Rail fare rise by 3.1% prompt UK wide demonstrations

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 2nd Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Demonstrations held at more than 20 stations as fares rise by above-inflation average of 3.1%

Campaigners have staged demonstrations at railway stations across the country as the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, blamed trade unions for ticket price hikes.

Protests were held at about two dozen railway stations as fares rose by an above-inflation average of 3.1% on Wednesday morning.

The cost of many rail season tickets has risen by more than £100, while punctuality is at a 13-year low.

At Manchester Piccadilly station, union officials and Labour councillors handed out flyers titled “Cut fares not staff” as commuters began returning to work after the Christmas holiday.

One passenger, Lorraine Southon, 57, said all three of her daily trains were usually late and that she had been forced to change her route to work due to the introduction of new timetables, which caused months of disruption last year.

“In my experience it’s a very poor service,” she said outside Manchester Piccadilly station. “I don’t mind [fares] going up if they would improve the service, but they don’t improve the service – the service continues to be poor.”

Southon, a BT worker, added: “I can’t comprehend how the management continue to get these huge bonuses when the service is just so poor. Why are the bonuses not performance-based? Chris Grayling should be responsible.”

Another commuter, Phillip Shields, 32, added: “I’m definitely not happy with the rise. There’s no justification really for it at the moment.

“They keep promising every year that they’re going to improve services but it never seems to materialise. It’s the same statements they repeat over and over again, every year.”

The 3.1% average fare increase outpaces the 2.6% rise in the average wage in 2018 and will add hundreds of pounds to the cost of season tickets for some rail passengers.Advertisement

Costs will come down for 16- and 17-year-olds, who are to be given half-price travel on all trains from September – benefiting up to 1.2 million people – according to an announcement by the government in November, at the same time as the wider fare increase was revealed.

But the vast majority of passengers are to pay more despite poor service, prompting renewed calls from Labour and the Trades Union Congress for UK railways to be nationalised.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday morning, Grayling defended the fare rise by saying trade unions were to blame.

He said: “The reality is the fare increases are higher than they should be because the unions demand – with threats of national strikes, but they don’t get them – higher pay rises than anybody else.

“Typical pay rises are more than 3% and that’s what drives the increases. These are the same unions that fund that Labour party.”

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, joined protesters outside King’s Cross station in London as he described the rail fare increases as a “disgrace” that was driving people away from public transport.

Responding to Grayling’s insistence that the rise was needed to fund the upkeep of the network, Corbyn said Britain must “invest in our railways as a public investment”. He added: “If we don’t invest then people will have to suffer in their journeys, and we end up with more people using their cars and that’s far more dangerous for our environment than rail travel.”

Pressed whether it was fair to ask taxpayers to subsidise commuters, he replied: “All public transport is subsidised in one form or another, and there is a public good from it. No other country in the world has a transport system that sits completely alone.”

Outside Manchester Piccadilly, Michelle Rodgers, the RMT national president, said the fare increase followed an “abysmal” year for rail passengers.

She added: “We’ve had an absolutely fantastic response this morning. They’re all really angry and disgusted about the fare increase, especially in this region where we have seen the worst [service] in many, many years. I’ve been around 20 years and I’ve never seen it as bad as in the last 12 months.”

Handing out flyers branded “Tory rail rip off”, Adele Douglas, a Labour party councillor for the Piccadilly ward on Manchester city council, said the unreliable trains were “destroying people’s working lives”.

She added: “I’m not going to encourage anyone to civil disobedience that’s going to get them into serious trouble but I think there does come a line where the public will have to say: we don’t accept this – it’s too much money, too little in return and it’s not fair..”Topics

By Josh Halliday and Rob Davies

UK shares fall in poor start to 2019 after disappointing data from China

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 2nd Jan, 2019) London, UK —

(Reuters) – UK shares were lower on Wednesday as investors returned from New Year celebrations to more disappointing data from China that deepened concerns about the health of the global economy and sparked a global sell-off.

London's blue-chip bourse .FTSE dropped 0.9 percent and the mid-cap index .FTMCdipped 0.3 percent by 1018 GMT.

Most sectors were still in the red, setting a bleak tone for 2019’s first trading day after both indexes recorded their worst yearly drop since the 2008 financial crisis last year.

Positive domestic PMI data due to Brexit-induced stockpiling provided some respite, but investors were focussed on Chinese data that showed manufacturing activity in the world’s second-largest economy contracted for the first time in 19 months.

It followed a poor official survey on factory output on Monday. Data also revealed that euro zone manufacturing activity barely expanded in December.

Continued concerns that the prospect of a global cyclical downturn will likely cap the upside of UK’s blue-chip shares, said CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang.

“A string of missing PMIs from China’s official and private sector suggest that Asia’s largest economy is still cooling off due to weaker external demand and trade uncertainties,” Yang added.

“It is still too early to say markets have bottomed out yet.”

UK-listed companies with more exposure to the Asian market were the most hit with HSBC (HSBA.L) edging 1.8 percent lower and Standard Chartered (STAN.L) down 3 percent.

Fellow financial heavyweights Prudential (PRU.L), Lloyds (LLOY.L) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) also fell over 3 percent.

Global miners were also weak with copper prices lower amid concerns over growth in top metals consumer China. Antofagasta (ANTO.L), BHP (BHPB.L), Anglo American (AAL.L), Rio Tinto (RIO.L) and Glencore (GLEN.L) were down between 3.2 percent and 4.3 percent.

Blue-chip medical products maker Smith & Nephew (SN.L) tumbled 2.5 percent, with traders citing a rating cut by brokerage JPMorgan.

Among the midcaps, Energean Oil & Gas (ENOG.L) added 5.1 percent to top the gainers after signing a gas supply agreement with independent power producer I.P.M. Beer Tuvia.

Elsewhere in corporate news, Ophir Energy (OPHR.L) shares outperformed the small-cap index .FTSC and soared over 33 percent after the oil and gas producer said it was in takeover talks.

Gambling software company Playtech (PTEC.L) gave up losses to turn positive. It said it would pay 28 million euros under a settlement with Israeli tax authorities following an audit of its annual accounts.

Real estate investment trust Hammerson (HMSO.L) was 3.9 percent lower as it said its share buyback programme will be paused ahead of the release of 2018 results.

Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru

Energy price cap comes into force with millions seeing a drop in bills

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Tue, 1st Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

A new energy price cap has now come into force – but householders can still get a better deal by shopping around, consumer groups say.

Regulator Ofgem has estimated that the new cap will save 11 million people an average of £76 a year.

Typically, the cap means that typical usage by a dual fuel customer paying by direct debit will cost no more than £1,137 a year.

Consumer organisations say that people could save more by switching suppliers.

“The introduction of this cap will put an end to suppliers exploiting loyal customers. However, while people on default tariffs should now be paying a fairer price for their energy, they will still be better off if they shop around,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“People can also make longer-term savings by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. Simple steps, such as better insulation or heating controls, are a good place to start.”

How the cap works

Households in England, Scotland and Wales on default tariffs – such as standard variable tariffs – should be better off after the cap is introduced. Consumers in Northern Ireland have a separate energy regulator and already have a price cap. Those on a prepayment meter already have a price cap in place. Those who chose their tariff are ineligible.

Savings depend on how much energy is used in the household and how the bill is paid. The cap is per unit of energy, not on the total bill. So people who use more energy will still pay more than those who use less.

The cap is on the unit price of energy, and the standing charge. So the cost of electricity – for those on default tariffs – is capped at 17p per kWh. Gas is capped at 4p per kWh.

Dual fuel users will pay no more than £177 a year for a standing charge; electricity-only users will pay no more than £83, and gas users £94.

Ofgem will review the tariff in February, and then adjust it in April and October each year. It has said that the level of the cap is likely to rise in April 2019, to reflect the higher cost of wholesale energy. As a result, the average annual saving in 2019 is likely to be lower than £76.

The regulator will then judge the effect on the energy market in 2020, and the secretary of state will then decide whether to extend it by another year, or whether to end it at that time.

“The energy price cap can only be a temporary fix – what is now needed is real reform to promote competition, innovation and improved customer service in the broken energy market,” said Alex Neill, from Which?.

What do the suppliers think?

Some have already changed the way they organise their tariffs.

Centrica – which owns the largest UK supplier, British Gas – has said that it will mount a legal challenge to the way the cap has been calculated.

It is applying for a judicial review against Ofgem, saying the regulator had set the threshold too low.

“Through this action Centrica has no intention to delay implementation of the cap, and does not expect the cap to be deferred in any way,” the company has said in a statement.

“As we have previously said, we do not believe that a price cap will benefit customers but we want to ensure that there is a transparent and rigorous regulatory process to deliver a price cap that allows suppliers, as a minimum, to continue to operate to meet the requirements of all customers.”

Will the cap lead to less switching?

Those who have argued against the introduction of a price cap have said it will be counter-productive, as it will lead to fewer people switching – where the potential savings are greater.

Which? has argued that some of the cheapest deals on the market have already disappeared, as suppliers needed to make up some of the money lost as a result of the cap.

It analysed deals priced at £1,000 a year or less for a medium energy user at the beginning of the year compared to now, and found there had been a sharp drop in availability.


By Kevin Peachey


Executive-worker pay gap of top UK firms to be reveal under new rules

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 1st Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Regulations to ensure greater transparency come after string of shareholder revolts in 2018

Britain’s biggest listed companies will be forced to justify the pay gap between chief executives and their workforce as part of rules that come into force on New Year’s Day.

The pay-ratio regulations are part of government efforts to improve transparency around executive remuneration. They follow a string of investor revolts in 2018 over high pay for senior executives at companies including Royal Mail, Persimmonand Unilever.

Businesses will have to divulge and justify the difference between executive salaries and average annual pay for employees. They will also need to explain how directors take staff and other stakeholder interests into account when they decide on salaries and bonuses.

The regulations will make it a statutory requirement for companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with more than 250 staff to disclose the ratio of chief executives’ remuneration to the median pay of UK employees every year.

Pay for 2019 will be first under the microscope, which means the initial disclosures will be released in 2020.

Investors have been calling for more transparency around executive pay and how it aligns with salaries and bonuses across companies.

Persimmon, a housebuilder, ousted its chief executive, Jeff Fairburn, in November after a furore over his £75m bonus. That package was honoured despite a shareholder revolt in April in which nearly 64% voted against the company’s remuneration policy.

MPs also hit out at the company for failing to pay the living wage to its lowest-paid workers. Persimmon, however, said it has signed up to pay the £9 living wage starting in January 2019.

Royal Mail had one of the biggest shareholder revolts in UK corporate history in July. About 70% voted against its pay policy in light of an annual package for the chief executive, Rico Back, which was worth up to £2.7m. This was on top of a £6m “golden hello” for having left the company’s European subsidiary. Unilever, AA and Cineworld also experienced investor backlashes over director pay in 2018.

Luke Hildyard, the director of the High Pay Centre thinktank, said the rules were a step in the right direction. “Government policy is overwhelmingly focused on supporting business, on the basis that successful businesses benefit wider society,” he said.

“But too many companies lavish excessive pay awards on their top executives while holding down pay for low and middle-income earners, meaning that the full potential benefits of business success go unrealised.

“Putting information about pay ratios in the public domain won’t instantly eradicate injustice, but it will give investors, workers and other stakeholders a better insight into the fairness of company pay practices.”

The business secretary, Greg Clark, stressed that most companies in Britain act responsibly.

“We do, however, understand the frustration of workers and shareholders when executive pay is out of step with performance, and their concerns are not heard,” he said.

“The regulations coming into force today will build on our reputation by increasing transparency and boosting accountability at the highest level – giving workers a stronger dialogue and voice in the boardroom and ensuring businesses are accountable for their executive pay.”

By Kalyeena Makortoff

New EU fishing rules could have ‘grave’ impact on UK industry

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 31st Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

New EU rules on fishing quotas could have a “grave” impact on the UK's fishing industry, a House of Lords committee has said – just a day before the new policy is introduced.

Under previous rules, crews often discarded, into the sea, fish that took them over their quota for that species.

But under the new policy, fishers must bring the full haul back to shore. This change is to stop fish being wasted.

The legislation has been called “badly designed” by UK industry bodies.

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment sub-committee heard evidence that the legislation could mean fishermen hitting their annual quotas much earlier in the year and have to stop fishing.

The committee was told this would be particularly problematic in “mixed fisheries” where it would be hard for boats to avoid catching a fish species for which they have a very low quota.

Once they reached their quota for a particular species, fishers would be forced to choose between halting operations for the rest of the year or breaking the law by continuing to fish for other species and discarding anything over quota.

The committee also said it had worries about how the rules – which come into effect in full after a four-year phasing-in period – would be enforced.

It said patrol vessels would only be able to cover a small percentage of boats, creating a temptation for fishers to break the rules.

Committee member Lord Krebs said: “It is deeply concerning that so many people – fishers, environmental groups, even the enforcement agencies themselves – do not think these new rules can be implemented from January 1.”

He added: “Most people we spoke to thought nothing would change – fishers will continue to discard, knowing the chances of being caught are slim to none and that to comply with the law could bankrupt them.”

Barrie Deas, the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, said the rules were “badly designed” and would result in boats having to stop fishing for long stretches after reaching quotas on specific species.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was working with the industry to address the challenges posed by the new sustainable fishing policy.

The committee is due to publish its report on the implementation and enforcement of the EU “landing obligation” in February.

British workers switch to new jobs in record numbers in show of strength for economy

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 28th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

Britons are switching jobs in record numbers, analysis of official figures shows, as the tight labour market helps workers secure higher pay.

More than one in every 40 workers moved to a new job in the three months to September, amounting to 860,000 people giving up one position to take another role.

The highest number in the Office for National Statistics’ records going back to 2004, it signals how employers are struggling to find and keep staff.

The number of people in work overall has climbed over that period to a record high of more than 32m, but even as a proportion of those in employment the number of job-switchers is at its highest since before the financial crisis.

This is an important indicator of the strength of the economy as it shows workers are prepared to take a risk by moving to a new job.

Such big steps are typically rewarded with a bigger pay packet. Job movers receive an average pay rise of 7pc, which is similar to the amount gained in a promotion. Even those who do not move are starting to see faster pay growth as employers have to offer higher wages to keep them in post.

Unemployment is at just 4.1pc, one of the lowest rates in decades, which is forcing employers to increase pay ­offers. The average pay settlement across a company’s workforce is 2.5pc to 3.5pc, according to the Bank of ­England’s agents around the country, up from 2pc to 3pc in 2017.

It is starting to affect pay across the economy as a whole. Economist George Buckley at Nomura expects average earnings to rise by 3.5pc in 2019, up from 2.9pc in 2018.

At the same time he predicts inflation will fall from 2.5pc to 2pc as oil prices and so fuel and energy costs fall, so real wages will rise by 1.5pc.

“The wage numbers have already been quite strong,” he said, which gave workers a boost in the run-up to ­Christmas.

Falling inflation could knock workers’ ability to ask for more money in cash terms, however, moderating the improvement.

“Inflation is slowing down so there will be less ability for workers to claim for higher wages,” he said. “Even so we have real wages going up quite strongly.”

Employers are also trying to find ways to keep staff without offering more cash.

“Despite the tightening labour market, many contacts managed to contain pay-bill growth by targeting pay awards at key skills or staff,” the Bank of England’s agents found.

Recruiters are reporting a similar pattern. “One of the big shifts is that more employers are making it very, very clear that from day one they are happy to discuss flexible working arrangements,” said Tom Hadley at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

“Candidates are looking for pay, but it is not often top of the list. It is more often about the workplace culture and flexible working which is definitely coming to the fore. It creates a real ‘stickiness’ for people not leaving organisations.”

By  Tim Wallace 

Boxing Day sales fall flat despite huge discounts by retailers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thur, 27th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The Boxing Day sales fell flat as the number of people heading to the shops dropped for the third year in a row, despite retailers to offer huge discounts. 

Average footfall across the UK fell by 3.1 per cent, experts said, disappointing retailers who had hoped that the festive period would provide a boost at the end of a bad year. 

Despite some queues outside stores in the early hours of the morning, many of those looking for a bargain chose to do so online, where more than half of all products were reduced and the average reduction was at a record high of 43 per cent. 

Poor sales means that retailers are likely to continue slashing prices as low as possible with discounts continuing way into January. 

But the sales could see an increase in the number of profit warnings in the new year issued in the new year, experts warned, as many of the items sold online will be done so at a loss.  

As shops began to close their doors figures from retail intelligence specialists Springboard showed that footfall was down by an average of 3.1 per cent from Boxing Day last year. 

The High Street, which saw a drop of 1.1 per cent by 4pm, was not as badly hit as out of town retail parks and shopping centres, where footfall was down by 5.3 per cent and five per cent on average. 

This is because shoppers are treating it as a leisure activity, and therefore picking a spot where they can also enjoy a coffee or lunch, the analysts believe.

Though the figures represent the third consecutive year-on-year fall, it is more modest than the 5.5 per cent drop between 2016 and 2017. 

Over the last few years, footfall on Boxing Day has consistently been about 10 per cent lower than on Black Friday and Springboard say that the latest figures show that it is losing its importance as a shopping day. 

However, online sales were predicted to rise from last year with average discounts of 43 per cent, up six per cent since last year, according to research by LovetheSales.com, a discount aggregator. They also found the more than 53 per cent of all products were discounted. 

Clothing saw the biggest discounts, with an average of 46 per cent off and online retailer Asos, which issues a profit warning earlier this month, offering reductions of up to 89 per cent. 

Liam Solomon, retail analyst at LovetheSales.com said “Since late December discounts have remained uncharacteristically high – we're expecting this trend to continue deep into January with better discounts, as retailers try to shrug off a tough 2018. We expect the best bargains will be predominantly in fashion and in particular warm clothing.”

But Vicky Brock, director of data at ReBOUND returns, warned: “After the trading year that 2018 has been retailers desperately need to get people into the stores. 

“An online sale is more costly than in a physical store because you have a much higher return rate. If shops reduce something by 70 per cent then they might make a little bit of a margin selling it in a store but they are going to lose money or not make anything selling it online.”

She said that retailers are now likely to “discount quite hard” to get rid of left over stock and “draw a line under a horrible year”. 

Richard Perks, Director of Retail Research at Mintel, said that consumers could expect to see bumper discounts this year as “there is probably going to be quite a lot of stock to clear this Christmas” but heavy discounts could lead to a number of profit warnings in the new year. 

Chris Daly, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, added: “The quiet high streets across the country confirm that the days of setting the alarm to be first in line for the Boxing Day sales are long gone.

“Today's low footfall figures represent the final chapter in the tale of an exceptionally bleak year for traditional retail, when even high street giants considered ‘too big to fail' stumbled.

“Low consumer confidence has fuelled relentless discounting both online and on the high street, starving high street stalwarts of passing trade.”

It has been a torrid year for retailers with notable high street names such as Poundworld and Maplin falling into administration, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams announcing plans to shutter stores, while Superdry, Carpetright and Card Factory issued profit warnings.

They retailers have been battling higher costs, low consumer confidence and people increasingly shopping online. The trading statements which will show just how hard they have been hit are expected in January. 

 By Hayley Dixon 

Local councils to bid on £675m fund to reinvigorate struggling high streets

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 26th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The fund comes at the end of a terrible year for high street retailers, with mass store closures, job losses and profit warnings.

Local councils are being invited to bid for a share in a government fund set up to help reinvigorate the country's struggling high streets.

The £675m fund was announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in October's Budget but the bidding process opens today.

It comes after the report of a panel led by Sir John Timpson, which called for a community-driven approach to transforming the high streets into “community hubs”.

Communities minister Jake Berry said: “We all know high streets are changing, we can't hide from this reality.

“But we're determined to ensure they continue to sit at the heart of our communities for generations to come.

“To do this we have to support investment in infrastructure, boosting local economies and ensuring people are able to get the most out of their local high streets.”

One of the main challenges for high streets is online shopping: in 2000, it accounted for less than 1% of retail sales while in August 2018 almost a fifth of all retail sales took place online.

Projects for those using the fund could include supporting regeneration, reconfiguring space, increasing the number of homes for young and old people, more work space and reducing vehicle congestion.

It caps off a terrible year for retailers, with Poundworld and Maplin among those entering administration, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams deciding to close stores and Superdry, Carpetright and Card Factory among those issuing profit warnings.

Nearly 150,000 jobs have been axed from the sector this year and, with shoppers spooked by Brexit uncertainty, there are fears next year may not be much better.

Worried retailers even launched Boxing Day sales early this year, with Debenhams offering up to 50% off some items before its traditional Boxing Day sale and John Lewis starting its clearance online for some products at 5pm on Christmas Eve.

Boxing Day deals at Marks & Spencer were online at midnight on Christmas Day and supermarkets were also in early, with Sainsbury's, for example, reducing electrical items from 23 December.

Figures show footfall was up in the last few days before Christmas, with 27.4% more trips made to non-food stores in the UK on Christmas Eve this year compared to last, according to Ipsos Retail Performance.Dying high street ‘not my fault'Mike Ashley of Sports Direct tells MPs he is not to blame

Sportswear and outdoor leisure stores saw the largest gain on last year, up 44.1%, followed by department and general variety stores, up 30.4%.

Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: “The surge in shoppers to stores seen over the final few days before Christmas will give some solace to those in the sector, when they sit down to enjoy their roast turkeys today, after such a torrid year.”

But, of course, an increase in the number of shoppers does not necessarily mean an increase in the amount spent – for those figures, we will have to wait for the various stores' financial results at various times next year.

‘Super Saturday’ fails to boost retailers as xmas shoppers hold out for last minute bargains

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 24th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The so-called “Super Saturday” before Christmas saw an incremental boost in shoppers, according to latest data from retail experts Springboard.

High Street footfall rose by 1% on last year, and was up 6.9% on the previous Saturday, figures show.

However, overall footfall still declined by 0.7% on last year.

“It was a bit of a last-minute burst, but it's not good,” Springboard's insight director Diane Wehrle told the BBC.

The reason for the incremental rise is that Christmas shoppers have been holding out until the last minute for bargains, but aggressive discounting has not drawn the crowds of consumers it might once have done.

“The discounting is a real issue. People are buying less and what they're buying is at a lower price, so this is bad for retailers as they're left with more stock and they're selling it at a lower profit,” said Ms Wehrle.

Springboard noted that footfall has fallen on the last Saturday before Christmas every year consecutively for the last decade.

This phenomenon has also been observed with Boxing Day sales.

Ms Wehrle thinks one reason for the drop in footfall is that people avoid shops when they do not have the money to spend, and this year consumers are definitely spending less on Christmas.

“In the past year, wages didn't increase with price rises,” she said.

“Now that has changed a bit, wage inflation is above price inflation, but the problem is consumers have had to spend a year funding that through savings, wages, loans or credit cards, so now they're conscious they don't want to spend too much as they have to pay back some of those loans.”

Why competition and the current U.S. economic climate is forcing Disney Parks to expand and raise prices

Source: Business Insider

Competition and the current U.S. economic situation are forcing Disney Parks to expand and raise prices. In 2018 Disney World raised its prices twice and switched to a dynamic pricing model. The new model prices out its early adopters in the middle class from peak park months.

Businesses that trade with the EU told to prepare for no-deal Brexit



(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 21st Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

Businesses that trade with the EU need to take steps now to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, a government minister has warned.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride told the BBC's Today programme “there is a call to action now”.

Later on Friday, HMRC is due to publish an update to its advice on how firms should prepare for a no-deal scenario.

However, Mr Stride called the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal an “unlikely event”.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Stride said: “The time is now, there is a call to action now.

“Those who are importing or exporting into and out of the EU 27, in the unlikely event that there is a no-deal at the end of March, will need to take certain steps. They need to do that now.”

In October, HMRC released a partnership pack designed to help businesses prepare for changes at the UK border if there is no-deal exit.Deal or no deal? EU bewildered by Brexit confusion

Brexit: A simple guide

What can New Zealand teach us about Brexit?

Mr Stride said businesses needed to “get a customs agent on board” or “look at software they can use to make sure (of) their import and export declarations”.

He added that firms should register for an Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number (EORI number) – a system of unique identification numbers used by customs authorities throughout the European Union.

Businesses should also be prepared to pay custom duties in the event of a no-deal Brexit, he warned.

The latest HMRC update marks a shift in tone, with businesses being urged to take action now.

The new version of the partnership pack also includes details about government funding for new IT systems and staff training, which is available to customs brokers, customs intermediaries and traders.

On Wednesday, British business groups criticised politicians for focusing on in-fighting rather than preparing for Brexit, warning that there was not enough time to prepare for a no-deal scenario.

The groups said companies had been “watching in horror” at the continuing rows within Westminster.

Petrol prices fall as Uk Inflation eases

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 19th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The UK inflation rate fell slightly to 2.3% in November, from 2.4% the previous month, driven mainly by a big fall in petrol prices.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) figure for the month was the lowest since March 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Video games prices also fell, but those declines were partly offset by a rise in tobacco prices.

The inflation figure was in line with analysts' expectations.

ONS head of inflation Mike Hardie said: “Inflation was little changed as falling petrol prices, thanks to a substantial drop in the cost of crude oil, were offset by rises in tobacco prices following the duty changes announced in the Budget.”

Apart from petrol, the biggest downward contribution to the inflation rate came from a variety of recreational and cultural goods and services, principally games, toys and hobbies, and cultural services.

In addition to tobacco products, upward pressure was seen in categories including accommodation services and passenger sea transport.

Separate ONS figures showed the average price of a house in the UK rising at its slowest rate since July 2013, up 2.7% on the year.

Mr Hardie said: “House price growth continued to slow with the smallest annual rise seen in over five years, led by price falls across London.”

Energy regulator announce bill cuts of about £45 a year from 2021

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 18th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The energy regulator has provided some relief from rising energy costs by announcing measures that will reduce bills by about £45 a year from 2021.

Ofgem said on Tuesday that it would halve the level of returns for the companies that run the wires and pipes that supply the UK’s electricity and gas.

Consumer groups welcomed the move, saying networks had “had it too good for too long” and urging the regulator to “hold its nerve” against the inevitable industry pushback.

National Grid shares fell by nearly 4% and the company said it was disappointed by the decision, which it believes does not reflect the “level of risk borne by transmission networks”. The company runs the national electricity grid and accounts for about 3% of a typical bill.

The body that represents power and gas grid firms, the Energy Networks Association, warned the proposals would jeopardise the investment needed for the switch to a greener and smarter energy system.

As regulated monopolies, National Grid and other network companies have price controls set by Ofgem that dictate how much they can spend and profit. The current limits have been criticised for allowing firms to earn “sky high” profits totalling £7.5bn.

The move today should save consumers a collective £6.5bn over the next period of controls, which start in 2021.

Ofgem also announced a shakeup of how access to energy grids is charged, which will see the nearly 1m households that have fitted solar panels facing higher energy bills as a result. According to Ofgem figures, the average energy bill on a default tariff – the most common bill – is £1,221.

Jonathan Brearley, the regulator’s executive director for systems and networks, said: “Our proposals for the new network price controls and charging reforms will help build a lower cost, fairer energy system which is fit for this smarter, cleaner future.”

The level that Ofgem has set the returns for network firms is at the bottom of a range it published in March.

Gillian Guy, the Citizens Advice chief executive, said: “Ofgem’s commitment to a tougher price control should curb the excess profits networks have been allowed to make. This is good news for people as this should result in lower bills.”

By Adam Vaughan

Brexit: Branson warns UK will be left “near-bankrupt” with hard Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 14th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

Sir Richard Branson has warned that the UK will be left “near bankrupt” in the event of a hard Brexit.

He told the BBC he was “absolutely certain” that leaving the EU without a deal would lead to the closure of “quite a few British businesses”.

He said Prime Minister Theresa May had admitted that her version of Brexit was not as good as staying in the EU.

Meanwhile, a pro-Brexit business group has urged the government to adopt a “managed no-deal” approach.

‘Absolute disaster'

Sir Richard was speaking from the Mojave desert in California after attending the latest Virgin Galactic space launch.

“I think Theresa May needs to be 100% honest with the public,” Sir Richard said.

“She's admitted that a hard Brexit would be an absolute disaster for the British people.

“From our Virgin companies' point of view, a hard Brexit would torpedo some of our companies,” he said, adding that Virgin Holidays would be hit as the pound would drop to parity and fewer people would be able to afford to go abroad.

“If British business suffers, British people will suffer, and it's really really important that people realise that.”

‘Managed' departure

Sir Richard was speaking at the end of a week that saw Mrs May delay a Parliamentary vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, then win a vote of no confidence brought by MPs unhappy with it.

At the same time, a group of prominent Leave-supporting business leaders has called on the government to abandon Mrs May's provisional deal with the EU and focus instead on what it calls a “managed no-deal”.

John Mills, the chairman of multi-channel retailer JML, told the BBC that this would involve many small deals with the EU and others, instead of going for an overall agreement.

He said: “You need to start off having deals on aviation, and moving of drugs, and all this sort of thing, making sure the ports run as smoothly as possible, just to minimise the amount of disruption that takes place.”

This could then lead to a bigger “free-trade deal on a comprehensive basis”, he added.

British workers get biggest pay rise in a decade in the three months to October

QLM Image

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 11th Dec 2018) London, UK —

LONDON, Dec 11 (Reuters) – British workers had their biggest pay rise in a decade in the three months to October as the country’s strong labour market showed no sign of weakening ahead of Brexit, official figures showed on Tuesday.

Average weekly earnings, including bonuses, rose by 3.3 percent on the year, their biggest rise since the three months to July 2008 and comfortably beating a median forecast of 3.0 percent in a Reuters poll of economists

The Bank of England, which has said it will need to raise interest rates gradually to offset inflation pressures from the labour market, has forecast slower wage growth for the end of 2018 than Tuesday’s official figures suggest.

Total earnings, excluding bonuses, also rose by an annual 3.3 percent in the three months to October, the Office for National Statistics said, the biggest rise since the end of 2008.

With unemployment at close to its lowest level since the 1970s — 4.1 percent in the three months to October — employers have begun raising pay for staff more quickly.

The pace of wage rises remains slower than the 4 percent increases seen before the financial crisis but real earnings, adjusted for inflation, rose nonetheless by the fastest since the end of 2016, up 1.1 percent.

The number of people in work rose by 79,000 in the three months to October, more than any forecast in the Reuters poll.

 By William Schomberg and David Milliken

Uk to face Post-Brexit skills shortage in manufacturing as employers report difficulty in recruiting workers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 5th Dec, 2018) London, Uk – –

The sector is looking ahead to a future with too few trained workers and not enough youngsters wanting to learn.

British manufacturing is facing a post-Brexit skills shortage with too few trained workers and not enough youngsters wanting to learn, according to a survey.

Only 6% of 16 to 23-year-olds surveyed for Barclays Corporate Banking are considering a career in manufacturing, which spans the economy from food to chemicals.

And 47% of the 2,000 young people asked said they are not interested in the industry because it does not appeal to them, while 35% thought they lacked the required skills.

The survey also revealed that half of the sector's employers are reporting difficulties in recruiting workers.

More than a third of firms reported that too many job applicants do not have the right skills, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths.

But despite the problems, a quarter of employers said they had no intention of investing more in recruitment.

Helena Sans, head of manufacturing at Barclays, said it showed a “mismatch” between perceptions of the industry and the careers on offer.

She said: “The skills most desired by young people include decision-making, complex problem-solving and technical skills.

“These match the skills that manufacturers say employees gain from working in the industry and highlight the need for businesses to engage and inspire the younger generation.”

Neville Kildunne, works manager at chemicals and services firm Christeyns in Bradford, told Sky News he hoped foreign workers will still be able to apply for jobs in the sector after Brexit.

He added that a shortage now means some jobs can now only be filled if the salary on offer is increased by 20%.

He added: “There's not a pool of these people out there and available, sat down on park benches waiting to be offered employment. They're already employed, so you have to become an employer of choice.”

Christeyns describes its expanded apprenticeship scheme and outreach work in local schools as “essential”.

The manufacturing sector survey carried out for Barclays is published as a separate study by the left-wing think tank IPPR North, which says imbalance in the economy is getting worse.

The report says the North-South divide is getting wider, with pay, public spending, household wealth, poverty and life expectancy all worse in the North.

It calls on the government to commit to “a more comprehensive approach to transforming the North's economy”.

By Gerard Tubb

 

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney defend warnings of Brexit scenarios

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 4th Dec 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Mark Carney defended the central bank’s warnings of a potentially major economic hit from Brexit which angered lawmakers opposed to Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for leaving the European Union.

The BoE said last week that under a worst-case exit from the European Union, Britain could suffer greater damage to its economy than during the global financial crisis.

Carney told lawmakers on Tuesday that the scenarios set out by the BoE were based on detailed preparatory work to ensure banks and other lenders were ready for Brexit, and were not off-the-cuff forecasts.

“There’s no exam crisis. We didn’t just stay up all night and write a letter to the Treasury Committee,” Carney said at a committee hearing in parliament. “You asked for something that we had, and we brought it, and we gave it to you.”

Less than four months before Brexit, it remains unclear whether Britain will leave the EU with a transition deal to smooth the shock for the economy.

May agreed a plan with EU leaders last month but it faces deep opposition in parliament including from within May’s own Conservative Party. The plan faces a key vote on Dec. 11.

Pro-Brexit critics of Carney, who have long accused him of political meddling in the debate about Britain’s relationship with the EU, dismissed last week’s BoE report as scare-mongering.

Former BoE Governor Mervyn King joined the criticism on Tuesday when he lamented the central bank’s involvement in what he said was an attempt to frighten the country about Brexit.

“It saddens me to see the Bank of England unnecessarily drawn into this project,” King said in an article published on Bloomberg.

BREXIT SHOCKS
Carney stressed the worst-case scenarios were “low-probability events in the context of Brexit” which the central bank needed to consider to make sure Britain’s banking system could withstand any Brexit shocks.

“We’re already sleeping soundly at night, because we have the financial sector, the core of the financial sector, in a position that it needs to be for a tough scenario.”

But he told lawmakers that the price of food could go up by 10 percent if Britain left the EU with no deal and no mitigating arrangements to avoid chaos at the country’s ports.

He said Britain’s ports were not ready for even a managed shift to World Trade Organization rules for the country’s exports and imports with the EU.

“Don’t assert what is not correct,” he snapped at one lawmaker who said the BoE had not considered the possibility of substituting trade with the EU for other markets.

Carney reiterated his opposition to ceding decision-making over rules for the banking sector to the EU after Brexit, given the scale of Britain’s financial services sector.

US, China offer differing takes on trade ceasefire
“We would not be comfortable…outsourcing supervision of this incredibly complex, incredibly important financial sector,” he said.

Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe said a Norway-style Brexit — in which Britain would stay in the EU’s single market and follow the bloc’s rules without any say on them — was undesirable given Britain’s finance industry was 20 times the size of Norway’s.

Some lawmakers have suggested a Norway-style Brexit could be a temporary solution for Britain as it struggles to find a way to strike a new long-term relationship with the EU.

Additional reporting by Sarah Young, Andy Bruce and Amy O'Brien,; Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Ed Osmond

By David Milliken and Huw Jones

 

 

Christmas shoppers warned over danger of counterfeit products

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 3rd Dec, 2018) London, Uk – –

Police warn of counterfeit product danger with online customers most at risk

Christmas shoppers are being urged to be wary of counterfeit products following a rise in cases involving fake goods.

According to KPMG, over the past two years, 39 cases involving a total of £116m of counterfeit and pirated goods – which can range from hair straighteners and perfume to ebooks – have been prosecuted in the UK. The firm said the number of cases reaching court “continues to rise”.

The figures come days after the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) launched a campaign using the hashtag #shockingfakes to highlight the dangers of buying counterfeit electrical goods.

Pipcu said that as well as the potential health and safety risks, such as electric shocks and house fires, shoppers who bought such items online could unwittingly find themselves becoming victims of identity theft.

KPMG said pirated digital media – such as music, ebooks, video games and computer software – accounted for a sizeable chunk of the total it had identified. Other popular counterfeited items included tickets to concerts and other events, and branded goods such as football shirts.

It claimed some consumers “are seemingly driven by a hunger to maintain a designer lifestyle on a low-key budget”.

James Maycock, a forensic partner at the accountants, said: “Consumers may often turn a blind eye or consider this a victimless crime, but this shadow economy activity often directly promotes money laundering and tax evasion. It can also help to fund other more serious organised criminal enterprises, including human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.”

The City of London Police unit pointed to a June 2018 report from consumer protection charity Electrical Safety First, which found that 30% of those surveyed had been duped by a counterfeit electrical item bought online but advertised as genuine.

The charity also claimed websites sites such as Amazon and eBay were being misused by third-party sellers to exploit online shoppers and sell fake and potentially dangerous goods.

Products highlighted included tumble dryers, so-called Kodi boxes (a type of set-top box for TVs), kettles, travel adapters and hair straighteners.

In April this year, a Guardian investigation found that Amazon’s Marketplace platform was rife with potentially dangerous counterfeits and other knockoff goods despite years of cracking down on mis-selling.

Police said the “true cost” of such items was shown by a fire that broke out at a flat in St John’s Wood, north-west London, in May this year, leading to around 20 people being evacuated. The London Fire Brigade said it believed an unbranded mobile phone charger caused the blaze.

Meanwhile, last Tuesday, Pipcu said it had this year suspended more than 31,000 websites as part of an operation coordinated by Europol, the EU’s agency for police cooperation, aimed at clamping down on counterfeit and pirated items sold online.

Pipcu said it was asking people to “trust their instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is”. It said consumers should check the spelling and grammar on websites, and the URL, because often the people behind these sites did not pay a lot of attention to this detail.

Fraudsters may try to deceive shoppers by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.

“Just because a web address ends with “.co.uk” does not mean the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, consumers should be wary,” it added.

While counterfeit products may be financially enticing, some fake items such as perfumes, batteries and alcohol “may seriously damage your health”, said Maycock.

He highlighted a September 2016 court case that led to a father and son being jailed for selling unsafe DIY teeth-whitening kits which left some users with chemical burns. Advertising claimed the product was “used by leading dentists throughout the UK and Europe”, but tests showed it contained up to 110 times the allowable level of hydrogen peroxide, a bleaching agent.

Anyone who has bought an item they believed to be genuine but which they now suspect to be fake can report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.

 

 

Rail fares to increase by 3.1 percent for million of rail commuters from January

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 30th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Millions of commuters will have to pay an average of 3.1% more for rail tickets from 2 January.

The rise, announced by industry body the Rail Delivery Group, follows a year of disruption on some lines.

There had been calls for a price freeze following the chaos caused by the introduction of new timetables in May.

The rise, which is lower than the 3.4% average rise for fares in 2018, means another £100 for a Manchester to Liverpool annual season ticket.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said the rail industry got £10bn a year from passengers, who wanted a reliable railway offering better value for money: “They shouldn't have to wait any longer for that.”

Fewer than half (45%) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to Transport Focus.

Alex Hayman of consumer group Which? said the new price rises would only add to passengers' misery after a year of timetable chaos, with rail punctuality falling to its lowest level in 12 years.

“Value for money needs to be a key part of the upcoming government review and passengers must receive automatic compensation for delays and cancellations,” he said.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the increase showed “a government and rail industry out of touch with passenger concerns”.

What do the unions say?
Unions also took aim at the price increases, with RMT general secretary Mick Cash calling them “another kick in the teeth for passengers on Britain's rip-off privatised railways”.

It meant UK passengers will pay the highest fares in Europe. “That is nothing short of a disgrace,” he added.

Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “A fare freeze would have been appropriate, but once again hard-pressed commuters are being milked like cash cows into paying more money for less.”

What does the rail industry say?
Rail Delivery Group (RDG) chief executive Paul Plummer admitted that no one wanted to pay more to travel, “especially those who experienced significant disruption earlier this year”.

“Money from fares is underpinning the improvements to the railway that passengers want and which ultimately help boost the wider economy,” he said.

The RDG said train companies would introduce 7,000 new carriages, supporting 6,400 extra services a week by 2021, meaning more seats on more reliable, comfortable and frequent trains.

How can I save money on rail fares?
Buy next year's annual season ticket before 2 January to take advantage of 2018 prices. An annual ticket usually costs about the same as 10 monthly tickets
Transport Focus advises season ticket holders to complain if services are disrupted. Services delayed by an hour attract a 50% refund, but some do the same after delays of just 30 minutes
Book as early as possible for the cheapest fares. Advance tickets go on sale about three months out
Buy tickets directly from a rail operator's website, not a third party, to avoid booking fees
Get a 16-25 railcard if you're under 26 or a full-time student of any age, or the new 26-30 railcard. Both cost £30 for a year and offer a third off tickets for most journeys. Buying an annual London Travelcard offers the same savings on train tickets
Splitting your journey into multiple tickets can cut the overall cost – but your tickets must cover the whole journey and the train must actually stop at that station
Will the politicians change the rail fare system?
By Tom Burridge, BBC transport correspondent

Labour says fares should be frozen when performance isn't up to scratch. Passenger groups agree.

However, the industry and the government point to more fundamental issues.

With so many people now travelling by train, there are many more services operating on ancient infrastructure.

Government funding for expensive upgrade projects to deal with overcrowding is only possible, rail bosses say, if passengers – not taxpayers in general – cover the bulk of everyday running costs.

And they say if rail fares are frozen, rail companies' costs still rise in line with inflation.

Again, the operators argue that taxpayers should not be left to plug that gap.

What's happening with the new 26-30 railcard?

By Kevin Peachey, BBC personal finance reporter

The launch of the new “millennial” railcard, which will be available to four million passengers, is running slightly late.

The Rail Delivery Group had promised that the digital-only 26-to-30 railcard would be available before the end of the year, but that has been put back until midday on 2 January.

For a £30 fee, the new railcard will offer one-third off most leisure fares for 12 months. However, anyone travelling before 10am on a weekday will have to pay a minimum fare of £12. This is the same restriction as on the 16-25 railcard. Unlike the card for younger passengers, that minimum fare will also apply on weekdays throughout July and August.

The launch of the card, which cannot be used for season tickets, was originally announced by the chancellor in the autumn 2017 Budget.

Full details and a savings calculator are available on the railcard website.

 

High street fashion throwaway culture criticise by MPs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 28th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Major high street names including Primark, Boohoo and Missguided have come under fire for fuelling a throwaway fast fashion culture that has been linked to the exploitation of low-paid workers in UK factories.

Britons buy more new clothes than any other country in Europe and MPs are looking at the environmental and human cost of £2 and £200 T-shirts amid growing concerns the multibillion-pound fashion industry is wasting valuable resources and contributing to climate change.

The low prices in Primark stores, where T-shirts can cost as little as £2, were challenged by MPs on the Commons environmental audit select committee, who suggested shoppers viewed its clothing as disposable.

“Isn’t the real problem with the fast fashion industry that if you are selling stuff at £5 people aren’t going to treat it with any respect and at the end of its life it’s going to go in the bin?” asked the Labour MP Mary Creagh, the committee chair.

Paul Lister, Primark’s head of ethical trade and environmental sustainability, denied that was the case: “We are proud of the quality and durability of our garments. They are not bought to throw away.”

Lister said the retailer kept its prices low by shunning traditional advertising, which saved it about £150m compared with rivals and “that goes straight into price”. He said he knew of no one under 16 working in any of its supply factories.

“Factory to store, we keep our costs to the absolute minimum and in store we keep margins very tight,” he said. “Our business model takes us to a £2 T-shirt.”

While Primark was forced to defend its low prices, Burberry was scrutinised over its now-defunct policy of burning piles of unsold expensive clothes.

Leanne Wood, the brand’s chief people and corporate affairs officer, told MPs it was an industry-wide practice: “We’re the only luxury business that’s reported it in their accounts … but it is something that happens in the industry.”

Online retailers Asos, Boohoo and Missguided were questioned about the health checks carried out on the large number of Leicester factories they worked with.

An investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches alleged last year UK factories supplying retailers such as River Island, New Look, Boohoo and Missguided were paying workers between £3 and £3.50 an hour. A Financial Times investigation (£) also found examples of exploitation in Leicester factories.

Creagh questioned how it was physically possible for Manchester-based Boohoo to sell UK-made dresses for £5 when the hourly minimum wage was £7.83.

The company’s joint chief executive Carol Kane said the company did not make any profit on the £5 dresses, which were “loss leaders” designed to attract shoppers to its website. The typically short dresses, made out of polyester and elastane, featured no zips or buttons, so were easy for machinists to run up, she said.

“We do not make a profit on a £5 dress,” said Kane, adding that the cost price of the garments was even less at £2.50 to £3. “It’s a loss leader. It’s a marketing tool designed to drive visitors to the website.”

Asos and Missguided told the hearing they had pulled production from a number of factories in Leicester that fell short of their standards.

The select committee is examining the impact of clothing production, ranging from environmental cost to worker conditions, especially when garments are produced cheaply and quickly in response to fast fashion trends.

With 300,000 tonnes of clothing sent to landfill every year in the UK, Primark said it would launch a clothing collection service in all its stores next year in a similar vein to Marks & Spencer’s “shwopping” scheme.

But Mike Barry, M&S’s head of sustainable business, said collecting unwanted clothes was not the biggest problem for the industry – it has collected 30m garments over the past decade – but what to to with them, given the lack of a domestic industry to process the material. “It is quite possible to prevent clothing going to landfill but much harder to do something with the fibres you recover.”

The environmental cost of UK fashion
Britons spend £52.7bn a year on fashion, according to the government-backed Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap). The lion’s share (£47.4bn) goes on clothing while £4.5bn is spent on accessories.

The amount of clothes bought each year continues to rise – 1.13m tonnes in 2016, up from 950,000 tonnes in 2012, according to a 2017 Wrap report.

The total carbon footprint of the clothing worn in the UK was 26.2m tonnes of CO2e in 2016, up 9% on 2012. The carbon footprint per tonne fell 8% but was outweighed by the increase in consumption.

About 1m tonnes of clothing is cleared out of wardrobes every year. Of that, 700,000 tonnes is collected for reuse and recycling with the remainder sent to landfill or incinerated, at an estimated cost of £82m.

In the UK, two-thirds of clothing is made from synthetic plastic materials, which are among the leading contributors to microplastic pollution. Up to 2,900 tonnes of microplastics from the washing of synthetic clothing such as fleeces could be passing through wastewater treatment into UK rivers and estuaries, according to a recent Friends of the Earth report.

By Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler