News Round Up – w/c 12.6.17

Here are this week’s headlines:

London Fire Latest Update

A fire broke out in Grenfell Tower on June 14th at around 1:00am. The fire is said to have started on the 4th floor, yet has caused significant causalities and deaths. Dany Cotton, London Fire Commissioner, there are still “unknown numbers” of the bodies in Grenfell Tower. However, there are at least 12 people who have died due to the tragic inferno, and a further 18 in critical care after 79 were taken to hospital.

Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade said to Sky News, “tragically now we are not expecting to find anyone else alive. The severity and the heat of the fire would mean it is an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive”. Furthermore, Cotton stated they still need to search the upper floors. As it was deemed the “tower was too unsafe to search”.

Since this devastating accident, there has been more than £1 million raised in an attempt to help those who have been affected. Volunteers and charities have come forward to try and provide food and shelter for those who could not return to their homes overnight.

Prime Minister Theresa May has visited the scene were the upsetting inferno took place, in order to speak to the emergency services and ensure that they have all the resources they need in order to be able to deal with the situation. She has then continued to promise that a “proper investigation” about the amid growing concerns on how the fire could have spread so rapidly. One focus for the investigation will be looking into the buildings cladding.

Residents’ groups have spoken out stating that they voiced their concerns previously about the safety of the building after the refurbishment in 2016 at a cost of £8.6 million. Those who did manage to escape have claimed that their fire alarms had not been set off by the blaze. Kensington and Chelsea Council have admitted to receiving complaints over the work of the refurbishment.

Read more in The Telegraph and The Guardian.

What are the consequences of the snap election?

Bearing in mind that Theresa May called this snap election to confirm support for her mandate and plans for Brexit, the result of the election suggests that her intentions have been largely rejected by the UK. The Conservatives won 318 seats, which was a loss of 13 seats from the last election. This was a surprising result, as the party had expected an easy majority and a gain in seats. Meanwhile Labour, who had expected further leadership challenges following the election, were happy to gain 30 seats, attaining 262 overall. The SNP won 35 seats, the Liberal Democrats won 12 seats, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won 10 seats, and other parties and independents won 13 seats. This meant that there was a hung parliament and that Theresa May had to seek the support of another party to keep a majority. She visited the Queen to seek permission to form a minority government (a government where the governing party has the most seats but still less than half the total) in the meantime, and has been in talks with the DUP this week to reach an agreement. The Conservatives are seeking a “confidence and supply” agreement, rather than a formal coalition.

Whilst Tim Farron (Lib Dem leader) and Paul Nuttall (UKIP leader) have resigned, Theresa May has remained as the Conservative leader. Jonathon Freedland, writing for The Guardian, argues that this is because the party wants to blame their “hard” Brexit stance or too much austerity rather than the blame simply being May’s. If this were the case, there would be greater cause for a new election, which of course the Tory’s wish to avoid. Despite losing the election, Jeremy Corbyn had 40% of the country’s vote, which is more votes than Tony Blair had when he won his election. Therefore a likely consequence of the election is that we will have a softer Brexit. Businesses have also called for a softer Brexit, in fear that in wake of the election result, that there could be greater instability. This may anger many Conservative voters, as 44% of the country voted for the Brexit that the Tory’s had promised. Conservative voters may also be unhappy with the prospective alliance with the DUP, as this party holds different views. For instance the party is anti-abortion, against same-sex marriage and believes that climate change is a “con”.

The state opening of Parliament and the Queen’s speech will take place on Wednesday, so perhaps we will get a clearer idea of some of the consequences then.

Read more in The Independent, The Guardian, BBC News, The Financial Times and Campaign Live.

Retail sales fall in May due to rising prices

Stores increased their prices in May, which has led to a fall in retail sales. The Office for National Statistics has concluded that the number of goods bought between April and May fell by 1.2%. One reason for this was the increase in retail prices across all sectors. Average store prices rose by 2.8% over the year, the largest increase since March 2012.

Another potential factor is the gap between wages and inflation. Average earnings fell in real terms by 0.6% in April. Inflation is currently at 2.9%, 0.9% higher than the Bank of England’s 2% target, which has curtailed household expenditure. The impact of the falling pound has also been cited as a factor in this.

This drop in sales was worse than that expected by economists. Many economists were expecting a 0.8% decline in sales. Retail is a crucial sector because it makes up approximately 20% of GDP.

Some argue that this is set to continue. Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist and Pantheon Macroeconomics, stated that retailers have not yet finished passing on higher import prices to consumers and that the wage gap is set to continue. Numerous banks have also reported that they intend to restrict access to unsecured credit. These factors will cause retail sales to continue falling.

Read more in The Independent, the BBC and Reuters.

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