Published: 17 February 2022
Location: London, UK
Immigration rules have been temporarily relaxed for care workers in a bid to recruit and keep staff. Care workers have been added to the shortage occupation list for 12 months, which means migrants will be allowed to get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages. Migrant workers will be able to move in with dependents, including partners and children, and the visa offers a path to settlement in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care said. The government previously said care workers would have to be paid at least £20,480 a year to qualify, higher than the current "going rate" for senior care worker jobs, which the government says is £16,900. Sky News says there are currently about 105,000 vacancies in the sector, and about 34% leave their jobs each year. The government brought in a requirement for all care home staff to be fully covid-vaccinated since 11 November 2021, a move which is believed to have caused some 11% or just under 63,000 of workers to leave the sector.
More than a fifth of train services that were running before the pandemic have not returned, new data provided to the BBC shows, despite work-from-home guidance being lifted a month ago. Rail minister Wendy Morton says she cannot guarantee services will return to pre-pandemic levels. The government says it has spent more than £14bn propping up the railways after passenger numbers, and ticket revenue, collapsed. The Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, says 19,500 trains are now running per day, which is equivalent to 79% of overall pre-Covid services. It says that should rise to 85% by the end of the month but that beyond that the shape of the timetable is uncertain. The latest figures from the Department for Transport show that on Monday this week, passenger usage was about 64% of pre-pandemic levels.
The energy regulator's ability to claim hundreds of millions of pounds from the remnants of collapsed suppliers is facing a legal intervention brought by top insolvency professionals. Sky News has learnt that three leading firms of administrators are seeking a court ruling to determine where Ofgem should rank as a creditor in the collapses of a trio of gas and electricity companies. Alvarez & Marsal, Grant Thornton and Teneo Restructuring are understood to be seeking a determination on Ofgem's rights to claim outstanding Renewables Obligation Certificate payments from administrators. The hearing is significant because it could set a precedent for how Ofgem is treated as a creditor in the insolvency proceedings of many of the more than 25 suppliers which have failed in the last six months, Sky says.
A million adults in the UK went an entire day without food last month as the cost of living rises, according to The Food Foundation. Some 4.7 million adults, or 8.8% of households, experienced food insecurity in the last month, an increase from 7.3% in July 2021.
The average UK house price stood at £275,000 in December, £27,000 higher than at the end of 2020, the Office of National Statistics says. House prices climbed 0.8% overall between November and December of last year and 10.8% year on year, to reach record levels. In England, property values increased by 10.7% over the year to December 2021, up from an increase of 10.5% in the year to November 2021, with the average house price hitting a record high of £293,000 in December. In Wales, prices increased 13.0% over the year to December 2021, accelerating from an increase of 12.6% in November 2021, pushing prices up to a record level of £205,000. The average house price in Scotland increased by 11.2% over the year to December 2021, lower than a 12.1% increase in the year to November 2021, to reach £180,000. In Northern Ireland, property values increased by 10.7% annually to reach £159,000. NI remains the cheapest area of the UK in which to purchase a property.
Contactless payments soared by 83% for credit cards and 56.2% for debit cards during the year, new data has shown. According to the latest data published by UK Finance yesterday, the UK saw 2 billion debit card transactions in November, a 29.5% increase from the same month last year, and a 22.6% rise compared to 2019. The total spend of £62.4bn was 8.2% higher than November 2020 and 20.5% higher than in the same period in 2019. The contactless payment limit was upped to £100 on 15th October.
Analysis from the Resolution Foundation says restricting freedom of movement post-Brexit will drive changes in the labour market but will not deliver the “high wage” economy promised by prime minister Boris Johnson. Kathleen Henehan, senior research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Despite claims from both sides of the debate, the UK’s new migration regime will do little to change the UK’s economic trajectory, or its central low investment, low productivity challenges. “Ultimately, a migration strategy is not a substitute for an economic strategy,” she added. The Resolution Foundation also says lower migration will not improve public finances, as previously claimed. “Although the Office for Budget Responsibility finds that the new migration regime could result in £2 billion savings to the public finances by 2024-25, this figure is small in comparison to other expenditures, like the £8.7 billion on Covid-19 related personal protective equipment (PPE) that the Department for Health and Social Care recently reported writing off,” the report states.
Marks & Spencer is to raise its minimum pay for staff to £10 an hour, above the new minimum wage of £9.50 per hour for workers over the age of 23. Workers will also benefit from an extended benefit package, including access to a virtual GP service, health check screening and advice on financial management. The increase puts M&S on a par with a host of rival retailers including Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, who have increased pay in recent months.
FTSE 100 packaging and paper group Mondi has agreed to sell its personal care components business to Nitto Denko for an enterprise value of €615m.
Japanese-owned Komatsu, the world's second largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, is creating dozens of new jobs and ramping up production at its Birtley plant in County Durham to meet soaring domestic and international demand.
A T-shirt advert for retailer Boohoo has been banned after the advertising regulator ruled it was "sexually suggestive" and objectified women, the BBCreports. The online fashion company's ad showed a model wearing a T-shirt with thong-style bikini bottoms and trainers. The "sexually suggestive" images pictured the model kneeling from rear-view, sitting on the floor with legs apart and lifting the T-shirt. "For those reasons, we concluded that the ad objectified and sexualised women. It was therefore irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence," the ASA said. The company said it was disappointed by the ruling, but has removed the images.
Amazon will continue to accept Visa credit cards across its sites after the two businesses reached a global agreement. The online retail giant last year threatened to stop the use of Visa credit cards in the UK because of the fees Visa charged to process payments. Amazon customers in Singapore and Australia also had to pay a surcharge if they used a Visa credit card to purchase goods. No further details have been given.
Shares in telecoms firm Ericsson fell more than 12% after its boss said it may have paid off Islamic State (IS) in Iraq to access key transport routes. Chief executive Borje Ekholm told a Swedish newspaper an internal probe started in 2019 had found serious failings by staff and contractors. Money was paid to access areas in Iraq that were controlled by IS, he told Dagens Industri. He said the probe could not "determine the final recipients" of the money.
Banks are channelling billions into the coal industry despite their own net zero targets, according to a new report from a group of 28 environmental campaign groups. They say financial institutions channelled US $1.5 trillion to the coal industry between January 2019 and November 2021, with those from the UK, US, China, Japan, India and Canada responsible for more than 86% of coal financing and investment.
The rapid rise of crypto-asset markets could impact global financial stability, the US Financial Stability Board (FSB) warned yesterday, because of its scale, structural vulnerabilities, and increasing interconnectedness with the traditional financial system. The FSB called “for timely and pre-emptive evaluation of possible policy responses”. Crypto ownership has doubled in a year among younger adults. According to data from Boring Money, as many as 12% of adults under 45 now report owning some crypto assets, double the same figure a year ago. Among those aged over 45, ownership is significantly lower at 3%. Overall, 7% of the UK adult population hold crypto assets, and a further 3% admitted to holding cryptos in the past.
As the pandemic raged, forcing more online transactions and investments, cryptocurrency-based crime hit a new all-time high, with criminals holding $11bn (£8.1bn) worth of crypto with known illicit sources last year, compared to just $3bn at the end of 2020. According to Chainalysis, stolen funds accounted for 93% of all criminal balances at $9.8bn in 2021, with darknet market funds coming in at $448m, followed by scams at $192m, fraud shops at $66m, and ransomware at $30m. Chainalysis also identified in its crypto crime report that more than 4,000 ‘criminal whales’ hold a total of $25bn worth of cryptocurrency as a group. The company defined a criminal whale as any private wallet holding $1m or more worth of cryptocurrency that has received more than 10% of its funds from illicit addresses. However, illicit activity’s share of cryptocurrency transaction volume has never been lower, at 0.15%, the report revealed.
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