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Owen Paterson to announce Flood Recovery Fund plan in Somerset

Owen Paterson is due to visit Somerset today Credit: PA

The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, will be in Somerset this morning to announce the next phase of the flood recovery fund for farmers.

From 28 April, the Farm Recovery Fund will be open to applications for grants of up to £35,000.

Farmers will be able to apply for the cash to help cover the costs of restoring flood damaged agricultural land.

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Hundreds of jobs at risk at Honda plant in Swindon.

Car maker Honda has announced it is scaling back production at its Swindon plant with the loss of up to five hundred jobs. It will affect 340 employees and a further 160 agency workers.

The company, which employs 3000 people in the town, is cutting the number of shifts from three to two.

It blames a slump in European sales. Unions say staff have been left bewildered and angry, as Robert Murphy reports.

Slump in European sales blamed for Swindon job losses

Honda's senior vice president, Ian Howells, blames a slump in sales in Europe for the decision to scale back production at the Swindon car plant, with the loss of 340 jobs.

He told our political correspondent Bob Constantine that he expected the downturn to last for "one or two years", but denied that Honda had been too optimistic about the market in the past:

340 jobs under threat at Swindon's Honda factory

Japanese car giant Honda is to cut production at its UK factory in Swindon from three shifts to two, threatening 340 jobs.

Most cars built at the plant are exported and sales in other countries have not been as strong as in the UK.

Over the last 12 months, we haven't seen the growth we'd anticipated. With no increase forecast for the next couple of years, we must scale our manufacturing activity accordingly.

However, with the restructuring we're taking today, and our new model plans, we remain confident in the long-term future of our Swindon plant.

Our Swindon operation continues to be the hub for our European car manufacturing activity.

– Ian Howells, senior vice president of Honda Motor Europe

Honda said it will enter into consultation on a proposal to reduce the workforce by 340 production employees.

As well as moving to two shifts, production will be consolidated on to one line, to "improve production flexibility and efficiency" while production volumes continue at the current level.

These job losses are a devastating blow, not just for these workers but for the thousands more across the industry whose work is dependent on the Honda plant.

Today's losses are also a wake-up call to the UK government. The economy is far too fragile to proclaim a recovery - those workers losing their jobs today will find claims that the country is turning a corner an insult.

The truth is that there is simply no pick up in the incomes of Honda's customers, either here or in the eurozone. People are not confident and do not have the cash to spend.

– Tony Murphy, Unite union

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Wales

Severn Bridge tolls could be VAT free in 2018

The crossing will be in public ownership in four years time. Credit: PA

VAT could no longer be payable on the Severn Bridge tolls once the crossings revert to public ownership in 2018.

Monmouth MP David Davies says he's been given written confirmation from the Transport Minister.

In his letter, the Minister states that once the concession ends - expected to be in 2018 - it would be legally possible to reduce tolls on both the M48 Severn Bridge and M4 Second Severn Crossing.

However, the future management and tolling arrangements of the crossings remains unclear as the UK Government has yet to announce what action will be taken after the current concession ends.

Mr Davies said, “We must now demand a clear plan for the post concession period with a significant reduction in the tolls,” he added.

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