Tory MPs disable NHS app to ‘protect their holidays’

“Stay home. Protect the holiday. Save your marriage.” was the slogan being banded around the Commons tea room.

By Flash Finance 

Conservative MPs are reportedly deleting the NHS app to circumvent instructions to self-isolate ahead of their holidays, according to The Times.

Concern over the effectiveness of the Track and Trace system was called into question this week as reports emerged that many people were disabling the Covid-19 app as alerts rise by 60 per cent.

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, today confirmed the app would undergo changes to make allowances for the end to social distancing restrictions on 19 June.

“As our restrictions change, of course the app needs to change in line,” said Grant Shapps in an interview with the BBC this morning.

“I think the app is very important as one of the tools in our armoury – it is another way to regulate and give people more information about whether they may have been exposed.

“It’s in our interests as a society to carry on doing the things which help protect each other and we will make sure the app is constantly reviewed so it’s appropriate for the period of time that we’re living through, particularly now as we get into the majority of adults having been double-vaccinated thanks so the incredible vaccine roll-out.”

“Taking batteries out of the smoke alarm

But Sir Keir Starmer has raised concerns around decisions to “tune” the sensitivity of the app.

He said: “It’s like taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm: it is so obviously to weaken the defences that we have – and if the consequence of the prime minister’s decision is that people are deleting the NHS app, or the app is being weakened, then that’s a pretty good indicator that the decision of the prime minister is wrong,” he said.

The dropping of all restrictions on 19 July for so-called ‘Freedom Day’ is drawing growing criticism on the world stage.

“The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic. We have just passed the tragic milestone of four million Covid-19 deaths, which likely underestimates the overall toll,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

“Some countries with high vaccination coverage are now planning to roll out booster shots in the coming months and are now dropping public health social measures, relaxing as though the pandemic is already over.”

Rapid growth in infections

Despite encouraging data showing lower infection prevalence in people who have had both doses of the vaccine, there is rapid growth in infections, especially among younger people.

According to most recent data from Imperial College London, the highest prevalence was found in 13–17-year-olds, in which the rate of infection has increased from 0.16 per cent to 1.33 per cent since 7 June.

The six key tests that campaigners are using to assess new planning bill – CPRE

We join other leading charities including RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts in releasing six tests that new planning rules must pass to put people and nature first. 6th July 

We’ve worked with other major charities to create six measures that we’ll use to scrutinise the government’s upcoming planning bill.

The six tests provide a scorecard that uses the government’s own wording, from its Planning White Paper, to critically assess whether its vision for planning will become a reality in the Planning Bill.

Passing these tests would mean that the plans laid out in the government’s future planning bill make for the nature-friendly, low-carbon, well-designed, affordable homes and places of the future that nature and people deserve.

A wide-ranging coalition

22 organisations have come together from a range of areas to create the six tests. The coalition includes not only charities such as CPRE, the countryside charity and Friends of the Earth but also voices from the worlds of transport – Cycling UK – and nature – the Woodland Trust, RSPB and the Bat Conservation Trust.

This powerful coalition, which also includes Greenpeace, the Ramblers and The Wildlife Trusts, understands the power of planning to create thriving, sustainable housing that our communities will feel proud to call home.

As our CEO, Crispin Truman, puts it: ‘Planning has enormous potential to reshape society and create healthy, low carbon and thriving communities.’

These tests provide the framework to track government progress towards creating a planning system fit for the future by judging each criteria red, amber or green at key milestones.

Success or failure in six areas

The tests include measures across six key areas:

  • Local democracy. This includes ensuring that future planning rules retain and enhance genuine, accessible community participation and accountability throughout the planning process.
  • Affordable homes. An ongoing challenge, especially in the countryside, the government must deliver an evidenced strategy for building affordable homes and provide local authorities with the power to turn down developments that don’t create affordable housing.
  • The climate emergency. Any plans must see an acceleration of climate action to meet the UK’s net zero targets and make sure that local planning authorities are given powers to deliver climate-friendly developments.
  • Nature: Sites that are important for biodiversity and nature’s recovery must be protected – and new developments must enhance nature.
  • Heritage: Heritage sites and landscapes with special protections must be kept safe and protected from inappropriate development.
  • Health: The importance of human health, wellbeing and equality should be embedded into any new planning system, including prioritising access to natural green space, active travel and reduced air pollution.

The six tests document revisits commitments made by the government and sets out ways to measure success when they release their imminent response to the Planning White Paper.

The contents of this response will give an indication as to whether or not ministers have heeded the much-repeated concerns from this coalition of organisations.

Now: time to change for the better

As they stand, current plans don’t meet these essential criteria for making the planning system better – especially around ensuring local voices are heard.

As Crispin says, ‘what the government is currently proposing would push planning in the opposite direction. Surely, we should be encouraging more people to take part in the planning process, not alienating whole communities which will undoubtedly be the consequences of the government’s changes to planning?’

Crispin warns that significant changes to the government’s current intentions are needed before the planning rules will really work to meet the country’s needs:

‘Unless ministers change direction, they’ll not only fail many of these key tests but will have failed to reach the ambitions espoused in their own Planning White Paper. Communities, Parliamentarians and campaigners are already ‘seeing red’. That’s why we’re calling on the government to urgently change course and put people and nature at the center of the upcoming Planning Bill.’

More outside dining and takeaway pints to continue with ‘levelling up’ agenda

From our Local Enterprise Partnership we’ve had the “Golden Opportunities”, from the Great South West the “Green Jobs Boom”, Simon Jupp thinks “Banging the Drum for Hospitality” is the most important thing to do. Now Boris’ new catchphrase is regenerating the “Great British High Street”. When we will see some actual investment?-Owl

Fionnula Hainey 

More outdoor dining and the continuation of takeaway pints are at the heart of new government plans to ‘level up’ the country, Downing Street has said.

A new strategy to boost local communities will focus on the regeneration of the great British high street, according to the government.

The plans are set to be outlined by prime minister Boris Johnson in a speech next week.

During his 2019 general election campaign, Mr Johnson insisted he would strive to fix regional inequalities in the UK.

Downing Street describing ‘levelling up’ as the “central purpose of his premiership”.

Restaurants, pubs and bars will have more opportunities to serve customers outdoors with the extension of pavement licences, which will then be made permanent, the government said.

Takeaway pints will continue for another 12 months as the temporary permissions for off-sales of alcohol are extended, in what is hoped to be a boost to the hospitality industry.

A government spokesperson said: “The prime minister is determined to level up the UK and deliver a fairer, stronger society – one where whatever your background and wherever you live, everyone can access the opportunities they need to succeed.

”While talent and potential is distributed evenly across this country, opportunity is not.

“That’s why as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that we do not make the mistakes of recovery from the financial crash and seize this moment to ensure a better quality of life for people in every part of the UK.”

No 10 said the prime minister’s upcoming speech will cover creating a more balanced economy with high-quality jobs in every part of the UK, levelling up between generations, increasing access to opportunity no matter where people live, investing in infrastructure and skills, strengthening community and local leadership and restoring pride in place.

Plans also include supporting local sports teams by building new grassroots sports facilities – the equivalent to 50 new artificial pitches, the government said.