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Government in disarray over National Insurance rises. Controversial budget tax rises will not go before MPs until the autumn. The prime minister has insisted that the rises are necessary and fair. Self-employed workers will see their National Insurance increased but more than a dozen Conservative MPs have criticised the £2bn hit. The move was announced in Wednesday’s budget and shadow chancellor Mr McDonnell has said that ‘The fact the prime minister won’t fully support her own chancellor’s budget measure and has been forced by Labour to retaliate just 24 hours after the speech was delivered, proves the level of disarray at the top of government.’ McDonnell boldly stated that Theresa May should show some leadership rather than her partial U-turn and scrap the tax rises for low and middle earners. May defended her plans saying that this move would ensure that the tax system was fair as it would narrow the gap between what the employed and self-employed paid. This change will leave lower-paid self-employed workers better off and will be accompanied by more rights and protections for self-employed workers all round. The National Insurance system will therefore be simpler, fairer and more progressive. (Source – BBC)

EU Brexit negotiator has said that Britons should be able to keep their freedom of movement. The European parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said that Britons should be able to choose to keep various benefits of EU membership and he hopes to convince European leaders to allow this if Britons so wished to apply for the benefits on an individual basis. Theresa May will be attending the final EU leader’s spring summit in Brussels today before she is expected to trigger article 50, which could come as soon as next week. Boris Johnson has urged the minister to reject EU demands for a ‘divorce bill’ estimated at up to £52 billion! The former Belgian prime minister said the European parliament was committed to ensuring that countries outside the EU did not have a better deal than member states and with this, also warned that the European parliament will have veto powers and could reject any deal brokered between the UK and European commission. (Source – The Guardian)

England’s NHS sees worst month on record for A&E waiting times. Our NHS is in crisis with new figures showing the extreme pressure the system is under. Just 85.1% of patients were seen within 4 hours in January 17, the worst month on record. The latest figure for NHS is down to 86.2% of patients in December which was also a record low at the time, and it is the worst performance since monthly reporting began back in 2010. The target of 95% for emergency departments has not been met since July 2015. In total there were 492, 231 emergency admissions in January 2017 which was an increase of 1.5% compared to January last year; a rise of 3.3%. A total of 73,342 patients were not seen within the four-hour target. More than a 1,000 people waited over 12 hours to be admitted to A&E departments in January. Referred to as ‘trolley waits’ patients are placed in a side room or on a trolley whilst waiting for an available bed, these too are at a record high, with the equivalent figure for January 2016 at just 158. Figures for ambulance response times – red calls, the most serious – were below standard and showed only 66.7% arrived within eight minutes – the target is 75%. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that he expected the NHS to make ‘tangible processes towards meeting the 95% target in the next financial year, however it’s not going to be overnight... (Source –Sky News) 

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