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
A delivery driver who discovered he had lost his job watching the news on Christmas Day says his employers have left him “high and dry”.
News of the collapse of parcel delivery firm City Link was announced on Christmas Eve and will see 2,000 staff made redundant nationally.
Thornaby driver Chris Trattles, who worked at the firm’s Leeming Bar depot, only heard of the closure when a friend told him to switch on the television news on Christmas Day.
He was told not to go into work on Saturday – before a meeting at 7.30am this morning officially announced that he and his colleagues had been made redundant.
The 37-year-old, who worked for the company in two spells, said:
“They have left me and everyone else high and dry.
“We knew what was coming by the time we got to the meeting, but to lose your job this way – and especially finding out on Christmas Day.
“It has spoiled the entire festive period for me.”
Chris said that he will have to apply to the government for statutory redundancy pay, and chase for payment of overtime and unpaid holidays.
“I will have to go and sign on now,” he continued.
“Before Christmas is a busy time, but now that is out of the way January is always a quiet time in the industry so I can’t see where my next job is coming from.
“I have a seven-year-old daughter so there are bills from Christmas, I still have my lodge to pay and I run a car, but there is no more money coming in.
“I don’t know how long a claim for statutory redundancy will take – and I don’t know how I’m going to get my overtime or holiday pay.”
A statement from the company which owned City Link, Better Capital, read:
“Unfortunately the appointment of an administrator was leaked to the media ahead of the intended announcement.
“The directors very much regret the impact on the employees of City Link receiving such bad news on Christmas Day.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Better Capital boss John Moulton said the firm’s administration could not have been handled any better and said: “We chased every possible way to save this company.”
But Chris said staff should have been told earlier:
“I cannot fault the manager at my depot, who has been brilliant, but the top brass knew things were going wrong and should have communicated with staff.”
Chris worked at City Link’s old Thornaby branch for around four years before accepting administration when the depot was closed and operations moved to Durham.
He rejoined the company working from Leeming Bar around four years ago, delivering parcels across Yorkshire.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 29 Dec 2014
A major new campaign has been launched to hit back against any negative portrayal of Stockton from the controversial show Benefits Street.
The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign is a light-hearted response to what is expected to be a less than flattering portrayal of the borough when the Channel 4 series airs next year.
And people across the borough and beyond are being encouraged to show their love for Stockton by sharing photographs, videos and stories.
A new website – http://www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk – and social media accounts have been set up to kick-start the campaign.
The decision to film the second series of Benefits Street in Stockton caused widespread outrage, with some accusing Channel 4 of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.
The first series made stars of some of its cast but was described by critics as “poverty porn”.
After the story broke , Middlesbrough FC fans at the Riverside Stadium unveiled a banner reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
But despite the fierce local and national criticism of the show, Channel 4 chief executive Ralph Lee said the broadcaster’s output would not be “censored”.
He defended the channel’s right “to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society”.
Leader of Stockton Council, Councillor Bob Cook said:
“We did everything in our power to persuade the producers of Benefits Street to turn their attentions elsewhere. Sadly, you can’t win them all.
“What became clear, though, was that lots of people agreed with us that this is not a good thing for the borough.
“So, we’ve decided to focus our energies on turning a negative into a positive. We’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to respond to a series like Benefits Street is to celebrate, with good humour and quiet confidence, all that is great about our fine borough.”
The campaign will give people the opportunity to share their views on what they love about Stockton.
The council will support the campaign, but now want to “hand it over the public”, said Cllr Cook.
“This is a borough-wide campaign for the whole of Stockton-on-Tees. We’re delighted that our local media – The Gazette, Northern Echo and BBC Tees – are in agreement with us and have agreed to unite in their support of us.
“Whether you’re from Stockton, Billingham, Yarm, Eaglescliffe, Thornaby, Norton or Ingleby Barwick, we’d love you to get involved.”
Benefits Street is expected to be aired in March 2015 and the Positively Stockton campaign – also known as “Psst…” – features a major event that same month.
Billed as The Loudest Whisper, the event on Friday, March 13, will see a whispered message passed around the borough – starting and ending in Kingston Road – where the series is being filmed.
The message will be passed from person to person using human chains as well as all kinds of transport, from horses and rowing boats to buses and bikes.
The event, which will also raise money for Comic Relief, is being organised by Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman and proud Stocktonian Mike McGrother.
“There has been an assumption from the producers of Benefits Street that we’re a community that needs to be given a voice,” he said.
“To present this as ‘factual’ television designed to engineer some kind of social benefit is a bit arrogant I think.
“There’s an abundance of community pride in Stockton – it’s just not our style to go shouting it from the rooftops. But if we’re faced with a series that seeks to paint us in an unfair light on national television, we shouldn’t take that lying down.
“Through the Loudest Whisper event and the Positively Stockton campaign, we can dispel the myths that will inevitably be trotted out using the sense of humour, community spirit and understated manner people in our borough are renowned for.
“And it’s all for Comic Relief. Our voices, though quiet, will be heard!”
The new campaign also has the support of Stockton’s MPs.
Alex Cunningham, Labour, in whose Stockton North constituency Benefits Street is being filmed, said:
“There is much for us to be positive about our borough from the talent and resilience of our people to the powerhouse of the local council and other organisations doing their best in difficult circumstances to create jobs, improve our town centres and make life better for us all.
“It is tremendous that our community is reacting in such a positive way.
“Doubtless Channel 4 will claim our campaign would never have happened but for their unwelcome intrusion into our community, but they will be wrong again – there have been many positive initiatives over the years promoting our success, which is perhaps why the borough is seeing its population grow and why it was voted one of the best places in the country to do business.”
James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, said:
“If you look around you in Stockton you see things getting better – more jobs, more investment, a town and community proud of its past and looking to its future.
“We need to talk up what makes us great and this campaign is a brilliant addition to that. Benefits Street will show what they want, we will show the truth and talk up Teesside.”
To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, and how to get involved, visit: www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 Nov 2014
The chairman of the Thornaby Labour Party has resigned from his post “with immediate effect”.
Les Hodge is also quitting the Labour Party and said his announcement came with “a heavy heart”.
But he added: “The people of Thornaby deserve far better than what the Labour party are currently giving them and I can no longer be a part of that.
“I just want to work in the community where I live and help to make a difference.
“As far as the Labour Party are concerned, I have not seen any change at all, I actually think it has got worse.”
Mr Hodge, who has lived in the town for nearly 20 years and calls Thornaby his home, said he has informed the Thornaby Independent Association (TIA) that he “would be happy to stand as a Thornaby Independent if they so wish”.
“As a political group, they have Thornaby interests at heart, they have morals and believe in loyalty and fairness for the people of Thornaby,” he said.
The Labour Party was not available for comment
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 23 Sept 2014
Puplic services ground to a halt across Wearside yesterday as workers walked out in support of the strike. Schools, libraries, leisure centres, museums and other public buildings were shut.
Pickets were in place outside Sunderland Civic Centre.
John Kelly, secretary of Unite’s Sunderland City Council Branch, said: “Unite is proud to be taking part in strike action alongside our fellow trade unions.
“This is a fight for better public services, and for fair pay for those who work hard to deliver those services.
“Council workers have been targeted to bear the brunt of the austerity measures that have been imposed by millionaire cabinet ministers since 2010. Unite fully understand that Labour-run councils like Sunderland City Council are the scapegoats when implementing this Coalition Government’s austerity measures.
“Local government workers and the communities they deliver services to believe that local government workers should have fair pay, not poverty pay.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 11 July 2014
SOUTH TYNESIDE –
There were pickets outside South Shields Town Hall, the town’s Middlefields refuse depot and at the JobCentre in Chapter Row, and more than half of schools in the borough closed for the day.
All the borough’s libraries were also shut, and all council refuse collections were cancelled, and the crematorium on John Reid Road, South Shields, closed for the day.
Despite the widespread disruption, Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, believes the public remain generally supportive of the action – and the reasons behind it.
Horn-beeping motorists expressed support for the dozen or so trade unionists gathered outside the town’s hall’s Beach Road entrance yesterday and, also on hand to show his support was Labour councillor Ernest Gibson, Mayor of South Tyneside last year.
There were pickets from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at Harton Technology College in South Shields.
The school was closed to pupils, although members of other teaching unions and non-union staff did go into work.
COUNTY DURHAM –
Striking workers picketed outside council offices, job centres, tax offices and courts across County Durham and North Yorkshire.
Workers from government agencies including the Student Loans Company in Darlington, the Passport Office in Durham City and the HM Revenue & Customs offices in Thornaby took part in the industrial action.
In County Durham, more than 130 schools closed for the day, although only a handful of Darlington’s schools shut.
Twenty North Yorkshire schools closed and a further 50 suffered disruption.
On Teesside about 35 schools in Stockton were closed or partially-closed.
A survey commission by Unite on the eve of the strike found that 50 per cent of people in the North of England agreed that the local government workers’ call for an £1 per-hour pay rise was justified.
“The poll confirms that people across the North support workers who are fighting to end poverty pay in our local councils,” said Mike Routledge, Unite local government officer for the North-East.
Source – Northern Echo, 10 July 2014
Picket lines could be seen around the town with the most prominent outside of the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, Hartlepool.
Other’s took place outside Hartlepool Borough Council-run buildings in Church Street, and also in Wesley Square, outside the Jobcentre.
Councillor Stephen Thomas, Labour representative for the De Bruce ward, was also on the picket line to offer his support.
Coun Thomas, who works for Health Watch Hartlepool but took the day off to take part in the action, said: “I’m here to basically show my support to the strikers because I think that the way the Government is treating government sector workers is absolutely appalling.
“The one per cent pay rise they’ve had in the last four years equates to a 14 per cent cut in real terms.”
Teachers were also included in the strike with a number of Hartlepool schools closed for the day.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) also joined forces in the strike action, with crews from Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Stranton Fire Station forming a protest.
Brian Gibson, the FBU chairman for Cleveland, said: “The action we took part in is particularly important because all the unions have got together to show our strength of feeling at getting one per cent pay rises. The FBU’s argument is also with the Government over pensions.”
He added: “We’ve had great public support, all we’ve had is support.
“We’re so pleased.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 11 July 2014
Outside Middlesbrough Town Hall this morning, many office workers arriving for work crossed the picket lines.
Dawn Nicholson, Unison Area Organiser said: “It’s going well.
“Some people are crossing the picket lines but a lot of them are employed by Mouchel.
“Mouchel workers haven’t been balloted and can’t strike but many have signed our petition.”
However as one woman made her way into work she answered calls for her to strike saying: “People are still need to make a living.”
GMB union, shop steward, Brian Foulger, said: “We’re quite surprised by how many people, even management, have gone out on strike.
“Since 2010, local government have been putting money away for a rainy day. Well, it’s pouring down.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 July 2014
Thornaby has become the second town to decide on an official poll to determine if residents want to leave Stockton Borough Council.
Yarm for Yorkshire campaigners will hold their referendum on Tuesday (MAY 27). Meanwhile, a group of about 15 dissatisfied residents asked Thornaby Town Council on Tuesday to consider doing the same.
But in Thornaby the town council took a more long-term approach, with a steering group being set up to consider all the issues and decide on a question for the referendum by post, which would be held within 12 months.
Neither poll would be legally binding but campaigners hope they will ensure Stockton Borough Council and the government see the strength of feeling in the south of the borough.
The Thornaby steering group will look at all options, whether it is becoming part of North Yorkshire, joining Middlesbrough or forming a new authority south of the river.
Terry Chapman, one of the campaigners behind the Thornaby for Yorkshire poll, said after the meeting: “Residents are angry that they are overlooked, that the council agreed more gypsy sites in Thornaby than anywhere else in the borough, and that the town council had to pay £100,000 to the council to buy Thornaby Town Hall when it should have just been given to the town.
Steve Walmsley, a Thornaby Independent councillor on both Thornaby town and Stockton borough councils, said a long-term, more inclusive poll was needed as Stockton Council would be able to ignore a poll with a poor turnout.
He said he was personally against joining Hambleton as its centre, in Northallerton, was too far away and he considered it had a “poor record.”
He added: “This is a consultation, referendum, call it what you want, but we want to take our time and make sure no-one is excluded. If we have it near to next year’s council elections it may have more impact on Stockton council.”
In Yarm, Tuesday’s poll will cost about £4,000 to the town council. No postal votes will be accepted and polling cards will not be issued in the election, which has been organised by Stockton Borough Council and will see polling stations open for just four hours.
Source – Northern Echo, 23 May 2014
“The reality on the streets of Stockton South is proving very different.”
And in the rest of the North East too !
Reposted from Louise Baldock- Labour MP for Stockton South
Creating jobs or creative accounting?
You will have seen Tory boasts that unemployment is coming down, a million more people are now in work and the private sector has created many of these, but dig below the surface and we see a very different story.
I met a man in Parkfield, Stockton last week who told me he had a full time job but was made redundant. He has finally found work, 12 hours a week in Debenhams, and has been removed from the claimant figures. It might be a job, but it’s not full-time work and isn’t economically viable.
Last month I met a man in Thornaby who has just found work one day a week in a community centre in Co Durham where amongst other things he has to fundraise to pay his own wages; he was full time…
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