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Is latest smoking ban a step too far?

Nottinghamshire County Council has told staff they are introducing a blanket ban on having a cigarette during the working day.

The ban is intended to apply to anyone in uniform - even on the way to work. But is this latest attack on smokers a step too far? We sent Martin Fisher to Mansfield to find out.

Smokers' group Forest criticises 'intrusive' smoking break ban

Smokers' group Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) has criticised Nottingham County Council's decision to ban employees from taking smoking breaks, describing it as "a gross intrusion in people's personal freedom."

Director Simon Clark says employers have "no business" prohibiting employees smoking outside working hours when they are not even on the premises.

Under the proposals being considered, smoking will be allowed during lunch breaks but not in uniform or anywhere near council property.

A good employer recognises that everyone is different and has different ways of coping with the stresses and strains of a working day.

Everyone is entitled to a break. How people spend it should be up to them. Some drink coffee, others choose to smoke. Rightly or wrongly, many smokers believe it relaxes them and helps them refocus.

Disciplining employees for smoking on their to way to and from work is a gross intrusion in people's personal freedom.

Employees are entitled to a private life and as long as their habit doesn't interfere with their ability to do their job, employers have no business prohibiting them smoking outside working hours when they're not even on the premises.

– Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest

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Smoking ban council wants to 'protect the health of employees'

Nottinghamshire County Council says its decision to ban staff from taking smoking breaks has been made so it can protect their health.

Credit: Press Association

In a statement, Deputy Director of Public Health John Tomlinson says that the Council has signed the Nottinghamshire and Nottingham Tobacco Declaration which mean it must take action against tobacco to improve the health of staff.

Mr Tomlinson says the Council wants to encourage Nicotine Replacement Therapy at work and feels encouraging staff to give up smoking would make them better role models for their children.

We are trying to be a supportive employer and have a duty of care to protect the health of our employees as part of a wider remit to take a leading role in promoting better health in Nottinghamshire.]

We want to support staff by encouraging them to use Nicotine Replacement Therapy at work. The cost of Nicotine Replacement Therapy is cheaper than cigarettes so we are not asking staff to spend more money than usual.

National research suggests that staff who smoke take more time off work to have breaks and have more sick leave through respiratory problems.

Another reason for encouraging staff to give up smoking is that they become better role models for their children and the children are less likely to start smoking in the first place if their parents are non-smokers.

– John Tomlinson, Deputy Director of Public Health, Nottinghamshire County Council

Flags hoisted for Merchant Navy Day

North East Lincolnshire will fly the Red Ensign at Grimsby Town Hall and the Remembrance Gate at Cleethorpes today to raise awareness of the UK's ongoing dependence on Merchant Navy seafarers.

The Red Ensign will be flown above Grimsby Town Hall to mark Merchant Navy Day

Flags will be raised by the Worshipful the Mayor of the Borough of North East Lincolnshire, Councillor Cliff Barber at Grimsby Town Hall at 10.00am and at the Remembrance Gate at Cleethorpes at 12.30pm.

North East Lincolnshire Council is supporting a nationwide call from the Seafarers UK charity and the Merchant Navy Association for the UK Merchant Navy's official flag to be flown on public buildings and landmark flagstaffs.

"The Merchant Navy has played a significant part in the culture of this country and it's great that we have national recognition for our seafarers.

"North East Lincolnshire has a proud history of working with the Merchant Navy, and it's important to remember those who served in the service.

"They deserve prime place alongside the other forces who courageously gave their efforts and lives in the wars."

– Cllr Cliff Barber, Mayor of North East Lincolnshire

Council considers employee smoking break ban

Smoking breaks will be banned for thousands of council employees under new proposals.

Nottinghamshire County Council is proposing a total smoking ban for staff

Nottinghamshire County Council has said its 9,000 employees will be barred from smoking during work time with the ban extending to e-cigarettes, in the mooted plans.

Anyone who fails to stick to the rules could face internal disciplinary action.

The local authority said the ban, to include all council buildings, land and vehicles, was aimed at boosting its workers' health, increasing time spent working and reducing levels of sick leave.

But the largest public sector union Unison has said the stringent rules will be unenforceable and has urged the council to support smokers in quitting rather than haul wayward employees into disciplinary meetings.

The council's deputy director of public health John Tomlinson said smoking was still "public health's number one enemy" and the local authority had committed itself to action.

"We are trying to be a supportive employer and have a duty of care to protect the health of our employees as part of a wider remit to take a leading role in promoting better health in Nottinghamshire.

"If you asked 100 smokers if they wanted to give up, 70 of them would want to.

"With this in mind we want to encourage staff to attend smoking cessation services.

"If they don't want to give up smoking they will get withdrawal symptoms at work because of their nicotine addiction."

– John Tomlinson, Nottinghamshire's deputy director of public health

The council has said it will encourage staff to use alternatives like nicotine patches to kick their habit, arguing the cost to its staff would be cheaper than a packet of cigarettes.

"National research suggests that staff who smoke take more time off work to have breaks and have more sick leave through respiratory problems.

"Another reason for encouraging staff to give up smoking is that they become better role models for their children and the children are less likely to start smoking in the first place if their parents are non-smokers."

– John Tomlinson Nottinghamshire's deputy director of public health

The council has about 9,000 employees across all its departments, excluding teachers.

Employees get a short morning and afternoon break, but no smoking will be allowed during these periods under any ban.

Smoking will be allowed during lunch breaks but not in uniform or anywhere near council property, according to the union, Unison.

"We're supportive of public health and we haven't got a stance on this, but we are balloting members asking whether they would be for or against.

"I don't see yet how they could enforce it. Say you work in highways, if you want to smoke, you need to take all your uniform off and go as far away from site as possible and have a cigarette and then come back.

"You're not going to be able to smoke in your uniform, or if you're standing outside your council workplace or are wearing a council badge or lanyard.

"If you're in the parks department, you won't be able to - even when you're outside.

"If anybody goes out on council business and drives their own car, they won't be able to smoke."

– Brian Fitzpatrick, Unison services conditions officer

Unions will discuss the proposals with the council in the autumn, with the ban expected to come into force early next year.

Northern economy could see " Victorian style growth" says think tank

The northern economy could experience economic growth on a scale "not seen since the Victorian era of grand municipal development" if timely investment in the region takes place, a new report suggests.

Commitments to major transport infrastructure spending, strong leadership and a sense of urgency to progress devolution are the "key ingredients for turning northern powerhouse rhetoric into national economic prosperity", the research by think tank IPPR North concluded.

The analysis, entitled Rhetoric to Reality: A business agenda for the Northern Powerhouse, argues the potential exists for businesses in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber to grow, boosting the economy through "properly directed investment".

It notes the economy of the three northern regions is worth #289 billion - "twice the size of Scotland's, and bigger than all the devolved nations' economies combined", adding: "If it were a national economy, the north of England would rank as tenth largest in the EU."

It added: "The economies of the five biggest cities together grew by 38.8 per cent in the 10 years to 2013 - more than the UK outside London (38.3 per cent).

Their populations grew by over half a million (5.4 per cent) in the 10 years to 2014, which is more than live in the city of Manchester."

It went on: "In the last year, the rate of job creation in areas such as North Eastern (4.8%) and Leeds City Region (4.0%) was more than double the national rate of 1.9% (which is matched by the North as a whole)."

The report argued a rebalanced economy can only be achieved through tackling "lagging" productivity, under-investment in transport infrastructure spending, poor connectivity between cities in the north and lower qualifications and skills levels.

It stated that the prospects for the northern powerhouse's long-term success "rest not on its political salience but on its potential to generate genuine economic prosperity for its businesses and citizens".

The report identified four key drivers of growth in the northern economy, including: infrastructure and connectivity, human capital, innovation and business support, plus leadership and policy development.

It argued: "The forthcoming spending review must make a step-change in commitment to the north of England, with large-scale government capital spending of up to £50 billion that can be used to leverage even greater private investment."

It added: "There is an urgent need (for) more detail and more action to support the pan-northern vision - 'one north, one economy' - to ensure that business, public and civil sectors are galvanised to act now to sustain the momentum behind devolution and take advantage of this unprecedented window of opportunity."

"The historical economic under-performance of the north of England is not natural, nor is it inevitable. We have seen past attempts at 'regional policy' fall by the wayside, but the northern powerhouse has momentum and has galvanised leaders in the North. "But investment, leadership and urgency are the key ingredients for turning northern powerhouse rhetoric into national economic prosperity. The momentum is building, the benefits are great - the opportunity is there to be seized for northern prosperity to create national prosperity."

– Ed Cox, director of IPPR North and co-author of the report

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Health chiefs hint at approval for Morquio drug

Health chiefs look set to approve a pioneering drug which patients of the ultra-rare and life-limiting Morquio Syndrome say could be life changing.

Morquio patient Sam Brown and his parents outside 10 Downing Street Credit: ITV News

Health regulator NICE has today issued draft guidance conditionally recommending the drug Vimizin after a 16-month battle by campaigners.

Morquio Syndrome is a degenerative condition which limits growth and mobility and shortens life expectancy to an average of 25 years.

There is no known cure but Vimizim - an enzyme replacement therapy - has been shown to improve lives by allowing children to grow, improve stamina, walking and pain.

Vimizim was licensed by the European Medicines Agency in April 2014 and is now reimbursed in over 30 countries, but in England has only been temporarily available to those on the original clinical trial thanks to the goodwill of manufacturer BioMarin.

Campaigners have since been locked in a hard-fought battle to persuade decision-makers to fund the drug to Morquio’s patients - which numbers just 88 in England including six year old Sam Brown from Otley who has been treated with Vimizin for the past three years.

“It’s the most encouraging situation we’ve been in throughout the journey so far. It finally feels like we’re being listened to and taken seriously."

– Katy Brown Sam's mother

"I don't understand why police turned away from Rotherham's exploited girls" : Police & Crime Commissioner

South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner says he still does not fully understand how "police could turn away from young girls who were being exploited" in Rotherham.

Dr Alan Billings became PCC as a direct result of the Jay Report, after his predecessor Shaun Wright was forced to resign in its wake.

Dr Billings recalled how the scale of the offending in Rotherham outlined by Professor Alexis Jay "seemed scarcely believable".

"We had to first of all accept that what Professor Jay had turned up was true, that this was the reality.

"And that took a lot of believing because of the sheer scale of it.

"So I think there was a period of time when the police had to recognise that this was true, that this was the reality and that took a bit of time.

"And then, of course, to have to search their own consciences and search their records and their past to understand what had gone wrong."

– Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner

Dr Billings came into office last year with a stated commitment to putting child sexual exploitation at the top of the force's agenda.

He said he has made sure more officers are dedicated to the problem and has implemented an independent review of what went wrong, which is due to report by the end of the year.<

But he is most keen to flag up the Victims and Survivors Panel he set up which, he says, is now informing South Yorkshire Police's practice and training.

"I still don't fully understand how the police could turn away from young girls who were being exploited but, whatever the answers, they do not excuse people, who should have recognised a crime, from failing to act.

"But I do know that the nature and scale of child sexual exploitation is only just being understood and I feel that with every meeting of the Victims, Survivors and their Families Panel we are getting closer to some of the answers.

"The survivors I meet are very clear. Very few people understood then the insidious nature of grooming. They didn't understand what was happening themselves until it was too late and they had been trapped in destructive patterns of behaviour.

"They were not seen as vulnerable children, young girls, who had fallen in love with men who, they thought, loved them and showed them, at first, the affection and attention they craved.

"The authorities, who should have known better, by and large failed to extricate themselves from that more general cultural context. They failed to educate themselves, and us ."I don't think the public of South Yorkshire will feel happy until they start to see the prosecutions coming through and I think by the end of the year we should begin to see that."

– Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner
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