17/12/2009

National News In Brief

White Christmas?

About 200 drivers on the M20 and M2 in Kent were stuck in tailbacks overnight and flights have also been cancelled. Other commuters are also experiencing travel disruption as heavy snow falls across much of the UK, with south-east and east England worst affected. The Met Office has also issued severe snow warnings for London, the East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber. Up to 20cm (8in) has already fallen in counties including Kent, Essex and Sussex and more is to come as the Christmas week approaches.

Student Loans Still Late

The latest figures from the Student Loans Company suggest 28,000 people from England are still waiting to receive their loans and grants. Another 38,000 still have applications in the pipeline, although nearly half of these have had most of their money. The body, which runs the student support system for England, has been criticised in a report for the delays. It is drawing up an action plan to tackle the problems, which will include a management shake-up. The latest statistics from the Student Loans Company show more than a million applications for loans were made for this year - up in line with a 10% increase in applications to universities.

Teen Tan Suites To Go

A law banning under-18s from using sunbeds is possible before the general election, says the MP proposing it. Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan has put down a Private Member's Bill calling for the ban, and all other sunbed use in Wales and England to be supervised. She said: "There's a huge amount of support for it - we just need bit of luck and goodwill." Public Health Minister Gillian Merron said the UK government "fully supports" Ms Morgan's proposals and the British Medical Association Cymru said the proposed law would "close a loophole" in protecting the public.

Builders Welcome Tory 'Green' Plan
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The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has welcomed a mooted £20bn Conservative Party greener housing plans. David Cameron said a future Tory government would kick start investment to makes homes greener and more energy efficient. The scheme would be brought forward in partnership with Marks & Spencer and Tesco. FMB described the proposals as a welcome boost to help transform Britain's existing housing stock as well as creating much needed work in the building sector.

Repossessions Call

New research has highlighted that only half of households facing repossession orders actually attend their court hearings. There is also an indication that repossessions are not being considered the option of last resort by the courts. The research, undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Housing's (CIH) consultancy arm – ConsultCIH – looked at hundreds of repossession orders made in 2008. The research indicates that the letter of the pre-action protocol is being followed more than the spirit, and that judges are not being sufficiently proactive in seeking clarity and depth in the actions undertaken by lenders. The research supports the decision by government to extend debt advice services to help avoid repossession.

Scottish Landmarks Get Funding

More than £1.5m is being invested in revitalising some of Scotland's most important historic buildings, the Minister for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop announced today. The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, the Fairfield shipyard office building and Cottier Theatre in Glasgow, along with St Margaret's Church in Oatlands, will share the latest round of Historic Scotland Building Repair Grants. Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said: "The historic buildings around us give us a physical link to our past. The Fairfield building reflects the area's shipping heritage, while the Cottier Theatre and St Margaret's are former churches that are continuing to play a role in their communities. The history of a venue like the Cottier or the Assembly Rooms can add to their prestige and the impact they have on audiences."

Digital TV Problems

Television viewers in north-west England are still struggling to get local stations after the digital switchover earlier this month. The BBC has received complaints from viewers who received Welsh TV instead of their usual regional channels. Digital UK said 7.2 million viewers had switched over in that area and about 6,000 contacted their advice line about "overlapping signals". Analogue TV will be switched off across the UK by 2012.

(NS/KMcA)

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