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Tonight on Around The House: Coalition fractures and foodbanks

On tonight's political programme from Westminster, Paul Brand and his studio guests discuss the battle lines being drawn between the Coalition parties following the Autumn Statement, as they prepare for the General Election.

Also in the programme; the Archbishop of Canterbury has backed a parliamentary report this week, calling for a united effort to end hunger. Tonight's panel considers the reasons for the growing demand for foodbanks, and the steps needed to tackle food poverty.

You can watch Around The House tonight (Thurs 11 Dec) on ITV at 11.40pm.

Paul Brand is joined by MPs Julian Smith and Sir Alan Beith Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

George Osborne: NE announcement on 5,000 new apprentices

A company on Teesside says it aims to take on five thousand new trainees across the UK, after the Chancellor's decision to free companies from paying National Insurance contributions for apprentices.

George Osborne was in the North East to highlight how he's investing in the region, as part of his plans to create a so-called northern economic powerhouse.

But as Dan Ashby reports, the Government is going further into debt than it hoped - to pay for it.

George Osborne: £4m for NE charities

The Chancellor George Osborne has promised four million pounds over four years to a new grant-giving body for charities across the North East.

The Virgin Money Foundation will be established early next year.

During a visit to the region, he has also announced that Newcastle University will become the national centre for the science of ageing.

He says the Government is investing twenty million pounds here to try help create a northern economic powerhouse.

This report from Dan Ashby.

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Newcastle to be national centre for ageing science

The Chancellor George Osborne has pledged £20m to help Newcastle University launch a national centre for the study of ageing.

The institute will develop dietary and exercise products that will help people live more comfortably in old age.

Mr Osborne said it was all part of his plan to create a 'northern economic powerhouse'.

Firefighters on strike until 9am

Firefighters have been on the picket lines across the North East. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Firefighters across the region will remain out on strike for another two and a half hours this morning.

They walked out 9am yesterday and will return to work today at 9am.

This is the 48th round of industrial action in a continuing dispute with the government over pension reforms.

Rising funeral costs force families to bury loved ones in garden, MP warns

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck Credit: PA

Rising costs are causing people to hold DIY funerals and bury their loved ones in their back garden, MPs have heard.

South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck warned people are being forced to sell their possessions or falling into debt by taking out high-interest payday loans to fund a decent send-off for their relatives.

She pressed ministers to tackle "funeral poverty" by holding a UK-wide review of funeral service costs and to reform a Government social fund designed to help low-income households.

She also said funeral directors should also be required to let people know the price of a "simple service" to make it easier for people to choose an affordable service.

Moving a 10-minute rule motion on Funeral Services, Ms Lewell-Buck told MPs that a Royal London report suggested 100,000 of the 500,000 families bereaved each year struggle to afford the cost of a funeral.

She said the problem will get worse as the price of a service accelerates faster than inflation, with the average cost standing at £3,551.

"One woman from my area approached the Citizens Advice Bureau with unmanageable debts.

"She had been unable to get the money together to pay for a headstone for her brother's grave.

"She ended up applying for a payday loan and the cost of repaying this debt had quickly got out of control. Sadly her story is not an isolated one.

"Royal London estimates that 110,000 people are living with funeral debt, with each person owing over £1,300 on average.

"As well as rising debts, we're also seeing people turn to alternatives to the traditional funeral.

"Some are holding do it yourself funerals and even having to bury their relatives in their back garden."

– Emma Lewell-Buck MP, South Shields

Ms Lewell-Buck said the Bill she wishes to bring in has two main objectives: firstly to identify ways of reducing funeral costs by requiring the secretary of state to conduct an over-arching review of funeral affordability in the UK.

And secondly, it would take immediate steps to help hard-pressed households facing funeral poverty via specific measures to reform the funeral payments social fund system by introducing a simple funeral.

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