Newcastle is set to be named a City of Sanctuary this week. City of Sanctuary is a movement which aims to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. The goal is to create a network of towns and cities throughout the country which are proud to be places of safety.
Sheffield became the first City of Sanctuary in 2007, Swansea followed in 2010, now Newcastle is set to become the third City to officially adopt the title. Community groups and support services approached Newcastle City Council last year about becoming a City of Sanctuary.
After a year of hard work community groups and support services feel the level of service offered to asylum seekers in Newcastle is of a standard expected of a City of Sanctuary. The council's cabinet will be asked to approve the status on Wednesday.
By approving the status the council will be promising to support and help community and voluntary organisations and recognising the positive contribution migrants make to life in Newcastle.
Musa Hassan Ali came to Newcastle as an asylum seeker from Rwanda 11 years ago. He intended to move on but found the welcome in Newcastle so supportive he made the city his home. He says it is the only place he's truly felt safe in his life.
Newcastle City Council have released a statement after over sixty cases of food poisoning were reported following the Street Spice festival.
The Street Spice festival took place at Newcastle's Times Square last week where sixteen businesses attended the event.
Stephen Savage, the Director of Regulatory Services and Public Protection at Newcastle City Council, said:
“The City Council’s environmental health officers, in partnership with colleagues in the Health Protection Agency, are carrying out an investigation following reports of diarrhoea and vomiting illness in some people who attended the Street Spice festival which took place in Times Square last week.
"We have been working closely with neighbouring authorities to collect samples from those affected and we hope to have preliminary results by the end of this week. We are also working closely with the 16 businesses which attended the event to identify the foods which were on sale.”
Newcastle has announced plans to earmark £600,000-a-year for cultural projects.
Newcastle City Council was criticised by stars such as Sting, Mark Knopfler and Bryan Ferry when it announced last year budgetary pressures meant it had no cash for the arts.
The budget, which is being debated on Wednesday, has found £600,000-a-year for arts subsidies.
Leader of the Labour Council Nick Forbes said the money for the Newcastle Culture Fund came from a range of sources including public health funding and income from a loan to Newcastle Airport.
"I'm tremendously excited by the progress made on the Newcastle Culture Fund. It's an example of what can be achieved when organisations like ourselves, the Arts Council and cultural venues come together and think differently.
"We are on the final straight, and if full council agrees the plan later this week, we should be able to get the fund running within two months.
"The value of arts and culture to Newcastle has never been in doubt; what has been in doubt is the funding to support them. This new approach not only provides that security, but means those who wish can also make a contribution."
– Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council
The council will also pursue a partnership with Newcastle University where savings generated from shared services between the university and the council will be reinvested in the cultural life of the city.
The turn-around has been backed by the Arts Council England.
"The Arts Council is grateful for the way in which the City Council has worked closely with us to broker this new funding package for key cultural venues. But, of course, a 50% cut to the culture budget still means serious economic and social impact for Newcastle and beyond."