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Government targets six-figure public sector payoffs

The Government will announce plans to curb public sector payouts in the Queen's Speech. Credit: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The Government is ready to act to end six-figure "golden parachutes" for high-earning public sector bosses who are made redundant.

The Queen's Speech next week will include legislation to enact the Conservatives' general election manifesto pledge to cap the amount public sector employees can receive if they lose their jobs.

According to officials, more than 1,800 public sector employees received pay-offs of more than £100,000 in 2013.

The Government will consult on the detail - including whether it will cover the BBC - but ministers are said to be "minded" to set the cap at £95,000.

It is not right that working people should have to fork out for golden parachutes worth hundreds of thousands of pounds for public sector workers when they are made redundant.

That's why we are delivering on our pledge to end six figure pay-offs for the best paid public sector workers, ensuring fairness and value for money for the taxpayer.

– George Osborne

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Eurovision hopefuls gear up for grand final in Austria

This year's Eurovison contest is taking place at the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna.

All of the finalists for the 2015 Eurovision competition are now in place and prepared to battle it out for the coveted title in tonight's live grand final.

This year's contest, which is taking place at the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, is being hosted by Austrian trio Mirjam Weichselbraun, Alice Tumler and Arabella Kiesbauer.

Last year's winner, Conchita Wurst, will present coverage from the green room with contestants backstage.

There are 27 finalists this year - first up is Slovenia and the final act of the night is Italy.

The UK's entry this year, which comes from Electro Velvet and is called Still In Love With You, will be fifth on stage.

Notable absentees this year include Ireland, who despite being the competition's most successful country with seven wins under their belt, failed to qualify in the second semi-final.

In the UK, the results from the televised grand final on BBC One at 8pm will be voiced by TV chef Nigella Lawson.

Palace staff made redundant as part of cost-cutting

At least four senior staff members at Buckingham Palace have reportedly been made redundant as part of cost-cutting measures.

At least four senior staff members at Buckingham Palace have been made redundant. Credit: Steven Paston / PA Wire/PA Images

The Daily Mail said servants who had lost their jobs, some with young children, also faced losing their homes at the Royal Household, although a Palace spokeswoman denied the claim.

One source told the newspaper staff morale was at "rock-bottom - the worst I have ever known".

The newspaper also said Palace porters had their overtime stopped as part of the widespread cuts.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said costs were constantly reviewed and in "rare instances" staff were made redundant, but strongly denied claims of low morale.

As a public institution, scrutinised by Parliament, the Royal Household constantly reviews structures and staffing to ensure that it is run in the most effective and efficient way possible.

In rare instances this can involve redundancies; those affected are routinely offered a severance package and support, including retraining.

Internal surveys consistently show that employees are proud to work for the Royal Household and represent the Queen. Morale at Buckingham Palace continues to be high, with low staff turnover.

– Buckingham Palace spokeswoman

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Result due today on Ireland's same-sex marriage vote

People in Ireland have been voting on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Credit: Brian Lawless / PA Wire/PA Images

Counting of votes in Ireland's landmark referendum on gay marriage will begin at 9am today.

With more than 3.2 million people eligible to vote, including tens of thousands who registered at the last minute and returned home from overseas, the turnout was reported to be higher than average.

If the reform to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples is passed, the Republic will be the first in the world to bring it in by popular vote. It is only 22 years since Ireland decriminalised homosexuality.

Early indications of how the vote is going are expected to filter into the count headquarters in Dublin Castle around mid-morning, with the result known by the afternoon.

Voters are now being asked one simple, specific question on whether to amend Article 41 of the 1937 Constitution by adding a new clause to a section titled The Family.

It asks voters to support or reject a change to the 78-year-old document which reads: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."

Mother found pushing dead son on a park swing

A woman was found pushing her dead three-year-old son on a park swing. Credit: Marius Becker / DPA/PA Images

Police in the US said they found a mother pushing her dead three-year-old boy on a park swing in Maryland early on Friday, Reuters reports.

Officers responded to a call around 7am to check on a woman who witnesses said had been pushing a child for hours on a swing at Wills Memorial Park in La Plata, according to Charles County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Diane Richardson.

When the officers arrived they found the 24-year-old woman still pushing the child in the swing, and they realised immediately that the boy was dead, Richardson said.

The child had no signs of obvious trauma, she said, and had been dead for at least several hours. An autopsy will be performed to determine the boy's cause of death.

The mother, who was not identified, was transported to a nearby hospital for medical tests, police said.

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