Archive for January 24, 2012

Petrol tanker drivers start seven-day strike action The refinery at South Killingholme provides fuel to Jet petrol stations

More than 80 fuel tanker drivers at the ConocoPhillips oil refinery at South Killingholme in North Lincolnshire have begun a week-long strike.

They claim their employer, haulage firm Wincanton, is trying to reduce their pay by as much as 20%.

But Wincanton said the industrial action was “wholly unnecessary” and could ultimately put jobs at risk.

Similar action is taking place at depots in Kingsbury in Warwickshire and at Stockton-on-Tees.

The Unite union is warning that deliveries to Jet petrol stations could be disrupted.

The drivers voted by four to one last week to take industrial action, with 95% taking part in the ballot.

Nick Dennis, from Unite, claimed Wincanton wanted to “annihilate” the pay and conditions of drivers.

“Seven months ago the company approached us and asked us to enter into talks into a clear cost-down agenda on our terms and conditions, to enable them to keep their contract with ConocoPhillips.

“What we want is job security going forward. We don’t want extra pay. We are willing to negotiate anytime, anywhere.”

But in a statement Wincanton said it did “not understand why this strike is happening”, and claimed their drivers were “among the best rewarded in the UK”.

The company said: “There was never any question that Wincanton would implement new terms and conditions without mutual agreement.

“These discussions were derailed by Unite, who forced a ballot for industrial action.”

Coryton Oil  Refinery in Administration and Workers at an oil terminal in north Warwickshire have voted to go on strike  in a row over terms and conditions.


The Government has given an assurance it is doing all it can to find a buyer for one of the country’s biggest oil refineries after it fell into administration, prompting fears of job losses and fuel shortages.

Coryton refinery in Essex, which supplies 20% of fuel in London and the South East, has halted sales and told its staff it was unsure when supplies would start again.

The refinery was operating as usual on Tuesday but no deliveries of petrol or other products, including bitumen, were leaving the site. Petrol deliveries to garages and supplies of bitumen for road building and repairs will be affected “pretty soon”, unions believe.

The AA said recent disruption at refineries had been short-lived, adding its main worry was the possible effect on fuel prices. Professional services firm PwC confirmed it had been appointed as administrator to the UK arm of Petroplus, which includes the Coryton refinery, an oil storage site in Teesside and a Swansea research and development site.

The shutdown at the former BP-owned refinery – with a capacity of 175,000 barrels of crude oil per day – came as Zurich-based Petroplus said talks with its lenders had broken down and it had appointed a receiver to the UK refinery.

Linda McCulloch, national officer at the Unite union, said: “One thousand jobs are at risk but we firmly believe that joint action by the owners and Government can help secure the business.”

There are seven other refineries in the UK – at South Killingholme and Lindsey, both in north Lincolnshire; Fawley, near Southampton; Grangemouth, near Falkirk; Stanlow in Cheshire; and Milford Haven and Pembroke, both in Pembrokeshire.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “The refinery remains operational. We understand that a process is under way to put in place the necessary commercial arrangements to deliver product into the market.

“Companies have already made alternative arrangements to ensure adequate supply of products are available while these commercial arrangements are being put in place.”

Unite said energy minister Charles Hendry assured the union that the Government was “exploring all avenues” to find a buyer for the business.

Kingsbury oil terminal staff vote for strike action

WORKERS at an oil terminal in north Warwickshire have voted to go on strike  in a row over terms and conditions.

Drivers based at Wincanton haulage in Kingsbury, near Nuneaton, have backed a  campaign of industrial action, along with colleagues in Immingham, Lincolnshire,  and Stockton-on-Tees, in the north east.

The action could hit fuel supplies across the country, particularly in the  Midlands.

Unite said its members at Wincanton backed a campaign of industrial action by  more than 4-1 on a 96 per cent turnout, warning that drivers were being caught  in the middle of a “draconian” agenda of cuts.

National officer Matt Draper said: “For many years, Unite has been warning  that the growing instability in the industry must be tackled.

‘‘This resounding yes vote shows that the time and patience of these drivers  is running out.

“The Wincanton dispute is symptomatic of the wider problems in the petrol  industry which is becoming increasingly unstable as the oil giants, contractors  and retailers fight it out to drive down  costs to the detriment of the drivers and the safe delivery of fuel.”

Unite said it will shortly release strike dates for the drivers, who are on a  contract for conoco Phillips.

About 120 drivers were balloted at the three oil terminals.

Unite said a strike will hit fuel supplies across the UK and in particular  the Midlands and the north of the country.

Back in 2000 the Kingsbury oil depot was at the centre of a dispute over the  rise in fuel prices when protesters blockaded the exits to stop tankers  leaving.

During the crisis thousands of petrol pumps up and down the country were left  dry leaving motorists nowhere to fill up.

BREAKING NEWS from the blog that first broke the story

£10,000 Reward for Missing Prisoner


Police had already offered a £20,000 reward to catch the killers who shot Richard Deakin

Detectives hunting an “extremely dangerous” murder suspect who escaped from a prison van have offered a £10,000 reward for information about his whereabouts.

A man has been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender following the “well-orchestrated ambush” that saw John Anslow being sprung from custody, and is being questioned by police.

Officers from West Midlands Police detained the 44-year-old suspect just hours after Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke ordered an inquiry into how Anslow was able to escape from a prison van.

There is still no sign of the highly-dangerous category A prisoner, now at the centre of an international manhunt.

A gang of three masked men stopped the vehicle, smashed its windows with sledgehammers and punched its driver as it was taking inmates from Hewell prison in Redditch to Stafford Crown Court. Instead of being transferred in a high-security prison service van with a police escort, Anslow was with other inmates in a van run by a private contractor.

Detective Superintendent Martin Evans, of Staffordshire Police, the force leading the hunt, said: “Our investigation into finding escaped prisoner John Anslow is continuing to move quickly as we follow several lines of inquiry.

“Staffordshire Police are offering a £10,000 reward for information that leads to Anslow’s arrest and return to prison. We’re hoping that this sizeable reward will encourage those who know where Anslow might be to come forward. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.”

Property has been recovered following the execution of five search warrants in the Tipton area of the West Midlands and is now being examined by police, he added.

Officers have received calls about possible sightings of a silver Mercedes car used by Anslow and his associates,and are appealing for information about a silver Volkswagen Scirocco found abandoned close to the scene. It is thought the offenders used it during the incident, then switched to the Mercedes.

Anslow’s status was upgraded to Category A only after he was charged with the murder of businessman Richard Deakin last week.

Police offer £20,000 reward over killers who shot man

Gunman entering Mr Deakin's home
The gunman was seen carrying a weapon in Mr Deakin’s garden

Police investigating the “cold blooded and calculated” murder of a man killed in his Staffordshire home are offering a £20,000 reward to catch his killers.

Richard Deakin was shot in the chest while in bed at his home Meadway Street, Chasetown, on 5 July.

The reward was offered on BBC’s Crimewatch programme on Wednesday.

Police have released CCTV images of a masked man entering Mr Deakin’s garden carrying a weapon before leaving with an accomplice in a Vauxhall Corsa.

Two men have been arrested and released on bail as part of the inquiry.

Detectives have said they believe those responsible have links to the Wolverhampton, Tipton or Coseley areas in the Black Country.

‘Pick up the phone’

Det Ch Insp Dave Garrett, from Staffordshire Police, who is leading the investigation, said: “We’re determined to catch Richard’s murderers and are offering a substantial reward to encourage those who have information to come forward.

“There’s every chance that someone who knows the killers saw last night’s programme and we’re urging them to pick up the phone.

“As displayed in the CCTV footage, Richard’s murder was calculated and cold-blooded.

“We need to take these people off the streets and bring closure for Richard’s family.”

The car police believe the gunman escaped in was found abandoned less than a mile away in Coppy Nook Lane, police said.

Mr Deakin moved to Chasetown with his fiance Megan in 2008 where they lived with their daughters, aged four and two. He was alone at the time of his murder.

The reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible, police said.

Tesco will target deals according to the income of the people living near it’s stores

Tesco is to start customising its in-store products and promotions according to the income of local families, retail magazine The Grocer is reporting.

As part of the strategy, value-brand products will be promoted more heavily in poorer areas, while the supermarket’s Finest range of goods will fill more shelves in richer neighbourhoods. Stores will also tailor their promotions and discounts according to what they believe will suit customers in each particular area/region.

The supermarket has stressed that there will be no variance in the price of non-discount goods across its branches.

However, given the vast amount of deals on offer in Tesco stores, it’s clear that a shopper in a more affluent area might end up paying significantly more for their basket of goods than someone in a less well-off part of town.

Tesco squeezed at both ends While the supermarket already tailors its products based on the shopping habits of its Clubcard members, this takes the strategy to a new level.

Perhaps one of the reasons behind the controversial move is the fact that its rivals have been eating into its share of the market.

Discount chains like Aldi and Lidl have been enjoying double digit sales growth in recent years, while stores like Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have been applying pressure at the higher end of the market.

Make no mistake: the supermarket giant is feeling the pressure, having issued its first profit warning for 20 years at the start of January.

The Grocer reports that Tesco will initially trial the strategy in around 300 of its stores.

Half-price at Tesco is no cheaper than full-price rivals as Tesco offers dubbed the big price con

Half-price at Tesco is no cheaper than full-price rivals

Tesco offers dubbed the price big con

Other supermarkets selling frozen turkeys at the same price as ‘discount’

For Christmas shoppers watching their pennies, the offer of a half-price frozen turkey sounds too good to miss.

Unfortunately, Tesco’s heavily promoted deal is not all that it seems.

Too good to be true? Tesco's heavily-promoted half-price turkey is not all that it seems

Rival supermarkets are selling their own frozen turkeys for around the same price –  without the supposed 50 per cent discount.

A Tesco half-price, extra-large frozen  turkey is reduced to £25 from £50, while the equivalent bird sold by Asda is available at the full price of £24.

In theory, stores are supposed to advertise a product at the higher price for at least 28 days before using it as a benchmark for any price cut promotions.

Tesco insists that it complied with this rule by selling the turkeys at their full original price during the summer months of August and September – when very few shoppers would want a frozen turkey.

The Tesco offer reinforces the view that supermarkets try to pull the wool over customers’ eyes with bogus deals.

Some 42 per cent of shoppers do not believe that all offers are genuine, according to an Ipsos MORI survey last week.

The Office of Fair Trading is under pressure to prosecute supermarkets who mislead shoppers.

How the birds compare

Tesco’s turkey offers, which appear on its website, promise that small, medium and large frozen birds will all be half-price until December 27.

But Asda’s prices, without any claimed price cuts, are virtually identical.

They come in at £24 for an extra-large turkey, £20 for a large, £16 for a medium and £12 for a small.

The only apparent difference between the two types of frozen turkey is that Tesco describes its birds as ‘basted’.

Sainsbury’s has a number of Bernard Matthews turkeys. Again the full-price for these is close to the half-price figure claimed by Tesco.

One industry insider criticised the Tesco tactics, saying: ‘It is meant to be the season of goodwill but clearly all Tesco is interested in is confusing its customers.’

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘Supermarkets must do more to help people in tough times by offering real deals, not fake price cuts, and by making it easier to compare prices.

Fair game: Tesco insists that it complied with consumer rules by selling the turkeys at their full original price during the summer months of August and SeptemberFair game: Tesco insists that it complied with consumer rules by selling the turkeys at their full original price during the summer months of August and September

‘With family budgets under pressure from all sides, promised price cuts must be genuine.’

Tesco insisted the claimed  savings are real.

A spokesman said: ‘We cannot comment on how competitors  market or price their products. We are focused on providing great value for our customers.

‘Tesco own-brand frozen turkeys are a new range this year, introduced to stores in August, which are now part of a genuine half price offer.’

Which? has found that 40 per cent of us will be buying less food this year and one in four will spend less on the Christmas meal.

Four in ten will make savings by shopping at cheaper stores like Aldi and Lidl, while a third will be trading down on products.

Mr Lloyd said: ‘The good news  is that own-brand foods can taste just as good as premium brands, if not better, even for classics like champagne and mince pies.’

Tesco’s heavily promoted half price deal is not all that it seems.

Tesco customers claim that prices were increased in August,  so Tesco could then claim when it launched it’s price drop campaign in September that prices were cheaper but many items had already been sold at the lower price before it’s price drop .

Tins of  Quality Street the store claimed they were £10 but were now half price but the store has been selling the tins at £5 for some weeks.

If they were really half price the store should be selling them at £2.50. Many of it’s so called offers are misleading if not illegal it was claimed.

Tesco said some of the things highlighted were down to human error.

Earlier this week the BBC show PANORAMA: made the same claims as customers.

Estimated £1  Million Spent Replacing Every Lock At HMP Birmingham

A prison officer has been arrested on suspicion of stealing master keys for  HMP Birmingham in protest at its privatisation.

HMP Birmingham in Winson Green

Inmates at the 1,450 capacity Winson Green prison were placed on  lockdown for almost 24 hours after the keys, including one to open every cell  door, went missing last October.

Security firm G4S, which took over the running of the jail the same month,  was forced to replace all the locks at an estimated cost of up to £1  million.

Sources at the Victorian jail, the first in the country to be privatised,  said a  prison officer had stolen the keys to highlight grievances with the new regime.
An insider said the prison officer was trying to make a point because he  wasn’t happy about his contract terms under the new management.”

A West Midlands Police spokesman confirmed: “A man, aged in his 30s, was  arrested in December in relation to an investigation into missing keys at Winson  Green.

“The investigation into this incident is ongoing.”

A spokesman for G4S said: “We can confirm a member of staff is helping police  with their enquiries but, as the matter is subject to an ongoing police  investigation, we cannot comment further”.

Jerry Petherick, the company’s chief of custodial services, said: “It is not  an isolated thing in the prison service for keys to go missing but, because  Birmingham was transferred to G4S, it raised the profile of the incident.

“Prison operations continued as normal while a replacement system was put in  place and there was never any danger to the general public.”

Details of the arrest emerged after the publication this month of the final  annual report from the Independent Monitoring Board for the prison described  staff morale as “palpably low” during the privatisation process.

The report recommended that similar processes should be shortened and “lessons learned from HMP Birmingham’s experience”.

The decision to hand the running of the prison to G4S was condemned as “politically-driven” and “morally repulsive” by the Prison Officers’ Association  when the details emerged last March.

Detectives hunting an “extremely dangerous” murder suspect who escaped from a prison van following a “well-orchestrated armed ambush” have arrested a man in connection with the incident.

Officers from West Midlands Police detained the suspect on Monday night just hours after Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke ordered an inquiry into how John Anslow was able to be sprung from custody despite being classed as a highly dangerous category A prisoner.

The 31-year-old, who is now at the centre of an international manhunt, escaped after a gang of three masked men stopped the prison van, smashed its windows with sledgehammers and punched its driver as it was taking inmates from Hewell Prison in Redditch to Stafford Crown Court on Monday morning.

Instead of being transferred in a high-security prison service van with a police escort, Anslow was with other inmates in a van run by a private contractor.

His status was only upgraded after he was charged with the murder of businessman Richard Deakin last week.

Detectives hunting for Anslow executed five search warrants in the Tipton area of the West Midlands and arrested a man in connection with the suspected killer’s escape.

Detective Superintendent Martin Evans of Staffordshire Police, the force leading the hunt, said: “We have (been) working closely with colleagues in the West Midlands and West Mercia police forces to help investigate the escape of John Anslow. The searches of these addresses is just one element of this fast moving investigation.

“Police have also arrested a male from an address in the Tipton area in connection with the escape. He remains in police custody whilst the investigation progresses.”

Anslow was due to be taken to a category A prison, rather than back to Hewell Prison which was designed for lower risk category B, C and D inmates, after his court hearing, but he was sprung from custody at around 8.20am.

He is the first category A prisoner to escape from custody in more than 17 years.

Search Continues For Missing Herefordshire Woman



Searches are this morning continuing in and around the village of Orleton as police continue their work as they attempt to trace a woman who has not been seen since Thursday morning (19 January).

Police are becoming increasingly concerned for Alethea Taylor’s welfareMrs Alethea Taylor was last seen at around 8.30am on Thursday when her husband left home for work. There was no sign of her when he returned at 4pm.

West Mercia Police teams, including dog handlers, have been scouring the village and surrounding countryside and the force helicopter has been involved as has the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA) whose members have been focusing on streams and other water courses.

Today the Longtown Mountain Rescue team have brought their dogs to help with the search.

In addition, hundreds of villagers, co-ordinated from the village hall, have also been out searching for Mrs Taylor since Friday, with other local people providing hot drinks and refreshments for the volunteers.

Chief Inspector Adam Thomas, from the West Mercia Police Command Team in Hereford, said:

“Work is continuing this morning to find Alethea and once again we will be working with local people to co-ordinate the search.

“We have all been very impressed with the organisation and dedication of local people and it is clear Orleton is a tightly knit community and that many of those helping are friends or acquaintances of Mrs Taylor.

“We are most grateful for the assistance we are receiving and it really is helping us to cover more ground than we would using just our own resources.

“While our specialist search teams have focused on the countryside around the village it is a vast rural area and we would once again appeal to farmers and other landowners both in the immediate area and further afield to check outbuildings in case Alethea has taken shelter in one of them.

“Naturally the concern for her wellbeing is growing as each day passes and last night was the fourth consecutive night she has been missing.

“We believe she is vulnerable and there are concerns about her mental state.

“I’d like to reassure local people that no effort is being spared in the search for Alethea and I would appeal to anyone who thinks they have seen her since last Thursday, or who may have any idea why she has gone missing, to get in touch with us immediately.

“Alethea is described as being white, about 5ft 7inches tall, and as having short dark but slightly greying hair. When last seen she was wearing her night clothes but we still do not know what she was wearing when she left home.”

“Anyone who believes they may have information that could help find Alethea is asked to call West Mercia Police on 0300 333 3000 or 101.”