Royal wedding 2018: Who’s footing the bill?


( via – – Sun, 20 May, 2018) London, Uk – –

From choosing the cake to the flowers and even the chair-covers, anyone who’s ever planned a wedding knows it can be eye-wateringly expensive.

But when it comes to royal weddings – with all the VIPs, security and extra extravagance – the bill runs into millions.

So what do we know about the expected cost of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, and how much will the taxpayer be paying towards it?

Security cost

The wedding will be held in Windsor. And crowds in excess of 100,000 people are expected to descend on the town.

Invitations have been sent to 600 guests, with a further 200 invited to the couple’s evening reception

On top of that, 1,200 members of the public will attend the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Managing these sorts of numbers requires substantial planning.

And security will almost certainly be the biggest single cost.

The Home Office wouldn’t comment when Reality Check contacted it, saying revealing policing costs could compromise “national security”.

Likewise, when we rang Thames Valley Police, it said: “We aren’t going to give you any data I’m afraid – even though we know you love numbers.”

However, we do know £6.35m was spent by the Metropolitan Police (ie the taxpayer) on security for Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding.

That’s based on a Freedom of Information request released to the Press Association.

But it’s difficult to draw a direct comparison with Prince Harry and Ms Markle’s wedding – the location and guest numbers are different.

Other costs

Kensington Palace hasn’t released any details of what it plans to spend on the wedding.

That’s not really a surprise given that the official cost of Prince William and Catherine’s wedding has never been revealed.

That leaves us with unofficial estimates and as such they need to be treated with some caution., a wedding planning service, says the total cost of the wedding could be £32m – including the cost of security.

It put the cost of the cake at £50,000, the florist at £110,000, the catering at £286,000, and so on and so on.

Reality Check contacted the company’s owner, Hamish Shephard, to ask about the methodology used to arrive at the estimate.

He said the £32m figure had been based on the assumption that the Royal Family had paid for everything at market rate.

But in the absence of any official data, this is still guesswork – however well informed.

For example, we don’t know if suppliers would offer a substantial discount for the privilege of providing their services for a royal wedding.

Who pays?

The cost of security for the wedding will be met by the taxpayer.

Initially, Thames Valley Police will have to absorb the cost itself.

But the force will be eligible to apply for special grant funding from the Home Office after the event in order to claim back some of the costs.

Special grant funding is a separate pool of money forces can apply for if they have to police events outside their usual remit.

As for the rest of the total, the Royal Family has said it will be paying for the private elements of the wedding.

Every year the Royal Family gets a chunk of money from the annual Sovereign Grant, paid directly by the Treasury.

The grant is calculated on a percentage of the profits from the Crown Estate portfolio, which includes much of London’s West End.

This year it’s worth £82m.

Some members of the Royal Family benefit from additional income.

For example, Prince Charles gets money from the Duchy of Cornwall estate, a portfolio of land, property and financial investments.

But it’s not clear which “pots” the palace will choose to fund the wedding from.

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, and claims the overall cost of the monarchy is far higher than £82m, has submitted a petition against taxpayers’ money being spent on the wedding.

By Reality Check team





FTSE 100 hits new record closing high


( via– Fri, 18 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The index defies predictions of a bleak year to secure a new record high, aided by renewed sterling weakness.

The FTSE 100 has registered a new record high – signalling some cheer for UK pension funds as the economy stagnates.

London’s premier share index closed Thursday’s session at 7787 points – a rise of 53 on the previous day as utility and retail stocks made some ground.

It beat the previous record close of 7778, which was recorded in January before a stock market wobble.

Values sank across the world amid fears of a US-inspired trade war, that pushed the FTSE below the 7000-point barrier at one stage in March.

Its fortunes have been largely governed by the pound since the Brexit vote – with weakness in the currency boosting the earnings of its dollar-earning constituents.

Sterling has bled value in recent weeks versus the dollar, partly because of continued concern about the state of the EU divorce talks.

But mostly it has been put down to a slowing economy pushing back the likelihood of a Bank of England interest rate hike.

:: Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold

The pound, trading at $1.35 to the greenback on Thursday, had been at post-referendum highs before it became clear UK growth had almost ground to a halt in the first quarter of the year.

A Reuters poll of market experts in February found a consensus view that the FTSE was unlikely to hit record levels again for two years – given jitters about Brexit and market volatility.

After the new record was set Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The death of the bull market has been greatly exaggerated, not for the first time in recent history.

“The Footsie did endure a shaky start to the year, but after two months of steady climbing, has now regained and surpassed its previous high.

“A stronger dollar, a rising oil price and the postponement of an interest rate rise can all claim some credit for the recent strong showing from the stock market.

“Investing is of course a long term game, and the twists and turns along the way are less important than the final destination.

“There will come a time when the stock market will tumble again, at which point investors should take it in their stride and look beyond the immediate situation,” he concluded.

By James Sillars, business reporter



Royal wedding sales: tourism and retail businesses most likely to benefit

( via – – Mon, 14 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle may have bells ringing but it won’t keep UK tills ringing, an economic forecasting group has found.

The overall benefits to the UK economy from the nuptials will be “limited”, says the EY ITEM Club.

It predicts tourism and retail businesses as the most likely to benefit from the occasion next weekend.

A Saturday ceremony means fewer workers may be distracted on the job, leaving productivity largely unchanged.

Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said it would be “wary of over-egging the potential impact or seeking to put a hard figure on the potential gains”.

“We suspect there will be a very limited, temporary boost to the economy focused on some sectors, notably retail, tourism and, possibly, catering and pubs.”

However, the economist also suggested that some celebrating the royal marriage will simply bring forward spending in shops, pubs and supermarkets or switch from spending on other items.

“The retail sector will benefit from people buying royal wedding souvenirs, such as plates, cups and magazines”.

Happy Brits holding festive street parties would also temporarily boost the retail and catering sectors, the economist suggested, as food and drink sales would rise.

“Pubs should also benefit as they have been given permission to stay open for longer. However, it should be kept in mind that some of the retail spending may just be switched from spending on other items,” Mr Archer said.

However the British Retail Consortium struck a more celebratory tone, predicting the day may bring a similar economic uplift as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

Rachel Lund, head of retail insight at the BRC, said the combination of the royal wedding alongside an FA Cup final was likely to be positive for UK retailers.

“Clothing and footwear was a big winner from the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, setting a record for growth that month, as people sought to replicate the style of the newest addition to the royal family,” she said.

“With the country in the mood to celebrate, food and drink sales were also exceptional. We expect to see a similar pattern around 19 May.”



Tax on pensioners proposed to offer inter-generational fairness in the UK: Reports Think Tank

( via – – Tue, 8 May 2018) London, Uk – –

A £10,000 payment should be given to the young and pensioners taxed more, a new report into inter-generational fairness in the UK suggests.

The research and policy organisation, the Resolution Foundation, says these radical moves are needed to better fund the NHS and maintain social cohesion.

Its chairman, Lord Willetts, said the contract between young and old had “broken down”.

Without action, young people would become “increasingly angry”, he said.

The Resolution Foundation says its goal is to improve outcomes for people on low and modest incomes.

Recommendations include:
Give £10,000 to all young adults at the age of 25, funded by a new “lifetime receipts tax” that would replace inheritance tax
Scrap council tax and replace it with a new property tax targeting wealthier homeowners
Use the proceeds from property tax reform to halve stamp duty for first-time buyers and increase public funding for social care
Make earnings of those above state pension age subject to National Insurance contributions
Lord Willetts, the former universities minister under David Cameron, argued that young people were being locked out of the housing market and older people were worried about the demands of healthcare.

Lord Willetts was speaking as the Resolution Foundation, which he heads, published a report calling for tax changes to help heal the growing economic tensions between the generations.

Windfall for young
The foundation’s Intergenerational Commission report calls for an NHS “levy” of £2.3bn paid for by increased national insurance contributions by those over the age of 65.

It says that all young people should receive a £10,000 windfall at the age of 25 to help pay for a deposit on a home, start a business or improve their education or skills.

The report proposes that this money be raised by abolishing inheritance tax and replacing it with a lifetime limit for recipients of £125,000 before taxes kick in.

The commission estimates this would raise £5bn.

“We’ve got a very serious problem of ensuring there’s a fair deal across the generations,” Lord Willetts told me.

“Older people are worried about a properly funded healthcare system, people in middle age still haven’t been able to buy their own home, and for younger people their pay is no better than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

“So the different generations in the UK all face different pressures.

“But we can tackle them, we can do something about it.”

The report calls for the scrapping of the council tax system, replacing it with a new property tax which would raise more money from wealthier homeowners.

The proceeds would be used to halve stamp duty for first-time buyers.

The cross-party commission, which included input from the heads of the CBI business lobby group and the Trades Union Congress, also demands more secure tenancies for renters.

Millennials – people born between 1981 and 2000 – are half as likely as baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1965 – to own their own home by 30.

Lord Willetts said that a lot of the problems had been created by political inertia by a series of governments.

‘Broken down’
“I think we still care about it,” Lord Willetts said.

“We still feel the obligations that generations have to each other, and families are incredibly important in discharging those obligations.

“But when you look at public policy, sadly when it comes to a properly funded healthcare system, houses available so that people can achieve their goal of owner-occupation and a fair deal in pay for younger people – in all those ways, that contract between the generations has not been maintained.

“That contract has broken down. Families are doing their best, the bank of mum and dad helping out the kids, younger people caring about their grandparents, but when you look at public policy, there are older people worried about their social care, there are people of middle age who still aren’t owner-occupiers, and that’s what they want to be, and there are younger people whose pay is no higher than it was 10 or 15 years ago, so there’s a problem in public policy.”

New research produced by the Resolution Foundation revealed that young people are earning less today than the generation before them was earning at the same age.

And a poll undertaken for the Intergenerational Commission also suggested people were more pessimistic in Britain about the chances of the next generation having “better lives” than the one before it – compared with almost any other country.

I asked Lord Willetts whether any government would have the stomach for increasing taxes on pensioners, for example, given that Theresa May was unable to push through a tax increase for the self-employed last year because of a public and Parliamentary backlash.

“There’s no avoiding the pressures for more spending on healthcare and social care, the question is how we meet those pressures,” he replied.

“Extra borrowing is unfair on the younger generation.

“Extra taxes on the working population – when especially younger workers have not really seen any increase in their pay – will be very unfair.

“It so happens that the older people who will benefit most from extra spending on health care have got some resources, so at low rates, it’s reasonable to expect them to contribute.

“It is better than any of the alternatives.”

Private contributions
The foundation also suggests that wealthier people should contribute privately to a social insurance system to help pay for social care in older age.

The system would mirror elements of compulsory health insurance policies in Germany.

“We do think that there needs to be some element of private payment into social care costs when people can afford it,” Lord Willetts said.

“But we’re absolutely clear there should be a limit on those contributions, so that people don’t face a very large bill that could wipe out their wealth.

“There should be an upper limit on it, and everybody should expect some contribution from the state.

“We want everything to be fair and affordable.”

By Kamal Ahmed



Bank holiday hot weather boosts sales of paddling pools and garden gnomes



( via – – Mon, 7 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Stores pack shelves for boom in sales of ice-cream, rosé wine, BBQ staples and garden ornaments

Retailers and garden centres have enjoyed a much-needed boost from what is set to be the hottest early May bank holiday on record, packing the shelves with ice-cream, barbecue food, paddling pools and plants as shoppers got their first real taste of summer.

Asda said sales of paddling pools were up by almost 50% as customers sought ways to keep cool, with its range of novelty gnomes the biggest driver of sales in the garden category.

Waitrose said it has stocked stores for a 200% increase in bank holiday Monday barbecue meat sales and a 50% rise in orders of rosé wine compared with the same time last year.

Sainsbury’s was predicting a 600% increase in ice-cream sales compared with the previous weekend, a 300% increase in gin sales, and a 280% increase in potato salad sales.

Sainsbury’s said: “This scorcher of a bank holiday is set to be the first proper barbecue weekend of the year. We’re predicting that our ice-cream, gin and Taste of Summer barbecue staples will be real sizzlers – not to mention suncream flying off the shelves as we all head outdoors to soak up the rays.”

Springboard, which measures customer visits across the UK high streets, shopping centres and retail parks, forecast a 3%-4% increase in footfall this bank holiday compared with the same one last year.

DIY retailer B&Q said that each of its flagship stores is likely to sell well over 100 barbecues, 3,000 bags of compost, 6,000 bedding plants, 150 mowers and 125 fence panels over the weekend.

“At this time of year especially, customers do respond to the weather. We tend to see a change in the type of projects they do,” said Steve Guy, B&Q’s market director for outdoor. We look at the weather forecast for the next 14 days and make trading and stock decisions on a daily basis.”

Wyevale, the largest garden centre group in the UK, said it was benefiting from the weather with a surge in demand for cocktail herbs as people got a thirst for summer classics such as Pimm’s and mojitos. Sales of moroccan mint are up 62% year-on-year and mint chocolate up 36%.

“It’s no surprise that herbs are the must-have plant of the season; they’re fragrant, look great and are the perfect addition to summer BBQs for both drinks and dining,” said Lilidh Matthews, herb buyer at Wyevale Garden Centres. “They also thrive in small spaces, and are an increasingly popular addition for city balconies and kitchen windowsills alike.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said garden and DIY-related goods were likely to fare well because it was the first opportunity for keen gardeners to get out planting and tidying-up after weeks of poor weather.

“Anything related to the garden is likely to do well after such a poor Easter. People will use the opportunity to get out and do work in the garden and in the home. And of course fashion should benefit as people will want to replenish their wardrobe as the first signs of spring and summer emerge.”

Well-stocked smaller convenience stores were expected to be among the bank holiday winners, according to analysts at research firm Kantar Worldpanel.

“Whenever the mercury rises people swiftly move away from traditional meals and start focusing on the barbecue,” said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight.

“In the interests of maximising their exposure to the sunshine consumers are also much more likely to shop locally rather than travel longer distances to bigger stores, so the retailers who’ve stocked up on sausage and burgers in their convenience outlets should perform well this weekend.”

By Angela Monaghan



Uk Financial Conduct Authority encourage more help for ‘Mortgage Prisoners’

Bradley Gordon/Flickr

( via – – Fri, 4 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Long-standing mortgage borrowers who are unable to switch to a better deal, dubbed “mortgage prisoners”, should be given more help, the UK’s financial regulator has said.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also wants it to be easier for people to find the best mortgage, as about 30% fail to find the cheapest deal.

However, it said competition in the market worked well for many people.

The FCA’s comments came in an interim report into the mortgage market.

Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said: “For many, the market is working well, with high levels of consumer engagement.

“However, we believe that things could work better with more innovative tools to help consumers.

“There are also a number of long-standing borrowers that have kept up-to-date with their mortgage repayments but are unable to get a new mortgage deal; we want to explore ways that we, and the industry, can help them.”

People much less likely to move home than in 1970s
Rate rise doubts as property demand falls
Some mortgage holders found themselves trapped in their current deal when stricter affordability checks on mortgage applications were brought in during 2014.

These “mortgage prisoners” were unable to move to a better deal when their existing mortgages switched back to the more expensive standard variable rate, even if they could meet the payments.

The FCA said it had identified about 150,000 such customers. Of these, about 30,000 were with authorised mortgage lenders, while about 120,000 had mortgages held by non-regulated firms – which include some previous Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley customers.

The regulator said it intended to explore options to help these customers, “for example, an industry-wide agreement to approve applications for a new mortgage deal from existing customers whose most recent mortgage was taken out before the financial crisis and who are up-to-date with payments”.

The regulator said there were high levels of choice and consumer awareness in the mortgage market, with three-quarters of borrowers switching to a new deal within six months of moving on to a standard variable rate.

But it said there was no easy way for customers to be confident of which mortgage deal they might qualify for, and this was “a significant impediment” to shopping around.

The FCA also said a “significant minority” – about 30% – of customers failed to find the cheapest mortgage.

It wants to make it easier for borrowers, early on in the process, to see what mortgage products they can qualify for, and to assess and compare these products.

The FCA is consulting on its interim findings and proposed remedies, and intends to publish its final report around the end of the year.

Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said: “Today’s interim report highlights that, in the main, the mortgage market is working effectively for the vast majority of borrowers.

“We note the FCA’s points regarding perceived areas of weaknesses within the market, particularly around customers who currently may be unable to switch products.

“We will be working through the FCA’s recommendations and continuing to engage closely with the regulator over the coming weeks as we respond to the consultation.”



British and European steel makers brace for a fresh crisis


( via – – Mon, 30 Apr 2018) London, Uk – –

British and European steel makers are bracing for a fresh crisis in the industry unless the US backs down from its protectionist stance and extends an exemption on import tariffs.

The US granted temporary relief to European producers from 25pc tariffs on steel and 10pc levies on aluminium as Donald Trump, the US president, introduced the measure in a move widely seen as targeting imports from China.

However, the exemption runs out on Tuesday. Wilbur Ross, the US commerce Secretary, said over the weekend that administration planned to extend the relief to some countries, but not all, and refused to be drawn on which ones would remain exempt.

Tariffs would hit steel makers this side of the Atlantic hard, with the industry only just recovering from the 2015 crisis which cost tens of thousands of jobs. Closure of the US market creates the potential for a “double whammy” to the European industry. Not only is America a major market – steel exports to the US accounts for about 7pc of UK steel production and are worth about £330m a year – but Chinese producers are likely to flood Europe with excess output, a major cause of the crisis of three years ago.

China is the world’s largest steel producer, responsible for more than half of the 1.6bn tons of annual global output.

The US Commerce Department is understood to want to extract concessions on other goods – such as cars – in exchange for a continued exemption, but there is little sign of concrete progress on this.

Last month Mr Trump said that if the EU responds to the steel tariffs with levies of its own he would respond. In a tweet the president said: “If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a tax on their cars which freely pour into the US.”

However, the EU indicated on Friday that it could stage talks on changing World Trade Organisation agreements if the US grants a permanent exemption on the steel tariffs.

Individual companies are understood to be reluctant to speak out for fear of attracting Mr Trump’s attention on Twitter. However, heavyweight player Tata Steel Europe did say it was “opposed to the 25pc blanket tariff”, warning that without “swift and robust action the market could be destabilised by millions of tons of steel diverted away from the US into Europe”

UK Steel warned that tariffs will not tackle the structural problem in the sector. Gareth Stace, its director, said: “Unilateral tariffs are not the answer to the problem of over-capacity in the steel sector, leading only to disruption to global trade, increases in steel prices in the US and escalation towards a global trade war. Nothing good will come of it, not at home in the US, not in Europe and not globally.”

By Alan Tovey



UK economic growth declines to its slowest since 2012

( via – – Fri, 27 Apr, 2018) London, Uk – –

The UK economy grew at its slowest rate since 2012 in the first quarter of the year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

GDP growth was 0.1%, down from 0.4% in the previous quarter, driven by a sharp fall in construction output and a sluggish manufacturing sector.

The ONS said the extreme weather of February and March had had a “relatively small” impact.

Sterling fell sharply as the chances of an interest rate rise in May decreased.

Following the news it was down around a cent against the dollar at $1.380.

Rob Kent-Smith, head of national accounts at the ONS, said: “Our initial estimate shows the UK economy growing at its slowest pace in more than five years with weaker manufacturing growth, subdued consumer-facing industries and construction output falling significantly.

“While the snow had some impact on the economy, particularly in construction and some areas of retail, its overall effect was limited with the bad weather actually boosting energy supply and online sales.”

Bank decision
Construction was the biggest drag on GDP, having experienced its most dramatic fall since the second quarter of 2012 – falling 3.3% over the first three months of the year.

Manufacturing growth slowed to 0.2%, though that was partially offset by a rise in energy production due to the colder weather.

Consumer spending has also been squeezed by a combination of higher inflation and slow wage growth.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the results meant the Bank of England was highly unlikely to raise interest rates in May as some economists had expected.

“The chance of a May rate hike is now close to zero following the slowdown in GDP growth in the first quarter” he said.

“With inflation falling much more rapidly back to its target than the Monetary Policy Committee expected and wage growth still not building momentum, the MPC has the luxury of being able to delay raising interest rates in May.”



General Electric to trial world’s largest wind turbines in the UK


( via – – Wed, 25 Apr 2018) London, Uk – –

General Electric has decided to test the world’s largest offshore wind turbines at a test facility in England in a major vote of confidence for the UK’s burgeoning wind power industry.

The renewables arm of the American conglomerate will take its mammoth 12MW wind turbines for a spin at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult centre in Northumberland as part of a five year research and development deal beginning later this year.

The world’s largest turbines currently in operation were installed off the coast of Aberdeen earlier this month, at less than 9MW in capacity each.

GE Renewable Energy believes its 350 foot new turbines could also be more efficient than the current generation of offshore wind farms by generating more power from lower wind speeds with a 720 foot diameter spin.

The company will be able to test its theories at the catapult centre in Blyth which can replicate real-world conditions for turbines up to 15MW in capacity.

Energy minister Claire Perry said the deal proves that UK support for offshore renewables has helped develop “world-class research and testing facilities”.

“Through our industrial strategy, we are making the UK a global leader in renewables, including offshore wind, with more support available than any other country in the world,” she said.

Already the UK draws almost a quarter of all wind power investment made across Europe.

“The offshore wind industry is exceptionally well placed to boost supplies of home grown clean energy whilst growing new jobs and opportunities,” she added.

As part of the deal the centre will also receive a £6m joint investment from Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to install the world’s largest and most powerful grid emulation system.

John Lavelle, GE’s offshore wind boss, said the testing centre will allow the turbines to get to the water faster.

“Traditional testing methods rely on local wind conditions and therefore have limited repeatability for testing. By using ORE Catapult’s facilities and expertise, we will be in a better position to adapt our technology in a shortened time,” he said




Plastic straws and cotton bud ban proposed for England next year

( via – – Thur, 19 Apr, 2018) London, Uk – –

Plastic straws and cotton buds could be banned in England as part of the government’s bid to cut plastic waste.

Announcing a consultation on a possible ban ministers said 8.5bn plastic straws were thrown away in the UK every year.

The prime minister said plastic waste was “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world”.

And Theresa May will urge leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which began earlier, to follow the UK’s lead in tackling the problem.

The Queen has formally opened the summit at an event at Buckingham Palace attended by prime ministers and presidents from the 53 states that make up the organisation.

Mrs May claimed the UK was a “world leader” on tackling plastic waste, highlighting the charges that have been introduced for plastic bags, the ban on microbeads and the announcement in March of a consultation on introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England.

“Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics,” she said.

“The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines.

“Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”

The environment secretary Michael Gove describes plastic waste as a worldwide emergency, which naturally raises questions about the speed of the government’s response.

The headlines talk of a ban on plastic straws – but the announcement is about a consultation to do that. A similar exercise is under way about a deposit scheme for plastic drinks bottles, and MPs were not impressed on Wednesday when they learned that the system itself will not come into effect until 2020.

When ministers talk of the UK leading the world on this hot topic it’s worth casting an eye over the actions of other countries. Dozens have actually banned plastic bags – Britain has a system of retailers having to charge for them.

And since last year Kenya has adopted the most draconian measures of all: there are fines if you use a plastic bag and if business people are caught making or importing them, they actually face up to four years in jail.

Amid many claims about fighting a war on plastic, the Kenyans are leading the charge.

It comes as 60 UK music festivals, including Bestival in Dorset and Boomtown in Hampshire, have said they will ban plastic straws at their events this summer.

Bestival’s co-founder Rob Da Bank said they were “leading the global charge against unnecessary plastic”, as the group of festivals also pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2021.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who trailed the idea of banning plastic straws in February, will launch the consultation later this year.

“We’re going to consult on what the best way is in order to get rid of straws, get rid of stirrers and also get rid of plastic stemmed cotton buds that we use so many of,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“It’s a worldwide emergency – that’s why we’re choosing to act. It’s also why we’re working with other Commonwealth countries.”

He said a consultation was necessary, particularly in relation to straws, because there were some disabled people who need to use plastic straws.

Mr Gove said a number of retailers, bars and restaurants were already cutting plastic use, with the plastic bag ban set to be extended from major retailers to all retailers.

Scotland’s Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham announced earlier this year a plan to ban plastic straws, following a similar move aimed at banning the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth have welcomed the announcement as a “step forward” but both also warned more action would be needed.

Greenpeace’s Louise Edge said other non-recyclable “problem plastics” should also be banned at the earliest opportunity and retailers must take responsibility to phase out single-use plastics in their own products.

Friends of the Earth’s Julian Kirby said the “only long-term solution is a complete phase-out of all but the most essential plastics”.

The news was welcomed by the Green Party, but co-leader Jonathan Bartley said the government “must see these plans through to action, and bring forward the utterly un-ambitious target of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042”.

Earlier this week, Mrs May announced the new Clean Oceans Alliance – an agreement between the UK, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ghana, which pledged to ban microbeads cosmetics and cut plastic bag use by 2021.

To fund it, she also assigned £61.4m for global research and to improve waste management in developing countries.

The Queen will be joined by other members of the Royal family at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on Thursday morning.

BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said it would be “emotional” for some, because it could be the last CHOGM the Queen opens – she has stopped travelling long distances and the event is unlikely to return to London for some time.

“The Commonwealth has been nurtured by the Queen over the decades and it holds a special place in her affections,” he said.

“That affection is reflected among the heads of government, who often send a more junior representative to the meeting – this time around it is prime ministers and presidents.”

A number of events have already taken place ahead of the first official day of the CHOGM, including a Commonwealth Youth Forum, attended by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Mrs May also met Caribbean leaders on Tuesday to apologise for the fiasco around threats of deportation to the Windrush generation, who legally settled in the UK 70 years ago.



UK wage growth outpaces inflation for the first time in a Year

Tim Tabor/flickr

( via – – Tue, 17 Apr 2018) London, Uk – –

The year-long squeeze on wages is nearing an end, official figures for the three months to February suggest.

Using the consumer prices index (CPI). average wages went up by 2.8%, still below the 2.9% inflation rate.

But the Office for National Statistics said when wages are compared with their new measure of inflation, including housing costs (CPIH), average weekly earnings rose by 0.2% year-on-year.

Inflation started to overtake wages in February last year, squeezing incomes.

Meanwhile, unemployment in the period fell by 16,000 to 1.42 million – the rate of 4.2% is the lowest since the three months to May 1975.

The Bank of England has said it expects the fall in unemployment to start pushing up pay more quickly, which is the main reason why it has said it is likely to raise interest rates more quickly than it previously thought.

The number of people in work has reached a record high of 32.2 million.



China’s economy beats expected growth in the first quarter

( via – – Tue, 17 Apr 2018) London, Uk – –

China’s economy grew more than expected in the first quarter as it withstood headwinds from Beijing’s fight against financial risk and pollution, and trade tensions with the United States.

While acknowledging the potential negative impact of a US trade war officials on Tuesday warned the country faced greater risk at home, citing the need for reforms.

The world’s number two economy expanded 6.8pc in January-March, better than the 6.7pc tipped in an AFP survey of economists and the same as the previous three months.

It is also much better than the annual rate of around 6.5pc targeted by the government.

hina’s economy grew more than expected in the first quarter as it withstood headwinds from Beijing’s fight against financial risk and pollution, and trade tensions with the United States.

While acknowledging the potential negative impact of a US trade war officials on Tuesday warned the country faced greater risk at home, citing the need for reforms.

The world’s number two economy expanded 6.8pc in January-March, better than the 6.7pc tipped in an AFP survey of economists and the same as the previous three months.

It is also much better than the annual rate of around 6.5pc targeted by the government.

“The national economy maintained the momentum of steady and sound development,” said Xing Zhihong, a spokesman for the National Statistics Bureau. “The economic performance continued to improve and the economy was off to a good start.”

Fears of a China-US trade war have been simmering in recent weeks, with Washington and Beijing exchanging threats of tit-for-tat levies on hundred of billions of dollars worth of goods.

US President Donald Trump has issued the warnings as part of his “America First” protectionist agenda that has focused on what he calls unfair practices by China that are killing American jobs.

Last week his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping sounded a conciliatory note, promising to reduce tariffs on cars and open up the economy further.

For the past decade, about 20pc of China’s exports have been ferried to the US, according to Moody’s Investors Services, which forecasts a material macroeconomic impact if Trump makes good on his threats with the consequences vibrating beyond China’s end exporters and deep into the economy.

Daunting tasks

While a tariffs spat with President Trump has yet to make a significant impact, Commerzbank economist Hao Zhou warned “the overall growth is still under pressure”.

“The trade tensions are likely to persist over the foreseeable future, clouding the trade and growth outlook.”

Mr Xing at the statistics bureau acknowledged the cloud of “international economic uncertainties” but said “China-US trade frictions do not pose a problem for China’s economy”.

Instead, he pointed to domestic risks to growth.

“The problems of unbalanced and inadequate development in China are acute and the tasks for reform and development are daunting,” he said.

After years of breakneck growth driven by exports and debt-fuelled investment, authorities are increasingly worried about a possible credit crisis and are stepping up their battle against financial risk.

And the forecast-beating growth will give policymakers room to push through measures to battle those hazards and also address pollution.

Last week, the central bank released data showing total financing grew at 10.5pc in March, the slowest pace on record, according to China-focused economist Andrew Polk.

“We think a further (economic) slowdown is on the cards before the end of the year,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics, pointing to the drags “from tighter fiscal policy and slower credit creation” that will weigh on activity.

But China is counting on its 1.4 billion consumers to pick up the slack.

Retail sales grew 9.8pc in the first quarter on-year, beating forecasts of 9.7pc in a Bloomberg News survey.

Output at China’s factories and workshops expanded 6.8pc for the first quarter, matching the expansion seen during the same period last year, but below the 6.9pc forecast by Bloomberg News. Industrial production grew 6pc in March.

By Agence France-Presse



Uk manufacturing unexpectedly falls for first time in almost a year

( via — Wed, 11 Apr 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British manufacturing output fell unexpectedly in February, its first month-on-month drop in almost a year, adding to signs the economy may have slowed in the first quarter.

The official data, released on Wednesday along with figures for overseas trade, also showed another sharp drop in construction output, defying expectations for a small rebound after a severe downturn in January.

The pace of economic growth slowed slightly in 2017 as consumers suffered from higher inflation caused by a fall in sterling after June 2016’s Brexit vote.

Overall, Wednesday’s data mostly chimed with business surveys that suggest Britain’s economy cooled further in early 2018, weighed down in part by snow storms in late February and early March.

Manufacturing output, which was a bright spot last year thanks to the strong global economy, fell 0.2 percent month-on-month in February after stagnating in January, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

That marked the first drop since March 2017 and was worse than the consensus in a Reuters poll of economists that pointed to a 0.2 percent rise.

British government bond futures briefly touched a session high after the data was released, while sterling slipped below $1.42.

“The modest stimulus to growth from sterling’s 2016 depreciation has begun to fade, while the global trade upswing has lost some momentum too,” Samuel Tombs, an economist at consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics, said.

Tombs said the figures looked consistent with first-quarter economic growth of around 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter – weaker than the Bank of England’s forecast of 0.3 percent and the 0.4 percent recorded in the last three months of 2017.

But the EEF manufacturing association said February’s dip in manufacturing output looked “more like a temporary wobble than a turn for the worse”.

The subdued figures will interest Bank of England officials who are widely expected to raise interest rates next month for only the second time since the 2008 financial crisis.

In February the central bank raised its growth forecasts for Britain due to the improving global economy and said interest rates were likely to rise somewhat faster and to a slightly greater extent than it had expected in late 2017.

Manufacturing output was 2.5 percent higher than its level in February 2017, again less than the 3.3 percent Reuters poll consensus, the ONS said.

Overall industrial output, which combines manufacturing and energy production, rose 0.1 percent in February, compared with a 1.3 percent expansion in January and weaker than the 0.4 percent consensus in the Reuters poll.

Industrial output accounts for 14 percent of Britain’s overall economic output.

Construction output in February dropped 1.6 percent month-on-month after a 3.1 percent plunge in January – confounding the consensus expectation for a 0.7 percent rebound.

There was some anecdotal evidence that heavy snow in late February had hurt construction output, although the effect was difficult to quantify, the ONS said.

Separate figures on Britain’s trade performance brought better news, however.

Britain’s goods trade deficit with the rest of the world narrowed to 10.203 billion pounds ($14.48 billion) in February from 12.228 billion pounds in January – the smallest gap since September and better than all forecasts in a Reuters poll which had pointed to a deficit of 11.95 billion pounds.

The fall reflected a sharp drop in imports rather than an improvement in exports, both in value and volume terms.

By Andy Bruce and Alistair Smout



MPs and landlords row over deposit demands on tenants

Ken Teegardin/Flickr

( via – – Thur, 29 Mar  2018) London, Uk – –

MPs and landlords are at loggerheads over the acceptable level of deposits demanded of tenants in England.

Deposits should be capped at five weeks’ worth of rent, according to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.

The government’s latest plan has been to cap the deposit at six weeks’ worth of rent.

Landlords groups believe that six weeks’ worth is realistic, otherwise “riskier” tenants could be blocked.

For example, the National Landlords Association (NLA) said a shorter cap would reduce landlords’ willingness to allow pets “by removing their flexibility to take a higher deposit to cover for pet damage”.

Initially, the government had favoured a much more stringent cap on landlords, planning to allow them to charge four weeks’ worth of rent as a deposit.

The disagreement has emerged during scrutiny of the government’s draft Tenant Fees Bill. The law change is aimed at introducing a ban on fees imposed on tenants by landlords and letting agents in England. A ban is already in place in Scotland.

The draft proposes prohibiting payments with the exception of rent, security deposits of up to six weeks’ rent, holding deposits of up to one week’s rent, and default fees. The commitment was announced by the Conservatives in the 2016 Autumn Statement.

The committee argued that security deposits set at six weeks’ worth of rent could cause financial difficulties for tenants. At five weeks’ worth, the private rented sector would become more affordable while also protecting landlords from rogue tenants, it argued.

Clive Betts, who chairs the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “Moving home is already an expensive time and many people struggle to find large sums of money at the start of their tenancies to put down as a deposit.”

However Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA said: “There is no doubt that some agents have got away with excessive fees and double-charging landlords and tenants for far too long, but agents play a key role in managing properties and the ban will eventually boomerang back on tenants.”

‘Backdoor charging’

Housing charity Shelter suggested that the average cost of fees had risen to £272 per person.

It warned that the committee’s proposals could still allow agents to charge through default fees. These fees allowed agents to charge tenants potentially unlimited sums for such things as letters sent for chasing late rent, it said.

“This ban was wildly popular with renters, which is why it’s so important that it does exactly what it says on the tin by completely scrapping rip-off letting agent fees,” said Greg Beales, director of policy and campaigns at Shelter.

“It is good to see the ban moving forward, but these proposals would leave the back door open for agents to continue charging tenants in different ways and let down the renters it was supposed to help.”





UK Inflation falls to 2.7% driven by cheaper petrol

( via– Tue, 20 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Lower petrol prices and cheaper hotel rooms helped bring CPI in February below 3% for the first time since last summer.

Inflation fell to a seven-month low last month raising hopes there has been a “turning point” in Britain’s Brexit-linked cost-of-living squeeze.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation fell to 2.7% in February, from 3% the month before, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

That raises the prospect that wage growth, which has been lagging behind price increases and leaving consumers feeling worse off, could catch up soon.

Phil Gooding, ONS head of CPI, said: “Many of the early 2017 price increases due to the previous depreciation of the pound have started to work through the system.”

Lower petrol prices and cheaper hotel rooms – compared to a period last year when price readings were taken on Valentine’s Day – were among the reasons for the decline in CPI in February, which was slightly bigger than expected.

There was also a more muted rise in the cost of food and drink than in the same period of 2017, when a shortage of vegetables from Europe such as lettuce and courgettes affected supply.

The figures come two days before the Bank of England’s next interest rate decision but are unlikely to change expectations about the timing of the next hike – with many experts pencilling in May for a rate rise but others urging the Bank to stay its hand until later.

Inflation had been steadily climbing in the aftermath of the Brexit vote in June 2016 – whose result led to a collapse in the pound, driving import prices higher and feeding through to the cost of goods in shops.

It has been at 3% or slightly above since September,

But that effect is now tapering out while the pound has recovered much of its lost ground.

Paul Hollingsworth, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said the fall in inflation “confirms that we have now reached a turning point” but that this did not diminish the case for a rate hike in May.

Tej Parikh, senior economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “Businesses and households will be relieved that the peak impact of sterling’s depreciation on inflation now appears to have largely washed through.

“This is certainly a boon for consumers who have been wedged between high food prices on the one hand and subdued earnings on the other for an extended period.”

Labour market data to be published on Wednesday – covering the three months to January – is expected to show wage growth climbing to 2.6%, not far off the latest inflation reading.

But TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the “living standards crisis” was far from over despite the relief provided by the latest figures.

“Working people will still be worse off at the end of this Parliament than before the crash,” she said.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas


Taxes rises of £30bn to cut deficit ‘needed by mid-2020s’

Tim Tabor/flickr

( via – – Wed, 14 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Taxes will need to rise by £30bn per year by the mid-2020s if the government wants to keep spending constant and balance its books, a think tank warns.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies added that dismal productivity, earnings and GDP growth had become the “new normal”.

It comes after the chancellor unveiled upgraded growth and borrowing forecasts in the Spring Statement on Tuesday.

Philip Hammond said the UK economy had reached a turning point and there was “light at the end of the tunnel”.

The chancellor told MPs growth was now forecast to be 1.5% in 2018, up from 1.4% forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility in November.

Debt is also expected to fall as a share of GDP from 2018-19, the first drop in 17 years.

However, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said that “nothing much” had changed on Tuesday.

He said the good news on borrowing would “largely wash out” over the next few years, while the structural deficit in 2019-20 would be almost unchanged.

He also said the latest growth projections remained “very subdued”.

“The reality of the economic and fiscal challenges facing us ought to be at the very top of the news agenda.

“And I mean the reality, not the spin and bluster of politicians on all sides pretending there are easy solutions.”


Philip Hammond’s Spring statement 2018: what to look out for

( via – – Tue, 13 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

What the chancellor is likely to say about economic growth, debt, borrowing and more

Philip Hammond has promised MPs a short, snappy affair when he delivers the government’s first spring statement to the Commons at about 12.30pm on Tuesday.

Shorn of tax and spending measures, the chancellor’s 15- to 20-minute speech will play second fiddle to the budget, which has been moved to the autumn.

Attention will focus on the latest forecasts for the economy and the public finances provided by the government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, which last reported in November.

This is what to look out for in the chancellor’s statement:

Economic growth

Hammond is likely to say that the outlook for growth is marginally better than it was three months ago. In November, the OBR said it was expecting the economy to expand by 1.5% in 2017 and by 1.4% in 2018. The latest official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that growth was actually 1.7% in 2017 and the consensus among City, business and academic economists is that something similar is likely in 2018.

In the past, chancellors have used their statements to boast about the UK outperforming other economies, but that won’t happen on this occasion given that Britain grew more slowly all the other G7 countries in 2017 bar Italy.


The statement is expected to provide positive news about productivity – the weak spot in the economy since the financial crisis a decade ago. In its November 2017 report, the OBR gave up waiting for the improvement in productivity – economic output per hour worked – that it had been predicting since it was created in 2010. So it slashed its productivity forecast by 0.7 percentage points a year for each of the next five years. However, as the OBR was downgrading its forecasts, the picture for productivity improved, with growth of 0.8% recorded by the ONS in the fourth quarter of 2017, following 0.9% growth in the third quarter. At this stage, however, the OBR will want more good news before it thinks about revising its five-year forecasts upwards.

Government borrowing

Hammond is expected to say the government will not need to borrow to cover its day-to-day spending this year – the first time this has happened since the financial crisis. That is because the borrowing needed to cover the gap between the amount the government spends and the revenue it raises through tax is on course to be about £40bn in the the 2017-18 financial year, rather than the £50bn predicted by the OBR three months ago. Government spending comes in two forms: current spending, which includes items such as teacher salaries and the NHS drugs bill; and capital spending, which includes investment in roads and railways. A deficit of £40bn would mean that the borrowing this year would solely be for investment and allow Hammond to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

However, Hammond is expected to use the high level of national debt to say that Britain is still in the tunnel. The national debt is the sum of all the annual budget deficits and surpluses the government has been running down the years and it has risen sharply as a result of the big annual deficits that have been run in the past decade.

This year, the debt will hit £1.8tn but a better measure is the ratio of the debt to the annual output of the economy (gross domestic product). The national debt was below 40% of GDP when the financial crisis began in 2007 and is expected to peak in this financial year at just over 85% of GDP. Hammond will say a reduction in the national debt would put the UK in a stronger position to weather another recession.


Although the chancellor has said specific tax changes must wait for the autumn budget, he is likely to announce a series of consultations in areas where future action is possible. These could include the VAT threshold for small businesses, the tax paid by multinationals, curbs on the use of plastic in packaging via a so-called “litter levy” and the impact of artificial intelligence on the economy.



Uk Trade Secretary Liam Fox brand U.S. approach to tariffs wrong, absurd if Britain affected

( via — Fri, 9 Mar 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The United States is taking the wrong approach by seeking tariffs on steel and aluminium imports and it would be “absurd” for Britain to be caught up in them, Trade Secretary Liam Fox said.

U.S. President Donald Trump put import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent for aluminium but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies. The European Union has said that it should be exempt from the tariffs.

Fox said there was overproduction of steel in the world, mainly coming from China, but that protectionism “never really works”, adding that British steel was used to supply the U.S. military.

“So it’s doubly absurd that we should then be caught on an investigation on national security,” Fox said on BBC’s Question Time late on Thursday evening.

“We can deal multilaterally with the overproduction of steel, but this is the wrong way to go about it.”

He said he would raise the issue with the United States in a trip to Washington next week.

By Alistair Smout



Uk’s GDP growth weaker than expected in the last quarter of 2017

( via– Thur, 22 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

The figures were down on the 0.5% expected, with a slowdown in household spending and flat business investment among the factors

The UK economy grew by 0.4% during the final quarter of 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The result was weaker than the expected 0.5% and was blamed on a slowdown in consumption and business investment.

Household spending grew by 1.8% between 2016 and 2017 – its slowest rate of annual growth since 2012 – in part reflecting the increased prices faced by consumers.

In year-on-year terms, downwardly revised growth of 1.4% was the weakest in more than five years.

Among the figures was a 0.6% growth in services. Between the third and fourth quarters, transport, storage and communication grew by 1.1%; business services and finance were up by 0.9%; and government and other services increased by 0.2%.

On the other hand, distribution, hotels and restaurants decreased by 0.2%.

There was no growth in business investment, which remained at £46bn in the fourth quarter. But, compared to the same quarter in 2016, it grew by 2.1%.

Construction output was estimated to have decreased by 0.7% in the fourth quarter and agriculture, which makes up the smallest proportion of of total output, decreased by 0.9%.

The ONS also revised its 2017 growth estimate down 0.1% to 1.7%, confirming the British economy cooled off somewhat in the year after Britons voted to leave the European Union.

This compares to the EU economy growing by 0.6% in the fourth quarter – the 19th consecutive quarter that the bloc showed positive growth.

The G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US) saw economic growth of 0.5% during the same period.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “Survey evidence indicates that investment and construction are being subdued by heightened business uncertainty, generally linked to Brexit, while consumer spending is being hit by high inflation.

“The depreciation of sterling meanwhile showed few signs of benefiting the economy in terms of trade, with exports in fact acting as a drag on the economy in the fourth quarter.

“However, manufacturing continued to expand at a solid pace in the fourth quarter, as did business and financial services and transport and communications, helping drive the upturn in GDP.

“The worry is that, with the exception of financial services, survey data hint at these sectors also losing steam in January.”

Pablo Shah, economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said he expects the UK economy to “expand by 1.6% in 2018, as domestic uncertainty looks set to persist and monetary conditions tighten both in the UK and across the world”.

By Sharon Marris, Business Reporter



UK unemployment rate up for the first time in two years

( via – – Wed, 21 Feb  2018) London, Uk – –

UK unemployment has increased slightly for the first time in two years.

The rate of unemployment rose from 4.3% to 4.4% for the three months to the end of December, the Office for National Statistics said.

Despite the slight increase in the unemployment rate, the total number of those in work increased by 88,000.

Wages grew by an average of 2.5%, up from 2.4% the previous month, although the increase remained below inflation.

The number of unemployed people rose by 46,000 to 1.47 million for the final quarter of the year, compared to the previous three months.