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New body to promote region's automative industry

Assembly line at Nissan. Credit: PA

A major new body to promote and support the growth of the North East's automotive industry officially opens for business today.

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is an industry-led organisation which brings together major names including Nissan, Nifco, Komatsu, Sevcon and Hyperdrive.

The industry generates £7 billion in sales for the NorthEast and is responsible for £5.1 billion in exports.

The sector directly employs 26,000 people and impacts on a further 141,000 jobs.

A spokesman says around 8,500 people in the industry are due to retire in the next 10 years, leaving skills gaps - and this is one of the areas NEAA will be working to address.

It will also work at attracting new companies and jobs to the region, supporting business excellence and best practice.

There are many opportunities ahead for companies in the automotive industry in North East England to win new business in the UK and from overseas and to improve their competitiveness and capability. The North East Automotive Alliance will provide the platform for making sure companies in the North East are able to take full advantage.”

– Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan’s Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK

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Support for 'silent victims' of domestic abuse

Children are often the 'silent victims' of domestic abuse. Credit: Cleveland Police

A new system to support children who experience, witness or are directly involved in domestic abuse has been launched by Cleveland Police and Hartlepool Borough Counci.

Operation Encompass means that before the next school day officially begins, police will already have notified teachers of a domestic abuse incident involving a pupil at their school.

A designated key adult can then intervene early and offer any appropriate support to the child.

Some professionals call children the “silent” victims of domestic abuse as the effect on them often manifests itself in their behaviour – they might become withdrawn, disruptive in the classroom or even physically lash out.

It is hoped that school staff will now be better equipped to support any youngster affected by domestic abuse.

The 38 schools in Hartlepool (covering every child from the ages of 2 to 18 years in primary, secondary and academies) have signed up to Operation Encompass, and Head teachers have received training from Educational Psychologists and specialist police officers.

Posters will be displayed in school reception areas and the Cleveland Police website will include details on Operation Encompass.

Tackling domestic abuse is an absolute priority for the Force. Operation Encompass is a perfect example of our Victim First policy, which is at the heart of what we do. We can and already do record if children are present, witness or are involved in domestic abuse situations but Cleveland Police has never asked the simple question of which school they attend. I’m convinced this will greatly help youngsters who can suffer in many ways – either in the immediate aftermath of seeing or experiencing domestic abuse, or days, weeks or even months down the line. I’d also like to pay tribute to Hartlepool Borough Council’s Child and Adult Services teams and to the town’s Head teachers. Their expert input and ongoing support for the initiative is absolutely invaluable. ”

– Cleveland Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer

Garden hedge fire: police don't beat about the bush

Northumbria Police is appealing for witnesses after a hedge was set on fire in North Tyneside.

It happened on Saturday, February 28, at 1.14am, at an address on the Coast Road, near Billy Mill roundabout in North Shields.

Someone entered the garden via the driveway and set fire to the garden hedge, before making off towards Lynn Road.

The fire caused a small amount of damage to the hedge.

Funding to protect most vulnerable in the North East

Northumbria Police has secured almost £3m funding over the next year for projects to protect some of the most vulnerable.

Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird received confirmation from the Home Office today that five separate bids to the Police Innovation Fund have been successful, totalling over £2.7m funding over 2015/16 with more approved in principle for 2016/17.

These include Project Sanctuary - an extension to Operation Sanctuary - which would introduce community based hubs to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE); vulnerability and Modern Day Slavery.

Operation Sanctuary is the ongoing investigation into crimes of a sexual nature against vulnerable women and girls.

Also approved is funding for two projects focused on domestic abuse.

One looks at identifying, tackling and safeguarding serial victims which means an individual who has been a victim of abuse from two or more partners, family members or a combination of both. The second will be an enhanced project to tackle domestic abuse perpetrators.

Support given to children and vulnerable adults who are required to give evidence in criminal proceedings will also be maximised. The funding aims to change the way this is currently carried out by enabling evidence to be provided from more suitable sites outside the courts.

Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird. Credit: Northumbria Police

I am delighted with the news these five projects will receive well deserved monies from the Police Innovation Fund. Protecting the vulnerable is an absolute priority for me and the projects successful in this bidding process will go a long way to doing that, making a huge difference to our communities. I look forward to seeing the projects develop and be delivered over the coming year and the difference they will make to the lives of the most vulnerable in our communities."

– Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird
Chief Constable Sue Simm. Credit: North Yorkshire Police

I share the Commissioner's delight and these new and innovative projects will enable us to safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in our communities ensuring victims remain at the heart of everything we do.
This will enable us to combine the experience of my operational officers and staff with the expertise of partner agencies to introduce a range of improvements and build on the excellent work we already have underway. For example, making court proceedings less daunting for children and vulnerable adults is a significant step forward, as is the additional work we will be able to carry out to support serial victims of domestic abuse.
We are already leading the way in our approach to Operation Sanctuary where we are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to bring to justice those who target vulnerable women and girls and the extension of this approach can only serve to ensure our communities are no place for such crimes to take place."

– Northumbria Chief Constable Sue Simm

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Middlesbrough town hall to close for 21 months

Middlesbrough Town Hall. Credit: Middlesbrough Council

Multi-million pound plans to return Middlesbrough Town Hall to its full 19th Century glory have been given the final approval - and it means the town hall will be closed for almost two years.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has today given a £3.7m grant to transform the Grade II listed building.

The scheme will enable much wider access to visitors and provide them with a greater understanding of the history of the building.

It will also see parts of the building, currently inaccessible to the public, being opened up, including the Victorian courtroom, cells and fire station.

On top of the lottery money, the authority will also put £4m into the scheme.

Work is scheduled to start in January 2016 and will see the Town Hall closed for an anticipated 21 months.

The Town Hall is a stunning reminder of the town’s proud industrial heritage and continues to stand as an important local landmark for the community. Today’s HLF investment means that work can get underway in earnest on these exciting plans to reaffirm the building’s social and historic value, secure its long-term future and transform it into a flagship heritage asset for Middlesbrough.”

– Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East

Children in tears as Durham Free School closes

Durham Free School Credit: ITV News

Durham Free School has closed today, after a campaign to keep it open ended in failure.

Less than two years after opening, Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan ordered that the school be shut despite a passionate campaign by parents to keep it open with many saying it had transformed their children's lives.

In January, the government said it was terminating Durham Free School's funding agreement after inspectors rated the school inadequate.

Students, staff and parents of The Durham Free School have today marked the school’s closure with a service of thanksgiving.

The school has told ITV Tyne Tees that many of the children were in tears during the service which included readings, prayers written by students, a choir performance and the presentation of awards.

Our time at The Durham Free School ended with a sense of celebration for all that the children have achieved and thankfulness for the undying commitment of staff to care for the children and the continued support of parents and other supporters. It has been an incredibly traumatic time for our staff who have suffered personal abuse from a local MP and had their livelihoods threatened. They have been the consummate professionals throughout, behaving in an exemplary manner and always in the best interests of the children. It is a sad day."

– Acting headteacher Julian Eisner

We put up a fantastic fight and we can all walk out with our heads held very high. We all did our best and we can all be proud of what The Durham Free School has taught us."

– Dave Lewin, parent
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