked from Stockton.”
The boys said the man had refused to take money from a pensioner who also tried to help and was reluctant to accept the food they bought.
“It’s important to help other people.”
Charlie, 11, said:
“I was upset when I saw him. It made me think I should be more grateful for the things I’ve got when I saw how grateful he was for those small things.”
“It has made me want to help my mum more and be more grateful because he doesn’t have a mum.”
Christine Forsyth, headteacher at Woodham Academy, said:
“At Woodham Academy we teach pupils to respect other people and this is a wonderful example of our children showing unconditional respect for another human being. We are really proud of them.”
On Facebook, one woman wrote: “Lovely to see. What lovely young lads to do such a good thing .”
Another posted: “And there it is to all you people out there that think all teenagers are all anti-social. Here are some fantastic boys. They are a credit to their parents.
Source – Northern Echo, 16 May 2015
The opening episode of Benefits Street attracted almost three million viewers – but was down on last year’s first instalment.
Last night’s episode of the new Channel 4 series featured residents getting to grips with the media interest in their street.
The goings-on in Kingston Road in Tilery, Stockton, attracted 2.95 million viewers (13.5%) on Monday night.
The documentary beat New Tricks on BBC1, which attracted 2.2 million, and came second to Safe House on ITV, which was watched by 4.8 million.
The audience was 75% above the slot average, but the total was down on the 4.3 million viewers who saw the opening episode of the controversial first series last year.
Channel 4 said that it was the most popular programme in the slot for 16 to 34-year-olds
The first series was made in Birmingham and attacked by some critics as “poverty porn”.
The broadcaster’s head of documentaries Nick Mirsky has said the “increasing divide between rich and poor” is an important subject and has not ruled out making a third series.
“There isn’t a third series of Benefits Street in production but what I would say though is that the gap between rich and poor and the subject of welfare and benefits is an important subject.
“Channel 4 have to keep looking at that and finding ways of telling stories.”
> How about a fly-on-the-wall series showing how Jobcentre staff treat claimants ?
Or do the poor always have to be the villains ?
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 12 May 2015
A participant in the new series of Benefits Street filmed in Stockton says he regrets his decision to take part in the show.
The second series of the controversial Channel 4 show will be screened this month after being filmed on Kingston Road, on the Tilery estate.
Lee Nutley is one of six main characters followed in the six-part series, but after watching the first episode earlier this week the 42-year-old is convinced he made the wrong decision.
“If I could take it all back I think I probably would,” said Lee, 42. “It took months for the producers to convince me to take part. And I only really did because some of my family were already in it.”
It’s only been two days since the show premiered in London but Lee, who has been claiming Job Seekers Allowance for the past year, said he already feels like a “local celeb” in his home town.
“I went to Stockton earlier and people were stopping me in the street. Mainly people I know shouting ‘Lee, you’re famous now mate’ and stuff like that.
“But this is not why I went on the show.
“I don’t plan to become some big celebrity and earn loads of money.
“As far as I’m concerned you don’t need money to be happy, and us lot being filmed here will prove it.”
Lee, who will appear alongside his mum Chrissie who lives nearby, added that his life is “totally different” to how it was a year ago when filming was taking place.
He said: “I’m in a much better place now. I was on anti-depressants when the cameras were here and my epilepsy is under control now. I’m just waiting for one more test and once I’ve got the all clear I’ll be straight back to work.
“I’ve worked all my life and I plan on getting back to it. If people think I want to sit on my backside on £45 a week, they are very wrong.”
Lee, who has lived on the Tilery estate for about 30 years, admits he is very “self critical” of his appearance on the show.
He said: “I’m not worried about what the viewers will think of me. Everyone has said I come across really well, but I hate watching myself.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 01 May 2015
Not one leader from any of the major political parties has visited Tyne and Wear or County Durham as part of the General Election campaign.
David Cameron is the only leader so far to even venture into ANY part of the North East since the dissolution of parliament.
He visited Northumberland’s Alnwick and Stockton, the two areas where his party has a chance of winning next month, but bypassed large swathes of the region.
Labour leader Ed Miliband – whose party is favourite to win EVERY seat in Durham, Tyneside and Wearside, most seats in Teesside and half of those in Northumberland – has failed to make a public appearance anywhere in the North East.
The Liberal Democrats are defending Redcar and Berwick-upon-Tweed, yet Nick Clegg has been nowhere to be seen.
Nigel Farage claims UKIP is targeting parts of Teesside and has a strong interest in Blyth, and yet the leader of the “people’s army” has not made a public appearance anywhere in the North East.
And despite evidence of a Green surge in pockets of the region, Natalie Bennett has not visited to show support for her party’s candidates, either.
The North East is widely-regarded as safe Labour territory and this may explain the lack of interest from the parties’ top politicians in campaigning in this area.
Nonetheless, voters will be disappointed when they compare the region to, say, the Greater Manchester area, where the parties are fighting a higher number of key marginals.
Nick Clegg has visited seats in Greater Manchester four times, David Cameron twice and Ed Miliband four times.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Apr 2015
A leading Stockton councillor has thrown his hat into the ring at the last minute to contest the Stockton South seat at the General Election.
Steve Walmsley, leader of the Thornaby Independent Association (TIA), is running as candidate for the Party of Dissent.
Cllr Walmsley describes the newly registered party as “a party of independents against social injustice and savage austerity cuts”.
The former Labour councillor split from the party back in 2003 “because of disillusion with politics without conscience and having to tow the party line no matter what”, and set up the TIA with friends.
He said he didn’t take the decision to stand in the May election “lightly”.
“What really swayed me was the fact that mainstream parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, say much and offer little apart from a continuation of austerity which has brought misery to so many of the most vulnerable,” he said.
“And so this election should be about people making a choice about what kind of society they want to live in.
“If they want an uncaring, dog eat dog society where the poor, helpless and outsiders are stigmatised and blamed for economic meltdown whilst the greedy culprits continue to live in the lap of luxury, then they should vote for more of the same with any of the aforementioned parties.”
Cllr Walmsley believes Parliament should be “nationalised in the sense that those the public elect should work exclusively for the general public”.
He also believes that councils should be “localised, released from the stranglehold of political parties and handed back to the people who pay the bills and who ultimately bear the brunt of political folly and indifference”.
Immigration should also be “seriously and sensibly” tackled, he said.
Source – Middlesbrough Gazette, 13 Apr 2015
It was ultimately unsuccessful, but the campaign for devolution in Scotland has fanned the flames of regional rule in the North-East that were never quite extinguished by the 2004 ‘no’ vote.
The North East Party was launched less than a year ago as the independence campaign north of the border was in full swing. On May 7, it will field four candidates in Easington, Redcar, Stockton North and Newcastle North.
Vice-chair Susan McDonnell, who formed the party with former Labour MP Hilton Dawson, admitted they had hoped to have more candidates standing, but people who had initially shown an interest backed away when they realised the effort involved.
“They also had to find £500 for the deposit from their own pocket which may have put them off,” says Mrs McDonnell, who will contest the Easington seat.
The party wants to see a referendum for the the region’s 12 unitary authorities to be replaced by a single North-East government, however Mrs McDonnell stresses that it is not all about devolution.
“It’s about decision making taking place in the North-East by people from the North-East – we’re sick to death of being the poor relation in the North.”
The party has enjoyed some early success with two councillors voted on to Peterlee Town Council, and Mrs McDonnell says its membership is growing fast.
“We’re got quite a large presence on social media and are getting people from all over the region travelling to our meetings – Blyth, Newcastle, Redcar, Hartlepool and Stockton.”
The candidate accepts she may not be able to defeat the standing Easington MP, Grahame Morris, who has a majority of almost 15,000, but she adds: “I’m having a whale of a time.
“I am taking it very seriously but I also understand it’s a game. I’m not so naive to think that I will win on May 7 but I will give Grahame Morris as good a run as he’s ever had – I hope to give him a bloody nose.”
The party is one of several regional parties which have appeared around the country in recent years, with many forming an allegiance under the Vote Local banner.
Mrs Mc Donnell says the parties have been launched because of a combination of being disillusioned with the mainstream Westminster centred parties and the referendum in Scotland. The new parties include Yorkshire First, which wants to see a Yorkshire parliament.
Devolution and regionalism expert Arianna Giovannini, who lectures at Huddersfield University, said the idea of regionalist parties was not new.
However, she adds: “What is certainly new is the emergence of regionalist parties in the North of England, ie Yorkshire First, the North East Party, and the Campaign for the North.”
Dr Giovannini says the emerging regionalist parties have great potential, especially if they succeed in joining forces with other organisations and movements, and manage to achieve grassroots support.
But she adds:
“Whether regional devolution in the North of England will succeed or fall may well hinge on the ability to generate democratic momentum, creating a clear, bold, confident and concerted vision for the future.
“However, the story of the Scottish Constitutional Convention tells us that such a process will take time, and cannot be rushed or accomplished overnight. In this sense, the following months and the results and effects of the imminent general election will be crucial in shaping the path ahead.”
The North East Party may not yet be big enough to change the course of the devolution debate in this region, but it is certainly a sign of the growing desire to see greater powers handed over.
Source – Northern Echo, 09 Apr 2015