Celebs embracing their quarantine makeovers and make-unders

Who’s that man? On March 21, “Queer Eye” favorite Jonathan Van Ness shared a selfie that show him sporting a goatee, a far cry from his signature full beard look. At the time, he joked, “Don’t try new lewks during quarantine.” He said he planned to shave because he looked “aghast.” A few days later, he delivered on his promise, posting a facial hair-less pic. He looks unrecognizable. According to JVN, he actually looks like another celebrity. “I look like Weird Al w this no facial hair,” the reality TV star said. “He’s hot.” Like JVN, many of entertainment’s biggest names are quarantining at home amid the coronavirus pandemic and they’re having to get used to their temporary new normal — one without a barber or nail technician. Check out more celebs who are embracing their quarantine looks…

RELATED: History making LGBT moments in pop culture

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Those magnificent men in their writing machines!

Those magnificent men in their writing machines! As the daredevil art returns after a long ban, JANE FRYER reveals the heroic history trailing behind it…

  • Skywriting is a process which originated in the skies above the Western Front
  • British airmen used paraffin oil to create smoke trails to signal to troops below
  • Captain Turner and Major Jack Savage turned it into a commercial enterprise

For over a year, Royal Air Force Captain Cyril Turner practised in his modified Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a fighter: looping, climbing and flipping, two miles up in the sky.

First, he perfected the straight stroke of the letter ‘D’. Then, the swirl of the ‘Y’. Next, he tried grouping the letters ‘ail’ and ‘ily’.

He could only see the previous letter, or part of it, from the cockpit, so it was hard to write in a straight line, almost impossible to separate words, and the ‘Y’ was particularly tricky to pull off when flying at 100mph.

Oh yes, and it was all written backwards.

Which is why, as he told the Daily Mail at the time, he used the sun as his guide.

‘I fly directly towards it when I make the straight stroke of the ‘D,’ ‘ he said. 

Skywriting is the process of releasing smoke via a small aircraft during flight to form letters in the sky. Pictured: Skywriting in East Hampton, New York, in the 1940s

Royal Air Force Captain Cyril Turner practised the art of skywriting in his modified Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a fighter

‘I am too busy concentrating on the correct tracing of the letters to trouble much about the actual flying of the machine. I don’t bank correctly always, for example. 

In making the ‘D’, I kick the rudder hard and so turn more sharply than I would do if I made a correct bank. This improves the appearance of the letter.’

But, eventually, after thousands of hours of practice, he mastered it and, one blue-skied day in May 1922, tried out his new skill above London and the south coast, trailing a ten-mile plume of smoke behind him.

The crowds beneath were entranced.

‘A thousand fingers pointed to the sky where, gleaming white against the soft blue heaven, an aeroplane was seen wreathing in its flight a silver curl of smoke,’ recalled one witness.

In Margate, residents and holiday-makers rushed outside to join the crowds. Bathers looking upwards collided with each other in the water, boatmen stopped rowing and taxi drivers stopped their engines.

In Southend, the whole eight miles of seafront were crowded with thousands of visitors, and all eyes were turned skyward to see the wonderful writing.

‘The impression it left was one of amazement, for nothing could be seen in the sky but the letters traced in smoke,’ said one onlooker. ‘The most successful free exhibition,’ cried another.

Captain Turner was poised to become the first pilot to bring commercial messages to the skies. 

Days later, he produced his first official airborne advertisement — two words in vast, silvery letters in the blue skies above the thousands of ecstatic race-goers at the Epsom Derby: ‘Daily Mail!’

The art originated in the skies above the Western Front when British airmen used paraffin oil to create smoke trails. (Stock image) 

The ‘ink’ used in skywriting is a mixture of light paraffin oil and water which, when pumped into the plane’s exhaust, heats up and turns into a smoky vapour. (Stock image)

There has always been something magical about skywriting — words created in the sky by agile and talented pilots who, somehow, while flying at high speeds, mirror-write messages in the sky.

Letters that hang, swirling and shimmering in the breeze, before vanishing into thin air.

So what a perk, at an otherwise grim time to learn that, after a six-decade ban, skywriting is now set to make an unexpected return to British skies.

Even better, it could help our increasingly beleaguered aviation and advertising industries.

Proposals have been published by the Department for Transport (DfT) to amend aviation regulations to reintroduce it for advertising purposes, state events, airshows, birthday celebrations and marriage proposals.

The result could generate about £4 million a year in revenue but, more importantly, Britain would finally be back in step with much of the world for a skill we invented.

It would also allow our pilots —some of the best skywriters in the world — to work here, not America, China and Australia. (Just last week, one skywriter wrote ‘WASH HANDS’ in 600-metre letters high in the Sydney sky.)

Skywriting originated in the skies above the Western Front where British airmen used paraffin oil to create smoke trails, which they used to signal to the troops below.

There are environmental worries over skywriting which include increased CO2 emissions and the risk of abusive or inappropriate messages. (Stock image)

But it was our very own RAF airmen, Captain Turner and Major Jack Savage who, in the post-war years, turned it into a lucrative commercial enterprise. 

After all that inaugural Daily Mail excitement, they took the business to New York where Turner scrawled a huge ‘Hello USA’ in the skies above the city and sparked an entire industry.

The next day, he wrote ‘CALL VANDERBILT 7200,’ the telephone number of the hotel where he was staying. Legend has it that, over the following two-and-half hours, the hotel’s operators fielded 47,000 phone calls.

Within 10 years, skywriting was the biggest thing in advertising, far cheaper than radio and used to sell everything from cigarettes to Pepsi, and send love messages from wealthy suitors.

Soon, the mere sound of a low-flying aeroplane would see city-dwellers rush to the window to see what message it carried.

By 1940, it was one of Pepsi-Cola’s major advertising methods — that year alone, the company commissioned 2,225 flights. The same year, during the Roosevelt-Willkie presidential race, New Yorkers were messaged, ‘no third term’.

During World War II, the Germans even used skywriting to spell out surrender appeals above Soviet and, later, Yugoslav troops.

In 1969, during the Vietnam War, Yoko Ono and John Lennon commissioned a skywriter to create a message over New York City: ‘War is over if you want it — happy Christmas from John and Yoko.’

But while it thrived elsewhere, skywriting has been banned by our government since 1960.

In part, for health and safety reasons, but more as a pre-emptive response to the possibility it could have been used to spread communist propaganda at the height of the Cold War.

Happily, neither concern still applies, and thanks to lobbying by transport minister Grant Shapps (himself a pilot), an end to our antiquated ban looks in sight.

We just need a few incredibly talented pilots who also happen to be decent spellers.

Nearly a century after Captain Turner was looping and banking, the skill needed is still extraordinary, and the process is similar. 

The ‘ink’ is a mixture of light paraffin oil and water which, when pumped into the plane’s exhaust, heats up and turns into a smoky vapour, hanging in the air between 7,000 and 14,000 feet up. 

Skytyping — where planes flying abreast puff smoke at intervals to form letters — is different. And neither should be confused with banners, which are trailed behind light aircraft.

Naturally, leaving a message, however temporary, in the sky is very expensive. Compared to the £500 or so it costs to hire a plane to pull a banner, it costs thousands for letters that last barely four minutes, if you’re lucky.

(Though they won’t get tangled in your propeller and nearly kill you, as happened to poor old Nigel Farage when his UKIP banner brought his plane down on the day of the 2010 General Election.)

Success — crispness and legibility of letter and duration of display — is subject to the vagaries of the British weather. Optimum conditions are calm, blue skies. Too much wind and all those carefully flown letters blow away.

There are also environmental worries, which include increased CO2 emissions, safety concerns and the risk of abusive or inappropriate messages. After all, once a message is 2.5 miles up in the sky, it is there for all to see.

Indeed, while plenty of romantics have proposed or declared their love with heart-warming messages, not everyone has embraced skywriting’s celebratory side.

When his wife ran off with someone else, millionaire John Everson paid a pilot to skywrite ‘Cindy Everson is a sex cheat’ in the blue skies above Houston, Texas.

In a similar vein, Dirk Delahune, of Chicago, paid for ‘Marla Delahune is a tramp’ to be trailed across the skies after he caught her in bed with her tennis coach.

Which, as well as humiliating poor Marla, must have been rather eye-catching for everyone looking up in Chicago that day.

But the DfT seems to have all that covered.

‘Offensive or otherwise illegal content could be subject to general criminal law,’ it writes in its online consultation document.

Even better, the environmental concerns are negligible. Partly because smoke used to create the messages is a refined, non-toxic, and inherently bio-degradable white mineral oil, but also because the planes used have minimal impact on the environment.

So hurrah! Finally, some good news that would surely have sent the late Captain Cyril Turner looping the loop, and will hopefully cheer the rest of us up a bit, too.

Even if, for the foreseeable future, rather than ‘Karen, I love you’ and ‘Bobby, will you marry me?’ our messages are more likely to say: ‘Wash your hands!’ and ‘Has anyone got any loo roll?’


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Readers share their stories: What you are doing to get through the coronavirus outbreak

  • Follow our live coverage of the crisis

We're asking readers to share their stories and tips on how they are coping in these unusual times when the coronavirus outbreak has upended many of our everyday routines.

And there have been plenty of ideas from comfort cooking and meal planning; to checking on elderly neighbours; online yoga; arts and crafts; breaks from screen-time breaks; the best things to watch and play during screen-time; picking wild greens and gardening; cubby hut building; and even making a bidet (complete with picture!).

Keep sharing your thoughts and we'll keep adding to this article.

What readers said:

Exercise at some point, every day. It releases endorphins which will bring your mood up in the most natural way, reduce the inevitable stress levels, and also reduce your perception of pain. Don't stagnate. Then when everyone re-enters the world, shock them with how GREAT you look.

Read lots of books!

I will be taking a challenge of walking 100Kms a week while staying at home. Taking advantage of time. #VirtualSelfIsolation

I'm designing a native garden, planting seeds and watching them grow. Even in an apartment if you can find a sunny(ish) window sill you can grow mixed lettuces and greens. There are plenty of places to buy seeds online and to read about garden design. Plant the idea in your head and reflect on the importance of soil, flowers, trees and vegetables to our environment.

I have a small backyard and now pick wild greens which I used to shun. I get on the android tv box for entertainment and have devised an alternative to toilet paper use as I've given up looking for them at the supermarket. And I go out once or twice a week to top up food groceries. (Pictured) is my makeshift bidet system which delivers warm water servicing two toilets, each has it's own plastic switch off tap.

A home-made bidet to avoid the toilet paper queues.Credit:

My 84-year-old dad couldn’t go to his Tai Chi class, so I found a 30 minute free class for seniors on YouTube for him. Here’s the link.

After breakfast, I shower and put on comfy clothes (that aren't pyjamas), then "leave for work", walk around the block and then come home, having "arrived" to start my workday. Lunch outside for a full 30 minutes, no technology allowed. At the end of the workday another walk around the block, and then I've arrived "home". I'm also wearing my Fitbit all day and I'm not allowed to go to bed until I've hit 10,000 steps.

Trying to stick to as normal of a routine as possible is paramount. Try getting up at a similar time each morning, shower, get dressed, do a YouTube work out, eat breakfast and then get started for the day. Take regular breaks and touch base with colleagues, family and friends. We are going to get through this! 🙂

I help my parents buy groceries. Sometimes we use WeChat to contact local Asian Groceries, they even do home deliveries. I think it is a good way to make sure that my elderly parents will not go outside the house and expose the risk.

We have purchased an Xbox One as well as increasing our streaming service subscriptions to fight boredom. My stepdaughter has been taken out of school and we are awaiting the high school to provide work for her but we proactively signed up to the free Khan Academy learning site where she is completing a full day of lessons across maths, science, English and other core subjects. My younger daughter is still in school…At work, I’ve isolated myself to a quiet room as our workplace prepares for work from home provisions. Our world has changed so much but we fight on and adapt to whatever it throws at us.

Am reading a biography of Napoleon and listening to all the Haydn String Quartets. And keeping a very tidy house! Going out occasionally for shopping, but it is so crazy. We have a surfeit of oats, fortunately, that food which according to Dr Johnson in England feeds the horses, but in Scotland feeds the people! Hopefully no weevils in the flour…

Well, I impulse bought a guitar. Gonna find some Sufjan Stevens tabs.

Get dressed for work, go out and walk 2km, back to your house (preferably with your dog) and start your day as If you’d arrived at the office. Same at home time.

Work is forcing me to work in the office (software cloud company) even though I got back from overseas six days ago and live with someone who has slight symptoms.

Building a playing-card house.

Readers aren’t just turning to screens to keep themselves entertained.Credit:

Bunkering down at home definitely.

I work in the events industry. Almost all of the event industry has lost their jobs, we have 0 income. I just had to cancel my wedding. How does the government plan to help us? The only people who have been kind enough to help us in this situation is our landlord who selflessly cut our rent by 50% for the next 3 months. Why is the government not doing more for these types of companies? offering interest-free small business loans? COVID 19 will end, but how are we supposed to live right now and plan for the future?

Care for others. Remind elderly neighbours to ensure their prescriptions are filled and see if they need any assistance with that, shopping or other matters. Make sure they have your phone number if they need help. And for those of us on the coast, time in the surf or walking at the beach is always grounding to help keep things in perspective. Coronavirus can and should be about community and caring and support for those in need.

Maintaining a routine and exercising is helping out. Waking up at the usual time, using the exercise equipment at home to stretch, do some light strength work and skip! Currently, I'm keeping my distance from society by working from home and limiting time spent around the community to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. This includes my much-loved coffees, homemade or instant only for now!

Studying. Computer Games. Keep a diary. Exercise.

We are trying to stick to the schedule as much as possible. Working from home while the three kids do some studying like maths and science from 9-2ish. 1 hour of family games. Exercising together which is actually fun.

For Prep-2 students, look at Nessy.com for amazing reading and writing lessons. Ask your School to sign up for a free institution account so that you can access it for free.

I collected a mini stockpile of quality proteins, took to exercising at home and have joined a nationwide fight for universal basic income. As Americans are doing under the leadership of Andrew Yang.

Have phone calls with loved ones. Be creative – make music, make art. Set routines for working from home. Stick to healthy work hours. Get out of your PJs in the morning to feel productive. Give time and space to your fears and worries so that they don't boil over, but also be intentional about quieting your mind from the news for stretches of the day. Limit time on social media. Look for beauty where you haven't before – the nooks and crannies of your house and backyard. Get your neighbours' phone numbers so you can check-in, especially if they are elderly or alone. Research breathing exercises and meditation techniques for anxiety. Limit alcohol intake. Drink lots of water. Be patient with others – everyone is scared and on edge. Spare thoughts and prayers for those suffering more. Keep perspective. Practice thankfulness. Love, deeply and sacrificially and creatively. Don't heap abuse on your leaders – they are doing their best. This situation is unprecedented, which means we have an unprecedented chance to be good and kind and get through it, together.

I can spend more time cooking my own food which I rarely have time when I spend 2 hours on commute every day.

In school, a new rule has been put into effect where if you show signs of illness (coughing, snotty nose, etc), you get politely asked to go home until you are better.

Nothing has changed. Still at work as a salesman for a local blind, awning and security screen manufacturer in Brisbane. It's a worry knocking on a stranger's door for an appointment, not knowing if this will be the person I catch the coronavirus from and then pass it to my family.

Been getting takeaway meals from my local Chinese restaurant to feed myself. It's quiet and peaceful compared to Coles and Woolies right now.

No childcare and no play dates. Scooter and running races with my toddler and the baby in the pram. We live in a cottage with no yard so this is the only way to get a bit of exercise and outdoor activity in the day. Otherwise, we’ve been baking, craft and playing hide and seek. The rest of the time is TV (too much to admit).

By bringing 'wine-o-clock' forward by about 5 hours.

I've taken my kids out of childcare and school so am taking them to the park for an hour of power between 8am-9am before work-from-home starts, then park again for a run around outside between 12-1pm.

Taking care of students at school and trying to sustain a sense of calm amongst all this chaos. Some of which has been created by some of the sensationalised headlines that I have been disappointed to read on this thread.

I have been feeling uncontrollably stressed and worried by this crisis. I have been trying to cope by checking for updates regularly, but it seems to be making me unable to focus on anything else. The only thing that's vaguely helped me is talking with others about it for reassurance, and telling myself that I will be okay. I think you need to have a really strong and clear mindset with this virus, and make sure to practice good hygiene! Reassure yourself in any way you can.

For a deeper perspective, I'm re-reading The Plague by Albert Camus.

STOP Work, all activities and house arrest for 2 months. That my suggestion. Follow what China is doing. The economy is gone. No point dwelling. People's wellbeing is more important right now!

We are still going outside and keeping social distance with our two years old. I think kids are more prone to infections in childcare rather than being outside with social distancing.

Set timetable to keep things in routine, or at least the list of activities. If can work from home then try to get kids out to parks or somewhere they could exercise to burn out a bit without interactions with other people.

I'M KEEPING CORONAVIRUS OUT OF MY HOME! I open my front door with minimal hand contact and use my foot to push open the door. I go straight to my sink taking my keys with me. I wash my hands and wipe my keys, as it is done in this very important video. I go back to my front door. I wipe down the handle or any areas of the door that I've touched with my hand. Then I wash my hands again. I am reducing my social activities to outside only. Beach, bush, garden. I ask people to wash their hands if they visit me and we sit outside 2 metres apart. Likewise, I wash my hands should I need to visit anyone and stay outside.

Implementing sleep training and routine for my 6-month-old.

Checking employment contracts.

Unlike some panic-buyers out there, I considered everything carefully and decided what I found more important, catching Coronavirus and then needing treatment which would see me out of work, or not unnecessary visits to the shops, cafes etc. I work outside in a very physical part-time job outside so I am not only keeping fit, I'm getting sunlight. As soon as I get home, I wash my hands with hand sanitiser. I do try not to touch my face, but I find that very difficult and quite often break that rule. Whenever couriers deliver parcels to me, I request they put it down and I'll pick it up there, and then wash my hands (quite similar to what Domino's, Uber Eats and Menulog are doing). Most importantly though is the elderly community, who are most vulnerable. We have told our elderly family to stay home and not go out unnecessarily. We keep in contact with them every single day to ensure they have company. I've even planned on what would happen if we went into lockdown! To put it short though, all you need to do is not panic, but take it all seriously. If we can do that, then I think Australia will pull through mostly unscathed. However, if we continue to visit shopping centres, gyms, cinemas unnecessarily, we're going to pay for it, whether it be an enforced lockdown, or if we catch the disease…

Praying to God to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Catch up on things around the house – breaking it up into sections so it's not too overwhelming.

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Office workers share their VERY imaginative working from home set ups

Stacked it! Office workers share VERY imaginative working from home set ups – with some balancing laptops on boxes and books to create a standing desk and one resorting to a CAR BOOT

  • Employees have been asked to avoid the office and work from home instead
  • Not everyone has a desk so some resort to ironing boards and laundry baskets
  • People from around the world have shared their imaginative home office set ups
  • Do you have an unusual office set up? Email [email protected] 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Office workers from across the world have started working from home this week as part of efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus.

But not everyone has a workable office – or even a desk – in their abodes, so these unfortunate employees had to get creative.

From laptops placed on ironing boards to makeshift standing desks constructed from books piled precariously high, the efforts that have been shared on Twitter are commendable – if a little desperate.

Jules Forrest, from San Francisco, started the thread when she shared a picture of her computer on top of a laundry basket in front of her studio apartment’s front door.  

Here FEMAIL has collated some of the most imaginative WFH set ups for your amusement – so, who can relate?

This San Francisco-based YouTube product designer, with the Twitter name Venus, used her friend’s Lexus RCF as a temporary desk. She got some work done while shopping for a better home office set up 

Pedro Luis Pérez-Zubizarreta balanced his laptop on top of thick books in an effort to create a standing desk on his dining room table at his home in California, US. He works in publishing, marketing and communications at the University of California Press

Staff from across the globe have shared pictures of their bemused pets infiltrating their work space as they make the most out of working from home.   

From craving attention to taking a snooze on their working owner’s lap, these sweet pictures show the best part of being banned from the office amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As employees shared their imaginative home office set ups, others uploaded pictures of their adorable pets being the best kind of distraction on a Twitter thread. Here FEMAIL brings you some of the best. 

Samoyed/Corgi mix Koda lives with his owner Mathieson in Toronto. Here he’s having a peek over the laptop keyboard to see if his master has finished working yet

Sofi Ameli, from San Francisco, shared a photograph of her golden retriever Emmett taking a nap on her husband Nate’s lap while he worked away on his laptop

Jamie Boyd D, from Yorkshire, shared this sweet image of his dog lying down between his two laptops as he worked at home

Meghan Feeley, from the US, shared this sweet snap of her pet dog resting its chin on the keyboard of her laptop

Hadley King, a senior research associate at GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington DC, posted this picture of his cat taking over his office space

Broadcaster Linden Kemkaran shared a photograph of her cat sitting next to her while she worked. Apparently the cat, who lives with her in Kent, was purring so loudly she could be heard over Skype

One man from Kent posted a picture of his tortoiseshell cat joining him on the sofa where he was working with his laptop 

This man from Glasgow, Scotland shared this sweet photo of his Italian Greyhound checking in to see if he’d finished working

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Winners and losers give their verdicts on the Budget

Winners and losers give their verdicts on the Budget: National Insurance cuts for 31million workers and a helping hand for struggling pubs – but higher bills for entrepreneurs

  • More than 30 million workers will see their tax bill cut by £100 from next month 
  • NI threshold increase is expected to put about £104 in the pocket of workers 
  • Pubs were also handed a financial lifeline Wednesday with business rate cuts 

More than 30 million workers will see their tax bill cut by about £100 from next month following an increase to the National Insurance threshold.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the amount of money employees and the self-employed can earn before they have to start paying National Insurance contributions (Nics) will rise from £8,632 to £9,500.

Pubs were also handed a financial lifeline Wednesday with business rate cuts and a freeze to the duty on beer.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak after delivering his Budget in the House of Commons on Wednesday 

The NI threshold increase is expected to put about £104 in the pocket of workers who earn more than £9,500, or £78 for those who are self-employed and pay different rates, according to the Budget papers. The Chancellor also promised to raise the National Living Wage from £8.21 an hour to £10.50 by 2024. And he announced plans to extend the minimum wage to workers aged 21 or over. Currently only those who are 25 or over are eligible.

Currently employees who earn more than £166 a week pay NI at a rate of 12 per cent on their salary above £8,632. The rate then drops to 2 per cent on income over £962 a week.

For example, someone earning £1,000 a week would pay nothing on the first £166 they earn, 12 per cent on the next £796 and 2 per cent on the remaining £38. But from April workers will not start paying NI until they have earned at least £183 a week.

About 31 million people are expected to benefit.

David Hicks, tax director at Deloitte, said: ‘The increase to the National Insurance threshold will be welcomed, giving a modest saving to all taxpayers.’ However, critics last night accused the Government of prioritising higher-earners under the guise of helping those on low incomes.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the amount of money employees and the self-employed can earn before they have to start paying National Insurance contributions (Nics) will rise from £8,632 to £9,500

Myron Jobson, of investment platform Interactive Investor, said: ‘The change was pitched as a respite for those on lower incomes but in reality, the largest proportional gains will go to the well-off.’

Meanwhile, pubs, restaurants, hotels and others in the hospitality sector facing a ‘coronavirus catastrophe’ have been handed a lifeline.

A decision to freeze duty on beer, added to significant cuts in business rates, will deliver savings totalling £270 million to drinkers and pubs, it is claimed.

And there will be a further saving of £184 million by freezing the duty on wine and spirits, rather than imposing a rise in line with inflation.

Smaller pubs will now pay no business rates at all, while larger ones will see their tax relief increase from £1,000 to £5,000.

Other emergency measures, including access to business interruption loans, small business grants and refunds of statutory sick pay for workers, will help the hospitality sector.

Chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, said: ‘Pub goers will be toasting the Chancellor tonight for freezing beer duty. This freeze alone will save pub goers £80 million.’


National Insurance cuts a relief for families 

For families across the land, every extra pound helps. That’s why Jodie Humphries, 41, welcomed the announcement that the National Insurance threshold will rise.

The mother of two, who runs her own digital marketing business from home, said: ‘That’s great, it’s a small amount but every little helps.

‘We’re hoping to extend our house and we need to remortgage, so with borrowing rates going down, every saving we can make in every direction will go into that.’

Mrs Humphries also welcomed the fuel duty freeze as her video producer husband Richard, 48, commutes to London for work from their home in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

They also sometimes take their children, seven-year-old Anya and four-year-old Adam, to visit family in Birmingham and Cardiff. Mrs Humphries said: ‘It’ll help on those long journeys.’

Grateful: Richard and Jodie Humphries with children Adam, four, and Anya, seven

Candle shop owner welcomes plans to support small businesses 

Luxury candle shop owner Drew Cockton welcomed plans to support small businesses through the difficulties caused by the corona-virus outbreak.

The 33-year-old, whose company also makes the high-end candles in the North West, said the business rate holiday was ‘fantastic’.

Mr Cockton, founder of Owen Drew Luxury Candles of Birkenhead, Merseyside, said: ‘We’ve just had a business rates bill through and it’s absolutely ridiculous, the amount.

Drew Cockton (pictured) welcomed plans to support small businesses through the difficulties caused by the corona-virus outbreak

‘In Birkenhead the town centre is struggling, and we pay for the privilege of being here while we’re trying to improve the area.’

He said it is ‘fantastic news’ that small businesses like his with a rateable value below £51,000 will not pay any rates for a year.

Recently the candlemaker had to let someone go due to challenging conditions, so the Government paying for sick pay for employees off due to coronavirus is also a relief for Mr Cockton.

He said: ‘We’re a small business, we employ only six people and being a business owner is hard, some months I hardly get paid so it would be massive for us if we had someone off and had to pay them because of coronavirus. So that is very welcome help.’

Increases to business rates and the minimum wage have put pressure on his bottom line. His company will save around £14,000 next year from the business rate holiday, money which is especially welcome as footfall is down, something he blames on the virus.

He said he will use some of the money saved from the cut to invest in exporting his candles overseas.

He said: ‘Our products have a “Made in England” tag on them which is popular in America and China so that could be a lucrative side of the business, but we can’t really invest in it at the moment.’

After trading online for a number of years the luxury candlemaker opened his first high street shop a year ago.

He also hopes that moves to raise the National Insurance threshold will have some trickle down benefits to his business.

Mr Cockton said: ‘The retail side of the economy is struggling at the moment so more money in people’s pockets is as good thing, it means its back in shops, restaurants and bars. It helps everyone.’

Specialist shoemaker welcomes statutory sick pay announcement 

The Government’s decision to finance the statutory sick pay of employees affected by the coronavirus for two weeks was celebrated by businesswoman Jennifer Bailey.

She runs a company in Manchester called Calla Shoes, which sells stylish footwear to women with problem feet.

As a small business, wages to staff – and sick pay – form a large part of costs. Miss Bailey, pictured, employs four people and aims to take on more as the company grows. The 42-year-old said: ‘It’s fantastic because it means as a small employer you’re not having to pay sick pay for people you weren’t really expecting to. It has an effect on cash flow so it is welcome news.’

However she was not impressed with some other policies, particularly the cut to entrepreneur relief.

If she achieves her goals and sells her business for a significant sum, the reforms could cost her hundreds of thousands of pounds.

She said: ‘There are lots of people who are in the same boat and the government haven’t sorted anything to replace it to incentivise people.’

Help for doctors caught out by the pension tax trap 

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Kate Lovett was last year hit with a shock £169,000 tax bill she feared would mean she had to quit working for the NHS.

Dr Lovett, Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, last night welcomed the Chancellor’s move to help doctors caught out by the pension tax trap.

She said it was particularly important that doctors did not fear taking on extra work during the coronavirus crisis.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Kate Lovett (pictured) was last year hit with a shock £169,000 tax bill she feared would mean she had to quit working for the NHS

Dr Lovett, pictured, considered remortgaging her home to cover the tax bill she got in September.

It was not until January that she discovered she had been overcharged £83,000 after a financial adviser offered to review her case. Despite the Budget, she is still having to pay a tax bill over £80,000. The 52-year-old, who works in Plymouth, Devon, said: ‘It is very positive that the Government has clearly listened to concerns and acknowledged the negative impact on the medical workforce. But it won’t remove the fear of debt or the impact of accrued debt.’

She said the system remained complex and many doctors would still worry about exceeding their pension tax allowance.

Dr Lovett added: ‘It is a positive step in the right direction for reforming what is a very complicated system.’


Entrepreneurs’ Relief slashed  

Amanda Thomson is furious that Entrepreneurs’ Relief has been slashed.

She is the founder of Thomson & Scott, an online business that sells organic, vegan and alcohol-free sparkling wines. Removing the tax break could cost her hundreds of thousands if she sells her business in the future.

She will effectively be paying 20 per cent capital gains tax on any sum she receives as opposed to 10 per cent. 

Feeling flat: Prosecco business owner Amanda Thomson

She said that the Chancellor had bought into the ‘rhetoric of the rich getting richer but the irony is that it is those of us who go all in and really grow the economy who are affected.’ The tax relief was not just for the rich, she said, adding: ‘None of my entrepreneur friends are wealthy, white men.’

Some of the cash from any future sale of her London-based business is earmarked for investing in young women starting their companies.

But with the six-figure hike to her tax bill when she sells up, Amanda is unsure if she will be able to do as much for the next generation as she had hoped.

20million facing lower rates from National Savings

Savers were left short-changed yesterday when the Chancellor pulled the purse strings even tighter at National Savings and Investments.

Rishi Sunak ordered the agency to take in 40 per cent less cash than last year – meaning rates for more than 20million customers are likely to fall further. This is because it will not now be trying to lure in business with attractive rates.

The blow came hours after the Bank of England slashed the base rate to 0.25 per cent, paving the way for banks to offer record low rates. Savers have endured paltry rewards ever since the 2008 financial crisis sent interest rates tumbling. Last month NS&I announced it was reducing payouts – including for the 21million customers with Premium Bonds.

But the Budget brought more bad news as the Treasury announced it would cut the amount of money the bank can bring in, from £10.1billion to £6billion. Last month NS&I announced it would cut rates on 14 savings products. The prize rate for those with Premium Bonds was cut from the equivalent of 1.4 per cent to 1.3 per cent. It means savers are now less likely to win a cash prize in the monthly draws that include two £1million jackpots.

Experts last night warned more prizes are likely to be taken off the table after the Budget, while rates would fall on other NS&I accounts. Rachel Springall, of financial data firm Moneyfacts, said: ‘NS&I is not likely to offer good returns to savers following the drop in the amount of money it wants to bring in.’

Anna Bowes, of advice site Savings Champion, said: ‘This is devastating news for savers who have lived with record low savings rates for over a decade. They have already seen rates cuts accelerate over the last couple of months. Things will get worse.’

The only hint of good news for savers yesterday was a hike in the amount of money parents can put away in to a Junior Isa every year.

From next month, the limit for tax free savings will double from the current £4,368 to £9,000. The £20,000 cap for ordinary Isas is to stay in place. Becky O’Connor, personal finance specialist at mutual Royal London, said: ‘Most people save far less into them than the maximum. So raising the threshold is a bit of an empty gesture for all but the wealthiest Isa savers, who are the most likely to reach this maximum amount.’

The change means parents could build up a pot of £240,000 over 18 years if they put in the maximum and it grows by 4 per cent every year.

Neil Lovatt, from Scottish Friendly, said: ‘This increase will only serve the rich, wealthy and well advised and not the millions of parents and grandparents who want to save and invest for their children.’

Martin Lewis of moneysavingexpert.com said those ‘who’ve worked hard to build up a nest egg will be holding their heads in their hands’ at news of the Bank’s base rate cut.

The rate on Income Bonds, which are popular with pensioners as they pay interest each month, will suffer the most dramatic drop – from 1.15 per cent to 0.7 per cent. It means someone with £50,000 will lose out on £225 a year.

Various bond rates are also being axed by a minimum of 0.15 percentage points.

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