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Villiers warns on NI talks: 'It could be a very long day'

A view of Stormont House in Belfast. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Northern Ireland Secretary has warned today could be a "very long day" as talks aimed at resolving budgetary and other issues approach their deadline.

The region's politicians have agreed a potential way forward on finances, but there is not yet consensus on issues such as flying flags, parades, the legacy of the past and the structures of the Stormont executive.

"It could be a very long day but I think it is very important that we all seek to grasp this opportunity," she said.

She insisted the financial package on offer from Westminster was "generous" but also bore in mind the UK's difficult fiscal situation.

Deadline looms for Northern Ireland talks

Northern Ireland's leaders face a "deal or no deal" ultimatum on what the Government has warned is the final day of negotiations on outstanding disputes.

Talks to find consensus will end at midnight, with or without agreement, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has warned.

Theresa Villiers speaking ahead of the final day of talks at Stormont. Credit: PA Wire

She said the Government had made a "positive and generous" financial offer to Northern Ireland's Executive, but the package is conditional on a wide-ranging agreement on a number of issues.

The Northern Irish political parties have asked Westminster for £2 billion of extra funding and loan access over the next ten years.

The Prime Minister has been examining the proposals over the last few days and Ms Villiers presented his response today.


Conservatives defend street light 'switch off' claims

The Conservative party has defended its record on street lighting after a Labour survey showed that three-quarters of English councils are switching off or dimming some street lights at night.

This is complete hypocrisy from the Labour Party, given when in government, the likes of Ed Miliband and Hilary Benn bullied and cajoled councils into cutting street lights as part of their climate change zealotry in Whitehall.

This Government values the role of street lighting - but it should be a local decision, street by street, on what local residents actually want in their neighbourhood.

– Brandon Lewis, Communities minister

Alleged abuse survivors welcome new inquiry proposals

Dozens of survivors of alleged child abuse have welcomed moves by the Home Secretary which could see the panel investigating the claims disbanded and a more powerful body put in its place.

Home Secretary Theresa May. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Theresa May wrote to the panel's members setting out her plan for the inquiry to be given statutory powers, including the ability to compel witnesses to give evidence.

The move has left members of the panel "devastated" that they could face being removed from the inquiry, but more than 60 victims and their representatives have backed a proposal which could see the investigation start again from scratch.

'Make your mind up time ' for Northern Ireland politicians

Credit: Niall Carson/PA Archive

Northern Ireland's leaders face a "deal or no deal" ultimatum as they enter what the Government has warned is the final day of negotiations on outstanding disputes threatening the future of devolved government.

Talks to find consensus end today, with or without agreement, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers warned last night.

Discussions between Ms Villiers, the Irish Government and the five Executive parties at Stormont resume at Stormont House this morning.

"It's 'make your mind up' time for Northern Ireland's political leaders," the Secretary of State said last night.

"These talks finish tomorrow, even if it takes all night. It there's no agreement tomorrow, there isn't going to be one, and the process ends in failure."

The Government is set to respond later to their request for £2 billion-plus of extra funding and loan access over the next decade.

The plan essentially addresses long-standing nationalist concerns over introducing the Government's welfare policies in Northern Ireland by establishing a significant "cushion" fund, drawn from the Executive's budget, to support those hardest-hit by the changes to the benefits system.


Street light switch off leaves 'significant' areas in darkness

Three-quarters of English councils are switching off or dimming some street lights at night, a Labour survey has revealed, leading to claims that significant areas have been "plunged into darkness" since the Government took office.

Labour claimed the squeeze on budgets coupled with high electricity prices were leading councils to turn off or dim almost a quarter of all lights, compared with under 3% in May 2010.

Street light switch off leaves 'significant' areas in darkness Credit: Julien Behal/PA Wire

A total of 1.36 million lights are either off or dimmed at night, compared with 148,000 in May 2010, out of a total of 5.7 million in the areas surveyed.

Labour obtained information from 141 of 150 councils responsible for street lights, with just 35 saying they were neither switching off nor dimming lights.

The figures showed 106 are either dimming or switching off lights, with 42 doing both.

Idea of delaying ambulances has 'some merit', says expert

The Chair of the College of Paramedics has said the idea of delaying ambulances and increasing patient wait times by a few minutes has "some merit" if it means patients get better treatment overall.

Andrew Newton told ITV News that the proposals that were leaked today could be beneficial "if it means that the triage process can actually find out what is wrong with the patient."

ITV News Reporter Lewis Vaughan Jones reports on the leaked proposals to lengthen ambulance waiting times:

Ambulance service say lengthening wait times idea 'safe'

The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (Aace) has said proposals to raise ambulance waiting times by as much as 11 minutes for non-critical patients would still ensure the safety of patients.

A statement released by the Aace said: "We firmly believe that our proposals are safe and deliver benefits both for patients and for staff who have been concerned for some time that we continue to try and reach many patients in eight minutes when it is not clinically required."

Ambulances waiting to be called out to treat patients Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

A leaked NHS document revealed today that target times for ambulances to reach patients who were "serious but not the most life-threatening" could double from eight to 19 minutes after May's general election but the Aace stated tonight that there were "only proposals".

Explaining that more cases would be bumped up to the "most serious category" if proposals for lengthening wait times for the "serious but not the most life-threatening" category went through, the Aacce added: "They will not be formally approved until NHS England and the Secretary of State are convinced, as we are, that they are clinically safe and that they offer better care for our patients."

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