Payday ban Newcastle City Council invests in Wonga

Wonga logo Wonga is Newcastle United's shirt sponsor

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A council, critical of so-called payday loan companies, has jointly invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in one of the largest, the BBC has learned.

Labour-led Newcastle City Council has blocked access to the most popular payday websites from computers at its libraries and customer service centres.

It also wants to ban billboard adverts for short-term lenders.

But BBC Newcastle has found the authority shares an investment in Wonga worth £230,000.

The council has shared pension investments with the four other councils in Tyne and Wear - North Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland, and South Tyneside - and other public bodies valued at £5.5bn.

Payday lenders, some of which charge annual interest rates of several thousand per cent, have been accused of a variety of poor practices, including aggressive debt collection and failing to work out whether repayments are affordable.

The industry argues that its business practices have been misrepresented and the vast majority of its customers are happy.

'Lobby hard'

Newcastle City Council has pledged to seek assurances from the operators of the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund that its stake in payday firms will end.

A spokesman said: "Newcastle City Council has no direct investments in payday loan companies and we will continue our vigorous campaign against an industry that we believe contributes to people's debt problems.

"We have in the past publicly voiced our dislike at the fact that the pension fund, which is not controlled by Newcastle City Council, chooses to invest in companies that we believe harm our city.

"We will continue to lobby hard for it to review its portfolio and make more ethical decisions about where it invests its money. We believe it should also review its approach to alcohol and tobacco-linked investments."

The council's Liberal Democrat opposition has accused the Labour leadership of not fulfilling promises to monitor the pension fund.

Council Lib Dem opposition group spokesman Councillor David Faulkner said: "I think it leaves Nick Forbes at worst open to the charge of hypocrisy, at best not doing what he said he was going to do, which was that he was going to investigate the pension fund investments."

Shona Alexander, chief executive of Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau, said: "I'm sure that ethically the city council will want to think twice about continuing to fund payday lending in this way."

The investment came to light after a Freedom of Information request by BBC Newcastle.

The holding is through what is known as a Pooled Investment Vehicle.

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    'Family is in bits' 17:55:

    The daughter of a man who's been missing from Sunderland for more than two weeks is appealing for him to come home.

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    Robert Hutchinson

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    More on SSI milestone 17:48: David MacMillan BBC Tees

    It's more than two years since the Redcar blast furnace was relit and the balance books show the figures are in the black for the first time.

    A positive monthly operational result has been recorded - although that is before things like tax, interest and depreciation are added.

    Steel plant in Redcar

    Nonetheless business director Cornelius Louwrens says it's a major boost on the road towards full profitability. More than five million tonnes of slab steel have been produced since the plant reopened in April 2012.

    Your pictures: Strike action 17:45:

    Beth Farhat, the regional secretary for the Northern TUC, tweeted this picture of the march in Newcastle earlier.

    March in Newcastle

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    Duke sells art to pay bills 17:40:

    Artworks belonging to the Duke of Northumberland have been sold for more than £32m after his estate was left with a massive bill for flood damage in Newburn, Newcastle, in 2012.

    The highest price of £9.4m was paid for a 1st Century Roman marble statue of Aphrodite - the Greek goddess of love.

    Marble statue of Aphrodite
    Your pictures: Newcastle march 17:34:

    The South Tyneside branch of Unison also marched in Newcastle earlier. They tweeted this picture:

    People with banner
    'Nothing of concern' in Dunston 17:26: Catherine Lee BBC News

    I've spoken to Northumbria Police and they've told me an earlier incident in Dunston involving a suspected "explosive shell" is over and that there is "nothing of concern" to residents.

    Behind the scenes 17:22: Jonathan Swingler BBC Tees

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    Broadcasting kit in Durham
    So where is Northumberland? 17:15: Owen Walker BBC Local Live

    The Department of Transport has blamed a "data source issue" after one of its press releases said Northumberland was in the North West of England.

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    One lane blocked on A1 17:11:

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    News on the hour 17:00:

    The top local headlines at 17:00:

    • BBC Tees: Bosses at the SSI steel plant in Redcar say the firm has reached an important milestone on the way to making long-term profits.
    • BBC Newcastle: Jon Harle and Anne Leuchars have a round-up of the day's news.
    Widow fights for answers 16:45: Peterlee Star Newspaper

    A grieving widow has become embroiled in a fresh battle with health bosses in her quest to get answers into how her husband died.

    Durham Miners' Gala road closures 16:35:

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    Here's what it looked like in 1970:

    Durham Miners' Gala on 19/06/1970
    'Urgently seeking clarification' 16:23:

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is investigating amid reports six former British soldiers arrested in India, including one from Northumberland, have had the charges against them dropped.

    An FCO spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of a court decision to quash the charges against the six British nationals. We are urgently seeking official clarification.

    "We are grateful to the Government of India, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the local state authorities for the support and access they have given our consular colleagues."

    'Explosive shell' found 16:12:

    Several homes have been evacuated after an explosive shell was found inside an outhouse on Meadow Lane in Dunston, Gateshead.

    It was found at about 13:35 and Northumbria Police has set up a cordon in the area. The force said the evacuation is precautionary and inquiries are ongoing.

    News on the hour 15:59:

    The top local headlines at 16:00:

    • BBC Tees: Bosses at SSI steel plant in Redcar say the firm has reached an important milestone on the way to making long term profits.
    • BBC Newcastle: Jon Harle and Anne Leuchars have a round-up of the day's news.
    Workers 'have had enough' 15:44:

    PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka says the strike action by public sector workers is about "demonstrating that they've had enough".

    He told BBC Radio 5 live: "If that means that fire stations and schools are closed, and there are delays at airports and that people find that they are inconvenienced, whilst we regret the inconvenience, what we're really trying to say is that everyone depends on our members' services, so start paying them a decent wage."

    Heavy rain in the east 15:32: Kay Crewdson BBC Weather

    Cloud will increase during the afternoon with occasional heavy rain arriving towards eastern areas later. Feeling cool near coasts with outbreaks of rain and brisk northerly breezes.

    Weather forecast

    Maximum temperature: 16C (61F). Check the forecast near you.

    Fastest tortoise in the world? 15:19:

    A tortoise is set to stroll into the record books as the fastest in the world. The current record has been held since 1977, when one named Charlie travelled 5.48m (18ft) in 43.7 seconds.

    But Bertie, from Adventure Valley in County Durham, has been timed covering the same distance in 19.59 seconds.

    Bertie the tortoise

    Guinness World Records said it has been informed of the attempt and is awaiting evidence before the claim can be verified.

    Altidore 'should be fit' 15:06:

    Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet is confident striker Jozy Altidore will be fit for pre-season despite having his World Cup ruined by injury.

    The 24-year-old frontman damaged a hamstring in the United States' opening Group G game against Ghana, and although he was named on the bench for the last-16 defeat by Belgium, he played no further part in Brazil.

    Jozy Altidore

    Poyet told "We know hamstring injuries are tricky and that you have to be careful not to come back too quickly. I am sure, if nothing goes wrong, that when Jozy is back with us for pre-season he is going to be fit to start training without any problems."

    News on the hour 14:54:

    The top local headlines at 15:00:

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    Hotel MD steps down 14:35: Northern Echo Newspaper
    Back in the day... 14:25: Stephanie McGovern BBC presenter & School Report mentor

    How come everyone had bad hair cuts when they were a kid? Look what my dad's just sent me:

    Steph McGovern
    Why are people on strike? 14:11: Lloyd Watson BBC News
    News on the hour 13:59:

    The top local headlines at 14:00:

    Dead man had 'puncture wound' 13:51:

    Northumbria Police say they made a mistake earlier when they said a man had been found stabbed to death on a cycle path.

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    Slow traffic at Dunston 13:45:

    The A184 in Gateshead southbound at the Dunston Interchange is slow because of an earlier accident involving a lorry and a car.

    Plus the Tyne Bridge is slow on both sides because of the normal lunchtime traffic. More on BBC Travel News for Teesside and Tyne and Wear.

    Lunch in the cricket 13:32: Martin Emmerson BBC Newcastle

    Lunch in the cricket and Durham are 163-3, still 32 behind Yorkshire but digging in.

    Fred Boycott would be proud. Or not, given the circumstances... Listen to the live commentary here or keep up with the live scorecard.

    Give us your feedback 13:22:

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    Indian gun charges 'dropped' 13:12: BBC Look North

    Six former British soldiers arrested in India are believed to have had the charges against them dropped, meaning they'll be free to go home.

    The six, including Nick Dunn from Ashington in Northumberland, were working for an American security company on board an anti-piracy vessel but were accused of entering Indian waters illegally and also illegally possessing firearms.

    Although they were then freed from prison they haven't been allowed to leave India until a judge formally ended all legal proceedings. Mr Dunn's sister Lisa says she's been told that has now happened. Watch BBC One at 13:30 or catch up here.

    News on the hour 12:59:

    The top headlines at 13:00:

    Woman dies in unexplained fire 12:53: BBC Tees

    Police and the fire service say they're treating a fire in North Ormesby, in which a 50-year old-woman died, as unexplained.

    Emergency crews were called to Wharton Street just before midnight.

    Man stabbed to death 12:43:

    A man has been stabbed to death near a cycle path in Newcastle.

    The victim, who was in his 20s, was found by police at 11:00 this morning at The Oval in Walker. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

    An area around where he was found has been cordoned off while officers investigate.

    'Our fight is their fight' 12:36: Fergus Hewison BBC Newcastle political reporter

    Paul Gilroy is from Unison and is at a picket line at Newcastle civic centre.

    He told BBC Newcastle: "We apologise for any disruption that's been caused and we would hope that people would understand there's a political dynamic to this strike as well, which is about the government's attack on low paid workers, so our fight is their fight as well."

    RNLI launches £200,000 appeal 12:25: The Journal Newspaper
    Fire station picket line 12:13: Dan Johnson BBC News

    I'm reporting from Newcastle fire station as firefighters become the latest group to join the public sector strike.

    Newcastle fire station
    News on the hour 11:59:

    The top headlines at 12:00:

    Another 50 for Stoneman 11:48: Martin Emmerson BBC Newcastle

    That's a 25th half century for Mark Stoneman which came in 109 balls, with five fours. Durham are now 89-2 against Yorkshire, 106 behind.

    Keep up to date with the live scorecard.

    'No negative response' 11:40: Dan Johnson BBC News

    I've been speaking to the people on the picket line in Gateshead at Charles Thorp Comprehensive School.

    Nicola Moore, a teaching assistant at the school said: "Unison members are effectively seeing a 20% loss of the value of their wages during the term of this government.

    Picket line in Gateshead

    "As far as the action today has gone, we've had no negative response."

    Yorkshire v Durham resumes 11:30:

    Yorkshire have resumed their county championship match against Durham at Headingley today.

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    Adil Rashid
    NUFC eyeing Remy (the other one) 11:20: Newcastle Chronicle

    Newcastle United are ready to mount a fresh bid to re-sign Loic Remy after re-igniting talks with priority target Remy Cabella.

    Behind the scenes 11:10: Dan Johnson BBC News

    I'm waiting to go live on the News Channel. I've only been working in the North East since November and people said "oh, you'll be cold up there", but it's a beautiful day today.

    Dan Johnson
    News on the hour 10:59:

    The top headlines at 11:00:

    Fire farm 'still burning' 10:50:

    Firefighters have been monitoring a fire involving hundreds of tractor tyres at Little Gordon Farm at Lands Bank, near Bishop Auckland.

    People living in the area have been advised to keep their doors and windows shut owing to the thick smoke, which can be seen for miles around.

    Smoke in Bishop Auckland

    County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue tweets: Regarding the incident at Little Gordon Farm, a crew has been in attendance all night, the fire is still burning under supervision.

    Ministers 'more relaxed' 10:39: Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    Today's strikes enable ministers to turn up the heat on Labour by pressing them to condemn the industrial action being carried out by their big union supporters.

    And they also expect widespread backing in the newspapers for their bullish stance.

    So, while in public ministers will appear angered by the strikes, in private they may be good deal more relaxed. Read more of my analysis here.

    'Difficult decisions needed' 10:30:

    Stockton South Conservative MP James Wharton tells the BBC said the strikes a part of a healthy democracy.

    He said: "I respect people's right to strike if that's what they want to do, I'm not entirely pleased with the way that these strikes have come about but it's part of being in a healthy democracy.

    James Wharton MP

    "At the same time, we've got to recognise there are no easy answers to these problems. The country was left in a state of near-bankruptcy, difficult decisions are needed to put it right. We're putting in place out long-term economic plan and all the signs say it's working."

    Cathedral gets £185,000 10:19:

    St Mary's Cathedral in Clayton Street, Newcastle, has been given £185,000 by the World War One Centenary Repairs Fund.

    It is one of 22 cathedrals to receive nearly £5m in total. Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: "We are ensuring these magnificent buildings are preserved for future generations so they continue to serve their communities and congregations.

    "This fund is just one part of the Government's preparations to ensure the UK is ready to remember and mark the heroic sacrifice so many made a century ago."

    Tattoos on show 10:08: Jonathan Miles BBC Newcastle

    I'm talking tattoos - Do you make an instant judgement when you see someone with a tattoo on show?

    There's a story today about a woman who was sacked for having a tattoo of a butterfly on her foot.

    When it comes to your job, does it really matter if you have a tattoo on show? Call me on 0191 232 6565 with your opinion or tweet @BBCNewcastle.

    News on the hour 09:59:

    The top headlines at 10:00:

    'Their turn now' 09:49: Charlie Charlton BBC Newcastle

    We've had lots of reaction via text from our listeners on BBC Newcastle today.

    Mike in Durham texts: "Unions paid Labour to pay the bankers' bonuses after both bankrupted the country and stole people's pensions. It's their turn now."

    Martin in Whitburn texts: "Partial strikes won't make any difference, You need a national strike, that will bring the posh boys to their knees, and bust the coalition's indirect policies."

    Civic centre picket line 09:39: Fergus Hewison BBC Newcastle political reporter

    This is the Unison picket line at Newcastle civic centre. This is where public sector workers from many unions will rally later today.

    Picket line in Newcastle
    Shopping centre bought for £12m 09:29:

    A Durham shopping centre which is in administration has been bought for £11.85m by a London-based company.

    The Gates shopping centre

    The Gates Shopping Centre in Durham city, which includes shops, homes and parking, went into administration in 2012.

    Its new owner, Clearbell Capital LLP, hopes to build a cinema, new restaurants and student accommodation at the site, as well as managing the existing complex. The company said it hoped it would "improve the offering" to the area.

    Strikes 'are last resort' 09:19: Lisa McCormick BBC Tees

    Redcar and Cleveland Council leader and Labour councillor George Dunning tells me: "We can't be sure how many people are on strike but there's a lot of disruption.

    "My youngest son is a teacher and he's affected by this, and I'm personally affected as I've got grandchildren off school.

    "In a democratic society everybody has a right to strike. It's a last resort, the public sector has been pushed from pillar to post, we've lost 750 jobs here, and the government should seriously sit down and talk to the unions."

    Workers out in Hartlepool 09:09: Andy Bell BBC Tees

    I'm at the picket line at Hartlepool Council for BBC Tees.

    All of our councils say they've taken steps to minimise the impact on emergency and essential services, but people are advised that many council buildings will be closed to the public.

    Hartlepool picket line

    Picket lines will be mounted outside courts, council offices, job centres and fire stations, as firefighters are joining today's day of industrial action.

    News on the hour 08:59:

    The top headlines at 09:00:

    Repairs on Coast Road 08:48:

    One lane is closed on the A1058 Coast Road westbound in Newcastle at the A186 Station Road junction because of gas main work and emergency repairs.

    More on BBC Travel News for Teesside and Tyne and Wear.

    Picket line in Longbenton 08:41: Katie Cole BBC Newcastle

    Here are workers striking at the Department for Work and Pensions offices in Longbenton. We'll be speaking to some of them on BBC Newcastle.

    Picket line in Longbenton
    Other closures due to strikes 08:32:

    In Newcastle, cemeteries and crematoriums will remain closed. Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is also shut.

    In Teesside, Dunsdale recycling site is out of action. Stockton Council says cash offices in Stockton, Billingham and Thornaby are all shut too.

    But the lead mining museum in Killhope and Hardwick Park remain open, Durham County Council says.

    'Sixty-hour weeks' 08:23: Dan Johnson BBC News

    Teachers are on the picket line here in Gateshead at Charles Thorp Comprehensive School.

    Tony Dabbs, one of the teachers, said: "The 1% increase is a bit of an insult, we're also interested in pensions, teachers being made to work harder, longer and getting less.

    Picket line at Charles Thorp Comprehensive School

    "For teachers it's also about work load, we're working longer than ever before, 60 hours a week for some primary school teachers and that's unsustainable."

    Many services hit 08:13: Luke Walton Political Reporter

    In most North East councils, bin collections, libraries, job centres, care centres, museums, pools and leisure centres have also been hit by today's strike action.

    Also shut by the pay dispute are Durham's Gala Theatre, Shildon Locomotion, DLI Museum and Newcastle's Grainger Market.

    Strike affects North East 08:10: Stephanie Finnon BBC Newcastle

    Bins will not be emptied, schools will not be opened and council workers will not go to work across much of the North East this morning.

    Thousands of public sector workers in the North East are on strike today in a row with the government over pay.

    More than 350 schools in our region are completely shut with hundreds of others partially closed.

    Bright start, cloudy later 08:06:

    A bright start in many areas, although cloud will increase later with occasionally heavy rain arriving in Seaham and towards the eastern areas during the afternoon.

    Weather forecast

    Feeling cool near coast with outbreaks of rain and brisk northerly breezes. Maximum temperature: 16C (61F). Check the forecast near you.

    As it happened
    • News, sport and weather for Thurs 10 July
    • Join us again from 08:00 on Friday
    • Listen Live: BBC Tees and BBC Newcastle
    Good morning 08:00: Lloyd Watson BBC News

    Welcome to BBC Local Live this morning. I'll be bringing you news, sport, weather and travel updates from across the North East plus details on all the public sector strike action hitting the region.

    If you'd like us to feature your comments or pictures, send them to us by email, tweet us @BBCNewsNE or join our Facebook page.



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