Get back to work! Boris Johnson to use Tory conference speech to urge Britons to return to office

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Amid growing confidence that Covid will not spark further lockdowns, the Prime Minister will use his Tory conference speech tomorrow to encourage a return to the workplace.

‘He believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working,’ a senior source said. ‘It is critical for the training and development of young people. How can you learn a new job on Zoom?’

Meanwhile Home Secretary Priti Patel will today announce plans to hit eco-warriors with a new type of Asbo in an attempt to halt their motorway protests.

And Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will a unveil a deal to force criminals in ‘chain gangs’ to clear rubbish from waterways.

Mr Johnson launched an ill-fated attempt to get office staff back to their desks last year, which was wrecked by the emergence of the second wave of Covid.

Scientific advisers have pressed him not to repeat the exercise this year because working from home is one of the most effective ways of slowing the spread of the virus.

Instead the Government left it up to employers to encourage a ‘gradual return to the workplace’.

But a second Tory source said ministers were now hopeful they would not have to issue another work from home order this winter.

‘You can never rule anything out with Covid,’ the source said. ‘But we are now in early October and hospitalisations are still running at manageable levels.

‘We are not at the point of anyone thinking about Plan B.

‘Even if we get to that point, it would start with things that cause relatively little disruption, such as mandatory masks and Covid certification.’

 

Amid growing confidence that Covid will not spark further lockdowns, the Prime Minister will use his Tory conference speech tomorrow to encourage a return to the workplace

In other developments at the Tory conference:

  • The number of offenders forced to wear electronic tags will double under a major initiative from Mr Raab;
  • Rishi Sunak ruled out tax cuts until public finances were on a ‘sustainable footing’;
  • Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries questioned whether the BBC would still exist in ten years’ time;
  • Mr Johnson pledged that electricity will come entirely from green sources by 2035;
  • Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng rejected calls for more visas for foreign workers;
  • Pig farmers warned of ‘disaster’ as they protested outside the conference over a shortage of butchers;
  • A party member was suspended after a businesswoman said she had been ‘violently assaulted’ in a bar;
  • Sir Iain Duncan Smith was hit on the head with a traffic cone by Left-wing protesters chanting ‘Tory scum’;
  • Michael Gove signalled a huge shift on planning policy.

Powers to reinstate the work from home order have been kept in reserve in the Government’s contingency plans for Covid this winter.

But ministers believe that. So far, Britain’s wall of vaccination is holding up well against the virus.

While cases remain high, with 35,077 new infections recorded yesterday, hospital admissions remain relatively low. Admissions are averaging just over 700 per day and falling – far below the predictions by government modellers, who said admissions would rise to between 2,000 and 7,000 a day this month.

Tory demands to get more people back to the office have intensified since all legal Covid restrictions were lifted in July.

Former cabinet minister Jake Berry yesterday demanded that the Government set an example by ordering middle class civil servants back to Whitehall, joking that many were ‘woke-ing from home’.

'He believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working,' a senior source said. 'It is critical for the training and development of young people. How can you learn a new job on Zoom?' Pictured: The Tube in London

'He believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working,' a senior source said. 'It is critical for the training and development of young people. How can you learn a new job on Zoom?' Pictured: The Tube in London

‘He believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working,’ a senior source said. ‘It is critical for the training and development of young people. How can you learn a new job on Zoom?’ Pictured: The Tube in London

 

Mr Berry told a fringe event: ‘We have to end the Civil Service “woke-ing” from home – sorry, I mean working from home, but, let’s be honest, it often is woke-ing.’ Official ‘work from home’ Whitehall guidance was removed on July 19 and the Government told businesses they expected ‘a gradual return over the summer’.

However, insiders said Whitehall had only seen a slight increase in staff back at their desks, with numbers still ‘pretty low’.

Whitehall sources said that almost half of officials at the department for education are now back at their desks. But at the Home Office the figure is closer to 20 per cent, while for some departments, including the Ministry of Housing it is barely half that.

In September, job adverts for roles at HM Treasury revealed that staff would be allowed to work from home in a hybrid pattern on a permanent basis, spending an average of two to three days a week in the office.

Asked about Mr Berry’s comments, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman defended the Civil Service but emphasised the importance of ‘working in person’.

He said: ‘The position of the Government remains that we want to see a steady return of the public to working in person, and that’s the expectation of the Civil Service, that’s what we’ve seen throughout the summer.’

He said civil servants ‘have been able to deliver for the public whilst working from home’, but added: ‘That said, as the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, there are significant benefits to being in work, to office working, and those should not be discounted. That’s why we are encouraging all employers to start steadily bringing in their workforce, as we are at this stage of the epidemic.’

Rishi Sunak vows to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at getting young people back into work after furlough as he unveils £500m help package

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled new £500million plan to help people find work
  • Mr Sunak said the Government is ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at helping people
  • Comes after the £70billion furlough scheme finally finished amid job loss fears
  • An estimated one million workers were still on furlough when the scheme ended 

by Jack Maidment, deputy political editor for MailOnline

Rishi Sunak today insisted the Government is ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at helping people get a new job as he unveiled a £500million package to support furloughed workers.

The Chancellor said he warned at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that ‘it wasn’t going to be possible for me or quite frankly any chancellor to save every single person’s job’.

He said the end of the £70billion furlough programme will result in some job losses.

But he said people should be ‘reassured’ that ministers are doing everything they can to help the unemployed back into work.

Furlough is credited with saving millions of jobs during the Covid-19 crisis but an estimated one million workers were still on the programme when it finally closed last week, sparking fears of a surge in unemployment.

In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, the Chancellor confirmed new funding to ‘prioritise’ job support for workers coming off furlough.

The £500million extension to the Government’s so-called ‘Plan for Jobs’ will also provide tailored packages for others hit by the pandemic, including the young and workers aged over 50.

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