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vans Image copyright Getty Images

Royal Mail has been fined £1.5m by the regulator for being late with first class deliveries and overcharging customers for second class stamps.

Ofcom said Royal Mail missed its target of delivering 93% of first class post within a day of collection.

It also overcharged people £60,000 after raising the cost of a second class stamp before a price cap was officially lifted.

Royal Mail admitted it was «disappointed» with its performance.

In the 2019 financial year, Ofcom found that only 91.5% of first class post was on time.

«Royal Mail let its customers down, and these fines should serve as a reminder that we’ll take action when companies fall short,» said Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s director of investigations and enforcement.

The watchdog also found that the company increased its price for second class stamps by 1p to 61p seven days ahead of the official cap being lifted.

Royal Mail estimates it overcharged people by £60,000 «which it is unable to refund».

Image copyright PA Media

Royal Mail admitted it had made a mistake and donated the sum to the charity Action for Children.

«We worked with Ofcom throughout this investigation and lessons have been learned by us during this process,» it said.

Earlier this year, Royal Mail lifted the price of a first class stamp which now costs 11p more than second class postage.

The price of a first class stamp for regular letters rose 6p to 76p and second-class went up by 4p to 65p.

The 65p second-class stamp is the maximum under an Ofcom price cap.

Commenting in the current financial year, Royal Mail said it would be on course to hit the 93% first class delivery target if it hadn’t been for the coronavirus outbreak.

«Despite our best endeavours, some areas of the UK experienced a reduction in service levels during March,» it said.

«Relevant factors included high levels of coronavirus-related absences and necessary social distancing measures.»

Last month Royal Mail said it will cut 2,000 management jobs as it struggles to deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The cuts, equal to around a fifth of the company’s management roles, aim to save about £130m in costs from next year.

Royal Mail said the pandemic accelerated the trend of more parcels and fewer letters being sent, and it had not adapted quickly enough to that.


vans Image copyright Getty Images

Royal Mail has been fined £1.5m by the regulator for being late with first class deliveries and overcharging customers for second class stamps.

Ofcom said Royal Mail missed its target of delivering 93% of first class post within a day of collection.

It also overcharged people £60,000 after raising the cost of a second class stamp before a price cap was officially lifted.

Royal Mail admitted it was «disappointed» with its performance.

In the 2019 financial year, Ofcom found that only 91.5% of first class post was on time.

«Royal Mail let its customers down, and these fines should serve as a reminder that we’ll take action when companies fall short,» said Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s director of investigations and enforcement.

The watchdog also found that the company increased its price for second class stamps by 1p to 61p seven days ahead of the official cap being lifted.

Royal Mail estimates it overcharged people by £60,000 «which it is unable to refund».

Image copyright PA Media

Royal Mail admitted it had made a mistake and donated the sum to the charity Action for Children.

«We worked with Ofcom throughout this investigation and lessons have been learned by us during this process,» it said.

Earlier this year, Royal Mail lifted the price of a first class stamp which now costs 11p more than second class postage.

The price of a first class stamp for regular letters rose 6p to 76p and second-class went up by 4p to 65p.

The 65p second-class stamp is the maximum under an Ofcom price cap.

Commenting in the current financial year, Royal Mail said it would be on course to hit the 93% first class delivery target if it hadn’t been for the coronavirus outbreak.

«Despite our best endeavours, some areas of the UK experienced a reduction in service levels during March,» it said.

«Relevant factors included high levels of coronavirus-related absences and necessary social distancing measures.»

Last month Royal Mail said it will cut 2,000 management jobs as it struggles to deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The cuts, equal to around a fifth of the company’s management roles, aim to save about £130m in costs from next year.

Royal Mail said the pandemic accelerated the trend of more parcels and fewer letters being sent, and it had not adapted quickly enough to that.

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Man and woman wearing masks working out at a gym Image copyright Getty Images

One of the UK’s biggest gym companies has said it lost about a fifth of its members during lockdown, despite halting membership payments.

The Gym Group said it had lost 178,000 customers over the past three months.

The company set out its plans to reopen nearly all of its gyms in England on 25 July, when restrictions on the sector are lifted.

Separately, Restaurant Group, the owner of Wagamama, said one in 10 of its outlets would not open until next year.

The company, which also owns Frankie & Benny’s, said sites where low custom was anticipated, such as airports, would stay closed.

Meanwhile, footfall on UK High Streets fell by 63% in June, compared to the same month last year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and market research firm ShopperTrak, as retailers reopened.

On Thursday, two of the UK’s biggest High Street names, John Lewis and Boots, announced 5,300 job cuts.

‘Long road ahead’

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson told the BBC’s Today programme: «The real key now is seeing whether or not the lifting of restrictions around hospitality will take those numbers up further.

«But there is a long road ahead to get anything like a normal volume of people and, hence a normal volume of sales for those businesses that rely on people coming in.»

Image copyright Getty Images

Last month, Restaurant Group announced that 120 Frankie & Benny’s sites would close permanently, putting 3,000 jobs at risk.

On Friday, it said it was aiming to have 25% of its eateries open by the end of July, 60% by the end of August, and 90% by the end of September.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the «eat out to help out» scheme, where people can get a discount of up to £10 per head if they dine out.

The plan, estimated to cost £500m, is aimed boosting the UK hospitality industry which recently reopened after more than three months in lockdown.

‘Encouraging response’

The Gym Group said it would open 160 sites in England on 25 July. Two gyms in locked-down Leicester and one being refurbished in London will stay closed for now.

It added that its 13 sites in Scotland and three in Wales would reopen «as soon as possible after relevant local restrictions are lifted».

«We are in the process of un-furloughing our colleagues, who will be ready to open the doors of our gyms in England on July 25 and in the other home nations once restrictions are lifted,» said chief executive Richard Darwin.

«We are encouraged by the response of our members, the vast majority of whom are keen to get back to the gym to begin working out again.»

For Gym Group’s 692,000 remaining members, direct debit payments are due to restart, although they can request that they are frozen for longer.


Man and woman wearing masks working out at a gym Image copyright Getty Images

One of the UK’s biggest gym companies has said it lost about a fifth of its members during lockdown, despite halting membership payments.

The Gym Group said it had lost 178,000 customers over the past three months.

The company set out its plans to reopen nearly all of its gyms in England on 25 July, when restrictions on the sector are lifted.

Separately, Restaurant Group, the owner of Wagamama, said one in 10 of its outlets would not open until next year.

The company, which also owns Frankie & Benny’s, said sites where low custom was anticipated, such as airports, would stay closed.

Meanwhile, footfall on UK High Streets fell by 63% in June, compared to the same month last year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and market research firm ShopperTrak, as retailers reopened.

On Thursday, two of the UK’s biggest High Street names, John Lewis and Boots, announced 5,300 job cuts.

‘Long road ahead’

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson told the BBC’s Today programme: «The real key now is seeing whether or not the lifting of restrictions around hospitality will take those numbers up further.

«But there is a long road ahead to get anything like a normal volume of people and, hence a normal volume of sales for those businesses that rely on people coming in.»

Image copyright Getty Images

Last month, Restaurant Group announced that 120 Frankie & Benny’s sites would close permanently, putting 3,000 jobs at risk.

On Friday, it said it was aiming to have 25% of its eateries open by the end of July, 60% by the end of August, and 90% by the end of September.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the «eat out to help out» scheme, where people can get a discount of up to £10 per head if they dine out.

The plan, estimated to cost £500m, is aimed boosting the UK hospitality industry which recently reopened after more than three months in lockdown.

‘Encouraging response’

The Gym Group said it would open 160 sites in England on 25 July. Two gyms in locked-down Leicester and one being refurbished in London will stay closed for now.

It added that its 13 sites in Scotland and three in Wales would reopen «as soon as possible after relevant local restrictions are lifted».

«We are in the process of un-furloughing our colleagues, who will be ready to open the doors of our gyms in England on July 25 and in the other home nations once restrictions are lifted,» said chief executive Richard Darwin.

«We are encouraged by the response of our members, the vast majority of whom are keen to get back to the gym to begin working out again.»

For Gym Group’s 692,000 remaining members, direct debit payments are due to restart, although they can request that they are frozen for longer.

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Amanda Staveley Image copyright Getty Images

A financier embroiled in a £1.6bn court battle with Barclays was referred to as a «tart» and «that dolly bird» by bank executives, a court has heard.

The comments about Amanda Staveley were made in phone calls in 2008 when the bank was trying to raise billions of pounds from Gulf states.

Ms Staveley was involved in talks with investors to help broker the deal.

But ex-Barclays boss Roger Jenkins told the court she was a «complete unknown» when it came to such transactions.

In a written witness statement, Mr Jenkins said that at the time Ms Staveley had received «some publicity» for her role in brokering an investment in Manchester City.

But he told Mr Justice Waksman that, as far as he knew, she had «no qualifications in finance».

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Former senior Barclays banker Roger Jenkins referred to financier Amanda Staveley as ‘the tart’

The judge has heard that Mr Jenkins referred to Ms Staveley as «the tart» during an October 2008 telephone call with fellow Barclays boss Richard Boath.

Mr Boath referred to her as «that dolly bird» during the call.

Ms Staveley, 47, has made complaints about the behaviour of Barclays bosses when negotiating investment deals during the crisis 12 years ago.

She says Barclays agreed to provide an unsecured £2bn loan to Qatari investors, but the loan was «concealed» from the financial markets, shareholders and PCP Capital Partners, a private equity firm she runs.

PCP is suing the bank for up to £1.6bn in damages.

Ms Staveley, currently working on a deal which could see a Saudi consortium take control of Newcastle United football club, says PCP introduced Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour to Barclays and he «subscribed» to invest £3.25bn.

She says PCP is owed money for the work it did. Barclays disputes PCP’s claim and says it is made «of sand».

Mr Jenkins said: «Ms Staveley, as leader of PCP, had received some publicity by 2008 for her role in brokering the Abu Dhabi investment in a major English football club, but she was a complete unknown in terms of large, complex, public market transactions of the kind we were undertaking.»

‘Self-publicity’

At the time, he was Barclays executive chairman of Middle East business. «So far as I knew at the time, PCP did not employ experienced analysts familiar with the finance sector and Ms Staveley herself had no qualifications in finance.»

He said he knew little about Ms Staveley’s background in 2008. «I was aware that she had once owned a restaurant by a racecourse and that was how she had made connections with Middle Eastern individuals,» he said.

«I knew that she had played a role in Sheikh Mansour’s purchase of Manchester City.»

He added: «My assumption and hope at the time was that Barclays would deal with Sheikh Mansour directly as the principal, not through advisers.

«I did not at any point understand PCP to be acting as a principal, or as a prospective investor in its own right.»

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ex-Barclays senior banker Richard Boath called Amanda Stavely «that dolly bird»

Mr Jenkins said his impression was that Ms Staveley was seeking to use her involvement in the deal to «generate publicity for herself». He told how Ms Staveley arrived for one early-morning meeting accompanied by a photographer.

Lawyers representing PCP referred to the telephone conversation between Mr Boath and Ms Staveley early in the trial.

Detail of the words used emerged on Thursday, when Mr Jenkins began giving evidence and a transcript of the call was made available to journalists.

Mr Boath said, during the October 2008 call: «Yes. Now, that dolly bird that represents – is it – what’s her name?», the transcript showed.

Mr Jenkins replied: «Amanda Staveley.»

Later in the call, Mr Jenkins said: «Well I am – you know, I’m going to call the tart; I was going to call the tart.»

Mr Boath asked: «Who’s the tart?» Mr Jenkins replied: «Amanda.»

In February, Mr Jenkins, Mr Boath, and another former Barclays boss, Thomas Kalaris, were cleared of fraud over a £4bn investment deal with Qatar at the height of the banking crisis.

The Serious Fraud Office had alleged that lucrative terms given to Qatar were hidden from the market and other investors through bogus advisory service agreements.

But the three men were acquitted by jurors following a five-month trial at the Old Bailey.


Amanda Staveley Image copyright Getty Images

A financier embroiled in a £1.6bn court battle with Barclays was referred to as a «tart» and «that dolly bird» by bank executives, a court has heard.

The comments about Amanda Staveley were made in phone calls in 2008 when the bank was trying to raise billions of pounds from Gulf states.

Ms Staveley was involved in talks with investors to help broker the deal.

But ex-Barclays boss Roger Jenkins told the court she was a «complete unknown» when it came to such transactions.

In a written witness statement, Mr Jenkins said that at the time Ms Staveley had received «some publicity» for her role in brokering an investment in Manchester City.

But he told Mr Justice Waksman that, as far as he knew, she had «no qualifications in finance».

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Former senior Barclays banker Roger Jenkins referred to financier Amanda Staveley as ‘the tart’

The judge has heard that Mr Jenkins referred to Ms Staveley as «the tart» during an October 2008 telephone call with fellow Barclays boss Richard Boath.

Mr Boath referred to her as «that dolly bird» during the call.

Ms Staveley, 47, has made complaints about the behaviour of Barclays bosses when negotiating investment deals during the crisis 12 years ago.

She says Barclays agreed to provide an unsecured £2bn loan to Qatari investors, but the loan was «concealed» from the financial markets, shareholders and PCP Capital Partners, a private equity firm she runs.

PCP is suing the bank for up to £1.6bn in damages.

Ms Staveley, currently working on a deal which could see a Saudi consortium take control of Newcastle United football club, says PCP introduced Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour to Barclays and he «subscribed» to invest £3.25bn.

She says PCP is owed money for the work it did. Barclays disputes PCP’s claim and says it is made «of sand».

Mr Jenkins said: «Ms Staveley, as leader of PCP, had received some publicity by 2008 for her role in brokering the Abu Dhabi investment in a major English football club, but she was a complete unknown in terms of large, complex, public market transactions of the kind we were undertaking.»

‘Self-publicity’

At the time, he was Barclays executive chairman of Middle East business. «So far as I knew at the time, PCP did not employ experienced analysts familiar with the finance sector and Ms Staveley herself had no qualifications in finance.»

He said he knew little about Ms Staveley’s background in 2008. «I was aware that she had once owned a restaurant by a racecourse and that was how she had made connections with Middle Eastern individuals,» he said.

«I knew that she had played a role in Sheikh Mansour’s purchase of Manchester City.»

He added: «My assumption and hope at the time was that Barclays would deal with Sheikh Mansour directly as the principal, not through advisers.

«I did not at any point understand PCP to be acting as a principal, or as a prospective investor in its own right.»

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ex-Barclays senior banker Richard Boath called Amanda Stavely «that dolly bird»

Mr Jenkins said his impression was that Ms Staveley was seeking to use her involvement in the deal to «generate publicity for herself». He told how Ms Staveley arrived for one early-morning meeting accompanied by a photographer.

Lawyers representing PCP referred to the telephone conversation between Mr Boath and Ms Staveley early in the trial.

Detail of the words used emerged on Thursday, when Mr Jenkins began giving evidence and a transcript of the call was made available to journalists.

Mr Boath said, during the October 2008 call: «Yes. Now, that dolly bird that represents – is it – what’s her name?», the transcript showed.

Mr Jenkins replied: «Amanda Staveley.»

Later in the call, Mr Jenkins said: «Well I am – you know, I’m going to call the tart; I was going to call the tart.»

Mr Boath asked: «Who’s the tart?» Mr Jenkins replied: «Amanda.»

In February, Mr Jenkins, Mr Boath, and another former Barclays boss, Thomas Kalaris, were cleared of fraud over a £4bn investment deal with Qatar at the height of the banking crisis.

The Serious Fraud Office had alleged that lucrative terms given to Qatar were hidden from the market and other investors through bogus advisory service agreements.

But the three men were acquitted by jurors following a five-month trial at the Old Bailey.

Shop


A screen-grab of a TikTok announcement on Hong Kong Image copyright TikTok

Short-video app TikTok has halted operations in Hong Kong, according to a notice posted on its website.

The company flagged the move earlier this week after China imposed a new security law on the city.

The law has restricted freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory, raising concerns of official oversight of social media.

Other social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter are also reviewing operations in Hong Kong.

TikTok has come under scrutiny from the US and other countries because of concerns it could share user data with Chinese authorities.

The app was launched outside of mainland China by Beijing-based ByteDance to reach a global audience.

Separately, a spokesman for the app, said on Friday that TikTok might come under a new business structure.

«As we consider the best path forward, ByteDance is evaluating changes to the corporate structure of its TikTok business,» the spokesman said in an emailed statement.

He also reiterated previous pledges that ByteDance would refuse to share TikTok user data with Chinese authorities.

«We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.»

TikTok has increased its popularity during global coronavirus lockdowns with about 315 million people downloading the app in the first three months of this year, according to research firm Sensor Tower.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an Australian member of parliament have recently suggested the app needs more scrutiny over its data and privacy policies because its headquarters are in China.

Mr Pompeo has banned state department employees from downloading the app and suggested the app could also be banned in the US.

However, the company denied that it represented a security risk.

«TikTok is led by an American CEO (former Disney executive Kevin Mayer based in Los Angeles), with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users,» a spokesman said.


A screen-grab of a TikTok announcement on Hong Kong Image copyright TikTok

Short-video app TikTok has halted operations in Hong Kong, according to a notice posted on its website.

The company flagged the move earlier this week after China imposed a new security law on the city.

The law has restricted freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory, raising concerns of official oversight of social media.

Other social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter are also reviewing operations in Hong Kong.

TikTok has come under scrutiny from the US and other countries because of concerns it could share user data with Chinese authorities.

The app was launched outside of mainland China by Beijing-based ByteDance to reach a global audience.

Separately, a spokesman for the app, said on Friday that TikTok might come under a new business structure.

«As we consider the best path forward, ByteDance is evaluating changes to the corporate structure of its TikTok business,» the spokesman said in an emailed statement.

He also reiterated previous pledges that ByteDance would refuse to share TikTok user data with Chinese authorities.

«We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.»

TikTok has increased its popularity during global coronavirus lockdowns with about 315 million people downloading the app in the first three months of this year, according to research firm Sensor Tower.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an Australian member of parliament have recently suggested the app needs more scrutiny over its data and privacy policies because its headquarters are in China.

Mr Pompeo has banned state department employees from downloading the app and suggested the app could also be banned in the US.

However, the company denied that it represented a security risk.

«TikTok is led by an American CEO (former Disney executive Kevin Mayer based in Los Angeles), with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users,» a spokesman said.

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Generic image of an electric car charging on a shopping street Image copyright Getty Images

The vast majority of emissions cuts from electric cars will be wiped out by new road-building, a report says.

The government says vehicle emissions per mile will fall as zero-emissions cars take over Britain’s roads.

But the report says the 80% of the CO2 savings from clean cars will be negated by the £27bn planned roads programme.

It adds that if ministers want a “green recovery” the cash would be better spent on public transport, walking, cycling, and remote-working hubs.

And they point out that the electric cars will continue to increase local air pollution through particles eroding from brakes and tyres.

The calculations have been made by an environmental consultancy, Transport for Quality of Life, using data collected by Highways England.

The paper estimates that a third of the predicted increase in emissions would come from construction – including energy for making steel, concrete and asphalt.

A third would be created by increased vehicle speeds on faster roads.

And a further third would be caused by extra traffic generated by new roads stimulating more car-dependent housing, retail parks and business parks.

New roads, more traffic?

Its authors say history shows that building roads almost always generates more traffic.

The report says even with the government’s most optimistic estimate of the adoption rate for electric vehicles, emissions from trunk roads and motorways in England are not on track to meet “net zero“ by 2050.

A government spokesperson told BBC News the report is based on old data.

“This assessment is wholly incorrect and doesn’t take into account the benefits from the massive surge in electric vehicles,» he said.

Image copyright Getty Images

«The Road Investment Strategy is consistent with our ambition to improve air quality and decarbonise transport.»

The report’s lead author, Lynn Sloman, said the electric car revolution would happen too slowly for transport to achieve the UK’s carbon-cutting goals.

“If we are to meet the legally-binding carbon budgets, we need to make big cuts in carbon emissions over the next decade,» she said.

«That will require faster adoption of electric cars – but it will also require us to reduce vehicle mileage by existing cars.

“Unfortunately, the Government’s £27 billion road programme will make things worse, not better.”

The government accepts that overall mileage should be cut.

But it says the impact of the new roads programme on emissions will be a fraction of the report’s predicted figure.

The AA president, Edmund King, supports some road-building. He told BBC News said: “We believe post-lockdown that more people will continue to work from home, drive less and cycle and walk more.

“But even with investment in broadband and active travel, we will still need road investment – particularly to overcome the congestion hotspots to help get our goods to market.”

‘Mindless’ building?

Ms Sloman, who works regularly as a consultant for the Department for Transport, responded: “More roads just mean more cars. Decades of road investment have not solved congestion.

“Sustained lobbying for more money for roads, leaving less for public transport, cycling and walking, is one of the reasons we now face a climate emergency. We can’t afford any more to indulge this Toad of Toad Hall model of mindless road-building.”

She also says the government can’t ignore the continuing air pollution that will be caused by particles from the brakes and tyres of electric cars.

Image copyright Getty Images

This pollution could actually be increased if the fashion for heavy battery-powered SUVs continues.

Ms Sloman said: «This is an institutional problem. There are people in the Department for Transport and Highways England who have built their careers on big road building budgets, and they won’t easily give them up.

“But there are also some officials – and perhaps some politicians – who are starting to recognise that the climate emergency means we need a radically different approach to transport.»

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on a decarbonisation strategy, and will publish its plan later in the year.

Follow Roger on Twitter.


Generic image of an electric car charging on a shopping street Image copyright Getty Images

The vast majority of emissions cuts from electric cars will be wiped out by new road-building, a report says.

The government says vehicle emissions per mile will fall as zero-emissions cars take over Britain’s roads.

But the report says the 80% of the CO2 savings from clean cars will be negated by the £27bn planned roads programme.

It adds that if ministers want a “green recovery” the cash would be better spent on public transport, walking, cycling, and remote-working hubs.

And they point out that the electric cars will continue to increase local air pollution through particles eroding from brakes and tyres.

The calculations have been made by an environmental consultancy, Transport for Quality of Life, using data collected by Highways England.

The paper estimates that a third of the predicted increase in emissions would come from construction – including energy for making steel, concrete and asphalt.

A third would be created by increased vehicle speeds on faster roads.

And a further third would be caused by extra traffic generated by new roads stimulating more car-dependent housing, retail parks and business parks.

New roads, more traffic?

Its authors say history shows that building roads almost always generates more traffic.

The report says even with the government’s most optimistic estimate of the adoption rate for electric vehicles, emissions from trunk roads and motorways in England are not on track to meet “net zero“ by 2050.

A government spokesperson told BBC News the report is based on old data.

“This assessment is wholly incorrect and doesn’t take into account the benefits from the massive surge in electric vehicles,» he said.

Image copyright Getty Images

«The Road Investment Strategy is consistent with our ambition to improve air quality and decarbonise transport.»

The report’s lead author, Lynn Sloman, said the electric car revolution would happen too slowly for transport to achieve the UK’s carbon-cutting goals.

“If we are to meet the legally-binding carbon budgets, we need to make big cuts in carbon emissions over the next decade,» she said.

«That will require faster adoption of electric cars – but it will also require us to reduce vehicle mileage by existing cars.

“Unfortunately, the Government’s £27 billion road programme will make things worse, not better.”

The government accepts that overall mileage should be cut.

But it says the impact of the new roads programme on emissions will be a fraction of the report’s predicted figure.

The AA president, Edmund King, supports some road-building. He told BBC News said: “We believe post-lockdown that more people will continue to work from home, drive less and cycle and walk more.

“But even with investment in broadband and active travel, we will still need road investment – particularly to overcome the congestion hotspots to help get our goods to market.”

‘Mindless’ building?

Ms Sloman, who works regularly as a consultant for the Department for Transport, responded: “More roads just mean more cars. Decades of road investment have not solved congestion.

“Sustained lobbying for more money for roads, leaving less for public transport, cycling and walking, is one of the reasons we now face a climate emergency. We can’t afford any more to indulge this Toad of Toad Hall model of mindless road-building.”

She also says the government can’t ignore the continuing air pollution that will be caused by particles from the brakes and tyres of electric cars.

Image copyright Getty Images

This pollution could actually be increased if the fashion for heavy battery-powered SUVs continues.

Ms Sloman said: «This is an institutional problem. There are people in the Department for Transport and Highways England who have built their careers on big road building budgets, and they won’t easily give them up.

“But there are also some officials – and perhaps some politicians – who are starting to recognise that the climate emergency means we need a radically different approach to transport.»

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on a decarbonisation strategy, and will publish its plan later in the year.

Follow Roger on Twitter.

Shop


Vishal Panesar and Ravika Sabh Image copyright DaVinci Wedding Cinema
Image caption Vishal Panesar and Ravika Sabh hope that by delaying their wedding they can invite more guests

«We’ve always pictured having the big fat Indian wedding,» say Vishal Panesar and his fiancée Ravika Sabh, almost in unison.

Like thousands of couples, Londoners Vishal, 25, and Ravika, 24, had to postpone their wedding and reception after the coronavirus pandemic struck.

It was meant to be a lavish affair with three separate events and 400 guests.

But current measures imposed on weddings and gatherings mean the prospects of a big blowout are slim.

The UK wedding industry as a whole has been hit hard by the pandemic, with weddings banned under almost all circumstances since lockdown began.

That ban was lifted on 4 July in England, where small weddings with up to 30 guests are now allowed, with other restrictions. There are other rules for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Vishal and Ravika have cut down their guest list but are still keen to see whether a wedding with more than 30 guests is possible.

Image copyright DaVinci Wedding Cinema
Image caption Vishal had arranged an elaborate outdoor proposal

«Restrictions are being eased up now, and people might say you can’t have a wedding with 400 guests, but you can have 200. That plays a big part in moving and postponing [our wedding].»

So as well as moving their May 2020 wedding to October, they have also pencilled in a date in June 2021 at the same venue, in the hope that by one of those dates they can have 200 or more guests.

Big spenders

It is estimated the wedding industry in the UK is worth around £10bn, with average spending on a wedding about £27,000.

But British Asian weddings, traditionally larger family affairs, with multiple events, tend to cost more.

Anisha Vasani from Bridelux, a specialist brand for the luxury wedding industry, estimates that British Asian weddings could account for nearly half of the UK wedding industry.

«The average Asian couple spend between £50,000-£100,000 on their wedding, depending on how many functions they hold for their celebrations, with costs only expected to grow.»

Many businesses specialising in supplying the Asian wedding market have suffered during the pandemic.

Seema Sarfraz runs Seema Sarees in East London. Her family business has been there since 1985 and bridal outfits are the mainstay of her sales.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionSocial media has been our ‘saving grace’

«The time that we went into lockdown was one of our biggest periods for bridal orders. In a normal year we would take 400-500 bridal orders, we’re talking about £500,000 worth of sales.»

With her shop closed during lockdown and her staff furloughed, Seema had more time to focus on social media.

She already had a sizeable Instagram following, which had previously brought in sales, but like others, she discovered the power of TikTok and started uploading fashion shoots of models in bridal outfits to Bollywood and hip hop tracks.

It wasn’t long before an unassuming bridal shoot went viral. «I woke up in the morning, and I’m like, ‘Nine million views, 250,000 followers?’ And from then on it’s just built and built.»

Image caption Seema Sarfraz says lockdown has hit bridal outfit orders

She now has more than a million followers on TikTok. It has resulted in some sales for Seema too, notably from the US and Canada, but she’s keen to welcome customers back into her store, albeit while social distancing and wearing face coverings.

Suppliers hit

Other wedding businesses – those that help make events happen – have also had to stop and take stock of where their livelihoods will come from.

Deep Bajwa runs Opulence Events, a luxury wedding and event planning company. «Last year I had 37 weddings, and this year we managed to get one in before lockdown.

«We deal with larger numbers for the weddings we work on, so for us I can’t see it happening [this year].»

Image caption British Asians like to splash out on weddings, including on their outfits

Many of Deep’s clients are couples and families who spend upwards of £100,000 on their weddings – that includes venues, catering, clothes, entertainment and jewellery.

«We like it big! We like to have an amazing show. It’s big money that’s spent on Asian weddings.»

Deep says the lockdown has had huge implications for other suppliers she works with.

«We’ve had to postpone everyone’s payments until next year. Most people’s terms are two to four weeks for the final payment before the event, now if the event itself has moved, the final payments have gone with them.»

‘So much we don’t know’

She, and others in the industry, are unsure of how Asian weddings of this scale will happen in future.

Deep mentions caterers having to rethink how they would serve buffets, and trying to figure out how to have a dance floor where you can socially distance yourself from others.

«There’s still so much we don’t know but we’re keeping an eye on all the information, and trying to keep our clients happy and informed.»

Image copyright 1SWEvents
Image caption Event planning firm 1SWEvents doesn’t have any weddings on its books until the end of the year

How will Asian wedding businesses deal with the likelihood of smaller, scaled back weddings in the immediate future?

Timmy Kader is the co-founder of 1SWEvents, an event planning and decorating company that counts boxer Amir Khan as one of its clients.

She and her team are used to decorating plush venues that can hold hundreds of guests. «We haven’t got any weddings until the end of this year, which are still hanging on the edge because we don’t know if there will be a second wave [of coronavirus].»

Nevertheless, she is hopeful for the future.

«People still want an Instagramable wedding and you can have that wedding in your home, providing you get a décor expert in to advise you and still make it look really pretty.»


Vishal Panesar and Ravika Sabh Image copyright DaVinci Wedding Cinema
Image caption Vishal Panesar and Ravika Sabh hope that by delaying their wedding they can invite more guests

«We’ve always pictured having the big fat Indian wedding,» say Vishal Panesar and his fiancée Ravika Sabh, almost in unison.

Like thousands of couples, Londoners Vishal, 25, and Ravika, 24, had to postpone their wedding and reception after the coronavirus pandemic struck.

It was meant to be a lavish affair with three separate events and 400 guests.

But current measures imposed on weddings and gatherings mean the prospects of a big blowout are slim.

The UK wedding industry as a whole has been hit hard by the pandemic, with weddings banned under almost all circumstances since lockdown began.

That ban was lifted on 4 July in England, where small weddings with up to 30 guests are now allowed, with other restrictions. There are other rules for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Vishal and Ravika have cut down their guest list but are still keen to see whether a wedding with more than 30 guests is possible.

Image copyright DaVinci Wedding Cinema
Image caption Vishal had arranged an elaborate outdoor proposal

«Restrictions are being eased up now, and people might say you can’t have a wedding with 400 guests, but you can have 200. That plays a big part in moving and postponing [our wedding].»

So as well as moving their May 2020 wedding to October, they have also pencilled in a date in June 2021 at the same venue, in the hope that by one of those dates they can have 200 or more guests.

Big spenders

It is estimated the wedding industry in the UK is worth around £10bn, with average spending on a wedding about £27,000.

But British Asian weddings, traditionally larger family affairs, with multiple events, tend to cost more.

Anisha Vasani from Bridelux, a specialist brand for the luxury wedding industry, estimates that British Asian weddings could account for nearly half of the UK wedding industry.

«The average Asian couple spend between £50,000-£100,000 on their wedding, depending on how many functions they hold for their celebrations, with costs only expected to grow.»

Many businesses specialising in supplying the Asian wedding market have suffered during the pandemic.

Seema Sarfraz runs Seema Sarees in East London. Her family business has been there since 1985 and bridal outfits are the mainstay of her sales.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionSocial media has been our ‘saving grace’

«The time that we went into lockdown was one of our biggest periods for bridal orders. In a normal year we would take 400-500 bridal orders, we’re talking about £500,000 worth of sales.»

With her shop closed during lockdown and her staff furloughed, Seema had more time to focus on social media.

She already had a sizeable Instagram following, which had previously brought in sales, but like others, she discovered the power of TikTok and started uploading fashion shoots of models in bridal outfits to Bollywood and hip hop tracks.

It wasn’t long before an unassuming bridal shoot went viral. «I woke up in the morning, and I’m like, ‘Nine million views, 250,000 followers?’ And from then on it’s just built and built.»

Image caption Seema Sarfraz says lockdown has hit bridal outfit orders

She now has more than a million followers on TikTok. It has resulted in some sales for Seema too, notably from the US and Canada, but she’s keen to welcome customers back into her store, albeit while social distancing and wearing face coverings.

Suppliers hit

Other wedding businesses – those that help make events happen – have also had to stop and take stock of where their livelihoods will come from.

Deep Bajwa runs Opulence Events, a luxury wedding and event planning company. «Last year I had 37 weddings, and this year we managed to get one in before lockdown.

«We deal with larger numbers for the weddings we work on, so for us I can’t see it happening [this year].»

Image caption British Asians like to splash out on weddings, including on their outfits

Many of Deep’s clients are couples and families who spend upwards of £100,000 on their weddings – that includes venues, catering, clothes, entertainment and jewellery.

«We like it big! We like to have an amazing show. It’s big money that’s spent on Asian weddings.»

Deep says the lockdown has had huge implications for other suppliers she works with.

«We’ve had to postpone everyone’s payments until next year. Most people’s terms are two to four weeks for the final payment before the event, now if the event itself has moved, the final payments have gone with them.»

‘So much we don’t know’

She, and others in the industry, are unsure of how Asian weddings of this scale will happen in future.

Deep mentions caterers having to rethink how they would serve buffets, and trying to figure out how to have a dance floor where you can socially distance yourself from others.

«There’s still so much we don’t know but we’re keeping an eye on all the information, and trying to keep our clients happy and informed.»

Image copyright 1SWEvents
Image caption Event planning firm 1SWEvents doesn’t have any weddings on its books until the end of the year

How will Asian wedding businesses deal with the likelihood of smaller, scaled back weddings in the immediate future?

Timmy Kader is the co-founder of 1SWEvents, an event planning and decorating company that counts boxer Amir Khan as one of its clients.

She and her team are used to decorating plush venues that can hold hundreds of guests. «We haven’t got any weddings until the end of this year, which are still hanging on the edge because we don’t know if there will be a second wave [of coronavirus].»

Nevertheless, she is hopeful for the future.

«People still want an Instagramable wedding and you can have that wedding in your home, providing you get a décor expert in to advise you and still make it look really pretty.»