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Grenfell insulation was sold at almost 50% discount, inquiry hears

(C) Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Anselm Ebulue/Getty Images

Grenfell Tower may have been used as "a guinea pig" for a newly branded insulation material that burned and released toxic gas, contributing to the deaths of 72 people, the inquiry into the disaster has heard. Foam boards used to insulate the west London council block were sold at an almost 50% discount by their manufacturer, Celotex, to contractors who were asked for help making the refurbishment a "case study" for the firm, the public inquiry was told. The synthetic foam - Celotex RS5000 - was not in the original architects' specification for the tower and the project manager for Harley, the cladding contractor, admitted on Monday that he did not check it complied with building regulations to prevent fires spreading through the external walls of tall buildings.

A salesman for Celotex had pushed the idea of using Grenfell Tower as a case study for using polyisocyanurate foam on tall buildings. Ben Bailey, the project manager on Grenfell for Harley, said the only assessment of its performance that he saw was of its thermal insulation, not its fire performance. Bailey was put in charge of the cladding contract aged 25, despite having no experience overseeing a project as project manager from start to finish.

He is the son of the owner of Harley, Ray Bailey, and told the inquiry on Monday that he had received no training or qualifications in fire safety in construction of buildings, in building regulations or industry codes of practice for design and installation of cladding and windows. The Celotex insulation was fitted behind aluminium composite panels, also combustible, with a polyetheleyne core. Together with failures in the installation, the materials fuelled the deadliest fire in the UK since the second world war.

It has since been withdrawn from sale. Bailey, now 30, said Harley had been offered a 47.5% discount on the foam, which the counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett QC, described as "hefty". Bailey said it was not unusual on large orders.

Asked if the reason for using the material was its price, Bailey replied: "I don't believe that was the case." The inquiry saw a document that showed that in April 2015, Celotex had discussed with Bailey the opportunity to use the Grenfell project as "a case study" for their new material aimed at the high-rise market: RS5000. "I don't remember that meeting or that being discussed particularly," said Bailey, but he said it was on later occasions.

"Did you get the impression that Grenfell Tower was, as it were, a guinea pig for the installation of RS5000?" asked Millett. "That's not a thought that crossed my mind," he said. But he added: "There was correspondence later in the year about a case study."

Celotex RS5000 was introduced to the market just as Harley was starting to source materials for Grenfell. It differed from the material on the architect's specification. Harley had a contractual obligation to Rydon, the main contractor, to only change materials with its consent, but Bailey said he didn't know this.

Neither did he look at a contractual document that said Harley was responsible for making sure the cladding met the demands of official guidance on the fire performance of external walls. It also said Harley had to comply with all building regulations and a national standard for walls with vertical rainscreens, and stated: "The system shall not be a fire risk at any stage of installation, nor shall it constitute a fire hazard after completion if for any reason the insulant becomes exposed." "I wasn't aware of that document at the time," Bailey said.

Bailey was also unaware that product literature for RS 5000 stated that its classification for safe use on buildings over 18m only applied to the system as tested and detailed in the classification report, which did not test it with combustible, plasti-filled aluminium panels "That's not something I was aware of," Bailey said. He said had no training in understanding building regulations or in keeping up-to-date with industry codes of practice for the design and installation of cladding and windows.

He said it was never his role to be considering the fire performance of the materials.

The inquiry continues.

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Boots hacks to boost your points and get discount codes and beauty products for free

Boots is a high street favourite for many shoppers across Greater Manchester. And with everything from pharmacy necessities to healthcare and cosmetics - it's a go-to spot for many city centre shopping sprees. Especially on the run up to Christmas, the store has made a name for itself with its three for two offers, tempting gift box deals and sell-out advent calendars that can save you a ton of money.

And there are plenty of other ways to save as we approach the Christmas season too. Opting in to email marketing, downloading the app and Googling before you shop could all help you save a fortune. And, when it comes to points, there's a way to use them to save money instantly, instead of having to wait until the next time you're in store.

Here's our round-up of Boots tips and tricks that you can use the next time you shop in store or online.

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Get an instant 300 points on your loyalty card - that's enough to get a Barry M or Rimmel nail varnish for free

When it comes to saving as you shop, signing up to a store's loyalty scheme is always the first step you should take. At Boots, each loyalty point is worth 1p, so every 100 points you earn is GBP1 to spend in store or online. If you join Boots' loyalty programme by becoming a Boots Advantage Card holder, you can get four points for every GBP1 you spend (so you get 4p back on every GBP1 spent, whereas many retailer's loyalty schemes only offer 1p back).

Once you create your account, download the Boots app and your account will be topped up with 200 points (worth GBP2) instantly. Then collect a further 100 points (an extra GBP1) when you give your email for the latest health and beauty news and advice. Click here to sign up for a free Boots Advantage Card

Boots points checkout hack: Split transactions to tactically gain and spend Boots Advantage Card loyalty points instantly

When you get to the self-checkouts, see how many points you have on your card.

If you only need a few more points to pay for one of the cheaper items in your basket it might be more beneficial to split transactions instead of saving the points for your next shopping trip. Put the item (or items) you want to pay for with your points to the side. Scan and pay for the remaining products to accumulate more points.

Then pay for the item or items you've put aside using your points card.

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Save GBP127.50 on beauty by buying an advent calendar - and have the chance of winning GBP1000 too

Last year moneysavingexpert.co.uk revealed that you could get your hands on GBP174 of No7 cosmetics for GBP42 by buying the No7 advent calendar - it sold out in two days! This year's No7 advent calendar costs GBP45 but products included are worth GBP172.50-  saving you GBP127.50. Shoppers are also being asked to look out for one of ten golden tickets hidden inside select calendars for a chance to win GBP1000 worth of No7 goodies.

Click here to add your name onto the Boots' No7 beauty advent calendar waiting list

Use all your Boots Advantage Loyalty Card points at Christmas

Instead of using your points to get money off through out the year, commit to not spending a point until December. You could make killer savings during the Christmas season. And if you can hold off from spending them for even longer, wait until Boxing Day so you can get more for your points by spending them on discounted items.

Starting in January will help you to accumulate a year's worth of points - but it's not too late to start now so you'll have some set aside for Christmas.

Use vouchercodes to quickly view Boots' current deals - here's the current list for September

It can be overwhelming to take in each offer when you visit an retailer's website for a browse. So before you visit, head to vouchercodes.com to see a list of current offers to have a more organised shopping trip. Sometimes vouchercodes.com just shows you the deals (no extra details required) and other times you can click to to reveal a code.

Here's what's been identified for the month of September:

  • Up to 50% off Selected Fragrances at Boots - Including Dior, YSL and More
  • Up to 50% off Selected Haircare at Boots
  • 3 for 2 on Selected Cosmetics at Boots
  • GBP10 off Livi Online Consultation Bookings at Boots (Code: BOOTS10)
  • Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price on Selected Beauty Accessories at Boots
  • Up to 1/3 off Selected Baby Skincare at Boots
  • Free Gift with Selected e.l.f. Cosmetics Orders Over GBP10 at Boots
  • 2 for 1 on Selected Hand Hygiene Lines at Boots
  • Free 25ml No7 Line Correcting Booster Serum with Selected No7 Orders Over GBP50 at Boots

Get your hands on 'beauty freebies'

If you're a beauty fan, you might want to sign up to become a member of the Boots X tribe. Once you opt in to marketing, you'll be able to receive Boots' 'beauty freebies'.

You'll also get sent exclusive offers, beauty tips and more.

Click here to join the Boots X tribe.

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Restaurant discount scheme drives sharp fall in UK inflation

The UK government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August has contributed to the lowest Consumer Prices Index inflation rate achieved since December 2015.

According to a report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) 12-month rate was 0.2% last month, down from 1% in July. The report noted how reduced prices in restaurants and cafes, as a result of the scheme, led to the largest downward contribution (-0.44%) to the change in the CPI inflation rate. The reduction in VAT on the hospitality sector (from 20% to 5%) was also said to have contributed to the price cuts.

Prices for catering services fell by 5.7% between July and August this year, compared with a rise of 0.2% in the same two months last year. The ONS said the hotel and restaurant sectors recorded a combined -2.8% 12-month inflation rate in August, the first time the industries have returned a negative rate since 1989. Last month, the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme offered diners a 50% discount on their food and non-alcoholic drinks on Mondays through to Wednesdays, with a cap on reductions of GBP10 per head.

The latest figures show that over 100 million meals were claimed as part of the scheme, with the 84,700 establishments signed up making 130,000 claims worth GBP522 million.

OpenTable data shows that restaurant bookings rote by 53% on average on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays last month, compared to the same period last year.

Deputy national statistician at the ONS, Jonathan Athow, said: "The cost of dining out fell significantly in August thanks to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and VAT cut, leading to one of the largest falls in the annual inflation rate in recent years."

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How to get Marks & Spencer discount codes, free Percy Pigs and 70pc off in stores and online

Marks & Spencer is definitely one of the UK's priciest supermarkets. And though you probably don't do your 'big shop' at M&S, we all find ourselves in there every now and then to pick up a few treats. From its ever so popular 'dine in for two' offers, tempting lunchtime options, freshly baked goods and Percy Pigs - we all have our go-to favourites.

But shopping at M&S doesn't have to break the bank. Whether you're looking for ways to cut down the price of a food shop, want discounts on clothes, beauty and homeware or could do with a cheeky ?5 off flowers - there are plenty of ways to get more of what you love to buy for less. Here's a round up of some of the top money-saving M&S tips and tricks you need to know before your next shop.

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Learn M&S yellow sticker discount times

In all supermarkets, at certain points in the day, a shop worker will do the rounds with a pricing gun to mark discounted items.

And if you're in store at the right time - you could make big savings on these yellow sticker discounts. But the trick is to know when these rounds are taking place - which can prove difficult as times can change day by day and from store to store. But according to moneysavingexpert.com, M&S Food shoppers noticed final reductions 30 minutes to an hour before closing time.

So keep your eyes peeled if you in a store after 7pm.

Get FREE Percy Pigs, M&S Apothecary products and freshly baked croissants

Signing up for a Sparks card comes with plenty of benefits. Highlights include rewards and treats such as complimentary Percy Pigs, Apothecary products and freshly baked croissants as a thank you from M&S for shopping in store. You can also get access to faster checkout experiences and digital receipts.

Click here to sign up for a Sparks card for free

Get 10pc off homeware, beauty and clothing and ?5 food and flowers

With your Sparks card you'll also get access to personalised limited time offers based on the things you love to buy. Current offers for new cardholders include 10pc off clothing, homeware and beauty products and ?5 off when you spend ?40 on food and flowers. Offers for Sparks members change and are only available for a limited amount of time.

You could also get ?2 off when you spend ?15 on plants and 30p off iced tea and coffee in the M&S Cafe.

Percy Pig jelly sweets from Marks & Spencer

Check vouchercodes.co.uk before you make a payment

Never buy full priced items unless you have to. If you spend a few minutes Googling for discount and voucher codes before you shop you could slash your total amount at the checkout. Sites including vouchercodes.co.uk will list the most recent M&S discount codes for you and tell you when they were last used by a customer.

Active deals that were recently used include 'Up to 30% off with Deals of the Week at Marks & Spencer - Including Fashion, Beauty, Home and More'.

Get ?5 off flowers orders with this code

On vouchercodes.co.uk - as well as the website identifying current M&S deals on offer - you might also be provided with a discount code. According to the website, you can currently get ?5 off M&S flowers orders over ?35 until September 30 with the code SEPT20.

Get up to 70pc off in-store

Manchester is home to two Marks & Spencer Outlet stores - one at Quayside MediaCityUK (formerly known as The Lowry Shopping Centre) and another at Urban Exchange, Great Ancoats Street in the city centre. If you're looking for clothes, homeware products or gifts for Christmas but don't want to spend a fortune - have a good dig around an outlet store and see what bargains you can find.

Get up to 70pc off online

You can also get up to 70pc online by visiting the offers section of the M&S website.

Special offers include up to 70pc off women's, men's lingerie, kids' and homeware.

Other offers on the section of the website include 2 for ?25 cardigans, 25pc off formal shirts, 2 for ?20 on selected knitted shops, 30pc off selected shapewear, 2 for ?18 on bras.

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UK pumps £22m into rural broadband voucher scheme

A quarter of a million rural homes and businesses are eligible for a GBP22m voucher scheme to bring gigabit broadband to people currently suffering from slow speeds. The Government hopes the funding will "revolutionise" rural communities and make them more attractive places to live as well as ensure that people will be able to rely on the internet to communicate with work. Gigabit-capable broadband enables internet download speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second, which is enough to download an HD movie in less than 30 seconds and lay the foundations for 8K-quality video streaming and virtual-reality online gaming.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman has said businesses and communities should apply for the new voucher scheme to "future-proof" their internet connections. The scheme is specifically designed to attract construction of new infrastructure in areas that are too isolated for it to be a commercially viable proposition. Warman said: "This government is determined to connect every home and business to the fastest broadband speeds available from the Highlands to the Jurassic Coast.

"But we can only do this with collaboration at a local and national level so I'm delighted English councils have committed to pump more money into our voucher scheme to help rural communities get gigabit speed broadband. "A quarter of all properties across the UK can now access these fast and reliable speeds, and we have earmarked a further GBP5bn so rural towns and villages across the four nations can get the speeds they need to seize all the benefits of new technology." Improving the nation's connectivity speeds was a key election pledge from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who wants to bring gigabit-speed broadband to the whole of the UK in the next five years.

Since the General Election a number of new policies have been implemented, such as mandatory gigabit infrastructure for new builds, giving sewer access to utility firms to run their cables through and granting Ofcom new powers to share operators' broadband plans with the Government.

But despite the measures, MPs warned last year that the Government's plans do not "grasp the extent" of the digital divide between urban and rural areas.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

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UK govt welcomes council top-up funding for rural broadband voucher scheme

The UK Government has welcomed extra funding of more than GBP 22 million to the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme for rural areas.

This will enable 250,000 homes and businesses across England to access gigabit broadband funding from 17 councils.

The top-up council funding is available for households and SMBs from 17 local councils including Borderlands, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, County Durham, Dorset, Derbyshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, Hampshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Sussex and Worcestershire. 

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Stock market crash: I’d buy these 2 UK shares for my ISA as the economy sinks

These are challenging times for UK share investors. The outbreak of Covid-19 has played havoc with corporate profits and dividends have fallen like dominoes. The threat of an extended downturn for the British economy is very real and stock pickers need to take extreme care to protect themselves.

The worst decision share investors can make though, is to stop buying stocks altogether. There are masses of top-quality UK shares that remain too cheap to miss following the 2020 stock market crash. Buying these oversold beauties today gives you and I the opportunity to get richer in the years ahead as economic conditions improve, market confidence comes flooding back and share prices rocket.  

The letters ISA (Individual Savings Account) on dice on stacks of gold coins on a white background.

Buying UK shares after the crash

There are plenty of sound strategies UK share investors follow to protect our wealth to navigate the tough economic landscape. We can buy stocks where profits remain broadly unaffected by economic downturns (like utilities, food producers and healthcare providers). Stacking up on counter-cyclical stocks -- such as UK shares whose profits rise during tough times -- is another sound idea.

These can include discount retailers and providers of legal services. Buying UK shares with strong competitive advantages (otherwise known as 'economic moats') is another good idea. Qualities like lower cost bases, cutting-edge products and strong brand power can help profits to grow while rival companies struggle.

It's also a good idea to buy shares that trade on low price-to-earnings (P/E) multiples. This offers a wide margin of error to investors.

2 of the best

I myself have continued to buy UK shares for my own Stocks and Shares ISA despite the uncertain economic environment. So unsurprisingly I think you should, too!

Here are a couple of low-risk shares I think investors should buy today.

  • Diageo has a number of tricks up its sleeve. It has significant competitive advantages thanks to products like Captain Morgan rum and Smirnoff. Goods like these are better than Diageo's competitors can offer. They also boast formidable brand power.

    This FTSE 100 stock has a broad geographic footprint to protect it from tough conditions in one or two markets. Finally, Diageo can be considered a classic counter-cyclical stock: history shows us that alcohol sales always rocket during recessions.

  • Publishers like Bloomsbury Publishing are also great UK shares for risk-averse investors. Reading's one of the most cost-effective ways that we can entertain ourselves and book sales remain largely unaffected by difficult economic conditions.

    Indeed, book sales rose at their fastest pace on record during the first week of September, trade magazine The Bookseller said. And Bloomsbury has one big advantage over the competition: it owns the evergreen Harry Potter franchise, a cash cow that's as popular today as ever.

Get rich with The Motley Fool

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But its capital-light, highly scalable business model has previously helped it deliver consistently high sales, astounding near-70% margins, and rising shareholder returns ... in fact, in 2019 it returned a whopping GBP150m+ to shareholders in dividends and buybacks! And here's the really exciting part... While COVID-19 may have thrown the company a curveball, management have acted swiftly to ensure this business is as well placed as it can be to ride out the current period of uncertainty... in fact, our analyst believes it should come roaring back to life, just as soon as normal economic activity resumes.

That's why we think now could be the perfect time for you to start building your own stake in this exceptional business - especially given the shares look to be trading on a fairly undemanding valuation for the year to March 2021.

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Royston Wild owns shares of Diageo. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Bloomsbury Publishing and Diageo. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro.

Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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Passengers furious at airlines' voucher policies in Covid crisis

(C) Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Johannes Christo/Reuters

In the first flush of the pandemic, millions of British travellers tried to be reasonable. With holiday hopes dashed and airlines and travel companies facing ruin, they agreed to accept vouchers instead of refunds. But now a great many say their benevolence has backfired as they are confronted with a nightmare maze of unexpected charges and hurdles when they try to use them to book new breaks.

Some of those who are trying to rebook breaks are being charged unexpected extras or being hit with complex rules that make it difficult to redeem those vouchers. Restrictions on what they can be used for hinder like-for-like replacement of the original holiday. Many are particularly aggrieved because they were denied any choice by their provider, even though consumer regulations entitle them to claim a full refund.

(C) Photograph: Johannes Christo/Reuters Thousands of flights have been cancelled during the coronavirus crisis - but most passengers were given vouchers rather than refunds.

Martyn James from the consumer complaints website Resolver, said: "It's outrageous that people who chose to help airlines by taking vouchers are now being told they can't redeem them for cash if they can't or aren't able to use them."

He said: "There's a real sense of anger about the behavior of certain airlines, given the problems with customer service and ignoring of refund rules that took place when lockdown began. If the industry wants to tempt us back on the planes, it needs to play fair." British Airways was among a number of airlines to remove the refund option from its website in March, persuading passengers they needed to apply for vouchers instead.

Initially, these could not be redeemed online and passengers were directed to a phone line which frequently cut out owing to demand. The airline later began to issue online vouchers and now allows customers to convert up to three vouchers into one mega voucher. This can be redeemed via the website, but only after applicants have phoned the busy helpline to acquire it.

However, none of its vouchers are valid for extras such as reserved seating or checked-in baggage. They can't be transferred to other passengers and can't be used to pay the balance of previously booked trips.

(C) Provided by The Guardian British Airways website refused to accept a passenger's voucher code when she attempted to book replacement flights. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters

One BA customer writing on the MoneySavingExpert website told how she had spent almost two hours on the company's site and phone line trying to rebook a cancelled break. She said she had almost GBP100 left after redeeming her voucher, but had to pay GBP40 separately to reserve seats on her new flight, while the outstanding balance was put on a new voucher.

Another BA customer, Christine Grieve, said the website had refused to accept her voucher code when she attempted to book replacement flights. She was directed to call a number which was never answered and eventually footed the bill herself. BA sent her a new voucher that can be used online after the Guardian got in touch, but said it could not be applied retrospectively and would have to be used for a future booking.

(C) Provided by The Guardian EasyJet removed the refund option from its website. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

EasyJet also removed the refund option from its website and insists consumers redeem vouchers through the same channel used to request them.

This means vouchers requested over the phone can only be redeemed by phone and only one voucher can be used for each booking. One customer, Peter Bunbury, was assured that the process was "hassle-free" when he accepted a voucher in lieu of a refund. "Now I find that I have to phone customer services to arrange the flights and have wasted an hour trying in vain to get through," he said. Another, Georgia Beattie, struggled to use her voucher on the easyJet website and saw the price of the flight double to GBP120.

She spent four hours trying to get through to customer services and eventually paid the fare herself. She has since been unable to get her voucher refunded. On its website BA has a long section on the ins and outs of redeeming the vouchers, including details of what they can and cannot be used for.

It explains that some of the vouchers need to be used by phone, and warns customers: "Call volumes are extremely high at the moment due to the unprecedented circumstances so please bear with us if it takes some time for us to help with your booking." Customers who booked through travel agents have also faced problems. Clare Morris tried to use a voucher worth GBP448 to buy tickets through the online agent Mytrip.com after flights with the Polish carrier Lot were cancelled.

(C) Provided by The Guardian Some airlines refused to allow check-in baggage to be paid by voucher. Photograph: Richard Baker/Alamy

She found flights costing GBP311 and tried to rebook, but she was told she was not able to buy them with her voucher.

After calling the agency she was quoted GBP636 for tickets. "I'd been informed that a voucher was my only option," she said. "The flights I want to book cost GBP137 less than the original fare and whenever I question the supplement the call centre agents hang up on me." The terms and conditions of her voucher state that it must be redeemed within three months for flights departing by the end of the year and that it cannot be used to pay for ancillary products such as reserved seats and checked-in baggage

Mytrip told the Guardian that, under the airline's rules, vouchers could only be used in the same booking class as they were originally bought for or in a higher booking class. "As such, when the customer found lower priced tickets, in a lower booking class, for the same trip, we were unable to honour these," it said. "Travel agencies like ourselves are obliged to follow the airlines' fare rules according to the contract."

It said its agent had made a mistake in refusing a refund. Morris disputed that the flights were in a lower class, but has now been repaid the original fare. Another holidaymaker, Stephen Colgan was told by his travel agent, Voliamo, that he would have to accept a voucher when his flights to the US were cancelled in April.

His Voliamo account was credited with GBP1,811 which he recently tried to use to make a new booking. However, when he tried to buy tickets he was told he would have to pay an additional GBP466, even though the new fares were cheaper than the original fare. Voliamo did not respond to a request for a comment.

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) customers are entitled to exchange a voucher for a refund if it does not cover the cost of a new reservation. "If customers have booked through a third-party agent, the agent may choose to charge a fee on top of the original fare, but this should be made clear at the time of booking," said the Abta spokesman Sean Tipton said. "Agents should not make additional charges on top of the new airfare when customers use a voucher to book a replacement flight with their original airline.

Customers always have the right to go direct to the airline for a refund, even if booked through a third party."

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UK government to offer discount to revive cinema

The UK government is planning to introduce a so-called "Seat Out to Help Out" scheme to help theatres and other entertainment venues reopen after an extended period of coronavirus lockdown since earlier this year.  According to The Sunday Times, the scheme will be modelled on UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak's successful "Eat Out to Help Out" restaurant discount offering as a means to boost the coronavirus-hit hospitality sector.  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culture secretary Oliver Dowden are said to be keen on the idea and have directed officials to work out a speedy strategy. 

"There have been meetings this week. Direction has been given at a very senior level to work at extreme pace on this. The PM is keen on making rapid progress," a government official told the newspaper. 

"Rapid testing is seen as the thing that can unlock the issue of getting audiences back," the official added. As part of the entertainment sector equivalent of the dining out scheme, discounted tickets of around GBP10 (Rs 973) each alongside a meal discount before or after shows in a tie-up between theatres and nearby restaurants is being considered. "It could be tickets for a tenner on a Monday, with a link to local restaurants," the newspaper quoted a government source as saying. 

Plans for the new scheme follow Sunak's just-concluded "Eat Out to Help Out" concept, which offered half-price food and non-alcoholic drinks up to a limit of GBP10 per person on Mondays to Wednesdays throughout August. Under the UK government's roadmap for a phased lifting of lockdown restrictions to keep a handle on the spread of the coronavirus, November 1 is the first date at which social distancing might be lifted considerably for such venues.  However, under plans being drafted, it is hoped that some large venues may be able to reopen sooner.

In meetings last week, it has been agreed that theatres and sports venues will become key beneficiaries of the government's Operation Moonshot programme, which aims to test up to 4 million people a day for the coronavirus using new saliva tests that give results in minutes.  Proposals being worked on would see those with tickets for plays and football matches tested in advance and then chased up a few days after the event. Rules, which require social distancing and the wearing of masks at cultural venues mean theatres can operate at only 25 per cent capacity. 

Ministers have been told that to be financially viable that figure needs to be between 70 per cent and 80 per cent.

Large sports venues need to be 60 per cent full.

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Warning over £1,000 fake Asda voucher scam

Shoppers are being warned not to fall for a scam involving fake GBP1,000 Asda vouchers after around 100 reports to police. Emails are circulating offering people huge prizes in return for filling in a form online. A spokesman for Action Fraud said: "We have received over 97 reports about these FAKE Asda emails offering the chance to win a GBP1,000 gift card.

"If you have been sent an email which you're not quite sure about, forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS): [email protected] " It's not the first time this summer Asda customers have been targeted, with fake Facebook competitions as well as Whatsapp messages all promising shoppers rewards, reports The Mirror.

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Cyber expert Andy Heather, from anti-fraud website Centrify, said: "With the majority of people still working from home or on furlough due to the Covid-19 crisis, we're seeing a sharp rise in online scams offering everything from gift cards to discounts on everyday essentials. "Failure to identify and avoid these scams could cause a serious security headache for consumers, especially if they are using company-owned laptops and mobile devices and inadvertently putting their employer at risk of fraud.

"All it takes is for a hacker to get hold of a username and password and within minutes they will be able to access email accounts and impersonate workers in an effort to commit widespread fraud, so it's vital companies invest in the latest cyber security systems to ensure fraudsters are locked out of the business at all times."

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF FRAUD OR CYBER CRIME

  1. Be wary of clicking on unsolicited messages on social media, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact.

  2. Do some online research first - check the official supermarket website to see if there are any genuine offers available.

  3. Ensure that you have anti-virus software on your computer

  4. Never give out personal or financial data including usernames, passwords, PINs, ID numbers or memorable phrases.