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The Queen to visit Sheffield for Maundy Thursday

Royal date on April 2nd

Buckingham Palace has announced that Her Majesty The Queen will be coming to Sheffield on Maundy Thursday, April 2nd, to distribute the Royal Maundy.

The Queen will be accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. In over 900 years, this will be the first time that this State Occasion has taken place in South Yorkshire.

The Queen will be welcomed to the city’s Church of England cathedral by a congregation of over 1,000 representatives from churches in South Yorkshire and organisations from the whole County. The Queen will personally distribute a gift of Maundy Money to 178 individuals over the age of 70 in recognition of their service to the church and community.

According to ancient tradition, the number of recipients and the amount of money are directly related to the Sovereign’s age. Therefore, as Her Majesty is 89 years old, 89 men and 89 women will receive 89 pence in specially minted Maundy Money, together with a further gift, in two specially made leather purses.

The money is specially struck by the Royal Mint for this service, and includes 3 pence pieces—which are legal tender! The 178 recipients have been nominated by churches from across South Yorkshire, and each is invited to attend the Cathedral with a guest. All of them have been chosen because of their service of church and community.

MPs urge government to protect dairy producers

Dairy farmers need greater protection in the face of sharp falls in the price of milk, MPs have said.

A report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee says fluctuating milk prices are driving dairy farmers out of business. Credit: Press Association

Since last summer the dairy industry has been hit by significant falls in milk prices in the face of rising supply and falling demand, particularly from China and as a result of the Russian trade ban.

The sharp reversal in fortunes, coming after prices hit their highest level for several years, has been driving dairy farmers out of business every week, with the total number in the UK falling to below 10,000 for the first time.

The parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee urged the Government to extend the Groceries Code Adjudicator's (GCA) remit to include dairy farmers in the scheme, which covers suppliers to the big supermarkets and retailers.

MPs also called for ministers to help dairy farmers tap into worldwide export opportunities and press for clearer "country-of-origin" labelling so that consumers know if they really are buying British, and for an EU review of the protection against very low prices.

The committee's chairwoman Anne McIntosh said: "The volatility of worldwide and domestic milk markets is making financial planning and investment impossible for small-scale producers unable to hedge against changes beyond their control.

"The vast majority of dairy farmers fall outside the protection offered by the Groceries Code Adjudicator. She can only investigate complaints involving direct suppliers to the big 10 supermarkets and retailers, and as most milk production is small-scale, that excludes most dairy farmers. The Efra committee thought that was wrong when the GCA was set up in 2013, and events since then justify our view that her remit should be extended to include small-scale suppliers, whether or not they have a direct relationship with the ultimate seller of their produce."

She also said the committee was "shocked" to learn that the adjudicator was still unable to levy fines on retailers because the Government had not yet set the level of fine she could seek, and called for the power to be activated before the general election.

In a report on dairy prices, the MPs also called on farmers to consider forming "producer organisations" to increase their clout in the market.

A Government spokesman said: "We understand the concerns of British farmers over the current pressures on milk prices caused by the volatility of the global market and we are doing all we can to help manage this. This includes giving dairy farmers the opportunity to unite in producer organisations so they have greater clout in the marketplace. We have also brokered a dairy industry code of practice on contractual relationships to improve transparency and give farmers a fairer deal, which now covers 85% of UK dairy production."

He added that it was important to remember that the long-term prospects for the dairy industry were good.

"We are helping the dairy industry to take advantage of opportunities such as opening new export markets and pushing for better country of origin labelling for British dairy products. We strongly support the work of the Groceries Code Adjudicator. Its jurisdiction is currently limited to the scope of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, and does not cover pricing - which is the responsibility of the Competition and Markets Authority. There will be a statutory review of the GCA next year."

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Lendal Bridge fine refund decision expected

Drivers fined for crossing Lendal Bridge will find out today how they'll get their money back.

Lendal Bridge fine refund decision expected

The city's council is set to approve plans to notify drivers they are entitled to a refund and give them more time to apply, but fines will not be automatically repaid. It will replace the existing system where drivers have to request a refund from the Council.

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British Gas to reduce gas prices by 5%

British Gas is to reduce household gas prices by 5%, cutting annual energy bills on average by £37.

The move will cut annual bills by £37 on average. Credit: PA Wire

The energy supplier, owned by Centrica, said the move will benefit 6.8 million customers when it comes into force on February 27.

The company said the cut reflected the recent drop in wholesale gas prices, and that it would be keeping prices under review "for further movements up or down".

Energy companies have been coming under pressure from politicians and regulators to pass on lower costs to homeowners.

Last week, E.ON became the first firm to react to falling wholesale prices by announcing a 3.5% cut.

Protest against Lincolnshire fire service cuts

Protestors against possible cuts to Lincolnshire's fire service will demonstrate in Lincoln city centre later today.

A protest against cuts to Lincolnshire Fire Service will be held today

The Defend Our Fire Service group together with the Fire Brigade Union are opposing plans which could see cut backs made to Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue.

"The jobs of dozens of firefighters are threatened by cut proposals, and the FBU are absolutely right in organising this protest to defend their members' livelihoods.

"But these cuts will have a serious effect on the public too and the services that our communities receive.

"Under the proposed cuts plans, Lincolnshire residents will have to wait longer for a fire engine after they've called 999, and when one shows up, there'll be less firefighters on board.

"We're calling on members of the public to unite together with the FBU to stop these cuts proposals and defend our fire services."

– Elaine Smith, Defend Our Fire Services

The protest, organised by the Lincolnshire branch of the Fire Brigades Union, will take place today from 11am.

Protesters will assemble by the war memorial on the corner of St Benedict's Square and the High Street in Lincoln.

Le Tour brings in record number of holidaymakers

A record number of tourists visited Yorkshire last year, due in no small part to the county hosting the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

Le Tour brings in record number of tourists

From January to September overseas visits to Yorkshire went up by 12 per cent to 1.08 million and these tourists spent a total of £465 million. The strongest growth in visits came from Australia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and USA.

Holiday visits in particular, across the first nine months of 2014, saw a significant jump of 32 per cent and the amount spent by tourists whilst holidaying went up by 70 per cent. Strong holiday visit growth came from France, Italy, Netherlands, Ireland, Spain and USA.

In the third quarter, covering July, August and September, there were 472,000 overseas visitors to the county, breaking previous records and up 19 per cent on 2013. A total of £230m was spent during this three-month period up one per cent on 2013.

Yorkshire is playing a big part in helping to drive Britain's record tourism boom. Last year's Tour de France Grand Depart showcased the best of this wonderful region to the world and now it is about keeping up that momentum. It is why we have launched a £10 million fund to help strengthen tourism in the North and why the Deputy Prime Minister and myself have met key stakeholders in Sheffield, including Welcome to Yorkshire's Gary Verity, to discuss what more can be done to help further growth in the region.

– Tourism Minister Helen Grant

Yorkshire’s global profile has never been higher – and this is further evidence of the huge beneficial impact of bringing the world’s largest annual sporting event to the county. We know when visitors from around the world come to Yorkshire to see it for themselves they fall in love with the county, which in turn helps drive up repeat visits. The new Tour de Yorkshire international cycle race starting this May will help us capitalise on the foundations already laid.

– Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire

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Emergency funding for Hull Truck Theatre

Hull Truck Theatre is billed as one of the top acts of Hull's City of Culture - but it has had to turn to emergency funding for an eighth time. The theatre has had to contend with many issues over the years, not least starting its life on the back of a lorry, then moving into crumbling premises. But it was its latest switch to a new multi-million pound home which looks to have cost the theatre dear even though it's planning to be around for several years. Helen Steel reports

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