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Archbishop calls for cut to universal credit delays

The Archbishop of York John SentamuImage copyright Getty Images

The sixweek waiting time for universal credit must be cut as the idea that people have a nest egg to fall back on is “grotesquely ignorant”, the Archbishop of York has said.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Dr John Sentamu said ministers must take a “courageous” look at the benefit.

Addressing the delay must be a priority, he said.

The government said it was determined to ensure people would not face hardship.

Changes recently announced to the system of advanced payments meant people could access these as soon as they got into the system, a spokesman said.

Universal credit rolls six working-age benefits into a single payment.

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Media captionHolly Sargent has had to sell her possessions because of problems receiving universal credit

Since it began rolling out four years ago, almost a quarter of the 610,000 claimants receiving the benefit have had to wait for a month and a half for the first payment.

Although Dr Sentamu praised the concept of a single welfare payment, he wrote that the current system “seems to assume that everyone has a nest egg that will tide them over as they wait a minimum of 42 days for payouts”.

“That assumption is grotesquely ignorant, because millions of people, especially those in need of support, are already in debt and have nothing to fall back on,” he said.

‘Widows and orphans’

Dr Sentamu added that the UK‘s poorest were at risk of falling into a downward spiral of debt, with some taking out expensive loans to bridge the 42-day benefit gap, so that the repayment of loans or of interest “becomes the first call on any payment they receive”.

He wrote: “In the Bible, the hardest-pressed of all poor people were summarised as ‘widows and orphans’ for they were the group most at risk and with least support.

“Our concern should be for their present-day successors whose essential outgoings are costing more and more and their incomes standing still or going down.”

Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May agreed to scrap premium rate charges for phone calls to the universal credit helpline, which can be up to 55p a minute.

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Virtual reality: Tourism firms use VR to attract visitors

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Media captionGina Gavigan, of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, explains the benefits of VR

Tourism businesses are being encouraged to use virtual reality in a bid to promote Welsh attractions.

Visit Wales revealed it has awarded £290,000 to six VR projects under its Tourism Product Innovation Fund.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said growing numbers of businesses were “embracing” the technology to “market themselves”.

Businesses and organisations claim it has increased engagement with potential visitors.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales received £30,000 from Visit Wales to create two VR videos – “Dolphin dive” off the coast of Pembrokeshire and “Flight of the kingfisher” over Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve in Cilgerran.

They were created in partnership with Island Friends as part of Wales’ 2017 Year of Legends campaign.

Gina Gavigan, the charity’s marketing development manager, said they have showcased the videos at consumer shows, wildlife attractions and schools.

“As a charity we want to inspire people about the amazing wildlife we have here in Wales and what a better way to it do it than using the virtual reality experience,” she said.

“The younger generation is so tech savvy, they get it straight away, but it’s interesting to see the older generation, how completely blown away they are as well.

“The project is still in it’s very early stages… we’ve promoted these experiences to encourage visitors to come to our sites and we’ve got really good feedback from people, and from Visit Wales and local tourist organisations who are keen to work with us.

“We’ll be looking to develop more experiences going into the future. We’ve got something special planned for the 2018 Year of the Sea using 7D augmented reality, which takes the whole technological element to another level, which is great.”

‘Lasting impression’

She added 85% of people who had watched the videos responded to a survey saying they would visit Wildlife Trust attractions.

Dr Nigel Jones, senior lecturer in information systems at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said VR was becoming increasingly popular as it becomes more affordable and accessible.

He argued it was appealing to tourists because it enabled people to interact with a location or attraction they might otherwise not consider visiting.

“You’re able to give something that’s more tangible to the person, they can see where they’re going to go, see what’s happening in that location,” he said.

“The other advantage is to give people an experience that they can’t do. You could take them to a place that’s off limits – like a dungeon in a castle.”

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Media captionDr Nigel Jones said VR makes people “really feel like you’re there”

He believes VR works particularly well for tourism in Wales because of the country’s “beautiful” and “immersive” landscape.

But he said businesses need to keep up-to-date with advances in the technology to ensure quality is maintained.

Economy Secretary, Ken Skates, said VR left a more “lasting impression” than a brochure or advert.

“The increase in the use of technology such as virtual reality presents many opportunities for tourism businesses in Wales,” he said.

“When trying to entice someone to Wales and selling the concept of what a holiday in Wales could be like, virtual reality is a perfect way of bringing those possible experiences to life – and giving a glimpse of what Wales has to offer.”

Home-buying to be ‘faster and less stressful’ following review

For sale signs in LondonImage copyright PA

Home-buying and selling in England could be “faster and less stressful” under new plans aimed at tackling gazumping and speeding up the process.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid launched an eight-week review, saying he wanted to “hear from the industry” on how to streamline home-buying.

Ways of locking in deals and stopping sellers accepting higher offers at the last minute will be considered.

But Labour said proposals were “feeble” and “smack of political diversion”.

“This is a government out of touch and out of ideas,” said Shadow housing secretary John Healey. “After seven years of failure, ministers still have no plan to fix the housing crisis.”

The current ‘call for evidence’ follows proposals announced this month to look at new ways to protect leaseholders and tenants from “rogue agents” – both part of a drive by Mr Javid to modernise and improve the housing market.

‘Building confidence’

Although a million homes are bought and sold in England every year, a quarter of sales fall through, wasting hundreds of millions of pounds.

Gazumping – when a seller accepts a higher offer from a new buyer, having previously accepted a lower offer – is among the most contentious of house-buying practices.

Ministers will look at schemes such as “lock-in agreements” as a means of building confidence in the housing chain, which often collapse leaving those involved disappointed and out of pocket.

The review will also seek digital solutions to speeding up the process of home-buying, and will consider how to advise home buyers and sellers so they are sale-ready.

Image copyright PA

Mr Javid called on estate agents, mortgage lenders and solicitors to share their experiences of the housing market – in order to “help save people money and time so they can focus on what matters – finding their dream home”.

He said: “Buying a home is one of life‘s largest investments, so if it goes wrong it can be costly. That’s why we’re determined to take action.

“We want to help everyone have a good quality home they can afford, and improving the process of buying and selling is part of delivering that.

“I want to hear from the industry on what more we can do to tackle this issue.”

‘Losing money’

Alex Neill, of consumer magazine Which?, described the house-buying process as “outdated and flawed”.

“Buying a home can be one of the most stressful experiences in life, with sales often taking too long or falling through, with some consumers losing substantial sums of money.

“The government must put consumers first, ensuring that estate agents deliver a better service for both home-buyers and sellers and that the conveyancing process is simplified.”

Mark Hayward, of the National Association of Estate Agents Propertymark, agreed there was “scope to improve the process for home buying and selling”.

In a government survey of more than 2,000 people who have bought or sold a home recently, nearly half (46%) of sellers had concerns about a buyer changing their mind after making an offer.

The survey found a quarter (24%) of sellers said they would use a different estate agent if they had to go through the process again, while almost a third (32%) of sellers and 28% of buyers were dissatisfied with the other party’s solicitor.

Lewis Hamilton on pole for United States Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the United States Grand Prix and will have title rival Sebastian Vettel alongside him on the front row.

Hamilton beat Vettel by 0.239 seconds as the German rescued his day with a superb final lap.

Vettel was fourth after the first runs in final qualifying, over 0.7secs off the pace, but improved at the death.

Hamilton, who took his 11th pole in 17 races, will clinch the title if he wins the race with Vettel lower than fifth.

Sunday’s race is live on radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website at 20:00 BST.

Hamilton can take the title if he wins and Vettel finishes sixth or below, or he is second and Vettel finishes 10th or below

Hamilton in control

It was Hamilton’s 11th pole position in 17 races so far this season and it continues a weekend of domination for the 32-year-old at one of his favourite circuits.

Hamilton topped all three practice sessions and all three parts of qualifying to stamp his total authority on the weekend.

Hamilton said he “loved this track” but said qualifying was difficult because of a gusting strong wind in hot and humid conditions.

“It is going to be a great race,” he said. It is going to be a tough one. Looking after the tyres in these conditions is going to be tough but I am the best prepared I can be.”

American fans make clear what they want on Sunday – Hamilton won the title in Austin in 2015, where Nico Rosberg famously threw his cap at him

Hamilton said it was “highly unlikely” that he would win the title on Sunday.

“Sebastian did a great job to get back up there. Unless he makes a silly mistake – which is very unlikely; he’s a four-time world champion – it is going to continue to the next race.

“This is such a fantastic circuit, just the layout and the way the wind comes really makes it challenging. You are constantly dancing with the wind.”

A great recovery from Vettel

Ferrari have had a difficult weekend, starting with a spin for Vettel on Friday, a car problem which led to a chassis change, but recovered well on Saturday.

Vettel said: “I was very happy in the end. I was lacking a bit the rhythm, especially the transition from the first to second sector. Got it right in the end, but it was very tricky with the wind.”

His front row starts sets up a potentially fascinating battle between the two in the race, when Ferrari are usually more competitive than in qualifying.

Vettel and Hamilton were tied on two US GP poles each – Hamilton now extends his record to three

The heat is also giving Mercedes concerns. The hotter it is, the more problems they have managing tyre temperatures, which could be a significant issue for them in the race, although it is expected to be a few degrees cooler on Sunday than the 30C temperatures in south Texas on Saturday.

Bottas again struggled to match Hamilton, as he has since the season re-started after the summer break in late August and Ricciardo could be a factor in the race, qualifying only 0.469secs off the pace.

Raikkonen exactly matched the Australian’s team but as he posted it second was classified behind.

Verstappen was just under 0.1secs off his team-mate and will start from the back because of a 15-place penalty for excessive engine usage.

Sainz’s steller debut

There was an impressive performance from Carlos Sainz on his first outing for the Renault team following his transfer from Toro Rosso to replace Jolyon Palmer.

The Spaniard took eighth place, pipped by Force India‘s Esteban Ocon but ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and the second Force India of Sergio Perez.

Sainz was on the pace of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg all weekend and was 0.2secs quicker than the German in first qualifying, although Hulkenberg did only one run because he is one of the other drivers with a major grid penalty.

Nico Hulkenberg: So what does make the Hulk angry?

New Zealander Brendon Hartley qualified 18th on his Formula 1 debut for Toro Rosso, saying he had lost a lot of time locking front wheels at Turn 12 and 15.

He was 0.8secs slower than team-mate Daniil Kvyat in first qualifying but said he was optimistic of a strong race, which he will start from the back because of a 25-place engine penalty.

“It has been a steep learning curve,” said Hartley, who is expected to be retained for the rest of the season when Frenchman Pierre Gasly returns for the next race in Mexico.

“I was happy with final practice but I didn’t really get it together in qualifying. There is a lot to learn with these tyres and peak performance, the long-run pace I feel confident I can do a good job tomorrow. Bit of work to do on short runs. Pretty happy with how the weekend has gone so far.”

Another one bites the dust: Haas’ Romain Grosjean ended up on the gravel track during final practice
Midnight cowboy Daniel Ricciardo
Hamilton has worn a yellow, red and white helmet so far this weekend…what colour will he chose next?
Bevo the Texas Longhorns mascot was having fun in the Red Bull garage

Jeremy Corbyn condemns Clive Lewis remark

Jeremy Corbyn
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn said Clive Lewis had contacted him personally to apologise for the remark

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned a remark made by one of his own MPs as “completely unacceptable”.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis was filmed on stage at a Labour conference fringe event in Brighton saying “Get on your knees, bitch” to a man during a mock game show.

On a visit to the city on Saturday, Mr Corbyn told BBC Look East the comments had been “completely wrong”.

Mr Lewis had already apologised for his “offensive and unacceptable” language.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Clive Lewis was filmed making the remark at a Labour party conference fringe event

Mr Corbyn was visiting Norwich with shadow chancellor John McDonnell for a private party fundraising event.

Mr Lewis had originally been due to attend, but did not do so.

Asked for his reaction to his comments, the Labour leader said: “Completely wrong, should never have said it – completely unacceptable comments.”

He added: “He’s been in touch with me to apologise personally to me, and it’s a message to everybody: this kind of language is not acceptable in any circumstances at any time.”

Asked if the comments pointed to misogyny within the party, he said: “It points to a bad remark he made in particular circumstances.

“I’m leading a party which has more women MPs than all the others put together, and we have more all-women shortlists for selections coming up.”

GALLERY: Space-age themed activities kick off Family Learning Festival

A bumper day of events has kicked off the tenth annual Family Learning Festival in Bradford.

Museums, libraries and other venues join together to stage the festival, giving parents and children the chance to learn new things.

Many of this years activities have a space-age theme.

Families flocked to the National Science and Media Museum today, where astronaut Tim Peake’s capsule is still on show.

Holly McCulloch, who works at the museum, said: “The kids can come in and make Mars rovers for themselves, we have a testing area so they can see how fast they work and see how they look.

“We’ve got mission patches, so they can make badges just as Tim Peake wore. Upstairs we have rockets, there’s straw rockets and push rockets, where they can launch them at the Moon or Soyuz and there’s also astronaut training.”

She added the half-term week was expected to be busy, with the Soyuz space capsule still drawing visitors.

While the astronaut himself was only in Bradford for a day last month, families can still learn about his historic mission to the International Space Station.

James Hewitson, 38, took his sons Stanley and Leander along to the museum.

He said: “I’ve not been here for 25 years and it’s great that there’s all these free activities – lots of people seem to be enjoying themselves.”

While Judy Steel, 64, and her son Chris Steel, 43, said they were having a great time at the museum.

Activities take place at the museum every day throughout the festival, which begins today and runs until Sunday, October 29.

And there’s also plenty to keep everyone entertained at Bradford City Library, which is offering alien-themed activities on its ‘Super Saturday’.

Susan Brewster-Craig, Development Officer for libraries, said: “It’s Family Learning Week across the country, so we always join in every year. This is our tenth year, so we are very excited that we have managed ten years.

“We’re trying to encourage parents to work with their children a little bit more on exciting and fun things. It helps the children to develop with the parents joining in.

“The first thing we started was a alien competition, because the theme of this festival is ‘staying in touch’.

“We asked the parents to do one drawing and the child was to do the other drawing, so they are all working together as a family and learning together.

“We’ve got lots of activities happening here, we’ve had loads of families come down.”

There has also been storytime sessions, ‘alien laughter’ workshops and youngsters have also been able to make alien planets, postcards and face masks.

She added: “The response has been really great, we’ve got a whole week of things going on as well.”

Other events throughout the week will include Aliens Love Underpants shows for children up to the age of six. These are based on the books by children’s author Claire Freedman and will be held at libraries across the Bradford district.

The Peace Museum will host workshops on Thursday and Friday, while at Kala Sangam in Forster Square, visitors can see the fantastical Indian folktale The Magic Fish and take part in a family dance workshop.

Artist Jonny White will be leading activities at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Lister Park, Manningham.

And The Impressions Gallery in City Park is hosting From Bradford with Love, offering people the chance to take part in a pop-up photo studio as part of their show.

Shoes gift to homeless man is ‘passed on’ around world

Mark (left) and Craig WellsImage copyright Craig Wells
Image caption Craig Wells had to walk around Nottingham wearing only socks on his feet after giving his trainers to Mark

A man who gave his “favourite” £120 trainers to a barefoot homeless man says the act has inspired other good deeds after his story was shared around the world.

Craig Wells ran out of a restaurant in Nottingham after seeing the homeless man, Mark, walk past wearing no shoes.

He said Mark “started to cry and gave me the biggest hug” after the gift.

Mr Wells shared a photo on Facebook to encourage other people to “pass it on” and help someone in need.

“There is nothing worse than self praise and I certainly don’t want it,” wrote Mr Wells, from Chesterfield.

“If someone is encouraged to step out and help someone in need by this message then Love wins!!!”

Since then, the photo has been shared more than 4,000 times and liked more than 9,000 times.

Mr Wells said it resulted in “hundreds of private messages” from people “all over the world”.

One man from Jakarta in Indonesia told Mr Wells he had gone out and bought lunch for a homeless person.

“It may sound a bit fluffy but love really does make a difference in a world,” said Mr Wells.

He said he had also heard from several members of Mark’s family who thanked him for “being so kind”.

Mr Wells, who describes himself as a “committed Christian” and attends Christian Life Church in Chesterfield, said he simply wants to “open people’s eyes and offer hope to the homeless and other people in need”.

CAR REVIEW: Seat Leon ST Cupra 300 4Drive

IF YOU ever wondered whether a top-class hot hatchback could become a family-friendly estate car without losing its appeal in the process, then Seat has come up with an emphatic answer.

The Spanish company’s recently-facelifted Leon ST Cupra 300 has a fast and fun personality, while offering practicality at the same time.

The upgraded Cupra has been given an extra 10bhp and an increase in torque, making it even more blistering than its already-quick predecessor.

And it certainly puts that power down on the road with real poise and purpose, performing the 0-62mph sprint in a mere 4.9 seconds.

What’s more, the power delivery is well spread-out, with the car pulling nicely from just over 2000rpm right up to the redline.

Such acceleration makes overtaking an easier and safer process because the manouevre is over and done with so swiftly.

In terms of handling, the new four-wheel drive system has given the ST Cupra a more sure-footed feel through the sharper bends.

Indeed, its road-hugging abilities inspire great confidence of finding the right traction, even on some of the damper leaf-covered roads experienced in Yorkshire during Storm Ophelia this week.

Compared with the sometimes wayward manners of the front-wheel drive version, it offers more mature and assured handling, which suits the estate layout.

The estate version is the only four-wheel drive Cupra you can buy in this country, with no plans afoot to give the regular Leon Cupra hatchback similar treatment. For now, the lower weight and increased agility of the front-wheel drive setup remains the firm’s configuration of choice for the Cupra hatches.

The six-speed DSG automatic transmission is smooth-shifting once you get above 30mph, but can be a little jerky when travelling at lower speeds.

You also have the option of taking control by using the wheel-mounted paddles, although I found the paddles a bit on the small and fiddly side and generally just left the DSG box to do its thing.

Depending on your mood, there are various different driving modes from which to choose, including the more racy ‘sport’ and ‘cupra’ options, which make the engine noticeably more eager.

If you don’t want the car to be constantly straining at the leash, you can opt for ‘normal’ mode and amble around as though you’re behind the wheel of a practical, sensible estate car.

And that, in essence, is the unique selling point of this car – a split personality that allows it to transform from a roaring fuel-thirsty beast into a sedate and more dignified everyday family vehicle.

Inside, the estate version has been given the same interior upgrades as the rest of the Leon range.

These include a slick and user-friendly new touchscreen infotainment system.

In terms of space, there’s lots of leg and head room for front and back seat occupants, plus no shortage of storage room dotted around the cabin and in the ample boot.

The sports seat are comfortable and do an excellent job of keeping you in position while cornering. With the exception of a few rough plastics, the materials used throughout the cabin are of a high quality, giving the interior a pleasant feel.

Among its other features are driver assistance systems such as Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Pedestrian Protection, plus, Electric Parking Brake and KESSY (Keyless Entry and Start).

In making its most powerful car ever, the Barcelona firm is bidding to win hearts and minds in the hot hatch sector, which includes competitors such as the Focus RS, Audi S3, Golf R, Honda Civic R-Type, and Peugeot 308 Gti.

What impresses most about this Cupra is its duality of purpose, allowing drivers to be sensible most of the time while having a little fun when the road conditions allow.

THE LOWDOWN

Seat Leon ST Cupra 300

PRICE: £34,485

ENGINE 1984cc, four-cylinder, petrol

POWER: 296bhp

TRANSMISSION: Six speed automatic, four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE:0-62mph in 4.9sec and top speed of 155mph

ECONOMY 39.2mpg

CO2 EMISSIONS: 164g/km

Ofsted: Improvement at failing school ‘not good enough’

A SCHOOL placed in special measures earlier this year is not doing enough to improve, says education watchdog Ofsted.

Southmere Primary Academy, in Ewart Street, Great Horton, is run by the Northern Education Trust and following a visit in November 2016 was rated inadequate.

Ryecroft Academy, run by the same trust, was also placed into special measures around the same time and the Department for Education said it was “closely monitoring” the progress of the schools.

But in a damning monitoring inspection of Southmere, inspector Jo Sharpe said leaders and managers were not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.

“Having considered all the evidence, I strongly recommend that the school does not seek to appoint newly-qualified teachers,” said the report, which outlines “significant change” in the leadership and teaching team at the school, with a new principal joining the school in September.

“Leaders and managers have not demonstrated that they have the capacity to bring about improvement since the school’s inspection in November 2016,” it says.

“Too long has been taken to secure any improvement, so currently, the school is unlikely to be removed from special measures in the required timescale.”

However, it says the new principal and CEO of the trust are “acutely aware” improvement has not been good enough and have an accurate view of what needs to improve.

Newly-appointed principal Susan Dawson said: “I would agree with the observations and analysis of the inspectors during their visit and echo their concerns that improvements have not been rapid enough since the outcome of the previous inspection.” She added it was “imperative” improvements were rapidly secured.

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Rob Tarn, the new chief executive of the Northern Education Trust, added: “It is clear that the children in our care deserve a much higher standard of education than they have been receiving and I praise the efforts of the new principal, Susan Dawson, in taking the difficult decisions necessary to enable the rapidly changing culture which is required to dramatically improve the provision for our children.

“As a proud member of the Northern Alliance of Trusts we are working with our partners to secure the immediate capacity needed to move the school forward.”

Police investigation into developer’s controversial collapse grows in scale

AN international investigation into the collapse of a developer working in Bradford has grown in scale.

And the director of a company which had taken over two of its projects in the city has now had his assets frozen, it has emerged.

Detectives in Hong Kong are looking into reports that buy-to-let investors were deceived when buying flats off-plan from Liverpool-based Absolute Living Developments.

The company was working on three schemes in Bradford when it was forced into voluntary liquidation last year over £180,000 in unpaid business rates owed to Bradford Council.

The investors – mostly from the Far East – fear they have lost the sizeable deposits they put down for the flats they had bought, many of which remain unfinished.

Hong Kong’s Commercial Crime Bureau initially said they were investigating reports from 118 people “who suspected that they were deceived while investing in properties”.

Since then, a further 151 people have made complaints, bringing the number of potential victims to 269.

Detectives have also revealed that their investigation has widened to include other, unnamed developers.

A spokesman said: “From June 18, 2016, to October 16, 2017, police received reports from 269 people who suspected that they were deceived while investing in nine overseas estate projects with different developers through a local property agency.

“The loss involved totalled about HK$193 million [£18.7m].

“The case is being followed up by the Commercial Crime Bureau. No arrest has been made so far.”

In Bradford, two of Absolute Living Developments’ unfinished projects, Olicana House in Little Germany and Alexander House in Bolton Road, have since changed hands.

Both passed to an investment company, DS7, which said it had provided Absolute Living Developments with finance for the projects and therefore had a claim over the properties as a secured creditor.

Now it has emerged that DS7’s director, Charlie Cunningham, has had his assets frozen in a High Court injunction, with Absolute Living Developments’ liquidator, Louise Brittain, alleging that money from Absolute Living Developments has been wrongfully diverted to a number of companies, including DS7.

Mr Cunningham said he planned to fight “on the strongest possible terms” the freezing injunction brought by Ms Brittain and lawyer Danny Davis.

He said: “DS7 categorically refutes all claims and allegations made by Louise Brittain and Danny Davis, and it will challenge this injunction.”

Mr Cunningham said DS7 was currently preparing its case, which he said would include “critical information” for the courts.

He said his company had “absolute confidence in the legal system to arrive at the truth”.

One of the investors, who wanted to be named only as Mrs Wong, said she and other investors welcomed the recent developments in the case.

She added: “But we are not certain whether we can get our money back in the end.”