Author: Radio News Hub

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PM outlines infrastructure plan to kick-start economy
The PM is set to use the inspiration of the national coronavirus response to fast track major building projects across the country.
Laying out his vision for the country’s post-Covid revival, Boris Johnson will use a speech on Tuesday to announce the creation of a taskforce to accelerate the building of schools, hospitals, roads and even prisons.

Downing Street said the rush at which the NHS Nightingale hospitals were created across the country inspired Mr Johnson to set up the infrastructure delivery taskforce, which will be chaired by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The group will be told that there are “now no excuses for delays” to building programmes after the country demonstrated it can move at pace during a national emergency.

The body will sift through the blueprints of major infrastructure projects in the pipeline and look to iron out any inefficiencies which could hold-up their delivery and stall the country in getting back on track.

Known as “Project Speed” among officials, the taskforce will asked to assess building programmes in every city, town and village to ensure communities across the country can benefit more quickly from the improvements that infrastructure brings, Government sources said.

“The coronavirus response has shown that it doesn’t have to take years to get essential projects off the ground – the Nightingale hospitals and ventilator challenge were up and running in a matter of weeks,” said a Downing Street spokesman.

“As we recover from the pandemic we must apply that same urgency to the major projects at the foundations of this country and get them done right, to truly level up opportunity across the UK.

“There’s now no excuse for delays. Infrastructure has the power to rebuild and repair our country – and we will do it better, faster and more strategically than before.”

The Government hopes a building boom will boost jobs and improve connectivity as it looks to drive an economic recovery after the pandemic.

Multiple reports suggest Mr Johnson is preparing to unveil “billions” of pounds of funding next week as he looks to deliver on election pledges, which include paying for 40 new hospitals, 10,000 prison places and a school rebuilding programme.

Officials said Mr Johnson wanted to reclaim the UK’s “proud heritage” of building outstanding infrastructure, pointing to the way Victorians pioneered the railways and the ingenuity of the Thames Barrier that protects millions of Londoners from flooding.

It comes as reports suggested a further one million people could become jobless if further Government support is not announced by August, adding to the £2.8 million already out of work.

The Observer reported that new House of Commons Library analysis indicated that unemployment levels could soar to levels not seen since the 1980s, tipping past the peak of 3.3 million seen in 1984 under Margaret Thatcher’s reign.

Number 10’s confirmation of an infrastructure drive follows a call by ex-Tory prime minister Sir John Major for tax rises to be avoided while the country looks to get back on its feet.

Sir John, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said tax rises during the current situation would be a “mistake” and urged the Government to borrow in order to exploit the low interest rates available at present.

The former chancellor said: “I think to put up taxes before the economy has recovered, which may take a while, would in my view be a mistake.

“But, over time, I think there is little doubt that taxes are going to rise.

“For the moment, because interest rates are so low and likely to remain so, it is possible for borrowing to take the strain in the way it couldn’t have done a quarter of a century ago.”

Downing Street said membership of the infrastructure delivery taskforce would be set out “in due course”.

Published: 28/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Maguire goal sends United into semi finals
Harry Maguire sent Manchester United into the FA Cup semi-finals as they made hard work of their extra-time victory at 10-man Norwich.
The Red Devils became the first side to secure their place in Sunday’s draw as they edged past the Canaries, who were dreaming of Wembley on their first quarter-final appearance since 1991-92.

Norwich were just minutes away from a penalty shootout after holding firm in extra-time following Timm Klose’s sending off, but Maguire directed home at the death to seal a hard-earned 2-1 win at Carrow Road.

Much-changed United were made to dig deeper than they could have imagined by the Premier League’s bottom side, who rallied impressively after falling behind to Odion Ighalo’s smart swivelled finish early in the second half.

Todd Cantwell levelled in the 75th minute when beating Sergio Romero from distance and Daniel Farke’s side looked capable of snatching it before Klose was sent off for wrestling Ighalo to the ground.

Norwich took the game to extra-time and Tim Krul put in an inspired performance between the sticks, but the penalty specialist was denied a chance to win another shootout when Maguire directed home in the 118th minute.

Solskjaer’s eight alterations from the impressive 3-0 midweek win against Sheffield United removed any semblance of coherence and momentum during a first half that felt more like a friendly than a shot at the FA Cup semi-finals.

There was precious little intensity and drive from either side during a desperate first period in which United failing to find the target with their eight attempts and Norwich failing to test back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero with their five.

Maguire’s block when Lukas Rupp let rip late on was the best chance of a lacklustre occasion brought to life six minutes into the second half.

Luke Shaw made room down the left and crossed for Juan Mata, whose deflected effort looped up and Ighalo swivelled to smartly direct past Krul.

The Nigeria international showed great technique to turn home his fifth goal in four starts, with Jesse Lingard seeing an attempt blocked before being replaced by Marcus Rashford.

But as the visitors looked to put the tie to bed, Norwich began to look more dangerous and Alexander Tettey met a free-kick with a header inadvertently blocked by team-mate Ben Godfrey.

It was a warning shot that Solskjaer’s men failed to heed as Cantwell took aim from 25 yards and perhaps too easily beat Romero.

Greenwood tried to quickly put United back in front and Paul Pogba was introduced, but Farke’s side were in the ascendancy as Romero dealt with a threatening cross and Emi Buendia struck across the face of goal.

Brandon Williams produced a timely block to thwart Onel Hernandez, but Norwich’s hopes took a major blow just as their momentum was building.

Bruno Fernandes’ inspired flick put Ighalo through on goal, with Klose given a straight red card by referee Jon Moss after grabbing hold of the striker to prevent him going through on goal in the 89th minute.

United were unable to hurt Norwich from the resulting free-kick, with Krul impressively denying Pogba and Greenwood in quick succession to take the match into extra-time.

Norwich had their backs to the wall when play resumed.

Rashford and Pogba were denied in the first period, which saw United become the first team in English football history to make six substitutions in one match as Solskjaer turned to Anthony Martial.

Krul produced a brilliant save to prevent Maguire heading home in the second period, with Fernandes testing the Norwich keeper from distance as United upped the ante.

But just as the Canaries looked set to hold out for spot-kicks, Pogba’s smart pass caused havoc and the ball eventually fell for Maguire to direct home from six yards out.

Published: 28/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Companies have hit rock bottom since lockdown
Firms have hit “rock bottom” as a result of the economic lockdown and expect a slower fall in activity in the next few months.
The CBI said its study showed that private sector activity fell at its fastest pace on record in the three months to June, especially in consumer services.

Manufacturing output also continued to decline heavily, the survey of over 900 firms indicated.

A slower pace of decline is expected over the next quarter although businesses have concerns about being able to fully reopen, said the report.

Issues raised include a lack of demand, staff absences due to school closures and transport difficulties.

Alpesh Paleja, CBI lead economist, said: “These figures show the full impact of coronavirus on the economy after three months of shutdown. However, there are signs that we’ve hit rock bottom, with firms expecting a slower fall in activity over the next three months.

“Clearly tackling the lack of customer and client demand will be critical to economic revival. Businesses have highlighted several ways in which the Government can support them further – extending grant support schemes, widening business rates relief and further deferral of VAT payments.

“Despite challenges, most businesses believe remaining operational under social distancing is feasible. We now need continued co-operation between Government, business and civil society to steer our economy towards a sustainable and long-lasting recovery.”

Published: 28/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Ireland's first-ever coalition government takes shape

Civil War politics has ended in Ireland’s parliament, after political rivals agreed to form a historic governing coalition, Leo Varadkar has said.

Micheal Martin has been confirmed as Taoiseach.

Mr Martin’s Fianna Fail won the most seats in February’s inconclusive general election, and his appointment as Taoiseach represents the culmination of 30 years in mainstream political life.

As Mr Varadkar hands the reins to his former political rival, he told the Dail, which is sitting in the Convention Centre, that it is “an historic occasion”.

“I believe Civil War politics ended a long time ago in our country, but today Civil War politics ends in our parliament,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Two great parties coming together with another great party, the Green Party, to offer what this country needs, a stable government for the betterment of our country and for the betterment of our world.

“I look forward to the privilege of serving in government with those two parties, as does my party.

“For my own party Fine Gael, it’s an opportunity, a third term in government, something we’ve never been able to do before, three consecutive terms.

“The chance to protect what has been achieved and secured over the past nine years and also a second chance, an opportunity to get right some of the things that we didn’t get right in the years gone by.

“I’m up for that challenge.”

Proposing Mr Martin for Taoiseach, Fianna Fail TD Norma Foley said it was an honour to nominate him.

“When we look at the record of Deputy Micheal Martin you must give credit to the man. When we look at his record in government and his time in office he was a progressive and reforming minister for education and foreign affairs.

“Deputy Micheal Martin has a valiant record of delivering for this free Republic.

“The programme for government agreed by Fianna Fail is a progressive programme for change. Deputy Micheal Martin has the talent and tenacity we need to lead the country with distinction.”

However, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said February was the change election, and Sinn Fein won more votes than any other party.

She said Fianna Fail and Fine Gael conspired against the party to exclude it from government, and the voices of more than half a million people who voted for them.

She described the coalition between the two parties as a “marriage of convenience”.

“Faced with the prospect of losing their grip on power, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have circled the wagons,” she said.

Detailed negotiations on an agreement on shared priorities with Fine Gael and the smaller Green Party have been delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

Firm targets for reducing carbon emissions and encouraging sustainable transport, as well as helping the country recover from economic harm caused by infection restrictions, will be among the new administration’s priorities.

The Dail is meeting in the unusual surroundings of a glass-fronted convention centre on Dublin’s River Liffey.

The temporary change of venue from Leinster House is to enable social distancing and to allow all 160 public representatives to sit.

Mr Martin will later meet Irish President Michael D Higgins at Dublin Castle to receive his seal of office.

Ministers are also due to be appointed later on Saturday.

Mr Martin will take over from Leo Varadkar in a historic reconciliation of a political feud with Fine Gael dating back to the foundation of the state a century ago.

Fine Gael are due to retrieve the Taoiseach’s role at the end of 2022 under the terms of the coalition agreement.

The two larger parties needed the support of the Greens to have a working majority in the Irish parliament, equating to about 80 seats, underpinning an extended period in office.

After weeks of talks, proposals on coalition were put to party memberships and results declared on Friday.

Fine Gael resoundingly endorsed them with 80% in favour. Fianna Fail recorded 74%.

The Greens’ support was the subject of speculation as it consulted its members, but 76% decided in favour.

Among the first tasks of the Irish Government will be to renew legislation enabling the non-jury Special Criminal Court to continue dealing with serious organised crime in the Republic.

The effect of Brexit and rebuilding an economy plunged by the virus into what some commentators believe will be one of the worst ever recessions will also be pressing challenges.

Sinn Fein won the popular vote in last winter’s proportional representation election, through an appeal to the young and buoyed by anger at the cost of housing and flaws in the health system.

It did not run enough candidates to fully translate votes into seats and was unable to form a “coalition of the left” with other parties of similar views, but will now lead the opposition.

Published: 27/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Glasgow – Injured policeman 'stable' after knife attack

The police officer who was injured in a knife attack at a Glasgow hotel on Friday is now in a stable condition.

Constable David Whyte, 42, was one of six people injured during the incident at the Park Inn Hotel in West George Street on Friday, in which a male suspect was shot and killed by police.

Three of the other people who were injured were asylum seekers, Police Scotland said, while two were members of staff.

All remain in hospital, one in a critical but stable condition, the others in a stable condition.

Mr Whyte’s condition was initially described as critical but stable.

On Saturday, Police Scotland, which has said the attack is not being treated as terrorism, launched an appeal for any witnesses to come forward.

Officers were called to the hotel at 12.50pm and the incident was “quickly contained”, the force said.

The suspect was shot by an armed unit and died at the scene.

Following an update from Police Scotland on Saturday, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “My thoughts today remain with Constable Whyte – whose bravery we are all deeply grateful for – and the other people who sustained injuries in yesterday’s terrible incident. I wish them all a full and speedy recovery.”

The Park Inn hotel was being used to house asylum seekers.

The six injured men are aged between 17 and 53.

Three of the injured people are being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and another three are being treated at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Published: 27/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Tributes for service personnel mark Armed Forces Day

The Queen and the Prime Minister have saluted the work of British servicemen and women, as the country marks Armed Forces Day while under coronavirus lockdown.

The Red Arrows left a trail of red, white and blue smoke as they performed a flypast in North Yorkshire on Saturday morning as part of this year’s more muted celebrations.

The Hawk fast-jets took to the skies above the coastal town of Scarborough which had been due to host an event which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Armed Forces Day flag has been raised in tribute at locations across the country.

In a statement, the Queen thanked the country’s armed forces, saying: “Having had members of my family serve in each of the Armed Services, I know only too well of the pride service personnel take in their duty.

“As your Commander-in-Chief, I send my warmest best wishes to you all, your families, and the entire Armed Forces community.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson shared a video message on Twitter in which he hailed the contribution of the “heroes” from the British Army, RAF and Royal Navy during the Covid-19 crisis.

He highlighted the Army’s logistical support in building the new NHS Nightingale hospital, the RAF’s assistance in repatriating Britons stranded abroad and the Navy’s provision of air ambulances for rural communities.

The Prime Minister said: “There’s a grim irony in the fact that the pandemic which our military is doing so much to fight, means we can’t hold the Armed Forces Day festivities at which we could thank you for doing so much.

“But take it from me, whether you’re a regular, a reservist, a civilian contractor, a veteran, or the family and friends who support our military in so many ways, we as a nation salute you.”

Drawing a link to the celebrations that marked the end of the Second World War, Mr Johnson added: “And we will know that, day and night, at home and aboard, at sea, on land, in the air, even in space and online, our fantastic armed forces are there for us now, just as you were when the nation celebrated more than 75 years ago.

“And it’s for all that and more, that I’m proud to salute our armed forces.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also thanked serving personnel for their work during the pandemic such as running testing sites or getting personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers.

“The first duty of any government is to keep its people safe and it’s you, our armed forces, who every day stand ready to put your lives on the line for our country,” he said in a tweeted video.

Sir Keir said the country must address the challenges the armed forces face around pay, recruitment and support for veterans.

To mark Armed Forces Day, he has announced a new group, the Labour Friends of the Forces, in a move designed to strengthen the party’s connections with veterans, active personnel and forces families.

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, urged people to remember some of the 300,000 RAF veterans in need of support, be that through financial difficulties or loneliness, who are particularly vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With this year’s celebrations being held virtually for the first time in history, military bands are due to give performances streamed on the armed forces’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

Behind-the-scenes views of the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will also be shown.

Ahead of Saturday, Mr Johnson spoke with military personnel including Lieutenant Colonel Harvey Pynn, who led a team of 20 military medics supporting the London Ambulance Service transporting patients to the NHS Nightingale hospital in London, and Wing Commander Claire Collis who was involved in the repatriation of British citizens from India and Pakistan.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace commended the military for its “professionalism, commitment and versatility” through the pandemic.

The Ministry of Defence announced in May that Scarborough will host the Armed Forces Day national event in 2021.

Published: 27/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Getting to the bottom of best museum exhibit

Museums across the world are competing to find which contains the “best bum” as part of a weekly online battle between curators.

Yorkshire Museum, in York, launched the search on social media on Friday, with a picture of a Roman marble statuette with what appears to be a bite-sized chunk missing from its behind.

The tweet has since received hundreds of replies, with bottoms from a range of items, including statues, paintings, photographs, animals, skeletons, insects and vehicles.

The museum has been running the “curator battle” throughout lockdown, giving museums worldwide the chance to display some of their most interesting objects to a global audience.

It introduced the latest contest with a tweet, which said: “Today’s theme is #BestMuseumBum!

“This cracking Roman marble statuette depicts an athlete at the peak of fitness. It may have decorated the town house of one of Eboracum’s wealthier residents. Has someone taken a bite out of this?”

The Royal Armouries, in Leeds, replied with a picture of its collection of Henry VIII’s combat armours.

It said: “Same derriere, different decade.

“You can track Henry VIII’s burgeoning bottom through our collection of his combat armours. The Tudor tubster went from a modest 32in waist in 1520 to a whopping 51in booty by 1540.

“A 60% increase in trunk junk.”

International entries included the Ota Memorial Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, with its paintings of sumo wrestlers by artist Katsushika Hokusai.

It commented: “How about these bums of sumo wrestlers in our collections?

“These bums were painted by Hokusai.”

Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, was one of many to offer a saucy seaside postcard as its entry.

Tweeting a picture of the card, which features a man waterskiing naked apart from a cowboy hat and boots, the American museum said: “Imagine getting this in the mail!”

A spokesman for the York Museums Trust said: “We have been running the curator battles throughout lockdown and they have proved really popular.

“It is a chance for museums big and small to share their objects under a given theme to create what essentially become global online exhibitions.

“We have run a variety of different themes over the weeks but best museum bums is proving one of the most popular yet – it’s great to see museums around the world sharing their cheekiest objects.”

Yorkshire Museum issues a new curator battle on its Twitter feed every Friday.

Published: 27/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Council spent thousands trying to keep Tate murder bid teenager’s name secret
Council bosses spent thousands of pounds on legal fees in a failed bid to keep Tate Modern murder attempt teenager Jonty Bravery’s name out of the public domain, the PA news agency has found.
Documents released under Freedom of Information laws show Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council paid £12,400 over the course of four court hearings as they fought with the press over naming the teenager.

Bravery was just under two months shy of his 18th birthday when he threw a six-year-old French tourist from the viewing platform of the London tourist attraction in August last year.

He was granted anonymity by the court because of his age, but the order expired on his 18th birthday – despite repeated efforts by the council to keep his identity out of the public domain for longer than that.

Bravery, who has autism and a personality disorder, was a “looked after child” under the care of Hammersmith and Fulham council at the time he struck – telling horrified onlookers social services were to blame for the atrocity.

He later admitted attempted murder and was handed a prison term of at least 15 years at the Old Bailey on Friday.

The authority has since ordered a serious case review into the incident, which is due to be published in the autumn.

Council documents released to PA show the total cost for legal advice and representation at four Old Bailey court hearings covering anonymity between August 8 and October 1 2019 was £12,400.

The authority said the same barrister was not available for each occasion.

In a statement, a council spokesman said: “Our sympathies go out to the child and his family following what happened at Tate Modern.

“An independent serious case review is now under way.

“It will look at what happened and the role played by all the different agencies involved.”

The six-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, suffered a bleed to the brain, fractures to his spine, and broken legs and arms in the fall.

The youngster had been visiting London with his family at the time and is now recovering in his native France.

Published: 27/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Charity coalition asks PM for mental health plan to avoid crisis
More than 50 organisations have urged the Prime Minister to develop a new mental health plan to prevent and respond to damage arising from the coronavirus outbreak. The current system will not be able to cope with an expected surge in demand as the nation starts to rebuild after Covid-19, Boris Johnson has been warned.
The Samaritans, Rethink Mental Illness and Mind are some of the charities who have said he must place mental health at the heart of the Government’s recovery plan.

A Government spokeswoman responded by noting NHS mental health services are open and can be accessed online or over the phone.

She said: “The pandemic has had consequences for us all, and we recognise this challenging time will have had an impact upon people’s mental health.

“That’s why we’ve provided £4.2 million to mental health charities to help people experiencing difficulties throughout the outbreak, in addition to £5 million already made available through the Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund.”

The charities say almost half of the UK population have experienced high levels of anxiety during the pandemic, while 80% of people living with mental illness say it has deteriorated.

They estimate a further half a million people are likely to go on to experience mental health problems as a result of the economic impact of the crisis.

The coalition of voluntary and social sector organisations is calling on the Government to work with them to develop a mental health renewal plan.

Their letter to Mr Johnson reads: “We know, as you do, that no one organisation, agency or Government department can provide the solutions to the enormous challenge facing us.

“But as Prime Minister, you have the authority to convene all the right people to make this happen.

“Together we can lead the world in delivering a Covid-19 recovery that puts the nation’s mental health at its heart.”

Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “Mental health care has been chronically underfunded for decades and we were only just starting to see the impact of investment when the pandemic hit.

“Covid-19 has changed the course of the journey we are on and we need to pool all our knowledge and resources to navigate the challenges ahead, with support at every level of Government.

“There’s an opportunity here to provide the nation with a renewal plan for mental health and to reduce some of the most damaging health inequalities in society. If we do not seize this chance, we will feel the impact of that failing for decades.”

Kathy Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Mental Health Providers, added: “This means the Government and the voluntary sector working in partnership – so that whether you are a community-based service provider, a school, or a business, you know you are funded properly to play your part in supporting the nation with its mental health, and if you are a person with mental health needs you can be confident that support is in place if or when needed.”

Published: 27/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Merkel: Britain must ‘live with consequences’ of looser ties with Brussels
Angela Merkel has warned Britons will have to “live with the consequences” of Boris Johnson rejecting Theresa May’s plan to continue close economic ties with Brussels after Brexit.
The German chancellor spoke with six European newspapers ahead of Germany assuming the rotating presidency of the EU council on July 1, and a day after Mr Johnson’s senior Brexit adviser signalled the next phase of talks with the bloc would be tough.

In comments carried by The Guardian, Mrs Merkel said: “With Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the British Government wants to define for itself what relationship it will have with us after the country leaves.

“It will then have to live with the consequences, of course, that is to say with a less closely interconnected economy.

“If Britain does not want to have rules on the environment and the labour market or social standards that compare with those of the EU, our relations will be less close.”

Mrs Merkel, 65, who has led Germany since 2005 and will retire from politics when her fourth term as chancellor ends next year, also said a no-deal Brexit would not be a personal defeat for her.

She said Europe could only respond appropriately to “reality” as Britain sets out what it wants at the negotiation table.

Mrs Merkel’s comments come as the PM’s Brexit adviser known as “the sherpa” on EU negotiations said the “intensified process” in discussions next week needed to be realistic.

David Frost said the UK would not allow Brussels the right to hit back at changes in British law with tariffs.

Earlier, Mr Johnson insisted the UK would reject an EU offer to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of the year.

In bullish language, Mr Frost insisted UK sovereignty over laws, courts, and fishing waters was “not up for discussion”.

He also said that what he called some of the EU’s more “unrealistic positions” would have to change in order to achieve progress.

Mr Frost said he was looking forward to the resumption of face-to-face talks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The next round of talks with the EU begins on Monday 29 June. This is the start of the intensified process,” he said.

“For the first time since March we will meet face to face, in Brussels. We look forward to welcoming the EU team to London the week after.

“These meetings will be smaller and focused on seeing whether we can begin to make genuine and rapid progress towards an agreement.”

The UK has a deadline of July 1 if it wants to extend the transition period beyond the end of the year.

Published: 27/06/2020 by Radio NewsHub

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