Published: 27 April 2022
Location: London, UK
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have called a Cabinet meeting to discuss how best to ease the cost-of-living crisis, with ideas suggested being to cut the cost of childcare by letting nurseries in England to take in more toddlers without employing extra staff, and relaxing MOT rules by allowing safety checks every two years rather than annually. Chancellor Rishi Sunakwas also urged to cut tax by Policing Minister Kit Malthouse, reports suggest, after official figures revealed record-high tax receipts for the Treasury. New figures released yesterday showed that HM Revenue and Customs collected £718.2 billion in taxes in the last tax year, up almost a quarter from the year before. Tax receipts as a proportion of GDP are now at 30%, up from 27% last year. Ministers are also said to have discussed a plan to unilaterally cut tariffs on food imports after the price of groceries in the UK rose 5.9 per cent in the past year.
Taxpayers will end up shouldering the bill for "eye-watering" losses from Covid swindlers, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said this morning, ramping up earlier criticism by accusing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) of being “complacent in preventing fraud” in the Bounce Bank Loan Scheme, which funnelled billions to small companies to help them survive covid. The committee also accused Government of using the speed of its response to the pandemic to excuse a “disregard” to how much it will cost the taxpayer. Committee chair Dame Meg Hillier MP said: “More than two years on, Beis has no long-term plans to chase overdue debt and is not focused on lower-level fraudsters who may well just walk away with billions of taxpayers’ money,” she said, adding that she and her fellow committee members had been “unpleasantly surprised” at how “little” the Government had learned from the 2008 banking crisis. “Beis must commit now to identifying what anti-fraud measures are needed at the start of any new emergency scheme, so the taxpayer is better protected in future. It also needs to set out the trade-offs and what level of fraud it will tolerate at the outset,” she said. PAC said Government is relying too heavily on banks who lent the money to small firms to get it back from them, as it is not incentivising the lenders go after potentially fraudulent loan takers, or those not paying back for other reasons. Around £47 billion was paid out in loans to 1.5 million businesses in the scheme. The money came from banks but, if companies were unable to pay back, the Government promised it would fully reimburse the lenders. How much this will cost taxpayers in unclear, however Beis has suggested a figure of £17 billion may have to be written off. Separately, a report in The Times has revealed that officials at the border have stopped people “carrying large amounts of money suspected [of being] from coronavirus Bounce Back loans”. The newspaper found multiple examples of recipients using cash intended to save jobs by preventing businesses from going bust on personal spending sprees and gambling habits.
Around one million workers have ‘gone missing’ since the covid pandemic a new report says. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank research attributes the shrinking workforce to ‘long Covid’ and other illnesses, and NHS disruption, saying the government’s failure to improve Britain’s health meant Covid caused more economic damage and more deaths than in many other countries, and exposed fundamental issues and structural weaknesses in the UK’s approach to both its economy and public health. The UK is paying a high price for deep health inequalities and ineffective policies that meant people were living shorter lives and facing greater barriers to staying in and getting on at work, the IPPR concludes. The report also suggested that around 400,000 of the ‘missing million’ are no longer working because of health factors such as long Covid and mental health problems, and that this is costing the UK £8bn a year in lost productivity.
The introduction of new post-Brexit trading rules last year caused a "major shock" to UK-EU trade, research from the Centre for Economic Performance(CEP) at the London School of Economics and Political Science has concluded. The study of 1,200 products found firms on the continent lost a greater percentage volume of trade than exporters from the UK, as EU imports fell by 25% relative to those from elsewhere in 2021. The authors of the report found a “smaller and only temporary decline in relative UK exports to the EU,” but nonetheless suggested that new rules, extra red tape, customs controls, and taxes have caused many UK firms to stop exporting to the trade bloc.
The total sum of dividends paid out by FTSE companies has surged to £13.3 billion, according to Link Group’s dividend monitor. All sectors increased underlying payouts in the first quarter but oil companies led the growth, with dividends up 29%.
Kellogg’s is mounting a legal challenge against new Government rules due to come into effect in October that will restrict promotion of food and drink that is high in fat, salt and sugar. Kellogg’s said the legislation will prevent some of its cereals being displayed prominently in food stores, and that the challenge is an option of last resort as the company has “tried to have a reasonable conversation with Government” without success. Chris Silcock, the company’s UK managing director, said: “We believe the formula being used by the Government to measure the nutritional value of breakfast cereals is wrong and not implemented legally. It measures cereals dry when they are almost always eaten with milk. All of this matters because, unless you take account of the nutritional elements added when cereal is eaten with milk, the full nutritional value of the meal is not measured.” However, as Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Breakfast cereals contribute 7% – a significant amount – to the average daily free sugar intakes of children. Restricting the promotion and advertising of less healthy foods is an important part of the cross-government strategy to halve childhood obesity by 2030, prevent harmful diseases and improve healthy life expectancy, so we can continue to level up health across the nation.”
Supermarket chain Lidl is offering a finder's fee to anyone who can find “a viable option for a new store [site] that we're not already aware of”. The fee will be either 1.5% of a freehold price or 10% of the first year's rent for leasehold sites, meaning a £1.5m site purchase could net a pay-out of £22,500, payable in two instalments on exchange and completion. Lidl is aiming to have 1,100 stores in the UK by 2025, and is particularly interested in new sites in Bristol, London, Southampton, Cambridge, Oxford, Derby, Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield in England, as well as Edinburgh in Scotland and Swansea in Wales.
A P&O ferry detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency after finding “failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training,” and allowed back into service on 8th April, broke down yesterday. The European Causeway was stranded for two hours in the Irish Sea.
Heathrow Airport has ruled out a return to profit despite a strong start to the year. "Demand remains very volatile and we expect passenger numbers to drop off significantly after the summer," it said. "We are already seeing airlines cancelling services into the autumn and the realities of higher fuel costs, lower GDP growth, the war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic will drag on demand”. Heathrow’s total pandemic losses have now topped £4bn.
The long-time CEO of FTSE 250 listed Carnival Plc and NYSE listed Carnival Corporation, Arnold Donald, is stepping down to become vice-chair. He is to be replaced by Josh Weinstein, who is currently chief operations officer.
The European Union has taken a pop at new Twitter owner Elon Musk. The bloc’s commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, said Musk knows companies operating in Europe must stick to its rules, including new legislation which will force major technology firms to tackle illegal and harmful content online. Breton told the FT: “We welcome everyone. We are open but on our conditions. At least we know what to tell him: ‘Elon, there are rules. You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here". On 23rd April, two days before Musk secured his Twitter deal, the agreed its Digital Services Act (DSA), which will grant it the right to police how platforms moderate content, halt the spread of disinformation, and keep users ‘safe.’ Not doing so could open platforms to bans or sanctions of up to 6% of their global turnover. In Twitter’s case this would amount to around $305m (£240m).
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