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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, November 20

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 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 news@moosemarketingandpr.co.uk.

Friday, November 20

Update #8096 - 13.04 Trust countdown shines spotlight on local producers

There may not be too many lords-a-leaping, French hens or even partridges in pear trees, but the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust has launched its own 12 Days of Christmas to support local businesses.

The community development charity is turning the spotlight on a local producer each day on its website and social media, all of which are stocked at Gloucester Services.

The trust is the charity partner of the services with 3p in every £1 of non-fuel sales going back into local projects and communities.

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Update #8095 - 12.23 Gloucester Rugby to benefit from £300m sports package

Sport clubs and organisations across Gloucestershire are to benefit from a £300million cash injection to help them survive after months without fans.

Gloucester Rugby will share £59million designated for Premiership Rugby clubs while there is more funding for lower leagues, £40million for racing and £25million for senior non-league football clubs.

Gloucester start their season at Leicester on Saturday without fans after chief executive Lance Bradley warned in September the club could not survive until March without help or supporters being allowed to return at Kingsholm. 

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Update #8094 - 11.49 Christmas comes early to keep retail sales rising

Pre-lockdown Christmas shopping helped UK retail sales rise by 1.2 per cent in October - a sixth consecutive monthly increase.

The Office for National Statistics said clothing sales fell while online sales continued to increase.

Deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: "Feedback from shops suggested some consumers may have brought forward their Christmas shopping, ahead of potential further restrictions. Online stores also saw strong sales, boosted by widespread offers.

"The slow recovery in clothing sales has stalled after five consecutive months of increased sales."

Update #8093 - 10.58 Local authorities step up enforcement actions against businesses

Colliers International has found that a number of local authorities are starting to turn the heat up on businesses that have not paid their business rates bills during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown and are applying for enforcement actions via the courts.

According to business rates experts, an increasing number of their clients are receiving letters demanding payment and/or a court summons.

John Webber, head of Business Rates at Colliers said: "It is ironic that the Government is preventing private landlords from taking recovery action against tenants not paying rent while at the same time turning a blind eye to Billing Authorities acting on recovery action as if COVID-19 didn't exist!"

"We urge the Government to offer reliefs for the lockdown periods and to instruct Local Billing Authorities to show flexibility and support to business rather than stepping up the heavy-handed court summons." 

Update #8092 - 10.35 October borrowing close to record high

Public sector borrowing remains above GDP after the sixth highest monthly figures since records began almost 30 years ago.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics put October's borrowing figure at £22.3billion.

That takes the net public sector debt to £2.076trillion which puts it at 100.8 per cent of the UK's GDP.

The cost of government support through the coronavirus pandemic put borrowing in the first seven months of the financial year at £214.9billion, the highest in any equivalent period since records began in 1993.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to deliver a spending review in Parliament on Wednesday.

Update #8091 - 10.32 Nationwide defy bad loan provision to increase profits

Nationwide Building Society has reported a pre-tax profit of £361million for the six months to September, despite a provision to cover unpaid loans during the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK's second largest mortgage lender saw profits rise by 17 per cent on the same period last year, despite a fall in market share of lending from 12.3 per cent to 12 per cent.

Nationwide set aside a £139million provision for loans which may not be repaid due to coronavirus.

Update #8090 - 10.27 1,000 trees to be planted in Cheltenham thanks to £10m fund

A Cheltenham project and eight others across the South West have today been awarded a share of a £10million pot to increase tree numbers in urban areas through small-scale planting projects.

The money, for more than 50 projects in England, has been awarded as part of the second and final round of the Forestry Commission's Urban Tree Challenge Fund.

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Update #8089 - 08.30 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 53,775 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 501 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 22,915 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,453,256 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 6,758 as of Thursday afternoon - an increase of 179 on the day before.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 438 according to government figures - an increase of six.

Cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,810 cases (increase of 67)

Cheltenham - 1,346 cases (increase of 22)

Stroud - 1,199 cases (increase of 37)

Tewkesbury - 825 cases (increase of 19)

Cotswolds - 894 cases (increase of 11)

Forest of Dean - 684 cases (increase of 21)

Thursday, November 19

Update #8088 - 16.16 Peacocks and Jaeger enter administration

More than 4,700 jobs are at risk after fashion chains Peacocks and Jaeger fell into administration.

Almost 500 shops are under threat after owner Edinburgh Woollen Mill failed to secure a buyer before a two-week deadline passed.

Joint administrator Tony Wright from FRP Advisory said talks were continuing with potential buyers.

He said: "Jaeger and Peacocks are attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present.

"We are in advanced discussions with a number of parties and working hard to secure a future for both businesses."

Update #8087 - 15.33 M&S leaving it late for Christmas shopping

Marks & Spencer will extend opening hours to midnight in the run-up to Christmas.

The retailer said 400 shops across the UK - including nearly all food-only outlets plus clothing and food stories on retail parks - would open until midnight on December 21-23.

Most of the remaining shops on high streets and shopping centres will open until 10pm.

Retail, operations and property director Sacha Berendji said: "We want our customers to be able to shop with confidence this Christmas, which means supporting social distancing in our stores and minimal queueing outside as the weather gets colder.

"Along with the wider industry, we continue to ask for Sunday trading hours to be extended to help us increase our capacity to serve everyone safely this festive season."

Update #8086 - 15.30 Cineworld considers restructuring

Cineworld is believed to be in discussions about a rescue deal which could end in cinema closures.

According to the Financial Times, the chain - which has venues at Gloucester Quays and Cheltenham's Brewery Quarter - has appointed restructuring experts.

After losing £1.3billion in the first half of the year, Cineworld reopened in the summer but closed again in October.

It is believed Cineworld is considering a company voluntary arrangement with rent negotiations among its options.

Update #8085 - 12.37 Small Business Saturday's virtual tour sets down in Cheltenham

Small businesses in Cheltenham and across Gloucestershire are being encouraged to join Small Business Saturday UK's online roadshow.

Arriving in Cheltenham today (November 19) for a 'virtual visit', 'The Tour' will shine a light on the area and offer an intensive programme of locally targeted online advice, workshops and mentoring.

Workshop from local businesses will be delivered, while other local experts will be on hand for one-to-one mentoring. 

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Update #8084 - 11.44 Councils confirm grant application details

All Gloucestershire's city, district and borough councils have confirmed details for applications for the lockdown business support grants.

The Local Restrictions Support Grant is available for businesses which have been forced to shut their doors as part of coronavirus restrictions because they are not classed as providing essential services.

Councillor Dawn Melvin, cabinet member for economic recovery and growth at Gloucester City Council, said: "We know it's a tough time for businesses at the moment so we're delighted to be able to offer support through this one-off grant."

FIND OUT MORE 

Update #8083 - 10.59 Parcels not enough to deliver rise in Royal Mail profits

A surge in parcel deliveries was not enough to prevent Royal Mail from posting a sharp drop in profit in the first half of the financial year.

Pre-tax profit for the six months to September 27 fell 90.2 per cent to £17million as it dealt with £85million in coronavirus-related costs and £147million on voluntary redundancies as part of restructuring.

Revenue from letters fell by 20.5 per cent while parcels rose by 33.2 per cent.

Having made up half of the turnover at the end of the last financial year, parcel revenue outstripped letters for the first time to make up 60 per cent.

Update #8082 - 10.55 Delivery of bare essentials sees profits soar

Online wine retailer Naked Wines saw revenue soar by 80 per cent in the first half of the financial year, helped by deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Naked Wines, the online arm of Majestic Wines before the companies de-merged last year, saw revenue reach £157.1million for the 26 weeks to September 28, up from £87.5million in the same period last year.

The company said it expected sales would rise by 55-65 per cent for the year.

Chief executive Nick Devlin said: "Naked Wines is a bigger, better business than it was 12 months ago. The last six months have been a critical period in the development of the company.

"Ultimately the most significant impact of Covid-19 on Naked Wines is not found in these interim results, but in the way it has accelerated the growth of the online wine category and increased consumer willingness to trial a new and better way to buy wine."

Update #8081 - 10.49 Don't leave filing to the last minute, companies urged

Businesses have been urged not to leave filing their annual accounts until the last minute to avoid delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

And Companies House has called for accounts to be filed online to cut down on the risk of rejection, which is six times more likely with paper filing.

Chief executive Louise Smyth said: "In common with so many organisations, we have a reduced number of people in our offices and it's going to take longer than it normally would to process accounts that are filed on paper, which need to be manually checked.

"We want to do all we can to help companies during the pandemic, as well as ensuring the safety and wellbeing of everyone who works for Companies House.

"It's a delicate balance, but one we are determined to get right."

Update #8080 - 10.45 Fresh warning over hospitality's future under restrictions

Pub and hospitality trade bodies have warned that 72 per cent of businesses in the sector expect to close in 2021.

A survey conducted on behalf of the British Beer & Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping and UKHospitality said the tiering system of coronavirus restrictions used in England was particularly damaging.

In areas under the tightest tier three restrictions before the November lockdown, 94 per cent expected to be unviable or operating at a loss next year.

A spokesman for the trade bodies said: "The evidence is here to see of the devastating, long-term impact the Government's restrictions are having on hospitality and pub businesses.

"Without a change in approach and more support from Government, much of our sector could be gone within a year - that means businesses and jobs lost plus much-loved venues closed forever."

Update #8079 - 08.25 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 53,274 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 529 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 19,609 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,430,341 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 6,579 as of Wednesday afternoon - an increase of 138 on the day before.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 432 according to government figures.

Cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,743 cases (increase of 47)

Cheltenham - 1,324 cases (increase of 18)

Stroud - 1,162 cases (increase of 27)

Tewkesbury - 804 cases (increase of 21)

Cotswolds - 883 cases (increase of four)

Forest of Dean - 663 cases (increase of 21)

Wednesday, November 18

Update #8078 - 15.16 Desire for space sees South West prices rise

House prices rose faster in the South West than the rest of the UK over the past year as homebuyers sought more rural locations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed prices in the region were up 6.4 per cent in the 12 months to the end of September, compared with a national increase of 4.7 per cent.

Detached homes saw the biggest prices (up 6.7 per cent) as the demand for larger properties with more space inside and out increased.

Update #8077 - 15.14 Lloyds restarts plans for branch closures

Plans to shut 56 Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland branches have been resumed after been put on hold to help staff and customers deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Lloyds cut more than 1,000 jobs earlier this month with 160 more jobs set to be affected by the latest cuts, according to the union Unite.

A Lloyds Banking Group spokeswoman said: "We paused these closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, after careful consideration, these planned closures will take place in March and April 2021.

She said no compulsory redundancies were planned in the closures.

Update #8076 - 13.08 Halfords reports strong first half thanks to cycling boom

The nationwide cycle and motor accessories retailer has revealed a jump in interim profits, boosted by a demand for bikes during the pandemic.

Halfords' latest financial results released today show underlying profits up 116 per cent to £56 million in six months to October 2, up from £25.9 million for the same period in 2019.

Group sales also climbed 6.7 per cent like-for-like to £639 million, up from £582.7 million for the same period last year.

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Update #8075 - 12.48 Harvester and Toby Carvery owner confirms closures

Restaurant and bar group Mitchells & Butlers has confirmed several sites will close permanently.

The business, which operates many well-known brands including Harvester, Toby Carvery, O'Neills, Miller & Carter and All Bar One, old The Telegraph it is expecting to close 20 sites.

A spokesperson said: "As announced in September, Mitchells & Butlers reopened the vast majority of its estate, approximately 95%, after the first lockdown ended. The remaining sites have been under review on a case-by-case basis since, taking into account factors such as expected footfall and business layout.

"We have taken the difficult decision not to reopen some of these sites and are working with leaseholders on next steps." 

Update #8075 - 12.16 SSE reveals £115m blow to earnings

Energy giant SSE has announced its latest financial results that show a £115 million drop in profits, blamed on lockdown restrictions and the wider impact of the pandemic.

The business reported underlying pre-tax profits of £193.9 million for the six months to the end of September, down from £263.4 million for the same period in 2019. Underlying earnings were 15 per cent lower at £418.3 million.

However, SSE said it was planning for the future and unveiled ambitious plans to treble its renewable energy output over the next decade.

Chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: "As we seek a recovery from the effects of coronavirus, investments in low-carbon infrastructure that help stimulate the economy, boost jobs and level up regions while tackling climate change are a win-win."

Update #8074 - 11.07 Surprise rise for inflation

UK inflation rose unexpectedly last month, driven by the increased cost of clothing and food.

Having been forecast to remain steady at 0.5 per cent, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed prices were up 0.7 per cent in October.

The price of second-hand cars and computer games also rose, but the price of energy and holidays dropped.

Much of the increase in food prices came in fruit and vegetables with predictions the increases could continue as supermarket demand remains high during lockdown.

The Bank of England's inflation target remains at two per cent.

Update #8073 - 11.04 Cathedral has to delay purple tribute

Technical problems prevented Gloucester Cathedral from lighting the tower purple last night to work World Prematurity Day.

A spokesman for the Cathedral said it would light up the tower when the problem was fixed.

Update #8072 - 10.54 Asda announces donation of one million meals to support the vulnerable

Supermarket chain Asda has revealed plans to donate one million meals, working closely with food charities across the UK to help feed vulnerable people during the festive season.

It said the majority of the meals donated will come from its back of store donation scheme and from depots, with good quality, in-date non-chilled fruit, vegetables, eggs, and bread products going to local food banks, charities and community groups.

Asda is also encouraging customers to pick up an extra item while they are shopping and donate it to the food collection trolley to be distributed to local food banks.

Chief customer officer, Anna-Maree Shaw, said: "We know that before Christmas, food banks and charities see an increase in demand and this year it is likely to be greater than ever. We are extremely proud of the great work our community champions do to help their communities and thankful to our generous customers whose help will make a real difference to people in their local area."

Update #8071 - 08.30 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 52,745 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 598 on the previous day's figures - the biggest single-day rise since May.

Across the UK, 20,051 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,410,732 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 6,441 as of Tuesday afternoon - an increase of 166 on the day before.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 400 according to government figures.

Cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,696 cases (increase of 34)

Cheltenham - 1,306 cases (increase of 30)

Stroud - 1,135 cases (increase of 36)

Tewkesbury - 783 cases (increase of 24)

Cotswolds - 879 cases (increase of 23)

Forest of Dean - 642 cases (increase of 19)

Tuesday, November 17

Update #8070 - 12.24 Newland Homes 'inspires Britain' for the third time

The Gloucestershire-based developer has once again been identified in the London Stock Exchange Group's annual publication of '1000 Companies to Inspire Britain'.

Newland Homes' Willows Green development in Willersey, Gloucestershire.

The 2020 edition is the seventh edition of the prestigious report by the London Stock Exchange, and it is the third year of inclusion for Newland Homes.

The report brings together a unique list of the UK's most dynamic and fastest-growing small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). 90 companies are listed in the South West region, and Newland Homes is one of only five companies recognised in Gloucester.

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Update #8069 - 12.19 Funding moves transport plan up a gear

Gloucestershire County Council has been awarded more than £860,000 to fund green transport projects in the county during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the £864,750 is lower than expected, it adds to the £321,773 awarded in the first tranche of the Emergency Active Travel Fund earlier this year.

Among the cycling, walking and public transport projects planned is the six-mile B4063 Cheltenham to Gloucester cycle link.

READ MORE  

Update #8068 - 11.19 HMV insists it can survive lockdowns

HMV said it is in a robust state to handle more lockdown restrictions after posting its first trading update since being bought out of administration.

The entertainment retailer posted a pre-tax loss of £198,000 for the 16 months to the end of May which covered most of the first period of lockdown.

The company, which was bought by music mogul in February 2019 after going into administration for the second time in five years, recorded underlying profits of £457,948 on sales of £187million.

Update #8067 - 11.17 EasyJet brought down to earth with first loss

EasyJet has revealed a first loss in its 25 years as the affects of the coronavirus pandemic on the travel industry continue.

The budget airline lost £1.27billion in the 12 months to September 30 as revenues more than halved.

And despite optimism following early trial results for coronavirus vaccines, the company said it expected to fly at just 20 per cent of normal capacity into next year.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren told the BBC: "We know people want to travel.

"On the news of the vaccine last Monday, bookings were up close to 50 per cent so it just gives evidence to the fact that any good news that comes out of here makes people more confident making bookings going forward."

Update #8066 - 08.25 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 52,147 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 213 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 21,363 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,390,681 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 6,275 as of Monday afternoon. The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 428 - an increase of three.

Cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,662 cases

Cheltenham - 1,276 cases

Stroud - 1,099 cases

Tewkesbury - 759 cases

Cotswolds - 856 cases

Forest of Dean - 623 cases

Monday, November 16

Update #8065 - 12.01 Nearly half of online shoppers suffered parcel delivery issues since lockdown

A survey by Citizens Advice has found that 47 per cent of adults have had issues with parcel delivery since the country first went into lockdown in March.

Three in 10 respondents said they had parcels arrive late, and 24 per cent said their online delivery experience had affected their confidence when purchasing goods online.

The consumer advice service added that it had received three times as many calls about delivery issues since March, compared to the same period in 2019. 

Update #8064 - 11.32 Lockdown empties high streets

Shopping numbers at UK retail destinations were almost 60 per cent down year on year through the first full week of England's November lockdown.

Retail market researcher Springboard said footfall was down 57.7 per cent in the week to November 14 as all but essential retailers closed their doors.

The figures were down 64.7 per cent in high streets, 65.7 per cent in shopping centres and 34.3 per cent in retail parks.

Despite the fall, retail proved more resilient than the first week of the initial lockdown in March when numbers tumbled 75.1 per cent.

And there was some hope ahead of the planned end of lockdown on December 2 as retail footfall in Wales rose by 135.9 per cent from the previous week as restrictions were lifted.

Update #8063 - 11.29 Government to issue 'green revolution' plan

The Government will publish its plans for what has dubbed its "green revolution" this week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed the plan will be outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but refused to be drawn on details amid reports of a pay as you drive road toll system to replace fuel and vehicle excise duty reduced by the ongoing switch to electric.

He said: "I wouldn't comment on future fiscal policy but this week the Prime Minister will be publishing our plan actually for our green revolution as he likes to describe it."

Update #8062 - 10.49 Superdry boss backs warning of bleak Christmas if shops stay closed

Superdry chief executive Julian Dunkerton is among bosses from more than 60 leading retail companies who have united to voice their concerns over the closure of non-essential shops.

The founder of the Cheltenham fashion chain is one of 61 chief executives who have written to The Times warning about the impact of the forced closure during England's November lockdown.

And they said any delay in reopening when restrictions are due to end at the beginning of December could lead to a bleak Christmas.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #8061 - 10.13 Sales slump sees Greggs plan to cut 820 jobs

Bakery chain Greggs has announced plans to cut more than 800 jobs because of a decrease in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from the business said that if these cost saving measures were not implemented, Greggs would not be "profitable".

Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: "Covid trading conditions have forced this action on to our business and we are all very saddened by the need to part company with around 820 friends and colleagues, many of whom have worked with us for many years.

"At lockdown levels of sales, even after all of the mitigating action that we have taken, Greggs will not be profitable as a business and there can be no room for complacency." 

Update #8060 - 09.50 Topshop owner in talks to secure funding worth £30m

Arcadia, owner of the high street fashion chain, is said to be in talks with lenders to secure £30 million in funding to support the business through the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Sky News have reported on the discussions, which are thought to be progressing and it is said that a deal could be close to being reached.

However, another report suggests that Arcadia is planning to place Topshop into administration.

But the business told BBC News: "It is not true that administrators are about to be appointed."

"Clearly, the second UK lockdown presents a further challenge for all retailers and we are taking all appropriate steps to protect our employees and other stakeholders from its consequences."

Update #8059 - 08.30 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 UK figures released yesterday show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 51,934 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 168 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 24,962 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,369,318 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 6,303 as of Sunday afternoon. The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 425. 

Cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,587 cases 

Cheltenham - 1,265 cases

Stroud - 1,135 cases

Tewkesbury - 774 cases

Cotswolds - 875 cases

Forest of Dean - 667 cases

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