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Tea drinkers warned of ‘supply issues’ affecting stock in supermarkets | UK News

Sainsbury’s is warning shoppers that “nationwide” supply problems could lead to a shortage of black tea on the shelves of UK supermarkets.

The supply problems are believed to be linked, in part, to disruption caused by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, and affect just one supermarket tea supplier.

A sign in one Sainsbury’s shop said: “We are experiencing supply issues affecting the nationwide supply of black tea. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be back in full supply soon.”

Sainsbury’s was contacted for comment.

The issue is likely to impact some stores across Britain, but is expected to be “temporary”, with “minimal” impact on customers.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “There is temporary disruption to some black tea lines, but the impact on consumers will be minimal as retailers are not expecting significant challenges.”

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Freight shipments from Asia and East Africa, with China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya – where around three quarters of tea is produced globally – have faced major disruption over the past two months due to attacks in the Red Sea.

Violence by Houthi fighters in the region caused most shipping firms using the key trade route, which heads towards the Suez Canal, to redirect shipments around the Cape of Good Hope at the foot of Africa.

This typically adds between 10 to 14 days onto shipment times, as well as increased costs for shipping firms.

Joint strikes from the US and UK have been launched on the Yemen-based Houthis in recent weeks in a bid to stop the recent wave of attacks.

The US and Britain launched a wave of strikes against 36 Houthi targets in Yemen at the start of this month, marking the third time the allies conducted a large, joint operation to strike Houthi weapon launchers, radar sites and drones.

But the Houthis have continued conducting missile and drone attacks against commercial and military ships transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The Houthis are a group of Shia Islamists based in western Yemen which opposes US and Israeli influence in the Middle East.

Scots warned not to buy XL bully dogs as ban announcement in Scotland edges closer | UK News

Scots are being warned not to buy XL bully dogs as a ban north of the border edges closer to being announced.

New regulations have come into force in England and Wales following a spate of attacks in which people have died or been injured by the breed.

It will be illegal to own this type of dog south of the border from 1 February without an exemption certificate.

At Holyrood on Tuesday, community safety minister Siobhian Brown told MSPs the government was “urgently reviewing” the policy following reports of widespread rehoming of the dogs from England to Scotland.

“It would be preferable not to acquire any such dog at the present time in Scotland,” she warned.

Ms Brown said officials are considering evidence on the situation, and she had met many different groups including the Scottish SPCA and the Dog’s Trust.

She said no breed had been banned for 30 years and it was important to listen to expert views.

Ms Brown said: “The unintended consequences of the UK government’s policy is that we’re now seeing an influx of XL bully dogs coming to Scotland.

“It is important to ensure Scotland does not become a safe haven or a dumping ground for the XL bully dogs from England and Wales.”

Sammy Wilkinson, 29, told Sky News how he had transported around 12 XL bully dogs from England to Scotland ahead of the ban coming into force.

He said “no dog is ever born bad” and believes a blanket ban is the wrong approach.

Pic: Sammy Wilkinson
Sammy Wilkinson has rehomed around 12 XL bully dogs in Scotland. Pic: Sammy Wilkinson

The Scottish SPCA agrees and believes both the UK and Scottish governments should instead target irresponsible ownership and low-welfare breeding practices.

The animal welfare charity told Sky News it had not seen an increase in the number of XL bully dogs being brought to its centres since the restrictions started.

Read more:
New rules come into force
How experts predict ban will change things

What are the rules in England and Wales?

XL bullies were added to the Dangerous Dogs Act on 31 October 2023, giving owners two months to prepare for the restrictions.

The dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled when out in public.

Selling, breeding, abandoning or giving them away is also now illegal.

People have until 31 January to apply for an exemption certificate to keep their dog – and must have it neutered, microchipped and insured.

Owners in England and Wales who fail to obtain an exemption by then will have to euthanise their dog or face a possible criminal record and fine.

‘Place the blame on the breeder and owner, not the dog’

Responding to Ms Brown at Holyrood, Conservative MSP Jamie Greene stated: “The unintended consequences we’re seeing are not a result of UK legislation, but as a result of this Scottish government failing to take action.”

He highlighted a Facebook group with 20,000 members that has been discussing rehoming XL bullies in Scotland.

Mr Greene was dismissive of the government’s review, saying it had been going on for months.

He also referred to a report that an XL bully had been cruelly beaten to death after an unsuccessful attempt to sell it in Scotland.

He said: “I would not want to be the minister in charge of any policy who dithered and delayed a day longer than is necessary on this issue and another tragedy occurs.”

However, SNP backbencher Christine Grahame urged the government to take a different approach, saying the regulations are “hasty and simplistic”.

She suggested amending the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act, explaining: “It places blame and responsibility where it lies – on the breeder and the owner, not the dog.”

Hackney stabbing: Public warned not to approach man wanted over death of 49-year-old on Boxing Day | UK News

Police have appealed for the public’s help in finding a suspected knifeman after a fatal stabbing on Boxing Day – but warned people not to approach him.

Jurejs Vankovs, 38, is wanted over the death of Michael Murphy, 49, who was attacked and killed in Hackney, east London, in the early hours of Tuesday.

A row between a group of up to 10 people happened in the run up to the stabbing, according to the Metropolitan Police.

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Detective Chief Inspector Kelly Allen, leading the investigation, said: “We have been working tirelessly to locate Jurejs Vankovs but have yet to find him.

“We are now asking for the public’s help to locate him.

“I would ask people in the Shoreditch and wider Hackney area to keep a lookout for him.

“If you see Vankovs, please do not approach him but call 999 immediately.”

Four people – two men, 49 and 42, and two women, 35 and 44 – have been released without charge after being arrested on suspicion of murder.

Rail strikes: Passengers warned of disruption this weekend as ASLEF walkouts begin | UK News

ASLEF’s train drivers are staging a series of strikes this weekend, marking the start of major disruption over the next week.

Union members at East Midlands Railway and LNER will walk out on Saturday, followed by drivers on four other lines on Sunday.

A total of 15 train operating companies will be affected by strike action between today and Friday 8 December after ASLEF members voted to continue taking industrial action for the next six months.

The strike days are amplified by a union-wide overtime ban which started on Friday and will run until Saturday 9 December.

Full list of dates in December 2023 and rail lines affected

East Midlands Railway said it will not operate services on any of its routes on Saturday, while the overtime ban may cause some late notice cancellations and changes to train times.

Passengers are advised to check before travelling.

LNER is running a reduced timetable between Edinburgh and London and Leeds and London on Saturday.

There will also be no trains to or from London King’s Cross on Sunday due to planned engineering work.

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ASLEF boss: We have no choice

An LNER statement said bus replacements would be in place on Sunday but warned they would have “extremely limited availability and will take considerably longer [approximately 120 minutes].”

Strikes on Sunday will affect Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern Thameslink and West Midlands Trains, while more strikes against other operators will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week.

They come days after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union voted overwhelmingly to accept a deal to end their long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train companies, has criticised ASLEF for not following RMT’s approach and putting the latest pay offer to its members, which it says would take average driver salaries from £60,000 to nearly £65,000.

File photo dated 03/06/2023 of members of the Aslef union on a picket line near to Leeds train station. Rail passengers are being warned to expect disruption over the next week because of strikes and an overtime ban by train drivers in their long-running dispute over pay. Members of Aslef at 16 train operating companies will refuse to work overtime from Friday until December 9 and will stage a series of strikes between December 2 and 8. Issue date: Friday December 1, 2023.
An ASLEF picket line in Leeds

ASLEF’s general secretary Mick Whelan said he has not had any talks with employers since April and has not met Transport Secretary Mark Harper since last December.

“We are in this for the long haul,” he said.

“Our members, who have not had a pay rise for nearly five years now, are determined that the train companies and the Tory government that stands behind them do the right thing.

“The cost of living has soared since the spring and summer of 2019, when these pay deals ran out.

“The bosses at the train companies – as well as Tory MPs and government ministers – have had increases in pay. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect our members to work just as hard for what, in real terms, is considerably less.

“These are key workers who kept the country moving throughout the pandemic. They are simply asking for a fair and decent deal.”

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An RDG spokesperson said: “This unnecessary and avoidable industry action called by the ASLEF leadership has been targeted to disrupt customers and businesses ahead of the vital festive period.

“It will also inflict further damage on an industry that is receiving up to an additional £175m a month in taxpayer cash to keep services running, following the COVID downturn.”

Rail minister Huw Merriman said: “Following RMT members voting to overwhelmingly accept the train operators’ pay offer, ASLEF is now not just the only rail union still striking but the only union not to even put an offer to its members.

“They are instead choosing to cause more misery for passengers and the hospitality sector this festive period.”

“The fair and reasonable offer that’s long been on the table would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000 for a 35-hour, four-day week,” Mr Merriman added.

“ASLEF’s leadership should follow in the footsteps of all the other rail unions by doing the right thing and giving their members a say on that offer.”

Passengers who still intend to travel on days affected by strikes and overtime bans have been encouraged to check the National Rail’s journey planner before setting off.

Train strikes: Commuters warned to expect disruption as 20,000 rail workers stage walkout in ongoing pay row | UK News

More than 20,000 rail workers will strike on Thursday in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions – with passengers warned they may experience severe disruption to services.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out on 20, 22 and 29 July while drivers in Aslef are banned from working overtime this week.

RMT members involved in the strikes include station workers, train managers and catering staff with 14 train companies affected.

Read more: A full list of July dates and services affected by industrial action

The industrial action will see variations in services across the country with trains due to start later and finish much earlier than usual.

Around half of train services will run in some areas, while others will have no services at all.

Services the evening before and morning after strike days may also be affected.

Passengers have been advised to check their journeys in advance.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the strikes would show the country “just how important railway staff are to the running of the rail industry”.

“My team of negotiators and I are available 24/7 for talks with the train operating companies and Government,” he said.

Mr Lynch said neither party had “made any attempt whatsoever to arrange any meetings or put forward a decent offer that can help us reach a negotiated solution”.

“The Government continues to shackle the companies and will not allow them to put forward a package that can settle this dispute,” he added.

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Starmer: Strikes ‘are government’s mess’

Meanwhile, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the union wants to resolve the dispute.

“Train drivers don’t want to be inconveniencing the public,” he said.

“We have given the Government and rail operators plenty of opportunities to come to the table but it remains clear that they do not want a resolution.

“Our members, the drivers who keep the railway running day in, day out, will not accept the Government’s attempts to force our industry into decline.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, joins union members on the picket line outside Newcastle station. Rail passengers will suffer fresh travel disruption in the next few days because of more strikes in long-running disputes over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Wednesday May 31, 2023.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, joins union members on the picket line outside Newcastle station in May

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by the RMT union and the overtime ban by Aslef will undoubtedly cause some disruption, affecting not only the daily commute of our passengers but also disrupting the plans of families during the summer holidays.

Members of the drivers' union Aslef on the picket line at Euston station, London, during their long-running dispute over pay. Picture date: Friday May 12, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INDUSTRY Strikes. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Members of the drivers’ union Aslef on the picket line at Euston station, London in May

“This will lead to disappointment, frustration, and financial strain for tens of thousands of people. We apologise for the inconvenience caused and understand the impact on individuals and businesses.

“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, unfortunately there will be reduced services between 17 July and 29 July so our advice is to check before you travel.

“Passengers with advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.”

Read more:
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RMT’s Mick Lynch insists rail strikes ‘have been a success’

London Underground passengers were also warned to expect disruption next week because of industrial action by the RMT and Aslef in a separate dispute.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government has met the rail unions, listened to them and facilitated improved offers on pay and reform. The union leaders should put these fair and reasonable offers to their members so this dispute can be resolved.”

Rail passengers warned of six days of disruption as train drivers refuse to work overtime | UK News

​​​​​​​Disruption to rail journeys are expected across the country this week as train drivers refuse to work overtime for six days.

ASLEF announced last month that its members would withdraw non-contractual overtime, known as rest-day working, with 16 of the country’s 35 rail operators from Monday 3 July to Saturday 8 July.

Train companies affected are: Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; Cross Country; East Midlands Railway; Greater Anglia; GWR; GTR Great Northern Thameslink; Island Line; LNER; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Southern/Gatwick Express; South Western Railway main line; SWR depot drivers; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

The action may impact visitors to the first week of the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

It is understood that there have been no negotiations between the union and the rail operators since the action was announced on 19 June.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said at the time: “Once again, we find ourselves with no alternative but to take this action.

Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan arrives at the Department of Transport in Westminster, London, ahead of a meeting between members of the rail unions and Minister of State for Rail and HS2, Huw Merriman, after a week of disruption to rail services because of strikes. Picture date: Monday January 9, 2023.
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan

“We have continually come to the negotiating table in good faith, seeking to resolve this dispute.

“Sadly, it is clear from the actions of both the train operating companies and the government that they do not want an end to the dispute.

“Their goals appear to be to continue industrial strife and to do down our industry.

“We don’t want to inconvenience the public.

Rail strikes: Full list of July dates, lines and services affected by industrial action

“We just want to see our members paid fairly during a cost-of-living crisis when inflation is running at above 10%, and to not see our terms and conditions taken away.

“It’s time for the Government and the companies to think again and look for a resolution.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group responded: “ASLEF’s leadership continues to disrupt customers’ travel plans.

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Rail union boss ‘not at fault’

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“They rejected a fair and affordable offer without putting it to their members which would take average driver base salaries for a basic salary for a four-day week without overtime from £60,000 to nearly £65,000 by the end of 2023 pay awards.

“Train companies will work hard to minimise the impact of the overtime ban but the impact of ASLEF’s action will vary across the 16 train operators and customers are advised to check their travel plans before setting off.

“We ask ASLEF to recognise the very real financial challenge the industry is facing and work with us to deliver a better railway with a strong long-term future.”

Boris Johnson warned he could lose public legal aid for COVID inquiry | Politics News

Boris Johnson has been warned he could lose public funding for legal advice if he tries to “frustrate or undermine” the government’s position on the COVID inquiry.

Cabinet Office lawyers have told the former prime minister that public money would “cease to be available” if he breaks conditions such as releasing evidence without permission, the Sunday Times reported.

Mr Johnson confirmed on Friday he had sent unredacted WhatsApps directly to the COVID inquiry which is being led by the retired judge Baroness Hallett.

This was in opposition to the position of the Cabinet Office, which has launched a legal challenge against the request from the inquiry to hand over such material in unredacted form.

The Cabinet Office said there were “important principles at stake” – such as the issue of privacy.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak visit the headquarters of Octopus Energy, in London, Britain October 5, 2020. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS
The row over submitting messages to the COVID inquiry has set Prime Minister Rishi Sunak against his predecessor

But in a letter to Baroness Hallett, Mr Johnson said: “While I understand the government’s position, I am not willing to let my material become a test case for others when I am perfectly content for the inquiry to see it.”

The Sunday Times detailed a letter sent by Cabinet Office lawyers to Mr Johnson last week which suggests that his actions could see him lose public funding for his legal defence.

“The funding offer will cease to be available to you if you knowingly seek to frustrate or undermine, either through your own actions or the actions of others, the government’s position in relation to the inquiry unless there is a clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest on a particular point at issue,” it said.

Read more:
Johnson to hand over unredacted messages directly to inquiry
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MPs could be banned from parliament while under investigation

They added that funding would “only remain available” if he complied with conditions such as sending the Cabinet Office “any witness statement or exhibit which you intend to provide to the inquiry so that it can be security checked by appropriate officials”.

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Boris Johnson denies fresh lockdown claims

The Cabinet Office said the letter was “intended to protect public funds” so taxpayer-funded lawyers are not used for any other purpose than aiding the inquiry.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, a staunch ally of Mr Johnson, said it was “not a good look for the government”.

“All evidence provided should be unfettered and not restricted by gov censorship – whatever form that may take,” she tweeted.

Tory donor Lord Cruddas, an outspoken backer of Mr Johnson, who handed him his peerage, urged former prime minister not to be “held to ransom” by the threat.

“Don’t worry @BorisJohnson I can easily get your legal fees funded by supporters and crowdfunding, it’s easy,” he tweeted.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “This letter from officials simply reiterates that taxpayer-funded lawyers must be used to aid the Covid inquiry and for no other purpose.

“The letter makes clear Mr Johnson has a duty to provide sincere witness to the inquiry independently and without reference to the views of the current government.

“This letter was intended to protect public funds. It in no way prevents Mr Johnson from providing whatever evidence he wants to.”

Snowdonia: Visitors to Eryri National Park warned about parking over Easter bank holiday | UK News

Visitors to Wales’s largest national park have been urged not to park on double yellow lines ahead of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Snowdonia covers 823 square miles and has a population of more than 26,000 people in north west Wales.

Nearly four million people visit the park every year, but visitors have been warned to do so responsibly.

Eryri National Park have introduced park and ride services to try and control parking along the A5 in the Ogwen valley.

Double yellow lines have also been added along both sides of the road.

Traffic Wales shared pictures of the road on the first weekend of the Easter holidays as cars parked on the recently-painted lines.

The Welsh government’s traffic information service is reminding people that double yellow lines apply to the road, pavement and verge.

It says parking enforcement will be taking place during the Easter weekend and that responsible parking will make busy roads safer.

Since 1 April, an electric bus service runs eight times a day from Bethesda to Ogwen as authorities hope to reduce the number of cars on the road.

Angela Jones, the park’s partnerships manager said she hoped the measures would “encourage more people to visit the area responsibly and enjoy all it has to offer”.

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David Cooil is the head of North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent which manages the roads in the regions.

He said the agency had been “working closely with partners to address irresponsible parking at Ogwen”.

“We hope that these latest measures, together with last year’s parking improvements, will ensure that everyone can enjoy this beauty spot safely,” he added.

“We encourage those travelling in the area to plan ahead and to park responsibly.”

Staff at Kent NHS trust warned of ‘harrowing report’ into preventable baby deaths | UK News

The chief executive of an NHS trust at the centre of a maternity scandal where there were at least seven preventable baby deaths has warned staff to prepare for a “harrowing report” into what happened.

In an email seen by Sky News, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Tracey Fletcher told her staff to expect a “harrowing report which will have a profound and significant impact on families and colleagues, particularly those working in maternity services”.

An independent investigation into the trust, stretching back over a decade, will be published next week and is expected to expose a catalogue of serious failings.

It is also expected to say the avoidable baby deaths happened because recommendations that were made following reports into other NHS maternity scandals were not implemented.

The East Kent review is led by obstetrician Dr Bill Kirkup, who also chaired the investigation into mother and baby deaths in Morecambe in 2015.

The report was delayed following the Queen’s death, prolonging the agony for grieving parents who are desperate to learn the truth about their children’s deaths.

Dawn Powell’s newborn son Archie died in February 2019 aged four days.

In an emotional interview, Mrs Powell told Sky News she will never get over the loss of her son, who would be alive today if she or Archie had been given a routine antibiotic.

“For families like us, where your child has been taken away, you have forever got that hole in your life that you will never heal,” Mrs Powell said.

Archie and his twin sister Evalene were born at the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother hospital in Margate, Kent.

Archie became ill shortly after birth. Medics treating him failed to spot he was suffering from a common infection, group B streptococcus, despite showing all the symptoms.

His mother said: “We now know it was completely avoidable, that people weren’t picking up the signs, common signs that any trained nurse, midwife and doctors would spot through the grunting, being unable to maintain body temperature, irritability and other factors. Clear signs.”

Archie and his twin sister Evalene
Archie and his twin sister Evalene

Archie was eventually rushed to St Thomas’ hospital in London to receive expert care. But the delay in treating his infection caused catastrophic brain damage, leading to multiple organ failure.

“I sat next to him and held his hand, and he was actually opening his eyes. And I was talking to him and just felt the lightest squeeze on my finger. But then from that day, they said he never opened his eyes again,” Mrs Powell said.

“Having to go through the process of him being taken off life support, our daughters helping him to do his handprints and footprints because it’s the only thing that we’re going to have left.

“It was just me and my husband in the room when they finally took him off the last bit of life support and then me holding him once he went.”

Dawn Powell says Archie's death was 'completely avoidable'
Dawn Powell says Archie’s death was ‘completely avoidable’

Mrs Powell added: “I held a lot of guilt at the beginning because I thought it was partly my fault for what happened because I was the one carrying the group B strep that he first caught and I’ve always held a lot of guilt for that, but that just grows into anger towards people that didn’t do their jobs.

“They have put us in this situation for the rest of our lives.”

The Kirkup report will be published on Wednesday 19 October.

Government warned to reinstate eviction ban to prevent people from losing homes during cost of living crisis | UK News

The eviction ban must be reinstated in England to ensure no one loses their home during the cost of living crisis, a new report has warned.

The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping warned that inaction could lead to a “catastrophic” homelessness crisis, with the government failing to meet its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping.

Its new report calls on the government to temporarily bring back the eviction ban – mirroring what was announced in Scotland earlier this month.

The report calls for a pause in benefits deductions and for benefits to be increased immediately – not next April as planned.

It urges the government to take a “two-pronged” approach to get people off the streets and ensure vulnerable tenants do not end up on them.

The commission was set up to examine the lessons from the public health emergency response to rough sleeping during the pandemic. It is chaired by former head of the Civil Service Lord Bob Kerslake and comprises 36 experts from the health, housing and homelessness sectors.

Its latest report includes new recommendations on the cost-of-living crisis and says “the cost of not acting now is too great, as we stand on the precipice of a new emergency”.

Lord Kerslake said the government’s responses to the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis “must be equally urgent”.

He added that failure to act could see this become a “homelessness as well as an economic crisis” and that the results could be “catastrophic”.

The National Residential Landlords Association said it was right to call for improvements to the benefits system, but that preventing failed tenancies from ending would be “catastrophic” and would not address people’s hardships.

Chief executive Ben Beadle said: “There is a very real danger that an eviction ban would give free rein to tenants committing antisocial behaviour and those deliberately not paying their rents, knowing they will face no consequences and the bill will be picked up by others.”

The government did not say whether it was considering a temporary ban.

A spokeswoman said: “We are giving councils £316 million this year to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads.

“This is alongside the action we are taking to support families with the cost of living this winter through our £37 billion pound support package.

“This includes £1,200 this year for the most vulnerable, helping them to pay their bills and stay in their homes.”