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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.

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“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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Police restart search for Moors Murders victim Keith Bennett as skull found

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The search for murder victim Keith Bennet has resumed as ‘potential human remains’ were found on moorland, police have confirmed.

The remains were found during an independent search on Saddleworth Moor by author Russell Edwards, who reported his discovery to Greater Manchester Police.

Detectives are said to be analysing a small sample of the remains and some clothing, the MailOnline reports.

Twelve year old Bennett was one of the five children tortured and killed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960s. His body has never been recovered.

GMP said in a statement: “We have always said that GMP would act on any significant information which may lead to the recovery of Keith and reunite him with his family.

“Officers met with Mr. Edwards yesterday evening (September 29th), and he was able to locate a site of interest and provide us with further details of the work he has been carrying out.

“We are at the very early stages of assessing the evidence which he brought to our attention, but have taken the decision to excavate an area of land with a view to determining what lies there.

“It is far too early to be certain whether human remains have been uncovered, but out of respect for Alan Bennett, who we regularly maintain contact with, we have informed him of this potential development.

“Alan does not wish to be disturbed at this time and we would ask that his request for privacy is respected.”

Bennett was lured into a van by Hindley on June 16th, 1964. He was then taken to Saddleworth Moor, where he was sexually abused and murdered by Brady. 

Despite his heartbroken mother’s pleas, neither Brady nor Hindley ever revealed where they had buried his body. 

Winnie Johnson continued visiting Saddleworth Moor to search for her son until her death in 2012. 

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Cause of Queen Elizabeth’s death revealed

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Queen Elizabeth’s exact cause of death has been revealed as an extract of her death certificate is released to the public.

The Registrar General for Scotland, Paul Lowe, confirmed that Her Majesty The Queen’s death was registered in Aberdeenshire on September 16th, and that the cause of her death was old age.

The document, released by National Records of Scotland, notes the Queen died at 3.10pm on Thursday September 8th. 

The Queen’s only daughter Princess Anne is named as the ‘informant’ on the document, and would have notified the local registrar of her mother’s death.

Anne, who accompanied her mother’s coffin as it travelled from Balmoral to London via Edinburgh, was with the head of state in her last moments.

She said: “I was fortunate to share the last twenty-four hours of my dearest mother’s life.”

Queen Elizabeth was laid to rest on September 19th following a historic seventy-year reign on the throne. 

Her Majesty spent four days lying-in-state at Westminster Hall ahead of the state funeral, where around 250,000 Royal well-wishers came to pay their respects and say a final goodbye.

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Royal Mail to strike for 19 days with Black Friday and Christmas deliveries affected

Strike action will take place across October and November

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Black Friday and Christmas deliveries face delays as Royal Mail workers prepare to strike across the next two months.

The Communication Workers Union announced that action in October and November will be a mixture of ‘single days and rolling action’ across Royal Mail Group’s network.

This includes walkouts from 4am on October 13th for twenty-four hours, and then again on October 20th and 25th, as well as November 28th. 

The union said the strike action will have a ‘dramatic impact’ on deliveries, and will cover peak mail periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas build-up.

It could also impact Amazon’s second Prime Day, with sale dates for subscribers on October 11th and 12th.

The CWU says the strike action comes following an ‘outrageous’ decision made by the Royal Mail Group’s senior management to withdraw from major national agreements, push ahead with cuts to workers’ terms and conditions and ‘completely sideline’ the union.

General secretary Dave Ward said: “This is a significant announcement, but it is one which matches the level of anger our members feel at the way Royal Mail Group has treated them.

“The chief executive of Royal Mail Group is treating postal workers as if they are stupid. These are the same people that have kept the country connected and returned Royal Mail Group to record profit.

Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK.”

Ward went on to urge everyone to ‘stand with their local postal worker’, adding: “If Royal Mail Group are allowed to get away with this then it sends a green light to every rogue big business in the UK.

“We will not stand by and see the Royal Mail Group become the next P&O but we need your backing to win.”

However, the Royal Mail says changes are needed as it is currently losing £1million a day. A spokesperson said: “On September 22nd, Royal Mail invited CWU to enter into talks through Acas to find a resolution to our dispute on change and pay.

“This evening, rather than responding to our offer of Acas talks, the CWU announced further damaging industrial action, once again taking the path of prolonging disruption over resolution.

“Royal Mail is losing £1 million a day and must change faster in response to changing customer demands. We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices… Further strikes and resistance to transformation by CWU will only make our financial position worse, and threatens the long-term job security of our postmen and women.

“The CWU has a responsibility to recognise the reality of the situation Royal Mail faces as a business and engage urgently on the changes required.

“We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience the CWU’s continued strike action will cause. We are doing all we can to minimise any delays and keep people, businesses and the country connected.”

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