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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San Francisco Firefighters Rescue Man Stranded on Cliffs Near Golden Gate Bridge



Firefighters in San Francisco, California, rescued a man from the Battery Crosby cliffs near the Golden Gate Bridge in the early hours of October 21, they said. A local reporter said the rescued individual was a man in his 30s. It was initially reported that four people had gone missing. Later, firefighters reported that only one person was missing. Local reporter Sara Stinson said that three people who called 911 after hearing the man’s screams also got lost but were quickly located by the rescue team. The SFFD livestreamed the rescue operation. This footage was shared by the Twitter account San Francisco Fire Department Media and shows the moment the man is rescued from the cliffs. Credit: San Francisco Fire Department Media via Storyful



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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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Britain and EU to try to rescue post-Brexit trade talks


October 18, 2020

By Paul Sandle and Jan Strupczewski

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain and the European Union will on Monday attempt to breathe life into post-Brexit trade talks that appeared all but dead last week, with each side telling the other it needed to fundamentally change course.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks and it was time to prepare for a ‘no-deal’ exit when transitional arrangements end on Dec. 31.

But Michael Gove, one of his senior ministers, struck a more conciliatory tone on Sunday, saying the door was still ajar to a deal if the bloc was willing to compromise.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been due in London for talks with his British counterpart David Frost this week. Instead, they will now speak by telephone on Monday to discuss the structure of future talks, Barnier’s spokesman said.

Negotiations broke down on Thursday when the European Union said Britain needed to give ground.

Issues still to be resolved include fair competition rules, dispute resolution and fisheries.

Gove said on Sunday that the bloc had squandered some of the progress that had been made because it had not been willing to intensify talks or produce detailed legal texts.

“We hope that the EU will change their position; we’re certainly not saying if they do change their position that we can’t talk to them,” he said.

Asked by Sky News if Barnier should come to London, Gove said the ball was “in his court”.

EU diplomats and officials cast Johnson’s move as little more than rhetoric, portraying it as a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal was done, and European leaders have asked Barnier to continue talks.

“A DEAL, BUT NOT AT ANY PRICE”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both sides would be needed. French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a Brexit deal more than the 27-nation EU, which remained united.

“We are ready for a deal, but not at any price,” Macron said.

A “no deal” finale to the United Kingdom’s five-year Brexit crisis would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers, farmers and nearly every other sector – just as the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

“It is not my preferred destination,” Gove said in an opinion piece in the Sunday Times.

“But if the choice is between arrangements that tie our hands indefinitely, or where we can shape our own future, then that’s no choice at all. And leaving on Australian terms is an outcome for which we are increasingly well prepared.”

Critics say that an “Australian-style” deal is simply code for no deal at all with Britain’s largest export market.

Britain is launching a campaign this week urging businesses to step up preparations for a no-deal exit. In a statement accompanying the launch, Gove says: “Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.”

More than 70 British business groups representing over 7 million workers on Sunday urged politicians to get back to the negotiating table next week and strike a deal.

“With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through,” they said.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)





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Trade period, Gold Coast Suns picks, AFL rescue package Gold Coast Suns, 2020 draft, 2021 draft, list sizes 2021


The AFL have banned the Gold Coast Suns from trading their 2021 concession pick in the upcoming 2020 trade period, with the pick being reviewed by the league.

Last year, the Suns received a three-year assistance package in a bid to pick them up off the canvas after some horror seasons, with the package including the No.1 pick in last year’s draft, the first pick of the second round in last year’s draft, a middle first-round pick in this year’s draft and the first pick of the second round in the 2021 draft.

The deal was widely criticised by former players and several club presidents.

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In a statement released by AFL headquarters, the league said the last of those concessions was not able to be traded this year and is under review after the Suns’ breakout season.

“The Commission determined there would be no change at this time to the concessions provided to the Gold Coast Football Club over three years at last December’s Commission meeting,” the statement read.

“The Commission decided these concessions will be re-assessed at its October meeting in 2021.

“In line with that process, the Gold Coast Football Club will not be able to trade their 2021 start of second-round selection they currently hold in the upcoming AFL Trade Period.”

List managers met with the league on Thursday, hoping for clarity around list sizes and total player payments for 2021.

But they left disappointed, with the league hopeful of a resolution by the start of the trade period on November 4.

In August Alastair Clarkson urged the league to reach a consensus so clubs could plan ahead. And with 14 of the 18 teams entire focus now directed towards next year, the two parties remain some distance apart.

Gillon McLachlan told media in the transition hub on September 3 that answers were “a few weeks away.”

Patrick Dangerfield, president of the AFLPA, said last week the players were committed to “the right number”, even if that means fewer jobs for his colleagues.

The AFLPA’s starting position was for 0 per cent pay cuts, while SEN reported on Wednesday the league wanted the players to cop a 30 per cent reduction in wage.

The most nervous club through all of these negotiations has been the Gold Coast Suns, who began the year with 51 players on their list. They were fearful the AFL would make drastic cuts across the board, but on Thursday the league confirmed it would stagger any potential cuts pro-rata.



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Tasmanian cavers ‘crawling on hands and knees’ during mammoth rescue at Mount Cripps


A Tasmanian caver has recounted the experience of helping rescue his friend in an hours-long overnight operation in a remote area in the state’s rugged west.

A 62-year-old man from Ulverstone in the state’s north-west became stuck in a cave at Cripps Mountain, near Cradle Mountain, on Saturday afternoon after he slipped off a ladder and hurt his back.

Southern Tasmanian Caverneers search and rescue officer Alan Jackson, who has known the man for 20 years, got the call from two of the man’s party, who hiked for hours to get to mobile phone reception.

“They gave me a description of where they were and just asked me to get as many people together as possible to head up there quickly,” Mr Jackson told ABC Radio Hobart.

Mr Jackson was one of about 40 rescuers from groups including Ambulance Tasmania, the State Emergency Service, Police and other caving groups who worked for eight hours to free the man.

It was a complex and long rescue operation.(Supplied: Chris Weare)

The man’s daughter, herself an avid caver, was also part of the rescue team.

After safety briefings and extensive setting up, they reached the man about 1:00am Sunday morning.

He was about 80 metres into a 270-metre-long cave, but the area was very narrow in places and difficult to navigate.

“He’d fallen on the bottom section of an 8 metre drop, so he was in quite a big chamber but there’s a small waterfall in there too so he was wet and cold,” Mr Jackson said.

While the cave itself wasn’t too small, he said the passages leading to it were “generally pretty constricted”.

“You could get through with your helmet on though, which is always a good thing.”

The rescuers rigged a rope up the vertical drop and carefully hoisted the man up, all while avoiding the nearby waterfall.

A group of rescuers stand around an injured caver on a stretcher with a helicopter hovering above
About 60 people were involved in the rescue.(Suppled: Chris Weare)

“We had to thread him through the water, try to keep him dry, and land him at the horizontal passage at the top. It’s all good fun.”

Mr Jackson said getting the man out on a stretcher was the hardest part.

They took three different sized stretchers to the site to use depending on the size of the tunnels and had to use the lightest one — a spine support which left the legs hanging freely.

“When you’ve got about 75 kilograms of dead weight packaged up on a stretcher they can’t help you at all, it’s very difficult to move them.”

Race against hypothermia

Mr Jackson said the biggest concern for the man’s health was the risk of hypothermia.

“Tasmanian caves are always cold, about 7 or 8 degrees all year round, and he’d fallen into the water so he was saturated,” he said.

“He had various injuries in his back and while the paramedics said they probably wouldn’t cause him major problems, it was going to hurt and there would be things broken in there … we’ve since discovered it’s probably a bit worse than that.”

The man was on Monday in a stable condition in the Royal Hobart Hospital, and Mr Jackson said even as the rescue was underway, he lived up to his “long history of being very talkative”.

“He was drugged up to the eyeballs obviously, but he was very lucid, very apologetic and carrying on a lot,” Mr Jackson said.

“I was with him the whole time … I was blocking holes so he wouldn’t fall into them so he slid over the top of me at various points.”

He said it was very touching to watch the man’s daughter’s professionalism during the rescue, and her relief once it was all over.

“She just stayed calm and threw herself at the job…I’m not a very emotional person but it was great to see.”

Mr Jackson said it seemed his friend wouldn’t be giving up adventuring anytime soon.

“I’ve been talking with his wife on the phone and he’s optimistic, making all these ridiculous assertions about the trips he has planned.”



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Man injured in cave fall on Tasmania’s West Coast taken to hospital after 8-hour rescue


A man has spent a night in a cave on Tasmania’s West Coast after falling several metres and injuring himself, with rescuers having to hike for hours in order to raise the alarm.

Tasmania Police said a 62-year-old man from Ulverstone, in the state’s north, was caving near Mount Cripps with friends on Saturday when he slipped on a ladder and fell.

Two of the caving party hiked for several hours to an area where there was phone service to raise the alarm.

“A joint search and rescue effort involving Ambulance Tasmania, police, SES personnel and members of the Northern Caverneers Caving Club was launched and, despite difficult terrain and weather, reached the caves in the early hours of this morning,” police said in a statement on Sunday.

At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Acting Inspector Dave Chapman said while it took about 20 minutes for rescuers to get from the entrance to the cave to the man’s location, it took “almost eight hours to bring him out”, negotiating a “downward section with a waterfall” — with the “patient wet and cold because of that”.

It wasnt a long fall, only a few metres, enough to hurt his back,” Acting Inspector Chapman said, adding the caving party “did all the right things” following the incident.

Police said it took eight hours to bring the man to safety.(Supplied: Tassietravelsblog)

The man, described by Acting Inspector Chapman as “a very experienced caver”, had mild hypothermia along and a back injury and was taken to the North West Regional Hospital by the Westpac Rescue helicopter.

Acting Inspector Chapman said about 60 people were involved at the “peak” of the rescue operation.

Earlier, police said all rescue equipment had to be walked into the location, which is 1.5 hours’ walk from the nearest road.



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Firefighters rescue student stuck in tumble dryer after prank


British student Rosie Cole found things had taken a turn for the worse after she climbed into a tumble dryer for a prank.

Rosie, 21, had to be rescued by firefighters when her legs got stuck and her Hull University housemates could not pull her out.

Rosie had been drinking with her housemates when she was dared to get inside the dryer.

RELATED: Cat survives 12-minute hot water washing machine cycle

The student thought there was “no chance” she’d fit, but was suddenly stuck inside the dryer after wiggling her way in.

Emergency services were called and it took three firefighters to successfully rescue her.

“I definitely won’t be trying it again,” Rosie said.

“It was definitely not one of my finest moments, I will be leaving this one out of the CV.

“I’m not going to lie, I never do my own washing anyway, I’ve never even used the dryer.

“But maybe I should start putting my clothes in it when they’re not on my body.”

Housemate Lydia Dunwell, 21, was woken up to the sound of sirens blaring.

She said she was left “shocked” and “speechless” when she found it was due to Rosie being stuck inside the dryer.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission



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70 pilot whales now returned to sea as rescue operation on Tasmania’s West Coast enters fourth day



Rescuers working to save the survivors of Tasmania’s largest ever mass whale stranding say more than 70 animals have now been successfully returned to deeper water.

About 270 pilot whales became stranded on a sandbar near Strahan, about 190 kilometres from Hobart on Tasmania’s West Coast, earlier this week.

Another 200 were found, mostly dead, about 7 to 10 kilometres away after an aerial scan yesterday.

Rescuers will today focus their efforts on the returning the remaining surviving whales stuck on Fraser Flats, in Macquarie Harbour, to deeper water.

Yesterday Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service confirmed 380 of the whales had died.

Wildlife biologist with the Marine Conservation Program Sam Thalmann described the effort to re-float the animals as “challenging”.

“But the rewards as we have seen over the last few days with over 70 animals released are great and they’re very much well worth the effort,” he said.

More to come.



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