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Pressure on police forces sees officers contemplating suicide, says senior detective

23 June

A decorated senior detective says an increasing number of police officers are contemplating suicide because of the strain being put on forces across the UK.

The warning from Detective Inspector Warren Hines comes as the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) calls on the Government to increase police funding.
In an exclusive interview, DI Hines, who heads up one of six murder squads in the West Midlands, told Sky News that police forces simply cannot cope with the work they are being asked to do because they are not properly resourced.
Budget cuts imposed under the Conservative government have seen more than 19,000 police posts shed since 2010.
DI Hines said: "We really are at a point now where we can't cope with what we're expected to deal with. Sickness and mental health problems amongst my colleagues are rife.
"We've got examples of police officers who have been conveyed to hospital from work because they've had a meltdown.
"I'm aware of incidents where sergeants in our public protection units are allocating work on the basis of who is the least tearful that morning when they get to work."
The veteran officer said many forces had been forced to cancel annual leave and increase working hours following a series of high-profile major incidents.
There have been four terror attacks in three months - at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park - as well as the Grenfell Tower fire.
Officers from West Midlands were sent to the capital this week to help out in the aftermath of the latest attack.
DI Hines said many of his colleagues are now at breaking point.
"In the last 15 months alone, around 80 officers in the West Midlands force have been referred to the National Police Federation Welfare Support Programme," he said.
"Those are people who are undergoing a significant mental health crisis.
"They're experiencing suicidal thoughts and tendencies and they are at risk of doing something really serious to hurt themselves, and this is only as a result of the pressures that they are being put under."
The Government has promised that forces will not face any further budget cuts for the remainder of this Parliament, but the NPCC says the current "flat cash" settlement for policing means force budgets will fall in real terms.
Dave Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police and the national lead on finance for the NPCC, said: "Taking into account inflation and cost pressures, there will be less money every year for forces on top of real-terms cuts of 18% since 2010.
"Many forces are now using considerable reserves to maintain current staff numbers that, when spent, will see numbers falling even further."

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Combustible cladding found on 11 towers after Grenfell fire

23 June

Tests have revealed that at least 11 tower blocks across England are fitted with combustible cladding, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has said.

The towers are in eight local authority areas.
People living in the 16-storey Lynher, Tamar and Tavy blocks in Devonport, Plymouth, have received letters telling them their homes are clad with a combustible material similar to that at Grenfell Tower.
The Chalcots Estate in Camden in north London, where cladding is being removed, is another of the locations affected.
Manchester is also on the list. Wythenshawe Community Housing Group in south Manchester said it was removing "78 feature panels".
:: Fire safety list issued - for immediate action
Around 600 high-rise buildings in England are believed to be fitted with some form of cladding, the Government has said.
Theresa May said local authorities and fire services were "taking all possible steps" to ensure the towers are safe, while hundreds more buildings are due to be checked.
The Government is performing tests on 100 tower blocks a day, with results coming back "within hours", the Prime Minister said.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said residents of affected buildings could be rehomed if the blocks are found to be unsafe after further tests.
:: Tower fire released deadly hydrogen cyanide
In a statement in the Commons, Theresa May said the chair of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster will produce an interim report "as soon as possible".
Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said the results of cladding tests were "chilling" and called on the Prime Minister to "get a grip on this personally".
The Grenfell Tower disaster would have been avoided if the Government had acted on the findings of an inquest into the deaths of six people in the 2009 Lakanal House fire, Ms Harman added.
At least 79 people are dead, or missing, presumed dead, following the blaze.
Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad told Mrs May that residents in her constituency had been left "traumatised and frightened" after the fire.
:: Inquiry must not fail victims, firefighters warn MPs
Earlier, the chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea Council resigned following criticism of the authority's reaction to the tragedy.
Nicholas Holgate said Communities Secretary Sajid Javid had "required the leader of the council to seek my resignation".
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he welcomed the resignation but that it was "still not enough".
"I think it's not sustainable for those in positions of power and influence in Kensington and Chelsea to stay there bearing in mind the lack of confidence from those residents," he said.
:: Grenfell Tower residents promised fire-resistant cladding in 2012
As of midday on Thursday, just under £1m of Government funding had been distributed to families affected by the blaze.
The Grenfell Response Team denied claims victims were being given emergency accommodation in tower blocks, adding that 140 hotel placements have been made for people living in Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk.
Victims' outstanding energy bills have been written off.
On Wednesday, Mr Javid announced 68 new social housing units at a luxury development in Kensington had been acquired for victims.
Meanwhile, every tower block in Birmingham is to be fitted with a sprinkler system.
All 213 blocks in its area are being assessed, city council leader John Clancy said.

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Theresa May makes offer to let EU citizens stay in UK after Brexit

23 June

Theresa May has promised EU citizens living legally in the UK will be allowed to stay after Brexit.

The Prime Minister outlined what she called a "generous offer" to guarantee permanent "settled status" to three million EU nationals, speaking after an EU summit dinner in Brussels.
"The UK's position represents a fair and serious offer, one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society," she told the 27 remaining leaders of EU nations.
It would be dependent on the same rights being offered reciprocally to the one million UK citizens in other European countries, she said.
The plan, which will be published in full on Monday, guarantees permanent settled status for three million EU citizens already living in the UK, including rights to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was a "good start", but there were many issues still to be resolved.
:: Imagine: EU chief channels Lennon on Brexit
The new legal arrangement would build on citizens' eligibility for permanent residence after five years.
Most people who have been in the UK for under five years will be given the chance to meet the five-year threshold for "settled status".
The deal also potentially offers it to some EU citizens yet to arrive, depending on the negotiation of a cut-off date with the EU.
The existing plan was to limit eligibility to those living here on the day Article 50 was triggered on 29 March.
The new plan offers the potential to change that date to the day when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU, in 2019.
Mrs May told EU leaders that no matter what was agreed on the cut-off date, there would be no "cliff edge" for any EU citizen lawfully resident in the UK on the actual day of Brexit.
Everyone would be given a two-year "grace period" to "regularise their status under new laws", she said.
The plan also scraps an onerous 85-page residency document that has led to much agony among EU citizens forced to supply boxes full of supporting documentation.
The Prime Minister promised "streamlined administration" that "used digital tools to register people in a light-touch way". This is another issue raised by the EU in its position paper on the same issue.
She said the rights would be guaranteed under UK law and in UK courts, not under European law as demanded by the EU position paper.
The proposal is not, however, clear on the extent to which rights of EU citizens are also passed on to descendants or family members, as asked for in the EU negotiating document.
The European leaders did not engage in a negotiation with Mrs May over the issue at the dinner.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced ahead of the dinner that "it must be clear the European Council is not a forum for Brexit negotiations".
Leaders merely took note of the Mrs May's offer.
The real negotiation will take place in the coming weeks in Brussels between Brexit Secretary David Davis and Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator.

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Consumers locked into 'risky' Hinkley Point nuclear plant, report warns

23 June

Consumers are locked into a "risky and expensive project" over the Government deal for a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) finalised the £18bn deal for the Hinkley Point C reactor last September, with energy consumers paying subsidies on their bills for the scheme for 35 years.
But payments set to be added to consumer bills have soared from an estimated £6bn to £30bn, a NAO report said.
The report added that the costs and risks to consumers have not been sufficiently considered and that it will not be known for decades whether the plant is value for money.
The case for Hinkley Point has also weakened since the Government agreed key commercial terms in 2013, the NAO added.
The company building the plant - which is two-thirds owned by French energy giant EDF and one-third by China General Nuclear Power Group - will receive a guaranteed price for the power it generates.
But the deal for the "strike price" - £92.50 per megawatt/hour in 2012 prices - was agreed without competition.
Falling fossil fuel costs, which reduce wholesale prices of electricity, mean the forecast for top-up payments on consumer bills have ballooned.
Delays have pushed back construction of the plant, while the expected cost of low-carbon alternatives have fallen more than expected, the report found.
An estimated £10-£15 will be added to the average bill up to 2030 to pay for Hinkley Point C, but that could rise if it is delayed.
The report found that BEIS has not taken into account the fact that bill payers will be locked into paying for the plant after 2030, when low-carbon alternatives will be cheaper.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "The department has committed electricity consumers and taxpayers to a high cost and risky deal in a changing energy marketplace.
"Time will tell whether the deal represents value for money, but we cannot say the department has maximised the chances that it will be."
An EDF Energy spokesman said the report showed Hinkley Point C remained good value compared with alternative choices.
"Relaunching the UK nuclear new build industry at Hinkley Point C will enable costs for future projects, in particular Sizewell C, to be lower," he said.
A BEIS spokesman said: "Consumers won't pay a penny until Hinkley is built; it will provide clean, reliable electricity powering six million homes and creating more than 26,000 jobs and apprenticeships in the process."

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Islamic State make a last stand in Mosul's Old City amid intense fighting

22 June

The battle for Mosul's Old City has taken months, the Iraqi army unable to break the iron grip of Islamic State fighters dug into the ancient streets and alleyways they always knew would be the location of their last stand.

An unexpected lightning strike by Iraqi special forces brought them to within metres of the iconic Al Nouri mosque.
We joined them as they moved forward into the Old City proper.
Their incursion was as unexpected as it was dangerous. On a map it looks like a prong into enemy territory; IS positions are in front and on both sides.
To military experts it looks like madness. But they have held the ground; they are advancing, albeit slowly, house by house, street by street.
IS destroyed the mosque as the special forces closed in. It is where the so-called IS caliphate was publicly declared but, faced with the prospect of an Iraqi takeover, they pushed the button on enormous charges, destroying the mosque compound.
The fighting is still so intense we cannot get to the ruins - yet. The military and the government are predicting the relief of Mosul in days.
That may be optimistic.
The Mosque's famous minaret would have dominated the skyline above the streets where we moved forward, but it has gone.
The sounds of shooting, missiles and explosions are a constant.
We walked down the largest street in the Old City. Humvees can barely make it through. All the other streets are ancient alleyways.
The destruction here is massive, the fighting intense and deadly for both sides. The air stinks of death. The bodies of IS fighters are littered amongst the ruins.
These streets have only just been reclaimed for Iraq but there is nothing certain inside this battle space. It is seriously scary.
Commanders came to see their exhausted troops. They were greeted with a traditional welcome; a promise to fight and reclaim.
It is a battle cry in the midst of a battle as ferocious as many have ever seen. Even as they cheered, missiles crashed into buildings. The battle is in the next street.
Even as their bosses gave frontline interviews to Iraqi media their answers were drowned out by shooting and explosions.
The fact that Islamic State decided to blow up the mosque coupled with the sudden departure of hundreds of civilians is being seen as a sign of a significant weakening of their position.
They have murdered hundreds of civilians attempting to escape.
As those who have survived make their way out in their droves, you realise just how much they have suffered utter horror.
They have endured IS for years and for months lived in permanent fear: IS murder squads, aerial bombardments, no food, water or electricity and now a land battle as well.
The struggle out with virtually nothing. They have hidden underground, cowering and praying.
There are many more still inside and the battle rages on.

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