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Issue Date:- 14 July 2008


MERSEYSIDE lawyer Jo-anne Lomax is joining forces with one of Britain’s top law makers to introduce a Bill in the House of Lords this autumn. As a member of Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers, Jo-anne is supporting the Bill as part of a new campaign to end the injustice and financial hardship faced by thousands of cohabiting couples, carers and siblings who live together.

The Bill to give rights to couples who live together will be introduced by Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, a veteran human rights lawyer who successfully introduced the Forced Marriages Bill and was instrumental in developing the recent Civil Partnership Act.

“It is a scandal in modern Britain that existing law does almost nothing to prevent people from losing their home or sliding into poverty if their relationship breaks down or their partner dies,” says Jo-anne.  “Sensibly drafted legislation is urgently needed to tackle the vulnerability not only of unmarried cohabiting couples and their children but also co-dependent carers and siblings who live together.”

The Bill’s introduction is part of a newLiving Togethercampaign, launched by Resolution and Lord Lester’s Odysseus Trust.

Joyce and Sybil Burden, the elderly sisters who took their 30-year fight to protect their home from inheritance tax right up to the European Court of Human Rights, have added their support to the campaign:- “We have always tried to secure each other’s future after the death of one, but have found it impossible under this system. It was a bitter disappointment to lose our case at the European Court. We do hope you can help us, as after all these years, we are getting quite past it for ourselves.”

1 in 6 couples in the UK co-habit and do not marry according to the Office of National Statistics and this is predicted to rise to 1 in 4 by 2031. 53% of cohabitants still falsely believe in the existence of Common Law marriage. However, the Government has decided to postpone action on recent Law Commission proposals to reform cohabitation law pending research into the cost and benefits of reforms introduced in Scotland.

Lord Lester says that Britain’s more than 2 million cohabiting couples and co-dependents should not be made to wait any longer for justice:- "The Government's proposed research won’t even begin until 2010 and if cost was the issue, one has to ask why the Government specifically excluded research on cost from the Law Commission’s original brief. Many other countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand already have protection for cohabiting couples. It is high time that Britain had a family legal system fit for the 21st century.”

The Government’s timid response also flies in the face of growing popular support for reform.

Findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey, published earlier this year, show that almost 9 out of 10 people think that a cohabiting partner should have a right to financial provision if their relationship is a long-term one, has involved prioritising one partner’s career or includes children.  The campaign will also look at ways to extend protection to those who cannot marry but nevertheless live together in a co-dependent way. For example, it would cover siblings such as the Burden sisters, elderly parents and children who live with them and care for them.

The Bill would protect the vulnerable without equating living together to marriage or civil partnership in every way. For example, the Bill would apply only to people living in the same household for a minimum period of time in which the parties have provided a financial or other commitment to each other.  To protect freedom of choice, couples who wish to do so could “opt out” of the scheme provided legal advice is sought by both parties to protect the vulnerable.

Buildings progress recognised

LIVERPOOL City Council is welcoming a new report which shows it is making solid progress in improving at risk buildings in the city.

English Heritage has just released its new-style 'Heritage at Risk Register' - an enhanced version of its previous, annual 'Buildings at Risk Register' covering grade I (1) and II* (2 star) listed buildings.

The number of buildings on the list in Liverpool is down from 10 to 9, following the removal of the group of 4, late-Georgian properties at 98-102a High Street in Wavertree after action over the last 2 years.  Of the 9 buildings on the list, 3 have received improved, lower gradings as a result of council action. They are: Croxteth Hall and the laundry cottage within the hall’s grounds which have been improved as part of a programme of maintenance; and the Royal Insurance Building on North John Street, where planning permission and listed building consent for a new spa hotel are progressing.

Councillor Berni Turner, executive member for the environment and the council’s historic environment champion, said:- “I am pleased that the hard work going on to restore the city’s most historic buildings has been recognised by English Heritage.  We are absolutely committed to doing all we can to tackle the problems caused by owners letting their buildings fall into disrepair and become an eyesore. 

However there is still much to be done and we will continue to work through the Stop the Rot forum to secure the future of Liverpool’s built heritage as part of the city’s regeneration.  There is an incredible amount of behind the scenes negotiation going on to tackle this issue in Liverpool and I am confident we will see more progress in the near future.”

2 buildings have worse gradings:-

The North Warehouse at Stanley Dock because of continued vacancy and deterioration, and St James’s Church on Parliament Street because of difficulty finding a long-term use. However progress is being made in both cases as the Stanley Dock warehouses have had approval from the planning committee for adaptation and re-use, while the Churches Conservation Trust has repaired St James’s Church.

The 2008 Register also introduces a new ranking for all English local authorities within 7 bands.

The 1st band has the lowest proportion of grade I and II* buildings and monuments at risk, the 7th the highest. Liverpool is ranked within the 5th band, which compares well with most large urban areas who fall within the higher 6th and 7th rankings.

The full list of buildings on the at-risk list is:-

St Luke’s Church, Berry Street

Wellington Rooms, Mount Pleasant

Royal Insurance Building, North John Street

Sugar Silo, Regent Road

St Andrew’s Church, Rodney Street

St James’s Church, Parliament Street

Croxteth Hall, Croxteth

Croxteth Hall laundry/laundry cottage

North Warehouse, Stanley Dock

For more information about Buildings at Risk, visit

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