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Some big changes to furlough rules are coming from this week

Just in…

Alex Watson

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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.

Kate Townsend/Unsplash

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. 

Headway/Unsplash

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’.

Blake Wisz/Unsplash

“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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Government ‘preparing a total social lockdown plan’ for the North of England

Thoughts?

Alex Watson

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Louis Hansel/Unsplash

Pubs and restaurants could be forced to close for a fortnight as part of a ‘total social lockdown’ plan.

The emergency plan is currently being considered by the government following spikes in the number of cases across the North of England.

In Greater Manchester, each borough is currently at ‘Red Alert’ with the infection rate in Bolton one of the highest in the country (235.1 cases per 100,000 people). 

As things stand, in Greater Manchester people cannot visit friends and family in their homes or gardens and cannot socialise with people outside of their household or bubble in any public place.

These rules could now be rolled out across the North. 

The Times reports that a ‘social lockdown’ was presented as one of the options by the Covid-19 strategy committee, the week before new restrictions were imposed.

The emergency plans have been drawn up after local restrictions put in place in areas such as Greater Manchester failed to reverse the surge in infections.

Under these proposed plans, schools, shops, factories and offices where staff cannot work from home will remain open.

It would also see meeting other people socially in any indoor location banned, as well as pubs and restaurants being ordered to close for two weeks.

London may also face these same restrictions, if cases continue to rise in the capital.

From today, every person in England is required to self-isolate by law if they test positive for Covid-19 or are contacted by the NHS Track and Trace service. 

Those who fail to do so risk fines starting at £1,000 that can reach £10,000.

The number of people who have tested positive (infection rate) in Manchester now stands at 201 per 100,000. An additional 1,000 new confirmed cases were recorded over the week leading to September 24th. 

 

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Andy Burnham calls for review of 10pm curfew that’s ‘doing more harm’ after chaotic scenes over the weekend

The mayor says it’s ‘doing more harm than good’. 

Alex Watson

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photojournoadam/Twitter

Andy Burnham has called for a review of the 10pm curfew as it is ‘doing more harm than good’. 

The Greater Manchester Mayor has warned that the new rule put in place across the nation is doing ‘more harm than good’ as people spilled into the streets and supermarkets following the closure of the pub.

This weekend in Manchester city centre, people were spotted gathering on streets and in supermarkets rather than going home after the 10pm curfew.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Burnham said: “I received reports (in Manchester city centre) that supermarkets were absolutely packed out to the rafters and lots of people gathering after 10pm.

“There needs to be an urgent review of the emerging evidence from police forces.

“My gut feeling is that this curfew is doing more harm than good. It is potentially contradictory. It creates an incentive for people to gather in the streets or more probably, to gather in the home. That is the opposite of what our local restrictions here are trying to do.”

Mr Burnham added that his ‘gut feeling’ is the 10pm curfew should be lifted. He then added that a 9pm cut off for alcohol sales in supermarket could be imposed.

He added: “I’m not here to score points, I’m looking for solutions here. I can understand what the government is trying to do.

“Let me give some suggestions. Perhaps there could be a 9pm curfew on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and shops that would prevent the rush to shops once pubs have closed. That’s what we certainly saw on Saturday.

“The government has said the 10pm curfew is based on Belgium, but they also have police to disperse people on the streets.

“My personal feeling is that the curfew is probably doing more harm than good as it’s creating a major incentive for people to carry on drinking and partying at home. And that is where we are told the virus spreads – gatherings in the home.”

He said: “If it is doing more harm and damaging businesses, then the government shouldn’t just plough on with it. It certainly requires urgent attention.”

Deansgate at 10pm. Well done government.

Posted by Gaz Walsh on Saturday, 26 September 2020

Contrastingly, health minister Helen Whatley has praised the 10pm curfew. Speaking on the BBC 1 Breakfast programme she said: “As people drink more they tend to socially distance less.

“So one approach to keeping people socially distancing is to limit the amount of time that people are in places where they are drinking and then this breaking down of compliance with the rules.

“We have also seen in some of the places where there have been higher rates over the summer that sometimes bars have been the places where there has been an outbreak so this is a reason why one of the actions we have taken is to have people stopping being out drinking at an earlier time.”

Despite this, latest reports from The Times show that Parliament’s bar has not been made subject to the 10pm curfew as it falls under the description of ‘workplace canteen’.

There are 19 restaurants and cafeterias, nine bars and a coffee bar that cater for MPs within the Houses of Parliament. Furthermore, customers and staff are not required to follow the new face-covering rules.

Around the country, there have been reports of crowds flocking to streets after the curfew.

One person wrote: “This breaks my heart. Pls boris close the pubs again, full lockdown needed. They can’t be trusted”

Another wrote: “Scenes from my old home city of Liverpool last night. Whatever the merits of the 10pm curfew, if such behaviour continues we are heading for a complete shutdown of the night time economy and worse. The choices of individuals as well as governments have consequences.”

A third pointed out that at 10:15 the Uber surge charge in Manchester was three times, trams were ‘full of people sitting wherever they could’ and taxi ranks became ‘crowds of people arguing over who got their first’. Adding: “How exactly, does this help stop the spread of the virus? Spoiler alert….it doesn’t.”

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy has questioned the ‘science’ behind the new curfew explaining that it is ‘not clear where that came from’.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has confirmed that there is ‘definitely science behind it’. Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Dowden said ‘that’s why we’re requiring people to be seated in pubs and restaurants, so that stops the flow of them to and from the bar’.

Brewer and pub chain Greene King told the BBC: “Without the usual slow ‘wind-down’ time that pubs would see with a gradual closure, customers were all leaving at once which presented more of a challenge for the pub teams managing people’s safety on exiting the premises.”

The chain urged for additional help from the government for the hospitality industry: “The measures have not been well thought through and the combined impact of [the curfew], the challenges of table service-only and the fact that the government are unfairly targeting the hospitality sector has had a cumulative negative impact.”

Wetherspoons boss, Tim Martin, said: “The main problem with the 22:00 curfew is that it’s another random and arbitrary move by the government, which lacks logic or scientific credibility.”

 

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Covid Inspectors spotted peeking in pubs and bars for illegal lock-ins after 10pm curfew

Spotted this weekend…

Alex Watson

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danbarker/Twitter

Covid Inspectors were found peeping through pub and bar windows and letterboxes to find lock-ins that are now illegal. 

The 10pm curfew put in place by Boris Johnson across the nation came into effect last week and inspectors have been spotted in Soho ensuring venues are abiding by the rules.

Taking to Twitter, Dan Barker wrote: “Strange sight – City Inspectors, working through Soho, looking for illegal speakeasies open after the 10pm cutoff.”

Speaking to Yahoo News, Barker said: “I’d guess I saw them looking into a dozen or so places – the area has quite a lot of pubs and bars.

“It took me a moment to process what they were doing at first. I saw them again 15 minutes or so later outside the Hippodrome, which is usually open 24/7.”

On Tuesday Boris Johnson set out the new rules in the Commons saying: “In retail, leisure and tourism and other sectors, our Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations.”

This meant venues and business owners face fines of up to £10,000 for breaking the curfew, which could be in place for up to six months.

However, many have said the curfew is ineffective, including Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

And crowds of people have been seen flooding the streets, public transport, taxi ranks and even supermarkets on the hunt for more booze.

One person wrote: “The 10pm curfew just meant everyone rolling out onto the streets and onto the tubes at the same time and it was the busiest I’ve seen central London in months.” 

And another replied: “Yep! Definitely turned 10pm into a rush-hour rather than the usual evening trickle.”

Barker added that the streets became ‘surprisingly subdued’ shortly after ten. Explaining that ‘people congregated around at 10pm, as places closed their doors.’

Adding: “Some people seemed confused that literally everything was closed, but the streets became almost silent shortly after ten.”

 

 

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