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Just five of the £10,000 Covid fines issued last year have actually been paid

Latest figures show how many fines have actually been paid…

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Latest figures suggest only a fraction of the £10,000 lockdown fines issued last year have actually been paid, with dozens more being challenged or ignored.

Between August and December 20th last year, police in England issued 196 of the fines with just two handed out in Wales. The fines were given to organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people including raves, parties and protests.

Of those 196 fines issued in England, only five have been paid according to snapshot figures. 53 are being formally contested, 42 have been ignored and 96 still have time left to pay in the 28-day payment period.

The data from Acro the criminal records office was given to the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC). Figures released late in the month by the PA news agency via Acro showed that 76 of the 198 fines issued in England and Wales were being contested.

GMP

Legal and policy officer for Big Brother Watch, Madeleine Stone, called unpaid lockdown fines ‘a prosecution crisis waiting to happen’.

She said: “These life-changing fines are a draconian and ineffective response to the pandemic.”

Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said: “The creation of £10,000 fines was completely disproportionate and only serves to punish people financially at a time of great economic uncertainty.

“For many people this fine is impossible to pay, and so this tactic just widens the number of people at risk of being criminalised.”

Human rights barrister, Kirsty Brimelow QC said: “The majority of people cannot afford to pay a £10,000 fine. People are being set up to fail by the issuing of these notices.”

Police warned the government in November over the super-fines, as those who paid within the 28 day period could face a larger bill than those who fought the penalty in court. 

Initially, officers were told to stop issuing penalties, however it was later agreed that those issued with a £10,000 fine were to be made fully aware of their right to fight it in court. 

Senior officers are said to be not surprised by the proportion of fines being contested due to the sheer size of the fine.

An NPCC spokesperson said: “Police use a 4Es approach of engaging with the public, explaining the rules, and encouraging compliance with them.

“Large gatherings should not be happening in the current circumstances and the regulations in place for everyone’s safety are absolutely clear on that.

“Those who organise large gatherings know they are breaking the law and putting others at risk.

“Officers will only issue a fine as a last resort, but will not waste time with endless encouragement where there is a clear and egregious breach of the rules, such as for these large gatherings.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The majority of the public are continuing to play their part to control this terrible virus by staying at home – it is shameful that a small minority continue to flout the law and it’s right we have a strong deterrent for those who put us at risk by ignoring the rules.

“Those who refuse to pay fixed penalty notices may face court action and a possible criminal record.

“We have given police the appropriate guidance to ensure they can charge offences correctly, and rigorously enforce the law, which is why we have made £60 million of extra funding available to police and local authorities.”

Latest figures show that a total of 250 fines were issued in England and Wales up to January 17th.

In the past month, they include fines to a funeral director over a service attended by 150 in Welwyn Garden City, organisers of a mass snowball fight in Leeds and organisers of a wedding attended by around 150 people in north London. 

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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.

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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

Everything you need to know

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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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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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