Zoo charity in plea to reopen parks and avoid £500,000 loss

Scottish attractions have been told earliest they can welcome visitors is July 15 but zoos want to reopen earlier.

Plea: The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has spoken of financial difficulties facing zoos. Edinburgh Zoo
Plea: The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has spoken of financial difficulties facing zoos.

Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park are calling on the Scottish Government to allow them to reopen by early July, as they warned their future is at risk in lockdown.

Zoos and safari parks in England can reopen on Monday, but Scottish attractions have been told the earliest they can welcome visitors again is July 15.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) had hoped to open Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore by the end of June with increased safety measures in place, but it said the Scottish Government has rejected its plans.

The charity has been spending around £700,000 a month on upkeep and food for its animals despite the parks being closed, and has had to borrow £5m due to the loss of visitor income.

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Chief executive David Field said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s efforts to reopen the tourism sector in Scotland because we desperately need our parks to open again.

“While we understand it is vital for lockdown measures to be eased gradually, we had hoped to open by the end of June as part of phase two, with similar safety measures to protect staff and visitors as the zoos and safari parks which will reopen in England over the next few days.

“We also expected to open before places like hotels, pubs and restaurants because our parks are ideal spaces for people and families to enjoy nature in safe outdoor environments.

“Delaying the reopening of Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park for at least five weeks means we will miss the start of the summer and lose £500,000.

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“We have had to borrow £5m overall due to the loss of our visitor income and every day we remain closed increases the risk that we will not be able to continue our wildlife conservation work.

“Zoos and safari parks are perfect places for people to visit as society gradually starts to reopen and we will continue to discuss these community benefits with the Scottish Government in the hope that we can open for the start of the summer.

“Reopening by the start of July will also help our charity recover because right now we are an endangered species in zoological terms.”

The wildlife conservation charity has written to the Scottish Government to suggest practical ways to reopen both parks by the start of July.

Edinburgh Liberal Democrat politicians Alex Cole-Hamilton and Christine Jardine have launched a petition calling on the Scottish Government to allow the zoo to reopen, which has now been signed by 3800 people.

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.


Phase three: People from three households can meet indoors

Outdoor meetings of up to five households will also be allowed and two-metre distancing in shops relaxed.

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Lockdown: Nicola Sturgeon set out further easing of restrictions.

Scotland will move to phase three of its plan to ease out of lockdown, with Scots from up to three different households able to meet indoors and stay overnight from Friday.

Outdoor meetings of up to five households, comprising no more than 15 people, will also be permitted, the First Minister revealed.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the shift to MSPs on Thursday following the thrice weekly review of lockdown measures.

She confirmed two-metre social distancing, while remaining in place at large, will be relaxed in key sectors.

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Public transport and retail will see the rule relaxed from Friday, the First Minister said.

However, mitigations will need to be in place in these sectors, with face coverings in shops also mandatory from Friday.

This rule, provided businesses have mitigations in place, will also be relaxed for bars, restaurants and cafes – which can reopen indoors and outdoors from next Wednesday, July 15.

Tourism businesses such as hotels will be able to open as expected in Scotland on July 15, the First Minister confirmed to MSPs.

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Museums, galleries, libraries and cinemas, provided that tickets are bought in advance, can accommodate people again from that date too.

Hairdressers and barbers will be able to open on July 15, with guidance for the sector due to be published this week.

Shops within shopping centres will also be permitted to reopen, meaning the majority of retail premises will be operational in phase three.

From July 22, personal retail like outlets like beauticians and nail salons can resume work.

It comes as no new coronavirus deaths were reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours.

The First Minister told MSPs that while the virus is being suppressed in Scotland, it has not yet gone away.

She said: “Lockdown has suppressed it, but as lockdown eases there is a very real risk that it will start to spread again.

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“And that is not conjecture – it is already happening in many parts of the world.

“And with every restriction we lift, the risk increases – especially as we start to permit more indoor activity.

“So all of us must do everything we can to mitigate it.”

From Friday, up to 15 people from five different households will be allowed to meet outdoors, the First Minister said, as long as two-metre distancing is adhered to.

A maximum of eight people from three different households will also now able to meet indoors.

However, the FM described the change as “one of the highest risk changes we have made so far”.

She continued: “We know that the risk of transmitting the virus indoors is significantly higher than it is outdoors.

“So it is essential that we all take great care and strictly follow all of the public health advice.”

Couples who do not live together will now be able to meet without physically distancing, regardless of their living arrangements.

Indoor hospitality businesses have also been given the go-ahead to open on July 15, but Sturgeon added: “Just as with indoor household meetings, opening up indoor hospitality poses significantly increased risks of transmission.

“So it is essential that the guidance on health and safety is followed rigorously, by businesses, staff and customers.

“That includes guidance on physical distancing and taking customer contact details.”

The First Minister said the announcement for beauty and nail salons had not been expected so soon, and revealed other measures have been brought forward.

Places of worship will be able to open again for communal prayer and services, earlier than planned, but with restrictions placed on singing and chanting, two-metre distancing and leaving contact details required.

Restrictions on attendance numbers at funerals, weddings and civil partnerships will also be eased, although these numbers will be “even more limited” than those allowed to return to places of worship.

Motorcycle instruction along with theory and hazard tests will be allowed to resume – but not instruction for those learning to drive a car.

No date was given either for the reopening of indoor gyms, bingo halls, live events and non-essential offices.

Sturgeon said there should be “cautious hope” in Scotland over the suppression of the virus but she added it is still a time of “real danger”.

She told the Scottish parliament “Next week represents the most substantial easing of lockdown so far.

“And everything we learn about this, still new virus – about its infectiousness, its ability to kill, and its potential to do long-term damage to health – should warn us that we mess with it at our peril.

“And so perhaps more than ever, now is a time for great caution.”

Pubs and restaurants in Scotland to reopen on Wednesday

Hairdressers, nail salons, dentists, hotels and shopping centres will also open their doors in coming days.

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Pubs: Beer gardens reopened on Monday.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to open their doors to customers again from Wednesday next week.

Nicola Sturgeon gave the green light to a July 15 reopening for tourism and hospitality businesses as she moved Scotland into phase three of its plan out of lockdown.

Beer gardens and other outdoor hospitality were permitted to resume work from Monday while most shops have already received the go-ahead to reopen.

And from July 13, non-essential shops inside shopping centres will be able to reopen, opening up the vast majority of Scotland’s retail sector.

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Dentists will also be able to resume most routine treatments from that day, and children will be allowed to play organised outdoor sports.

As of July 15, indoor hospitality will resume on a limited basis, with public health safeguards in place.

Holiday accommodation like hotels, B&Bs, caravans and campsites can also open again, along with museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries.

All such sites will have to fulfil public health conditions – but will see the two-metre distancing rule relaxed to one metre in these sectors provided they meet them.

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It comes after chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed VAT will be reduced for all UK tourism and hospitality firms to 5% from Sunday.

He also announced everyone will receive an ‘eat out to help out’ voucher to be used on selected in August, offering a 50% discount on meals – up to £10 a head – for those who dine out.

Haidressers and barbers can also resume work from July 15, as can Scotland’s childcare sector, the First Minister confirmed to MSPs on Thursday.

Further, in an unexpected move, places of worship can reopen for limited communal prayer.

The contact details of those in attendance will have to be collected, as they will be in pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Restrictions at funerals, weddings and civil partnerships will also be eased on that same date, though wakes and receptions must continue to follow limits on household gatherings and hospitality.

Sturgeon said: “I am well aware that the restrictions we have had to place on attendance at funerals in these last few months have been particularly hard to bear.

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“I am grateful to everyone who has complied, in what I know will have been heart-breaking circumstances.”

From July 22, beauticians and nail salons may reopen too, also earlier than planned.

On that same date, universities and colleges can also begin to implement a “phased return to on-campus learning”.

The First Minister warned the changes permitting indoor hospitality were among the most “high risk” her government had enacted since lockdown.

Sturgeon escribed her statement to Parliament as “the most significant milestone yet in Scotland’s emergence from lockdown”.

She said: “I hope that the measures we have announced or confirmed today are welcome.

“All of them, of course, depend on us keeping the virus under control.

“Eliminating it as far as possible now – ahead of the almost inevitable challenges we will face come winter – remains our objective.

“And we will not hesitate to reimpose restrictions if we consider it necessary to halt the spread of the virus and save lives.”

Phase three could last longer than the scheduled three-week review date, the First Minister said, adding the shift to phase four may take longer.

The third phase also brings changes to Scots’ social lives, with indoor meetings between three households – and overnight stays – permitted from Friday.

The total of three households must comprise no more than eight people meeting indoors, Sturgeon said.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 15 people, comprising up to five households, will also be allowed from tomorrow.

The FM said: “Just as with indoor household meetings, opening up indoor hospitality poses significantly increased risks of transmission.

“So it is essential that the guidance on health and safety is followed rigorously, by businesses, staff and customers.

“That includes guidance on physical distancing and taking customer contact details.”

She re-emphasised the Scottish Government’s ‘FACTS’ campaign to help the public follow public health guidance. The acronym stands for:

  • Face coverings where required, in shops and on public transport.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Clean your hands.
  • Two-metre distancing remains the norm.
  • Self-isolate and book a test if you develop coronavirus symptoms.

Mourners line street in tribute to toddler killed in crash

Xander Irvine’s funeral cortege passed through Morningside Road in Edinburgh on Thursday morning.

Tribute: Xander Irvine loved books, toy vehicles and Lego.

Mourners lined the streets in tribute to a “happy, bubbly, intelligent little boy” who was killed in a crash in Edinburgh.

Xander Irvine’s funeral cortege passed through Morningside Road on Thursday ahead of the three-year-old’s private service and burial at Morningside Cemetery.

The toddler’s family had asked for as many people as possible from local homes and businesses to line the street to say their goodbyes.

Florist Quate & Co handed out 400 roses to those who had gathered so they could be placed on the hearse as it passed.

Edinburgh: Flowers and teddies have been placed along Morningside Road.
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Flowers and teddies have also been left on the street in tribute to the toddler.

Xander suffered fatal injuries after a car mounted a pavement and careered into a shop in Morningside Road last Tuesday afternoon.

His 37-year-old mother was also injured in the crash but was released from hospital.

The driver of the red Kia, a 91-year-old woman, was uninjured.

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In a statement released through Police Scotland, Xander’s family described him as “real chatterbox who just loved books, playing with all sorts of vehicles and his Lego”.

Parents Victoria and Paul said there were “devastated and feel as if their hearts have been ripped out”. 

Loved: Xander was described as a ‘chatterbox’.

The toddler’s family thanked members of the public and the emergency services for their help at the scene of the accident.

A fundraiser has been set up for Xander’s family, with more than £25,000 raised so far.

If you wish to donate, click here.


Boots to cut more than 4000 jobs due to impact of Covid-19

The high street pharmacy company said the restructuring will also see 48 Boots Opticians stores close.

Boots: Company to cut more than 4000 jobs.

High street pharmacy chain Boots has said it expects to cut more than 4000 jobs as part of action to mitigate the “significant impact” of Covid-19.

The move will affect around 7% of the company’s workforce and will particularly affect staff in its Nottingham support office.

It will also affect some deputy and assistant manager, beauty adviser and customer adviser roles across its stores.

The restructuring will also result in the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores.

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It comes after retail sales tumbled by 48% over the past three months in the face of the pandemic, despite Boots keeping swathes of its stores open to customers.

Meanwhile, its opticians business saw sales dive by 72% compared to the same quarter last year as people stayed at home.

Boots said that the cuts represent an “acceleration” of its transformation plans to improve profitably across the business.

Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth.

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“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months.

“They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.”

“In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues.

“We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”


Electricity pole fell 200ft from helicopter and landed near road

The aircraft carrying the 700kg wooden pole mistakenly released it onto a hillside 200 metres from a road.

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Crash: Electricity pole mistakenly released from aircraft.

An electricity pole fell from a helicopter transporting it and crashed to the ground near a road in the Highlands, accident investigators have found.

The helicopter was flying at around 200ft in Glencoe with the 700kg wooden pole in a sling underneath the aircraft when it was mistakenly released.

The pole crashed into the hillside below and split into two pieces around 200 metres from a minor public road, according to report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The 66-year-old pilot was flying the Eurocopter solo as part of electricity line refurbishment when the incident happened at around 2.30pm on March 3.

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The report said: “The pole broke into two pieces when it struck a steep hill approximately 200 metres from a minor public road but clear of any built-up areas and third parties.

“There was no damage to the helicopter or lifting equipment.

“The operator considered the most probable cause for the inadvertent release of the load was that the sling, which was carrying the load, was not positioned correctly in the helicopter’s hook which was of the spring-loaded keeper design.

“As a result of this incident, the operator is continuing to phase out the design of this hook for most of its operations and has changed its procedures so that only the operator’s employees are permitted to load the hook when spring-loaded keeper hooks are used.”


Fancy your own private island on Loch Lomond for £500k?

The uninhabited island, Inchconnachan, is only accessible by boat and no-one has lived there for 20 years.

For sale: Inchconnachan is on the market for offers over £500k.

A private island in the middle of Loch Lomond has gone on sale for £500,000.

The uninhabited island, Inchconnachan, is only accessible by boat and no-one has lived there for 20 years.

The ruins of a timber bungalow built in Colonial style in the 1920s can still be seen.

It was once the holiday home of thrill-seeking aristocrat Fiona Gore, Countess of Arran who was at one-time the fastest woman on the water, after setting record speeds of 102mph in a powerboat in 1980.

No-one has lived on Inchconnachan there for 20 years. SWNS
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Planning consent and detailed architectural drawings have been obtained to replace the existing bungalow with a new four-bedroom lodge and one-bedroom warden’s house, along with a boathouse and pier.

The island is both an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation as well as being part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and is surrounded by views of mountain ranges.

Wildlife lovers could watch nesting ospreys, otters and deer on the 103-acre island, which can only be accessed by a boat from Luss, Argyll and Bute.

It is on the market for offers over £500,000 – the same price as an ultra-modern one-bedroom flat near Canary Wharf in London.

The island is only accessible by boat. SWNS
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Cameron Ewer for Savills said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a beautiful and completely private, yet accessible, retreat and create a wonderful new residence there.

“For those seeking peace and seclusion, yet wanting all that this part of Scotland has to offer in the way of nature and water-based sport and activities, this is surely the ultimate prize.”

Tom Stewart-Moore for Knight Frank said: “To be able to build your own house on your own private island but yet in a very accessible and beautiful part of the country will be a dream for many and is likely to have global appeal.”


Access to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park restricted for summer

Glasgow City Council is locking ten gates at the popular park in a bid to control large gatherings.

Crowds: Kelvingrove Park has hosted mass gatherings on sunny days.

Access to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park is to be restricted for the rest of the summer.

In an effort to control large gatherings during lockdown, the city’s council has moved to close ten gates which are entrance and exit points to the popular park.

Six key access points from the north, south, east and west of the park are to remain.

These are at Kelvingrove Street, Kelvin Way (south), Eldon Street underpass for the NCN 756, Eldon Street, Park Gate and the Royal Terrace for NCN 756.

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The decision comes following a spate of incidents in the West End park which has hosted huge crowds on sunny weekends during lockdown.

Last month, dozens of police officers were forced to disperse crowds from the area.

On days when large gatherings are anticipated, council officers are to be stationed at entrance points to remind visitors of park management rules, including prohibition of alcohol and keeping the park clean.

Following recent trouble, anyone entering the park with alcohol is to be refused entry, the council say.

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Mobile CCTV is also to be improved at Kelvingrove, while discussions are ongoing about adding to the park’s four permanent CCTV cameras.

Councillor Anna Richardson, city convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: “Going to the park has been a real lifeline during the Covid-19 emergency and throughout lockdown Kelvingrove Park has remained as one of Glasgow’s favourite green spaces.

“Closing gates at Kelvingrove is the last thing we wanted to do, but we have to ensure the park remains a place that everyone can enjoy and feels safe going there.


Police officer to appeal after winning sex discrimination claim

Karen Harper claims evidence was ignored and decisions were not explained during the employment tribunal.

Appeal: Karen Harper.

A former police officer who partly won a sex discrimination claim against Police Scotland is appealing — on the grounds her employment tribunal ignored evidence and failed to explain decisions.

The tribunal found Karen Harper was victimised by a sergeant who passed potentially damaging information about her “in retaliation” after she accused him of bullying.

However, it rejected the whistleblower’s allegation that her bullying complaint was also the reason she was targeted in an extensive criminal investigation.

In his original judgment in February, tribunal judge Mark Whitcombe said it was “purely coincidental” the investigation was launched two weeks after she lodged her complaint in 2015.

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Ms Harper, from Dumfries, had 22 years’ service before retiring through ill health in 2017.

In the appeal submission, Ms Harper’s lawyer Mark Allison claims there was a “failure by the tribunal to have regard to material evidence” and that it “failed to record their decision and give adequate reasons”.

Ms Harper was off duty when she allegedly intervened in an argument between her ten-year-old son and another boy, who claimed she shouted at him.

She was not told about the investigation or asked for her side of the story and later discovered two inspectors approached nine of her neighbours and her ex-husband Bruce, a former sergeant.

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Ms Harper’s appeal argues that element of the investigation were “incomprehensible” and “went beyond legitimate enquiry, and amount to a fishing expedition”.

It alleges the Glasgow tribunal “either misunderstood the evidence before it” or “failed to scrutinise and given reasoned analysis” in relation to the explanations given by police witnesses. 

Had it done so, the tribunal should have concluded “in the absence of a legitimate purpose” the reason for the visit was because of the bullying complaint.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said they were unable to comment due to the legal process being live while Ms Harper also declined to comment.

Her lawyer Mr Allison, of Livingstone Brown, said: “Ms Harper was pleased with the unequivocal findings by the tribunal both that she had been subjected to unlawful victimisation by a senior police officer and that the subsequent procedure was unfair and inconsistent with Police Scotland’s own policies and procedures.

“Nevertheless there are aspects of the judgment that Ms Harper takes issue with. 

“On the basis of legal advice, it is felt that there are reasonable grounds for challenging those decisions and that process is under way.”


Tax hike warning to help pay for £160bn Covid spending package

The IFS has warned of higher taxes in 2022/23 in a bid to pay off cash spent protecting jobs during the coronavirus crisis.

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Covid cash hit: Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

A think tank has warned of higher taxes in 2022/23 to help pay for the £160bn chancellor Rishi Sunak has committed to protecting jobs during the Covid-19 crisis.

In a wide ranging response to the economic update on Wednesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) director Paul Johnson said: “Let’s hold in the back of our minds that a reckoning, in the form of higher taxes, will come eventually.”

The think tank poses questions about whether some of the measures announced by the chancellor will deliver value for money.

The Job Retention Bonus will give employers £1000 for every furloughed worker kept on until at least January 2021.

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However, the IFS said: “A lot, probably a majority, of the job retention bonus money will go in respect of jobs that would have been, indeed already have been, returned from furlough anyway”.

It also questioned the timing of the VAT cut particularly as it relates to the hospitality sector.

Mr Johnson said: “Maybe it would have been better to wait until we know whether the real problem is on the demand side –people need to be encouraged to go out and eat-or on the supply side-with social distancing restaurants can’t serve enough people.”

The IFS also fired a warning over other measures announced like apprenticeships and energy efficiency programmes saying “you need to be sure you can deliver them. Even at the scale announced this will be challenging”.

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The IFS said the chancellor has a difficult balancing act between supporting business now and laying firm foundations for economic recovery.

Mr Johnson concluded: “They need to get the balance between preserving those parts of the economy which have a long-term future and helping to transition to the new normal. 

“They also need to actually deliver goods and services and change. That is very different from simply disbursing cash.”

‘Expect pay packets to take a hit in future’

By STV’s Special Correspondent Bernard Ponsonby

When the IFS speaks, politicians sit up and take note. Like the Office for Budget Responsibility its judgements tend to be unimpeachable.

Some of the think tank’s observations make for uncomfortable reading for Rishi Sunak but they readily concede he has a difficult if not impossible task in dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances.

The problem for Sunak is that he is trying to do a number of different things at once with no guarantee that his spending will actually work.

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The interventions are meant to shore up jobs now. Furlough has done that at huge expense. The concern is that the eye watering sums will have given households and businesses breathing space but just postpone the inevitable.

As the IFS point out you can spend £60bn on furloughing or add £8bn to the welfare bill in the form of higher payments to the newly unemployed. The Government have opted for spending more than would have been the case if they had simply let events take their natural course.

The chancellor is also trying to prop up key sectors of the economy like hospitality and tourism whilst laying the foundations for long term sustainable jobs through measures on apprenticeships and targeted help for 16-24 year olds. At this stage it is impossible to gauge how successful these measures will be.

Perhaps the most strikingly candid admission from the chancellor is that he cannot replace all of the jobs that will be lost in the coming months. In that sense the policy is about mitigating disaster not preventing it. Mass unemployment increasingly looks inevitable; the only issue is the weight of the mass.

And the price for trying to mitigate all of this is the biggest deficit since the Second World War.  That’s why tax increases are inevitable but as the IFS says not this year and not next whilst the economy is in a fragile state.

Expect pay packets to take a hit therefore in 2022/23.


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