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Feature

All the ways you can help your favourite local businesses during the coronavirus outbreak

They need your help!

Jamie Roberts

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With everything that’s going on at the moment, it’s important to remember our local venues, restaurants, bars and pubs, who are going to be hit hard by the fallout of coronavirus.

Temporarily closing their business means traders will not only lose vital revenue, but that employees will also be out of work, and some places might be forced to cease trading permanently.

After Boris Johnson announced this week that people should avoid pubs, theatres, restaurants and other public spaces, independent businesses were put in an incredibly difficult situation. 

There are some ways that you can help your favourite local spots while still staying safe, however.

One of those is to shop local. The big companies are going to be fine when all this blows over, especially as places like Tesco and Asda can’t keep products on the shelves at the moment.

It’ll be the smaller businesses that really suffer, so whenever possible make sure you buy local – and between you and me, the corner shop near me is currently stacked to the rafters with toilet roll and pasta, while Asda is empty.

Another way is to get a food or drink delivery, as this is probably the best way restaurants, takeaways, cafes and bars can keep the finances trickling in.

A lot of places that didn’t previously deliver are now offering the service, through providers like Deliveroo and Just Eat, with most places providing an option for the food to be left on your doorstep to minimise contact.

shopblocks.com / Flickr

If you want a solid list of the places around Manchester that are doing delivery at the moment, check out this article here.

In good news, many independent businesses are offering big discounts, with some places discounting by as much as 40-50% on food and drink.

A lot of places are also offering gift vouchers – basically you buy a voucher now and when this has all blown over, you head down and stuff your face with as much food and drink as is humanly safe, if it’s a food spot, or claim a haircut or treatment if it’s a barber or beauty salon (you get the picture).

Here’s an article with loads of places around Manchester that are running a voucher scheme at the moment.

And of course, as soon as we’re back to normality the best thing you can do is head out in your thousands and frequent as many of these businesses as possible, making the most of your sweet, sweet freedom.

If you can think of any other ways to help the local places that we love, just pop it in the Facebook comments for this article so people can have a gander.

Stay safe everyone x

Feature

What the chancellor’s summer statement will mean for you and your family

Everything you need to know…

Alex Watson

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Bill Boaden / Geograph

Rishi Sunak has announced today the economic schemes for post-coronavirus, and they include some pretty big changes.

Mr Sunak announced a £2bn kickstart scheme designed to create jobs, incentives for businesses to bring people off furlough, VAT cuts, a stamp duty holiday plus more.

Details of how this package will be paid for – by tax increases and borrowing – are expected to be unveiled in the chancellor’s Autumn budget.

Here’s a breakdown of his main points:

Furlough

Members of the public who have been placed on furlough as part of the government’s Job Retention Scheme are aware that this is coming to end in October, but many people have been concerned for the future of their jobs.

Mr Sunak today announced an incentive for businesses to bring back those employees that are on furlough, with a £1,000 bonus for every person they bring back into the workplace.

He said: “So for businesses to get the bonus, the employee must be paid at least £520 on average, in each month from November to the end of January – the equivalent of the lower earnings limit in National Insurance.”

Employment

The chancellor has also announced a £2 billion kickstart scheme that will pay employers to create jobs for people aged between 18 and 24. The government emphasised that they need to be ‘good jobs’, and the government will pay six months of wages plus an amount to cover overheads. The grant for a 24-year-old will be around £6,500. 

There will also be a new £2,000 payment to firms who take on apprentices. This is alongside an unspecified amount of funding for career advisors.

On top of that, there’ll be traineeships to get young people ready for work, including work experience placements and work preparation for 16-24-year olds. 

Tourism & Hospitality

The chancellor has cut VAT for the tourism and hospitality sectors on food, accommodation and attractions from the usual 20% to 5%, which will come into effect from next Wednesday and last until January 2021.

Mr Sunak has also announced that everyone in the country will be given 50% off meal and drinks for the whole of August through a ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.

This scheme sees a 50% reduction up to a value of £10 per head on sit down meals and non-alcoholic drinks Monday to Wednesday.

The chancellor hopes this will get 1.8 million people who work in the hospitality industry back in jobs and ‘customers back in restaurants, cafes and pubs’.

Businesses can claim the money back from the government and the funds will appear in their bank account within five working days.

More details on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme are yet to be confirmed.

It is currently being debated as to whether the reduced VAT will be passed onto the consumer in lower prices as many in the sector will consider this as an opportunity to shore up their finances and ail their business.

Buying a Home

If you’re in the market for house-buying, the chancellor announced a stamp duty holiday which could save you thousands.

The rate at which stamp duty will be placed on a home has been increased from the usual £125,000 to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland, with immediate effect until March 31st.

The stamp duty holiday hopes to get people buying houses again, a sector which suffered a big drought throughout coronavirus.

The chancellor explained that on average people buying a home could save £4,500, and current homeowners moving on could see savings as big as £14,999.

Many people have expressed concerns regarding how this will help first-time buyers. Around 16% of housing sales in England are not liable for stamp duty as is the case with first-time buyers.

Currently, first-time buyers only pay a 5% stamp duty on houses between £300,000 and £500,000 which means this scheme will not affect new buyers directly.

Those buying a new home or second home will reap the benefits of this scheme.

Green Home Grant

Mr Sunak has announced a budget for home improvements that will help your home become ‘greener’, for instance, double glazing, eco-friendly boilers, low-energy lighting, energy-efficient doors and loft, floor or wall insulation.

The scheme will start in September and will see the government pay for at least two-thirds of the cost of home improvements that save energy, up to a value of £5,000.

Low-income households are expected to receive a larger contribution of up to £10,000.

This is expected to create new jobs and enable the UK to achieve its 2050 goal of net-zero carbon emissions. More information can be found here.

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Feature

Is Wilmslow Road really the busiest bus route in Europe?

We’ve all heard the stories…

Alex Watson

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Wilmslow Road is often claimed to be the busiest bus route in Europe, but is it actually?

The Wilmslow Road bus corridor is the 5.5-mile long stretch we’ve all ventured on for one reason or another, which takes you from Piccadilly Gardens all the way to Parrs Wood.

It’s the bus route you don’t even need to look at the bus timetable for, because you know by the time you’ve taken your hood down as your shelter from the rain under the bus stop, one will be pulling in and leading you on your merry way to a house party in south Manny somewhere.

However, there is, I’m told, a bus on average every minute in each direction during university term time. And the stretch between RNCM and Oxford Road Station has a bus every 30 seconds in each direction.

Stagecoach in Manchester 17641 W641 RND Not in Service on Wilsmlow Road, Rusholme

Currently, two bus companies compete in giving the public the exact same service; Stagecoach Manchester (this includes our friend the wizard, Magic Bus) and First Greater Manchester.

They both quite literally run the exact same route but everyone knows the cheapest is the bright blue buses with a wizard printed on the side, which will get you all the way back for just a quid.

It’s this fact though – the one about the route, not the £1 bargain – that caused the Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport to be told in 2006 that Wilmslow Road corridor was utter ‘chaos’.

So how did things get just so utterly chaotic?

Mikey/Flickr

Like a lot of things, we can look to Margaret Thatcher’s government. The deregulation of buses in 1986 meant bus services could run wherever and whenever they wanted.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive ran most of the bus services on this route prior to this. In 1986, this became GM Buses.

Shortly after, competitor Finglands Coachways saw a market for cheap public transport to cater for all those pesky students. Word spread quickly and before you knew there were four bus choices; with Wall’s and Bullocks coming into the mix.

By 1996, Stagecoach bought GM Buses and introduced the Ryanair of bus services, the Magic Bus.

The market got competitive and prices just kept on getting lower and lower. In 2001, Finglands were offering a student weekly ticket for just TWO pounds. I don’t even think you can get an ice cream for two quid anymore.

Stagecoach monopolised further, buying Bullocks in 2008 and by 2013, First Greater Manchester purchased Finglands.

Now we’ve had a brief history lesson in the bus market of Manchester let’s get back to the case at hand. Is it really the busiest bus route in Europe?

Well, we don’t know. And unfortunately, there’s no real way of finding out.

First of all, no one has defined the word ‘busy’ so we don’t actually know just how many buses qualifies as the ‘busiest’ bus route.

Secondly, the timetables just aren’t reliable enough meaning we can’t actually compare it to anything else. The buses on Wilmslow Road just fly around the route as fast as they possibly can. I’m assuming when they all get back to the depot at night, compete on how many times they did it that day in a weird little bus route tourney.

And finally, different points in the day, such as rush hour, and year, such as term time, are busier than 1 in the afternoon on a Sunday, for example.

We simply don’t know if it’s the busiest route. One things for sure though, it’s got the best characters and best stories.

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Feature

This abandoned psychiatric hospital in Stockport has a gruesome history

The doctor will see you now…

Alex Watson

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Bobby Clegg / Geograph

St. Thomas’ Hospital in Stockport has been closed for a number of years now, but there are still things wandering the halls…

Originally called Shaw Heath Hospital, St. Thomas’ Hospital in Stockport closed in 2004 after giving many years of care, most notoriously treating thousands of psychiatric patients.

When St Thomas’ was first built in 1841, it was a workhouse known as ‘The Grubber’, which accommodated just under 700 inmates.

By 1894, the working conditions of the workhouse and its infirmary were known to be of ‘total brutality and chaos’.

Take A Seat - The Doctor Will Be With You Shortly...
Nicola Miller / Flickr

And it is noted that the management of the hospital were ‘completely without plan or method’ and workers were ‘packed in like sardines’.

So with hundreds of workers packed in working in horrific conditions and treating psychiatric patients, it’s no wonder this building has got some serious paranormal activity going on.

A lot of people have bravely ventured in to explore the now-abandoned hospital. Almost all of them have run away screaming from the horrors they have heard or seen.

st thomas hospital stockport
RACHELLA BELLA / FLICKR

The most famous story comes from a very brave group of people who, while looking around, got seriously freaked out by the sound of very loud footsteps from the floor above.

They quickly realised the problem with this – there were no working staircases to get to the top floors. That’ll send a shiver down your spine.

The group were so terrified, they hadn’t even noticed they’d photographed a floating doctor complete with a white coat and white face mask.

st thomas hospital stockport
Rachella Bella / Flickr

This infamous doctor has been spotted a few times by the people who dare to enter St Thomas’.

He’s not the only one either, a number of people have reported ‘a radiant woman that could be a nun or a nurse’.

This derelict hospital in Stockport has even featured on the show ‘Most Haunted’.

If you think you’re brave enough for a look around, apparently the mortuary is filled with the most paranormal activity due to a patient who was cut open whilst he was still alive.

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