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News Report Page 24 of 30
Publication Date:- 2018-02-10
News reports located on this page = 2.

Drug driving offences reach record high in Merseyside during Christmas period

DRIVING offences involving drugs in Merseyside reached record figures during the December / Christmas period, with the latest statistics part of a 50% annual increase in the number of local motorists being caught.

Figures from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) show that 136 drivers in the Region tested positive for drug driving during December 2017, compared to 89 during the same period in 2016. The latest figure for December is part of 1248 drug driving arrests which were recorded in Merseyside during 2017, a 50 % increase on the previous figure of 801 offences in 2016.

Since the introduction of roadside drug testing in 2015 in Merseyside, 2,368 drivers have been arrested for drug driving, an average of 75 detections a month. Overall since 2014, there has been a 400 per cent increase across the Region in the number of drug drive detections.

Drink driving offences in Merseyside also increased during the December/ Christmas period, following a fall in the number of offences locally between 2014 -16. Latest NPCC figures show that 125 drivers were stopped during the Christmas period, compared to 111 for the same period in 2016. There was also a 2.5 % fail rate for breath tests during December compared to 1.5 per cent in 2016. In total 1200 drivers in the Region were arrested in 2017 for drink driving.

Of those arrested for drink driving in December, 76 % were male, while 94% of drug drivers arrested in the same period were male. The average age of those of drivers arrested was 30 years old for drug drivers and 38 years old for drink drivers. The areas which saw which saw the most arrests for drink or drug driving were Knowsley/ Central Liverpool and Sefton, where 50 and 30 arrests were made respectively.

Rebecca Power, Co-Ordinator for Merseyside Road Safety Partnership, said:- "The latest figures show that drug driving is clearly becoming a very serious problem in Merseyside, not only during the Christmas period, but throughout the rest of 2017.  Motorists who drug drive are just as irresponsible as those driving under the influence of alcohol and they put lives at risk, including their own, in exactly the same way. As a Partnership it is important we take action to target this issue, particularly as many drivers may mistakenly believe they are less likely to be caught drug driving than drink driving. With the detection methods now available this is no longer the case."

Merseyside's Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said:- "The figures revealed by this crackdown over the Christmas period are deeply troubling. It is completely unacceptable to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs. Not only are these individuals putting themselves at risk, they are endangering the lives of other innocent road users. It is irresponsible, reckless and selfish. Drug drivers must take heed, roadside drug testing is being carried out and, be warned, Merseyside Police will take robust action against anyone caught. The sentence for drug driving, if it causes death or serious injury currently carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, but the anguish and heartbreak caused to the victims and their families can last a lifetime."

Casualty Reduction Officer Paul Mountford from the Roads Policing Unit at Merseyside Police said:- "It is disappointing that we have seen an increase in motorists arrested for drug and drink driving. While they represent a small minority of drivers, I cannot stress enough the danger that these people present, not just to themselves, but to other road users too. The consequences of being caught can be life changing, we will remain vigilant throughout 2018 to find those drivers who present a risk to other road users."

Liverpool's Metro Mayor Cllr. Steve Rotheram said:- "These figures are worrying and bring into relief the serious issue of drug driving. It is incredible that anyone would even think about taking charge of a vehicle whilst under the influence of either drink or drugs.  We need to demonstrate a zero tolerance approach to such anti social and criminal behaviour by continuing to ensure we detect and punish those responsible."

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Station Manager Steve Pang said:- "The latest figures are very concerning and show that drivers are taking massive risks which endanger both the lives of themselves and other road users. We fully support our partner agencies in taking a zero tolerance approach to both drug and drink driving."

Liverpool City Region businesses call for 'one stop shop' to bridge skills gap

A business focus group has identified a 'one stop shop' providing information and support on skills and funding for training as a key area of focus for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority's new Skills Strategy and Skills Commission.

The focus group, which took place at the University of Liverpool's Foresight Centre in conjunction with the Heseltine Institute, comprised representatives of members of the G12, a group of leading Liverpool City Region business organisations: the Federation of Small Businesses, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), The Institute of Directors (IoD), The Women's Organisation, the Liverpool BID Company, Professional Liverpool, Downtown in Business and the Social Enterprise Network.

Participants argued that creating a central resource for skills could be a catalyst for genuine collaboration between the public sector and businesses, seen as essential to bridge existing skills gaps.

Phil McCabe, Development Manager at FSB Merseyside, West Cheshire and Wigan, said:- "There is a skills gap between what employers value and what the education system is producing, particularly in terms of poor levels of literacy, numeracy, other functional skills and even work-readiness. Improving the full range of digital skills is also key. We welcome the new skills strategy and our role on the Skills Commission, placing employers at the heart of developing skills and training is essential to drive business growth, job creation and the development of our people. We look forward to working with the Combined Authority to make sure this happens on the ground. For small business owners, barriers to getting involved and investing in skills all too often come down to a lack of time and money, as well as confusion over where to go to access skills support. Our focus group shows that a 'one stop shop' providing a central resource for information and support would be of considerable benefit to businesses. This could be online, but it should be backed by physical resource in order to make the most of this opportunity."

Maggie O'Carroll, Chief Executive of the Women's Organisation, said:- "The development and implementation of the Skills Strategy is an excellent opportunity to provide access for all through education, skills development and training to good and sustainable employment. By embedding equality and diversity within the strategy it will result in greater productivity and innovation across all sectors and will ensure that underrepresented groups have access to decent employment."

David Wafer, IoD Skills Lead for Liverpool City Region and MD of McIver Scott Recruitment, said:- "Businesses tell us on a daily basis that job applicants are not being prepared for the world of work by education and that many of the courses available are outdated to modern working aside from not giving them the softer skills needed to start with business mindset. The introduction of degree apprenticeships is a massive step forward but needs to be developed with a combined education and business focus at a faster rate. It is pleasing to see these issues are being looked and the plan needs a coordinated fast paced approach to change. The work done by Cambridge Policy Consultancy for the Combined Authority highlighted a crucial issue that businesses need addressing with real urgency. 1 of the main points of that research was that the LCR will lose 36,000 working age people between 2022 and 2030. This is a huge number for our Region so the necessity for young people to be work ready is even more pressing coupled with retraining for newer industries as the employment market shifts in the next 10 years to 15 years. Improving the skill set and ability of managers and leaders needs to run hand in hand with the wider plan to ensure that individuals and businesses can take the opportunities and challenges that will face them in the coming years."

The aim of the session was to inform the work of the City Region Skills Commission, established recently by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, in addition to influencing the effective implementation of the Skills Strategy.

Participants were encouraged to provide thoughts and ideas on the Skills Commission's key lines of enquiry:-

1) Skills support for inward investment and expansion.

2) Productivity - impact of the current workforce.

3) Pre-Employment skills.

4) Informing and enabling choice.

5) Leadership and management skills for businesses.

The focus group highlighted the importance of preparing for future skills needs, in addition to addressing present shortages, via ongoing skills audits and targeted, research led funding. The called for a:- 'national conversation' that could begin with the Government's Industrial Strategy and the local response.

In addition, participants prioritised internships and creating an effective work experience programme, and welcomed recent 'employer led' changes to apprenticeships, which they said had suffered from a 'PR issue' in recent years.

Further, the focus group identified mentoring as important in providing employers themselves with the leadership and management skills to develop their staff. They called for an approach to skills and training that takes into account varying:- sectorial priorities, demographic differences and embraces diversity, emphasising support for continuing education to up skill older employees, as well as newer entrants to the workplace, in order to address the UK's sluggish productivity.

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