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UK politics live: Rishi Sunak freezes public sector pay except for NHS and cuts overseas aid

25 November 2020 | Finance

Nicola Sturgeon has hinted at ongoing concerns around the four nations’ Christmas relaxation as she stressed repeatedly that allowing up to three households to come together over five days marks the “outer limits” of what people should be doing together and that her “default advice” was for people to stay at home in their own households.

Describing yesterday’s decision, reached at a Cobra meeting between the UK government and devolved administrations, as “not an easy one”, Sturgeon told her daily briefing that she was “very keen to have the definition of household determined nation by nation” in particularly because of concerns with what she believed to be the English plan to allow bubbles of two households to come together with a potential total of six. “I think that would be going too far and it wouldn’t be something I’d be comfortable with in Scotland,” she said.

She said Scottish government guidance on the four nations plan would be published tomorrow, and that one consideration would be whether to allow extended households to count as one or two households for Christmas purposes. She warned Scots to expect that “the guidance will be looking to tighten rather than expand”.

She stressed that she was “not positively encouraging people to meet”. She said:

If you can get through this Christmas staying within your own home within your own household please do so.

Care home providers said Sunak had left a “black hole” in social care budgets with announcements of what he said was £2bn in additional funding.

MPs, peers and the care sector have argued that even before the Covid crisis the government needed to increase spending on adult social care by £7bn to £8bn per year. Councils have estimated that Covid has added a further £6.6bn in costs in just six months with costs soaring and occupancy falling. More than 18,000 people died from Covid in care homes.

Sunak’s offer falls well short of filling the voids, the care industry said. Sunak announced £300m in new central government grant, plus powers for councils to levy a 3% council tax precept to fund social care. Sunak said that adds up to £1bn in new money, but the Kings Fund thinktank said the precept does not guarantee money is raised where needed.

Sunak also announced a continuation of £1bn announced in 2019 for both adult and childrens care, around half of which typically goes to adult care.

Care England which represents the large commercial care providers said the pledges left “a black hole. Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit providers said there was “a massive gap”.

This post has originally been featured in Guardian.