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Sri Lankan bombings: British victims ‘unlawfully killed’ says coroner

Anita Nicholson and her son Alex (left) with daughter Annabel and husband Ben (right)

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Anita Nicholson and her children Alex, 14, and Annabel, 11, died in the Shangri-La hotel bombing

A mother and her two children were among six British nationals killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, an inquest heard.

Anita Nicholson, 42, and her children, Alexander, 14 and Annabel, 11, died instantly in an explosion at the Shangri-la Hotel in Colombo.

Lorraine Campbell, Bill Harrop and Sally Bradley also died in the blast at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.

All six were unlawfully killed, the coroner recorded.

Mr Harrop, a retired firefighter and his wife, Dr Bradley, had been on holiday from their home in Australia when they were killed in an explosion at the restaurant of their hotel on 21 April.

The couple, originally from Manchester, had been described as soulmates.

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Bill Harrop and his partner Sally Bradley

Ms Campbell, an IT director who was originally from Manchester but had relocated to Dubai, was in Sri Lanka on a business trip. Her family has spoken of the “enormous void” created by her death.

Her partner, Neil Evans, told the inquest he knew something was wrong when she stopped replying to Whatsapp messages. He said he had lost his best friend, confidante and soulmate.

Ben Nicholson survived the blast which killed his wife and children.

Singapore home

The family had been visiting Sri Lanka from their home in Singapore having previously lived in Upminster, East London.

Mrs Nicholson, a lawyer for mining firm Anglo American, went to college in Thurrock, Essex and had been living in Singapore with her family since 2010.

Senior coroner for Essex Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded that all six were unlawfully killed as she concluded inquest hearings in Chelmsford.

She told the families: “You’ve lost loved ones in these most appalling of circumstances. I would like to express sincere condolences to you upon your tragic loss.”

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The damaged Shangri-La hotel in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo

Mr Nicholson described his wife as “a wonderful, perfect wife” and a “brilliant mother to Alex and Annabel”.

Who are the victims of the Sri Lanka attacks?

The six British Nationals were among 310 victims of a wave of bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

Two other Britons, brother and sister Daniel and Amelie Linsey, 19 and 15, were killed in the blasts.

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Cardiff City: Boss could be named within 72 hours, says chairman Mehmet Dalman

Vincent Tan (left) took over Cardiff in 2010 and appointed Mehmet Dalman (right) as Chairman in 2014

Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman says the club are targeting a younger manager to replace Neil Warnock and expect a quick appointment.

Warnock left the Championship club on Monday following three years in charge.

Dalman said owner Vincent Tan will play an active role in naming the 70-year-old’s successor.

“We’re down to a small number of names. I’d be surprised if we don’t announce something in the next 72 hours, certainly by the weekend,” he said.

Former Millwall manager Neil Harris is among the early favourites to replace Warnock, who Dalman said was relieved to leave his role.

Speaking to Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers, Dalman claimed it was Warnock’s decision to leave the club who are14th in the Championship following Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Bristol City.

“It was Neil’s decision to go,” he said.

“I really wanted him to stay until the end of the season, but he felt it was time for a change. I think he was quite relieved actually when I had a chat with him and we felt maybe it was right, so he left on his own terms.”

Dalman said Tan would have a say on who replaces Warnock.

“I think Vincent wants to take a much more hands-on involvement in (appointing) the next manager, which I think is right, after all he’s the owner of the club,” he said. “I think he wants somebody younger, maybe a little bit more (of an) offensive type of manager.”

Dalman added the club could consider a director of football type appointment in conjunction with the new manager, saying he would welcome “more football knowledge at board level.”

And, in terms of a new manager, he did not rule out a move for Harris, the 42-year-old currently out of work having left Millwall last month after four years with the south London club.

When asked specifically about bookmaker’s favourite Harris, Dalman said: “I don’t know. At the moment, we’re still going through the thought process, we’ll go through the names that we have and we’ll focus on one of them.”

Harris ‘worth a gamble’ – Kavanagh

Ex-Millwall boss Neil Harris has pitted his wits against Neil Warnock but could now replace him at Cardiff

Ex-Cardiff captain Graham Kavanagh says ex-Millwall boss Harris, 42, could be worth a “gamble” to replace Warnock.

Although he has only managed the Lions, ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder Kavanagh says Harris could do the job.

“If Neil Harris comes in I think it is a slight gamble,” said Kavanagh.

“He’s been in the Millwall job four years and hasn’t managed anywhere else, but he’s done a magnificent job.”

Harris, who scored 138 goals over two separate spells with Millwall as a player, took over as caretaker manager in March 2015 following their relegation to League One.

He guided the Lions to promotion back to the second tier in 2017, after reaching the League One play-off final for a second consecutive season, while the London club reached the FA Cup quarter-finals twice, in 2017 and 2019.

He stepped down as boss at the Den in October 2019 after a seven-match winless streak left Millwall five points above the relegation zone.

Midfielder Graham Kavanagh played more than 150 games for Cardiff after joining in June 2001

Harris – who briefly played alongside Kavanagh on loan at Cardiff in December 2004 – remains Millwall’s record goalscorer, despite being diagnosed with cancer when he was just 23.

“He’s a great lad, he works very, very hard, he’s very diligent and honest in his work and he does like to play,” Kavanagh, 45, said.

“He’s never had too much money to spend, but what he has spent at Millwall he’s done a remarkable job.”

Kavanagh says that Warnock will be a hard act to follow.

“He’s [Warnock] done a phenomenal job at the club, getting it promoted. I know obviously he then got relegated but it’s very, very tough to stay in the Premier League,” Kavanagh said.

“He spent quite a bit of money but it looked like he was buying Championship players with the thought that if they went back down, then they’d be able to jump back up.

“Obviously that hasn’t been how they’ve started the season, so he’s paid the price of that.

“A man of his experience and his wealth of knowledge… he’s going to be a massive loss to the club.”

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Grenfell Tower: Jacob Rees-Mogg criticised for ‘insulting’ comments

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg

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Jacob Rees-Mogg made the comments on LBC’s Nick Ferrari show

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised for saying it was “common sense” for residents to flee the Grenfell Tower, ignoring fire brigade advice.

The Leader of the House of Commons was appearing on a radio phone-in on the findings of a Grenfell inquiry report when he made the comments.

Seventy-two people died when a fire ripped through the tower block on 14 June 2017.

The Grenfell United group called the MP’s comments “insulting”.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he “profoundly apologised” for his comments.

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Seventy-two people died in the fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017

Speaking on LBC’s Nick Ferrari’s show on Monday, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “The more one’s read over the weekend about the report and about the chances of people surviving, if you just ignore what you’re told and leave you are so much safer.

“And I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do.

“And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Mr Rees-Mogg to “apologise for these crass and insensitive comments immediately”.

Mr Rees-Mogg said on Tuesday: “What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time.

“However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would. I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments.”

But in a statement, survivors’ group Grenfell United said: “The Leader of the House of Commons suggesting that the 72 people who lost their lives at Grenfell lacked common sense is beyond disrespectful.

“It is extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families.”

Grenfell inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said fewer people would have died if the London Fire Brigade (LFB) had taken certain actions earlier.

Sir Martin also criticised the LFB for following a “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.

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Grenfell Tower fire: ‘Systemic failures’ in fire brigade’s response

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Media captionThe second anniversary of the tragedy was marked last June

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been condemned for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in a report after the first phase of an inquiry.

Fewer people would have died in the 2017 fire if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier, the report by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said.

The head of the Fire Brigades Union said the inquiry was “back to front”.

The BBC has seen sections of the report ahead of Wednesday’s publication.

The 1,000-page document follows the first phase of the inquiry, which looked at what happened on the night that 72 people died in the tower block fire on 14 June 2017.

The second phase will focus on wider circumstances of the fire, including the design of the building.

General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, said: “The truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding. The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap.

“Firefighters’ actions on the night, which were remarkable in the circumstances, are now being scrutinised. Nobody is trying to avoid scrutiny, but we think that the ordering of the inquiry is completely back to front.”

The council, the tower’s tenant management organisation, the police and the fire service were all questioned during the inquiry’s first phase.

The inquiry has criticised the Daily Telegraph, which first published leaked details of the report, and other media which followed suit. A spokeswoman said publication had deprived “those most affected by the fire – the bereaved, survivors and residents – of the opportunity to read the report at their own pace”.

Sir Martin’s report praised the courage of firefighters on the night.

But it found many “institutional” failures that meant the LFB’s planning and preparation for the incident was “gravely inadequate”.

For example, Sir Martin said control room staff who fielded 999 calls “undoubtedly saved lives” but “a close examination” of operations revealed “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”.

He said staff that night were in an “invidious” position when they were outnumbered by 999 calls.

“Supervisors were under the most enormous pressure, but the LFB had not provided its senior control room staff with appropriate training on how to manage a large-scale incident with a large number of FSG [Fire Survival Guidance] calls,” he said.

“Mistakes made in responding to the Lakanal House fire were repeated,” he added – referring to a fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009, which killed three women and three children.

Analysis

By Lucy Manning, special correspondent

This report could not be more critical of the London Fire Brigade.

The Grenfell families wanted this level of criticism, especially those whose relatives died when they were told for nearly two hours to stay put in the building as it was covered in flames.

But there is also some frustration that this first part of the inquiry wasn’t about those who made the cladding and oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell.

That will only happen in the second phase of the inquiry next year and then they’ve got even longer to wait for the police investigation to finish.

So they are seeing some blame apportioned and they hope they will eventually see justice but the Grenfell survivors will always suffer the loss and grief and ask the question how did 72 people die in what was supposed to be the safety of their homes?

Sir Martin also criticised the LFB for following a “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.

The strategy was rescinded at 02:47 BST, the report said. Sir Martin wrote: “That decision could and should have been made between 01:30 and 01:50 and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.”

Firefighters who attended the fire did not have training on how best to combat a cladding fire, the report added.

Four members of the first crews to have fought the blaze had 52 years of combined experience. However, they had not received any training on the risks posed by exterior cladding or the techniques to be deployed in fighting fires involving cladding, the report found.

Sir Martin said the “principal” reason the fire spread so quickly “up, down and around the building was the presence of the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, which acted as a source of fuel”.

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Dany Cotton said she would not have changed anything about the way her brigade responded to the blaze

The report also said evidence given by the LFB’s commissioner, Dany Cotton, suggested lessons from the fire might be missed.

Sir Martin wrote: “Quite apart from its remarkable insensitivity to the families of the deceased and to those who escaped from their burning homes with their lives, the Commissioner’s evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the LFB on the night, even with the benefit of hindsight, only serves to demonstrate that the LFB is an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire.”

A spokesperson for the LFB said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the report’s findings before they were officially released on Wednesday.

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The families of the 72 victims contributed to the report

Speaking on Monday, Sir Martin said the report was long and detailed.

He stressed that readers of the report “should understand as clearly as possible the terrifying conditions faced by those who were in the building, at the time”.

The cause of the fire was found by the report to be “an electrical fault in the large fridge freezer in the kitchen” in a fourth-floor flat.

“It occurred without any fault on the part of the tenant… and I am pleased to clear him of any blame, given that some people have unfairly accused him of having some responsibility for what happened,” Sir Martin said.

  • Additional reporting by Vinnie O’Dowd.

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Katie Jarvis: EastEnders actress felt ‘degraded’ by job-shaming story

Katie Jarvis

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Katie Jarvis played Hayley Slater in EastEnders

Former EastEnders actress Katy Jarvis says she felt “degraded” and “hurt” after a newspaper splashed pictures of her working as a shop security guard.

On Sunday, the Daily Star revealed the actress, who played Hayley Slater, was now working at a B&M store in Romford.

It prompted an outpouring of empathy on social media, as many actors noted the uncertain nature of the profession.

Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show on Tuesday, Jarvis said the story was “really quite nasty”.

“To be honest, on Sunday morning I woke up really embarrassed and made to feel quite ashamed,” said Jarvis, who now works alongside her sister.

“Over my career I’ve done by best to try and stay away form social gatherings, get-togethers and celebrity things, to keep my private life as private as possible.

“So to wake up with my kids and see myself on the front of the pages just for simply having a job in between my acting, it really did hurt me.”

She added: “It took me a day or so to let it all digest and realise I had nothing to be ashamed about.”

Jarvis said she had worked in a range of jobs, including as a waitress and for a credit card company, to support her acting career.

She admitted she’d been “overwhelmed” by the support she’s received from her acting colleagues.

Jarvis, who has two children, first made her name starring as Mia Williams in the 2009 British drama film Fish Tank, before heading to Albert Square for a year-long stint which ended in February 2019.

Actor and writer Kathy Burke showed her support for the 28-year-old by re-interpreting the headline of the tabloid story – or non-story, as she thought.

In a show of solidarity, many other TV stars revealed they too supplement their acting careers with other types of employment.

Tamzin Outhwaite posted: “Yes, I am a landlady, a voice over artist, car boot salesperson, art dealer, up cyclist, interior designer, motivational speaker, and many other jobs… it’s what artists do to earn a living. They work in between jobs.”

‘No shame’

“It’s called grafting!” she added. “Or not being afraid of hard work… or loving your family enough to drop your dream for a bit to earn a living so the family can live life. And there is no shame in wanting to work hard to make sure your offspring are cared for.”

TV critic Emma Bullimore told the BBC she understands why actors are getting upset with the newspaper for splashing Jarvis’s new non-acting job all over the front page in a “humiliating” manner.

But, she says, the situation is “more complicated” than some of the above soap stars are making out.

“I can see both sides of it really as it does feel quite cruel in the way that they did it, kicking her while she’s down I suppose,” says Bullimore.

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(L-R) Shane Richie as Alfie Moon, Jessie Wallace as Kat Moon and Katie Jarvis as Hayley Slater holding baby Cherry Slater in 2018

“But with a tabloid hat on, you can totally see that it is the perfect story – she was in one of the biggest shows on TV, had a massive part in it and she was basically in every scene for a little while.

“Then she disappeared, slightly oddly, and now suddenly she’s working at B&M. I think if she was working at Waitrose it would not be as good a story.”

Charlie Condou, who played Marcus Dent in Coronation Street, called the Jarvis story “shameful journalism,” adding he’d done something similar himself.

“When I left Corrie I had a string of very nice TV and theatre jobs,” he tweeted. “Then I didn’t.

“So I got a job working in a restaurant to pay my bills and take care of my kids. That’s what responsible adults do.”

‘Feels like a choice’

Since leaving EastEnders, Jarvis has kept a relatively low profile. However, in March, she tweeted to say she was “absolutely fine” following reports she had been “glassed” on a night out.

Bullimore believes “it feels like a choice”, in this instance, for her to make the move away from the camera so soon, which makes it all the more intriguing for readers.

“I can see why people would want to read it because they’ll think ‘surely you’re really well paid if you’re on EastEnders and you’re living the life of an actress.’ And she was in it so recently, so ‘why would you need the money so quickly?’

“That’s not to say that I think it [the story] is fair, but I don’t think it’s necessarily any worse than the way that tabloids treat actors in general.”

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Sorry We Missed You director Ken Loach with actors Kris Hitchen and Debbie Honeywood at the Cannes Film Festival in May

Jarvis is not the first and won’t be the last actor to do a “normal job” before, during or after an acting career.

In fact, award-winning director Ken Loach told the BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz he actively shied away from casting big name Hollywood stars in his latest drama, Sorry We Missed You, in favour of actors who have had recent experience working in relevant industries.

The film features actor/plumber Kris Hitchen and actress/care worker Debbie Honeywood at the head of a Newcastle family, struggling to make ends meet on zero-hour contract jobs.

Believable

“Finding people to bring a story to life is the second-most important decision you ever make in filmmaking, second to the script – which is the most important,” explained Loach.

“The camera can see who you are, maybe in ways you’re not aware of – how you stand, how you use your hands, the quality of your skin depends on your diet, every mannerism that you’re not aware of. And you’ve also got to believe that people can do the job they say that they can do in the film and reach the character and absolutely have the capacity to draw the audience in.

“So the audience laughs with them and cries with them and is angry with them and identifies with them and has solidarity with them. And we were really lucky to find Chris and Debbie.”

He added: “But they can act, make no mistake.”

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(L-R) Jeremy Edwards, Geoffrey Owens and Gemma Merna have all acted and performed other jobs

Elsewhere, former Hollyoaks and Holby City actor Jeremy Edwards found work, like Jarvis, as a security guard, and as a gardener. As Celebs Now reported, in 2011, he said: “I don’t know any actors who work consistently without other work. A lucky few, but not many, I had a good 10-year run!”

Gemma Merna, who played Carmen McQueen in Hollyoaks for eight years – winning best comedy performance at the 2007 British Soap Awards – now also works as a yoga instructor and personal trainer.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Owens, who played Elvin in the Cosby Show between 1985 and 1992, thanked supporters last year after photos of him working as a cashier at US grocery Trader Joe’s were mocked online.

Rap star and Cosby Show fan Nicki Minaj donated $25,000 (£22,433) to the “legend” after he was job-shamed, however, Owens donated the amount to a fund helping actors in need.



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Gloucestershire: George Scott joins county on three-year deal from Middlesex

George Scott made nine appearances in the T20 Blast last season for Middlesex

All-rounder George Scott has signed a three-year deal with Gloucestershire after declining the offer of a new contract at Middlesex.

The 23-year-old right-hander and medium pacer leaves Lord’s after four seasons.

His 43 appearances in all formats saw him score 692 runs and take six wickets following his debut in July 2015.

“I’m very excited, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for me cricket-wise,” Scott said. “I’m absolutely delighted to be joining.”

Gloucestershire won promotion to Division One of the County Championship this summer and will play in the top flight for the first time since 2005 next season.

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Extinction Rebellion: PM labels protesters ‘unco-operative crusties’

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Media captionDozens of people have been arrested around the world

Extinction Rebellion protesters on the streets of London have been labelled “uncooperative crusties” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The demonstrators – who are demanding action on climate change – should abandon their “hemp-smelling bivouacs” and stop blocking roads, the PM added.

Police have already arrested more than 300 people at the start of two weeks of protests by environmental campaigners.

Some activists glued themselves to government buildings early on Tuesday.

Speaking at a book launch, Mr Johnson said: “I am afraid that the security people didn’t want me to come along tonight because they said the road was full of uncooperative crusties and protesters of all kinds littering the road.

“They said there was some risk that I would be egged.”

Mr Johnson added protesters could learn from former PM Margaret Thatcher, who he said had taken the issue of greenhouse gases seriously long before activists such as Greta Thunberg were born.

“I hope that when we go out from this place tonight and we are waylaid by importunate nose-ringed climate change protesters, we remind them that she was also right about greenhouse gases.”

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Boris Johnson made the comments on Monday evening at a book launch

Extinction Rebellion activists are protesting in cities around the world, including Berlin, Amsterdam and Sydney.

The Metropolitan Police said there have been 319 arrests in relation to the demonstrations since 00:01 BST on Tuesday.

Some 200 campaigners who camped overnight on streets in central London also faced arrest on Tuesday morning after being issued with warnings by police.

Activists who blocked Horseferry Road, in Westminster, throughout the night were warned that they will be arrested unless they move to nearby Trafalgar Square.

But many said they were prepared to stay in the camp. Mike Gumn, 33, from Bristol, told the PA news agency: “We will decide as a group when we are going to move and we are not going to let police tell us when.”

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Activists set up tents throughout Westminster, including Horseferry Road

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A food van served porridge to protesters who stayed in Parliament Square overnight

‘A last resort’

By Becky Morton, BBC News

Behind Parliament Square there are dozens of tents where protesters from Scotland, Cumbria and north-east England have camped overnight.

Mikaela Loach, 21, travelled from Edinburgh on Monday with a friend on a bus organised for protesters.

She says she has attended protests before but this is her first time camping out overnight.

“I was a bit worried about police coming in the middle of the night, but it was a nice atmosphere having people around you that are here for the same cause,” she said.

“I’ve spoken to my local MP, I’ve taken part in protests, I just feel like I haven’t been listened to. This is a last resort,” she said.

“I have been changing things in my lifestyle for a long time to try and be more eco-friendly, but I had a realisation that it doesn’t matter if I go vegan or zero waste if the government doesn’t do anything.

“There need to be big structural changes.”

Some activists glued themselves to the Department for Transport building early on Tuesday, a tactic used in demonstrations earlier this year.

A lorry was also parked on Marsham Street, outside the entrance to the Home Office, with protesters attaching themselves to the vehicle.

On Monday, organisers blockaded key sites in central London, in addition to demonstrating outside government departments.

Some glued and chained themselves to roads and vehicles – those who did so outside Westminster Abbey were later removed by police.

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Activists had planned to target government buildings in the protests

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Extinction Rebellion protesters settled in for the night outside Westminster Abbey

The roads behind Downing Street were blocked throughout the day by protesters, some of whom had erected tents in the street and were sitting down and singing songs together.

The protests are calling for urgent action on global climate and wildlife emergencies.

Further road closures are expected on Tuesday, with Parliament Street, Great Smith Street and Westminster and Lambeth bridges predicted to be heavily affected.

Extinction Rebellion claims protests in the capital will be five times bigger than similar events in April, which saw more than 1,100 people were arrested.

What is Extinction Rebellion?

Man holding a Extinction Rebellion placard

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Extinction Rebellion facts

  • 2025group’s aims for zero carbon emissions

  • 298,000followers on Facebook

  • 1,130people arrested over April’s London protests

  • 2018year the group was founded

Source: BBC Research

Extinction Rebellion (XR for short) wants governments to declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and take immediate action to address climate change.

It describes itself as an international “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement”.

Extinction Rebellion was launched in 2018 and organisers say it now has groups willing to take action in dozens of countries.

In April, the group held a large demonstration in London that brought major routes in the city to a standstill.

Read more here.

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Gousto: Recipe box firm to create 700 jobs in UK

A Gousto box

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Gousto

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Gousto offers 40 weekly recipes to customers and delivers meals direct to people’s doors

Recipe box business Gousto has announced plans to create 700 jobs, more than doubling its workforce.

The firm, which delivers meal kits directly to customers, is set to hire about 400 staff at its distribution centre in Spalding, Lincolnshire.

A further 300 will be hired at its headquarters in London.

Gousto secured a £30m investment two months ago, and plans to expand following a period of rapid sales growth.

It currently employs more than 500 staff and will recruit more over a period of three years.

The £30m cash boost investment firm Perwyn takes its total external investment to more than £100m since its creation in 2012.

The money will be used to expand its rapidly growing technology team, while roles will also be created in data science, analytics, software engineering and user experience, the company said.

Timo Boldt, chief executive officer and founder of Gousto, said he is proud to be “bucking the trend” in job creation, after a recent decline in the total number of new job vacancies in the UK.

He added: “The 700 jobs we will create over the next three years will enable us to keep pace with rapidly changing consumer behaviours.

“Growing Gousto and fulfilling our ambition to become the UK’s best loved way to eat dinner, requires a specific focus on our technology team.”

Gousto said it hopes its expansion strategy will help to grow its position as “one of Europe’s leading technology enabled companies”.

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Johnson to urge Iran to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016

Boris Johnson is to call for the release of jailed British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe when he meets Iran’s president later.

The prime minister will meet Hassan Rouhani at a UN summit in New York, hours after blaming Iran for attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

It comes amid calls for him to take a tougher line with Tehran over its detention of dual nationals.

Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016.

The 40-year-old was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of spying, which she denies.

On his flight to New York on Sunday, Mr Johnson told reporters: “I will not only be discussing Iran’s actions in the region, but also the need to release not just Nazanin but others who in our view are being illegally and unfairly held in Tehran.”

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested Mr Johnson should form a new coalition of allies at the UN to call out Iran for its “diplomatic hostage taking”.

And Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the prime minister must tell his Iranian counterpart “enough is enough” and secure his wife’s release.

“I don’t mind how he does that, but this has gone on long enough,” he said.

“Nazanin is at the end of her tether. We have to be clear with Iran that it’s not OK to conduct hostage diplomacy.”

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Media captionWhy one mother’s personal plight is part of a complicated history between Iran and the UK

Mr Hunt is supporting Mr Ratcliffe’s move to launch a new campaign group made up of other families of different nationalities with loved ones held in Tehran.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it should be a priority to ensure the price of taking hostages is “too high” for Iran.

“Iran is one of the few countries in the world that seeks to settle disputes by taking hostages,” he said.

He said it is thought other countries’ citizens have been taken hostage in Iran and only by working together can countries find a solution.

“When Europe and the US go separate ways on Iran it doesn’t work,” he said.

Campaign group

Mr Ratcliffe said efforts by Mr Johnson to get his wife released could make amends for comments he made as foreign secretary in 2017, when he said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran teaching journalism.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family has always insisted she was on holiday in Iran when she was arrested – and the UK government later clarified it had “no doubt” this was the case.

A number of people with dual Iranian and foreign nationality have been detained in Iran in recent years.

In August, a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said a British-Iranian dual national, Anousheh Ashouri, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Tehran after being convicted of spying for Israel.

Weeks later, two British-Australian women and an Australian man were detained in Iran.

British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Middle East politics specialist at Melbourne University, is being held on charges that remain unclear, according to the Australian government.

Australians Mark Firkin and Jolie King, who also holds a UK passport – are also being detained in Iran.

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Jolie King

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Travel bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin are reportedly being held in Tehran’s Evin prison

Earlier this year, the UK foreign office warned all dual nationals against travelling to Iran because of the risk of arbitrary detention.

Tensions between the UK and Iran have worsened in recent months following a row over the seizure of oil tankers in the Gulf.

The meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Rouhani comes after the UK, France and Germany agreed on Monday that Iran was responsible for the attack on Saudi oil facilities last weekend.

Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of carrying out the 14 September attacks, in which 18 drones and seven cruise missiles hit an oil field and processing facility.

However, Iran has denied responsibility, accusing the UK, France and Germany of “parroting absurd US claims”.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said slowly and cautiously, some diplomatic pressure was being applied on Iran.

But he added there was little sign Iran was ready to make any diplomatic concessions, not least while Europe and the US appeared uncertain over how to respond to the Saudi attacks.

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Thomas Cook customers will not be stranded, vows Raab

Thomas Cook plane

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Reuters

The government is ready to fly holidaymakers back to the UK if tour operator Thomas Cook collapses, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.

Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show contingency planning was in place to make sure no-one would be stranded.

But he dampened hopes of a government rescue bid for the firm.

Ministers did not “systematically step in” when businesses went under unless there was “a good strategic national interest”, he said.

Mr Raab said he did not want to undermine the rescue talks that Thomas Cook is currently conducting with its biggest shareholder and creditors at City law firm Slaughter & May.

The tour operator could fall into administration within days unless it finds £200m in extra funds.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union, which represents Thomas Cook staff, is urging the government to step in with a bail out amid fears the company’s collapse could leave about 150,000 British tourists stranded.


Analysis

Katie Prescott, business correspondent

This meeting is crucial for Thomas Cook’s survival.

If there is no agreement, then the decision to wind up the company will be taken at a Board meeting this evening. It’s likely (looking at the precedent of Monarch’s collapse) that any announcement about that will be made late at night, once all planes are on the ground. But the company doesn’t have to announce anything until the markets open at 07:00 BST on Monday.

It’s low season at the moment, the time of year when Thomas Cook has to pay its suppliers for the busy summer season just gone. Hoteliers are paid on 60 to 90-day terms, once travellers have already taken their holidays. The nightmare scenario is that hoteliers who don’t think they will get paid might turn out the people staying with them.

However, it is worth re-stating that the company is still trading. People are still holidaying with Thomas Cook. And while we can assume the company is reining back marketing activity around last-minute deals and offers, until any announcement is made, it is business as usual.

The foreign secretary said he did not want talk of contingency planning to become “a self-fulfilling prophecy”.

But he told the BBC the government had learned lessons from the collapse of the Monarch airline in 2017. The UK’s consular authorities abroad were ready to assist, he said.

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise it’s a worrying time for holidaymakers and employees.

“The financial circumstances of individual businesses are a commercial matter, but the government and the Civil Aviation Authority are monitoring the situation closely.”

‘Being held hostage’

Meanwhile, holidaymakers staying at a hotel in Tunisia owed money by Thomas Cook have reportedly been prevented from leaving the resort until it has been paid.

Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said the hotel was refusing to let them leave because of concerns about Thomas Cook’s future.

Customers have reported that the hotel is asking visitors to pay extra money amid fears it will not be paid what it is owed by the tour operator for bookings.

Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, told BBC Radio 5 Live the hotel demanded all guests who were due to leave go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.

Security guards closed the hotel’s gates as guests refused to pay the extra fee, Mr Farmer claims.

He told the Stephen Nolan show: “I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage.”

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AFP

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Thomas Cook has hundreds of High Street stores

Thomas Cook customers have been reminded on social media that they have Atol protection – a fund paid for through industry levies – “in the event that Thomas Cook goes into administration”.

The travel firm also reassured customers on Saturday night that flights continue to operate as normal.

Rescue call

One of the world’s largest travel companies, Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 to operate temperance day trips, and now has annual sales of £9bn.

It employs 22,000 staff, 9,000 of whom are in the UK, and serves 19 million customers a year in 16 different countries.

There are currently 600,000 Thomas Cook customers on holiday, of which 150,000 to 160,000 are British.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes has called on Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom to help Thomas Cook “no matter what”, saying it would save thousands of jobs.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said “the government must consider stepping in and taking an equity stake to avoid this crisis”.

Wedding worries

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Chloe Hardy

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Chloe and her fiance Jack are due to fly to Zante for their wedding

Chloe Hardy from Leicestershire is due to get married in Zante in October and booked the wedding package with Thomas Cook back in June 2018.

Chloe and her fiance will also have 33 family members flying out, with their trips costing more than £33,000 in total.

With the big day looming, Chloe is frustrated by Thomas Cook’s handling of their booking.

“We are unsure if we will be able to fly… This is causing great concern, worry and stress to all of us involved.”

Mounting difficulties

Thomas Cook’s financial difficulties have mounted over the past year, culminating with the agreement in August of a rescue deal led by its biggest shareholder Fosun.

In July, it produced a business plan saying that it needed £900m in refinancing, up from a previous estimate of £150m. The £900m would come from Fosun, the group of creditors and some other investors.

The group of lenders then commissioned an independent investigation. Its financial advisers said Thomas Cook would require an additional £200m on top of the £900m already required, which would bring the total refinancing needed up to £1.1bn.

Thomas Cook succeeded in finding a backer to provide the additional £200m, but the BBC understands it has since pulled out.

The firm has blamed a series of problems for its profit warnings, including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.

What are your rights?

If you are on a package holiday you are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (Atol).

The scheme will pay for your accommodation abroad, although you may have to move to a different hotel or apartment.

Atol will also pay to have you brought home if the airline is no longer operating.

If you have holiday booked in the future you will also be refunded by the scheme.

If you have booked a flight-only deal you will need to apply to your travel insurance company or credit card and debit card provider to seek a refund.

When Monarch Airlines collapsed in 2017, the government organised to bring home all the stranded passengers, whether they were covered by Atol or not.

Here is more information on Atol protection and Your questions answered


Are you a Thomas Cook customer or member of staff? If you’ve been affected by the issues raised here, you can get in touch by emailing .

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:



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