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The Consumer Affairs Spokesperson for the Alliance Party Jan Campbell, has welcomed the recent announcement from the supermarket chain ASDA that their suppliers of own branded goods have been asked to reduce the salt levels in certain foods.

Jan Campbell said:

“This is great news for the consumer as 80% of our salt intake is already in the food we eat, especially in processed foods. This makes it difficult to reduce what can be a potentially lethal substance for those with blood pressure and heart condition.

“The lower salt products will be a healthier alternative offering the choice for the consumer to add salt if required as previously the salt was being added by the manufacturer. Hopefully the supermarket chains in Northern Ireland will follow suit and people in Northern Ireland will be offered a similar choice.”

PLANS by the Eastern Health and Social Services Board to add fluoride to water supplies in Holywood has been described by a Belfast City councillor as a form of “nazism”.

And the Alliance Party’s Danny Dow has said that if the plans get the go-ahead, it will result in a process of “mass medication” for the people of Holywood.

A decision on the proposals will be made on August 11th after EHSSB chiefs meet to discuss the issue at their headquarters in Linenhall Street, Belfast.

But Mr. Dow, who has teamed up with leading members from the National Pure Water Association to highlight the “dangers” of fluoride, believes the plans will be approved.

The Alliance councillor wants the decision to be made by members of the new shadow assembly when it reconvenes in September.

He says the “undemocratic” nature of the board is evident by its decision to make an announcement on the proposal before the next assembly meeting.

“If this decision gets the go-ahead, it will be inflicted upon the people of Holywood who will ultimately have no say in the matter,” explained the Alliance man.

“The decision must be democratic and it must be taken by locally elected representatives – not by members of the board who don’t represent the people of Holywood.

“Even Lord Dubs has said that plans to add fluoride to water supplies should be taken by members of the new assembly.

“Research has shown us the dangers of fluoride in water supplies and I believe that the people of Holywood are also against the plans.

“We will be doing our best to oppose the plans and we will be picketing outside the board’s headquarters on August 11th. They must not be allowed to get away with this proposal and I would be calling on the people of Holywood to give us their full support,” he added.

A SUFFICIENT amount of funds from the Government’s £1.4bn cash injection for Northern Ireland should be used to improve health and educational services in East Antrim, a leading member of the Alliance Party said today.

Alderman Stewart Dickson, who is the Alliance Party’s spokesman on health issues, made the call after Wednesday’s announcement of the government’s plans to upgrade Northern Ireland’s health and education sector.

It is understood that the bulk of the money will be targeted at education and health, but funds are also to be made available to improve roads and encourage overall economic growth.

The government hopes to improve the health service by ensuring that by the year 2002, death rates from heart disease and strokes is reduced by 40 per cent. In relation to schooling, the government aims to raise educational standards among primary and secondary school children.

And, in welcoming the proposals, Mr. Dickson said it was essential for the government to recognise that “important decisions” had to be made about the future of health and education in the East Antrim area.

“Any major cash injection for our schools and health service has to be welcomed, but we must make sure that the money is spent wisely,” said the former Mayor of Carrickfergus.

“The reality is that we have to keep our head above the water and we must do all that we can to ensure that some of the funding is allocated to hospitals, schools and health centres in the East Antrim area.

“For instance, I think that there is an urgent need for more staff in hospitals and health centres in the East Antrim area and this must be addressed with the utmost attention.

“I also think it is important for the Government to consult members of the new Assembly on the allocation of funding. It is clear that member of the Assembly will have an important role to play in education and health matters,” he said.

Carrickfergus Alliance Councillor Stewart Dickson has welcomed Health Minister Tony Worthington’s decision to provide cold weather payments to Northern Ireland’s pensioners.

Alderman Dickson, who is the new health spokesperson for the Alliance Party, said the payments would be appreciated by Northern Ireland’s pensioners – particularly after last weekend’s treacherous weather conditions.

Alderman Dickson said: “I would like to commend the Minister for providing these winter payments. Many pensioners faced a bleak Christmas as a result of the bad weather.

“The necessary conditions for payments were triggered by recent storms and bad weather. However, the Department of Health and Social Services does not take into account higher domestic fuel costs in Northern Ireland.

“I understand that funding for solid fuel in glass fronted fires has not been provided and despite recent reductions in electrical prices – costs are still very high. And for most domestic customers – gas is not yet a reality.

“If the bad weather continues, I would hope that the Government would take all the matters that I have listed into account. If the bad weather continues – it’s essential that the Government look’s after Northern Ireland’s pensioners.”

The Alliance Party’s new Health and Social Services spokesman, Alderman Stewart Dickson, has welcomed the British Medical Association’s detailed analysis of the Northern Ireland health service.

The Carrickfergus Councillor said the report, which claims that half of Northern Ireland’s trusts to do not have enough beds to cope with emergencies, highlights the “genuine” concern facing the province’s health service.

Alderman Dickson also welcomed the report’s call for the Government to take swift action – especially in relation to the number of hospital beds being blocked by patients who cannot leave hospital because of inadequate after-care.

Alderman Dickson continued: “As the new Health and Social Services spokesman for the Alliance Party, I would welcome any survey into the workings of the province’s health service.

“I think it confirms the concern that people have into the current state of our health service – especially in relation to the number of beds being blocked by people who have to wait on the Social Services.

“The survey makes us aware that there are people in hospital due to lack of home help services and other community support services and I think that this is a very worrying trend.

“I also believe that we urgently need an acute hospital services review by the Department of Health so that we can judge what the Government is saying alongside the yesterday’s damming report from the BMA.”

Alliance Councillor, Kieran McCarthy, made an impassioned plea to the members of the Forum at its weekly sitting on Friday, namely the shame of the so called savings on service and safety.

Cllr McCarthy said:

“So called savings or more accurately described as savage but backs by government on our health service has completely annihilated the NHS and we have for all to see a two tier health service to the eternal shamed this Tory Government. The latest effect is now being felt on patients of non fund holding GP’s who cannot have their surgery but are placed on a long long waiting list to suffer unnecessary pain and discomfort. This is a shame on Malcolm Moss and his government and call for the restoration of total equality to all members of our society. Mr Moss told us there is no crisis in the Health Service. Let him ask those who suffer. Another concern of Councillor McCarthy is the question of safety as it relates to public transport.

“Every year at the start of the new school term we experience a real problem of overcrowding on school buses giving rise to possible dangers to all passengers and on a grossly overcrowded bus all safety regulations are tossed overboard and undue responsibility placed on the skills of the driver. Certainly pupils from the Ards Peninsula and indeed many other parts are crammed on to a 53 seater bus which at times can well exceed the acceptable limit. One terrible example of overcrowding was related to where a 53 seater bus was so full a young pupil had to stand on the step just inside the closed door of that bus. I say, and I’m sure every member of the Forum would agree that this is totally unacceptable. Why should our young people be exposed to such dangers. Again a case putting so called savings before safety.

“Finally safety on another mode of transport. Namely the Portaferry/Strangford Ferry Service. Again, probably because of cut back in resources, passengers have expressed deep concern about their safety while using this service. Users which include many school children of this essential service on a twice daily basis do feel that safety standards on this short sea crossing, has deteriorated in recent times, and by brining these concerns to this Forum it is hoped and indeed we appeal to the Department of the Environment to ensure that every safety precaution s taken and to update their maintenance programme on a more regular basis.

“All three aspects of service and safety for our community has been put in jeopardy and we call on the relevant authorities to instigate immediate remedies namely sufficient funding to be released to avoid disaster. We call on Mr Moss to save our services.”