Game beware: it’s the return of the poacher

As times get harder in Britain’s cities, armed gangs are heading for the countryside – and stealing deer, salmon and rabbits to feed a burgeoning black market in food. Andy McSmith reports


Masked poachers caught in the act, hunting rabbits on private land

Once, the poacher was a man with big pockets in his raincoat sneaking on to an aristocrat’s land to steal game for his family pot. Now he is likely to be part of a gang from town, in it for hard cash, rampaging through the countryside with guns, crossbows or snares.

Police in rural areas across Britain are reporting a dramatic increase in poaching, as the rise in food prices and the reality of recession increases the temptation to deal in stolen venison, salmon, or rarer meat and fish.

Organised and sometimes armed gangs of poachers are accused of behaving dangerously, intimidating residents, causing damage to crops or to gates and fences. Squads have also been out in the countryside “lamping”, poachers using lights to transfix animals.

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UK: Most adults think children ‘are feral and a danger to society’

Children are the most excellent mirror of a society!
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Alexandra Frean, Education Editor

Comment: Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s

Public intolerance of young people has reached such levels that more than half of all adults think that British children are beginning to behave like animals, a poll has found.

The poll, commissioned by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, found that 49 per cent of adults regard children as increasingly dangerous both to each other and to their elders, while 43 per cent feel that “something has to be done” to protect society from children and young people.

More than a third of people agree that “it feels like the streets are infested with children”.

The YouGov poll of 2,000 adults suggests that the great strides made towards children’s rights and child welfare through the Government’s Every Child Matters agenda, in which the interests of the child are supposedly put at the heart of all policy, have had little impact on public consciousness.

Read moreUK: Most adults think children ‘are feral and a danger to society’

50,000 estate agents face axe in next nine months


Experts have warned that up to 50,000 estate agents may lose their jobs in the next year

As many as 50,000 estate agents could lose their jobs by next Autumn because of the worsening economic crisis, experts today warned.

Economists said the collapse in the housing markets meant the true figure would be double previous predictions of 15,000 job losses, with some experts forecasting at least 50,000 out of work by next year.

The panic has led to some businesses making desperate attempts to secure their survival, with one estate agent even converting part of his office into a cafe to generate extra income.

Ben Read, managing economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the toll of job losses would be shocking.

He told the Evening Standard: ‘It will definitely be worse. The housing market has dropped significantly more since May and the outlook for the next nine months is pretty ropey.

‘Because of the worsening situation in the economy you could easily expect that figure of 15,000 to go up by 50 per cent. The true figure could even be as much as 50,000.

‘Most estate agents have let go significant numbers of staff and are working on skeleton staff. I’m sure it will surprise everyone how bad it is.’

Read more50,000 estate agents face axe in next nine months

BT slashes 10,000 jobs

• Telecoms giant cuts 6% of global workforce
• Several thousand expected to go in UK
• News of cuts sends shares up 12%

BT is axing 10,000 workers, or 6% of its global workforce, with several thousand expected to go in the UK as the company looks to cut costs and reduce its reliance on contractors in the face of the global economic downturn.

The company, which announced an 11% fall in second quarter profits, said it has already cut 4,000 mostly contractors jobs and a further 6,000 will go by next April. The majority of those job losses will be among BT’s own staff and the axe is expected to fall particularly heavily in the UK.

BT has 160,000 people working for it worldwide, of whom 110,000 are directly employed.

This latest blow to the British economy came just a day after the number of jobless people in the UK hit its highest level since 1997. By the end of September there were 1.825 million people out of work. The claimaint count also rose to 980,900, its highest level since the end of 1997.

News of the job cuts helped to send the company’s shares up 12% in early trading, 13.5p higher at 126p.

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Kenneth Clarke warns Britain is on the brink of meltdown

Kenneth Clarke, the former Conservative Chancellor, has warned the economy is on the brink of “meltdown” and unemployment could reach three million.

Mr Clarke, 68, said the British economy is headed for a “catastrophic crisis” that will be “far worse than anything that has occurred in my lifetime”.

“There will be a very serious recession next year,” he said in an interview with Telegraph TV. “I think the big problem in 2009 will be the catastrophic fall in consumer spending demand, spending in shops will get worse.”

Mr Clarke, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1993 and 1997 led Britain’s recovery from Black Wednesday, called for a temporary cut in VAT to boost spending.

Speaking as the Office of National Statistics revealed unemployment has reached an 11-year high of 1.82m, Mr Clarke said the number of jobless could soon reach three million.

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MPs seek to censor the media

Britain’s security agencies and police would be given unprecedented and legally binding powers to ban the media from reporting matters of national security, under proposals being discussed in Whitehall.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary watchdog of the intelligence and security agencies which has a cross-party membership from both Houses, wants to press ministers to introduce legislation that would prevent news outlets from reporting stories deemed by the Government to be against the interests of national security.

The committee also wants to censor reporting of police operations that are deemed to have implications for national security. The ISC is to recommend in its next report, out at the end of the year, that a commission be set up to look into its plans, according to senior Whitehall sources.

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RBS bank executives enjoy SECRET £300,000 champagne party… just weeks after £20bn bail-out by taxpayers

Last night an RBS spokesman said: ‘This was an entirely appropriate staff event to recognise outstanding performance by a small number of our staff.’
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The Royal Bank of Scotland has blown £300,000 on a secret champagne junket for executives – less than a month after being given a £20billion handout by the taxpayer.

Bankers and their partners enjoyed the lavish party to mark their ‘success’ after a year in which the collapse of the banking industry led to global financial meltdown.

The supposedly stricken bank laid on the celebration amid extraordinary secrecy to try to prevent details reaching the public, even cancelling the original venue, a top hotel in Hampshire, and transferring the party 350 miles north to Edinburgh.

Dancing in the street: Bankers threw a lavish party to celebrate 'success'
Dancing in the street: Bankers threw a lavish party to celebrate ‘success’

But despite holding the black-tie ball in private, executives gave the game away as they danced in the street and continued the fun back at their five-star hotel.

Read moreRBS bank executives enjoy SECRET £300,000 champagne party… just weeks after £20bn bail-out by taxpayers

Financial crisis: The banks just don’t get it – they’re lucky to be alive

“No, you can’t”. These are unfashionable words at the moment – and nowhere more so than in the banking industry.

While politicians were hoping for an outbreak of economic optimism after Thursday’s reduction in interest rates, our High Street bank managers were having none of it.

Nearly 24 hours after the Bank of England slashed the official price of money by a record-breaking 1.5 percentage points, only three of the 88 major lenders had said they would pass it on to their borrowers. In fact, only 30 of them had got around to sharing the proceeds of last month’s half-point rate cut. The fact they were much quicker to cut interest rates for many savers only served to rub in the message: No, you can’t have a cheaper mortgage. No, you can’t get a fairer rate on your savings. No, you can’t expect us to go without large profits and bonuses. Change is for wimps.

Well, let’s see about that. In scenes that would have been unthinkable only two months ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer summoned the industry’s leaders to Downing Street on Friday and promptly pistol-whipped them into submission. Treasury officials were said to have waved press cuttings in their faces, pointing out that the word “banker” had become a popular term of abuse – and not just in rhyming slang. Out they meekly trotted, finally ready to cut their standard variable rate on most mortgages by the same 1.5 percentage points suggested by the Bank of England.

Read moreFinancial crisis: The banks just don’t get it – they’re lucky to be alive

City of London recession to trigger £11bn tax revenue black hole

The financial crisis will result in tax revenues from City bonuses alone falling by as much as £4bn next year, according to one of Britain’s most influential economic forecasting firms.


Restrictions on bonuses at the banks which the Government is helping to rescue will also have the unintended consequence of lowering tax revenues Photo: MICHAEL WALTER

As investment banks, hedge funds and private equity firms – three of the principal drivers of the Square Mile’s explosive growth of recent years – cut tens of thousands of jobs, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) expects the Treasury to face an overall City-generated taxation “black hole” of more than £10bn.

The CEBR believes the Government will collect around £5bn less than previously-estimated in corporation tax, while tax generated by bonuses, National Insurance contributions and base salaries is likely to fall by around £6bn.

The bleak forecasts underline the many ways in which cutbacks in the City, which has become a crucial engine of national economic growth, will contribute to an expected recession in Britain.

Restrictions on bonuses at the banks which the Government is helping to rescue will also have the unintended consequence of lowering tax revenues from City firms.

The deficit means Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, may need to borrow up to £110bn in the next financial year to plug the hole in the national balance sheet – almost three times the estimate of the £38bn forecast in his Budget statement last March.

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UK: Perilous state of economy revealed by MPC’s shock move

The perilous state of the UK economy was exposed as the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee made an unprecedented 1.5 percentage point cut in interest rates.


Winston Churchill meets the Queen in 1955. Photo: PA

The shock vote brought interest rates down to 3pc for the first time since January 1955, when Winston Churchill was prime minister. Economists forecast that the cut could pave the way for further reductions – with some claiming that rates could hit a historic low of 1pc.

Thursday’s move was interpreted as a desperate attempt to protect the UK economy from a severe recession.

“There has been a very marked deterioration in the outlook for economic activity at home and abroad,” said the MPC in an explanatory statement, adding that the threat of inflation was now receding.

It warned that after the most serious crisis in the global banking sector for almost a century, households and businesses were likely to find it difficult to obtain credit “for some time.” The MPC counted falling share prices, a sharp reduction in UK output, and a squeeze on household budgets among a nasty cocktail of circumstances that have combined to hit both businesses and consumers hard.

The MPC’s decision came amid a raft of gloomy news and data emerged. Figures from Halifax, the UK’s biggest mortgage lender, showed that house prices have fallen by 15pc over the past 12 months.

It was the sharpest drop since the survey began in 1983 and brought the average house price down to £168,176 in October, compared with almost £200,000 in the same month last year.

Read moreUK: Perilous state of economy revealed by MPC’s shock move