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NATIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP: PM refuses to rule out a further tax increase AND extension to badger culling zones


Your national news update now with your latest headlines including Boris Johnson refuses to rule out another tax increase, areas for badger culling are extended to tackle bovine TB, and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 ticket ballot is now open.

TAX INCREASE: Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a further tax increase after announcing a £12 billion-a-year levy to fund health and social care.

The Prime Minister broke two manifesto pledges in a single day, with an increase in National Insurance contributions and a temporary suspension of the “triple lock” on pensions.

Announcing the measures in the Commons, he insisted they were necessary to deal with the backlog in the NHS built up during Covid and to deliver long-overdue reform of the social care system in England.

But at a press conference later in Downing Street, he refused to give a firm commitment that taxes would not go up again – although he said he did not want that to happen.

“If you want me to give that emotional commitment, of course that’s the case,” he said.

The Government’s plan will see the introduction of a new health and social care levy, based on a 1.25 percentage-point increase in National Insurance (NI) contributions – breaking a Tory commitment not to raise NI.

BADGER CULLING: Badger culling is to be extended to seven new areas in England this year as part of tackling bovine TB in cattle, it has been announced.

Natural England said the areas included zones within the counties of Hampshire, Berkshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and two parts of Shropshire – and between 5,365 and 7,273 badgers will be culled across these new areas.

It has also authorised licence holders to resume operations in 33 existing areas this year and will see between 33,045 and a maximum of 75,930 badgers killed.

The extension of the zones comes after the Government announced in May that no new licences would be issued next year.

Trials are also under way in Hertfordshire for a cattle vaccine and new skin test for bovine TB.

It is part of a shift in strategy by the Government which aims to phase out intensive culling of badgers, a protected species which can transmit the disease to livestock, and to roll out a cattle vaccine by 2025.

COMMONWEALTH TICKETS: The main ticket ballot for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is now open.

What are the basics?

The Games run from July 28 through to August 8.

The event will showcase 19 sports and eight para sports, some that you would traditionally expect at a multi-sport Games such as athletics, cycling, gymnastics and swimming, plus some making their Games debuts – women’s T20 cricket and three-on-three basketball for example.

How do I get tickets, and how much are they?

Organisers have fixed more than one million of the tickets at £22 or less and they start at £8 for children and £15 for adults. The ballot remains open until 8pm on September 30. Those interested in securing tickets for any of the 286 sessions should go to birmingham2022.com to create a ticket account.

What venues are being used?

The overwhelming majority of venues were pre-existing before the decision to award the Games to Birmingham after Durban was stripped of hosting rights in 2017. The two major capital projects are the redevelopment of the Alexander Stadium, which will host athletics, and a brand-new aquatics centre in Sandwell.

Cannock Chase Forest will stage mountain biking, while the track cycling takes place in London at the Lee Valley Velopark, which was built for the 2012 Olympics.

The women’s cricket will be played at Edgbaston, while Smithfields – in the city centre – will play host to beach volleyball and three-on-three basketball, with the Rotunda building and the Bullring shopping centre as the backdrop.

Are capacities going to be limited due to Covid-19?

At this stage, no. Organisers are of course keeping contingency plans in mind but Birmingham 2022 chief executive Ian Reid said on Tuesday they were confident of being able to operate at full capacity – even if extra checks for coronavirus certification are required.

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