4 min read
Boris Johnson’s new “Covid-19 marshals” plan has been met with fury by cash-strapped councils who say they have no idea how to pay for them.
The new marshals are expected to patrol city and town centres to make sure people don’t break the rule banning more than six people gathering in England.
Nick Forbes, the leader of Labour-run Newcastle City Council, said he had zero notice of the proposal until it was announced by Johnson at his daily press conference on Tuesday.
“We’ve got more chance of landing the first woman on the moon by Monday than we have of recruiting, security vetting and training thousands of new staff to be operational by the time the law is introduced next week,” he said.
“There’s wide-spread incredulity across the whole of local government today that the government has announced something to be in place by the beginning of next week which needs funding, and where will the people come from?
“This is an incomprehensible way of dealing with a crisis. There’s widespread anger and consternation among councils. This is another thing landing on their doorstep.
“It’s serial incompetence.”
Directing pedestrians and cleaning buttons at zebra crossings might also be among their tasks, according to brief details released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. They will not have the power to arrest people.
The government has said more details will be released but that there is no additional funding for the roles on top of the extra money given to councils for their Covid response.
Newcastle City Council, which is already due to set in train £32 million emergency budget cuts this month because of the pandemic, has so far committed all of the £21.7m the government gave it to help with the response to buying personal protective equipment and supporting those who had to isolate.
“Being asked to do this, on top of the existing financial blackhole makes the situation even worse,” Mr Forbes said.
Cornwall Council’s Safer Summer Marshals scheme and Leeds City Council’s night marshals were the inspiration for the policy, the government has said.
The Local Government Association, which represents 335 councils in England, was taken aback by the announcement yesterday and held a series of meetings today about how to respond.
Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “It is right that councils will be able to choose whether marshals are the best way to manage COVID-19 risks in their local areas. However, without additional funding to support this proposal, many councils are likely to have to prioritise other activity.”
Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council – where the government supposedly took inspiration – said they were scrambling to make sense of Johnson’s announcement and exactly which marshal scheme they meant.
Their night marshals were from an external agency and paid for by the local authority for four weeks when the pubs first reopened. The city also has ambassadors provided by Leeds Business Improvement District.
“These things have got to be properly funded,” said Blake.
“And who is going to train them?”
She said marshals would be welcome considering the number of students the city will have in a few weeks time, and as numbers of cases are going up.
Islington council leader Richard Watts said the marshals strategy can’t work if there isn’t a fixed model on how they operate as currently each authority is being lef to decide for themselves.
“This is ill thought through. It’s a gimmick that’s unravelling,” he said.
He said Islington is still yet to receive all the money it has spent on its Covid response from central government and much of it has already been spent on PPE, making it difficult for them to suddenly fund marshals.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said they will “help the public with social contact measures that are in place”, and “they don’t have any powers to issue fines that is the job of the police”.
“It’s for the police if there is any enforcement action that needs to be taken.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.
Judge tosses lawsuit challenging DeVos’ sexual misconduct rule for schools, colleges
Background: The ruling comes as a major victory for DeVos, whose Title IX policies will be a key part of her legacy as secretary. She has said the rule officially codifies protections to hold schools accountable by ensuring survivors are not brushed aside and no student’s guilt is predetermined.
The ACLU had charged that DeVos’ Title IX rule, which took effect in August, violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the provisions “were arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The lawsuit had sought to vacate the rule.
On behalf of four plaintiffs, the ACLU argued that the rule will reduce the number of sexual assault and harassment complaints requiring a response from schools.
The lawsuit took aim at the rule’s definition of sexual harassment, as well as provisions that allow institutions to use a “clear and convincing evidence standard.” The groups that brought the lawsuit also take issue with the fact that DeVos’ rule only holds institutions accountable under Title IX for “deliberate indifference” and only requires a school or school official to respond to sexual harassment if there is “actual knowledge.”
Other legal challenges: The lawsuit was one of four ongoing cases challenging the Title IX rule. The other three are still pending but have been largely unsuccessful. All argue that the Education Department violated the law with its new rule by acting beyond its authority, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious.
A circuit court judge in the District of Columbia denied a request from attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia to stop the new rule and to block it as legal action continues. Another judge also denied a motion to block the rule from taking effect in New York while the litigation is ongoing. Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl said state officials failed to show they are likely to win in their argument that the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it finalized its rule.
Labour Will Force A Commons Vote Over A “Fair Deal” For Areas Facing The Harshest Lockdown Restrictions
5 min read
Labour are set to force a Commons vote on Wednesday demanding a “fair deal” for regions which are facing new lockdown restrictions.
The vote will ask MPs to agree that ministers should publish a “clear and fair national criteria for financial support for jobs and businesses” in those facing the highest level of restrictions.
It comes after Number 10 scrambled to reassure politicians in Greater Manchester that a £60m financial settlement is still on the table after Boris Johnson said the region was going into a Tier 3 lockdown with no deal in place.
The government has so far only agreed to hand over an extra £22million for helping with track and trace and enhanced enforcement of the restrictive rules, which will shut pubs, gyms, casinos and soft play centres.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to be set to approach each local council in Greater Manchester tomorrow to hammer out a package individually after talks with the metro mayor Andy Burnham collapsed today.
MPs had reacted with fury to the news their constituencies will face the toughest coronavirus restrictions for at least a month without extra economic support.
The news was set out on a call with the health secretary Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Sir Edward Lister, shortly after Mr Burnham gave a press conference saying Downing Street was unwilling to offer enough support for businesses and employees.
One of those MPs on the line, Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, told PoliticsHome: “Does the government really hate Greater Manchester that much, that they acknowledge that we have a need for support, then dangle what we would say is insufficient, though not an insubstantial amount of money in front of us, and then withdraw it completely?”
The Denton MP said Mr Hancock was repeatedly asked about any additional money to help businesses but obfuscated, however it was Sir Edward who came on the call at the end and delivered the “cup of cold sick” news that Greater Manchester was not getting anything more.
“The government agreed there was a case for support but don’t agree with what that amount should be. This is an atrocious way to treat businesses and people’s livelihoods,” said Gwynne.
Other Labour MPs, including shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, also expressed their anger on social media.
In ten years in Parliament I’ve never seen anything like this. MPs are on a call with the Health Secretary being told Greater Manchester is getting only £22m while our Mayor is at a press conference being told by the media. This is bad faith, it’s immoral – just disgraceful
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) October 20, 2020
But updating MPs on the plans, Mr Hancock said the £60m support package for the region remained “on the table”.
“Over the last 10 days we’ve sought to reach agreement with local leaders and unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement,” he said.
“As well as the support we’ve outlined we’ve made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses.
“This offer was proportionate to the offer we’ve given Lancashire and the Liverpool city region but unfortunately the Mayor rejected it.
“That offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said people in Greater Manchester “will be watching the news in disbelief”.
“They will be asking why was it right to cover 80 per cent of wages in March and just two-thirds of their wages in October,” he said.
“What happened to that Chancellor who plastered across social media soft focus selfies of himself boasting he would do whatever it takes?
“That Chancellor is forcing people on the national minimum wage to live on just £5.76 an hour. From ‘whatever it takes’ to taking from the lowest paid.
“Where is the Chancellor? He should be here to defend the consequences of his decisions that will mean a winter of hardship across the North.”
And he insisted the civic leaders had been “willing to compromise” over the level of financial support.
“Rather than finding the £5 million extra, the Prime Minister pulled the plug on negotiations and then took £38 million off the table,” he said.
“What a petty, vindictive, cowardly response. The Prime Minister may think he’s punishing the politicians, in fact he’s punishing the people.”
He added: “This isn’t a game, it’s about people’s lives. People need proper financial support. This is a national crisis and we won’t defeat this virus on the cheap.”
Meanwhile, in a statement following the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers had treated local communities with “contempt”.
“This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead,” he said.
“Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the Government’s wholly inadequate proposals.
“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic…
“I would urge all Conservative MPs, particularly those in areas of the country that are most affected by this, to vote with us tomorrow and force the Government’s hand.”
The Countdown: Tiffany Trump trends and two rivals show love
With 14 days to go, Mr Trump heads to Pennsylvania for another rally, while his daughter’s slip-up at a Republican gay pride event is getting attention. In Utah, a Republican and a Democrat do something together that you would never expect.
Two pictures, two tight races
Although the polls show Joe Biden ahead nationally, it’s how things turn out in a few crucial states that will really count.
1. Florida, a must-win state
Slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats turned out to vote early in Florida, according to state data just released. In other early voting states, we have seen the opposite trend.
2. Pennsylvania, holding on to the working-class vote
Donald Trump heads to Pennsylvania for his third visit to Erie, where he will be trying to hold on to white working-class voters he won over last time – he will know that Joe Biden paid the city a visit just 10 days ago and has just released a statement saying the jobs promised by Mr Trump at the last election have not materialised.
Tiffany is trending after an LGBT event
Our reporter Holly Honderich explains why people are talking about her:
The president’s youngest and lesser-known daughter is being ridiculed online after a video of her speaking at a recent Trump campaign Pride event was posted online.
“I know what my father believes in,” Ms Trump says to a modest crowd. “Prior to politics he [President Trump], supported gays, lesbians, the LGBQI… IA+ community.”
Critics have pointed out that she forgot to include the “T” in the acronym – which stands for trans – and they have used that to point to the rollback of LGBT protections by her father’s administration.
For example, though President Trump rarely comments publicly on LGBTQ issues, he has banned trans people from serving in the military, and revoked an Obama-era measure protecting trans students in public schools.
Being in the spotlight is a change for Tiffany, the only child from Mr Trump’s second marriage to actress Marla Maples, and she is not usually thought to be close to her father.
Commentators noted that Tiffany’s speech at the Republican National Convention in August lacked personal anecdotes about her father, instead offering up a more formal endorsement of his policies.
Democrat and Republican rivals: ‘We don’t need to hate each other’
Two candidates in the elections are getting noticed for being friendly and united in what has generally been a very bitter election.
They are Democrat Chris Peterson and his Republican opponent, Lt Governor Spencer Cox, both running to be Utah’s governor, and they have released a series of ads to show that it is possible work well across the divide.
I’d like to thank @SpencerJCox for joining together to record these PSAs. With the deep divisions in our country, it can take grace and courage to try to work together. No matter who wins the presidential election, we must all commit to a peaceful transfer of power. #standunited https://t.co/VwZdClfqdO
— Peterson for Utah (@PetersonUtah) October 20, 2020
“There are some things we both agree on,” Mr Cox says. “We can disagree without hating each other.”
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