CAST October 2023 newsletter

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Now is the time for community-driven, people-powered change in South Tyneside.

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In this issue:

News & Views

What is...defunding

the police?



Citizens' Assembly

South Tyneside

Contact us:




Welcome to your



Campaign to save healthy mature trees from

housing development on the South Tyneside

college site

Started on 15th October, an online petition is calling for the

protection of 160 mature healthy trees planned to be felled

to make way for housing. The authors of the petition,

recognising the need for housing, are calling for the trees to

be incorporated into the plan. You can sign the petition here

‘Fossil Free Future’ vigil: 10th Nov. @ 10:45am

The Tyne and Wear Pension Fund (TWPF) is holding its

annual meeting in South Shields Town Hall and despite their

money being invested in fossil fuels, pensioners and those

saving for their pensions are not invited. With no livestreaming

of meetings and attendees prohibited from

speaking, the Fossil Free Tyne & Wear Divestment

Campaign have organised a vigil with the hope of opening a

meaningful dialogue especially following the release of new

UK-wide data revealing that TWPF invests at least £461m in

oil, gas and coal – far higher than the £238m previously

known. Even worse, while more than 20% of local council

pension funds have now reduced fossil fuel investment to

less than 1% of assets, Tyne & Wear is way above the

England average. You can see the report here

Gathering at 10:45, why not pop down and show your

support? More info here

Two conservative candidates enter the North

East mayoral race

Sedgefield MP, Paul Howell and Chris Burnicle, Sunderland

City Councillor have both announced their decision to stand

for election to become the Conservative Party mayoral

candidate. With the decision to be announced in November,

as soon as it’s official, we’ll get you a profile of the winner!

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News & Views

Music Welfare Practitioner going from strength to strength!

If you made it to the CAST START Festival family funday at Bilton Hall this summer, you probably saw Dean

James with his guitar! After working as a Mental Health Support Worker in Sunderland for 15 years then being

scouted in the USA for his musical talent, Dean (from South Shields) is building his reputation as a freelance

Music Welfare Practitioner (MWP) and bringing music’s therapeutic value to South Tyneside. The last six months

have seen Dean and his supporters raise over £700 for instruments as well as working alongside Bilton Hall,

SURT (Stopping Unsafe Relationships), Epinay School, University of West London and Auxillia Youth

Services CIC. His MWP concept is certainly coming together! If you’re interested in Dean’s project and want to

learn more, just drop us a line and we’ll put you in touch. Check Dean out on Youtube here

Citizen Reporter’s Corner

Council should mobilise communities to resist cuts by Paul Feldman, CAST founder member

Hard-pressed councils, who have faced more than a decade of budget cuts, are staring at even harsher times

ahead over the next few years. A new survey has revealed that the Tory government’s spending plans from April

2025 onwards – which Labour have also committed to – will likely mean that services will be performing worse in

2027/28 than on the eve of the pandemic.

South Tyneside Borough Council is typical of the challenges councils have faced since austerity kicked in. It is

making savings of £3.7m in 2023/24, bringing the total amount of cuts to £190m since 2010. Like councils around

the country, vital local services have suffered as spending cuts have been passed on to hard-pressed communities.

Unlike central government, by law councils have to balance the books each year and cannot carry over a spending

deficit. According to a BBC investigation, the average council now faces a £33m predicted deficit by 2025-26 - a

rise of 60% from two years ago. Unison, the public service union, said the situation meant some councils would not

be able to offer the ‘legal minimum of care’ next year.

The survey revealed councils expect to be £5.2bn short of balancing the books by April 2026 even after making

£2.5bn of planned cuts. At least £467m will be stripped from adult care services, which include elderly care homes,

respite centres and support services for people with disabilities. Unison's head of local government Mike Short said

town halls were in the ‘direst of states’. He added: ‘This is not a sustainable situation. Local authorities simply don't

have the funds to provide even statutory services.’

Gateshead Council recently closed a leisure centre, which had more than 480,000 visits a year. A community bid is

trying to raise £40,000 and take over the site. ‘Everyone is just horrified it's actually come to this’ said mental health

worker Layla Barclay who led the campaign to keep it open. ‘There is a lot of anger towards the council. We just feel

that they didn't come to the community until it was too late.’

A number of councils have actually run out of money. They include Slough, Croydon and Birmingham, which is now

run by government commissioners who are making cuts in services. Thurrock declared bankruptcy in December

2022 after a series of failed solar farm investments saw the council run up a £500m deficit - one of the largest ever

reported for a council of its size.

The question is: what can local communities do to halt the wrecking of local services? They could campaign to

demand councillors actually resist spending cuts instead of just passing them on while wringing their hands. STC,

for example, should mobilise the community by calling assemblies and meetings to demand more money from

central government. Assemblies could link up with other campaigns in the region.

Coming on top of the cost-of-living crisis, more cuts in services are unacceptable. Enough is enough!

Got an issue? Got something to say?

Anything going on in your area and you'd like to spread the word?

Then Citizen Reporter's Corner is the place for you - just send us your article and we'll get it out there for you!*

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*We will NOT publish anything offensive. Request our Terms and Conditions here

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The views and opinions expressed in Citizen's Reporters Corner do not necessarily reflect the views of CAST and/or its members.

The first thing we need to recognise is that groups calling for reformation of the criminal justice

system and the defunding of the police are not demanding all prisons be closed and police officers

sacked but rather that social problems should be addressed by diverting money into more

appropriate methods of protecting and serving the public, i.e. public services.

What if we replaced ‘defunding the police’ with ‘ensuring there are good quality services in the

community so that somebody in crisis gets the help they need, rather than getting arrested by the

police and taken to a cell’?

Despite successive governments expanding policing powers and prison building programmes in an

attempt to ‘police away’ social problems, campaigners argue that there has been no significant

improvement in public safety. Diverting funds into public services to address social inequality and

the drivers of criminality would better result in a decline of criminal activity.

The YMCA have reported that every region across England and Wales has seen funding for youth

services cut by more than 60% since 2010, with the North East experiencing an average of 76%. This

loss of safe spaces can be directly linked to the growth of knife crime, mental health difficulties and

isolation among young people. This approach of neglecting the needs of young people and using

criminalisation as a first resort for the social problems they face has been heavily criticised.

With over 85,000 inmates, the UK prison system is full. Speaking at the Tory Party conference this

month, Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk confirmed that the government will go ahead with

plans to rent overseas capacity to cope with the numbers. UK prisons are disproportionately

populated with people with mental health problems, special educational needs or experience of

school exclusion. The Centre for Mental Health found that nine out of ten prisoners had at least one

mental health or substance misuse problem.

However since the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 there have been drastic

cuts to addiction services. Funding for drug and alcohol treatment has transferred from central

government to local authorities already hit with real terms budget cuts of 40%. It is a bitter twist

that the police are left to deal with problems caused by cuts in public services - although for how

much longer? Earlier this year, the government announced plans to drastically reduce the number of

mental health callouts the police respond to.

The drive to defund the police is not to simply take funding away from an essential service but rather

a redistribution of that funding to provide more effective public safety by addressing the causes of

criminality in the first instance - increased access to and provision of social housing, mental health

services, post-16 education, youth services, domestic violence services and so on. The best way to

create a safer community for everyone is through investment in our health, social and educational

systems and with the Institute for Government reporting that short-term policy making has

trapped public services in a ‘doom loop’, maybe now is the time for a new approach.

Adapted from:


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Each month, our section ‘What is…?’ takes an unbiased look at terms often used

but never really explained. This month, we’re taking a look at...

What is...defunding the


A video of police officer Derek Chauvin causing the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May

2020 went viral on social media and led to widespread protest across the US. It also reignited

calls to ‘defund the police’. But what does that actually mean?

NOVEMBER: What is...a citizens’ assembly?


Any terms you’re unsure of?

Let us know and we’ll take an honest, impartial look into them for you.

C A S T N E W S L E T T E R | I S S U E 3 9


community noticeboard


South Tyneside Young People's Parliament have organised an

‘intergenerational debate’ and they’re looking for adult representatives!

Debating free school meal provision, the impact of graffiti and the open

discussion of menstruation, it promises to be a great event.

Venue: South Shields Council Chambers, 7th Nov. (5-7pm).

More info here or email laura.kate.johnson2@southtyneside.gov.uk

(news)letters & links:

click the white link for more info

Alzheimer’s Society

Singing for the Brain - Jarrow

a better u NEW autumn training calendar

With sessions covering new topics including Emotional Resilience, Fuel

Poverty, Mental Health and Self-harm Awareness and Response, the

training is free to attend but booking is essential.

More info here

Looking for team training? Contact 0191 432 9838 or email


Routes of Social Change project

Interested in learning about family history and heritage research


What about designing your own local history walks and heritage trails?

Action Station South Tyneside and WEA invite you to join them in the

Routes of Social Change project and delve into the North East’s

complex history and its diverse communities.

More info here

Do you have an issue you want to raise or discuss with your

local STC councillor?

Why not pop along to their regular surgery?

To get the dates and times for your councillor, simply select your

ward councillor from this list and scroll down or call the Town Hall

on 0191 427 1717 and ask for details.

Bright Futures

Weekly meetings supporting

women in the sex work industry


The Chatty Cafe flyer

Save South Tyneside

Hospital Campaign

Facebook page

South Tyneside Tree

Action Group

Facebook page

Tyne and Wear Centre

Against Unemployment

Facebook page


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C A S T N E W S L E T T E R | I S S U E 3 9

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