Welcome to the Luton Today News Review of the Year 2013. A month by month look at the local news stories that shaped 2013, brought to you by the Luton news and Herald & Post. Use the timeline menu across above to select a month, or use the left/right arows to navigate. For more details click on the hyperlinks to view the full articles on our website, along with more photos and video content.
The New Year started with a splash in 2013 when 'celebrities' flocked to Luton to learn how to dive with Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley. Famous faces including model Caprice and Joey Essex visited Stopsley's Inspire Sports Centre for the ITV Saturday night show.
It was hosted by Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan and broadcast live from Luton, but some disgruntled members of Inspire were unhappy about the pool being closed to members for the programme.
Meanwhile Bedfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins appointed his deputy commissioners; Dallow ward councillor Tafheen Sharif and Simon Bullock.
There was controversy over what exactly Councillor Sharif's four-day-a-week £36,000 salary job would entail. Simon Bullock's salary as assistant commissioner was announced as £55,000.
Luton Borough Council announced changes to the Meals on Wheels service, with one of the suggestions being that residents should cook for their neighbours and share leftovers.
If January started with a splash, February started with a bang...almost. An unexploded First World War bomb was found in a shed in Stopsley by a team of workmen.
The German incendiary device was in Marilyn Gearing's garden in Stapleford Road. Mrs Gearing phoned the police who sent several units to the house including the bomb disposal squad to deal with the weapon. A Beds Police spokesman said the device was then taken away by experts for a controlled explosion.
Despite the cold weather, kerb-crawlers were making High Town residents' life a misery so Luton News reporter Connie Primmer spent a night on patrol with Bedfordshire Police to see how the force is trying to crackdown on kerb-crawlers.
The government's budget cuts started to bite with Luton Borough Council making tough decisions to slash care for Luton's residents. One woman spoke to the Luton News about the struggles she was facing.
Whilst most people's purses started to recover from the post-Christmas blues, Luton had a harsh reality check about poverty in the town. It was revealed that one in four children in Luton live in poverty.
In March, furious parents protested about the council's plans to make cuts to the school bus services. They stormed a council meeting, held demos and handed in petitions but to no avail.
In other transport news, plans for Luton's inner ring road were given the final go-ahead by government along with £15.9m worth of government funding for the £24.1m project which could be completed by summer 2014. The Town Centre Transport Scheme will see a link road constructed around Crawley Green Road, and the £24.1m project could be completed by summer 2014.
The traditional St Patrick's Day parade was rocked by suspicions of terrorism when the council ruled floats would not be allowed through the town as it would be a terrorism threat.
Luton's Irish Community were up in arms but the council did not relent and the parade went ahead without any floats.
Two murders in less than a month in Luton saw the Police and Crime Commissioner describing the crimes as "a blip" in April. Bedfordshire PCC Olly Martins said Beds Police were working to reduce crime. Mr Martins also said more trust needed to be built between the police and communities in Luton.
A Beds Police spokesman said most people did work with the police, and that the force was working to improve relationships with “pockets of people” who found it difficult to communicate with officers.
In High Town, a group of residents presented an anti-prostitution petition to the council after years of being fed up with sex workers on the streets outside their homes.They hoped the petition would force the council to take firm action against the prostitutes and associated problems.
A council spokesperson said the council has listened to the concerns of residents at public meetings and by knocking on doors and have taken a range of actions as a result, including fixing street lighting, cutting back shrubbery and bushes and installing gating in problem areas.
In May the town was shocked by another shooting in which a teenager was seriously injured. In response, armed police patrolled Marsh Farm and Lewsey Farm to reassure the public and stop and search those suspected of carrying weapons.
A £1000 reward has now been posted to anyone who gives the police information that leads to the arrest and conviction of any person who is involved in gun crime in the town.
The town's troubles didn't stop the community coming together for another successful Luton Carnival. The streets were packed with onlookers as glorious sunshine, hypnotic music and fantastic costumes made for a great day out.
As the weather started to warm up, things got very heated in Bury Park with a row over parking fines. A local businessman objected to the council fining drivers who parked on double yellow lines but his views were not shared by everyone
Young people in the town were given a space to call their own when the multi-million pound youth space TOKKO opened. With all the latest technology and facilities, TOKKO was a dream come true for youngsters. Facilities include a climbing wall, gaming area, dance and music rooms.
Cancer was given a good kicking by the women who ran the annual Race for Life in Stockwood Park. They were there to celebrate survivors and also in memory of those who weren’t so lucky in their battle with the big C.
The inspiring women of all ages and fitness levels ran in memory of loved ones and had a clear message: "Cancer, we're coming to get you."
The shock news of the summer came in July when Sir Peter Birkett, founder and director general of the Barnfield Federation, announced his resignation. He said: “I’d always intended to leave when I felt everything was on a sound footing. I’ve had eight years developing my ambition and everything is in good shape.
London Luton Airport celebrated its 75th anniversary and got its 76th year off to a flying start with a big birthday bash. A Service of Dedication was held by the Airport’s Chaplain, Rev’d Michael Banfield, and a reception was hosted by the Managing Director, Glyn Jones.
Residents sick of the eyesore of the Drill Hall site were delighted when it was announced the demolition would start soon. It’s one of a few new building projects about to begin in Luton, to help the town meet the demand for affordable housing.
Meanwhile some imaginative work by Luton's cops saw crooks foiled by an undercover investigation conducted in a High Town shop. The shop, ‘This and That’, was staffed by undercover police who bought and sold the second-hand goods between June 2012 and February 2013.
Homes were the hot topic in August, in a month that saw squatters kicked out of a house, travellers removed from their illegal campsite and the council's housing list closing to non-residents. Until August, applicants from anywhere in the world could request a council house in Luton, but new rules mean they will now have to live in Luton for more than three years. Anyone guilty of domestic violence would also be bottom of the list.
Councillor Tom Shaw, portfolio holder for housing, said: “We have a massive challenge in Luton with demand for housing far exceeding our very limited supply. I am therefore pleased that we now have a fair and transparent policy in place that ensures that priority is giving to those who need and deserve it most.”
There was bad news for people dependent on the Dial-A-Ride service as the charity made the shock announcement that it had to close due to funding cuts.
Announcing the closure Dial a Ride coordinator Dave Barratt said:“We do understand, in these times of austerity, that councils need to examine their services to balance their books and some cutbacks to front line services are inevitable.”
The big day we had all been waiting for finally came on September 25 when the Luton - Dunstable Guided Busway opened to the public.
The £91m project had been years in the making, but promised to change transport between the towns with its speedy service. Officially opened in Dunstable by Councillor Nigel Young – and in Luton by Secretary for Transport Norman Baker – the £91million project will connect Luton with Dunstable and Houghton Regis.
It looked like Christmas might be cancelled when the council said it had no money for Christmas lights and decorations in the town, but Luton-based airline easyJet flew in to save the day and sponsor the lights, on the condition that some of the lights were orange.
With just over 100 days to go until the big switch on, the Luton-based airline agreed to provide sponsorship in partnership with the Love Luton campaign.
In a further round of budget cuts, it was announced that street cleaning jobs would be axed in the town. A council spokesman admitted this would make it “unlikely” they would be able to maintain the same standard of service.
Tommy Robinson made headlines around the world when he sensationally announced he was stepping down as leader of the English Defence League, because he cannot control its “extremism”. Your local newspaper was one of the first media outlets to report the news.
Barnfield College came under investigation from the Department for Education and Skills Funding Agency when a whistle-blower made allegations about its finances and grades.
A spokesman for the department exclusively told the Luton News this week: “The DfE and the SFA have received allegations relating to Barnfield College and the Barnfield Federation. We are taking these seriously and are investigating.”
Bookworms were devastated when Luton Culture made the final decision to close some libraries in the town over the next few months.
Wigmore Library, Sundon Park Library and Luton Mobile LIbrary will all be closed due to funding cuts. Residents have petitioned for the libraries to stay open and have collected thousands of signatures but their efforts could not overcome the £1.58m cut to Luton Culture’s funding.
Shocking statistics revealed that since the school uniform grant was cut, thousands of children were going to school in Luton with no winter coat, inadequate shoes and no breakfast. New charity Level Trust launched to work with schools and help needy children.
Since the council stopped the school uniform grant in September, around 4,000 families are thought to be struggling to provide as many as 8,550 children with uniform and shoes.
The new Luton - Dunstable Guided Busway proved so popular that even motorists wanted to use it... unfortunately some of them forgot to get out of their cars first. Numerous car drivers were caught on the busway, most claiming they had driven onto the special lane by accident. Councillors said it was impossible to accidentally drive on the busway but motorists continued to prove them wrong.
In the midst of their investigation by the Dfe and SfA, Barnfield was hit with a warning about their GCSE grades at their special studio school. Barnfield College’s pioneering business and enterprise studio came under fire for ‘unacceptably low standards of performance.’
The town started the countdown to Christmas with the Lighting up Luton event in St George's Square. The annual Christmas lights switch included a lantern parade and carol singing.
This year's lights are sponsored by Luton-based budget airline easyJet and some of them are orange, the brand's trademark colour. As Luton prepared for Christmas, some scallywags showed they were not feeling very festive as they stole decorations from two pensioners' Christmas lights display.
Colin and Sylvia May Guest of Arundel Road have put on a fantastic display in front of their bungalow for the past 15 years, and were very annoyed to find the 3ft plastic figures of a Father Christmas and a snowman were stolen overnight.
Governors and the headteacher at Putteridge High School announced they were withdrawing from the process of converting to a Barnfield Academy, after months of "frustration and uncertainty". The news came a fortnight after SIr Peter Birkett resigned from his new job, saying the Department for Education investigation into the Barnfield Federation which he had founded could be a "distraction".
The National Union for Teachers Luton branch welcomed Putteridge High School's decision, claiming they had always had "deep misgivings" about the Barnfield Federation.