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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 19 February 2007

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UK’S 1ST ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CHECK FOR CARS

A FREE environmental health check for petrol cars has been launched this month in Wallasey.  targetneutral, the UK’s 1st mainstream scheme to neutraliseCO2 emissions caused by driving, has teamed up with automotive experts Kwik-Fit to create the environmental ‘car surgeries’, a first in Britain.

targetneutral is a voluntary, non-profit making partnership initiative from BP.  As well as offering the opportunity for petrol motorists to offset CO2 emissions from their cars, the targetneutral scheme encourages drivers to follow the Reduce, Replace, Neutralise philosophy.  Drivers of petrol cars wanting to help ensure that their car is causing the minimum amount of impact can now take action with this 10 minute, totally free check with no obligations (other than to the environment). Petrol car drivers simply need to call-in to any Kwik-Fit MOT centre. Most checks can be performed while you wait, 7 days a week. To find your nearest testing centre, go to targetneutral.com.

The Green Light check for petrol cars which will be available at 250 Kwik-Fit MOT centres nationwide until March 3 2007, will help drivers to reduce their cars’ emissions through a free 4-point ‘Green Light’ health check.

The free 4-point check includes:-

· exhaust emissions – an increase in carbon monoxide in your exhaust emissions can indicate inefficient fuel burning which results in greater fuel usage, therefore increasing overall CO2 emissions

· emission control systems – sending too much fuel to the combustion chamber?

· tyre pressure – under inflated tyres increase rolling resistance and fuel consumption and therefore increase CO2 emissions

· battery levels – under-charged batteries use more fuel, increasing CO2 emissions

Motorists can then visit targetneutral.com to access a free online carbon calculator which will work out the amount of CO2 their driving actually produces. If they wish, they can then neutralise the impact their driving has on the environment. The average annual cost is just £20 a year.

Sheila Williams, spokesperson for targetneutral, said:- “This nationwide scheme gives motorists easy access to practical environmental car health advice and helps them understand how small adjustments to their cars can have a big impact on reducing their CO2 emissions.”

Chris Bosworth, Marketing Director for Kwik-Fit said:- “The ‘Green Light’ environmental health check is an initiative between targetneutral and Kwik-Fit to enable motorists to take individual action to drive more efficiently and reduce emissions. We hope motorists across the country will give their cars the ‘Green Light’ this month."

Under the targetneutral scheme motorists can offset their carbon emissions by visiting targetneutral.com.  Money generated by targetneutral goes towards a portfolio of independent CO2 reduction projects including alternative and renewable energy.  Existing projects include a biomass energy plant in Himachal Pradesh, a wind farm in Karnataka, India and an animal waste management and methane capture program in Mexico. As targetneutral grows, more projects will be added.

RESIDENTS REVEAL DISABLED PEOPLE FIND CHIP AND PIN HARD TO USE

RESIDENTS at Leonard Cheshire’s Freshfields Home in Formby took part in a national survey which reveals that disabled people are being let down by financial services, shops and the Chip and PIN system.  Participants from the Leonard Cheshire service in College Path carried out audits of cash machines, banks and shops and offered helpful and friendly advice on how accessibility could be improved.

The national report, Spending Power?, found that 54% of disabled people surveyed across the UK had problems using Chip and Pin machines.  The report, released on the one year anniversary of the full introduction of the Chip and PIN card, also shows that 35% of disabled people would prefer to return to their old signature cards. Common -problems reported with Chip and PIN included poor keypad accessibility and a feeling vulnerability when entering their PIN.  57% of those surveyed found that the cash machines they used were inaccessible. This is despite disabled people in the UK having a combined spending power of £80 billion.

‘Spending Power?’ investigates disabled people’s experiences of using Chip and PIN cards, cash machines, banks and shops, and looks at how easy it is for them to access and spend their money.

Ron and Janet Fazackerly have lived at Leonard Cheshire’s Freshfields service in Formby since 1980 and took part in the recent audits of local financial services.  Ron says:- “I have to sit side on when at a cash machine so refused a Chip and PIN card as I think it would be too public. I also find it virtually impossible to see the screen or buttons. Even if I could see it, my hand shakes and the buttons are too small and too close together for me to press them.”

Janet says:- “I didn’t bother applying for a Chip and PIN card as I knew it would be no use to me. I can easily remember a 4 digit number but I’m worried I’d be too slow pressing the buttons because of the way my hands move. I wouldn’t want to make a mistake and not have the card accepted – that would be embarrassing, especially in a shop with a queue behind you.”

Lee Webster, report author and Leonard Cheshire campaigns coordinator, says:- “Shopping is an everyday part of life for most Britons. There are 200 million cash machine transactions a month and 160 Chip and PIN purchases a second.”

Leonard Cheshire is calling for:-

* Clear accessibility guidelines to be developed for the Chip and PIN port and keypad.

* Card issuers to provide more information to disabled customers about alternatives to the Chip and PIN system, particularly Chip and Signature.

* Cash machines to be designed and placed with the help of disabled people

* Banks to talk increasingly to their disabled customers about problems within branches and how things could improve.

Leonard Cheshire has produced some tips for banks and retail outlets, with suggestions for making services more accessible.

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