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Andy Burnham will ‘use whatever means’ to challenge the government if Manchester is hit with even more restrictions

Pubs and restaurants could be forced to shut.

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Andy Burnham has revealed that he will ‘use whatever means he can’ to challenge the government if they impose stricter lockdown restrictions in Greater Manchester. 

It comes following the leaked government plans which revealed pubs and restaurants in hotspots, such as the North and Greater Manchester, will be closed from Monday. 

The plans have received a lot of backlash from leader’s in the North, and from Tory MPs who are considering rebelling against the PM. 

Many leaders in the North have explained that the first they heard about the government’s new three tier system was on the front pages of Thursday’s newspapers.

Mr Burnham said he would challenge any measures the government imposes in the North West while speaking on BBC Question Time.

He said: “I will not accept the government just imposing restrictions and these decisions upon us, briefing them to newspapers late at night. They need to treat the people of the North of England with more respect.”

Fiona Bruce asked: “When you say you won’t accept it, what are you talking about? Civil disobedience?”

He responded: “I won’t support it. Earlier in the summer they asked for my support and I did provide it, but if they come with restrictions without full support for the people and the businesses affected, I won’t support it. But actually more than that, I will challenge it.

“I will use whatever means I can to challenge it to get support for people because otherwise they are going to suffer real hardship this winter – we are going to see businesses failing.

“I even threatened possible legal action over the A-levels in the summer because I wasn’t prepared to accept that either, because that disadvantaged young people in the North of England, we need change here.

“I’ve offered to work with them time and time again but I think the mood in the North of England this week, speaking to local leaders, business leaders, is that the government has lost the dressing room and they have to work very hard now to get it back.”

Mr Burnham’s anger is felt amongst most other Northern leaders, and they are planning a formal alliance in opposition to any attempt of government restrictions without funding from the Treasury.

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield, tweeted: “Recklessly irresponsible to brief the papers but not leaders in the North who’ll somehow have to make this work. Get a grip @BorisJohnson.”

Andy Burnham reiterated his point on Twitter saying: “If the Government closes businesses across the North without providing proper compensation and a local furlough scheme for staff, then, yes, I will challenge them in any way I can.”

Leader of Leeds city council, Judith Blake said: “We’re working with both hands tied behind our backs, trying to do the best thing locally, and then you get the government just leaking information to the press. It’s so depressing. I’m sure it’s a tactic too: put it out there, soften people up, see what the reaction is.”

The reports of a new three-tier system come following rising infection rates. MPs received a briefing from the government’s Covid taskforce on Thursday claiming that bars, pubs and restaurants accounted for 41% of cases in two or more under-30s who had visited the venue a week before testing positive.

However, The Telegraph explains that the published data explains otherwise. The NHS Test and Trace has recorded that the location at which infected people met close contacts who were later found positive was overwhelmingly in the home.

75.3% of people contacted by tracers came into contact with an infected person in their home or someone else’s, according to PHE figures released last Friday. 

It adds that ‘leisure or community’ which includes pubs, restaurants, places of worship, celebrations, entertainment, organised trips and community activities, were responsible for just 5% of reported close contact – adding that the vast majority of outbreaks happen in schools, workplaces and care homes.

Blake added that she was not convinced hospitality is to blame, saying: “Up to this point our evidence is pointing to the higher risk of infection being in households and confined indoor spaces.” 

Mr Burnham is demanding local authorities can see the restrictions and the financial support before they are announced, adding that he is losing patience with the government. He explained: “There is no way at all I will sign off on the closure of any business without a local furlough scheme.”

The Guardian reports that 19,000 businesses in West Yorkshire will require financial support if Leeds and Bradford are put into the highest level of the three-tier system, putting 28,000 jobs on the line. 

Northern cities are forming an alliance to ensure that the ‘city centres aren’t decimated’. Blake added: “It’s difficult to say at this precise moment what we will do but there is real concern and real anger coming from the business community in terms of what is expected of them.”

The new coronavirus restrictions are reportedly going to impact the majority of Northern England, from Barrow in Cumbria to Merseyside, Greater Manchester, much of Lancashire and Yorkshire and most of the North East, as well as Nottinghamshire in the Midlands.

Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region, said: “Significant restrictions like those being proposed must also come with significant financial support for local businesses that will be affected, local councils who are leading our public health efforts and for NHS test and trace.”

Tory MP Simon Fell, who is part of the rebellion on the nationwide 10pm curfew – which he explains is having the opposite effect of what was intended – said: “I haven’t seen the science for that.

“Frankly my concerns is that it’s spilling people out into the streets and into house parties and it’s those uncontrolled environments where the infections are spreading. Looking at the data, we are not seeing cases in Covid-secure venues.”


Wigan influencer couple launch ‘Giftmas Tree’ campaign for families struggling at Christmas

They aim to get a Christmas tree in every home in Greater Manchester that needs one

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@martinandbexofficial / Instagram & Martin / Gumtree

A couple from Wigan have launched a new campaign to ensure every child in Greater Manchester has a tree in their home so they can enjoy the magic of Christmas.

Martin Clarke and Rebecca Kane, a prankster influencer couple known as Martin and Bex, have made it their mission to ensure that no child misses out on festive cheer by having to go without a tree in their home this Christmas.

The pair have a following of over six million across social media platforms.

Dubbed ‘Giftmas Tree’, they came up with the idea for the initiative after one of their own children mentioned that someone at school could not afford a tree this year.

@martinandbexofficial / Instagram

The cause is designed to not cost a penny to anyone who wishes to help, asking people to simply donate their unwanted Christmas trees to families who are struggling via the free to use site, Gumtree

Speaking to Wigan Today, Martin said: “We were made very aware of how difficult Christmas is going to be for some people this year, and whilst there are lots of amazing food and gift donation programmes around (which will be a massive help to all in need) we also know how important the magic of Christmas is.

“A Christmas tree is king in creating atmosphere and spreading a little sparkle in people’s homes during the season.

“We found two artificial trees in our loft which won’t be used and thought, ‘how can we make sure that people who need it get them?’

“That’s when we thought of Gumtree. You can sign up, post and collect items free of charge on the site, and it has regional search terms which means you won’t have to go far to pick up a donated tree. For us it was a no brainer.”

The pair have also reached out to a number of Christmas tree companies across Greater Manchester to encourage them to donate a tree, as well as members of the public.

The rehoming of unwanted Christmas trees is also a great way of preventing unnecessary added waste to the environment as well as spreading some festive joy around the homes of those less fortunate.

Martin / Gumtree

Bex told the news publication: “We want to spread the word and ask anyone with a spare tree – perhaps you might be buying a real one this year or have bought a bigger one this year – to put their unwanted trees on the site so we can help those who have no decorations in their homes feel more festive.

“We also just want to be really clear that this isn’t a paid brand campaign or anything like that: this is our idea. We want to help. It’s just that Gumtree is genuinely the easiest, quickest and totally free way to connect communities for something like this.”

If you would like to donate your artificial Christmas tree to the cause, you can grab the Giftmas Tree logo from Martin and Bex’s Instagram account @martinandbexofficial and upload it for free on Gumtree HERE.

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Parents of toddlers will be able to apply for 15 hours of free childcare next year

The government confirmed the childcare scheme yesterday

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First Minister of Scotland & Province of British Columbia / Flickr

The date that working parents of toddlers can apply for 15 hours of free childcare per week has been set for next year.

Applications for access to the free 15 hours per week will open on January 2nd, 2024 and eligible working parents are urged to apply.

The government says this is the ‘first step’ in its ‘long-term plan to give families a brighter future’. 

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt first announced the plans back in March this year in his budget. The government has now confirmed that working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access the free childcare from April next year.

With thousands of parents expected to apply for the new scheme, ministers advise those eligible to apply between mid-January and the end of February.

Further increases to government funding rates for childcare have also been confirmed in the announcement, meaning in 2024-25 alone the government is investing over £400 million to ‘deliver a significant uplift to local authority hourly rates, to ensure enough places are available wherever they’re needed around the country’.

The Department for Education has confirmed the national average hourly rates will be £11.22 for under twos, £8.28 for two-year-olds, and £5.88 for three and four-year-olds from April – and are said to reflect the increase in National Living Wage from April 2024.

Province of British Columbia / Flickr

This will be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September next year.

From September 2025, working parents of children under five will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare per week.

A childminder grant – for newcomers to the profession – of £600 for those who register with Ofsted, and £1,200 for those who register with a childminder agency, has also been confirmed.

David Woolfall / Wikimedia

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said ‘parents no longer have to choose between a career and a family’.

About the childcare scheme, she said: “From April next year, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of government-funded childcare a week, making sure parents no longer have to choose between a career and a family, and doubling down on this government’s commitment to getting more people into work and growing the economy. 

“I know the delivery of this transformation is no easy task, which is why I am pushing ahead with increased funding rates across the country and up to £1,200 for new childminders, knocking down barriers to recruiting and retaining the talented staff that provide such wonderful care for our children.”

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‘Loveable’ Wigan man dies after being pulled from canal as family pay tribute

His family also gave their condolences to his carer’s family and thanked emergency services

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Family handout / Greater Manchester Police

The family of Aaron Ritchie who tragically died after being pulled from a canal in Wigan Borough have paid tribute to him.

Emergency services rushed to the scene at the Leeds Liverpool canal at Crank Wood, Abram at approximately 2.15pm on Tuesday, November 28th, responding to calls that two males had entered the water and had come into difficulty.

Both men, aged 49 and 60, were retrieved from the canal by specialist personnel, as part of a large emergency response, as paramedics immediately conducted CPR. 

Family handout / Greater Manchester Police

The men were rushed to hospital but despite the best efforts of medical staff, sadly, both passed away later that day.

One of the men has been identified as 49-year-old Aaron Ritchie. He has been described by his family as a ‘loveable character’. 

In a statement paying tribute to him, Aaron’s family said: “It’s come as a complete shock to us as a family surrounding the tragic accident of what happened on Tuesday afternoon. Aaron was a loveable character who made a big impression on everyone who knew him.

“Aaron had special needs and he loved the outdoor life and as long as he had his puzzles, laces and spinning tops he was happy. Aaron is surely going to be missed by us as a family.”

The family also passed on their condolences to his carer’s family and thanked emergency services for their rescue efforts.

The family added: “We would like to pass on our sincere condolences to his carer’s family and a special thank you to the emergency services who attended trying to save them.”

The 60-year-old man, Aaron’s carer, has not yet been named but police have said his next of kin have been informed. The two men’s deaths are not being treated as suspicious, police say.

Police are continuing to establish the circumstances behind their deaths, with a scene currently remaining in place in the area at the canal.

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