Foreign aid: Aid cuts could see lives lost, warns senior Tory – How will Parish and Jupp vote?

If this goes to a vote tonight, how do you think our MPs Neil Parish and Simon Jupp will vote? Neither particularly noted for their “independence” – Owl

Children could die as a result of UK cuts to the overseas aid budget, a senior Conservative backbencher says.

By Hazel Shearing www.bbc.co.uk

The prime minister is facing a possible Commons defeat after cutting spending of national income on international development from 0.7% from 0.5%.

David Davis – among more than 30 Tories against the move – said some UK-backed schemes have already been cancelled and “morally, this is a devastating thing”.

The government’s supporters say the cut is temporary, necessary and popular.

The Conservative Party committed to spending 0.7% in its manifesto for the 2019 general election – but ministers say it is hard to justify given record levels of peacetime borrowing during the pandemic.

The cut amounts to almost £4bn, but the government said it will still spend more than £10bn on foreign aid in 2021.

Speaking at the start of a week in which the UK hosts the G7 summit in Cornwall, Mr Davis said: “Historically, I am a critic of aid spending but doing it this way is really so harmful.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if the government were to offer a compromise of a short time frame for their cut to foreign aid spending, “it helps”.

But he said “if you’re a small child and suddenly you get dirty water, you get an infection from it and you die, temporary doesn’t mean much”.

Mr Davis added: “If you’re going to kill people with this, which I think is going to be the outcome in many areas, we need to reverse those immediately”.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May is one of the other Tory rebels hoping to achieve a U-turn with an amendment to the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) Bill – a planned new law to set up a new agency designed to come up with innovative policy.

It would oblige the agency to make up any shortfall in aid spending if the government were to miss the 0.7% target.

The bill is due to be scrutinised in the Commons on Monday afternoon – but it will be up to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to decide whether the rebels’ amendment should be put to a vote.

Voting on the bill will begin no later than 21:00 BST.

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown also criticised the cuts, telling BBC Breakfast it was “a life and death issue” and made “no economic or moral sense”.

Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, who is leading the rebellion, said the UK is the only member of the G7 group of advanced economies cutting aid this year – and that “contributing our fair share of aid is essential for a successful G7 summit” this week.

“The eyes of the world are truly upon us. But in this moment Britain is found wanting, because we have removed a foundational piece of our own global leadership,” he has written in the Guardian.

The aid reduction has meant millions of pounds less is being spent on supporting girls’ education, reproductive health, clean water, HIV/AIDS, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and Syria, and hundreds of other projects.

media captionSir Bob Geldof: ”We don’t take the piece of bread from that child’s mouth in Yemen”

Dozens of charities said there was “no justifiable economic need” for them in a letter to Mr Johnson over the weekend, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called the cuts “indefensible” on Twitter,.

The government has promised to restore spending to the 0.7% level “when the fiscal situation allows” – but has not specified a date.

Anti-poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday that he feared they could become permanent.

Duty to ‘protect our citizens’

But Solicitor General Lucy Frazer said the government would return to spending 0.7% levels “when the fiscal situation allows”.

She said the UK was a big aid donor but added: “We have a duty to ensure we protect our citizens here as well as those in the rest of the world.”

A senior government source told BBC political correspondent Chris Mason that if the amendment were to go through, it would be the equivalent of putting up income tax by a penny for every pound earned.

And ex-Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey argued the UK shouldn’t “end up going into deeper debt in order to finance other countries”.

Writing in the Telegraph, she said the UK should instead help poorer countries “trade their way out of poverty”.

“If more and more aid was the solution, large parts of Africa would have escaped all poverty decades ago,” she added.

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 24 May

Got a staff shortage? Raising wages normally helps

Consequences of a low pay, low investment economy? 

Owl’s view has always been that moving to a high wage economy is the way to improve productivity (and improved standard of living).

Larry Elliott www.theguardian.com

From Michel Roux Jr to Tim Martin, from swanky Le Gavroche in London to Wetherspoons pubs, the message is the same: we need more staff. Labour shortages were not a problem envisaged when the UK was plunged into lockdown in the spring of 2020. Then, the fear was of massive job losses and the highest unemployment since the 1930s.

Now, the hospitality sector says a lack of chefs, bar staff and waiters is affecting trade. Roux has announced he is closing Le Gavroche at lunchtimes. At Wetherspoons, Brexit-supporting boss Martin has urged ministers to use their ability to set immigration laws to grant visas to EU citizens.

In part, the problem has been caused by the sudden surge in consumer demand as restrictions have been eased. Having been cooped up for so long over the winter, consumers have wanted to go out for a drink, a meal, or enjoy a weekend break. Lots of venues have been looking for staff at the same time.

The hospitality sector employs one in 10 workers in the UK – more than three million people in total – but has been particularly hard-hit by the repeated lockdowns of the last 15 months. Some of those employed in pubs, restaurants and hotels are still on furlough and not ready for a new job. Others have decided to change career or to stay on ine education rather than risk the vagaries of the labour market. Workers from the EU have returned to their own countries during lockdown and for a variety of reasons – health concerns and Brexit in particular – are not coming back.

There are solutions to this problem. The more unscrupulous employers might sweat their workforces harder, something made possible by the low level of union membership in the sector. They could decide – as Roux has done – to limit opening hours, although this is more feasible for businesses at the luxury end of the market than it is for high-volume outlets. A third option would be to attract more workers from overseas, which is what Tony Blair did when he welcomed people from the countries of eastern Europe after they joined the EU in 2004.

The only other solution is the most obvious one: make the jobs more attractive through higher pay.

There would be knock-on effects. The price of a pint would go up as employers passed on higher costs to their customers. Inflation would be a bit higher. Some businesses would close. Yet one of the basic tenets of economics is that raising the price of something – in this case the wages of a chef or a waiter – increases its supply.

The impact on labour shortages would almost certainly not be instant, because those attracted to a job in hospitality by the lure of higher wages may not have the necessary skills. But incentives would eventually make a difference in a sector notorious for its long hours and low pay.

Labour warns on next NHS England chief as Dido Harding expected to apply

The next chief executive of NHS England must be someone with “a proven track record”, Labour has said, after it emerged that the former test and trace chief Dido Harding was expected to stand.

Peter Walker www.theguardian.com 

It is understood that Harding, a Conservative peer, is considering formally applying to replace Sir Simon Stevens, who is leaving the job in July after seven years.

While Stevens’ whole career has been in healthcare and health management, Harding spent the bulk of her working life in areas such as supermarkets and telecoms, notably as head of the Talk Talk group.

Since 2017, she has chaired the board of NHS Improvement, an oversight arm of NHS England. Her first day-to-day management job in health came a year ago when she was appointed to lead the Covid test and trace service in England, with a budget that rose to £37bn.

Harding, who is married to the Conservative MP John Penrose, faced regular criticism over the service’s performance and has acknowledged failings in how it has operated, though allies argue she has been unfairly maligned.

Test and trace has been blamed by some for failing to better curb the spread of Covid variants, such as the highly transmissible Delta variant first identified in India, which has become dominant in the UK and is threatening plans to drop most lockdown restrictions this month.

In August, Harding was also made the interim chair of the new UK Health Security Agency, which integrates the work of test and trace and takes over from Public Health England. Jenny Harries, formerly England’s deputy chief medical officer, has now taken over the role.

The next head of NHS England will face the toll of disruption to non-Covid services, with one analysis saying more than 4.5 million people missed out on hospital treatment last year alone.

Labour did not comment directly on Harding, but made plain the party was sceptical at the idea of her taking on ultimate responsibility for about 1.3 million NHS staff and an annual budget of more than £115bn.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said NHS patients and workers “will be looking for a new chief executive able to out-manoeuvre [the chancellor] Rishi Sunak” and secure enough funding for the service.

He added: “Given the scale of the waiting list backlog including for cancer and mental health care, the NHS needs someone with a proven track record of improving services for patients.”

Speaking separately, Justin Madders, the junior shadow health minister, said: “We hope the recruitment process takes candidates’ recent achievements into account, but test and trace’s performance speaks for itself.”

Another key Covid-related appointee, Kate Bingham, who led the vaccines taskforce until the end of last year, is set to become a dame in this week’s Queen’s birthday honours, according to a report.

The award for Bingham will be among a series of honours given to people who have played a role in combating coronavirus, the Sunday Telegraph said. Bingham has been praised for the success of the UK’s vaccine programme after rapidly securing contracts for large numbers of jabs of different types.

Devon carers number 130,000+

More than 130,000 people in Devon are now carers, a figure that’s grown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

But only 21,000 of them – roughly only one in every six – are said to be accessing vital information and support.

Next week is Carers Week, and Devon County Council, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Devon Carers are shining a light on it to encourage people who are carers for friends and family to recognise themselves as unpaid carers, and to come forward for help.

Devon Carers, which is commissioned by Devon County Council and NHS Devon, provides information, advice and support for people who care for others, whether they need help because they are ill, frail, disabled or have a mental health or a substance misuse problem and can’t manage independently without support.

Cllr James McInnes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for adult care and health services, said: “Many people won’t even think of themselves as carers because the person they are looking after is a relative, but caring can bring a whole host of responsibilities and worries and which can often have a real impact on a carer’s health and wellbeing.”

Vera Tooke didn’t think she was a carer because Graham, who she cares for, is her husband.  He has Parkinson’s disease and Lewy-Body dementia. “There are people who need a little bit of help and those who need more,” she said.  “Looking after someone else is difficult, but I didn’t see myself as a ‘carer’.  The label didn’t feel right. I was coping with the physical aspects of looking after my husband, but dementia is something else. I felt I couldn’t leave Graham to do the things I needed to do. I felt guilty and worried when I did. He was very much against anyone else helping him, even family.

“I then admitted to myself that I was a carer and I contacted Devon Carers for a carer’s assessment. They were brilliant. A carers assessment has nothing to do with judging how you are functioning as a carer, it looks at your own needs as the carer.”

Vera is one of thousands of people across Devon working around the clock to help and care for relatives and friends who couldn’t manage on their own.

But while the coronavirus pandemic has meant even more people in Devon taking on caring responsibilities, Devon Carers saw a 50 per cent reduction in the number of people approaching them for support between April and June last year.

Support is available for adult carers at devoncarers.org.uk/support or support for young carers is available at https://www.westbank.org.uk/Pages/Category/young-carers or call 03456 434 435.

Street markets: Can councils get redevelopment right?

It’s lunch time at Preston Market. At one end of the large Victorian market hall, a generous pile of fried egg and chips will leave you with change from a fiver. Two friends have claimed the window seats and grin. “These are ours – we sit here every day.”

By Rebecca Wearn www.bbc.co.uk 

At the other end of the covered market it’s a different crowd and roasted halloumi in a fresh ciabatta will cost you a fraction or so more. A solicitor pops in for a latte: “It’s nice to have something here that’s modern, it’s trendy,” he says.

Both locations serve important purposes for local people. Street markets like this one in Lancashire are being revitalised across the country as part of urban regeneration plans.

The decline of British High Streets has put councils under pressure to draw new customers into town centres. However, The National Market Traders Federation says they must not forget their old customers, too.

The trade body wants these upgraded markets to maintain traditional, affordable stalls and produce.

Joe Harrison is chief executive of the NMTF and works alongside county councils and businesses to get the best of both worlds into any redevelopment plans.

“We’ll have swanky artisan markets – and that’s all that will exist. We need to make sure that we don’t take away from people that need access to that affordable food,” he says.

Preston’s newly glazed market hall is part of a £50m regeneration project. Alongside fruit and vegetable stalls are new coffee shops, mobile phone, and fashion stalls. Outside, traders of all kinds from the old market have new tables to sell their wares, ranging from toys, homemade soaps, and bric-a-brac.

Joe thinks the balance in Preston is right but is appealing to other councils to think carefully about existing customers and traders before they make changes.

Mother and daughter business team, Tracy and Becky Taylor, run Fresh and Fruity greengrocers inside the new trading hall. Their produce is high quality, fresh and popular.

They agree that selling affordable vegetables is still their staple trade but they’ve started offering more luxury or exotic items since the refurbishment now that new customers are picking up their shopping in the hall.

They believe they can walk that line because of their connections to local suppliers: “I think a big thing for us is local produce – because we can go straight to the growers and the farmers,” says Becky.

But for some it’s not so easy. “We’ve found that a lot of things the markets used to sell, they don’t sell anymore, like clothes,” adds Tracy.

Their views are supported by a research project, led by associate professor Sara Gonzalez from the University of Leeds, measuring the importance of markets to local communities.

“Markets tend to attract elderly people; people who are from low-income neighbourhoods; those with long-term illnesses, a disability, or people with young children, and migrants or [people from] ethnic minorities,” explains Prof Gonzalez.

“We worry that these more disadvantaged customers will be left aside.”

For three years she and her team have analysed indoor and outdoor markets in London, Newcastle and Leeds, to learn about the contribution they make to these local community groups.

Their value is not just about good produce at good prices to feed stomachs – it’s about regular human contact and interactions that feed the soul.

Prof Gonzalez says that people who shop regularly at local markets get something a supermarket could never give them – company – and that’s why many customers make a whole day out of a trip.

“They might have a haircut, they’ll have a cup of tea, they’ll meet with a friend, they’ll do some shopping. And it’s weather-proof, it’s warm,” she says.

Entrance market hall

Regeneration of older marketplaces is happening across the country

“But more than that, they get to speak to people they don’t know. That might be the only people they meet for the whole day, the whole week. So, they actually do develop friendships,” says Prof Gonzalez.

At the height of the pandemic, she spoke to traders in Newcastle’s Grainger Market, who had attended a regular customer’s funeral. While in Preston, bookstall holder Pete Burns delivered books to regulars he knew relied on the social connection.

“A lot of the die-hard regulars look at you as more of a friend than a trader,” he says.

Prof Gonzalez and her team fear these groups are being excluded from council redevelopment plans, because there’s no way to measure or make a profit from the valuable sociable interactions markets provide for local communities. Instead, regeneration plans have focused on higher-end, higher-priced offerings.

Citing examples like Borough Market in London or Altrincham Market, that offer late-night fine dining and artisan produce, she explains these can “alienate” many of the vulnerable groups she has worked with.

“We want local authorities to think about the market not as a property asset but as a community asset.”