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Chester Zoo ‘faces financial ruin and closure’ if the government fails to deliver funding

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Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo and other UK attractions potentially face closure due to lack of financial support from the government despite earlier promises, according to an MP. 

Justin Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, has slammed the government for ‘talking a good game but failing on delivery’. 

The UK government promised £100m to the country’s zoos and aquariums to help them recover from months of financial loss during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Three months later and the attractions have yet to receive any of the money, according to the Liverpool Echo

Mr Madders explains that Chester Zoo will face ‘financial ruin’ unless the support and funds are provided.

Chester Zoo/Facebook

Madders explained: “Sadly this is yet another example of the government talking a good game but failing on delivery.

“I understand that the restrictive criteria applied to the fund mean that it will be virtually impossible for most zoos to qualify for support.

“It is typical of this two-faced, insincere Government to claim they are offering help to everyone when in reality they are not, just like the three million people who have been excluded from any financial support at all.

“I am concerned that zoos like my own Chester Zoo will face financial ruin unless the Government wake up to the reality that their support fund is an illusion.

“Unfortunately, I fear they already know this and are content to pretend to be helping when they have no intention of doing so at all.”

Chester Zoo/Facebook

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) said it is ‘virtually impossible’ for zoos to qualify for support under the current parameters.

BIAZA added that most zoos will not benefit from the funding. Dr Cerian Tatchley, BIAZA’s acting joint director, said: “Without urgent changes, the Government is putting at risk some of the UK’s best-loved zoos and aquariums.

“Our zoos, aquariums and safari parks are reliant on admissions to keep going, and so the lockdown earlier this year has wreaked financial devastation that will be felt for years to come.

“While the sector is grateful that the government has demonstrated its support through providing £100 million to save zoos, it is frustrating that not one zoo has yet benefited from the new Zoo Animals Fund.

Chester Zoo/Facebook

Dr Tatchley continued: “BIAZA has been clear in our regular meetings with Defra and the minister that restrictions on the fund means very few zoos will be eligible to receive any support and this is being borne out.

“While we expect that more zoos will apply for the fund over the next few months, many of England’s best zoos and aquariums will still not receive any support from this fund.”

Jamie Christon, chief operating officer at Chester Zoo, said: “The Government has said it is continuing to talk to large zoos like us to explore ways of supporting us and our vital efforts to prevent extinction. But still there is nothing on the table.

“After significant time spent in lengthy and what have been seemingly very positive discussions with Government representatives for several months, this is extremely disappointing for us.”

Chester Zoo/Facebook

A Government spokesperson said: “We understand the challenges zoos have been facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That is why we put in place this specialist fund specifically to ensure zoos facing severe financial difficulties can provide the best possible care for their animals.

“We are rapidly processing current applications and we stand ready to support any future requests to the fund.”

Applications for the funding are open until November 16th. 

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People on working tax credits will get a £500 one-off payment, Rishi Sunak confirms

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Brits on tax credits get a one-off benefits payment of £500, Rishi Sunak reveals in budget. 

Outlined in the budget, Sunak explained that a £20 weekly increase in universal credit will extend for a further six months.

The chancellor explains that by the way Working Tax Credits system works people will not be able to receive the extra £20 weekly. 

Instead, people will benefit from a £500 one-off payment.

Number 10 / Flickr

Mr Sunak said: “To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown

“We’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months.

“Because of the way that system works operationally, we’ll need to do so with a one-off payment of £500.”

The £500 tax credit boost will run in the same way that the Universal Credit is paid – automatically. 

Lots of people have switched from the old ‘Tax Credit’ to the new ‘Universal Credit’ system. Anyone who hasn’t yet been transferred across will now be eligible for this new one-off payment. 

The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, reaching 6 million people at the start of this year. 

The extra benefit support is welcomed but many are raising concerns that six months is not long enough.

Sunak also revealed in today’s budget that furlough will be extended until September but employers will have to pay 10% of the employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September. 

You can see a round-up of all the key points from the budget here

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What Rishi Sunak’s new budget means for people in Greater Manchester

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Rishi Sunak has said he wants to be honest about the government’s plans for fixing the public finances.

The chancellor says there has been ‘acute damage’ to the economy, with more than 700,000 people losing jobs and the economy shrinking by 10% – the largest fall in 300 years.

Borrowing has also been as high as during wartime.

He said: “It’s going to take this country, and the whole world, a long time to recover from this extraordinary situation.”

Here are the key points from his 2021 budget announcement….

The Bay Horse Tavern/Facebook

Furlough

  • Sunak explains that 1.8 million fewer people are expected to be out of work than previously thought, with the peak at 6.5% down from the forecasted peak of 11.9%.
  • Furlough is set to be extended until the end of September this year, however, firms will be asked to contribute 10% of employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September as the scheme is gradually phased out.
  • A fourth grant worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500 covering February to April that will help self-employed people.
  • The £20 increase in universal credit will extend for six months

Business Support

  • Total cash support to businesses has reached £25bn. A further £5bn restart grant has now been confirmed to help companies get going after lockdown.
  • Hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, then discounted for the remaining nine months of the year by two-thirds.
  • The 5% VAT cut will be extended to the end of September and gradually increased at 12.5% for six months before returning to the normal rate in April 2022.

David Dixon/Geograph

Housing

  • The stamp duty holiday will be extended on properties up to £500,000 to the end of June. It will return to normal levels from October 1st.
  • Mortgage guarantees were also confirmed to help first-time buyers access 95% mortgages, with just 5% deposits.

Public Finances

  • The government will take a ‘fair’ approach to ‘fixing the public finances’ the chancellor confirms.
  • There will be no increase in national insurance, income tax or VAT.
  • The personal allowance will remain at £12,750 until 2026 and the higher rate will increase to £50,270 next year.
  • Inheritance tax threshold, pensions lifetime allowance, annual exempt allowance from capital gains tax and VAT exemption thresholds will all be frozen.
  • New minimum wage rates come into force in England on April 1st. Basic rate workers will see a 2.2% increase, with the National Living Wage rising to £8.91 an hour.

David Dixon/Geograph

Borrowing

  • The budget deficit will reach £355billion this year (17% of GDP) – the highest level in peacetime.
  • Sunak said: “It’s going to be the work of many governments over many decades to pay it back, just as it would be irresponsible to withdraw support too soon, it would also be irresponsible to allow our future borrowing and debt to rise unchecked.”

Growth

  • The chancellor explains that the economy will recover more quickly than previously thought.
  • GDP will grow by 4% this year and 7.3% next year according to official forecasts.

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Contactless payment limit set to increase to £100

It’s hoped this will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector

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Number 10/Flickr & naipo_de/Unsplash

Rishi Sunak is set to announce in the budget today an increase in contactless payment limit up to £100.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the contactless limit was increased from £30 to £45 and it is hoped this second increase will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector.

Some industry sources have expressed alarm at the new threshold, warning of the potential increase in fraud, according to Sky News.

The increase in the limit was made possible due to Brexit. The European Commission set the limit to €50.

Number 10/Flickr

Sunak is expected to highlight the important of ‘pinging’ payments as shoppers continue to rely less on cash. 

Speaking to the Evening Standard, he said: “London’s retail sector is famous across the world, with Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Westfield seen as global destinations for shopping.

“As we begin to open the UK economy and people return to the high street, the contactless limit increase will make it easier than ever before for people to pay for their shopping, providing a welcome boost to retail that will protect jobs and drive growth across the capital.”

The chancellor is set to unveil the budget at 12:30pm today. He is expected to offer more information on the mortgage scheme that will offer 5% deposit as well as extending the stamp duty holiday and increase corporation tax from 19% to 23%.

Sunak is also set to announce the extension of furlough until September and information on a £5bn scheme to help firms such as shops, clubs and gyms.

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