Published: 31 March 2022
Location: London, UK
The energy price cap rises by £693 tomorrow. Consumers are being urged to submit a meter reading to their suppliers today, to avoid excess charges.
The Labour Party is launching its local election campaign today, with the key message being that households are set to be £2,620 worse off because of the cost-of-living squeeze, a figure taken from combined estimated increases in taxation, energy prices, petrol, food, and mortgage costs. Sir Keir Starmer will ask voters to “send the Tories a message they cannot ignore” and pledge to cut energy bills by up to £600, funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies. “The Conservatives have overseen “the biggest drop in living standards since the 50s and the highest taxes in 70 years,” he will say.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for fuel duty and VAT on fuel to be slashed by 40% for two years, meaning it will be debated by MPs.
The government’s lead non-executive director has quit with more than a year of his term to run, Sky News says. Lord Nash, appointed by the prime minister in July 2020, is to be replaced by Michael Jary, the lead non-executive director at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Britain's economy grew more quickly than previously thought in the last three months of 2021, official data shows this morning. GDP increased by 1.3% in the fourth quarter from the previous three-month period, the Office for National Statistics said, stronger than a preliminary estimate of growth of 1.0%, an acceleration from the economy's 0.9% growth in the third quarter.
The war in Ukraine has dented business confidence and increased economic uncertainty for businesses, according to the latest business barometer from Lloyds Bank, which revealed that confidence in March fell by 11 points to 33%. The data also showed that more than half of British firms surveyed (55%) said they expect to increase their prices in response to soaring inflation, which hit 6.2% in the year to February, its highest level since March 1992.
The proportion of train journeys run by the public sector will hit 25% tomorrow, according to analysis by the PA news agency, which found the milestone will be reached once the Scottish Government takes over ScotRail.This is the highest percentage since Britain’s railways were privatised in the mid-1990s. Just four years ago, no train service operators were in public hands. The figure highlights the “wholesale failure of rail privatisation”, according to the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union. From April 2022, UK based private companies will run 29% of services, with the remaining 46% of services run by foreign firms.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday laid out nine measures he believes will force P&O Ferries to “fundamentally rethink their decision” to sack nearly 800 workers. These include plans to impose “minimum wage corridors” on ferry routes and block boats that do not comply. He will also ask the Insolvency Service to consider disqualifying P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite from acting as a company director on the grounds he has engaged in “sharp practices”. Shapps also said HM Revenue & Customswill dedicate “significant resource” to ensure all UK ferry operators are “compliant with the national minimum wage, no ifs, no buts” and that he would prevent employers from using “fire and rehire tactics” if they fail to make “reasonable efforts to reach agreement through consultation”. Speaking in Parliament he concluded: “Where new laws are needed, we will create them. Where legal loopholes are cynically exploited, we will close them. And where employment rights are too weak, we will strengthen them”. However, his message has not gone down well with various trade unions, who, in summary, say the measures are “too little too late,” nor the British Ports Association, which represents the UK’s main ferry ports. CEO Richard Ballantyne said: “the expectation that port authorities will need to enforce minimum wage rules in the shipping sector could be unworkable…we are concerned that the Government is rushing to find a solution without considering the wider implications in the maritime sector”.
P&O Ferries, meanwhile, has accused the Maritime and Coastguard Agency(MCA) of operating with “an unprecedented level of rigour” in detaining two of its ships. European Causeway was held in Larne, Northern Ireland, on Friday, while Pride Of Kent was detained in Dover, Kent, on Monday. Both ships failed emergency equipment, crew training and documentation inspections.
British Airways planes were grounded at Heathrow Terminal 5 yesterday after its operations at the airport were hit by a technical issue. The airline said the problem has now been resolved.
Some 38,000 people in more than 40 different postcodes were inconvenienced by a power outage in London on Tuesday that lasted into yesterday after a blaze ripped through an electricity substation. The fire also caused the closure of major road links including the Blackwall, Rotherhithe and Limehouse tunnels as traffic lights lost power, while the Docklands Light Railway was also disrupted.
Royal Mail is being warned it could be hit by strikes over plans to cut managers’ jobs. Unite said the company is aiming to sack nearly 1,000 managers and bring in lower rates of pay in a “fire and rehire” move, which Royal Mail denies. However, the union is preparing an industrial action ballot, which it said could see strikes begin next month.
British consumers spent a record amount on video games last year, beating the previous high set during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures show. According to industry body Ukie and its UK Consumer Games Market Valuation, the games market grew 1.9% to £7.16 billion last year. The growth was driven by console sales – which reached £1.13 billion –and virtual reality headsets, which rose by 42% in 2021 to reach £183 million.
Oil prices dropped this morning on reports that US President Joe Biden was looking at releasing a million barrels a day from reserves for several months to combat a supply crisis sparked by the Ukraine war. West Texas Intermediatetumbled more than five percent and Brent Crude more than four percent, taking prices respectively to $102.20 and $108.65 a barrel.
BP Plc is reaching out to state-backed firms in Asia and the Middle East in an attempt to offload its Russian assets, according to Bloomberg. The British oil giant has already warned it could take a hit of as much as $25 billion by divesting from the country and is trying to minimise that loss by making preliminary approaches to China National Petroleum Corp. and Sinopec Group, and Indian firms such as Oil & Natural Gas Corp. and Indian Oil Corp. Bloomberg says its sources claim the efforts have gained little traction so far given the sanctions on Russia, meaning BP’s best option is still to do a deal with Russia’s Rosneft, either handing the stake back or selling it at a huge discount.
More than 100,000 British travel and hospitality businesses will sue Mastercard and Visa over claims they charge fees on corporate credit cardsat up to six times the maximum level. A class action claim by boutique law firm Harcus Parker will be filed today with the Competition Appeal Tribunal, with claims made that the credit card companies are exploiting their dominant position in the market through a loophole that allows them to charge up to 1.8% per transaction on corporate credit cards. UK law introduced in 2015 capped interchange fees at 0.3% for credit cards and 0.2% for debit cards, but the rules did not apply to corporate credit cards.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigators have raided the offices of outsourcer Mitie and are examining the emails of senior staff, after the Home Office raised concerns about suspected anti-competitive behaviour, according to The Guardian. Apparently the CMA is examining the relationship between Mitie and US firm PAE, who operate a joint venture for the Ministry of Defence but were also competing to run Home Office immigration removal centres, at Derwentside, in County Durham, and Heathrow airport. Mitie’s latest annual report for 2021 shows it derived £1.1bn, about 42% of its revenue, from its work for local and central governments.
More than 200 of HSBC’s small company customers were wrongly told they had to take out a business current account to be able to access a loan, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found. This breached banking rules over a nine-year period from 2002 to 2021 and related to 210 loans worth more than £800,000. HSBC itself reported the breaches to the CMA, confirming it ended them from September last year. Customers have been informed, non-compliance clauses from relevant loan agreements deleted, and HSBC has offered refunds of all the current account fees and charges, while making it clear they do not need to keep the accounts with HSBC to have a loan with the lender, PA Media reports. The CMA has now imposed legally binding directions on HSBC ensuring it takes action to ensure the breaches do not happen again.
Starbucks’ tax affairs are back in the news again. It has been revealed the firm paid just £5.4m in UK corporation tax last year despite making a gross profit of £95.1m, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The UK division collected sales of £328m from its 1,000 UK stores in the year to 3 October 2021, up from £243m in the previous year when shops were temporarily closed during lockdowns. The accounts show “administrative expenses” of £78m were deducted from the gross profit, leaving pre-tax profits reduced to £13.3m. Fair Tax Foundation CEO Paul Monaghan said: “The numbers now have a certain predictability.”
Ikea is to close its Tottenham store in north London, affecting 450 workers, whom bosses say will be offered positions elsewhere. The Swedish firm pointed out they are creating 600 new jobs in London before the store closes.
Tesco will increase the price it pays dairy farmers for fresh milk by nearly 20% to assist them with inflationary pressures, the supermarket said today. The group, which has a 27.4% share of Britain's grocery market, said the 520 British dairy farmers that make up Tesco's Sustainable Dairy Group will be paid 40.84p a litre in May versus 34.16p currently. The farmers will also see an interim price rise in April, Tesco said. Britain's biggest retailer has also vowed to cut its use of peat by 95% across its UK bedding plant range from Monday and remove all peat from the range in 2023. Tesco sells some 40 million bedding plants each year.
Private equity giant Apollo has dropped its takeover pursuit of London-listed Pearson after the educational publisher rejected a third £7.2 billion bid to buy the firm.
Rolls-Royce has agreed a new £105 million 11-year contract with the Ministry of Defence to provide the maintenance, repair and overhaul of the two variants of the Adour engine which powers the Hawk jet trainer aircraft, including those flown by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – the Red Arrows.
Deliveroo’s chief executive Will Shu was handed a near 16% basic pay rise this year after taking home a £519,200 salary and £5.2m share payout last year. The takeaway courier boss will receive basic pay of £600,000 this year and is set to receive another near £5m of shares in April 2023, as part of a £30m package over the next six years, according to the group’s annual report which was published today and reported by The Guardian.
A former top fund manager who invested £1.5bn of his clients’ money in the scandal-hit Greensill Capital failed to report a dinner at Buckingham Palace, a £15,000 private jet trip to Sardinia, and secret fees and share options offered to his company by the since-collapsed lender, has been fined £230,000 by the Financial Conduct Authority. Swiss asset manager GAM, who employed Tim Haywood, has also been fined £9.1m. Both qualified for a 30% discount by agreeing to resolve the cases at an early stage.
Meta, the owner of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, is reportedly paying a notable US Republican consulting firm to create public distrust around TikTok. The campaign by Targeted Victory, involved op-eds and letters to editors in various publications accusing TikTok of being a danger to American children, along with other disparaging accusations. Meta representative Andy Stone defended the campaign to the Washington Post, saying: “We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.”
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