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Bank of England decides to change the Sterling to plastic

Bank of England decides to change the Sterling to plastic

New polymer banknotes to be introduced, beginning with Sir Winston Churchill £5 note in 2016.

The decision on polymer notes will mark the beginning of the end for 320 years of paper notes from the Bank. The move by Threadneedle Street follows Bank governor Mark Carney’s native Canada, where plastic notes are being rolled out, and Australia, where they have been in circulation for more than two decades.

Carney launched a public consultation on polymer banknotes, seen as cleaner and more durable, shortly after arriving at the Bank this summer. However, the Bank’s notes division has been considering plastic money for several years.

Bank officials have been touring shopping centres and business groups around the country with prototype notes to canvas public opinion.

The Bank has promoted its polymer notes, featuring a see-through window and other new security features as less threadbare and tougher to counterfeit.

It has sought to quell concerns about the environmental impact of printing on plastic by suggesting they can last up to six times longer than the cotton-paper notes in circulation at the moment. The durability will also compensate for the higher production costs and save an estimated £100m, the Bank claims.

Its laboratory tests showed polymer banknotes only begin to shrink and melt at 120C, so they would fare better in washing machines but could be damaged by a hot iron.

Sample polymer banknotes

Sample polymer banknotes

The initial plan is to introduce polymer notes one denomination at a time, with the Churchill note in 2016 at the earliest and then the £10 note featuring Jane Austen next in 2017. The notes will continue to feature the Queen and retain their current colouring.

The move is the latest in a long line of changes for banknotes, first issued in return for deposits by the Bank when it was first established in 1694 to raise money for William III’s war against France.

Colour £5 notes replaced white ones in the 1950s; the first portrayal of a monarch came in 1960, when the Queen appeared on a new £1 note; and the introduction of historical figures such as William Shakespeare started in the 1970s.

As part of the preparation for this latest change, banknote officials have already been working with retailers and the operators of vending machines and cashpoints.

Link, which runs the UK cash machine network, said its machines would need new cassettes to hold the plastic notes, because they will be smaller, and not because of the change in material. The 15% reduction in size for Churchill notes compared with the current Elizabeth Fry £5 note brings English notes into line with sizes in other countries. But they will remain larger than existing euro notes and the different denominations of sterling will retain tiered sizes to help blind people differentiate between them.

The prospect of polymer notes has raised some concerns for the visually impaired, however, as the popular practice of folding or creasing notes in different ways to identify different denominations will no longer be possible. Polymer notes can be folded but will not stay tightly folded in a particular way.

The Bank’s prime task as banknote issuer is to maintain confidence in its money, and the move to polymer is expected to make life drastically more difficult for counterfeiters.

Advances in commercially available laser and inkjet printers over the past decade have helped criminals to produce fakes quickly and more cheaply.

The Bank concedes no note is counterfeit-proof but says the polymer notes will be slower and more expensive to copy.

The notes will be produced at the Bank’s ultra-secure plant in Debden, Essex, by a private contractor.

The job is expected to go to either De La Rue, the existing maker of BoE notes, or Innovia, which manufactures most of the polymer notes currently in circulation around the world. The Bank has ruled out importing plastic money from China.

The British Plastics Federation welcomed the Bank’s move towards polymer notes. “It’s essential all the plastic banknotes are made in the UK. Why not make coins out of plastic? It will save wear and tear on our pockets,” said director-general Peter Davis.

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Child Safety – 181 workers fired by Councils

Child Safety – 181 workers fired by Councils

More than 180 teachers, social workers and other council staff were sacked last year after being judged to be a risk to children.

In 2012/13 some 3,651 local authority workers were investigated over allegations they had either harmed or abused children or were unsuitable to work with them, figures show.

The statistics – obtained following Freedom of Information requests to councils in England and Wales – show that 695 of those local authority probes were then investigated by police.

A total of 181 staff were subsequently sacked, according to council replies. Experts said it was the first time the total number of dismissals for such offences had been compiled.

The highest number of dismissals were in Westminster and Brighton and Hove, which each sacked 11 staff following complaints about them.

Lewisham Council in south London sacked 10 workers.

One investigating officer said the number of investigations showed that victims of abuse or poor care are finding it easier to make complaints.

Laura Eden, an investigator who speaks on behalf of the College of Social Work, said: “It’s good that people are referring professionals that they are concerned about.”

“There used to be a time when you had a professional working in your organisation and you didn’t feel something was right, or a child made an allegation against them, there were no procedures to deal with that. So it’s really important that there are procedures in place, and those procedures are followed.”

But there were warnings that many complaints are still being ignored.

One former teacher, who does not want to be named, said she was hounded out of her job after raising concerns about a colleague.

She said: “I expected it obviously to be investigated, and if it was proven to be founded then obviously the appropriate action taken, because these are the kind of behaviours that should not be in the classroom.”

“I was told that the member of staff in question had admitted having been involved in the incident described by the pupil, but that there wasn’t going to be any further action taken because everyone makes mistakes.”

Samantha Robson, a child protection lawyer working for firm Slee Blackwell, said cases were still slipping through the net.

“It’s very rare people get away with it completely unnoticed,” she said. “But unless those complaints are taken seriously or get heard by the right voice, then they’re not acted upon. And that’s the problem as I see it.”

One of the most disturbing cases of recent years is that of primary school teacher Nigel Leat.


Teacher Nigel Leat

Teacher Nigel Leat

He was jailed indefinitely after being found guilty of sexually abusing children in his class at Hillside first school in Weston-super-Mare over a period of 14 years, despite concerns being raised 30 times. He made hundreds of videos of his abuse.

In her first television interview, the mother of one of his victims said: “He spent from September to December gaining her trust, and teaching her what to do with the abuse.”

“This would also be in front of other children around the table. But because how he filmed it was he put the laptop on a low stool, it would be filmed underneath the table and all the children would be sat around but they wouldn’t see it because the table was covering everything.”

“How can this happen, how can a teacher do this, who as a parent that’s the next person you trust your children with because they are there all day every day and this person, the teacher, Nigel Leat was amazing. He was so friendly. He would always tell me what a really good girl she’d been today. She’d done everything he’s asked.”

Francesca West, of Public Concern at Work which runs a whistleblowing helpline, said that the number of calls they have had from the education sector has jumped almost two thirds in a single year.

“I am very worried that education is the next tragedy waiting to happen, and as with all whistleblowing, the real tragedy is no-one listens until it is too late,” she said.

“We are concerned that this is a bit of a ticking time bomb.”

Nevres Kemal, a whistleblower in the Haringey “Baby P” case, said: “It’s like a death sentence. You don’t know until you are in it.”

“We recently set up a website so that people can come to us and talk about their experiences and we can provide emotional and practical support, because as a whistleblower you are totally alone and isolated. It often feels like everyone is against you.”

The new figures follow an investigation which found that up to one in 20 of all children in some parts of the country have been the subject of investigations into whether they are the victims of abuse or neglect.

In 2012/13, English councils launched 127,060 high level investigations – known as section 47s – into children thought to be at risk, analysis of official figures shows.

That is the equivalent of one in a hundred of the country’s entire population of under-18s and represents a 42.3% increase in cases since 2009/10.

In some areas the figure is much higher with the equivalent of 4.5% of children in Blackpool, 2.6% in Doncaster and 2.1% in Peterborough being investigated.

Westminster City Council’s operational director of children’s services James Thomas said their figure includes those not directly employed by the council.

He said: “The number of dismissals from Westminster City Council is four. The other seven dismissals were independent from the council, with staff employed by a variety of different agencies, including early years providers and academies.”

“We have a dedicated Local Authority Designated Officer who works closely with all agencies. This results in higher referral rates than some of our counterparts.”

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Ofsted: Schools ignoring bad behaviour

Ofsted: Schools ignoring bad behaviour

Schools where behaviour is a problem will be subjected to spot checks by inspectors for the first time in a bid to drive up education standards, the Ofsted chief inspector has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that teachers were too often ignoring low-level disruption and “horseplay” leading to a culture of “casual acceptance” of misbehaviour that is holding schools back.

In his second annual report, he sharply criticised teaching standards, saying there was too much mediocre teaching – particularly of primary children – and schools suffered from weak leadership.

He said that from January inspectors would be carrying out “no notice” inspections of schools where behaviour was an issue.

And he called on the Government to bring back tests in English and maths at the age of seven to ensure children are mastering the basics, saying Ofsted inspectors found “worrying inconsistencies” in teachers’ assessments.

He said it had been a “mistake” to scrap them.

The call will trigger concerns among some sections of the education community who have previously suggested that children are tested too much.

Currently, pupils sit national curriculum or Sats tests in reading and maths at age 11, as well as one on spelling, punctuation and grammar. Writing skills are assessed by teachers. A reading check has also been brought in for six-year-olds.

Pupils previously sat externally marked tests at the age of seven, but this system was phased out from 2004.

Sir Michael pin-pointed three factors preventing English schools from improving their standing in international league tables: too much mediocre teaching and weak leadership, regional differences in education quality and underachievement of poor white children.

Sir Michael Wilshaw

Sir Michael Wilshaw

He said that in an attempt to make the regional differences less apparent, strong teachers and leaders would be given incentives to move to parts of the country where standards were low and high quality staff were needed.

An estimated 700,000 children are being taught in schools where behaviour is not up to scratch.

A major report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), published last week, found that the UK’s teenagers were lagging far behind those in East Asian countries such as Singapore and Japan in reading, maths and science.

Presenting his report, Sir Michael said: “Too many of our schools suffer from poor behaviour and high levels of disruptive behaviour.”

He called on school leaders to create a “calm and respectful culture essential for learning” and said lessons should not be undermined by “background chatter, inattention and horseplay”.

However, there have been improvements and overall, eight in 10 state schools were now rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted – the highest proportion in the watchdog’s 21-year history.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Sir Michael is right – bad classroom behaviour is hugely disruptive to children’s education. It means teachers can’t teach and pupils can’t learn.

“That is why a key part of our reforms is restoring discipline in schools and why we have strengthened teachers’ powers to put them back in charge.”

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: “School leaders recognise that good behaviour in their schools is essential in creating a good learning environment.

“It was pleasing to note that, of the large number of secondary schools inspected last term 27% were graded outstanding for behaviour – a clear indication of the importance that teachers place on good student behaviour.”

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Soldier Andrew Garthwaite moves bionic arm by thoughts

Soldier Andrew Garthwaite moves bionic arm by thoughts

A soldier injured in battle said he is determined to make a success of his new life with a bionic arm he can control with his thoughts.

Cpl Andrew Garthwaite, 26, from South Tyneside, was badly injured in Afghanistan when a Taliban grenade took off his right arm.

He is believed to be the first person in the UK to have such a bionic arm.

It involved surgery, including having his nerve system rewired, and months of learning how to use the new arm.

Cpl Garthwaite was badly injured in Helmand, Afghanistan, in September 2010 when a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade took off his right arm and killed one of his comrades.

He was given one arm and learnt how to carry out everyday tasks with it before learning he would have one of the latest models of bionic arm fitted.

Soldier's bionic arm

Soldier’s bionic arm

To prepare for the technology the soldier underwent six hours of surgery at a hospital in Austria in January 2012 in a procedure called Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR).

The surgeons at the hospital in the Medical University of Vienna had to rewire his nervous system – taking the nerve endings from his shoulder, that would have run down to his hand – and rewired these into his chest muscles.

This has meant over the past 18 months, Cpl Garthwaite has had the sensation of a hand growing in his chest. He has had to learn to use that hand again – with electrodes sending signals into the bionic arm so that he can control the prosthesis.

He is believed to be the first person from the UK to undergo this cutting-edge technique in the field of bionics.

Cpl Garthwaite said he had been “lost for words” when he learnt that and was “honoured” to have been chosen.

The arm was developed by bionics company Otto Bock, in Vienna. It says this new kind of intelligent upper limb prosthesis can be controlled using the same nerves originally responsible for arm movement and enables more natural movements.

The patient, they say, performs movements intuitively, and the prosthesis can directly convert the thought commands.

He will be able to think several moves and his arm and hand will react naturally. His bionic arm will be thought-controlled.

Cpl Garthwaite is now getting used to controlling his new arm and hand. With his nerve system rewired, he can feel his hand in his chest and by thinking of moving individual fingers, he can move his bionic hand.

Cpl Andy Garthwaite

Cpl Andy Garthwaite

“Because obviously I haven’t had a thumb or a finger for the last three years, then all of a sudden to start feeling stuff is a total weird feeling so you have got to train your brain to move this hand,” he said.

But he has to be careful. If he thinks of moving his little finger too quickly it will rotate his hand, all the way around 360 degrees.

This – he says – is “his party trick”.

He says it looks “very natural and people generally do not notice that it is a prosthesis, but are often surprised as it makes robotic sounds when it moves.

Cpl Garthwaite said he was enjoying being able to do more around the house and being far more independent.

He said: “There is no point in looking back because you can never turn back time.

“I am still very lucky to be here and I am very fortunate to be here and with this new life I have got hopefully I can be very successful in it.”

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1.5 million UK pensioners struggling with food poverty

1.5 million UK pensioners struggling with food poverty

More than 1.5 million British pensioners are now living in food poverty and the situation is set to worsen this winter, according to new research.

The Centre for Economics and Business says a quarter of over-65s have had to make cutbacks on food over the past three years, and over one million are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition because they are struggling to afford basic nutritious food.

The reason is that while the cost of living has continued to rise, incomes have not kept pace.

Increasing food prices in particular have hit the elderly the most.

The study shows over-65s will spend an average of £699 on food between October and December this year – that’s an increase of £138 compared to the same quarter five years ago.

And by 2018 there will be an additional increase of £297 on top of that bill. It all adds up to the over-65s being harder hit than any other demographic.

Raina Barnes, 82, from Perivale, Middlesex, has been attending the Age Concern lunch club in Greenford for the past few months. Hot meals and warm company are provided by the charity.

Members at lunch club

Members at lunch club

Mrs Barnes, who was widowed last year, remembers when a £30 shop would easily last a few weeks. These days, she says, you get “hardly anything” for that amount.

“I think the supermarkets are taking us for a ride. One minute they’re putting their prices down. The next they’re going higher. You’ve only got a certain amount of money to spend,” she says.

“All the basics like bread, milk and eggs are the things you need all the time. I mean eggs have just gone up terribly. You just have to see how it goes.”

Sharing the dinner table with Mrs Barnes is 88-year-old Harry Thomas, a World War Two veteran. Mr Thomas says he shops around to compare the best prices in local supermarkets.

“It’s a very hard thing these days for people, the price of things. You go to one shop and the price might have been dropped and you go to another and the price goes up a little bit.”

“You never know what to buy. All I do is look at the price and say ‘too high’ and I don’t bother.”

Danny Woolcott, 87, has been a regular at the lunch club for more than six years. The retired mechanic, from Southall, visits three times a week.

He blames the Government for “letting pensioners down”.

“I would like to see any government looking after the elderly people of this country.”

“The people who brought this country along are being neglected badly and I think it’s disgusting the way things have been left, honestly and truthfully.”

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Migrants Will Take A Tougher Test To Claim Benefits

Migrants Will Take A Tougher Test To Claim Benefits

Migrants who cannot speak English well enough to get a job face being denied benefits under a new tougher test, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

The upgraded test for migrants who want to claim income-related benefits will be rolled out across Jobcentres this week.

Those applying will have to answer more individually tailored questions, provide more detailed answers and submit more evidence before they can claim.

For the first time migrants will be quizzed about whether their English language skills will be a barrier to them finding employment and about what efforts they had made to find work before coming to the UK.

Officials will have 200 questions to choose from when assessing claimants – 100 more than previously.

Iain Duncan Smith said: “It is vitally important that we have strict rules in place to protect the integrity of our benefits system.”

“The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system.”

Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith

“And we are taking action to ensure that that is the case.”

“The roll-out of the new habitual residence test is the first in a series of measures to ensure that we have a fair system: one which provides support for genuine workers and jobseekers, but does not allow people to come to our country and take advantage.”

“It is a crucial part of our long-term plan to secure Britain’s economy.”

Britain is already in a legal battle with the European Commission which says that it unlawful to test immigrants before they can claim benefits.

It comes amid concerns over an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians next month when they will be entitled to come to the UK for work and will be able to claim benefits like other EU citizens.

The Prime Minister was accused of “hysteria” and turning Britain into the “nasty country” last month when he announced new measures that would bar EU migrants from claiming out-of-work benefits, such as jobseeker’s allowance, for their first three months in the UK.

Labour’s shadow welfare minister Chris Bryant said: “For generations, people have come to this country and worked hard to contribute to Britain, but the principle of contribution is an important one, and the controls on immigration must be fair to those who lives here.”

“That is why Labour called for stronger restrictions on benefits for new arrivals from the EU, including proposals eight months ago to strengthen the habitual residence test to make it clear that people should not be able to claim benefits when they first arrive.”

“At the time, the Government dismissed those proposals, but eight months later they have changed their minds and keep re-announcing their proposals.”

“Yet the Government are still doing nothing to tackle the serious problem of low-skilled migrant workers being exploited, undercutting local workers and responsible businesses too.”

“That is bad for everyone, yet they are doing nothing about it.”

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Glasgow Helicopter Crashes Into Pub

Glasgow Helicopter Crashes Into Pub

Police have warned that the number of people killed when a police helicopter crashed into a busy Glasgow pub will rise in the “coming hours” after confirming one death.

The Chief Constable of Scotland Police said they were now dealing with a “search and recovery operation” after rescue teams worked through the night to try and pull people from the wreckage of The Clutha Vaults pub.

But he said they were still hoping to find survivors alive in the remains of the building.

At least six people died when the helicopter crashed through the roof of the lively city nightspot, which was packed with more than 100 people watching a band, at 10.25pm on Friday.

Eyewitnesses have described the helicopter to be “falling like a stone” on to the roof, while some have suggested that there was a problem with the aircraft’s rotor.


A view of the pubs roof from above

Grace MacLean, who was inside the pub when the helicopter struck said: “Someone started shouting and the band cut the music … and then all of a sudden this cloud of dust came.”

“You couldn’t breathe for inhaling a mouthful of dust. You couldn’t see anything. You were clawing at the walls to see where the exit is.”

William Byrne, who was listening to the band with his brother, said: “There was a huge bang and there was a couple of seconds of almost stillness after this band and then the whole other side of the pub from where I was collapsed and then the roof and gantry of the bar collapsed.”

People at the scene told how they worked to form a human chain to carry unconscious people out of the pub.

Among the helpers was Labour’s international development spokesman Jim Murphy, who said: “I just saw dozens and dozens of people coming out of the pub. It is a horrible, horrible scene.”

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday morning, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said: “Sadly, at this time I can confirm one fatality. We expect that number to increase over the coming hours.”

He confirmed that a further 32 people had been taken to Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Western Infirmary with “multiple injuries”.

Rescue workers covering the helicopter

Rescue workers covering the helicopter

Sir Stephen said that specialist teams were working to stabilise the building in a “difficult and sensitive” operation and said:  “We’re still in a search and recovery phase, and as always our prayers are that it is successful and we do recover people alive.”

He said: “There are people on the scene trying to make contact with anyone who may be alive… All we can do is confirm there has been one fatality but we are fearful there will be more.”

Rescue teams had said they had contacted people inside the pub overnight but Sir Stephen could not say when the last contact had been made.

One worried relative at the scene of the crash, Alice Healy, said how she had not heard from her cousin who had been inside the pub when the aircraft hit.

Another, John McGarrigle, 38, said that he had been told by someone inside the pub that his 59-year-old father, also called John, had been sitting at precisely the spot the aircraft had come down and that he had been killed but that authorities had not been able to confirm this.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland but it’s also St Andrew’s Day and it’s a day we can take pride and courage in how we respond to adversity and tragedy.”

He praised the “instinctive bravery of ordinary Glaswegians” who went to the rescue of those trapped inside the pub and the emergency services.

The police have given no details of what has happened to the crew of two officers and a civilian pilot on board the helicopter.

It is still unclear what caused the crash, with one eyewitness saying the aircraft “dropped like a stone” and police have now launched a full investigation into the crash under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Investigators from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) were on the scene on Saturday morning trying to piece together what had happened.

Aviation expert David Learmount, a pilot and safety editor at the aviation news website Flightglobal, said: “This type of helicopter is sophisticated and robust. It’s a very modern aircraft. I think what has happened here is that you have had an aircraft that became either uncontrollable or partially controllable.”

“We just don’t know how much control the pilot did have in the final seconds of the flight. Something dramatic has probably suddenly occurred – probably some mechanical failure of some kind.”

The British Airline Pilots’ Association said that the crash did raise concerns over helicopter safety.

A tent had been erected on top of the pub on Saturday morning over the wreckage of the aircraft, whose rotor could be seen protruding from the roof.

The helicopter, a EC135 T2, which is widely used by the police, has a good safety record, with one incident in 2007 after which the AAIB asked manufacturers Eurocopter to look at a stability system switch.

The tail of the helicopter

The tail of the helicopter

Members of Esperanza, the band playing at the time of the tragedy, all escaped from the wreckage unharmed.

They posted on their Facebook site: “Despite the situation everyone was so helpful and caring of each other. The police, ambulances (and) firefighters all did a stellar job and continue to do so today in extremely difficult conditions.”

“Our biggest concern is that everyone is found and can get the care and help they need.”

In a statement, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “This is a tragic event and our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends who lost a loved one last night.”

“I want to thank the emergency services who worked tirelessly throughout the night and I also want to pay tribute to the bravery of the ordinary Glaswegians who rushed to help.”

“We have offered the Scottish Government our support in any way we can and we are all wishing a speedy recovery to those who are injured.”

Helicopter being removed

Helicopter being removed

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “There will be lots of people worried about their loved ones who are unaccounted for, and my thoughts are with them, and also with the people of Glasgow, who are an incredibly strong people, who showed last night in reaction when the helicopter hit, great bravery, great courage, great calm, in the midst of all this.”

A number of St Andrew’s Day events were being cancelled on Saturday morning as the tragic toll of Friday night’s crash started to become apparent.

Flags across Scotland were flying at half mast throughout the weekend and the Scottish Football Association said there would be a minute’s silence at the 13 Scottish Cup games on Saturday.

Members of the public concerned about relatives who may have been involved in the crash can call an emergency helpline on 0800 092 0410.


Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House confirms that the crew of the helicopter  – PC Kirsty Nelis, PC Tony Collins and pilot Captain David Traill –  all died in the crash

Eight deaths have been confirmed but Sir Stephen says there is a possibility the number of dead may rise

There are 12 people still being treated in Glasgow hospitals – three of the injured are in intensive care

A victim from inside the pub has been named as Gary Arthur, 48, of Paisley, the father of Celtic and Scottish women’s footballer Chloe Arthur

A memorial service has been held at Glasgow Cathedral to remember the victims

The police and fire operation at the building is expected to last for several days

Investigators have said there is no evidence that the police helicopter that crashed into the bar in Glasgow, killing nine people, suffered an engine or gearbox failure.

An initial report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found that “all significant components were present” when, according to witnesses, the aircraft “dropped like a stone” and came down on the Clutha bar last month.

It also confirmed that while all rotor blades were attached at the time of impact, neither the main blades nor the tail blades were rotating.

“Initial evidence indicated that the helicopter struck the flat roof of the building with a high rate of descent and low/negligible forward speed,” the report said.

It added: “Initial assessment provided no evidence of major mechanical disruption to either engine and indicated that the main rotor gearbox was capable of providing drive.”

A piece of the helicopter

A piece of the helicopter

The AAIB said the helicopter suffered “very extensive damage” when it crashed through the roof of the bar on the banks of the River Clyde shortly after 10.20pm on November 29.

There was no fire, despite the helicopter containing at least 95 litres of fuel – around a quarter of the amount it took off with nearly two hours before.

The remains of the aircraft have been inspected at AAIB’s headquarters in Farnborough, Hampshire, where a detailed examination continues.

Although the helicopter was not fitted with flight recorders, investigators are combing through radar data covering the flight, as well as radio communications and footage from CCTV cameras.

The AAIB’s initial report revealed the pilot had significant experience, having flown more than 5,500 hours, including 646 behind the controls of the type of helicopter involved in the crash.

Computer Glitch Delays UK Flights

Computer Glitch Delays UK Flights

A technical problem at an air traffic control centre has led to delays and cancellations at major airports, including London’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Thousands of passengers have seen their flights delayed by a “technical problem” at southern England’s main air traffic control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire.

Airports in the south east of England – the world’s busiest airspace – have been hardest hit, with the knock-on impact disrupting flights across the UK and further afield.

Passengers have complained about a lack of information as they spend hours stuck on planes, waiting to find out if their flights will take off.

Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic control across Europe, has said the technical problem will not be fixed until after 5pm.

A spokeswoman at Heathrow, where more than 200 flights have been cancelled, said: “Due to a technical issue with air traffic control, flights from many UK airports, including Heathrow, are subject to delay and cancellation.

“If you are flying today you should check the status of your flight with your airline. We are sorry that passengers have experienced disruption to their journeys.”


Grounded flights across the UK

Grounded flights across the UK

Gatwick Airport tweeted: “Due to air traffic control systems issues some flights may be delayed. Please check with your airline.”

There are also reports of delays at Stansted, Manchester, Cardiff, Southampton, Luton, London City and flights to the south from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

British Airways said passengers on cancelled flights would be able to claim a full refund or be rebooked on alternative flights.

The airline said in a statement: “Given that Heathrow is the world’s busiest two-runway airport and Gatwick is the world’s busiest single-runway airport, there will be problems for all airlines as a result of the ATC failures.”

The National Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) apologised for the backlog, blaming an internal phone system issue, and said it had handled 20% fewer flights than usual by midday on Saturday.

A spokesperson said: “In the early hours of this morning, a technical problem occurred at our area control centre at Swanwick.”

“The problem is related to the internal telephone system used by our air traffic controllers.”


The arrivals board at Gatwick Airport showing the delays


“At night, when it’s quiet, sectors of airspace are combined. As it gets busier in the daytime the sectors are split out again and additional control positions are opened to meet the traffic demand.”

“Because of the problem with the internal telephone system, it was not possible to open the additional control positions this morning, resulting in a significant reduction in capacity in some areas of UK en-route airspace.”

“Safety has not been compromised at any time.”

The issue has also affected flights UK-bound flights from Ireland and Europe.

Dublin Airport tweeted: “Technical issue with air traffic control in southern England is causing a delay to some flights to England & continental Europe this AM.”

Daisy McAndrew said she had been caught in the “unholy mess” at Gatwick as she tried to fly to Barcelona for work.

She said: “As ever, staff have been fantastic but they know nothing other than the fact it is going to be a very, very long delay – very frustrating.”

“And also, it’s embarrassing, isn’t it? When you look around a lot of people on my plane are not British, they are flying British Airways, they are probably trying to get back to Spain and they will inevitably be thinking this is something that could have possibly been prevented.”

“It doesn’t show our air traffic control system or our travel system in a good light.”

“I have never heard of an example where every single plane is grounded – it’s quite eerie when I look out of the window to see the tarmac in Gatwick, normally so busy, and also the sky above Gatwick which is normally busy – completely static, there’s nothing moving.”

Mrs McAndrew said the pilot on her flight suggested the delays would cause problems at Heathrow for two or three days.

Alwynne Gwilt, stuck at Stansted, said: “We’ve just been stuck on the tarmac since we boarded the plane – at that point I don’t think they realised quite the extent of the issue.”

“Once we were settled in, they told us there might be a delay of two hours and 45 minutes but we’ve had no updates since then.”

“I understand that safety comes first. Unfortunately you want to make the most of it when you go away for a short getaway, but at the moment we’re only seeing the yellow and blue of the Ryanair planes.”

“You have to question why we had to get on the plane if they had known a little bit ahead of time. Now we’re stuck with no tea, coffee, all those things you would be able to get if you were in an airport.”

People waiting in grounded planes

People waiting in grounded planes

Singer Howard Donald was also caught up in the chaos. He wrote on Twitter: “Control tower failure at Heathrow as left me stranded for 2-3 hours at dusseldorf. Anyone know any games besides eye spy?”

Radar engineer Dan Holland said the air traffic computer system runs at around 15% capacity during the night when there are fewer flights and then switches to near 100% during the day.

He said: “It seems that when they have made the switch something hasn’t gone right and the data isn’t being optimised enough for the safety of the passengers and the planes in UK airspace.”

Aviation analyst Chris Yates said passengers due to arrive at UK airports from overseas could find themselves diverted elsewhere.

He said: “There are contingency plans in place whenever this happens.”

“Many of the long-haul flights, coming from China, India, the US and so on, passengers sitting on those planes may find themselves diverted to continental airports.”

“But it’s going to be a long wait for them. When the system kicks back in and starts working, there will be a backlog of flights.”

Travel journalist Simon Calder said the technical glitch was a “disaster”.

He said: “The south-east of England is the busiest airspace in the world. London handles far more passengers than anywhere else including Paris, New York, Tokyo and so on.”

He explained that the lack of spare capacity at airports like Heathrow means things get “very messy, very quickly” and airlines are forced to cancel flights to create firebreaks, which allow the system to keep running.

He said there was “no way” that passenger safety would be compromised due to the ongoing problems but that airlines were facing losses of millions of pounds.

He added: “If you are flying today, then good luck, if you’re only delayed you’re in a pretty good place.”

UK Weather: Britain is hit by worst floods in 60 years

UK Weather: Britain is hit by worst floods in 60 years

A powerful Atlantic storm has killed two people, caused travel chaos and threatened the east coast of England with the worst flooding seen in 60 years.

Emergency services launched rescue operations as hurricane-force winds moved south from Scotland, some of which topped 142mph in mountainous areas of Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire.

One man was killed when he was struck by a falling tree in a park in Retford, Nottinghamshire, and a lorry driver died when the HGV he was driving was blown on top of two cars on the A801 near Bathgate, West Lothian. Four others were injured in the accident.

A property has fallen into the sea due to the cliff collapsing in Hemsby

A property has fallen into the sea due to the cliff collapsing in Hemsby

Across the country more than 100,000 properties were left without electricity as gales sent trees crashing into power lines.

Parts of Newcastle city centre flooded after the River Tyne burst its banks, and the Environment Agency (EA) issued a number of severe flood warnings – meaning rising waters were expected to put lives in danger – for eastern coastal areas.

The River Tyne has burst its banks in Newcastle

The River Tyne has burst its banks in Newcastle

Thousands of homes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent were evacuated ahead of a predicted storm surge experts feared could be higher than those during the devastating floods of 1953 – which battered the east coast of England and claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Defences built since then – including the Thames and Hull barriers – mean that many parts of the country are much better protected, he said.

However, some coastal flood defences could be “overtopped” by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge.

In Norfolk, 9,000 homes were evacuated, and a small number of soldiers brought in to help the flood defence effort.

The coastguard checks cars in a flooded car wash from Great Yarmouth

The coastguard checks cars in a flooded car wash from Great Yarmouth

Allan Urquhart, who lives on the seafront at Blakeney, brought a rowing boat to the King’s Arm pub to collect a friend.

“I’m going to row back to the house and we’ll stay upstairs tonight,” he said.

“We’ve put sandbags in place so hopefully we’ll be ok, I’m as confident as I can be.”

“This is the worst flooding I’ve seen so it could be a difficult night for lots of people.”

A further 1,000 properties were to be evacuated in affected areas in Suffolk and some residents in Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, were urged to leave their homes.

Local officials set up emergency accommodation facilities and handing out sandbags to help people protect their properties, police said.

Police in Humberside also declared an emergency situation as they prepared for coastal surges.

Residents in Rhyl, North Wales, have been ferried to safety from flooded homes by lifeboats as the storm battered the coast and flooded dozens of homes.

Huge wave on the seafront in Rhyl

Huge wave on the seafront in Rhyl

A school in the town also had to be evacuated because of fast-flowing water.

Tidal floods were also expected in Germany and Scandinavia, together with freezing high winds from Greenland.

Around 1,400 homes in Northern Ireland were left without power, while Scottish Hydro Electric said more than 80,000 properties across the north of Scotland suffered blackouts with the worst affected areas the Highlands, Tayside and Argyll.

Power has since been restored to around 33,000 homes.

The adverse weather has also caused chaos to the transport network.

A bus in New Brighton, Merseyside

A bus in New Brighton, Merseyside


Rail services for Scotland and parts of the north of England were suspended on Thursday morning.

Trains were halted at their nearest stations and passengers told to disembark after Network Rail said debris on lines and damage to equipment meant it was not safe to operate any services.

A number of flights have also been disrupted by the bad weather. And closures, fallen trees, minor accidents and incidents of flash flooding are affecting the road network in many parts of the UK.

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