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Boris Johnson announces big changes to Downing Street in wake of Sue Gray report

He addressed the Commons

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Sky News

Boris Johnson has promised to make changes ‘now’ to the way Downing Street and the Cabinet Office is run following the release of Sue Gray’s report into Number 10 parties during lockdown.

Addressing The Commons this afternoon, the Prime Minister said ‘it is time to sort out what Sue Gray rightly calls the fragmented and complicated leadership structures of Downing Street’.

Johnson said he will do this by creating an ‘office of the prime minister’ with a permanent secretary to lead Number 10, adding that it is time to make sure the civil service codes are ‘properly enforced’.

Continuing his statement, Johnson stressed that his government can be trusted, saying: “It is whether this government can be trusted to deliver and I say, Mr. Speaker, yes we can be trusted to deliver.”

The Prime Minister also apologised ‘for the things we simply didn’t get right’ and ‘the way this matter has been handled’. 

He said: “Firstly, I want to say sorry – and I’m sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right and also sorry for the way this matter has been handled.”

Read More: Sue Gray’s initial findings into No 10 parties published revealing a ‘failure of leadership’

“But it isn’t enough to say sorry. This is a moment when we must look at ourselves in the mirror and we must learn.

“While the Metropolitan Police must yet complete their investigation, and that means there are no details of specific events in Sue Gray’s report, I of course accept Sue Gray’s general findings in full, and above all her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now.”

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer slammed Johnson as a ‘man without shame’ for not resigning over Gray’s initial findings, which concluded ‘serious failures’ of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 throughout the 2020 lockdowns.

Speaking to The Commons, Sir Keir said Johnson and everyone implicated in the scandal are ‘degrading themselves and their offices’ and have frayed the ‘bond of trust between government and the public’.

This comes in the wake of a shortened twelve-page version of Sue Gray’s investigation into the various allegations of parties and gatherings in Number 10 during the lockdowns being released to the public.

In her report, Sue Gray noted that there was a ‘serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government, but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time’.

The report acknowledged that every citizen has been impacted by the pandemic, reading: “Everyone has made personal sacrifices, some the most profound, having been unable to see loved ones in their last moments or care for vulnerable family and friends.”

Stand-out points from the report include:

  • There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times.
  • The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time.
  • The use of the garden at No 10 Downing Street should be primarily for the Prime Minister and the private residents of No 10 and No 11 Downing Street.
  • The leadership structures are fragmented and complicated and this has sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability.
  • Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so.

The report concluded by acknowledging that a number of these gatherings ‘should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did’.

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‘Tourist tax’ for visitors staying in Manchester to be introduced next year

Do you think it’s a good idea?

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The Lowry Hotel / Manchester's Finest Group

Tourists visiting Manchester will have to pay a charge from April next year, if they’re staying in the city centre.

The new ‘tax’ is being implemented to fund a business improvement district group in our city to boost tourism.

The new district will be known as the Manchester Accommodation Business Improvement District (ABID).

The aim of the ABID will be to ‘improve the visitor experience’ to Manchester city centre and ‘support the growth of the visitor economy’ during the next five years.

Peter McDermott / Geograph

Tourists who have to pay the new city centre fee will be charged £1 per night.

According to the Manchester Evening News, around 74 hotels and serviced short-stay apartments will charge visitors the fee, which is predicted to raise around £4 million annually.

Bev Craig, the leader of Manchester City Council, said: “These are exciting times for Manchester city centre with an unprecedented number of new hotel rooms being added and major new visitor attractions such as Factory International and Co-op Live due to open in the months ahead.

“Seizing that opportunity means ensuring as many rooms as possible are full all year round. We believe that targeted investment through the Manchester ABID will help support the accommodation sector – which plays such a vital role in supporting jobs in our city and adding to its overall vibrancy – to thrive.”

@thelowryhotel / Instagram

Adrian Ellis, General Manager of the Lowry Hotel and chair of the Manchester Hoteliers’ Association, added: “The Manchester Hoteliers’ Association has been in discussion for several years to develop options to create new, additional funding that will support continued high performance and future growth of the visitor economy for accommodation providers across the city.

“The result of these discussions is the Manchester Accommodation Business Improvement District proposal, and I am delighted that hoteliers’ have voted in favour of creating an innovative, business-led solution to some of the problems we have been facing as a sector.

“A supplementary fee for guests, added to the final accommodation bill, is now an established norm within the travel sector across the world, and the Manchester ABID will now bring our accommodation sector in line with European and global counterparts and competitors.”

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According to bosses at the ABID, the money made from the scheme will be used for marketing the city as a destination.

It will also entice further ‘large-scale events’ like festivals and conferences to come to Manchester during the off-season, as well as increasing the cleanliness of the streets, and ‘improving guest welcome’.

Following the pandemic and various Covid lockdowns, demand to visit Manchester has risen.

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First new UK coal mine in 30 years to open in the North West

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West Cumbria Mining Company

The government has given permission for the first new UK coal mine in 30 years to open in the North West.

Michael Gove approved the mine despite concerns regarding the climate impacts from both Conservative MPs and experts.

According to the BBC the mine would be located in Cumbria, and would be digging for coking coal to be used in steel production – both in the UK and across the world.

However, critics have said that the new coal mine would undermine climate targets, also pointing out that demand for coking coal is declining.

On the other hand, supporters of the project say it will both create jobs and reduce the UK’s need to import coal.

But supporters claim the mine, near Whitehaven, will create jobs and reduce the need to import coal.

The West Cumbria Mining project – which will be located near Whitehaven – has been in the balance for two years.

The local county council initially approved the mine in 2020, but this approval was suspended in early 2021 before the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

The government’s climate change adviser said at the time that the coal mine would increase carbon emissions.

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26-year-old who died in horror crash named as family pay tribute to ‘sensitive soul’

‘Saadat was a much-loved brother, son, and great human being’

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Greater Manchester Police / Google Maps

A 26-year-old man who was killed in a horror crash in Manchester this weekend has been named.

Three others were critically injured in the collision, but have since been confirmed as being in a ‘stable’ condition by police.

The incident occurred on Chancellor Lane around 7am Sunday morning, and within minutes officers had attended the scene.

Greater Manchester Police

The man who sadly passed away has now been named as Saadat Shah, with his family paying tribute to the ‘sensitive soul’.

Saadat’s family said: “Saadat was a much-loved brother, son, and great human being. His life was just starting, and he just came back from Paris for his birthday last week.

“He had so many plans and was going to get married soon. He was very close with all members of his family, and he greatly loved everyone.

“A sensitive soul, he will be dearly missed by everyone forever. RIP.”

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According to police, a car travelling away from the city centre lost control before colliding with a bollard – with no other vehicles involved.

Four men were taken to hospital to be treated, however Saadat sadly passed away despite the best efforts of medics

The other three occupants, aged 23, 24 and 29, suffered ‘life threatening injuries’, however in an update on Monday, December 5th, a Greater Manchester Police spokesperson said the car’s driver was in a ‘critical but stable’ condition.

The vehicle’s two other passengers are also in a stable condition, police said, but both have serious injuries.

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No arrests have been made in relation to the crash, and GMP’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit are still appealing for anyone who may have seen the accident during the early hours to get in touch.

Officers want to speak to anyone who may have footage – including dashcam, mobile phone or CCTV/doorbell footage – from the area in the moments both before and after the crash.

Anyone with information can contact police on 0161 856 4741 quoting incident 713 of 4/12/22, or pass on details via their LiveChat function at www.gmp.police.uk or anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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