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Students barricade themselves in University of Manchester building as part of rent protest

They are calling for reduced rent fees.

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UoM Rent Strike

A group of around 15 students have barricaded themselves in the normally empty Owens Park tower in rent protest.

Students of the University of Manchester have occupied a building in protest against being told to pay full rent fees this term.

It comes after students found themselves quite literally fenced into their accommodation one morning, after metal fencing had been erected overnight.

The students who have occupied Owens Park tower unveiled a poster that read ‘this is an occupied building UoM Rent Strike’.

The students explain they have enough supplies of food and drink to last several weeks and that they will not leave until their demands are met. 

They are calling for discounted rental fees due to the current circumstances, which sees them paying around £1,500 on average for their rooms where they have been locked up and unable to use any communal facilities.

They are calling for a meeting with the university’s vice-chancellor, Dame Nancy Rothwell.

Speaking to the MEN one student who is taking part in the rent strike, 18-year-old Ben McGowan, said he and up to 200 other students have refused to pay the full amount of rent for the autumn term. 

He said: “The campaign has really ramped up in the last few weeks but the Uni has essentially just ignored us. They said they were going to fine us 3% extra per day that we didn’t pay the rent.

“Then they sent this email saying they could kick us off our course, although they can’t. We’ve tried to have a meeting and they’ve just refused. “

He continued: “We want a discount on the rent because of what’s happened this term, in terms of that facilities that meant to be covered by rent, things like common rooms – we’ve not got access.

“I think December should be wiped off when we’re not in. The entire campus is shut down, the cost of uni upkeep must be down, there’s no justification for the full fees.

“We are also calling for the university not to make any redundancies this year in solidarity with the staff.”

The students suggested a 40% discount for the 2020/21 year in a letter to Prof Rothwell.

It comes amid widespread concerns regarding the mental health strain being put on students who are being asked to self-isolate with little to no support.

A UK study found that suicidal thoughts have increased among young adults in the lockdown. A second study found that 80% of (medical) students with mental health issues felt under-supported, and that they had poor or moderately adequate support.  

A 19-year-old who was suffering from mental health issues was found dead in his halls in Fallowfield. His father slammed the lack of support for the young people locked down due to Covid-19.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “We are aware of the protest by a handful of students in an empty residential building. We have made it clear to them that they shouldn’t be there and that they may also be in contravention of current national Health Protection Regulations.

“We are already engaging with elected Students’ Union representatives about many of the issues being highlighted by the protestors.

“The University is fully committed to freedom of expression.”

 

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Snow ‘likely’ to hit the North West as ’11-day flurry of snowfall’ forecast in UK from Thursday

Winter is well and truly here.

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Dai O'Nysius / Wikimedia

Temperatures are expected to continue to drop across the UK with freezing fog, gales of up to 50mph and some snow.

Although the Scottish Highlands are expected to see the worst of the predicted 11-day flurry of snowfall from Thursday, there is a possibility snow could fall ‘almost anywhere’ on the weekend, according to the Met Office.

From Thursday, BBC meteorologist Chris Fawkes, explains there will be murky weather over much of Britain. He said: “We start off with murky weather in the week ahead, but then outbreaks of rain will develop – winds strengthen as the week goes by, it will then turn colder, significantly, through Thursday and Friday.”

A Met Office spokesperson added: “We could see some snow falling in showers almost anywhere across the UK on Friday and next weekend.”

The Met Office forecast for the North West from this Friday, December 4th, until Sunday December 13th predicts ‘unsettled weather’, adding that ‘snow is likely’.

According to them: “The period will start unsettled across all parts of the UK, with areas of heavy rain and showers, locally of soft hail, sleet and snow likely, and possibly more widespread snow over some hills and mountains.

“Often windy, especially around coasts, but in quieter interludes overnight there will remain the potential for some patchy frost, and isolated mist and freezing fog.”

Heavy rain is set to hit the North West this lunchtime before the weather front moves in a southernly direction.

And be prepared to be de-icing your car again this week as the weather is set to get colder, potentially dropping to zero.

Northern England and Scotland are due 18 to 24 days of snow or ice this winter. Chills are more likely than past winters, according to the Met Office, who also predict snow flurries. 

Leading bookmaker, Coral, said this could be the coldest December in the UK. 

 

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Toy store The Entertainer is closing for three days over Christmas to give staff a much-needed break

Amazing news!

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Edward Hands/Wikimedia

Popular toy chain The Entertainer is set to give its staff a three-day break over the festive period. 

This year, the retailer will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and December 27th.

There are 171 The Entertainer shops across the UK and you will still be able to get last-minute prezzies on Christmas Eve between 8am and 5pm. 

The toy store said it wants to give staff the time off to allow for quality time with families. 

With Christmas Eve falling on Thursday this year, it means The Entertainer stores will not reopen again until December 28th, the following Monday.

The three day weekend will give staff ‘quality time’ with their families, and they will also be getting the additional day off as paid leave.

The Entertainer founder and executive chairman Gary Grant said: “Restrictions placed upon people over the last nine months have been incredibly testing.

“With the easing of restrictions for Christmas, we want to give our staff more opportunity to rest together with their families and loved ones for some quality time.”

The Entertainer joins Wickes, Home Bargains, Aldi, M&S and Pets at Home, who have all already confirmed they will remain shut on Boxing Day.

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Andy Burnham calls on Greater Manchester MPs to unite and demand more support for businesses in the region

Just in…

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Mayor of Greater Manchester/Facebook

Mayor Andy Burnham has written an open letter to Greater Manchester’s MPs, urging them to demand a fair financial support package for business effected by the strictest tier system.  

The letter, dated November 28th, begins with Burnham explaining he is seeking help in ‘raising issues of concern to us in next week’s debate’ in the House of Commons.

He goes on to explain that Greater Manchester being put into the strictest tier in the newly revised tier system – therefore putting Greater Manchester into its fourth month of continuous restrictions – was ‘disappointing, but it was perhaps not surprising’. 

The infection rate in Greater Manchester remains above the average in England, putting significant pressure on hospitals across the region. However, it is falling at a rate faster than anywhere else in the UK, dropping by more than 45% over the last two weeks, compared to 39% across the North West and 13% across the rest of England.

Burnham goes on to explain that rates for over 65s are continuing to fall which points towards Tier 2 for all of Greater Manchester.

Given this, he calls for three critical issues to be raised that will benefit residents and businesses. 

Firstly, a challenge on the December review. Given the figures, there’s a strong chance Greater Manchester will be in a similar position to those areas in Tier 2. However, the government has indicated major changes at the first review in a fortnight will not take place. 

Secondly, he calls for a more balanced approach to the structure of Tier 3. Currently, Burnham explains the system disproportionately hits the hospitality sector, the industry that has spent ‘vast amounts of money’ putting Covid-secure measures in place. He is calling for the government to allow for a more ‘nuanced and flexible strategy’ to allow parts of the economy to reopen.

And finally, he is calling for financial support. He explains that in practice, those areas going into tier 3 will receive no more funding than those in tier 1 or 2.

To finish, Burnham said: “I hope very much that we will able to form a united, cross-party front on these three important issues for Greater Manchester.

“If you would like to discuss this matter with me – or need any further information on these matters – please do not hesitate to contact me. 

“Thank you for all you have been doing to help Greater Manchester through these difficult times and in advance for any help you are able to provide in next week’s crucial debate.” 

You can read the letter in full here.

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