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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, June 19

The ongoing coronavirus situation is changing by the hour with announcements being made about businesses and services that are being forced to adapt and change.

Punchline is committed to trying to keep you up to date with all the news that matters to you and your business.

Our team will update this story throughout the day, to ensure that the latest important developments can be found in one - clickbait free - place.

If you or your business has any news, views or advice to share with the Gloucestershire business community, get in touch with Punchline team at

Friday, June 19

Update #841 - 17.10 Warning to motorists after £20,000 worth of tools stolen from van

Gloucestershire Constabulary are asking motorists to please be vigilant following a spate of nearly 50 vehicle breaks since April.

Between April 1 and June 15, 47 thefts from vehicles were reported around the county with work vans in Gloucester and the Cotswolds mostly being targeted.

Investigating officers believe that offenders have gained entry to the vehicles by forcing doors or locks before searching inside and stealing items including tools.

One incident of note was reported on Priory Road in Gloucester on the afternoon of Thursday 14th May and saw offenders use an unknown item to create a hole underneath the rear door of a van which was parked on the road.

The individuals then went on to remove part of the barrel of the lock before using a crow bar to pull to open the doors.

A search was conducted inside the van and approximately £20,000 worth of power and hand tools such as drills, jigsaws, planers and routers were stolen.


Update #840 - 16.50 Versarien appoints new chairman

Versarien has appointed James Stewart CBE as its non-executive chairman with immediate effect.

Mr Stewart is the managing partner of Menlo Partners, the investment and advisory company he founded in 2013 which has a particular focus on technology companies operating in the UK and China.

Neill Ricketts, chief executive of the Cheltenham-based advanced materials engineering group, said he was delighted to welcome Mr Stewart to the Versarien board.


Update #839 - 15.57 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 173

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

It has been said that a further 173 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 42,461 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 301,815 people have tested positive for the virus, with 169,600 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 19).

Update #838 - 15.20 Record borrowing sees debt outstrip GDP

The UK's national debt is greater than the value of the economy for the first time in more than 50 years.

Government borrowing in May hit £55.2billion in May as it supported businesses to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, combined with a drop in tax income.

That figure - nine times the same month a year ago and the highest since records began in 1993 - took government debt to £1.95trillion, 0.9 per cent above the size of the.

It is the first time debt has exceeded GDP since 1963, but still well below the post-war peak of 258 per cent in 1946-47.


Update #837 - 15.09 Interactive trails coming to Cheltenham this summer

Two new free trails will be run by Cheltenham BID throughout the summer - a Monster Hero Safari trail and an enhanced Augmented Reality (AR) version of the Hidden Cheltenham Trail.

The Monster Hero Safari is a town centre experience in which families are challenged to hunt down 10 monster superheroes, displayed in public windows, and learn their names, origin stories and powers.

Children will enjoy spotting the cute, colourful characters and learning all about them. When they've spotted all 10, they will win a free e-book with the characters' first adventure together.

The trail will lead groups to 10 locations (small independent traders and charity retailers) within the BID zone, where Near Field Communication (NFC) - a contactless communication technology - and QR codes will be used to identify the individual monsters.

The trail will raise funds for NHS Charities Together, which supports NHS staff and volunteers caring for Covid-19 patients, through a minimum £2 donation from participants.


Update #836 - 13.37 "Unbeatable" Cheltenham will have cyber hub by 2023

Cheltenham will have its centre of excellence for cyber security and innovation in three years, vowed one of the driving forces behind the project.

And Nick Sturge, from Cyber Central, said Cheltenham compared to Silicon Valley.

He was speaking at a virtual conference organised by CyNam (Cyber Cheltenham), a community interest company supporting the growth and development of the area's cyber tech central.

CyNam 20.2 was attended by more than 1,400 online delegates.


Update #835 - 13.05 Gloucester Quays restaurants could become takeaways

A total of 12 establishments within the Gloucester Quays outlet centre have applied for planning permission with Gloucester City Council to be used as temporary takeaways.

Planning paperwork submitted earlier this month explains that Gloucester Quays are taking advantage of the amended Town and Country Planning Order 2020 which came into effect on March 24. The legislation introduces a new Class DA, meaning 'restaurants and cafes, drinking establishments and drinking establishments with expanded food provision to temporarily provide takeaway food'.

It is hoped that by changing the use of specific units in the centre will ensure the restaurants survive beyond the coronavirus pandemic.


Update #834 - 11.44 BAE Systems remains committed to apprentice scheme

BAE Systems is pressing ahead with plans to recruit its latest batch of 800 apprentices, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which has a base in Brockworth, saw more than 9,000 applications for the roles in February and have shortlisted almost 2,000 candidates.

Apprentices will join one of more more than 25 training programmes in the company's air, maritime and electronic systems divisions with most starting between September and January.


Update #833 - 11.34 UK moves to lower coronavirus alert level

The UK's coronavirus alert level has been downgraded following a recommendation by the country's chief medical officers.

The move from level four to level three rates the virus to be "in general circulation" compared with the previous "high or rising exponentially".

And the move, following advice from the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, means there could be a "gradual relaxation of restrictions".

They warned the move does not mean the pandemic is over and localised outbreaks remained likely.

A joint statement from the medical officers said: "There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations and this continues.

"We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues."

Update #832 - 10.36 May figures bring brighter outlook for shops

May saw a partial recovery in UK retail sales, driven largely by the reopening of DIY stores and garden centres.

Sales of goods rose by 12 per cent from April, the first full month of lockdown restrictions, according the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Household goods stores saw a 42 per cent rise while online sales accounted for 33.4 per cent of spending, up from 30.8 per cent in April.

But sales were still down by 13.1 per cent on February, the last month unaffected by coronavirus, with the three months to May seeing sales fall by 12.8 per cent - the fastest quarterly decline on record.

Update #831 - 10.34 Wales opening shops but staying local

Shoppers in Gloucestershire will be able to pick up non-essential goods across the border in Wales from Monday.

The Welsh Government has relaxed coronavirus restrictions slower than their counterparts in England, meaning people living in parts of the Forest of Dean could not make the short journey to towns like Chepstow for shopping.

First Minister Mark Drakeford is today announcing the opening of all shops from June 22, provided they comply with social distancing rules.

But limits remain in place with Wales with travel restricted to five miles from home until at least July 6, unless people are concerned about the well-being of relatives.

Mr Drakeford said: "If we are able to confirm, that on July 6, the stay local restriction is over, and people chose to travel to those parts of Wales that are holiday destinations, those places now have two weeks to prepare for that."

Update #830 - 10.24 National Express coach services to start up again

The UK's largest coach operator will restart services on its national network of intercity routes at a reduced frequency on July 1, with significant new measures in place.

The restart follows a three-month suspension of all National Express scheduled services in response to the lockdown and a limit on non-essential travel introduced by the Government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

New COVID-19 secure measures that will be enforced across the group include reduced vehicle capacity, temperature screening, additional UV filters in air conditioning systems and use of aerosol based disinfection or 'fogging'.

Chris Hardy, managing director of National Express UK Coach said: "We have always put safety as our number one priority and right now, this is more important than ever as we play our part in getting the country moving again.

"As restrictions begin to ease and people plan to start travelling once again, we are adapting how we operate to help keep everyone safe."

Update #829 - 10.02 Work begins on Cheltenham transport scheme

Work has begun on the West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme with roadworks appearing at the Arle Court roundabout.

The scheme, designed to ease congestion on the A40 ahead of the proposed £650million cyber business park, is expected to take 18 months.

It will provide extra capacity entering the Cheltenham from Junction 11 of the M5 and the A40 Golden Valley bypass.

The first section of the scheme includes an extra lane around the roundabout and A40, widening of the Junction 11 southbound slip road, A40 eastbound carriageway and Hatherley Lane.

Update #828 - 08.25 Latest on cases and deaths in Gloucestershire

Public Health England has released new data showing the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in the county stands at 1,382 as of 9am on June 18 - an increase of one on yesterday's total.

Figures show that the area with the largest number of positive cases is South Gloucestershire with 406 since the outbreak began - with no increase in the last 24 hours.

Data also shows that there had not been an increase in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Information released on Wednesday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire remains at 226 - no change in more than seven days.

Of these deaths, 192 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 34 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Thursday, June 18

Update #827 - 17.14 Aerospace manufacturing facing 75 per cent drop in revenue

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry could cost maintenance firms and parts manufacturers around £60billion, according to latest estimates.

Aerospace consultancy Teal Group predicted a decline of up to 75 per cent in services revenue.

Gloucestershire plays a key role in the UK's aerospace manufacturing sector with the likes of GE Aviation, Safran Landing Systems, Dowty, Rolls-Royce and Raytheon all involved in the industry.

The International Air Transport Association has predicted airlines would lose $84billion in 2020 due to the pandemic.


Update #826 - 17.02 Hospital charity provides £10,000 for staff's mental health

Money donated to help NHS staff in Gloucester during the coronavirus crisis will continue to do so for months to come.

The Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity has provided £100,000 of mental health support for staff.

The funding includes a clinical psychologist who will work directly with teams and staff members, peer training for staff in the aftermath of traumatic events and a diversity and Inclusion lead who will focus on helping BAME staff members in response to the pandemic.

Head of fundraising Richard Smith said the charity was moving from offering rapid response help for hospital staff to putting more long-term support in place.


Update #825 - 16.55 Ribston Hall to offer virtual open days

Ribston Hall High School in Gloucester is offering virtual open days online to girls in year 5 and their parents next week.

Starting secondary school can be a worrying time, but even more so if you can't look around schools to help make your choice.

That's why Ribston is asking families to book one of its virtual sessions on Monday 22nd or Wednesday 24th June. It is holding sessions between 9 and 10am and also between 5 and 6pm on the two days, to make sure as many families as possible can take part.


Update #824 - 16.05 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 135

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

It has been said that a further 135 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 42,288 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 300,469 people have tested positive for the virus, with 136,516 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 18).

Update #823 - 15.31 One in five workers in Gloucestershire on furlough

One in five of the workforce in Gloucestershire has been placed on furlough under the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

In all, 76,300 people across the county are seeing 80 per cent of their wages paid by the Government as they stay away from work - 19.9 per cent of the working age (16-64) population.

That is above the 18.4 per cent rate across England and the South West (19.4 per cent).


Update #822 - 15.26 £2.1m Lydney Harbour regeneration project begins

Locals who have been taking their daily exercise at Lydney Harbour may have noticed that construction work at the site has recently begun.

Contractors are now onsite for the first phase of the £2.1m Destination Lydney Harbour project, funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's Coastal Community Fund.

The project, devised by Lydney Coastal Community Team (LCCT), will create safe, attractive transport routes into Lydney Harbour and develop the area as a recreation and tourism destination.

Buildings currently being upgraded include the old mortuary and store buildings which will become the new accessible toilets and heritage information point. Alongside these existing buildings will be the much anticipated, new modular café building that will serve light refreshments to visitors.


Update #821 - 12.42 Interest rate stays put as bond buying hits £300 billion

The Bank of England is expanding its quantitative easing programme of bond buying by a further £100billion.

The move, which is aimed at helping the financial markets and keeping the cost of borrowing low, takes the total during the coronavirus crisis to £300billion.

And the Bank's rate-setting committee has ended speculation of negative interest rates by maintaining the record low level of 0.1 per cent.

The rate is set to remain in place for a while as the committee is not scheduled to meet again until August.

Update #820 - 11.48 B&Q and Screwfix to take on new staff

Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q and Screwfix, is to take on 1,500 to 2,000 new staff in the UK to process a huge surge in online orders.

The new jobs are initially temporary over the summer, as reported by The Guardian.


Update #819 - 11.07 Nationwide trebles deposit requirement for mortgages

Nationwide Building Society has trebled the minimum deposit it requires for mortgages.

The UK's biggest building society says it will now lend up to 85 per cent of a property's value, rather than 95 per cent, due to "unprecedented times and an uncertain mortgage market".

Nationwide director of mortgages Henry Jordan said: "Our priority at this time must be to help members keep their homes.

"As such, we need to ensure our members can afford their repayments, while doing what we can to protect them from falling into negative equity."

First-time buyers are likely to be the hardest hit by the change.

Update #818 - 10.28 Delivery firm to create 6,000 new jobs

Parcel delivery firm DPD is set to create 6,000 new jobs, in response to the boom in online sales during lockdown.

With non-essential retailers shut for nearly three months, we've all been left with no choice but to shop online. And DPD believes the growth in deliveries will continue, even though shops have started to reopen, as reported by Sky.

The company, which works with big name retailers like Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Amazon and Morrisons, will recruit 3,500 new drivers and 2,500 other positions, including warehouse roles.


Update #817 - 10.08 Soggy queues as John Lewis reopens

John Lewis has become the latest major retailer to reopen its doors in the county.

Queues formed in the rain on the High Street this morning as the Cheltenham branch resumed trading.

Non-essential shops were allowed to open from Monday as government coronavirus restrictions were lifted, but John Lewis opted to return in phases rather than all its shops on one day.

Staff are limiting the number of customers in the shop with social distancing signs throughout, hand sanitisers and regularly cleaning of surfaces.

Update #816 - 08.20 Latest on cases and deaths in Gloucestershire

Public Health England has released new data showing the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in the county stands at 1,381 as of 9am on June 17 - no increase on the day before.

Figures show that the area with the largest number of positive cases is South Gloucestershire with 406 since the outbreak began - no increase from yesterday.

Data also shows that there had not been a rise in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Information released on Wednesday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire remains at 226 - no change in more than seven days.

Of these deaths, 192 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 34 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust. 

Wednesday, June 17

Update #815 - 16.45 Moog plans £40m centre of excellence

One of Tewkesbury's largest employers has unveiled plans for a state-of-the-art £40million manufacturing and design facility.

The 184,000sq ft centre of excellence for Moog's aircraft controls operation will be built at Ashchurch on a 10-acre site at the A46, near Junction 9 of the M5.

One of the biggest deals in the manufacturing sector this year was announced by West Midlands development and investment company Barberry Industrial, who acquired the site from Sainsbury's.


Update #814 - 16.05 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 184

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

It has been said that a further 184 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 42,153 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 299,251 people have tested positive for the virus, with 140,359 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 17).

Update #813 - 15.21 Cheaper petrol drives lower inflation 

Inflation in the UK fell to its lowest level in four years, thanks largely to a record drop in fuel prices.

The Consumer Price Index for May dropped to 0.5 per cent - down from 0.8 per cent in April - according the Office for National Statistics, despite a rise in food prices.

Clothing and footwear prices fell by 3.1 per cent but the biggest single drop came in fuel prices, which were down 16.7 per cent.

The ONS admitted compiling the figures in May proved difficult with so many parts of the economy closed down due to coronavirus restrictions.


Update #812 - 14.02 Boohoo set to snap up high street fashion brands

Online fashion giant Boohoo is set to buy high street fashion retailers Oasis and Warehouse, two months after the brands went into administration.

The brands, which both had branches in Cheltenham, were sold in late April, with nearly 2,000 jobs at the chains lost when their stores were closed for the last time, as reported by Sky.

Now Oasis and Warehouse's online business and their associated intellectual property are set to be bought by Boohoo, for what is thought to be considerably less than the £18m the company paid for Coast and Karen Millen in August 2019.


Update #811 - 12.48 Adam Henson joins calls for clarity on opening

Countryfile presenter Adam Henson has echoed calls for the Government to provide the hospitality and leisure industry with greater clarity about when it will be able to reopen.

The Government's road map to relaxing coronavirus restrictions has earmarked July 4 as the earliest date for the final phase, which includes pubs, restaurants and leisure sites.

But trade organisations have called for a confirmed date to enable them to make the necessary preparations for reopening.

And Mr Henson, who runs Cotswold Farm Park at Guiting Power, has added his voice to those calls.


Update #810 - 12.33 Cheltenham's Promenade to close for resurfacing

The Promenade will be closed for six nights from tomorrow to enable roadworks to take place.

The area outside the Municipal Offices in Cheltenham will be closed to vehicles from 7pm-7am until June 23.

Hundreds of buses and taxis pass along this road on a daily basis, therefore during this period Stagecoach West have said that their services will be temporarily diverted.

Stagecoach bus services 10, 1, 66, 97, 98 and 94 will instead drop off and depart from the Royal Wells Bus Station.


Update #809 - 11.53 Forest of Dean District Council owned public toilets reopen

Forest of Dean District Council has announced the reopening of its eight public toilet sites.

As the country slowly begins to take steps to move out of lockdown more of us are beginning to travel a little further from home.

At the request of local residents and following concerns about sanitation, this week the council will begin to reopen the public toilets throughout the district. The toilets will be re-commissioned individually as the correct signage arrives.

The toilets are managed and maintained on behalf of the council by Ubico.

New safety measures include social distancing markers on both inside and outside of the toilets, and the main entrance doors of the traditional toilet blocks will be propped open to reduce the possibility of contamination.

Some of the cubicles will be closed to help maintain social distancing, and when the toilets are being cleaned they will be temporarily closed while the work is carried out.

The council reminds everyone who uses the toilet facilities that they do so at their own risk. They are also advised to maintain social distance at two metres apart, to use hand sanitiser before entering, and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

Disabled access with a RADAR key is free. The reopening does not include Forestry England toilets.

Update #808 - 11.40 Shower company produced essential ventilators

Cheltenham-based Mira Showers showed its flexibility during lockdown, when it switched its production rom showers to ventilators.

The manufacturer refocused its expertise from producing a range of showers to supporting the NHS, by using its manufacturing and assembly knowhow to create integral PPE and critical care ventilators.


Update #807 - 11.20 Kingfisher sales fly as lockdown helps DIY

Home improvement group Kingfisher has reported a 21.8 per cent growth in underlying sales in the second quarter up to June 12.

The retailer, which owns B&Q and Screwfix, saw sales move from being down 74 per cent as lockdown took hold at the start of April to a 25 per cent rise in the second week of May.

Chief executive Thierry Garnier said: "I still think that DIY overall will prove more resilient than the average."

Update #806 - 11.19 Job cuts back on the table for HSBC

HSBC says plans to cut around 35,000 jobs, which had been put on ice due to the coronavirus pandemic, are being revived.

Europe's biggest bank, which has extended its freeze on external hiring, employs around 235,000 worldwide.

The bulk of the cuts are expected to come from the back office at Global Banking and Markets, which houses HSBC's investment banking and trading, as well as senior bankers in Britain and support staff around the world.

Update #805 - 11.17 Poundstretcher warns shops may close

Poundstretcher says 253 shops are at risk of closure across the UK after launching a company voluntary arrangement.

The bargain retailer said it needs to agree rent cuts of holidays with landlords to keep them open.

The CVA, which is being overseen by KPMG, proposes cutting rents for a further 84 shops for the next three years while a further 23 are owned by a subsidiary group which is set to be placed into administration.

Poundstretcher owns Bargain Buys which has a branch in Gloucester city centre.

Update #805 - 11.00 Debenhams opens its doors in Gloucester

Debenhams has reopened in Gloucester as the troubled retailer resumed trading at 38 more stores today.

The department store chain opened 50 outlets on Monday as non-essential shops were allowed to reopen and a second group followed suit today.

Managing director Steven Cook said: "We were pleased with the first day of reopening in England. Our customers have been complimentary about the safety precautions we have introduced.

"Longer term, there will be plenty of issues to be resolved, notably around unsustainable rates bills, if the high street is going to get back on to a sustainable footing."

Debenhams entered administration for the second time earlier this year and has announced that 20 of its stores will not reopen after failing to agree fresh deals with landlords.

Update #804 - 10.35 Free car parking extended in Tewkesbury

Tewkesbury Borough Council is continuing to suspend parking charges in its car parks until Monday, July 13.

To support local traders and to allow shoppers to become accustomed to the new safety arrangements on high streets, the council is extending its free parking for a further four weeks, following the reopening of non-essential retailers on June 15.

The council temporarily suspended car parking charges on March 24 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the only local authority in Gloucestershire to suspend parking charges throughout all of its car parks during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The council is urging anyone parking after 13 July to use the RingGo app on a mobile device to avoid handling cash, and there is also the option to call the Ringo number to pay over the phone. This service is now free to use. 

Another option is for shoppers to use the Paypoints in Tewkesbury and Winchcombe, where parking can be paid for using a contactless card. When using Paypoint locations, drivers must take note of the car park number, found on the ticket machines and lamposts.

Councillor Robert Vines, lead member for finance and asset management said: "We hope that shoppers and traders find the extended free parking useful as they familiarise themselves with the changes put in place to make our high streets safer."

Update #803 - 10.27 Waitrose online reaches new milestone and expands van fleet

Online supermarket has achieved the milestone of processing more than 150,000 online orders in a week for the first time.

This figure is more than double the amount of weekly orders at the start of this year and represents a significant milestone in the businesses online expansion plans.

The retailer is also in the process of adding 150 new delivery vans to its fleet, which it said will enable further increases in delivery slots to customers over the coming weeks.

Since the beginning of the year Waitrose has been scaling up its online operation, increasing the amount of weekly slots it can offer to customers as well as covering more of the country.

In February it announced that a further 24 shops would be made delivery shops between now and September 1, when will become the only place shoppers can order Waitrose food online. director Ben Stimson said: "The expansion plans we had in place for have allowed us to respond as best we can to the huge surge in demand in recent months - especially from vulnerable groups who need home delivery services. 

"We're seeing a fundamental shift to many people's shopping habits, and we're incredibly proud of how our shops have scaled up our online operations at such speed."

Update #802 - 10.17 Is your business at risk of Legionnaires' disease?

Businesses across Gloucestershire are being urged to carry out vital safety checks to their water systems to avoid increasing the risk of Legionnaires' disease as they reopen following the COVID-19 lockdown.

Legionella bacteria are naturally present in water systems and the disease is fatal in 10% of cases. Legionnaires' disease can be contracted by inhaling small droplets of water suspended in the air which contain Legionella bacteria.

Symptoms include fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath and pneumonia, very like those of Covid-19. The groups of people who have a higher risk to Legionnaires' disease are similar to individuals most at risks of serious complications from Coronavirus such as those with underlying health conditions.


Update #801 - 08.20 Latest on cases and deaths in Gloucestershire

Public Health England has released new data yesterday showing that the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in the county stands at 1,381 as of 9am on June 16 - no increase on the day before.

Data also showed that there had not been a rise in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Information released on Tuesday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire still sits at 226 - no change in more than seven days.

Of these deaths, 192 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 34 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Tuesday, June 16

Update #800 - 17.05 Businesses under pressure to cut costs

Pressure from bigger firms is building on businesses in their supply chain to cut prices, according to research in the building industry.

But industry experts have warned those facing tricky cost issues that quality remains the best long-term investment.

Research on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic by Barbour ABI said the pressure has been growing on firms to cut costs.

The firm's latest update said: "We have identified a number of reports of requested or voluntarily discounting across sub-contractors and architects."

A report from architecture recruitment agency Frame Recruitment said practices were offering 20 per discounts to secure contracts.


Update #799 - 17.00 Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit Gloucester Royal Hospital

Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have today visited Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and met staff working in health and social care throughout the county.

During a 50-minute visit to the hospital this morning, their Royal Highnesses, accompanied by the lord lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Edward Gillespie and the chief executive of the Hospitals Trust, Deborah Lee thanked staff for their dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the first time since the lockdown that Their Royal Highnesses have had an opportunity to thank front line health workers for their contribution during the pandemic. They addressed a range of health and social care professionals including clinicians, social workers, domestic staff, volunteers and other frontline colleagues from the health and care system locally.


Update #798 - 16.03 Charities take sales online to offset pandemic losses

As charity shops reopen their doors this week, along with other non-essential retailers, more of them are moving services online to help survive the multi-million pound hit they have taken during the coronavirus crisis.

The Charity Retail Association has calculated that UK charity shops lost a total of £3.4million for every day they were closed during lockdown, as reported by Sky.

Charities have also had to scale back their own fundraising and seen a big hit from events like marathons being cancelled this year.


Update #797 - 15.42 Further £2.2m allocated for local coronavirus test and trace program

Gloucestershire County Council has received £2.2million from the UK Government to support the test and trace service in Gloucestershire and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

These extra funds totalling £2,221,773 will be used to further develop and support a tailored plan to manage local outbreaks.

The county council is working closely with the new NHS Test and Trace service, Public Health England, the NHS in Gloucestershire and local partners to build on the work which has already been done to respond to, and manage outbreaks of COVID-19 in the county.

The outbreak control plans will focus on identifying and containing potential outbreaks in areas such as workplaces, hospitals, care homes and schools where people come together in shared spaces.

Plans will make sure that appropriate testing capacity can be deployed quickly and effectively to identified locations to tackle and limit the spread of the virus.


Update #796 - 15.30 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 233

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

It has been said that a further 233 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 41,969 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 298,136 people have tested positive for the virus, with 113,107 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 16).

Update #795 - 14.50 Coming soon - Cineworld trails opening date

Cineworld is planning to reopen its 99 cinemas across the UK on July 10.

The leading cinema operator in the country covers more than 1,000 screens with outlets at Gloucester Quays and Cheltenham's Brewery Quarter and has been closed since coronavirus restrictions were introduced in March.

The chain says it has updated its booking system to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed and introduced stricter cleaning procedures.


Update #794 -13.13 UK braced for soaring unemployment as furlough time runs out

Latest figures have shown the extent of the damage done to the UK job market by the coronavirus pandemic - with warnings that the worst is to come.

Work-related benefit claimants have risen by 1.6 million people - a rise of 125.9 per cent - from the introduction of government restrictions in March, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That follows the revelation of 612,000 people coming off UK payrolls between March and May while HMRC's latest figures said 9.1 million workers are on furlough under the Job Retention Scheme.

And fears over what happens to those people - more than a quarter of the workforce - when the scheme ends at the end of October which has sparked warnings of what lies ahead.


Update #793 - 11.31 Time's up to get ready warns pub industry

The British Beer & Pub Association has again demanded the Government provide a clear date for when pubs in England can reopen - before it is too late for them to get ready.

The trade association says its members need to undergo significant preparation for reopening, including releasing staff from furlough, securing investment to follow safety protocols and ensuring draught beer is brewed and delivered on time.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: "The deadline for notice the Government needed to give us to be ready to reopen on July 4, as references in its own road map, passed on Saturday.

"We have no finalised safety guidelines and no definitive date for reopening - we need both today if pubs are to reopen on July 4."

Update #792 - 11.29 Pre-pack sale for Oak Furnitureland

Oak Furnitureland has been bought by a global investment management firm in a pre-pack administration deal.

The furniture chain, which has an outlet at the Gallagher Retail Park in Cheltenham, is planning to reopen its 105 shops and warehouses from tomorrow after the deal with Davidson Kempner Capital Management.

All 1,491 employees have been retained with chief executive Alex Fisher remaining in his position.

Update #791 - 11.23 Greggs opening doors on 800 shops

Sausage roll and steak bake cravings across the country will start to be fed from Thursday as Greggs reopens 800 of its shops.

Among the branches reopening are King's Walk in Gloucester, Brockworth and High Street, Coronation Square and Gallagher Retail Park in Cheltenham.

The baker closed its chain of more than 2,000 shops on March 24 will reopen for takeaways with non-cash payments on a limited menu after trials in a small number of shops in the North East.

A company statement said: "Our capacity to operate will be restricted by size of shop and we must anticipate that sales may be lower than normal for some time."

It said a proportion of its 25,000 staff would remain on furlough until sales begin returning to normal.

Update #790 - 11.21 Capita announces 200 job losses

One of the major providers of outsourced services to the Government has announced plans to cut at least 200 jobs.

Capita said it has started a consultation process after financial difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuts are expected to be in central support teams rather than employees working for clients on 100 different projects for the Government, including healthcare call centres.

Update #789 - 10.27 Neighbourhood Policing operation launches as shops and businesses reopen

Cheltenham's Neighbourhood Policing Team are running an operation this week as part of the reopening of non-essential shops and businesses.

From yesterday (June 15) through to Sunday, officers will be conducting regular patrols in the town centre and at local retail parks following the easing of government guidelines around shopping.

By increasing the policing presence within the town centre and retail parks, officers are aiming to provide reassurance to the public during what some may see as strange circumstances, reduce any potential offending and encourage engagement.

Officers will also be available to support businesses with any issues that may arise within their premises such as opportunistic shoplifting, anti-social behaviour or problems related to social distancing.


Update #788 - 08.25 Latest on cases and deaths in Gloucestershire

Public Health England has released new data yesterday showing that the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in the county has risen to 1,381 as of 9am on June 15 - an increase of one on the previous day.

Data also showed that there had not been a rise in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Information released on Wednesday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire still sits at 226 - no change in more than seven days.

Of these deaths, 192 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 34 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Monday, June 15

Update #787 - 17.10 Lloyds investigates reducing its properties

Lloyds Banking Group is looking at ways it can reduce its property footprint in the wake of staff working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lloyds sold its offices in London's Gresham Street to China's Hengli Investments in a 2017 believed to be worth £160million, agreeing a 20-year leaseback deal.

One of its main regional centres is at Barnwood.


Update #786 - 16.50 Another layer of complexity to furlough leave

The Government has issued further guidance on how furlough leave will work from July 1 when it is possible to furlough an employee on a part-time basis.

By now you will be aware that the changes are hardly likely to be straightforward, writes Nigel Tillott of Davies and Partners.

Broadly, if an employee has not been furloughed - June 10 was the deadline for first entering the scheme - a business will not be able to add them at any future point.

There is an exception for those returning from various forms of family friendly leave - maternity, adoption, shared parental, paternity or parental bereavement - provided it started before June 10, finished after that date and the individuals are on the business' PAYE payroll on March 19.

From July 1 the total number of employees on furlough leave cannot exceed the maximum on furlough leave at the business during any previous claim period, although returners from family friendly leave can be added to this number.


Update #785 - 16.40 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 38

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

It has been said that a further 38 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 41,736 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 296,857 people have tested positive for the virus, with 93,163 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 14).

Update #784 - 16.30 Cheltenham's Municipal Offices remain closed

As Cheltenham Borough Council continues to work hard to support people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Municipal offices remain closed.

The majority of front line council services have operated successfully since the period of lockdown began. Customers have been served by phone or have been able to successfully self-serve online and this will continue.

To date, the council has redeployed 55 members of staff, with 25 people directly helping with the council's local response to the crisis, this includes support of the Gloucestershire Help Hub.

Cllr Alex Hegenbarth, cabinet member for corporate services said: ''We have been able to operate successfully as a virtual council for some time now. We are aware that our local response to the crisis, including our direct support of the help hub, has meant that some council services have been affected. 

"Some customers require face-to-face appointments for instance and we are keen to put measures in places to enable these to happen safely. We are working behind the scenes for this to happen and appreciate people's patience.''

Update #783 - 16.13 Organisers cancel Frampton Country Fair 2020

The organisers of Frampton Country Fair have announced the cancellation of this year's Fair, which was due to take place on Sunday 13th September 2020.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the 35th Frampton Country Fair will now take place on Sunday 12th September 2021.

Fair chairman, Rollo Clifford, said: "With no imminent change in Government policy on when large gatherings will be permitted and the fact that some form of social distancing will continue for some time yet, it became increasingly more difficult to see a clear way that we could deliver another highly successful Fair this year. In taking this very difficult decision our main priority was the health and safety of our volunteers, visitors, traders, contractors and the parishioners of Frampton on Severn.

"We realise that this will be very disappointing news, especially to the many thousands who look forward to visiting the Fair each year. I'd like to thank everyone who plays a part in making the Fair the success that it is for their support over the years and I look forward to welcoming you all next year on Sunday 12th September when we can once again open our gates.

"The team will be contacting all of our stakeholders directly as quickly as possible with more information on what the cancellation means for them. This has been an extraordinarily tough year for our traders and contractors and all of the other shows that have been cancelled and we stand in support with them all.

From the Directors and Team at Frampton Country Fair we wish everyone the best during these difficult times."

Update #782 - 16.07 Travis Perkins to axe 2,500 jobs

Travis Perkins has announced plans to cut 2,500 job as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to be felt.

The UK's largest building materials group includes more than 20 businesses, including the Wickes DIY chain and Toolstation.

The proposed job cuts represent about nine per cent of the company's workforce with 165 branch closures.

Travis Perkins saw a 40 per cent plunge in sales during May compared to 12 months earlier and despite a pick-up as branches reopened following lockdown, it has started the consultation process in its distribution, administrative and sales sectors alongside the planned closures.

Small branches with difficulties to implement social distancing requirements are most at threat.


Update #781 - 14.44 WCD seals exclusive deal for face mask vending machines

The WCD Group has signed an exclusive distributor agreement with German vending firm Flavura for the sales and supply of mask vending machines and masks to UK businesses and local government.

The Brockworth firm will distribute Automask as face coverings become compulsory for people using public transport in England from today.

WCD Group managing director Pete Glanville said: "We are proud to be the exclusive distributor in the UK for the Automask brand utilising our established sales and supply operations.

"Flavura launched the machine in Germany last week with huge interest and we are excited about the prospects in the UK."


Update #780 - 13.45 Support Local Business: Think small to help recovery

Shop small is the rallying cry from the Federation of Small Businesses as retailers across the country open their doors again after three months. last week launched our Support Local Businesses campaign as they fight to recover from three months of coronavirus restrictions.

And the FSB has echoed that call with 51 per cent of all small firms closed for at least part of the last three months - one fifth of them saying they cannot open due to difficulties complying with social distancing advice.


Update #779 - 13.05 Cheltenham Help Hub residents express their thanks

Nearly 1,000 Cheltenham residents have received direct support during the COVID-19 lockdown thanks to The Cheltenham Trust, Cheltenham Borough Homes and Cheltenham Borough Council working together as part of the Gloucestershire Help Hub.

Since its launch on March 23, the Help Hub has delivered 2,700 food parcels, collected and delivered 230 prescriptions and made 3,500 welfare calls to Cheltenham residents.

In response to this support, residents have been leaving many positive comments for our teams and officers.


Update #778 - 12.40 Queues form as shops reopen their doors

Wake Up Boo rang out through Gloucester Quays at 10am as shops around the county did exactly that.

Queues formed outside shops as they prepared to open their doors for the first time in almost three months with clothes and sports shops attracting the most shoppers drawn back by the relaxation of government restrictions.

Primark and TK Maxx in both Gloucester and Cheltenham saw queues throughout the morning with banks and cashpoints also proving popular.

Sports Direct also attracted plenty of early custom in Gloucester while at the Quays, where shops opened their doors at 10am, Nike and Adidas saw lines forming outside waiting for the big moment.

Across the road at the Peel Centre, Next also saw shoppers queuing before opening.


Update #777 - 11.35 Matalan looks to sell head office

Matalan is believed to be seeking a £28.5million cash boost by placing its headquarters near Liverpool up for sale.

The clothing retailer furloughed more than 11,000 staff - around half of whom have returned to work as it reopened 175 of its 232 UK shops.

According to The Sunday Times, the office is being marketed on a sale and lease back basis.

Update #776 - 11.31 Face masks outsell milk at Co-op

Sales of face masks are outselling everyday essentials at Co-op as new rules on them being worn on public transport are introduced.

The retailer started selling the non-medical face coverings at the end of May in its 2,600 stores.

And with face masks mandatory on public transport from today, they sold faster than milk, eggs and bread.

Update #775 - 11.30 Cheltenham roadworks postponed

Update #774 - 11.25 Is AllSaints the next coronavirus retail casualty?

It looks like fashion retailer AllSaints could be the next Covid-19 retail casualty, as it plans to launch a CVA this week.

AllSaints, which has a store at Gloucester Quays, is set to ask for big rent cuts from its landlords across the UK through a CVA that could be launched as early as tomorrow (16th June).


Update #773 - 10.00 Stroud's public toilets set to reopen as non-essential shops start trading

Public toilets are set to reopen as part of Stroud District Council's efforts to help restart the local economy.

"We appreciate that the district's high street businesses have been seriously affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and one of our key Corporate Delivery Plan priorities is helping create a sustainable and vibrant economy that works for all," said council leader Doina Cornell.

"More shoppers will be out and about from next week but because of the two metre physical distancing guidelines, shopping is likely to take a bit longer. Food and drink establishments won't be able to open until July 4 at the earliest, so we need to make toilets available as soon as is safe to do so."

Public toilets in Bedford Street in Stroud town centre, Nailsworth, Dursley and Stonehouse are expected to open on Tuesday, June 16. Because it's not yet possible to keep to physical distancing guidelines in the Wotton-under-Edge facility, only the disabled toilets are expected to open there on Tuesday. The reopening of all is subject to important safety tests to protect the public, which are currently underway.

Reopening dates for the rest of the Wotton site and public toilets in Painswick, Berkeley and Minchinhampton will continue to be regularly reviewed.

Everyone who uses these all these facilities must stay at least two metres apart and must wash their hands.

Update #772 - 08.20 Latest coronavirus figures for the UK and Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Updated figures released on Sunday (June 14) show that the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 41,698 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 36 on the previous day's figures.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 226 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England on Sunday. No increase on the day before.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 192 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 34 were being treated through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 1,380 as of yesterday afternoon - with one new case recorded in the last 24 hours.

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