Sugar Tax Set to Sweeten UK Economy

    By GRAHAME ANDERSON

    The sugar tax will come into effect in the UK on 6 April to target population obesity. It's hoped younger adults will fully benefit, though the often controversial, measure is aimed at people of all ages to help reduce the adverse health and cost burdens of diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

    The Tax Broken Down

    There will be two bands to the Sugar-sweetened beverages tax or SSBs - one for soft drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml, and a higher one for drinks with more than 8g per 100ml. The measure will not apply to all other high-sugar content drinks, like juices, or drinks made up of 75 per cent milk, though all are regarded as potentially dangerous to health.

    Sugary Truths

    Sugar has been found to carry low satiety, with the result of stimulating the appetite and assisting the promotion of weight gain. Intake of SSBs has been shown to result in dramatic increases in blood glucose and insulin concentrations. This contributes to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, independently of obesity. In fact, based on scientific evidence The World Health Organisation has recommended a reduction of free sugars consumption from less than 10 per cent, to less than five per cent of total daily energy intake.

    Dr Max Davie, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "The sugary drinks affected by this tax have no nutritional benefit, often containing levels of sugar well above a child's daily recommended limit. These drinks are a major contributor to the high sugar intakes of children, particularly teenagers, and we are in no doubt that they are, in part, contributing to this country's obesity crisis."

    Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, disagrees saying: "There is no evidence worldwide taxes of this sort reduce obesity, and it is ironic soft drinks are being singled out for tax, when we've led the way in reducing sugar intake, down over 17 per cent since 2012.”

    International Comparison

    Such a tax in Mexico, France and Hungary has been hugely successful with purchases of sugary drinks decreasing between six to 27 per cent after the tax was applied. In the case of France and Hungary however, apart from all types of sugar sweetened drinks, both biscuits and confectionery products are all subject to extra taxation. The Organics council claims we will only be pretending to emulate success abroad as the UK legislation stands. In terms of reaching the daily limit - one 250ml drink of apple juice or the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar will suffice. But of course, many people go well over this without even realising.

    Scientific Evidence

    Organics Council’s science committee member Dr Gonzalo Delgado says: “When it comes to public health policy decisions, it's essential these are based in solid scientific evidence. Sugar taxes can be useful to decrease sugar consumption, but they need to target all high sugar content and artificial sweetened foods, not only soft drinks as in the UK case. Consumers, and people in general, need to be well informed about current scientific knowledge, so they can make the correct choices in regard of their nutrition and health.”

    Malcolm Clark, a coordinator for the Children’s Food Campaign certainly agrees with the sentiments of the council stating: “The sugary drinks tax in its present form will not solve the UK’s childhood obesity crisis. We need other policy interventions including restrictions on marketing.”

    And for those looking to artificial sweeteners, experts say they are certainly not free of calories and also linked to glucose intolerance, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

    The Outcome

    The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the levy could add 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink, if the full cost is passed on to the consumer.

    For further information around how The Organics Council work to protect the public through organic practice, research and campaigning, please visit the official website at www.organicscouncil.org

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    PM Launches Extensive University Fees Review

    By GRAHAME ANDERSON

    Prime Minister Theresa May has admitted UK university fees were the world's most expensive on launching a review of the cost of courses. In the majority of cases Universities charge £9,250 per year, with most students graduating financially toward spiralling debt as a result. She did however, rule out scrapping tuition fees, also citing it wouldn't be fair on taxpayers who didn't go to university. “It would leave higher education in a losing struggle for funding with schools and hospitals, she said: “And it would mean limiting university places and funding.”

    The Opposition

    The Labour party are in favour of scrapping fees as things stand. Tuition fee architect the Labour peer Lord Adonis, called for a return to fees of £3,000 a year saying:  “Universities have become extremely bloated, due to the hike in fees, resulting in sky-high salaries for vice chancellors and management staff.”

    A Complicated System?

    Things are further complicated given the connection to the loan system underpinning the market, with companies pushing up interest charges. The highest current rate is standing at 6.1 per cent. In light of this the Government could well decide to drastically reduce the rate.

    Rather than creating a new system it seems more likely the current one will be changed, though the Government would like to encourage a variation in fees across the board. As an example, according to education experts, courses - such as arts and humanities - could be made cheaper than sciences, which are more expensive to deliver, and where graduate earnings are potentially much higher.

    This also means students will still be required to pay fees as a starting point, though ideas of a graduate tax are being pushed to one side. It's not all about full time students either, with ministers aware more support is needed for those wanting to work and study at the same time. Vocational and technical training could also receive more support.

    Yorkshire Insight

    Yorkshire has some excellent universities with three here given all round scores made up of entry standards, student satisfaction, graduate prospects and overall quality.

    Leeds currently stands 14th in the university league table with a score of 850. The university of Bradford meanwhile is in 58th position carrying a score of 675, with Huddersfield sitting in 72nd place on a total of 635.

    Looking ahead

    Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Unit, said: “The Prime Minister's review team had enormous expectations on their shoulders. There is a long shopping list of demands for reducing fees, and at the same time increasing levels of support. The Government has encouraged this speculation, but it will be hard to satisfy all the hopes, especially if the Treasury is not willing to allow additional public spending on post-compulsory education.

    It's reported the Government has been impressed by the Welsh system, whereby students receive greater maintenance support while studying.

    Blunt Reaction

    Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union, stated: “The review must be more than tinkering at the edges. There needs to be a fundamental review of university funding.”

    The Russell Group of leading universities has warned any changes to fees and funding should not mean places suddenly become limited. A spokesperson said: “Finding the right balance is likely to involve making a series of difficult trade-offs.”

    This Government-led review will examine all aspects of student funding, including maintenance grants. The current rate of fees will stay in place at least until the application cycle for 2020-21, in the light of both the freeze on fee rises and this year-long review.

     

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    Hundreds turn out for funeral of crash victims

    Hundreds of people attended the funeral of the three young men who died in a fatal car crash in Blackburn. The funeral was held at Victoria Park Mosque and the Muslim Heritage Centre in Whalley Range, Blackburn.

    Hamzaa Iqbal, 24, Munib Afzal Karim, 21, and 20-year-old Hamza Gujjar died after the Audi S5 they were travelling in crashed on Wilbraham Road, Whalley Range, Blackburn in the early hours of Wednesday April 27.

    Hamzaa, from Burnage , and Hamza, from Bramhall , were pronounced dead at the scene. Their friend Munib, from Heald Green, Stockport, was seriously injured in the collision and died in hospital the following day. They had been travelling home from Munib’s sister’s wedding when their car crashed into parked vehicles at the side of the road.

    funeral 2Hundreds have also been paying tributes to the three young men online and others have held vigils at the crash site to remember them. Close friends and family of the victims also released a video asking young drivers to take care on the roads.

    Usman Iqbal who is a brother of the victims appears in the video. His message is: “The loss that we felt, the pain that we’re feeling I can’t explain to anybody, but my request to all the youngsters to all the children is to be careful and not to be reckless…. 'cos hand on heart I don’t think anybody would want to feel the pain that we’re going through right now”

    Police have previously said the Audi S5 they were travelling in was going at “high speed”. The Audi S5 hire car crashed into a signpost and two parked cars close to Whalley Range High School for Girls at around 3.15am on Wednesday April 27.

    A 17-year-old who was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving has been bailed until June 11 pending further enquiries. A 19-year-old, who was taken to hospital after the crash, was also arrested on suspicion of the same offence but has since been released without charge. Police are continuing to appeal for witnesses to the incident.

    Anybody with further information can call police on 101, or by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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    REGIONAL NEWS: £1.5 million spent by Macmillan Cancer Support in Yorkshire last year

    As 2016 gets underway, Macmillan Cancer Support have revealed that they were able to commit £1.5 million to supporting and caring for those with cancer in the Yorkshire and Humber area, thanks to the ongoing efforts of hard-working fundraisers.

    Francine Tyler, Macmillan Area Fundraising Manager, said: “Because of all your support, in 2015 Macmillan was able to commit £1,531,517 helping to support the 68,600 people living with or beyond cancer locally. This means there are now around 206 Macmillan professionals working in West Yorkshire.

    Events such as the World's Biggest Coffee Morning have helped to raise huge amounts

    Events such as the World's Biggest Coffee Morning have helped to raise huge amounts

    “I just want to say a personal thank you to everyone who hosted or attended coffee mornings, volunteered their time, took part in challenge events, braved the shave, went sober for October, put a pound in a collection box, or held their own events to raise money for Macmillan.”

    One of the latest developments is the opening of a new Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield (part of The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust). The service, which saw an investment of more than £159,000, provides free information and support for anyone with questions about cancer.

    Francine added: “Macmillan’s ambition is to reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer. By 2030, the number of people living with the disease will have doubled, so it’s a huge task to support each and every one of those in some way.

    “With the support of local fundraisers and volunteers, we can keep supporting services and team up with partners to provide the best cancer care possible here in your community. With your help, we can make sure no one in West Yorkshire has to face cancer alone.”

    If you’re interested in holding or attending a fundraising event, getting involved with a fundraising group or committee, or would like to choose Macmillan as your charity of the year, please contact Francine Tyler on 07850 206343 or ftyler@macmillan.org.uk

    Anyone who has questions about cancer can call the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm or by visiting macmillan.org.uk.

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    BHF estimates 11,000 people in Yorkshire and the Humber could be at risk of deadly heart condition

    The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is urging local residents to support a new Fund to improve genetic testing for families at risk of the undiagnosed heart condition that killed Sir David Frost’s eldest son last year.

    The heart charity estimate that 11,000 people in Yorkshire and the Humber could be living with the faulty gene that can cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which led to Miles Frost’s sudden death at the age of just 31.

    The majority of these people are undiagnosed and will have no symptoms. Although most people will live their lives unaffected, tragically, for some it can lead to a fatal cardiac arrest at a young age, often without any warning.

    The family believe that Miles inherited the faulty gene responsible for the condition from Sir David Frost. Although Sir David didn’t die of HCM, his post mortem found the disease was present. Unfortunately, Miles and his brothers Wilf and George were not tested for HCM at the time.

    M

    Miles Frost was 31 when he passed away due to undiagnosed HCM

    Earlier this week the Frost family, in partnership with the BHF, launched a charitable fund in memory of Miles Frost. The family hopes the Miles Frost Fund will stop more families going through the pain of losing a loved one to undiagnosed heart conditions, which kill 12 people aged 35 and under in the UK each week.

    It’s estimated that one in 500 people are born with the faulty gene that causes HCM - meaning around 120,000 people are living with it in the UK. The condition means the muscle wall of the heart becomes thickened, making it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body. Each child of someone with HCM has a 50% chance of inheriting the condition.

    The Miles Frost Fund aims to raise £1.5 million to set up a national cascade testing service for family members of those who have died of, or have been diagnosed with HCM. This will ensure more people receive the screening and treatment they need to prevent sudden death.

    George Frost, youngest brother of Miles, commented: "The hole left by Miles' death can never be filled. But if we can help prevent other families experiencing something similar it will be a great relief. Miles, we miss you terribly, but you will never be forgotten."

    Thanks to BHF research, many of the faulty genes that cause HCM have been found and a test to identify a gene mutation in family members of those who have died or been diagnosed with HCM is now available.

    However, the roll-out of this genetic test in the NHS is slow, patchy and there is no national coordination of testing for families spread across the UK. This means it’s a ‘lottery’ if family members of those affected by HCM will be referred to an inherited heart condition clinic for testing.

    The money raised by the Miles Frost Fund will be used to establish a national cascade testing service, primarily through funding specialist genetic nurses and counsellors to work within inherited heart condition clinics across the country.  This will help ensure people most at risk are referred for testing by the coroner or their GP and get the treatment that could potentially save their life.

    Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Worryingly, this inherited heart disease can be deadly if undiagnosed. That’s why we need to ensure that people in Yorkshire and the Humber who have a family history of HCM, have access to clinical and genetic testing.

    “Currently, there is no nationwide approach which means your chance of being referred for testing depends on where you live. Sadly, many individuals fall through the net which can lead to tragic consequences.

    “The Miles Frost Fund aims to address this issue and I cannot praise highly enough the courage and vision of the Frost family in setting up this fund.  The money raised will help to establish a UK-wide cascade testing service for parents, siblings and children who could be at risk. Working with the Frost family, our aim is to ensure people who have HCM are identified and treated to prevent a needless loss of life.”

    To find out more about the Miles Frost Fund or to make a donation to support the roll-out of genetic testing for HCM, visit: www.milesfrostfund.com

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