Nuclear bunker raid finds £1m cannabis farm

RGHQ ChilmarkImage copyright
Wiltshire Police

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Several thousand cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £1m were seized in a midnight raid on RGHQ Chilmark

A large-scale cannabis factory has been found in an underground former nuclear bunker, Wiltshire police have said.

Several thousand cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £1m were seized in a raid on RGHQ Chilmark.

Six men were arrested on suspicion of cannabis production following the midnight raid on Wednesday.

There are 20 rooms in the building with almost every one converted for the wholesale production of cannabis plants, police said.

The former Ministry of Defence bunker was built in the 1980s to protect local dignitaries and government officials in the event of a nuclear attack.

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Wiltshire Police

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Det Insp Paul Franklin said he was convinced it was “one of the largest crops ever discovered” in the county.

Described as “almost completely impenetrable”, Wiltshire Police had to wait for the suspects to leave the bunker before they could gain access.

Det Insp Paul Franklin, said it was only after getting through the nuclear blast doors, that the “enormous set up” was discovered.

“There are approximately 20 rooms in the building, split over two floors, each 200ft long and 70ft wide,” he said.

‘Largest crops’

“Almost every single room had been converted for the wholesale production of cannabis plants, and there was a large amount of evidence of previous crops.”

He added that he was convinced it was “one of the largest crops ever discovered” in the county.

Three men, aged 15, 19, and 37, all of no fixed abode, were arrested on suspicion of cannabis production.

A further three men, aged 27, 30 and 45, all from Somerset, were arrested on suspicion of cannabis production and human trafficking offences.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-39064526

Helen Bailey murderer Ian Stewart jailed for 34 years

Ian Stewart and Helen BaileyImage copyright
SBNA

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Ian Stewart drugged and suffocated Helen Bailey

The “wicked” fiance of children’s author Helen Bailey, who murdered her and dumped her body in a cesspit, has been jailed for 34 years.

Ian Stewart, 56, was convicted of secretly drugging and suffocating Ms Bailey in a plot to inherit her near-£4m fortune.

Her body was found under their home in Royston, Hertfordshire, last July.

Judge Andrew Bright QC said it was “difficult to imagine a more heinous crime”.

Stewart reported Ms Bailey missing three months before her body was found in the “foul-smelling” cesspit alongside the corpse of her dachshund Boris.

Helen Bailey: ‘More than a victim’

Helen Bailey: A life shaped by death

Sentencing at St Albans Crown Court, Judge Bright QC said Stewart had spun a “calculated and callous series of lies” in a bid to convince police, relatives and friends that his bride-to-be had genuinely gone missing.

Ms Bailey had been “excitedly making arrangements” for the pair’s wedding while Stewart was “planning how to kill her, hide her body and explain her disappearance as a case of an anxious woman running off because she could no longer cope with the more stressful aspects of her life”, the judge said.

‘Danger to women’

Stewart, who wooed the widow after meeting her via a bereavement website, employed a “significant degree of planning and premeditation” before the killing, the court heard.

During his trial, the prosecution said Stewart had played “the long game” in order to inherit Ms Bailey’s fortune, made from the publication of more than 20 books.

He plied her with the sleeping drug zopiclone in the weeks leading up to her death, and killed her beloved dog to make his “wicked lies…sound credible to those who knew her well”, Judge Bright QC said.

As he handed Stewart a life sentence, the judge said financial gain had been the “principal motive” for the killing.

“You knew Helen Bailey to be a wealthy woman but were not content with having to share in her wealth as her husband. Instead you wanted it all for yourself,” the judge said.

“I am firmly of the view that you currently pose a real danger to women with whom you form a relationship,” Judge Bright QC said.

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SBNA

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Helen Bailey’s body was found three months after she was reported missing

Ms Bailey penned the Electra Brown series of teen novels, and was also praised for her blog – Planet Grief – in which she talked about the death of her husband John Sinfield.

“The world has lost a gifted author and her family and friends will have to live the rest of their lives with the deep sense of loss your wicked crime has inflicted upon them,” the judge told Stewart.

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Stewart murdered Ms Bailey at the couple’s home in Royson, Hertfordshire, and dumped her body in a cesspit below the garage

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SBNA

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The body of Ms Bailey’s Dachshund, Boris, was found alongside her in the cesspit

As a result of the case, detectives are now re-examining the death of Stewart’s wife Diane, who died after an epileptic seizure at the couple’s home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, in 2010.

Stewart, who refused to appear via videolink from prison, was also found guilty of preventing Ms Bailey’s lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice.

He had denied murder, claiming two men called Nick and Joe had kidnapped Ms Bailey in April last year and blackmailed him for £500,000.

But jurors took just over six hours to convict him after hearing seven weeks of evidence.

Simon Russell Flint, defending, said during his mitigation: “The likelihood is, given his state of health, the sentence has a like-effect of a whole-life order.

“There is every prospect and likelihood Mr Stewart will end his days behind bars.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-39064218

Storm Doris: Woman killed as UK hit by winds reaching 94mph

Waves crash over a lighthouse in Newhaven, East SussexImage copyright
PA

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Waves crash over lighthouse in Newhaven, East Sussex

A woman has been killed as Storm Doris brought winds of up to 94mph along with snow and rain to the UK.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said the woman had suffered very serious head injuries after a piece of debris fell on to a street in Wolverhampton.

Strong winds have led to flight cancellations and road and rail disruption across much of Britain.

About 2,700 homes and businesses are without electricity in Northern Ireland after trees fell on overhead lines.

Northern Powergrid says nearly 900 homes have been left without power in Sheffield.

More than 400 homes are without electricity in Cheshire and at least 960 homes are without power across Lincolnshire.

Energy company SSE said about 700 customers had experienced power cuts in Scotland, mainly in rural Perthshire, Kinross, Dunblane and Milnathort, as result of heavy snow damaging its overhead network.

And thousands of properties are also without power in Wales, where a 94mph gust of wind was recorded.


Storm Doris travel disruption

  • Highways England has closed the Dartford Crossing linking Kent and Essex, the Orwell Bridge on the A14 in Suffolk and the M48 Severn Bridge because of strong winds
  • The M80 has been reopened after earlier closures in both directions due to snow, but motorists have been warned of continuing disruption
  • Heathrow has flagged at least 77 flights as cancelled on its website and says its schedule has been reduced by 10% because of the weather
  • Aer Lingus has cancelled 19 of its 111 flights between the UK and the Republic of Ireland
  • Gale-force winds have led to the cancellation of ferries and flights between the Isle of Man and the UK
  • Speed limits of 50mph have been imposed on several train lines affecting Arrival Trains Wales, Chiltern Railways, East Midlands Trains, Grand Central, Great Northern, South West, and Southeastern services
  • A number of trains have been cancelled from Euston station in London
  • The Port of Liverpool has been closed owing to strong winds

In pictures: Storm Doris hits the UK


Ambulance crews have been called to several casualties with people being injured by falling trees and debris as well as being blown over.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said crew members had been called to an incident in Dudley Street, Wolverhampton, where they found a woman with “very serious head injuries” after she was hit by an object thought to be a piece of roof.

A spokesman said: “Sadly, it quickly became apparent that there was nothing that could be done to save her and she was confirmed dead at the scene.”

There are Met Office severe weather warnings of wind, snow and ice that combine to cover almost the entire UK.

Media captionBBC reporter Alison Freeman is caught in Storm Doris

Heathrow has advised passengers to check their flight status before travelling to the airport.

A spokeswoman said: “With Heathrow operating at more than 99% capacity, there are no gaps in the schedule that can be used for delayed flights and as a result some passengers travelling may experience disruption to their journeys.”

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Torpoint Fire Station

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Firefighters freed the driver of a van crushed by a fallen tree near Torpoint, Cornwall

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PA

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There were closures on the M80 in both directions

National Rail said fallen trees, objects caught in overhead wires, heavy rain, flooding and debris on tracks were causing delays to several services across the country.

Storm Doris also halted filming on the set of ITV soap Coronation Street, with a spokeswoman saying the weather had made outdoor filming “impossible” and it would have to be rescheduled.

And a tree-lined avenue in Northern Ireland which featured in Game Of Thrones has been damaged by the storm

One of the beech trees that make up the Dark Hedges in Co Antrim has fallen victim to high winds.

The severe gusts of winds are said to be caused by a “weather bomb” – a very intense area of low pressure which “explodes” when it travels underneath a powerful jet stream.

Media captionWhat is a weather bomb?

Senior meteorologist Greg Dewhurst said the storm would bring “very strong winds and gales”, and that the centre of Doris was expected to pass over into the North Sea at around lunchtime.

Snowfall is expected on higher ground in Scotland, affecting Falkirk, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Dumfries and Galloway and the Lothian region.

Heavy rain is also likely across the UK, with some snow possible on high ground in parts of north Wales, north-west England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and East Anglia.

The strongest winds are expected to be “short-lived” and gone by the evening.

Media captionCar crushed by tree in Chiswick

Forecasters say there is a risk of flooding in Northern Ireland, and possibly at lower levels in northern England and the south of Scotland.

However, the Environment Agency said it had not issued any flood warnings for the UK.

More rain and wind is expected to continue through to the weekend and into next week but will not reach the same level as Storm Doris.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for ice affecting northern England, the Midlands, Northern Ireland and Scotland on Friday.


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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39060095

Street parties planned to remember murdered MP Jo Cox

Community lunch in Hackney in 2016Image copyright
Matt Alexander

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The Jo Cox Foundation is joining forces with The Big Lunch, which encourages community celebrations

Thousands of street parties, picnics and baking competitions will be held on 17 and 18 June to remember MP Jo Cox, a year after she was murdered.

Her widower Brendan said the UK-wide event, called The Great Get Together, would be a “fitting tribute” to the mother-of-two who died on 16 June 2016.

Her murder was “designed to divide our country” so uniting in this way would be “a powerful statement”, he added.

The Royal Family and several charities are helping to publicise the event.

Mrs Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, was murdered outside her constituency office in Birstall, West Yorkshire, by Thomas Mair, who shouted the words “Britain first” as he shot and stabbed her.

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PA

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Jo Cox had been an MP for just over a year

Mr Cox told BBC Radio 2′s Jeremy Vine his late wife “loved a party” and would have been “thrilled by the idea” of people coming together on her behalf.

“We wanted something that celebrated Jo’s energy but also brought the community together,” he said.

“That could be picnics on your village green, street parties, shared barbecues, community bake-offs. The basic idea is to get together and have fun.”

But he said the event also sent a strong message.

“The killing of Jo was a political thing designed to divide our country and split communities apart.

“As a reaction to that event, [we will] bring the country together en masse.”

Mrs Cox used her maiden speech in Parliament in 2015 to say people in the UK “have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

Media captionBrendan Cox: ‘She fought for her beliefs’

The event is expected to be similar the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, when more than eight million people took part in neighbourhood street parties.

Last year, 7.3 million people held lunches in streets, gardens and community spaces as part of a project known as The Big Lunch, which began in 2009.

This year, The Big Lunch will join forces with the Jo Cox Foundation to co-ordinate events on the 17 and 18 June.

“We may even surpass the Jubilee,” said Peter Stewart, director of The Big Lunch.

As well as street parties, charities including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, NSPCC, Women’s Institute, Help for Heroes and RNLI are planning their own events.

The RPSB said it would hold activities across its network of nature reserves. with details to come in the next few weeks.

“Whether it’s the Olympics, Jubilee or Royal Wedding people love that opportunity to come together,” Mr Cox added.

“But being British we need that excuse to get together.”

The Duchess of Cornwall and chef Jamie Oliver will join Mr Cox for the launch of the The Great Get Together at Clarence House later.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39042436

British suicide bomber dies in attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul

Media captionUK bomber’s path from Guantanamo Bay to Mosul

A British IS fighter who died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, the BBC understands.

The self-styled Islamic State group said two days ago that Abu-Zakariya al-Britani detonated a car bomb at an Iraqi army base in Tal Gaysum, south-west of Mosul.

He is believed to have been originally known as Ronald Fiddler.

Fiddler, 50 and from Manchester, was sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2002.

  • Who are Britain’s jihadists?

IS has now published a photograph of Fiddler, who was also known as Jamul-Uddin al-Harith before taking the nom-du-guerre Abu-Zakariya al-Britani.

Wife’s journey

He had been seized by US forces in Pakistan in 2001, before being sent to Guantanamo.

US interrogators found he provided useful information to them about the Taliban’s methods, and he was released after two years.

The Daily Mail reported Fiddler received a million pounds in compensation from the government when he came back to the UK.

The BBC has seen IS registration papers signed by Fiddler in April 2014 when he crossed into Syria from Turkey.

He volunteered to be a fighter, saying his knowledge of Islam was basic.

His wife told the Daily Mirror that she and their five children went to Syria try to persuade him to come back, but failed, and they ended up having to flee for their lives from IS territory.

UK fighters

Afzal Ashraf, a former counter-terrorism adviser to the United States in Iraq, told the BBC this incident demonstrated that “some of the people in Guantanamo Bay were up to no good”.

“It also throws into question some of the organisations that were supporting him, that brought him back [from Guantanamo].

“Some of them were associated a little too closely with this radical ideology, and they use the legal system – freedoms of speech, the importance of the rule of law – in order to subvert some of our systems in the UK and elsewhere.”

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the “pipeline” of British and European jihadists who once crossed the Turkish border into Syria, into IS-controlled territory, has now “pretty much dried up”.

He added: “Guantanamo Bay was incredibly bad in the ideological fight against extremism. It makes it very difficult for America, Britain and other countries whose nationals are there to maintain any kind of moral high ground, because they [detainees] were imprisoned without trial.

“And what do you do about the estimated 400 British jihadists who are still out there? If they don’t die on the battlefield, are they going to try and come back? How do you monitor them? Do you believe the people who say ‘I’ve turned my back on all of that’.

“Most people will probably want to do exactly that. Some, though, may have other ideas.”

Government advice

According to figures published by the UK government last year, about 850 people regarded as a national security concern have gone to become fighters in the Middle East.

Of those, just under half have returned to the UK and approximately 15% are dead.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria, and against all travel to large parts of Iraq.

“As all UK consular services are suspended in Syria and greatly limited in Iraq, it is extremely difficult to confirm the whereabouts and status of British nationals in these areas.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39045923

Supreme Court to rule on foreign spouse income limit

Passport security signImage copyright
Getty Images

The Supreme Court is to rule on whether an income barrier stopping thousands of British citizens from bringing a foreign spouse to the UK is lawful.

As of 2012, Britons must earn more than £18,600 before a husband or wife from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) can settle in the UK.

Critics claim 15,000 children have been separated from parents because of it.

The rule was introduced by the former coalition government to stop foreign spouses becoming reliant on taxpayers.

If the government loses, thousands of couples who currently live outside the UK could move to Britain.

‘Breaches family life’

The minimum income threshold, which also affects people settled in the UK as refugees, rises to £22,400 if they have a child who does not have British citizenship – and then by an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.

These thresholds replaced a previous, more general requirement to show the Home Office that the incoming partner would not be a drain on public resources and that the couple or family could adequately support themselves.

The current rules do not take into account the earnings of the overseas partner – even if they have higher qualifications, or are likely to be employed in higher-paid work than their British spouse.

The minimum income threshold does not apply to spouses from within the EEA.

In a series of test cases, affected couples argued that the rules breached their right to family life.

Two of the claimants, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, are British citizens who have partners who are Pakistani nationals.

The third claimant is a Lebanese refugee who cannot find suitable work in the UK despite his postgraduate qualifications. He says his similarly-qualified wife has high earning potential and speaks fluent English.

The final case concerns another recognised refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo whose wife has been barred from settling.

‘Unobtainable’

In 2013, the High Court ruled in the couples’ favour saying that the rules were “onerous and unjustified” – and the judge urged the home secretary to rewrite them.

That decision was overturned at the Court of Appeal, leading to the challenge reaching the Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court rules against the government, it could lead to the minimum income threshold being lowered or, potentially, require Parliament to reconsider the entire law.

When the government introduced the measures, it said they aimed to reduce the burden on taxpayers, promote integration and prevent and tackle abuse of the family migration route.

But campaigners say that all they have done is split up couples and families for whom the minimum income threshold is unobtainable.

They say that nearly half of the British population earns less than the income barrier, meaning they would be affected if they chose a foreign-born spouse.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39042445

Michael Watson talks of ‘frightening, violent carjacking bid’

Michael WatsonImage copyright
Getty Images

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Michael Watson was attacked in Chingford in east London

Former boxer Michael Watson has told of being attacked by two men who dragged him along the road as one of them tried to drive off in his car.

Mr Watson, 51, described the incident in Chingford, east London, on Thursday as “a very frightening, violent situation which came out of the blue”.

The boxer, who suffered a near-fatal brain injury in a 1991 fight with Chris Eubank, appealed for witnesses.

He said he had been “overwhelmed” by the kindness shown to him afterwards.

“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that, so I’m asking you to help the police in finding these men and bring them to justice,” he said.

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AP

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The WBO super-middleweight title clash with Chris Eubank in 1991 left Michael Watson with brain damage

Mr Watson, who was left partially disabled by his boxing career, was in a car with his carer Lennard Ballack when it was hit from behind by a white Mercedes at traffic lights at about 17:00 GMT.

Mr Ballack tried to speak to the driver but was sprayed in the face with “some sort of ammonia”, former boxer Spencer Oliver told BBC Radio 5 live.

Mr Watson got caught up in the seatbelt as he tried to get out. As the car was driven off, he was “hanging out of the door” and dragged about 550m (1,800ft), Mr Oliver said.

Media captionSpencer Oliver tells 5 live how friend Michael Watson is, after a suspected car-jacking.

He is recovering at home from injuries to the skin caused by being dragged along the road.

Mr Watson’s 1991 WBO super-middleweight title fight with Mr Eubank left him partially disabled and ended his boxing career. He spent 40 days in a coma and had six brain operations.

In 2003, he completed the London Marathon over six days, defying doctors’ predictions that he would never walk again.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-39024167

Council tax to rise while services cut, says LGA

Bin menImage copyright
Getty Images

Council leaders are warning of deep cuts to services despite nearly every local authority in England planning to raise council tax in 2017.

Increases of up to 4.99% are expected across the country, but libraries, bin collections and other services will still face funding gaps.

The Local Government Association says the cost of care for increasing numbers of elderly people is forcing up bills.

The government insists it is giving more money to councils.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said local authorities had been given a “historic” four-year settlement, giving them the certainty they needed to plan ahead, with almost £200bn available “to provide the services that local people want”.

Media captionReduced funds for services is “cutting into the bone”, council leader Izzi Seccombe tells Radio 4′s Today

All councils in England can raise council tax by 1.99% in April without having a local referendum.

The 151 social care authorities can increase bills by an extra 3% as long as that money goes on social care.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says 147 of these have already agreed or are planning to raise the extra money. And three-quarters are set to introduce the maximum hike.

Some residents will see even higher rises, as council tax regulations say the cap is based on the average council tax across the area, rather than a maximum for each household.

However, the LGA says further cuts will still be needed as councils are being pushed “perilously close to the financial edge”.

Warwickshire County Council leader Izzi Seccombe told the BBC: “To continue it is really looking like we’re cutting into the bones of services that matter to people.

“It’s not just social care. Things like roads, highways, bus services which are subsidised, libraries, access to leisure centres, waste services, children’s services as well.”

What’s the deal with council tax increases?

Why will there be a 4.99% rise?

All local authorities in England can raise council tax by up to 1.99% in April. Any higher, and they would need to hold a referendum to get residents to agree with the hike before they could put it in place.

But the 151 social care authorities can also increase bills by an extra 3%. This is the social care precept, introduced by George Osborne in 2015 to allow local authorities to raise extra money to specifically pay for social care.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says 147 of these have already agreed or are planning to raise the extra money. And three-quarters are set to introduce the maximum hike.

Added together, this means most people in England will be looking at a 4.99% rise in council tax in the coming year.

Some people will pay more as the 4.99% cap only has to be the “average” rise across the area. So for Swindon Borough Council, for example, householders in some council tax bands will see a 3.12% rise whilst others will see a 7.28% rise – with the average staying within the rules.

Will this rise cover local services?

Many councils say no and their issue stems from a change in the way local services are funded.

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PA

Central government grants have been reduced after the government decided to devolve spending from Whitehall to local authorities in 2015.

Councils were offered four-year settlements to help them plan ahead for the removal of the funding, and were told to change to a model where they used council tax and business rates collected locally to pay for services, rather than government grants.

By 2020, the grants will be phased out entirely.

But the LGA says councils are being pushed “perilously close to the financial edge” by the change and even with the extra money from their residents, they will still need to make cuts to balance the books.

What services could be hit?

As councils across England tighten their belts, there is a huge raft of services that could be squeezed further.

The services they provide range running recycling centres and organising bin collections through to tackling anti-social behaviour and controlling adoption services.

Warwickshire County Council leader Izzi Seccombe said: “All of these services are done to local priorities to ensure we have got what people need when they need it.

“Year on year it is roads and highways and grass cutting that tops the list [of priorities] as these are things that people have to deal with every day.”

Even these priorities could be looking at cost savings, as well as children’s services, leisure centres, transport projects and whatever else each council is responsible for.

There is one particular area of rising costs faced by councils that is said to be having the biggest effect though.

Is the cost of social care to blame?

It is the area where most of the warnings are coming from.

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Thinkstock

Councils spent £16bn last year on services for elderly and disabled people after funding from central government was cut by a third, in real terms, during the last Parliament.

Ms Seccombe said an extra £1.3bn was needed for social care in the next financial year alone.

And while the council tax rises would raise about £600m, she said that would be swallowed up by paying higher wages to existing staff more when the National Living Wage comes into effect.

Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, said social care faced a funding gap of £2.6bn by 2020.

“Extra council tax income will not bring in anywhere near enough money to alleviate the growing pressure on social care both now and in the future and the social care precept raises different amounts of money in different parts of the country,” he said.

“It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix this crisis.”

Other individual councils have made the point too, including Surrey County Council, which toyed with raising council tax by 15% to help tackle the problem but decided against asking local people to vote.

David McNulty, the council’s chief executive, told the BBC that local services were “at breaking point.”

But the government insists it has increased funding for social care by an additional £900m, meaning councils will have £7.6bn of dedicated funding to spend over the four-year period.

What is happening elsewhere in the UK?

In Scotland, a nine year-long national council tax freeze comes to an end this year and councillors will have the power to raise the basic bill by as much as 3%.

Each of its 32 authorities will be announcing their planned rises in the coming weeks. You can find out the date here.

Wales is facing similar pressures, especially with the cost of social care, but the country’s social services minister told BBC Wales that increasing council tax was not “fair” and “not an approach we’re taking”.

Rebecca Evans said Welsh ministers wanted to take a longer term approach towards social care funding but added: “We do need the UK government to help us with this”.


‘I’m very grateful for all they’ve done’

Social care is a lifeline for people like Maureen Edwards, from Surrey, who said that after she had a fall everyday living was “difficult”.

She said: “They come in and they get me up in the mornings and they wash me and then they sort of bring me downstairs and I have my breakfast.

“It’s just like normal living now, I’m very grateful for all they’ve done for me.”

But such services are being put under strain by the ageing population and budget cuts.

Councils are struggling to provide help, feed, wash or get people dressed in their own home or to pay for beds in a care home and the burden often falls on families.


Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38982643

NHS trusts overspent by nearly £900m

Surgeon

NHS trusts in England have racked up a deficit of nearly £900m in the first nine months of this financial year.

It comes despite the health service being given extra money to help it get on top of its finances after the record £2.45bn overspend in 2015-16.

Regulators forecast a slight improvement in the finances by April, but confirmed NHS trusts were on track to bust their £80bn budget.

Hospital bosses blamed winter pressures for the overspend.

They said they had had to treat more patients than budgeted for, while delays discharging patients because of a lack of community services had cost hospitals in particular.

The figures cover ambulances, mental health units and community services as well as hospitals – although most of the deficit has been accrued by the latter.

Between them they account for about two-thirds of the health budget as spending on GPs, training, drugs and public health are accounted for separately.

NHS Improvement, which released the accounts, said it had been a “challenging winter”.

January saw the worst-ever waits in AE, while nine out of 10 hospitals have spent the winter over-crowded with unsafe numbers of patients on wards.

But the regulator predicted the deficit could by cut slightly before April to between £750m and £850m – but still above the £580m figure suggested earlier in the year.

Some 135 out of 238 trusts had racked up a deficit in the nine months between April and December.

The total deficit when taking into account surpluses was £886m. That is less than half what it was at this point last year.

But the improvement has only been achieved because of a special one-off £1.8bn fund this year to help hospitals plug the gap.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trusts, described the latest figures as worrying.

He said trusts were expected to operate with a “wafer-thin” margin for error.

“We shouldn’t kid ourselves. The NHS’s underlying financial position is not sustainable,” he added.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39029265

Deputy head Jonathan Norbury banned for sex with teens

Jonathan NorburyImage copyright
Wales News Service

A deputy head teacher has been banned from schools for at least 10 years for having sex with teenage girls.

Education chiefs in Swansea launched an inquiry after Jonathan Norbury, 35, was given an £8,000 pay-off and a glowing reference despite his “sexually-motivated” actions being known.

He was cleared in January 2015 of alleged offences with two of the girls.

A disciplinary panel found 17 of 20 allegations of unacceptable professional misconduct proved.

The hearing in Cardiff was told Mr Norbury, from Swansea, was a primary school teacher and a church deacon but exchanged flirty texts and met up with three teenagers, then aged as young as 15, between 2005 and 2010 for sexual activity.

He denied any sexual contact took place before the girls were 16, admitting some of the allegations but arguing they had mistakenly or deliberately got their dates wrong.

Case presenter Cadi Dewi said: “He had a unique level of charisma and boys and girls flocked to him.”

‘No insight’

David Harris, representing Mr Norbury, told the hearing: “Whatever his character was up until 2010, he’s now a changed man,” and said he was now in a stable relationship.

Panel chairman Steve Powell said: “Mr Norbury showed no insight into his conduct and repeatedly ignored advice from colleagues.

“Though he admitted some allegations, he continued to deny others. In those denials we find he had lied.

“His conduct is fundamentally at odds with him continuing to work as a teacher.

“Although now in a stable relationship, his lack of insight means the committee cannot be satisfied there will be no repetition of this type of behaviour in future.”

A Swansea council spokesman said: “We welcome the decision of the panel. Their decision demonstrates we took appropriate action in dismissing Mr Norbury and referring him to the EWC ( Education Workforce Council).

“However, we are concerned about the processes which led to Mr Norbury receiving his reference, and have therefore commissioned an independent review.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-39001987