Renters would get longer tenancies under government plans

Houses in LondonImage copyright Reuters

A minimum tenancy term of three years would be introduced under government proposals to give people renting homes in England more security.

Figures show 80% of tenants currently have contracts of six or 12 months and ministers say longer agreements would allow them to put down more roots.

They add tenants would be able to leave earlier under the plans while landlords would get more financial security.

Labour says the plans do not go far enough and rent rises should be capped.

A consultation on the minimum tenancy term will run until the end of the August.

Exemptions to the rules could apply to some types of tenant – for instance those in student accommodation.

Government figures show renters do stay in a property for an average of four years but most have shorter contracts.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “It is deeply unfair when renters are forced to uproot their lives or find new schools for their children at short notice due to the terms of their rental contract.

“Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.”

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Any fresh help for renters is welcome but this latest promise is meaningless if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking up the rent.

He said Labour plans included controls on rents, an end to no-fault evictions and protection against substandard properties.

Sex toys, fish and knickers flushed away down Welsh drains

These knickers were found blocking the drains in AbertilleryImage copyright Welsh Water
Image caption These knickers were found blocking the drains in Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent

Sex toys, fish, a 5ft cuddly toy, knickers and 17 jars of beetroot are some of the strange items found in sewers in Wales.

Welsh Water is dealing with about 2,000 calls every month to remove items like wet wipes from drains.

It now says the problem is so bad it should be taught in schools, so children can influence their parents.

Joseph Scarpato, who clears the drains, said toilets were being used as “bins”.

At Cardiff Treatment Works, where the sewerage is separated, all the un-flushable items get collected into a skip – with the company removing seven tonnes worth of rubbish from that site alone every week.

Crews have spoken of finding leather coats, sex toys, knickers, fish and tennis balls stuffed in pipes or flushed down toilets.

One manhole was being used to store stolen goods, with shelves put in to hold the items, while a dead horse and car parts have been found in sewers.

But the biggest challenge they face is cleaning the drains of wet wipes and sanitary products flushed down toilets as well as fatbergs blocking sewers, with the clear-up costing about £7m every year.

While the number of blockages has decreased in the last four years, from 26,771 in 2015/16 to 22,258 in 2017/18, the company said the rising use of wet wipes meant the blockages remains a significant problem.

The company says that it is not always the customers’ fault, as some toilet wipes and wet wipes are labelled by manufacturers as flushable – despite them not being biodegradable.

‘I’ve seen a door mat stuffed in a pipe’

Joseph Scarpato spends his days looking down people’s drains – and fishing out things which would make even the most iron-clad stomach churn.

After working for Welsh Water for four years there is not a lot he has not seen and not much that surprises him.

“I’ve seen a door mat in a pipe line, that was a bit weird, it wasn’t even in the sewer it was in the pipe work – I have no idea how that got there,” said Mr Scarpato.

He said the worst thing he had seen was when a rat died, swelled up and blocked a whole street in Blaenavon, Torfaen – when he pulled it out it was jet black and covered in fat.

BBC Wales went along with Mr Scarpato as he responded to a call from a man in Bargoed, Caerphilly, who had tried everything to unblock his toilet, but with no luck.

Image copyright Welsh Water
Image caption This bike was one of the strangest things Welsh Water found down a sewer

When he opened the drain covers, Me Scarpato soon found what the problem was – wet wipes which had formed a ball blocking the drains.

He said if left to build up they could “flood toilets, houses, streets” and even “break pumping stations”.

He said the issue could start at one house and end up blocking a whole street, with someone flushing wet wipes at the top of a hill flooding a house at the bottom.

“I’ve been on a job that’s taken six hours because the whole street was blocked, and I’ve gone up and down the street all night,” he said.

“You’ll clear one section and then another load of sewerage will come down with loads of wet wipes – you can chase it all the way down the street sometimes.”

Image copyright Welsh Water
Image caption Not really where you should store your bike!
Image copyright Welsh Water
Image caption A fork was one of the stranger items found stuck during one of the blockage clean-ups

Welsh Water, which is not-for-profit company, is responsible for managing more than 16,800 miles (27,000km) of sewer network, with staff spending about 28,000 hours a year removing blockages.

This includes 1.3m cotton buds flushed down toilets. It is an offence to flush anything which could cause a blockage.

Emma Harris, pollution reduction strategy manager, said: “People put strange things down the sewers, whether its toys or dead tropical fish, but also a lot of wet wipes and also sanitary products,

“I think it is part of educating our customers to make sure they understand, they don’t necessarily make that connection between what we flush down the toilet and the impact it could have on the environment.”

She said the education should start in schools to change habits early – and while officers do go into schools, it should be part of the new national curriculum.

“If you look at the success we have had with recycling in this county, and a think a lot of that has come from how we have educated our children into doing the right thin, so if the children take the messages home that’s very important.”

Image copyright Welsh Water
Image caption This axe was one of the stranger things to be found down the sewers

Residents meet after Glasgow art school fire

Crowds look on as firefighters tackle the blazeImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Large crowds gathered and looked on as firefighters tackled the blaze

Residents and businesses affected by the Glasgow School of Art fire will hold a meeting later amid claims that they are not receiving enough support.

Since the blaze at the Mackintosh building on 15 June, residents from 33 properties have been unable to access their homes.

Traders have also warned that it could spell the end for some businesses.

Glasgow City Council and the Scottish government have set up a hardship fund for those affected.

They said each household would be eligible to receive £3,000 as part of the fund, while businesses would be offered rate relief.

Answer questions

However, local authority leader, Susan Aitken, has acknowledged that it remains unknown when people whose homes are businesses are within the current exclusion zone around the fire site will be able to return.

Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption The art school and nearby O2 building were gutted by fire on 15 June

It comes as surveyors confirmed on Thursday that sections of The Mack would be dismantled as a matter of urgency because of the risk of the structure’s sudden collapse.

The Garnethill Displaced Residents Group meeting is due to be held in the Multi-Cultural Centre on Rose Street from 14:30 on Sunday.

Organisers said building control officers would be on hand at the meeting to answer questions.

Football programme dealer Steve Earl selling million programmes

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Media captionSteve Earl’s hoard includes programmes from the 1950 and 1966 World Cup finals and the 1921 and 1923 FA Cup finals

A football programme dealer known to generations of fans through his magazine adverts is looking for a buyer for his million-strong stock.

Steve Earl’s hoard at the mail order business in Bungay, Suffolk, runs from Aberaman Athletic to York City.

His vast collection includes programmes from the 1950 and 1966 World Cup finals and the 1921 and 1923 FA Cup finals.

“Anyone that comes to see me their eyes pop out because they’re not used to seeing so many [programmes],” he said.

The 67-year-old’s name will be familiar to early readers of football magazines such as Shoot! and Match, in which he used to advertise.

Through that promotion he has built a customer base which stretches to Scandinavia and Germany and even as far as Australia.

Image caption The earliest programme he has in stock is the 1921 FA Cup final between Tottenham and Wolves (left), while he also has one from the famed “White Horse Final” two years later – the first football match to be played at Wembley

It all started as a teenager when he collected “the odd one here and there” before being given £500 by his parents to start a part-time business.

“Initially when my parents knew I was going to do it for a living they thought it was going to be a fad. But it’s not of course,” he said.

His parents refused when he offered to pay them back after just six months and he decided to go full-time in 1970.

His collection, across two floors, is ordered alphabetically when they come from clubs and in year order when related to specific competitions, to ensure nothing gets lost.

The Norwich City season ticket holder said the rarest programme he has in stock is from the 1973 European Cup final between Ajax and Juventus – as only 400 were ever made.

Meanwhile, a “concertina-style” programme from the very first World Cup final in 1930, which he recently sold, is one of his favourites.

Image caption Clockwise from top left: The 1950 World Cup final between Brazil and Uruguay; the cover of the 1966 World Cup final programme; and team photos from the final, which England won

“I’ve got friends who sometimes say to people ‘you’ll never guess what he does for a living?’,” he said.

“[When they tell them], they either scratch their head and have no idea what they’re talking about or say ‘does he? I wish I did that’.”

But Mr Earl, who likes to be known as a “football programme specialist” and says the sport is in his blood, admits there have been times when he’s been left sick as a parrot rather than over the moon.

“There’ve been struggles. We’ve had three day weeks, postal strikes, storage problems, but you get over these hurdles one by one and it’s all worthwhile when the customers come,” he said.

“I do enjoy it when people say ‘I’ve been looking for this programme for some time now, put it to one side for me’.”

Image caption Steve Earl among his “surplus” on the ground floor of his warehouse
Image caption Steve Earl has run the business from his “chock-a-block” warehouse in Bungay since 1984 after needing larger premises to hold his stock

Now Mr Earl, who has been suffering from health problems, said he plans to retire as “it comes to a point where it doesn’t get any easier; you need to be fit because there’s weight in these boxes”.

He added: “I’m 67 now, I’ve done a good stint so I think it’s about time that somebody younger was to take over.

“There’s stock here that would last anyone 20 years, but of course they need the space to store the stuff.”

Mix-and-match holidaymakers get more protection

tourists on beachImage copyright Getty Images

Holidaymakers who book hotels and flights separately will get the same protection as those buying package holidays under new EU rules that have now come into force.

Package holidaymakers are both financially and legally covered if things go wrong.

But those who book different elements of their holiday separately have been less well protected.

The new regulations attempt to close the gap in consumer protection.

The government said the new rules would protect an extra 10 million package travel holidays a year.

The Package Travel Regulations 2018 were prompted by the growing number of people who book flights, hotels and other tourist services, like car hire, online. Last year 83% of British people booked a holiday over the internet.

The new rules will also apply to people who go into a High Street travel agent and pick and choose separate elements of their holiday and pay for them all together.

Until now mix-and-match holidays were financially protected, if an airline went out of business, for example.

However, if a holidaymaker had a grievance with a hotelier, for example, they would have had to pursue any legal action themselves.

Widening the definition of a package holiday means that from now on in such a situation the travel company is “responsible for making sure that you get the holiday you paid for”, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said in its guidance on the new rules.

“If something isn’t provided or isn’t as expected, and your travel company or its suppliers is at fault, they will need to sort this out for you,” it added.

‘Dark Ages’

Travel litigation specialist Joanne Brine of JMW Solicitors said: “Should anything happen while you’re on holiday – such as an accident or injury on hotel property – subsequent claims will be more straightforward to deal with, since the operator you booked with will hold liability if travel services aren’t provided with reasonable skill and care.

“Plus, if an operator goes bust, you’re guaranteed to receive a full refund or, if you’re already abroad, to be brought home. Added legal protection also gives the right to help if weather conditions or industrial action hamper your plans.

The European Union (EU) Package Travel Directive applies in all 28 EU nations. Earlier this year, the UK government issued guidance on what it means for the UK travel industry.

“Package holiday regulations have finally been dragged out of the dark ages,” said Which? travel editor Rory Boland.

“These new rules mean far more holidays will be classed as packages, giving holidaymakers protection when something goes wrong.”

Image copyright Getty Images

‘Linked travel arrangements’

However, there are instances when a holidaymaker might think they are fully covered when they are not.

That is because there separate rules for “linked travel arrangements” online.

This is when someone buys a flight on an airline’s website, for example, and pays for it.

They might be encouraged to go to a separate accommodation site, either immediately or within the next 24 hours, and they pay for a hotel or car rental separately.

This arrangement is not classed as a package. It does not have any legal protection and the financial protection is at a lower level than for packages.

Three seriously ill in hospital after Armagh crash

Scene of car crashImage copyright Co Armagh Roadwatch
Image caption Ambulances at the crash scene in County Armagh

Seven people, including two young boys, have been taken to hospital after a two car collision in County Armagh.

The crash happened on the Armagh Road near Moy at the junction with Lislasly Road on Saturday afternoon.

Three people are seriously ill but stable in Craigavon hospital while the condition of the other four is not known but their injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

A number of ambulances, including the air ambulance, attended the scene.

Image caption The air ambulance attended the scene of the crash

The road was closed for several hours after the crash but has since reopened.

World Cup 2018: ‘Psychic’ tortoise backs Belgium

A “psychic” tortoise has dropped a bombshell by backing Belgium to beat England in their final group match.

Corbie’s owners believe he can predict the outcome of matches, having picked six out of eight winners so far.

His latest “premonition” tipped Belgium to come out on top of Group G, although we’re sure England fans would tell him to wind his neck in.

Jersey to introduce same-sex marriage from 1 July

Wedding cakeImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Same-sex couples will be able to marry in Jersey from 1 July

Same-sex couples will be able to marry in Jersey from Sunday.

The new law, which also allows couples to marry in the open air, comes into force on 1 July.

The law has been in the works since 2015 but faced delays while the legislation was reviewed and religious groups invited to share their concerns and views.

There are about 12 couples, who would not have been able to marry before the law change, getting wed in July.

More on this story and others from Jersey

There was an attempt to introduce a “conscience clause” that would allow companies to refuse to work with same-sex couples on their wedding but that was rejected by politicians.

Immigration checks

The law will also see the notice period couples have to give before getting married increased from 15 to 25 days.

This was because more couples from outside Jersey were expected to come to the island to get married, a spokeswoman for the superintendant registrar said.

She said the extra time was needed to allow for immigration checks and to verify it was not a sham or fake marriage.

Dying man calls for cancer support for others

A man who has weeks to live is calling on Jersey’s government to “take responsibility” and adopt a compensation scheme for victims of mesothelioma.

The cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos, which Brian Coutanche came into contact with during his career in construction.

The UK and French government offer compensation for the families of those with mesothelioma, which the NHS says kills about 2,500 people in the UK each year.

Le Marais man jailed for sexually abusing four girls

Wilfred Stanley MorrishImage copyright States of Jersey Police
Image caption Wilfred Stanley Morrish sexually assaulted four girls between 1972 and 1999

A 78-year-old man who cast a “tangled web of deceit” to sexually abuse four young girls has been jailed.

Wilfred Stanley Morrish, from Le Marais, sexually assaulted the youngsters between 1972 and 1999.

He was jailed for 13 years and put on the sex offenders register for 15 years by Jersey’s Royal Court after admitting 12 counts of serious sexual assault.

Police said the victims showed “immense courage and resilience in reporting the abuse that they suffered”.

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They described the case as “serious and complex” and it “has shown the tangled web of deceit that Morrish cast”.

Det Insp Craig Jackson said: “Since the initial disclosure they [the victims] have demonstrated great strength and commitment throughout the investigation.

“We hope that the sentence handed down today will help them to rebuild their lives and give them some small comfort.”

Morrish was also issued with an indefinite restraining order.