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tv   Review 2021  BBC News  December 26, 2021 4:30pm-5:01pm GMT

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tributes have been pouring in for archbishop desmond tutu — nobel peace laureate and veteran of south africa's struggle against apartheid, who has died at the age of 90. the president of south africa, cyril ramaphosa, has said that the passing of desmond tutu is another chapter of bereavement in south africa's "farewell to a generation of outstanding people who have bequeathed us a liberated country". new coronavirus restrictions have come into force in scotland, wales and northern ireland — to try to limit the spread of the omicron variant. omicron is causing chaos for travellers — 7,000 flights have been cancelled around the world over the christmas weekend. uk ministers have proposed that pubs in england and wales should be allowed to stay open for an extra two hours nextjune, during a special bank holiday weekend to mark the queen's platinum jubilee. the plans will go out to a public consultation.
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thank you for your company during the course of today. now on bbc news, review 2021, the business year. ben thompson reflects on how the uk economy, businesses and jobs have changed amidst the coronavirus pandemic and in the wake of brexit. 2021 has, for many people, been a long and difficult year. a year of change and uncertainty. and worry about lives and livelihoods and jobs and prospects. and early hopes of a return to something more normal have been replaced by a realisation that covid will be around for much longer than we first thought. its impact on how we live and how
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we work has been far more significant than feared. 0ur social lives, shopping habits and our travel plans all changed by this pandemic. and now, we are learning to live with this virus, but learning to live with its consequences will be harder — the lostjobs and the rising prices, and a big covid bill still to pay. getting back to where we were will take time and the question is, just how long will it take? since the pandemic began last year, the whole uk... the start of 2021 was not a happy new year. but we now have a new variant of the virus. we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough
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to contain this variant. that means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home. a rise in cases plunged the country back into a national lockdown. shops, bars and restaurants were forced to close once again. any festive cheer turned into a painful hangover. schools shut their doors. travel ground to a halt. and office workers settled down in spare rooms and on kitchen tables, to work from home once again. and for those who couldn't, an extended furlough scheme helped to prop up earnings. the scheme supported the wages of more than 11.7 million people after it launched in march 2020. but it came at a heavy price,
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and by the time the scheme was wound down in the summer, it had cost more than £70 billion. but even then, many firms feared it was being withdrawn too soon. many still were not able to operate at full capacity and warned that without financial help, they could be forced to close. how confident are you that you will be here this time next year? 0oh, difficult question. difficult question. i want to still be here and i'll do my damnedest to still be here. the true cost of the pandemic is still hard to calculate. as well as thejob retention scheme, there were loans and grants for businesses to help them through the worst of the crisis, the total cost hit nearly £380 billion. but that support kept the economy moving.
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businesses were closed and workers stuck at home, but the economy avoided another huge slump. second time around, businesses and workers had learned to better navigate the restrictions. unemployment began to fall, cushioned by the furlough scheme, but remained stubbornly high, with many still unable to get back to full—time work. prices began to rise as well, prompted by supply shortages and rising demand, as the economy began to reopen later in the year. inflation hit a ten—year high, prompting a rise in interest rates, and speculation that more could follow. gdp had fallen very sharply. lockdowns naturally did that. but we quickly saw a rebound by the second quarter, as things started to reopen. the second knockdown, businesses were able to reopen more,
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able to operate. factories, businesses were able to get back up and running, and we really did see that in the economic growth? exactly. the restrictions were limited to contact services, and a lot of businesses were allowed to carry on. schools were not as disrupted as they were the first time round, so various areas of the economy were allowed to continue. at the start of the year, we had unemployment at around 5.3%, about 1.8 million people. and then on top of that, we also had another fifth of the population on some form of government support, be it the furlough scheme for self—employed help and also a lot of people that fell through the gaps. but it highlights the extent of the support that was required to just bridge the gap through the lockdown period. of course, since then, unemployment
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has come down very sharply but all of the indicators currently suggest that the labour market is looking very strong, plenty of demand for workers and, ifanything, not enough work is available, people who are skilled to fill the jobs that are out there. what happens in 2022? what will the year look like economically? we should complete the recovery in gdp terms in 2022 and there is still further catch—up because the economy would have naturally grown anyway, had it not been for the downturn. the big challenge will be higher inflation. the energy inflation that we have seen in wholesale markets has not fully fed into household sectors yet, and the increase in the energy price cap in 0ctoberwasjust10%, 11% increase, but we potentially have another 17% increase coming through in april and that will be a major shock for households when it happens. while every part of the economy continued to feel the impact of the pandemic, the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit.
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and even now, it's dealing with a reintroduction of restrictions that many firms hoped were long gone. pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels all bore the brunt of lockdown rules. despite spending millions on new safety measures to protect their customers and staff. just so nice to be with people again. in april, hospitality venues were able to reopen, after a winter of lockdown. but they could only do so outdoors and, even then, there were limits on numbers. it meantjust a third of hospitality venues could trade — those that had outdoor space or a beer garden. it's nice to get together and to share what we've been doing. feels like forever that we've been able to sit down together. they are managing it quite well. you need to be out with your friends and family and do these things. -
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it was really challenging because you simply don't know, we did have pre—bookings and people were booking because of the social—distancing space limitations, but it still meant you had a mismatch between supply and demand — where you had an unpredictable number of people coming, very heavily weather dependent in the early part, april and may, where people would cancel their bookings very last minute because they could not sit outside. and crucially, it meant it was difficult to get staff to come back to work and recruit new staff into the industry because we could not offer them a stable career choice and we could not offer them a guaranteed set of hours for them to return to hospitality. others had to wait until may to reopen indoors. even then, it wasn't business as usual. with nervous customers staying away and many others deterred by the rule of six limits. nice to be back as a team, nice to see our regulars once again. we are down financially, we are down, but we are surviving and we hope to survive.
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three, two, one. cheering byjuly, nearly all remaining restrictions were lifted in england. but they came with a warning from the prime minister that life would not instantly revert to normal. but that initial excitement gave way to a realisation that the pandemic was far from over. tighter restrictions remained in wales, scotland and northern ireland. and in december, england reintroduced some rules, moving into its so—called plan b. and as 0micron cases began to rise, so did cancellations. many hospitality firms reported a slump in christmas bookings, as fears of a new wave of infection convinced customers to stay at home. michael represents the night—time industries — bars and music
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venues and nightclubs — and he told me firms had learned to adapt, but many struggled to stay open. there were so many confusing guidelines and rules, even things where the local authorities and police were really struggling to interpret. so for an industry that had been somewhat beleaguered, it was a very difficult time, especially economically, they were struggling. but in terms of the culture side of things and venues and nightclubs, once they were given the opportunity, they were out of the blocks because some of those youngsters were starved of those social environments and they can go out and enjoy. 850,000 new 18—year—olds came of age during that period, who were without a doubt dying
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to get out to grace the dance floor with whatever moves they felt were right! is it fair to say the pandemic revealed some of the failings of the industry, and businesses have taken those things, like not paying staff enough? without a doubt, we can see some of the failings and shortcomings on our side and we have work to do in terms of safeguarding and looking after staff. rates, environment, all of these key elements are going to make a difference, but we also need to invest in them. what will 2022 look like? i want to believe that 2022 will be our opportunity to take a handle on this and move forward. we need the confidence back and the uncertainty to be taken away. we need strong economic drivers to allow us to rebuild and we need tourism back without a doubt and that has got to be
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a huge consideration, even with new variants coming forward. like hospitality, the travel industry struggled to get off the ground this year as well. travel did start again, but with strict, fast—changing rules. february saw the introduction of hotel quarantine. uk residents returning from coronavirus hotspots abroad had to book a ten—night stay in an approved airport hotel. other foreign visitors were still off—limits. by the summer, foreign holidays were possible, at last, but with expensive tests to take and long forms to fill in, for many, a trip to the sun was still out of reach. how are you feeling about this holiday? really excited. to be going away again after these lockdowns. normally go in the holidays, something to look forward to, but i have to say, this has been a pretty stressful anxious time for everybody, so not sure i would do it again,
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knowing what i know from this experience. the impact of the frequently changing rules prompted anger from the industry. what we don't understand is why the uk, which has been so successful with vaccines, is expecting its vaccinated citizens travelling to portugal, coming back, to quarantine because they have already been vaccinated. so they are making it up as they go along and it is more mismanagement of the covid recovery from thejohnson government and, sadly, it has caused unnecessary disruption and stress for thousands, hundreds of thousands of british families. as the year went on, and despite the challenges, confidence began to return. bookings jumped, as airlines and passengers learned to navigate the restrictions.
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for many, it was their first holiday since the pandemic began. and for the travel industry, their first steps on a long road to recovery. take us back... laura is from the travel firm skyscanner. we have seen a huge change in the way the industry has approached the pandemic and we have seen resilience from both travellers and the industry in the way we have had to adapt. flexibility is something that was relatively unheard of before the pandemic and something we've all become accustomed to. like tickets and bookings and refunds? yes, flexible policies. probably a greater understanding of insurance. being able to change your plans is something that whilst not always what people have in mind, it has enabled people to feel more confident if they are thinking about going away. the industry did learn to adapt and navigate the new rules, but the arrival of 0micron,
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the new variant, has brought new uncertainty about how, and where, we can travel. we believe this will be a significant setback for demand this winter, real impacts on christmas, people will now cancel or postpone travel plans. and for a sector that hasn't had any revenue for 18 months, give or take a few months in the summer, it's really significant indeed. airlines don't make money in the winter, so we have a really difficult stretch ahead now. 0n the high street, there was a quicker return to something more normal. shops reopened, and shoppers — in need of a retail fix — rushed back. what have you got? a pair of trousers.
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i have bought my little boy three outfits, from the sales. do not show my partner this. i've had my firstjab, but i've got my mask for going into places. but covid has changed our habits and the shift to online gathered pace in the pandemic, and it means retailers are having to work much harder to keep us coming back to the high street. i'm so relieved that we've got here. we've been closed for around eight months out of the last 13 and how can you really run a business like that? we have an online presence, so that has been really helpful. i don't know what would have happened if we hadn't been online. 2021 was also supposed to be the year that we returned
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to the office en masse, finally ditching the kitchen table and zoom calls, but concerns over the roll—out of the vaccine and the need for staff to self—isolate meant that many bosses adopted a new hybrid model — some time working in the office and some time at home. we're never going to go back to working the way we used to work. people working from home 3—4 days will need 20% less space, but we won't do that if everyone is working from home on mondays and fridays, so we have got to manage that, i think, quite carefully. the implications for our town and city centres were clear. we rely heavily on the office trade. there is locations that have 5,000 people and only 140 people came to the building, so most people were working from home, or maybe just once a week coming. and that makes it really difficult.
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experts predicted the pandemic would change our lives in many ways, but it's brought some unexpected problems as well. not least, a lack of workers. the uk's formal exit from the eu at the start of 2021 added to the complications. many workers who left because of brexit or covid did not return. the impact was felt across industries. with a shortage of lorry drivers, abattoir butchers, fruit pickers a nd restau ra nt staff. in hospitality and retail, the hgv driver shortage caused particular problems for suppliers, especially for items shipped in from overseas. it led to empty shelves and apologies to customers. a shortage of drivers means that you might find your bins are collected a bit less frequently than they were in the past, and it's part of a wider
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problem across the industry of a shortage of drivers, whether that's for bins or restaurants and supermarkets. it's the perfect storm we've been talking about, so less testing through the pandemic, the exodus of eu skills as a result of brexit. we've had this thing which is about tax treatment for the industry. and we also have this ageing workforce of drivers in the uk, which we have known about for some time. but in the uk, every week, 2,000 drivers leave the industry and only 1,000 driversjoin, so we have got a real mismatch. we will talk much more about one of my favourite issues, which is bin collections, because we have talked
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about this before, but it is we absolutely do take for granted. there were also shortages on the forecourt, petrol supplies ran dry. not because of a lack of fuel, but a lack of drivers to deliver it. it meant scenes like this were repeated across the country. shocked, how am i going to get to work? my missus is nine months pregnant and i could actually get stuck somewhere and not be able to get back. i'm on empty now, running on fumes. what are you going to do? hopefully, get home. those shortages were just the first taste of the new challenges as the economy reopens. rising demand, worker shortages, supply issues and soaring energy prices have pushed up prices in supermarkets, forecourts and in factories. shipping costs also hit record highs, as the world reopened to global trade. inflation in the uk hit a ten—year high.
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and as prices rise, wages aren't keeping pace, and it means a squeeze on already stretched incomes. when we talk about a standard of living and income squeeze, we mean prices are going up faster than wages, and that is what we are. and that can be unpleasant and it will be one of the biggest issues for next year. how does the chancellor respond? he is in a difficult spot because his instincts are to get the public debt down over time, and if you look at the amount of total debt in the uk, it is at £2.2 trillion. to give you an idea how much that is, if you went back to when the pyramids were being built 5,000 years ago and started spending £1 million per day, you would be about two thirds of the way through it by now. so, it's a huge number. it doesn't really matter because usually, you measure
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debt compared to income, the national income, and the total national debt is equal to our total national income, roughly. and that is the highest it has been for a long time. his instinct is to try and get that down. you can do that in a couple of ways — raise taxes, which he has done, or cut spending, which he has had a hard time doing during a pandemic, so what does he do next? people think, if you're going to tax the economy, you're going to stop it growing as fast. and the other big problem apart from inflation is growth. because nothing is a bigger debt killer than growth. if you haven't got that, you have got a problem, and the most recent forecasts are that the economy is not forecast to grow very fast in the years to come. what has been fascinating about this year is that all of this has happened and then, in the background, we have brexit and that has barely got a look—in, but it has had an impact.
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if you look back to the beginning of 2021, there was a lot of consternation that because of the new rules coming in and the fact we were not in the customs union, it would be tailbacks for trucks 50 miles long. it did not happen. the worst—case scenario, the armageddon of huge delays at the border did not happen, but having said that, there are some companies who found it much more difficult to export. it takes us to the point of, here we go again. it's all looking horribly familiar. we're sat here in december, 2021, it's very reminiscent of christmas last year. all bets are off for next year. it feels like groundhog day, but we know more than we did this time last year and we have all been through an intensive course of how to deal with a pandemic. the good news is, the economy is still growing, employees are back at work, largely, and we didn't see the massive spike
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in unemployment we thought we might at the end of the furlough scheme. so those are reasons to be positive. what is difficult for the economy and for the chancellor and businesses, they feel a bit reluctant to invest. am i going to build anotherfactory and hire another 5,000 people, am i going to send them on training? that's important because the higher wage, high skills economy that the government wants and that we all want, relies on business doing a lot of the heavy lifting on that in terms of investment, and business investment is still very very weak. and until we see that coming back, i think we have to be a bit cautious about how confident you are in what is going to happen to the economy. watching the resourcefulness nd the resilience of business has been humbling, actually.
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they have actually pulled it out of the bag. and i think in many ways, business, if you look at what happened, getting food supplies in, business had a pretty good crisis and i think people realised that business was important and that it could be a force for good. and really used its ingenuity and resilience and resourcefulness to fix some problems that were really affecting society. many hoped that 2022 would notjust be a new year, but a new start, that the worst of this pandemic would be over, but the arrival of a new variant has brought new challenges. it's forced business and all of us to think again and to do things differently, but quite what that looks like still isn't clear.
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hello. understandably, there's always a lot of talk about snow at christmas, and whilst there has been some, for many places, there hasjust been rain. and a lot of rain since christmas eve. this is the radar picture over the past few hours. this weather system has moved through, bringing rain. but as you can see, we have had snow in the pennines, the hills in scotland, and there was this very wintry scene this morning from county durham. for many places, it's the rain, the standing water and the spray making for difficult travel conditions. we keep a lot of cloud and further outbreaks of rain towards northern and eastern parts of england and on through scotland, as we go on through the rest of the afternoon. a very brisk south—easterly wind running into mainly scotland and north—east england, adding an extra chill to things. it's still mild towards the south—west. here, and into wales, it will brighten up gradually. there are still a few showers. we continue taking some rain,
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and some snow and sleet over the highest ground overnight. elsewhere, the winds will be easing, with a lot of low cloud and mist and fog around. whilst temperatures for many stay above freezing, you canjust see some blue in parts of northern england and scotland. and especially where you've got snow on the ground is where you will get a frost. into tomorrow, the northern and western isles having a cloudier day, with patchy rain or showers around. another weather system taking outbreaks of rain further north. northern ireland, some cloud and brighter spells as well. the far north of england, especially scotland, away from the far north, there will be some sunny spells to be had. quite windy, with outbreaks of rain to the south. that will go into monday evening. tuesday, another weather system taking an area of rain particularly across the central swathe of the uk and windy towards the south of that. it will be quite mild here. temperatures around 6 or 7 degrees in scotland and 12 or 13 to the south. if you think that's mild,
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another weather system bringing more rain across the uk on wednesday. it will bring some very mild air into the uk, and that is transported northwards on this south—westerly wind. blustery with rain, yes, but temperatures reaching into the mid—teens quite widely around the middle of the week. it will stay mild and wet and windy for the start of the new year.
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this is bbc news. these are the latest headlines in the uk and around the world. tributes pour in for archbishop desmond tutu — nobel laureate and veteran of south africa's struggle against apartheid — who has died at the age of 90. desmond tutu was somebody at the height of the anti—apartheid struggle, who when nelson mandela and his leadership comrades in the freedom struggle were locked up on robben island, roused the faithful, inspired people. the bodies of 16 iraqi kurds who drowned when their inflatable boat sank last month in the channel while trying to reach the uk have been returned to northern iraq. 0micron causes chaos for travellers. 7,000 flights cancelled around the world over the christmas weekend.

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