Suspicious package declared safe, man in custody after bomb robot sent into Civic Library

A suspicious package reported to ACT police has been declared safe and a man is in custody, after a number of buildings along London Circuit in Canberra’s centre were evacuated today.

Police said a bomb disposal robot sent into Civic Library had determined the backpack contained only clothes.

ACT Policing Detective Inspector Matthew Reynolds said emergency services were called to the library about 11:45am after a man was observed by members of the public making comments that were of concern and behaving erratically.

Later, police confirmed a 20-year-old man from New South Wales was in custody in relation to the incident.

Street closed down as bomb disposal robot deployed

Detective Inspector Reynolds said out of caution, Civic Square was adorned with police tape and several buildings along London Circuit were evacuated shortly after 12:00pm.

London Circuit was closed to traffic between Northbourne Avenue and Akuna Street, and pedestrians were told to avoid the area.

Fire crews were seen running into the library and evacuating people inside before taping off the square next to Canberra Museum and Gallery.

A bomb-disposal robot was sent into the library about 1:30pm, which found that the package did not pose any danger.

About 3:00pm, Detective Inspector Reynolds said the man who left the package had been recorded on CCTV and was known to police.

“It is very frustrating and we take that very seriously,” he said.

He said the individual responsible could face charges of public mischief and causing public alarm.

“But that’s what we’re here to do, and people shouldn’t be concerned about calling in a bomb threat.”

London Circuit was closed and pedestrians were advised to avoid the area while the emergency response was underway.(ABC News: Andrew Kennedy)

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Suspicious package closes central Canberra, bomb robot sent into Civic Library

A bomb disposal robot has been sent into Civic Library amid a suspicious package scare that has shut down parts of central Canberra.

Civic Square was adorned with police tape and several buildings along London Circuit were evacuated shortly after 12:00pm.

London Circuit is closed to traffic between Northbourne Avenue and Akuna Street, and pedestrians have been told to avoid the area.

Fire crews were seen running into the library end evacuating people inside before taping off and the square next to Canberra Museum and Gallery.

Police then arrived and moved evacuated workers across the road.

After 30 minutes London Circuit was shut down and people were moved further away.

The Legislative Assembly’s main entrance was closed with politicians forced to enter from the back of the building.

At 1:30pm a bomb disposal robot slowly moved through the square and disappeared into the library.

A police spokesman said there was no threat to the wider community.

London Circuit is closed and pedestrians are advised to avoid the area.(ABC News: Andrew Kennedy)

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Victorian Government’s $465 million tourism package includes $200 vouchers for tourists to regional Victoria

The Victorian Government will hand out $200 vouchers for visitors to regional Victoria in a bid to boost tourism in bushfire and COVID-affected towns.

Premier Daniel Andrews has promised $465 million in this year’s budget, to encourage more visitors to regional Victoria as part of the Victorian Tourism Recovery Package.

Victorians who have booked and spent at least $400 dollars on accommodation or tickets to attractions and tours can apply for a $200 voucher for spending money.

120,000 vouchers will be made available from December.

“There’ll be quite a simple process to make sure that you can validate that you had an experience and then you will receive the $200 from us,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the $465 million package was the ‘biggest regional tourism announcement in the history of our state’.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Mikaela Ortolan)

Voucher system still being worked out

Regional Victorians will also be eligible for vouchers for region to region travel but Tourism Minister Martin Pakula said the details of the voucher system were still being worked out.

“Whether it is upfront or by reimbursement is part of the design,” Mr Pakula said.

“I make the point that similar schemes are already in place in South Australia and Tasmania

Another $149 million has been allocated in the budget to building new tourism infrastructure in regional towns.

The bulk of the funding will go towards upgrades along the Great Ocean Road.

A new coastal walking trail with up to five new suspension bridges will be built along the Great Ocean Road, providing spectacular views from Fairhaven Skenes Creek.

Another $2 million is being set aside to build more campsites will also be built along the Surf Coast.

Tourism boost for bushfire towns

New board walk at Cape Conran
Salmon Beach at Cape Conran with a new boardwalk replaced since the summer’s fires.(Supplied: Lisa Pompei)

In East Gippsland, $18.5 million will be spent on improving tourist infrastructure as part of a Gippsland Tourism Recovery Package.

Ten eco-pods will be built at Cape Conran Coastal Park costing $3.5 million to entice visitors to stop along the Melbourne to Sydney coastal route.

Cabins, camp grounds and boardwalks at the park were destroyed in the summer bushfires.

The proposed Metung Hot Springs and Nunduk Spa and Eco-Resort has been promised $2.5 million but it is not known if that will be enough to kick-start the project.

Australia’s largest mainland lighthouse at Point Hicks in a far south-eastern corner of the state will undergo a $3.85 million upgrade.

Visitor facilities at Mallacoota inlet will also be upgraded to allow for the development of a new Coastal Wilderness walk through the rugged Croajingolong National Park.

On Raymond Island, accessible only by ferry from Paynesville in East Gippsland, $350,000 will be spent on a koala trail.

Keeping predators off the Prom

One of the jewels of Victoria’s nature-based tourism sites, Wilsons Promontory will undergo a $23 million upgrade.

A $6 million predator-proof fence will be built at the Prom, stretching 10 kilometres from coast to coast to block access by foxes, cats, deer and rabbits.

Wilsons Promontory
A new visitor centre will be built at the northern entrance to Wilsons Promontory as part of a $23 million upgrade at the national park.(ABC News: Elise Kinsella)

“These improvements at some of our most iconic tourist destinations will bring more visitors to Gippsland and that means a stronger economy and more jobs,” Tourism Minister Martin Pakula said.

Funding has also been allocated to the Mallee Silo Art Trail, the Ballarat Centre for Photography, the Murray River Adventure Trail, and the Brambuk Cultural Centre at Halls Gap.

In the state’s north east, $4.3 million will be spent on growing the Prosecco Road winery district by establishing accommodation at Dal Zotto Wines.

Another $15 million will go towards upgrades to the hiking trail between Falls Creek and Mount Hotham.

The Victorian Government has also allocated $3.5 million to upgrade the 104-year-old Snowy River Rail bridge at Orbost.

The upgrade will make the bridge suitable for pedestrians and cyclists, linking it to the popular East Gippsland Rail Trail.

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Efficient & Ambitious Victoria: Record-Breaking Clean Jobs Package

Efficient & Ambitious Victoria: Record-Breaking Clean Jobs Package

THE CLIMATE COUNCIL welcomes the Victorian Government’s record-breaking clean jobs package announced today, which will see $797 million invested to help Victorians upgrade the efficiency of their homes, ramp up rooftop solar, bring down their power bills and create thousands of jobs for the state.

“The clean jobs package announced by the Victorian Government today is a smart investment which will be critical to improving the health of Victorians, generating thousands of jobs and tackling climate change,” said the Climate Council’s CEO, Amanda McKenzie.

“Energy efficiency upgrades will be made available to those on low-incomes and renters, which will help to protect the health and wellbeing of many Victorian families during the summer and winter months, and save them money on their power bills,” she said.

The Victorian Government will also boost the rooftop solar rebates program, Solar Homes, including rebates for household batteries, which comes just weeks after the state announced its plan to build the largest battery in the south hemisphere.

“It is great to see Victoria, along with other states and territories, continuing to step-up on climate and investing in smart, sensible policies which will protect Australians, protect jobs and protect our economy from future shocks. We hope to see more announcements like these in the full Victorian budget released next week,” said Ms McKenzie.

“Our economic modelling shows that the Victorian government can create thousands of direct jobs over the next three years by investing in energy efficiency, rapidly getting people back to work while also tackling climate change,” she said.

The Climate Council’s Clean Jobs Plan found 20,000 direct jobs can be created in Victoria over the next three years, rapidly getting people back into the workforce, whilst also tackling climate change.

/Public Release.

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Japan PM Suga instructs cabinet to compile new stimulus package

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga enters the hall for the opening of an extraordinary session in Tokyo, Japan October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

November 10, 2020

By Yoshifumi Takemoto and Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga instructed his cabinet on Tuesday to compile a package of stimulus measures to revitalise an economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s economy minister said.

The package aims to cushion the blow from COVID-19, assist structural changes in the economy and boost productivity through digitalisation, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference after a regular cabinet meeting.

“We’ll want to consider government spending that will attract private investment,” Nishimura said, adding the government will compile the package as soon as possible.

Japan’s economy is expected to have rebounded in the third quarter after posting a record postwar contraction in the preceding three-month period, when a nationwide state of emergency over the pandemic paralysed economic activity.

Stronger exports and output thanks to a pickup in overseas demand have helped the recovery, but weak capital investment and household spending have kept policymakers under pressure to further boost fiscal and monetary support.

“The pace of economic recovery is limited globally,” said Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities.

“There’s no choice but to balance the prevention of the virus and economic growth.”

Nishimura said the stimulus measures will focus on shifting to a “green” society, after the government pledged to cut greenhouse gases to zero by 2050 and realise a carbon-neutral society.

While Nishimura said the size of the new package had not been decided, ruling party lawmakers have called for between 10 trillion yen and 30 trillion yen ($95 billion to $286 billion) in new measures.

Nishimura highlighted the country’s negative output gap – which occurs when actual output is less than the economy’s full capacity – saying it stood at about 55 trillion yen, in second quarter.

Japan has already deployed a combined $2.2 trillion in two stimulus packages in response to the health crisis, including cash payments to households and small business loans.

However, some analysts worry lavish spending could further strain the nation’s public finances, which are already the industrial world’s heaviest at more than twice the size of Japan’s $4.6 trillion economy.

“The additional budget should be spent on selected areas where necessary, rather than cash handouts to everyone that the government did previously,” said Yusuke Shimoda, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.

($1 = 104.8800 yen)

(Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto and Daniel Leussink, additional reporting by Leika Kihara and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim, Richard Pullin and Lincoln Feast.)

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Thailand BOI Approves New electric vehicles (EV) Package – Business, Investment

The Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) today approved the roll out of a comprehensive set of incentives covering all major aspects of the electric vehicles (EV) supply chain, with a focus on battery electric vehicles (BEVs), local production of critical parts, and the inclusion of commercial vehicles of all sizes as well as ships.

“In line with the Government policy to promote electric vehicles across the board, and to answer the radical changes underway in the global car industry, the BOI today approved a package that will accelerate the development of EV production and related supply chain in Thailand, and allow the entire sector to move into higher gear,”

Ms Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary General of the BOI

New Package for EV

The new promotion package, which replaces the first EV package which expired in 2018, covers a comprehensive range of electrical vehicles, namely passenger cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, tricycles, and ships.

Incentive schemes for these different types of electric vehicles can be summarized as follows:

Four wheelers

Qualified projects with a total investment package worth at least 5 billion baht will be granted a 3-year tax holidays for PHEVs, but as for BEVs, an 8-year corporate income tax exemption period will be offered and will be extendable in case of R&D investment/expenditures.

As for qualified projects with total investment worth less than 5 billion baht, 3-year tax holidays will be granted on PHEVs and BEVs, but the tax holidays period for BEVs can be extended if the project meets the set requirements, such as production commencement by 2022, additional part production, minimum production of 10,000 units within 3 years, and R&D investment/expenditures.

Motorcycles, three-wheelers, buses and trucks

Qualified projects will be granted 3-year corporate income tax exemption, extendable if meeting additional requirements.

Electric-powered ship production projects

Vessels with less than 500 gross tonnage, will be eligible for 8 years of corporate income tax exemption.

The BOI also approved to add four more types of EV parts in the list of critical parts, namely high voltage harness, reduction gear, battery cooling system and regenerative braking system. These four categories will all receive 8 years corporate tax exemptions.

Additional incentives for the production of battery modules and battery cells

To promote local EV battery production, the BOI also approved additional incentives for the production of both battery modules and battery cells for the local market by granting a 90% reduction of import duties for 2 years on raw or essential materials not available locally.

The BOI has previously approved 26 projects producing electric vehicles of various types, including 5 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), 6 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and 13 BEVs, and 2 E-Bus projects, with a combined production capacity of over 566,000 units per year, BOI data shows.

So far, seven of those projects have started commercial operations, namely majors like Nissan, Honda and Toyota for HEVs; Mercedes Benz and BMW for PHEVs; and new comers FOMM and Takano for BEVs. The agency also approved 14 projects to make critical parts for EVs, including 10 battery production projects.

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Steve Mnuchin $1.8 Trillion Covid Relief Package Falters

Steve Mnuchin $1.8 Trillion Covid Relief Package Falters

Senate Republicans have joined with House Democrats in opposition to the Covid Relief Package.

Seratary Mnuchin Official Picture

On Friday Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin released the Trump administration’s new $1.8 trillion package of relief funding for those hurting from the Covid-19 recession. But Democrats balked at the offer saying that they wanted at least $400 million more.

Drew Hammill, the deputy chief of staff to the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, tweeted the following in response. “The Speaker & Secretary Mnuchin spoke at 3:00 pm today for 40 minutes. Their conversation focused on determining whether there is any prospect of an imminent agreement on a comprehensive bill. The Secretary made clear the President’s interest in reaching such an agreement.

“The Speaker pointed out that, unfortunately, the White House Communications Director contradicted that assertion during their call. The Speaker trusts that the Secretary speaks for the President.

In a letter to Democratic colleagues Saturday the Speaker herself described the offer as, “one step forward, two steps back,” and that it was, “insufficient in meeting families’ needs.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the opportunity to slam the President accusing Donald Trump of wanting to have total control over how any money is distributed.

“When the President talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than agreeing on language prescribing how we honor our workers, crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers,” she said.

And now Republicans have joined Democrats in rejecting the package, albeit for the opposite reasons. Republicans who control the U.S. Senate think that it spends too much money.

So it is possible that no formal deal will be reached before the elections in November.

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Sunak announces new rescue package for businesses hit by Covid lockdowns

Rishi Sunak has increased help for workers and businesses hit by Covid lockdowns in a financial rescue package issued less than a month after his last bailout.

It includes more wage support for businesses struggling to keep employees on full time, more generous help for the self-employed and further cash grants for hospitality firms forced to shut.

As he returned to the Commons to announce billions of pounds more in cash aid, Mr Sunak acknowledged that the picture had darkened since he presented his winter economy plan on September 24.

He rejected demands that he increase the subsidy paid to workers in businesses forced to shut in Tier 3 areas. That will remain at two thirds rather than the 80 per cent paid in the original scheme. However he tweaked the job support scheme announced last month as part of his winter economy plan after criticism that it did not give businesses enough incentive to keep workers on shorter hours.

He promised employers who could only afford to take back workers part-time that the government would pick up a greater proportion of the cash needed to top up their wages. Under the original scheme employers had to find one third of the cost of unworked hours, with employees losing a third and the government picking up the remaining third to a maximum of £700 a month.

In the new scheme businesses will pay only 5 per cent of unworked hours and workers need to work only a fifth of their usual hours to qualify.

The Treasury said this meant that if someone was being paid £587 for their unworked hours the government would contribute £543 and the employer only £44.

For the self-employed, Mr Sunak announced a grant increase from up to £1,875 a month to up to £3,750 a month, raising to 40 per cent the amount of lost profits compensated in a new package worth £3.1 billion in the three months ahead.

In a move to address anger in parts of the country subjected to Tier 3 restrictions, he announced cash grants for hospitality firms forced to close worth £3,000 a month, which will be backdated. Businesses in Tier 2 areas can access grants worth up to £2,000.

He said: “Let me speak first to the people of Liverpool, Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, and indeed other areas moving into or already living under heightened health restrictions. I understand your frustration. People need to know this is not for ever. These are temporary restrictions to help control the spread of the virus. There are difficult days and weeks ahead but we will get through this together. People are not on their own. We have an economic plan that will protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people wherever they live and whatever their situation.”

Anneliese Dodds, for Labour, criticised Mr Sunak for failing to anticipate the economic damage caused by the second Covid wave and the regional lockdowns.

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, a think tank, said: “The chancellor is making the right call in reducing employer contributions in the job support scheme. Asking employers to pay too much towards the wages of workers when not working was the major design flaw in the scheme he announced less than a month ago. The reduction should be very significant to ensure firms have a strong incentive to cut hours rather than jobs.”

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Meadows: Stimulus package depends on Pelosi

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 3:01 PM PT – Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The White House has maintained that any progress on a stimulus package hinges on Democrat leadership in Congress.

On Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spoke to reporters and noted the President has put forward four different relief proposals.

He has noted while the Trump administration has been flexible in negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to budge on her requests. Senate Republicans have said that any bill would only pass if she is reasonable.

The Republican has dismissed concerns about possible opposition from GOP lawmakers in the event both sides reach a deal. He has also said his conversations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been robust.

“Sen. McConnell and the Senate Republicans have the same priority that the President has,” stated Meadows. “That’s to make sure that we get enough help to those that are hurting as quickly as possible.”

The chief of staff has stated he’s confident there would be enough votes in the Senate to send a bill to the President’s desk. However, he added that both sides do share one goal: to get to some sort of deal in the next 48 hours or so.

RELATED: Pelosi Gives White House 48 Hours To Reach A Deal On Stimulus

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Sadiq Khan claims TfL rescue package is ‘draconian’ after ministers threaten to strip him of control

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has claimed the Government is hitting people in the capital with ‘draconian’ measures that will cause a ‘triple whammy’ of higher costs.

Mr Khan made the accusations after he said Westminster wanted to extend the £15 Congestion Charge Zone to the North and South Circular roads in 12 months’ time.

He added the government wanted to increase TfL fares to above the inflation rate, and double down on demands to remove free travel for under-18s. 

But he was hit by a counter-claim by the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London Shaun Bailey, who blamed him for one of the hikes.

He said: ‘Sadiq Khan is out of his depth. If he wants to help hospitality businesses, he should scrap his Congestion Charge hike.’

The government has threatened to take away mayor Sadiq Khan’s control of Transport for London unless he cuts costs and increases fares in return for a rescue package

The London mayor needs a £4.9bn settlement to bail out TfL for the next 18 months after passenger numbers collapsed and revenue crumbled as a result of the pandemic

The London mayor needs a £4.9bn settlement to bail out TfL for the next 18 months after passenger numbers collapsed and revenue crumbled as a result of the pandemic

It is understood negotiations have stalled because of ministers' insistence that any such cash injection depends on the Mayor extending the congestion zone to the North and South circulars

It is understood negotiations have stalled because of ministers’ insistence that any such cash injection depends on the Mayor extending the congestion zone to the North and South circulars

Mr Khan also said the Government wanted to introduce a new council tax charge in the capital.

He said: “I simply cannot accept this Government plan, which would hit Londoners with a triple whammy of higher costs at a time when so many people are already facing hardship.

“The Government should be supporting Londoners through this difficult time, not making ill-advised and draconian proposals which will choke off our economic recovery.

“Ministers already forced TfL to bring forward proposals to increase the cost and hours of the congestion charge in May, now they want to expand it to cover four million more Londoners.

“They also want to significantly increase fares in London and hit all Londoners with a regressive new tax.

“It is clear that difficult choices lie ahead to plug the huge gap the pandemic left in TfL’s finances. I have been ready to talk with Government about how the necessary funds can be raised but a proposal which singles out Londoners for punishment is completely unacceptable, as well as making no economic sense.

Conservative Mayor of London candidate Shaun Bailey at the Conservative Party conference

Conservative Mayor of London candidate Shaun Bailey at the Conservative Party conference

According to the Financial Times , the letter demanded Mr Khan increas e council tax across the city, expand the congestion charge zone and put in place higher tube and bus fares (pictured on the tube in 2016)

According to the Financial Times , the letter demanded Mr Khan increas e council tax across the city, expand the congestion charge zone and put in place higher tube and bus fares (pictured on the tube in 2016)

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, wrote to Mr Khan with a series of demands in return for any financial rescue package

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, wrote to Mr Khan with a series of demands in return for any financial rescue package

“I urge ministers to come back to the table with a revised proposal which does not punish Londoners for doing the right thing to tackle Covid-19 and to publish their review into TfL’s finances in full.”

Mr Khan’s outburst came after he said the government had threatened to take away his control of Transport for London unless he cuts costs and increased fares in return for a rescue package.

The London mayor needs a £4.9bn settlement to bail out TfL for the next 18 months after passenger numbers collapsed and revenue crumbled as a result of the pandemic.

The government gave an initial six-month package of support worth £1.6bn to the vast transport authority in May.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, wrote to Mr Khan with a series of demands in return for any financial rescue package.

According to the Financial Times, the letter demanded Mr Khan increascouncil tax across the city, expand the congestion charge zone and put in place higher tube and bus fares.

It also raised the controversial topic of pushing ahead with driverless trains. 

In return, Mr Shapps proposed a six-month funding deal to March 2021 dubbed ‘the H2 deal’ that would be replaced by a longer-term settlement.

But the transport secretary warned that the government’s support for London would ‘take a different form’ if the two sides failed to strike an H2 deal or if its terms were not met.

The board of TfL is set to hold a crunch meeting on the settlement on Wednesday.

‘We will be taking reserve legislative powers allowing us if necessary to direct TfL,’ said Mr Shapps in the letter.

‘This would be combined with a further series of short-term funding settlements.’

In a reply on October 6, Mr Khan turned down the set to demands and insisted a rise in council tax for Londoners would ‘place even more reliance on an already broken form of taxation and would be regressive’.

On expanding the congestion zone, he added: ‘This blunt approach would have a catastrophic effect on the economy of inner London and beyond.’

The Government has since been accused of demanding ‘punitive’ conditions to agree the funding deal.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: ‘The speculation that the Government are threatening to take direct control of TfL sounds like more bullying by this administration designed to impose their will on Londoners and ride roughshod over local democracy.

‘While we await official confirmation on the future funding arrangements for transport in the capital, RMT reiterates our position that we will not tolerate any attacks on jobs and conditions from any quarter as part of any deal.’ 

The government’s battle with the mayor of London comes at an awkward time for devolution, as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland impose their own lockdown restrictions and Boris Johnson walked away from negotiations for support for Greater Manchester.   

In his letter Mr Shapps said he expected Londoners to pay more through a supplement to their council tax to help improve TfL’s finances.

He also made clear he expected the mayor to begin ‘pensions and workplace reform’ at TfL, accelerate the ‘inadequate’ progress on implementing driverless trains, cut fare concessions for children and pensioners and implement a fares increase of more than the ‘RPI inflation + 1 per cent’ model agreed in May.

The mayor has imposed a fares freeze over the past four years. The transport secretary also urged the mayor to extend the central London congestion charging zone to cover the same areas as the ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ from October 2021. 

He compared the imposition of stringent conditions on London with the government’s ‘continued blank cheque’ for the rail industry with only minimal conditions.

A spokesman for the Mayor of London said negotiations with the Government were continuing, but added: ‘Suffice it to say there is simply no way any mayor could accept conditions of this nature, which would make it harder to tackle the virus and choke off London’s economic recovery at the worst possible time.’ 

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: ‘We have agreed an extension to the support period and to roll over unspent funding from the Transport for London Extraordinary Funding Agreement, allowing further time for negotiations for a new settlement.

‘These discussions will ensure London has a safe, reliable network. It would be inappropriate to disclose further details at this stage.’

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