Covid: Clean-up after crowds party in Cardiff Bay despite restrictions

Clean up work is under way after huge crowds gathered in Cardiff Bay on Friday evening, despite coronavirus restrictions still being in place. 

Discarded beer bottles and other rubbish at Cardiff Bay

The morning after the night before… a tide of rubbish was left behind by partying crowds on Friday night

Cardiff council said a significant amount of rubbish had been left by “large groups of people intent on breaking Covid-19 restrictions”.

Covid rules state six people from two different households can meet outdoors.

media captionHundreds seen partying in Cardiff Bay

Cardiff council leader Huw Thomas said people who took part should be “deeply ashamed of themselves”.

The council said the trail of litter left a “huge task” for clean-up staff as “bins were left unused and the ground was littered with rubbish”.

Street cleaning outside the Welsh Parliament on Saturday morning

Street cleaning outside the Welsh Parliament on Saturday morning

“Despite the preventative measures put in place by the council, in partnership with South Wales Police, the Welsh government’s coronavirus regulations were again broken by a significant number of people illegally gathering in Cardiff Bay,” the authority said.

“The rules are clear, six people, from two households are allowed to meet outdoors, maintaining two metre social distancing.

“Breaking these rules significantly increases the chances of Covid-19 cases rising in the city.”

BBC Wales has attempted to contact South Wales Police for comment. It is not known if any arrests have been made.

Volunteer litter picker Claire Heat

Volunteer litter picker Claire Heat helped with the clean-up for more than two hours on Saturday morning

Volunteer litter picker Claire Heat, who has been helping with the clean-up since about 06:00 BST, said “there’s broken glass everywhere” along with unopened bottles and cans of alcohol.

“I live down the road and you get used to the fact that you know it is going to be awful when you wake up,” she said.

“The quicker we can get cleaned up and swept away the better it is for all the people that want to come down and enjoy the bay during the day.”

Empty bins in readiness for a new day outside the Senedd

Clean again: the steps of the Senedd had been tidied up by 08:30 BST on Saturday

Supervisor Tony Tobenas said the area had been “obliterated” by the revellers overnight, which was “demoralising” for the clean-up crew who had been called in to deal with the mess from about 04:30.

“They shouldn’t be here today – they should be home,” he said.

“We’ve had to call them in to do this. This is additional [work] and got to be paid for.”

He said the mess had become worse since the restrictions allowing wider travel across Wales had been lifted.

“We are supplying bins for them and they just aren’t using them. They’re throwing things on the floor,” he said.

Clean-up supervisor Tony Tobenas

Clean-up supervisor Tony Tobenas said the area had been “obliterated” overnight

Cardiff council leader Mr Thomas said police had taken over from council marshals, who had been patrolling the site in the day, after the situation “escalated”.

“The clear-up will mean an unnecessary cost to the council and so the taxpayer,” he said.

‘We’re just not ready to party’

Lena Ciric, a microbiologist from University College London, said it was not safe to “party” due to the threat of Covid.

“Not only are there lots of people together in a particular space but, also, they’re drinking so they probably won’t be wearing masks… inhibitions will be lowered and they’ll be closer together,” she said.

“We’re just not ready to party.

“It’s been really difficult for all of us and, you know, I absolutely understand that we want to see our friends and we want to let our hair down because it has been a really, really difficult year.

“But, ultimately, I don’t think anywhere in the world, really, we’re ready to party.”

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: “This can’t continue.

“If people are ignoring the rules on the very steps where they are made then we have a big issue.

“It’s time Labour ministers viewed licensed premises as part of the solution, not the problem.”

In response to the scenes at Cardiff Bay, Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic hasn’t gone away.

“We need to keep coronavirus rates low so we can keep relaxing restrictions.

“We’ve come so far since the winter when rates were incredibly high – no one wants to see those sacrifices wasted.

“Stay focused and we can all enjoy the better times ahead.”

Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been asked to comment.

‘Please don’t come’: concern in Devon as daytrippers head to coast

With quotes from Alison Hernandez (as might be expected) and from Chris Woodruff, the manager of East Devon AONB (someone who seldom finds the time to comment on planning applications on his patch) – Owl

Steven Morris

The Greenhalgh family had begun travelling from the Midlands just after first light and three hours later were to be found 150 miles from home on The Esplanade in Woolacombe, north Devon, gazing out at the sweep of the sandy beach and a sun-speckled Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen the sea for a year,” said the dad, Simon. “It’s like: ‘Wow.’ We’ll have the day here, walk the dog and go home this evening. We’ve got everything we need in the van. We won’t disturb anyone.”

Another visitor, Richard, who had spent the night sleeping in his van with his canine companion, Gus, said he had been harangued by one local who had told him in no uncertain terms to go home. “I didn’t take any notice,” he said. “Look at this view – you’d pay £500 a night for that if you were in a hotel. I’ll be moving on tomorrow.”

Good Friday is typically the first day of the holiday season proper in Woolacombe, a spot popular with families, walkers and surfers. Over the bank holiday weekend the M5 is usually jammed with people heading to Devon and Cornwall from Bristol, south-east England and the Midlands.

This Easter, police, health officials, local authority and tourism chiefs in south-west England are urging people to steer clear.

Devon and Cornwall police asked people to not just stick to the law but to the spirit of the rules and said extra officers would be out to try to clamp down on egregious breaches of the regulations.

Alison Hernandez, the police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, said: “We’re asking people not to drive for hours to get here. We really want everyone to be responsible.”

The “stay at home” rule in England was lifted on 29 March but the UK government stipulates that people should “minimise” the number of journeys they make and not remain away overnight on holiday. Self-contained accommodation such as holiday lets and campsites are not allowed to open until at least 12 April – and then with restrictions.

Alistair Handyside, the chair of the South West Tourism Alliance, expressed frustration at how many visitors were arriving in places such as Woolacombe on Friday.

“The roads are busier than we’d have hoped for,” he said. “The holiday and hospitality sector is not open yet. This is a really unnatural thing for us to say but the message at the moment is: ‘Please don’t come, we’re still in lockdown.’ After all the good work done to contain Covid-19, it’s worth waiting a few more weeks before travelling.”

The Greenhalgh family, who travelled from the West Midlands for a day trip to Woolacombe

 ‘We won’t disturb anyone’: the Greenhalgh family travelled from the West Midlands for a day trip to Woolacombe. Photograph: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

Many car parks and toilets are still closed and food and drink is only available from essential shops and takeaways.

Rescue organisations are also concerned. Alec Collyer, the chair of Dartmoor Rescue Group, said: “We will always do our utmost to help people who get into trouble on the moors, but there is no getting away from the fact that Covid-19 puts rescuers at additional risk. People shouldn’t be putting unnecessary additional strain on the emergency services just as the country is fighting its way out of the pandemic.”

Chris Woodruff, the manager of East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said: “It’s vital we reopen the countryside in a careful way which respects the environment and complies with all the rules to keep us safe from Covid-19. It’s more important than ever that visitors wait until they can book somewhere to stay rather than just turn up.”

But not all could resist. Some people clearly stayed overnight in vans on The Esplanade and one person pitched a tent. By noon on Friday there were no parking spaces on the road and visitors had begun to light stoves and barbecues. While by no means packed, the beach was busier than it has been for months.

Rich and his dog, Gus

 Rich and his dog, Gus. ‘I’ll be moving on tomorrow,’ he said. Photograph: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

Mark Baxter, who was sprucing up the Summertime beach shop, said some local people were nervous at the prospect of visitors returning. “But we need a good, long season this year,” he said. “If we don’t, some businesses here will go under.”

Bill Buckley, of Fudgies Bakehouse, said Good Friday was usually one of the busiest days of the year. “It feels a little odd this year so far but we’ll be glad when the visitors return. The place needs them.”

Justine Adderley, a weaver who lives in the village, said it was wonderful to see the place beginning to come back to life after lockdown. “We look forward to people coming with a mixture of dread and excitement,” she said. “But I wouldn’t judge anyone for coming here. You never know what people have been through.”

New gloriously wicked diary looks as good as Sasha’s

Oh, no, minister! ALAN DUNCAN’s gloriously wicked diary spills the vitriol on Boris ‘the buffoon’

Alan Duncan (Extract)

Today, we begin a blockbuster serialisation of one of the most explosive political diaries ever to be published. Alan Duncan, a well-respected Tory MP for nearly three decades, used them to let off steam in private about the ‘monstrous egos’ that surrounded him.

The diaries cover his final four turbulent years in Parliament, when Brexit split the Conservatives apart. Once a Eurosceptic, Duncan made many enemies himself by deciding to support Remain.

By turns outrageously bitchy, funny and despairing, the diaries eviscerate many of his colleagues — not least Boris Johnson and Theresa May. The ultimate political insider, Duncan had known Mrs May since Oxford University and in 2016 lent her his house for her leadership campaign. Later, as a minister at the Foreign Office, he became Boris’s deputy.

Oh, no, minister! ALAN DUNCAN’s gloriously wicked diary spills the vitriol on Boris ‘the buffoon’, ‘frightened rabbit’ Theresa May, her ‘walking dead’ Cabinet… via random episodes of Hawaii Five-0. Alan Clark, eat your heart out!

Tory council leader blasted after calling self-isolation payments an ‘incentive’ to catch Covid

Tory councillor says £500 isolation payment is ‘incentive’ to catch Covid

A Tory council leader has sparked outrage after suggesting self-isolation payments were an “incentive” for people to catch coronavirus.

John Fuller, who leads South Norfolk Council and is a friend of Boris Johnson, told Newsnight that the cash could encourage people to contract Covid-19. The deadly illness has killed 130,000 across the UK since February last year.

The comments came as the BBC show investigated whether access to the payments – made to people who otherwise could not afford to take time off work – needed to be increased to reduce transmission of the virus.

“Let’s flip it the other way around,” said Mr Fuller, an OBE. “Let’s not have a system whereby if you catch Covid you get £500. That’s an incentive to actually spread the disease and that’s not in anybody’s interest.”

Apparently stunned by the suggestion, host Kirsty Wark intervened for clarification. “Are you really saying that?” she asked.

“What I’m saying is that let’s not have the incentive,” he replied. “I didn’t say it was. Let’s not have an incentive that would encourage people to catch the disease.”

He went on to argue that local councils were more effective at running test and trace operations than NHS Test and Trace – the government’s £37bn behemoth, which critics describe as failing.

But his comments about the self-isolation payments were immediately criticised by the Thursday night show’s other guest, Labour mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, who pointed out that 70 per cent of people who apply for the support are rejected.

“Nearly 130k people have died of Covid in the last year alone because of his party’s handling of the pandemic,” he later added on Twitter. “What an insult.”

Others were even blunter. “Tories think its all about money because that is all they care about,” wrote one person on Twitter.

It is not the first time Mr Fuller has caused controversy. In November last year the 53-year-old was reported to the RSCPA after it emerged he had posted photos on social media of apparent attempts to set fire to moles in retaliation for the creatures digging up his back garden.

In Facebook images, Mr Fuller, 52, could be seen with a propane can in a wheelbarrow, firing flames into burrows. “A great day to be killing moles,” he wrote.

Teaching union hits out at academy bosses’ ‘eye-watering’ pay

Academy trust bosses in England are being paid “eye-watering” salaries that are “verging on criminality”, according to the incoming president of one of the country’s leading teaching unions.

Sally Weale

Phil Kemp, the new national president of the NASUWT, will accuse some academy leaders of taking advantage of the increasing deregulation of the education system to pay themselves excessive sums of money from the public purse.

In a speech on Friday, on the first day of the union’s annual conference, which is being held virtually this year because of the Covid pandemic, Kemp is expected to criticise academy governance, saying: “Increasingly we hear of corrupt or nepotistic practices.”

He will say: “The salaries being paid to individuals in some of these academy trusts is not just eye-watering, it’s verging on criminality in my view. So many salaries, paid for from the public purse, rising over the £200,000 mark, and some well publicised, almost reaching half a million pounds.”

Kemp, who manages a programme of alternative provision in North Tyneside for children who have been or are in danger of being excluded from mainstream education, will call for a national pay scale for all teachers and leaders to be reintroduced to curb excessive pay.

“The snouts have to come out of the trough and the public purse protected from those who will take advantage of the increasing deregulation of our education system,” he will tell members. “Those taking these huge salaries should hang their heads in shame.”

Multi-academy trusts are charities that run chains of state schools that have converted into academies and have been taken out of local authority control.

In 2019 the Department for Education (DfE) wrote to 94 trust leaders whose pay was regarded as excessively high to ask them to justify their inflated salaries, but excessive pay continues to be a concern and unions say the government’s powers to intervene are “utterly feeble”.

Research by Tes last month found that at least seven senior leaders within academy trusts were earning more than £250,000, while Sir Dan Moynihan, the chief executive of the Harris Federation, remains the top earner with his salary increasing to between £455,000 and £460,000 in 2019-20.

While the focus over the last year has been on the challenges of the pandemic to education, last month the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, revealed the government was pursuing its academies agenda and wanted to see more schools in multi-academy trusts by 2025. The DfE has been approached for comment.

The NASUWT has also released figures showing that members were paid almost £12m in compensation last year, among them a primary school teacher from Cheshire who was awarded more than £150,000 after she was assaulted by one of her pupils.

The boy had been misbehaving so she asked him to get on with his work, but when she turned away he jumped up and grabbed her neck and right hand, the union said. The teacher sustained severe injuries, causing lasting ligament damage to her wrist, hand and fingers, and was awarded £155,000 in personal injury compensation.

In another case, a whistleblower was dismissed after raising concerns about bullying and intimidation of staff, as well as child protection issues, at her school. The deputy headteacher in the school in the north-west of England was awarded £60,000 for unfair and wrongful dismissal. Separately, more than £8,000 was paid out for three cases involving breaches of maternity rights.

Dr Patrick Roach, the NASUWT general secretary, said the cases were just the tip the iceberg. “There is no doubt that many other teachers will have been driven out of the profession without proper redress for poor, discriminatory or unfair treatment because they were too fearful to come forward or believed nothing could be done.

“Too many employers believe they can act with impunity as the government fails to take any action to secure compliance with employment law, allowing poor employment practices to flourish as a result of the excessive freedoms and flexibilities it has given to schools.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said the overwhelming majority of academy trusts set reasonable levels of pay for their leaders, adding: “We consistently challenge trusts where we deem executive pay to be too high, and will continue to do so when it is neither proportionate nor directly linked to improving pupil outcomes.”

Police called to Exmouth beach for ‘fights and Covid breaches’

A witness described the scene as a ‘mass gathering’ 

Howard Lloyd

Police are breaking up a large gathering of people in Exmouth beach, with fighting and Covid-19 lockdown breaches being reported.

Devon and Cornwall Police say they were notified shortly after 6.30pm this evening (Friday, April 2) about a large number of people on the beach.

Witnesses at the scene have reported as many as seven police vehicles, as well as two ambulances.

The police say no injuries have been reported as yet.

“We first got a call at 6.34pm to a report of a large gathering of mainly youths which we are dealing with and trying to disperse,” said the police force incident manager (FIM).

“There are no suggestions of any injuries at this time, although there are reports of fighting.

“We are looking at general disorder, as well as potential Covid breaches.”

One eye witness has reported at least four groups consisting of 10-plus people at Orcombe Point, which were being broken up by officers.

He added that there were also a number of police vehicles at the town’s train station.

Another witness described the scene as a ‘mass gathering’ and said there were two police vans and four or five cars in attendance.

Lockdown restrictions were eased at the start of the week, meaning people were allowed outside for non-essential travel.

But that has led to fears over people abusing the easing of restrictions, potentially leading to another surge in cases.

Two parks in Nottingham are now shut following shocking images earlier this week showing people fighting, littering and failing to socially distance.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier this week urged people to not ‘blow it now’, asking people to continue to obey the rules that are in place.