AI-Powered Council: Kent’s Innovative Approach to Road Safety and Community Well-being

( Thurs, 21st Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Council to Deploy AI to Monitor Speeding Motorists and Improve Services.

In a move to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI), Kent County Council has unveiled plans to utilize AI technology for multiple purposes, including identifying speeding motorists, detecting deteriorating road conditions, and recognizing residents who may be at risk of homelessness.

Council leader Roger Gough expressed enthusiasm for integrating AI into the council's operations, citing the remarkable advancements in AI technology. He believes that AI has the potential to enhance their services and gain a deeper understanding of how they can best serve the community.

One of the primary applications of AI will be the monitoring of road safety. The technology will gather data on sections of roads where drivers are not complying with newly established speed limits, allowing authorities to pinpoint areas requiring intervention.

Additionally, AI will be employed to collect data on the interactions of residents in independent living environments, identify council employees who may be considering leaving their positions, and enhance public engagement. The ServiceNow Chatbot will be used to streamline responses to public inquiries, locate relevant forms, and address staff queries regarding computer systems and human resources. If the chatbot is unable to assist, it will direct staff to engage with a human adviser.

The council is also exploring the use of drones for inspecting various elements such as vegetation, water, power infrastructure, and roadside utilities. This will help reduce the need for staff to conduct on-site inspections.

While the introduction of AI technology is generally welcomed, Councillor Antony Hook has called for greater involvement of younger staff members, emphasizing the potential for fresh and innovative ideas to contribute to a “consortium of bright ideas.”

The council's documents affirm that there are currently no financial implications for developing or implementing the interim policy. However, individual projects involving AI technology will incorporate cost considerations into their respective business cases and project plans.

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Bank of England Halts Interest Rate Hike Streak, What It Means for Your Money

( Thurs, 21st Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Interest Rates: Impact on Your Finances in the UK.

The Bank of England has broken its streak of 14 consecutive interest rate hikes. September sees the Bank rate, determined by the Monetary Policy Committee, hold steady at 5.25%, providing a momentary reprieve for homeowners contending with rising mortgage rates. However, for savers, the era of potentially better news may be at an end.

This decision maintains the Bank rate at its highest level in 15 years. The fundamental principle here is that raising interest rates increases the cost of borrowing, resulting in reduced spending, lower demand, and ultimately curbing inflation. Since December 2021, rates had been on an upward trajectory, aligning with the Bank's efforts to bring inflation closer to its 2% target.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), prices increased by 6.7% YoY in August, a slight dip from July's 6.8% and a considerable fall from the peak of 11.1% recorded in October 2022. While this remains well above the Bank's 2% target, it has influenced the decision to pause the rate hikes, with five of the nine-member committee voting in favor of this pause.

Policymakers will closely monitor the “core inflation” rate, which excludes volatile factors like food and energy. It declined from 6.9% in July to 6.2% in August.

At one stage, UK interest rates were predicted to rise above 6%. However, even if there is a future rate increase, the peak is expected to be lower than initially anticipated.

Interest rates affect consumers in various ways:

1. Mortgages: Nearly a third of households in the UK have mortgages, and changes in interest rates directly impact them. Tracker and standard variable rate (SVR) mortgage holders usually experience immediate changes in their monthly payments when rates rise or fall. Although the rate hikes have paused, those with tracker mortgages are still paying £540 more monthly than in December 2021, while SVR mortgage holders are paying £299 more per month.

2. Credit Cards and Loans: Bank of England interest rates also influence the interest charged on credit cards, bank loans, and car loans. In July, the average annual interest rate was 21.7% on bank overdrafts and 20.76% on credit cards. Personal loan rates averaged 8.61%, a slight increase from the previous month. Lenders may opt to raise prices if they anticipate higher interest rates.

3. Savings: Banks and building societies are under pressure to pass on increased interest rates to their customers. Although some competitive deals exist, many savers remain in accounts with minimal interest. The UK's financial watchdog has warned of “robust action” against banks offering unreasonably low savings rates. Despite the improved rates, they often lag behind inflation, eroding the real value of cash savings.

The rise in prices can be attributed to a range of factors, including increased global inflation following the easing of Covid restrictions and higher consumer spending. Supply chain disruptions and elevated oil and gas costs have also played a role, with the situation exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Rising wages within the UK have contributed to domestic inflation.

Globally, interest rates have been on the rise in recent months. Among the G7, the group of the world's seven largest advanced economies, the UK currently boasts one of the highest rates.

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Potential Delay in UK Petrol Ban Raises Concerns About Electric Car Adoption

( Wed, 20th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Potential Delay in Petrol Ban Could Hinder Electric Car Adoption, Warns Industry Chief.

The head of the UK's motoring industry group has cautioned that postponing the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars could deter drivers from transitioning to electric vehicles. Government ministers are reportedly contemplating shifting the planned ban from 2030 to 2035. Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), expressed concern that such a delay would send consumers an “incredibly confusing” message.

In 2020, the government set the policy to prohibit the sale of new pure petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, as part of the broader net-zero plan. However, several sources have suggested that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering scaling back the proposal, along with other green commitments, as a cost-saving measure.

Ford, a major UK car brand, and Stellantis, the parent company of Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen, and Fiat, have voiced their commitment to achieving 100% zero-emission new car and van sales by 2030, regardless of a potential ban delay. However, they stress the need for government clarity on crucial legislation, particularly environmental issues.

Economist Anna Valero, a member of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's advisory committee, argued that a delay would harm the UK and disrupt long-term investment decisions for a stronger, more sustainable economy.

While most consumers won't be immediately affected by the ban, the SMMT's Mike Hawes expressed concerns about its impact on car manufacturers and potential delays in consumers' electric car purchases. He stressed the importance of transitioning to sustainable transport to achieve net-zero emissions.

Edmund King, president of the AA motoring group, called the 2030 goal “ambitious but achievable” and emphasized the need for more certainty for the car industry and drivers to plan for the future.

The SMMT highlighted the UK car industry's success in securing investment for zero-emission vehicle development in recent months, including BMW's investment in its Mini factory and Tata's battery plant plans.

BMW stated that a delay to 2035 wouldn't alter its electric car plans, debunking reports suggesting it was a condition for its recent investment. Jaguar Land Rover affirmed that its net-zero plans remain on track and called for legislative certainty regarding the end of petrol and diesel car sales.

Mike Hawes also expressed confidence in the introduction of the zero-emission vehicles mandate, requiring 22% of cars sold by each manufacturer to be zero-emission from 2024.

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Food Price Slowdown Sparks Surprise Drop in UK Inflation – Relief for Households

( Wed, 20th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

“Slowing Food Prices Lead to Surprise Fall in UK Inflation Rates”

Food prices slowing down significantly contributed to a surprising drop in inflation in August, causing the cost of living to reach its lowest point in a year and a half.

Official figures reveal that inflation, which gauges price changes over time, decreased from 6.8% in July to 6.7% in the year to August. This marks the third consecutive monthly drop.

Among the items that saw slower price increases were milk, cheese, eggs, fish, and vegetables. Additionally, hotel and airfare costs declined, even though fuel prices rose.

It's important to note that a decrease in the inflation rate doesn't mean prices are dropping; rather, they are increasing at a slower rate.

The unexpected decline in August's inflation rate contrasted with the expectations of many economists who anticipated an increase due to rising fuel prices.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt stated that this news indicates that “the plan to deal with inflation is working.” However, he emphasized the importance of sticking to the plan to halve inflation to alleviate pressure on families and businesses.

In response, Darren Jones, Labour's shadow chief secretary for the Treasury, commented that the fall in inflation was “nowhere near” enough and would not make a significant difference to families struggling to pay their bills.

Global food prices surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, affecting prices at supermarkets. This conflict disrupted supplies from major exporting countries like Russia and Ukraine, impacting items such as sunflower oil, wheat, and fertiliser.

While food inflation remains high and in double digits, it has been slowing in recent months. In the year to August, price increases for food and non-alcoholic drinks eased to 13.6%, down from 14.9% in July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Grant Fitzner, chief economist at the ONS, noted that it's still a mixed picture, with some items, like bread and cereals, continuing to rise in price while others are falling. He also mentioned that food manufacturers are paying less for food than they were a year ago, and this is starting to benefit consumers.

This drop in food prices could be good news for consumers who have seen their shopping and restaurant bills rise substantially.

Regarding interest rates, the Bank of England has raised them 14 times since December 2021 in an attempt to control inflation. However, these latest inflation figures raise questions about whether the Bank will continue to increase rates at its next meeting. While inflation remains high, its three consecutive monthly declines may support officials on the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee who want to limit further rate hikes.

The latest inflation data also suggests that the government is more likely to achieve its goal of halving inflation this year.

Although the UK's inflation rate of 6.7% is still high compared to other wealthy countries, it's lower than inflation rates in Germany (6.4%), France (5.7%), and Italy (5.5%). The US has a lower inflation rate of 2.5%.

A recent forecast from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicated that the UK is likely to experience faster price increases than any other advanced economy this year.

If you or your family are affected by inflation, please share your thoughts in the comments below this video.

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Warning Issued as Oil Prices Surge to 10-Month High, Fuel Costs Set to Rise

( Tues, 19th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

UK drivers have been cautioned about an impending surge in fuel expenses as global oil prices hit their highest point in 10 months. On Tuesday, Brent crude, a key price benchmark, surpassed $95 a barrel amid forecasts of constrained supplies. This increase comes in the wake of the International Energy Agency (IEA) expressing concerns that a production cut by Saudi Arabia and Russia could lead to a “significant supply shortfall” by year-end.

Motoring group RAC has alerted drivers to brace themselves for escalating pump costs. Recent data reveals that UK motorists are currently paying an average of £1.55 per litre for petrol and £1.59 per litre for diesel. Since August, average petrol prices have surged by 10p per litre, while diesel prices have climbed by 13p.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, oil prices soared, exceeding $120 per barrel in June last year. Prices subsequently receded to just above $70 per barrel in May 2023 but have been steadily increasing since then as producers have curtailed output to bolster the market. In August, Saudi Arabia and Russia, both major oil-producing nations and members of the OPEC+ group, resolved to reduce production.

Concurrently, the US Energy Information Administration revealed on Monday that US oil production from its top shale-producing regions was set to decline for the third consecutive month in October, reaching its lowest point since May.

Saudi Arabia, being a leading oil exporter, is inclined to maintain elevated oil prices to ensure a consistent income stream while it seeks to diversify its economy. However, Western nations have accused OPEC, whose members convene regularly to determine production levels, of price manipulation.

As crude oil constitutes the primary component of fuel, motoring groups have cautioned that petrol and diesel prices could continue to rise. The AA emphasised that increasing prices coincide with reduced fuel efficiency, typically observed due to darker evenings.

Luke Bosdet, the AA's pump prices spokesman, noted, “Drivers have endured a 10p-per-litre increase in petrol costs since the start of August. The only things working in their favour have been the persistence of daylight during rush hour and mild weather, which leads to lower fuel consumption. Those drivers who are beginning to feel happier are those with electric cars.”

RAC's fuel spokesman, Simon Williams, observed that with oil nearing the $100-per-barrel mark, drivers face challenging times at the pumps. He suggested that an increase to three figures would likely raise the average price by another 2p per litre. Nevertheless, Williams warned that “if retailers are aiming to achieve higher profit margins per litre, this could drive the average petrol price closer to 160p.”

Analysts have raised concerns that surging global oil prices could impact inflation rates in various countries. Inflation experienced a sharp rise in 2022 and has only recently begun to decline. Sophie Lund-Yates, Lead Equity Analyst at investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown, commented on the symbolism of oil nearing the $100-per-barrel mark, which is “now being considered once more.” She added that fuel accounts for a substantial portion of overall inflation, making this a challenging development.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is due to release the latest UK inflation figure on Wednesday. Inflation has receded in recent months but remains elevated at 6.8%. Households have been grappling with increased fuel and energy bills, while businesses have raised prices to cope with mounting expenses. The pound's recent depreciation may have exacerbated fuel costs, as oil prices are also influenced by the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar, given that Brent crude is traded in dollars.

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, defended OPEC+'s supply restrictions, asserting that energy markets require light-touch regulation to curb volatility.

Is the High Fuel Costs affecting you or your family? If so, please comment below this video.

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Elon Musk Hints at Potential Paywall for X, Formerly Twitter

( Tues, 19th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

In a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk hinted that access to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, could require a subscription fee to counter the presence of bots.

“We're moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the system,” stated Musk, who is also the head of Tesla and SpaceX.

Reporters sought further clarification from X but have not yet received an official statement from the company, leaving it uncertain whether this was an off-the-cuff remark or an indicator of undisclosed, more concrete plans.

Musk has consistently proposed charging for verification as his strategy for eliminating bots and fake accounts from the social media platform. Since taking over Twitter last year, he has sought to incentivize users to opt for an enhanced service known as X Premium, offering paid subscribers additional features such as longer posts and increased visibility on the platform. However, at present, users can still access X for free.

Although there is a clear financial incentive for the company to introduce user charges, Musk emphasised that the primary goal of having people pay for the service is to combat bots. He argued that “a bot costs a fraction of a penny” to create, but if users have to pay even a small amount, the effective cost to bots becomes significantly higher.

In the United States, X Premium currently costs $8 (£6.50) per month, with prices varying based on the subscriber's country. Musk indicated that he was exploring more affordable options for users, intending to keep the subscription fee minimal.

He stressed that this approach, while requiring further discussion, is his only proposed defence against the proliferation of vast bot networks.

However, there is a potential risk that placing X behind a paywall could lead to a significant loss of users, potentially impacting advertising revenue, which currently comprises the majority of the company's income.

Musk also discussed the issue of antisemitism on X during his conversation with the Israeli prime minister. The platform has faced criticism from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for what the advocacy group perceives as insufficient action against antisemitic content.

In response, Musk has stated that the company plans to sue the ADL to “clear our platform's name.”

During his conversation with Netanyahu, Musk reiterated his stance against antisemitism. Netanyahu acknowledged the challenge of striking a balance between free speech and content moderation and encouraged Musk to find that balance within the confines of the First Amendment.

“I hope you find within the confines of the First Amendment, the ability to stop not only antisemitism… but any collective hatred of people that antisemitism represents,” Netanyahu stated, expressing confidence in Musk's commitment to this objective.

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Make Good Money In The Stock Market By Following This Advice

It can be exciting to invest in stocks. The market offers a number of ways to invest your money, so you can choose investments that meet your tolerance for risk and your overall goals. Before you invest, general market knowledge is needed. Here are tips to help you accomplish that.

If you own stocks, use your voting rights and proxy as you see fit. In certain circumstances, depending on the charter of the company, you could be able to vote on such things as electing a director or something as important as a proposed merger. Voting happens either through the mail or in an annual shareholders' meeting.

Long-term investment portfolios work best when then contain strong stocks from a diverse array of industries. Not every sector will do well in any given year. By investing in multiple sectors, you will allow yourself to see growth in strong industries while also being able to sit things out and wait with the industries that are not as strong. On a regular basis, reevaluate your investments so that you can reduce the impact of losses from declining industries and increase your position in the ones which are gaining.

Although most portfolios are long-term investments, you still want to re-evaluate your investments about three times a year. The reason for that is the economy is changing frequently. Some sectors may start to outperform other sectors, and some companies will do better or worse than others. There are many other instances that can occur that can make a big difference on the performance of a particular stock. It's crucial to track your portfolio and make adjustments accordingly.

If conducting research on your own is something that interests you, look into hiring an online brokerage firm. The fees charged by full service brokers are steep. Online brokers charge a fraction of that, but you will be essentially on your own. Since your aim is to make money, the lowest possible operating costs are always ideal.

If you are new to stock investing, understand that financial success takes some time, possibly several months or a few years. It usually takes several months for stock prices to rise, and many people don't have the patience to wait it out. You have to be patient and take your time.

Do not invest too much money in the company for which you work. It can be risky to own stock of the company that you work for. If something bad occurs, both your portfolio and paycheck will be in danger. The only time you should consider purchasing stock in the business you work for is when shares are being discounted for the employees because you might have a great bargain.

Keep investment plans simple when you are beginning. While diversity may be tempting, as is wanting to branch into areas prone to excitement and speculation, when you are new to investing the simple and reliable approach is always best. Although you may not make a ton of money with your simple plan, you don't risk the substantial losses that can come with inexperienced complicated investing.

Keep in mind that cash does not always equate to making profit. Every financial operation needs cash flow, and your investment portfolio is no exception. You will obviously want to move your money around occasionally. That's natural. But you also want to keep your investments healthy and viable, and that means not draining your stock. Try to retain a six month emergency savings balance, as a “just in case” precaution.

Thoroughly research any company that your are considering buying stock in. People often have a tendency to see a stock featured in a business magazine and then purchase it based on that information alone. When the company turns out to be unsuccessful there are substantial losses.

When looking at the price of a stock, keep an open mind. Keep in mind that the price you pay for your stock will affect your return on investment. A stock that is expensive today might be affordable next week.

Make your first investments with the bigger, more familiar companies. If you are just starting out, look into larger stocks from companies as these offer lower risk. Once your knowledge of the market increases, you can start buying stocks in smaller, less well-known companies. Although there is considerable risk, the small company stock can offer a significant potential for fast growth, especially if the advisors consider it a hot stock.

Investing in the stock market can be a fun and exciting opportunity no matter what you decide to do. No matter which investment method you choose, all of the tips here can help you make the most of it.

UK Rental Prices Soar at Highest Rate in Nine Years

( Mon, 18th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

The cost of renting a home in the UK has surged by 12% over the past year, marking the sharpest increase since data collection began in 2014, according to estate agency Hamptons.

The research revealed that the average monthly rent for a newly-let property now stands at £1,304. This increase in the past 12 months has outstripped the cumulative rise seen in the four years leading up to 2019.

Several factors have contributed to this steep rise in rental costs. Landlords are grappling with elevated mortgage rates, while tenant demand is steadily climbing. The supply-demand imbalance, with fewer available rental properties in many regions, has resulted in higher rental expenses.

Official figures from the previous month, encompassing both new and existing lettings, showed that rental costs in the UK were at their highest level since the commencement of comparable records.

Proposed legislation currently making its way through Parliament aims to prevent tenants from being evicted without a valid reason. Landlords contend that this legislation has prompted some of them to exit the sector. Meanwhile, heightened competition among tenants for a limited supply of rental properties is pushing rents upwards.

Hamptons' research, which covers 90,000 homes let and managed by the Countrywide Group's estate and lettings agents each year, accounts for location and property type, focusing on achieved rather than advertised rents. The data reveals that the UK's average monthly rent surpassed £1,300 in August, achieving this milestone less than a year after crossing the £1,200 mark.

Aneisha Beveridge, Head of Research at Hamptons, commented, “Each passing month has ushered in a new rental market record. Rents have risen more in the last 12 months than they did between 2015 and 2019. While the current pace of rental growth is unsustainable long term, many mortgaged landlords are being squeezed just as tightly as tenants.”

Sluggish activity in the broader property market, due to higher mortgage rates and economic conditions, is also playing a role. Rightmove, a property portal, disclosed that more than a third (36%) of properties listed for sale have undergone at least one price reduction to attract buyers, the highest figure since January 2011. Although typical asking prices in September were 0.4% lower than a year ago, they saw a marginal increase compared to the previous month.

To improve their chances of securing a rental property, agents advise tenants to begin their search well in advance of their current tenancy ending, sign up with multiple agents, and have essential documents such as payslips, a job reference, and a previous landlord reference readily available. Establishing a relationship with local agents while staying within budget and offering upfront payment can also enhance prospects. Some agents provide sneak peeks of properties on social media before listing them, so tenants are encouraged to explore these opportunities. Further tips and information on renting rights are available for renters.

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Wales Becomes First UK Nation to Reduce Speed Limit from 30mph to 20mph

( Mon, 18th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Wales has made history by becoming the first country in the UK to lower speed limits in built-up areas from 30mph to 20mph, a move aimed at reducing fatalities and encouraging walking and cycling. Although this change has been endorsed by the United Nations, environmental groups, and road safety organizations, it has sparked controversy among some drivers and politicians, who see it as a “war on motorists.”

The Welsh government believes that the £32.5 million cost of implementing the new speed limit across the country is justified by the reduced strain on the NHS and emergency services, which a study estimates could save £92 million annually.

Mark Drakeford, Wales' First Minister, argued that the one-minute increase in travel time for motorists would save ten lives each year. He said, “It doesn't seem an unfair bargain.”

Under the new law, the speed limit on approximately 35% of Welsh roads, where lamp-posts are no more than 200 yards apart, will change from 30mph to 20mph.

While some critics, including the UK government's House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, have called the new 20mph default limit “insane” and “punishing” to drivers, the Welsh government maintains that the impact on journey times will be minimal, with drivers spending less than one additional minute on average per trip.

The move to a 20mph limit has received support from various organizations, including the United Nations, which has called for 20mph speed limits to be the norm for cities, towns, and villages worldwide. Road safety campaigners have pointed out that a person's risk of dying if hit by a car traveling at 30mph is five times greater than if the car is traveling at 20mph.

Wales' decision to implement this lower speed limit comes as the nation joins Spain in adopting such a change nationwide. However, while road safety group Brake has called for a 20mph default limit to be extended to England, the UK government has ruled it out. Scotland is still considering whether to follow suit, and the lower limit has been recommended in the Republic of Ireland.

While the new speed limit will be enforced by police, they have indicated that their response will initially focus on education and discretion to help drivers adapt to the change. Fixed speed cameras will, however, impose penalties for those exceeding the 20mph limit.

Although about 97% of 30mph roads in Wales will change to 20mph, local authorities have the option to make exemptions based on evidence indicating that higher speeds are safe on specific roads.

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Want To Know About Hotels? Check These Facts Out!

When planning a trip, you need to pay attention to certain things. After you've chosen your trip destination, you have to figure out what mode of transport you'll use. The hardest part of all is deciding on a nice hotel, even when you don't know much about the area. Read these tips to help you get this right and maybe even save you some money.

Room service can be a great way to have a private, comfortable meal. It might cost a little extra, but it's definitely worth the bill. Nothing is more enjoyable than having food delivered to your room while you're in your PJ's.

Be sure to put all valuables, such as jewelry and electronics, in the hotel safe. This safe will store your small important items, such as your iPad, iPod, GPS, jewelry, etc. By doing this, you can keep these items secure and enjoy your day without fretting about someone stealing them.

There are a number of things to consider when deciding which hotel to stay at. The location of the hotel may be just as important than the price. Amenities that help you choose a hotel are free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, exercise room, pool, and a restaurant on the premises. So decide on the amenities that mean the most to you and start looking.

Pet Friendly

You don't want to assume that the hotel you will be staying in is considered pet friendly. Even if a web listing says a hotel is pet friendly, call the hotel to verify. Also ask exactly what they mean by pet-friendly, as there might be restrictions on certain breeds and sizes of pet that they allow on their premises.

If you're taking your pet with you, do these things in advance. Find out if the hotel will allow pets first. Take some bags to clean after your pet. When you go to make the hotel reservation, see if there is room on the end that would prevent the other guests from hearing a noisy pet.

Book any massage appointments you make early. In order to get the best masseurs at these top hotels, you must plan early to ensure that you get a good experience.

See if you can get a hotel discount through AAA if you are a member. You may not have known that, but it's true. It will let you save 5% or so on hotels that are around the nation. This can add up on a long trip.

If you travel frequently, it is wise to enroll in hotel loyalty programs. There are some great benefits offered to clients who often book the same chain. Rewards can include free hotel stays, upgrades and late check-out times if you save up enough points.

People who care about the environment may be more comfortable staying in a hotel that is eco-friendly. There are many hotels that feature green amenities. Some new hotels are built to green standards and are certified green. Old hotels will change their practices to be more green. Talk to your travel agent in order to find the best green hotels for your needs.

If you don't want to get a big expense on the hotel bill you get, speak to the place about hotel transfers prior to booking things. Hotel transfer costs can be extremely large, especially in hotels that appear to offer an incredible deal on their room rates. You can increase the amount you save by simply finding this information out in advance.

Don't call long distance in your hotel room. Rather, use a web tool. Most hotels offer Wi-Fi, but you will probably need their password and may have to pay a fee to use this service. But the Internet is infinitely useful while traveling so it is usually worth it.

Find out if the hotel you're staying at has a functioning pool for the kids. There is nothing worse than having to tell your excited kids they cannot swim.

If you are inspecting a room for bed bugs, then the bathroom is the best place to start. This is where bedbugs are least likely to be. That means you can store your luggage here as you inspect. Kids and pets can stay there as well.

Determine what the policy on smoking is if you smoke. Certain hotels provide rooms that are specifically for people who smoke. If they do, ask for this type of room. There are hotels that will charge you quite a bit if they find out that you were lighting up in the room that wasn't for smoking. This is why you should stick to the rules.

It's not too difficult to find an affordable, comfortable hotel whereever you are going. You're better prepared now by knowing exactly what it is you're looking for. Plan your trip and enjoy your stay. You are sure to have some interesting stores to tell afterwards!

QLM Business News

Packing For Exotic Or Tropical Destinations

Taking trips is the perfect way to have a modern adventure and visit other cultures. That said, traveling takes time and money you might not have. Here are some helpful tips for making the most of your precious vacation time to travel and keeping it affordable.

Create a list of the items you need to pack. Start as soon as you can before your trip, that way you can add your must-have items to the list as you think of them. However, even when packing at the very last second, this list will assist you in staying organized, and you can avoid any excess clutter.

When you fly, don't expect the airline to cater to your every need, no matter how long the flight is. Travel with your own blanket, pillow and entertainment if you believe that you may need them. You should also think about bringing some snacks with you.

Anytime you are going to be driving to a different city before going on a cruise, check to see if there is a hotel that has fee parking, and get there the night before. If you cannot find any details about parking, ask the hotel staff what their policy is.

Before booking, do all the necessary research. Find websites that contain reviews of potential destinations. Also inquire among friends and family to see if any have been before. You can be better prepared by doing your homework. Plus, you can plan out the activities of the trip.

Always pay attention to your surroundings when traveling and keep track of your belongings. Be very aware of keeping a close eye on your purse when you are traveling. In addition, try to avoid bags that have an easy-access zipper that someone might be able to unzip easily on a subway or crowded public transit area. Security should be one of your top considerations when buying a new bag for travel.

Traveling far from your home usually inspires people to take too much from home with them. Try to pack just the items you really need, however. List all the toiletries use typically use every day and you really need. Only pack the most important one.

When traveling abroad, learn what insurance you may have that accompanies your credit cards. For example, some cards provide insurance coverage in the case of a cancelled flight that has been charged to the card. It pays to conduct some research before leaving.

Determine if you will need a Visa in order to go to the foreign country you are traveling to. It is a good idea to apply for a visa months before you have to travel, as the processing times for visas can be quite long. Sometimes you may not be allowed to enter certain countries without a visa.

Most car rental outfits do not rent to those under the age of 18, and some do not rent to those under 25. If you happen to be younger than 25, you may have to pay more money. Senior citizens are not permitted to rent vehicles in some cities. Ask the company's age restrictions when making reservations.

Take a break every few hours when driving with small children. Breaks give you the chance to stretch your limbs and visit the bathroom. You'll also prevent kids from getting motion sickness this way. It takes longer, but reduces your stress levels.

Travel Sites

Using the Internet to book your traveling requires only one stop. You can use travel sites to effectively plan an itinerary without much research. Booking flights, hotels or rental cars can all be done on the Internet. Reviews and photographs of hotels are available on the web. In addition, travel sites provide top deals, which include discounts for traveling at the last minute, when planning a vacation.

If you're planning on making hotel stays, travel candles are something you'll want to bring with you. These can improve the smell of an impersonal hotel room. The smells can be relaxing, the lighting romantic and it can help you feel more at ease in an unfamiliar hotel room. There are many candles on the market that are small and travel sized.

Hopefully, these tips have helped you plan for your next traveling experience, whether it is to a far away foreign country, or just a road trip somewhere in the state where you live. Don't let your fear of traveling hold you back; with these tips you'll be prepared for any situation.

Bitcoin Price Demonstrates Classic Wyckoff Moves as Bulls Defend $25K.

( Fri, 15th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Bitcoin analysis indicates that the recent price lows of this cycle may have already occurred.

According to data from TradingView, Bitcoin is currently consolidating around $26,600, just below a critical breakout level.

Despite recent indications that inflation in the United States is more stubborn than anticipated, Bitcoin has remained resilient, moving higher in line with traditional markets.

In this renewed bullish atmosphere, Michaël van de Poppe, the founder and CEO of trading firm Eight, expressed optimism that BTC/USD would avoid setting new lows.

In a recent post on X (formerly Twitter) on September 14, he wrote, “Bitcoin might be able to activate a potential bullish breakout, although we need to make sure that it doesn't retest the lows again.”

Van de Poppe also referred to the news that Germany's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, had applied for a cryptocurrency custody license. He identified $25,000 as a critical level for bulls to defend in the market.

“We've seen a sweep at $25,000 and should be holding up on higher numbers. In that case, we should be holding $25,600-25,900 as beneath there we'll see a ton of stops to be activated before we can actually see some movements,” he suggested.

Despite remaining below several key moving averages (MAs), the 200-week exponential moving average (EMA) continues to serve as support. This level was reclaimed in March and is a significant feature at the beginning of any bull market.

Van de Poppe remarked, “I think that the odds of the low being in on this cycle have increased. Why? Well, we're again holding above the 200-Week EMA and most likely will be closing above that again for this one.”

He identified $26,800, the previous day's high, as the level to break through.

Classic BTC Price Rebound Revealed by Wyckoff Method
Taking a more optimistic long-term view, trading resource Stockmoney Lizards also concluded that further upward movement in Bitcoin's price is likely.

Using the Wyckoff method, X analysis compared the price action of the past year to an extended “accumulation” phase.

The Wyckoff method involves identifying price cycles of an asset, and correctly recognizing the trigger after a swing low, known as the “Spring” in Wyckoff, can indicate the start of a new uptrend or a return to a previous higher trading range.

For Stockmoney Lizards, the Spring took place after BTC/USD reached a bottom in late 2022.

“We have seen the spring in January, breakout end of March, and now the second throwback. Textbook Wyckoff behavior,” they commented.

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ULEZ: Sadiq Khan Hints at Potential Increase in London’s Road Charges.

( Fri, 15th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

During a recent session of Mayor's Question Time, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, indicated that there might be future adjustments to the capital's road charges, which could encompass the Congestion Charge, low emission zone (LEZ), and ultra low emission zone (ULEZ). However, Khan clarified that a pay-per-mile system was not currently under consideration.

Khan's comments arose during a discussion with Conservative Assembly Member Emma Best, who questioned him about his prior statements regarding a scheme that would charge drivers based on when and where they drive in London.

The Mayor acknowledged that the city had been exploring the concept of pay-per-mile. He noted that as more drivers transition to cleaner forms of transportation, fuel duty revenues would diminish, potentially leading to higher road taxes and other costs. Consequently, road charging is an ongoing topic of review.

Khan stated, “It's not inconceivable in the future at some date, the Congestion Charge could go up or down, ULEZ could go up or down, LEZ could go up or down, as it did in the past. That’s a very different question and proposition to a pay-per-mile scheme. A pay-per-mile scheme is off the table – not on my radar.”

Additionally, Khan mentioned other ideas that had been explored, such as a fee for each car journey. He disclosed that he had considered a boundary charge, which he ultimately rejected, along with a carbon charge for each car trip. Khan also highlighted that Transport for London (TfL) had been researching driverless cars, although their widespread adoption remains distant.

Khan reassured Londoners that, as long as he serves as Mayor, pay-per-mile is not being considered. He cited the importance of offering this reassurance due to London now hosting the world's largest clean air zone.

This statement follows Khan's earlier remarks in March about his vision for a smart road user charging scheme in London, inspired by international examples like Singapore. In July, Khan clarified that there was no technology in place for pay-per-mile systems, despite comments from Transport Minister Richard Holden suggesting TfL was exploring such a scheme.

If you are impacted by the expanded ULEZ, feel free to share your experiences and thoughts below the video.

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Rise in Cash Payments for First Time in a Decade Amidst Cost of Living Pressures.

( Thurs, 14th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Cash payments, which have been steadily declining for the past decade, saw a surprising uptick last year as consumers grappled with rising prices. However, this increase in cash usage remains dwarfed by debit card transactions, which reached their highest-ever level, constituting half of all payments made.

Many consumers have expressed a preference for managing their finances with cash. Nevertheless, UK Finance, the organization that compiled this data, anticipates a decline in cash usage in the coming years once the current financial strain subsides.

Even amid the pressures of the cost of living and the transition out of lockdowns, nearly 22 million individuals only used cash once a month or not at all in the previous year. This figure stands in stark contrast to the under one million people who primarily relied on cash.

Debit cards continue to be the preferred mode of payment for most individuals, particularly for low-value purchases in stores, where contactless payments have become commonplace. The average amount spent per contactless card transaction was £15.10.

Debit card usage surged last year, accounting for half of the 46 billion payments made by consumers and businesses, according to UK Finance. Among consumers, debit cards featured in 57% of transactions.

The rise in debit card usage can partly be attributed to the shift towards hybrid working, where individuals commute to the office on some days while working remotely on others. People are visiting their workplaces less frequently but making more payments for transportation. The purchase of annual or monthly season tickets declined, with individuals instead opting for debit card payments for individual journeys. Payments made through cards linked to smartphones and smartwatches were also included in this total.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people were making more frequent trips to supermarkets, buying smaller quantities each time, rather than conducting one substantial weekly shopping trip.

To cope with limited budgets amidst rising prices, the number of cash payments increased by 7% last year compared to 2021, reaching 6.4 billion transactions. While cash remained the second most popular payment method, it constituted only 14% of the total, trailing significantly behind card payments.

Adrian Buckle, Head of Research at UK Finance, commented, “There is a wide variety of payment methods available in the UK, each providing specific benefits to the people using them. During 2022, we saw increased use of contactless, online banking, and mobile payments, although cost-of-living challenges meant that some people preferred to use cash to help with their budgeting.”

In Bromley, southeast London, Sarah Maxwell-Scott and Debbie Clark shared differing preferences for payment methods. Maxwell-Scott, an accountant, favored card payments, citing convenience as a primary reason. On the other hand, Clark, a retail assistant, expressed a preference for using cash because it offers more control over expenditures.

Cheque usage continued its decline, with the average person writing one less cheque than once every two years. Many banks have stopped automatically issuing chequebooks to customers. Although cheques are on a managed decline, efforts have been made to safeguard access to cash for those who rely on it.

In August, the Treasury announced that banks could face fines if they failed to provide free access to cash withdrawals for consumers and businesses. The policy mandates that free cash withdrawals and deposits must be accessible within one mile for urban residents or three miles for those in rural areas.

Graham Mott, from Link, which oversees the UK's cash machine network, emphasized that millions of individuals are turning to notes and coins during challenging economic times. The initiative aims to ensure that every high street has free cash access, replacing machines where the last one closes. This effort will continue as long as there is a need for cash.

The Post Office network reported the highest number of cash transactions on record between June and August. Many of its counters are being utilized by individuals who prefer cash, especially in areas where bank branches have closed.

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Lidl and John Lewis Grapple with Losses Amid Expansion and Rising Costs.

( Thurs, 14th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Discount supermarket giant Lidl has disclosed that its British operations slid into the red last year due to expansive growth initiatives and a surge in costs across various fronts. The supermarket chain reported a pre-tax loss of £75.9 million for the full year, a stark contrast to the previous year's £41.1 million profit. Lidl highlighted that it had embarked on an aggressive expansion spree, opening over 50 stores in a year, while also gaining market share in the fiercely competitive retail landscape.

Despite the losses, Lidl asserted that it had remained steadfast in its commitment to offering low prices to customers. The supermarket, along with fellow German discounter Aldi, has witnessed a surge in popularity as consumers opt for these discounters amid the financial pressures arising from the escalating cost of living.

Lidl's latest financial results showed an impressive 18.8% rise in sales, reaching £9.3 billion. However, these losses were attributed to substantial investments made by the company and the challenging inflationary climate, which led to increased expenses across the board.

Ryan McDonnell, Lidl's Chief Executive for Great Britain, acknowledged that inflation had impacted the entire retail industry, but he stressed the importance of honouring the supermarket's price commitments and maintaining its competitive edge against rivals like Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, and Sainsbury's.

“We've invested in keeping our prices low for customers in what has been a very challenging year for most,” he affirmed. As part of Lidl's ambitious growth strategy in the UK, the company inaugurated its largest warehouse globally in Luton, a £300 million venture creating 1,500 jobs. Mr. McDonnell confidently stated that there was no limit to the company's aspirations, envisioning the potential for hundreds more Lidl supermarkets across the nation.

When queried about the sustainability of Lidl's losses despite increased sales, Mr. McDonnell highlighted the positive momentum generated by the company's investments, characterizing Lidl as a disruptor in the traditional supermarket sector. He underscored Lidl's unique advantage as a privately-owned business, allowing it to make decisions with immediate benefits for customers.

In tandem with Lidl's financial challenges, John Lewis, which also owns Waitrose, revealed further losses in the first half of 2023. The iconic High Street retailer disclosed that its roadmap to achieving “sustainable” profits would be delayed by two years, with the revised target set for 2028 due to mounting business expenses and higher-than-anticipated investment needs.

John Lewis reported a reduced pre-tax loss of £59 million for the first six months of 2023, down from a £99 million loss in the previous year. The company underscored that its modernization plans would take precedence over staff bonuses. The department store has been grappling with robust competition in recent years, resulting in numerous store closures. Its supermarket arm, Waitrose, has also been underperforming.

For the first six months of 2023, Waitrose reported a 4% rise in sales value, largely attributed to a 9% increase in product prices, although the actual volume of goods sold decreased. John Lewis customers exhibited a penchant for spending on personal items, driving sales in beauty and fashion departments, partly propelled by new brands such as JoJo Maman Bébé and Le Specs.

However, the group noted that consumers had become more cautious when purchasing technology products and significant household items. The retailer humorously remarked, “It's been a case of more loafers and fewer sofas.”

Dame Sharon White, Chairwoman of John Lewis, expressed optimism about the group's latest results, particularly the narrowing of losses ahead of the peak Christmas trading season. She emphasized that the transformation process for the partnership would require time but hailed the customers' “vote of confidence” in the group's brands.

In March of the same year, John Lewis announced the suspension of staff bonuses, only the second time this has occurred since the scheme's inception in 1953, citing a challenging 2022. Partners, as employees are known within the company, have a stake in the business and a say in its operations. In May, employees backed Dame Sharon in a vote of confidence, dispelling speculations about altering John Lewis's employee-owned structure.

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Google Denies Abusing Power in Antitrust Trial, Rejects Monopoly Allegations.

( Wed, 13th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Google has refuted allegations of illegal practices and monopoly, asserting that users can easily switch to other search engines with just “four taps.” The tech giant made this claim during a court hearing in Washington DC, where it is currently facing a trial that could determine the extent of US regulators' authority over major tech companies.

The case holds significant implications for the future of the internet, and the trial, expected to span 10 weeks, will feature testimonies from Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple executives.

Judge Amit Mehta, appointed to the DC district court by former President Barack Obama, will preside over the case, which is considered the most significant in the industry in the past 25 years.
The government's lawsuit centers around the billions of dollars Google pays to companies like Apple, Samsung, and Mozilla to be the default search engine on their platforms. The US Department of Justice alleged that Google pays over $10 billion annually for this privilege, securing a steady stream of user data that helps maintain its dominant position in the market.

Kenneth Dintzer, a lawyer for the Department of Justice, argued in court that Google's payments highlight the importance of defaults in maintaining market dominance. He stated, “Are there other distribution channels? Other ways of distributing search? Yes… Are these as powerful as defaults? No. The best testimony for that, for the importance of defaults, Your Honour, is Google's cheque book.”

The government claimed that when Google was first made the default search engine on Apple devices in 2002, there were no payments involved. However, by 2005, Google began offering financial incentives to Apple to maintain its position as the default search engine and even threatened to terminate payments if other companies received similar privileges.

The lawsuit further argues that Google discouraged Apple from expanding its own search products and prevented Samsung, the maker of Android phones, from collaborating with a company that used a different type of search method. Prosecutors characterized these actions as a monopolistic flex by Google.

In its defense, Google emphasized that it faces intense competition not only from general search engine firms like Microsoft's Bing but also from specialized sites and apps that users frequently rely on to find specific information, such as restaurants and flights.

John Schmidtlein, Google's lawyer, stated, “There are lots of ways users access the web, other than through default search engines, and people use them all the time.” He argued that the evidence presented during the trial would demonstrate that Google competes fairly to secure pre-installation and default status, and that its browser and Android partners consider Google to be the best search engine for users.

The antitrust trial is the latest challenge for Google, as the company recently settled another case with US states concerning its app store. Google is also facing a federal lawsuit related to its advertising business and has been the subject of multiple monopoly cases in Europe, resulting in significant fines.

If the government emerges victorious in the trial, it has requested “structural relief,” potentially leading to the breakup of the company. This legal battle coincides with the rise of artificial intelligence and new forms of search, such as ChatGPT, which pose a substantial threat to Google's dominance like never before.

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Apple Forced to Abandon Lightning Charger in iPhone 15 Following EU Directive

( Wed, 13th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Apple has announced that its upcoming iPhone 15 will no longer include the lightning charging port, as mandated by the European Union (EU). During its annual event on Tuesday, the tech giant revealed that the new iPhone will adopt the universally accepted standard of USB-C cable for charging.

In addition to the iPhone 15, Apple also introduced a new series of Apple Watches featuring a more advanced chip. However, some analysts believe that the lack of groundbreaking updates from Apple this year may disappoint certain consumers.

Ben Wood from CCS Insight commented, “Given the maturity of the iPhone and Watch, it isn't a surprise. It reflects just how refined the devices have become and how challenging it is to deliver truly disruptive updates every year.”

To address the transition, Apple has released a USB-C-to-lightning port adapter priced at £29 ($36). This adapter allows users to connect their existing lightning port accessories to the new USB-C-enabled iPhones and iPads.

Notably, this is the first iPhone since 2012 to feature an alternative charging port. The USB-C cable, already compatible with many Apple laptops and iPads, will also work with the new versions of AirPods Pro earphones and wired EarPods headphones.

The EU directive aimed to make life easier for consumers, save them money, and reduce electronic waste by promoting charger reusability. However, critics argue that the move may result in an increase in discarded cables in the future.

In response to these concerns, Apple made a series of environmental commitments during its launch event. The company pledged to make the new Apple Watch range carbon neutral, increase the use of recycled materials in batteries and other components, and eliminate the use of leather in its accessories. Furthermore, Apple aims to achieve carbon neutrality as a business by 2030.

Apple CEO Tim Cook proudly stated that the iPhone 15 range offers the “best and most capable iPhones we've ever made.” The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus boast brighter screens and improved camera systems, while the high-end iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max feature a titanium frame for enhanced durability. The Pro and Pro Max models also introduce the “action button,” which can be customized for various functions, replacing the traditional mute switch.

The new Apple Watch incorporates gesture control, enabling wearers to answer or end a call by double-tapping two fingers on the same hand where the device is worn. However, industry experts question whether consumers will be willing to pay the high price tags for these devices, considering the incremental nature of the updates compared to their predecessors.

In the UK, the iPhone 15 starts at £799, while the iPhone 15 Pro begins at £999.
Paolo Pescatore, analyst and founder of PP Foresight, noted, “Convincing users to invest in these new devices may not be easy during a cost-of-living crisis. While the new features are seen as incremental, they collectively enhance the overall experience, which is invaluable to Apple's core user base.”

Following recent reports of the Chinese government banning officials from using iPhones and Huawei's release of a new smartphone series in China, Apple's shares experienced a slight decline on Tuesday. However, Apple's shipments suffered the least among major smartphone manufacturers, dropping only from 46.5 million to 45.3 million phones, according to Counterpoint Research.

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Shoplifting Surges, Declares John Lewis Chief.

( Tue, 12th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

Shoplifting has surged to alarming levels in the past year, according to Dame Sharon White, the head of John Lewis. Speaking Today, she revealed that the renowned retailer has witnessed a doubling of shoplifting incidents over the last 12 months.

Dame Sharon expressed her concern over the situation, especially the rising cases of abuse and attacks faced by shop workers. She called it unacceptable that retail staff are having to endure such aggression.

In response to this growing issue, a consortium of retailers, which includes John Lewis, has agreed to finance a police initiative aimed at curbing shoplifting, dubbed “Project Pegasus.” Approximately £600,000 will be allocated to this project, which will leverage CCTV footage and data supplied by the stores to gain a better understanding of shoplifters' tactics.

Incident data from various retailers will be collected and scrutinized by analysts and intelligence officers. Dame Sharon, who chairs the John Lewis Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, lamented that certain areas have transformed into “shadows of their former selves” due to violent attacks and persistent offenders wreaking havoc in stores.

During her interview, she noted that reported incidents have sometimes gone unanswered by the police. Data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reveals that retail theft across England and Wales surged by 26% in 2022. The BRC's crime survey suggests that nearly 850 incidents occur daily, with staff frequently facing physical assaults and threats involving weapons.

Shoplifting offenses have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels as the cost of living continues to rise, as corroborated by data analysis. In response to this crisis, various other retailers, including Co-op, Tesco, and Iceland, have announced substantial investments in anti-crime measures.

Security tags are being employed on items like steak and cheese, while Co-op stores are replacing coffee with dummy containers. The CEO of Co-op has issued a warning about certain areas becoming “no-go zones” due to an increase in “shocking instances of brazen and violent theft.”

Tesco is equipping all its staff with body cameras due to the escalating risk of physical assaults and theft. In a recent social media post, Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland, affirmed the company's commitment to security, stating that they are allocating more resources than ever before to address “serious incidents.”

The BRC has previously reported that such high levels of theft cost retailers nearly £1 billion in the 2021 financial year. This is money that could have been used to lower prices and enhance the customer experience.

Michelle Whitehead, an employee at a small convenience store in Wolverhampton, disclosed that shoplifters pilfer from the store “two or three times a day.” She often witnesses individuals clearing entire shelves of items, including fresh meat, milk, and baby food, and stashing them in rucksacks or large reusable bags.

Whitehead believes that many of these incidents are not driven by hunger but rather orchestrated by “organised crime rings” that might be reselling the stolen goods.

Dame Sharon stressed the need for a comprehensive strategy to combat organised criminal gangs and called for the adoption of Scottish legislation making the abuse of retail workers a nationwide offense.

In a bid to foster better relations with the police, Waitrose and John Lewis are offering complimentary hot beverages to on-duty officers. Furthermore, police personnel at John Lewis stores will be granted access to staff cafeterias for breaks and enjoy discounted food purchases, with the expectation that their presence will act as a deterrent to criminals.

Dame Sharon is advocating for a royal commission, akin to an independent inquiry, to explore the future of British High Streets. Retailers have cited heightened competition from online shopping and exorbitant business rates as factors impeding the growth of physical stores in city center locations.

She emphasized the necessity of adopting a holistic approach to address these issues, involving input from the government, academia, and the industry. Rather than examining problems individually, such as tax, crime, planning, housing, and environmental policy, Dame Sharon argues for a comprehensive examination.

To address performance concerns within the John Lewis Partnership, Dame Sharon has been exploring strategies for growth. The retailer is set to unveil its half-year financial results soon, having previously reported a £78 million loss before exceptional items in its latest financial year.

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Slug & Lettuce: Largest UK Pub Chain to Implement Peak-Hour Pricing

( Tue, 12th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

The owner of Slug & Lettuce and Yates's bars, Stonegate Group, which is the UK's biggest pub chain, has unveiled plans to introduce “dynamic pricing” during peak hours. Approximately 800 of its 4,000 pubs will see an increase of around 20p per pint during evenings and weekends. This pricing strategy is in response to rising operational costs, including heightened security expenses.

Peak-time pricing is a familiar concept in various sectors, such as travel, where rates fluctuate with demand. Stonegate Group intends to notify customers of these price adjustments through notices displayed in their establishments.

This move has stirred some frustration among patrons on social media platforms. Some have reported that it's already in place at their local pub, with prices rising from £3.40 a pint before 7 pm to £4.20 afterward. Critics argue that this approach might lead to emptier pubs after 7 pm if customers feel disincentivized by higher prices.

Stonegate Group has previously employed temporary price increases, such as charging up to 50p more per pint during England football matches shown in their pubs during the last two World Cups. Prices reverted to normal after the matches.

Peak-time pricing is not exclusive to the pub industry; it is also employed by ride-sharing services like Uber and frequently used in the hotel and airline sectors.

A spokesperson for Stonegate defended the move, saying, “Like all retail businesses, we regularly review pricing to manage costs but also to ensure we offer great value for money to our guests.” They explained that “dynamic pricing” allows them to offer deals during less busy times, such as 2-for-1 cocktails, happy hours, and discounts on food and drink, mirroring practices in various sectors to stimulate business during off-peak hours.

Chef and pub owner Tom Kerridge, speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, speculated that Stonegate might reduce prices at quieter times, maintaining similar pricing on Saturday nights. He acknowledged that the hospitality industry is facing substantial challenges due to factors like Brexit, the pandemic, and escalating energy costs, making it exceedingly challenging for businesses to generate profit. Kerridge emphasised the soaring costs within the brewing process, particularly for beer, which has a ripple effect on the end price consumers pay.

Across the UK, pubs have been grappling with mounting expenses, including energy costs, resulting in a surge of closures, particularly in city centres.

In May, data from consultants CGA and AlixPartners indicated a 12% decline in the number of licensed premises in British cities since March 2020, with central London being the hardest-hit area.

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Mini Factories Secured with Investment to Produce Electric Cars

( Mon, 11th Sept, 2023) London, UK —

BMW, the German automotive giant, has unveiled plans to inject hundreds of millions of pounds into its Mini factory near Oxford, gearing up to manufacture the next generation of electric vehicles (EVs). The substantial £600 million investment is earmarked for upgrading the Oxfordshire plant, with production of two new electric Mini models scheduled to commence in 2026.

This strategic move not only safeguards the future of the Cowley-based facility but also secures jobs at another factory in Swindon, where more than 4,000 employees currently work.

The extensive investment at the Cowley plant will encompass modernizing the site, expanding production lines, extending the body shop, and constructing a dedicated area for battery installation. Additional logistics facilities will also be established at Cowley and the Swindon factory, which produces body panels for new vehicles.

The next-generation electric Mini models, the Mini Cooper and the larger Mini Aceman, will be produced at Cowley alongside traditional vehicles. A third electric model, the Countryman, will be manufactured in Germany.

This investment from BMW in the UK will receive support from the government's Automotive Transformation Fund, believed to be valued at £75 million.

Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, hailed this announcement as a “vote of confidence” in the UK's automotive manufacturing sector. He emphasized how such investments improve productivity and contribute to job creation and economic growth in the country.

This decision is crucial to the future of the two UK factories as Mini aims to transition fully to electric vehicles by 2030.

The first electric Mini was introduced at the Cowley plant in 2019. However, last year, BMW revealed plans to shift most of its electric vehicle production to China, where it partnered with Great Wall Motor to develop new models. The rationale at that time was that manufacturing both conventional and electric cars in the same factory was inefficient. Now, BMW appears to have altered its course.

Production of the new electric models will commence next year at Great Wall's factory in Zhangjiagang. Cowley is expected to join in the production in 2026.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak applauded BMW's investment, stating that it highlights the UK's position as the best place for manufacturing future cars.

When asked about the speculated government funding of around £75 million for BMW's Oxford plant, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch refrained from confirming the figure, citing potential challenges in future negotiations. She did acknowledge that the auto industry faces additional costs due to regulatory requirements linked to transitioning to net-zero emissions.

This development is part of a broader government-backed effort to promote EV development in the UK, in line with the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales set to take effect in 2035.

Jaguar Land Rover's parent company, Tata, recently announced plans to construct a large “gigafactory” for battery production in Somerset, backed by substantial taxpayer support.

Stellantis has initiated the production of electric vans at its Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire, while Nissan is expanding its EV output in Sunderland, with partner Envision AESC constructing a nearby gigafactory.

Ford is also making significant investments to prepare its Halewood plant for electric motor production.

However, the automotive industry in the UK has faced challenges in recent years, including the closure of Ford's Bridgend engine plant in 2020 and Honda's Swindon factory in 2021. Additionally, the future of the Britishvolt battery factory near Blyth remains uncertain since the company entered administration in January.

David Bailey, a professor of business economics at Birmingham Business School, sees this BMW announcement as positive but highlights that the UK needs to catch up in EV production to maintain a thriving car industry.

One critical unknown is the source of the batteries for the vehicles produced at Cowley. Beginning next year, new regulations will impose substantial tariffs on cars with batteries manufactured outside the UK or the EU when transported across the Channel. BMW, among other companies, is lobbying for changes to these trade rules.

Professor Bailey underlines the pressure on both sides of the Channel to amend the trade rules, highlighting the necessity of revising them swiftly.

FTSE Russell, the index provider, officially confirmed Marks & Spencer's reentry after the market closed on Wednesday, with the change scheduled to take effect on September 18.

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