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Education secretary in four-letter rant over lack of thanks for doing a ‘f***ing good job’ on concrete crisis | Politics News

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan was caught on camera complaining about not being thanked for doing a “f***ing good job” over the unsafe concrete crisis.

After an interview with ITV News in Westminster, the cabinet minister criticised others for being “sat on their arses” and claimed the government had gone “over and above” in addressing concerns relating to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

She said: “Does anyone ever say ‘You know you’ve done a f***ing good job because everyone else has sat on their arses and done nothing.

“No signs of that, no?”

Rayner gets new role in reshuffle – follow politics latest

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s shadow schools minister, said her comments were a “staggering admission that Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have done nothing to address a problem that they have known about for years”.

“The education secretary has displayed staggering arrogance for saying she deserves a pat on the back for the chaos that is gripping our schools on their watch,” he said.

“Families, school leaders and school staff deserve an immediate apology for these appalling comments.”

Ms Keegan is due to be interviewed on the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge on Sky News tonight at 7:30pm.

A Number 10 source said her comments were “wrong” but the prime minister “has full confidence in his education secretary”.

Thousands of pupils face disruption at the start of term this week following a last-minute order to fully or partially close 104 schools because of concerns about RAAC.

Pupils face being taught in temporary classrooms, on different sites or even forced into pandemic-style remote lessons.

Mr Sunak has acknowledged hundreds more schools in England could be caught up in the crisis as he faced accusations he failed to fund a programme to replace ageing classrooms while chancellor.

The prime minister said that 95% of England’s schools were unaffected, leaving open the possibility that more than a thousand could still be impacted by concerns about RAAC.

Watch Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge from 7pm Monday to Thursday on Sky channel 501, Virgin channel 602, Freeview channel 233, on the Sky News website and app or on YouTube.

Mr Sunak said: “New information came to light relatively recently and it’s important that once it had, that the government acted on it as swiftly as possible.

“Of course I know the timing is frustrating, but I want to give people a sense of the scale of what we are grappling with here: there are around 22,000 schools in England and the important thing to know is that we expect that 95% of those schools won’t be impacted by this.”

But critics have accused the Tories of a “shambolic” handling of the situation, saying concerns about the material have been well known for years.

RAAC is essentially a lighter-weight form of concrete, used to build roofs, schools, colleges and other buildings from the 1950s until the mid-1990s.

Experts have long-warned the material has now reached the end of its shelf life and is liable to collapse.

Earlier Jonathan Slater, who was secretary at the Department for Education (DfE) from May 2016 to August 2020, claimed the Treasury had failed to fully fund school rebuilding schemes – including during Mr Sunak’s time at the helm.

He said up to 400 schools a year need to be replaced, but the DfE only got funding for 100, despite the government knowing there was a “critical risk to life”.

Mr Sunak dismissed that criticism as “completely and utterly wrong”.

But Labour insisted he “bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle” – saying funding for rebuilding schools has been slashed over the years.

Analysis published by the party found that spending on school rebuilding between 2019 and 2020 was at £765m, but this fell to £560m the following year.

Spending dropped again to £416m in 2021 to 2022, the party said.

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Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said: “The defining image of 13 years of the Conservative-run education system will be children sat under steel girders to stop the roof falling in.

“Rishi Sunak bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle: he doubled down on Michael Gove’s decision to axe Labour’s schools rebuilding programme and now the chickens have come home to roost – with yet more disruption to children’s education.”

Wilko job fears deepen as Poundland owner eyes swoop on 100 stores | Business News

Fears for thousands of retail jobs at the ailing chain Wilko deepened on Wednesday evening when trade union officials warned that the majority of its shops were likely to close within days.

Sky News has learnt that administrators at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are in advanced talks to carve up parts of the 400-strong chain, with Poundland’s owner, Pepco Group, in discussions to acquire roughly 100 stores.

B&M European Retail, the London-listed discount chain, is also in negotiations to take on between 40 and 50 shops, according to one insider.

Other value retailers, including TOFS, which is owned by the private equity firm Duke Street, have lodged offers to acquire smaller parcels comprising about ten sites.

Retail industry sources said an announcement was expected to be made by PwC on Thursday outlining the sale agreements with at least some of the bidders.

Even if agreements with Pepco, B&M and TOFS are finalised, it is likely to mean that more than 200 Wilko stores will face permanent closure.

That could mean that well over 6,000 jobs, including those of Wilko head office staff, would be lost, although the eventual figure could be substantially higher than that.

In a statement pre-empting an announcement from PwC, the GMB Union said: “In a meeting with administrators today GMB Union was informed there is no longer any prospect that the majority of the business will be saved.

“This means redundancies for staff in store and at call centres will begin during the coming week.

“Some stores may be bought, either individually or as part of larger packages, but significant job losses are now expected.”

The union said talks had been taking place about a larger deal for about half of Wilko’s stores with an unnamed bidder, and Sky News understands that there remains a faint, but receding, possibility that this could yet be salvaged.

Andy Prendergast, GMB national secretary, told Wilko’s 12,500-strong workforce that it would “continue to support members through this process and will fight to ensure members are consulted as per the law and that you receive every penny you are entitled to”.

“We will fight to ensure Wilko bosses are held accountable for the simple reason our members deserve so much better.

“GMB will not forget the incompetence that has led to this collapse and will we not forget the dividends paid to the millionaires who gambled your jobs on their whims. “

Reacting to the GMB statement, Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said: “This is devastating news that will likely see stores close across the country. Their loss will have a massive impact on their high streets and my thoughts are with those Wilko staff and their families facing this dreadful news.

“Sadly, shuttered up shops and struggling high streets has become the norm after 13 years of Conservative economic failure.

“Labour has a plan for our high streets. We will tackle the things holding firms back by reforming business rates, cracking down on anti-social behaviour and putting an end to empty premises to bring shoppers back to their high street.”

The family-owned chain, which was established by the Wilkinson family in 1930, had been working with PwC on a search for new investment for several months.

Shortly before it crashed into administration, Sky News revealed that Gordon Brothers, Alteri Investors and Opcapita were examining last-ditch proposals to invest in the business.

Like many high street retailers, it has been hit by inflationary pressures and supply chain challenges.

In recent months, it had been seeking to finalise a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a mechanism that would have triggered steep rent cuts at hundreds of stores but avoided any closures.

As recently as late last month, a spokesman for Wilko had described talk of administration as “unfounded”.

The administrators said: “Since our appointment as administrators of Wilko we have held extensive discussions with parties who expressed an interest in buying all or part of the business.

“While discussions continue with those interested in buying parts of the business, it’s clear that the nature of this interest is not focused on the whole group.

“Sadly, it is therefore likely that there will be redundancies and store closures in the future and it has today been necessary to update employee representatives.

“We know this will further add to the uncertainty felt by workers. We will be supporting staff through this deeply unsettling time, working closely with the government, JobCentre plus, unions and large employers to maximise possibilities for a rapid return to work for employees in the event of redundancies.

“In the immediate term, all stores remain open, continue to trade and staff continue to be paid. Contrary to speculation, there are currently no plans to close any stores next week.”

A B&M spokesman declined to comment and a spokesman for Pepco said he would not respond unless a query was emailed.

Vodafone plans 11,000 job cuts as new boss rues performance | Business News

Vodafone has announced a massive programme of job losses, that will impact its UK operations, in a bid to recover its financial performance.

The company’s new chief executive said the telecoms firm had become uncompetitive and 11,000 roles would go over the next three years.

The group employs just over 100,000 people globally, with just over 9,000 of them in the UK.

Vodafone was yet to respond to requests for information on how many UK roles would be affected but it was confirmed that its headquarters, in Berkshire, would see an impact.

Margherita Della Valle, who was permanently appointed CEO last month after her predecessor Nick Read was ousted late last year, said: “Our performance has not been good enough.

“My priorities are customers, simplicity and growth. We will simplify our organisation, cutting out complexity to regain our competitiveness.”

She was speaking as Vodafone reported a 1.3% drop in full-year earnings to £12.8bn.

That figure missed its own guidance.

The company forecast little or no growth in the same measure over the current financial year – with Germany, its biggest market, proving the major drag.

Growth in Africa and higher handset sales, however, enabled it to eek out a 0.3% rise in revenue over the 12 months.

Shares fell by 4% at the open.

£17,000 severance for 36 hours in the job: How much year of political turmoil will cost taxpayers | Politics News

Britain’s year of political turmoil could cost the taxpayer up to £726,000 in severance payments to former ministers and whips, Sky News analysis of House of Commons library data has found.

Since the beginning of the year, 79 government ministers and whips have either been sacked or have resigned.

And 71 of them are likely to be eligible for payments averaging more than £10,000 – no matter how long they were in the job.

To receive the lump sum, they cannot return to government within three weeks of leaving their post.

This means anyone shuffled out by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday will be eligible for a payment as long as they do not return to a paid government role by 15 November.

Our calculations are based on what they will be eligible to receive if they remain on the backbenches for that period.

Newly installed Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis leaving Downing Street, London, after meeting the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. Picture date: Tuesday September 6, 2022.

Brandon Lewis: £34,000

Mr Lewis, who most recently served as justice secretary under Liz Truss, is eligible for the largest sum, with two payments totalling nearly £34,000 – more than the £31,676 that nurses earn on average in a year.

He is eligible for one payment due to his resignation as Northern Ireland secretary in July – in protest at Boris Johnson’s refusal to stand down – and for a second payment due to the loss of his position as justice secretary during Mr Sunak’s reshuffle.

In a year of political chaos, 2022 has seen three prime ministers and numerous reshuffles. The result has been a record level of turnover on the government benches, resulting in a large number of people eligible for severance payments.

The number of cabinet appointments this year is already more than twice as high as in any year since 1979, according to the Institute for Government.

In July, Boris Johnson announced he would stand down as PM after dozens of MPs resigned in protest at his handling of sexual assault allegations against former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and military representative to NATO Ben Bathurst leave NATO Headquarters following a summit on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool

Liz Truss: £385 per day

Ms Truss consigned a further 30 ministers and whips to the backbenches in her first three days as PM.

Both Mr Johnson and Ms Truss are eligible for the most generous individual payments, at £18,860 each.

For Ms Truss, who served just seven weeks in the top job, that represents £385 per day in office. Her total potential sum is more than the £10,120 which she would have earned in the role from her salary, if paid on a pro-rata basis.

Kwasi Kwarteng: £444 per day

Mr Kwarteng, who was forced to resign as chancellor over the mini-budget, is eligible for nearly £17,000.

That’s equivalent to £444 for each day he was in the job, and is more than twice the amount he would have earned from his official salary as chancellor if paid pro-rata (£7,023).

Suella Braverman, who resigned as home secretary on 19 October, will not be eligible for a payment as she returned to the frontbench just six days later – within the three-week cut-off window.

Overall, 32 MPs could claim more in severance payments than they earned in the job.

Minister of State for Northern Ireland Conor Burns during a press conference following a British-Irish Council (BIC) summit meeting at the St Pierre Park Hotel in Guernsey. Picture date: Friday July 8, 2022.

Conor Burns: £7,290

Former trade minister Conor Burns is set to receive a severance payment of £7,290 – three times his pro-rata salary of £2,602.

He was fired in October after just one month in the role after losing the whip for an allegation of “serious misconduct” at the Conservative Party conference.

Anyone leaving a paid position in government can claim – regardless of whether they willingly resigned, were fired or stepped down in disgrace.

The only conditions are that they don’t return to a job within three weeks, are under the age of 65 and did not die in office.

Chris Pincher: £8,000

Mr Pincher, who resigned as a government whip in July following allegations of sexual assault, was eligible for a payment of nearly £8,000.

Sky News has contacted those eligible for payments, but many of them have yet to respond.

British Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan walks through conference hall during Britain's Conservative Party's annual conference in Birmingham, Britain, October 3, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Some donate severance payments to charity

Michelle Donelan has said she will donate her payment to a local charity.

She qualified for a payment of nearly £17,000 after serving as education secretary for less than 36 hours under Boris Johnson.

The office of Dominic Raab, who was reappointed as justice secretary on Tuesday, told Sky News he is planning to return part of his £16,876 payout.

Grant Shapps spent just 43 days out of ministerial office after resigning as transport secretary under Mr Johnson, but could claim nearly £17,000 in severance for his trouble. His office said he will be donating around half of his payment to an HMRC-recognised charitable account he uses.

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Reshuffle: How the day unfolded

Severance pay to Labour in 2010: £1m

When responding to an Urgent Question about severance payments in July, then Cabinet Office minister Harriet Wheeler said: “The severance pay for ministers is established in legislation that was passed by Parliament in 1991 and that has been used by successive administrations over several decades.

Ms Wheeler added: “Reshuffles are a fundamental part of the operation of government and, by their nature, routinely remove ministers from office, and that, unlike in other employment contexts, there are no periods of notice, no consultations and no redundancy arrangements.”

She pointed out severance payments had been made and accepted during the Blair and Brown years in office, adding: “To ensure transparency, severance payments are published in the annual reports and accounts of government departments.

“As an example of the previous operation of this provision, the data published in 2010 indicated severance payments made to Labour ministers in that year amounted to £1m.”

Felixstowe strike: Workers at UK’s biggest container port to walk off the job for eight days | Business News

Workers at the UK’s biggest container port will go on strike for more than a week later this month in a dispute over pay.

More than 1,900 members of Unite union at Felixstowe will strike for eight days from Sunday 21 August until Monday 29 August.

The union said that employer Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company had failed to improve on its offer of a 7% pay increase, following only a 1.4% increase last year.

Almost half of the UK’s container traffic comes through Felixstowe and Unite said the action would hit supply chains, the logistics and haulage sectors, as well as international maritime trade.

It is the latest round of industrial action by workers pushing for pay to keep up with the cost of living.

Unite national officer for docks Bobby Morton said: “Strike action will cause huge disruption and will generate massive shockwaves throughout the UK’s supply chain, but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making.

“It has had every opportunity to make our members a fair offer, but has chosen not to do so. Felixstowe needs to stop prevaricating and make a pay offer which meets our members’ expectations.”

‘Massively profitable and incredibly wealthy’

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said both Felixstowe docks and its parent company Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison are “massively profitable and incredibly wealthy”, adding: “They are fully able to pay the workforce a fair day’s pay.

“The company has prioritised delivering multi-million pound dividends rather than paying its workers a decent wage.

“Unite is entirely focused on enhancing its members’ jobs, pay, and conditions, and it will be giving the workers at Felixstowe its complete support until this dispute is resolved, and a decent pay increase is secured.”

More talks are due to take place on Monday.

Read more:
London Tube strike announced for 19 August in row over jobs and pensions
Two more days of rail strikes announced in row over jobs, pay and conditions

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‘We need to remove power of militant unions’

In a statement supplied to Sky News, a spokesperson for the port said: “The company continues to actively seek a solution that works for all parties and that avoids industrial action.

“We understand our employees’ concerns at the rising cost of living and are determined to do all we can to help whilst continuing to invest in the port’s success.

“Discussions are ongoing and the company’s latest position in negotiations is an enhanced pay increase of 7%. We are meeting again on Monday 8 August with Acas and the union.

“The port has not had a strike since 1989 and we are disappointed that the union has served notice of industrial action while talks are ongoing. The port provides secure and well-paid employment and there will be no winners from industrial action.”

The Department for Transport has also been contacted for comment.

Felixstowe welcomes approximately 2,000 ship each year, according to its website, including some of the world’s largest container vessels.

Around 17 shipping lines operate from the port, offering 33 services to and from more than 700 ports around the world.