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Sir Richard Branson has threatened to walk away from the rail industry after Virgin Rail lost its West Coast main line franchise to rival transport company FirstGroup.

Sir Richard said he was "extremely disappointed" that the Department for Transport (DfT) had preferred FirstGroup to Virgin which had run the London to Scotland West Coast line since 1997, adding: "Based on the current flawed system, it is extremely unlikely that we would bid again for a franchise."

FirstGroup, which already runs a number of franchises including Great Western and ScotRail promised cheaper fares, more services and improved stations. But Sir Richard said bankruptcy had hit former East Coast main line operators GNER and National Express who had "overbid" for the East Coast franchise.

Sir Richard added that this was the fourth time Virgin had been outbid in a franchise tender process. He went on: "On the past three occasions, the winning operator has come nowhere close to delivering their promised plans and revenue, and has let the public and country down dramatically

"GNER and National Express over promised in order to win the franchise and spectacularly ran into financial difficulties in trying to deliver their plans. The East Coast is still in Government ownership and its service is outdated and underinvested, costing passengers and the country dearly as a result. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When will the Department for Transport learn?"

FirstGroup will take over the West Coast line on December 9, with the franchise running for 13 years and four months. The DfT said the franchise deal was worth £5.5 billion over the lifetime of the contract.

 

A couple who claimed the massive £148.6 million EuroMillions jackpot are expected to tell of their plans for the future as they celebrate their win.

It was revealed on Monday that the pair were from the town of Haverhill in Suffolk, but their identity has been kept a closely guarded secret.

They are due to go public when they accept their super-sized cheque, which will make them the nation's second richest lottery winners.

The staggering sum - of £148,656,000 - is just behind the £161 million landed by Colin and Chris Weir, from Largs in North Ayrshire, last July.

A difference in the exchange rate means this week's jackpot was slightly lower.

The couple were the only winners in Friday's draw.

 

Police chiefs will have to make "very difficult decisions" as cuts bite in the wake of the Olympics, the National Olympic security coordinator said.

Met Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison asked chief constables around the country to delay cutting specialist officers until after the Games.

Forces have been told to cut millions from their budgets and chief constable of West Yorkshire Police Sir Norman Bettison warned last week that any further cutbacks would leave officers unable to cope with a repeat of last year's riots.

It also emerged that Devon and Cornwall Police did not pursue more than 36,000 cases reported to them, representing 40% of all crime files, due to budget cuts.

Mr Allison said: "When the comprehensive spending review was announced a couple of years ago we were told we would have to reduce policing costs by 20% over a four year period.

"Thankfully I've been fantastically supported by my chief constable colleagues up and down the country because I asked them to delay any cuts in specialists until after the Games because I needed those specialists to deliver the Games, and we've been able to deliver what I think has been a fantastic event.

"But those cuts are starting to bite, they're starting to hit the service and nationally chief constables are having to make some very difficult decisions about what they're going to stop doing to ensure that they live within the budget that's now been given to them.

 

David Cameron has warned there must be "a big cultural change" towards sport in schools if Britain is to capitalise on the Olympic success of Team GB.

The Prime Minister called for a return to the "competitive ethos" in school sports and he hit out at teachers who were unwilling to play their part in coaching and mentoring young talent.

He said that while the Government is investing £1 billion in school sports over the next four years, more needed to be done if Britain was to enjoy continued sporting success in the future.

"Frankly, if the only problem was money, you'd solve this with money. The only problem isn't money," he said. "The problem has been too many schools not wanting to have competitive sport, some teachers not wanting to join in and play their part

"So if we want to have a great sporting legacy for our children - and I do - we have got to have an answer that brings the whole of society together to crack this, more competition, more competitiveness, more getting rid of the idea all must win prizes and you can't have competitive sports days.

"We need a big cultural change - a cultural change in favour of competitive sports. That's what I think really matters. And one of the answers there is making sure the sports clubs really deliver in terms of sports in our schools."

Mr Cameron said that while sport had been part of the national curriculum under the last Labour government, ministers had failed to ensure it was actively encouraged in schools.

 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is set to deny splits within the coalition Government over carbon emissions reduction, as he announces a £100 million investment in energy efficiency.

Speaking to an energy conference in London's Lancaster House, Mr Clegg will say that ministers are "unreservedly committed" to helping the low-carbon sector thrive, insisting that "no-one in Government" wants to depart from the programme to decarbonise Britain's economy as part of the fight against climate change.

Mr Clegg will tell an audience of business figures that the UK is "leading from the front" in a global revolution towards cleaner sources of energy.

He will announce a £100 million contract by UK Green Investments with fund managers Equitix and SDCL to provide initial funding to encourage foreign and domestic investment in non-domestic energy efficiency.

And he will hail the announcement by recycling firm Closed Loop of a £12 million expansion of its plastics purification plant in Dagenham, east London, which is expected to create and safeguard 100 jobs.

Many environmentalists were dismayed by Chancellor George Osborne's comment to last year's Tory conference that, while the Government would invest in green energy, "we're not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business".

And the Treasury is understood to have demanded cuts of 25% in subsidies for onshore windpower in a tussle between Mr Osborne and Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey, which ended last month with a 10% cut but question marks hanging over the 2030 target for decarbonising the economy.

 

Firms have been accused of "missing a trick" by failing to offer to help their staff manage their finances.

Three out of four are not given any support or advice to help them understand financial issues, found a survey of 2,000 workers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Employers were urged to tackle the problem to combat the danger of stress and anxiety-related under-performance among staff worried about debt.

Charles Cotton, of CIPD, said: "The impact of not providing financial education can mean a workforce pre-occupied or overwhelmed by their own financial worries, and unable to appreciate the value of their organisation's pay, benefits and pensions package.

"A little financial education can go a long way. It can improve performance by giving employees the means to alleviate stress and pressure they're under because of financial difficulties.

 

A flagship Government scheme to kickstart the economy will be rendered obsolete when an £80 billion lending initiative kicks off, it has been claimed.

The Funding for Lending scheme, devised by the Bank of England and the Treasury, will offer money to banks on condition they pass it on to businesses and households in the form of cheaper loans and mortgages.

It was reported that the launch will effectively supersede an existing £20 billion flagship National Loan Guarantee Scheme (NLGS), also known as credit easing, to encourage banks to lend to small businesses.

Treasury officials have told bankers the scheme, unveiled in March, will be quietly abandoned although not officially axed, according to Sky News.

There are fears that the loans made available to small businesses under the Funding for Lending scheme will be less affordable than those under the credit easing scheme because there is no obligation for banks to pass on a discount from the Government.

Labour claimed that would be a further blow to Chancellor George Osborne after he announced in June that the scheme was to be extended to allow larger businesses to take part. Shadow Treasury minister Chris Leslie said: "If the National Loan Guarantee Scheme was always supposed to be replaced by the new Funding for Lending scheme, then why, two weeks after that new scheme was announced, did George Osborne say that the NLGS would be extended?"

The initiatives to boost lending to businesses and households are of critical importance to the Government's attempts to revive the economy from the longest double-dip recession in more than 50 years. The Government borrows at relatively low rates as a result of the UK's perceived safe-haven status from eurozone turmoil and it is hoping to take advantage of its low borrowing costs to stimulate the banks to lend. But there are fears that its schemes do not address the underlying problems of a lack of demand for credit in the wake of the financial crisis.

 

The message to stay away from London during the Olympic Games has worked "too well", with businesses suffering as a result, it has been claimed.

There are fears the host city has turned into a "ghost town", with visitors flocking to Olympic venues but avoiding traditional tourist hotspots in the centre.

But despite concerns being raised by the tourism industry, the Mayor of London insisted that the city was "open for business".

A London Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman said too many people had heeded warnings about transport in the city. She said: "It's understandable that some people are staying out of the city at the moment. TfL and Locog did a good job of making people aware - maybe too good a job."

However, she stressed that it was too early to assess the impact of the Games on business, as the picture would only emerge when they have finished, and added that it was a traditionally quiet time of year for many. The spokeswoman also said there could be long-term benefits connected to international trade.

Boris Johnson said: "Things are going really well. London is open for business with world-class tourist attractions and theatres, world-renowned restaurants and world-famous shopping. "Crime is down across London, we've only needed about 40 per cent of the Games lanes so far and I'm obviously heartened that people have heeded the travel advice and have indeed got ahead of the Games."

Some theatres and tourist attractions have reported a fall in visitors. But Mr Johnson added: "Many, many thousands of people are flowing into London, the hotels are busy, the Olympic venues are attracting huge numbers and people are enjoying the brilliant live sites, a raft of free events for all the family and the free sport as well, with hundreds of thousands out over the weekend for the cycling."

 

Three people who were due to work as security staff at an Olympic venue have been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences, the Home Office said.

The trio were drafted in to work as security guards at St James' Park, Newcastle, but were arrested on Wednesday - just 24 hours before the Mexico and South Korea match at the stadium.

The three were employed by a private security firm, but were not G4S staff, a Home Office spokesman said.

He added: "These arrests show that UK Border Agency security checks are working.

"The responsibility for ensuring that employees have the right to work in the UK rests with the employer.

"The UK Border Agency is working closely with employers and contractors at Olympics venues to prevent illegal working."

 

A former Barclays executive at the heart of the rate-rigging scandal has walked off with an exit package worth nearly £9 million, sources close to the bank have said.

Jerry del Missier, who resigned as Barclays' chief operating officer three weeks ago, negotiated a severance deal worth at least £8.75 million in the days before he quit.

The Canadian banker, who followed former chief executive Bob Diamond out of the door, was one of Barclays highest paid executives with a salary and bonus package for 2011 worth £6.7 million plus a further £10.8 million from share awards from previous years.

It has been reported that the settlement represents just over half of a £17 million potential long-term incentive award made to Mr del Missier some years ago that matured in March.

Mr del Missier was dragged into the Libor-fixing affair when it emerged he had told staff to lower rate submissions following a conversation with Mr Diamond about Whitehall fears over Barclays' financial health.

The revelation comes a day after non-executive director and remuneration committee chairman Alison Carnwath stepped down from the board, piling more pressure on the crisis-hit board ahead of its half-year results on Friday.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of consumer publication Which?, said: "It's outrageous that people who preside over corruption in banking are being rewarded. The individuals involved in rate-rigging should be held to account, otherwise the culture of banking will never change."