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  1. Exactly a year after local elections saw a change in administration in Northumberland, the leader of the County Council says he is proud of what’s been achieved over the past 12 months, with ambitious plans for the future.
  2. The deadline is looming for community groups, charities and young people in the county to apply for funding from a much valued community grant scheme.
  3. Residents and staff at a Choppington care home are celebrating a good inspection.
  4. A businessman has been convicted of keeping a group of men as slaves – after he made them work 90-hour weeks in return for takeaway food and alcohol. Landlord Hargit Singh Bariana, 46, targeted vulnerable men who were left without homes due to alcoholism and drug addiction. The victims were all white British men – which the lead investigator said should challenge peoples’ perceptions of these types of cases which have previously predominantly seen victims trafficked from abroad. Bariana provided the men with accommodation, took all their housing benefit as payment and forced them to work. They were made to clean sewage pipes by hand and work 13-hour days in their bare feet. They did not receive a wage. Instead they were offered takeaway food and alcohol. Bariana would rely on their addictions and lack of accommodation to force them to work. If the victims refused he would then resort to violence and intimidation. It wasn’t until officers raided a property in the town linked to anti-social behaviour and drug use that police uncovered the offences. They found a number of men living in horrendous conditions who were initially too terrified to speak about their ordeal. When they did disclose the whole story to police, Bariana was arrested and later charged with eight offences under the Modern Day Slavery Act. Bariana, of Blue House Farm, Netherton, Bedlington, was charged with eight counts of requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour between 2009 and 2015. And at Newcastle Crown Court today (16 May) he was found guilty by a jury of six of those offences. He was also convicted of being concerned in the supply of Diazepam. Bariana was found not guilty of two of the force labour charges and also acquitted on a single count of robbery. He was remanded into custody by a judge and will be sentenced on the week commencing June 18 at the same court. Following the conviction, Chief Inspector Helena Barron said: “Hargit Bariana preyed on vulnerable victims for his own gain. “He relied on the fact that they were homeless with addictions to keep them under his control. “If they did not work then they feared they would lose their home and be unable to feed their addictions. “Previous slavery cases have highlighted the trafficking of vulnerable victims from abroad to work in this country. However, in this case all of the victims were white British men – which challenges people’s perception of this type of crime and highlights the fact anyone could find themselves subject to such offences. “It is a lesson for everyone that a victim of modern day slavery can come from any walk of life and any background. “Our message is that if something doesn’t look right then it probably isn’t right and we would encourage people to contact the police. “Often people don’t realise they are victims of slavery – so it is important in order to tackle this type of crime that we encourage local communities to stay vigilant and alert. “I want to take this opportunity to thank the victims in this case who have shown great bravery. “I would also like to recognise the hard work of our officers on this case, and for their continued efforts to target offenders benefiting at the expense of others. “Under the banner of Sanctuary, protecting those who find themselves vulnerable through a whole range of crimes including modern day slavery, is Northumbria Police’s number one priority.” Anyone who thinks they are a victim or any members of the public who have concerns about modern day slavery happening near them should ring police on 101 or call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
  5. This round-up of events is written by readers. To get your event or story included, simply fill out the form www.chroniclelive.co.uk/schoolnews St. Cuthbert’s RC Primary School, North Shields, Headteacher Shaun Dillon said: “Sixteen year 5 and 6 pupils are in training to tackle the challenging Coast to Coast bike ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth over four days from 23rd- 26th May. The children are making the 140-mile cycle in aid of international charity Children in Crossfire to help children across the world reach their full potential. "Support from the North Shields and school communities has been amazing. Rafa Benetiz and the Newcastle United squad have also supported the Super16 by sending a wonderful inspirational letter and donating signed footballs to help the children raise funds.” Young creatives from Jubilee Primary School in Wallsend welcomed BAFTA-nominated illustrator and picture book creator Joe Berger to their classroom for an interactive event, thanks to leading supply teaching agency First Class Supply and Seven Stories - The National Centre for Children’s Books Joe Berger is an award-winning freelance illustrator whose work has appeared in numerous international magazines and newspapers, book cover designs, animated shorts, title sequences and commercials. As part of the double-act Berger & Wyse, with Pascal Wyse, Joe has a weekly comic strip in the Guardian and the duo’s animated title sequence for BBC1’s Hustle was nominated for a BAFTA. Joe has illustrated over thirty books for different publishers, including Tracey Corderoy’s Hubble Bubble, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang series as well as his own Lyttle Lies series.
  6. The man whose body was found inside a home in Frances Ville, Choppington, on Friday morning has been named by Northumbria Police.
  7. A world class centre for engineering and manufacturing is to be built in Northumberland by a growing electronics company, creating a raft of new jobs. TT Electronics, a global provider of engineered electronics, has announced plans to plough £3m into its Bedlington base, to transform it into a centre of excellence for the growing business. The Bedlington facility is home to the design and manufacture of TT Electronics’ products used by customers in the aerospace market, including global aircraft engine manufacturers, such as hybrid circuits. Now the growing firm wants to create the centre of excellence to support its anticipated growth plans, working in partnership with customers to deliver smarter solutions. TT Electronics’ investment pledge comes two years after spending £1m on creating a clean room and automated production line, a spend which is already supporting production for aircraft engine makers while helping to win new customers. The ambitious new plans will trigger the demolition of some buildings and redevelopment of others, creating improved space for efficient engineering and manufacturing operations. The site currently employs around 310 people in Bedlington, up more than 25% since 2015, and headcount is expected to continue to increase in the next few years to support the anticipated growth for TT Electronics in the North East.
  8. Inspirational marathon man Mark Allison has been inspiring schoolchildren before he sets off on one of his most difficult challenges yet. Mark is known as “Run Geordie Run” for the incredible feats of fundraising which have seen him pledge to run all the way round the world. The runner, 46 from Bedlington, is just under a month away from picking up where he left off, in Belgrade. He aims to complete a gruelling 2,900 miles on this fifth leg of his challenge - passing through Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and finishing in Astana, Kazakhstan. To reach Astana, Mark will be running 31 miles per day, which will allow him just seven rest days during the 100 day run, and pulling a fully laden buggy weighing 110kg (17.3 stone). For the first time, he won’t have a support team helping out, and will have to pull everything he needs on specially designed buggy called ‘Chappie,’ which he will tow behind him as he runs. The buggy, provided by sponsors Chapman Ventilation, will be used for cooking and storage in the day, and a bed at night.
  9. A multi-million pound plan to “reinvigorate” a “forgotten” town centre is moving forward as cash is released. Northumberland County Council has announced that just under £6.5m had been released for a planned redevelopment of the former Tesco site in Bedlington . Though the businesses set to join the town have not yet been announced, the council says a “well-known food retailer”, more shops, apartments and car parks are on their way. The plans, estimated to cost £10m overall, were released in 2016 by the council’s redevelopment company, Arch. The scheme is set to bring up to 200 jobs to Bedlington. It was initially hoped construction would start in “late 2017”, but the start date is now estimated to be late this summer, subject to contracts being agreed.
  10. Shoppers in Newcastle could not fail to spot early morning queues forming in Grainger Street on Saturday morning. Lines of people were spotted waiting patiently for a certain shop to open - and for comic book fans it would be clearly worth the wait. Saturday is Free Comic Book Day and to mark the annual event the popular Forbidden Planet store had plenty giveaways ready for its 9.30am opening. Prior to that, the Travelling Man shop just a couple of doors down the street had opened especially early for the same purpose. It meant several of the queue could stock up on freebies there, when it opened its doors at 8am, and then take a place outside Forbidden Planet, which specialises in science fiction fantasy. Among them was 28-year-old Ben Leslie from Bedlington, Northumberland, who had already picked up two free comics in Travelling Man, having arrived at the shop at 6am.
  11. It’s that time of year. There’s been a flicker of sunshine so disposable barbecues and bags of charcoal are piled up outside petrol stations as the North East gets its grill on. The scent of charred food and smoke is as much a part of summer as beer gardens and brief interests in tennis. With a plethora of scenic parks and breathtaking beaches, it’s no surprise many of us opt to pick up a throwaway barbecue, gather our pals and head to the nearest beauty spot. But there are rules about where you can and can’t light up the BBQ. The council discourages BBQs in public spaces, but has issued guidelines for anyone who uses one.
  12. Plans to rejuvenate Bedlington town centre are moving to the next stage after funds were released by the board of Northumberland County Council’s regeneration company for a multi-million pound re-development.
  13. Plans to reinvigorate Bedlington town centre are moving to the next stage following funds being released by the board of Northumberland County Council's regeneration company for a multi-million pound redevelopment.
  14. Police are searching for a teenage boy who has gone missing from his Northumberland home. Liam Soloman, 14, has been missing since earlier this month when he left his address on Barrington Road in Bedlington. Officers believe he could be in the Sunderland area and are continuing their investigation to find him. They are now appealing for help from the public to track him down. A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: “Police are growing increasingly concerned for his welfare and now police are asking for help from the public to locate him. “He is described as white, 5ft4in tall, of slim build and with short, fair hair.
  15. Rock legend Mark Knopfler honoured fallen war heroes as he performed a moving guitar version of the Last Post. Mark, who grew up on Tyneside, dedicated his performance to the 17,000 Northumberland Fusiliers killed in the First World War. The rendition was part of a centenary music project organised by community group Superact, which will see events held between November 4 to 18 to mark 100 years since the start of the Great War. Mark said: “The First World War left its mark on families throughout the UK, and throughout the world. “It is important to remember the sacrifices made, and to think about why wars happen.” Having gone to school in Blyth, Mark dedicated the Last Post performance to the Northumberland regiment, which suffered more casualties in the war then any other.