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Treasury refused to sign off the plans for a multi-billion-pound plan to tackle the NHS backlog

   News / 08 Feb 2022

Published: 08 February 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

A multi-billion-pound plan to tackle the NHS backlog, due to be made yesterday, has been delayed after the Treasury refused to sign off the plans, the Telegraph claims. The National Recovery Plan was set to tackle delays in treatment which have left a record six million patients on waiting lists. The newspaper suggest it reveals growing tensions between the Treasury and Downing St. Last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak seemed to distance himself from the Prime Minister, telling a press conference he would not have made claims that Sir Keir Starmer had failed to prosecute the paedophile Jimmy Savile. Five Number 10 aides have also resigned in recent days, and the number of MPs who have publicly revealed they have either submitted a letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership or called for him to stand down has now reached 15. Over the weekend, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS confederation, suggested on Twitter that the Treasury may be reluctant to sign off big spending plans amid uncertainty over how long Johnson will remain in office. However, the government insists the delay in making the announcement is down to disruption caused to the NHS by the omicron surge, which meant hospitals would not now be “able to deliver quite as much as quickly as it was thought it could three months ago before the variant arrived.”
The number of working universal credit claimants has risen by 1.3 million since the Covid-19 pandemic began, according to analysis by the Trades Unions Congress. More than 2.3 million workers received universal credit at the end of last year compared with just over a million before covid hit the UK in February 2020, with restrictions beginning in March the same year. This represents an increase of 130% over the last two years and means 1 in 14 working adults now claim universal credit. The union said the increase had been driven by working households being pushed into financial hardship during the pandemic, with millions facing a “cost of living crunch” this year.
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, retail sales rose by 11.9% in January, against a decline of 1.3% in January last year. This was above the 3-month average growth of 6% and the 12-month average growth of 10.9%. Total retail sales grew 7.5% on a two-year basis during January compared with the same month in 2020. Food sales however fell slightly, a fall the BRC attributes to more people eating out again.
Shoppers spent less on credit and debit cards in January as Plan B Covid restrictions and rising living costs hit retail, leisure, and hospitality, compared to previous months. According to new figures from Barclaycard, consumer card spending rose 7.4% in January compared to the same period in 2020 - the smallest uplift since April 2021. Spending on essential items grew 10.4% -  the smallest rise in nine months - largely due to fuel spend seeing its slowest rate of growth, at 6.7%, since October 2021, as Plan B measures saw Brits travelling and commuting less and working from home more.
New data from mortgage lender Halifax shows house prices rose just 0.3% in January — their slowest rate of monthly growth since June 2021. On an annual basis, the rate of growth remained steady at 9.7%, with prices at another record high of £276,759. This was up around £24,500 on the same time last year, and £37,500 higher than two years ago, before covid. The North West remained the strongest performing region across England, with prices increasing 12% year-on-year, and the average house price standing at £213,200. The easing of Covid restrictions and increased demand from overseas buyers is also lifting demand for property in London again. The capital saw house price inflation accelerate for the third month in a row in January, to 4.5%, double the rate recorded in December and the highest reading in over a year. However, overall, the Halifax says it expects house prices to slow "considerably" over the next 12 months as households face a cost-of-living squeeze.
BP has reported a profit of $12.8 billion in 2021, the highest in eight years, as natural gas and oil prices soared and the global economy recovered from the pandemic slump. BP's strong recovery follows a loss of $5.7 billion in 2020, after BP wrote off the value of its oil and gas assets by $6.5 billion amid a slump in energy demand due to the pandemic. The London-based company also said it plans to boost spending on low-carbon and renewable energy. "2021 shows BP doing what we said we would - performing while transforming," Chief Executive Bernard Looney said in a statement published by Reuters.
Online supermarket Ocado Group has reported a 12.1% fall in annual core earnings because investment in the business has offset an increase in revenue. The group's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came in at £61m in the year to November 28th 2021, down from 73.1 million pounds in the 2019-20 year. Ocado’s pretax loss widened to £176.9m from £52.3m. Although revenue rose 7.2% to £2.5bn, capital expenditure increased £154.8m to £680.4m, reflecting increased investment in the roll-out of automated warehouses in Britain and overseas, along with investment in technology development and platforms. Ocado now forecasts capital expenditure to rise to around £800m in 2022, driven by the worldwide roll-out of its platform, Reuters reports.
Lord Bilimoria, the founder and chairman of beer brand Cobra says prices will have to rise because of a "vicious cycle" of cost pressures. He told BBC 5 Live's Wake up to Money programme: "Our input costs in every way - bottling, energy - are up. Freight costs have soared, sometimes ten-times. Wages are increasing and on top of that there are labour shortages. It does mean that businesses have to put up prices.” Bilimoria is also president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Abrdn, the FTSE-100 fund manager, has been forced to wait to ballot its shareholders on a £1.5bn takeover of the stock-picking platform Interactive Investor (II) because of an international paper shortage. Under UK takeover rules, companies must send paper versions of documents to shareholders - a requirement which has proved challenging for abrdn, with its army of more than 1m retail investors.  Sky News understands abrdn will write to its investors this week to seek their approval for the most significant deal since the company was formed from the £11bn merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017.
Ladbrokes owner Entain has bought Canada's Avid Gaming for CAD300m (£174m) from Middlebrook Investments Limited.
Newsquest, the UK's second-biggest regional newspaper group is said to be in exclusive takeover talks with rival Archant, which put up for sale last month by its owner, Rcapital. Neither Newsquest nor Rcapital have commented on the report by Sky News. Turnaround specialist Rcapital acquired Archant in 2020. Archant is based in Norwich and was founded in 1845. Newsquest owns more than 120 news brands. Previously listed on the London Stock Exchange, it was acquired by Gannett in 1999.
Japanese conglomerate SoftBank has called off its planned sale of UK microchip designer Arm to US technology group Nvidia. When the deal was first announced in September 2020 it was valued at around $40bn (£29.6bn). SoftBank now aims to float Arm's shares on the stock market by the end of March next year. The planned sale had faced major regulatory hurdles in the UK, United States and European Union and the two parties agreed to end their sale agreement "because of significant regulatory challenges preventing the consummation of the transaction, despite good faith efforts by the parties".
Taylor Wimpey has appointed internal candidate Jennie Daly as its new chief executive, becoming the first UK housebuilder to appoint female chief executive and making it only the third company in the FTSE 100 to have both a female CEO and a female chair. Daly, who is currently group operations director, will take over from Pete Redfern, who has led the business for 15 years since it became the UK’s third biggest housebuilder through the merger of Taylor Woodrow and George Wimpey in 2007. The Guardian says the move is likely to anger Elliott Advisors, the activist investor that was pressuring the housebuilder to appoint someone from outside the company. Back in December, Elliot wrote a nine-page public letter to chair Irene Dornersaying that shareholders were “unlikely to support a chief executive candidate that represents an extension of the status quo at Taylor Wimpey”.
Pets at Home Plc hired a new CEO yesterday, appointing Lyssa McGowan, the former Chief Consumer Officer at Sky UK Ltd and a former board member of Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc to the top job.
Workspace software and technology company Essensys have appointed James Lowery to the role of CEO for its UK and European business, effective immediately. The AIM-traded firm said Lowery was joining its executive committee and would report to its founder and CEO Mark Furness. Lowery joins from British Land, where he co-founded its flexible workspace offering Storey.
Danish pension fund AkademikerPension is pulling its more than $3m investment in Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air over concerns around human and labour rights abuse. Fund chief executive Jens Munch Holstsaid investigations into the carrier have highlighted how the company refuses to recognise the right to unionise, and has dismissed staff because of their union affiliation.
Meta has threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from Europe if Brussels blocks its ability to send user data to the US. The threat follows a ruling from the European Court of Justice in July 2020 that the previous Privacy Shield agreement with Washington was invalid. "If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on [Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs)] or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations," Meta said in its annual report published on 3 February. A final decision on whether using SCCs to process European data broke EU GDPR rules is expected in the next five months.
Swedish price comparison site PriceRunner is suing Google for €2.1bn. The lawsuit relates to a 2017 European Commission ruling which found that Google had given prominent placings to its own comparison shopping service on search results while demoting rival services, and imposed a €2.42bn fine on the US tech giant. Mikael Lindahl, chief executive of PriceRunner, told Reuters that the firm was prepared to fight for "many years" and that it had secured "tens of millions" of euros in external financing. "They are still abusing the market to a very high extent and haven't changed basically anything," he said. A spokesperson for Google, which is owned by parent Alphabet, said it would defend the lawsuit.
Google boss Sundar Pichai has confirmed the company is exploring cryptoand blockchain potential. "We are definitely looking at blockchain, it’s such an interesting and powerful technology with broad applications," he said. The plan is to allow blockchain-based businesses to utilise parent company Alphabet’scloud computing services. On 27 January, Google Cloud announced it was starting a new blockchain-based division inside its Labs group, called the Digital Assets Team. Pichai is also contemplating cryptocurrency payments, and has planned to integrate NFTs on YouTube, which contributes nearly 11% to the company’s overall revenue.

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