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Essex Fire Service to raid reserves to pay £15m debt following accounting error

Essex fire service has announced it will have to raid its reserves to repay a £15m debt. Credit: Press Association Images.

Essex fire service has announced it will have to raid its reserves to repay a £15m debt to the government - because of an accounting error.

The miscalculation dates back to 2006 when changes to financial arrangements for injury payments to retired firefighters were made.

Essex Fire Authority said an underpayment was missed despite annual independent auditing. The service racked up a shortfall of £1.8m a year since 2006.

It is understood several other fire services are investigating similar underpayments and the county's fire chief warned that other fire authorities may not be in a position to meet the unexpected bill easily.

Acting chief fire officer Adam Eckley said: "Because of our prudent financial management over the last few years we have built up significant reserves and we are in a healthy financial position and able to wipe out this debt immediately."

"This is a significant burden but unlike other fire and rescue services that will likely face a similar financial challenge, the fire authority has the cash to pay while remaining financially sound. "Essex is still far better off than many fire authorities nationwide who have already had to look to job cuts and station closures to balance their books."

– Adam Eckley, Acting Chief Fire Office, Essex Fire and Rescue Service.

But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) insists it is too early to say what the full impact of the mistake will be.

A spokesman accused Essex Fire Service of "jumping the gun" and said further discussions had to take place.

"Essex have jumped the gun, given absolutely no decision has been made on this issue, and it is something that the department will be discussing with the fire authority in more detail in due course."

– Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman.

The payments relate to firefighters who have left the service since 1992 and were given early access to their pensions because of an injury suffered in the line of duty.

Accounts have been submitted to the Audit Commission and DCLG each year but both failed to pick up on the liability, the Essex Fire Authority said.

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Train cleaners to stage pay strike

Train cleaners to stage pay strike.

Cleaners working on the East Coast line, running through Stevenage and Peterborough, are to stage a fresh strike in a row over pay, but action in a separate dispute over jobs has been suspended.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said cleaning staff employed by contractor ISS on the East Coast line will walk out for two days from Friday over pay.

Acting general secretary Mick Cash said ISS cleaners had not received a pay rise since 2011.

A planned 48 hour walkout from Friday by cleaners working on Interserve contracts for the Eurostar, over jobs, was called off after new proposals were put forward.

Thousands of families in the East of England are living in huge debt

More than 130,000 families in the East of England are in problem debt, owing over £240 million in bills and loans. Credit: PA Images

A study by The Children's Society has revealed that hundreds of thousands of children in the East of England are living in families crippled with debt, and it's having a massive impact on their lives.

The Children's Society and StepChange Debt say children in families which are failing to keep up with bill and loan repayments miss out on essentials, suffer from anxiety, and many experience bullying as a result of their family's problems.

  • In total, more than 130,000 families in the East of England are in problem debt, owing over £240 million in bills and loans.
  • Norfolk has the biggest number, with 45,346 families across the county struggling to keep up with repayments.
  • In Clacton in Essex and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, 30% of all families are affected.

Russell Hookey spoke to Dr Sam Royston from The Children's Society, and began by asking him, why is this happening?

Cancer patient attacks health watchdog decision

Kim Mawby has been using Kadcyla Credit: ITV News Anglia

A cancer patient from Essex has attacked a decision not to fund a new life-prolonging drug on the NHS - because it's too expensive.

Kim Mawby was told she only had six months to live three years ago when she discovered her breast cancer had spread. After being taken onto a trial for Kadcyla, she saw amazing results.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence or NICE hasannounced it would not fund the drug.

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"Miracle" drug which costs too much

Credit: ITV News Anglia

A mother from Essex whose life has been extended thanks to a new cancer drug has criticised the news it's to be blocked by a health watchdog.

Kim Mawby from Nazeing in Essex was told three years ago she had 6 months to live. Her breast cancer had spread to the chest wall and lung.

The mum of two was accepted onto a trial for the drug Kadcyla. After just nine weeks on the medication she went for a scan at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

"We went up there with my partner and sister, we were all quite nervous and she said to me the results are more than fantastic, they're brilliant, the cancer we can't see it. That was after three treatments of Kadcyla, the cancer in the chest wall and the lung, they couldn't see anymore. Three years on it's been the same result so it's been working wonderfully for me."

– Kim Mawby

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has announced it would not supply the drug on the NHS because £90,000 per patient per year, it is too expensive.

Kadcyla's manufacturer Roche says it's already reduced the price and other European countries have no problem funding it.

"Despite Roche offering a significant discount we are once again disappointed that NICE has not shown any flexibility on access to Kadcyla... Refusing patients access to this drug is an incredible injustice and tantamount to turning the clock back in cancer research and development."

– Dr Jayson Dalla, Roche Products Ltd
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