Young People Bear Brunt Of Job Losses
Britain’s unemployment rate has risen for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in March, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). ONS data published on Tuesday revealed unemployment increased by 104,000 to 1.4m in the three months to July – raising the quarterly unemployment rate to 4.1%. Young workers have been hardest hit by the job losses, with the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in employment declining 156,000 over the same period. The ONS said the increase was linked to the proportion of younger people working in industries “worst affected by the pandemic – that is, accommodation and food service activities and arts, entertainment and recreation.”
Despite the rise in unemployment, experts have warned the full impact of the economic crisis is yet to take effect on the jobs market as a result of the jobs retention scheme. Government contributions to the scheme began winding down at the start of this month ahead of its full closure at the end of October. In an online speech to the Trades Union Congress annual conference on Tuesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the chancellor to replace the furlough scheme with new targeted support for the worst-affected sectors, such as aviation and hospitality. Rishi Sunak said his “top priority” is helping people find jobs but insisted “indefinitely keeping people out of work” under the furlough scheme “is not the answer”.
TEST SHORTAGES WILL TAKE ‘WEEKS’ TO RESOLVE
The health secretary has said it will be a “matter of weeks” before Covid-19 testing delays can be resolved in the UK. Asked in the House of Commons on Tuesday whether coronavirus test shortages would be sorted out within a week, Matt Hancock replied: “I think that we will be able to solve this problem in a matter of weeks… We are managing to deliver record capacity”. His comments come after LBC radio reported there were no walk-in, drive-through or home tests available in the country’s ten worst virus hotspots on Monday. The station said it had unsuccessfully attempted to book appointments with postcodes in Bolton, Salford, Bradford, Blackburn, Oldham, Preston, Pendle, Rochdale, Tameside and Manchester.
The health secretary has claimed the delays are the result of people requesting Covid-19 tests when they do not need them and has insisted he will not “shirk from decisions on [testing] prioritisation”. While more than 200,000 tests are being conducted each day, nationwide demand remains much higher. It is thought pupils’ return to schools and rising testing requests from care homes are fuelling the demand. Laboratories responsible for analysing test swabs are reportedly struggling to process the level of samples coming in, forcing testing centres to restrict appointments. Meanwhile, the number of new confirmed infections has risen sharply. More than 2,600 cases of the virus were recorded on Monday, following three consecutive days of more than 3,000 new infections.
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea speaks out after two women lost their court appeal against changes to the state pension age for women. Julie Delve, 62, and Karen Glynn, 63, had challenged the government’s decision to raise the state pension age to 66, in line with men, with “next to no notice”. Despite backing from campaign group BackTo60, Delve and Glynn lost a High Court fight against the Department for Work and Pensions last year. On Tuesday, senior judges unanimously dismissed their appeal against this verdict on the grounds the pension changes did not amount to unlawful discrimination.
Passing their verdict, the judges said: “Despite the sympathy that we feel for the appellants… We are satisfied that this is not a case where the court can interfere with the decisions taken through the parliamentary process.” Unison, the UK’s largest union, said the pension changes had left women on lower incomes “in dire straits”. The BackTo60 campaign has vowed to continue fighting the case and said it would also draft legislation to bring a women's Bill of Rights.
In other news
OCADO HAILS M&S TIE-UP
Ocado has hailed its new tie-up with Marks & Spencer after recording a 52% surge in sales over the past two weeks. According to the online grocer, which ended its longstanding deal with Waitrose at the start of September, there has been a “positive customer reaction” to the addition of M&S products to its offering. Ocado said the launch of the M&S range had seen its average basket increase by five items and had driven “strong forward demand”. Ocado retail chief Melanie Smith said the “successful switchover” had allowed the online grocer to offer customers “more choice and better value than ever before”.
HIGH-RISK DRINKING DOUBLES
The number of people consuming high-risk amounts of alcohol has almost doubled since the coronavirus lockdown, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) has warned. The RCP said an estimated 8.4m people drank "high-risk" amounts of alcohol in June – up from 4.8m people four months earlier. Dr Adrian James, the RCP's president, has warned that addiction services have been “starved of funding” in recent years and may not be able to treat the “huge numbers” of people who are drinking at high-risk levels. He has urged ministers to reverse cuts to services with “substantial” investment in public health or risk more lives being “needlessly lost” to addiction.
FOUR JAILED FOR ESSEX LORRY DEATHS
Four people have been jailed in Vietnam in connection with the death of 39 migrants found in a refrigerated lorry in Essex. The bodies of 31 men and eight women from Vietnam were discovered in the vehicle in Grays last October. Post-mortem examinations suggest they died from a lack of oxygen and overheating. According to local media, a court in Ha Tinh province convicted four defendants of “organising and brokering illegal emigration” and sentenced them to between two-and-a-half years and seven-and-a-half years on Monday. The sentencing follows several other arrests in the UK, France and Belgium – including that of Maurice Robinson, the driver of the lorry, who has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
WOMEN JUMP UP BBC PAY LIST
The BBC’s annual pay report has revealed substantial salary increases for many high-profile women at the corporation. Four women – Zoe Ball, Vanessa Feltz, Lauren Laverne and Fiona Bruce – now feature in the BBC’s top ten highest earners. Ball has seen her pay rise by £1m after being named as the new host of the Radio 2 Breakfast show, while Laverne enjoyed a significant boost to £395,000 after becoming 6Music’s lead presenter. Gary Lineker remains the broadcaster’s highest-paid star with a salary of £1.75m – although BBC director general Tim Davie said the Match of the Day host had now agreed to a 25% pay reduction, which would be reflected in next year’s report.
LONDON RENTERS ‘RACE FOR SPACE’
Renters are abandoning inner London in favour of homes further afield, according to Rightmove. Search data from the property website has revealed a sharp decline in the number of searches for rental homes in traditional London commuter hubs such as Earl’s Court and New Cross. Areas in outer London, however, have seen significant increases in interest, with Chessington in Kingston Upon Thames ranking as the UK’s top rental hotspot following a 99% surge in searches. The figures come as estate agents report a “race for space” among homebuyers and renters who hope to trade longer and more infrequent commutes for larger properties and access to green space.
Hilary Mantel’s chance of winning a record third Booker prize has been thwarted after she failed to make the shortlist for this year’s award. Announced on Tuesday, the shortlist of six books has instead been dominated by debut novelists Diane Cook, Avni Doshi, Douglas Stuart and Brandon Taylor, as well as celebrated Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga and the Ethiopian-American Maaza Mengiste. Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said the judges were “surprised” to discover this was the case. “Why were they surprised? They were focusing on the books,” she said.