UKIP’S Wearside policy launch was left high and dry when a promised fleet of fishing boats was cancelled – due to low tide.
The UK Independence Party had promised a fleet of fishing vessels decked out in party colours at Sunderland Fish Quay, to highlight its opposition to the EU Common Fisheries policy.
However, organisers were left red-faced after discovering the Wear was too low for the boats to take to the water.
Aileen Casey, parliamentary candidate for Washington and Sunderland West, said the party had checked earlier in the week that the photocall was at a suitable time.
UKIP say the Common Fisheries Policy was allowing foreign fishermen to cash in on the UK’s waters.
“This is our fish – why should we give it away only to have to buy it back,” Ms Casey said.
“We want to take this message as far and wide as possible – we want every inch of England that has seaside, that has anything to do with fishing, to get involved.
“We all need to shout as loud as possible to get out waters back.”
Fishermen Norman Shaw said he had witnessed the impact of EU policy on the industry.
“Twenty years ago, the trawlers on this pier would be three or four deep,” he said. “Now there are only about eight boats working off this pier.”
The photocall was also accompanied by an impromptu rock performance by flatmates Cal Johnson and Tony Shaw, both, 22, who live opposite the Fish Quay.
Tony said the pair had hoped to drown out the party’s message.
“I don’t like the things they are about,” he said.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 17 Apr 2015
Houghton and Sunderland South: currently held by Bridget Phillipson (Labour)
Richard Peter Elvin (Ukip),
Stewart Thomas Hay (Con),
Jim Murray (LD),
Bridget Maeve Phillipson (Lab),
Alan Michael David Robinson (Green).
Sunderland Central: currently held by Julie Elliott (Labour)
Julie Elliott (Lab),
Rachel Sara Featherstone (Green),
Bryan George Foster (Ukip),
Adrian Page (LD),
Jeffrey Guy Townsend (Con),
Joseph Young (Ind).
Washington and Sunderland West: currently held by Sharon Hodgson (Labour)
Aileen Casey (Ukip),
Bob Dhillon (Con),
Gary Stephen Duncan (TUSC),
Dominic John Haney (LD),
Sharon Hodgson (Lab),
Anthony Murphy (Green).
> Interesting to see that Gary Duncan has found (yet another) new home. It seems no time since he was a pround member of Respect. And before that, the SWP.
Bus services are better in council hands, MPs have said ahead of a vote that could dramatically change the future of public transport in the North East.
Twelve Tyne and Wear MPs have written to the North East Combined Authority leadership board ahead of their meeting this afternoon to decide whether to establish the first council regulated network of buses outside of London since 1986.
They believe the proposed Quality Contracts Scheme run by Metro operator Nexus will deliver £272m in economic benefit to the North East.
However the plans have been bitterly-opposed by bus companies Go North East, Stagecoach and Arriva, who instead want to run the network under a Voluntary Partnership Agreement called the North East Bus Operators’ Association.
They believe handing back control of buses to councils would create new risks for ‘cash-strapped’ local authorities.
Bridget Phillipson MP, who has been leading the campaign in favour of the Quality Contracts scheme, said:
“The members of the Combined Authority have a clear choice when they meet today. They can either maintain the status quo where bus operators funnel profits out of our region or support real and lasting change with a Quality Contract Scheme.
“If a regulated transport system is good enough for our capital city then it’s good enough for the people of Tyne and Wear.”
She added in her letter that the present deregulated system allowed operators to cut routes and an investigation in 2011 by the Competition Commission was critical of the service in Tyne and Wear.
Tom Dodds, secretary of the North East Bus Operators’ Association, said:
“Ms Phillipson misunderstands the partnership agreement. There are 17 successful partnerships around the country. The partnership for Tyne and Wear would be the most comprehensive of all, offering cheaper fares for 16-18 year olds, new ‘Bus2Bus’ tickets for people who use the buses of more than one company but don’t need to use Metro, and up to 50 extra buses on new services. The contract scheme promises none of that, and allows politicians to increase fares and reduce services at will to balance their books.
“If the bus network is inadequate, then the contract scheme does nothing to improve it – in fact, it freezes the bus network until 2018.”
He added that there was no action taken by the Competition Commission following their report in 2011.
Nexus claims their system would see £8m saved or re-invested into the service, reducing the profits going to bus company shareholders from £20m to £12m a year.
The letter has been signed by the following MPs
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South), Nick Brown (Newcastle East), Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Mary Glindon (North Tyneside), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), Chi Onwurah (Newcastle Central), Ian Mearns (Gateshead), David Anderson (Blaydon), Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) and Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West).
The North East Combined Authority’s leadership board, which is made up of the leaders of seven local authorities, will take a vote today at the Civic Centre in Newcastle whether to proceed with the Quality Contracts Scheme after it was endorsed by its transport committee earlier this month.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Oct 2014
Sunderland could lose more than £600,000 after ministers agreed to plough ahead with a reduction of the Education Services Grant (ESG).
After months of consultation, the Government has agreed to slice £200million from the grants.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, says she has concerns about the move.
She said: “This grant is an important part of the funding schools and councils get to provide pooled services for pupils and drive improvements in standards.
“After councils have repeatedly warned ministers that slashing this grant risks them not being able to fulfil their statutory duties, it’s disappointing that they’ve gone ahead with it anyway.
“I’ll be monitoring the impact that it has on the quality of education that local children receive.”
The grants will be cut from £113 to £87 for each pupil at a local authority school.
It is estimated Sunderland will lose about £620,000 from the 2015-16 budget, which this year stands at £2.92m.
Durham’s grants of £6.49m could be slashed by about £1.5m and South Tyneside’s £2.13m could be reduced by about £490,000.
Money from the grants is used to pay for services to support pupils, such as clothing, extra curricular activities, performing arts and music and outdoor education.
Councillor Pat Smith, cabinet portfolio holder for children’s Services for Sunderland City Council, said: “We will need time to consider how these latest reductions in Government funding will further impact on the services we are able to supply to schools within our city.
“The Education Services Grant is paid to local authorities and academies to reflect the statutory and regulatory duties each are responsible for.
“These include school attendance, school improvement, employer responsibilities and the production of accounts.
“We will now have to determine what long-term effects these cuts in funding will have. For the local authority this needs to be considered alongside other significant reductions in funding.”
Plans to cut the grants have gone ahead despite numerous protests, including from cellist and conductor Julian Lloyd-Webber, who said some authorities were already struggling to provide music education.
However, the Government said it will be making £18million available to set up a series of music hubs.
Announcing the cuts, Schools Minister David Laws, said: “We have had to make some tough decisions, and we expect local authorities and academies to do so too.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 26 July 2014
Postal voting is far more popular in the region than in the rest of the country, and ‘experts’ fear voting in the North could be left open to greater risk of fraud as a result.
Figures released by parliament reveal that the top eight constituencies in the UK for using the system are all in the North. But fears have been raised that postal voting systems are more susceptible to rigging.
Richard Mawrey QC, who tries cases of electoral fraud, has criticised the ‘on demand’ postal voting system and has called for it to be scrapped.
“Postal voting on demand, however many safeguards you build into it, is wide open to fraud,” Mr Mawrey – a deputy high court judge and election commissioner – said last week.
“It’s open to fraud on a scale that will make election rigging a possibility and indeed in some areas a probability.”
He added that postal voting can be easily manipulated and people can be forced into voting for a particular candidate.
Four North constituencies – Houghton and Sunderland South, Washington and Sunderland West , Newcastle and Sunderland Central have more than half of their voters taking part by post, the highest numbers in the country.
Four others – South Shields, Newcastle central, Blyth Valley and Jarrow – are also in the top ten nationally for postal voting.
And across the region 17 other constituencies, from Stockton to Tynemouth, have at least a quarter of voters choosing to vote by post. The average uptake of postal votes across the UK was just 18.8% of voters, up from 15% in 2005.
Dr Alistair Clark is a senior politics lecturer at Newcastle University, specialising in electoral integrity. He believes that the postal voting system in the UK has fundamental problems.
“There are difficulties with the system, particularly since the extension of it to being on demand,” he said. “The main difficulty relates to the security of the ballot – we have no idea who is actually completing the ballot papers – anyone could be filling them out.
“Although signatures have to be provided and matched up, signatures can change over time, and this creates a whole level of additional difficulties for election officials.”
A postal voting-only system was trialled by many North constituencies in the early 2000s, which is the likely reason why the proportion of take up in the region is so high.
But Ronnie Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley – where 46% of ballots were posted – believes there are also other factors.
“We have a very ageing population but we also have a lot of younger people,” he said.
“The older people might not want to leave their homes to vote while the younger people might be away working outside of the North East.”
He doesn’t believe there is too much cause for concern, saying: “I think postal voting is handy and it does work.
“It’s got to be well marshalled though because we’ve seen it fiddled in other parts of the country in the past.
“There is a security risk and we have to be vigilant about it.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West – where 50.8% were posted – is also in favour of postal voting.
“While we should always look at how we can increase security, the experience in Sunderland and across the country is that postal voting allows and encourages more people to use their vote at local and national elections, which is good for democracy,” she said.
“Of course, any abuses of the system should always be investigated, and perpetrators prosecuted, but there’s no reason whatsoever to throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Since 2001, anyone on the electoral roll has been able to apply for a postal ballot.
The Electoral Commission said it would not be “proportionate” to end postal voting altogether, and the government has no plans to abolish the current system, saying it had made it easier for many people to vote.
However, from June this year, anyone who wants a postal vote will have to apply individually and prove their identity, as the government is introducing individual electoral registration which ministers say will help stamp out some abuses.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 March 2014