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Thousands call on government to ‘close Blackpool’ as coronavirus cases in the area rise

Should Blackpool close?

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David Dixon / Geograph

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on the government to ‘close Blackpool and protect the locals’. 

The petition comes after a hot weekend, which saw the resort’s beaches and parks packed with families enjoying the sun in one of Britain’s most infectious towns.

The medical director of Victoria Hospital has said the number of coronavirus-related admissions continues to rise at the Blackpool hospital.

The surges in the town follow the lockdown easing measures put in place by the Government, which see groups of six people being allowed to meet outside and go on day trips from today. 

The petition, launched by Brian Pery, has already received 4,773 petitions this morning. It states: “Blackpool has been invaded by people leaving our town filthy, not taking notice of spacing, [and] urinating in the streets.

“It only takes one to pass [the] virus to two more, then it escalates. Please consider, for the sake of our residents and future economy, to stop the so-called responsible people from not sticking to rules and close our town [to] them for at least four weeks to allow [the] virus here to stabilise.

“I ask [the] Government to seriously consider this ASAP.”

Official figures showed last week that Blackpool has one of the highest rates of infection in the country, with 445.8 people out of every 100,000 being diagnosed with the virus.

The national figure stands at 269.6. 

Victoria Hospital has had 185 confirmed and verified COVID-19 related deaths, plus many more at local care homes.  

A medic from the hospital, Dr Radhakrishna Shanbhag, who is also a British Medical Association North West council member, said: “Not only does this mean we’re suffering from a disproportionate amount of serious cases and deaths, but also that, as a consequence, gradual lockdown measures may be affected – prolonging the hurt caused to our local economy.”

Dr Jim Gardner, the hospital’s medical director, has said: “Looking at our numbers, what we are seeing is that, across the whole of the Fylde coast, we have had 1,117 positive diagnoses of COVID. And in our internal data – in our trust data – we are showing now 144 positive COVID patients.

“That is a higher number than last week so this is an important theme for us.”

Visit Blackpool, the tourism team for the town, rebranded as Don’t Visit Blackpool as the lockdown got underway. Due to the lockdown restrictions, it has now changed to ‘Visit Blackpool Safely’.

Many people visited the town over the weekend and left Blackpool beaches covered in litter, in response the tourism board tweeted: “If you plan to venture to the coast or any open spaces today, please don’t leave any litter behind, if a bin is full take your litter home, leave only footprints.”

The UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, told people to limit themselves to what is ‘sensible’ rather than what is ‘possible’ now that lockdown restrictions have been eased further.

She said now is a critical time and urged people to not contribute to a resurgence of the virus. 

She said: “I think it’s really important that people just try to use these measures sensibly for their own benefit, but don’t risk transmission to other people.”

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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.

Number 10 / Flickr

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

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What Rishi Sunak’s new budget means for people in Greater Manchester

Everything you need to know

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alvariummcr & flokmcr/Instagram

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….

The Bay Horse Tavern/Facebook

Furlough

  • 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

Business Support

  • 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.

David Dixon/Geograph

Housing

  • 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.

Public Finances

  • 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.

David Dixon/Geograph

Borrowing

  • 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.”

Growth

  • 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.

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Contactless payment limit set to increase to £100

It’s hoped this will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector

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Rishi Sunak is set to announce in the budget today an increase in contactless payment limit up to £100.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the contactless limit was increased from £30 to £45 and it is hoped this second increase will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector.

Some industry sources have expressed alarm at the new threshold, warning of the potential increase in fraud, according to Sky News.

The increase in the limit was made possible due to Brexit. The European Commission set the limit to €50.

Number 10/Flickr

Sunak is expected to highlight the important of ‘pinging’ payments as shoppers continue to rely less on cash. 

Speaking to the Evening Standard, he said: “London’s retail sector is famous across the world, with Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Westfield seen as global destinations for shopping.

“As we begin to open the UK economy and people return to the high street, the contactless limit increase will make it easier than ever before for people to pay for their shopping, providing a welcome boost to retail that will protect jobs and drive growth across the capital.”

The chancellor is set to unveil the budget at 12:30pm today. He is expected to offer more information on the mortgage scheme that will offer 5% deposit as well as extending the stamp duty holiday and increase corporation tax from 19% to 23%.

Sunak is also set to announce the extension of furlough until September and information on a £5bn scheme to help firms such as shops, clubs and gyms.

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