13/12/2017 London News


13/12/2017

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LineFromTo

memorial service with my colleage

Mishal Hussain.

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That's all for tonight.

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Now on BBC One, it's time

for the news where you are.

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Good evening.

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I'm Claudia-Liza Armah.

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There are claims tonight that

homeowners are being exploited,

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paying extortionate service charges

to maintain their buildings for work

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that isn't even carried out.

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We've heard from some Londoners

who say they're paying

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thousands of pounds a year.

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One MP says the complaints

in her constituency are mounting up

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and she's now calling

for a parliamentary investigation.

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Sonja Jessup reports.

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Look, he's sitting there,

cleaning himself.

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Oh, yeah.

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He is climbing.

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A very unwelcome guest at this

Hounslow housing block.

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Residents say they've been

complaining to their landlord for

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three years about a rat infestation.

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So serious, these neighbours say,

they are considering moving out.

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It's like you cannot sleep

because the constant screeching

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and running around of the rats

in the wall.

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You've got a list of your charges.

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It came as a shock, then,

when some received bills

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for nearly £200 each.

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They suspected to tackle

the rat problem.

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But say it's not clear what they're

actually paying for.

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They've never said what it's for.

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It just says it's

a surcharge deficit.

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They are among an increasing number

of Londoners who are complaining

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about service charges,

fees paid by most leaseholders

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for maintaining communal areas.

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And, as more new flats rise up,

legal experts say it's

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inevitable that so too

will the number of disputes.

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Some service charges add up

to thousands of pounds per year.

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These are quite large

sums of money now.

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They can be two, three, £4000,

for relatively modest properties.

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We are not talking

your One Hyde Parks.

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This MP has heard so many complaints

she is calling for a parliamentary

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investigation into service charges

across the country.

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I am very concerned that residents

are being exploited and that this

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is little short of a scandal.

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We know that there is a huge need

for affordable housing and models

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like shared ownership but I believe,

it's a matter of great concern.

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She wants stronger legislation

so residents are clear what charges

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are for what service to expect

and a fair system to

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deal with complaints.

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If residents feel the charges

are unfair they can challenge

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them in court but that can be

a complex and costly process.

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That's something Pamela Rose

and her neighbours discovered.

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She's tried to challenge

service charges which she

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believes are unfair.

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She says she has sometimes received

bills for hundreds of pounds,

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often with no explanation.

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When you open a bill,

you just don't know...

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You start crying.

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Sometimes, just cry.

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Because just to think,

what am I working for?

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Where'd you get the money from?

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They just increase the charges

for whatever they want.

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Her block is managed by the housing

association a2dominion,

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the focus of many of the complaints

to the local MP.

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In a statement, they told us...

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"We always aim to ensure our service

charges are as clear

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and transparent as possible."

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"When a scheme requires

major or cyclical works,

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such as repairs to the roof,

we write to residents

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in advance to consult them."

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"We also offer payment

support and advice."

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"We are sorry to hear that some

of our residents have concerns

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and we are providing as much

information and help as we can."

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A2dominion has also

apologised for the ongoing

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problem with rats here.

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It says it has been working hard

to tackle it and is now

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carrying out further works.

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It says the £200 bill sent

to residents are not related but,

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so far, has been unable to tell us

what they are for.

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The government has just carried out

a consultation on service charges.

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It's thought the law

could be changed in future.

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Londoners like Pamela are worried

how far it will go and whether it

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will help people like them.

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Sonja Jessup, BBC London News.

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Tomorrow marks six months

since the Grenfell fire,

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and a memorial service is being held

at St Paul's Cathedral to remember

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the 71 people who lost their lives.

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Among those attending

is Clarrie Mendy, whose daughter

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and cousin lived on the 20th floor

and died in the tragedy.

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She's been talking to Helen Drew

about how she continues

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to fight for justice.

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Mary Mendy and Khadija Saye,

the mother and daughter who died

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trying to escape from their flat

on Grenfell's 20th floor.

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Six months on, Mary's cousin

pays tribute to them.

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They were inseparable.

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When you saw one, you saw the other.

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They was very close.

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Quiet, caring.

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Their personalities were just...

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They shone.

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24-year-old Khadija was a rising

artist, becoming recognised

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on the world stage.

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Earlier this year the BBC filmed

in her Grenfell flat,

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which doubled up as her art studio.

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Back in central London,

24-year-old photographer

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Khadija Saye is here with her mum.

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Both my parents are from Gambia,

and my mother is Christian

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and my father is Muslim,

and it's one of the first times I've

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been able to explore it

through my photography.

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And she recently featured

in a Venice exhibition.

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It's not every day an artist

makes their Venice debut.

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They look amazing on the

wall, they really do.

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Are you happy?

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Yeah, extremely happy.

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It's real now.

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The saddest thing about it,

you know, she was asked "Where do

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you see yourself in ten years?"

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And to think not even ten

days later she is cut...

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She's worked so hard, the world

was just becoming her oyster,

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and to be cut down in your prime

like that is...

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What Clarrie wants now

is justice for her family.

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Every grain of sand

needs to be unturned.

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So as long as we get it right,

yeah, let's do the job.

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Meanwhile, the head

of the Metropolitan Police has made

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it clear again today that relatives

hoping for quick answers

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to what happened at Grenfell Tower

are likely to be disappointed.

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With more on this,

Chris Rogers joins me now.

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This is Cressida Dick making it

abundantly clear that the criminal

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investigation will be painstakingly

slow?

When she explained why. Her

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officers, 200, 400 at its peak, are

sifting through tonnes of debris,

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thousands of files of evidence and

interviewing hundreds of people --

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thousands of people. This will have

to be done before they feel they can

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deliver any sort of conclusion. It

could be 2019 on many more years.

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She is asking for more money from

the Government to do a better job.

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She explained why it will be a

painstakingly slow investigation.

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This will be a very significant,

very important matter

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for the Metropolitan Police

for many, many, many months to come.

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Indeed, I would be astonished

if we were finishing the criminal

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investigation within 12 months.

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I am sure it will be

much more than that.

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Of course, families of victims are

desperate for answers a lot sooner

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than 2019 and beyond. The focus will

be very much on them tomorrow with

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that memorial service for the 71

people who died at St Paul's

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Cathedral. It is a national tragedy,

so that service will be broadcast on

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BBC One at 10:30am.

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Now, we've had the walkie talkie,

the cheese grater, and now

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the latest building to grace

the capital is the the Glass Cube.

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With a price tag of around

£750 million the US Embassy could be

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the most expensive embassy building

in the world.

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Well, with its new home

by the Thames, security

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is a top priority,

as Tolu Adeoye found out.

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It is a striking building,

said to signify transparency,

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openness and equality.

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The new American Embassy in London

has been ten years in the making.

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This has been one of those projects

that begins with the Bush

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administration and approved then,

and starts design and construction

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during the Obama administration

and is completed during the Trump

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administration, but it's a building

designed for 60 to 100 years,

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and it's going to probably transcend

maybe even ten presidencies.

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Developing the site

has cost $1 billion.

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Once it opens, 800 members of staff

will be based here and there will be

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around 1000 visitors daily.

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The security of the building is,

of course, a top priority.

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Well, clearly they've spent

$1 billion on this building,

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so you would expect bombproof glass,

bullet-proof glass, all those usual

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features that would be considered.

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The old embassy was effectively

within ten metres of roads,

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it had a large public area in front,

so it was very difficult to defend

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in terms of counterterrorism.

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This building is effectively

an island site, so through excellent

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use of architecture they've

distanced the building

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from the threat.

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You won't be able to approach

this building at speed.

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Out front there's the lake,

there's bollards, so this

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is going to be a very hard building

to target if you were a terrorist.

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The embassy will be

operational from January,

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but what of the ceremonial opening?

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Do you hope President Trump will be

here to open the building in person?

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Yes I do hope it, and we're

going to welcome him when he comes.

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No...

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No...

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No date set.

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So we will have to wait to find out

whether the president will be

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here in person to open what has been

described as the centrepiece

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of America's long-term

commitment to our country.

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That's it for now from me, but let's

find out what the weather's up

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That's it for now from me, but let's

find out what the weather's up

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to with Stav Danaos.

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Thanks very much. We have a few

showers around this thing tonight, a

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little bit of winteriness over

higher ground. The showers should

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begin to ease towards the second

part of the night and will be quite

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breezy, stopping a frost developing.

Those in the City around two or

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three.

Tomorrow starts chilly, there should

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be good spells of sunshine through

the day and a mixture of showers as

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well. It will be quite windy,

blustery day. The wind 's strongest

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across southern and western areas

where some will move through

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proposed... Most places should stay

try, cooler than today, temperatures

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of around six at best.

Things set to turn colder by Friday,

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the low-pressure opens the

floodgates to the north. Quite a

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quiet, calm day on Friday. No

showers around, quite a bit of cloud

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through the morning, we should seek

sunshine pushing towards the north,

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top temperatures five or six.

As we head into the weekend it is a

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cold start to Saturday, things

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