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Issue:- 6 November  2012


Bryan Walters is pictured with the Movember team from The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre

MARVELLOUS moustaches have been grown by security staff at a Birkenhead shopping centre to raise awareness about a form of cancer which has affected one of their team.  Bryan Walters, a security supervisor at The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre, was diagnosed with testicular cancer aged just 25.  Within days of getting the devastating news he underwent an operation to remove the tumour which had already spread into his lymph nodes and endured 6 cycles of chemotherapy to beat the disease.  He was given the all clear in 2003 and doesn't miss an opportunity to share his personal story with friends and colleagues in a bid to encourage them to visit the doctor if they have any concerns.

Bryan, 47, from Wallasey who has worked at The Grange and Pyramids Shopping centre for 16 years, said:- "I had left it a while before going to the doctors and he told me off at the time for not going sooner.  It's true what they say, men hate going to the doctors and put it off, but with something like this, you must not risk it. I have had friends and colleagues coming to me in the past who know what I have been through and have asked me what they should do because they have found a lump and my advice is always the same. Get yourself checked out fast because testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer particularly when it is caught early enough. I tell them about how when I was on the hospital ward getting treated, there was another young man, a really good lad, who was not as lucky as me. He had just got married and had found out the cancer had spread to his brain and it was terminal. That's why I tell people not to wait but to get things checked out if they are worried."

Bryan has been among approximately 850,000 men globally taking part in Movember.  The increasingly popular event, which gets its name from a combination of moustache and November, sees men show off their weird and wonderful facial hair to raise money and awareness about men's health, in particular prostate and testicular cancer.  Leading the campaign at The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre is security officer Sean Cunningham who recruited a team of fellow security guards and the man in charge at the centre; Commercial Director Derek Millar; on his moustache mission. 

Derek said:- "Growing a moustache has been a laugh, but I think we will all be glad to get the razors out.  We have managed to raise close to £300 but I think more importantly, it has got us all joking and talking about some of these issues and that is important. Particularly as one of our own close colleagues knows what it is like to be faced with the terrible situation of dealing with testicular cancer. Men are not very good about discussing their health and this can be to our detriment so I think Mission Moustache at The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre has been a great success for more than one reason."

Bryan, an American Football fan, who went on after his cancer treatment to play with The Merseyside Night Hawks for 7 years, said he would also be pleased to get rid of his Movember moustache. 

Bryan added that:- "My wife Angie is not impressed and will be glad to see it gone. I tease her and say I have got quite attached to it.  It has all been for a good cause at the end of the day and I suppose no one knows that better than me."

You can donate to the Movember team at The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre website.

Microwave tobacco smuggling ring smashed

10 people have been arrested in a series of co-ordinated raids in the UK and Luxembourg during an investigation into a suspected £50 million tax fraud by an international tobacco smuggling ring. The gang is believed to have used microwave ovens and other white goods to smuggle tonnes of illegal tobacco into the UK.  HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigators, assisted by Luxembourg police, carried out searches in Kent, Devon, Greater Manchester, West Lancashire and Luxembourg last week and arrested 9 men and 1 woman.  The arrests follow a covert HMRC investigation into the large-scale import and export of microwave ovens and other white goods filled with hand rolling tobacco (HRT) or cash. So far HMRC officers have seized 4,800kg of HRT (worth over £1.5 million in evaded duty) HMRC have also seized large quantities of cash.  Mike O'Grady, HMRC Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, said:- "Using household appliances as a cover, this gang was on track to evade £50 million a year if they had succeeded. Further details cannot be provided at this early stage, as our investigation is continuing. However, tax fraud and attempts to launder the proceeds of crime are treated extremely seriously by HMRC, and we will relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be attacking the public revenue in this way."

Council sets sights on empty homes hit-list

LIVERPOOL City Council is setting to work on a new 'hit-list' of empty properties in the City; and pledging to take firm action to bring them back into use.  The Council's housing team has begun contacting the owners of the top 1,000 empty homes in the City. Owners are being encouraged to bring their properties back into use as quickly as possible, and are being informed that enforcement action will be taken, where appropriate.

The new clampdown, which gets underway during National Empty Homes Week (25 November to 1 December), is part of the City's 3 year 'Bringing Empty Homes Back Into Use' programme, which aims to tackle void properties across Liverpool, deal with problem landlords and improve the standard of the City's rented accommodation.

Liverpool City Council's Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Ann O'Byrne, said:- "We are absolutely determined to bring empty homes across the City back into use and provide valuable homes for our residents. Identifying and targeting this hit list is a hugely important part of our work to achieve that. Properties left vacant blight our neighbourhoods and are a wasted resource. They can lead to a reduction in overall property values and can deteriorate rapidly, causing real problems for the community - including the accumulation of rubbish, vermin infestations, the risk of injury to children who enter buildings and arson.  This clampdown sends out the message loud and clear that we are serious about tackling this problem. Supported by our 10 point pledge for landlords, we will work with owners to encourage them to bring their properties back into use. Where enforcement is necessary, we will have no hesitation in taking action."

The top 1,000 empty properties have been prioritised according to:-

►  Whether the property falls within one of the priority areas identified in the City's Empty Homes Plan

►  The impact the property is having in an area

►  The level of complaints received

►  The level of outstanding debt owed to the Council

Housing officers are now contacting owners to find out why their property is vacant; whether there are any barriers to bringing it back into use; and what support or advice they might need.

The new push, backed up by the powers to take enforcement action, is expected to prompt many more owners to take the necessary action to bring their properties up to scratch.

Liverpool's Empty Homes programme supports the Mayor of Liverpool's pledge to deliver 5,000 new and refurbished homes for the City by 2016. It includes a 10 point pledge on landlord issues. The pledge aims to build on the positive relationship the Council has with many landlords while taking a robust stance against the small minority of poor landlords and provide a level playing field for all.

The 10 point pledge includes:-

►  The adoption of a Liverpool Standard for private rented housing which will set out the minimum standards expected of landlords.

►  A free, voluntary register for landlords to encourage better communications with the Council.

►  A Citywide landlord accreditation scheme, and 'Scores on the Doors' service which recognise good landlords.

►  Incentives for landlords who manage their properties well, including access to renewal funding.

►  A dedicated website for landlords and tenants and confidential freephone line where people can report unregistered or poor quality landlords.

►  A Landlords Advisory Group, comprised of landlords and also lettings and managing agents

►  A Rogue Landlords Hit Squad, which will seek out and investigate poor landlords and take appropriate action.

Liverpool has achieved significant success in recent months in securing Government funding to tackle vacant properties. The City was awarded £13.5 million in 'Clusters of Empty Homes funding' in May which will bring over 700 empty homes back into use, including in the Anfield and Welsh Streets areas of the City.  The City also hopes to build on the success of the 'Beautiful North' voids pilot, which brought over 200 properties back into use in 2011.

National Empty Homes Week is organised by the charity Empty Homes to highlight the waste of empty property nationwide, to celebrate the success of numerous examples and new initiatives to bring empty homes back into use and to encourage more widespread action.  New statistics released by the charity show that although there has been a reduction of 10,000 in the number of empty homes in England over the past year, the figure still stands at over 710,000. Almost 260,000 of these are identified as long-term vacant properties.

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