Published: 26 April 2022
Location: London, UK
Government borrowing in the last financial year more than halved from the amount borrowed a year earlier when the UK saw major Covid restrictions, the BBC reports. Borrowing stood at £151.8bn, less than half the £317.6bn borrowed in 2020-21, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show. A rise in tax revenue contributed to the fall, with receipts standing at £619.9bn for the financial year, an increase of £94.3bn. However, borrowing in March remained well above pre-pandemic levels: at £18.1bn, the figure was the second-highest amount for the month since records began in 1993, despite being £8.8bn less than the amount borrowed in March 2021. The ONS said the total amount the government borrowed in the last financial year was worth about 6.4% of gross domestic product (GDP).
Elon Musk succeeded in buying Twitter yesterday, clinching a deal to buy the social media platform for some $44 billion, using one of the biggest leveraged buyout deals in history. The deal follows days of negotiations between Musk, the world’s richest person, and the Twitter board. As the company will now be taken private, investors will receive $54.20 for each Twitter share they own, a price that is 38% higher than the stock’s close on April 1, the last business day before Musk disclosed a significant stake in the company. He has hinted at a long list of changes he wants to make at the social-media platform, including removing restraints on speech, and has cast doubt on the advertising model that accounts for the bulk of Twitter’s revenue. Musk announced his purchase by posting the phrase “Yes!!!” on Twitter, surrounded by red hearts, shooting stars and rocket ship emojis, above his statement on the deal. He also said yesterday: “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated…Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
The response to Musk’s takeover of Twitter? Twitter co-founder and former chief Jack Dorsey sads Musk is the “singular solution” he trusts, adding that the platform being run as a company was always his “sole issue” and “biggest regret.” “I don’t believe anyone should own or run Twitter,” he said. “It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company,” he said. Jeff Bezos, the world’s second richest man, questioned China’s leverage over the Tesla CEO and Twitter. “Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” he tweeted. Amnesty International tweeted: “Two words: toxic twitter,” and said: "We are concerned with any steps that Twitter might take to erode enforcement of the policies and mechanisms designed to protect users.” US senator Elizabeth Warren said the deal is “dangerous for our democracy.” A handful of ‘blue tick’ accounts threatened to delete their accounts, among them British actress Jameela Jamil. Donald Trump told Fox News he would not re-join Twitter (he is currently under a permanent ban since claims he incited protesters to attack the US Capitol building in January 2021) but would stick with his own Truth Social platform.
The average food bill could increase by £271 this year as prices continue to rise, according to research company Kantar. Grocery prices were 5.9% higher in April than a year ago, the biggest increase since December 2011, Kantar says, meaning shoppers are turning to discount retailers Aldi and Lidl as supply chain issues, the Ukraine war and rising raw material costs drive up prices.
The UK is facing an acute shortage of free-to-use ATMs, leaving consumers who rely on face-to-face banking services and cash to pay for everyday essentials at risk of being cut adrift, consumer group Which? has warned. Which? found nearly a quarter of ATMs have vanished since 2018 and almost half of the UK’s bank branches have closed since 2015. It says 4,685 bank branches have shut their doors, with a further 226 already scheduled to close by the end of this year, with 12,178 free-to-use ATMs axed. Which? also found that the rate of branch closures in rural areas outstripped those in urban regions, with the banking network in rural communities cut by 50.7% since 2015, compared with 47.3% in urban areas. Elderly consumers aged 65 and over, who are most likely to reply on cash as a payment method, made up 23% of the population across those areas with the poorest access to cash, Which? concluded, and called on the government to introduce legislation to protect cash in next month’s Queen’s Speech. “Another year of inaction could risk an irretrievable collapse" of Britain’s cash system, Which? warned.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has intervened to stop financial advisers who gave poor advice to British Steel pension scheme members from selling assets to avoid paying compensation. The FCA has already said it will take strong action against firms that try to avoid paying compensation. It has already frozen the assets of one firm and is investigating 30 other individuals or businesses. The FCA has outlined plans for a £71.2m compensation scheme for 1,400 workers whose pension advisers duped them into ditching British Steel’s pension scheme in favour of higher-risk schemes while they raked in lucrative fees. An investigation into the scandal showed about 46% of the advice given by advisers between May 2016 and March 2018 was "unsuitable". Some advisers have avoided compensation payments by closing their businesses, in which case claimants have been forced to apply for redress from the industry-funded Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
P&O Ferries has denied it tried to get its new cheaper agency staff to accept even lower wages. The RMT Union claimed new workers at Dover were being asked to sign new contracts, replacing ones they had signed weeks ago, on lower pay. But P&O Ferries told the BBC there were "no plans to change or reduce the wages" of the new seafarers.
Indian-owned bicycle manufacturer Hero is set to install a new assembly line at its Trafford Park site as part of a £150m group-wide investment. Once operational, several international brands currently manufactured in India will be built locally in Manchester.
Some business leaders have urged the prime minister to make this year's extra bank holiday marking the Queen's Platinum Jubilee permanent, the BBC reports. In an open letter, the CBI, UK Hospitality and a host of bosses of well-known brands including Siemens, Iceland, Punch Pubs, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale, and “Dragon” Deborah Meaden, who is leading the campaign, said a "thank holiday" would honour the monarch and public service and provide an economic boost after Covid. Research released by PwC also suggests government figures have overestimated the cost of a new bank holiday by 64%.
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