Published: 14 December 2021
Location: London, UK
The last Daily Busines News of 2021 from us will be Friday this week, 17thDecember. We will resume bulletins on Monday 7th January 2022.
The number of UK job vacancies hit another record high in the September to November period, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show. There were 1.22 million openings during the three months, 434,500 higher than pre-pandemic levels, although growth is slowing. UK employers also added 257,000 staff to their payrolls in November, despite the end of the furlough scheme.
The pace of economic recovery slowed in November partly because of an increase in energy costs pushing up cost inflation. Ten out of 14 UK sectors monitored by the Lloyds Bank UK Recovery Tracker posted output growth, two fewer than in October. Just four sectors saw output growth accelerate month-on-month. Rising energy prices were an increasingly significant driver of cost inflation. In November, the number of UK businesses that said they experienced higher energy bills and fuel prices was 3.8 times higher than the pre-2021 average. This compares to 3.5 times the pre-2021 average in October.
As the Post Office's only shareholder, the government has agreed to foot the bill for the compensation of former Post Office workers who were falsely convicted of theft. Details are set to be announced in Parliament as early as today. Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses - an average of one a week - based on information from a recently installed computer system called Horizon. Some went to prison following wrongful convictions for false accounting and theft, others were ruined financially, and some died before being exonerated by the High Court which ruled it was the software at fault and quashed all convictions.
The National Farmers' Union has called for the government to commit to keeping the country's self-sufficiency in food production at 60%. Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium has also urged the government to give a "clear strategy" for solving labour shortage issues and a "coherent food policy" to maintain UK production.
Fast-growing crypto-currency assets could pose a danger to the established financial system, a senior Bank of England official has told the BBC. Although not much of UK households' wealth is currently held in assets such as Bitcoin, they are becoming more mainstream, said deputy Bank governor Sir Jon Cunliffe. If their value fell sharply, it could have a knock-on effect, he said.
Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Sir Jon said that at present, about 0.1% of UK households' wealth was in cryptocurrencies. About 2.3 million people were estimated to hold them, with an average amount per person of about £300.
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon warned of a hit to first half profits yesterday, blaming what it called "arbitrary" Covid rule changes by the UK government. Chairman Tim Martin said: “The repeated warnings and calls for restrictions, mainly from Sage [committee] members and academics, combined with arbitrary changes of direction from the government, invariably at short notice, affect customer sentiment and trade. In effect, the country appears to be heading towards a lockdown by stealth." Wetherspoon suffered a £105.4m loss in the year to July 2020 followed by a record £195m deficit the year after, as coronavirus restrictions took their toll.
Shares in FTSE 250 company Capita plummeted nearly 20% yesterday after the outsourcer reported broadly flat revenues. The firm said like-for-like group revenues, adjusted for disposals, were 0.6% higher in the 11 months to 30 November at £2.88bn. The Capita Public Service division jumped 11%, to £1.29bn, boosted by Royal Navy training and new contract wins with HM Revenue and Customs. But revenues at its private sector Capita Experience. arm declined 8% to £1.08bn, caused by a loss of corporate contracts and revenue attrition in the closed book life and pensions segment, due to covid restrictions.
NatWest bank has been fined £265m for a series of anti-money laundering failures, including taking a £700,000 cash deposit carried into its Walsall branch in a bin bag as part of the operation of a suspected drugs gang, Sharecast News reports. London's Southwark Crown Court heard bags of cash were taken to 50 NatWest branches between 2012 and 2016 and deposited into accounts linked to Bradford-based jeweller Fowler Oldfield. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) suspected the company of being a front for an illegal drugs operation that was eventually shut down after a police raid. The Court heard Fowler Oldfield's predicted annual turnover was £15m when first taken on as a client by the bank, but it ended up depositing £365m over a five-year period, including £264m in cash. NatWest’s Southall branch took in £42m between January 2015 to March 2016, but no report was made that it was suspicious. Because NatWest pleaded guilty to the charges in October, Mrs Justice Cockerill reduced the fine from £397m.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering whether the proposed acquisition of software company Nuance Communications by Microsoft Corporation will result in a "substantial lessening of competition" within the United Kingdom for goods or services, under the Enterprise Act 2002. Microsoft entered into an agreement to buy the Nasdaq-listed Nuance in April, for $56 per share, in an all-cash deal worth $19.7bn.
Royal Mail has exchanged contracts to sell the last three remaining plots on its Nine Elms Park site to property developers London Square for £111.2m.
Research by QuickBooks suggests some 297,000 small businesses in the UK are not ready for new VAT digital tax legislation that will come into force in four months’ time. From April 2022, around 1.1 million VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover of less than £85,000 will have to keep digital records and use software to submit their VAT returns as part of the government's Making Tax Digital strategy. 41% of businesses surveyed by QuickBooks said they were delaying making the necessary changes. The survey also revealed that, on average, small business owners spend four hours a month worrying about their VAT returns — the equivalent of more than half a working day — and for one in five (20%) this rises to over 7 hours, or a whole working day. 33% of those experiencing stress around VAT returns said they lost sleep over them, some 43% said they could generate revenue more effectively if they weren’t spending time worrying about their VAT returns, with 41% say they could be more effectively growing their business.
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