Radical roundup: 10 stories that got buried this week

Left Foot Forward's roundup of the progressive news you might have missed.

In no particular order…

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10. Almost half of the public don’t have confidence in the government’s flagship coronavirus track and trace programme.

According to the poll – conducted by Survation and commissioned by campaign group We Own It – 46% of the public don’t have confidence in private outsourcing company Serco to manage their contract to run the programme effectively.

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It described the poll’s findings as “deeply worrying”: “We’re all waiting anxiously for the end of lockdown – so we can see friends and family, and hug our loved ones again. An effective track and trace programme is central to seeing this happen. 

“That’s why it’s deeply worrying that the government’s decision to outsource management of the programme to Serco is undermining public confidence in the system – and making them less likely to take part. But it’s no wonder that people don’t have faith in Serco. The company has a diabolical track record – with a long list of failures.  

9. A youth focused site has opened up its learning materials for free online in response to the rise in misinformation.

Shout Out UK’s learning portal, popular with school teachers as a means of teaching pupils how democracy and the media works, was previously only accessible via a paid membership.

8. The SNP has said the Tory government must urgently give devolved governments meaningful involvement in the UK’s negotiations with the EU – after a cross-party committee recommended Tory ministers take steps to improve the involvement of the devolved nations.

In a new report, the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union, which has a majority of Tory MPs, said “We urge the UK Government to take steps to improve the involvement of the devolved nations.” 

7. The Fire Brigades Union has condemned the government’s action removing cladding as “too slow and too weak”. The union has called on the government to requisition any building that the owner will not make safe.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This report confirms much of what we already know – government action removing flammable cladding has been too slow and too weak. Buildings far beyond those covered in the Building Safety Programme are at risk, while fire services do not have the investment needed to enforce new safety regulations.

“It should shame this government that they are now not expected to remove the same cladding that was on Grenfell from high-rise homes until a full two years after their own deadline and five years since the tragedy itself.”

6. Lib Dems responded to reports that the Government is now shifting to a COVID-19 tracing app based on technology provided by Apple and Google.

Liberal Democrat Digital, Culture Media and Sport spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: “Every minute counts in the fight to contain COVID-19, but the Government has spent months working on this now failed app – which many of us warned from the start would not keep people safe.

“Ministers must accept that legal assurances are needed to rapidly re-build public trust and keep people safe. They must start by ensuring that restrictions are put in place to regulate how the big tech companies they are now working with can access, use and store people’s medical information and other personal data.”

5. Scottish Greens have won protection for Scotland’s Mountain Hares, after the Scottish Government agreed to back Alison Johnstone MSP’s amendment to the Wildlife bill.

Mountain hare populations have declined considerably since the 1950s, with an average of 26,000 killed every year in recreational killing and mass killing on grouse moors. Last year the species conservation status was downgraded to ‘unfavourable’ after EU data exposed the decline.

Scottish Government ministers came under incredible pressure after a Scottish Greens petition garnered over 22,500 signatures in just a few days. The consultation for Alison Johnstone’s proposed member’s bill on the same issue also saw overwhelming support for the move.

Responding, Alison Johnstone said: “I’m delighted the Scottish Government has finally given into pressure to protect this iconic native species. This has come about because of the overwhelming public support for my amendment, for which I am very grateful. 

4. Research and campaign group Positive Money has called for the Bank of England to act on the climate risk of its own balance sheet published today, by taking measures to ensure its activities are aligned with the government’s climate goals.

The Bank of England’s first ever climate-related financial disclosure revealed that if the projected emissions performance of the Bank’s corporate quantitative easing (QE) portfolio was representative of the emissions performance of corporates globally, the world would experience 3.5c of heating by the end of the century.

3. New polling for the Fair Tax Mark campaign has found that over three quarters (78%) of the public believe that all companies, whatever their size, should have to publicly disclose the taxes that they do or don’t pay in the UK.

And over three quarters (77%) of the public believe that the UK should take a lead and force multinational businesses to disclose how much income, profit and tax they pay in each country in which they operate.

Paul Monaghan, Chief Executive of the Fair Tax Mark, said: “For many, lockdown has provided an opportunity to reflect more on societal values – whether its supporting our vulnerable, shopping locally or gaining a greater understanding of how employers act at a time of crisis.

“With £7bn of annual revenues still not being collected as a result of corporate profit shifting to low tax jurisdictions plus an estimated £300bn coronavirus economic cost, the public want businesses to prove that we’re in this together.”

2. The SNP has said Tory plans for a multi-million pound “shock and awe” Brexit advertising campaign are a “waste of taxpayers money” – and called for an apology over the tasteless term closely associated with the Iraq War.

The contract for a £4.5million advertising campaign, reported by Politico, follows the £46million Boris Johnson’s government spent on a “Get ready for Brexit” advertising campaign last year, which was panned after the National Audit Office concluded “the Cabinet Office could not demonstrate that the air campaign resulted in significantly better preparedness.”

1. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report was published this week, showing an increase in the number of forcibly displaced people in the world.

Responding to the report, Ruth Tanner, Oxfam GB’s Head of Humanitarian Campaigns said: “It’s deeply concerning that the number of forcibly displaced people has increased for the eighth year in a row to yet another record level. On top of the violence, persecution and hardship they may have fled, many are now also facing the threat of the coronavirus in overcrowded camps without enough clean water or health facilities. 

“With the vast majority of the world’s refugees in developing countries, often struggling themselves with hunger and weak infrastructure, it’s time the international community stepped up to fully fund the UN’s coronavirus response plan.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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