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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says he has checked with the six refineries and 47 storage centres in…

   NEWS / 27 Sep 2021

Published: 27 September 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


I will be on leave from tomorrow so this will be the last daily bulletin now until Monday 11th October.
 
In the past few days there have been long queues and closed pumps at some petrol filling stations, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says he has checked with the six refineries and 47 storage centres in the country and there is "no shortage of fuel". He said he was introducing a "big package" of measures, including temporary visas for lorry drivers, to ease the general supply chain crisis and that, meanwhile, people should be "sensible" and fill up only when they need to. Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr yesterday, he added that a shortage of HGV drivers was "not anything new" but that an "irresponsible briefing" to the press following a meeting with road haulage groups had sparked a reaction from people. The Mail on Sunday claimed that someone from the Road Haulage Association had selectively leaked comments about HGV driver shortages at fuel firmsm but spokesman Rod McKenzie told BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House this was "absolute nonsense".
 
The Petrol Retailers Association said that "between 50% and 90%" of its members' forecourts are dry. Supermarket Sainsbury's says it is experiencing "very high demand for fuel", while Morrisons has pointed to a "rapidly moving situation" in which it is working hard to keep its pumps open. Asda says it has put a £30 limit on fuel transactions but that it has good levels of fuel supply.
 
The Government says up to 10,500 lorry drivers and poultry workers will be given temporary UK visas as the government seeks to limit disruption in the run-up to Christmas, confirming that 5,000 fuel tanker and food lorry drivers will be eligible to work in the UK until Christmas Eve, along with 5,500 poultry workers. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he did not want to "undercut" British workers but could not stand by while queues formed. The BBC reports that the British Chambers of Commerce said the measures were the equivalent of "throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire" while the Road Haulage Association commented the announcement "barely scratches the surface", adding that only offering visas for three months "will not be enough for companies or the drivers themselves to be attractive". Marc Fels, director of the HGV Recruitment Centre, said visas for lorry drivers were "too little" and "too late". However, the news was welcomed by freight industry group Logistics UK, which called the policy "a huge step forward in solving the disruption to supply chains".
 
Other measures announced to ease the HGV driver shortage include up to 4,000 Brits being trained as new HGV drivers, including 3,000 on free "skills bootcamps" and 1,000 through local courses, plus driving test examiners deployed by the Ministry of Defence are to increase testing capacity over the next three months. the UK has an estimated shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association.
 
Ofgem boss Jonathan Brearley has rejected claims from the energy industry that the current crisis represents a failure to adequately regulate the market. Six energy suppliers have gone bust in the past few weeks, leaving about 1.5 million customers facing higher bills. More firms are still expected to fold. Brearley told the BBC: "No-one could have predicted the kind of gas price rises we have seen. In a situation like that any market would be under strain." Gas prices are up four-fold. However, his view has little support from senior executives in the industry who have told the BBC the regulator knew full well that many smaller suppliers would not be resilient in the face of rises that should have been part of the regulator's stress testing of the sector. The boss of the UK's fifth largest energy provider, Scottish Power, said the governmentwas essentially asking larger providers to weaken their own financial position by shouldering billions in additional cost to provide these customers with energy that costs more to buy than they are allowed to sell it for under a government-imposed retail price cap.
 
Renewable energy supplier Good Energy says it will not take on new customers despite gas prices causing several energy firms to fold. Chief executive Nigel Pocklington told the BBC it would not take on new customers because they are a "loss-making proposition".
 
Octopus Energy has agreed to supply power to about 580,000 domestic customers of collapsed supplier Avro Energy. Ofgem has not yet appointed a new supplier to customers of Green, which also collapsed last week.
 
Octopus Energy is among parties which have requested access to a data room set up by rival Bulb's financial advisers to secure new funding during the coming weeks. Sky News says it is unclear whether Octopus’s interest signals an intention to mount a formal bid to acquire Bulb, which has about 1.7 million customers, or whether it is merely exploiting an opportunity to learn about its competitor's financial position. If Octopus did take over Bulb, it would become a huge supplier of just under four million British homes.
 
Thousands of passengers arriving at UK airports were hit by delays on Friday after a technical problem disrupted self-service passport gates. Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh airports all reported problems with the e-gates. A Home Office spokesperson said the problem was quickly identified and had now been fixed. It was the latest in a string of blows to travellers: throughout the summer, passengers have faced queues because of Border Force staff issues and covid-19 documentation.
 
The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating CVS Group's completed acquisition of Quality Pet Care, which trades as The Vet. The watchdog has made an initial enforcement order, is inviting comments, and is considering whether the deal will result in a "substantial lessening" of competition within any market or markets in the UK for goods or services. CVS bought Quality Pet Care on 19 August for £20.4m. The business comprises eight companion animal veterinary practice sites across the UK.
 
Accountancy firm Grant Thornton (GT) has been fined £4m for failures in its audits of collapsed cake chain Patisserie Valerie between 2015 and 2017. Regulator the Financial Reporting Council said GT had "missed red flags" and failed to "question information provided by management". GT admitted to not following audit rules and must report annually to show how it is improving. David Newstead, who carried out the audits, was also fined £150,000 for his role in signing off the accounts and banned from carrying out audits for three years, however his fine was reduced to £87,750 for aggravating and mitigating factors. The overall fine to GT was also discounted to £2.34m for the same reasons.
 
Nationwide's economic crime director says the clearance of payments considered to be risky should be slowed down to tackle the "epidemic" of fraud. Stuart Skinner suggested the move as the building society launched a 24hr fraud checking hotline for customers who want advice about whether a transaction is legitimate. Nationwide said it had seen fraud rise broadly in line with the average across the sector, so up some 30% in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2020, according to BBC report. The number of people being defrauded is also up 71% compared with the first six months of last year, people usually scammed by fraudsters posing as someone from a trusted organisation, a bank, or the police. Fraudsters now steal more than £4m every day on average in the UK but less than half of the money lost is refunded by banks. Skinner said that instead of allowing all payments to be processed and enter the payee's account often within minutes, the relatively few riskier looking transfers should be checked at a slower speed. The move would require an overhaul of the UK's payments system which is currently designed for customer convenience.
 
The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has published a study tracking the finances and well-being of key workers during the pandemic and found that 803,000 workers – 45% of all supermarket workers and 31% of care workers – are not being paid the 'real living wage' of £9.50 per hour nationwide and £10.85 in London. The report, summarised by Yahoo Finance UK, also claimed that 660,000 key workers are set to lose their £20 per week Universal Credit lifeline later this month, and that the recently announced increase in national insurance contributions will cost the average full-time care worker an extra £141 per year, a supermarket worker £148 per year, a van driver £164 per year, and a nurse £304 per year. At the height of the pandemic, 65% of key workers were struggling with their mental health, rising to 73% of NHS workers, and that one in five key workers found it difficult to take time off if unwell, rising to one-in-four care workers and nearly 40% of NHS staff, according to the RSA research. The RSA is calling for the government to focus on increasing pay to boost productivity, offset recent tax and benefit changes, and offer more childcare and better mental health support. The ‘real living wage’ is a rate paid voluntarily by some 7,000 UK businesses.
 
Britain's Barclays Bank has been sued for €279m (£239m) for its alleged involvement in a derivatives investment that almost put a Dutch affordable-housing provider out of business, it was reported on Friday. Stichting Vestia came close to collapse in 2012, after racking up more than €2bn in losses after derivatives that were supposed to be part of a hedging strategy were found to be flawed because of bribes. Barclays is accused of paying commissions on derivative transactions with Vestia between 2008 and 2011 to an intermediary that totalled more than €1.5m, Bloomberg said, citing documents filed by Vestia at the High Court. "Barclays has been enriched at Vestia's expense as a result of these transactions," the filing said. "Vestia is entitled to recover in restitution the amount by which Barclays has been enriched by such void transactions." The firm has previously sued a number of other banks, including Deutsche Bank, which eventually settled the case for €175m. It has also agreed settlements with Citigroup and ABN Amro Bank and cases against BNP Paribas and Societe Generale in London are ongoing. Barclays declined to comment on the suit.
 
Cruise operator Carnival says it expects to be back to operating its full fleet by Spring 2022, and that bookings for the second half of next year are above pre-pandemic levels. The firm, which saw all its fleet grounded during lockdowns, with thousands of workers from around the globe stranded at sea, unable to get home, posted a third-quarter net loss of $2.9bn (£2.05bn) on Friday.
 
Stockbroker and investment company Peel Hunt said on Friday that it has raised £112m in a listing on London's junior AIM market. Peel said that based on the placing price, its market capitalisation on admission to AIM will be £280m. The placing attracted strong support from high quality institutional investors and retail investors and was comfortably over-subscribed, it said.
 
Mexican restaurant chain Tortilla plans to list on the London Stock Marketand open up 45 new sites over the next five years. The company, which has 62 sites worldwide - 50 of which are in the UK - is planning to list on London's junior AIM market.
 
Sky News has learnt that former Royal Mail and Smiths Group chairman Sir Donald Brydon is to become the first chair of PrimaryBid, a British technology company which enabled ordinary investors to access a deluge of corporate cash calls during the coronavirus crisis. Founded in 2016, PrimaryBid uses an app to combine stock orders from small investors, aggregating them into one substantial application. Bryden is also a former chairman of London Stock Exchange Group - one of PrimaryBid's shareholders. He retires this week as chairman of Sage Group, the FTSE-100 software company.
 
Apple’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 13, went on sale on Friday last week. It has four variations — the iPhone 13 mini, the iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The new phones will retail from £679 in the UK. The iPhone Pro Max – with one terabyte of storage – will be the most expensive iPhone ever, retailing at £1,549 in the UK and $1,099 (£803) in the US.
 
No Time To Die, the new James Bond film, will open in more than 700 cinemas across the UK next week, after a long delay because of covid lockdowns. In association with EON, the makers of the Bond films, Aston Martin recently built 25 'Goldfinger' DB5 Continuation cars (gadgets included) at its Newport Pagnell factory @Jefferson_MFG tweets.
 
New York has again been named the most attractive financial centre of the world in the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) rankings. New York has held on to the top position in the index since 2018, with London in second place for the third year in a row, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore in third and fourth. Published on Friday by Z/Yen Group in partnership with the China Development Institute, the GFCI assesses future competitiveness and rankings for 116 financial centres around the world, serving as a reference guide for investors and policy makers.  New York also took the top spot on the index's FinTech rankings, followed by Shanghai. London came third, rising two places since last year.
 
China has banned all cryptocurrency transactions. The People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, also vowed to crack down on subsequently illegal activities of cryptocurrency trading. The move caused a slump on Friday in the price of Bitcoin and other digital tokens such as Ethereum, and crypto-related stocks such as Coinbase and Argo Blockchain.  Bitcoin (BTC-USD) was down 4.5% to trade at $41,509 (£30,357). It continues to stay below a key $50,000 mark and is far off from its all-time high of more than $63,000, which it hit in April this year.


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