FURIOUS NURSES SLAM PITIFUL PAY RISE OFFER
The Daily Mail reports: Nurses reacted with fury after ministers offered them a pay rise of just one percent as a reward for months spent putting their lives on the line to save coronavirus patients. They blasted the ‘pitiful’ recommendation that was made in a document released by the Department of Health and Social Care – which blames the impact of Covid on the public finances. It came a day after health and social care were both notably absent from any increased funding in the Budget. The Royal College of Nursing’s general secretary, Dame Donna Kinnair, said: ‘This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.
NO INTERNATIONAL LAW BROKEN SAYS FROST
The Guardian reports: The European parliament has postponed setting a date for ratifying the trade and security deal with Britain after Boris Johnson was accused of breaking international law for a second time over Northern Ireland. The chamber’s political groups agreed on Thursday to wait in light of the latest row with Downing Street, with some senior MEPs warning that the Christmas Eve deal will not be passed at all if the UK goes ahead with its plans. The UK was accused by the EU Commision of breaking international law for a second time on Wednesday after ministers said they would unilaterally extend a grace period on a range of checks on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The commission responded that under the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the decision should have been agreed with the EU. During discussions with commission officials on Monday night, the claim that international law had been broken was denied by David Frost, who has recently been given a seat in cabinet and responsibility for EU relations.
HOPES RAISED FOR A UK TRADE DEAL WITH THE US
From the Guardian: The White House has agreed to drop retaliatory US tariffs on UK exports including Scotch whisky, raising hopes of a post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal. In 2019, the then US president, Donald Trump, imposed a 25% tariff on a range of European Union exports, as part of a 16 year trade dispute over state support for aerospace rivals Boeing and Airbus. Estimates released last month suggested the duty had led to a £500 million dropoff in sales of Scottish single malt alone. But the Department for International Trade (DIT) said on Thursday the Biden administration had ended the tariff. The move followed the UK scrapping punitive measures against Boeing in January which puts the UK at odds with the EU. The dispute dates back to 2006 when the US complained that Airbus was receiving subsidies that put Boeing at a disadvantage.
STURGEON CLINGS ON TO POWER
The Telegraph reports that Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday suggested she may try to cling on as First Minister even if an independent inquiry finds she broke the ministerial code of conduct in the Alex Salmond scandal. Anas Sarwar, the new Scottish Labour leader, used First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood to challenge Ms Sturgeon on whether she agreed that any minister who is found in breach of the code should resign – the usual sanction for such an offence. But the First Minister refused to provide any guarantee she would honour the convention, instead telling MSPs that ‘we can debate in this chamber what her punishment should be if she is found to have flouted the code’. Despite chastising the Tories for making up their minds that she should quit before two inquiries report back, she made it clear she will be leading the SNP into May’s Holyrood election. If the sanction was put to a Holyrood vote, the First Minister could theoretically stay in post if her minority government wins the backing of the pro-independence Greens to let her stay.
BUDGET A FAILURE FOR WORKING PEOPLE
The Morning Star writes: the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget was branded a failure for working people today by unions and opposition leaders. For all the Chancellor’s boasting about his fiscal firepower and doing whatever it takes, he stood accused of doing too little, too late, other than for his big business allies — and made it clear that the long-term pain was to be borne by working people. Mr Sunak announced the short-term extension of the furlough and self-employed support schemes and the £20 universal credit uplift, but there was no public-sector pay rise, no rescue plan for health and social care, no cash for social housing and no recognition of the need for government investment in jobs. His one genuine long-term giveaway was “the biggest business tax cut in modern UK history” — a 130 per cent “super-deduction” from corporation tax as a bribe for businesses to invest.
NOW COME THE COUNCIL TAX RISES
The SUN reports that council tax bills could soar by up to £100 a month per household as local authorities increase rates without consultation, reveals new analysis. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said councils will increase taxes by £1.8 billion next month after the government allowed them to introduce rises of up to of up to five per cent.
CAR SALES PLUMMETED TO WORST LEVELS SINCE 1959
The Times reports: Car sales have plummeted during the third lockdown to their worst February levels since 1959, new figures have revealed. Only two months into the year and the industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revised down its forecasts for 2021 for a second time. With new registrations last month down 35 percent as only 28,000 vehicles entered the market, demand for electrified cars has come into the spotlight with plug-in low or zero-emission motors making up a best-ever one-in-eight of sales. Show rooms are closed until April which is not helping an already depressed market.
SETTLEMENT REACHED IN PRITI PATEL BULLYING CASE
The Independent reports: The former chief civil servant at the Home Office has dropped a bullying case against Priti Patelafter receiving an undisclosed settlement from the government before it reached an employment tribunal. The move means Ms Patel will not have to face a tribunal hearing in September over allegations that she bullied Sir Philip Rutnam, who quit last February, accusing her of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign against him.Labour MP Kevin Brennan told The Independent: At the very least, people are entitled to know how much they are having to pay to allow Boris Johnson to cover up the grim details of Priti Patel’s misbehaviour.
THERE COULD BE PROBLEMS AHEAD
The Independent writes: The number of young people not in education, employment or training (Neet) has shown its biggest quarterly increase in almost a decade, new figures reveal. There were an estimated 797,000 young people aged 16 to 24 classed as Neet in the final quarter of 2020. This was an increase of 39,000 compared with the previous quarter, from July to September, and up by 34,000 on the figure for October to December 2019.The Office for National statistics said the latest quarterly increase was the largest since July to September 2011 and was almost entirely driven by economically inactive males.Of all young people in the UK who were Neet in October to December 2020, an estimated 44.3 per cent were looking for, and available for, work and therefore classified as unemployed, the ONS said. Just over half were classed as economically inactive. The ONS added that 11.6 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK were classed as Neet in the latest three-month period, up by 0.6 per cent from July to September.
OCTOGENARIAN LOCKDOWN BREAKERS
From the Evening Standard: Downing Street is urging people to continue to respect the lockdown after a survey revealed more than four in 10 over-80s who have received a coronavirus vaccine have since broken the rules. According to the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), some 43 per cent of elderly people said they had met someone other than a personal care support worker, member of their household of support bubble indoors since being vaccinated. And 41 per cent of over-80s vaccinated in the previous three weeks said they had done so.
DRINKS ON THE CAR PARK
The Independent reports Pubs without beer gardens will be allowed to serve drinks in their car parks from 12 April, the government has said. Licensing rules for pubs bars, cafés and restaurants were simplified last summer to make it easier for businesses to partially reopen in line with Covid regulations These relaxed rules will remain in place when outdoor hospitality are allowed to begin reopening on 12 April. This means that food and drink can be served to customers in makeshift seating areas in pubs and restaurants’ existing car parks and terraces. Two households or up to six people will be allowed to meet outdoors when restaurant and pub gardens reopen on 12 April, according to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
From the Daily Star: A World War 2 shipwreck in the Thames is still loaded with over 1,500 tons of high explosive – and now the government plans to remove its masts before they collapse and trigger an explosion. The SS Richard Montgomery was carrying a huge cargo of weapons and explosives when she sank near the Nore sandbank off Sheerness, 45 miles east of London, on August 20 1944. Roughly half of the ship’s payload was recovered, but the rest – at least 1,400 tonnes (1,500 short tons) of high explosives remains on board, 50 feet below the surface and perilously close to houses along the coast. The cargo is dangerously unstable and experts have warned that if the wreck were to explode it could cause a tsunami which would threaten people in the nearby port of Sheerness, Kent, as well as Southend in Essex.