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Preparations hot up for free school meals

Hundreds of schools are preparing to provide free school meals for every child aged four to seven.

But some councils say they haven't been given the money they need to upgrade kitchens - one says they are having to make up a shortfall of three million pounds to ensure pupils get a hot meal.

Several schools elsewhere say they'll only be able to offer sandwiches because they don't have the space or right facilities.

Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford reports.

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Kent schools still waiting for rebuilds

It's four years since the government scrapped a major programme to rebuild hundreds of schools. Some transferred to a replacement scheme, but for several in the region no plans have been drawn up - and they don't know when work will actually begin.

In total - 13 schools in poor condition are due to be rebuilt in Kent - they include Smarden Primary, Westlands Primary and Aylesham Primary.

Kent cabinet member for education, Cllr Roger Gough, says progress has been slow - and things would have progressed much more quickly if rebuilds had been organised locally.

The government though says work is ahead of schedule and all schools will be completed by 2017. Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford reports on the conditions some school are having to cope with while they wait.

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McVey: Employment rise reward for country's resilience

The country's "resilience" during the economic downturn "is being rewarded" after figures released today showed a fall in unemployment, Employment Minister Esther McVey said.

Employment Minister Esther McVey
Employment Minister Esther McVey. Credit: PA

Read more: Unemployment falls by 121,000 to 2.12 million

She said: "An important milestone has been reached in our country's recovery. With one of the highest employment rates ever, it's clear that the Government's long-term economic plan to help businesses create jobs and get people working again is the right one.

"With an employment rate which has never been higher, record women in work and more young people in jobs, the resilience of the country during the downturn is being rewarded.

"We know there is more to do, and the best way to do so is to go on delivering a plan that's creating growth and jobs."

Read: Esther McStay - why has she missed out on a promotion again?

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Cameron: Full employment key aim of economic plan

David Cameron has welcomed today's figures which shows there has been a fall in unemployment.

The Prime Minister tweeted that the figures "show more people have the security of a job than ever before".

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Today's figures show more people have the security of a job than ever before. Full employment is a key aim of our #LongTermEconomicPlan.

Read more: Unemployment falls by 121,000 to 2.12 million

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Minster says "right decision will be made" on Thames Crossing.

by David Johns (@davidjohns_itv)

It's a route used by more than a hundred thousand drivers a day. The Dartford Crossing is one of the biggest pinch-points for the south-east road network. Today the Government said it will do a detailed study of two final options for a new crossing over the Thames.

But some debate whether it's needed. David Johns reports, speaking to Roads Minister Robert Goodwill and Thurrock Council leader John Kent (Lab).

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PM: 'We can't defend realm from white cliffs of Dover'

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the £1.1 billion military investment announced today will deal with global terrorism and cyber criminals rather than old-fashioned notions of border defence.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said:

Today's investment demonstrates our approach to national security. There are those who believe we would be safer if we fundamentally retreated from the world. They see new warships and military investment and imagine a Government bent on foreign adventurism.

But the plain fact is that in the 21st century, you cannot defend the realm from the white cliffs of Dover. Terrorist plots hatched thousands of miles away threaten to cause harm on our streets. When fragile and lawless states fracture, migration flows can affect us right here.

Read: Armed forces to get £1.1 billion funds

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