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Minister quits over handling of Covid loans fraud

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Conservative minister Lord Agnew resigned in the House of Lords yesterday over how the government has handled fraudulent Covid loans.

In response to a Labour question about the £4.3bn of Covid loans written off by the Treasury, he read out a dramatic speech venting his anger.

The Minister accused the Treasury of having “no knowledge” or “little interest” in the consequences of fraud to the economy.

Although he stated his resignation was not an attack on the Prime Minister, he said he couldn’t stay in good conscience.

Lord Agnew read: “Given that I am the minister for counter-fraud, it would be somewhat dishonest to stay on in that role if I am incapable of doing it properly.

It is for this reason that I have sadly decided to tender my resignation as a Minister across the Treasury and Cabinet Office with immediate effect.”

He criticized the government’s “arrogance, indolence and ignorance” in response to Covid loans fraud.

The Minister called out “schoolboy errors,” such as giving over 1,000 companies Covid loans despite them not trading.

He described the oversight of the scheme as “nothing less than woeful.”

Lord Agnew added: “I hope that as a virtually unknown minister beyond this place, it might prompt others more important beyond me to get behind this and sort it out.”

Concluding with “thank you and goodbye,” the resignation speech was met with a round of applause as he strode out of the chamber.

The Bounce Bank Loan Scheme was introduced in April 2020, intending to save smaller businesses from failing due to the pandemic.

Following applications from a quarter of UK businesses, 1.5 million loans were handed out with a sum of £47bn.

It is estimated that a 11% of these Covid loans were fraudulent.

Shadow chancellor, Labour’s Rachel Reeves responded: “That the government’s own anti-fraud minister feels he is unable to defend the government’s record on billions of pounds of taxpayer cash gifted to criminals tells you all you need to know about the incompetence of this government.

It should be a source of enduring shame to the chancellor that he has so casually written off £4.3bn of taxpayers’ money that is now in the hands of criminals and gangs.”

Reeves added: “Labour would treat every pound of taxpayer money with the respect it deserves.”

In Lord Agnew’s speech, he apologized for the inconvenience his resignation will cause the Prime Minister.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: “We are grateful to Lord Agnew for the significant contribution he has made to government.

“On the wider issues that he’s raised, we introduced our unprecedented Covid support schemes at speed to protect jobs and livelihoods, helping millions of people across the UK, including nearly 12 million on the furlough scheme alone.

“We’ve always been clear fraud is unacceptable and are taking action against those abusing the system, with 150,000 ineligible claims blocked, £500m recovered last year, and the HMRC tax protection taskforce is expected to recover an additional £1bn of taxpayers’ money.”

 

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Saudi Arabia wants its investors to own Manchester United

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North East Updates - Breaking News

Sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now funding a breakaway golf series.

 

Sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now funding a breakaway golf series.

 

It follows the Manchester United board announcing that they are open to a sale of the club.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisalstated he would be keen on Ronaldo signing for a Saudi Pro League after the World Cup, with the 37-year-old a free agent following a controversial interview and exit to Manchester United earlier this week..

 

“Who wouldn’t want him to play in their league?” “He’s a role model to a lot of young players – him and Messi.”

 

Sky news are reporting – It is the availability of United – after the Glazers announced plans for a potential sale – and Ronaldo that is interesting Prince Abdulaziz.

 

What are your thoughts on this – join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

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Sunday for Sammy Concert Cancelled For 2023 Due To Cost of Living

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A popular charity concert will not be held in 2023 due to the cost of living crisis.

Sunday for Sammy, which is held in memory of North East actor Sammy Johnson, is a biennial event aimed at benefitting young performers.

The long-running event has featured the likes of Joe McElderry, Johnny Vegas, Brenda Blethyn, Denise Welch, AC/DC’s Brian Johnson and Mark Knopfler, Jill Halfpenny and Ant and Dec.

Tim Healy, who hosts Sunday for Sammy, said: “We’ve had lots of enquiries over the recent months asking when the next Sunday for Sammy will take place.

“We are very much aware at the moment that people are struggling with day-to-day living costs and are watching their pennies. Everything is becoming more and more expensive and that includes the cost of putting on a show the size of ours.”

He added: “We can’t in good conscious put on a show that we aren’t sure people can afford to be tickets for. It would be wrong to risk your money you have generously given us.

“So sadly we have decided that there won’t be a show in 2023. We’re going to wait until the time is right.”

Often dubbed The Geordie Command Performance, the shows, which have been running for more than 20 years, are held in memory of Geordie actor Sammy Johnson, who died in 1999.

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STACK Newcastle Bosses Scrap Plans For Christmas Pop-Up Venue

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The owners of STACK have confirmed that there won’t be a pop-up version in Newcastle this Christmas, as plans have been shelved.

At the end of September it was reported that STACK’s owner, Danieli Group, were hoping to bring the brand back to the heart of Newcastle after its Pilgrim Street site was demolished earlier this year, after becoming a firm favourite with locals and visitors since 2018. The pop-up, close to the Crowne Plaza hotel in the Stephenson Quarter, looked set to be a massive draw before STACK makes its permanent return to the city next year, was planned to feature a number of shipping container bars, a new take on its famous Hadrian’s Tipi, street food vans, a stage and large screen, all on one level.

But, it has now been announced that the proposed STACK festive pop-up won’t be happening anymore. Confirming the decision, Neill Winch, CEO of Danieli Group said that while it was sad news that the pop-up would no longer take place, it meant the company can forge ahead with the Worswick Chambers plan.

He commented: “We know how much people miss not having a STACK in Newcastle so we are concentrating our efforts on creating what will become a flagship site back where STACK first began,” he said.

“Work is well underway on the scheme with a view to being open in winter 2023.”

In recent weeks it has announced new developments in Lincoln, Durham, Bishop Auckland and Carlisle.

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