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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Whats in the box Key things to look out for in Rishi Sunaks Budget

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What’s in the box? Key things to look out for in Rishi Sunak’s Budget Rishi Sunak faces a difficult balancing act when he sets out his Budget on Wednesday – how to begin the task of dealing with the black hole in the public finances while also supporting families and businesses hit hard by coronavirus. Here are some of the things to watch out for when the Chancellor gets to his feet at 12.30pm: – Taxes The Tory manifesto in 2019 promised not to raise the rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT. But Mr Sunak is reported to be considering a freeze in the thresholds at which people start paying income tax or move into higher brackets – meaning more people would be dragged into those categories as wages increase. Freezing the £12,500 threshold at which people start paying tax would bring in an estimated £5 billion and freezing the £50,000 threshold where the 40p rate kicks in would bring in £1 billion by 2024-25. Corporation tax also appears in line for a hike, with Joe Biden’s plan to raise taxes across the Atlantic giving the Government political cover to increase the rate while still maintaining international competitiveness. Mr Sunak is thought to be considering an increase in the tax on profits from 19p in the pound to between 23p and 25p. It is also worth keeping an eye on the timing of any tax rises and how they will fit in with the next general election, due in 2024. Could the Chancellor be thinking of increases now, only to have a pre-election giveaway later? – Economic forecasts The state of the economy and public finances at the time of the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts in November were so bad that history books will have to be rewritten. The 11% drop in gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of the size and health of the economy – was the worst since the 1709 Great Frost, the £394 billion deficit was a peacetime record and the national debt, at 105% of GDP, was the highest since 1959-60. But the prospect of lockdown lifting and the success of the vaccine rollout could see a strong bounceback in the growth forecasts. Boris Johnson said he thinks the recovery “could be much stronger than many of the pessimists have been saying over the last six months or so”. – Coronavirus measures The furlough scheme will continue until the end of September, but the Government’s contribution will be tapered from July – with employers asked to pay in alongside the taxpayer for the cost of furloughed employees. In July, employers will be expected to contribute 10%, increasing to 20% in August and September, as the economy reopens. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked until the scheme ends. The Chancellor will also announce further support for self-employed workers, with more than 600,000 people – many of whom become self-employed in 2019/20 – now eligible for cash grants. – The Chancellor’s next move? Mr Sunak has put his stamp all over crowd-pleasing measures announced since he took office last year, with his own personal logo, flashy videos and an eye for self-promotion on social media. Unlike predecessors, he will follow his Budget statement with a Downing Street press conference, taking questions from the public and journalists, and on Thursday will appear on The Martin Lewis Money Show Live. All of which has raised eyebrows at Westminster and seen the Chancellor installed as the 5/2 favourite to be next prime minister by Ladbrokes. – Labour pains Like all opposition leaders, Sir Keir Starmer has the unenviable task of digesting and responding to the Chancellor’s statement in the Commons immediately after he has finished. Sir Keir has warned that it is not the time for tax rises on families and businesses – a move which has put him at odds with some of his own MPs, who want to see companies which have profited during the pandemic forced to hand over some of their earnings. Published: 03/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Chancellor to extend furlough scheme until September as he unveils Budget

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Chancellor to extend furlough scheme until September as he unveils Budget The furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September, with employers asked to contribute to workers’ salaries from July, the Chancellor is set to announce. Rishi Sunak will use Wednesday’s Budget to pledge to continue to help businesses and individuals through the “challenging months ahead – and beyond”. He is expected to say that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has protected more than 11 million jobs since its inception, will remain in place until the end of September. But the Government’s contribution will be tapered from July – with employers asked to pay in alongside the taxpayer for the cost of furloughed employees. In July, employers will be expected to contribute 10%, increasing to 20% in August and September, as the economy reopens. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked until the scheme ends. The Chancellor will also announce further support for self-employed workers, with more than 600,000 people – many of whom become self-employed in 2019/20 – now eligible for cash grants. A fourth grant from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be available to claim from April, worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits up to £7,500. The Treasury said that hundreds of thousands more people will be eligible for the grants this time, as tax return data for 2019/20 is now available. Mr Sunak faced criticism that newly self-employed people were unable to benefit from the scheme previously. The Chancellor is expected to outline further details of the proposals on Wednesday, alongside plans for a fifth grant. Ahead of the Budget, he said: “Our Covid support schemes have been a lifeline to millions, protecting jobs and incomes across the UK. “There’s now light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap for reopening, so it’s only right that we continue to help business and individuals through the challenging months ahead – and beyond.” The Chancellor will pledge to use “fiscal firepower” to protect jobs and livelihoods, vowing to do “whatever it takes” to help businesses and people through this “moment of crisis”. He is expected to set out a three-point economic plan focused on supporting people through the Covid-19 pandemic, fixing the public finances and building the future economy. Mr Sunak will tell MPs: “First, we will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis. “Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that. “And, third, in today’s Budget we begin the work of building our future economy.” The Treasury said the Budget will build on the Government’s plan for jobs and the £280 billion package of support during the coronavirus crisis. Labour said the support measures could have been done “months ago”, accusing the Chancellor of wanting to get his “moment in the sun” rather than protecting jobs. Bridget Phillipson, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “These changes to support schemes could have been made months ago. “Businesses and workers have been pleading with the Chancellor to give them certainty – but they have had to wait because he said it wouldn’t be appropriate until the Budget. “Announcing it the night before shows the focus is on Rishi Sunak getting his moment in the sun rather than protecting jobs and livelihoods. “We need a Budget that secures Britain’s recovery and rebuilds the economic foundations the Conservatives weakened before the crisis. “That means a plan to support jobs and businesses, protect family finances and set Britain on the path to a better, more secure future.” But the CBI’s chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said extending the scheme will keep “millions more in work and give businesses the chance to catch their breath as we carefully exit lockdown”. “The furlough scheme has been a stand-out success throughout the crisis. It’s common-sense to keep the scheme going while business resilience remains fragile for some months yet,” she said. “As we make progress into the summer, it’s right that businesses start contributing a little more as revenues start to recover. Meanwhile it’s great to see more support for the newly self-employed, who have missed out over the last year.” Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: “It’s welcome that the furlough scheme that has seen British workers through this crisis will remain in place until restrictions are lifted, playing a critical bridging role between the lockdown and the recovery. “The phased tapering off over the summer will also avoid a risky cliff-edge. “But the peak of unemployment is ahead rather than behind us. We also need to see wider economic stimulus to drive the recovery this autumn, and support for the millions of people who have been without work for long periods during this crisis.” Published: 03/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Canadas most populous province says seniors will not get AstraZeneca vaccine

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Canada’s most populous province says seniors will not get AstraZeneca vaccine The health minister of Canada’s most populous province has said Ontario seniors will not receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine since there is limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. Health minister Christine Elliott said Ontario plans to follow the advice of a national panel that has recommended against using the newly approved vaccine on people aged 65 and older. She said anyone over that age is recommended to receive either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. Canada’s regulator approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca last week for all adults including seniors, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunisation said this week that the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred for seniors due to “suggested superior efficacy”. Health authorities in France and Germany and other countries have also raised concerns that AstraZeneca did not test the vaccine in enough older people to prove it works for them, and indicated they would not recommend it for people over 65. Belgium has authorised it only for people 55 and under. France said this week it will allow some people over 65 to receive the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, after initially restricting its use to younger populations because of limited data on the drug’s effectiveness. Last month, South Africa scaled back its planned rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, opting instead to use an unlicensed shot from Johnson & Johnson for its health care workers. The Canadian Pacific Coast province of British Columbia, meanwhile, plans to delay the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine to four months. Ontario and Alberta are also considering following the province’s lead. Dr Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, said the decision was “made in the context of limited supply and based on strong local and international data”. Dr Henry said: “This makes sense for us, knowing that it is a critical time right now with the limited amount of vaccines that we have in the coming weeks, to be able to provide that protection … to everybody here.” Dr Henry added research in British Columbia, Quebec, Israel and the UK has shown that first doses are highly effective. Canada started vaccinating health care workers and the elderly in long-term homes in December but there has been a shortage of vaccines until now. Many Canadians are not expected to be vaccinated for months. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes to vaccinate all Canadians who are eligible by the end of summer. Published: 03/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Liverpool and Scotland great Ian St John dies aged 82 following illness

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Liverpool and Scotland great Ian St John dies aged 82 following illness Former Liverpool and Scotland striker Ian St John has died at the age of 82. St John made 425 appearances for the Reds and scored 118 goals as a key member of Bill Shankly’s famous side of the 1960s. The Merseyside outfit confirmed St John died on Monday evening following illness. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of a true Anfield legend, Ian St John,” the club said. “The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool Football Club are with Ian’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time. Rest in peace, Ian St John 1938-2021.” In a statement on Liverpool’s website, the St John family said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that after a long illness we have lost a husband, father and grandfather. “He passed away peacefully with his family at his bedside. “We would like to thank all the staff at Arrowe Park Hospital for their hard work and dedication during these very difficult times. “The family would be grateful for privacy at this extremely sad time.” St John won two first division titles under Shankly and scored the winning goal in the 1965 FA Cup final. He also represented Scotland 21 times, scoring nine goals. After retiring in 1973, St John went on to manage his hometown club Motherwell and also Portsmouth. But he won a new generation of fans in the 1980s presenting the popular Saturday afternoon football show Saint and Greavsie alongside former Tottenham and England forward Jimmy Greaves. Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher posted on Twitter: “RIP Ian St John. Another Liverpool Legend sadly passes away. One of the players along with Bill Shankly who made this club what it is today. I’ll remember him most on the best football show on tv, The Saint & Greavsie. X” Ex-Reds captain Steven Gerrard heard the news during his Rangers press conference. The Gers boss said: “That’s a shock and a surprise to me. I didn’t know that. “I’m really disappointed to hear that. He’s an iconic figure at Liverpool Football Club. “He’s someone I’ve met on numerous occasions. A fantastic guy. Really insightful in terms of his career and experience at Liverpool and trying to pass on a lot of knowledge and expertise. “So I’m really devastated to hear that news to be honest with you. Shocked as well, so I’d like to pass on my condolences to all his family and everyone close to the Saint. He’s a legend and an iconic figure at the club and someone I’ve got incredible respect for.” Ex-striker Ian Rush wrote on Twitter: “RIP Ian St John. Sleep well legend!! Thoughts and prayers are with your family at this time.” Current players also paid tribute. Midfielder James Milner posted: “RIP Ian St John – what a player, what a man.” Left-back and fellow Scot Andy Robertson wrote: “A man of warmth, humour, knowledge, wisdom and joy. “Scotland and Liverpool has lost a true giant. My love goes to his family. Rest in peace Ian St John.” St John began his career with Motherwell in 1957 and scored 80 goals in 113 league games. The Scottish Premiership club said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ian St John. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.” Published: 02/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Weekly Covid deaths fall to lowest level since start of 2021 ONS

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Weekly Covid deaths fall to lowest level since start of 2021 – ONS The number of weekly registered coronavirus deaths in England and Wales has fallen by more than a quarter to the lowest level since the start of the year, figures show. There were 4,079 deaths registered in the week ending February 19 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. This is down 28.3% and the lowest number of weekly registered deaths since the week ending January 1. The proportion of deaths that involved coronavirus has also fallen – from 37.1% to 29.5% in the latest period. The figures show that deaths involving Covid-19 among people aged 80 and over have fallen more steeply in recent weeks than those among younger age groups. Covid-19 registered deaths dropped by 56% for people 80 and over from the week ending January 29 to the week ending February 19, compared with falls of 50% for those aged 70 to 79 and 40% for people under 70. People aged 80 and over were the second group on the priority list for Covid-19 vaccines, with doses being offered from early December. Overall, there were 13,809 deaths from all causes registered in the week ending February 19, a 10.0% fall from the previous seven days. There were 2,182 deaths above what would usually be expected for this week based on the average over the past five years. All regions of England recorded a week-on-week fall in the number of Covid-19 deaths registered in the week to February 19, the ONS said. South-east England saw the highest number of Covid-19 deaths registered: 636, down 35% from 974 in the previous week. Eastern England saw the second highest number: 566, down 30% from 808. Some 969 care home resident deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales were registered in the week to February 19, down more than a third (35%) on the previous week, the ONS said. A total of 40,355 care home residents in England and Wales have now had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began. The figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes. Published: 02/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Joint bid from UK and Ireland to host 2030 World Cup receives Government backing

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Joint bid from UK and Ireland to host 2030 World Cup receives Government backing A joint bid from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland to host the 2030 World Cup has received support from the UK Government, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying it is the “right time” to “bring football home”. A feasibility study is under way and will continue before the formal bidding process begins next year. In an interview with The Sun, the Prime Minister said: “We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030. I do think it’s the right place. “It’s the home of football, it’s the right time. It will be an absolutely wonderful thing for the country.” The English Football Association said on Twitter that it welcomed “the Government’s pledge of £2.8million towards a potential bid” for the 2030 World Cup. A joint statement released by the FA and the football associations of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland on Monday evening read: “The football associations and Government partners of the UK and Ireland are delighted that the UK Government has committed to support a prospective five-association bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup. “We will continue to undertake feasibility work to assess the viability of a bid before FIFA formally open the process in 2022. “Staging a FIFA World Cup would provide an incredible opportunity to deliver tangible benefits for our nations. “If a decision is made to bid for the event, we look forward to presenting our hosting proposals to FIFA and the wider global football community.” The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar next year, while the 2026 tournament is to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico. England have not hosted the World Cup since the victorious 1966 campaign. Laura McAllister, who is standing for election to the FIFA Council as UEFA’s female representative next month, believes there would be an appetite from the public to stage the event despite the hardships of the pandemic. McAllister, who is a member of the Football Association of Wales Trust board, told the PA news agency: “I understand the point but I think throughout the history of bids is that the public appreciate that football particularly and sport in general give such enormous pleasure to all of us. “It’s a source of satisfaction and a ray of light at dark times. Clearly public money is at a premium, we know we’re going to have to rebuild the economy after Covid and the effects of the pandemic but having a World Cup on British soil for the first time since 1966 would be tremendous for every nation within the UK and I think we could do a fantastic job.” London, Glasgow and Dublin are among the 12 host cities for the delayed 2020 European Championship, which is scheduled to take place this summer. In his interview in The Sun Mr Johnson added: “We are hosting the Euros. We are hosting the semis and the final. If there’s any other matches that they want hosted, we’re certainly on for that but at the moment that’s where we are with UEFA.” Published: 02/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Government dismisses Euro 2020 host speculation

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Government dismisses Euro 2020 host speculation Suggestions that UEFA is considering staging the rescheduled Euro 2020 solely in England this summer have been dismissed. Downing Street say these claims are “speculation”. The competition was postponed last year amid the coronavirus pandemic but is due to begin on June 11. For the first time, the tournament is set to be played across 12 countries, although the continued travel complications linked to coronavirus have seen some reports claim that is now being reconsidered by the organisers. England has the infrastructure and stadia to play host and, following a successful Covid vaccination drive, was touted as being where UEFA could look to stage the finals – but that has now been played down by the Government. “This is just speculation,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister told reporters. “How the tournament will be hosted is a matter for UEFA. As they stated yesterday, they remain committed to the current format of the tournament. “We are focused on the matches we are scheduled to host in the UK, including seven at Wembley and matches also being hosted at Hampden Park in Glasgow.” Published: 02/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

PM UK has very tough regime at borders

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PM: UK has ‘very tough regime’ at borders Boris Johnson has insisted the UK has “one of the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world” despite the Brazilian coronavirus strain being detected. The Prime Minister claimed the Government “moved as fast as we could” to launch its quarantine hotel policy. Public Health England has identified six UK cases of the concerning P1 variant first detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus – three in England and three in Scotland. This has led to accusations that stricter and quicker restrictions should have been imposed on international arrivals. UK nationals or residents have continued to be allowed to return from Brazil using indirect fights. The requirement for them to carry out their 10-day quarantine period at a hotel was only implemented on February 15, around a month after concerns about the variant became widespread. Mr Johnson told reporters: “We have got one of the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world for stopping people coming in to this country who may have variants of concern.” Asked if the Government was too slow to implement quarantine hotel measures, the Prime Minister replied: “I don’t think so – we moved as fast as we could to get that going. “It’s a very tough regime – you come here, you immediately get transported to a hotel where you are kept for 10 days, 11 days. “You have to test on day two, you have to test on day eight, and it’s designed to stop the spread of new variants while we continue to roll out the vaccination programme.” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the discovery of the Brazilian coronavirus variant in the UK shows the Government has not “secured our borders in the way we should have done”. Speaking at a virtual meeting with Welsh businesses to mark St David’s Day, Mr Starmer said: “It demonstrates the slowness of the Government to close off even the major routes, but also the unwillingness to confront the fact that the virus doesn’t travel by direct flights. “We know from last summer that a lot of virus came in from countries where it didn’t originate in, but people were coming indirect, and that’s the way people travel.” Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he would take the “opposite” approach to the one taken by the UK Government. The UK Government currently imposes enhanced restrictions on people arriving from “red list” countries. Mr Drakeford told a press conference: “I would do it the opposite. I would say we shouldn’t be having international travel but here is a list of countries where we are confident that things are under control, where there are testing regimes, where we will be confident that people returning from there would not be posing a threat to us.” Last September, Covid-19 cases in Wales were “undoubtedly driven up” partly because people returned from holidays abroad and brought the virus with them, he said. Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We need to look at how these cases have arrived in the country in the first place in order to prevent others doing so.” Mr Cooper said many travellers would have taken indirect flights from Brazil, and that the situation highlighted “gaps” in the system. She went on: “These cases seem to have arrived a month after the Brazil variant was first identified and we were raising with the Government the need for stronger action.” Published: 01/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Family camping on 280ft cliff top had no idea of extreme danger

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Family camping on 280ft cliff-top had ‘no idea of extreme danger’ Two adults and a child who set up a tent on the top of a 280ft cliff had “no idea of the extreme danger they were in”, Coastguards said. Rescue officers from Staithes and Whitby in North Yorkshire were called to an area along the Cleveland Way near Port Mugrave on Saturday lunchtime after a 999 call from a member of the public. As well as the proximity to the sheer drop, rescuers said that area of the coast is also vulnerable to landslips. Police officers called to the cliff-top issued a 27-year-old woman from Doncaster and a 30-year-old man from Middlesbrough with fixed penalty notices for contravening Covid restrictions. Adam Turner, senior coastal operations officer for HM Coastguard, said: “The family were in an extremely perilous position with no idea of the extreme danger they were in. “Cliff edges are really unstable and can easily collapse, as recent landslips in the area have shown. “If you live near the coast and are in a position to take exercise there in line with current Covid-19 restrictions, please take care near cliffs. “Keep to paths and stay well back from the cliff edge. “Check the weather and tides before you head out, wear appropriate sturdy footwear and take a fully charged mobile phone, so if the worst should happen you can call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” In a statement on Facebook, Staithes Coastguard said: “Safety advice was given from Coastguard rescue officers due to the dangerous location of their tent, especially with recent landslips. “An officer from North Yorkshire Police also attended due to breach of coronavirus restrictions.” The statement added: “If walking the Cleveland Way please stay on designated footpaths.” North Yorkshire Police said officers were contacted at 1.30pm on Saturday. As well as issuing the tickets, officers also gave words of advice over the dangers of the location and the threat posed to themselves and the young child who was with them. A force spokesman said: “Everyone is aware of the current restrictions that are in place to stay at home to stop the spread of Covid, so to travel from Middlesbrough and Doncaster with the intention to camp overnight is obviously a clear breach of the regulations. “But to then choose to pitch a tent in such a dangerous location is completely irresponsible. “Not only were the individuals involved risking their own safety and the safety of the child who was with them, if a landslide had occurred, they would also be risking the lives of the emergency services who would attend the resulting incident. “Our thanks go to the member of the public who reported their concerns and to our Coastguard colleagues who also attended. Their actions may have averted a completely preventable tragedy. “The pandemic is not over and Covid still presents a risk to public health. Lockdown restrictions are still in place to stop the spread, so we must keep on adhering to the rules to protect all of our chances of moving out of lockdown.” Published: 01/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Philip transferred to another hospital for tests on pre existing heart condition

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Philip transferred to another hospital for tests on pre-existing heart condition The Duke of Edinburgh has been transferred to a different hospital to undergo testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition, Buckingham Palace has said. Philip was shielded from public view as he left King Edward VII’s hospital in central London on Monday morning where he had been receiving treatment for an infection. Umbrellas were held up as he made his way into a waiting ambulance, at the rear of the hospital, and was taken to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, also in central London. Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “The Duke of Edinburgh was today transferred from King Edward VII’s Hospital to St Bartholomew’s Hospital where doctors will continue to treat him for an infection, as well as undertake testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition. “The duke remains comfortable and is responding to treatment but is expected to remain in hospital until at least the end of the week.” The duke, who is three months away from his 100th birthday, was initially admitted nearly two weeks ago for a few days as a precautionary measure after feeling unwell. Published: 01/03/2021 by Radio NewsHub