UK government urged to protect access to cash for most vulnerable

Vulnerable people risk being unable to access the money they need to pay for goods and services, unless the government acts to support the “fragile” cash system, the consumer group Which? has warned.

Hilary Osborne www.theguardian.com 

The coronavirus crisis has accelerated the adoption of contactless and other cashless transactions across the UK and led to sharp drops in ATM use as more people shop online or opt for what they perceive to be safer payment methods.

However, research by Which? found that many of those who had been unable to shop for themselves had used cash to reimburse friends and family who had stepped in to help.

A survey of more than 2,000 people carried out for the group found that one in five were helping someone else, either by managing their finances or shopping for food or essentials. Of these, 51% had been reimbursed in cash.

The research also found that one in 10 people had tried to pay a retailer in cash and been refused.

In March’s budget the government said it would legislate to protect access to cash for as long as people needed it after the Access to Cash Review warned that more than 8 million UK adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

Debit cards overtook notes and coins as the main form of spending in 2017, and at that point it was predicted that cash would fall to just 16% of payments within a decade.

However, the crisis has accelerated the fall in cash use. At the start of April the limit for contactless payments was increased to £45, making it an option for more purchases.

Cash machine operators have reported a huge drop in the number of withdrawals. Link, for example, said it saw a 60% fall in April, although it said £1bn a week was still being withdrawn.

Which? said the government should act to ensure people could continue to use cash to pay for essential goods and services during the pandemic, including providing information for businesses on how to accept cash safely. It also urged the government to bring forward legislation before people are cut off from cash.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Failure to do so risks excluding millions of people from engaging in the economy.

It’s vital that the already fragile cash system is not left to collapse completely as the UK’s shift to a cashless society accelerates.”

Labour’s shadow economic secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden, said the research showed the “urgent need” to protect free access to cash.

“The impact of lockdown has accelerated the decline in the use of cash overall but it still remains a crucial means of paying for many people,” he said.

“Without clear legislation, we risk the creation of cash deserts. We cannot allow financial exclusion of those who rely on cash purchases and face-to-face banking.”

Planning applications for East Devon validated last week

Since EDDC seems to be getting back to business but not quite Owl hopes ,”as usual”, here is the list of planning applications validated last week:

 

Coronavirus why R is not the only number that matters

Many of Owl’s readers have been looking at the article on high rates of R in the South West – but it isn’t the only important metric governing the rate of infection spread.

K number: what is the coronavirus metric that could be crucial as lockdown eases?

Nicola Davis www.theguardian.

When deciding how and when lockdown restrictions will be lifted across the UK, the government has said the R value, denoting how many people on average one infected person will themselves infect, is crucial. But experts say another metric is becoming increasingly important: K.

What is K?

K sheds light on the variation behind R. “Some [infectious] people might generate a lot of secondary cases because of the event they attend, for example, and other people may not generate many secondary cases at all,” said Dr Adam Kucharski, an expert in the dynamics of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“K is the statistical value that tells us how much variation there is in that distribution.”

But unlike R, K numbers are not intuitive. “The general rule is that the smaller the K value is, the more transmission comes from a smaller number of infectious people,” said Kucharski.

“Once K is above about five or 10 it tells you most people are generating pretty similar numbers [of secondary cases], you are not getting these super-spreading events. Once K is below one, you have got the potential for super-spreading.”

Is K fixed, or does it fluctuate with public health measures, like R does?

As with the rate of transmission, there is a K valuethat relates to transmission when you do not have any control measures in place. Once measures are implemented, however, the distribution in transmission changes. “It is unlikely that with lockdown measures in place you’d see a lot of super-spreading events simply because there aren’t any opportunities for them,” said Kucharski. “So if you were to analyse that data, you’d probably calculate a different K value because you have got those control measures changing the dynamics of interactions.”

What is the K number for Covid-19?

In the absence of public health measures, “the values that are coming out for Covid-19 seems to be between about 0.1 and 0.5,” said Kucharski. That, he says, means that in the early stages of an outbreak about 10-20% of infections probably generate about 80% of the transmission.

In other words, super-spreading matters – a reality highlighted by reports such as that from South Korea where one individual is thought to have infected dozens of others by attending church.

But Kucharski cautioned against the use of the term super-spreader. “I think we do have to be really careful about blaming people because often it is not really much about the person, it is much more about the environment they happened to be in while they were infectious,” he said.

Why is K important?

Knowing the K value helps to inform what sort of public health measures may help to reduce R.

“If we can identify and reduce the situations that are disproportionately driving transmission, then that suggests that we could actually have potentially quite a lot less disruptive measures in place, but still keep the reproduction number low,” said Kucharski.

But it could also be important for test-and-trace measures, he said. “If cases occur at random, it’s very hard to track down and stop every chain of transmission. But if cases cluster together, and we can identify those clusters, testing and tracing directed at these situations could have a disproportionate effect on reducing transmission.”

How might the relaxation of the lockdown affect ?

Lockdown reduces the chances of a single infectious person spreading the disease to others. “Obviously if you start to allow larger gatherings, have larger workplaces, if you have other types of interaction starting, then that does increase the chance that one infection could spread to more people than it would have been able to a couple of weeks ago,” said Kucharski. “It could decrease the K, but it could also increase the R.”

The Devon car parks that are now charging (and the ones that aren’t)

As the lockdown begins to ease with more measures relaxed, life is beginning to get back to normal across Devon – and that includes car parking charges.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.

Across the county in the majority of areas, changes were made to car parking charges which meant that car parks were either free or at a much reduced rate.

But now with some non-essential retail shops beginning to reopening and the country attempting to recover from the coronavirus crisis, parking charges in most car parks are now back in force.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service takes a look at the various restrictions and charges across Devon.

TEIGNBRIDGE

Normal fees and charges apply and existing permits remain valid in all car parks. Non-essential workers should pay the appropriate charges.

Those essential workers and volunteers who are travelling to perform an essential role will receive free car parking. These are:

  • All blue light service staff
  • NHS and private health care workers
  • Social care workers
  • Businesses and volunteers delivering essential food and medicine.

EXETER

Mary Arches Street Car Park and John Lewis Car Park are closed. Residents’ parking permits in all surface car parks during the outbreak are being accepted.

Normal fees and charges apply and existing permits remain valid in all car parks. Non-essential workers should pay the appropriate charges.

EAST DEVON

The winter offer of all day parking for £2 that was extended for April and May has been extended by a further week. There is free parking for NHS staff, Social Care staff and volunteers in all EDDC pay and display car parks who display valid ID/permit/key worker status

SOUTH HAMS

Normal parking charges will apply in all of car parks from June 1

WEST DEVON

Normal parking charges in all car parks have already been reintroduced

MID DEVON

Normal fees and charges apply and existing permits remain valid in all car parks. Non-essential workers should pay the appropriate charges. Free parking in all car parks is offered to essential workers who display valid ID/permit/key worker status

NORTH DEVON

Charging in NDC car parks in Ilfracombe, Hele, Mortehoe and Croyde resumed on Saturday 23 May. To avoid the risk of infection, the machines will not be taking cash and customers are advised to use the RingGo system or contactless payment card to pay. Parking charges remain suspended in all other North Devon Council-owned car parks until further notice

TORRIDGE

Parking charges in Torridge District Council car parks will be suspended until June 15.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL

All parking charges for on-street car parks and residents’ parking permits areas have resumed

TORBAY

Parking charges both on and off street are in operation at all times.

Key workers who work or volunteer for the NHS and social care to support our most vulnerable residents will continue to get free parking in council operated parking areas, providing the relevant paperwork is displayed on vehicle dashboards, and they are on duty where use of their car is necessary