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The firm behind the Olympics security fiasco has admitted that its loss on the bungled contract will be in the region of £50 million.

G4S is conducting an internal review after its failure to provide all of the 10,400 contracted guards for London 2012 forced the Government to step in with military personnel.

The group said it had delivered 83% of contracted shifts and that it was confident the Paralympic Games - starting on Wednesday - would be fully staffed with a security workforce.

Its half-year results revealed a significant drop in pre-tax profits to £61 million from £151 million a year earlier, although profits were held flat on an underlying basis after sales increased 5.8% to £3.9 billion.

There had been fears that the Olympics contract issues would hurt the group's prospects for future Government work.

Chief executive Nick Buckles confirmed that the resources G4S had put into sorting out the debacle meant it withdrew from bidding for a Department for Work and Pensions contract worth £20 million a year.

But he said no contracts had been lost as a result of the Olympics deal woes and insisted the group would continue to play a "major role" in the public sector, with an overall £3.8 billion-a-year contract pipeline.

He said: "We were deeply disappointed that we had significant issues with the London 2012 Olympics contract and are very grateful to the military and the police for their support in helping us to deliver a safe and secure Games. Clearly it is a big setback and we need to rebuild the brand over the coming months and years."

Prime Minister David Cameron must intervene in the row over the new West Coast Mainline contract to "get some sense" into the Department for Transport over the controversial deal, Sir Richard Branson has urged.

The Virgin boss has offered to effectively run the route for free to allow the decision awarding the 13-year franchise to FirstGroup to be re-examined.

It comes as Labour urged Transport Secretary Justine Greening not to sign off the contract until MPs have been able to scrutinise it in detail.

More than 100,000 members of the public have also signed an online petition against the decision, in a campaign supported by double Olympic champion Mo Farah, Apprentice star Lord Sugar and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Sir Richard, who has claimed that FirstGroup's bid will lead to "almost certain bankruptcy", said Virgin Trains and Stagecoach would operate the joint venture on a not-for-profit basis or donate profits to charity if the franchise needed to be extended beyond December for a few months to allow Parliament to investigate the decision.

"I think that the person that can really intervene to try to get some sense into the Department for Transport is the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister is currently on holiday, the Chancellor is on holiday and we would like things delayed by a month or so," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme."If, as a result of that, it means that the handover is delayed we would obviously be very happy to run it on a not-for-profit basis."

Labour said MPs had been denied the chance to raise concerns about the deal because it was announced during the Commons summer recess.

One in 10 health appointments were missed last year, costing the NHS millions of pounds and delaying treatment for other patients, figures have suggested.

Patients missed 5.5 million hospital appointments last year, said the Department of Health.

Although the figure is 250,000 less than the previous year, ministers are calling for hospitals to use more innovative solutions to tackle the number of people who miss appointments.

Newham University Hospital has started a pilot where diabetes patients who do not need a physical examination are seen via Skype.

A number of hospitals including King's College, London, and Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust already use a text message system to remind patients of their appointments.

Health Minister Simon Burns said: "It is important that people realise that not turning up for their agreed appointments, means other patients' care might be delayed and doctors' and nurses' time could be wasted, costing taxpayers money.

"Today we are highlighting the number of missed appointments so people can see the impact this is having on their NHS.

Exotic dancers, vibrant music and the smell of Caribbean food have livened up London as Europe's biggest street festival hit the capital.

Thousands of people cheered Notting Hill Carnival's colourful procession through the sunny streets to the beat of steel drums and sound systems.

Lines of traditional floats and brightly costumed dancers paraded along the three-and-a-half mile route during the event which marks the carnival's 48th year.

The party atmosphere saw face-painted children and families dancing on the side-lines and even police officers showed off their moves in front of the crowds.

 

More than 12,000 NHS job posts have not been filled after people have retired, quit or moved on to other organisations, figures suggest.

Between May 2011 and May this year, there were 89,926 people who left the NHS in England but just 77,522 of the roles were filled, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows.

The figures, based on NHS hospital and community health service staff, showed that the overall headcount of employees has reduced by almost 20,000 people since September 2009.

The number of people classed as "NHS infrastructure support" workers fell by about 20,000 from 236,000 to 216,000 from 2009 to 2012. Managers and senior managers lost 5,000 and 2,000 positions respectively.

Health Minister Anne Milton said: "There are 2,400 more clinical staff working in the NHS than there were two years ago in May 2010, including over 3,700 more doctors, and over 900 extra midwives.

"In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 17,500, creating savings that will be reinvested into frontline patient care. Funding will increase by £12.5 billion over the next three years, protecting the NHS for the future."

The figures showed that qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff posts have reduced by almost 5,000 in the last two years.

 

Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic on Tuesday said it would enter the short-haul market with the launch of a London-Manchester flight following rival British Airways' takeover of bmi.

"Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd today announced plans to fly from London Heathrow to Manchester Airport (in northwest England) from March 2013 -- providing competition to BA's short-haul service.

"The new route is the airline's first foray into domestic flying; signaling the start of a new network which will provide regional feed to its long-haul service," the company added in a statement.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway added: "Flying between Heathrow and Manchester is just the start for Virgin Atlantic's new short-haul operation.

"We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long-haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers. Our new service will provide strong competition to omnipresent BA; keep fares low and give consumers a genuine choice of airline to fly to Heathrow and beyond."

 

Commodities giant Glencore said Tuesday its net profit slipped 8.0 percent in the first half of this year to $2.27 (1.8 billion euros) although sales rose by 17 percent to $108 billion.

The company said increased volumes helped compensate for the drop in commodities prices due to dampened global growth outlook and an aggravation in the eurozone debt crisis hitting sentiment.

"Against the backdrop of this challenging economic environment, which saw most commodity prices down over 15% period-on-period, we are pleased to report that Glencore has continued to deliver a healthy financial performance," chief executive Ivan Glasenberg said in the earnings statement.

However he added: "Looking forward, we neither anticipate nor assume any material improvement in overall market or economic conditions in the near term."

 

The bank holiday weekend is set to be a washout, with wind and rain threatening to ruin music festivals, sporting events and trips to the coast.

After a blisteringly hot spell last weekend, forecasters are predicting that areas of low pressure will sweep in from the west, bringing wet weather and much lower temperatures.

To add to travellers' misery, the AA reported that those who take to the road will have to contend with rapidly-rising petrol prices.

Weather-wise, the late August bank holiday is mirroring the Jubilee bank holiday weekend in June, when rain hit many street parties as well as the spectacular Thames river pageant.

Just as now, the Jubilee weekend had followed very warm weather the week before. Last weekend, temperatures as high as 32C (90F) were recorded, but the thermometer is not expected to struggle beyond 20C (68F) over the bank holiday weekend.

"Last week's hot weather is being shoved aside rather rudely by a succession of areas of low pressure coming in from the west," said Paul Knightley, a senior forecaster with the Press Association's weather company, MeteoGroup.

He said rain would hit Wales and south-west England on Friday, while southern England could expect showers and longer periods of rain on Saturday.

 

Apple on Monday dethroned longtime rival Microsoft as the most valuable company in history based on the value of its stock, which climbed to approximately $622 billion.

 

The diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation.

The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the UK had a legal duty to extradite Mr Assange and that would not change if he was granted political asylum.

She said: "It does not change our position. Our legal position is not changing at all.