Yesterday Boris Johnson outlined the details of his ‘roadmap out of lockdown’, which is set to be implemented in four stages.
The first stage will see schools reopen and limited social contact being allowed again, but then in the second stage we’ll start to see more movement, with plans to reopen large parts of the economy.
At this point we’ll finally be able to return to some of our favourite pubs, bars and restaurants, although there will still be some restrictions in place.
This second step is expected to begin on April 12th as the lockdown easing continues in five-week intervals, with the whole process potentially stretching into June – by which point the prime minister says we should be back to ‘normal’.
Gyms, hairdressers, beauty salons, and non-essential shops will reopen in stage two, which will happen on April 12th at the earliest, as well as libraries, zoos, museums, theme parks, hotels, hostels, Airbnbs and self-catering holiday accommodation.
Pubs, restaurants and bars will also reopen in this stage, but for outdoor service only to begin with.
This means you can be in a group of up to six people – or a larger group from two different households – in an outside area like a beer garden or outdoor dining area.
Mr Johnson also confirmed unpopular rules like having to buy a ‘substantial meal’ with your pint and the 10pm curfew will be scrapped, but you will have to be sat to consume your food or drink.
Stage three will happen no earlier than May 17th, with gatherings of up to 30 people outside allowed, the ‘rule of six’ introduced inside – meaning you can meet up to six mates inside the pub, or go for a meal inside – as well as large-scale sports events and performances returning.
This stage will see up to 30 people being able to meet outdoors, including in outside areas at pubs and restaurants, with indoor social mixing also allowed again – but only up to six people or two households.
Large-scale sporting events or performances can resume but with limited numbers to start with, as up to 1,000 people will be allowed indoors and up to 4,000 (or the venue being half full) allowed outside.
Bigger football stadiums will be able to allow up to 10,000 fans (or a quarter of capacity).
Then the final stage, step four, will happen no earlier than June 21st, and will see all number limits on socialising removed, with nightclubs reopening, and international travel potentially resuming.
This will be the final step, with the prime minister saying he hopes this will be ‘irreversible’, and it will see the limit on the numbers of people that can mix indoors or outdoors removed.
All the dates are dependent on four tests being met, which are vaccination targets, the vaccine reducing hospitalisation and deaths, the pressure on the NHS easing, and new Covid variants not derailing the plans.
Any dates given are subject to these four tests being met.
Fred Perry is opening a huge new flagship store in Afflecks
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In some good news for our city centre, Fred Perry has announced that it will be opening a huge new store in the Northern Quarter.
The new flagship store will be located at the bottom of the Afflecks building, and is welcome news following the recent closure of high street stalwarts like Debenhams and Topshop.
Fred Perry will be moving from its current location on Police Street to open the new, bigger flagship store on the corner of Oldham Street and Church Street.
The site will see the iconic British brand move into the 2,820 sq ft unit this summer, joining Manchester’s legendary Afflecks which is owned by Bruntwood Works.
Fred Perry was co-founded by the Stockport-born tennis champion of the same name back in the late 1940s, and has gained worldwide fame for its laurel wreath logo and polo shirts.
Richard Gilmore, managing director at Fred Perry, said: “We’re delighted to be moving to the Northern Quarter. The area has no shortage of strong associations to ground-breaking music and subcultural style – something we continue to champion.
“Our retail spaces aren’t just shops, and we’re looking forward to sharing what we do with the Manchester community as part of an exciting continuation of Fred Perry and Afflecks’ mutual commitment to heritage and innovation.
“We now have a space we can be truly proud of in Manchester.”
Chris Middleton, senior retail manager at Bruntwood Works, added: “Fred Perry is a true icon, and we’re delighted to be welcoming them to the ground floor of our famous Afflecks building.
“The addition of this much-loved brand will bolster the retail community in the Northern Quarter neighbourhood, building on Oldham Street’s offering as a lifestyle-led shopping destination.
“It feels particularly exciting to be announcing the news after what has been a challenging twelve months for retail, as we look forward to a bright future for Manchester city centre.”
The new Fred Perry store will open this summer, although an exact date has yet to be released.
People on working tax credits will get a £500 one-off payment, Rishi Sunak confirms
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Brits on tax credits get a one-off benefits payment of £500, Rishi Sunak reveals in budget.
Outlined in the budget, Sunak explained that a £20 weekly increase in universal credit will extend for a further six months.
The chancellor explains that by the way Working Tax Credits system works people will not be able to receive the extra £20 weekly.
Instead, people will benefit from a £500 one-off payment.
Mr Sunak said: “To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown
“We’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months.
“Because of the way that system works operationally, we’ll need to do so with a one-off payment of £500.”
The £500 tax credit boost will run in the same way that the Universal Credit is paid – automatically.
Lots of people have switched from the old ‘Tax Credit’ to the new ‘Universal Credit’ system. Anyone who hasn’t yet been transferred across will now be eligible for this new one-off payment.
The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, reaching 6 million people at the start of this year.
The extra benefit support is welcomed but many are raising concerns that six months is not long enough.
Sunak also revealed in today’s budget that furlough will be extended until September but employers will have to pay 10% of the employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September.
You can see a round-up of all the key points from the budget here.
What Rishi Sunak’s new budget means for people in Greater Manchester
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Rishi Sunak has said he wants to be honest about the government’s plans for fixing the public finances.
The chancellor says there has been ‘acute damage’ to the economy, with more than 700,000 people losing jobs and the economy shrinking by 10% – the largest fall in 300 years.
Borrowing has also been as high as during wartime.
He said: “It’s going to take this country, and the whole world, a long time to recover from this extraordinary situation.”
Here are the key points from his 2021 budget announcement….
- Sunak explains that 1.8 million fewer people are expected to be out of work than previously thought, with the peak at 6.5% down from the forecasted peak of 11.9%.
- Furlough is set to be extended until the end of September this year, however, firms will be asked to contribute 10% of employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September as the scheme is gradually phased out.
- A fourth grant worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500 covering February to April that will help self-employed people.
- The £20 increase in universal credit will extend for six months
- Total cash support to businesses has reached £25bn. A further £5bn restart grant has now been confirmed to help companies get going after lockdown.
- Hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, then discounted for the remaining nine months of the year by two-thirds.
- The 5% VAT cut will be extended to the end of September and gradually increased at 12.5% for six months before returning to the normal rate in April 2022.
- The stamp duty holiday will be extended on properties up to £500,000 to the end of June. It will return to normal levels from October 1st.
- Mortgage guarantees were also confirmed to help first-time buyers access 95% mortgages, with just 5% deposits.
- The government will take a ‘fair’ approach to ‘fixing the public finances’ the chancellor confirms.
- There will be no increase in national insurance, income tax or VAT.
- The personal allowance will remain at £12,750 until 2026 and the higher rate will increase to £50,270 next year.
- Inheritance tax threshold, pensions lifetime allowance, annual exempt allowance from capital gains tax and VAT exemption thresholds will all be frozen.
- New minimum wage rates come into force in England on April 1st. Basic rate workers will see a 2.2% increase, with the National Living Wage rising to £8.91 an hour.
- The budget deficit will reach £355billion this year (17% of GDP) – the highest level in peacetime.
- Sunak said: “It’s going to be the work of many governments over many decades to pay it back, just as it would be irresponsible to withdraw support too soon, it would also be irresponsible to allow our future borrowing and debt to rise unchecked.”
- The chancellor explains that the economy will recover more quickly than previously thought.
- GDP will grow by 4% this year and 7.3% next year according to official forecasts.