NATIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP: Shapps comments as more NHS trusts raise alert level AND the National Insurance hike is to go ahead
The number of hospital NHS trusts on the highest level of alert has increased to twenty four, as health leaders warned the NHS needs support to "get through this period".
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a further four hospital trusts had declared critical incidents as the health service confronts a wave of Omicron infections. He said it's "not entirely unusual for hospitals to go critical over the winter" but accepted that there are "very real pressures".
Downing Street was resisting calls to scrap the National Insurance hike despite a Cabinet rift over concerns it will heap further pressure on households struggling with the soaring cost of living.
No 10 insisted on Thursday there were no plans to backtrack on the increase of 1.25 percentage points scheduled for April despite Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg arguing to the Cabinet it should be axed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the decision has already been made collectively as there is a “very good case” for the move to support the backlog in the NHS from coronavirus and overhaul social care.
A significant number of Tory MPs oppose the hike being imposed in April, as does Labour, and Lord Frost resigned from the Cabinet citing high taxation as one of his major concerns.
And - Farmers and landowners will be able to bid for funding for "rewilding" the countryside, as part of a pilot scheme. Projects will be awarded funding under the first wave of the "landscape recovery" scheme, as part of the programme replacing the EU farming subsidies regime.
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