Making the News This Week – 12 July 2019

This is your weekly round-up of news from the media which impacts on the independent retail sector.

Fare cop: Cash-strapped officers have to get to crimes by bus or train

Cash-strapped cops are having to get to crimes by bus or train as there are not enough squad cars to go round, a major report into life on the thin blue line published in the Sun has revealed.

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Police community support officers said it was ‘embarrassing’ when they had to use public transport to get to jobs, and it often meant they arrived late or worried about leaving secret files on their seats.

A shortage of backup cars sometimes meant PCs had to “restrain an offender for 45 minutes”.

Officers also told the Home Office Frontline Review that their handheld devices often “do not work outside” – despite being designed to help them spend more time on the beat.

Meanwhile, red tape meant cops had to write notes in a pocket book then put on computer, leaving them “behind a pc rather than being a PC.”

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Police force takes legal action over policy requiring new officers to have a degree

A police force is taking legal action over the controversial policy requiring all new officers to have a degree qualification, advised the Daily Telegraph.

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Lincolnshire Police is seeking a judicial review of the College of Policing scheme, which was introduced last year, arguing that it will place officers in the classroom rather than out on the front line.

Chief constable Bill Skelly said if the scheme goes ahead he will have around 40 fewer officers available to deploy at any one time, which amounts of 10 per cent of his overall strength.

The requirement for all new officers to become graduates was introduced by the College of Policing in order to professionalise the service. But it has proved controversial with many serving officers, who regard academic qualifications as unnecessary for a job that requires a range of skills that many believe are best learned on the job.

Skelly believes implementing the policy in his force area will be unsustainable at a time when he has been forced to slash resources to the bone.

He is also worried about the financial impact of having to pay for officers to attend the degree courses at local colleges and impact on the police pension scheme.

He is now seeking to challenge the policy in the courts through a judicial review, in a move that is being supported by his local police and crime commissioner, Marc Jones, who is funding the court action.

Jones said: “Protecting the people of Lincolnshire is our number one priority and to do that we cannot support a further loss of officer numbers to this ill thought through scheme.  We believe that losing around 40 officers from the front line without challenging the College would be unforgivable and the costs to the public both financially and in loss of service leave us with no choice.”

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Hedge funds in talks to sell i and regional newspapers

The hedge funds which took control of the i newspaper and hundreds of regional titles last year are in talks about a break-up and sale of its assets, Sky News exclusively revealed this week.

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JPIMedia and its advisers have set a deadline of Monday for preliminary offers for papers including The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post.

The first stage of an auction of the company comes weeks after JPIMedia’s chief executive, David King, told staff that it was not engaged in a “formal sales process”.

Potential bidders could include Mediahuis, which recently agreed a takeover of Ireland’s Independent News & Media, and regional publishers such as Archant and Newsquest.

Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), which tabled an offer for the i shortly before it went into administration in November, is said to be less interested in making a formal offer during the current auction.

One insider described the timing of the process, which is being run by Stella EOC, is being motivated by the newspaper industry’s need for more consolidation.

In a statement issued to Sky News on Monday, a spokesman for JPIMedia said: “The board of directors has recently appointed a financial adviser to better assess the current and future prospects for the business and its titles. We believe that our industry is undergoing substantial change and we are not immune from the changing trends in news consumption and rise of digital news alongside the decline in print advertising and circulation.

“Consolidation within the regional media industry is necessary, which is why we are actively exploring a number of options open to us. We will provide a further update in due course.”

Sources said there were likely to be a string of suitors for the i, which has been a rare beacon of innovation in Britain’s paid-for national newspaper market during the last decade. The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post are also likely to attract interest, although questions remain about the viability of many of JPIMedia’s smaller titles.

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Will Meghan Markle write a column for Vogue magazine?

According to the Daily Express, Meghan Markle is understood to be in talks with one of the world’s biggest fashion magazines, Vogue, about writing a regular column.

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The Duchess of Sussex is lorded as a fashion icon by royal fans across the globe but if she does write for the magazine it will focus on her philanthropic projects.

According to rumours, the talks with Vogue have come about ahead of a September photo shoot Markle is having with both the US and the UK versions of the magazine.

Buckingham Palace and Conde Nast US and UK have not commented on the reports.

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Boris’s war on soft justice

Saturday’s front page of the Daily Mail said that Boris Johnson is looking to change the law to ensure vicious criminals and sex offenders are locked up for longer.

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In an interview with the newspaper, the Conservative leadership favourite said it is wrong the worst criminals are routinely freed halfway through their prison sentences. Trying to restore the Tories’ battered reputation as the party of law and order, he also pledged to boost police powers to stop and search knife crime suspects.

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Minister drops plan to raise Lottery age to 18

Ministers have abandoned plans to stop children playing the National Lottery, reported the Mail on Sunday.

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But lottery scratchcards and online games that give instant wins will be banned for under 18s.

Earlier this year, the government signalled that it would hike the age at which Britons can buy a ticket for the twice weekly draw to 18.

Minister for sport and civil society Mims Davies said: “It’s not to stop people from having fun but it’s to protect the most vulnerable people.  That’s where the government needs to step in.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport launched a consultation on raising the age that people can take part in the Lottery draw from 16 to 18 but now Davies has notified the Treasury that her position “is to raise the minimum age to 18 for instant win games (scratchcards and online instant win games) and maintain the 16 limit for all draw-based games.”

Commenting, Camelot said: “We have no issue with the government review of the age limit for buying National Lottery products and are happy to assist in any way we can to inform the decision.”

The changes would come into force in 2023 at the start of the next National Lottery licence.

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How John Major’s great gamble is still paying off

At a lavish party thrown at London’s Somerset House last week to celebrate the Lottery’s 25th birthday, ex Prime Minister John Major proudly hailed the £40 billion it has generated for good causes, wrote Daily Mail columnist Andrew Pierce.

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Speaking to a crowd that included Virginia Bottomley, who announced the first winning numbers on BBC TV as Culture Secretary in 1994, Major claimed that he thought of the Lottery when he was allocating funds to Whitehall departments as chief secretary to the Treasury.

‘I wanted a pot of gold free of political or government interference,’ he said

But he admitted to the audience that when he bought the first ticket for the £5.87 million jackpot, he prayed his numbers didn’t come up.

‘At the time I had an overdraft, a mortgage, and no savings. I wasn’t sure how handing the money back would go down with my wife and family.’

According to Pierce, Major may have been the only gambler in history desperate not to win.

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Smoking must be ABOLISHED in the UK within 11 years say ministers

All UK smokers must quit the habit by 2030 or switch to e-cigarettes, according to an ambitious government plan set to be unveiled by the Health Secretary next week, wrote both the Daily Express and Daily Mail.

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A leaked government report suggests tobacco firms would be forced to pay the cost of helping people stop smoking instead of over-stretched local health services. The blueprint document stated: “The gains in tobacco control have been hard-won, and there’s still much to do. For the 15 per cent of adults who are not yet smoke-free, smoking is the leading cause of ill-health and early death, and a major cause of inequalities.”

The target to make the country smoke-free by 2030 will be announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock next week as he unveils a Green Paper looking at how prevention is better than cure.

Leaflets giving advice on how to quit would have to be inserted into every cigarette packet.

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Bakers notice decline in dough as more Brits ditch bread for low-carb diets

Sales at bread makers Warburtons  have taken a hit as shoppers ditch bread in favour of low-carb diets, the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail revealed.

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Loaves sold at the family bakers have fallen for a third year running, according to documents filed with Companies House.

Sales dropped 3.5 per cent to £506 million from September 2017-18, while profit slumped from £20.7 million the previous year to a pre-tax loss of £13.5 million.

The firm has attributed this to a “continuing decline in the core market” as well as some one-off restructuring costs.

Consumer experts claim the bread market is shrinking with growing numbers opting for gluten-free or low-carb diets.

“Bread is in long-term decline,” said Aimee Benson, consumer insight director at market research firm Kantar. “The industry is trying to reinvigorate, adding seeds and looking at bagels or wraps, but it’s still not really saving the category.

“More and more people are choosing gluten-free options, perhaps buying bread less frequently or choosing to remove bread from their diets altogether.”

The £1.5 billion wrapped bread market has been falling steadily for the past five years, according to the consumer expert. However, the market for ‘free from’ products is growing and is now estimated to be worth £2.2 billion.

Warburtons hopes its new bagel and wrap categories can help tide declining sales, with Hollywood legend Robert De Niro  fronting its latest ad campaign.

In its annual accounts the company said the losses were due to £19.6 million of one-time only restructuring costs as well as the sales decline. These include the closure of its Stockton Bakery due to excess capacity.

Jonathan Warburton, chairman of Warburtons, said: “The wrapped bakery market continues to be very challenging and this, coupled with increased costs and some exceptional items, impacted our results for the 2017/2018 financial year.”

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Half of UK retail sales will be online within 10 years, report predicts

Online shopping could more than double its share of the retail market by 2028, according to a report published in the Guardian that spells further difficulties for landlords, stores and communities.

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The internet is expected to account for 53 per cent of retail sales in 10 years’ time, up from about a fifth at present, as younger people who have grown up with the internet become more than half the UK’s adult population, according to a report by the analysts Retail Economics for the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson.

One in 10 people of all ages questioned for the report said they planned to shop more online in the year ahead.

Richard Lim, of Retail Economics, said: “Successful retailers have always had to reinvent themselves to stay relevant. However, the pace of change will inevitably prove too fast for many. It definitely feels like the digital retail revolution is only just getting started.”

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Tumbling UK high street sales ‘paint a bleak picture’

The British Retail Consortium described the state of the UK high street as ‘bleak’ following a record fall in June sales, wrote the i.

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Total sales were down 1.3 per cent, partly due to last June’s strong figures where a heatwave combined with the finals of the men’s football World Cup.

Paul Martin of KPMG said pressure on sales was ‘’coming from all angles: economic, geopolitical, environmental and behavioural’’ with spending likely to fall further ‘’as things stand’’.

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Sainsbury’s and Asda banned from merging for at least 10 YEARS

Sainsbury’s and Asda have been banned from merging for at least a decade, after a proposed £12 billion takeover was blocked in April, revealed the Daily Mirror.

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Competition watchdog the CMA, which rejected the deal between the two supermarkets earlier this year, has now banned the two grocers from merging for 10 more years.

It comes just months after a major investigation found “extensive concerns” over the multi-billion-pound takeover, which the CMA said would lead to higher prices on food and fuel and a poorer overall shopping experience for customers.

Both Sainsbury’s and Asda disputed the claims, claiming 125 to 150 supermarkets  would be sold off on the back of the takeover to maintain competition with industry rivals.

This week, the CMA prohibited Sainsbury’s from acquiring a stake in Asda or any of its subsidiaries or from buying an interest in any business that has a holding interest in Asda for the next 10 years. The rules will be bound until July 9, 2029, unless the parties receive the “prior written consent of the CMA”.

Stuart McIntosh, at the CMA, said: “It’s our responsibility to protect the millions of people who shop at Sainsbury’s and Asda every week. Following our in-depth investigation, we have found this deal would lead to increased prices, reduced quality and choice of products, or a poorer shopping experience for all of their UK shoppers.”

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Lidl to create 500 jobs

Lidl is creating 500 jobs in Scotland as it opens 12 supermarkets, reported the Daily Mail.

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The stores will add to the discounter’s 98 shops north of the border. Construction has already started at several of the sites, including Dumbarton, Dundee, East Kilbride, Cowdenbeath and Larkhall.

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Banks must pay up for post offices, MPs demand

A group of influential MPs have called for banks to be forced to pay for better services at post offices after years of branch closures, the Daily Mail claimed.

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Nicky Morgan, chairman of the Treasury committee, slammed the government for failing to hold banks to account after they left millions of rural customers without some basic banking services. The committee said banks must pay for post offices to act as proxy branches, funding staff training and better security.

Morgan said: “It is disappointing that the government refuses to ensure that small towns and rural areas aren’t left without high street banking services. The Post Office is not able to provide some key banking services, such as direct debits, even though commercial banks promised customers they could use post offices when they shut down branches.

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