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Many councils said they were awaiting clarity from government on what powers and funding the Covid marshals would receive (PA)

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PoliticsHome can only identify four councils among the top 100 with high coronavirus infection rates that have implemented Covid marshals, a month after Boris Johnson announced them in a bid to slow the spread of the disease.

Despite Boris Johnson claiming in September that the marshals would be introduced to support social distancing rules, dozens of local authorities surveyed by this website said they have had no information or support from central government since. 

Only 8% of councils contacted by our reporters said they had put a system in place since the prime minister’s announcement. 

The news comes amid reports that rates of coronavirus are soaring in parts of the North of England, causing the government to introduce a range of local and national measures, such as the rule of six, to try and slow the spread.  

PoliticsHome understands that the government is expected to make an announcement on further support for councils soon.  

But many councils have told us in the past four weeks they have had no contact from the Cabinet Office about the proposal, no extra funds to set up a marshal scheme, and are still waiting for guidance on what is expected of them.  

The Local Government Association said it would welcome any investment from central government to councils, which could be spent on a marshal scheme. 

PoliticsHome received responses from 49 councils out of the 100 with the country’s highest coronavirus infection rates – all over 38 per 100,000 population as of 29 September.  

Of those, five said they had no plans to introduce Covid-marshals and a further 20 authorities said the proposal is under review or that they are waiting for more information from central government.  

Just four councils told PoliticsHome that they have implemented Covid-19 marshals and have invested their own money in the scheme. 

Meanwhile six councils claimed they had recruited new staff or volunteers to help enforce coronavirus, and almost a third said they were reallocating existing staff to take on new Covid-related roles. 

Announcements made in such a manner only further add to the confusing and inconsistent communication the Government has had with councils

– Cllr Andrew Waller

Councillor Andrew Waller, of Lib Dem held City of York council, said: “We have had no advance notice of the Prime Minister’s announcement of the Covid Marshals programme, no indication of additional resources, no additional staff, no powers of enforcement and no time to prepare people for the roles or carry out security checks.  

“Announcements made in such a manner only further add to the confusing and inconsistent communication the Government has had with councils and public health teams throughout the crisis. It’s not clear if or how the Government expect local authorities to fund this scheme, whilst local councils across the country continue to face major financial constraints.” 

Many local councils reported that they were not clear on what the Covid-19 marshal role would entail, what enforcement powers they would have, and what funding would be available for them. 

In Leicester, where residents have been subject to local restrictions since 30 June, a council spokesperson said: “We are investigating setting up a team of Covid marshals, but we’ve had no further details from the Government regarding how a scheme would work or how much funding could be available.” 

Elsewhere, a spokesperson for Birmingham City Council, which is currently subject to a local ban on household mixing, said they were still “waiting for the promised information on funding for marshals” and so were instead using existing enforcement staff in partnership with West Midlands Police. 

And in Liverpool, which became subjected to local restrictions last week, a council official said they were “awaiting details” on how funding would work, as well as “further clarity of the different kinds of roles this money could be used to support”. 

Commenting on the use of marshals in the Yorkshire area, Superintendent Mike Walker of the North Yorkshire Police said local authorities were looking at potential schemes already “despite having no further details yet in terms of the potential funding”. 

“I think the public would expect us not to wait until the potential funding came in and to have plans in place to try and keep the public safe. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing, and it will continue to do over the coming weeks and over the coming months,” he said at a meeting of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum. 

I think the public would expect us not to wait until the potential funding came in and to have plans in place to try and keep the public safe

– Superintendent Mike Walker, North Yorkshire Police

PoliticsHome has spoken to four councils who have set up Covid-19 marshal schemes since the government’s announcement, including Fylde Council in Lancashire which has put £35,000 towards the initiative. 

Meanwhile, Wakefield Council is carrying out interviews for ten marshals this week who will be employed on a temporary basis until 31 March 2021 at a cost of £114,000. 

Blackpool has so far reported the largest cohort of new Covid support staff, having announced last week it is deploying 60 marshals in the area. 

In other areas, councils are repurposing existing community support schemes into non-enforcement roles or are allocating the responsibility to local environmental health officers and police forces. 

Harborough District Council, for example, told PoliticsHome it has implemented a system of paid ‘high street helpers’ to support shoppers and local businesses, while Broxtowe Borough Council has reportedly hired two Covid-19 Information Officers at the end of lockdown to advise on new rules. 

Elsewhere, a spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said they were “exploring using existing council staff in redeployed roles” to act as Covid marshals but added that they would use a different name for the scheme. 

And Preston, South Tyneside and South Ribble councils all said that existing environmental health officers were being used to enforce Covid-19 restrictions. 

Boris Johnson is currently facing fresh pressure to consider tighter national restrictions as the country continues to grapple with coronavirus. 

On Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Commons that 19 of the 20 areas subjected to local measures for two months had seen infection rates increase.

The government is also facing backlash over its handling of testing data after nearly 16,000 positive cases were missed from official statistics due to an IT error. 

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McDonald’s new pastries are here. Here’s how to get them for free

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The expansion of the company’s McCafé lineup adds three new sweets — an apple fritter, a blueberry muffin and a cinnamon roll — to menus as it finds itself in a competitive battle with rivals over the first meal of the day.

McDonald’s is giving away one of the new items free with a purchase of a hot or iced coffee on orders placed through its app. The promotion runs from November 3 through November 9 and is valid once per day at any time.

McDonald’s (MCD) regularly tries to entice customers to use its app with a variety of promotions and coupons, as well as a limited rewards program aimed at boosting coffee sales. Increasing the app’s user base is “key,” according to Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy, because the promotion could build customer loyalty: Customers might be coaxed to come back because of future offers.
The chain could use the boost, as it faces more competition at breakfast. Its most notable rival is Wendy’s (WEN), which launched its own breakfast menu nationwide for the first the time earlier this year. It features a mix of salty and sweet items such as the Breakfast Baconator and Frosty-ccino.
Breakfast now accounts for 8% of Wendy’s total sales, and the company also launched a robust rewards program on its app this summer.

Meanwhile, the future of McDonald’s own All Day Breakfast remains hazy. The chain has not announced when or even if it will bring that menu back after cutting it in March because of the pandemic. The new sweets launching Wednesday might partially fill the void.

In the US, McDonald’s sales have finally turned a corner following a bleak spring. Sales at US stores open at least a year jumped 4.6% in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, the company said in a regulatory filing earlier this month. The company said it grew sales during “all dayparts,” an encouraging sign that it finally stemmed its declines during breakfast hours.
Sales improvements in the US were driven in part by “strong performance” at dinner and new items and stunts, including the Travis Scott Meal and spicy nuggets. This month, it hopes to replicate the success with a new J. Balvin meal — and now, new baked goods.

McDonald’s will release full third-quarter results on November 9.

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Tony Chung: Hong Kong activist detained near US embassy charged

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Hong Kong teen activist Tony Chung has been charged under a new national security law, just days after he was detained outside the US consulate.

Mr Chung, 19, had reportedly planned to enter the consulate and claim asylum.

The activist faces the possibility of life in prison if found guilty of secession, conspiracy to publish seditious content and money laundering.

Mr Chung, the second person to be charged under the law, was denied bail by the court.

The controversial law was imposed by China on Hong Kong in June, making it easier to punish protesters and reducing the city’s autonomy.

What do we know about his detention?

According to the South China Morning Post, Mr Chung was detained on Tuesday morning at a coffee shop opposite the US consulate.

UK-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong said he had planned to enter and claim asylum. Instead, footage taken from near the consulate showed him being carried away by plain-clothes police.

Mr Chung, who was a former member of pro-independence group Studentlocalism, said activists had not given up fighting.

“At the right moment, we will come out to protest again,” he told BBC Chinese in a recent interview.

“Yes we lose at this moment. But the road to democracy is always long.”

He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on 7 January next year.

What is Hong Kong’s new security law?

Hong Kong’s national security law was imposed by Beijing in June after months of huge pro-democracy protests last year against an extradition bill.

The new law makes secession, subversion of the central government, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.

In July, several were arrested under the new powers, including a man carrying a “Hong Kong Independence” flag.

  • China’s new law: Why is Hong Kong worried?

  • UK makes citizenship offer to Hong Kong residents

The law gives Beijing extensive powers it has never had before to shape life in the territory.

Critics say it effectively puts an end to the freedoms guaranteed by Beijing for 50 years after British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997, but China says it will return stability to the city.

After the passing of the security law, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would offer up to three million Hong Kong residents a chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.

China has condemned this, saying it would take countermeasures against the UK should it grant residency to Hong Kong residents.

Related Topics

  • Hong Kong national security law

  • China
  • Hong Kong

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AOC: ‘I don’t know if I’m really going to be staying in the House forever’

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President Donald Trump has taken particular pleasure in warning that Ocasio-Cortez poses a threat to Schumer, while describing prominent Democratic leaders including presidential nominee Joe Biden as beholden to her more liberal agenda.

Ocasio-Cortez is also viewed as one of the likeliest inheritors of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressive coalition if she were to run for president. The congresswoman, who endorsed Sanders in the 2020 White House race, turned 31 earlier this month and would meet the constitutional presidential age requirement of 35 by November 2024.

Another possibility is Ocasio-Cortez joining a potential Biden administration in some capacity. She was tapped in May to serve as a co-chair of the Biden-Sanders joint task force on climate change — one of six working groups meant to advise the Biden campaign on policy.

But Ocasio-Cortez told Vanity Fair she did not “want to aspire to a quote-unquote higher position just for the sake of that title or just for the sake of having a different or higher position.”

“I truly make an assessment to see if I can be more effective,” she said. “And so, you know, I don’t know if I could necessarily be more effective in an administration, but, for me that’s always what the question comes down to.”

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