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Bite-sized briefing: UK

National postal strikes are set to go ahead on 22 and 23 October, despite intensive last-minute discussions between Royal Mail and the Communication and Workers Union. The union has condemned Royal Mail's decision to employ 30,000 temporary workers to help clear the backlog.

From 2011, all children will start school from the first September after their fourth birthday, or take up a free full-time nursery place instead if parents believe their child is not ready for school.

Bank bonuses could double to £6bn by the end of the year. The development prompted warnings and condemnations from Labour's Lord Myners, London's Tory mayor, Boris Johnson, and the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King.

The UK Independence Party has lost the latest stage of its battle to avoid having to repay donations of almost £364,000. The total bill, including legal costs, could reach £750,000. The party leader, Nigel Farage, said it could put Ukip "out of business".

The government has dropped plans to give ministers wide powers on holding on record the DNA date of innocent people. The Policing and Crime Bill had proposed holding DNA profiles of those arrested but never charged for up to 12 years.

Groups of Anglicans will be able to join the Roman Catholic Church but maintain a distinct religious identity, under changes announced by the Pope. It comes amid splits among Anglicans worldwide over homosexuality and the ordination of women.

Almost half of all working fathers do not take their two weeks' statutory paternity leave because they cannot afford to, research suggests. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said paternity pay should be increased from the statutory £123 a week to 90 per cent of fathers' actual pay.

Public finances suffered their worst six months on record between April and September, with government borrowing at £77.3bn - more than double its level a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, was branded a "bully" by a senior backbencher after he appointed Maggie Atkinson as the children's commissioner, ignoring the advice of a parliamentary select committee who voted against her.

The Conservative leader David Cameron said his party could introduce women-only shortlists for election candidates to tackle their under-representation in the parliamentary Tory party.

This article appears in the 26 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, New York / London