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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 03 March 2007

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DESPITE the major issues that are dominating the news agenda, such as the environment, crime and terrorism, new research from Abbey reveals that finances are perceived as the biggest threat to quality of life. The Abbey Lifestyle Report, which looks at working trends and concerns across the UK, shows that 24% of people identify money worries as the biggest threat to their quality of life. By contrast, environmental concerns barely registered, with only 4%highlighting the environment as a major worry.

Retired people are among the least concerned with the environment (3%), with the research indicating that pensioners may be some of the biggest carbon culprits, spending almost a quarter of their leisure income on travel. For this group their personal health is the biggest concern and they are the section of society with the biggest fear of being victims of crime. Parents are the most concerned about the environment although only 1-in-20 see it as the biggest threat to their quality of life.

Other issues high on the news agenda but low on the public’s list of worries include crime (11%) and terrorism (9%). Fears vary greatly by region though, and while only 6% of Scots see terrorism as the biggest threat this rises to 11% in the Midlands, the location of a number of recent police operations linked to the prevention of terrorism.  In spite of these concerns, the nation is optimistic about 2007 with 32% of UK adults believing that they will have a better quality of life next year compared with only 15% who think their quality of life will deteriorate.  Students are the most optimistic, with 49% believing that they will have a better quality of life in 2007. Retired people are the most pessimistic, with just 21% believing that they will have a better quality of life.

Sue Hayes of Abbey commented:- “People are generally positive about their quality of life in 2007 and the much-publicised issues around crime and the environment don’t seem to be denting this optimism. The real concern for people is money and we are hoping that this is a signal that people are planning to get more engaged with their finances in 2007.”


COMPLEX employment laws are stifling businesses in the North West, according to figures released by the Federation of Small Businesses. The FSB - which represents around 18,500 businesses employing around 200,000 people in Manchester, Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and Merseyside - warned that many small businesses experience tremendous pressures due to government legislation such as age discrimination.

A free legal helpline for FSB members receives over 200 calls per day and queries about age discrimination have increased by a phenomenal 664% since 2005.  This rise is in response to new and proposed legislation including the recent introduction of a national default retirement age of 65 which has caused a headache for many small employers.  Confusion over religious discrimination laws also led to a 92% increase in calls on the subject while sexual discrimination legislation provoked a 56% rise in queries.  Many small businesses were also concerned about proposed changes to part time workers annual leave, as a 68% increase in related calls shows.

FSB North West policy manager Paul Henly explained:- "Employment law is vital to ensure that both employers and employees know where they stand and to protect both parties as they carry out their work.  The complexity of these laws is placing an intolerable burden on smaller firms who are not big enough to have their own HR department. The average small business owner spends 28 hours per month filling in forms for the government.  Our phone line study shows that many small businesses are becoming less efficient due to the time and energy lost to dealing with employment law. This strain could have an affect on the growth of companies and employment in the North West as creativity is lost to form filling."  Paul Henly added:- "With more than half of the private sector workforce employed by small businesses, these pressures could have serious economic consequences.  Reducing the burden of red tape on small businesses allows them to increase activity and the number of people they employ - leading to a boost for both owners and workers."

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