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The UK’s borrowing figures increased to 103% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)

   News / 01 Feb 2022

Published: 01 February 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

The UK’s borrowing figures increased to 103% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of March 2021, up from 83% the previous year as covid restrictions forced the government to support businesses. In just 12 months, the government’s debt jumped £347bn, from £1,875.7bn to a record high of £2,223bn, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Debt as a percentage of GDP has nearly quadrupled since the early nineties and is now 12.4 percentage points above the EU average. The UK’s debt as a percentage of GDP is the eighth highest in comparison with European Union member states — a list that is led by Greece, followed by Italy and Portugal. The ONS also said that UK debt as a percentage of GDP has risen more than the EU average during the COVID pandemic. It grew almost 19 percentage points, with only three EU member states reporting a higher increase — Spain (26.3 percentage points), Italy (21) and Greece (20).
Youth employment in the UK has been hit hard by covid restrictions according to a new report from the Resolution Foundation, which shows that although young people returned to work rapidly after the easing of lockdown restrictions, many are now in insecure jobs. Meanwhile, 47,000 18- to 24-year old young men not in full-time study have become completely economically inactive, and one-in-three 18- to 34-year-olds are now in atypical, often insecure work. Young "returners" — those who were in employment before the pandemic, experienced worklessness in the last lockdown, and have since gone back to work — are now more likely to be on a temporary contract, a zero hours contract, doing agency work or working variable hours than those who stayed in work throughout the pandemic, the report found. A third (33%) of returners were now employed in these atypical work types, compared to just 12% of young people who were in work during both periods of the pandemic, according to the study which included results from a YouGov survey of 6,100 adults.
More and better jobs are the top priorities for Brits when it comes to the government's strategy to level up the UK, according to a new survey by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). 49% of the British public think increasing the number and quality of jobs available should be front and centre of the plan for levelling up, according to the poll of 1,656 UK adults. Some 3.6 million working people are in insecure work in the UK and the size of the gig economy has almost tripled over the past five years, according to separate research by the TUC, which also claims one million children in key worker households live in poverty. The TUC is calling on the government to deliver its "long-awaited" employment bill and put an end to insecure work by banning zero hours contracts and giving workers greater rights — including greater union access to workplaces.
Proposed changes to alcohol duty will lead to higher prices and less choice for wine drinkers, the owner of wine merchant Laithwaites has warned. The proposals, contained in October's Budget, were described by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as the "most radical simplification of alcohol duties for over 140 years". But Direct Wines said the complexity would be "crippling" for the trade and that small and medium firms would "probably go out of business". In the Budget, the chancellor said that under the new system for alcohol duty, which is due to start in 2023, taxes on sparkling wine, draught beer and cider would be cut, but would rise for stronger drinks such as red wine.
According to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, if wine is taxed according to its alcoholic strength in this way, 70% of all wine, still and sparkling, will go up in price, as will 80% of all still wine, 95% of red wine and 100% of fortified wines.
The number of houses owned outright in England in 2020 jumped to 8.8 million, up 6% from 8.3 million the previous year, according to the figures from the Office for National Statistics. Castle Point in the East of England had the highest percentage of dwellings that were owner-occupied (82%), and Hackney in Inner London had the lowest (28%). There was an increase of 1.6 million properties owned outright between 2012 and 2020.
Savers could lose thousands of pounds if they fail to transfer their old pensions to newer schemes that offer better value for money, Yahoo Finance UK reports. According to research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, many older deferred pensions are in schemes with charges that are high compared to today’s market offering. The report says the average annual fee for deferred pensions taken out in the 1990s is above 1.1% of fund value, compared with around 0.9% for pensions taken out in the 2000s and 0.8% for pensions taken out in the 2010s. While the difference between 1.1% and 0.8% might seem small, it can be equivalent to thousands in the long term. For example, for a 50-year-old with a pot of £21,000, it would amount to a difference of around £2,400 at age 67.  
Tech IPOs in the UK raised a record £6.6bn ($8.8bn) in 2021 from initial public offerings (IPOs), according to data from the London Stock Exchange(LSE). Last year saw 126 companies debuting on the LSE, out of which 37 (29%) were tech companies. In 2020 that number stood at just eight tech companies. Fintech group Wise and review site Trustpilot were among the biggest debuts of last year, but 2021 also saw IPOs of UK-headquartered businesses like Deliveroo and companies from Canada like (AlphawaveIP) and the US, in this case, Devolver Digital. Overall, the £6.6bn was more than double the equivalent figure in 2020.
Hundreds of hospital workers including porters, cleaners and catering staff, will launch strike action from Monday in a dispute over pay, the Independentreports. Members of Unite employed by outsourcing company Serco at London hospitals St Barts, the Royal London and Whipps Cross, will walk out for two weeks. Unite claimed that the mainly black, Asian and ethnic minority staff are paid up to 15% less than directly employed NHS workers. Serco said it had recently increased its pay offer to a total of 3%, backdated to last April, adding it was the same as that being received by people directly employed by the NHS.
Customers of about 30 UK banks and building societies can continue to use post office counters for basic banking until at least 2026 in a new deal. However, one leading bank - Monzo - has not signed up to it. Monzo is a branchless bank, with customers able to carry out the majority of their banking needs through the Monzo app. Customers can also deposit cash at Paypoint,which is available in over 28,000 convenience stores, corner shops and retailers across the UK," a spokeswoman for the bank said. The Post Officesaid £3bn a month was deposited and withdrawn over its counters.
Airline easyJet is launching a drive to recruit 1,000 pilots over the next five years, with a focus on attracting more women. The company, which has predicted a strong summer of bookings as the UK emerges from the virus crisis, said it wants to tackle a gender imbalance in the industry. Its pilot training programme is being launched for the first time since the start of the pandemic with a new advertising campaign on Monday showing some of the skills required. Only around 6% of pilots worldwide are women, easyJet says.
Ryanair says it will need to continue to discount fares in the coming months amid a “hugely uncertain outlook” as it reported losses of €96m (£80m) in the last three months of 2021. The Irish budget-airline missed its targets in December after governments reimposed restrictions on international travel through fear of the spread of Omicron. “The sudden emergence of the Omicron variant and the media hysteria it generated in December, forced many European governments to reimpose travel restrictions in the run-up to Christmas, which significantly weakened peak Christmas and New Year bookings and fares,” the airline said.
Co-op shop floor workers have won a key legal argument in a battle to secure equal pay with warehouse staff. More than 1,600 mostly female supermarket workers have been fighting for pay parity with mostly male staff at distribution centres, who are paid up to £3 an hour more.
Co-op has conceded a "comparability concession" as part of an ongoing pay tribunal, an admission Tom Hewitt of solicitors Leigh Day, means Co-op shop floor workers have “cleared the first hurdle in their claims for equal pay". However, the Co-op insists its workers are "fairly" paid and that the battle is far from over. There have been similar equal pay battles at rival supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons.
Tesco has said it will close seven of its Jack's stores, while the remaining six branches will be converted into Tesco superstores. The move will affect 130 jobs but Tesco said it will try and find alternative roles for the staff affected. Tesco launched Jack's in 2018 to tackle the threat from rivals Aldi and Lidl. Jack's stores sold 2,600 products - far fewer than the 35,000 carried by a Tesco supermarket - with 1,800 branded "Jack's," the BBC says.
Barratt Developments has acquired land promotor Gladman Developmentsin a £250m deal, the house builder announced yesterday.
Sky News says it has learnt that Richard Lloyd, who ran Which? for five years until 2016, will be named interim chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as early as this week. Lloyd has been a non-executive director of the FCA since April 2019.
Peter Highnam, who was educated in the UK and joined the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1999, will be named this week as the inaugural CEO of the UK’s Advanced Research and Invention Agency, Sky News learns. Britain's new 'high risk, high reward' inventions agency, as it has been dubbed, will have an initial budget of £800m, and is aimed at helping the UK "maintain its position as a global science superpower", according to an announcement from the government about its establishment last year.
The New York Times has purchased the popular word game Wordle for an undisclosed seven-figure sum. The free and simple game was created by software engineer Josh Wardle. It was released last October and now boasts millions of players. Wardle said the game's success had been "a little overwhelming", and that he was "incredibly pleased" to announce the deal with the New York Times. The newspaper publisher said the game would initially remain free to play. The game challenges players to find a five-letter word in six guesses. A new puzzle is published every day and players can post how quickly they solved the colourful grid on social media - but in a way that does not spoil the answer for those still playing - which is why, Wardle said, it managed to capture the imagination of so many users.

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