Motorway hard-shoulder use ‘could cost lives’

August 31, 2006

Safety groups today expressed concern about plans for vehicles to use motorway hard shoulders to ease congestion.

A Highways Agency pilot scheme in which drivers can drive on the hard shoulder during peak times is to start on an 11-mile stretch of the M42 near Birmingham on September 12.

If successful, it could lead to hard shoulder driving being introduced on other motorways as a cheaper alternative to lane-widening schemes.

However, the national road safety charity Brake said today that rather than being money-saving, the scheme could be life-threatening.

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Motorway hard-shoulder use ‘could cost lives’

Firefighters strike over job cuts

August 31, 2006

More than 1,000 firefighters across Merseyside have begun a strike in a protest over planned job cuts.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the county walked out at 1000 BST on Thursday for four days.

BBC NEWS | England | Merseyside | Firefighters strike over job cuts

House prices continue to rise

August 31, 2006

House prices rose by 0.8% in August, figures showed today, bringing year-on-year growth to its highest level since April last year and suggesting the recent interest rate rise has not yet had an impact on the market.

Nationwide building society said the increase, which followed a similar rise in July, meant prices had increased by 6.6% over the past year, adding £10,412 to the average house price, the equivalent of almost £30 a day. The typical house now costs £167,721.

Guardian Unlimited Business | | House prices continue to rise

Minister admits malnutrition risk

August 31, 2006

Health minister Caroline Flint admitted yesterday that elderly people were still malnourished in some hospitals, in spite of government initiatives to ensure they received help during mealtimes.

Responding to a survey by the charity Age Concern, which found that lives were at risk because nurses did not have time to help elderly people eat, she said it was vital that patients’ aftercare received the same priority as their original condition.

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Minister admits malnutrition risk

Officials bypassing development safeguards

August 31, 2006

The supposed defenders of the British countryside are dodging and defying their own rules to permit development in beauty spots, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Weakened planning laws have opened the way to new roads, quarrying, wind farms and other invasions of wild landscapes, in spite of a battery of legal measures intended to protect plant and animal life as well as peaceful solitude.

Serious damage is imminent to two national parks and seven officially designated areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs), says the CPRE, which has posted a list of “nine jewels in the crown” under threat.

“This is not a matter of developers finding some clever loophole in the laws,” said Tom Oliver, the group’s head of rural policy. “It is the authorities themselves – central and local government – which are threatening most of the damage.”

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Officials accused of bypassing rural safeguards in development drive

Labour accused of spin overload

August 31, 2006

Public money is being wasted by the government employing too many press officers, the Conservatives say.

They say there are now more than 3,200 being paid from the public purse – a three-fold rise since Labour came to power in 1997.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour accused of spin overload

Open your eyes, union tells Brown

August 29, 2006

Civil service unions today responded with impatience to Gordon Brown’s latest call for pay restraint in the public sector, saying the chancellor needed to recognise how poorly paid his own workers were.

As the new political season began, Mr Brown called on Whitehall departments to base all public pay settlements next year on a 2% target, below the average 2.5% pay rise of 2006. | Society | Open your eyes, union tells Brown