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Issue:- 12 January 2010

MEP seeks free movement of corpses

A North West Euro-MP has criticised governments across Europe for placing unnecessary restrictions on the movement of corpses.

Chris Davies says that different national requirements can make the repatriation of bodies of British citizens who die abroad difficult and sometimes impossible, imposing unnecessary distress and cost on grieving relatives.

The Liberal Democrat MEP wants the European Commission to introduce a new law to uphold the principle of free movement between EU nations.  He says that while some member states do not allow corpses to cross their borders at all, others prohibit the embalming of bodies even though it may be a requirement in the countries to which they are to be returned.

National rules regarding the design of coffins used for body repatriation sometimes mean that they cannot then be burnt in crematoria without breaching air quality regulations.

Chris Davies said:- "I have discussed these issues with funeral directors and it is very obvious that we need some common European standards that will help families recover the bodies of loved ones without the difficulties they too often face at present. 
The free movement of people is a founding principle of the European Union and it should apply to the dead as well as to the living."


THOUSANDS of workers in the North West are being forced onto housing benefit by a toxic cocktail of low pay and high rents, warns UNISON, the UK’s largest union. On average 22% of the people claiming housing benefit are in work, rising to 40% in South Lakeland. The union is warning that the benefits bill is likely to soar as more people in the region lose their jobs because of Government cuts.

UNISON is calling for fair pay - fair rents, to switch the burden away from taxpayers and onto employers and landlords. The union urging the Government to take urgent action and start building much needed affordable homes.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, the UK’s largest union, said:- “The Tories like to paint a picture of work-shy scroungers, living it up in massive mansions at the taxpayers’ expense, when the reality is very different. Their own statistics show that thousands of workers in the North West are so low paid, they are forced onto housing benefit to keep a roof over their heads. These families will be amongst those hardest hit by the government’s changes to housing benefit.  It is time to shift the onus onto bosses and make it clear that they cannot get away with paying poverty wages by expecting taxpayers to pick up the benefits bill. And the Government cannot turn their backs on the housing crisis that is sweeping through the country. Families are crying out for decent accommodation and instead of targeting housing benefits, the Government should be tackling the underlying problem by building affordable homes. This would stimulate the local economy, keep people in work and stop landlords from over-charging because of shortages in the rental market.  Without urgent action the situation is set to get worse. When you add in those losing their jobs over the coming months because of Government cuts, the problem is set to add a huge burden on the taxpayer that workers can ill afford.”

Southport Retirement Home Undergoes £100k Refurbishment

2010 was a momentous year for Cherry Tree Lodge Private Retirement Home that was founded back in 1988, on Knowsley Road, Southport.  The business has now benefitted from significant investment resulting in a major renovation programme. The £100,000+ project began with repairs to the roof. The development has since expanded to include an enlarged second floor with four new, modern en-suite bedrooms. The care home’s frontage is being completely modernised and the residents’ lounge is being totally refurbished. The front garden is also benefitting from a redesign and is to be landscaped to an exceptional standard. “I feel it is incredibly important as a business to continue to expand and redevelop. I truly believe that everyone, both residents and staff, will benefit from these works and that the results were well worth the investment.   We will soon be able to offer a day care facility and now have the capacity for 27 residents – more than we have ever had before. 2011 will be an exciting year for all of us.” said Mr Ferguson.

Government must not exclude small firms from job creation plans

SMALL firms, which are the UK’s biggest employers - should be central to discussions on job growth, warns small business group following Prime Minister’s ‘jobs summit’ with big companies

The Forum of Private Business is urging the Government to ensure small and medium-sized businesses, which already employ almost 60% of the private sector working population, are central to its job creation plans.  The call follows Downing Street's summit hosted by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. It was attended by 19 of the UK’s largest companies but no organisation representing the country’s 4.8 million small businesses.

“Individually, many small businesses feel that they are unable to present their concerns to government and rely on us to speak out as their co-ordinated voice.  In this light, it is important that, in the future, we are given a prominent seat at the table when it comes to discussing such crucial issues as job growth and barriers to it, particularly employment red tape.  Failure to listen to small business owners about employment will only further alienate them and fuel their concerns that they are, in reality, an afterthought at best.” said the Forum’s Chief Executive, Phil Orford. 

There have been reports that the Prime Minister is set to unveil an employers’ charter’ aimed at boosting SME job creation – widely seen as central to creating a private-sector led economic recovery based on a resurgent small business sector.

In order to reduce instances of workers’ ‘vexatious claims’ against employers, the charter is set to include measures such as doubling the period in which a staff member has to have worked to be eligible to make an unfair dismissal claim to two years and a charge for employees seeking to take firms to industrial tribunals.

Mr Orford added:- “Any measures that make it easier to recruit employees and make key staffing decisions so small businesses can truly take advantage of emerging opportunities are to be welcomed.  However, a lot more must be done to stimulate employment, including addressing the tax burden and freeing-up business owners from the £2.4 billion annual cost of compliance with employment law. Reducing this should be a central pillar of the Government’s review of red tape.”

According to the FPB's ‘cost of compliance’ research, at almost £2.4 billion per year employment is the costliest bureaucratic burden of all areas of legislation, surpassing the £2.1bn per year spent on health and safety and £1.8bn on tax administration.

The survey found that smaller business employers spend £259m on work associated with dismissals and redundancy. They spend a further £391m on absence control and management, £237m on maternity, £333m on disciplinary issues, and £1,175m on holidays and any other remaining areas of employment legislation.  The average time per month spent on all these different areas of employment law was found to be around 10 hours for each small business; part of the 37 hours each month it takes to negotiate all areas of red tape.

Companies in the South East were found to spend the most on employment law out of 12 regions surveyed, at £361 million per year. London firms faced the second-highest bill at £332m, followed by £272m for those in the North West. Smaller businesses in the North East were found to face the smallest annual bill for complying with employment law, at £71m.

The Forum is also concerned that the Government's decision to force companies into providing pensions for employees and the removal of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) will deal a double blow to smaller employers.  The Forum believes making businesses of all sizes provide pension provisions from 2012 – even if they only employ a single person – will add cost and create extra administrative burdens when small businesses can least afford it.

Additionally, the Forum is arguing that the Government's intention to remove an employers' ability to retire workers as part of its abolition of the DRA will act as an extra disincentive for small employers to recruit.  In response to a recent consultation on the issue, the Forum warned that the removal of important retirement options, which could be effective from as early as April 2011, could leave business owners open to accusations of age discrimination, lead to an increase in employment tribunal cases, and hamper small firms' ability to plan for the future.

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