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‘Liz Truss’s energy plan is not enough to help us’

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Scottish businesses have warned Liz Truss that her plan to help firms cope with energy bills may not be enough to prevent a “tsunami” of closures.


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The prime minister will cap average annual household energy bills at £2,500 for two years, with companies receiving “equivalent support”.

But hospitality bosses facing soaring costs have criticised a lack of clarity from Westminster.


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The government insists its strategy will help boost economic growth.

Businesses, as well as charities and public buildings, will see their energy costs capped at the same price per unit that households will pay under the new plans.


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The commercial scheme is set to run for six months and is to be reviewed after three – at which point targeted support could be introduced for certain sectors deemed to be particularly vulnerable.

However, Scottish hospitality business owners have told BBC Scotland that Ms Truss’s statement was short on detail.


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Pub owner Billy Gold said the prime minister’s announcement did little to allay his fears

Billy Gold, owner of the Heilen Jessie bar in Glasgow’s east end, has seen his standing charges alone increase by 600%.

He warned that the UK government’s proposals would do little to stave off the crisis facing his family business.

“To say businesses will receive equivalent support I think is ambiguous in the extreme,” Mr Gold said.

“If that means ‘look how well I’ve done, things won’t go any higher’, I’m sorry Liz, things are too high already and my business, like many businesses, is on its uppers.”

The publican explained he would have to charge £8.40 for a pint of his cheapest lager, as well as increasing turnover, to keep his firm on an even keel.

“You don’t need to be Alan Sugar to figure out that isn’t going to happen,” he told the BBC.

Mr Gold, who described small and medium enterprises as the “lifeblood” of the economy, said he may have to start reducing his staff of 11 local workers.

“I don’t even want to say it but if I’ve got to do it I don’t have a choice,” he added.

“It would break my heart to be the guy that’s got to do that but if that’s what I’ve got to do, that’s what I will do.

“But you cannae run a business without staff. You’re then on a race to the bottom, a downward spiral.”

Singl-end boss Paul Banham is demanding clarity from the UK government

Paul Banham, operations director of the Singl-end cafe and bakehouses in Glasgow, said the prime minister’s statement had sparked confusion.

He told the BBC: “I don’t know what will happen if I’ve signed up to a contract two months ago, will the price cap still apply to that?

“There’s also talk of a sector-specific review over the next few months to try and come up with more targeted help.

“The hospitality industry would say there was some targeted help during Covid so why can’t some of that support not be applied straight away? Why does it have to be a three-month wait?”

Mr Banham added: “Many businesses won’t be able to survive while they wait.”

He said VAT cuts and business rates relief would also be required to save struggling hospitality firms.

“A price cap is a basic starting minimum to stop the impending tsunami of businesses closing,” he said.

“Every week that goes by, every month that goes by, operators are getting pushed to the brink.”

Baker Andrew Chisholm says his firm will struggle to survive the next year

Andrew Chisholm, who runs Airdrie-based Christie the Baker, is also awaiting further clarity from the government.

“It’s all guesswork,” he said. “There’s nobody giving me precise figures off the back of what we heard this morning.

“We still haven’t really seen the devil in the detail.”

His firm is facing a 600% gas bill increase under Ms Truss’s proposals, with a further 200% hike in electricity costs.

“Going forward, the way the gas price is, it will be unsustainable,” he added.

“I still think that it’s going to be very, very difficult running this business in the next 12 months.”

‘Cliff edge’

The Federation of Small Businesses Scotland has warned that one in six small firms is expecting to close, be sold or downsize in the next year.

Policy chair Andrew McRae “warmly welcomed” Ms Truss’s announcement, but added: “We do need more detail and we’ll be working with the new government to clarify what happens next.

“The six-month lifeline to get businesses through the winter is vital, but this must not result in a cliff edge with businesses being hit even harder in the spring.”

The UK government says its price cap will spark economic growth and curb inflation by as much as 5%.

Ms Truss told MPs: “Extraordinary challenges call for extraordinary measures, ensuring that the United Kingdom is never in this situation again.”


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Politics

South Sudan president announces new parliament

South Sudan leader Kiir decrees new parliament

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By AFP


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Published: May 11, 2021 07:13 PM

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir announced a new parliament on Monday including lawmakers from opposing sides of the country’s civil war as part of a 2018 peace accord, state television reported.


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A new legislative body was a condition of the 2018 accord between himself and Vice President Riek Machar, for years on opposition sides during the five-year civil war that left 380,000 people dead and four million displaced.

“Reconstituting” the country’s parliament had been due in February 2020, but had still not taken place, prompting the ire of the opposition. 


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Kiir dissolved the previous parliament on Saturday ahead of the change.

A decree by Kiir was then read out on the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation on Monday, including the names of the national assembly legislators. In accordance with the accord, the new assembly will number 550 lawmakers, up from the previous 400.


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Of these 332 deputies were chosen by Kiir, 128 by Machar, and 90 others by signatory parties, in line with the peace deal. 

The decree did not mention the upper house state council which was also dissolved late Saturday. The dissolution of parliament came on the eve of a visit to the capital Juba by US special envoy to South Sudan Donald Booth.

Kiir and Machar formed a coalition government in February 2020.

However few provisions of the truce have been honored, and analysts have warned of the threat of a return to war. Brutal communal conflicts continue in the last six months of 2020.


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Governance

Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial over arms deal pushed back

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15:07 17 May


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Nomsa Maseko

BBC Southern Africa correspondent


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The corruption trial of South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has been pushed to 26 May where a formal plea will be entered.

He is expected to plead not guilty.


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Mr Zuma’s supporters gathered outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court ahead of his appearance.

The former president faces 16 counts of corruption relating to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal.


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A total of 217 witnesses are expected to testify against him.

The case centres on an arms deal with French arms company Thales that was meant to modernise South Africa’s defence in the late 1990s.

Both Mr Zuma and the company have denied the charges which include fraud, racketeering and money laundering.


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Diaspora

FULL LIST: 8 Zimbabwean-born Win British Elections

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A total of 8 United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean-born politicians have won top political posts in the British elections in the last 12 months.


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So far, two Zimbabwean-born have won the mayorship posts, one (Maggie Chapman who last week announced her oath in pure ChiShona) won the MP post while the rest are councillors.

Their ages range from 22 with the oldest being 56-year-old. The youngest, Nicolle Moyo last week told ZimEye she hadn’t even graduated when she discovered she has won the polls in the just-ended elections.


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Below is the full list so far, comprising 6 women and 2 men:

  1. Amanda Tandi, 47 -. Councillor, District Of Knebworth.
  2. Nicolle Nkazimulo Moyo, 22 – Councillor. Peterborough.
  3. Lorraine Chirisa, 45 – Councillor, Northampton.
  4. Tafadzwa Chikoto, 45 – Councillor, Oakley, Corby
  5. Kate Nicoll, 33. – Mayor: Belfast.
  6. Alice Mpofu Coles, 56 – Councillor, Whitley, Reading.
  7. Adam Jogee, 30. – Mayor, Harringey.
  8. Maggie Chapman, 41, MP for North East Scotland.


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