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Archive for the ‘Charity’ Category

Mayor in new “cuts agenda”

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Cllr. Eileen Leask, South Tyneside Mayor

Cllr. Eileen Leask, Mayor of South Tyneside

The Mayor of South Tyneside to cut her weight

The Mayor of South Tyneside Cllr. Eileen Leask told me today that she is on a mission to make serious cuts! No, not more public finances under threat but her waistline!

Eileen is determined to lose a few pounds and will be asking people to sponsor her to raise funds for some of the Mayoress’s charities this year. Having lost a few myself over the past two years I’ll be only too happy to help her out, and a little publicity to start her campaign cannot cause it any damage. More details when I get them – best of luck Eileen 🙂

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Written by curly

July 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Olympic Torch arrives in South Shields

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Olympic Torch Relay, South Shields
Our moment to shine

I don’t know what compelled me to set the alarm for 06:30 this morning after a decent night of celebrating England’s win over Sweden in Euro 2012, it seemed a rather silly thing to do considering that I’ll be working until 10:30 pm this evening, but I’d promised “Missy” that I’d take her to see the Olympic Torch Relay as it reached South Shields. I was even more surprised that she managed to be out of bed and ready on time, most weekends she doesn’t surface until about 08:30 am. So we  passing the Town Hall in Westoe Road at just after 07:15 really surprised to see so many people already waiting in the rain – yes the incessant rain. I’d decided that anywhere between Crossgate and the back end of the Town Hall might be a bit busy, as well as the top end of Ocean Road, so I’d go for the South Marine Park opposite the Wouldhave memorial. My guess is that the area around the Leas and the Bamburgh would also be choc-a-bloc full as Haile Gebrselassie and Brendan Foster put in their appearances.

So whilst waiting in the rain I bumped into one of your Labour councillors also getting a good soaking, but already working hard for local charity Cancer Connections today, puts some of us to shame I thought.

There was a lot of hooha and fanfair about the event as Met. Police motorbike outriders drove down Ocean Road with all of their flashing blue lights, shaking hands with children as though it were a carnival, they were followed by the sponsors buses, the sounds of music and a DJ announcer as hawkers tried to sell Union Flags along the pavement, it occurred to me that there were far more policemen from the Met than there were sponsors, organisers, and torch bearers, just made me wonder how much money is being spent sending these lads around the UK as the “security bubble”. As two of the bearers made their relay swap one torch was ignited from the other before the preceding one was extinguished, I was asking just how many torches were made as each bearer ends up keeping the torch as a personal memento (or disposing of it on eBay at a mighty profit.) I’m guessing that there are an awful lot of used butane cylinders to dispose of too, or do they use a different fuel? Fuel, yes fuel, how much petrol and diesel is used during this relay?

Anyway, the event passed through South Shields on its way to Whitburn rather quickly and everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially the little children who had been dragged out of bed rather early on a weekend.It must have been a great occasion for those local torch bearers who had been chosen to carry the flame along our small part of the route, they’ll be proud, pleased as punch, and have stories to relate to their grandchildren.

There all sorts of mini events taking place along the sea front and beaches today to mark our part in this journey, all planned in the hope of glorious sunny warm weather…….oh well that’s one thing you can never guarantee.

Now I just need to force myself into getting excited about Greco-Roman wrestling, equestrianism, fencing, and archery.

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Written by curly

June 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

Great North Dog Walk 2012

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South Shields hosts another “record breaker!”

This is becoming a bad joke, little more than a publicity stunt, even CBBC cameras and crews were in attendance as the Great North Dog Walk organised by Tony Carlisle set about bursting the Guinness World Record once again. Am I the only one in South Tyneside who finds the figures rather less than credible? Am I the only one in South Shields asking the right questions at the wrong time?

I’d like to know just why these numbers are apparently going up and up year after year, yet the event looks only a little larger to me, and the crowds and tents have all dispersed by late afternoon. I was down on the Leas this morning to photograph the start of the Great North Dog Walk 2012 which now claims to have more dogs taking part than the first Great North Runs organised by Brendan Foster, yet I parked easily behind the Bamburgh, as far as I am aware there were no extra Metros or buses today, there were no road closures at all, and nobody to police such a huge gathering, no safety stewards or metal barriers. The start line did not stretch  a mile and a half and the first participants passed by my camera in little more than twenty minutes. I’d like to know if anyone either in South Tyneside Council or close to Mr. Carlisle has any interest in trying to answer the questions that I have posed in previous years.

I guess someone thinks that the publicity factor is good to have at the start of summer, it puts South Shields on the map and makes a news story for a few outlets which lasts for a couple of days and if all of the money that is claimed to be raised is going to good local causes then hip hip hooray!

However I estimated that around 3000 dogs at most walked by in that first hour, and so to realise figures of over 24000 would need that rate of participation to be sustained until at least 6:00 pm and clearly it was not, do we really need to be accepting these claims without scrutiny?

The questions that I posed last year:

  • How do the organisers confirm how many dogs take part on the day?
  • Is there any involvement by any official from Guinness World Records Ltd on the day, and on site, to validate the “world record” claim?
  • How much does the event cost to organise and run?
  • How much sponsorship is raised and from whom?
  • How much money is raised for charities and which charities benefit?
  • Are any accounts published, and where can the public read them?

A comment left last year by Steve G:

Curly, originally, was querying whether the reportage of the Great North Dog Walk was accurate.
The claims made suggest there were over 22700 dogs on the Leas on Sunday over a three or four hour period.
This equates to 5600 dogs on the Leas at any given hour.
For the sake of argument there is one dog owner with each dog.
Curly is simply pointing out that given the amount traffic this mass attendance would create – are the claims made in the Gazette true?
Bearing in when I was jogging, a few years ago now, the figures for people running the Great North Run was around the 18000 figure – less than the dog walk. This involved road closures along the Leas, additional public transport, police attendance, stewarding etc.
The Great North Dog Walk should have been decidedly noticeable and quite frankly it was not. Not this year, not last year or previous years.
The video of last year on the Great North Dog Walk (on the website) does not appear to show the crowds that 16000 or so dogs would require last year.
If the number of dogs attending is exaggerated, then logically, so is the amount raised for charity. How can this sum be checked? It is only an estimate. Though £45 per dog per walk, since inception, seems achievable.

The Guinness Book of World Records website gives no indication of how the numbers involved are validated. In fact in the 2010 video neither the owners nor the dogs appeared to be allocated numbers as per the Great North Run. As the picture in tonight’s (14th. June 2011) Gazette confirms – how are the numbers checked and entrance fees collected?

Does this event show the borough in a positive and record breaking way?
Well, it was not reported in the Sunderland Echo, nor the Evening Chronicle – I did not check the Journal. So only we know about it!!

I am not concerned over the relatively small amount this event received from the council, what I am concerned about is that there appears to be little or no accountability regarding this small and many other larger amounts distributed by our council.
Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

Also, I am getting tired of the Gazettes inaccurate reporting or rather the reprinting of other peoples press releases. But that is another issue in itself.

I hope my pictures show that these numbers require answers to the questions, they were all shot between 10:00 and 11:00 am this morning.

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A great day out for families and pooches, Deputy Mayor Ernie Gibson showed true bulldog spirit manfully and doggedly reading through his speech as the wind tried to whippet away, but you’d have to be pretty barking to believe that this is a Great North Run sized event which one day may end up spilling egg on our chins with some explaining to do!

Update

This picture shows a small section of the crowd at the start line of the 1982 Great North Run when 20000 people competed, call me hard to please if you wish, but I’m not convinced that we saw anything like these numbers at the Great North Dog Walk.

Great North Run 1982

Here is a section of the crowd at the Great North Dog walk

Great North Dog Walk

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Written by curly

June 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

“Lusty” reminder of policy problems

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HMS IllustriousHMS Illustrious in quick visit.

Click thumbnail for larger picture

I was asked a few times yesterday about the “aircraft carrier” that was spotted anchored off the mouth of the Tyne as South Shields entertained thousands of visitors on a weekend dedicated to supporting Armed Forces Day. Following a small parade and presentation at South Shields Town Hall on Saturday morning there was a big presence of bikers and petrol heads at the Bents Park on Sunday as many people took advantage of rather hot and steamy weather to enjoy the seaside. The displays were quite impressive and it was pleasing to see an event organised by those who are probably more accustomed to bad press rather than being the subject of praise, however the Badlanders Motor Cycle Club and the Tyne Wear Chapter of the Hells Angels provided a variety of entertainment and bags of interest for those interested in monster machines, hot rods, heavy metal rock, vintage militaria, and generally good clean honest fun. They had live bands entertaining the crowds, lots of charity stalls, retailers, big bikes for sale, food and drink, and a car and bike show too, and the whole event was aimed at raising money for various charities with links to our servicemen and women such as Help for Heroes, Save Our Soldiers, and The Royal British Legion.

HMS Illustrious seemed to have timed her visit purposefully, but it may well have been an opportune accident of timing as she undergoes sea trials around the UK coast following a £40m refit at Rosyth. “Lusty” Illustrious is classed as a “strike carrier” but in reality she is the last remaining through deck cruiser after the decommissioning of Ark Royal and Invincible, her decks are now fitted for carrying helicopters and she will serve as the UK’s on call carrier when HMS Ocean undergoes a refit. She has been in Rosyth dockyard for the past 16 months for an overhaul which has seen her communications kit enhanced, mess areas – the crew’s living spaces – revamped, a new anti-torpedo system fitted, and has had 540,000 litres of paint (enough to fill one fifth of an Olympic-sized swimming pool) applied, including a fuel-efficient coating to her outer hull which will make her scythe through the oceans more efficiently, among other work carried out by Babcock and the ship’s company.

Above all, however, the ship emerges from refit capable of carrying up to 20 helicopters and 600 troops as an assault ship (a function she performed for real during operations in Afghanistan in 2001-02).

“This has been a challenging project, delivered to a very high standard by the joint team – on time and on budget.”

said Capt Graeme Little, of the Capital Ships team at the Defence Equipment and Support organisation.

“We approach Illustrious’ return to the navy with confidence in the significant improvements which have been made.”

After an initial week-long run-out of Rosyth earlier this month, a more thorough work-out for Lusty is now underway over the next five weeks.

She’s due in Portsmouth in late July, when she’ll be formally handed back to the Fleet.

I share the grave worries and concerns voiced by our top brass in the Ministry of Defence over our very stretched roles at present, and with two new carriers promised sometime never in the future we are left in quite a vulnerable position with one “strike (helicopter) carrier” on call at a time when the Argentinians are rattling their sabres over the Falklands again, if they had a mind to subjugate the Falkland Islanders I fear there would be little that we could do this time to relieve their plight. Worse still I cannot see our “friends” in America helping us, despite our clamour to help them out in Afghanistan!

At a time of economic restraint British military adventures need to be very carefully considered and priorities ought to be given to the defence of the realm and defence of British strategic interests, before we even think about assisting in the so called Arab Spring! These “revolutions” in the middle east have not produced exciting results either for the protagonists or the outside observers who were perhaps hoping to see the emergence of liberal democracies, even in Egypt the military seems to have worked quietly but successfully behind the scenes to get the result that they wanted. Our involvement in Libya was premature and hasty and many of us had doubts over the altruism of the original motives, it is becoming increasingly expensive for the tax payer and stretches the Royal Navy and the RAF to their absolute limits, to add insult to the current impasse we have the Prime Minister telling his Defence Chiefs of Staff that their job is to do the fighting and it is his job to do the talking! Please don’t misunderstand me, along with thousands of other South Tynesiders, I fully and unambiguously support the dedication and professionalism of our armed services when the politicians have made a decision to deploy them abroad, and I also recognise that the MOD is a big beast capable of wasting many millions of our hard earned pounds just as well as any other department, but the Prime Minister must at least look as though he is listening to what his military staff are telling him. The message they are trumpeting is that we are involved in too many campaigns at a time when the politicians are asking them to slim down the operations and the budgets, you cannot get quarts out of pint pots!

The answers to half of the current financial conundrums for our Defence Chiefs must surely be a very swift and total withdrawal from Afghanistan, regardless of the pace of the US draw down, and a lightning fast removal from Libya, in both cases we ought to make it quite clear that it is now up to the people of those countries to decide their own destinies and fates without external intervention. We have done our bit, it’s surely time for them to do theirs (if they really want that change).

A more insular policy may well be required for a while at least until the bristling of the top brass has subsided, however as the prickly Argentinians become more embroiled in robust rhetoric we at least can rely on the good Doctor Liam Fox to fight fire with fire:

“Those in politics on the other side of the world can huff and puff but it will not change our resolve politically to retain the independence and the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands nor to come to their defence and to maintain deterrence as best we can.

“We have Typhoons already stationed there. We have a very clear message that we have both the naval power if necessary, and certainly an intent to ensure that the Falkland Islands are kept free and their people enjoy the liberation we fought so hard for 30 years ago.”

Those words need to be read very very carefully, he mentions political resolve but not military resolution, and he talks up deterrence “as best we can”, he talks of intent to keep the Falklands “liberated” from the Argentinians. All this with a few Typhoons and a navy that would fill the South Marine Park lake? Come on Dr. Fox, the only naval power that we might have left would be a nuclear submarine prepared to play very high stakes in an international game of poker!

Either that or the big  hearted Badlanders and Hells Angels from Tyne Wear and Durham might be enlisted to join a cargo carrier headed south to relive their glory days of 29 years ago!

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How do I “volunteer” this opinion?

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Some South Tyneside “charities” are little more than job protection schemes.

First of all I have not enjoyed having to pick on one particular South Shields based “charity” for this article, it was just that the numbers were of such a great magnitude that it was too difficult to ignore, it is among a clutch of organisations properly registered as charities with The Charities Commission. As we face times of economic restraint and much tighter control of public spending, the state and its various organs, including councils such as ours in South Tyneside, are under enormous pressure to produce savings and reduce the amount of taxpayers cash that they spend. Only in this way will there be any future prospect of us being able to keep a little of our hard earned cash for ourselves.

However there are many charities which receive more than 10% of their income from the tax payer in one form or another, a threshold which ensures that they perennially plead for greater protection and greater funding without having to hand out the buckets in the street or post huge plastic bags through our letterboxes. If you would like to learn a little more about “fake charities” then read on here.

So, as the Prime Minister likes to remind us “we are all in this together” and the third sector is part of “the Big Society”, but that should not preclude many organisations listed at the Charities Commission from scrutiny or a necessary reduction in public funding, particularly if the output that they offer is little more than “public services by proxy”.

Of the South Tyneside registered charities that I looked at, the South Tyneside Council for Voluntary Service caught my eye, mainly because of the eye watering amounts of public finance that it consumes, and the very low amount of genuine public donations that it receives, in my view if a “charity” cannot raise a sufficient funding for itself directly from the public then that could indicate that we do not necessarily support its objectives and aims. the South Tyneside CVS submitted its latest balance sheet to the Charities commission in November of last year, you can download it in .pdf form here.

In the year ended March 2010 it had a total income of almost £1m (991,580), of that income only £1013 came from general donations, fund raising or sponsorship, i.e. this is what the average Joe in the street knowingly and deliberately gave them. Their income resources from charitable activity amounted to £854,117, and a further £136,450 came from activities for generating funds. From their income South Tyneside CVS expended £981,401 including staff costs of £653,813, and this for a head count of only 35! They state that their principle sources of income are South Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Primary Care Trust, Capacity Builders ( a publicly financed organisation), The Big Lottery Fund, and South Tyneside Council Area Based Grants. Clearly, this small group of people rely almost exclusively on the tax payer for their jobs and livelihoods.

Furthermore of the £981,401 that it spent, only £53,000 was passed to partner organisations and other groups in the form of grants.

So the cash rolls in from the public coffers and it rolls out mainly in the form of wage costs, but for what and for whom? Wage costs for 35 people suggest an average of around £18000 per head, but some of those listed are part time, and others are in more senior managerial positions, so some latitude ought to be assumed. The largest wage costs are attached to the Health Trainers, those good people who work in the community telling us what we ought to eat, what we ought not to drink or smoke, how and why we ought to exercise, what substances we ought to stop abusing our bodies with etc. etc. All well and good, very acceptable advice, but shouldn’t South Tyneside Primary Health Care Trust be shouldering the costs directly? Instead, they appear to channel money out of their own budgets to South Tyneside CVS and ask them to administer the wage for these trainers, what comes in then goes out, and whatever savings the CVS achieve they are able to keep for themselves, a very adept means of protecting health service workers!

The CVS managed to make savings of around £10,000 in the reporting year which it keeps to add to its rolling reserve to achieve the required 13 weeks worth of working capital, and from what I can glean from this report we have a mass of cash being recycled from a variety of tax funded sources to help pay for services that ought to have been directly supplied by the grant providers originally. This looks like a convenient way of hiding some of our public services from view and effectively protecting them from scrutiny or the effects of government directed cash savings.

It also provides work for charitable groups to administer the wages and associated costs of these services on a very long term and secure basis, the director of CVS, for instance, has been in post for around 26 years. She must be extremely good at the job and highly valued, it would be difficult to find a director or chief executive of a public limited company holding down such a prestigious position for so long.

It is easier to understand now why public relations drives in the local press appear year after year after year during that six month or so period when councils and other bodies are preparing their annual budgets, although sometimes they garner the type of publicity which is not always welcome.

South Tyneside CVS is not alone in living off the public purse, Bliss=Ability, the Laygate based charity which provides an information service for people with disabilities is also registered at the Charities Commission, although it is diversifying and one arm is now a small company. However in its last accounts submitted in September 2009 (.pdf here) they reported an income of £424,000 of which only £801 was voluntarily donated! Becuase of the greater diversity in their activities they were able to find funding from a more diverse range of public sources including South Tyneside Council’s Social Care and Health Advocacy Service, Links (a publicly funded local networking service), the Carers Support Team, the Coalfield Regeneration Trust, Social Enterprise Europe Consensus Development, Community Health and Development, and a Big Lottery Healthy Living fund. Once again a charity that survives on tax payers cash and paid out over £300,000 of its income on staff costs.

South Tyneside Training and Enterprise Network Ltd is another “small company” also registered as a charity with the Charities Commission (last balance sheet .pdf here), who from a total income of £162,300 had voluntary donations of around £5000, mainly from the Yorkshire Bank, the vast majority of the remainder of their funding was also provided in one way or another by the tax payer. They receive grant aid to assist them in finding work for the unemployed. Unfortunately they tend to spend far more than they receive and in 2010 their payroll costs of £309,462 exceeded their income. Unlike many private enterprises who would have folded without further investment, TENS see themselves as a going concern, and the government will see a need for their services to continue.

Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle upon Tyne had a total income of £2.88m of which only £36,000 was voluntarily donated, they are profitable and spent only around £200,000 on staff costs, they intend to build high quality “carbon neutral” homes on a site in Reed Street, South Shields.

The point that I am trying to make here is that their charitable status is not determined by the amount of voluntary donations by you and I, but by the largesse of the public purse, and if “we are all in this together” then we have to weigh up the balance between costs and value. We often hear the argument that someone may know the cost of everything but the value of nothing, but it is my belief that many of the projects being pursued by these charities were at some point in the past within the remit of a public organisation directly responsible to a minister, or council responsible to its electors. Over the course of time these functions have been farmed out to pretty much trustees who are now charged with administering public funds by proxy. As such, I see no reason why the organisations who are granting the funding to these charities should not take a long hard look at who they are giving our money too, how much value we get for it, and determine whether or not the services offered could be provided either in the private sector or at the direct cost of the public sector openly and honestly without hiding costs in another organisation.

As things stand, we have thousands of “fake charities”  suckling at the tit of the public purse, spending a small fortune providing jobs for themselves, unaccountable to electors and in many cases set up without public consultation or involvement.

Update 20:50

Just as I’m talking about hiding public services away behind a “charity” cover and protecting jobs, what do I find? It must have been a premonition!

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Written by curly

March 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Flipping retailers!

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Pancake Race, South Shields

Come on folks, lend a hand!

The annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race took place in King Street, South Shields yesterday, always a laugh and it draws a half decent crowd as teams of four from retailers and South Shields businesses run a 100 yard dash along the town’s main shopping street in an effort to (a) win a small trophy, and (b) raise some pennies for a needy charity. The usual rules apply as the teams run in a relay fashion flipping their pancakes in their pans at the start line before being allowed to dash to the far end of the course, return and hand over to a team mate.

The event has been organised over the past few years by Mavis Maughan, the events co-ordinator at Asda in Coronation Street and this year included teams from the Shields Gazette, Specsavers, Slimming World, and Asda, however, (and here’s the rub) it seems that Mavis is having some trouble getting new participants, resulting in the same bunch of people taking part each year, and getting older it hurts the knees and hips. This is surprising because there are more than enough businesses in the town who could spare a team of four people for half an hour, perhaps some might even be persuaded to donate the half an hour on their day off!

It is a fun occasion and an opportunity to raise your business profile with the public, show your involvement with the community that you work in and make your profit from, and generally show that your organisation is a caring one when it comes to charitable fund raising. The sort of businesses that I have in mind that employ sufficient people to spare four might include the likes of Wilkinsons, Lidl, MacDonalds, Marks and Spencer, Greggs (who have four outlets in the town centre), M.I. Dickson, Superdrug, the Ocean Beach Fun Park, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Tesco, and a clutch of solicitor’s offices.

I find it pretty embarrassing that Mavis has approached some of these and been rebuffed, come on guys give it a second thought for next year, half an hour out of your working week is not going to cripple the business. There may be other ways in which you may be able to help the event without actually taking part in the race, for instance the printing of plenty of A4 posters to decorate shop windows in the week leading up to the race would help generate a larger crowd and a bigger footfall in King Street, I’m sure one of you could produce a poster on a PC and have it printed on your office laserjet printer!

So come on, give it some thought and get in touch with Mavis Maughan at Asda in Coronation Street, South Shields to offer your help for next year – please!

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Written by curly

March 9, 2011 at 9:47 am

Coming soon…

with 2 comments

When is a charity not a charity?

Well…..when it relies on public finances for the majority of its operations really – stay tuned!

Update – Sunday 6th. March

Just received some further information, may take me a little while longer to put this post together.

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Written by curly

March 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Charity, South Tyneside

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