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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 30 January 2006

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THE debate on future energy policy for the UK was thrown open this week at the start of the public phase of the Government's Energy Review. 

Speaking at a launch event for the 3-month consultation attended by representatives from the industry, business and environment bodies and other stakeholders in Central London, Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said:- "I want the widest possible engagement in this vital debate. We need to look at the risks to security of supply, our climate change commitments and, to the long term, to make sure we take the necessary action. There is not a do nothing option.  We start from a strong base. We have enjoyed some of the cheapest prices in Europe for a decade now despite recent increases. We have lifted 4 million households out of fuel poverty since 1997 and our economy is on track to meet our Kyoto targets on climate change.  We're getting more energy from renewables than ever before.  But there are important challenges ahead and the consultation document serves as a wake up call.

Global fossil fuel prices are on the rise and we're becoming a net importer of oil and gas, like many other leading economies, as production from the North Sea declines. In a world of heightened concerns about energy security, highlighted by the recent dispute between Russia and the Ukraine, we need to look carefully at the risks of this new situation.  By 2020, coal and nuclear power plants generating about 30% of today's electricity are expected to have closed.  Companies will need to decide how this capacity should be replaced. These are big investment decisions so the Government needs to provide a clear framework. If gas, as well as renewables, were to fill the gap, how comfortable will we be relying on imports for 80% of our supplies?  And what would be the impact on our ability to reduce carbon emissions?"

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, who is leading the Review, said:- "We set out today the energy challenges. They are complex, interrelated and call for a rational, evidence-based and grown-up debate. There is no single simple option that will answer all the questions we're asking and no tick-box 'yes' or 'no' answers.  As well as energy supply we also need to look at demand.  I am determined that we make the connection between this review and the energy we consume in our everyday lives. We are all part of the problem and we need to become part of the solution.

30% of energy is used in our homes and the plasma TV generation is increasingly packing those homes with consumer electronics, domestic appliances and gadgets, often left needlessly on standby. This squanders more than £740 million worth of energy and results in over 4 million tonnes of excess carbon dioxide emissions every year, significantly contributing to climate change.  One unnecessary 100W light bulb left on in every home requires 2.5 Gigawatts, which takes the equivalent of 2 sizeable power stations to supply.  If we are going to make the best decisions for our energy future, we all, experts and public alike, need to engage constructively in the debate over the coming months."

The key questions posed by the consultation document are:-

* What more could the Government do on the demand or supply side for energy to ensure that the UK's long-term goal of reducing carbon
emissions is met?

* With the UK becoming a net energy importer and with big investments to be made over the next 20 years in generating capacity and
networks, what further steps, if any, should the Government take to develop our market framework for delivering reliable energy supplies?
In particular, we invite views on the implications of increased dependence on gas imports.

* The Energy White Paper left open the option of nuclear new build.  Are there particular considerations that should apply to nuclear as
the Government re-examines the issues bearing on new build, including long-term liabilities and waste management? If so, what are these, and how should the Government address them?

* Are there particular considerations that should apply to carbon abatement and other low-carbon technologies?

* What further steps should be taken towards meeting the Government's goals for ensuring that every home is adequately and affordably heated?

Comments are also invited on:-

* The long-term potential of energy efficiency measures in the transport, residential, business and public sectors, and how best to achieve that potential.

* Implications in the medium and long term for the transmission and distribution networks of significant new build in gas and electricity
generation infrastructure.

* Opportunities for more joint working with other countries on our energy policy goals.

* Potential measures to help bring forward technologies to replace fossil fuels in transport and heat generation in the medium and long

The issues will be looked at in the context of the Government's policies for competitiveness and sound public finances.

Council's 'cashing in' on parking fines

A LEADING business pressure group says councils are cashing in on parking as a stealth tax after it was revealed that the number of parking fines issued to motorists has doubled to a record 2.8 million in just 2 years.  The figures have been released by the National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS) and it is estimated that drivers are paying more than £400m in fines as more councils bring in private wardens to patrol streets.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) said councils are 'milking' the so called decriminalisation of parking schemes that allow town halls to take over responsibility for traffic enforcement from the police.

"These figures show there is a postcode lottery of parking fines,' said the FPB's Chief Executive Nick Goulding. "Certain councils like Birmingham, Brighton, Manchester and Liverpool are making serious cash by operating aggressive, awkward and expensive parking policies. Car parking is being abused as a license to print money.  The huge increase in the number of parking fines being doled out is extremely worrying for small businesses. Many FPB members are facing increasingly stiff competition from supermarkets, out-of-town shopping centres, which offer free parking, and, of course, the phenomenal impact of the Internet. Councils can rub their hands with glee watching the coffers being swelled by parking fines, but having an over-zealous parking policy can only undermine trade in any town or city. Councils should stop fleecing motorists and do all in their power to attract shoppers, not scare them away."

Mr Goulding urged local authorities to build more car parking spaces and make parking more convenient and affordable.  "Our members are telling us loud and clear that too many wardens are completely over the top,' he said. "This adversarial attitude must change. Shoppers need to see parking wardens exercising discretion and reason otherwise a town centre just gets a bad name."

Before Christmas the FPB made an appeal to councils to suspend car parking charges over Christmas and New Year to help attract shoppers to town centres in the most critical period in the retail calendar.

A selection of comments from FPB members:
Frank McKenna, Chairman of Downtown Liverpool in Business, an FPB partner said:- "There just aren't enough parking spaces in the Liverpool business district. Although there is a multi-story car park being built on the dock that is not convenient for the business area. And the wardens attitude is appalling."

Mr AR Metcalfe, Armet Logistics Limited, Great Howard Street Liverpool said:- "Parking in Liverpool city centre is mission impossible. The transport system isn't good enough so you're left with no option but to use the car. We have real problems getting to the bank because we have to travel into the city centre and there is no parking near the bank. This poses massive difficulties if we're in a rush. It is the same with the post office and the passport office. We know that the wardens are unlikely to be reasonable and give you good grace. That is not how life should be. Liverpool desperately needs more car parking spaces and the wardens need to take a more reasonable approach."

Mr Latham, CH Latham the Baker Ltd, Southport said:- "Parking is not good in Southport. There is a real shortage of spaces. Although we have a park and ride scheme that is not always convenient for shoppers. I think people want to be able to park near the stores they want to visit. The traffic wardens also give no leeway and are over zealous. All these factors are a disincentive to shoppers and visitors."

Trade missions pave the way for business opportunities

THE International Trade Centre for Greater Merseyside is leading trade missions in February 2006 to Madrid, Barcelona and Dublin, with opportunities available for Merseyside businesses.

The mission to Madrid and Barcelona on 5-10 February is the first step for any Merseyside company wishing to develop their business overseas, opening a potential customer base of 40 million people.

Spain has a rapidly expanding industrial base, an increasing number of quality-conscious consumers, a stable and prosperous economy, well-educated and skilled workforce and a comprehensive transport and telecommunications system.

The mission to Dublin will take place on 13-15 February. Ireland offers a buoyant economy along with an openness towards UK suppliers. It currently represents the 4th largest export market for UK products and services, with a travelling time of under an hour from Liverpool.

Colin Gardner, director for International Trade Centre for Greater Merseyside, said:- “These missions offer a huge opportunity for businesses. Eligible companies receive a subsidy of 50% off mission expenses, which includes flight and in-country travel, accommodation, in-market telephone calls and market research.”

'ONE person can make a difference' is the theme of this year's Holocaust Memorial Day event in Warrington.

HOLOCAUST Memorial Day is an annual national event on 27 January 06 when thousands of people across the country hold various activities to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust.

Warrington Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) has organised an event on the day at St Elphin's Parish Church where children from a number of schools across the borough will come together to present the theme through drama, music, pictures and reflections. Central to the service, and to reflect the theme for the day, will be the little known story of Sempo Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who was responsible for saving the lives of up to 40,000 Jewish people during World War Two by issuing exit visas via Lithuania, against the orders of his government.

Members of school councils from across the borough have been invited to present a paper crane as part of Friday's service and to reflect on one of the most valuable lessons of the Holocaust and the theme for the day - that 'one person can make a difference'.
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