Tagged: Yorkshire

North East family incomes lags behind most of UK

Family  incomes are on the rise in most of the region, official figures show – but at a slower pace than in most of the country.

Household disposable income per head crept up by just 0.8 per cent in the North-East between 2012 and 2013, below the one per cent rise across the United Kingdom.

And the North-East was left in the slow lane by both Scotland (up two per cent) and the West Midlands (up 2.3 per cent) as the economy bounced back, as well as by Yorkshire (up 1.4 per cent).

But households in London and the South-East (both up 0.6 per cent) saw incomes grow more slowly – even though overall growth was far higher than in the North-East in both areas.

The statistics also reveal striking local variations in the changes in gross disposable household income (GDHI), the amount available for spending or saving after taxes and benefits.

Incomes grew sharply in Darlington (3.5 per cent) and South Teesside (2.6 per cent) and were also up in North Yorkshire (two per cent) and Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees (1.9 per cent).

But growth was more sluggish in County Durham (1.3 per cent) – and fell markedly in both Sunderland (3.1 per cent) and York (3.3 per cent).

 And disposable incomes in the North-East are as little as one-third of those in the plushest parts of London, where the figures surged ahead between 2012 and 2013.

In Westminster, the average GDHI was £42,221 in 2013 – almost three times the figure of £14,659 in County Durham and the highest of 173 local areas analysed.

And incomes in Kensington and Chelsea/Hammersmith and Fulham (£42,116), Camden and City of London (£37,324) and Wandsworth (£35,237) were not far behind.

Matt Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, said:

“Regional inequalities have fallen since the crash, but the gap between the South East and the UK is stark.”

Experts believe disposal income – the amount people have to spend after the bills have been paid – is the best measure of the economic confidence of families and individuals.

The rising figures in most areas were thought to reflect low interest rates and low inflation offsetting disappointing wage rises, perhaps helping to return David Cameron to No.10 earlier this month.
Source – Northern Echo, 28 May 2015
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Children in care are next victims of savage cuts, warn North-East councils

Children in care will be the next victims of savage cuts to local council funding, North-East leaders warned yesterday.

They raised the alarm over a planned 17 per cent reduction in grants for children’s services buried in the 2015/16 funding settlement – even bigger than the overall cuts.

And they warned it would punish the North-East hardest, as the region has the joint highest number of children in care, after a sharp rise over the last five years.

For every 10,000 youngsters in the region, 81 are in local authority accommodation or the subject of care orders – up from 61 per 1,000 as recently as 2009.

It puts the North-East on a par with the North-West, while the figures are much lower in Yorkshire (65), London (54), the South-East (48) and elsewhere.

In Durham (91 per 1,000) and Newcastle (101 per 1,000) the figures are even higher, according to the Association of North-East Councils (ANEC).

Speaking at Westminster, Simon Henig, Durham’s Labour leader and ANEC’s chairman, said:

“We have seen a big increase in pressures in this area – and the amount of Government funding has been cut significantly – but local authorities have filled the gap, by raiding money from elsewhere.

 “The question that has to be asked is ‘how long can that go on’? And I suggest it won’t be able to go on very much longer.”

The warning came as ANEC – in partnership with major urban authorities – launched a fresh blast at the “unfair” 2015-16 funding settlement.

They ridiculed the Government’s claim of an average 1.8 per cent cut in funding, arguing the true figure was close to ten per cent in the North-East – a total grant reduction of around £240m.

ANEC said:

“This level of reduction has dramatic and damaging consequences for councils’ ability to fund statutory services such as children’s and adult social care.”

And Kevan Jones, the North Durham Labour MP, said:

“This Government has directed cash to areas not in the dire need that we are in the North-East.”

However, there were signs of future tensions with Labour, which will not halt next year’s cuts if it wins May’s general election and has made only vague promises of a “fairer formula”.

 Ed Miliband has also pledged that councils will keep 100 per cent of business rate growth – not the Coalition’s 50 per cent – replacing the existing system of redistribution to poorer areas.

ANEC warned such a scheme “potentially allocates extra resources to wealthy and business-rich parts of the London and South-East”.

Source – Northern Echo,  14 Jan 2015

City Link collapse: ‘I found out I’d lost my job while watching the news on Christmas Day’

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

How the ancient North East counties were lost – and with it our identities

It was refreshing to hear someone born outside of the region have a good word to say about Ashington.

And Matthew Engel had more than a good word in fact. He admires the people who live there and what they represent.

Why? Identity.

Engel, a writer for the Guardian newspaper for 25 years, some time editor of the ‘cricket bibleWisden and now a columnist for the Financial Times, visited the Northumberland town while researching his latest book.

Called Engel’s England, he spent three years re-visiting the old counties which disappeared off the map of Britain as a result of the Local Government Act.

Drawn up by Ted Heath’s Tory Government in 1972, it was implemented by Harold Wilson’s Labour on, appropriately I would guess in Engel’s mind, April 1 – April Fool’s Day – 1974.

It was a shambles,” he said. “Politicians are interested in political boundaries, people are not. We don’t care about local government and local government gets worse and worse.

“It caused a huge loss of local identity but there are still things left, things to celebrate that really have an identity, places like Ashington.

“What a tremendous place. Of course it has its problems but it has a tremendous richness of associative life.”

Associative life means a clearly identified way of life, from recognisable pass-times like growing leeks and racing whippets, something that hasn’t been lost despite the decimation of the coal mines in the area, he said.

> Is that associative life or is it a cliche ?  Most people, even in Ashington, probably never grew leeks or raced whippets.

And in any case, Ashington is still in Northumberland, same as it ever was. It never disappeared or changed name.

It is a place with its own accent, it’s own traditions, which are very, very strong,” said Engel.

In the book he explained how counties were formed historically and how they developed along locally defined lines which threw up their own idiosyncrasies.

There were the counties palatine, including Durham, which were directly under the control of a local princeling.

Then there were counties corporate and boroughs that were regarded as self governing and fell under the control of the local Lord Lieutenant for military purposes. Yorkshire, readers may well remember, was divided into three ridings.

As a result counties developed their own laws, dialects, customs, farming methods and building styles.

They formed the tapestry of the nation,” Engel says. “The very distinctions show just how important the county was in the lives of the people.

“Real places with real differences inspiring real loyalties.”

The Local Government Act of 1888 brought democracy to the shires by establishing county councils but, according to Engel, the integrity of the counties were respected.

Not so The Local Government Act of 1972 which binned centuries of local identity to see, for example, Teesside renamed as Cleveland and Tyneside becoming Tyne and Wear.

> Ahem – Tyneside and Wearside ! And in any case, I don’t think it was such a bad idea.

Cumberland – which had been around since the 12th century – became part of Cumbria, a name that Engel shudders with distaste at. “Always say Cumberland,” said Engel.

Yarm had formed part of the Stokesley Rural District in what was then the ‘North Riding’ of Yorkshire and remained so until 1974 – when it became part of the district of Stockton-on-Tees in the new non-metropolitan county of Cleveland.

Cleveland – like Tyne and Wear – was abolished in 1996 under the Banham Review, with Stockton-on-Tees becoming a unitary authority.

In May a poll inspired by the Yarm for Yorkshire group saw locals vote emphatically “Yes” to the idea of transferring Yarm from Stockton to Hambleton Council in North Yorkshire.

Last month Stockton Borough Council rejected calls to refer the matter to the boundary commission into it, but the debate rumbles on.

To add to the horror of Teessiders who pine for a return to Yorkshire was this bit of research from Engel after a talk with a dialect expert from Leeds University.

> Presumably that’s Teessiders on the south bank of the river. Those on the north bank were in County Durham.

He told me Middlesbrough accents have actually changed in the years since 1974. In those 40 years the Middlesbrough accent has become more North East and less Yorkshire.

Engel describes his work as a “travel book” – “I think I’m the first travel writer who went straight from Choral Evensong at Durham Cathedral to the dog track.”

He added: “The historic counties need to return to the map, the media and our envelopes, so future generations can understand where they live.

“Only then will the English regain their spirit the way the Scots have done. This is not about local government – it is about our heritage and our future.

* Engel’s England, is published by Profile Books at £20 on October 23, 2014.

> Sounds like another “intellectual”  telling people what they should be doing.

People know where they live, future generations will too. Names and boundaries have always changed and will continue to do so.

Matthew Engel, incidentally, was born in Northampton and lives in Herefordshire.  If he actually had some connection with the North East I might take him a bit more seriously. 

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 19 Oct 2014

Conservative Party try to reinvent themselves as the party of the North East

> Is there a General Election on the horizon or something ? The Tories are getting all concerned about the North East…

Growing the economy in the North of England and closing the wealth divide with London and the south east was one of the major themes of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, spoke repeatedly about backing the North in his keynote speech at the  conference.

The focus may seem surprising given that the party has few MPs in the North East.

Guy Opperman in Hexham, Northumberland, and James Wharton in Stockton South are the party’s only North East representatives in the Commons, although Tories believe they have a chance of taking Liberal Democrat-held Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, at the next election.

But William Hague, the former Foreign Secretary regarded as unofficial deputy leader of the party, pointed out to journalists that there were many more Conservative MPs in the North West and in Yorkshire.

Mr Osborne, who represents a constituency in Cheshire, even told the conference: “I am also the first Chancellor for almost forty years to represent a constituency in the north of England – and I can see the risk of our capital city’s dominance.

> Yorkshire and Cheshire are quite different from the North East. That’s exactly why they do elect Tories.

“It is not healthy for our country or our economy.”

He pledged: “Let us choose today to make reducing the gap between north and south, London and the rest, one of the central ambitions of the next Conservative Government.”

And he highlighted the Government’s plan to create a “Northern Powerhouse”, saying: “The answer is to build up the rest of our country. To create a Northern Powerhouse of the cities across the Pennines.”

The Chancellor’s plan is to turn the North into an economic powerhouse rivalling London by investing up to £15 billion on local transport links, picking a scientific speciality for universities to become world-leaders in, possibly building a high speed line across the Pennines, linking the North East and North West, and giving cities more autonomy and cash – if they agree to transform local government by introducing directly-elected mayors.

Mr Hague insisted the party was on course to win in the North.

He said: “At the last general election we made a major breakthrough in the North – if you take the North as being Yorkshire, the North East and North West. We went up at the last election from 19 MPs in the North to 42. That was a huge expansion, including in the North East of course, where we gained Stockton South.

> And… and… oh, just Stockton South, then ? Along with Hexham, that’s a really huge expansion in the North East.

“I hope we can add to that – there will be seats we will be targeting in the North including the North East.”

Major announcements at the conference included plans to freeze working-age benefits – including benefits received by working people on low salaries – for two years.

This means cutting benefits in real terms, because of the effects of inflation.

Conservative leader David Cameron, in his conference speech, announced plans to raise the income tax personal allowance to £12,500. This would take one million more workers out of income tax entirely and give a tax cut to 30 million more, Mr Cameron said.

An estimated 51,000 North East workers would pay no income tax at all because of the change. Many others would pay less tax.

> Isn’t this because wages are so poor to start with ?

Mr Cameron also announced plans to raise the threshold at which people pay the 40p income tax rate from £41,900 today to £50,000.

It means a tax cut for many people earning above-average salaries. Mr Cameron said the 40p tax was supposed to be for the rich, but it’s currently paid by some senior nurses, teachers and police officers.

But critics pointed out that the Conservatives had failed to explain how they would pay the £7 billion cost of cutting tax.

Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “Nobody will be fooled by pie in the sky promises of tax cuts in six years’ time when David Cameron cannot tell us where the money is coming from.

“Even the Tories admit this is an unfunded commitment of over £7 billion, so how will they pay for it? Will they raise VAT on families and pensioners again?”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Oct 2014

Ex-Monkton Cokeworks staff to get their day in court

Battling ex-cokework employees from South Tyneside will have their fight for justice heard in court.

A date has been set for the High Court to review the progress of about 350 former coke oven works illness claims against British Steel and British Coal.

This will include claims lodged by former workers at Monkton Cokeworks in Hebburn, which closed in 1992, after a long and high-profile people’s protest against the works, which had operated since 1936.

Led by Hebburn-based former county councillor Jennie Shearan, protesters living near the  plant claimed it had sparked serious medical issues among the local population, including respiratory problems.

The new legal fight involves former coke oven workers, who claim they have been left with cancers and respiratory diseases because of exposure to harmful dust and fumes, several decades ago.

Law firms Irwin Mitchell and Hugh James are working jointly on two large group litigation claims against British Steel and British Coal. A spokesman for Irwin Mitchell confirmed that ex-workers from the former Monkton Cokeworks plant are among the 350 people fighting for justice.

Formal legal action in the case was launched last October and the High Court has confirmed it will review the progress of the claims on October 16.

A landmark judgement against a Phurnacite plant in South Wales in the High Court in 2012 paved the way for the legal action in other regions, including the North East, Yorkshire, Humberside, Derbyshire and South Wales.

The majority of the affected workers were employed in a range of occupations at coke oven works, such as Monkton, between the 1940s and 1980s.

Some of these ex-employees now suffer from cancer, emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis.

Lawyers for the former cokework employees allege British Steel Corporation and British Coal Corporation and their subsidiaries failed to correctly assess the risk of working in coke ovens, and failed to adequately protect workers from significant dust and fumes.

Roger Maddocks, a specialist workplace illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Hundreds of former coke oven workers are now suffering from terrible conditions, simply because of the work they carried out on a day-to-day basis.

“Employees have a basic right to be able to go to work and return home safely at the end of the day.

In August 2012, former coke oven workers suffering from lung cancer became entitled to industrial injuries disablement benefit, subject to meeting certain employment-related criteria.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  08 Aug 2014

Thousands turn out for 130th Durham Miners’ Gala

Thousands of people flocked to Durham City for the 130th Durham Miners’ Gala.

 Warm sunshine helped swell the crowds later in the morning.

About 65 banners from across the North East and elsewhere were joined by 50 bands for the procession to the Racecourse.

Banner numbers were swelled by mini-banners from several primary schools, including West Rainton, and banners from other unions.

Gala Day starts early for many with breakfast meetings in clubs and community centres in the outlying former pit villages.

There was an early start in Houghton for Pat Simmons and the members of the Lambton and Houghton Banner Group.

Their band for the day, from Elland in Yorkshire, was treated to breakfast at the Peppercorn Cafe in Houghton before accompanying the Houghton banner on the first of two processions.

We processed the banner to the war memorial in Houghton before taking it to Durham,” said Pat.

The band played the miners’ hymn Gresford to remember those miners who fought in the First World War.

“Houghton didn’t have a banner for a long time after the old one was lost in a fire in the 1960s.

“This will have been the first time for many years the banner has been taken through Houghton first before going to Durham.”

The Gala attracts not just former pitmen, but also people too young to have worked in the coal industry.

I am only 22 so never worked down a pit,” said Robert Kitching, who was helping to carry the Silksworth banner.

I’m interested in mining and heritage, and this is my fourth year with banner.

“If the Gala is to survive, we have to attract younger people.

“But it is difficult to get them involved.”

Richard Breward, 67, was parading the Easington Lodge banner.

I left school at 15 and worked at Easington for 27 years,” he said. “I did more or less everything there in that time, and I finished when the pit finished in 1992.

“I’m at the Gala every year, and I want to see it continue.”

Guest speakers this year included the ever-popular left wing MP Dennis Skinner, and the general secretaries of four unions.

Further entertainment for the crowds was provided by music, stalls, and a funfair on the Racecourse.

Those for whom the temperature proved too high could cool down with free bottles of water provided by Northumbrian Water.

The good weather was matched by the general good nature of the crowd.

Police reported few arrests by mid-afternoon, although one man was ‘in the cells, drying out’ after jumping into the River Wear.

By lunchtime many people were already heading home, or heading back into Durham for the afternoon Gala Service in the cathedral.

Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, is determined there will be another Gala next year, and in the years to come.

The cost is increasing each year,” he said. “For example, £26,400 is spent on subsidising the brass bands which are an essential feature of the day.

“The association no longer has subscriptions to its funds from working miners, and it is obvious we cannot fund the Gala indefinitely.

“But I am confident there are sufficient friends in County Durham and elsewhere who want it to continue.”

Anyone wanting contribute to the cost of future Galas can do so online: www.durhamminers.org

Source –  Sunderland Echo, 13 July2014

Job Creation 20% Below Pre-Recession Levels, New Report Shows

Trade Union Congress (TUC) Press Release:

Inner London is the only area of the country to have a higher rate of job starts than before the recession, while job creation in some parts of the country is down 31 per cent on pre-recession levels, according to a new TUC report published today (Monday).

The TUC Touchstone pamphlet Equitable Full Employment: A Jobs Recovery For All (pdf) shows that the recent rise in employment is being driven by fewer people leaving their jobs, rather than more people finding new work.

Job starts – the number of people starting a new job within a three month period – are currently around 20 per cent below pre-recession levels across the UK, and are still falling in parts of the country. The fact that fewer people are leaving their jobs helps to explain why the employment rate for older workers is increasing so much faster than for young people, says the TUC.

The report, written for the TUC by Tony Wilson and Paul Bivand of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (Inclusion), compares job start rates before the recession, at the height of the crash and during the recent recovery. It finds that metropolitan areas such as London, Birmingham and Tyne and Wear are recovering faster than their neighbouring rural areas.

Inner London is the only area of the country where jobs are being created at a faster rate than before the crash. Outer London, the South East and Eastern England have recovered since the crash but job starts are still 11 per cent, 16 per cent and 21 per cent below pre-recession levels.

Job creation across the rest of the country is more mixed, says the TUC. Job creation in Tyne and Wear is recovering (though still 11 per cent below pre-recession levels) but getting worse across the rest of the North East.

> In fact, as a whole, North East unemployment continues to rise…

Job creation in the West Midlands metropolitan area is recovering but the rest of the region continues to decline (down 31 per cent), while South and West Yorkshire are both performing far better than the rest of Yorkshire and Humberside. Job starts in Greater Manchester have fallen slightly since the height of the crash but the city is still doing far better than Merseyside and the rest of the North West, where job starts are 30 per cent down on pre-recession levels.

Strathclyde is the only major metropolitan area that is performing worse than its neighbouring area, with job creation across the rest of Scotland recovering faster.

The report shows while the UK’s employment rate is rising, there are huge swathes of the country – particularly rural areas – where job creation remains depressed and is getting worse, say the TUC.

The report also looks at job starts across different age groups, qualification levels and types of work. It finds that while job creation rates for graduates are back above pre-recession levels, the number of people with lower-level qualifications starting new jobs declined during the boom and has continued to deteriorate since the crash.

The proportion of jobs starts to non-permanent work is now higher than it was before the crash, with three in ten job starts in temporary work. Fixed-term contacts are the most popular form of temporary work.

The continuing shift from permanent employee jobs to self-employment and temporary work, such as fixed-term contacts and agency work, suggests the nature of the UK jobs market is changing permanently, rather than being a short-term response to the recession, says the TUC.

> The final victory of Thatcherism – smash the unions and the rest can be exploited…

The rate of people moving from unemployment to work is still lower than pre-recession levels across all age groups, say the report. ‘Hiring rates’ have recovered fastest for older workers, but they remain far less likely to move from unemployment to work than any other age group.

Hiring rates for 16-24 year olds, who traditionally have moved from unemployment into work at a far quicker rate than all other age groups, have declined considerably over the last 17 years. People in their late 20s and early 30s are now finding work as quickly as younger people, says the report.

The report makes a number of recommendations to boost job creation and raise employment levels further, including:

• Offering targeted employment support programmes, such as a job guarantee for any young person out of work for at least six months.
• Identifying low skills as a reason to provide more intensive employment support.
• Establishing bodies in each industrial sector so that government, unions and employers can work together to identify skills gaps, promote decent workplace standards and fair pay.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Many people assume that rising employment levels are simply down to more people getting new work. In fact, the recent recovery in our jobs market is mainly due to people holding onto their jobs, rather than finding new ones. This is great news if you want to keep earning as you approach retirement, but less positive if you’re trying to take your first step on the career ladder.

“Job creation is as important for people looking for work as it is for those already in work and looking to boost their incomes. It’s worrying that across huge swathes of the country – and particularly in rural areas – job creation levels remain depressed and that where jobs are being created far more are temporary positions than before the crash.

“We need to see far more high-quality jobs being created, not just in our cities but across the UK, if we’re going to achieve full employment and a return to healthy pay rises.”

CESI Associate Director Paul Bivand said:

“What we are concerned about is inclusion, which isn’t just our name. Growth in employment should help to close gaps in our society. We don’t want a rising tide to lift just the most buoyant, while leaving others behind. We want all areas and groups to benefit and we need to close gaps.

“We are already hearing that there is a risk of the Bank taking action because of overheating high-end London house prices. For the economy to benefit all, then rises in jobs have to occur in the rural areas as well as the cities, and Glasgow and Merseyside as well as the South East.”

 

Source: Inner London is only area of UK to have returned to pre-recession levels of job creation

 

Source – Welfare News Service, 23 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/job-creation-20-pre-recession-levels-new-report-shows/

Arts Council England holds out hope of fairer North East funding deal

Arts and cultural bodies across the North East could receive a fairer share of funding in future years, the people responsible for distributing cash have pledged.

Leaders of Arts Council England, which shares out lottery cash for the arts as well as funding directly from the Treasury, said they accepted there was an “imbalance” with London getting the lion’s share while the rest of the country loses out.

But they insisted the situation was improving, with more money going to regions outside London in recent years – and pledged that the trend would continue.

However, giving evidence to a Commons inquiry, the Arts Council also insisted that London organisations had to receive enough money to allow the city to maintain its position as the world’s cultural capital.

And MPs were also told by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey that the arts are “generously funded outside London”.

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee is holding an inquiry into the work of the Arts Council.

That was in part prompted by a hard-hitting report called Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital which warned that London receives £563.9m a year in culture funding from the Government and the Arts Council – or £68.98 per person – while the rest of the country gets £205.1m or just £4.57 per person.

The study also found that the North East had received £86.22 per head in arts lottery funding since 1995, while Londoners received £165.

The inquiry previously heard evidence from leaders of the North East Culture Partnership, who warned that cash-strapped arts organisations in the North East are spending time filling in grant applications instead of actually taking part in arts and cultural activities.

Speaking to the committee, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “You are quite right point to an imbalance.”

He said it should not be surprising that London received the most funding, but added: “We are addressing years of imbalance but we are addressing it carefully.”

London used to get 51% of funding while the rest of the country got 49% – but this had changed so that London now received 49%, he said.

That trend should continue this summer.

“Those are very important parts of the work we are doing.”

One committee member, Yorkshire MP Philip Davies, accused the Arts Council of indulging “London luvvies” by spending £347.4m on opera over five years and just £1.8m on brass bands.

> Oh lord, another regional sterotype – brass bands, whippits and flat caps !

Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey told him: “I do want us to increase the amount of money we are giving to brass bands because I think it’s a wonderful pastime”.

But Mr Vaizey played down suggestions of a funding gap, saying: “I think it is nuanced. I don’t want a headline saying it is unbalanced because as I say it is a more subtle picture.

“A lot of the organisations with London postcodes have national profiles and do national work.

“The picture is by no means as bleak as some people would wish to paint it. A great deal of funding has gone to arts organisations outside London and a lot of funding that is supposedly ‘London funding’ is in fact national funding.”

Mr Vaizey praised Gateshead Council for backing the Sage Gateshead concert venue and musical education centre as well as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and said he wanted other councils to follow suit.

Source – Newcastle Journal,  14 June 2014

Emphatic Yarm for Yorkshire vote leads to calls for council’s to discuss the issue

Campaigners are calling for four councils to “get around a table” and discuss moving Yarm into Yorkshire.

It comes after voters in the market town gave an emphatic “Yes” to the idea of transferring Yarm from Stockton to Hambleton Council.

More than 89% of voters who took part in a poll on Tuesday over the future of Yarm’s local administration said they would prefer the town to be under Hambleton’s control.

Only around 11% favoured staying under Stockton Council.

The Yarm 4 Yorkshire campaign claim Stockton Council has ignored people over issues such as parking and housing.

Stockton Council said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the results of the poll until Yarm Town Council had an opportunity “to fully consider the results” or the Boundary Commission asked it “to look into the matter further”.

But one of the organisers of the poll, Chris Johnson, said it was time for the four councils who would be involved in any transfer – Stockton, Yarm, North Yorkshire and Hambleton – to get together “and work out what, if any process, would be done”.

One of the campaigners admitted today they did not even know if Yarm would be better off in Hambleton.

But Mr Johnson explained: “The way forward now would be for the four councils to sit down around the table. Those details would then come out. This is just the first step on the way.”

He said they had also contacted the Local Government Boundary Commission for England in the hope that the “resounding result” would indicate to them “a failing of democracy”.

 The result is not legally binding as Government consent would be needed for the town to be transferred to North Yorkshire

Critics say the proposal is unlikely to be introduced.

The turnout for the poll, which was funded by Yarm Town Council and organised by officials from Stockton Council was 25%.

The chair of Yarm Town Council, Peter Monck, branded the poll “a waste of time”, saying: “You can’t claim a victory when 75% didn’t vote. At £4,000 it’s not a good use of council money at all.

“If Stockton Council say they aren’t going to do anything, that’s it – it won’t go any further.

“Even if Stockton Council were to agree to it, it’s a long drawn out process, Hambleton would have to agree and then it would go to the Boundary Commission.”

Labour Leader of Stockton Council, Councillor Bob Cook, said: “For our part, we would reiterate that Stockton Borough Council delivers a huge range of very high quality services from which all of our residents can benefit, no matter where they live.

“Residents’ surveys consistently reveal these services enjoy very high satisfaction levels which show the majority of residents value and appreciate the council’s contribution.

“Of course, like all councils there are times when we have to make difficult decisions and we absolutely understand that people have strong views on issues such as parking and on planning applications for new houses.

“These issues would have to be addressed by whichever local authority had responsibility for Yarm.”

Yarm borough councillor Andrew Sherris, Conservative, said: “We need an open and honest debate with all the information presented on a level playing field without any of the political interference experienced recently with hundreds of letters being sent out to residents.

“The level and quality of service delivery is paramount, particularly for the elderly and more vulnerable members of our Community.”

UKIP councillor Mark Chatburn added: “Critics of this will point to the fact that four out of five residents in Yarm either voted ‘no’ or didn’t even bother to vote. Put in those terms it sounds less convincing than the polling results would suggest.”

James Wharton, MP for Stockton South, said of the result: “People are clearly fed up with Stockton Council riding roughshod over Yarm. This result should act as a wake up call and our Labour run council needs to listen or they will lose ever more support.”

Louise Baldock Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Stockton South, said the result “came as no surprise”, but added: “I am concerned that people as yet know nothing about what a move into a different council authority would mean for the delivery of vital services.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  28 May 2014