A Green surge is predicted in South Tyneside at the general and local elections in May as the party confirmed it was putting up candidates in every borough ward for the very first time.
Shirley Ford, who lives in South Shields, was the Green Party candidate in the town at the 2010 General Election.
On that occasion she attracted 762 votes – 2.1 per cent of the poll, finishing a distant fifth behind the victor, Labour’s David Miliband.
But the political climate has changed dramatically in the five years since.
The administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields is also convinced that the candidates set to represent the party across all 18 wards in the borough are the most diverse.
“We are going to have a full slate of candidates. I can confirm that.
“We’ve been delighted at the interest generated and the number people who have come forward, many for the first time.
“Our candidates range from young people – students and apprentices – to people who are retired, from people working in health, in education and those working in environmental science.
“I’m not claiming we have the youngest candidate because I know Labour has a particularly young representative in Hebburn, but I can’t imagine any party has such a diverse range of candidates.”
Mrs Ford believes the Green input in a series of local issues has helped raise the party’s profile.
As an example she cited its intervention against Harton Technology College applying for academy status.
The Greens’ efforts to stage clean-ups in the town’s “rather unloved” Readhead Park and create a ‘friends of the park’ group there have also improved the public perception, Mrs Ford says.
“Attracting more than ten per cent of the vote is, I believe, a realistic goal.
“It was difficult in the past when we had only a handful of local candidates and a much smaller membership base and we were running a much less ambitious campaign.
“We had a great response at the Westoe by-election last October and that has continued since.
“Tony Bengtsson will once again be our candidate there and the reaction when knocking on doors has been very positive. There is no predicting this election. The opinion polls suggests there are many people undecided on how to cast their vote.
“There can be a Green surge and even if we don’t win a ward, second finishes would leave us in a very good position.
“It’s something we could build on in future campaigns.”
The other candidates standing in South Shields are: Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat); Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour); Robert Oliver (Conservative); and Norman Dennis (UKIP).
Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Mar 2015
A charity which provides vital support to some of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable citizens is on the move – and expanding its services.
South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope runs food banks and soup kitchens across the town.
It is currently based at Brinkburn Community Centre and the town’s Living Waters Church at Rekendyke.
But next week it will be moving into the former Hampden Street Day Centre in South Shields, which closed in 2013 as part of a reorganisation of the council’s day centre facilities.
The charity, which is run entirely by volunteers, has been given the premises by the local authority on a peppercorn rent.
It’s a big boost which will enable volunteers to expand the range of help they provide to people in crisis.
The move comes after a year in which demand for borough food banks has risen by 50 per cent.
It’s a need which Deb Stobbs, a volunteer fundraiser with Hope and Hospitality, can only see increasing as the impact of tough benefit changes continue to be felt.
She said: “The reality is that we have outgrown Brinkburn Community Centre.
“At the moment we package the food at Brinkburn and deliver it to different venues, in particular Living Waters.
“Now we are moving out of Brinkburn and Living Waters and consolidating in one building.
“Currently we are only open two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, and this move means we can open more days.
“South Tyneside food banks saw a 50 per cent increase in the use of services last year and this is a crisis situation which is only going to get worse and affect more and more people.”
Food banks are not available for people who just turn up at the door.
Instead, those deemed to be living in crisis are issued with vouchers by organisations such as the JobCentre and referred to the charity.
It was all hands to the pumps this week as supporters from the Prince’s Trust and Asda went along to Hampden Street with paintbrushes and cleaning equipment to get the complex ready to open.
The charity has passed on thanks to some of the other organisations and individuals which have been supportive, including Youth Justice, North East Council for Addictions and Sir David and Lady Chapman, its patrons.
Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said: “The council is delighted to be to able to support Hospitality and Hope by providing a building that has been vacant for some time.”
New volunteers are also invited to help out at soup kitchens in St Bede’s, in Westoe Road, South Shields, on Sunday night, St Michael’s and All Angels at Westoe on Wednesday lunchtime and at Harton Methodist Church on Thursday lunchtime.
Source – Shields Gazette, 12 Feb 2015
THE UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) general election campaign has got off to a bumpy start in South Tyneside amid claim and counter-claim.
The party has issued a statement saying former councillor Steve Harrison has been removed from his position as chairman of the South Tyneside branch, because of a “failure to comply with internal party rules”.
That has been rejected by Mr Harrison, who says he stood down to concentrate on his campaign as UKIP’s Parliamentary candidate for the Jarrow Constituency at May’s general election.
The party was on a crest of a political wave back in May 2013 when its candidate in the South Shields Parliamentary by-election, Richard Elvin, polled almost 25 per cent of the vote in finishing second to Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck.
A month later, the party enjoyed a political coup when three borough councillors joined its ranks.
However, Coun George Elsom, for Cleadon Park, left the party within three months, admitting his decision to join the UKIP ranks a “mistake” and returning to the council chamber as an independent.
At last year’s May local elections, Mr Harrison, another defector, lost his seat in Fellgate and Hedworth, leaving his fellow ward member Coun Linda Hemmer as UKIP’s sole representative on the council.
The party’s fortunes changed again in October last year when Coun Norman Dennis snatched victory in the Westoe by-election, but the general election campaign has got off to a less than smooth start.
The party has confirmed that Coun Dennis has been selected as its Parliamentary candidate for South Shields, just months after his by-election triumph.
The regional UKIP spokesman said:
“Steve Harrison was indeed removed as branch chairman of South Tyneside late in 2014 following a failure to comply with internal party rules.
“Mr Harrison had the right of appeal against this decision, but declined to exercise that right.
“The party’s membership locally continues to grow, and Coun Norman Dennis is an excellent candidate in an area where UKIP has high hopes, after gaining close to 25 per cent of the vote nearly two years ago in a Parliamentary by-election”.
Mr Harrison said:
“All branch committees have received a recommendation from the party chairman that any chairman or vice-chairman who has been adopted as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, should consider their position until after the general election in order to concentrate on their campaigns.
“After giving this careful thought, I realised the wisdom of this advice and have decided to announce at our branch meeting on Tuesday that I will be standing down as chairman of the South Tyneside branch, so that I can direct all my efforts into my Westminster campaign.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 23 Jan 2015
The Green Party is aiming to field candidates in all 18 South Tyneside Council wards being contested at May’s local elections.
The plan coincides with a recent doubling of party membership in the borough.
The party is also putting up candidates in both borough Parliamentary seats for the first time – Shirley Ford in South Shields and David Herbert in Jarrow.
The news comes at a time when the party’s profile nationally is rising, courtesy of a surprise endorsement from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron has refused to take part in any television debate until broadcasters agree that the Greens be included too.
“As a democratically elected leader, I have no reason to doubt his motives for doing that, but whatever his motives, his intervention does mean that people across the country are taking a look at us,” said Mrs Ford.
“Something like 300,000 people have signed an online petition supporting our involvement in the debates.”
Later this week, the borough’s Green Party branch is to meet to select candidates to fight for council seats in May, and a public meeting is also being lined up.
Mrs Ford said: “There has been a surge in membership.
“It has more than doubled in the last couple of months, from about 20 to 42, the last time I looked.
“There’s probably a mixture of reasons why that has happened, including the publicity in the national media and the fact that we have been very visible since the Westoe by-election in September last year through our beach cleans, park cleans, the stall we had in King Street, South Shields, and our support for the Gazette’s campaign to cut business rates.”
Green activists were also out in force at The Nook in South Shields on Saturday asking the public to sign a petition opposing Harton Technology College’s plans to become an academy.
Mrs Ford said: “There is definitely a different vibe towards the party now.
“At the last general election in 2010, we stood in a handful of borough wards, but I can’t see a reason why we can’t have candidates for all 18 wards in May.
“That’s our aim anyway. All the members who have signed up in recent weeks will be able to stand. We don’t have any rules that forbid that.
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75 per cent of constituencies, and we are determined to exceed that in the North East.
“We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the general election.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 19 Jan 2015
An injured woman with mobility problems was left stranded at a hospital late at night because she did not meet new NHS criteria for transport home.
Lisa Collins, who suffers from a condition that causes her knees to dislocate without warning, had been promised a taxi home from South Tyneside District Hospital when she needed treatment for an eye injury.
But, when she came to be discharged, the 22-year-old, from Westoe, South Shields, was told to make her own way home, despite wearing an eyepatch.
Ms Collins, who has undergone several operations to her legs, said:
“It was 2.30am and they expected me to walk home in the dark by myself, only being able to see out of one eye.”
The customer service advisor had hurt herself earlier in the day when her cat accidentally scratched her in the eye with his claw.
She developed an infection and called the non-emergency 111 number at 9.15pm for advice when the pain became unbearable and her vision started to blur.
She says she was told to go straight to hospital.
“I told them I was going to have to wait until the morning when I could get the bus. She said ‘we’ll sort you out a taxi there and back’.
“I said I don’t need one to get there, I could get the bus, but I would need one to get one back and they said that was OK.”
Ms Collins arrived at the hospital, in Harton Lane, at 9.30pm. Just under two hours later, after being given eye drops and an eye patch, she was discharged with a special cream and a course of antibiotics.
“It was 11.45pm so I had missed my last bus. I went to the front desk and said I was ready to get my taxi.
“That’s when the woman said I didn’t meet the criteria, saying ‘you have to be older than 65’.
“She said ‘you are young enough to get yourself home. It’s your responsibility.”
Ms Collins added:
“I told her I have mobility problems and asked her to check my medical record, but she refused.
“I live on my own. I was very upset and it made the pain in my eye a lot worse. I was crying and I had to take the bandage off, as it was wet.
“I said ‘there is no way I can get home at 1am’. I had no money. I wouldn’t get paid for another week.”
Miss Collins was then told she could have transport, but it would take up to nine hours as her case was classed as ‘non-urgent’
Her father, who lives on the other side of Newcastle, eventually managed to contact a taxi firm willing to pick her up, with him paying the fare the following day, and Miss Collins finally got home shortly before 3am.
She added: “I pay my taxes and feel the NHS has really failed me.”
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Steve Williamson said:
“We are sorry Ms Collins feels that our receptionist was rude.
“Our staff are trained to be professional and courteous at all times. If she would like to contact us, we would be very happy to look into her concerns.”
A North East Ambulance Service spokeswoman said:
“We transported this patient to South Tyneside Hospital and return transport was booked for her by the hospital.
“Due to demand elsewhere, it appears the patient preferred not to wait until transport became available, and made her own way home after the hospital cancelled her transport booking.
“Ambulances are prioritised according to clinical need and the most critically ill people will receive resources first. Unfortunately sometimes this means that some people have to wait longer.
“Where possible, we encourage patients to prepare to make their own way home from hospital so that resources are available for greater emergencies.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 24 Nov 2014
It’s green for go in South Tyneside ahead of next year’s general election after the borough’s first Parliamentary candidate threw her hat into the ring.
The Green Party has announced that primary school support worker Shirley Ford is to fight for the South Shields constituency next May.
The 50-year-old, of South Shields, says her campaign will centre on public concerns over the state of the town centre and the need for a decent living wage.
The mother of one will also highlight her party’s opposition to the potential extraction of coal to convert into gas along a large stretch of the region’s coastline.
Mrs Ford has experience as a candidate, having previously stood for her home town set at the 2010 general election.
“We have had an upsurge in new members since the Scottish devolution vote.
“People want to hear different voices, different ideas, and it’s not all about Ukip. People want positive choices that don’t just play on people’s fears.
“One of the main issues we picked up during the recent Westoe by-election was public concern over our high street, which is dying, and over the council’s grand, shiny regeneration plan to attract big names to the town.
“We have seen what has happened with these big businesses in the past. They just up and leave if they are not making the profits they require.
“We’d like to see much more support for local small businesses who are loyal and stay in the town.
“Protection for people in the workplace is also on our agenda, and we will be pushing the council and its contractors to bring in a decent living wage sooner than they have promised.”
Mrs Ford is also unhappy at the cabinet system adopted by South Tyneside Council.
“It means the leader of the council and a half a dozen others make all the major decisions, and the backbenchers have no power at all. We want to bring back proper committees.”
Mrs Ford has been the Keep Metro Public campaign’s South Tyneside co-ordinator, opposing privatisation of the Tyne and Wear Metro system.
She has also volunteered in Kenya for a safe drinking water project and has worked for many years on human rights and anti-poverty campaigns.
The Green Party also plans to fight the Jarrow constituency, with a candidate to be announced soon.
Source – Shields Gazette, 28 Oct 2014
UKIP has seized its first seat on South Tyneside Council after a dramatic election night. in the Westoe ward.
Norman Hanson Dennis pipped Labour’s Katharine Maxwell to the Westoe seat with a majority of 51 in an election that had a turnout of just 26.4%.
The election was called following the death of Independent councillor Jane McBride earlier this year.
Despite the result Labour still dominates the council with a majority of 49 seats.
The night included a recount.
Seats previously held by UKIP on the council were the result of independent councillors joining the party.
The final results were:
Tony Bengtsson (Green Party) 90
Norman Hanson Dennis (UK Independence Party UKIP) 676
Katharine Emma Maxwell (Labour) 625
Edward Anthony Russell (Conservative) 219
Carole Troupe (Liberal Democrat) 41
Rejected papers 6
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Oct 2014
The moment of truth has almost arrived for those standing in next week’s local elections across South Tyneside.
The 18 seats up for grabs in the borough will be contested by 59 candidates on Thursday.
At present, Labour dominates South Tyneside Council in what has long been been one of its traditional heartlands.
That could be about to change, though, as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) looks to gain a foothold in the region for the first time.
Just last month, UKIP leader Nigel Farage predicted a “mini-earthquake” after claiming Labour had turned its back on the North East.
Shop manager Richard Duffy, 45, says he is thinking about casting a protest vote for UKIP.
He said: “Since arriving on the scene, I think UKIP has forced the main parties to take a good, hard look at themselves.
“None of them has done anything about the level of immigration. This is an important issue and people have been feeling uneasy about it for years.”
> Some people might… the sort of people who’d like to vote for the BNP but don’t have the nerve. The sort of people who start sentences with : “I,m not racist, but…”
Ex-factory worker Valerie Storey, 63, of Boldon Colliery, has already put a cross next to a UKIP candidate on her postal vote.
She said: “Everyone I know seems like they want to vote for UKIP. People just see Labour and the Conservatives as part of the establishment, while UKIP is on the outside.
> Yeah, a party of the common man – no millionaires, desperate swivel-eyed ex-members of the Tories or political opportunists and business-orientated vested interests in UKIP.
“I think it is worth voting for a different party to see if they can make things better. If they do, great, but if not, at least I can say I have tried.”
Others, such as retired driving instructor Bill Grieves, 72, of Westoe, South Shields, simply lack enthusiasm for the upcoming elections.
Mr Grieves says he has voted Conservative in the past, but that is unlikely to be the case next week.
He said: “I have always felt I should vote, but on this occasion, I do not know who to vote for.
“I cannot trust any of the parties in terms of what they say or do.
“They do not seem to care about the common man in the street.”
“I used to have faith in politics, but not now. I think the damage has been done, for me and probably others too.”
Former secretary Denise Coulter, 54, of Whiteleas, South Shields, agrees with that sentiment.
She said: “You do not see many people from poorer backgrounds going into politics these days. It seems only to be for the privileged few.
“They do not know what it is like to live on the dole, or have very little money or even nothing at all. I find it very frustrating.”
Alice McLechlan, 85, of Brockley Whins, South Shields, is a retired factory worker. She says she will vote next week, but it will be with a heavy heart.
She added: “I normally choose a Labour candidate, but in these elections, I’ll go for an independent.
“Labour would need to do quite a lot to make me change my mind.”
One person who still has faith in Labour is unemployed Joan Merryfield, 62, of Brockley Avenue, South Shields.
She said: “I have always gone for Labour because it gets things done, but you can understand why people are not too bothered any more. They are just fed up with politics.”
Source – shields Gazette, 17 May 2014