Tagged: Town Hall

Wrap Up Middlesbrough appeal calls for for coats and winter warmers for homeless

With temperatures dropping rapidly and winter well on its way, warm clothes are starting to make an appearance.

You may be pulling out some of your old favourites or hitting the shops to get a completely new winter wardrobe.

Either way, as you do this, spare a thought for those who do not have this option.

Over the winter months, people of all ages across Teesside will find themselves in need of warmth.

In the hope of helping as many of these people as possible, a major, annual appeal for donations of winter warmers was launched on Monday.

Wrap Up Middlesbrough – led by Middlesbrough Council and partner organisations – is a drive to get staff and members of the public to donate winter coats, jumpers and fleeces to be given out to homeless people, in housing need and/or suffering hardship.

These clothes will then be given out at the annual festive event In Out of the Cold, held in the Town Hall Crypt from 1pm to 3pm on Tuesday, December 23.

Councillor Brenda Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive member for supporting communities, said:

“I’m delighted to see so many organisations joining forces once again to support such a worthwhile cause.

“It speaks volumes about the community spirit in the town that people are willing to do their bit to bring warmth to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

“Many of us will have spare coats, jumpers, fleeces and other warming items of clothing that we no longer wear and I know these will make a real difference to the lives of those most in need.”

Donations can be made from today until Thursday, December 18 and items should be in a good, clean condition.

Locations for donations are as follows: Teesside University Students Union, Information Desk and The Link, first floor Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm;

Teesside University School of Health and Social Care, Centuria Building South, opposite the lifts, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm;

Middlesbrough Cycle Centre, Middlesbrough Bus Station Monday to Friday, 8am-5.30pm and Saturday 9am-4.30pm;

Vancouver House, Corporation Road/Gurney Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm;

Civic Centre, Centre Square, Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 26 Nov 2014

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North-East jobs at risk of being ‘outsourced’ as part of Government privatisation plans

> The North East – the one region where unemployment continues to rise, no matter how they try to fiddle the figures.

Government response ? Move more jobs out of the region. You know it makes sense…

Dozens of North-East jobs are at risk of being moved out of the region as part of Government privatisation plans.

Staff at the Department for Education (DfE), in Darlington, were informed this week that the department is looking into plans to outsource IT posts.

The proposals, which are still in the early stages, are understood to affect up to 30 jobs at the DfE’s Mowden Hall offices and more in other areas of the country.

Plans to move out of the run-down Mowden Hall were announced by the DfE in 2012.

Hundreds of jobs were put at risk of being moved out of Darlington to elsewhere in the region.

Thousands of people signed a petition to keep the jobs in the town, with council leaders and Labour MPs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) and Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) joining the campaign.

The DfE ultimately gave in and agreed to house the at-risk jobs in a purpose built office block in Darlington town centre.

Currently under construction and expected to be complete by the start of next year, the £8m office block is seen by many Darlington residents as an extension to the town’s 1960s-built Town Hall, widely agreed to be in need of major improvement work.

With the DfE yet to comment on these latest plans to outsource Darlington jobs, it remains to be seen whether or not it is the case that some of the hundreds of jobs the new office is being built to accommodate will never actually be moved there.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which campaigned strongly in favour of keeping members’ jobs in Darlington, has been informed of the latest plans and is considering its position.

Mrs Chapman called the latest developments ‘distressing‘.

She said: “There is a wider pattern from the Government in attempting to outsource these kinds of jobs, they are trying to do it with the Ministry of Justice.

“Sending public sector jobs offshore goes against everything the Tories have said about wanting to bring jobs back to the UK.

“It would be dreadful if, after everything we have been through to secure these jobs in Darlington, we were to lose a number of them in this way.”

The DfE has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Source – Northern Echo, 20 June 2014

South Tyneside: Mr Monkey hunt: New plea to stop spending taxpayers’ cash

Town Hall bosses today faced a renewed call to stop using taxpayers’ money in their pursuit of the notorious ‘Mr Monkey’ internet blogger.

 The website first appeared in 2008, making malicious claims about certain political figures in the borough.

South Tyneside Council backed a bid to discover the identity of those behind the Mr Monkey blogs on behalf of four plaintiffs who came under attack – South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm, Coun Anne Walsh, the late councillor David Potts and council regeneration boss Rick O’Farrell.

It instructed Washington DC lawyers McDermott, Will & Emery to find who was responsible for the website, with the firm producing a dossier which said Mr Monkey was most likely a two-person operation and that a libel action would be “highly successful” if pursued through UK or US courts.

But to this date – and at a cost of about £150,000 – Mr Monkey has yet to be unmasked, some six years after the site first appeared.

That has infuriated George Smith CBE, president of South Shields Conservative Association, who has called for immediate action to prevent “further misuse of council taxpayer’s money.

Mr Smith  believes the four the plaintiffs in the case – not the public – should have funded the legal action.

Town Hall officials say the legal action was taken because the council has a “duty of care” to protect employees.

But Mr Smith has written to PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is to conduct South Tyneside Council’s annual audit, demanding it steps in.

He says: “Although any authority may indemnify individuals in ‘defending himself against legal proceedings brought by a third party’ they are ‘prohibited from indemnifying members or officers for the cost of taking legal action for slander or libel.’

“I will be objecting to these payments at the audit but you may wish to take immediate action to prevent any further waste of council taxpayers money.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “This legal action was taken because the council has a duty of care to protect its employees from the kind of intimidation and harassment caused by the wilfully false and defamatory statements published on the blog.

“South Tyneside Council is satisfied that Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 gives the power to take the action that has been taken.”

June Elsom, who stood as an independent for Cleadon Park in last week’s Local Elections, asked Northumbria Police to investigate the matter, but a force spokesman said there was no cause for a criminal investigation.

The spokesman said: “We have received correspondence raising concerns around legal costs incurred by South Tyneside Council in relation to the ‘Mr Monkey’ blog.

“Advice has been given that as it stands, this is not a matter involving criminality and there is therefore nothing to indicate a criminal investigation should be launched at this stage.

“Should another body looking into the matter decide a referral to the police is appropriate then an investigation would be carried out.”

As part of the council’s courtroom pursuit of ‘Mr Monkey’ a former South Tyneside councillor was hit with a whopping £40,000 legal bill last year.

Mr Khan had launched an American courtroom bid to halt the search for the controversial blogger, which he said was a waste of public money.

But San Mateo County Court dismissed his anti-SLAPP motion (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation), describing it as “frivolous”.

The council is chasing Mr Khan – who has always denied being behind the ‘Mr Monkey’ blog – for the extra legal costs it incurred as a result of his unsuccessful challenge.

A council spokesman said the authority was continuing to pursue that demand – although it is not known how much, if any, of the amount owed had so far been paid.

> As far as I was aware, Mr Monkey stopped publishing in 2009. Still online, though, at:  http://mrmonkeysblog.wordpress.com

Source – Shields Gazette,  27 May 2014

South Shields MP seeks High Street debate in Parliament

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck is hoping to spark a debate in Parliament on the state of UK high streets – after admitting the decline of the town’s main shopping thoroughfare “breaks my heart”.

 The MP has become alarmed at the number of retail outlets closing in King Street over recent months.

The decision by  Marks and Spencer to exit the town after 80 years was a particular body blow.

However, other retailers have left or are about to leave, including Mothercare, Thorntons, Internacionale and Greggs restaurant.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “I’m looking in the very near future either to get a debate in Parliament, or if not, write to communities secretary Eric Pickles, about what the Government intends to do to support our high streets.

“It’s really sad that we have got shops leaving King Street. People automatically say ‘oh, it’s the council’s fault’, but the council does not set business rates and they don’t own those buildings.

“It’s the Government that sets business rates and Labour’s got plans to cut and freeze business rates, and for an energy price freeze to help small business.

“I don’t understand why the Government won’t implement those things because it would actually see a revival of our high streets. I was in King Street recently and it was really sad to see. I used to go there when I was a kid. Each time I see  that another shop is closing, it breaks my heart. I think the Government needs to do something about this. They can’t just sit on their laurels.

“Of course, it’s not something which is particular to South Shields, it is happening across the country. I’m going to try and get a debate in Parliament.

“If I can’t get that I will at least write to Eric Pickles and I will give the Gazette a copy of his response, so people can see that I’m at least trying to do something.”

Town Hall bosses have no control on either the setting of rents in the street or on rate levels, which are set by central Government and merely collected locally by the council.

A council spokesman told the Gazette recently that business rates are a “major bone of contention” – but explained that they are set by Government, not the council.

South Tyneside gets to keep 50 per cent of the business rates it collects in the borough, with the other 50 per cent going into a central Government pot.

Out of that, a proportion is redistributed to the council to recognise the local authority’s financial needs.

The last revaluation of properties for rating purposes was carried out in 2008, the next being proposed for 2017.

The council itself pays business rates for its offices, schools, day centres and all other buildings it occupies, in exactly the same way as other private sector occupiers.

Source – Shields Gazette  30 April 2014