‘Chicken Shop Gangs’ Target Children
Children and young people are being lured into gangs with offers of free food, according to evidence submitted to the House of Commons youth select committee. The committee heard the evidence as part of its investigation into the UK’s rising levels of knife crime. Some organised crime groups – referred to as “chicken shop gangs” – have been known to target children with offers of free fast food. Natasha Chopra of The Children’s Society said gang members would offer young people free food in chicken shops in order to build a relationship with them, later enlisting them into gang activities such as drug dealing.
According to Chopra, gang members prevent young people from leaving with threats to share videos of them performing sex acts or taking drugs. Threats of violence may also be made against their family or friends. The Children’s Society said the problem had been exacerbated by cuts to youth services, which had led some young people to use fast food chains as places to socialise. The evidence submitted to the youth select committee follows figures shared by the National Crime Agency (NCA) earlier this year. The NCA estimates as many as 10,000 children may be being exploited as part of county lines drug dealing in the UK, which generates profits of around £500m a year.
UK TO PULL OUT OF EU MEETINGS
British diplomats are set to withdraw from EU decision-making meetings in Brussels within days. The move is currently under discussion by UK officials and comes as the British government attempts to emphasis it’s “do or die” Brexit stance. It follows the prime minister’s pledge to “unshackle” British diplomacy from EU affairs. However, some have claimed a withdrawal would only exclude the UK from day-to-day decision making and leave British diplomats blindsided. Critics of the move include Liberal Democrat MEP Luisa Porritt, who described the plans as “haughty grandstanding” and accused Boris Johnson of “unnecessarily sabotaging British influence in Europe”.
There are currently around 150 UK diplomats in Brussels lobbying in support of British interests at EU institutions. However, in his first statement as prime minister, Johnson said Britain’s “national participation” in the EU needed to come to an end, claiming many British officials were “trapped in meeting after meeting in Brussels” when they could be working on new trade deals. Responding to the news, EU diplomats said the premature removal of British representatives would be regrettable, with many British diplomats having built respected reputations at EU institutions.
Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, speaks out in favour of a review of grouse hunting in the UK. Speaking on the first day of the grouse shooting season yesterday, Hayman said the impact of the practice on the environment and wildlife needed to be “properly weighed up against the benefit of land owners profiting from shooting parties”. Approximately 700,000 grouse are shot in the UK each year.
The RSPB has warned a lack of effective regulation has had a harmful effect on the environment, with preparations for the season including practices such as the burning of vegetation and the illegal hunting of predator birds which could target grouse stocks. The Labour party has called for a review of grouse hunting and its impact and has spoken out in support of “viable alternatives” which could benefit rural economies, such as a simulated shooting and wildlife tourism.
In other news...
FARAGE LASHES OUT AT ROYALS
Nigel Farage has lashed out at the royal family during a speech to a right-wing political conference in Australia. The Brexit party leader took aim at the royals while discussing wide-ranging issues such as a Brexit and media bias, reserving his harshest criticism for princes Charles and Harry and the Queen Mother. Farage praised the Queen as an “awe-inspiring woman” before condemning the Queen Mother as an “overweight, chain-smoking gin drinker”. He also rebuked Prince Charles for his stance on climate change and accused Prince Harry of having “fallen off a cliff” after meeting his wife Meghan Markle. While media were barred from attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney, Farage’s alleged remarks were published by the Guardian yesterday after the newspaper received a recording of his speech.
PATIENTS FACE TWO-WEEK GP WAIT
A new poll for the medical magazine Pulse has found patients are waiting almost 15 days for an appointment with their GP. According to an annual survey of doctors, the average wait for a routine appointment has risen above two weeks for the first time, with one in five surveyed GPs claiming waiting times at their practice have exceeded three weeks. It follows repeated complaints from doctors’ organisations warning that GPs are being overworked in the face of rising patient demand. NHS figures show there were 28,697 full-time GPs practising in March, down 441 on last year. NHS England said the survey represented only “a small fraction of GPs” and did not tally with official figures.
£100,000 RAISED FOR MISSING TEEN
More than £100,000 has been donated to crowdfunding pages raising funds for the missing teenager Nora Quoirin. The British teenager went missing while on a family holiday in Malaysia on 4th August. Malaysian police are treating the teenager’s disappearance as a missing persons case and are being provided with support from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Met police. Quoirin’s family say the 15-year-old has learning and developmental difficulties and “does not go anywhere alone". They believe she may have been abducted. A crowdfunding page set up by Quoirin’s aunt has raised £89,000 while a second page set up by her uncle for euro donations has raised €14,000. The donations will go towards covering the family’s expenses while the search for Quoirin continues.
COMPLAINTS RISE AGAINST GAMBLING FIRMS
The number of complaints against British gambling firms has surged almost 5,000% in the last five years. According to figures from the Gambling Commission, the number of complaints rose to a record high of 8,266 last year – up from 169 in 2013. The majority of complaints are said to relate to socially irresponsible behaviour by gambling companies or those refusing to pay out on winning bets. Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said the rise in complaints could in part indicate positive change, showing that consumers are now “demanding more of the gambling operators”. It follows a significant increase in gambling over the last decade, with UK gamblers now losing almost twice as much money to betting firms than they did ten years ago.
UP WAGES TO BOOST ECONOMY, SAYS THINKTANK
The latest report from the New Economics Foundation has called for more public holidays and an increase in workers’ wages in order to boost the productivity of the British economy. According to the report, boosting consumer spending power could improve confidence in the demand for products and services, encouraging UK firms to raise their productivity. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has welcomed the report’s findings as “an ambitious plan for economic transformation” which could help lift the UK “out of the productivity crisis”. Productivity – economic output per hour of work – has fallen from an average of 2% before the 2008 financial crisis to around 0.7% in recent years.
The total amount spent by Brits on stockpiling goods in case of a no-deal Brexit. According to research by the finance provider Premium Credit, one in five people have begun buying additional supplies of food, drinks and medicine in preparation for a potential no-deal exit from the EU – with the average stockpiler spending an extra £380.