Uk voluntary living wage rises to £9 benefiting around 180,000 workers

( via– Mon, 5th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

One worker on the minimum wage tells Sky News that a proper living wage would liberate her from a “surviving pay cheque”

The voluntary living wage – designed to give workers enough money to live on – is to be increased.

The new rate has been calculated by the Living Wage Foundation to offset the rising cost of everything from public transport to monthly rent.

The new hourly rate will see the living wage rise by 25p to £9 for workers across the UK – except in London where it will rise by 35p to £10.55.

Both figures are higher than the statutory national living wage, which is due to rise to £8.21 in April for workers aged 25 and over.

More than 4,700 businesses have already signed up, benefiting around 180,000 workers.

Lauren Townsend – a graduate who works as a waitress for a multimillion pound restaurant chain on the minimum wage – would like to be one of them.

“A real living wage would make the difference between a surviving pay cheque and a pay cheque and living,” she told Sky News.

“I'm 27 years old and I live in a house share with four other adults who are all in their 20s,” she said.

“I live with a married couple. We can't afford to save to buy a house. We have no savings put aside for a rainy day. We are putting off having children because we can't afford to have children.”

Director of the Living Wage Foundation, Tess Lanning, wants more businesses to sign up.

“There has been a rise in the number of jobs paying less than the real living wage in the last year,” she said.

“So that's why we need more employers to step up, go beyond the government minimum and pay a real living wage based on what people need to live.”

She added that the living wage can have “real business benefits – improvements in staff turnover, absence rates, (and) a more motivated, loyal, engaged staff”.

David Lesniak, co-owner of bakery and restaurant Outsider Tart in Chiswick, pays his staff the living wage despite facing high running costs – particularly business rates.

He said: “It's exceedingly important that we do our best to do right by our staff because we know they are challenged in many ways, from how they get to work, how they put a roof over their head, and how they put food in their mouths, so wherever we can help out we try to help out.”

The business department said the statutory living wage had “helped to deliver the fastest wage growth for the lowest paid in 20 years”.

It added: “In last week's budget we announced that from April 2019 full-time workers will earn an extra £690 a year.

“The government takes advice on minimum wage rates from the independent Low Pay Commission (LPC), which balances the needs of workers and businesses.

“The LPC aims to set the national minimum wage as high as possible without harming employment prospects.”

By Emma Birchley



Top police chief says – make drivers pay for fuel in advance

( via – – Mon, 5th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Service stations should make drivers pay for fuel in advance to prevent theft, a top police officer says.

Petrol firms had made it too easy to drive off without paying because they wanted to entice motorists into their shops, said Simon Cole of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC).

About 25,000 people every year “bilk” the system by avoiding payment.

Mr Cole, who is chief constable for Leicestershire, said 12% of crimes faced by his force were retail-related.

“The petroleum industry could design out bilking in 30 seconds by making people pay up front, which is what they do in other countries,” he said, in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper.

“They don't, because the walk in their shops is part of their business offer.

In the US, virtually all filling stations require customers to pay for fuel at the pump by inserting a credit or debit card.

However, this system has been blamed for lower profits, as fewer people bother to visit the convenience stores that are usually found on the forecourts.

Mr Cole's call comes as concerns grow that UK police forces are too stretched to be able to deal effectively with the most serious crimes.

Last week, the head of the NPCC, Sara Thornton, said there needed to be a “refocus on core policing”, such as burglary and violence, because there were “too many desirable and deserving issues” that officers simply could not respond to.



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Freed of London Make Historical Move With Brown Ballet Shoes For The First Time In The UK

Youtube/Joan Sellers

Brown ballet shoes are to be made for the first time in the UK in a move hailed as “historic” for diversity. Dancers from minority ethnic backgrounds can now get pointe shoes in both bronze and brown instead of traditional pink to match their skin tone. The footwear is made by Freed of London – Britain's oldest manufacturer of ballet kit. Cassa Pancho, founder and artistic director of Ballet Black, a professional company of black and minority ethnic dancers, hailed the news as marking an “historic moment” in British ballet.



Apple’s trillion-dollar status value lost on disappointing sales figures

Apple lost its status as the world’s only trillion-dollar public company on Thursday night as shares slumped following disappointing results.

The iPhone maker said that it would no longer reveal how many iPhones, iPads and Macs it sells each quarter, claiming the figure was no longer relevant to investors.

The announcement, combined with an underwhelming forecast for the crucial Christmas quarter, sent shares falling by more than 7pc in after-hours trading, knocking over $70bn (£54bn) off its value. If maintained, the drop means Apple’s value will fall below the trillion-dollar mark for the first time since it reached the milestone in August.

The news adds to a malaise that has hit technology shares in recent weeks. Amazon’s value surpassed a trillion dollars just weeks after Apple but has also fallen below the mark, while shares in other Silicon Valley giants have fallen.

Apple’s fall came despite it posting record profits and sales after it convinced consumers to buy more-expensive versions of the iPhone in the three months to the end of September.

But it said it expected revenue of between $89bn and $93bn in the final three months of 2018, traditionally the company’s most profitable selling season. Wall Street had priced in revenues of $93bn, with the most bullish saying the company could hit close to $100bn of sales.

In the three months to the end of September, it sold 46.9m iPhones, flat on the same period last year and below what analysts had expected. However, a huge increase in the price of each phone meant that iPhone revenues increased by 29pc. On average, consumers now pay $793 for each iPhone, up from $618 a year ago.

Apple has successfully pushed its users into paying more for newer versions of its iPhone by adding new features and bigger screen sizes, even as sales growth has stalled.

Revenues in the quarter increased by 20pc to $62.9bn, while profits were up 32pc to $14.1bn. Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, said sales had been disappointing in some emerging markets such as India, Turkey and Brazil.

Apple sold fewer Mac computers and iPads than a year ago, but said revenues from its software division had increased by 17pc. This week, the company unveiled new iPad and MacBook computers, in an attempt to arrest declining sales of both.

Apple said it would continue to say how much revenue it makes from each of its product lines, which it claimed was a more relevant figure than unit sales. The company has reported how many of its major products it sells for over 20 years, well before the iPhone or even the iPod were invented.

By James Titcomb


Ikea Swedish furniture retailer looks set to roll out smaller city centre store

( via – – Fri, 2nd Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Swedish furniture retailer Ikea looks set to roll out its smaller city centre store format after seeing a positive response to its first outlet in London.

UK boss Javier Quinones said the London shop was a “learning experiment” but its success meant the format was likely to expand to other UK cities.

The concept allows people to browse items and discuss home decor plans without visiting out-of-town stores.

It is part of Ikea's wider UK expansion after another year of sales growth.

The company announced on Friday that UK revenues in the year to 31 August rose by 5.9% to £1.96bn.

Ikea opened two new large-format stores during the period, in Sheffield and Exeter, taking its UK tally to 21.

Online was the standout performer, with 199.3 million visits to Ikea's website, an increase of 13.4%. Website sales grew by 14.4% and now represent 15.5% of total sales.

Global trend
Ikea has been investing heavily in online, logistics and distribution in a move to cut its home delivery times from one-to-two weeks to three-to-four days.

Mr Quinones said this investment was not a reaction to Amazon or any particular retailer but a response to changing consumer demands.

He said the small format experiment was part of that change.

“More people are living in cities. In London, fewer people have a car,” Mr Quinones said.

It's part of a global trend, he added, hence Ikea will also trial its small outlets – called Planning Studios – in New York, Shanghai and Riyadh.

He could not give details of the small-format expansion in the UK. But he said the existing outlet, in Tottenham Court Road, “will hopefully be the first of many”.

“Our stores will always be an important part of the Ikea brand when it comes to inspiration,” Mr Quinones said.

“However, we know that the role of the store is changing. People want to shop in a number of different ways and count on brands to offer them services that reflect the way they live.”

Although a large store is due to open at Greenwich, south east London, in spring 2019, plans for another outlet, at Cuerden, Lancashire, were scrapped in May. Ikea said at the time that the site was “no longer viable”.

Despite Ikea's rise in sales, Mr Quinones said UK retailing was “a tough economic environment”.

“Consumer confidence has gone down in the last couple of years,” he said, but pointed out that people still wanted to improve their homes.

Ikea posted a 9% increase in home decoration sales, during the year, while sales of living room seating jumped 8%.

He said Ikea was working on contingency plans ahead of Brexit, but did not disclose details. “There is a working group in the UK looking at scenarios,” he said.

Ikea imports the vast bulk of its products, and the fall in the value of the pound over the last couple of year had hit margins. “We didn't pass on all of the costs,” he said.



Pound sterling rise on report of a tentative financial services agreement with the EU

( via– Thur 1st Nov, 2018) London, Uk – –

Negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on all aspects of a future partnership on services, The Times says.

The pound rose against the dollar after The Times reported Prime Minister Theresa May had struck a tentative deal with the European Union on financial services.

British and European negotiators have reached an agreement on all aspects of a future partnership on services, the paper said.

The deal gives UK financial services companies continued access to European markets after Britain leaves the EU, as long as British financial regulations remain broadly aligned with Brussels.

The pound, which has lost 3.6% versus the dollar over the last three weeks amid concerns of a disorderly Brexit, jumped 0.62% to $1.2843.

With Britain leaving the EU in March, many international banks based in the UK have shifted operations and jobs to the continent so that they can continue to service clients.

In a sign that a wider deal was close to being concluded, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has revealed he expects to have a Brexit divorce deal confirmed with Brussels by 21 November.

The Brexit secretary announced the date in a letter to senior MPs who had summoned him to appear before a committee.

A government source confirmed to Sky News they were hoping for a political agreement by 21 November, with all EU leaders meeting in mid-December to sign it off.



Uk factories suffered their worst month since Brexit vote – PMI

( via — Thur 1st Nov, 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British factories suffered their worst month since just after 2016’s Brexit vote in October, due to concerns about the country’s approaching departure from the European Union and increased global trade tensions, a survey showed.

In the clearest sign to date that Britain’s economy is slowing after a strong summer, the IHS Markit/CIPS Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell sharply to 51.1, its lowest since July 2016, from a downwardly revised 53.6 in September.

The reading was weaker than all the forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.

New order books and employment contracted for the first time since July 2016.

“October saw a worrying turnaround in the performance of the UK manufacturing sector,” IHS Markit director Rob Dobson said.

“At current levels, the survey indicates that factory output could contract in the fourth quarter, dropping by 0.2 percent.”

Foreign demand fell for the second time in three months with some companies saying Brexit uncertainties cost them work from within the EU.

Many manufacturers are worried about the risk of border delays which would affect their just-in-time processes.

Prime Minister Theresa May faces opposition to her Brexit plan from within her own Conservative Party while also so far failing to find common ground with other EU leaders, raising fears that Britain could leave the EU without a transition deal.

Other firms pointed to rising world trade tensions and weaker demand in the global automotive industry.

Manufacturing accounts for about 10 percent of Britain’s economic output.

So far, the world’s fifth-biggest economy has proven more resilient to the decision to leave the EU than many forecasters predicted at the time of the Brexit vote.

Strong spending by consumers over the summer caused growth to accelerate in the three months to August.

But there have been signs that the approach of Brexit in less than five months’ time – with no agreement yet in place to smooth Britain’s exit from the bloc – is weighing on companies.

Official figures show that manufacturing failed to contribute to economic growth in the first half of 2018.

The Bank of England, which is due to announce its monetary policy decision for November at 1200 GMT, is widely expected to keep interest rates on hold until it has more clarity on what Brexit will mean for Britain’s economy.

Thursday’s PMI showed input prices for British factories grew at their slowest pace in 28 months but still remained high due to rising prices for commodities and the Brexit hit to the value of sterling.

By William Schomberg



FCA probe Car and house insurance policies

( via – – Wed, 31st Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

The City regulator is to investigate how home and car insurance policies are priced after finding “hidden” discrimination between customers.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will study the scale of the issue, whom it affects, and possible solutions.

Insurance customers may pay different prices depending on how loyal they are, their age, and whether they are online.

Marital status, home postcode and employment status may also have a hidden effect on price, the FCA said.

Citizens Advice has already warned loyal customers are being “ripped off”.

It launched a super-complaint claiming that customers who stick with the same supplier for a variety of household services are losing a total of £4.1bn a year. That amounts to an average of £877 per person.

Failing to shop around, or the inability to do so, costs people hundreds of pounds.

This is known in the industry as “price walking” – where the cost of insurance is increased each year the customer sticks with the same provider, eventually making their policy much more expensive (and profitable for the insurer) than for a new customer.

Part of the response to the Citizens Advice complaint is this review into the general insurance market by the FCA.

The FCA said UK insurers generated £78bn in premiums from customers and that 82% of adults had one or more general insurance products.

In an analysis of the home insurance market, the FCA said there was evidence of significant price competition for new customers with new policies offered at 30% below the cost of providing the policy and firms increased premiums in the second and third years of the policy.

The regulator has now written to the chief executives of insurance firms to set out that it expects them to treat customers fairly.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, said: “This market study will help us examine the outcomes from general insurance pricing practices and inform how, if necessary, we should intervene to improve the market.

“If change is needed to make the market work well for consumers, we will consider all possible remedies to achieve this.”

The FCA said it had already found some firms were not complying with its rules about information that customers should receive when they renew their policies and could use its regulatory powers against those with whom it had concerns.

These rules include making it clear in a renewal letter how much people paid the previous year.

In November last year, the BBC revealed how some insurers were burying these pricing details deep in renewal documents.

In the letter to the heads of insurance firms, Mr Bailey said: “There is a significant risk of consumer harm if your firm has not implemented an appropriate pricing strategy with effective governance and controls to determine and monitor your pricing activities and evaluate how your pricing decisions will affect consumer outcomes.”

Industry response
In May, insurers said they would crack down on “excessive” differences in premiums for new customers and existing policyholders.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) said their Guiding Principles and Action Points should mean “an improvement in the outcomes for long-standing customers”.

However, the FCA investigation seems to challenge whether this response was sufficient.

Hugh Savill, the ABI's director of regulation, said: “While many customers benefit from competitive motor and home insurance markets with lower premiums, we agree that the market is not working as well as it should for some long-standing customers.

“This is an important issue and insurers will work with the FCA to address issues raised in the report to ensure that the market works as well as possible for all consumers.”



Evans Cycles Job Fears as Sports Direct buys brand out of administration

( via – – Wed, 31st Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

Fears for hundreds of jobs as Sports Direct buys up Evans Cycles

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has bought Evans Cycles out of administration but has warned that it may have to close half the specialist retailer’s 62 stores, putting about 440 jobs at risk.

Evans, which traces its roots back nearly 100 years, had been seeking a buyer after its management team said they needed £20m for a turnaround plan that its former private equity owners were unwilling to fund.

Sports Direct bought House of Fraser in a similar prepack deal in August and is also thought to be interested in buying Debenhams, the department store group in which it owns a large stake.

Ashley, chief executive of Sports Direct, said: “We are pleased to have rescued the Evans Cycles brand. However, in order to save the business, we only believe we will be able to keep 50% of stores open in the future. Unfortunately, some stores will have to close.”

Evans, which employs 1,300 people in total, of whom about 880 work in store, had been struggling to survive amid tough high street conditions that have already seen Toys R Us, Maplin and House of Fraser collapse into administration, and a string of other well-known names close their stores

The cycle retailer also faced fierce price competition, particularly from the fast-growing online sports retailer rival Wiggle.

Evans found itself nearly £6m into the red in 2016 and has since faced rising business rates, an increase in the minimum wage and a fall in the pound’s value, which has made imported goods more expensive. In the year to October 2017, its sales rose nearly 2% to £138m, but the company recorded another loss, of £2.5m.

Amid the difficulties across the retail sector, the private equity firm ECI Partners, which bought Evans three years ago, and the retailers’ lenders, AIB and HSBC, were unable to agree on a deal to fund management’s rescue plan.

James Keany, at the advisory firm CBRE, which is retained to manage property for Sports Direct, said: “We are looking forward to working with landlords in order to help create a sustainable business. We will make contact with landlords over the next few days and discuss the future of individual stores.”

Sports Direct’s warning that it was likely to close half of Evans’ stores appears to have come as a surprise to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the advisory firm that sealed the sale of Evans and put it into administration immediately ahead of the sale on Tuesday.

Matt Callaghan, joint administrator and PwC partner, said: “Evans is a longstanding, well known and trusted brand with nearly 100 years of heritage in the cycling market. To have managed to preserve the business and transfer all staff to the purchaser is particularly pleasing; 2018 has been a very difficult trading year for the business, in part due to the impact of the extended winter weather in the early part of the year and a lack of cash to invest in stores and develop the online platform. A combination of losses, the capital expenditure requirements and tightening credit has led to a liquidity crunch.”

By Sarah Butler



BP’s profits boosted by stronger oil prices


( via — Tue, 30th Oct, 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – BP’s (BP.L) profits thundered to a five-year high, boosted by stronger oil prices with production set to rise further thanks to the $10.5 billion acquisition of BHP Billiton’s U.S. shale business this week.

The results further underscore a striking shift in BP over the past year as it shakes off the legacy of the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster with new projects and the BHP deal, its largest acquisition in 20 years.

In a further sign of confidence, BP said it now expected to fully fund the acquisition from available cash without resorting to a rights issue as planned. It still plans to sell $5-$6 billion of assets to reduce debt.

“We’re a bit cautious to use the words ‘blow out’ when talking about BP, but today’s results are just that,” Bernstein analyst Oswald Clint said in a note.

BP shares were up 3.4 percent by 0914 GMT, compared with a 1 percent rise in the broader European oil and gas sector .SXEP.

The rise in oil prices over the past year to their highest since late 2014 has boosted revenue for oil companies such as BP. Coupled with deep cost cuts and stricter spending since the 2014 downturn, the sector has enjoyed rapid growth in profits.

BP’s third-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, the company’s definition of net income, rose to $3.8 billion, far exceeding forecasts of $2.85 billion based on a company-provided survey of analyst. That compared with a profit of $1.86 billion a year earlier and $2.8 billion in the second quarter of 2018.

The profit increase came as production in the first nine months of the year rose thanks to new fields and high oil and gas field reliability.

Underlying pretax profit for BP’s upstream business more than doubled to around $4 billion in the quarter compared with a year ago.

“We’re seeing a backdrop of a strong and well-performing business,” Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary told Reuters.

“We’re confident within the financial frame we can close this transaction with all cash,” Gilvary said.

For graphic on BP cashflow, click

Oil and gas production for the first nine months of the year increased to 2.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) and was set to rise further with the expected completion of the BHP deal (BHP.AX) (BLT.L) on Oct. 31.

BP launched nine major oil and gas fields over the past year, including in Azerbaijan, Oman, Egypt and Angola that will help boost production by 900,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) by 2021. Most of the production will be gas.

The BHP deal is set to initially add over 100,000 boed in production before disposals, which will mostly include predominantly onshore U.S. shale gas producing assets that BP already owns, Gilvary said.

Gearing, the ratio between debt and BP’s market value, declined to 27.5 percent at the end of the quarter from 27.8 percent at the end of June. Net debt was $39.2 billion at the end of September.

Gilvary said that gearing could temporarily rise next year above the 30 percent limit the company had set, depending on oil prices, as it pays for the BHP deal.

Dear Fed, thanks very much. Love, HSBC
In the fourth quarter, BP expects lower refining margins and more refinery turnarounds mainly at its Whiting site in the United States.

BP expects its capex in 2018 to be around $15 billion.

BP’s operating cash flow, excluding payments for the Deepwater Horizon spill, was $6.6 billion, the same as last year.

By Ron Bousso



Tech giants Google and Facebook hit with digital services tax worth up to £400m per year

Source: pixabay

( via – – Tue, 30th Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

Online tech giants including Google and Facebook are to be hit with a digital services tax worth up to £400m per year, as Chancellor Philip Hammond used the Budget to take the lead in a global push to tax Silicon Valley while limiting the pain felt on Britain's struggling high streets.

But the proposal for what he termed a “narrowly targeted” tax, to be paid only by large companies that are profitable and generate over £500m a year in global revenues, was sharply criticised by some as potentially damaging for the UK's technology industry at a sensitive time as negotiations continue over Brexit.

Some warned that the move, first reported earlier this month by the Sunday Telegraph, could damage the UK's reputation as a stable place to invest.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said a unilateral UK tax was the “wrong approach”. He said: “Digital tax is a universal problem, and must be taken on in that manner. Any other approach makes Britain economically vulnerable”.

Meanwhile, writing on Twitter, Peter Kyle MP pointed out that Sainsbury alone pays £580m in business rates. He branded the proposed tax, geared to level the playing field with the high street, as “pathetically tokenistic”.

But Chancellor Philip Hammond said the tax, which is expected to affect about 30 companies, was all about “fairness”.

He said: “It's clearly not sustainable, or fair, that digital platform businesses can generate substantial value in the UK without paying tax here in respect of that business.”

He said the tax would be aimed at UK-generated revenues of specific digital platform business models “designed to ensure it is the established tech giants rather than the technology startups which shoulder the burden”.

The announcement confirmed that the levy would not be an online-sales tax on goods ordered over the internet as “such a tax would fall on consumers of those goods – and that is not our intention”. It instead focuses largely on advertising revenues.

According to a consultation document released after Mr Hammond appeared in the House of Commons, the 2pc tax will be applied to the revenues a social media platform generates from revenue targeting adverts at UK users, the revenues a marketplace generates from facilitating a transition between UK users and the revenues a search engine generates from displaying advertising.

It will be rolled out in April 2020, although Mr Hammond said the UK would continue to work with international bodies, the OECD and G20, to attempt to strike an international deal on how to tax tech companies and would not go ahead with its own tax if such an agreement could be reached.

“I’m already looking forward to my call from the former leader of the Liberal Democrats,” joked Mr Hammond in reference to former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who is to join Facebook as its new global affairs and communications chief. Facebook is expected to be among the hardest hit by the planned tax.

The announcement came despite lobbying efforts by companies including Facebook to stave off such measures, amid mounting criticism over the amount of tax tech giants are paying in the UK compared to the profit they are generating in the region.

eMarketer estimates that Facebook generated nearly £2.3bn in digital advertising revenue for 2017, and Google £4.7bn, but the two paid just £15.7m and £50m in UK tax respectively.

If the Treasury is to take £400m every year from the tax, Deloitte's Zubin Patel said it would need to apply “more widely than just the biggest and most famous companies”.

Another tech industry source said the latest measures were a “bit half hearted” and “not the bold decisive moves” which had been expected.

The enormous complexity of crafting an effective tax was also becoming clear.

Based on the Government's estimates, the maximum Google or Facebook would likely pay under the new tax would be £200m, and the amount is expected to be much less, with the OBR suggesting just £30m could be raised from each of the companies. The OBR admitted that its estimates were “subject to high uncertainty due to the data, modelling and behavioural complexities involved”.

The OBR suggested the £400m could be widely optimistic as well, suggesting that the government could lose around 30pc of that revenue by 2024 due to companies redistributing their revenue.

The announcement was met with a mixed response on Monday, as some hailed the move as a key to ensuring the giants pay their fair share, while others warned it would damage the tech sector in the long run.

TechUK chief executive Julian David said the approach risked “undermining the UK’s reputation as the best place to start a tech business or to invest at a time when the UK needed to enhance its attracrtiveness.

However, Adam Rose, a partner at Mischon de Reya, said the tax was “possibly the first step towards bringing the UK's tax system for technology dominated services into the modern era”.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, added that the tax could help level the playing field, saying “tech giants have got away without paying their fair share for too long”.

By Hannah Boland and Matthew Field



Chancellor Philip Hammond prepares last Budget before Brexit

( via – – Mon, 29th Mon 2018) London, Uk – –

Philip Hammond is preparing to present the last Budget before Brexit.

The chancellor is expected to announce a rise in spending on mental health in England and has also hinted at cash for universal credit welfare reforms.

He has admitted a change of approach, including an entirely new economic plan, will be needed if the UK and the EU cannot agree a deal by 29 March.

Labour is calling for more investment in public services to put an end to years of “failed austerity”.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Theresa May promised an end to the cuts made to public spending since 2010 – and Mr Hammond will be under pressure to spell out how that will work.


Philip Hammond is preparing to present the last Budget before Brexit.

The chancellor is expected to announce a rise in spending on mental health in England and has also hinted at cash for universal credit welfare reforms.

He has admitted a change of approach, including an entirely new economic plan, will be needed if the UK and the EU cannot agree a deal by 29 March.

Labour is calling for more investment in public services to put an end to years of “failed austerity”.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Theresa May promised an end to the cuts made to public spending since 2010 – and Mr Hammond will be under pressure to spell out how that will work.

The chancellor's motivation for holding the Budget in October was to get it out of the way, before the last moments of the Brexit process create a Parliamentary rollercoaster.

It was – in a period of political peril for the government – meant to be non-controversial, “slimline”, almost a “holding Budget”, according to senior government figures.

So far, so non-controversial. Except at the Tory conference the prime minister decided to charge the politics around the Budget by suggesting that the era of the squeeze on public spending was at an end.

Economic editor Kamal Ahmed

The chancellor has a number of competing challenges.

Some of them are economic – can he really “end austerity” by spending more and at the same time keep his promise to control the government's £1.8tn debts?

Some of them are political – don't forget the government does not have a majority and pushing any big tax rises, for example, through Parliament would be very difficult. Mr Hammond is also being lent on to be “more positive” on the economy by his next door neighbour at Number 10, Theresa May.

If the UK gets a good deal from the EU, he said, “we will be able to show the British people that the fruits of their hard work are now at last in sight”.

The two sides have not yet reached agreement, and both the UK and the EU are making contingency plans for what happens if there is no deal.

Mr Hammond told Sky News that in this scenario: “We would need to look at a different strategy and frankly we'd need to have a new Budget that set out a different strategy for the future.”

He said the government had a “fiscal buffer” to provide protection for the economy if needed.

Monday's Budget will be based on the assumption of an “average-type free trade deal” being agreed between the two sides, he added.

Follow the Budget on the BBC

The chancellor has been under growing pressure – including from some Tory MPs – to provide more money to protect people losing out from the switch to universal credit, which merges six working-age benefits.

Asked about this, Mr Hammond told the BBC “judge me by my record” – saying he had committed extra money to the scheme in each of his previous two major financial statements.

“When we see things that need addressing, we address them,” he said.

Labour said the entire Budget should be voted down unless the government agrees to halt the roll-out of universal credit.

“The callous complacency of the chancellor who has refused to make good on the Tories' promise to end austerity is shocking,” added shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

“Nothing less than an end to failed austerity in tomorrow's budget will be acceptable.”

The £2bn mental health pledge is included in a £20bn boost to the NHS announced by the government in June. The current annual mental health spend is about £12bn.

The new funds will go towards ensuring round-the-clock mental health support in major A&E centres and providing more mental health ambulances.

People calling the non-urgent 111 number will be directed to the right support thanks to the investment, the government promised.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged there would be no overnight transformation, telling BBC Radio 4's Today that putting mental health services on the same financial footing as physical services was the “work of a generation”.

But he promised the extra resources would come “irrespective” of what happened with Brexit.

Labour responded: “If this announcement is simply money that's already been promised, it will do little to relieve the severe pressures on mental health services that have built up because of this Tory government's relentless underfunding of the NHS.”



Asda to consult staff on 2,500 job cuts

( via– Mon, 29th Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

A union says it will fight for every job as the supermarket chain plans talks with staff next year about a series of changes.

Asda is to consult staff on changes to its business that could result in 2,500 job losses next year – when the UK leaves the EU.

The chain, which is currently planning on merging with Sainsbury's, is the latest major supermarket to announce a shake-up of the way it works aimed at saving costs.

Asda said: “In a competitive retail market, where customers rightly expect great value and ease of service, we must always look at how we can work more quickly and efficiently for them – and inevitably, that means we need to consider changing the roles we need our colleagues to do or the hours needed in particular parts of our stores.

“We believe the proposed changes we are consulting on would allow us to do a better job for our customers.

“We also recognise that discussions about potential change aren't easy.

“If the decision is taken to implement the proposed changes we would work with our colleagues to look at the potential impact of these proposals on them.”

Areas of work affected by any changes include petrol, bakery and back office functions while hours of work are also understood to be up for discussion.

While Asda did not confirm its plans would result in 2,500 job losses it did not deny the figure.

Other members of the so-called “big four”, including Tesco and Morrisons, have already carried out similar exercises.

Asda hopes its planned £12bn tie-up with Sainsbury's – currently the subject of a competition probe – will bring down the cost of their combined offering through lower wholesale costs.

The pair insist they have no plans to cut stores and jobs but MPs have questioned the merits of their merger.

The Competition and Markets Authority, which is investigating the tie-up, said last month there was a substantial risk that business overlap risked harming competition in 463 areas.

If the regulator allowed the deal without action, the combined Asda and Sainsbury's brands would have a slightly bigger market share than current leader Tesco.

GMB union national officer, Gary Carter, said of Asda's announcement: “These proposed redundancies are a hammer blow to Asda workers.

“The timing of this announcement, in the run-up to Christmas, is doubly appalling.

“Asda is performing well and is highly profitable because of the hard work of our members, who are the backbone of the company. GMB will fight tooth and nail for every single job.

“These cuts make no sense whatsoever. Slashing our members' jobs would hurt the service Asda customers receive.

“With all the speculation surrounding the proposed Sainsbury's merger and potential sell-off of stores, this news will not put anyone's mind at rest.”



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