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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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New government proposals could see cat owners fined £500

Here’s everything you need to know…

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@vnevremeni & @little_plants / Unsplash

Cat owners could be slapped with hefty fines under a subtle new rule change proposed by the government this week.

The new plans propose that all cat owners must ensure their pet is microchipped before they are twenty weeks old – there, the cat’s details will be stored and kept up-to-date in a database.

If a cat owner is found to not have microchipped their cat, however, they will have twenty-one days to get their pet microchipped or risk facing a fine of up to £500. 

@little_plant / Unsplash

Government figures show that out of the 10.8 million pet cats in the UK, as many as 2.8 million are still not microchipped. And, according to Cats Protection, eight out of ten stray cats coming into their centres are not microchipped.

The charity added that the procedure only costs between £20 and £30.

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “Cats are much-loved parts of our families and making sure that they’re microchipped is the best possible way of making sure that you are reunited with them if they are ever lost or stolen.

“These new rules will help protect millions of cats across the country and will be brought in alongside a range of other protections we are introducing under our Action Plan for Animal Welfare.”

Paul Hanaoka / Unsplash

Jacqui Cuff, Cats Protection’s Head of Advocacy and Government Relations, also stressed the importance of microchipping, adding: “Every day, we see how important microchipping is for cats and for the people who love them.

“Whether it’s reuniting a lost cat with their owner, identifying an injured cat, or helping to ensure an owner can be informed in the sad event that their cat has been hit and killed by a car.

“Microchipping is by far the most effective and quickest way of identifying lost cats and can help ease the pressure on rescue charities like Cats Protection. Without a microchip, a lost cat will most likely end up being rehomed to a new home as there is often no trace of their original owner.”

The new rules, which have been announced as part of the government’s ‘Action Plan for Animal Welfare’, won’t come into place until an official review has been completed.

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Chill Factore forced to close after section of roof damaged by Storm Barra

Major damage to the roof has forced the popular attraction to close

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@stefm84 / Twitter

The Chill Factore has been forced to close after a section of its roof was damaged from severe winds brought on by Storm Barra. 

All activities at the Beyond building, which houses an indoor ski slope, have been cancelled for the rest of the day, with car parks surrounding the Trafford attraction closing ‘with immediate effect’. 

In a statement on its website, Chill Factore said: “The Beyond building has sustained some damage due to the severe winds.

“As a result we’ve made the difficult decision to close our building and surrounding car parks with immediate effect to protect the health and safety of our guests and team.

“All activities for the remainder of the day have been cancelled and we are in the process of contacting guests with bookings for today to rearrange their activities.

“We are awaiting contractors to come and assess the damage and we will provide more information as soon as possible through our website & social media accounts.”

This comes after the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning in various areas across Greater Manchester ahead of the arrival of Storm Barra.

@adventurecat__ / Instagram

The second named storm of the season hit the region today, bringing with it plummeting temperatures plummeting and heavy rainfall.

Forecasters say travel disruption is ‘likely’, especially over higher routes, as is delays to rail and air travel. There is also the ‘slight chance some rural communities may become cut off’. 

The Met Office said: “A deep area of low pressure moving in across the UK from the Atlantic is likely to bring high winds to many parts of the UK.

“Strong winds arriving into the west through the morning, spreading inland and reaching eastern areas through the afternoon and early evening. Gusts of 45-50 mph are expected widely, with 60-70 mph in exposed coastal locations.

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People who kill children will face mandatory life sentences under new Arthur’s Law

The law has been named after six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was murdered by his stepmother last year

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@BorisJohnson / Twitter

The Prime Minister has backed a newly proposed law that will ensure child murderers will never leave prison.

Following the horrifying death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Boris Johnson has announced that his government will be amending the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to make ‘whole-life orders the starting point for such abhorrent crimes’. 

Johnson said in a statement: “Anyone who plans then carries out the murder of a child should never be released from prison. So we’re toughening the law to make whole-life orders the starting point for such abhorrent crimes.

“The Attorney General is also urgently considering the facts of this case and the sentence handed down, but this is a Government that will always legislate for the toughest possible sentences for such repugnant crimes.”

Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin was jailed last week for at least twenty-nine years for his murder, while his father Thomas Hughes was sentenced to twenty-one years for manslaughter.

However, the attorney general announced over the weekend that the sentences are to be reviewed to ‘determine whether they were too low’. 

According to The Guardian, the AGO has twenty-eight days from the date of sentence to review a case, assess whether it falls under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme and make a decision as to whether to refer a sentence to the court of appeal. 

West Midlands Police

Arthur died in Solihull, Midlands on June 16th 2020, as a result of a serious head injury inflicted by Tustin. His body was also covered in 130 bruises.

It was later discovered that the six-year-old had been starved, beaten and poisoned with salt in the weeks leading to his death.

Harrowing footage recently released by West Midlands Police show a weak and emancipated Arthur struggling to lift his duvet from the living room floor, where he had been forced to sleep. 

Social worker and member of the House of Lords Herbert Laming said the reduction in funding for social care in the last ten years meant abused and neglected children like Arthur were being missed by the authorities. 

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