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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, June 12

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 12

Update #771 - 17.05 Fastershire targeting more broadband connections across county

The plan to bring ultrafast broadband to rural properties across Gloucestershire has expanded its target to 75,000.

Fastershire has connected 30,000 homes and businesses since it was launched in 2015 and an expanded network design now includes more properties than the original target of 70,000.

A partnership between Gloucestershire County Council, Herefordshire Council and internet service provider Gigaclear, Fastershire is scheduled to be completed in September 2022, increasing coverage in the county to an estimated 97 per cent.

Work has continued where safe during the coronavirus pandemic with the revised network design altering anticipated delivery timings for some communities.


Update #770 - 17.03 Gloucester Brewery expands into gin production

Well-known for its award-winning beers, Gloucester Brewery is delving into a new market and has expanded its business to launch its own range of premium artisan gins.

This new range of spirits come under the Fox's Kiln Distillery brand which is named after the Victorian Docks warehouse the brewery calls home and where the gin is distilled and bottled.

They come in four flavours which are the quintessential 'go with everything' Classic, a raspberry and rose Pink Gin, Rhubarb & Ginger and Blood Orange and they are made using natural ingredients many of which are sourced locally.


Update #769 - 14.50 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 202

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 202 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 41,481 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 292,950 people have tested positive for the virus, with 193,253 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 12).

Update #768 - 14.45 Mobile coronavirus testing unit to trial new locations across Gloucestershire

Over the coming weeks, the mobile testing unit, previously at Oxstalls Tennis Centre in Gloucester, will be trialling new locations across the county.

An important part of minimise and manage any future spread of COVID-19 is the speed at which people can be tested and isolation measures put in place, should an outbreak occur.

Earlier this month, a new regional testing centre opened at Hempstead Meadow in Gloucester, offering around 700 tests a day. The mobile unit will mean hundreds more tests are available each day it is operating.

As well as increasing local testing capacity on the days it operates and making them even easier for more people to access, trialling sites now will help to ensure, if called upon, the unit can be quickly set up at tried and tested location.

The first location to be trialled is Cinderford Rugby club, between Saturday, June 13 and Wednesday, June 17.


Update #767 - 14.40 Support Local Businesses - Back our campaign as shops prepare to reopen

Shops across Gloucestershire will be opening their doors for the first time in almost three months on Monday as government coronavirus restrictions continue to be lifted.

It is an uncertain time for many retailers as they head back to work - and we want to help them. is launching our Support Local Businesses campaign to highlight innovative ideas to get them back on their feet and the help that is at hand as traders turn the shop signs to open once again.

Punchline editor Mark Owen said: "It is great to see so many small businesses reopening and we look forward to seeing many more follow suit in the coming weeks."


Update #766 - 12.00 Parking update for Cheltenham Borough Council operated car parks

Now that some of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted, people are beginning to make use of Cheltenham's car parks again.

Cllr Andrew McKinlay, cabinet member for development and safety, said: "For most customers parking charges apply as normal and we would encourage people to use contactless payment if possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

"We would also ask people to respect social distancing protocols by keeping at least 2m from other customers.

"This work to bring car parking back into business is part of the council's recovery plan for Cheltenham."

Update #765 - 11.04 Currys PC World focuses on help in reopening plans

Currys PC World will focus on helping customers with problems which have cropped up during lockdown when they reopen 131 shops on Monday.

Gloucester and Cheltenham are among the branches which will open on Monday as Tech Help Hubs with staff helping customers with existing tech needs and support.

The shops will open as normal from June 18 with an extended returns policy for items bought in store up to March 24 covered until July 6.

The electrical retailer, which has been open online and offering a click and collect service at many branches, will also offer free recycling of any tech brought into stores.

Update #764 - 11.02 Beer sales hit 20-year low in opening quarter

Beer sales reached their lowest levels in two decades in the first three months of the year.

Figures from the British Beer & Pub Association said 1.5billion pints were sold in pubs, bars, supermarkets and shops up to March 31 - down 7.2 per cent on 12 months earlier and the lowest since records began in 2000.

Sales in shops and supermarkets rose during the quarter, but pubs saw sales fall by 16 per cent - around 450,000 pints - as they closed due to coronavirus restrictions for the final 10 days of the period.

BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: "These stark figures reveal how the lockdown is having a devastating impact on our world class breweries and pubs."

Update #763 - 11.00 Economy plummets by record 20.4% in April

The first full month of lockdown saw the UK's economy shrink by the largest amount on record.

April's 20.4 per cent fall is three times greater than the seen during the whole of the economic downturn in 2008-9 - and almost 10 times larger than any previous monthly drop.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics also revealed the economy declined by 10.4 per cent from February to April in comparison to the previous three months.

ONS deputy national statistician told the BBC: "It's highly likely April will be the low point.

"Our own surveys and wider indicators have suggested a pick-up in economic activity, but it's really too early to know how quickly economic activity will recover in the coming months."

Update #762 - 10.58 Flexible border as Brexit extension ruled out

The Government is ready to take a "light-touch" approach to post-Brexit border checks on goods being import from the EU next year.

To help ease the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Financial Times said the Government is planning a "temporary light-touch regime at UK ports".

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove is today expected to rule out any extension to the Brexit transition scheme beyond December 31 at a meeting of the UK-EU joint committee.

Any extension request would need to be agreed by the committee which does not meet again before the deadline at the end of the month.

Update #761 - 10.55 Essentials taking biggest bite out of young pockets

People under 30 have been hardest hit by a loss of income during the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Figures show people aged 30 spend 58 per cent of their weekly budget on essentials such as rent, food and bills and only 19 per cent on things which have been stopped by lockdown.

Renters spend 61 per cent of their budget on essentials with the figure filing to 52 per cent for those who own their home outright or with a mortgage.

And older households - 64-74 years old - spent just 43 per cent on essentials with 29 per cent of their budget on activities prevented by lockdown.

Update #760 - 10.33 Speed awareness courses going virtual

Drivers caught breaking speed limits could be the next group to take part in online tuition in a bid to reduce a waiting list for speed awareness courses.

Coronavirus lockdown restrictions have seen a sharp rise in virtual classrooms, be that home schooling, fitness classes and now driving.

Speed awareness courses stopped in classrooms on March 20 and there is now a waiting list of around 1,700 - and growing.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire Martin Surl said: "Speeding while the roads have been quieter has been one of the most disappointing and dangerous aspects of lockdown.

"Motorists who disregard the law and other road users must know that if they are caught, they will be held to account.


Update #759 - 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 remains at 1,378 as of 9am on June 11 - no increase 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.

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 11

Update #758 - 17.05 Government urged to rethink quarantine rules

Business West has joined bodies representing business, education and employment in calling for a rethink in the Government's quarantine rules for travellers arriving in the UK.

The body representing the region's Chambers of Commerce has joined the likes of UKHospitality and Universities UK to write an open letter to the Home, Foreign and Transport Secretaries which was published in the Financial Times today.

The letter said: " Businesses across the country rely on the UK being connected to the global economy.

"Since March, international travel has slowed to a trickle. To the credit of companies up and down the country, not least in the aviation sector, the movement of essential goods has not been affected.

"However, as we look to recover from the economic shock that Covid-19 has delivered, it will be vital that we start to open the UK up to our trading partners."


Update #757 - 16.35 Fines fall as lockdown measures eased

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) has released information to show a continuing reduction in the number of fines issued since lockdown measures were eased.

Data released today by the NPCC shows that a total of 15,715 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been recorded by forces in England up to June 8 for breaches of government public health regulations.

The new period covered by this data is between May 26 and June 8, where 523 fines were given in England. Data from this period shows the most fines were given on Saturday, May 30 (96).

Since measures were first eased on 13 May, a total of just 1,526 FPNs have been issued.

From 1 June, it has been lawful for groups of up to six people to meet outdoors in England (as long as social distancing measures are maintained). From 1 June to 8 June, a total of 161 FPNs were issued.

National Police Chiefs' Council chair, Martin Hewitt said: "We're now near to closing the first month away from full lockdown. Soon, shops will be open again, and there will be more people outdoors going about their business. Our approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging continues to be successful. Since measures eased in England, the number of fines issued has seen a sustained fall.

"I would like to thank the vast majority of people who are continuing, as they have always done, to abide by the lockdown measures and the Government's advice."

Update #756 - 16.18 Calls to relax two-metre guideline to help business

Small businesses, pubs and Conservative backbench MPs have all called for the Government to relax the two-metre guideline for social distancing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the two-metre rule was under constant review, but stressed caution was needed ahead of the reopening of non-essential shops and outdoor attractions from Monday.

The UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance added: "It is a risk-based assessment on when risk reduces and the risks are associated with distance, so risk falls after two metres."

The Federation of Small Businesses believes the distance needs to be changed as soon as any review allows to allow more firms to return.


Update #755 - 15.25 Unilever unites under one flag

Unilever is to combine its British and Dutch arms into one structure based in the UK.

The Unilever site in Gloucester. Picture: Google

The firm, which makes the likes of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Marmite, Dove soap and has a base in Gloucester, has reversed a 2018 decision to combine into a Dutch company which was blocked by UK shareholders.

The two firms' shares are currently listed independently in London and Amsterdam.

No jobs are expected to be lost in the move with the company retaining its existing headquarters in both countries.

Update #754 - 15.22 Marmite shortage down to drop in brewing

Marmite shortages have been blamed on a lack of supplies caused by the coronavirus.

Unilever, who own the brand, says it has been forced to suspend all production of all-size packs other than the 250g jar due to a shortage of brewer's yeast.

The yeast is a by-product from brewing beer which has been severely restricted since pubs were forced to close in March.

Lockdown has also caused a surge in demand with more people at home.

Marmite says production levels at its factory in Burton-on-Trent was returning to normal.

Update #753 - 15.20  Lloyds hit by £64m mortgage fine

Lloyds Bank has been hit with a £64million fine by the financial regulator.

The fine from the Financial Conduct Authority has find the bank over the lack of support for mortgage customers in arrears from 2011-15.

The FCA said 526,000 customers have shared £300million in compensation over the issue regarding Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland and The Mortgage Business.

Mark Steward from the FCA said: "By not sufficiently understanding their customers' circumstances the banks risked treating unfairly more than a quarter of a million customers in mortgage arrears, over several years.

"In some cases, customers were treated unfairly, including vulnerable customers."

Update #752 - 14.55 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 151

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 151 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 41,279 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 291,409 people have tested positive for the virus, with 197,007 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 10).

Update #751 - 13.40 More than 30,000 Trace and Track contacts identified

The NHS has released information this morning to show that the first week of operation for the contact tracing element of the NHS test and trace programme has identified 31,794 contacts.

Figures which cover May 18 to June 3, are the first to be released and reveal that 85 per cent of these contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Update #750 - 13.10 Stewart Golf hits sweet spot as US trolley sales soar 886%

Social distancing on golf courses in the USA has seen one Gloucestershire firm card some extraordinary sales figures.

Premium trolley manufacturer Stewart Golf, based at Waterwells in Quedgeley, saw sales through its US website rise by an astonishing 886 per cent during April and May.

Sales through those two months doubled those for the whole of 2019,

And the tale has continued into June with sales tracking a remarkable 1,898 per cent up year on year, despite a 6-8 lead time on trolleys.


Update #749 - 12.26 Survey shows lack of confidence hitting investment

Investment plans for the rest of the year have been downscaled amid growing uncertainty in UK business leaders.

In its latest confidence tracker, the Institute of Directors showed its members had seen plans to investor in the next 12 months fall to a record low level.

But overall business confidence had risen slightly since a month ago as coronavirus restrictions began to be eased.


Update #748 - 12.09 Signs pointing the safe way forward in Gloucester

Signs and stickers are appearing around Gloucester to help keep shoppers and workers safe as they begin returning to the city centre.

Ahead of non-essential retailers reopening on Monday amid further relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions Gloucester City Council has worked with partners including the Gloucester BID to help people stay safe.

Stencils and stickers on the ground will remind people to keep their distance from those outside their household with signs helping to ensure other guidance is followed in public.

The city centre and Eastgate, King's Walk and Gloucester Quays shopping centres will have the advice ready for when indoor retail spaces open again.


Update #747 - 10.40 British Gas owners to axe 5,000 jobs 

The owner of British Gas has announced it is to cut 5,000 jobs by the end of the year - half of them among management and corporate staff.

Centrica chief executive Chris O'Shea, who took over in April, said the firm would remove three layers of management with half of the 40-strong leadership team leaving by the end of August.

The company, which has around 20,000 of its roughly 27,000 employees in the UK, made a big loss in 2019 and said the coronavirus crisis has shown how it come be "agile and responsive".

Mr O'Shea said: "We've learned through the crisis that we can be agile and responsive in the most difficult conditions and put our customers at the heart of our decision-making.

"The changes we are proposing to make are designed to arrest our decline, allow us to focus on our customers and create a sustainable company."

Update #746 - 10.36 CBI appoint next director general

Tony Danker is due to be announced as the next boss of the Confederation of British Industry tomorrow.

The former Treasury adviser will succeed Dame Carolyn Fairbairn when she steps down as director general of the influential business lobbying group later in the year.

She had been due to step down in the summer, but agreed to remain in her post until the end of the year due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Danker is a former head of strategy at Guardian Media Group and joined Be the Business in 2017.

Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria is due to be installed as the new CBI president in the next few weeks.

Update #745 - 09.33 Cotswolds art and antiques dealers' shops and galleries set to re-open

With the government declaring that non-essential premises in England can re-open from Monday 15 June, Cotswolds antique shops and galleries have been preparing to reopen - with many even taking the opportunity to add a new lick of paint.

With its wealth of art and antiques for sale, in 'normal times' the Cotswolds attracts collectors and visitors from around the world.

And after 11 weeks of lockdown, Cotswold Art & Antique Dealers' Association (CADA) members are reopening their doors, following the guidelines and have been making the necessary amendments and plans to ensure that all the necessary safety precautions are in place.

CADA said that within several member's premises (depending upon the size of the business) access will be restricted to one or more people, several initially working on a 'by appointment' basis. Interested customers are advised to telephone or email to arrange a time for their visit, where possible, in order to avoid having to wait outside.


Update #744 - 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 remains at 1,378 as of 9am on June 10 - no increase 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 Monday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire sits at 226.

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 10

Update #743 - 15.45 Fashion retailer sees huge online sales surge

Online sales at fashion retailer Zara were up 95 per cent in April, as stores across Europe were closed during the coronavirus lockdown.

The retailer's owner, Inditex, said it expected a permanent shift in buying habits, with a quarter of sales predicted to be online in 2022, up from 14 per cent in 2019, as reported by the BBC.

But online sales weren't enough to off-set the impact of closed stores, with the company seeing its first ever quarterly loss.


Update #742 - 15.40 Shops prepare for Monday trading

Retailers are preparing to reopen their doors from Monday after the Government confirmed the next phased of relaxed lockdown restrictions.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed all non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen in England from June 15, but warned they could face enforcement notices if they fail to follow safety guidelines.

Outdoor attractions such as zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas are set to be allowed to reopen, but pub industry hopes that venues with outdoor areas could open earlier than expected were scotched.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and hairdressers will not be able to reopen any earlier than the original schedule of July 4.


Update #741 - 15.01 Fat Face lenders poised to take over

Fashion retailer Fat Face is believed to be close to a be taken over by a syndicate of its major lenders.

The casual clothing chain, which has branches at Gloucester Quays and in Cheltenham, has been owned by private equity group Bridgepoint since 2007.

But according to Sky News, a syndicate of banks and debt funds who have been its main lenders are set to take majority control.

Founded in 1988 in the back of a camper van in the Alps, Fat Face has more than 200 stores and employs more than 2,000 people.

Update #740 - 14.59 UK heading to top unwanted list

The UK is on course for the worst economic impact among developed nations due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new forecast.

The report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments predicts and 11.5 per cent contraction in the economy during 2020 - compared with 11.4 per cent in France and 11.3 per cent in Italy.

Global economic activity is predicted to fall by six per cent this year with unemployment rising by 9.6 per cent.

A possible second wave of infections is expected to see the UK economy shrink by 14 per cent, slightly less than the drop predicted for Spain, France and Italy.

Update #739 - 13.00 Monsoon Accessorize close 35 branches

Gloucester and Cheltenham are not on the list of Monsoon Accessorize shops which are being shut.

The troubled retailer, which entered administration earlier this month, has announced it is closing 35 shops with the loss of 545 jobs.

Founder Peter Simon bought the business out of administration and is aiming to negotiate a better deal with landlords for the remaining 162 stores leases.

His Adena Brands group has said it will inject £15million to keep the remaining outlets open.

Mr Simon said: "Ever since I opened the first Monsoon store in 1973, this business has been my passion and my life, and I did not want to see it fall victim to this unprecedented crisis.

"Both Monsoon and Accessorize were trading well before the coronavirus pandemic but the business simply could not withstand the financial impact of having to close all its UK, franchise and joint venture stores for almost three months.

"This deal secures the future of both Monsoon and Accessorize and means we can continue to serve our customers online without a pause."

Update #738 - 12.50 Housing market returns to pre-pandemic levels

Property sales have bounced back close to pre-lockdown levels in most parts of England.

Property website Zoopla says pent-up demand saw a six per cent rise in house prices last week compared to 12 months ago - just days after Nationwide said prices were falling at the fastest rate since the financial crisis.

Sales since the housing market reopened four weeks ago across the South West are 1.7 per cent down on what they were before restrictions were introduced in March with the North West only 0.9 per cent down.


Update #737 - 12.20 Do you have a property for let?

Tewkesbury Borough Council is looking to team up with local landlords to help those struggling with accommodation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the financial strain hitting many households, some residents have not only lost their jobs, but their home too.

Housing officers have seen a 100 per cent increase in demand for temporary or emergency accommodation, when compared with the same time last year.


Update #736 - 10.45 Another three Debenhams stores to go

Debenhams has announced that three more stores won't reopen after lockdown restrictions are eased next week.

Gloucester's store is safe for now, but those at Milton Keynes, Watford and the Metrocentre, Gateshead, will remain closed, with the loss of 300 jobs, as reported by the BBC.

The department store chain said it had failed to agree new rental terms with landlord, Intu, which is also in financial trouble. But Intu said it was still in talks with Debenhams about the future of the three stores.


Update #735 - 10.21 Aviation facing job losses to match 1980s coal industry

At least 70,000 jobs could be lost in the aviation industry due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.

The New Economics Foundation report, compiled with the TUC, aviation unions and climate action charity Possible, said the wider industry faced a crisis comparable to the job losses in the coal industry in the early 1980s.

The report said 39,000 of the jobs were directly in aviation with the rest from the supply chain such as engineering, catering and duty free shopping.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We cannot consign these workers to the despair of unemployment.

"Aviation needs immediate support - and not just to protect the incomes of billionaire airline owners.

"Government must act now to protect workers' jobs and livelihoods, to support the longer-term viability of the sector and to facilitate a just transition to lower-carbon operations."

Update #734 - 10.19 Frankie & Benny's to shut 125 restaurants

Up to 3,000 jobs are to go with the closure of 125 Frankie & Benny's restaurants across the UK.

The Restaurant Group, which owns the chain, Chiquito and Wagamama, had confirmed it is entering a company voluntary arrangement to restructure its business by closing some unprofitable restaurants.

Frankie & Benny's has 236 outlets across the UK, including branches at St Oswalds Retail Park in Gloucester and Cheltenham's Brewery Quarter.

The company said it would continue to seek new rental agreements with landlords at 85 sites.

Noodle chain Wagamama, bought by The Restaurant Group for £559million in 2018, is not affected by the closures plan.

Update #733 - 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 reached 1,378 as of 9am on June 9 - an increase of one on the previous day.

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

Information released on Monday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire sits at 226.

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 9

Update #732 - 17.20 Shops given all clear for Monday opening

The Government has confirmed non-essential retail outlets will be able to reopen on Monday, as long as they comply with COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Speaking at the daily media briefing Business Secretary Alok Sharma said it is thanks to the "efforts of the British people" that they have "succeeded in getting the R-rate under control".

He says parts of the economy can open in a "phased manner".

Mr Sharma announces he will lead five new recovery round tables to feed directly into the government's work on helping the UK economy recover from the coronavirus crisis.

"We will work shoulder to shoulder with our businesses as we get ready for our economic fightback," he said.

Pubs and restaurants will have to wait until next month, Mr Sharma said, ending hopes that food and drink establishments with outside areas could open ahead of schedule.

Update #731 - 17.10 Help at hand to help businesses Start and Grow

Start and Grow Enterprise has supported more than 600 ambitious businesses across Gloucestershire get off the ground since starting in 2017.

And Start and Grow has launched the second phase of its support programme to help freelances, entrepreneurs and new businesses take the step from budding to booming.

Since 2000, the number of self-starters has risen by more than 45 per cent with 15 per cent of the working population calling themselves boss.

It gives them freedom, flexibility and unlimited financial potential - but it is not an easy ride.

And that is where Start and Grown Enterprise, a University of Gloucestershire programme, is here to help.


Update #730 - 16.55 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 286

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 286 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 40,883 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 289,140 people have tested positive for the virus, with 102,930 tests performed in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning (June 9).

Update #729 - 16.40 Debenhams announce more closures

Debenhams has announced it will not reopen three more stores when they return to trading on the high street.

Milton Keynes, Watford and the Metrocentre in Gateshead are the latest shoes to close after the troubled retailer, which is in administration for the second time in a year, was unable to agree new rental terms with landlord Intu - itself in financial difficulties.

Around 300 jobs are likely to be lost due to the closures.

Debenhams plans to reopen 50 stores on Monday with more following later in the week as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Update #728 - 16.38 Employment outlook bleakest since 1992

The latest employment survey by recruitment firm Manpower Group has revealed the bleakest outlook for almost 30 years.

Companies in all major sectors are more likely to cut jobs than hire people from July to September, the gloomiest forecast since records began in 1992.

The survey comes as companies prepare to start paying at lease part of the wages of almost nine million workers placed on the Government's furlough scheme.

Update #727 - 15.08 Discretionary grants applications open across Gloucestershire

Businesses across the county can now apply for funding under the Government's business support grant scheme.

Giving priority to businesses not eligible for support under previous schemes, the fund offers discretionary grants up to £25,000.

Cotswold District Council and Forest of Dean District Council have been accepting applications online since June 1 and now Gloucestershire's other authorities are opening up requests for funds.

Gloucester City Council, Stroud District Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council have formatting approved the collaborative organisation with Cheltenham Borough Council's cabinet expected to follow suit tonight (June 9).


Update #726 - 15.03 Advice for businesses reopening in Tewkesbury

As many non-essential retail stores prepare to open their doors next week, Tewkesbury Borough Council is on hand to support local businesses with preparations to reopen safely.

Following the government's announcement that all retail stores can reopen on Monday 15th June, the council's environmental health officers and the business Growth Hub are providing tailored advice and support to help businesses meet their COVID-19 responsibilities.

The council would like to hear from owners of businesses in the borough who are preparing to reopen next week. Those who complete this short survey will be helping council officers to better understand which businesses are reopening and what they need, so that they can be offered tailored advice.


Update #725 - 12.55 Almost £38m Government support package for debt advice providers

An extra £37.8 million support package will be available to debt advice providers this year (20-21) so they can continue to provide essential services to help more people who are struggling with their finances due to coronavirus, minsters have announced.

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), will oversee the allocation of the funds, including to charities, for debt advice and other money guidance services.

This support package will help providers to deliver advice to more people in England who may be experiencing financial problems due to coronavirus. It will also help providers who have seen a fall in their income streams, enabling them to continue their vital work and supporting their staff to deliver these services.

Funding consists of £20.6 million from the government and £14.2 million raised through a one-off increase to the Financial Services Levy. In addition, MaPS will also be contributing a further £3 million from their existing budget.

The economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen said: "We know that some people are struggling with their finances during this difficult time, which is why we want to make sure people can access the help and support they need to manage their debts and get their finances back on track.

"The joint funding package will help debt advice providers to continue with - and increase - their vital work."

Update #724 - 12.28 Morrisons extends pledge of immediate payments to help small suppliers

Back in March, the supermarket chain said that farmers, local food makers and many more small businesses will be paid early to support them as they deal with the impact of coronavirus.

Morrisons originally planned for the temporary payment terms to be lifted by the end of May, however they have now announced a continuation of the initiative for an additional three months.

Faster payments have been supporting the cashflow of around 3,000 small suppliers to the supermarket, including 1,750 farmers during a difficult time for the British economy.

The move will help businesses that provide up to £1m of turnover with Morrisons, including suppliers of local food and farmers that deal direct with Morrisons, such as those providing eggs and livestock.

David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said: "We are Britain's biggest single foodmaker and we want to be there for the smaller foodmakers, farmers and businesses that supply Morrisons. We're a British family business and we will be doing our best to support them through this challenging period." 

Update #723 - 12.08 Government drop plans for all primary pupils to return to school

Original plans for all primary school years in England to go back to school before the end of term is to be dropped by the Government, reports the BBC.

The UK Government had aimed for all primary pupils to spend at least four weeks in school before the summer break.

However, this is no longer thought to be possible and safe, with schools instead being given "flexibility" over whether or not to allow additional pupils to return.

Education leaders have said that the idea of all pupils returning to school before the summer break was unfeasible.

Commenting on the news, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The 'ambition' to bring back all primary year groups for a month before the end of the summer term was a case of the government over-promising something that wasn't deliverable. It isn't possible to do that while maintaining small class sizes and social bubbles, so we aren't surprised that the policy has been jettisoned." 

Update #722 - 11.42 Cheltenham gears up for transport plan

Cyclists and pedestrians have been placed at the heart of proposals for the future of transport in Cheltenham which will be considered by Gloucestershire County Council next week.

The council's cabinet will debate progressing to the next stage of the West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme.

Councillor Nigel Moor, cabinet member for environment and planning, said: "I will be asking cabinet to agree that the second half of this major transport scheme can move forward.

"I'm particularly pleased that it includes £1.6million of walking and cycling improvements that will connect the area and provide a link to the railway station for cyclists and pedestrians."


Update #721 - 11.39 Route to Junction 10 upgrade reaches key landmark

Plans for the long-awaited upgrade of Junction 10 of the M5 are set to take a major step forward next week.

Gloucestershire County Council was awarded £219million through the Homes England Housing Infrastructure Fund in March for the scheme, which will provide access to and from the motorway in both directions.

The new junction and improvements to the adjoining A4019 would support development to the north and west of Cheltenham, including the landmark Cyber Central scheme.

And next week the council's cabinet will be asked to agree the contract.


Update #720 - 11.33 May retail sales fell by 5.9 per cent

Retail sales in the UK fell by 5.9 per cent in May compared to 12 months ago as the shop closures due to coronavirus continued to bite.

The British Retail Consortium figures showed the second largest fall on record - behind only the 19 per cent slump in April.

Supermarkets and convenience stores increased their sales by 7.9 per cent with office supplies, fitness equipment and bicycles all performed well while DIY figures were helped by the reopening of garden centres.

Barclaycard said consumer spending fell by 26.7 per cent in May compared to the same month a year earlier, but rose by 24.5 per cent at supermarkets.

Update #719 - 10.12 Gloucestershire housebuilder opens COVID-19 secure marketing suites

Barnwood based house-builder Newland Homes has re-opened the doors of its show homes and marketing suites across the South West in response to a phenomenal demand for new homes.

The firm has applied COVID-19 Government guidelines at its marketing suites and show homes to ensure a safe and socially distanced environment for the benefit of staff and visitors alike.

Viewing appointments must now be booked in advance, enabling the sales team to tailor the viewings to specific requirements and make it bespoke, whilst also limiting visitor numbers to two people at any one time.


Update #718 - 10.11 Furlough scheme covering 8.9 million workers

The cost of the Government's furlough scheme has reached £19.6billion according to latest Treasury figures.

Around 8.9 million workers have been covered by the Job Retention Scheme with a further 2.6 million claims under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

The self-employed support has so far cost £7.5billion.

Latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility puts the cost of the Government's response to the pandemic to hit £123.2billion.

Update #717 - 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 sits at 1,377 as of 9am on June 8 - the same as on Sunday.

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

Information released on Monday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire had increased to 226 - with one additional coronavirus-related death reported.

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 8

Update #716 - 16.58 Cotswolds council boss to retire

Nigel Adams, head of paid service at Cotswold District Council, is to retire from the council at the end of this month.

A full meeting of Cotswold District Council last week voted to recruit to a new chief executive post for CDC.

Christine Gore, who currently supports CDC as executive director for shared services group Publica, will be interim chief executive during the recruitment process. The process is expected to take around six months.


Update #715 - 16.15 Pub gardens could open earlier than planned

Opening time for some pubs and restaurants in England could come two weeks earlier than expected.

Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson's schedule for the reopening of the economy, the hospitality trade was expecting a return no earlier than July 4.

But it is believed discussions are underway inside the Government to bring that forward for those with beer gardens to June 22 with The Financial Times reporting it is to be discussed in a Cabinet meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

The British Beer & Pub Association said an immediate and clear decision is needed and reiterated its call for all pubs to be free to reopen from July 4.


Update #714 - 16.08 Adapt your business to protect your future

Now is the time to adapt to future proof your business, says Will Abbott of Randall & Payne.

The Government has provided the financial lifelines to help your business through these abnormal times and using the funds simply to manage your cashflow is missing a big opportunity to protect the future of your business.

Investing time now to save your business, to future proof it and adjust to the new normal is far better than having to start again.

By taking action you will ensure you both survive and thrive.


Update #713 - 15.15 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 55

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 55 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 40,597 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total, 287,399 people have tested positive for the virus.

Update #712 - 14.57 Simon Pegg stars in Cheltenham Film Festival opener

Simon Pegg will take part in a live Q&A after starring in the launch screening as Cheltenham International Film Festival kicks off online today.

Pegg, who was born in Brockworth and is the festival's honorary patron, stars with Juno Temple in Lost Transmissions at 6pm with the Q&A due to start at 7.50pm.

It is one of 41 screenings scheduled for the festival which closes on Sunday with a screening of White Riot, a documentary tracing the roots of the Rock Against Racism movement in 1976, followed by a Q&A with director Rubika Shah.

Pegg said: "My association with Cheltenham International Film Festival is founded on a personal commitment to support and help to bring the best of independent cinema to the next generation of audience.

"It pleases me that Cheltenham, on becoming the first narrative international film festival in the UK to go online, is reaching out to audiences across the country, many of whom never have the opportunity to visit a film festival or watch some of the best of new independent films." 


Update #711 - 14.49 BP to cut 2,000 jobs in the UK

BP has announced plans to cut 15 per cent of its global workforce with 2,000 jobs going in the UK.

The fall in demand for fuel during the coronavirus crisis is behind the plan to cut 10,000 jobs in total, mostly in offices and by the end of the year.

One in three of the company's 400 group leaders are among those going with pay frozen for those that remain for the rest of the year.

Chief executive Bernard Looney said: "These are tough decisions to make. But the impact - particularly on those leaving us - is much, much tougher.

"I understand this and I am sorry. But we must do the right thing for BP and this is that right thing."

The company is introducing a five per cent average wage rise for 5,000 retail staff in the UK as it introduces a Real Living Wage.

Update #710 - 14.46 Honda looks into cyber threat

Honda is investigating a suspected cyber attack which has affected its IT network across Europe,

The car manufacturer has released few details of the incident which also hit its Japanese network.

A company statement said: "Honda can confirm that there is an issue with its IT network.

"At this point there is no effect on either Japanese production or dealer activities and no customer impact.

"We can confirm some impact in Europe and are investigating the exact nature."

Several big companies have been hit by cyber-security issues since the coronavirus pandemic began and Honda itself suspended production at a plant in Japan in 2017 due to ransomware.

Update #709 - 13.10 Mixed reaction to Sunday trading proposals

Proposals to relax Sunday trading restrictions in an attempt to kickstart the post-coronavirus economy have been met with a lukewarm response.

The Government is believed to be exploring Sunday changes, which would allow larger supermarkets to open for more than six changes, as part of a package to offset a looming recession.

Sam Holliday, Gloucestershire development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "I think we all want to see positive moves to help get the economy moving again but this one really does need more thought because the dangers are obvious and the rewards less tangible.

"For big supermarkets with very large numbers of staff this may be an easier thing to do - although I doubt it will be very popular with their already over-stretched staff members."


Update #708 - 12.25 Renishaw opts against paying dividend

Renishaw has suspended its dividend among the uncertain economic outlook caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The precision engineering group, based near Wotton-under-Edge, said it would not pay the final dividend for its financial year to the end of June.

Directors had previously waived their rights an interim dividend which was expected to result in a payment of £5.1million.

It plans to reinstate the payout as soon as it is appropriate and will review the situation for 2021. 


Update #707 - 11.53 Join the Gloucester LEGO Challenge 

Update #706 - 11.19 Help 'Make Caring Visible' and support our county's carers

This Carers Week (8 -14 June), the county council and the NHS in Gloucestershire want to recognise and raise awareness of the fantastic work carried out by informal carers across Gloucestershire

The theme this year is 'Making Caring Visible'. There are 6.5 million carers in the UK and more than 63,000 in Gloucestershire. With one in 10 people having caring responsibilities, it's likely that everyone knows someone who is an informal, unpaid carer, but may not be aware of it.

Carers will generally be looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness, or who needs extra help as they grow older. This has a huge impact on their lives from relationships and health, to finances and work.


Update #705 - 10.40 Shopping centre giants warn of administration

Intu Properties, the country's biggest shopping centre owner, has placed administrators on standby as it deals with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among Intu's properties is the Trafford Centre in Manchester, which it bought from The Peel Group - owners of Gloucester Quays - for £1.6billion in 2011.

Peel owner John Whittaker retained a 25 per cent stake in Intu as part of the deal.

Intu's portfolio includes the Metrocentre in Gateshead, Lakeside in Essex, Media City at Salford Quays, home of the BBC, and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

Shares in Intu have fallen almost 90 per cent in the last 12 months, making it one of the London stock market's worst performers.

Update #704 - 10.38 Frankie & Benny's confirm restructuring talks

The owner of the Frankie & Benny's restaurant chain has confirmed it is in talks with landlords over potential restructuring options.

As reported on last week, up to 120 of chain's restaurants face closure with around 3,000 jobs thought to be at risk.

A statement by The Restaurant Group said: "The casual dining sector was already facing significant challenges prior to the onset of COVID-19 with over-capacity and significant cost pressures.

Frankie & Benny's, which has branches at St Oswalds Retail Park in Gloucester and Cheltenham's Brewery Quarter, will be the hardest hit by any closures with the company confirming its Wagamama noodle chain and pub operations will not be affected.

Update #703 - 10.34 Victoria's Secret exposed by administration

More than 800 jobs are at risk after the UK arm of Victoria's Secret fell into administration.

The US lingerie retailer, which has 25 stores across the country, has drafted in Deloitte who are looking to find potential buyers.

Deloitte join administrator Rob Harding said: "This is yet another blow to the UK high street and a further example of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the entire retail industry.

"The effect of the lockdowns, combined with broader challenges facing bricks and mortar retailers, has resulted in a funding requirement for this business."

Victoria's Secret has furloughed 785 employees under the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme since closing its doors in March.

Update #702 - 10.30 BID unlocks new funding for Cheltenham food and drink businesses 

Several Cheltenham pubs and clubs that were facing mounting financial problems because of the Covid-19 epidemic have been given new hope after campaigning work by Cheltenham BID.

The BID has been a key supporter of the #RaiseTheBar campaign, which called on the Government to change legislation so that businesses did not miss out on key grants because their rateable value was more than £51,000.

There has not been a national breakthrough yet, despite 86 backbench Conservative MPs supporting the campaign.

However, the BID made direct representations on the campaign to Cheltenham Borough Council, when a new fund, the Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund (LADGF) was announced recently.

The council has decided that although it will follow Government advice on prioritising businesses in four new areas - shared offices, market traders, bed & breakfasts and charity properties - it will also make some of the money available to food and drink businesses.


Update #701 - 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 7) show that the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 40,542 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 77 on the previous day's figures.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 225 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, 191 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 1,377 as of yesterday afternoon - also no increase on the day before.

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