Thursday, 28 March 2013
"The Department for Education has announced that it will not press ahead with plans to force Ridge Community Primary School to become an academy.
Previous plans would have seen the school become an academy on the 1st of May this year.
However, the Department for Education has now contacted the school and Lancashire County Council to say that Ridge Community Primary School will remain a community school.
Responding to the decision, Chair of Governors, The Rev. Phil Hudd said, "This is good news for the school and we can now put the uncertainty caused by this process behind us. We have always argued that we did not need to become an academy and the fact that our results have continued to improve throughout this period of instability bears that out. We would like to thank everyone for their support and look forward to continuing to provide the best possible education for our children.
"So, for the time being everything carries on as normal! As and when other information becomes available we will let you know, and if you have any questions you can come and chat to (head teacher) Mrs Fitt.
"Many thanks to you all for your on-going support!"
County Coun. Sam Riches (Green) told Virtual-Lancaster:
"The news on 27 March that the Department for Education has abandoned plans to force Ridge Community Primary School in Lancaster to convert to academy status is quite astounding. 'Eleventh hour' doesn't begin to describe how late in the process this about face has happened - the conversion was due to take place on 1 April 2013, recently postponed to 1 May.
"The reason given seems to be that the sponsor, Academies Enterprise Trust, is felt to have insufficient capacity to cope with an additional school so far from its base in Essex - this surely could have been established months ago.
"The fact that there has been a substantial improvement in recent SATs results - from 2010/11 to 2011/12 the percentage of pupils achieving level 4 or above in English and Maths rose from 29% to 81% - is probably another factor in the U-turn. If nothing else, this improvement shows how unsound the 'snapshot' approach to measuring attainment really is.
"As the local County Councillor I welcome this unprecedented decision, but I really regret that the school was ever put under pressure to convert. The staff, governors and parents have all been through a very stressful experience, and I sincerely hope that this will lead to a rethink of the whole issue of forcing "underperforming" schools to convert to academies."
The sessions will also be useful for people who are training for fitness challenges at the centre this summer including the Lancaster 3 Bridges 10k run (28 April), Swimathon (28 April), Lancaster Marathon (30 June) or the Try Together Triathlon (7 July).
The personal training will make use all the centre’s facilities including the athletics track, synthetic pitch, cycle track, gym and cross-training suite.
Chris Nardone, personal trainer and fitness instructor at Salt Ayre, said: “Our new personal training service is a great way to get the support and encouragement you need to reach your fitness goals and it won’t cost you the earth.
“For many people, having a personal trainer is an expensive luxury but we wanted to make sure our sessions were affordable for all. The sessions use a whole range of fitness equipment and the many facilities around the sports centre. Sessions will be tailor made to suit everyone’s needs and fitness levels.”
Personal fitness training at Salt Ayre Sports Centre is available for booking from Monday 18 March and costs £5 for existing gym members for a 55 minute session and just £10 for non-members. Sessions can be made available for two people for those who want to work out with a friend.
Adult gym membership is £34 a month or for those aged 55+ it is £22 a month.
For more information visit
or to book a place please call Salt Ayre on 01524 847540.
Stewart, 61, of Broadway, Lancaster, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two charges of obtaining mortgages under a false name and false employment, to a total value of £190,000.
He also pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining income support to the value of £44,250.
This relates to incidents dating back to 1995. In 2011, during the course of an investigation into matters of theft, police entered an address on Brook Road in Heysham, which John Stewart had bought using a false identity. During a search of the property, officers discovered bank documentation which sparked an investigation into suspected fraud offences.
He was sentenced at Preston Crown Court.
Speaking after the sentencing, PC Stephen Dixon, Financial Investigator, said: “We are very happy with the sentence given today and hope that it sends out the message that Lancashire Police are dedicated to tackling fraud. This has been a complex investigation and by working closely with our partners at the Department for Work and Pensions we have been able to present such strong evidence against John Stewart. “
An application under the Proceeds of Crime Act will now be pursued by Lancashire Police in an effort to recover any benefit obtained by John Stewart
Vernon Sanderson, DWP Regional Fraud Manager said: “This case typifies the results that are being realised through the excellent joint working relationship between Lancashire Police and the DWP. Without our police colleagues' help, this fraud would have continued for some time, but now another benefit thief has been stopped in his tracks.
"Continued cooperation between law enforcement bodies will ensure many more are brought to justice.
"Social Security Benefits are intended for those in most need, not to line the pockets of benefit thieves.
I would urge anyone who has any information about Benefit Fraud to contact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854440.”
A group of young carers (children caring for someone who is sick or disabled) from across the county were guests of honour last week at a special reception at County Hall in Preston. The majority of the young people present received support from the Lancashire Young Carers Service, which is run by leading children’s charity Barnardo’s from Blackburn, and funded by Lancashire County Council.
County Councillor John Shedwick, Chairman of Lancashire County Council, welcomed the young people and other guests to County Hall and thanked the carers for all they do.
There are estimated to be over 4000 young unpaid carers in Lancashire (average age: 12).
Two young carers, Sophie from Ribble Valley and Matthew from Chorley, gave short presentations about their experiences.
Another young carer supported by Barnardo’s who attended the event was David (14). Ever since he can remember, David has been caring for his mother who suffers from severe asthma, a heart condition and diabetes, and his younger brother, who has been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
While other boys his age are playing football or getting on with their homework, with a view to a career or further education, David is often too busy being a carer to think about much else. But with Barnardo’s help he attends a young carer's group every week and fun outings, which Barnardo's organise for David and the other young carers they are in touch with.
Representatives from Barnardo’s attended the reception at County Hall, along with other guests which included County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, and County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of the county council.
Councillor Shedwick said: "Working alongside other organisations such as Barnardo’s, the county council supports young carers. Like all carers, they need recognition, guidance and support.
"The young carers at this event ranged from just six years old to teenagers. There's no question that being carers has a significant impact on their lives. It's important to thank them for what they do to help others."
Joanne Welsh, children service manager for Barnardo’s Lancashire Young Carers Service, said: "At Barnardo's we are so proud to support the young carers we work with, they are truly amazing individuals who give their time and efforts willingly without question. It was wonderful to celebrate their achievements at this event."
If you are a young carer and need some help and support then you can contact Barnardo's on 01254 504 930 or Carers Lancashire on 0345 688 7113 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a 12 year old, however, Blackburn is rather far away. Lancaster & Morecambe Young Carers project is based at Signposts in Morecambe. Tel: 01524 419597
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
The first takes place today in Lancaster's Market Square.
The ‘People Power’ energy switching scheme closes at midnight on 8th April – so if you miss the deadline, you could lose the chance to take advantage of cheaper energy tariffs.
The dates and venues for the roadshows are as follows
- Today in Market Square, Lancaster - 10.00am - 4.00pm
- Outside the Arndale Centre (New Town Square), Morecambe – Wednesday, 3rd April- 10.00am - 4.00pm
Council staff will be on hand to answer any questions about the scheme and assist residents to sign up.
The scheme works by thousands of people registering their interest in switching energy providers, who then bid for their business by offering the best available prices.
Registering is free, open to anyone and the more people that register, the more likely it is that there will be savings for everyone. There’s no obligation to switch providers so people have nothing to lose by registering their interest in taking part.
You can register your interest in taking part by visiting >www.peoplepower.co.uk
You can register up to five households on the same e-mail address, so why not help out a neighbour or friend who does not have access to the internet or emails.
But make sure you hurry – you’ve only got until 9th April to take part.
After this date an auction will take place in which energy companies will compete for the business of all those that have registered.
All the applications are grouped anonymously and the price offered by the suppliers is independent of the number of participants who make the switch.
The more people sign up the more likely suppliers are to give an additional discount.
Residents are not obliged to sign up to the scheme once a provider has been chosen, but those that do, could benefit from reduced bills.
Police are on the hunt for a burglar who they believe may have been spotted sorting through his haul of stolen goods in broad daylight, after a burglary at a house in Lancaster last week.
The burglary, which took place on Parkfield Drive, occurred at some point between 8.45am and 12.20pm on Wednesday 20th March. It's thought that the offender entered the rear garden of the property which backs on to Greaves Park, before forcing open a kitchen window.
They then entered the property and searched the house, stealing a number of items including three laptops and cases, a black handbag, an in-car DVD system and a Swiss Tissot watch, before leaving through the back door.
A short time later, witnesses have described seeing a man on the opposite side of Greaves Park sorting through some items, believed to be the stolen goods, and officers are appealing for anyone else who may have been in the area at the time to come forward if they have any information that they think could help.
The man seen in the park is described as white, in his 30’s, around five feet ten inches tall and of slim to medium build. He had short brown hair which was receding / balding on top and was wearing dark blue jeans with a yellow pattern or letter on the back pockets and a dark grey and purple hooded top.
“This man may be unconnected," notes PC Mike O’Regan, "but we would be very keen to speak to anyone who recognises the description to contact us. Similarly, if anyone has seen any suspicious activity in the area, then I would ask them to contact police.”
People with information can call Lancashire Police on 101, alternatively, information can be passed to the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Local detectives have released CCTV images and are re-appealing for information following a distraction burglary at the home of a 93-year-old man in Morecambe.
Between 1.55pm and 2.20pm on Tuesday 26th February, a man called at the elderly gentleman’s home on Lichfield Avenue.
The 93 year old mistook the man for someone he knew and invited him in.
Once inside, when the man was distracted, the offender went into the rear bedroom, searched a wardrobe and took a wallet containing cash and a debit card before leaving the property.
Officers have released CCTV images of a man they are looking to speak to in connection with the offence who was seen in the area around the time.
Detective Constable Gareth Beaty said: “If anybody has any information about this burglary I would urge them to contact police. Did you see anyone acting suspicious in the area at the time, or maybe recognise the person in the CCTV images? If so, please come forward.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to urge people to be vigilant and if you’re unsure then don’t let them in.”
Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org.
No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.
The market is open from Tuesday to Saturday and home to a curious and interesting mix of small stalls selling everything from vintage fashion to books, comics, miniatures and collectables.
For the last few weeks, Lancaster City Council, as owner of the building, has carried out a program of repairs to improve the building on King Street. Work focused on repairing and painting the ceiling and revamping the vacant stalls in readiness for new traders.
The work is now complete and there's space available for new traders. Rates start from just £16 a week and anyone interested in running a vintage stall at the Assembly Rooms should contact Markets Manager, Tracey Bruce as soon as possible on 01524 414251 or by to email email@example.com
Mark Davies, Head of Environmental Services, said: “The Assembly Rooms is one of the city's hidden gems and an essential part of what makes Lancaster special. So it is right that Lancaster City Council invests in maintaining this unique building for the benefit of both its customers and traders.
"This is a great time for anyone wishing to start a new business or expand on an existing one to consider taking up space in this historic building."
Luke Birbeck of Delamere Avenue had pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child at an earlier hearing and was sentenced yesterday (Monday 25th March) at Preston Crown Court. He’s also been placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years.
This relates to an incident which occurred on the 9th June 2012 at a house in Heysham where Birbeck, who was 18 at the time, had engaged in sexual activity with the victim who had only just reached her 14th birthday the week before.
Speaking after the sentencing DC Brian Shepherd of Lancaster CID said "Birbeck knew full well that the victim was vulnerable due to her age and the victim told us she did not want to engage in any kind of sexual activity and had told him that.
"Despite that, Birbeck went on to commit the offences which have left her psychologically affected by his actions.
Alcohol played a big part in these offences and this should serve as a warning to others who seek to exploit young people to satisfy their own selfish sexual gratifications, the courts take a dim view of this and offenders can expect to be placed on the sex offenders register where they can be supervised properly.”
The investigation was concentrated on one incident that allegedly took place a fortnight ago but this in turn led to significant questions about safeguarding processes at the school which the Constabulary has asked partners and regulators like Ofsted to consider.
A Lancashire Constabulary spokesperson said: “Clearly we have a duty to respond to information received and that is what we have done in this case, as sensitively and proportionately as possible, so that we could ascertain the circumstances surrounding the information we received. Our priority is the protection of vulnerable people and given the same information again we would act in the same way.
“We also have a safeguarding responsibility outside of that investigation, along with partners and regulators, and are duty bound to make sure that the right processes are in place at the school to protect the welfare of pupils. With that in mind we have asked Ofsted and other partners to look into some of these processes.”
Two men arrested on suspicion of False Imprisonment and Sexual Assault have been released from their bail without charge.
A third man, who was arrested on suspicion of False Imprisonment, was earlier released without charge.
|Warrington South MP David Mowat defends benefit changes in the absence|
of any comment or available spokesperson from the Department of Work and Pensions
on BBC North West Tonight.
Last night, BBC North West Tonight included an interview with Warrington South MP David Mowat in a report on benefit changes. Along with Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington is a Pathfinder 'test site' for Universal Credit roll out from the end of 29th April.
It is also an area where, the BBC reported, 40 per cent of the population have no direct access to a computer (you need to apply for Universal Credit online) and 35 per cent don't have a bank account (you have to have a bank account to be paid Universal Credit).
Challenged on the lack of online access. Mowat evaded the question by responding instead that 91 per cent of job applications are now done online (Time limited link). He claimed the government was doing more to put more computer terminals into job centres and community centres.
The government does not, perhaps, consider libraries to be "community centres". While Lancaster and Morecambe still have core library services (although Lancashire County Council closed several rural services when it was run by the Labour Party), Warrington Council announced the closure of three libraries in January 2011.
Indeed, as this Google Map indicates, library closures across the North West reveal the MP's comments as perhaps being rather misleading regarding its claimed support of 'community centres' with others services also facing closure as Councils struggle to save money in the face of sweeping cuts to their funding.
The comments are sure to worry local campaigners against the benefit changes and again expose a lack of joined up thinking on the roll out of the changes on the part of some North West MPs.
View Public Library Closures in the UK in a larger map
Two other test projects are running alongside the Pathfinder - Housing Benefit Direct Payment Demonstration Projects and Local Authority Universal Credit Pilots.
At around 11.15pm on Thursday 21st March, the 23 year old was walking along Dale Street when he was approached from behind by a man, who demanded his property.
When the victim said he didn’t have any the man said he had a knife, and the victim gave him his iPhone.
The offender is described as around six foot tall, of average build and was wearing a black hooded top with the hood up and black tracksuit bottoms. He ran off up Primrose Street.
DC Trevor Walker said: “If anybody was in the area around the time of this incident who may have any information they think could help us then I would urge them to come forward.
“I am also keen to speak with anybody who has any information at all about this incident.”
Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org.
Monday, 25 March 2013
Duncan Reeve, Lancashire County Council's highways manager for the east of the county, said: "Our teams have pulled out all the stops – they absolutely could not have done or given any more. They've worked continuously since Thursday evening and we've brought in sub-contractors to help out as well.
"We're as well prepared as we've ever been thanks to experience gained from recent severe winters.
"Since Thursday evening, we've used between 2,500 and 3,000 tonnes of salt – a significant amount and way above what we'd expect to use at this time of year.
"The worst drifts have been in East Lancashire and in that part of the county alone we've had 23 gritters out fitted with snowploughs, 16 JCBs with snow shovels, and two snow-blowers. Today we're still working at the same level as at the weekend to clear the few remaining secondary roads which are still blocked.
"The worst-hit roads have been the A682 Gisburn to Barrowford road and the A6068 from Laneshaw Bridge to Skipton.
"The high winds mean that snow is blowing off the fields and collecting in roads, often to the height of the walls on either side.
"Conditions are starting to improve today, but it's still extremely cold which means any thaw is going to be very slow.
"On Friday night and into Saturday we were working with police and mountain rescue to reach stranded motorists.
"I've also heard that on Sunday morning, after one of our contractors had been digging through the snow for most of the night to open up a priority road, we came across a motorist who had been stranded in his car for 24 hours – what a relief all round.
"My advice to motorists is to avoid rural roads if at all possible. Urban roads are generally clear which can give a false sense of security – but out in the countryside it's a very different story."
The rest of the county didn't escape unscathed. In the north there was serious drifting in the Quernmore, Abbeystead, Wray, Lowgill, Calder Vale and Oakenclough areas. The county council's highways teams had five JCBs working over the weekend with five agricultural contractors lending a hand. There are still three JCBs working digging out more rural roads today.
The south of the county was also faced with huge drifts up to 5m not only affecting the remote areas but also some A and B roads, such as the A570, a main arterial route to the M58. All 16 gritters were fitted with snow ploughs and were deployed since Friday in an effort to keep the routes clear. Five agricultural contractors were also called in to help remove snow drifts, with loadalls, JCBs and snow blowers. Work is continuing today with efforts concentrated on more remote locations to ensure people are able to keep moving.
Lancashire County Council has a fleet of 49 frontline gritters which can treat the 1,500 miles of the county council's priority road network within around four hours, but may take longer in severe conditions.
The county council has also a number of agricultural contractors who clear more remote rural roads in the event of heavy snow.
When it snows, it can cost up to £100,000 a day to keep the operation going. The county council budgets £4m a year on tackling winter weather but spends whatever is needed to deliver its winter service plan. In east Lancashire 43% of all roads are on the priority network and are treated within four hours whenever a freeze is forecast. A further 28% of roads are also treated in more severe weather, such as snow, which means nearly three-quarters of all roads are part of the gritting network.
People can find information and advice on winter weather, including real-time gritting updates on Lancashire County Council's website which has links to forecasts and the council's Twitter and Facebook feeds which are updated every time the gritters go out.
• For more information about travelling this winter visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/winter, follow us on Twitter for news and updates at http://www.twitter.com/lancashirecc www.twitter.com/lancashirecc or Facebook [www.facebook.com/lancashirecc (click on the winter tab).
The team joined forces with Rubicon Heritage Services to search a site called Penny Pot Meadow on Cottam's Farm off Caton Road.
The articles which were uncovered told the story of happenings at Penny Pot Meadow over at least 200 years.
Among the finds were musket balls and agricultural equipment such as plough parts, highlighting Penny Pot Meadow as a rich hunting and agricultural site.
They did not, however, find a pot full of pennies.
The whole team was licensed by the site owners to undertake the survey on behalf of Lancashire County Council and were working to national standards set by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The Scheme is funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which encourages the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by the public.
Company Director at Rubicon Heritage Limited, Damian Shiels, said: "The metal detection survey of Penny Pot Meadow provided an opportunity for members of the local community to become involved in the archaeological element of the project.
"It brought together two sets of experts that allowed us to maximise what we could learn about how this field was used in the past, and above all else, was great fun.
"I would like to extend my thanks to the volunteers for their hard work on the day, which greatly aided the archaeological work."
Lancashire County Council is set to begin construction of the road this summer and has a duty to check sites which could have historical significance before the main works begin.
The Secretary of State for Transport granted planning consent for the scheme on Tuesday 19 March. Subject to further approvals construction work on the link road and the associated Park and Ride facility is due to start this July.
• For more information go to http://lancashire.gov.uk/heyshamlink and www.finds.org.uk
Sunday, 24 March 2013
The observations on the road plan in the report made by the Planning Inspectorate’s Peter Robottom, who described it as "inappropriate development", call into question the entire basis on which it has been given the go ahead.
The approval of the road on the basis of dubious claims made by the County Council as to its benefits almost seem on a par with the decision on the government's handling of the West Coast Main Line franchise, which has also proven a costly mistake for all concerned - rather like the open ended cost of this road scheme, estimated at over £123 million at a time of economic crisis.
TSLM has made the following statement in response to the report.
"On Tuesday 19th March the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that he had allowed the Heysham M6 Link Road to go ahead. His decision was based on the Report from the Planning Inspectorate’s Peter Robottom, following the Examination in Lancaster Town Hall in the summer of 2012.
"TSLM is disappointed with the decision and the report on which it is based.
· The examiner accepted that the road would cause great harm to the landscape to the North of Lancaster; it is “inappropriate development “ in the Green Belt, and will harm wildlife;
· He accepted it would damage air quality and increase noise in the area of the road;
· He accepted that it would increase CO2 emissions, when the Climate Change Act imposes mandatory targets to reduce them vastly: 'a significantly negative factor';
· He accepted that the Council’s traffic forecasts had slumped since the road was first justified;
· He accepted that the benefits could be much lower than the Council claim, and
· He accepted that DfT guidance was not followed.
"But he judged that the speculative benefits which the Council claimed for the scheme would outweigh the clear harms that it would bring:
1. He believed Heysham Port companies’ claims that they are expanding, and need a road. IN FACT, while the Port has expanded for the past few quarters, it has declined since 1997. And their need for a road must be undermined by their absolute refusal, when asked, to make any contribution towards it.
2. He believed that traffic would reduce on the Lune bridges. BUT this modest aim must be seen in the context of traffic going down on some roads but up on others, and travellers being encouraged to use their cars.
3. He believed that opportunities for sustainable transport would result. BUT these could be implemented without the road.
4. He believed the Council’s case on regeneration. BUT journey time savings of 5 minutes, in peak times only, are not significant."
David Gate, co-ordinator of TSLM said: “Our team made these points well, backed up by hard evidence. We presented clear alternatives of sustainable transport that would be cheaper and more effective.
"It is disappointing, and bad news for the future of our area, that the Examiner preferred the Council’s illusion that the road will solve everything.”
One piece of good news has been welcomed by campaigners.
"The Examiner ruled that Broadoak could remain on part of its land. He ruled against the Council, to save a thriving local business with 15 employees. It can keep the land where its offices are now, although its storage yard must move to another site.
"So the brave stand of the owner, Derek Sumner, secured one small victory for common sense and real jobs."
Mike Jacob, who was part of the Halton team that worked hard to present impressive evidence at the Examination, said of the Report: "It shows a very lax approach to inspection. He allows substandard design on the Halton Link Road, which wouldn’t have been considered at this level if TSLM hadn’t presented detailed evidence. He has a naive faith in the effect of "calming measures" on Halton's bends. He cannot be proud of his assessment of the threats to our safety. A rickety piece of writing.”
TSLM is discussing with legal advisers the possibility of mounting a legal challenge on the many weaknesses of this decision.