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The TV licence fee is increasing from April this year

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TV licence fees are set to increase from April 1st to £159.

The increase is set to be smaller than that of last year where the licence fee increased from £154.50 to £157.50.

The cost of the licence is set by the government, rising in line with inflation each year. 

It comes after 750,000 pensioners reportedly abstained from paying their licence fees in protest of the BBC removing the free service for over-75s. 

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In 2015, the government shifted the TV licence responsibility over to the BBC. The broadcaster then removed the blanket fee in a bid to plug the funding hole.

BBC Chairman, Sir David Clementi previously stated that it was ‘untenable’ to continue funding the free licences which would take up a fifth of the company’s spend on services at £745 million a year. 

Anyone caught not paying their TV licence could be forced to pay a maximum penalty of £1,000 and may face three to six months of jail-time.

While not paying a TV licence can’t directly land you in prison, refusing to pay court fines can.

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Dennis Reed from campaign group Silver Voices claimed that a ‘hard core’ group of pensioners are now resisting paying their fees in protest. 

He said that over-75’s have been ‘flooded’ with reminder letters, saying: “Some had three or four letters in the last couple of weeks reminding them their licences would be cancelled. They are desperate to get people to pay.”

The BBC denied that 750,000 pensioners were refusing to pay licence fees and said they do not send more than two reminder letters.

Adding: “Around 80% of over-75 households have now transitioned to the new system, including those in receipt of Pension Credit who are eligible for a free licence funded by the BBC.

“We continue to process applications, we’re giving people plenty of time to get set-up, the process is Covid-secure and we have a range of measures to support people, including payment plans.”

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Sue Gray report slams ‘failure of leadership’ as full details of Downing Street parties revealed

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The long-awaited Sue Gray report has today detailed a ‘failure of leadership’ as the analysis of Downing Street parties is published in full.

The senior civil servant, who was tasked with investigating a number of alleged lockdown breaches in Number 10, specifically attacked ‘senior leaders’ in government in her thirty-seven page report.

The report, which also published a series of newly unearthed photos of the Prime Minister attending alleged parties, stated that many of the events investigated into ‘should not have been allowed to happen’.

Sue Gray wrote: “The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.”

Gov.uk

In the conclusion of her analysis, she also criticised the ‘attitudes and behaviours’ displayed by the leaders during the Covid pandemic.

Gray’s conclusion reads: “Even allowing for the extraordinary pressures officials and advisers were under, factual findings of this report illustrate some attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with that guidance.”

Another significant finding was that an ‘excessive’ amount of alcohol was consumed at a number of events, including one held on June 18th – reportedly a gathering in the Cabinet Office to mark the departure of a Number 10 private secretary.

The government’s former ethics chief, Helen MacNamara, previously apologised for an ‘error of judgement’ after being fined by the Met Police for this event.

The report states: “The event lasted for a number of hours. There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals.

“One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.”

Gray also stated that the treatment of security and cleaning staff during this time period was ‘unacceptable’, writing: “I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable.”

The report also published a series of text messages sent and received by Number 10 staff regarding the alleged lockdown events.

Gov.uk

And perhaps most strikingly, Martin Reynolds, a top aide to the PM, was seen texting another member of staff via Whatsapp to discuss getting bottles of alcohol to the party without being seen by the press.

A text message sent to Reynolds from a Number 10 official read: “Drinks this eve is a lovely idea… Just to flag that the press conference will probably be finishing around that time, so helpful if people can be mindful of that as speakers and cameras are leaving, not walking around waving bottles of wine etc”.

At a later date, Martin Reynolds also sent the following message to a Number 10 special adviser about a news story which is not specified. The report says the message refers to the May 20th event.

His message read: “Best of luck – a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

With regards to any disciplinary action, Gray says this is ‘outside of the scope of this report and is for others to consider’, but she does ‘offer a reflection’.

She says: “While there is no excuse for some of the behaviour set out here it is important to acknowledge that those in the most junior positions attended gatherings at which their seniors were present, or indeed organised.

“I have no doubt that they will have taken the learning from this experience and, while this is not a matter for me, I hope this will be taken into account in considering any disciplinary action.”

You can read Sue Gray’s report in full here.

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Boy, 14, guilty of murdering 12-year-old Ava White after Snapchat video row

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The Trinity Catholic Primary School

A boy has been found guilty of stabbing Ava White to death in Liverpool.

The 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of murdering Ava, 12, at court today.

The incident happened following a row over a Snapchat video, with the court hearing that a ‘chance encounter’ with the 14-year-old boy led to her tragic death.

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Ava was stabbed in the neck at Liverpool’s Christmas lights switch-on last November, after asking a group of boys to stop filming her and friends, Sky News reports.

A jury was told that the defendant then laughed and ran away following the attack, although the boy claimed he had acted in self-defence and denied murder.

However, he was found guilty after the two-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Family members were left in tears in court after a 20-second clip showing the stabbing – which happened on November 25th – was played.

The boy, who was found to have a 7.5cm flick blade, previously pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon.

Ava and several of her friends, who were all aged between 11 and 15, shared some alcohol together near the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool city centre when the boy and his friends saw them and filmed a video for Snapchat.

Prosecutor Charlotte Newell QC said Ava asked them to stop filming before the boys started ‘jeering’ at her – she then ran towards them before the defendant ‘thrust a knife into the neck of this unarmed child’.

She told the court: “His reaction at the time was to smirk, to laugh and to run away, leaving Ava to die whilst he sought to distance himself from his actions.”

Ava’s last words were ‘don’t leave me’, as she lay dying on the ground.

The court heard that the boy ‘began a conscious cover-up’ after the incident, attempting to discard his knife, phone and coat.

When arrested he told a ‘series of lies’ about his movements at the time of the killing, the jury was told, saying he was playing Call of Duty at a mate’s house, before saying another boy had stabbed Ava.

While giving evidence, the 14-year-old claimed he was ‘scared’ Ava was going to ‘jump him’,  and that he was only trying to ‘frighten her away’ because he was ‘scared’ – telling court he thought Ava was a boy and might have had ‘a weapon’.

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Kurt Zouma charged with three offences over cat kicking videos

The footballer was filmed abusing his cat at the start of this year

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Kurt Zouma / Instagram

Kurt Zouma has been charged with three offences under the Animal Welfare Act after he was filmed kicking his pet cat.

The charges are in relation to the now-infamous videos that showed the West Ham footballer abusing the cat.

Kurt is accused of two counts of causing ‘unnecessary suffering’ to the cat by kicking it in the abdomen and slapping it in the head.

He is also charged with failing to protect the cat from ‘pain suffering, injury or disease’.

His brother and fellow footballer Yoan has also been charged for his involvement in the incident, which he filmed and posted onto Snapchat.

Yoan is accused of two counts of ‘aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring’ Kurt to commit the offence of causing unnecessary suffering to the cat.

The brothers are set to appear at Thames Magistrates’ Court tomorrow (May 24th) for a preliminary hearing following a joint investigation from the RSPCA and Essex Police.

After the video started circulating on social media in February, the RSPCA removed two cats from Kurt’s home and began liaising with Essex Police about the incident.

In a statement at the time of the video’s circulation, the RSPCA said: “The two cats are now in RSPCA care. Our priority is and has always been the wellbeing of these cats.

“They’ve been taken for a check-up at a vets and then will remain in our care while the investigation continues.

“We’re grateful to everyone who expressed their concern for these cats. We were dealing with this issue before the video went viral online and are leading the investigation.

“We continue to investigate so we cannot comment further at this time.”

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