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A National Policing Board is to be created to drive improvements and strengthen the governance of policing in England and Wales, Home secretary John Reid announced on July 3. Supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities, the board is to provide a national forum on the challenges facing policing. Reid said: 'The board will give us the opportunity to engage in open and constructive debate; ensure that problems are addressed and that our police reform programme moves forward to deliver a service fit for the twenty-first century.'

Value added tax on condoms and other contraceptive products has been cut from 17.5% to 5%. The change, originally announced in the Budget, will reduce the price of a packet of three condoms by about 30p. Vendors will also increase their supply of free condoms to sexual health charities and other bodies. Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo said the reduction demonstrated the importance the government attached to sexual health. 'If the customer is to benefit as intended, it is crucial that retailers pass on the VAT cut in the prices they charge, and we expect them to do so,' she said.

Network Rail is to ask the government for an extra £7bn to improve the railway network. The firm wants the money to invest in infrastructure on busy commuter routes to cope with rising passenger numbers - expected to go up by a third in the next ten years. The news comes after the firm recently posted annual pre-tax losses of £232m, up from £47 m in 2005. …

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