Gerry Steinberg MPPress Releases 2003

Press Releases 2003

22/12/03 University Accommodation Crisis Talks
22/12/03 MP Supports Child Trust Fund
17/12/03 MP Calls for Review of Theatre Management
10/12/03 MP Condemns Gagging Clause
08/12/03 Gala Theatre Slides Towards Bankruptcy
05/12/03 Fears for Future of Gala Theatre
04/12/03 MP Questions Departure of Chief Executive
02/12/03 MP Urges for Transparency on Theatre
26/11/03 MP Demands Action (student housing)
28/10/03 MP Says Enough is Enough (student housing)
21/10/03 MP Opposes Surgery Closure
14/10/03 MP Supports Alternative Car Park
22/09/03 MP urges approval of retail development
19/09/03 Gerry Steinberg MP Backs Shopworkers' Freedom from Fear Campaign
16/09/03 MP fights Durham's corner for jobs
09/09/03 MP welcomes public inquiry into Sands car park
31/07/03 MP calls for review of City centre development
22/07/03 MP supports residents in opposing car park
17/03/03 Gerry Steinberg Keeps Promise to Help Get Cancer Money Spent Where it's Meant

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University Accommodation Crisis Talks

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has outlined the outcome of discussions with key members of Durham University about the provision of University student accommodation, one of the biggest complaints received from constituents by the MP at the present time.

Mr Steinberg has been leading calls for the University to take positive action to react to the problems being encountered in the City as a result of the proliferation of student-let properties, and the increasing trend of landlords profiting at the expense of both students and locals.

He said:

"I have met with three Vice-Chancellors of the University, on numerous occasions, during my time as MP, to lobby the University to respond to the problems created as a result of its lack of accommodation for students over the last fifteen years.

"Following my most recent meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Ken Calman, I am more hopeful that the matter is being taken seriously and the University appears committed to tackling some of the difficulties which are apparent.

"For the first time the University explained its plans to create about one thousand extra accommodation places in the near future.

"I also reminded the University about the importance of enforcing its code of conduct, which appeared to be ignored by some students and the University itself. I have been given categorical assurances that the code of conduct will be strictly adhered to and deviations will be dealt with appropriately."

He also hit back at claims by Durham City councillors that the present situation is the result of Labour Government policy.

"Comments being made about the effects of Government policy are simply inaccurate. Durham City Councillors have stated that the situation is the result of universities being told to take on more students or lose funding as a result of Government policies.

"I have taken the matter up with the Minister and been assured that whilst Government policies support the target to increase participation in higher education, no institution has been given a target number of students to recruit, unless it has specifically sought funding for additional numbers.

"If councillors took the situation seriously and were more concerned with developing policies to address problems being encountered by the people of Durham, rather than participating in the landlord bandwagon, then the situation could be improved. Instead, we have city councillors benefiting from the current lack of University accommodation, who are making a healthy profit by letting properties to students themselves.

"Durham City councillors should be impartially working with the University in partnership to address the problems and to develop strategies to protect the City and its residents and to meet the needs of Durham's students.

"Instead they appear content to make misleading comments to divert attention from their lack of will to take positive action to ease the situation."

22 Dec 2003

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MP Supports Child Trust Fund

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has welcomed recent Government announcements that Child Trust Fund accounts will be introduced in 2005 for all children born from September 2002.

He said:

"The Chancellor announced in his Pre-Budget Report an additional £1 billion a year investment in Britain's children, to meet our target to reduce child poverty by a quarter and advance our goal that not just some but all of Britain's children have the best possible start in life.

"Each child born on or after 1 September 2002 will receive an initial endowment of £250, rising to £500 for the poorest children. Children in families receiving tax credits, whose income is below the income threshold (currently £13,230), will receive a second payment of £250. The Government will make a further payment when the child reaches 7 years. Again, a second payment will be made to families on low incomes.

"The Child Trust Fund is part of the Government's active welfare strategy, founded on the principles of security, opportunity and responsibility. For the first time, asset-based welfare will complement our ongoing work in tackling child poverty.

"These proposals demonstrate the Government's commitment to ensure that virtually all children will benefit, no matter what their financial circumstances. Importantly, it will target greater resources at those children who need it most.

"This commitment can be contrasted with the Lib Dems' stance. They not only attacked the Child Trust Fund proposals, but actually voted against their implementation in one of the last votes before Christmas. This Lib Dem gesture - during the Season of Goodwill - would have denied children of a really valuable asset for the future.

"I am sure that parents will welcome this initiative, which will ensure that in future all children will have a stock of assets to reinvest or use when they reach 18 years of age. This will promote greater independence and self-reliance in adulthood and give all young people a better start to their adult lives."

22 Dec 2003

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MP Calls for Review of Theatre Management

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has called on Durham City Council to review its decision to manage the Authority's flagging Gala Theatre via a managing board.

Mr Steinberg said:

"I am very sceptical about such a strategy. The solution to establish a board, comprising city councillors and senior officers, effectively means it will be overseen by the same people who have been involved since the demise of the company hired to run the Theatre in summer 2002. "If the expertise to make the Theatre successful was already available in-house, then surely the City Council would have taken advantage of it by now.

"It is disingenuous for the Authority to now suggest that a radical response is to "properly mesh the theatre operation into the running of the City Council". There is nothing radical about this ill-conceived, knee-jerk reaction.

"If the Theatre's financial situation does not improve, the City Council should consider joining forces with Durham County Council, which has the resources to give the Theatre the best chance of success.

"The Gala Theatre is an excellent facility and one which should not be lost to the people of Durham. Durham City Council should be safeguarding its future, not creating yet another board for its councillors to sit on."

17 Dec 2003

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MP Condemns Gagging Clause

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has urged the District Auditor to investigate claims that Durham City Council has imposed a gagging clause on its recently departed Chief Executive and has renewed calls for the City Council's leadership to come clean on the affair.

Mr Steinberg said:

"Following recent announcements on the dismal financial performance of Durham's flagship Gala Theatre, which has lost almost £½ million in just six months, we now learn that the Authority's Chief Executive has taken early retirement on "health grounds", according to the leadership and a statement issued on behalf of the Chief Executive.

"But I am reliably informed that the Chief Executive did not jump but was actually pushed.

"As a member of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, we regularly investigate similar situations and are rightly concerned when senior officials who oversee disastrous schemes are then removed without explanation.

"It is particularly disturbing to learn that the Chief Executive has had to sign a "gagging clause", a practice which members of the Public Accounts Committee completely condemn. Clearly the one person in possession of the information to clarify where mistakes have been made - and if mistakes were made at all - is unable to be questioned and those responsible held accountable.

"If there is nothing untoward, the leadership of Durham City Council should have no fears about what outgoing officers might divulge.

"I have therefore requested the District Auditor, as the watchdog of local authority finance, to investigate the matter. Whilst it may be legal, I certainly do not believe it is ethical for a public body to act in such a manner.

"If the restriction imposed remains, the taxpayers of Durham will never learn the true facts. This is not good for democracy. It is not for local politicians to determine what the public should know, on the basis of what they are prepared to divulge.

"This is particularly disappointing in an administration that came to power on the promise that "the principles of fairness, openness and honesty should inform everything we do."

10 Dec 2003

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Gala Theatre Slides Towards Bankruptcy

Responding to criticisms levelled at Gerry Steinberg, MP for the City of Durham, by spokespersons for LibDem-controlled Durham City Council, Mr Steinberg has pointed out that he has always been fully committed to, and supportive of, the City's Gala Theatre.

Figures just released show the Theatre, Durham's flagship millennium development, is on the rocks financially.

He said:

"Had LibDem members been more supportive of this wonderful scheme from its inception, instead of trying to undermine it at every opportunity, then perhaps they might not now be presiding over such a mess! Their attitude has come home to roost.

"Councillor Carol Woods, the Council's portfolio holder for finance and the Liberal Democrats' parliamentary candidate, has allowed a huge deficit to build-up and has done nothing about it, fiddling like Nero while Rome burns.

"She appears more concerned about Durham University's decision to axe its East Asian Studies Department - of little relevance to most of the people of Durham - whilst allowing the Theatre to accelerate down a slide towards bankruptcy. She is trying to tell the University how best to use its resources, while the City Council's finances are spiralling out of control.

"Internal university policies appear more important to Cllr Woods than the residents of Durham. Has her back been turned while a debt of £445,733 was run up, a staggering £82,000 of that in October alone?

"The present administration has failed as custodian of the people's money. In a recent press interview, Cllr Woods said she wanted to abolish the Council Tax because it was incredibly unfair. But she and her colleagues will be making the people of Durham poorer, including the poorest, as the Council Taxpayer will have to foot the bill for her stewardship.

"We are talking about a subsidy of almost £800,000 per year, equivalent to a colossal 30p rate for the Theatre alone. In fact, one sixth of Durham City Council's total expenditure will be spent purely on subsidising the Theatre.

"The leadership of the City Council tried to hold on to these figures, and no wonder! This is despite their manifesto promise that "the principles of fairness, openness and honesty should inform everything" they do."

8 Dec 2003

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Fears for Future of Gala Theatre

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has expressed his fears for the future of Durham's Gala Theatre.

In papers received by the MP, the Theatre's financial situation shows a loss of £445,733 from April to October. This is £157,530 in excess of the budget set by the previous administration of £228,403. The Theatre failed to generate its income targets by £106,000 over six months - £73,000 by the theatre and £42,000 by the cinema (not including income generation).

October was an absolutely disastrous month, with the theatre losing £82,000, which is £46,000 more than was anticipated.

The LibDem City Council accused the previous administration of presiding over a fiasco in its first year, coming to power with the promise that the Council Taxpayer would see the Gala remain within budget. Nine months into their administration and the situation has deteriorated further.

The decision to invest more money in the cinema has only seen the venue go deeper into debt, quashing LibDem claims that the last administration was to blame for the closure of the cinema in Durham, rather than the reality that it was a commercial decision by the operator.

Gerry Steinberg said:

"It is unsurprising that Durham City Council has been reluctant to release details about the state of the Gala Theatre's finances. I am extremely apprehensive about the future of the Theatre and fear that we may lose a fantastic amenity for the people of Durham, not to mention the possible job losses.

"I worked for more than twenty years to ensure that this project could come to fruition and incessantly pressed the case with many bodies, particularly the Millennium Commission. I am obviously deeply saddened by the situation which has come to light."

At a recent meeting of the powerful Public Accounts Committee, Mr Steinberg had persuaded the Chief Executive of the Arts Council to offer assistance to the Theatre, but this had not been accepted by the City Council.

5 Dec 2003

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MP Questions Departure of Chief Executive

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has urged the leadership of Durham City Council to come clean on the departure of Chief Executive, Colin Shearsmith.

He asked,

"Was he pushed or did he jump and, if so, why was he pushed? Did he go willingly or was he forced out?"
The LibDem administration came to power arguing they would be honest, open and transparent. In this situation, it would appear from the comments of the Council Leader, Mrs Pitts, that she is being economical with the truth on the affair. The fact that she is now heaping praise on the recently-departed Chief Executive, when previously she has openly derided him, makes one wonder whether she is hiding the real story.

Mr Steinberg, a member of the powerful Public Accounts Committee, the watchdog of Parliament, has over the years demanded that gagging clauses are not part of any final settlement with an employee.

He said,

"I will be contacting the Audit Commission to demand that gagging clauses do not form any part of an agreement that is secured with Mr Shearsmith and then we will perhaps learn exactly what happened.

"In the end, the truth of Mr Shearsmith's departure will emerge. If it subsequently transpires that she has misled the public, the press and her own colleagues on the Council, I can only presume that the Leader of the City Council will have to reconsider her position as Leader of the Authority."

4 Dec 2003

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MP Urges for Transparency on Theatre

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has urged Durham City Council to clarify the financial position of the Gala Theatre, following recent speculation after the exclusion of the press and public from a council meeting.

After contacting the City Council, the MP was advised that an investigation was being undertaken, but no further details were revealed.

Mr Steinberg said,

"Despite assurances that the City Council would be open and transparent, I am concerned that present policy is one of secrecy and concealment.

"I have previously actively worked to secure funding for the Gala Theatre, to ensure that this excellent facility continues to benefit the people of Durham and am now seriously worried about its future. The lack of transparency and clear reluctance to share information only serves to exacerbate these concerns.

"After pledges of a new style of administration and a halt to financial mismanagement, I very much fear that the financial position of the Theatre has significantly declined.

"I am particularly dismayed that the City Council's response is one of secrecy and silence, when we should be working to explore all avenues to ensure the success of the Gala Theatre."

02 Dec 2003

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MP Demands Action

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has urged Durham University to come up with positive solutions to respond to housing problems in the City. Mr Steinberg is scheduled to meet key members of the University to discuss the situation in December, following a previous postponement by the University.

Mr Steinberg said,

"Following my comments in the press, many people have contacted me to outline some of the problems the University's failure to provide adequate accommodation is creating for residents, the students and the City.

"These include anti-social behaviour, from loud shouting and noise disturbance in residential areas late at night, to young children woken in the early hours, and elderly and sick constituents being forced from their beds to report rowdy, inconsiderate behaviour.

"Others refer to the general degradation of neighbourhoods, with unkempt and neglected properties, gardens and adjacent areas, overflowing refuse bins, discarded rubbish bags and conditions which can only be described as squalid.

"Quiet residential areas are being turned into student-dominated neighbourhoods, with students significantly outnumbering other residents, as a result of a few properties being bought by landlords, and in one case let to twelve students. This is a recipe for trouble.

"Local residents are the ones having to endure the consequences, not the landlords and agents who are making a healthy profit, nor the University which has failed to sufficiently cater for its own students.

"Even when students are in breach of the University's code of conduct, desperate pleas for help are ignored by the University. The University's Community Hotline advised one constituent that no action could be taken to prevent rowdy behaviour and noise disturbance from students reported late one evening. People are effectively being hounded from their homes.

"At the same time, those pressured into selling-up to escape student-dominated neighbourhoods have to declare they have neighbour problems. The only buyers not deterred are landlords, who have no intention of living with the consequences, but this gives them all the bargaining power as a result.

"The situation certainly does not benefit students, who are often powerless to negotiate reasonable terms and conditions with the landlords, but require accommodation not provided by the University.

"Despite a massive increase in its intake over the past twenty years, the University has not significantly increased its accommodation provision, creating a market for those willing to profit from the deficiency. The landlords are in a win-win situation and will continue to make huge profits whilst demand for student accommodation outside of the University is so high.

"The problems being experienced are appalling. It is high time the University stopped being so complacent and took positive steps, instead of relying on greedy landlords to fill the accommodation gap, with no consideration for other residents."

26 Nov 2003

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MP Says Enough is Enough

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has arranged an urgent meeting with Durham University to discuss the implications of Durham University's increased admission of first-year students on the local housing situation.

Mr Steinberg said,

"The situation is becoming ludicrous, with locals literally being forced out of the City as a result of a lack of planning and provision of appropriate accommodation by the University.

"I fully recognise the benefits the University and its students bring to the City. However, there is no evidence that the impact on local people is sufficiently considered.

"Locals are being forced out of the housing market, with some areas now almost entirely student-dominated. Even those fortunate enough to live in the City have to endure empty neighbouring properties for months on end when students are away from college. Added to this, the mix of young people in multiple-occupation homes alongside elderly residents and families can and does create problems.

"In the last five years alone, there has been a 40% increase in properties occupied by students. This will continue to rise, particularly with this year's increased admissions.

"The University has taken up additional headleasing arrangements with local landlords and agents on properties within the City to rent to students. The only people benefiting from this situation are the landlords and agents, profiting at the expense of both local people and students.

"The increased admissions mean that the University may have to provide an additional 200 bed-spaces outside normal college accommodation. This exacerbates a steadily deteriorating situation and removes another fifty houses from the local housing market.

"Landlords and agents are undoubtedly benefiting enormously. I am told that some landlords in the City own 40, 50 and 60 student-let properties. This is like owning an entire village in some areas.

"Although the University claims this is an exceptional and temporary step, this is not good enough. A 40% increase in student-occupied properties in 5 years shows there is nothing exceptional about the situation.

"Durham is fast becoming a City where only landlords and agents profiting from the lack of University student accommodation can afford properties. This is destroying neighbourhoods, eroding community spirit and threatening the very fabric and uniqueness of the City.

"For years I have urged the University to take responsibility for providing more accommodation for students. Although it is keen to admit increasing numbers, it is less eager to ensure appropriate accommodation arrangements are in place, which would benefit both the students and local people."

28 Oct 2003

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MP Opposes Surgery Closure

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has urged Durham and Chester-le-Street Primary Care Trust not to approve an application from Coxhoe Medical Practice to close a weekly branch surgery at Quarrington Hill.

Mr Steinberg said:

"I am extremely concerned and disappointed at the proposal. The surgery is well-used and its withdrawal will seriously disadvantage the most vulnerable members of the community, particularly affecting elderly and infirm patients and young families, who often find it difficult to travel to access GP services.

"I am aware that Coxhoe Medical Practice withdrew similar services from the village of Kelloe some years ago and it seems intent on finding reasons to reduce the services offered to patients by repeating this move at Quarrington Hill.

"The Practice's justification for the move is the unsuitability of the premises, problems with surgery timetables and difficulties with telephone services. None of these are insurmountable. In fact, I am aware of the efforts made to upgrade the premises to meet the needs of the community.

"The Practice states it wants to ensure the highest standards of health care for patients, but the withdrawal of Quarrington Hill Surgery is completely incompatible with this aim, adversely affecting nearly 900 patients living in Quarrington Hill and Cassop.

"The area serviced by this surgery is rather isolated and has a limited and sometimes unreliable public transport service, which will exacerbate the difficulties patients will encounter.

"This proposal suggests that the Practice is determined to continue its programme of organising services to meet the requirements and ease of the Practice, rather than a genuine response to the needs and wishes of the communities it serves.

"I have therefore urged the Primary Care Trust not to approve the application, as the reasons outlined by the Practice are insufficient justification for such a detrimental move."

21 Oct 2003

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MP Supports Alternative Car Park

Gerry Steinberg, Labour MP for the City of Durham, has met the owner of a site in Durham, formerly used as a brick works, to discuss its use as a temporary car park. The move is an effort to overcome problems locating an appropriate temporary car park in the City. As a result, he has urged the landowner to apply for approval for the provision of a temporary car park on the site.

Mr Steinberg said:

"There are clearly problems with the City Council's proposal to use land at the Sands in Durham as a possible temporary car park provision. If approval was given for an application at the brick flats site, I feel it would resolve many of the problems evident.

"This site is far more appropriate for a temporary car park provision than the proposal to use the Sands. Not only does it provide ample car parking space, it is not in a built-up residential area, it is in close proximity to the town centre - via the new Penny Ferry Bridge - and will not adversely impact upon the environment. In fact, one could argue that it is good use of an otherwise derelict piece of land, one of very few within easy walking distance of the City centre.

"The brick flats could easily accommodate the parking spaces which will be lost from the Walkergate car park and, following our discussions, the landowner has confirmed he would be more than willing to work with the planning and highway authorities to facilitate this much-needed car parking provision.

"This site offers a central location, readily accessible both by car and on foot, without having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of residents and visitors to the City. Importantly, use of this area would overcome the need to use the Sands, thereby safeguarding an important and well-used green, open space, which is a unique and essential part of the make-up of the City.

"The approval of an application for a temporary car park at the brick flats would additionally avoid the necessity to hold a Public Inquiry, which will follow the approval of a planning application for the Sands site. Whilst I fully support a Public Inquiry into the Sands, on the basis that it will allow residents' views to be fully considered, I recognise that it will be costly, and it is the taxpayers of Durham who would foot the bill.

"I fear that if alternative car parking arrangements are not adequate this will have a negative impact on trade within the City. Shoppers do not react well to parking difficulties and will simply take their trade elsewhere, destroying established businesses.

"I would therefore fully support an application for a temporary car park at the brick flats, as it offers the most obvious solution to the problems encountered in finding an appropriate temporary car park in the City."

14 Oct 2003

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MP urges approval of retail development

Gerry Steinberg, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, has urged the Minister to approve called-in planning applications for outline planning permission for non-food retail development on land at Renny's Lane and Sunderland Road, Durham.

Despite the approval of planning permission for 170,000 square feet of non-food retail space, an amended application, offering improved access to the site, was called-in by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Steinberg said:

"I have for many years supported the development of this site. The initial application agreed was not totally satisfactory in my view because of poor access to the site, which always needed a new road structure.

"We now have a ridiculous situation, where a much-improved application, offering an enhanced road layout for Sunderland Road and a link road through to Renny's Lane, which would alleviate the pressure of vehicle movements at Dragon Lane traffic lights, has been called-in, yet a less satisfactory scheme has been approved.

"My fear is that if the called-in application does not get approval, or the wait for a decision is lengthy, the developer may proceed with the original inferior scheme.

"The proposals submitted by the three developers for this site complement one another and will create a significant number of new jobs, whilst creating a safer, more attractive development, with a package of environmental and highway improvements.

"Based on reports presented by all parties at the inquiry, if the development were to proceed the scheme would help to address the current leakage of expenditure from the Durham catchment area, where I am told the majority of people (67%) do not shop locally.

"I think this shows that the people of Durham have been waiting for a development of this type for many years and it is my view that it would be disastrous if the proposed schemes were refused.

"I therefore support the development and have urged the Minister's early consideration of the applications."

22 Sep 2003

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Gerry Steinberg MP Backs Shopworkers' Freedom from Fear Campaign

Gerry Steinberg is backing USDAW, the shopworkers' union, in their campaign to protect shopworkers from violence and abuse at work.

Gerry said,

"I am appalled by the number of incidents of violence and abuse that shopworkers have to deal with on practically a daily basis. It is outrageous that shop staff should have to put up with such behaviour from customers.
"I am also concerned that over half of violent attacks are linked to drugs and alcohol. Criminals shoplifting to feed a habit. Often shoplifting is seen a victimless crime, but the real victims are shopworkers.
"I support USDAW's campaign and I am urging the Government to make retail crime a key performance indicator for the police, to help ensure that it is given a higher priority. I also urge local retailers, the police and Durham City Council to work in partnership to help make our shopping areas safer."
Gerry signs USDAW's pledge
Gerry signs USDAW's pledge
Gerry Steinberg MP met USDAW members in Parliament this week and signed a pledge card to respect shopworkers.

John Hannett, Deputy General Secretary at the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) said, "I am delighted to have the support of Gerry Steinberg MP for USDAW's campaign to protect shopworkers from violence and abuse.

"This is a huge issue for our members and all shopworkers. I have not yet met a shopworker that hasn't had some experience of violence or abuse at work. For some it is a daily experience.
"USDAW is encouraging the shopping public to support our campaign and sign the pledge card to respect shopworkers."

19 Sep 2003

The latest British Retail Consortium Crime Survey indicated an alarming 75% increase violence against staff since 1999.
USDAW's own survey of the experiences of our members working in retail shows that over the last 12 months:

For further information on USDAW's Freedom from Fear Campaign please contact USDAW on 0161 224 2804 or e-mail: or visit USDAW's website at

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MP fights Durham's corner for jobs

Gerry Steinberg, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, has urged that Durham is not overlooked in proposals to relocate public sector activities from London and the South East of England to other parts of the United Kingdom.

Sir Michael Lyons is conducting an independent study into the scope for the relocation of a substantial number of public sector activities, jointly requested by the Chancellor and the Deputy Prime Minister. If the study concludes that the nation would gain from such a shift, a firm of property consultants is to consider possible locations. However, the MP has learned that the brief requires that only locations with a 100,000+ population should be considered.

Mr Steinberg has therefore made representations to the Independent Review, the Chancellor and the Deputy Prime Minister, to urge reconsideration.

He said:

"I very much believe that the present brief imposes unnecessary constraints and will disregard areas merely because of the arbitrary 100,000+ population requirement. This will overlook areas, such as Durham, which may be more appropriate and offer the very best locations, which surely must be the fundamental objective of any relocation proposal.

"Durham City is centrally placed within the Northern Region, with a mainline railway station and easy transport links, by means of public or private transport, to all the other major population centres throughout the north. One could argue that its location offers a central point not obvious in other major conurbations.

"In addition, Durham has a strong history of public sector employment and a proven and successful background in the dispersal of civil service activities. This includes an extensive track-record with National Savings, which relocated more than a thousand jobs to Durham in the 1960s. More recently, the City was chosen as the best location for the region's Passport Office, which opened in 2000.

"The fact that Durham is a small City has much to commend it, not least that it does not suffer many of the problems inherent in larger cities, including transport. It is often difficult to travel in major cities within a thirty minute timeframe, but this is not a problem encountered within the City, which offers easy commuting throughout the region, as well as being well placed for travel throughout the UK and overseas, with its mainline railway station and local airports.

"It is true that Durham has a modest population within the immediate confined historic City boundaries. However, it has a significant population within a very short distance of the City, by both private and public transport, and a population of up to 2 million within fairly easy travelling range.

"Furthermore, one of the areas under consideration for relocation is research-orientated Government activities. The research pedigree of Durham University is world-class and to consider ruling out Durham, given that it is the best university in the region in terms of research, is simply absurd.

"Any criteria established for relocation should focus on the best and most appropriate location for the relevant public sector activities, irrespective of the size of the immediate population. The adoption of a policy to consider only locations with a population in excess of 100,000 may not best serve the needs of the public sector, and could result in the relocation of jobs to large centres, which already have a significant amount of enterprise, business and economic activity and employment opportunities. This simply shifts a problem from London and the South East to another major City location, without improving the regional balance of economic activity.

"Durham's rejection, purely on the grounds of an arbitrary population figure, is outrageous. I have therefore urged the re-evaluation of this requirement. All areas that can genuinely offer the very best locations for public sector activities throughout the UK - and there is no doubt that Durham is such a location - should not be needlessly disregarded."

16 Sep 2003

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MP welcomes public inquiry into Sands car park

Following Durham City Council's application to position a temporary car park on common land at the Sands in Durham, Gerry Steinberg, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, urged the Secretary of State to hold a local inquiry.

Mr Steinberg has therefore welcomed the decision to hold a public local inquiry into the local authority's application for consent to undertake works on the site.

He said:

"I welcome the decision to hold a public local inquiry into the proposal.

"It will afford residents in the area a genuine opportunity to present their opinions and arguments on the application before any permission is determined.

"There are clearly strong views held locally on what is a contentious application to use a green and open space as a temporary car park. The only way to ensure that these are fully and appropriately considered is via the forum of a public inquiry.

"In the meantime, this will also give the local authority the opportunity to fully investigate other locations which may offer a more acceptable site for a temporary car park within the City."

9 Sep 2003

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MP calls for review of City centre development

Gerry Steinberg, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, has called on Durham City Council to review its decision to proceed with the development of the Walkergate site in the City centre.

The MP is concerned that the scheme, which originally included a cinema franchise, will not provide the complementary facilities needed within the City to attract visitors and cater for residents.

He said:

"The controversy with the proposed temporary car park has lead me to consider the benefits of the scheme and, as a result, I have deep reservations about whether the current proposals for the site will contribute in any positive way to the City.

"Initially I was excited about the development, which originally included a cinema, as I believed the scheme would revitalise the area.

"It now appears, however, that the facilities provided will simply be café bars, a pub and a budget hotel. This seems to me an ineffective use of a valuable site that could significantly contribute to the continued development of the City. The proposals will do nothing to generate activity or interest in the area and will almost certainly only attract people in the evenings and at weekends.

"The development is being described as a new leisure and entertainment scheme, but unfortunately there appears to be little entertainment or leisure evident.

"The present plans are sadly lacking in appropriate complementary amenities and I fear the development, if the current plans are progressed, will squander a valuable opportunity to provide a scheme which could significantly revitalise the area and strengthen the appeal of the City centre to both visitors and residents.

"In addition, the acknowledged difficulties of locating an appropriate temporary car park, which will be needed if the scheme progresses, have not been fully considered.

"I therefore urge the City Council to focus on the content of the scheme, to ensure that the development positively contributes to the City, rather than doggedly pursuing an inappropriate scheme on such a prime site."

31 Jul 2003

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MP supports residents in opposing car park

Gerry Steinberg, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, is supporting residents in opposing Durham City Council's decision to proceed with a proposal to use land at The Sands, Durham as a temporary car park.

The LibDem-controlled authority has submitted an application to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for consent to site the temporary car park on The Sands, a requirement for land with rights of common over it, under Section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925.

In response, Mr Steinberg has urged the Secretary of State to consider the views and concerns of residents and has urged that the local authority should be encouraged to consider alternative sites before any permission be granted for the use of the land as a temporary car park.

He said:

"The site earmarked at The Sands would involve the use of common land, and the removal of a green open area within the City, which is extremely valuable and well-used. I fear this a detrimental step for residents, visitors and the City itself.

"Whilst I fully appreciate the need for adequate and appropriate parking provision within the City, there appears to be a distinct lack of willingness to fully investigate and pursue other alternatives.

"I have therefore urged that the City Council should undertake extensive and rigorous efforts to locate the temporary car parking provision in a more acceptable site."

22 Jul 2003

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Gerry Steinberg Keeps Promise to Help Get Cancer Money Spent Where it's Meant

Gerry Steinberg, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, is keeping his promise to support Macmillan Cancer Relief's campaign to ensure cancer services money reaches the frontline and gets spent where it's meant.

Mr Steinberg is one of over 70 MPs, from all parties, who is acting on a pledge to use his local influence to help ensure the new three-year NHS budgets deliver quality cancer services for local people.

Gerry has written to the Strategic Health Authority and asked what is being done to strengthen the system for tracking cancer money. This is crucial, not just for making sure resources actually reach cancer services, but also for ensuring they get to those specific services that make the most difference to the quality of life of people living with cancer.

Mr Steinberg said:

"Macmillan's "Get It Spent Where It's Meant" campaign is important because it's about helping to improve further the cancer services here in Durham. Greater transparency in how we track resources is in everyone's interest.

"It's in the interest of people living with cancer in Durham, so that they can be reassured that money is going to the services that improve their experience of cancer treatment and the care and support they are given. It's in the interest of the NHS because it means more people will know about the excellent work local cancer services are doing day in and day out. And I want the information so that I can help spread that good news story and, where necessary, work with people living with cancer and the NHS to make our local cancer services even better.

"I would like to thank the Strategic Health Authority and Cancer Network for their continuing help in keeping me in the picture.

"It is vital that we all work together to get it spent where it's meant."

17 Mar 2003

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