INDEPENDENT 2024-03-05 22:34:56


Double decker bus smashes into pub near Oxford Street

A double-decker bus dramatically smashed through a building next to a pub near London’s Oxford Street on Tuesday morning.

Emergency services were called after the yellow bus, thought to be the number 8, crashed into the shop front next door to All Bar One in New Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road Tube station, shortly after 10am.

Two people were treated by paramedics at the scene, with one taken to hospital.

Police initially said the bus hit a pub, but the London Ambulance Service later clarified that it hit a shop front beside the All Bar One.

Images shared on social media show the vehicle lodged into the front of the stone building with shattered glass on the floor around it.

It’s not clear yet if the neighbouring All Bar One was open at the time of the incident, but according to its operating hours on Google, it opened at 10am.

Have you been impacted by the bus crash? Email alexander.ross@independent.co.uk

One person told the Daily Telegraph the crash sounded “like a bomb”. The woman called 999 and said a group of builders helped pull the driver out of one of the windows on the bus.

She said: “I heard a loud crash and everyone ran out to see what happened. It felt like a bomb. We looked outside and saw the bus had crashed into the shop next door.”

London Ambulance Service sent an ambulance crew and an incident response officer to the scene of the crash. A spokesperson said: “We treated two people. We took one patient to hospital and discharged the other at the scene.”

London Fire Brigade responded with two fire engines and two fire and rescue units from Soho, Euston and Battersea fire stations.

A spokesperson said: “Firefighters are at the scene of a road traffic collision on New Oxford Street in Soho.

“One double decker bus collided into the front of a building. One man left the bus before the Brigade’s arrival and is being assessed on scene by London Ambulance Service crews.

“There are currently no further reports of injuries. Road closures are in place and people are advised to avoid the area at this time.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “We were called at 10.16am on Tuesday, 5 March to reports that a bus had collided with a pub in New Oxford Street, WC1.

New Oxford Street, which links to Oxford Street, was closed as the bus was removed from the front of the building.

Transport for London said there were no passengers onboard the Stagecoach London-operated bus at the time of the incident.

Tory MP calls for ‘all wild animals’ to be culled

A Conservative MP has called for all wild animals to be culled.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) dismissed calls by animal rights activists and conservation groups to end the badger cull and instead suggested more animals, such as deer and foxes, should also be culled.

Mr Drax had earlier raised the case of “a beaver being released illegally… in west Dorset”.

According to the Badger Trust, more than 210,000 badgers have been killed since the cull began in England in 2013 in an effort to tackle bovine tuberculosis (TB).

Mr Drax said TB was a “major problem” in the South West, telling a Commons debate on farming: “Culling has proved to work, and can I suggest that rather than talking about stopping culling on badgers and to introduce some other form, that all wild animals have to be culled.

“Because if they don’t their health deteriorates. They don’t have any predators in today’s world. Foxes, deer, badgers. We don’t want to wipe them out, we just simply want them controlled.

“This is just pure common sense.”

He said: “There is no sense, in our view, in reintroducing beavers into small chalk streams, or any other form of stream in Dorset. Beavers dam rivers, they would then be protected no doubt by every organisation that would want it protected, farmland then floods.

“Beavers don’t hang around and say ‘this is my home’, as has been proved in Scotland – they breed and move elsewhere and do the same in other rivers. And, as I understand it, in Scotland they’ve had to be culled because they’ve broken out of the area that was initially given to them.

“Can the Government please look at not only the illegal releasing of beavers into rivers – if indeed this is the case and that hasn’t been proven as yet – but certainly to the legal release and this emphasis on rewilding which, while we all want to see wild animals, there is a proper place and location for each of the various species.”

It comes as beavers are to make a comeback in London for the first time since they were hunted to extinction 400 years ago.

The beavers will be released in Ealing’s Paradise Fields, an eight-hectare site of woodland and wetlands minutes from Greenford Tube station.

At least one male and one female beaver will be released as part of the project, which is designed to protect against urban flooding and create diverse wetland habitats.

The project will mark the first time beavers have been introduced to an urban area in the UK.

Warning of long delays during daytime closure of UK’s busiest motorway

Drivers are being warned of long delays during the first daytime closure of a stretch of the UK’s busiest motorway.

National Highways urged motorists to “only travel if necessary” when it shuts the M25 in both directions between junctions 10 and 11 in Surrey as part of a £317 million improvement project.

The five-mile stretch of carriageway will be closed from 9pm on Friday March 15 until 6am on Monday March 18.

More than 200,000 vehicles are expected to be affected, including many travelling in and out of London, and to and from Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and Channel ports.

Between junctions 9 and 11 the M25 normally carries between 4,000 and 6,000 vehicles in each direction per hour from 10am until 9pm at weekends.

This is the first scheduled daytime all-lanes shutdown on the M25 since it opened in 1986, National Highways said.

The Government-owned company said the action is necessary to enable a bridge to be demolished and a new gantry to be installed.

Four more closures will take place up to September.

No dates have been released for when they will happen, but the next is expected to take place in April.

The project will increase the number of lanes and make it easier to enter and exit the M25 at junction 10, which is one of the UK’s busiest and most dangerous motorway junctions.

National Highways project lead Jonathan Wade said: “Drivers should only use the M25 if their journey is absolutely necessary.

“This is the first of five full closures of one of the busiest junctions on our road network.

“We have spent months planning for these closures and making sure there are diversion routes in place, but there will still be heavy congestion and delays.

“These improvements will bring long-term benefits to drivers who pass through this stretch of the M25, not to mention pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders who will also see positive changes in the area.”

Heartbreaking tributes as girl, 10, found dead is named by police

Neighbours of a 10-year-old girl whose death is being treated as murder have paid tribute to her and placed flowers and toys near her home.

The schoolgirl, who has been named by police as Shay Kang, was pronounced dead at the scene after emergency services were called to a terraced house on the Brickhouse estate in Rowley Regis, West Midlands, on Monday.

A 33-year-old woman, understood by police to be known to the girl, was arrested and taken into custody for questioning on suspicion of murder.

Flowers, notes, cards and toys have been placed at the entrance to Robin Close, where the girl was found “with injuries” at about 12.10pm.

One card read, “You will be soo missed by everyone, rest easy princess,” while another said, “Shay you will be forever missed and always in our thoughts.”

A neighbour of the child said she had seen ambulances at the scene on Monday.

The female resident, who asked not to be named, also said she had not seen Shay for a long period, but other neighbours had reported seeing her playing in the street with other children at the weekend.

“You just don’t think anything like this is going to happen on your doorstep.

“It’s just absolutely heartbreaking what has happened.”

Neighbours said the youngster lived at the address with her mother and was often seen playing in the road with other local children.

“She was a happy little girl,” another local resident said. “She used to play with other children on a mattress or a settee. It’s absolutely awful news that she has died.”

The girl is believed to have attended Brickhouse Primary School and lived with her mother, according to the Mirror.

A mum, whose children went to Brickhouse with Shay, told the Mirror: “No one knew what to say to our kids as we didn’t know if they were having an assembly or a talk about it at school, just this message. And we sent them in today as normal. The teachers were visibly upset.”

Another local told the paper she had seen the little girl out playing last week but other neighbours had reportedly not seen her in weeks.

Detective Inspector Dan Jarratt, leading the investigation, said: “A young girl has tragically lost her life and our thoughts are with her loved ones and all those impacted by this terrible passing. We are working hard to establish what happened and our investigation has made good progress.

“The community has understandably been left shocked by what’s happened, and we’ll continue to have a police presence and offer our support in the area over the coming days.”

In an update posted on X on Tuesday, West Midlands Police said: “The woman remains in custody today while our inquiries continue.

“We remain at the scene, and anyone with information has been asked to get in touch via 101 or Live Chat.”

Ministers deny May election but face calls to explain cancelled summit

A minister has been forced to deny plans for a May election as the government faced calls to explain why a top diplomat was kept ‘in the dark’ over the cancellation of a major summit in April.

Rishi Sunak had been due to host political and business leaders from 25 different African countries at the gathering in London.

But it will not now be held at the end of April, a decision taken so abruptly the event’s official envoy was already on his way to visit the continent when he found out, ministers have admitted.

The revelation will add to growing speculation over an early poll.

Mr Sunak has previously said he wants to hold it in the second half of the year.

And asked on Monday if there was a “sniff” of a chance of a May general election, trade minister Mr Hands told Times Radio: “No.”

He was questioned over mounting speculation the PM could call a snap poll to coincide with local elections at the start of May, just weeks after the postponed Africa investment summit was due to have taken place.

In answer to questions from shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry, ministers have now admitted the envoy, former British ambassador to Ethiopia, Dr Alastair McPhail, was only informed the summit had been delayed while “en route” to Rwanda to discuss it.

They blamed “scheduling issues in the international calendar” for its postponement.

But Labour has accused them of showing “blatant disrespect” to allies and called for an explanation.

The party says it is prepping for a May election amid fears the Conservatives will try to use the element of surprise to avoid a thumping from voters.

Shadow minister for trade Gareth Thomas said: “Whether or not this summit was postponed with a May election in mind, there has been no proper explanation for the decision, and now we discover that even the official envoy for the event was left in the dark about it.”

He added: “But as bad as that is, the biggest issue is not how David Cameron has sidelined his own diplomats, it is how our trade partners throughout Africa have been treated.”

“Treating countries who should be our friends with such blatant disrespect is not the way to promote mutually beneficial business deals. “

In a parliamentary answer, minister Leo Docherty said the “Envoy was informed of the postponement of the Summit on 29 January shortly after the decision was taken, at which point he was already en route to Rwanda.”

He added that the decision had been taken “owing to scheduling issues in the international calendar”.

The total cost of three-day trip to promote the event was £4,714 visit, the government said.

The Foreign Office declined to comment. A No 10 source said the working assumption was still an autumn election.

The truth about the £100k gender pension gap

It can be easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to retirement, especially when it seems a long way off. But if you want to live comfortably when the time comes to stop working, planning ahead is vital. It’s even more important for women, who are on track to have significantly less money than men in later life.

Just as there’s a gender pay-gap, there’s also a discrepancy between how much income men and women have in retirement, too – and it’s even bigger. Research from Scottish Widows shows there is a massive 39% gender pension gap*. This gap grows wider over the course of an average woman’s working life – at 22, there is a £100 difference in pension savings between men and women. By 65, this has grown to a shocking £100,000 difference. For the average woman to level this out, she would have to pay an additional £96 every month over her working life.

Scottish Widows latest ‘Women and Retirement’ report shows that a third of women are not on track to achieve even a basic lifestyle in retirement, covering essential needs, with only a small amount left over for anything else. It means many women won’t have the money to live comfortably, let alone do the things they hope to in retirement, such as travel, socialise and pursue hobbies. The average woman is set to receive £12k per year of income in today’s money during retirement, after paying for any expected housing expenses, compared to £19k for the average man. This includes private pension, other long-term savings, inheritance and the state pension or pension credits.

This gender pension gap is largely driven by deep-seated structural issues. The gender pay/wage gap is a factor, as, naturally, when women earn less, they have less to save. Women are also more likely to work part-time and to take career breaks due to caring responsibilities and a lack of affordable childcare. “Childcare is a huge contributing factor for women, often resulting in them giving up work or reducing their working hours to look after their family,” says Jill Henderson, Scottish Widows’ Head of Business Development. “After women have children the gap between their pension and that of a typical man’s starts to widen. This is because women tend to take on the lion’s share of childcare and employment breaks or part time working – all of which are big drivers of the gender pension gap.” Research found 63% of mothers have either reduced the number of days they worked per week when returning from parental leave or have not yet returned, compared to just over 16% of men.

Some women bear the brunt more than others. “The inability to save has a devastating impact on women’s income and ability to thrive in later life,” says Henderson. “Those women who are in a relationship fare better, but those who are single, divorced or are single mothers are most vulnerable.”

Two-thirds of single women and 60% of divorced women aren’t on track for a minimum lifestyle in retirement, while for single mothers the figures are even starker, at 75%. Working part time, coupled with other financial pressures, makes it much more difficult for single mothers to save for retirement. To make things even more difficult, gaps in work for raising children can also affect eligibility for the state pension. It means that single mothers are almost twice as likely to live in poverty in retirement than the average UK woman.

The overall picture is worrying, but there is some room for optimism. Auto enrolment – where an employer must automatically enrol eligible employees into their pension programme – has nearly doubled the number of females saving into a workplace pension in the last decade. For most people, the state pension will not provide enough income to live comfortably in retirement, so it’s vital to invest in private pension pots.

Recent legislation is set to make two key changes to auto-enrolment; reducing the age requirement from 22 to 18, and removing the lower earnings limit (currently £6,240) which means helps people qualify for auto enrolment and get employer contributions and tax relief from the first ound they earn. “These changes will be most valuable to the young and lower paid, including those who work part-time, most of whom are women,” says Henderson.

The ideal amount to be putting away is 15% of your salary (a combination of what you and your employer pay in, plus any tax relief), but even if you can’t manage that, every little bit makes a difference, especially if you get started today. “People can only save what they can afford to, but we suggest people check in on their pension regularly especially if their situation changes,” says Henderson. Young women are now more likely to start saving earlier in life than men — and the sooner you start, the better the position you’ll be in when you retire.

When it comes to planning for retirement, knowledge is power. Scottish Widows have created a new Beat The Gap tool (www.BeatTheGap.com) to help simplify how people engage with pensions, and make it easier for women (and men) to understand how things like working pattern, and childcare can affect their pension. By inputting some simple information, including gender, age and salary, it plots the user against the UK average pension across their lifetime. You can then see where the gap is most likely to emerge and get tailored tips on how to boost your pension and close the gap.

It’s part of a range of free educational support to help women plan for their retirement.

There’s a long way to go to close the gender pension gap, with many societal changes that need to happen. Until then, being aware of the factors that can affect their pension can help empower women to take the steps they need to ensure a more comfortable retirement, while they wait for the bigger picture to shift.

Find out more about the gender pension gap, plus expert tips and free tools to help you save for your retirement at Scottishwidows.co.uk/yourfuture

*2023 RR and 2023 W&R reports (based on the National Retirement Forecast)

This Budget should aid the nation not be a sop to Tory voters

Chancellors of the Exchequer sometimes find themselves short of money, low on luck and rarely running a surplus of thanks from the taxpayers – but they are never, ever lacking advice.

Sometimes, such “advice” is thinly disguised special pleading; often it is pure ideological wishful thinking – and Jeremy Hunt has been subject to as much of it as any chancellor, and recently has succumbed to the attractions of pushing his luck with tax cuts. That said, he has, at least in technical terms, run the Treasury with a welcome degree of professionalism after the chaos of the brief Truss-Kwarteng experiment. Now, though, comes the greatest challenge of his chancellorship.

As the election approaches – it is only a matter of months now, whatever the speculation – Mr Hunt faces a dilemma familiar to many of his predecessors. He can put the economy first; or he can be forced by the electoral cycle into putting the survival of his party first. All the signs are that he will be veering heavily towards a highly political Budget. He may, as a result, save a few marginal seats (including his own) in the process when the seemingly inevitable Labour landslide arrives; but there should be no doubt that it is against the national interest.

What are the chances of a May general election?

A prime minister’s prerogative to dissolve parliament and call an election – restored after the 2019 general election and its chaotic prelude – is usually considered a great political advantage. Although more constrained these days by an operationally independent Bank of England, and the Office for Budget Responsibility, a cynical prime minister and conniving chancellor of the Exchequer can still engineer a pre-election boomlet to maximise party political advantage. Yet that very freedom is currently acting as a destabilising influence. Speculation about election dates persists, despite attempts to dampen it down…

Even though Rishi Sunak has publicly ruled it out, speculation has persisted. Before the new year, Labour figures were openly speculating that there’d be an election in May, hard on the heels of Wednesday’s tax-cutting Budget. Labour may have wanted to create momentum to make Sunak look as if he’d “bottled it” in the event of going for an autumn date instead. So, early this year Sunak stated: “My working assumption is we will have a general election in the second half of this year because, in the meantime, I have lots I want to get on with … I want to keep going, managing the economy well and cutting people’s taxes … I’ve got lots to get on with.”