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High street stores braced for 'panic Saturday'

Shoppers are expected to spend millions as they buy last-minute Christmas gifts. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA

High street spending is set to reach £1.2 billion today as festive shoppers hit the stores on "Panic Saturday".

Thirteen million consumers will spend £2.1 million for every minute the shops are open on last-minute gifts and groceries at an average of £92.31 per person, according to a report by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

The CRR has predicted in-store sales will reach £4.74 billion over the five days before Christmas - a 21% increase on last year. Overall, the seven day period before Christmas Day is predicted to see a 7% increase in spending and an 8% increase in transactions on the same period last year.

Some of the country's biggest high street names have slashed prices for what is expected to one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Women hardest hit by austerity plans, Labour warns

Ed Balls claimed women will 'bear the brunt' of Conservative plans to cut the deficit. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Women will be hardest hit by George Osborne's austerity measures if the Conservatives win next May's general election, Labour has warned.

Analysis by the independent House of Commons Library, commissioned by the Opposition, showed that freezing benefits and tax credits will disproportionately affect women.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the figures showed women will "bear the brunt" of the Tory plans to tackle the deficit.

Of course we need to make savings to get the deficit down. But the Tories have chosen to hit millions of working families on modest incomes again, while keeping their huge tax cut for millionaires.

– Shadow chancellor Ed Balls


Text Santa charity appeal raises highest ever total

The Text Santa charity appeal has raised over £5.5 million for six charities. Credit: ITV News

ITV's Text Santa appeal raised its highest ever total as viewers dug deep to donate more than £5.5 million.

The star-studded show saw Hollywood superstar George Clooney appear in a special version of Downton Abbey, former Spice Girl Mel B join the cast of Coronation Street and members of McBusted eat turkey testicles and fish eyes in a "bushtucker trial".

This year's appeal was raising cash for Teenage Cancer Trust, Guide Dogs, WellChild, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Alzheimer's Society and children's hospice support charity Together for Short Lives.

In four years of fundraising, Text Santa has now raised over £20.5 million.

Government pledges to help over-50s keep working

Older jobseekers will be given extra support to find work under a new government scheme. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

The Government is pledging to tackle ageism in the workplace by offering fresh support to older jobseekers.

A scheme will be launched in April across the UK to give "intensive" work support to over-50s, including help to get online and links with smaller firms with vacancies.

Ministers said research showed that if the 1.2 million unemployed over-50s were supported into a job, it could add £50 billion to the economy.

Despite the recent impressive trends in those over 50 getting back into work, older workers still in many cases face outdated stereotypes when it comes to business hiring practices. Not only is this a waste of valuable talent and 'life skills', but it's a missed opportunity for businesses."

– Employment Minister Esther McVey


Police hunt teenager released from prison 'in error'

Police are offering a reward after Jordan Lee Francois was released from prison in error. Credit: Metropolitan Police

A teenager held on suspicion of attempted murder is being sought by police after he was released from prison in error.

The Metropolitan Police offered a £10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of Jordan Lee Francois.

The Prison Service said it would "formally investigate" the incident.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "Releases in error are a very rare but regrettable occurrence. The number of incidents have fallen significantly in recent years with figures down by a quarter compared to 2009/10 but every incident is taken extremely seriously and we are not complacent."

Scotland Yard said the 18-year-old was "unlawfully at large from prison" from Wandsworth Prison, where he was on remand for attempted murder.

Farage popularity hit by ongoing Ukip blunders

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been criticised after his attempts to defend a former UKIP parliamentary candidate's remarks about Chinese people and homosexuals only appeared to make matters worse.

Mr Farage said controversial comments made by disgraced former Ukip candidate Kerry Smith were because he was a "rough diamond".

ITV News' Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on how the controversy is affecting Mr Farage's popularity.

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