Monday, 22 June 2009

Simon’s 100 miles kayaking trip around Ireland for the MS Trust

Simon Mould, a friend of Plum Communications, is hoping to raise £2,000 for the MS Trust by kayaking 100 miles in the sea off Cork over a weekend at the start of September. The MS Trust is a charity which works with and for the 85,000 people in the UK with multiple sclerosis, to help them live their lives to the full, providing relevant information, support, education and research. We’ll let Simon explain what he’s doing:

“I am raising money for the MS Trust by kayaking 100 miles in the sea off Cork over a long weekend at the beginning of September. The date is a little bit weather dependent - don't want to pin myself down to a date and then drown in a storm. I would be very grateful if you would support me by sponsoring me - any amount however small will do just fine. I won't be publishing league tables, just give what you can and try not to be tight.”

Simon has so far raised £411 out of his desired £2,000. If you would like to sponsor Simon please feel free to visit his JustGiving fundraising page below…every penny counts!!!

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Thursday, 18 June 2009

Could Oldham get two tram lines running through the town centre?

GMPTE bosses and local businesses are holding talks on how to make the most of taking trams into Oldham. Work has already started to convert the Oldham Loop railway line to Metrolink by autumn 2011 with the existing train stations at Werneth and Oldham Mumps being converted into tram stations, and other new tram stops being built between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale (click here to view the tram route). However, last month's announcement that a new Metrolink line will run through Oldham town centre itself, creating 6 tram stops instead of the initial 2, has forced a rethink, as it could result in trams running parallel through Oldham. Therefore, people could be able to catch one tram into Oldham town centre or a different one to send them round the outskirts and towards Manchester or Rochdale more quickly (as this route map here shows).

Oldham Council leader, Councillor Howard Sykes, explains the problem: “If we had both [lines], one would assume some trams would go round the town centre and some would go through. It means the existing site of the railway line is kept, while the original plans were that it would be given up”.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive will now discuss with local businesses over the new few weeks whether there's a future for both lines or should they scrap the 'outer' line (Oldham Werneth to Oldham Mumps) plan when the town centre line is built. There are 3 proposals which will be discussed:

1. create a new ‘Mumps’ stop between Bell Street and Brook Street, next to Mumps Bridge, which would enable the two lines to co-exist. An artist’s impression of the new Metrolink bridge at Mumps roundabout can viewed here:
2. create a new stop at the Rhodes Bank end of Union Street which would serve the town centre line
3. refurbish the existing Mumps train station

A planning application will be submitted next month for a new ‘Mumps’ stop between Bell Street and Brook Street. Once this application has been submitted, there will be a formal public consultation regarding the issue.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

50p UK broadband tax per fixed phone line

As part of the Digital Britain report, outlined by Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw in Parliament yesterday, it was announced that a levy of 50p per month, which equates to £6 per year, is to be put on all fixed phone lines to help fund the Government's plan to bring broadband internet access and faster download speeds to every home in the country by 2012. The report proposed that the charge would help to upgrade the country's fixed-line network, a project on which BT and Virgin Media have already embarked. The charge would raise between £150m and £175m a year to extend next-generation broadband to the "final third" of the country that will not be reached by the market. Antony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholders' Group, believes the tax will mean that 90% of the UK will be able to benefit from broadband of up to 50Mbps by 2017. The full report can be viewed in PDF here

In the BBC broadcast below, Lord Carter explains the need for a 50p levy:

However, many have questioned the charge, suggesting that the charge will not raise enough money and that Gordon Brown's vision of "access for all" is unachievable. Below are video links to an interview between Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and Lord Carter, the man behind the Digital Britain Report, and the Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt speaking about the 50p levy in Parliament:

Jeremy Paxman interviewing Lord Carter
Jeremy Hunt speaking in Parliament

In summary, the Digital Britain report highlighted the following points of action:

  • a three-year plan to boost digital participation
  • universal access to broadband by 2012
  • fund to invest in next generation broadband
  • digital radio upgrade by 2015
  • liberalisation of 3G spectrum
  • legal and regulatory attack on digital piracy
  • support for public service content partnerships
  • changed role for Channel 4
  • consultation on how to fund local, national and regional news
  • £130m of BBC licence fee to pay for ITV regional news

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Thursday, 4 June 2009

Interest rates held at 0.5% for a 3rd month

The Bank of England has announced that interest rates are to be kept at 0.5% for the time being, only the 3rd month that the rate hasn’t changed since last September. This stall in changing the interest rates highlights how highly the Bank of England is prioritising its attempts to encourage banks to start lending again, therefore boosting credit and raising the ‘nominal spending’ (the cash value of spending) in the economy. The Bank of England has not injected any fresh money into the economy this month, but it is predicted that £125bn will have been spent on the quantitative easing process by the end of July. A closely-watched survey on the service sector released earlier this week suggested that the recovery may be coming faster than expected. Similarly, the European Central Bank (ECB) has kept its interest rates in the eurozone (i.e. those countries who use the Euro) at a record low of 1% for the 2nd month in a row, after it was cut from 1.25% last month, its 7th cut since last October, in an attempt to help restore economic growth in the eurozone.

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