LEVELS of cold and flu in the North-East have hit "severe risk" for the third week this winter - according to the Beechams cold and flu scale.

Beechams monitors 90,000 of the population across nine UK regions, and warns that a potential 6.8 million people - including more 15 per cent of the North-East population - are suffering from colds and flu.

DOG PLEDGE: A pensioner has pledged to give £100 to anyone who helps the RSPCA catch the people who locked up two dogs and starved them to death over Christmas. The Staffordshire bull terrier and Doberman were found at allotments in New Kyo, Stanley, in County Durham. Fred Wearlands, from Darlington, has offered a reward for information leading to the conviction of the people. Anyone with information is asked to call 08705 555999.

TERRIER RESCUED: Firefighters were called to rescue a dog from a frozen lake yesterday. A spokesman for the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said a Staffordshire bull terrier had got stuck after running on to the frozen surface of a pond at Oliver Henderson Park, Leam Lane Estate, Gateshead, at 10.45am. Firefighters used an inflatable walkway to reach the dog, which was returned to its owner.

FISHERMAN AIRLIFTED: An injured fisherman was airlifted from rocks in the Cambois area of Blyth yesterday. Newbiggin Coastguard arrived at noon to find the Northumbria Air Ambulance had airlifted the casualty to Wansbeck Hospital.

NEW STAMPS: A new set of first-class stamps goes on sale next Tuesday. The stamps, the first in the Royal Mail's 2003 special stamp collection, depict a barn owl and a kestrel. The set is the third in the animal series, which started in 2001 with cats and dogs and continued last year with Kipling's Just So stories.

DUSTY SHOW: Karen Noble will appear on stage at Darlington's Civic Theatre as Dusty Springfield. The show includes all Dusty's hits and will tell the story of her life. The show will take place on Wednesday, January 29, at 7.30pm. For tickets, call (01325) 486555.

BARGAIN HUNT: The second Bargain Hunt show filmed in the North-East is to be screened next month. The show, filmed at Thomas Watson Auctioneers, Darlington, will be screened on Thursday, February 13, at lunchtime on BBC1. The first show filmed in the town was broadcast yesterday.

MUSIC NIGHT: Baz Warne's Buskers' Night takes place tonight at The Greens, Low Row in Sunderland. The event starts at 8pm and admission is free.