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Rishi Sunak considering giving all UK adults £500 to help boost the economy

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The treasury is considering plans to give adults £500 and children £250 vouchers to spend in the sectors worst hit by coronavirus. 

Resolution Foundation thinktank has drawn up the proposals and has been in talks with the treasury about its ideas that aim to kickstart the economy through highly targeted spending. 

Under the plans, vouchers could be spent in specific sectors such as hospitality, and face to face retail rather than online shopping.

The scheme is similar to successful ones already in place in China, Taiwan and Malta. In Wuhan – where the COVID-19 outbreak is believed to have started – 500 million yuan (£57m) worth of consumption vouchers for use in restaurants, shopping malls, convenience stores, and cultural, sports and tourist venues were issued, the Guardian reports.

The treasury has refused to rule out introducing a similar scheme in the short or medium-term. 

Resolution Foundation claims the proposed idea is more effective at jump-starting the economy than a temporary slash in VAT or on-off cash gifts to individuals, ideas which have been discussed by the government. 

Economists explain that cash gifts will be stashed away into a savings account, particularly in higher-income households, rather than being put back into the economy through spending. 

Similarly, a VAT cut will have less of an impact on lower-income households as they tend to spend more money on VAT exempt items, or reduced/zero-rated goods such as food and drink.

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The thinktank explains that the scheme – if a one-year limit on spending the voucher is put in place – would cost the government £30bn. The proposed idea could be allocated via vouchers or smart cards and transactions carried out on mobile phones. The scheme could also be postponed or closed down in the event of second wave.

The hospitality industry is one of the hardest hit sectors, down more than 90% in April, and many industry experts fear it will continue to be badly hit due to social distancing measures.

James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Social distancing has huge implications for firms in sectors like retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure that will last into the reopening phase. That is why the jobs of so many workers in these sectors are in the firing line. The chancellor’s recovery package on Wednesday should reflect this unique economic challenge.

Clint Mann / Geograph

“As well as setting out the biggest ever peacetime job support programme, the chancellor should get Britain spending in places where it’s needed most. A universal high street voucher scheme to be spent only in these sectors would kickstart demand in the right parts of our economy, boost living standards and deliver targeted support to the businesses that need help the most.”

The chancellor is set to outline ‘the next stage in our plan to secure Britain’s recovery’ on Wednesday.

The next stage is expected to include the announcement of an extra £32m for a National Careers Service, to allow a quarter of a million more people benefit from expert career advise. 

Labour has warned of ‘ghost towns’ developing across the country as the latest figures show 80,000 hospitality, leisure and retail businesses missed out on government grants.

Shadow business minister Lucy Powell said: “Unless the government steps up to save the high street many will become ghost towns, with thousands laid off, as a result. Labour is calling on the government to have a back-to-work budget this week, with the focus on protecting and creating jobs.”

This comes with the news that 44% of businesses who have participated in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme reported they will have to lay off some, more or all of their furloughed staff when the scheme comes to a close at the end of October.

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Around 20 people involved in mass brawl ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens

The violence spilled out into the street

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A large group of people were involved in a mass fight ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens last night.

Around 20 people were caught up in the large brawl on Monday evening, and according to reports some were armed with knives.

The fight took place outside Morrisons on the end of Oldham Street, and happened around 9:30pm.

Witnesses reported seeing some of the suspects carrying knives, although police didn’t recover any from the scene, and busses were forced to stop as the violence spread out onto the road.

Peter McDermott / Geograph

Someone who witnessed the fight said on Twitter: “Piccadilly gardens is the roughest place on earth… a lovely night out helping ruined by a group of young kids kicking each others faces in”.

Officers responded to the incident, but no arrests were made or serious injuries reported.

This incident was the third of serious violence in just a few days.

Saturday afternoon saw another incident outside Morrisons in Piccadilly Gardens, in which a man was slashed in the face.

And on Sunday a brawl involving two tables at Barca bar in Castlefield happened, with some involved arming themselves with weapons like bar furniture and a baseball bat.

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Leading scientists call for end of face masks and social distancing by June

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Leading scientists have written to the UK government calling for social distancing and face masks to be scrapped from June.

In total 22 scientists have signed the communication, saying that these measures should finish on June 22nd – the same date limits on social contact are set to be scrapped in England.

One of the scientists who has added their name to the letter is Dr Roland Salmon, the former director of the communicable disease centre in Wales.

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Dr Salmon told BBC Radio Wales: “I am not venting my frustration but I do think some dialogue is well overdue.

“I have always felt that there has been little credible evidence benefit for many of the measures that we take.”

According to him, the letter was written to encourage the government to focus on protecting vulnerable people rather than the masses as we move forward.

Dr Salmon said we need to deal with the ‘here and now’ when asked about the threat of variants, going on to add that the vaccine has shown it helps prevent severe disease and death.

He added: “We can’t stop living forever while we wait for things to happen”.

Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

Scientists who’ve signed the letter include Prof Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG). 

There’s also Prof Anthony Brookes, a geneticist and health data scientist at the University of Leicester, and Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University.

The letter reads: “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.

“We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population.”



It continues: “Covid-19 no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life, especially where there have been no evaluations and little credible evidence of benefit.

“Measures to reduce or discourage social interaction are extremely damaging to the mental health of citizens; to the education of children and young people; to people with disabilities; to new entrants to the workforce; and to the spontaneous personal connections from which innovation and enterprise emerge.”

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Boris Johnson is regarded as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters

It follows weeks of allegations against the PM

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No10 / Flickr

According to a new poll Boris Johnson is seen as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters in Britain, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seen as more trustworthy.

The poll from Ipsos MORI was shared by the Evening Standard, and comes after weeks of leaks and allegations about sleaze aimed at the prime minister.

The research found that Mr Johnson is trusted by just 35% of voters and deemed untrustworthy by 59%, while Sir Keir is seen as trustworthy by 42% and is untrusted by 41%.

No10 / Flickr

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “On honesty Boris Johnson is clearly trumped by Keir Starmer, so this is an area of potential risk for him. 

“However, his own supporters still trust him, and the public overall have never seen it as one of his strongest attributes … and as previous leaders such as Tony Blair have shown, you don’t have to be ahead on trust to win elections. 

“The key question is whether and if these stories continue and start to change the public’s overall view on him as PM.”

No10 / Flickr

The poll was taken following weeks of reports about murky donations being used to refurbish the prime minister’s flat, as well as disclosures about covert lobbying.

However, it was undertaken before the most recent allegations that Mr Johnson said he’d rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than have another lockdown, so those reports won’t have been taken into consideration by those polled.

Despite all the recent controversy, the prime minister and government’s net satisfaction hasn’t changed much since March, with both Mr Johnson (44 satisfied/50 dissatisfied) and Sir Keir (36/46) having net negative ratings.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1090 adults across the UK by telephone from April 16th to the 22nd – you can find full details here.

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