Dear Prime Minister, I am writing to you today to represent the case for gyms and leisure centres remaining open during the next series of national Covid restrictions, and champion the essential role they play in both our fight and recovery from this virus. I, alongside no doubtRead More »
Prime minister says new measures will focus on rail links and pub closures. Boris Johnson has announced another election package costing hundreds of millions of pounds for neglected towns, some of which will be spent in marginal constituencies. Concentrating on rundown high streets, the closures of pubs and post offices and the restoration of rail links, the prime minister has claimed that the measures will build upon the £3.6bn towns fund first announced in July. Towns that have been singled out in the new measures include Cleveleys, near Blackpool, where the Conservatives are defending a majority of 2,023, and Willenhall in Walsall North, where they hope to improve on a 2,601 majority. Labour said last night the Conservatives were responsible for the destruction of the high streets they are now claiming they will help. Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, said: “The Tories are destroying our high streets and towns. A decade of vicious cuts to the services that people in our communities rely on has taken 60p in every £1 from council budgets.” Johnson said a future Conservative government would extend the retail discount on business rates to 50% next year. For businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000, this will mean an increase on the current retail discount of 33% in 2020-21. This would amount to “an effective £280m tax cut” for small businesses, the party claimed. A new £1,000 business rates relief for pubs would also be introduced under a Johnson majority government – an £18m tax cut for next year, it is claimed. The Conservatives said they would also introduce a £150m fund that will help groups trying to take over and run pubs and post offices threatened with closure. Following on from previous pledges to reverse rail cuts recommended by Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s, Johnson has also pledged to set up a £500m Beeching Reversal fund. Towns such as Ashington, Seaton Delaval and Blyth, with a combined population of 100,000, will receive cash following a request from Northumberland council for £99m to reinstate stations, the Tories claimed. Willenhall and Darlaston in the West Midlands will receive £18m to reopen stations – a further £10m has already been provided by the government, the party said. Investment will also be provided to connect Skelmersdale to Liverpool and Manchester. A disused railway line will be funded to improve transport connections for Thornton-Cleveleys and Fleetwood. In a statement last night, Johnson said: “For too long, too many towns and villages across Britain have been overlooked and left behind. When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, many communities felt their voices had been heard for the first time in decades and that their lives would improve. “We will invest in these communities and help people put the heart back into the places they call home.” One organisation representing retailers said Johnson’s plans did not go far enough to revive the UK’s troubled shopping districts. Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said the majority of the UK’s 3 million retail workers were employed in businesses that would not benefit from today’s announcement. “It is essential that the next government scraps ‘downwards transition’, which costs retailers £1.3bn, freezes next year’s rates increase, and introduces an improvement relief to encourage investment in our high streets. “To ensure the long-term vitality of our town and city centres, the next government should follow the recommendations of the treasury select committee and commit to wholesale reform of our broken business rates system,” he said. The Conservatives have been accused of using public money to boost their election prospects after it emerged that funding from the towns fund was going to wealthier Tory marginals. An analysis by the Times found this week that a third of the 100 towns due to receive some of the £3.6bn pot were not among the 300 most deprived towns. These included Loughborough, which was won by Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, at the last election, with a majority of around 4,000. Kirby was not on the list.
Boris Johnson announces four-week national Covid lockdown in England. Restrictions in place from Thursday are needed to tackle coronavirus spread, PM says
Boris Johnson is set to announce a month-long lockdown of England, Sky News understands. The prime minister is expected to move the whole of England into tougher COVID-19 measures when he holds a Downing Street news conference later today. Until now, the government has been pursuing a localised approach to COVID-19 restrictions, with the country having been divided into three levels of measures, depending on local infection rates.
Ministers have been urged to set aside their differences with Sadiq Khan and agree emergency funding to keep London’s public transport network running during an expected second lockdown. The London mayor has clashed with Boris Johnson over demands from Westminster for “punitive” charges on Londoners. Mr Khan, who is also chairman of Transport for London, wants a taxpayer bailout to plug a £4.9bn hole in the transport authority’s finances. A deadline to secure a central government bailout was due to expire on Saturday. A second lockdown would exacerbate TfL’s funding woes, which are partly due to the steep fall in fare income as a result of coronavirus restrictions. Failure to agree a temporary deal could paralyse London public transport and lead to the cancellation of nearly all underground, bus and rail services. Richard Burge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “It is clear that the Government isn’t in the position right now to be focusing the attention on the funding deal that London and its vital transport network requires. “Given the circumstances, and the possibility of increased restrictions that will see TfL revenue further decline, a month-long emergency funding package with no conditions is the only logical step.”
The first minister said her government was asking people not to travel to or from Scotland "at all", apart from essential journeys.
The Labour leader’s position is being strengthened by three simultaneous developments
‘Let us try to avoid the misery of another national lockdown, which he would want to impose in a headlong way’
The prime minister is considering new national lockdown restrictions, which could be imposed in England as early as next week. Whitehall sources confirmed Boris Johnson met his most senior cabinet colleagues on Friday to discuss the possible toughening of restrictions in light of worsening coronavirus infection rates and hospital admission data. Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove were all understood to be present at the discussion.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new national lockdown next week after scientists warned Covid-19 was spreading faster than their worst predictions. The Prime Minister spent Friday in crisis meetings with ministers and aides after being told deaths were tracking above the “worst case scenario” that suggested 85,000 in the second wave. Mr Johnson is understood to have been persuaded that a national lockdown is the only way to save Christmas, and will spend the weekend contemplating exactly how severe it should be. Senior government sources stressed that no final decision had been made and the measure would need to be put to the Cabinet before any announcement to the nation. Mr Johnson is likely to summon ministers from his Cabinet coronavirus subcommittee over the next 48 hours and could hold a full meeting on Sunday if he decides he needs to act as soon as Monday. The alternative to a national lockdown would be a fourth tier of restrictions on top of the existing three tier system, but government scientists now believe even Tier 3 is not enough to stop the spread of infections.
Boris Johnson set to announce national lockdown The new lockdown – what we know so far Government launches official inquiry into lockdown leaks Why Europe's efforts to stop a second wave of Covid were doomed to fail Subscribe to The Telegraph Boris Johnson has confirmed a return to a full national lockdown that will come into force in England from Thursday (November 5). With exceptions for education, work where people cannot work from home, recreational exercise, and shopping for food and essentials, the Government is once again asking the public to stay at home - with the same "protect the NHS, save lives" messaging as in March. Pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail must close, Mr Johnson told a press briefing, while the furlough scheme has been extended on a time-limited basis to provided support for shuttered businesses until England returns to the three-tier system in December. Schools, childcare, colleges and universities will stay open, and clinically vulnerable people will not be asked to shield, although they have been urged to minimise their social interactions with others. "No responsible Prime Minister can ignore the message of those figures," Mr Johnson said as Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance produced stark graphs which claimed deaths and hospitals could exceed the first peak whilst leaving the NHS overwhelmed. " Unless we act we could see deaths in this country running at several thousands a day. The overrunning of the NHS would be a medical and moral disaster beyond the loss of life. "Now is the time to take action because there is no alternative." Follow the latest updates below.
Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds are to hold their first joint TV appearance this weekend. The broadcast will be aired on Sunday as part of the Pride of Britain Awards. The couple nominated nurses Jenny McGee and Luis Pitarma for the award, after they cared for Mr Johnson at St Thomas’ Hospital.
Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of lacking “backbone” after he refused to condemn Jeremy Corbyn and senior Labour figures suggested the door was now open for his return. The Labour leader on Friday held private talks with key union leader and Corbyn ally Len McCluksey alongside the party’s general secretary David Evans, fuelling speculation that a major climbdown could be on the horizon. It came as allies of Sir Keir suggested that Mr Corbyn could be reinstated if he apologised and retracted his claim that the scale of anti-Semitism in Labour had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons.” Echoing their comments, shadow Welsh secretary Nia Griffith told reporters: “I'm sure that there can be a way back if that's what he chooses." Separately, John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, suggested that Mr Corbyn should issue a clarification to resolve the dispute, which he warned was at risk of “drifting towards a hell of a row.” Speaking after the meeting with Mr McCluskey, one insider told The Daily Telegraph that Sir Keir had made “soothing noises”, with talks expected to continue into the weekend. However, party sources insisted that any decision on Mr Corbyn’s case would be made independently of Sir Keir by Mr Evans and the head of the Labour’s governance and legal unit. The shift in tone over the past 24 hours is likely to alarm anti-Semitism campaigners and party moderates, who hailed Mr Corbyn’s suspension as a watershed moment.
‘We get these sporadic, great ideas launched by the prime minister or some of his acolytes and they are meaningless’
Government also reveals PM held meetings with senior figures from The Telegraph in recent months