TSB to close 164 branches and cut 969 jobs | Business News

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TSB has announced plans to close 164 branches and cut 969 jobs as it accelerates a shake-up launched last year.

The cuts, blamed on the shift in customer behaviour from over-the-counter to online banking – accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic – will reduce its high street network to 290.

That compares to more than 600 branches when TSB was relaunched in a spin-off from Lloyds Banking Group in 2013.

Debbie Crosbie is currently chief operating officer of CYGB. Pic: TSB
Image: Chief executive Debbie Crosbie said closures were ‘never an easy decision’. Pic: TSB

The bank said it was registering almost 4,000 customers a day for its digital app, up from 1,200 before the pandemic, while the proportion of transactions made digitally or through automation – already at 90% last year – had risen further during the outbreak.

TSB chief executive Debbie Crosbie said: “Closing any of our branches is never an easy decision, but our customers are banking differently – with a marked shift to digital banking.

“We are reshaping our business to transform the customer experience and set us up for the future.

“This means having the right balance between branches on the high street and our digital platforms, enabling us to offer the very best experience for our personal and business customers across the UK.”

The cuts, due to take place next year, add to an ongoing programme of 82 branch closures announced when TSB first launched a three-year turnaround plan last November.

That means that over the period the number of branches will have fallen from 536 before the closures started, though the bank pointed out it would still have the seventh largest network in the UK.

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2018: Banks: too old fashioned for online?

It is the latest lender to announce closures, following rival Co-op, which said last month that it was shutting down 18 sites – while bigger lenders such as Lloyds and NatWest have also been chopping back their high street presence.

TSB said it was taking steps to support vulnerable customers in rural locations.

The bank said branches earmarked for closure were on average less than 0.3 miles to the nearest post office – where TSB customers will be able to make deposits and withdrawals.

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It said the vast majority of job losses were expected to come through voluntary redundancies.

A total of 969 “role reductions” will be offset by 120 new roles being created.

Spanish-owned TSB has been attempting to turn around its fortunes after an IT fiasco in 2018, which left nearly two million people locked out of their accounts and led to the then chief executive Paul Pester to step down.

Trade union Unite urged TSB to rethink the plans.

National officer Dominic Hook said: “Not only do these staff deserve more from their employer after showing the utmost loyalty to TSB, customers will be deeply hit by these branch closures.”

COVID-19 curfew land: Where late-night chicken wings result in a police warning | UK News

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It’s 10.40pm and a man has just bought some chicken wings in Oldham.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought us to the point where moments later, police and council officials are ticking off the owner of the takeaway for breaking the law.

Oldham has had five weeks of tight COVID-19 restrictions
Image: Oldham has had five weeks of tight COVID-19 restrictions but the infection rates are still rising
Oldham has had five weeks of tight Covid
Image: The curfew means a very different Friday night out in town

Officers don’t really want to be curtailing someone’s livelihood, the council certainly hasn’t got the budget to be doing it, but the rules from central government introduced this week mean they are here, in the chicken shop, issuing a written warning.

Next time, it will be a £1,000 fine.

Oldham has had five weeks of tight COVID-19 restrictions but the infection rates are still rising. Now, the 10pm curfew introduced earlier this week means a Friday night out in town is a soulless experience. The craic has gone.

Calling time at 9:30pm will never feel normal but the bars, pubs and clubs that are open had already been warned that 10pm is the new cut-off. Doors close on time at 10pm – there is no supping up and slowly winding up the conversation.

Every bar and pub we see does what’s been asked of them.

The takeaways haven’t all got the message, some feigning ignorance, but their excuses aren’t cutting it with the licensing team, who are issuing the warnings and penalties.

They’ve been told to make the curfew work. Encouraging and engaging first but making sure non-compliance is called out.

Oldham has had five weeks of tight COVID-19 restrictions
Image: Police are checking businesses are sticking to the rules

So they are knocking on doors and responding to reports of businesses operating late into the night. Takeaways can still do deliveries – so we saw some punters jumping into friend’s cars so the takeaway could be brought to them after 10pm.

Many drinkers crammed more drinks in between 9pm and closing time – and then admit they are off to meet at someone’s house nearby.

Empty town centres do mean people are less likely to come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, but the side effect is the slow death of the night-time economy.

That’s jobs, livelihoods and more families struggling – it’s the price the government has reluctantly decided we will have to pay as the second wave of the virus grows by the day.

Coronavirus: Prisoners forced to use buckets as toilets at jail for fortnight during pandemic | UK News

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Prisoners were forced to use buckets as toilets and spent five months almost totally confined to cells at a jail, the chief inspector of prisons has said.

Concerns have been raised by Peter Clarke about HMP Erlestoke in Wiltshire during the pandemic.

He said that inmates were subjected to “degrading and unacceptable” treatment – with some waiting two weeks for cell toilets to be fixed.

Watch and follow live on Sky News as Boris Johnson updates MPs on coronavirus plans at 12.30pm – with a Downing Street broadcast at 8pm

Robert Buckland has agreed to address the issues at HMP Erlestoke
Image: Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has agreed to address the issues at the prison

Others were left without the ability to properly clean themselves, and a doubling in the use of force by staff on inmates since the start of lockdown was also reported.

He also said he found a “very troubling” picture of violence, disorder and self-harm.

Inspectors were also disturbed by the discovery of “significant amounts” of Hooch alcopops inside the jail – 370 litres since the start of the pandemic.

“Racist” graffiti was also found, alongside broken cell windows with sharp shards of glass, blocked toilets and broken showers.

The inspector has been in contact with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, who agreed to address the issues.

HMP Erlestoke holds around 500 prisoners and is a category C facility – the third most serious designation.

Mr Clarke said he found a “lack of leadership and oversight” in the segregation unit – essentially solitary confinement – which was deemed “especially concerning”.

The report, which was carried out last month, said: “We saw treatment that was degrading and unacceptable.

“We found one prisoner and were made aware of two others who had been without toilets, running water and a cell call bell system for approximately two weeks. They had been given buckets while waiting for cell toilets to be fixed.

“There were also serious safeguarding concerns about the lack of social care provision.

“We found vulnerable adults who had been left unable to complete basic tasks, such as cleaning themselves or their cells properly, or collecting food.”

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Mr Clarke said in general the response to the coronavirus pandemic at the prison “has led to a less safe, less decent and less purposeful prison”.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We have taken immediate action to address all the issues raised in this report, with a focus on improving safety and living standards.

“A programme of repair work is under way across the prison, with the majority of work expected to be completed by the end of the month.

“We are urgently working to identify additional improvements we can make to prisoner safety and Erlestoke will receive additional staff training and specialist support to help drive down violence.”

Ryanair cuts capacity again after ‘government mismanagement of COVID travel policies’ | Business News

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Ryanair has blamed European governments for “continuous changes” in travel restrictions, as it announces a 20% cut in October capacity.

It follows a further 20% cut announced last month, meaning the airline expects October capacity to fall from 50% to 40% of the levels seen at the same time last year, before the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it also said it expected flights to be more than 70% full under the reduced schedule.

Ryanair blamed “damage caused to forward bookings by continuous changes in EU government travel restrictions and policies, many of which are introduced at short notice, which undermine consumers’ willingness to make forward bookings”.

A Ryanair spokesperson said the airline was “disappointed” to have to make the cut but “as customer confidence is damaged by government mismanagement of COVID travel policies, many Ryanair customers are unable to travel for business or urgent family reasons without being subjected to defective 14 day quarantines”.

“While it is too early yet to make final decisions on our winter schedule (from November to March), if current trends and EU governments’ mismanagement of the return of air travel and normal economic activity continue, then similar capacity cuts may be required across the winter period.”

Many countries in the EU along with the UK have brought in 14-day quarantine requirements for travellers returning from certain countries.

The UK government has been criticised for doing this with little notice, meaning a rush of returnees trying to beat the quarantine and the resulting inflated airfares for them to do so within a limited timeframe.

But Ryanair singled out Ireland, blaming the government for maintaining “excessive and defective travel restrictions” since July.

A spokesperson said: “We call on Ireland’s transport minister Eamon Ryan to explain why over two months later he still hasn’t implemented any of the 14 recommendations of the governments Aviation Task Force which were submitted to government on 7 July.

“He should also explain why NPHET (Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team) has kept Ireland locked up like North Korea since 1 July, while at the same time Italy and Germany removed all intra-EU travel restrictions and have delivered COVID case rates which are less than half the rate which NPHET has presided over in Ireland.

“Intra-EU air travel is not the problem and these defective travel bans are not a solution.”

Coronavirus: Extend furlough scheme to stop ‘tsunami of job losses’, urges TUC | Politics News

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The leader of the UK’s six million trade union members is demanding an extension of the coronavirus furlough scheme to prevent “a tsunami of job losses”.

In a direct appeal to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says the pandemic won’t end in October, so neither should government support for jobs.

She is pledging to work with Mr Sunak, as unions did in setting up the furlough scheme, to stop “the catastrophe of mass unemployment” and is urging him: “Don’t walk away.”

Ms O’Grady’s plea comes in her keynote speech at a two-day COVID-secure TUC conference in London, with a small invited group in Congress House and union members across Britain joining online.

Frances O'Grady will urge the chancellor not to 'walk away' from working families
Image: Frances O’Grady will also urge the government not to scrap the rise in the minimum wage

On day two, Sir Keir Starmer will give his first speech as Labour leader to the TUC Congress, in person at Congress House and followed by a Q&A with Ms O’Grady and frontline workers.

The TUC says its conference this year will focus on the impact of coronavirus and what action is needed to protect jobs and livelihoods in the weeks and months ahead.

Ms O’Grady is also hitting out at claims that the chancellor is poised to scrap the rise in the minimum wage from £8.72 to £9.21 due next April because he can’t afford it after coronavirus.

In her speech, the TUC leader will say: “Unions pushed for the jobs retention scheme. Millions of livelihoods were saved – both employees and the self-employed.

“From this Thursday it will be just 45 days before the JRS ends. That’s the notice period that companies have to give if they intend to make mass redundancies.

“If the government doesn’t act we face a tsunami of job losses. So my message to the chancellor is this:

“We worked together once before. We are ready to work with you again – if you are serious about stopping the catastrophe of mass unemployment. Rishi Sunak: stand by working families – don’t walk away.”

The TUC is suggesting a scheme where workers are first brought back on shorter hours
Image: The TUC is suggesting a scheme where workers are first brought back on shorter hours

Responding to the TUC leader’s call, a government spokesman said: “Supporting jobs is an absolute priority which is why we’ve set out a comprehensive plan for jobs to protect, create and support jobs across the UK by providing significant, targeted support where it is needed the most.

“We are continuing to support livelihoods and incomes through our £2bn Kickstart scheme, creating incentives for training and apprenticeships, a £1,000 retention bonus for businesses that can bring furloughed employees back to work, and doubling the number of frontline work coaches to help people find work.

“We are also supporting and protecting jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors through our VAT cut and last month’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.”

In her speech, Ms O’Grady will talk of a need to keep people in work and highlight a TUC plan to build on the Jobs Retention Scheme, including bringing people back to work on shorter hours.

“The pandemic isn’t scheduled to end in October so neither should state support for jobs,” she will say.

“It’s so much better to keep people working, paying their taxes, spending and helping to rebuild the economy.

“The price of unemployment is always too high. And it’s always paid by ordinary working families. That’s why we are proposing a new job protection and skills deal – a three-way bargain.

“Employers must bring people back, starting on shorter hours. During downtime workers must take part in training and up-skilling.

“And for the time they are not working, the state will subsidise wages, on condition that employers continue to pay at least 80% of the normal rate.”

She will add: “When the crisis began, the chancellor said he would do ‘whatever it takes’. He must keep that promise.

“Some will ask can the country afford to do it? The answer is – we can’t afford not to.”

Demanding the national living wage rise goes ahead as planned, Ms O’Grady will also say: “Coronavirus is no leveller. It has exposed huge inequality in modern Britain.

“Hard work should pay for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of job you do. Yet many of those who kept this country going through the crisis don’t get the respect they deserve.

“They do valuable, skilled work. But they are short changed.

“The minimum wage – the wage of two million key workers – must rise as planned. Ministers: don’t punch down.

“Key workers have shown courage and dedication. Now it’s time for government and employers to repay that debt by fixing their contracts, raising their pay and giving people dignity at work.”

Britain’s Got Talent complaints surpass 7,500 after Diversity’s Black Lives Matter dance | Ents & Arts News

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More than 7,500 people have now complained to Ofcom following a dance inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement performed on Britain’s Got Talent.

Following the routine by previous winners Diversity on Saturday night, hundreds of people complained to the media watchdog in the hours that followed. As the story made headlines this week, the numbers continued to increase.

On Wednesday evening, Ofcom said it had received 7,581 complaints over the Britain’s Got Talent episode in total, with almost all relating to the routine. It did not give any details about the nature of the complaints.

Ashley Banjo of dance troupe Diversity is a temporary judge on this series of Britain's Got Talent. Pic: Syco/ Thames/ ITV
Image: Ashley Banjo is a temporary judge this series

Led by Ashley Banjo, a temporary judge this series following Simon Cowell‘s departure due to a broken back, the performance saw a white police officer kneel on him, echoing the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd, while other dancers performed with riot shields.

On Wednesday, the dancer posted this picture and statement on Instagram.

The post has received more than 75,000 likes and comments of praise from fans and supporters, including fellow Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, who said: “The can kiss my black a**!” (sic).

Singer Paloma Faith commented: “Anyone with half a heart is behind you, me included! You are amazing.”

Banjo’s brother Jordan, a radio presenter and also a member of Diversity, addressed the controversy on his KISS radio show on Wednesday.

He said that since Diversity won Britain’s Got Talent 11 years ago, they had “never, ever” received such a big response to one of their performances.

“Normally it’s always love, and of course you get some critique, but normally it’s focused on the dance,” he said. “And this one, it was different… it was really important, it was special to us.

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“We’re all about positivity and love and we got so much positivity and love back from this one, but we also got bombarded with messages and articles, horrible stuff about all of us, about our families, about how even now Diversity isn’t diverse enough because there’s only five white people in it, like, man…”

Becoming emotional, he continued. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s sad. It’s sad, genuinely. I feel anxious and worried, saying something like Black Lives Matter, when that’s all we want, just love and positivity. No one’s saying only black lives matter.”

Diversity’s performance was set to spoken word poem The Great Realisation by Tomfoolery, which reflects on the coronavirus lockdown, but then continued to add narration about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Another disease, deep rooted in our system, fear, hate and ignorance, but racism was the symptom,” it said.

Banjo lay on the floor while the police officer handcuffed him, and other dancers crowded around with smartphones.

“What we thought we knew, some clearly didn’t,” the narration went on. “Black Lives Matter.”

Roxanne Pallett cries in the diary room in Celebrity Big Brother 2018
Image: An episode of Big Brother featuring actress Roxanne Pallett sparked more than 25,000 Ofcom complaints in 2018

Ofcom has said it is assessing the complaints before deciding whether or not to investigate.

In December last year, the watchdog released details of the most complained about TV episodes of the decade, 2010 to 2019.

An episode of Celebrity Big Brother featuring actress Roxanne Pallett in 2018 topped the list by a long way, with more than 25,000 complaints.

In the episode, former Emmerdale star Pallett accused fellow soap actor Ryan Thomas, best known for Coronation Street, of punching her – and later apologised for overreacting to what appeared to be no more than playfulness.

It was followed by an episode of Loose Women, broadcast in the same year, which received more than 8,000 complaints. The episode included an interview with TV cleaning star Kim Woodburn that resulted in her walking off set.

Major incident in Birmingham city centre after ‘multiple stabbings’ | UK News

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Police have declared a major incident in Birmingham city centre after officers were called to reports of multiple stabbings overnight.

West Midlands Police say officers were called to reports of a stabbing in the city centre at 12:30am on Sunday.

In a statement, the force said: “We immediately attended, along with colleagues from the ambulance service.

Armed police patrol after the incidents
Image: Armed police patrol after the incidents

“A number of other stabbings were reported in the area shortly after.

“We are aware of a number of injured people, but at the moment we are not in a position to say how many or how serious.

Eyewitnesses reported as many as eight people were injured in the incidents.

The statement continued: “However, all emergency services are working together at the scene, and making sure that those who are injured receive medical care.

Several police vehicles attended the scene
Image: Several police vehicles attended the scene
Police officers near the Arcadian venue in Birmingham
Image: Police officers near the Arcadian venue in Birmingham

“This has been declared a major incident.

“Work is still going on to establish what has happened, and could take some time before we are in a position to confirm anything.”

The force, which denied reports of gunshots being fired, said: “At this early stage it would not be appropriate to speculate on the causes of the incident.”

Officers were called to reports of a stabbing at around 12.30am on Sunday
Image: Officers were called to reports of a stabbing at around 12.30am on Sunday
Police evidence markers on a city centre street
Image: Police evidence markers on a city centre street

A small blue forensic tent could be seen on nearby Barwick Street and two other tents were erected in Irving Street, close to the gates of a primary school.

Other pictures showed armed police and large numbers of unarmed colleagues in the area.

Officers set up a cordon at the junction of Hurst Street – a popular nightlife area in the city centre – and Bromsgrove Street.

Police urged people to remain calm and stay away from the area as the response would be ongoing “for some time” and cordons were in place.

Sky reporter Lape Banjo-Olarinoye said those who were injured are being treated at local hospitals.

A body tent can be seen on Barwick Street in Birmingham city centre
Image: An officer stands near a small forensics tent on Barwick Street in Birmingham city centre

She said the stabbings “are said to have taken place in the areas of Snow Hill and about a mile away on Hurst Street in the Arcadian area, an area popular for its nightlife and social activities”.

The Arcadian venue is a hub of restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs and hotels located around five minutes’ walk from Birmingham New Street station close to the city’s Chinese Quarter and Gay Village areas.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told BBC Radio 4: “There have been a series of incidents in that Hurst Street area of the city, they look to be related but the motivation for them is not yet understood,” he said.

Police say all emergency services are working together at the scene
Image: Police say all emergency services are working together at the scene

One witness told BBC Radio 5 Live that the attack seemed like “one group of boys against another group of boys”.

Another, Cara, told the station she had heard racial slurs during the incident on what she said was a “multicultural night” in the clubs near the Arcadian Centre.

“One of the males actually ended up with his hair being pulled out and left with a bald patch,” she said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said anyone close to the area should be “very vigilant”.

Speaking to Sky News’Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Raab said: “My thoughts are with the victims and their families, there is obviously an ongoing police investigation.

“I can’t say too much more at this stage but people should be very vigilant if they are in that area.”

Coronavirus: Jeremy Hunt calls for weekly COVID-19 testing for secondary school teachers | Politics News

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Secondary school teachers should be tested weekly for coronavirus, a former health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt, who now chairs the health select committee, told Sky News that regular COVID-19 tests would help reassure parents.

The senior Conservative MP was speaking as pupils in England and Wales continue to return to the classroom for the start of the autumn term amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Cabinet told ‘country back on its feet’

“My children are primary school age and the risk seems to be higher in secondary schools,” he told the Kay Burley programme.

“I’m one of the people who would like the government to introduce weekly testing for all secondary school teachers, just to give that extra bit of reassurance.

“I hope when we get the testing capacity up we will do that.”

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who succeeded Mr Hunt in July 2018, said: “It’s my intention to deploy as much testing as possible using the new testing innovations that are coming on-stream and to deploy it as widely as possible following clinical advice.

“We’ve set out the process that we propose to use for the current generation of testing capability but if a new, easier type of test gets over the line then, of course, we’ll always keep that under clinical review and guided by the clinicians.”

The UK’s chief medical officers have warned that children are more at risk of long-term harm if they do not go back to school than if they return.

They said that children have an “exceptionally low risk of dying” from the disease, and “very few, if any” children and teenagers would come to long-term harm from COVID-19 solely by attending school.

A Public Health England study released last month said secondary schools “appear to experience wider transmission and larger outbreaks than schools for younger students” and the “risk of infection, disease and transmission is likely to be higher in older than younger children”.

For many pupils going back this week, it will be their first time in the classroom since March, when schools closed except for vulnerable children and those of key workers.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said schools would not necessarily close if there is a positive COVID-19 case identified in the school
‘Schools won’t have to shut in event of COVID case’

A recent survey of school leaders by the National Association of Head Teachers found that 97% plan to reopen their schools to all pupils this term.

The remaining 3% said they were planning transition periods for new pupils or phasing entry to lessen the worries of students and parents.