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Thousands brave heavy rain and winds to queue for Boxing Day sales

Credit: PA

Thousands of bargain hunters braved the wind, rain and cold temperatures to queue from the early hours for their annual Boxing Day tradition - the Next sale.

A huge snake-like queue of thrifty shoppers stood at Silverlink shopping park in North Tyneside, waiting for the store to open at 6am.

Many queued behind the barriers shivering in hats, scarfs and fur boots and were armed with plastic carrier bags.

The first 600 who arrived in the early hours of the morning were given a raffle ticket to guarantee their place in the queue.

The first shopper to arrive at an impressive 3.15am was Stacey Johnson, 29, from Blyth in Northumberland, who was there to buy clothes for her five-year-old son Jenson.

The care worker said: "I come here every single year because the discounts are excellent for such good clothes.

"I am heading straight to the children's section, I get all of Jenson's clothes here.

Another shopper queuing eagerly behind her was 31-year-old Gemma Moore, from Wallsend, Newcastle, who called the sale "better than Christmas Day".

Gemma said: "This day is my Christmas, I absolutely love it. I have an early night the day before so I am awake and raring to go on Boxing Day. You get so much value for money I sometimes even hold off buying the kids clothes for Christmas because I know they will be in the sale today.

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Government to donate up to £2m to local flood appeals

The government is to match donations, up to £2 million in total, to local flood appeals across the North of England.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor announced that the government would match funds raised by the Cumbria Foundation’s Flood Appeal, up to £1 million.

Today the Chancellor has extended his pledge to leading local flood appeals across all affected areas and doubled the amount of matched support available to a total of £2 million.

Following the unprecedented rainfall over the last week, community appeals have been set up in the North of England. Over £500,000 has been raised already.

The funds are expected to contribute to clean-up costs, emergency repairs, clothing, food and drink, heating and heating equipment, childcare equipment and basic furniture.

Debt still a real problem in North East, charity warns

Many North East residents are still facing a daily struggle with debt despite the UK’s gradual economic recovery and a fall in the number of people seeking advice, a leading debt charity has warned.

Figures released today by StepChange Debt Charity show that 4348 people in the North East area called its helpline for advice in the first half of 2015.

The release of the figures coincide with StepChange's new report, Navigating the New Normal, which shows that more than 1 in 5 Britons are currently showing at least one sign of financial difficulty and 2.6m of them are in severe problem debt. Of those 2.6m, 73% suffered at least one ‘income shock’ in the last year, such as job loss or a reduction in hours.

People on low and middle incomes 20 times more likely to fall into problem debt than those with higher earnings Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The charity says that people on low and middle incomes are particularly at risk after an income shock, with the combination of having little to no savings and an unresponsive welfare system leaving them unable to meet their basic costs. Shocks to their income often see them turn to credit to cope, which makes them 20 times more likely to fall into problem debt.

The report comes after the latest Bank of England figures showed the highest annual increase in borrowing on credit cards and personal loans for nine years, sparking fears of a return towards the high levels of unmanageable credit seen in the lead-up to the financial crisis.

Everyone faces ups and downs in life, but more than 11m people in Britain are now experiencing some financial difficulty and a quarter of those are in severe problem debt. North East is no exception and although the economy is beginning to recover, millions of households remain vulnerable to shocks to their income over the next year and many could find they have no alternative but to turn to credit to cope, which can quickly make the problem much worse. Debt can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, including sleepless nights, anxiety and mental and physical health problems with knock-on effects for their families. We would urge anyone who is experiencing debt problems to call us for free, impartial debt advice and take that first step as early as they possibly can.

– Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive, StepChange Debt Charity

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Lord Heseltine says 'now as good a time as any' for steelworkers to lose their jobs

Lord Heseltine made the controversial comments during an interview on Sky News Credit: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

The Conservative peer Lord Heseltine said yesterday that now is 'probably as good a time as any' for steelworkers to lose their jobs given growing employment opportunities in the UK.

He made the comments during an appearance on the 'Murnaghan' programme on Sky News.

The SSI steelworks in Redcar closed down earlier this month with 2,000 job losses after failing to turn a profit for its Thai owners. Further jobs losses in the steel industry came when Tata steel announced cuts to its staff at sites in Scunthorpe and Scotland. The total number of jobs cut in the steel industry in recent weeks is nearly 3,500.

The crisis in the steel industry has been caused by the dumping of cheap Chinese steel into the world market, and high energy costs in the UK. Lord Heseltine also added that it would have been 'very questionable and expensive' for the government to have kept steel plants open because 'the market is unstoppable and invariably it wins.'

He said the job losses were 'very painful for the people who suffer but on the other hand, if you are going to lose your job this is probably as good a time as any because of the number of new jobs in the economy today is one of the most exciting features of this economy compared with many others.'

Shadow Chancellor to visit threatened SSI steel plant

The Shadow Chancellor will visit the SSI steel plant, which is set to close with the loss of up to 1,700 jobs.

John McDonnell told ITV News Tyne Tees' Political Correspondent Paul Brand, he would be making a trip up to Redcar "on Monday if not before".

He has said he plans to put "maximum pressure" on the Government to do more to help the stricken plant:

The factory is being shut down after Thai owner SSI said it had no other choice because of plummeting steel prices.

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