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The culture secretary will hold talks this week with the Premier League and its 20 clubs amid the continuing impasse over a financial redistribution deal for English football.

Sky News has learnt that Lucy Frazer will attend a dinner on Thursday evening with executives from the top-flight clubs, as well as Alison Brittain, the Premier League chairman, and Richard Masters, its chief executive.

Sources in Whitehall and the football industry confirmed that Ms Frazer planned to accept an invitation to attend the meeting, which will come midway through a Premier League summit with clubs to address a number of new proposals aimed at delivering financial sustainability.

One insider said a number of new tests to ensure that clubs’ balance sheets were sufficiently fortified would be discussed on Thursday and Friday, along with a reprisal of talks about associated party transactions affecting state-backed sides such as Newcastle United, and those – such as Manchester City – which belonged to multi-club ownership structures.

The meeting between Ms Frazer and football executives will take place shortly before the government publishes legislation that will pave the way for the establishment of an independent regulator for English football with far-reaching powers to scrutinise and intervene in clubs’ finances.

Ministers have said that the watchdog will also be able to impose a deal to hand money from Premier League clubs to their English Football League counterparts, following many months of discussions which have failed to bear fruit.

“My hope is that the Premier League and the EFL can come to some appropriate arrangement themselves – that would be preferable,” Rishi Sunak said last month.

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“But, ultimately, if that’s not possible, the regulator will be able to step in and do that to ensure we have a fair distribution of resources across the football pyramid, of course promoting the Premier League but supporting football in communities… up and down the country.”

Sky News revealed in December that Mr Masters had informed the 20 top-flight clubs that it was halting talks with the EFL about the New Deal after failing to secure a mandate to sign an agreement.

An £881m package had been agreed in principle between the Premier League and the EFL, but had met with significant resistance from a number of clubs.

Owners and club executives have expressed unhappiness at the overall cost of the subsidy that would be provided to the EFL, as well as the lack of certainty about the scope of the independent regulator.

The agreement would effectively see close to £900m handed out by Premier League clubs to their 72 EFL counterparts over a six-year period, with the overall cost potentially being reduced from £925m to £881m if an immediate £44m payment was ratified.

A government insider insisted that Ms Frazer’s attendance at the Premier League dinner this week was part of an ongoing programme of engagement given the impending regulatory changes facing the sport.

However, one source said her decision to join the summit was “curious” in the wake of the prime minister’s recent comments.

The Premier League recently signed a £6.7bn four-year domestic broadcast rights deal with Sky, the immediate parent company of Sky News.

Some club executives from outside the ‘big six’ – comprising Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – have been issuing private warnings that the proposed New Deal settlement could cause serious financial damage to them.

At least one club in the league’s bottom half is said to have raised the prospect of having to borrow money this year to fund its prospective share of the handout to the EFL.

Proposals for a bespoke licensing regime floated by the government has created distinct unease among a number of clubs, some of which believe that the New Deal should remain unsigned until there is greater clarity about how the regulator will operate.

“There is a growing sense that clubs are willing to take their chances [with a regulator],” said one.

The Premier League and Department for Culture, Media and Sport both declined to comment.

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Elon Musk sues OpenAI and Sam Altman, saying company putting profit over the public good




Elon Musk sues OpenAI and Sam Altman, saying company putting profit over the public good

Elon Musk, the multi-billionaire owner of Tesla and X, is suing artificial intelligence company OpenAI, accusing the firm of prioritising profit over developing AI for the public good.

Mr Musk is bringing the suit against OpenAI, which he co-founded, and its chief executive, Sam Altman, for breaching a contract by reneging on its pledge to develop AI carefully and make the tech widely available.

The company behind the ground-breaking generative AI chatbot, ChatGPT, has “been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company, Microsoft”, a court filing said.

The court action is the latest in a series of challenges to Mr Altman who was ousted from his position at OpenAI by the company board and briefly went to work at Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest shareholder, before being returned to his post.

The AI giant was originally founded as a not-for-profit company but has grown to have commercial interests, which has caused tension between board members and founders.

By embracing a close relationship with Microsoft, OpenAI and its top executives have set that pact “aflame” and are “perverting” the company’s mission, Mr Musk alleges in the lawsuit.

“Under its new board, it is not just developing but is actually refining an AGI [artificial general intelligence] to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity”, the filing said.

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A key part of OpenAI’s mission to benefit humanity, the court filing said, was to make the company software open source and share it, but this has not happened.

Instead, the company operates on a for-profit model.

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Mr Musk has his own AI company, called xAI and has said OpenAI is not focused enough on the potential harms of AI.

As well as alleging breach of contract, Mr Musk’s claim said OpenAI is violating fiduciary duty and is engaged in unfair business practices. A jury trial has been sought by Mr Musk.

OpenAI and Microsoft have been contacted for comment.

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Home Office figures show how vital immigration is to the economy




Home Office figures show how vital immigration is to the economy

The Home Office immigration system statistics for 2023 tell a different story to the one that dominates the political discourse.

While government commentary and policy has focused on illegal migration via small boats, the largest driver of rising immigration is people coming to work, primarily in a health and care sector that would not function without them.

Some 616,000 work visas were issued in 2023, 337,240 to “primary applicants”, up 26% on 2022 and a staggering 250% rise on pre-pandemic levels, with a further 279,131 to their dependants, an increase of 81%.

Health and social care visas were the largest driver of the increase, the number almost doubling in a year to 146,477, with more than 100,000 of these granted to carers.

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This expansion is the consequence of a deliberate policy decision in 2021 to make up a post-COVID, post-Brexit shortfall in staff.

With preferential status removed from European Union candidates, east Asia and west and southern Africa are the primary source of care workers.

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More than 18,000 came from India, with 7,000 from Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively. A further 18,000 came from Nigeria, 15,000 from Zimbabwe and 10,000 from Ghana.

Applications for skilled work visas in other sectors were broadly flat, perhaps reflecting a cooling labour market in a flatlining economy that has almost a million job vacancies and 2.5 million workers classified as long-term sick.

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Home Secretary James Cleverly has moved to cut numbers, banning care workers from bringing dependents, a change that may force recruiters to spread the net even wider to fill holes in British care homes.

The minimum salary threshold for skilled worker visas is also rising to £38,700 a year, up more than 50% and now more than the average salary, but such is the acute challenge of the NHS, health and care employers are exempt from paying the new figure.

One area where the government can point to falling immigration is among students but that will be no cause for celebration in higher education, where overseas candidates underwrite the cost of the domestic population.

Student visa applications fell 5% to 616,000, reflecting a more competitive international market and a tightening of rules from this year, which will see only postgraduates able to bring family members with them.

There was also a small decrease in the number of temporary visas granted to season workers in agriculture, who now overwhelmingly come from central Asia, but that was offset by a rise in youth mobility visas granted to under-30s from 12 eligible countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

From health and care to agriculture and education, cutting immigration will come at a price.

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Sainsbury’s to cut 1,500 jobs in cost-cutting plan




Sainsbury's to cut 1,500 jobs in cost-cutting plan

Sainsbury’s has revealed plans to cut around 1,500 roles as part of a previously announced shake-up of its operations.

Sky News revealed earlier this month how the company, which also owns Argos, had refused to rule out job losses under the strategy update for investors.

It included a greater focus on food within its supermarkets, claiming more space from general merchandise and clothing.

Sainsbury’s said it was also targeting greater use of automation under the plans, which aimed to save £1bn over three years to boost investment in the business.

The company said it hoped to redeploy many of the 1,500 people affected by the changes.

The jobs will go at its store support centre, contact centre operations, in its in-store bakeries and in its general merchandise fulfilment network.

Sainsbury’s said it had proposed to colleagues in its Widnes contact centre, who operate the Careline service, that they should transfer to an existing partner.

It said a more efficient way of providing its bakery service meant jobs would go in that part of the business.

Chief executive Simon Roberts said: ”Our Next Level Sainsbury’s strategy is about giving customers more of what they come to Sainsbury’s for – outstanding value, unbeatable quality food and great service.

“One of the ways we’re going to deliver on this promise is through our Save and Invest to Win programme.

“As we move into the next phase of our strategy, we are making some difficult, but necessary decisions.

“The proposals we’ve been talking to teams about today are important to ensure we’re better set up to focus on the things that create a real impact for our customers, delivering good food for all of us and building a platform for growth.

“I know today’s news is unsettling for affected colleagues and we will do everything we can to support them.”

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