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Commenting on the government's newly announced policy on the number of skilled migrants from outside the EU allowed into the UK, Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said:

 

"While we are pleased that the government has listened to business on intra-company transfers, we are still concerned that the lack of flexibility inherent in a cap will have a detrimental effect on London's competitiveness and productivity."

The government's decision to reduce Tier 1 to just 1000 people a year was an unwelcome surprise which will deprive London of some the brightest and best professionals in the world."

 

"We will continue to lobby the government for an immigration system that minimises damage to London based firms and in the months to come we will be closely monitoring the effect the cap is having on the capital's economy."

Sir,

The Prime Minister’s ‘’wooing’’ of Nordic and Baltic nations with a January summit came as no surprise (“Cameron woos Nordic nations, November 24).

London has traded with the Hanseatic and other near ports for thousands of years: at one time the German merchants running our wool trade (near Cannon Street station) even elected their own City Alderman and policed their own streets.

So, rather than worry about whether the UK is in spirit a Nordic, Baltic or even a Scandic country, we should remember that our shared traditions of passport-less open trade and entrepreneurship come from bordering the North Sea and its adjacent waterways.

A good case can be made for these waters acting as a catalyst for early European economic growth – a sort of medieval superhighway of goods and ideas.  Even today in Hamburg they say ‘When it rains in London, we put up our umbrellas here.’’

Michael Bear
Lord Mayor of the City of London
Mansion House EC4

Picture of Southern - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

 

Large areas of the country have come to a standstill, raising questions over Britain's capacity to cope in sub-zero conditions.

Thousands of commuters were left high and dry after rail operators cancelled many services altogether, while several major airports closed their doors and motorists faced chaos on the roads after many were forced to spend the night sleeping in their cars.

Meanwhile, 300 passengers found themselves stranded overnight on a Southern train in West Sussex after heavy snow caused a series of line failures at Three Bridges station.

Passenger Rebecca Forsey told the BBC: "It was an absolute nightmare. We had to wait around for several hours in the cold on a freezing platform. We finally got something to eat at 4am."

Bad weather meant thousands of children were turned away from lessons at schools across the country while workers arrived late or were forced to take the day off.

The number of schools forced to close because of the weather has more than doubled overnight, according to the Department for Education. Around 7,000 schools across the UK were shut today compared with about 3,000 yesterday, the Government said.

And as forecasters predicted more wintery weather, critics hit out at Britain's handling of the cold snap. Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said the crisis was costing the economy up to £1.2 billion a day.

Police in the North East denied reports circulating on social networking sites that they were pulling over and fining drivers who had snow on their cars. Both Durham and Northumbria Police spoke out to counter rumours being spread on the internet and via text message.

A spokesman for Northumbria Police confirmed: "As at any time of the year, in the interests of road safety, drivers are required to have a clear view through their windows when driving and officers may speak to drivers if this is not the case. However information appearing on Facebook that we are specifically targeting drivers for having snow on their car is just not the case - it would appear to be just another urban myth."

And road rescue group the AA continued to receive large numbers of calls. Spokesman Gavin Hill-Smith said they were busy with 5,500 breakdowns nationally from midnight to 11am. The rescue centre was receiving about 1,300 calls per hour, which Mr Hill-Smith said was far fewer than yesterday.

 

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Central London may see freezing temperatures this week and into the weekend, with some reports forecasting snow. We will keep you updated, but as a precaution we would urge all our residents, businesses and visitors to take extra care.

Parks

All parks in Westminster are currently reported as open.

Schools

All schools in Westminster are currently reported as open.

We are prepared, have ample supplies of grit and teams on standby ready to ensure we keep central London moving. But we’re asking everyone to do their bit too.

  • Keep a close eye on neighbours and vulnerable people – if you’re concerned about someone let us know

  • Clear away snow and ice from in front of your homes and businesses if it’s a hazard – just follow our clearing snow and ice guide

  • Please do keep warm. Pensioners may qualify for extra help and cold weather payments – see advice below

Last year Westminster was the first council in the UK to tell its residents to ignore scare stories that they could be sued for clearing snow and ice. Our guide below has since been adopted by the Government and issued to every single local authority in the country. If you follow it, you will be helping your local community.

Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Colin Barrow said: "We’ll be doing our bit, and we have plenty of grit and manpower to ensure the city keeps moving. But we also need a return to common sense and for people not to be afraid to pitch in and help themselves and anyone else who may be vulnerable in the cold weather.

"This includes checking in on that older or disabled neighbour and if necessary, picking up a shovel and clearing away any compacted ice and snow which may making an area dangerous. We've taken our own legal advice on this, and as long people do it properly, they have nothing to fear."

In Westminster more than 600 staff will be drafted in from across the waste and parks departments if snowfall is heavy.  The Council has also bought six new gritters fitted with GPS tracking, which will be used in conjunction with computer-controlled temperature sensors across the borough to see which roads require salting. 

A fleet of flatbed transit vans normally used to collect street litter is on standby and will be converted to send grit to old people's homes, schools and community centres and wherever it's needed. 

Guide to clearing ice and snow

  1. DO NOT USE HOT WATER. This will melt the slow, but will replace it with black ice, increasing the risk of injury.

  2. If shovelling snow: Use a shovel with the widest blade available. Make a line down the middle of your path first, so you have a safe surface to walk on. Then you can simply shovel the snow from the centre to the sides.

  3. Spread some ordinary table salt on the area you have cleared to prevent any ice forming. Ordinary salt will work and can be purchased cheaply from any local shop, but avoid spreading on plants or grass.

  4. Use the sun to your advantage. Simply removing the top layer of snow will allow the sun to melt any ice beneath, however you will need to cover any ice with salt to stop refreezing overnight.

Useful contacts

If you’re concerned about someone who may need help, do try and speak to them directly for reassurance. If you’re still worried, you can report your concerns to social services and we’ll investigate. But if there is an imminent danger to life you must dial 999 and speak to the emergency services.

Adult social services: 020 7641 1175 

NHS Direct: 0845 4647 or www.nhs.uk/nhsdirect

NHS Westminster (non-emergency, 24-hour): 020 8969 7777

For cold weather payments for over 60s who are owner occupiers contact us on 020 7641 6161 

westminster.gov.uk

The Markets Committee of the City of London Corporation has today (Monday 29 November 2010) voted in favour of revoking the outdated byelaws at its three food markets, which have been overtaken by national and EU legislation.

A lengthy consultation period revealed only one area of real contention: the licensing of the fish porters at Billingsgate. The City of London Corporation does not employ porters, and the licence is only a permit to work, although it recognises the emotional significance to the porters themselves and its historical connotations. However, nobody has made a coherent business case to continuing to licence only 20% of the Billingsgate workforce.

The proposals to revoke the byelaws, some of which date from 1876, have been supported by the fish merchants and their representative body, London Fish Merchants’ Association, who say that their businesses are being adversely affected by the portering arrangements.

Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Markets Committee at the City of London Corporation, says:

“I am very pleased that members have voted in favour of revoking these obsolete byelaws, which are not needed in modern markets. The City of London Corporation recognises that Billingsgate’s porters have opposed the plans and argued that the market’s future is now under threat. We do not share that view at all.

“We are committed to helping Billingsgate flourish and we are confident about its future. Today’s decision is proof of that, and it now paves the way for the Union and the porters’ employers to begin productive negotiations about modernising working practices.”

 

Andrew Buckingham

Michael Bear Lord Mayor Michael Bear delivers a speech to guests at Lord Mayor of London?s Banquet on November 15, 2010 in London, England. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has recently returned from a visit to the Far East, addressed the audience of the newly appointed Lord Mayor of London Michael Bear in London's Guildhall. He asserted that Britain's position on the world stage, both financially and militarily, is not in decline.

 

Commenting on today’s statement by the Home Secretary the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Michael Bear said:

"Immigration is an emotive issue that provokes broader public concerns about its impact on jobs and communities. But the City operates in a global business environment and international firms need the flexibility to recruit the best people.

"The Government has listened to legitimate business concerns, particularly with regards to intra-company transfers, and we appreciate that. We now wait to see how this measure will be implemented. The devil, as always, will be in the detail.

"London is a truly international city, home to talented individuals from all corners of the globe, and we must ensure it remains so for many generations to come."

The City of London’s Policy Chairman, Stuart Fraser, added:

"The Government made a specific pledge to reduce immigration and the City understands this is a pledge that must be kept.

"However, immigration, along with regulation and taxation, has long been an area of concern for the international business community.

"The City has a history of openness - to the top firms and the top people from around the world - long may this continue. Highly skilled workers are not a burden on the state; they generate wealth and are positive contributors to the UK economy and indeed to wider society.

"Obviously a balance has to be struck and these proposals go a long way in providing the certainty and predictability international firms will require if they are to continue to invest in the UK in the years to come."

Sanjay Odedra

British Airways Boeing B777 First cabin

 

British Airways cabin crew are to be balloted for fresh strikes in their long-running dispute with the airline.

Joint Unite leader Tony Woodley accused BA's management of "victimising" union members at the airline.

Mr Woodley said the union was "left with no choice" but to call the ballot in a bid to resolve the dispute.

Mr Woodley said: "British Airways' latest offer is not acceptable to our members, a point we made clear to the airline earlier this month. Regrettably, we have not found it possible to resolve the outstanding issues concerning cabin crew since then.

"BA told us it was a business in crisis. They demanded structural change. These changes have been made and this business is now in profit with senior management filling their wallets with the spoils.

"Yet BA is determined to continue with this vicious war against its workforce. It is time for BA to put its passengers first - and the best way to achieve this is to resolve the issues between us, which would not cost BA a single penny and yet would bring priceless stability and peace to the company.

"However, BA's continued hounding of union members leaves us no other option but to conduct a new industrial action ballot.

"This airline has conducted a year-long assault on cabin crew collectively and on many of them as individuals. We will not stand by while this airline bullies our members out of their jobs, and if it takes strike action to bring BA management to its senses, then that is the road we must, regretfully, travel."

A BA spokesman said: "Tony Woodley shook hands with us on an agreement in October and said he would let cabin crew vote on the deal with a recommendation for acceptance.

"Unite has broken this promise and instead has now chosen to create fresh uncertainty for customers and damage the interests of thousands of its own members within British Airways."

 

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Commander Adrian  K M Pierce Royal Navy

 

 

The naval chief in charge of a nuclear-powered submarine which ran aground on a shingle bank has been relieved of his command.

HMS Astute was on sea trials last month when it became stuck off the coast of Skye and ended up marooned for several hours.

Navy officials confirmed that Andy Coles, 47, lost his command of the submarine on Friday.

He will remain with the Royal Navy and is to be given another post.

A final decision has still to be made about whether Commander Coles will face a court martial over the incident.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: "From yesterday, November 26, he was removed from command of HMS Astute. He's going to continue with the Royal Navy. He will be reappointed to another post. It's an internal administrative matter between Commander Coles and his senior officers."

The spokesman said it was not known what the new post will be. He added that a new commanding officer of HMS Astute will be appointed in the near future.

The vessel ran aground on the west coast of Scotland on October 22. It was freed by the evening when the tide began to rise.

However, it is understood HMS Astute was damaged after a collision with the coastguard tug the Anglian Prince, which was sent to free it.

The submarine returned to its base at Faslane on the Clyde three days after the incident.

 

Around 140,000 local authority jobs are expected to be axed in the next year because of spending cuts, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association had predicted that 100,000 posts would go across England and Wales after Chancellor George Osborne set out the broad framework for public spending in the June budget.

But the association said that the Government's decision to front load a large proportion of the cuts into the first year, rather than allow councils to spread them evenly over the four years of the spending review, was likely to lead to more jobs being lost.

The "unexpected severity" of the first-year cuts means councils will have to trim their budgets by an average of 11% in 2011/12, said the LGA.

Some authorities will also have to deal with the "difficult impact" of the loss of the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, which channelled £450 million to different parts of the country.

The LGA called on the Government to ease the effect of reductions in next month's local government finance settlement so that councils could spread the cuts more evenly over the next four years.

National officer Brian Strutton said: "Local government frontline services will be badly damaged by 140,000 job losses predicted by LGA for next year. The Tory/Liberal Government has taken an almighty gamble with people's livelihoods by cutting public spending instead of putting the priority on growth and getting the unemployed back to work. It is not possible to deflate the economy back to growth and a balanced budget."

A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department said: "The local government finance settlement is due shortly and will be announced in a statement to Parliament. We are not going to pre-empt that statement and any commentary ahead of formal publication is pure speculation and in this case scaremongering.

"We are working towards delivering a settlement that will help to protect frontline services and the LGA would be well placed to focus their efforts on working with councils to do the same."

A Whitehall source said the Government believed councils could protect frontline services, especially if they cut "non jobs" and tackled high salaries among senior officers.

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A new Tory peer has criticised the Government's child benefit cuts - saying they give the poor more incentive to have children than the better-off.

Former party vice-chair Howard Flight told London's Evening Standard that taking the benefit away from top taxpayers would mean they were "discouraged from breeding".

"But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible," he told the newspaper.

The remarks were swiftly rejected by Downing Street.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said: "He is not a member of the Government, he is not a frontbencher, he does not speak for the Government and we do not agree with his comments."

Mr Flight was named just days ago by Mr Cameron as one of several new additions to the Tory ranks in the House of Lords - where he is yet to take his seat.

The ex-MP was forced to resign as vice-chairman after being taped before the 2005 general election suggesting the Tories had secret spending cut plans.

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