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Chancellor Rishi Sunak will lay out his fiscal plans in his Spring Statement today

   News / 23 Mar 2022

Published: 23 March 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


Chancellor Rishi Sunak will lay out his fiscal plans in his Spring Statement today, as it is revealed that the cost of living continued to soar last month. Inflation rose by 6.2% in the 12 months to February - the fastest rise in 30 years - as fuel, energy and food costs surged.
 
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has thrown his weight behind a major expansion of onshore wind energy in Britain by easing planning rules introduced under David Cameron that have frustrated development. Kwarteng said onshore renewables “absolutely” needed to be part of plans to boost national energy security and that “we’ve got to look at planning”. Subsidies for onshore wind were removed and planning rules changed in 2015 to give local areas greater powers over whether they wanted turbines, with particularly tough thresholds in England. The changes were made after the former prime minister reportedly told aides to “cut the green crap”.
 
The US has agreed to ease trade tariffs on UK steel and aluminium shipments from 1st June, resolving an issue that had strained relations between the allies, the BBC reports. The move follows earlier deals with the European Union and Japan over the controversial taxes, which were imposed by former President Donald Trump in 2018 in the name of national security. In exchange, the UK will suspend extra taxes it had put on US products such as bourbon and Levi's jeans. The terms of the agreement will see the US replace the 25% tariffs on steel with a quota system, allowing UK metal imports into the country duty-free up to a certain level before taxes kick in again.
 
The London Metal Exchange is talking with governments about whether it should continue to allow Russian metal to be delivered into its warehouse network. CEO Matthew Chamberlain said the exchange wants to make sure it “can’t be part of financing any type of atrocity” in a Bloomberg TV interview. However, he also said the exchange will take its lead from government policy. Major Russian metal producers are not currently subject to sanctions.
 
Sub-postmasters who helped uncover the Post Office IT scandal but missed out on full compensation are to get payouts under a new government scheme. The 555 workers won a landmark civil case against the Post Office in 2019 but saw most of their settlements swallowed up by legal fees. They will now get the same level of compensation as other sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted. A public inquiry into the scandal continues.
 
Citizens Advice, who yesterday released research finding people from ethnic minority backgrounds care paying some £280 more for car insurance, is now calling on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to investigate. "It is time for the FCA to lift the bonnet on insurance firms' pricing decisions and ensure no one is paying more because of protected characteristics like race," the charity’s chief executive, Clare Moriarty, said.
 
Record numbers of British manufacturers are raising prices, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says. 82% of firms were expecting to raise prices in the coming months against just 2% predicting a fall, the trade body said, the highest percentage since the CBI began asking the question in its industrial trends survey in 1975, a period in which soaring energy costsalso prompted a surge in the annual inflation rate.
 
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued an Enforcement Notice to more than 50 companies advertising within the cryptocurrencysector. The advertising watchdog says the notice is a “red alert” signal warning them not to dupe consumers with false cryptocurrency marketing. The ASA also says any business advertising cryptocurrency products should review compliance as it is cracking down on “misleading and irresponsible crypto ads” in a joint effort with the Financial Conduct Authority ahead of the introduction of tough new measures that could prosecute, fine, or even shut down those who break the rules.
 
Lottery operator Camelot has been fined £3.15 million after mistakenly telling 20,000 players they did not have winning tickets and sending marketing messages to people with potential gambling addictions. The company also double-charged 22,210 customers through its National Lottery app. The Gambling Commission said around 65,400 people who had either self-excluded through Gamstop, a gambling restriction service, or had been identified by Camelot as showing signs of gambling harm, were sent marketing notifications, although none of them were subsequently able to purchase a lottery ticket via the app. A Camelot spokesperson said it strived to operate the National Lottery to the “highest possible standards”. “We are sorry that some of our controls fell short of the mark in certain very specific circumstances and have paid the fine,” they added. The fine will go towards charitable causes, the Evening Standard says.
 
P&O Ferries, which unceremoniously sacked 800 staff last week, are offering a total of £36.5m in redundancy payments. Around 40 former workers will get more than £100,000 each, the firm said, while denying it broke the law by sacking the workers as those affected were employed outside the UK. P&O says some employees are set to get 91 weeks' pay and the chance of new employment, and no employee would receive less than £15,000.
 
CityFibre, the UK broadband provider engaged in a £4bn programme to roll out dense full fibre infrastructure to up to 8m homes by 2025, says the Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Investment Company has agreed to put a further £300m into the project. Mubadala made an initial £500m investment as part of a wider financing last September. CityFibre said the equity investment will support its accelerated growth plans and enable participation in Building Digital UK's (BDUK) 'Project Gigabit' rural programme. In total, CityFibre has raised £1.425 billion in the last six months, the largest ever financing for UK Full Fibre deployment.
 
Two of Britain's largest commercial landlords were eyeing a property swap, it was reported on Monday, one which could see the massive Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield change hands. According to the Times, British Land and Land Securities had held initial talks over the potential £800m deal, which would see the latter acquire British Land's 50% share in Meadowhall. In return, British Land would take over Land Securities portfolio of 10 retail parks.
 
Car dealership Pendragon has reportedly rejected a secret £400m takeover approach from its largest shareholder. According to Sky News, the Hedin Group - which operates 210 car dealerships in Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland - made a secret 28p-a-share approach for Pendragon several weeks ago. It was understood that the approach was not disclosed to Pendragon's investors and was rejected by the board. Hedin already owns around 25% of Pendragon and has been a vocal critic of the company's board in recent times. Last year it described a bonus payment to CEO Bill Berman as "out of tune". Pendragon operates more than 150 dealerships across the UK under the Evans Halshaw, Stratstone and CarStore brands.
 
NatWest is launching a “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) service this summer, the first UK high street bank to announce a move into the booming but controversial multibillion-pound sector. This form of unregulated credit lets people delay payment for items ranging from clothes to pet food, The Guardiansays. NatWest said there was “a clear demand” for BNPL, and it was determined “to make it better and safer”.
 
Automotive classified advertising business Auto Trader is to acquire vehicle leasing marketplace operator Autorama in a deal worth up to £200 million to transform its existing leasing proposition and help meet the demands of a growing number of consumers considering leasing their next new vehicle.
 
Dutch-owned paint and coatings manufacturer AkzoNobel, best known for its Dulux, Cuprinol and Hammerite brands, has opened a new £10 million global research and development centre in Slough.
 
The former boss of ITV has been drafted in by THG to help repair the e-commerce company’s battered reputation, the Evening Standard says. Lord Charles Allen, who ran the broadcaster from 2004 until 2007, has been hired as non-executive chairman and will be the first outside head of THG’s board. He also currently chairs FTSE 250 construction group Balfour Beatty and was formerly chair of record label EMI, services group ISS and chicken giant 2 Sisters Group. Relations THG management and the City have reached breaking point in recent months amid concerns about governance, transparency on business metrics and strategy. Shares in the former stock market darling have dropped over 80% since last summer, the newspaper adds.
 
A Russian billionaire sanctioned by the UK says he no longer owns many former properties, potentially putting them beyond the reach of the law. Ex-Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov's £82m London home and Surrey mansion were put into trusts linked to the oligarch, raising questions over the effectiveness of sanctions imposed since the invasion of Ukraine began. On 3 March, seven days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Usmanov’s assets were frozen, he was banned from visiting the UK, and British citizens and businesses were banned from dealing with him. The government said sanctions would cut him off from “significant UK interests including mansions worth tens of millions”. However, a spokesman for Mr Usmanov said that most of the billionaire’s UK property, as well as his yacht, had already been “transferred into irrevocable trusts”.
 
Tesla has finally opened the doors at its much-delayed €5bn (£4bn) German factory, eight months late and two years after it was first announced. It is Tesla’s first electric vehicle plantin Europe. CEO Elon Musk said the opening of Giga Berlin was a “great day for the factory” and “another step in the direction of a sustainable future”. The project has been beset by licensing delays and environmental protests over its high water use, which also marred yesterday’s opening event: two protesters abseiled from a motorway sign near the factory, blocking traffic after the unveiling. The factory is expected to produce an extra 500,000 cars a year when fully operational, equal to about half the company’s entire output last year. It will employ about 12,000 workers at peak capacity.
 
The National Bank of Hungary raised its base rate by 100 basis points to 4.4% yesterday, the biggest hike in the rate since 2008, saying rising energy costs and the war in Ukraine had fuelled inflation risks.
 
The European Union raised over €12 billion in a debt sale yesterday. The bloc drew over €59 billion in demand for a new 10-year bond backing its coronavirus recovery fund, which raised €10 billion, the European Commission said in a statement. The EU had increased the size of the issue from an initial 8 billion euros announced earlier yesterday in a memo seen by Reuters. The EU also received €35 billion in demand for a 15-year bond backing its SURE unemployment scheme - the first jointly financed fund it launched early on in the pandemic - which raised €2.17 billion, the Commission said.


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