former Belgian PM for EU leadership
LIBERAL Democrat MEP Chris
Davies has declared his support for Guy Verhofstadt to lead his
party's campaign for the 2014 European elections, and to be its
nominee for president of the European Commission.
Davies, a former leader of the British Liberal Democrat MEPs, said
that Verhofstadt could provide the leadership and inspiration needed
if the European Union is to remain a major force in a fast-changing
Verhofstadt, for nine years Belgian Prime Minister, currently leads
the ALDE group of 84 MEPs in the European Parliament. He is known
for insisting that many of the continent's problems can be resolved
only by closer European integration.
He is expected to face a challenge from Finnish Liberal Olli Rehn,
the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs.
Davies, now the party's environment spokesman in the European
Parliament, said he had known Guy Verhofstadt for five years and was
impressed by his energy and his ideas.
"He is a man who can provide the European Union with a degree
of leadership and inspiration that it has been missing.
I am seriously concerned that Europe is stagnating while countries
elsewhere gain greater economic influence. Verhofstadt is absolutely
right in saying that we must break free of our self-imposed shackles
and move forward. National governments should retain control over
their domestic affairs, but in a growing number of instances the
problems we face can only be fixed by our working together and
promoting our shared values. As a former Belgian Prime
Minister, no-one has greater understanding than he of the need to
recognise different points of view and find ways of taking Europe's
nations forward with a sense of common purpose."
Southport Community gets behind
Christmas Gift-giving Scheme
A Merseyside home care
company, Home Instead Senior Care, joined forces with a number of
organisations to launch their festive gift-giving scheme 'Be a
Santa to a Senior'. Generous shoppers donated a fantastic
total of over 200 gifts which are now being given to local older
people who will appreciate a present this Christmas.
A 'Be a Santa to a Senior' stand was set up at
Southport Market displaying a Christmas tree decorated with gift
tags detailing the first name of a local older person and a gift
they would enjoy receiving. Visitors were invited to pick a tag and
then donate that particular item and other stallholders were invited
to make donations of their own. Home Instead also received presents
from local Boots and ASDA whilst Marks and Spencer did their own
collection by displaying a 'Be a Santa to a Senior'
Christmas tree in their staff room.
The Home Instead team have now wrapped all the gifts, 20 of which
have already been delivered to the Sefton Pensioners Advocacy
Service. The remaining gifts will be donated to older people
associated with the Stroke Club, the Care 4 U team at Southport
Hospital, Riverside Housing, One Vision Housing as well as Leyland
Road Methodist Church, just in time for Christmas.
Owners of Home Instead, Irene Hough and Anthea Pilkington are
delighted with the success of the scheme. Irene commented:-
"We had a fantastic time collecting gifts and are now thoroughly
enjoying distributing them all. Visitors to the market were amazing
and really got behind what we were trying to do, it's wonderful how
everyone has worked together to bring a bit of festive cheer to
older people in our local community this Christmas. I'd like to say
a big thank you to everyone who made this possible and to those who
donated. I'd also like to thank Mighty FM, who really helped spread
the word about the campaign as well as Southport Market Managers,
Denise Ryder and Steve Hughes, who provided the stand free of
Home Instead have been so
delighted with the success of the scheme, that they're already
making plans to roll it out again for next year (2014).
To find out more about Be a Santa to a Senior or Home Instead Senior
Care in Southport, please call:- 01704 547938 or visit:-
strike over pensions in England and Wales on Christmas Eve and New
against government attacks on their pensions will strike in England
and Wales on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, the Fire
Brigades Union has announced.
Strikes will take place between:-
► 7pm and midnight on Tuesday, 24 December
► 6.30pm on Tuesday, 31 December 2013
► 12.30am on Wednesday, 1 January 2013
► 6.30am and 8.30am on Friday, 3 January
FBU General Secretary, Matt Wrack, said:- "Firefighters
provide a 1st class standard of service 24 hours a day, 365 days a
year, and these strikes will remind government just how reliant they
are on our members' professionalism, commitment and flexibility.
However, there should be no need for industrial action, and it's
absurd that firefighters' concerns over pensions have not been
addressed already. The government must stop claiming they are
negotiating when they have refused to talk for two months and insist
on forcing through proposals that are unaffordable, unworkable and
unfair. By simply conceding common sense and allowing firefighters a
fair deal, the government could end this industrial action today."
As with previous strikes, on the 3 dates all FBU members in England
and Wales will stop work apart from those working in Control
However, on top of these strike periods; the seventh, eighth and
ninth to take place; on Christmas Eve, all members in Scotland and
those working in Control Centres across England, Scotland and Wales
will refuse to work voluntary overtime, meaning every firefighter in
the 3 nations will be taking part in industrial action together for
the 1st time.
And between 7pm on Friday, 27 December 2013 and 7pm on Sunday, 29
December 2013, all firefighters in England, Scotland and Wales
except those working in control will refuse to work voluntary
The ban on voluntary overtime comes after a second ballot of FBU
members voted by almost nine to one for additional industrial action
on top of strikes.
Although negotiations in Scotland have so far prevented strikes
action, no settlement has yet been reached and the dispute remains
Firefighters' pension schemes are amongst the most expensive for
workers anywhere in the public or private sector, but amongst the
cheapest proportionally for the government.
Most firefighters who take home approximately £1,650 a month already
pay £320 or more a month into their pensions, and from April 2014
this would rise for the third year in a row to over £340 a month
(£4,000 a year), with many facing a 4th consecutive rise of 2.2% in
On top of this, a large section of firefighters face an additional
threat to their pensions as a result of the government refusing to
honour long-standing agreements. As a result, they will not receive
the pension they were promised despite paying into their scheme for
The union claims that the government's proposals are "designed
to fail" because they ignore the physical demands and
fitness standards required by the occupation.
Evidence suggests that at least ⅔ of the
current workforce will face dismissal or their pension reduced by
almost half because they are unable to maintain the fitness
standards required by the fire service beyond the age of 55.
A table summary of industrial action over the end of year period can
be found at:-
Responding to the Fire Brigades
Union call for further strike action, a spokesman for Merseyside
Fire and Rescue Service said:- "The Government is in dispute
with the National Fire Brigades' Union over changes to their
members' Pension scheme. The public should be reassured that our
staff will maintain a significant emergency response capability as
usual over the Christmas and New Year period. We will also continue
our community fire safety work; recognising the importance of
providing fire safety information at such a time. During any
industrial action we always ask the public to show extra care and