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  1. Sarah Saunders @SSaundersITV

Smiles whatever the weather as Herne Bay Pier wins lottery money

For the ninth year running, ITV has teamed up with the Big Lottery Fund - to give away up to fifty thousand pounds to a project that could enhance a community near you.

Support Herne Bay Pier won the money to build covers, allowing entertainment to carry on whatever the weather. Sarah Saunders spoke to pier trustee Doreen Stone.

Online warning over classic Christmas scams

Online shoppers in Kent are being warned to be extra vigilant in the run up to Christmas.

With just a month left until the big day, a new guide's been released to help bargain hunters avoid being conned.

The Rough Guide to Online Safety gives tips and helpful advice on classic internet scams.

Common tricks on popular shopping and auction sites involve sellers not sending items once they've been paid for.

Other sites pretend to offer goods, but instead collect credit card details for fraudsters.

You can access the free guide here.


Retailers expected to struggle this Christmas

Retailers this Christmas will find it a tough challenge to match last year's festive spending figure of ninety one billion pounds, according to research.

Academics from the University of Oxford say that changing shopping habits, continued economic uncertainty and low wage rates will have a significant impact on shopping this year.

Shoppers get their hands on some bargains. Credit: PA

We have found that overdoing the Christmas cheer with flashing bright lights and piping fast-paced music such as Jingle Bells into stores puts shoppers under greater pressure. Less harsh lighting, pleasant smells and gentler seasonal music such as The Nutcracker are far more likely to put us in the mood for spending.

– Nancy Puccinelli, Associate Professor in Marketing, Saïd Business School

The research also showed that poor selling techniques, extravagant Christmas promotions, and sharp rises in online shopping all contribute to the fall in sales.

Students pay up to £10,000 in rent

Now how much would you be prepared to pay for your son or daughter's university digs? How about ten thousand pounds a year? Providing top quality halls of residence is now being seen as one of the most effective ways to attract students who pay rent of hundreds of pounds a week on top of tuition fees.

In the Meridian region in the last three years alone more than three thousand extra rooms have been created for rent. And it's so lucrative, some private companies are even getting in on the act - one block has just opened in Southampton that charges rent of around £250 a week for its most exclusive student apartments. Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford spoke to students at the University of Reading, the university's Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell, University of Sussex student union representative Mark Segalov and student Shlok Sachar who lives in a Vita Student apartment.

How many new rooms for students in the South?

Universities across the South are investing heavily in student accommodation.

Good quality halls of residence are being seen as a key battleground in the fight to attract students.

Here are details of how some of our universities are expanding provision this year: University of Oxford - 200 new rooms; University of Kent - 416 new rooms; Buckinghamshire New University - 180 new rooms; University of Reading - 649 new rooms.

Many universities are investing heavily in new student accommodation Credit: ITV Meridian


The story behind 20 years of the National Lottery

Twenty years ago today the National Lottery was born. It's created hundreds of millionaires and seen hundreds of millions of pounds spent on community projects across the region.

Over the last two days we've brought you stories of how hitting the jackpot changed one family's lives - and the projects that have received lottery cash.

Fred and Sangeeta were joined in the studio by someone who knows more about the joys and pitfalls of winning big - Kathy Garrett, the National Lottery's Winner Advisor for the South East .

  1. Sarah Saunders (@SSaundersITV)

Jackpot winners, how would you spend yours?

The odds of winning are 1 in 14 million ... but every year three and a half thousand people hit the jackpot and become National Lottery millionaires. And 20 years since the competition was launched, more than £53 billion has been given away in prizes.

To mark the 20th anniversary Sarah Saunders met Ted and Marilyn Newton from Kent to find out what it feels like when your lucky numbers come in.

High rents forcing tenants onto the streets

Tenants can't afford the rents Credit: PA

It's never cost so much to rent a property in the south - and many Meridian viewers say they simply can't afford it.

Average rents are outstripping the Living Wage, the independently judged minimum standard of living. In Southampton, a bedsit costs £450 a month, and a three-bedroom house can set you back up to £900.

In Brighton prices are even higher, and campaigners say it's forcing some people onto the streets. A full report at 6pm, with Fred and Sangeeta.

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