Published: 15 March 2022
Location: London, UK
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that all remaining Covid travel measures will be scrapped at 4am on Friday this week. Passenger locator forms will no longer be required, neither will travellers who are not fully vaccinated have to take a Covid test before departure and book and pay for a PCR test after arriving. Shapps tweeted: "These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter." Scotland and Wales have agreed to follow England in scrapping the remaining coronavirus border measures, but Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said she was doing so "reluctantly" - and was "extremely disappointed" that testing requirements and the passenger location form were being ditched. The announcement has been welcomed by the travel industry.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says the number of unemployed people in the UK has dropped below levels seen before the pandemic struck for the first time, but that earnings continue to fall behind rocketing inflation. There were 1.34 million jobless people in the quarter to January, down 88,000 on the previous three months and below the 1.36 million recorded in December to February 2020. The number of workers on payrolls jumped by 275,000 between January and February to a fresh record of 29.7 million, with the ONS saying demand for workers “remains strong”. Vacancies also hit a new high, up 105,000 quarter on quarter to 1.3 million. However, with average weekly earnings up only 3.8%, excluding bonuses, this is 1.6% lower than Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation over the same period.
Half of low-paid workers in the UK are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts, The Living Wage Foundation (LWF) says. In research highlighting the pressure on staff paid less than £9.90 per hour, a poll of 2,000 adults found cleaners, couriers and some NHS staff were more likely to be affected. LWF said lower-paid workers were therefore more likely to pay a financial price – an “insecurity premium” – because of the added costs of childcare and travelwhen shifts were cancelled or changed at short notice. Almost half of shift workers lose out on £30 or more a month because of last-minute changes, according to the study, leading almost a third to increase their reliance on credit cards and borrowing to make ends meet.
The number of UK manufacturers planning on raising prices has hit its highest since at least 2010, amid substantial rises in energy and wage costs. Yahoo Finance UK reports survey research by IHS Markit UK Business Outlookshowing 62% of private sector firms plan to increase their charges over the coming 12 months, up from 56% in October and the highest recorded in the survey’s 12-and-a-half-year history. Firms are also expecting severe cost pressures over the next 12 months, with four in every five companies saying salary demands are leading to record high staff cost projections.
Amrita Sen, director of research at Energy Aspects, told the Treasury Committee yesterday that Petrol prices could hit as high as £2.50 per litre and diesel could soar to £3 per litre as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine keeps pushing oil prices. “Crude oil prices are currently around $110 (£84), we are saying it could easily go up by $50 (£38) — so let’s say it’s just over a 50% increase — that’s how much fuel prices would go up,” she said. Asked by MPs if she saw petrol rising to £2.40 a litre, she said: “Yes, around that much.” The average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts hit 163.5p on Sunday, up from 148p per litre a month ago, according to data firm Experian Catalist. Diesel hit 173.4p per litre, up from 151.6p last month.
The boss of energy firm Cuadrilla has accused the Government of failing to back up recent “rhetoric” on keeping the door open to fracking. CEO Francis Egan said work to concrete up the UK’s only shale wells in Lancashire will have to start “imminently” in the absence of any official confirmation that the Government wanted to halt the move. He urged the Government to withdraw its instruction to plug the wells, lift the moratorium on fracking and use the site to produce domestic shale gas. Last week, Downing Street said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “looking at all options” on fracking, and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he agreed with the Prime Minister that it did not make sense to concrete over the wells as planned. However, Egan said there had been repeated contact with the Business Department and the Government’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) since last Wednesday, but the only “clear and unambiguous response” was confirmation from the OGA that June 30 remains the legal deadline to plug both wells with cement. “As it takes between two and three months to complete the work we must start on site imminently,” he said. “If the Prime Minister and Secretary of State’s words are to count, then officials must be instructed to stop dragging their heels and frustrating the Government’s wishes. He urged the Business Department and the OGA to formally withdraw their instruction to plug the wells.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Save the Children, the Energy Saving Trust, End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Clean Air Fund, Mums for Lungs, WWF UK, the Wildlife Trusts and Age UK are among 33 civil society groups that have written to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, to call for £3.6bn for insulation grants to all households, and an extra £4bn by 2025 to install heat pumps in place of gas boilers. The letter, seen by the Guardian, also called for benefits to be increased in line with April’s inflation rate, rather than the lower 3.1% planned, and for the £20 uplift in universal credit that was part of the Covid-19 response to be restored.
Trade body UK Music is urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to abandon the VATincrease on concert and live event tickets, due to come into force on 1 April. VAT is currently charged at 12.5% on tickets for live events but went down to 5% at the height of the pandemic. UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin has written to Sunak saying the move would come as a kick in the teeth for the industry following two years of near shutdown. Before the pandemic, the UK music industry contributed £5.8 billion to the UK economy and supported almost 200,000 jobs, UK Music says.
Four Russian-focused firms are to be deleted from all FTSE Russell indices after brokers stopped trading their shares. The London-listed companies set for deletion are blue chips Evraz, which has already been suspended by the Financial Conduct Authority, and Polymetal International, along with small caps Petropavlovsk and Raven Property Group. FTSE Russell, part of the London Stock Exchange Group, said it had taken the decision following feedback from market participants as well as its external advisory committees. It said the ability to buy or sell shares in the four companies had been "severely restricted" because major international brokerage firms no longer supported trading them, meaning there was now "insufficient institutional liquidity and market depth". The companies' deletion from all of FTSE Russell's indices will be effective from 21 March 2022, as part of the March review. Both Evraz and Polymetal had been due to drop out of the FTSE 100 into the FTSE 250 in the review. They will now be replaced by NB Private Equity Partners and Standard Life Private Equity Trust, which will be promoted from the UK Small Cap index.
The London Metal Exchange (LME) will resume trading of nickel contractsat 8 am London time tomorrow, Wednesday March 16, the exchange said in a notice yesterday. The LME was forced to halt nickel trading and cancel trades after prices surged on March 8 to more than $100,000 (£77,000) per tonne after China's Tsingshan Holding Group bought large amounts to reduce its short positions in the metal.
Camelot, the company that has run The National Lottery since it was launched in 1994, is to lose its licence to do so from 2024. The Gambling Commission has announced Allwyn Entertainment Ltd as its preferred applicant for the next licensing round. Camelot has been named as the "reserve applicant". The National Lottery is one of the world's largest lotteries and has raised more than £45bn for 660,000 causes across the UK, the BBCsays.
UK computer chip designer Arm Holdings has said it plans to cut up to 15% of its workforce, just a month after the collapse of the firm's $40bn sale to US chipmaker Nvidia. If the proposals go ahead most job losses would be in the UK and the US, the Cambridge-based company said.
Arm's chip designs are licensed to brands including Apple and Samsung and are used in most smart phones and other products around the world. Arm employs close to 6,400 people worldwide, the BBC says.
Specialist finance provider Premium Credit is at the centre of a private equity bidding war, Sky News understands. Prolific sports investor CVC Capital Partners - which owns a 14% stake in the Six Nations Rugby championship - and Towerbrook are two of the leading contenders to buy the firm for more than £600m. Premium Credit allows consumers to spread the cost of insurance premiums, school fees and rail season tickets. It has more than 2.1 million customers, according to its website and employs about 350 people in Surrey and Dublin.
The chief executive of Aston Martin saw his pay package shrink last year in the wake of an investor backlash over bonuses. Advisory group ISS called the decision to pay bonuses in 2020 “questionable” given the company’s poor performance and Aston Martin faced a shareholder revolt at its AGM last year, with almost 18% of voting shareholders rejecting the pay report. Subsequently Tobias Moers, who joined from Mercedes-Benz in August 2020, earned £1 million last year, accounts show, down from a total package worth £1.48 million in 2020 for just five months’ work.
American-owned packaging giant Crown is set to create 280 jobs at new can manufacturing plant in the UK. The 625,000 sq ft Peterborough factory will be the Pennsylvania-headquartered firm's largest facility of its type in Europe.
The European Union agreed yesterday to implement new rules limiting access to its €2 trillion (£1.69tn) worth of public tenders to countries that do not offer fair access to their public tenders and EU companies. Reuters says the move is designed to pressure countries such as China to open their markets and signals a more assertive trade policy post-Brexit and clashes with the Trump presidency. The agreed text paves the way for the launch of the International Procurement Instrument (IPI) later this year. French trade minister Franck Riester said Europe was stepping away from naivety and looking after its own businesses and insisting on reciprocity.
A proposed rule that could have effectively banned cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum in the European Union (EU) has been quashed by members of the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee. An amendment to proposed draft legislation introduced in 2020 was added last week, seeking to limit the use of cryptocurrencies powered by an energy-intensive computing process known as proof-of-work across the EU’s 27 member states. However, the proposal met with a heavy backlash from crypto advocates worldwide and MEPs on the committee voted against it 32-24.
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