PM repeatedly made inaccurate claims about child poverty – watchdog

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: ‘It is shameful that the Prime Minister is unable to tell the truth about the hardship faced by so many families struggling to make ends meet.

‘Children and families in such difficult circumstances deserve better than this shabby treatment from an out-of-touch Prime Minister who has repeatedly failed to be honest about the challenges they face.

‘The Prime Minister must now correct the record, both publicly and in Parliament, and ensure that when he next raises his Government’s damning record on child poverty, he comes clean about what the stats are saying.

Boris Johnson exaggerated the government’s record on poverty by repeatedly using inaccurate and misleading figures, the UK statistics watchdog has found.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) made the statement in response to a complaint from the End Child Poverty Coalition, which said the Prime Minister had used data ‘selectively, inaccurately and, ultimately, misleadingly’ since last December’s General Election.

The coalition said Mr Johnson’s claim on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on December 1 that there are ‘400,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010’ was incorrect.

It also said Mr Johnson’s statement that ‘absolutely poverty and relative poverty have both declined under this Government’ and ‘there are hundreds of thousands, I think 400,000, fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010’, made at PMQs on June 17, this year was also untrue.

Furthermore, the coalition contended that at PMQs a week later, Mr Johnson incorrectly said ‘there are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty and 500,000 children falling below thresholds of low income and material deprivation’.

Boris Johnson exaggerated the government’s record on poverty by repeatedly using inaccurate and misleading figures, the UK statistics watchdog has found

Boris Johnson’s inaccurate claims on child poverty 

December 1: The Prime Minister said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that there are ‘400,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010’.

June 17: Mr Johnson told the Commons at PMQs that ‘absolutely poverty and relative poverty have both declined under this Government’ and ‘there are hundreds of thousands, I think 400,000, fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010’.

June 24: The PM said at PMQs: ‘There are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty and 500,000 children falling below thresholds of low income and material deprivation’.

In the letter, Anna Feuchtwang, chairwoman of the coalition, said it cannot be right that such figures are used ‘selectively’.

She wrote: ‘While it is expected – and right – that child poverty should be the subject of robust political debate, it cannot be right that official figures on something as fundamental as how many children are in poverty continue to be used selectively, inaccurately and, ultimately, misleadingly.’

Responding to the complaints set out in the letter, Ed Humpherson, director-general for regulation at the authority, said: ‘Our team has investigated the statements which you highlight (and has reached the same conclusion that these statements are incorrect).’

Poverty is difficult to definitively calculate, as the OSR explains there are four official measurements which can be used.

These are relative poverty, which records households with less than 60 per cent of contemporary median income, before and after housing costs, and absolute poverty, which compares numbers against baseline figures from 2010/11, again before and after housing costs.

In March, data from the Department for Work and Pensions estimated the number of people living in a relative low-income household after housing costs had risen to 4.5 million in 2018-19 from four million the year before.

It was the highest number of people living in poverty in the UK since figures were collated in 2002.

Poverty is difficult to definitively calculate, as the OSR explains there are four official measurements which can be used. These are relative poverty, which records households with less than 60 per cent of contemporary median income, before and after housing costs, and absolute poverty, which compares numbers against baseline figures from 2010/11, again before and after housing costs

An OSR blog post reads: ‘There is no wrong measure, but there is a wrong way of using the available measures – and that is to pick and choose which statistics to use based on what best suits the argument you happen to be making.’

Ms Feuchtwang said she welcomed the conclusion from the watchdog that the Prime Minister had used child poverty statistics incorrectly.

‘It is deeply insulting to the children and families swept into poverty when data about them is used selectively and misleadingly at the whim of politicians,’ she said.

‘The simple fact is that by any measures child poverty is rising but instead of tackling the problem the Government risks obscuring the issue and misinforming the public.

‘The lives of real people are at stake and we need consistent use of information and urgent action.’

Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said: ‘The hard truth is that child poverty is growing in the UK but the Government is in denial on this – that has to shift.

‘If we are to make progress, the problem must be confronted not circumvented.

‘If the will and the focus are there, a strategy can be agreed and action taken to prevent more children from being damaged by poverty.’

She added: ‘It’s our moral responsibility to safeguard children from poverty and to invest in them.

‘It’s also the most significant investment we as a nation can make for our future.’

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said that the longer the UK is in denial of the scale of child poverty, the harder it will be to fix.

‘This isn’t about the Punch and Judy of PMQs,’ said Mr Hussain.

‘Admitting that rising numbers of ordinary families are struggling to keep their children clothed and well fed matters to good policy making.

‘You can’t ‘level up’ the country if you’re sweeping under the carpet the big rises in child poverty clearly shown by the official figures.

‘The longer we’re in denial about the scale of the problem, the harder it will be to fix it.’

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the Prime Minister must ‘come clean’ and correct the record on the issue.

She said: ‘It is shameful that the Prime Minister is unable to tell the truth about the hardship faced by so many families struggling to make ends meet.

‘Children and families in such difficult circumstances deserve better than this shabby treatment from an out-of-touch Prime Minister who has repeatedly failed to be honest about the challenges they face.

‘The Prime Minister must now correct the record, both publicly and in Parliament, and ensure that when he next raises his Government’s damning record on child poverty, he comes clean about what the stats are saying.

BBC One – Panorama, The Forgotten Frontline – tonight 2100

BBC One – Panorama, The Forgotten Frontline

www.bbc.co.uk /programmes/m000lbq0

This programme will be available shortly after broadcast

Panorama follows the unfolding tragedy in care homes as they struggle to protect residents against Covid-19. Alison Holt asks if they were left to fight the virus alone.

Panorama follows the unfolding tragedy in care homes as they struggle to protect residents against the killer virus. Over several months, cameras were allowed into two very different care homes, revealing the dedication of care staff, the frustration of managers and the heartache as more and more lives were lost.

Across the country, more than 20,000 residents and care workers have died with Covid-19. Reporter Alison Holt asks if care homes were abandoned to fight the virus alone.

Comparisons of all-cause mortality between European countries and regions – ONS

“While England did not have the highest peak mortality, it did have the longest continuous period of excess mortality of any country compared, resulting in England having the highest levels of excess mortality in Europe for the period as a whole.”

www.ons.gov.uk 

1. Things you need to know about this release

There has been considerable interest in international comparisons of mortality during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The best way of comparing the mortality impact internationally is by looking at all-cause mortality rates by local area, region and country compared with the five-year average. All-cause mortality avoids the problem of different countries recording COVID-19 deaths in different ways, and also takes into account the indirect impact of the pandemic, such as deaths from other causes that might be related to delayed access to healthcare.

2. Main points

  • Within countries there has been considerable variation in mortality; in the UK, every local authority area (NUTS3) experienced excess mortality during the peak weeks of excess mortality (week ending 3 April to week ending 8 May 2020), while other Western European countries experienced more geographically localised excess mortality.
  • Analysis of Weeks 8 to 24 (week ending 21 February to week ending 12 June) at local authority level (NUTS3) across Europe shows that the highest rates of excess mortality were in areas in Central Spain and Northern Italy; Bergamo (Northern Italy) had the highest peak excess mortality of 847.7% (week ending 20 March) compared with the highest in the UK, Brent at 357.5% (week ending 17 April).
  • Looking at major cities, the highest peak excess mortality was in Madrid at 432.7% (week ending 27 March) while in the UK, Birmingham had the highest peak excess mortality of any major British city at 249.7% (week ending 17 April).
  • Of the four nations of the UK, England had the highest peak excess mortality (107.6% in week ending 17 April).
  • England saw the second highest national peak of excess mortality during Weeks 8 to 24 (week ending 21 February to week ending 12 June), compared with 21 European countries, with only Spain seeing a higher peak; at the equivalent of local authority level, areas of Central Spain and Northern Italy saw the highest peaks of excess mortality and exceeded any parts of the UK.
  • While England did not have the highest peak mortality, it did have the longest continuous period of excess mortality of any country compared, resulting in England having the highest levels of excess mortality in Europe for the period as a whole.
  • This article looks at all-cause mortality as a comparable international indicator of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and does not specifically analyse deaths involving COVID-19; deaths are shown for the UK countries by date of registration.

[Much more to read on the web-site www.ons.gov.uk ]

Cummings trips damaged UK lockdown unity, study suggests

The scandal over Dominic Cummings’ trips to and around Durham during lockdown damaged trust and was a key factor in the breakdown of a sense of national unity amid the coronavirus pandemic, research suggests.

“Disruptor” Cummings lives up to his name – Owl

Patrick Butler www.theguardian.com 

 

Revelations that Cummings and his family travelled to his parents’ farm despite ministers repeatedly imploring the public to stay at home – as exposed by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror in May – also crystallised distrust in politicians over the crisis, according to a report from the thinktank British Future.

The findings emerged in a series of surveys, diaries and interviews carried out over the first months of the pandemic as the public got to grips with profound changes to their habits, relationships and lifestyles.

It found that while the start of lockdown forged a new community spirit and softened divisions caused by Brexit, this dissipated as the Cummings scandal emerged, lockdown rules were eased and social tensions resurfaced, especially over how far people observed social distancing rules.

While the pandemic has made the UK overall less divided – and revealed an appetite to hang on to perceived gains in community spirit created under lockdown – it warns that tensions could re-emerge in the coming recession over issues such as growing perceptions of a gap between rich and poor.

Jill Rutter, the author of the report, said: “There’s a risk that past divides are re-emerging as society starts to reopen. The shared experience of lockdown made many people feel more connected to their neighbours and local community. Now that sense of togetherness is starting to fray. The good news is that people would rather we kept hold of it.”

The study notes: “The perception that the prime minister’s adviser, Dominic Cummings, had broken lockdown rules was a highly salient issue that appeared to damage trust in politicians.”

Participants in the research grew “noticeably angrier” about politicians after the revelations, although it also served to create fresh consensus. “It was not, however, as divisive an incident as might be thought. Most people, irrespective of their political views, appeared to disapprove of Cummings’ action.”

The study was carried out for the /Together coalition, a campaign set up in the wake of Brexit to bridge social divides and build a kinder society. It comprises two surveys of more than 2,000 people carried out in early March and late May and June, and material from online discussion groups and 36 WhatsApp diarists.

The start of lockdown heralded a new community spirit, characterised by neighbourly generosity, volunteering, enhanced social connectedness, and “acts of kindness from strangers” – all promoting strong feelings of national unity, the study found.

This sense of togetherness and generosity, typified by the weekly clap for carers in support of the NHS and other frontline workers, made people feel “part of something that was positive and larger than just their street” and helped heal deep social divisions over Brexit.

But by mid-May, this unity had started to dissipate, researchers found, with the perception that “some groups of people were not observing social distancing rules” becoming a major source of division, especially as lockdown rules were eased.

In addition to the Cummings revelations, the sense of unity broke down further as differences in lockdown policy emerged between the Westminster and devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There were also differences in attitudes to, and experiences of, the pandemic between young and old, and home workers and key workers.

A major public concern was the division between rich and poor. “It was felt that those in power needed to address wealth divides, but also recognise that more work was needed to bring people together in urban areas with a more transient population.”

There was widespread support for the Black Lives Matter campaign – including broad support from people of all ethic groups and ages for action to tackle inequality and racial prejudice in the UK – although there was concern about violence on some of the protests.

The study urges the government to invest in the positive bonds created under lockdown, such as in volunteering programmes. “Our leaders, whatever their political views, need to make healing social divides a priority, and to commit a practical agenda to make it happen,” it said.

Quotes on Cummings in answer to a question posed in early June: Are we more divided or more united as a country?

More divided, two reasons. The first is the Dominic Cummings saga. The vast majority of people see it as one rule for those in charge and one rule for everyone else and this is now causing issues as many people are flaunting lockdown rules, whilst others are at the opposite end of the scale and worried about government advice and whether to trust them.” – Male, 45, Yorkshire, remain supporter

“We are a little less together than we were. During the height of … lockdown I felt there was a real community/‘in this together spirit’, which probably peaked at VE Day. Then as lockdown eased, different people were at different levels and saw the easing differently. But then the Cummings situation kind of brought everyone back together again. Today I would say we are at very early days of how things were before lockdown, albeit a little bit more community spirit than before.” – Female, east of England, leave supporter

“In short: undoubtedly more divided. More detail: it was relatively easy to persuade the country to go into lockdown. Easing the restrictions has produced a whole spectrum of differing opinions never mind the uproar the Dominic Cummings saga has added to the debate.” – Male, West Midlands

Breathtaking: Dorset village Chideock ranks worst for air pollution

A town or village with an “East/West” arterial road running through it?

Ring any bells in East Devon?

Rhys Blakely, Science Correspondent www.thetimes.co.uk 

A village in Dorset has been identified as suffering some of the worst air pollution in England, with a taxi rank in Sheffield coming in second.

Chideock, which is about three miles west of Bridport on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, was found to have the highest levels of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the country. The readings have been blamed on the A35, which runs through the village.

NO2 has been shown to be linked to an array of health problems, including respiratory issues, increased risks of cancer and lower life expectancy. It is produced by fossil fuels.

Chideock recorded an annual average level of 97.7 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air in 2018, the most recent year for which records are available — more than twice the annual limit of 40 micrograms set by the government’s Air Quality Objective.

The station taxi rank in Sheffield recorded the second highest NO2 levels, according to a report which found that more than 1,300 sites across England had been breaching the annual limit.

The data comes from English local authorities’ air quality annual status reports, which are submitted to the government. They were analysed by Friends of the Earth, which said failing to fix air pollution was costing lives.

Calling for increased investment in cycling and walking, it added: “If ministers want to avoid a return to the health-damaging and illegal levels of air pollution we had before lockdown, their enthusiasm for “active travel” needs to be a permanent switch not just a short-term gap plugger.”

The ten worst

1. Chideock Hill, West Dorset (97.7 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air)

2. Station taxi rank, Sheffield (91.7)

3. North Street clocktower, Brighton (90.8)

4. Neville Street tunnel, Leeds (88)

5. Strand, City of Westminster (88)

6. Walbrook Wharf, City of London (87)

7. Hickleton, Doncaster (86)

8. Marylebone Road, City of Westminster (85)

9. Euston Road, London Borough of Camden (82.3)

10. Hickleton, John O’Gaunts, Doncaster (82)

Source: Friends of the Earth

Hedgehogs, squirrels and voles on extinction risk list

AND grey long-eared bats see:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/08/24/the-fight-to-protect-east-budleigh-bats-but-no-need-to-fight-in-beer/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/02/11/bats-in-east-budleigh-barn-cleared-24-hours-before-eddc-planning-committee-meets-to-decide-their-fate/

Owl has also recently received the following e-mail (site location unknown):

“An ecological survey was carried out in 2012 determining that no evidence found of BATS. At that time, the building was to be repaired. Now, permission has been granted for demolition and rebuilding. The approved application refers to an earlier survey only but was not followed up by EDDC planners to get a current BAT survey.
We live next door to the site and are amazed by the night activity of BATs when we sit out in the evening.
We suspect that there will be BATs in the old structure and these will be sent packing when the building is up for demolition this Autumn.

Is this a lost cause?”

(Owl advised contacting the planning officer – bat surveys only have a short validity)

Hedgehogs, squirrels and voles on extinction risk list

Tom Ballwww.thetimes.co.uk

A quarter of Britain’s native mammal species, including hedgehogs, red squirrels and water voles, are officially at risk of extinction, a pioneering assessment shows.

The new Red List drawn up by the Mammal Society meets international criteria used to assess threats to wildlife such as elephants and tigers and shows that 11 of our 47 native mammals are at risk of dying out.

They have become endangered because of threats ranging from historical persecution to the use of chemicals, loss of habitat and the introduction of non-native species.

At greatest risk are wildcats, of which there are fewer than 20 in the wild in Scotland, and greater mouse-eared bats, with only one known individual. Both species are classed as critically endangered.

Hedgehogs and hazel dormice are classed as vulnerable to extinction, and five species, including mountain hares and harvest mice, are judged to be nearing threatened status.

A report from 2018 found that the hedgehog population fell by almost 70 per cent in 20 years. The European wolf, brown bears and lynxes were all once native to Britain but became extinct hundreds of years ago. Beavers were hunted to extinction by the 1600s but were later reintroduced. They are once again classed as endangered, the second most threatened category, as are water voles, red squirrels and grey long-eared bats.

Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England, said that it was not too late to act.

Fiona Mathews, chairwoman of the Mammal Society, said that the Red List showed the need for changes to the planning system, where sustained monitoring of habitats and funding for habitat creation were needed.

“Once an animal becomes endangered it’s a scramble for time to put measures in place to rescue them, so we need to be taking a hard look at the species on the next level down so that it doesn’t become a crisis. It’s about right across the whole of the landscape, whether it’s urban areas, peri-urban areas or rural areas, we are making space so other animals can get the resources they need, food and shelter, because that’s the only realistic way forward.”

Professor Mathews is concerned about water voles, saying they have slipped off the radar. She added that hopes for wildcats now lay in captive breeding and possible reintroductions.

Beavers are doing well in the “isolated places” where they have been resettled but they are few and far between and face persecution that could kill them off again.

The Red List was produced by the Mammal Society for the government agencies Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. It is the first time it has been formally accepted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on a regional basis, which means it meets the internationally agreed criteria for assessing threats to wildlife.

British species facing extinction

Critically endangered Wildcat, greater mouse-eared bat

Endangered

Beaver, red squirrel, water vole, grey long-eared batVulnerable

Hedgehog, hazel dormouse, Orkney vole, Serotine bat, Barbastelle batNear threatened

Mountain hare, harvest mouse, lesser white-toothed shrew, Leisler’s bat, Nathusius’s pipistrelleExtinct

European wolf

Government not doing enough to stop coronavirus second wave, says British Medical Association chief

The government is not doing everything it should to stop a second wave of coronavirus from hitting the UK, the British Medical Association’s top doctor has warned.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is chairing the APPG’s inquiry at which BMA chair Dr Nagpaul was speaking, told The Independent: “It is deeply concerning that the government still has no overall strategy to aim for zero Covid, as medical experts are calling for. Ministers must come forward with a clear plan, informed by the science, which seeks to eliminate this deadly virus from the UK.

See East Devon Watch on towards zero Covid.

The intervention comes as Boris Johnson pointed the finger at Europe and said “swift” action was being taken to prevent localised outbreaks identified on the continent spreading back to the UK.

However, epidemiologists told The Independent that the government’s own policy failures would likely play a part in an “inevitable” increased infection rate in the UK – which still has a higher death ratio than most of its neighbours.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s council, told MPs on Wednesday that confused messaging from the government and lack of a “systemic approach” on policies like mask wearing and social distancing was behind a weekly rise in infections.

Warning that there were “too many examples of potential spread” he told a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus: “At the moment we’re not doing everything we should in trying to contain the virus.

“If I look even at something as simple as our messages on social distancing: we’re told that social distancing is still two metres, or one metre plus.

“Do you think any member of the public understands what one metre plus means? What does the plus mean? Many don’t really understand this because it’s not clear and they’re not social distancing.”

He also pointed to potential deficiencies in the government’s mask policy, adding: “If you want to suppress a virus you don’t just make an announcement and then leave people with free will whether to wear them … you then follow that up with a very systematic approach to make sure that happens.

“What I mean by suppressing is you take an attitude that says: we want to do absolutely everything to make sure the infection doesn’t spread. That needs a much more robust approach.”

He warned: “The point is that I’m not sure that sense of clear, single-minded determination to do everything we can is being done and that’s what I mean by suppressing: to really take the attitude that yes, we can resume normal living – you can go out, you can do things, but make sure that we have very clear messages about what is expected of both the public and workers to stop the spread.

“There are measures that can be taken and at the moment I think I see too many examples of potential spread, just walking out into the high street and peering through shop windows. If a hair dresser wears a visor without a mask, that’s not going to suppress the virus. Has that message gone to all employers as to what needs to be done to stop the spread of the virus?

“If you look at the figures at the moment, the last ONS figures from last Friday, the weekly figures, the infection rate has increased. We’re now seeing about 2,700 new cases a day compared to 2,500 the week before. And so I think now is the time we must be much more robust and rigorous about how we mitigate the spread.”

Boris Johnson on Tuesday said there were signs that a “second wave” of coronavirus would hit, but blamed Europe for the potential return. The UK still has a significantly higher death rate than other European countries, but some have seen a rise in the rate of infections in recent weeks.

Britain reported a further 119 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, taking the official death total to 45,878. An additional 581 people also tested positive, slightly down on recent days.

Academics told The Independent that a second lockdown was unlikely because of a lack of public appetite, but that other measures needed to be sharpened up to prevent a serious resurgence in cases.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior consultant in Communicable Disease Control at the University of Exeter said the messaging around the lifting of lockdown had been “unfortunate” and that it was “inevitable” that cases would go up.

“When the prime minister lifted lockdown, I said it was unbelievably premature. There were mixed messages – people don’t listen to the chief medical officer saying we must do this carefully and take precautions, because the virus is still there. But they do listen to the prime minister saying let’s go out and celebrate, and I think that was really unfortunate. Lifting quarantine was a risk and it could be foreseen it was a risk, but we were under pressure form the travel industry and it takes backbone to stand up to that,” he said.

“It’s inevitable that UK cases will go up when you open, unless you are cautious. That public health message of ‘go carefully’ just isn’t there. The virus hasn’t gone away. The only thing in our favour is that it is the summer and people are more likely to meet each other outdoors. That will keep case numbers down in July and August but I am worried about September.”

However, Dr Pankhania said it would not be appropriate to reimpose a full lockdown now: “There is no stomach of a new lockdown. People are losing jobs and businesses are going bust. I don’t think we can go back to lockdown now, other measures should be taken.”

Dr Gabriel Scally, President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine and member of Independent Sage said a larger second wave was unlikely but that localised outbreaks should be expected.

“What we can expect in England for some time to come is localised outbreaks because the government has decided there is an acceptable level of Covid-19 cases. The Joint Biosecurity Centre suggested in a paper in May that the ‘acceptable incidence’ was 1,000 new positive tests a day. I think that is far too high and will result in flare-ups occurring across the country. Hopefully the arrangements in place will enable those flare-ups to be suppressed, but if there are too many of them the capacity at a local level won’t be able to deal with them and they will emerge as a wave,” he said.

“A second wave is unlikely, simply because an awful lot of older people and people with underlying conditions have lost a lot of trust in what the government says is or isn’t safe and they are going to be very cautious about where they go and what they do. The bursts of new cases we are getting now are predominantly among younger people.”

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday also warned that young people enjoying the summer appeared to be behind the coronavirus spike and were being hit the hardest.

Dr Scally also warned that there was “no government strategy for getting rid of the virus”.​

“If we were really serious about this, we would be doing a lot more public information than we are doing at the moment, on washing your hands and social distancing and identifying symptoms. There is very little messaging happening now and I suspect if you asked people what were the four symptoms of coronavirus, you wouldn’t get a very high level of accuracy,” he said.

“There is no government strategy for getting rid of the virus. They issued one on 3 March, but the only strategy since then has been for lifting the lockdown. We have got to get better public information and better case-finding and get our act sorted out in terms of the data about where the cases are. This stuff needs to be running like a well-oiled machine, which it isn’t at the moment.”

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is chairing the APPG’s inquiry at which BMA chair Dr Nagpaul was speaking, told The Independent: “It is deeply concerning that the government still has no overall strategy to aim for zero Covid, as medical experts are calling for. Ministers must come forward with a clear plan, informed by the science, which seeks to eliminate this deadly virus from the UK.

“This should include fixing the flawed Test and Trace programme and introducing screening for coronavirus at public transport hubs and entry points to the UK. The evidence suggests the government’s complacent approach earlier this year cost lives, we cannot afford for the same mistakes to be made again.”

The National Trust to axe 1,200 jobs after losing £200m in pandemic

A blow for conservation and heritage in the South West

Daniel Smith www.devonlive.com 

The National Trust is planning to make 1,200 staff redundant as it looks to save £100million in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The conservation and heritage charity, which has 5.6 million members, said it has lost almost £200m as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, which shut all of its houses, gardens, car parks, shops and cafes, and stopped holidays and events.

The trust said it had already saved millions of pounds through furloughing staff, drawing on reserves, borrowing and stopping or deferring projects, but still needs to make savings to keep it sustainable in the long term.

It has proposed £100m in annual savings, equivalent to almost a fifth of its annual spend, through changes to operations and cuts to staff and budgets.

Director general Hilary McGrady said the organisation will continue to care for historic sites, and tackle climate change, loss of wildlife and unequal access to nature, beauty and history.

Some 1,200 salaried staff face redundancy as part of £60m proposed pay savings – around 13% of the 9,500-strong salaried workforce.

The move, which comes after a decade which saw the National Trust nearly double in size, would bring staffing levels back to what they were in 2016.

The plans also include £8.8msavings by cutting the budget for hourly paid staff such as seasonal workers by a third.

The remaining £40m of savings will be made in areas such as reducing travel and office costs and IT spending, cutting marketing and print spending in favour of digital communications, and renegotiating contracts.

The trust has already announced it is stopping or deferring £124 million of projects this year.

The charity said it is refocusing its efforts to protect cultural heritage, with limited cuts to staff caring for houses, gardens and collections.

There will be a shift from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to properties, with reviewed opening hours at some places and in some cases running a pre-booked guided tour system for visits.

The trust will continue its ambition, announced in January, to step up action against climate change, cutting emissions to net zero by 2030, planting millions trees and creating green corridors for people and nature, it said.

It plans to restart the strategy in March next year, but Ms McGrady said the organisation would have to be “flexible” in achieving it.

She said: “We are going through one of the biggest crises in living memory.

“All aspects of our home, work and school lives and our finances and communities have been affected, and like so many other organisations the National Trust has been hit very hard.

“The places and things the National Trust cares for are needed now more than ever, as the nation needs to recuperate and recover its spirit and wellbeing.

“Our focus will remain on the benefit we deliver to people, every day.

“It is deeply upsetting to face losing colleagues and we are committed to supporting all of those affected.

“Sadly, we have no other course of action left open.

“In making these changes now, I am confident we will be well placed to face the challenges ahead, protecting the places that visitors love and ensuring our conservation work continues long into the future.”

More on Otterton Neighbourhood plan – Ladram Bay is ‘detrimental’ to Jurassic Coast

 Holiday park slammed in Otterton plan

A new plan for the development of Otterton is critical of a major holiday park within the boundaries of the East Devon village.

www.radioexe.co.uk 

Otterton’s neighbourhood plan outlines resistance to any future expansion of the Ladram Bay Holiday Park. It explains how the caravan and lodges development has grown to its maximum size within its boundary, has a detrimental impact on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has an impact on the village in terms of excess traffic, congestion and the accompanying pollution that cars, delivery vans, lorries and caravans bring.

The neighbourhood plan, which local people will vote on, adds that the access road is totally inadequate to serve such a large site, and says vehicles coming to and from it must be properly controlled to prevent congestion. Accordingly planners recommend that any future development of Ladram Bay Holiday Park would only be permitted within its existing site boundary.

Support will be given for any proposal which improves wider roads accessing the site, reduces the number of holiday units on the site, reduces the need to travel by car, the need for delivery lorries and improves walking and cycling. It calls for Otterton to be provided with a car park for visitors as shortage of parking in the village centre is also affecting businesses, the community shop and the village hall.

Policies in the broader plan say that no development should be allowed to have a detrimental impact on the landscape and character of Otterton village and the parish as a whole by virtue of its location, scale, density and design and any necessary future development should support proven local needs first.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, Otterton residents may have to wait 10 months before being able to vote on the plans. Referenda are suspended until May 2021.

How female leaders outperformed men during the pandemic

“Our findings show that Covid-19 outcomes are systematically and significantly better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive policy responses they adopted,” the researchers concluded.

“Even accounting for institutional context and other controls, being female-led has provided countries with an advantage in the current crisis.”

(Confirms Owl’s view)

Anthony Cuthbertson www.independent.co.uk 

Former IMF chief Christine Lagarde has praised female leaders around the world for their “stunning” response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially when compared to their male counterparts.

Ms Lagarde, who now heads the European Central Bank, said the policies adopted by female heads of state were proactive and their communication style was clear.

“I would say that for myself I’ve learned that women tend to do a better job,” she said.

She added: “This is my woman’s bias and I indulge in ceding to this bias.”

But data suggests Ms Lagarde’s assessment is correct.

The top 10 worst affected countries are all led by men, both in terms of total number of cases and cases per million people.

It is difficult to make a like-for-like comparison without considering factors like health expenditure, tourism and population density. There are also far fewer women in positions of power, with only around 10 per cent of countries having a female leader.

A recently released study attempted to factor in these variables, finding that on every metric female-led countries performed better than male-led countries.

When comparing countries with similar population sizes, such as Ireland and New Zealand, the researchers found that countries with women in charge experienced far fewer cases.

The paper, written by economists Supriya Garikipati and Uma Kambhampati, hypothesised that female-led countries fared better due to qualities shared by female leaders.

Previous studies have found that women are more risk averse and favour a style of leadership that is empathetic and science-based.

The researchers suggested that these traits meant women leaders are risk averse with regard to lives, but prepared to take significant risks with their economies by locking down early.

Prioritising economic outcomes has been one of the reasons for the US not imposing a nationwide lockdown, which has contributed to surging case numbers.

By contrast, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has received international praise for her strong and early response, which helped eliminate the virus in June.

It has since returned in small numbers, as the country begins to open up its borders, although infections are nowhere near on the scale of the first outbreak.

“Our findings show that Covid-19 outcomes are systematically and significantly better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive policy responses they adopted,” the researchers concluded.

“Even accounting for institutional context and other controls, being female-led has provided countries with an advantage in the current crisis.”

%d bloggers like this: