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Some big changes to furlough rules are coming from this week

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The furlough scheme helped cover the wages of 8.4 million people in the UK, but the rules are set to change this week.

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a huge part of the coronavirus pandemic, and most of us will at least know some people currently on furlough.

It’s estimated that furlough has now paid for 8.4 million people’s wages, costing the government £15 billion. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the scheme – set to end on October 31st – will have a series of changes to wind it down.

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From Wednesday, July 1st, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and on any shift pattern, with the retention scheme grant paying for the hours not worked. 

Then from August 1st, companies will be expected to pay employer national insurance and pension contributions and the level of the furlough grant will be reduced each month.

In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough.

Companies will have to pay NIC and pension contributions to top up the wages of those on furlough to ensure they are still receiving 80% of their wage. This will still be capped at £2,500 for the time they are furloughed. 

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In October, the government will pay 60% of wages, capped at £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough.

And again, employers will be expected to make their employees wages up to 80%, to a cap of £2,500, and pay NIC and pension contributions. 

Despite the furlough scheme proving many people with a huge support system, many people have expressed concerns regarding the impending recession and what this means for unemployment.

The Prime Minister has reported that the government will spend on infrastructure to ‘build our way back to health’.

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“If Covid was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences,” he said.

“We’re going to make sure that we have plans to help people whose old jobs are not there any more to get the opportunities they need.”

Spending on infrastructure could give some immediate ‘payback’ by increasing the number of people in work and the ‘amount of demand’ in the economy in the short term, according to the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson. 

Johnson warned that the UK could return to ‘levels of unemployment we haven’t actually seen for decades’ if money is spent by the government in the wrong way, or done too quickly, adding it could result in ‘low-quality infrastructure projects which don’t pay for themselves’.

The Labour Party has commissioned an analysis of the potential unemployment levels, which could tip past the highest rate of 3.3 million that was seen under Margaret Thatcher’s government.  

Many economists have warned that the full effects coronavirus will have on employment won’t be felt until the wage support scheme completely ends. 

The Mayor of London has called upon the government to extend ‘the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme beyond the end of lockdown’, he Tweeted. 

Adding: “or else risk unemployment, poverty and homelessness across the capital. This is urgent. The Govt must act.” 

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Police seize over £3m worth of counterfeit goods in Cheetham Hill raids

GMP are stamping down on ‘the illegal distribution of counterfeit items’, and ‘the supply of illicit prescription drugs’

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Police have seized over £3m worth of counterfeit goods in a series of Cheetham Hill raids conducted as part of their ‘crackdown’ on counterfeit fraud.

According to a statement issued by Greater Manchester Police last night, Officers from City of London, North West Regional and Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU), Border Force, Immigration and local officers yesterday executed their tenth raid on Lockett Street and Bury New Road.

There, £1million’s worth of goods including clothing, accessories, bags, perfume and jewellery were found and seized. This added to the other £2m worth of goods found across the last week. 

Six men, all aged between thirty-six and sixty-one, have all been arrested and released under investigation pending further enquiries, according to the force.

The raids come as part of GMP’s Operation’s ‘Magpie’ and ‘Cranium’, which aims to tackle ‘the illegal distribution of counterfeit items’, and tackle ‘the supply of illicit prescription drugs’.

Inspector William Jennings-Wharton from the Cheetham Neighbourhood team said in a statement: “This is all part of our continued work to tackle organised crime taking place in Cheetham Hill and I want to reassure the local community that we are listening to their concerns and this week’s action is all part of our continued crackdown.

“Counterfeit goods and drug dealing will not be tolerated and all of these raids are a huge step in really driving a wedge in organised crime in the area.

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“Counterfeit goods are not a victimless crime – though these desired items may look good and are cheap, they are funding a wider picture that involves money laundering, organised crime and cheap labour.

“The profits from such businesses can be used to fund other serious crime, and often with that comes violence which can have a devastating ripple effect on communities and nearby legitimate businesses.”

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council added: “Counterfeit crime runs far deeper than just the sale of knock-off coats and handbags [as] there are deep links to other criminal enterprises and the sale of fake goods only puts money in the hands of criminals. 

“We remain committed to tackling this practice at the source and will continue to work with our partners in the police to secure prosecution against perpetrators… And get fake goods off our streets.”

Anyone with information has been encouraged to report it online or by using the LiveChat facility at www.gmp.police.uk or by calling 101. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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This is why some supermarkets are refusing to enforce the new face mask rules

Supermarket bosses have spoken out

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A number of supermarkets have addressed the reason they won’t be enforcing the new face mask rules that are now mandatory across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the return of face masks and self-isolation over the weekend in a bid to tackle the new Omicron variant, which is believed to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity.’ 

However, despite the mandate being backed by the government, a number of supermarket bosses announced that they would not be enforcing masks upon their customers.

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Iceland was the first supermarket to announce its stance on the matter, with the chain’s managing director Richard Walker saying he wouldn’t be asking staff to enforce the new restrictions as they focus on the ‘long-term recovery of the high street.’

Walker told The Daily Mail: “We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however, we won’t be asking our store colleagues to police it.

“Our store teams, alongside all retail workers, have shown heroic efforts in terms of ensuring safety for customers and building back consumer confidence and it’s crucial that we stay focused on the long-term recovery of the high street.”

Supermarket giant Co-op has also said that they would not be enforcing face coverings in their stores – nor would they refuse to serve a customer without one.

The British Retail Consortium has said it’s down to the police to enforce the measure, saying, as per The Sun: “Customers are asked to respect the rules and be considerate to their fellow shoppers and to hard-working shop staff.”

Since then, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl have all echoed this stance, with each saying they have no plans to challenge customers over the wearing of a face covering in store.

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Alternatively, Asda and Morrisons have announced that they will be regularly enforcing the use of face masks while also handing out free masks to those who don’t have them, while Sainsbury’s said it will have ‘greeters and security guards at the front of our supermarkets’ to remind people to wear masks. 

A statement from the Government on the rule change read: “From 4am Tuesday November 30th, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.”

All hospitality is exempt from the rule change. 

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Boris Johnson reveals plan to offer all adults booster jabs by the end of January

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The government plans on offering all adults booster vaccines by the end of January, Boris Johnson has revealed today.

The Prime Minister spoke at a Downing Street conference this afternoon where he announced the planned booster rollout will take place across 1,500 pharmacy sites across England in age order. 

Over 400 military personnel will help with the rollout, Johnson added.

Noting that it’s ‘time for another Great British vaccination effort’, Johnson said: “The target we’ve set ourselves is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January.

“As with the first jabs, we’ll be working through people by age group going down in five year bands, because it’s vital that the older and more clinically vulnerable get that added protection first.”

The Prime Minister stressed that even those who had their second jab over three months ago should wait until the NHS contacts them about a booster appointment.

This announcement comes as face masks are made compulsory once again in all shops and on public transport.

The government made the decision as part of its response to the new Omicron variant, which is said to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity.’ 

The change in rules was announced by the Prime Minister after cases of the new variant were detected at several locations across the UK. 

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed yesterday that all adults will be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine as part of a reaching expansion of the jabs programme to deal with the potential impact of the new variant.

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