An extra 1.3 million infants now eating free school meals

1.3m schoolchildren across England are now enjoying a free school lunch thanks to Liberal Democrats in government.

Figures out today (December 18) show that the policy has had a very high uptake in its first three months, with a total of more than 1.6m children enjoying a school meal every lunchtime.

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Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“Well over a million and a half infants are enjoying a school meal at lunchtime, giving them a better start to afternoon lessons and a healthy boost for their first years in school.

“The other good news for families is that this saves them up to £400 per child a year on the cost of a packed lunch.

“The naysayers about this policy can eat their hats, and all the leftover sprouts.”

Free school meals help boost learning and save parents money.

With the equivalent of 85 per cent of infants now tucking into a free school lunch. Across England more than 25,000 turkeys and 9.8m sprouts are being served up for Christmas school lunches.

Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws said:

“Christmas marks the end of a first successful term of delivering universal infant free school meals, and it is testament to the efforts put in by school staff, caterers and local authorities that more children all over England are enjoying the benefits of a great tasting, nutritional meal at lunch.

“Free school meals save parents money and ensure children are focused and able to concentrate throughout the day. Now we want to ​encourage more schools to focus on quality, and continue building on the huge steps we have already made since September.”

NHS Fraud – Did you know…

Hundreds of millions of pounds are defrauded from the NHS every year, in all sorts of ways and by all sorts of people.

This could be by patients, medical professionals, NHS staff and managers, NHS contractors and suppliers, and organised criminal gangs. For example, patients who deliberately evade NHS charges for things like prescriptions, glasses, and dental treatment is estimated to cost the taxpayer £156 million per year.
NHS Protect is a specialist branch of the NHS which tackles fraud, bribery and corruption against the NHS.
You can help to stamp out fraud, bribery and corruption committed against the NHS, by reporting any suspicions confidentially on freephone 0800 028 40 60 or online at www.reportnhsfraud.nhs.uk.
Find out more at: www.nhsprotect.nhs.uk or download The NHS  ‘Who Pays For NHS Fraud’ Leaflet
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Cameron wrong on support for wind farms

Prime Minister David Cameron has implied that people are fed up with onshore wind farms being built, despite the Government’s own research showing that a large majority of the public back them.

Latest research by the Department of Energy and Climate Change shows that 67 per cent of people support onshore wind farms. However, the Conservatives have said they would not subsidise new onshore turbines if they win the general election.

You can tell David Cameron that you support onshore wind farms here.

The Liberal Democrats will never abandon our commitment to the environment and we have ensured that it stays at the top of the agenda. In government, we have blocked a Conservative plans to impose a cap on wind farms.

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Putting the brakes on onshore wind would be disastrous for the environment, businesses and jobs.

Figures released earlier this year by RenewableUK show that 15,400 people are now employed in Britain’s wind power industry, an increase of 70 per cent since 2010.

In the year 2013 to 2014 the wind turbine industry attracted £2.6bn of investment.

Just days after Tory Chief Whip Michael Gove barred Tory Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd from attending critical climate change talks in Lima, the Tories have yet again shown their lack of commitment to green causes.

Nick Clegg discusses TTIP

When asked about his views on TTIP during the Bite the Ballot Leaders’ Live Debate, Nick Clegg said:

“I would never endorse TTIP, which is a big new deal which is being negotiated between Europe and America, unless it was absolutely crystal clear that we are allowed to do exactly what we want with our public services, with our cherished NHS, without being undermined by TTIP.

“We, as a government, are making sure that that is clearly there in writing by the EU negotiators and the European Commission for us to see, that there is no threat to the NHS, which I know is a fear that has been raised.

“I would never endorse TTIP if that were the case. I think that if I want my children and my grandchildren, if I want future generations to live in a world where the standards are set by our hemisphere, in Europe and across the Atlantic in America, and not just all set on the other side of the planet in Asia or Latin America, then having America and Europe sort out some things together, I think, is in the long term interests for us as we all move ever more in this globalised world.

“But it cannot, must not, and will not happen at the expense of our sovereign right to run the NHS the way we want.”

5 things you need to know about employment statistics

1. Is the rise in employment down to full-time or part-time jobs?

Employment rose 588,000 on the year and 95% of this – 560,000 – came from full-time-work. Part-time employment rose 28,000 on the year.

2. These statistics are from ONS. Who are they and where do they get their information from?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and is the recognised national statistical institute for the UK. It is independent from ministers. All figures are produced in line with the ‘Code of Practice for Official Statistics’ and relevant quality standards.

The employment figures come from the monthly Labour Force Survey, which the ONS oversees. This is the largest household survey in the UK and people are asked questions about their employment status, such as whether they are in work and how many hours they work. So, whether someone has a job or not is based on an individual’s own responses to the survey.

3. What do we mean by full-time employment?

In most cases, full-time workers will be working at least 30 hours per week. This is also based on individual responses to the survey: people are counted as full-time if they say they are full-time.

4. There are a record number of people in work, what type of jobs are they?

There are all sorts of different types of jobs available, including entry level jobs for young people who are joining the labour market and for people already in work looking to move up the career ladder.

Since the labour market recovery began, two-thirds of the growth in employment has come from people in managerial, professional and technical jobs. And over the past year, average private sector pay excluding bonuses rose 2%.

5. How do benefit sanctions affect the claimant count?

So long as someone is available for and actively seeking work, a Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant will remain in the claimant count.

Someone who isn’t available for and actively seeking work shouldn’t be able to claim JSA and wouldn’t be included in these figures.

Make your local pharmacy the first port of call for getting symptoms checked this winter

With wintry conditions now firmly taking hold, NHS North Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is reminding local residents about the benefits of using their local pharmacy for getting health advice and treatment for minor illnesses and ailments.

The reminder coincides with the NHS’ national campaign ‘Feeling under the weather?’ www.nhs.uk/asap which promotes the benefits of acting fast to prevent symptoms from getting worse and resulting in the need for more significant care or treatment.

The hope is that by people taking a more proactive approach to managing their own health, they can help reduce pressure on NHS services during the busy winter period.

Dr Margaret Sanderson, CCG Chair, said: “It’s common knowledge that demand for NHS services soars during the winter months as people are more prone to falling ill or having accidents in icy conditions.

“We are encouraging people to seek health advice from their local pharmacy in the first instance if they start to feel under the weather. Acting early can help ensure appropriate treatment or advice is given so that you get back to good health as quickly as possible.”

Janet Clark, Pharmacist and Chief Officer of Community Pharmacy Humber, added: “Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals who can do far more than just dispense medicines. They are able to offer advice on how to treat most minor illnesses and injuries and, if they can’t provide the appropriate treatment, they will tell you the best course of action to take.

“Some pharmacies are open late and you don’t need an appointment, so it’s easy to just pop in and discuss any concerns you may have. Also they all have a separate consultation area so you don’t need to discuss your symptoms in front of other customers.

“So if you start to feel under the weather this winter, don’t wait to make an appointment with your GP or head for A&E, pop into your local pharmacy for fast and convenient help and advice.”

A number of pharmacies are open over the Christmas and New Year holiday period – click here for details.

More information about staying healthy this winter is available at www.nhs.uk/asap and also www.northlincolnshireccg.nhs.uk/your-health .

For further information contact the NHS Yorkshire and Humber Communications Team on 0300 303 8394

Councils receive £3 billion reward for getting the country building

Councils have received almost £3.4 billion through the New Homes Bonus for building over 800,000 more homes, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis confirmed today (17 December 2014).

The minister said the figures demonstrated how more communities were saying ‘yes’ to new development, after planning reforms have put power back into the hands of local people.

It comes as new figures show that in the year to September, planning permissions have risen to 240,000 – showing that the locally-led system and incentives like the New Homes Bonus are working well.

Seeing the benefits of growth

In the year to October 2014, councils have helped provide 154,000 newly-built homes and conversions – including over 42,000 new affordable homes – and brought over 10,000 empty homes back into use. Mr Lewis today announced the provisional allocation of £1.2 billion New Homes Bonus to councils in England in recognition of this.

Since the New Homes Bonus was introduced in April 2011 more than 700,000 homes and conversions have been provided, and over 100,000 long term empty properties returned to use – leading to councils receiving almost £3.4 billion, including a £15 million premium for providing affordable homes.

Councils are free to spend the money as they see fit to benefit the local area – including freezing Council Tax.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

We’ve got the country building again and given local communities control over where new homes go in their area. This is in stark contrast to the housing crash and failed top-down regional strategies of the last government.

Councils have received more than £3 billion for their part in getting Britain building, and as a result housing construction has reached its highest level for 7 years.

All local authorities are free to spend the money however they like to benefit their local communities – whether that’s supporting frontline services, providing new facilities or freezing Council Tax.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:

I’m delighted to see the number of long term empty homes going down with 100,000 being brought back into use. Today’s New Homes Bonus payments are in recognition of council-led efforts to make this happen.

But I want councils to go even further, and use the range of powers we’ve put in their hands to end the blight of empty properties in our neighbourhoods and bring them back into productive use for the families who need the stability and security new home can provide.

Councils across the country have made the most of this additional funding to ensure their communities directly see the benefits of growth in their areas. This includes:

  • Braintree council, who have allocated £750,000 of their Bonus to affordable housing, and are investing £5 million in major infrastructure projects and projects which could stimulate housing growth, including improvements to the A120
  • South Gloucestershire council, who give grants to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations and town and parish councils to support them with their projects
  • Sheffield City council, who have used part of their New Homes Bonus to give a £1.6 million loan, allowing the development of 6 housing sites totalling 500 homes to be brought forward sooner than originally planned

Getting the country building again

Today’s allocations come at the same time as a an evaluation report on the New Homes Bonus to date. It considers the effect of the Bonus on the attitudes and behaviours of key figures, the financial impact of the Bonus on local authorities, how Bonus receipts are being used and other issues. The evaluation finds that:

  • almost 50% of planning officers agreed the Bonus was a powerful incentive for supporting housing growth
  • the Bonus is seen to be providing to its stated principles of being simple, transparent and flexible
  • in 2014 to 2015, 75% of local authorities are net gainers from the New Homes Bonus policy
  • the New Homes Bonus is largely matching the distribution of housing need
  • the policy is particularly helping to reduce the number of empty homes
  • it has strengthened the links between housing, planning and finance for councils
  • the Bonus is contributing to a more strategic and co-ordinated approach to housing provision within authorities and is one of a number of factors encouraging and supporting a more proactive approach to house building
  • the policy was supporting more positive attitudes towards new homes; the financial incentive and positive impact on attitudes is expected to further rise in time as the policy works it way through local plan-making

Unemployment falls once again

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that unemployment has fallen again.

In the three months to October, unemployment fell by 63,000.

The rate of unemployment stands at 6 per cent, its lowest level in 6 years.

There are 30.8m people in work and 1.7m new jobs have been created since Liberal Democrats entered government.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Today we’ve had another remarkable set of labour market figures, which show that the strong performance of the labour market has been broad based.

“This has led to an almost record share of the UK working age population being in work. In addition we are now seeing rises in average pay growth above inflation, meaning annual real wage rises for many workers.

“However there is still more to be done. Although youth unemployment has fallen in the past year, it remains too high.  That is why we will continue to encourage firms to invest in the UK and equip British workers with the skills they need to compete in the jobs market.”

Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

“Once again, we have a new record for the number of people in work, which is great news in the run up to Christmas.

“But more than that, today’s earnings figures show that the positive effects of our economic recovery are beginning to show in people’s wage packets.

“There’s a lot more work to do to secure the recovery and to ensure that trend continues.  That’s why it’s so important to stick to the balanced plan that has secured the recovery in the next few years, and not allow a lurch away from common sense with Labour or the Tories.

“We have to keep the economy on the path of strong growth, rising employment, low inflation and rising wages so that more and more of the people who have worked so hard to turn the economy around feel the benefit.”

Parts of Grimsby’s town centre improvement road works to be re-laid

Parts of Grimsby’s town centre improvement road works are to be re-laid following concerns raised by residents, businesses and transport users.

The move, announced at last night’s Full Council meeting, will be at no cost to the authority and will involve re-laying some of the more heavily trafficked streets with a more traditional road surface material after the block paving that was used worked loose.

The block paving was laid as part of a major redevelopment of the town centre carried out by North East Lincolnshire Council and its regeneration services partner Cofely. All works will be managed at no extra cost to the council under the existing contract for the town centre redevelopment.

Marcus Asquith, head of highways and transport at Cofely, said:

“We’ve investigated why the blocks have come loose in some areas and not others but it isn’t clear why this is happening.
“We want this to be an ambitious and attractive scheme for the town and the mix of materials we used hasn’t been used elsewhere. We’ve spoken to the contractor and the manufacturer to find a solution and decided that the best course of action is to resurface the areas affected.’’

The resurfacing works have been scheduled for Spring. This will allow us to review the effects of winter on the paving before beginning replacement activity.
Block paving removed as part of the works will be retained for use in future town centre improvements.

Humberside Police: Make your works Christmas party a night to remember for the right reasons

As part of Humberside Police’s Operation Yuletide this festive period, party goers are being urged to make sure they stay safe on their big festive nights out.

The festive period is a great time to socialise with friends and work colleagues in the run up to Christmas. Unfortunately these nights can lead to revelers drinking excessively which leave them vulnerable of becoming victims of crime and occasionally leading to serious assaults and sexual assaults.
As usual high visibility policing patrols will be working in drinking hotspots across Humberside in partnership with multi-agency partners and licensed premises in order to keep the public safe. The aim of this partnership working is to ensure we support people who may be vulnerable and positively deal with a small minority of people who misbehave. In addition we have distributed crime prevention advice to members of the public on how to stay safe on a night out.
To support us in keeping you safe we are urging you to adopt the following crime prevention advice for your Christmas nights out:
• Do not leave your drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers as this could lead to your drink being spiked.
• Stay with your friends on nights out as there is safety in numbers and try to avoid arguments – people often say things they regret or become more aggressive while drinking
• Plan your journey home in advance by arranging to book a taxi home or making use of any night bus services. Never work home alone.
• Never use an unregistered taxi.
• Do not drink and drive or travel with anyone drinking and driving
• Remember to alternate your drinks with soft drinks as these will help you stay hydrated.
• Make sure you wrap up appropriately for a night out.
For further advice on keeping yourself and property safe in the run up to Christmas visit our virtual advent calendar which was launched at the beginning of the month http://ow.ly/F20NG. Behind each window of the calendar you will find useful messages, images and videos that are aimed at helping to keep you safe and sound throughout the holiday season.
We will also be talking about our campaigns and operations on Twitter and Facebook so follow us @Humberbeat and look out for the hashtag #xmascrime, like our page www.facebook.com/humberbeat.