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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 187

Date:- 12 February 2005

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Question our PM. Yes..... it is really your chance to put your questions to Tony Blair in a one on one, on UK TV's very own channel Five News!

FIVE is offering members of the public a unique opportunity to quiz the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, one-on-one, it was announced this week. Presented by Five News' Kirsty Young, Talk to the Prime Minister will be the culmination of a day of special programming on Five, where people will be able challenge Tony Blair on a subject of their choice.

The day follows Tony Blair on a whistle-stop tour around the country as he takes part in special editions of; The Wright Stuff, the Five News lunchtime bulletin at noon and the flagship Five News programme at 5.30pm. The hour-long special Talk to the Prime Minister concludes this television first which transmits later this month.

To take part, members of the public need to submit the question they would like to ask Tony Blair face-to-face, in no more than 30 words, by phoning 0870 901 4200 or by filling out a form on the Five website

Five's Senior Programme Controller, News and Current Affairs, Chris Shaw, said:- "This day long event will give individuals the unique opportunity to challenge the Prime Minister in person - I think it will be a great curtain raiser for the forthcoming election campaigns."

Kirsty Young said:- "This day of broadcasting is another genuine first for the channel. Very few people get the chance to bring issues directly to Tony Blair and offer their own insights and opinions.

The choices politicians make have a real impact on all our day-to-day lives but it's rare you get to challenge them face-to-face on the impact of those decisions."

This is the first of 3 unique day-long television events which will enable people across the UK to speak directly to their political leaders. Similar programmes with Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy will follow.

The Wright Stuff is produced by Princess Productions. Sky News produces five News. Flame Television Productions will be producing Talk to the Prime Minister.

Business Link announces European Funding to support businesses

BUSINESS Link for Greater Merseyside is celebrating its success in securing further European Funding to support businesses across Greater Merseyside. The successor programme to the Growing Business Merseyside Pilot, which will provide £4.5 million of European Funding towards a total project value of £11,309,859.

The programme, which has been piloted over the last 20 months, aims to give small and medium sized businesses access to the very best business advice to improve competitiveness, at a fraction of the cost. Business Link has more than 220 approved suppliers across a wide range of disciplines; finance and accounting, sales and marketing, business diagnostics, operations management, general management, health, safety and environment, new product development, information and communications technology and human resource. 

Businesses are given the opportunity to select the consultants they wish to work with from the approved supplier list. Business Link will then fund up to 40% of the project cost.

Current figures show that Business Link for Greater Merseyside has already assisted over 950 small and medium-sized businesses across Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral to fund projects worth £12 million. And more than a third of the businesses accessing the support have come back for further projects. The most popular disciplines being, ICT, sales and marketing and finance and accounting. The new programme will begin immediately and run until 31 March 2006, by which time all projects will need to be completed.

Says Peter Morton, chief executive of Business Link for Greater Merseyside. "This is tremendous news for businesses in Merseyside and reflects the level of support that businesses have been experiencing over the past months. We expect that this additional European Funding will go a long way to helping businesses develop and grow using the support, advice and network of professional service companies that Business Link can provide." 

For further information on how Business Link for Greater Merseyside can help your business contact our customer service team on 0845 330 0151.

Search is on for a STAR from Merseyside

THE search is on for the STARs of post-16 learning and skills in Merseyside as the nominations for the STAR Awards open today. The Awards recognise and reward the unsung heroes of the learning and skills sector - people such as tutors, trainers, managers and support staff who have made a difference in their workplaces and who show real STAR quality. 

Anyone can nominate a STAR. To be eligible nominees must work in the learning and skills sector, which includes organisations such as FE colleges, work-based providers, prisons, adult learning centres and UK online centres. Last year over 1,600 nominations were received, 27 of which came from people working and learning in Merseyside. 
One of last year's short-listed nominees, Geoff Hanley from The Flagship Project in Liverpool, said:- "I was a transport workshop supervisor before I began work at The Flagship Project so being nominated for a STAR Award would have been difficult to imagine. It shows how profoundly learning can change peoples' lives - my own, my Learning team who do an outstanding job, and all those who will find new horizons through the project in future."

There are sixteen prize categories this year, including newly introduced awards for volunteers, teams and Subject Learning Coaches. Winners will be chosen by an independent Judging Panel, and will receive a £2,000 cash prize, trophy and certificate. The winning team will receive a £5,000 cash prize, trophy and certificate.

Dr Kim Howells, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, who attended the Ceremony in 2004 said:- "These Awards are the Oscars for the sector and recognise and reward the dedication of these STARs, so that their success can inspire others. Whilst actors and actresses, pop stars and singers are recognised regularly for their achievements, at events like this week's Baftas Ceremony and Brit Awards, we all now have a great opportunity to celebrate an unsung hero by nominating them for a STAR Award."

To nominate your STAR, visit, or call the STAR Awards Helpline on 0800 652 0528 and request a nomination form.

Students invited to participate in mock elections

THE Hansard Society, The Electoral Commission and the Department for Education and Skills today launched the Y Vote Mock Elections 2005 at Westminster Day, where over 3,000 young people met and questioned senior political figures, participated in open workshops and attended exhibitions by a wide range of political groups. The Y Vote 2005 mock elections project, which has been run by the Hansard Society since the 1950s, aims to actively engage students with the electoral process in the run up to the local and possible general elections taking place this year. It is anticipated that pupils from up to 3,000 schools around the UK will learn about the political, social and moral issues of the world by standing as party candidates, speech writers and canvassers in a mock election.

To help teachers plan, the Hansard Society has developed a comprehensive teacher resource pack, downloadable at, which can be interpreted according to the level of students' understanding of the political process. The pack contains teachers' notes and supporting materials, including a step-by-step guide to the mock elections, ballot papers and registration forms, activity ideas, manifesto guides to all the political parties represented at Westminster, and key curriculum links.

Teachers must register online to participate in Y Vote Mock Elections, and will receive a results poster and certificate acknowledging registration. Results will also be posted at following the elections.

Michael Raftery, Mock Elections Project Manager at the Hansard Society said:- "The Y Vote Mock Elections for schools mirror the excitement and buzz of a real election, raising awareness of Citizenship, and the benefits of active democracy. They enable students to fully participate, from standing as party candidates, writing speeches and canvassing support, to building ballot boxes and designing campaign posters. Mock elections are a great way to help students understand how the democratic process works." 

Stephen Twigg, School Standards Minister said:- "Young people who are engaged and motivated by the political process are essential to the future health of our democracy. The mock elections initiative provides an opportunity for pupils to develop their own understanding of how the democratic process works and why it matters. By experiencing the election process first hand - from running a campaign to the declaration of the final result - we hope that young people will develop the enthusiasm to take part in the future.

It is vital that we combat political disengagement amongst our young people, and giving pupils the opportunity to experience the buzz of a real election is a great way for young people to get a real taste for active democracy. The mock elections project will give that buzz." 

Beccy Earnshaw, Outreach Manager at The Electoral Commission, said:- "We are committed to encouraging more young people to get involved and engaged with in the democratic process. The mock elections are a great opportunity to inform and educate young people about how elections work and show them that politics affects their everyday lives."

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