UK’s growth figures increase likelihood of rate rise

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 25 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

The UK's economy had higher than expected growth in the three months to September – increasing the chances of a rise in interest rates in November.

Gross domestic product (GDP) for the quarter rose by 0.4%, compared with 0.3% in each of 2017's first two quarters, according to latest Office for National Statistics figures.

Economists said the figures were a green light for a rate rise next week.

If it happens, it will be the first rise since 5 July 2007.

The financial markets are now indicating an 84% probability that rates will rise from their current record low of 0.25% when the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meets on 2 November.

Governor Mark Carney indicated to the BBC last month that rates could rise in the “relatively near term”.

UK economist Ruth Gregory, of research company Capital Economics, said the figures “have probably sealed the deal on an interest rate hike next week”.

While many economists echo that view, some think the Bank of England will keep rates where they are.

“If all we can muster… is an acceleration in economic growth that's so small you could blink and miss it, the Bank of England could still think better of a rate rise next week,” said Ross Andrews from Minerva Lending.

Will interest rates rise next week? Analysis by economics editor Kamal Ahmed

The slightly better growth figures will strengthen the arguments of the interest rate hawks on the Bank of England's monetary policy committee.

Next Thursday, the Bank's rate setting committee meets to decide whether to raise interest rates for the first time in more than a decade.

With inflation at 3%, Mark Carney, the governor, has signalled that an increase is on the cards.

And with economic growth more robust than many economists expected, those who support that direction of travel on the MPC will be emboldened.

To be clear, any rate rise will be small. And future rate rises will be gradual.

But the Bank is sending a clear message – slowly, eventually, the period of historically low interest rates is coming to an end.

The pound rose more than a cent against the dollar and nearly a cent against the euro in the first couple of hours of trading after the announcement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “We have a successful and resilient economy which is supporting a record number of people in employment.

“My focus now, and going into the Budget, is on boosting productivity so that we can deliver higher-wage jobs and a better standard of living.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “The UK is not growing as fast as many of our trading partners in the EU or the USA.

“The Chancellor cannot keep hiding from the facts, as his approach of carrying on as usual is seriously putting working people's living standards at risk.”

The biggest contributor to growth in the third quarter was the service sector, which expanded by 0.4%.

In particular, computer programming, motor traders and retailers were the businesses that showed the strongest performance.

Manufacturing expanded by 1% during the quarter – a return to growth after a weak second quarter.

However, construction contracted by 0.7% in the quarter, accelerating from the 0.5% decline recorded in the previous three months.

Metro Bank opens 50th branch as pre-tax profits hit £4.7m

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 25 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Profits at Metro Bank surged 135pc in the three months to September after the high street challenger opened its 50th branch.

The seven year-old bank’s pre-tax profits hit £4.7m, up from £2m in the previous quarter and a £416,000 loss in the same period last year.

“Metro Bank continues to win fans, attract deposits, lend to consumers and businesses, and generate profits that are re-invested for the benefit of our customers,” said chairman and founder Vernon Hill.

“We are the revolution in British banking, offering real choice to consumers and businesses.”

Unlike its major high street rivals, Metro Bank has been expanding its network of branches, which it calls stores, and opened its 50th last month in Peterborough. It plans to open a further 17 by the end of next year.

Metro Bank now holds 1.1m customer accounts, and deposits rose 47pc on last year to £10.7bn.

Chief executive Craig Donaldson said the challenger was on track to meet its pledge to lend £1bn to businesses by the end of the year.

The bank also announced the retirement of its chief finance officer Mike Brierly, who will leave in March 2018. Pending regulatory approval, he will be replaced by Sainsbury’s Bank CFO David Arden.

 By Jack Torrance

Government considering plans for six-week interest holiday for debtors

SeniorLiving.Org

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Tue, 24 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –
Lenders could be forced to give people struggling with problem debt a six-week interest holiday to give them time to get their finances in order, the government announced today.

The government is considering evidence on whether to implement the policy, with a view to publishing draft legislation by the end of 2018 or 2019 at the latest. This morning it announced a call for evidence to the City in an announcement on the regulatory news service.

Under the plans, individuals in debt could receive “up to six weeks free from further interest, charges and enforcement action”, giving them “breathing space”.

The government also floated plans to “include legal protections that would shield individuals from further creditor action once a plan to repay their debts is in place.”

The call for evidence issued by the Treasury also includes the possibility of a statutory repayment plan for problem debtors, who are defined as people for whom debt and arrears absorb an excessive proportion of income.

The move was announced in the Conservative party’s manifesto for the June 2017 election, but had not been followed up until now, although cross-party pressure to fulfil the promise had begun to build.

Debt charity Step Change says as many as 8.8m Britons face financial difficulties which could lead to hardship. Mike O’Connor, the charity's chief executive, welcomed the move, saying it would be “crucial to helping people who are overwhelmed by debt to recover control of their finances and move on with their lives.”

He said: “The government is asking the right sort of questions, including noting the importance that their own debts could be within any scheme. But we know from the experiences of our clients that continuous protection between the initial breathing space period and any statutory repayment plan is vital. Any interruption would destabilise fragile family finances and risk putting people back to square one.”

Consumer debt has risen up the political agenda in recent months as rising inflation has added to a squeeze on real incomes, with strong evidence that households have run down their savings in order to fund consumption. At the same time, consumer debt is still growing at almost 10 per cent per year.

The Financial Conduct Authority last week warned that half of British adults display at last one characteristic signalling their potential vulnerability to financial harm.

The government said it will meet key industry representatives from charities, debt advice organisations, lenders and creditors, as well as hearing from members of the public.

City minister Stephen Barclay, said: “For many people in the UK problem debt seems impossible to escape. Its effects can be far-reaching, impacting all aspects of a person's life and leaving them feeling helpless.

“That is why we are working to give people who are overwhelmed by debt, more time to seek advice, find a workable solution, and help get their lives back on track.”

By Jasper Jolly

BrightHouse agrees to pay £14.8m in compensation to customers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via independent.co.uk – – Tue, 24 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Rent-to-own firm BrightHouse has agreed to pay out £14.8m in redress to 249,000 customers after the financial watchdog found that it did not act as a “responsible lender”.

The compensation is linked to 384,000 customer lending agreements which “may not have been affordable” and payments “which should have been refunded”, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

BrightHouse, which provides household goods to customers on hire purchase agreements, has been working with the FCA since 2014 after the watchdog identified the firm's lending assessment and collections processes fell short of its expectations.

The FCA said that the group “did not always deliver good outcomes for customers, particularly those who were at a higher risk of falling into financial difficulty”.

BrightHouse has “identified customers that may have been treated unfairly where its processes fell short of FCA expectations” and has committed to “putting things right” for these customers.

Where it is determined that customers were not assessed properly at the outset of the loan and may have had difficulty making payments, and providing they handed back the goods, BrightHouse will be paid back the interest and fees charged under the agreement, plus compensatory interest of 8 per cent.

Customers who retained the goods will have their balances written off. This part of the redress totals around £10.1m for 114,000 agreements entered into between April 1 2014 and September 30 2016, covering 81,000 customers.

Those customers who made the first payment due under an agreement with the firm which was cancelled prior to the delivery of the goods will be refunded by BrightHouse plus receive compensatory interest of 8 per cent. This redress totals around £4.7m for 270,000 agreements entered into after 1 April 2010 covering 181,000 customers.

BrightHouse will write to all affected customers, some of whom are affected by both sets of circumstances, to explain the refund or balance adjustment that they will receive.

The FCA added that BrightHouse has worked to improve its lending application assessment to ensure that loans are affordable and customers are treated fairly during the collections process, including revising its late payment fee structure.

Jonathan Davidson, executive director of supervision at the FCA, said: “During the time in question, BrightHouse was not a responsible lender and failed to meet our expectations of firms in this sector.

“I am pleased that it has agreed to provide redress to those customers affected by these historic practices.

“This scheme continues our work with the rent-to-own sector to resolve the concerns we have previously identified.

“Responsible lending and the fair treatment of consumers, especially those in financial difficulties or who are vulnerable, are key priorities for us.”

 

City investors overjoyed after dividends reached a record £28.5bn in the first quarter

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon, 23 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

City investors are enjoying a bumper payday after dividends reached a record £28.5bn during the third quarter of this year.

Despite some currency gains fading in the third quarter, which boosted British blue-chips earlier this year, dividends still rose by 14.3pc in the third quarter, said Capita Asset Services.

The surge in payouts has meant that this year is comfortably on track to smash the previous annual record for dividends set in 2014.

Capita has upgraded its forecasts by £3bn and now expects dividends to reach £94bn in 2017, a 11pc rise on last year.

The level has been partly boosted by a £1.5bn hike in special dividends, which were two-fifths higher than the year. Catering company Compass helped lift that figure by awarding £960m to shareholders.

The sizeable special dividend came after Capita announced it would return 61p-a-share to investors in May after being unable to find large-scale deals on which to spend its excess cash. Recruitment business Hays also issued its first-ever special dividend in August on the back of strong international fees, despite a steep fall in the UK market.

Special dividends have become increasingly common as companies seek to reward investors but still want financial flexibility given the uncertain economic backdrop.

Awarding special dividends means that companies are not under pressure to continue increasing normal dividend payments should their financial performance worsen. Underlying dividends reached £17bn during the third quarter, with two-thirds of payouts coming from the mining sector, which has enjoyed a return to growth after a sustained commodity slump.

“We had high hopes for 2017, but the dividend seam is proving even richer than we expected, as the mining sector finds its footing again,” said Justin Cooper, chief executive of Capita’s shareholder solutions.

By 

Mayor Sadiq Khan’s £10 T-Charge comes into force in London

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 23 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Drivers of older, more polluting vehicles will have to pay almost twice as much to drive in central London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan's £10 T-Charge, which mainly applies to diesel and petrol vehicles registered before 2006, has come into force.

It covers the same area as the existing congestion charge zone, bumping up the cost to £21.50 for those affected.

Opponents said the scheme would “disproportionately penalise London's poorest drivers”.

The measure is the latest attempt by Mr Khan to improve air quality in the capital and according to the mayor's office, will impact 34,000 motorists a month.

  • Old banger vs diesel: Which is more toxic?
  • Reality Check: Does pollution cut short 40,000 lives a year?
  • Pollution warning as London air quality alerts are issued
  • How bad is air pollution in the UK?

Speaking on the Today programme, Mr Khan said: “We've got a health crisis in London caused by the poor quality air.

“Roughly speaking each year more than 9,000 Londoners die prematurely because of the poor quality air – children in our city whose lungs are underdeveloped, with adults who suffer from conditions such as asthma, dementia and strokes directly caused by poor quality air.”

However, Simon Birkett, from the campaign group Clean Air London, does not believe the move goes far enough.

“The Mayor has pledged in his manifesto to restore London's air quality to legal and safe limits and that means he has to do a whole lot more.

“We want him to take steps which are bigger, stronger an smarter.”

Mr Khan has described the introduction of the T-Charges as “part of a package of measures” being undertaken.

‘Filthy air'

Many people have taken to social media to express their views on the new levy.

Daniel McGuiness said on Twitter: “T-Charge, it's a start but there's still a long way to go in tackling the public health emergency that is our filthy air. #CleanAir”

What is changing?

From Monday 23 October, there will be a £10 daily fee for those who drive more polluting vehicles in the congestion charging zone, on top of the existing £11.50 congestion charge.

Vehicles that do not comply with the Euro IV exhaust standard must pay the charge.

The standard defines emissions limits for cars, vans, buses, coaches and lorries. Most vehicles registered before 2006 are likely to exceed these limits.

The zone will operate between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday.

Find out if your car is affected with TfL's T-Charge checker.

Line Break

The T-Charge is the first of a series of new rates being introduced in London.

It is due to be replaced by a stricter Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2020, although Mr Khan is consulting on bringing this forward to 2019.

This will mean diesel cars registered before September 2015 and petrol cars registered before 2006 will face a £12.50 charge.

  • Row over ‘pointless' new London congestion charge
  • The Air You Breathe: Analysing the chemicals in the air we exhale
  • T-charge: Is it already changing drivers' behaviour?
  • How toxic is your car exhaust?

The mayor hopes to expand the area covered for cars and vans up to the North and South Circular roads in 2021.

City authorities in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Derby and Nottingham have also been advised to impose charges for some polluting diesel vehicles by 2020, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

To tackle air pollution, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council proposed a ban on petrol and diesel cars from travelling in the city from 2020.

Paris, Grenoble and Lyon introduced an emission sticker scheme in January which splits vehicles into six different groups depending on their Euro Emissions standard.

Vehicles deemed too polluting – which includes petrol and diesel-powered cars registered before 1997 – are not granted a sticker, banning them from driving in the city during certain times.

‘Toxic' cars hit with new charge

Sue Terpilowski, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The introduction of the T-Charge comes at a time when small and micro-businesses in London are already facing astonishingly high property, employment and logistics costs.

“There is a fear that this will be the final straw that closes businesses and takes jobs.”

Shaun Bailey, conservative environment spokesman at the London Assembly, said: “As an asthmatic I'm well aware of how critical an issue this is for London but we need policies that actually deliver progress.

“By boasting about a policy that so disproportionately penalises London's poorest drivers and puts jobs at risk, the mayor is simply blowing more smoke into the capital's already-polluted atmosphere.”

Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said: “Clearly the last thing individuals want is a new charge for moving around, but the grim reality is that nearly 10,000 early deaths are caused in London each year by the capital's toxic air, so the Mayor is right to try to dissuade drivers bringing the oldest, dirtiest vehicles into central London.

“It's only one small step towards clean air though – we urgently need a programme of meaningful financial assistance to help drivers of the dirtiest vehicles switch to something cleaner, and bold policies to cut traffic over all.”

The mayor is also seeking new powers to ban wood burning in the most polluted areas of the capital.

When asked if wood-burning stoves would be banned entirely, Mr Khan told the Today programme the problem was with the material that was being burnt and a lack of maintenance rather than the stoves themselves.

 

The stunning Colombia rainbow river

 

This is Colombia's stunning rainbow river, Cano Crystals. The stunning footage captured by TravelDrone4K, shows the colourful river which is filled with macarenia clavigera plant. This plant changes colour depending on the light and water conditions. The plants within the river have been seen in green, orange, red, yellow, and even blue.  Cano Cristales was previously in guerrilla territory during the early 2000s, making it an area too dangerous for tourist.  Nowadays it is much safer to visit the stunning landscape.

 

AOL: The Rise and Fall of the First Internet Empire

 

AOL was one of the early pioneers of the Internet in the mid-1990s, and the most recognized brand on the web in the U.S

It originally provided a dial-up service to millions of Americans, as well as providing a web portal, e-mail, instant messaging and later a web browser following its purchase of Netscape.

At the height of its popularity, it purchased the media conglomerate Time Warner in the largest merger in U.S. history. AOL rapidly declined thereafter, partly due to the decline of dial-up to broadband.

Relativity the company going to space on the cheap

 

Relativity Space and its two founders – Tim and Jordan – have a plan to make rockets faster and cheaper than anyone else. To do this, they're looking to build every part of a rocket – its engine, its fuel tanks and its body – with giant 3D printers.

Millennials discount railcard for 26 to 30-year-olds to launch early next year

(qlmbusinessnews.com via standard.co.uk — Fri, 20 Oct 2017) London, Uk —

Millennials could soon be entitled to their own discount railcard offering 26 to 30-year-olds a third off all train journeys.

Train company Greater Anglia Railways will trial a new card for young people from December before the scheme is rolled out nationally early next year, a leaked staff briefing suggested.

A document circulated on a UK rail forum, which appears to have been sent to Rail Delivery Group (RDG) staff, says that the scheme will go national in early 2018.

Greater Anglia Railways will initially offer 10,000 cards, according to Moneysavingexpert.com. The briefing document adds that this will be increased in 2018.

The unverified document also said that the new pass will be based on the existing 16-26 railcard, which gives a third off most fares, the Telegraph reported.

There is likely to be a £12 minimum fare for tickets (other than advanced fares) between 4.30am and 10am Monday to Friday – excluding public holidays and dates in July and August.

The RDG, which represents train companies, has declined to comment on plans for the wider launch, according to the Telegraph.

Similar railcards cost around £30-a-year, with frequent discounts available.

Millennials, which are the first generation to earn less than their parents, are likely to welcome the announcement.

Research published earlier this year showed men born between 1981 and 2000 earn an average of £12,500 less by the time they are 30 than the previous generation.

Millennials are said to fare significantly worse than their parents during their first years of employment, according to research by the Resolution Foundation. Young Brits earned £8,000 less during their 20s than their parents.

A spokeswoman for Greater Anglia said it will be trialling the railcard from December, and said passengers will be able to sign up for it via the Railcard app on Apple or Android.

She said: “We are delighted to be at the forefront of this innovative trial, bringing better value fares and more convenience to rail passengers in East Anglia.”

By Ella Wills

Marks & Spencer banking arm announced plans to launch mortgage range

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 20 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

You will soon be able to buy a house with Marks & Spencer, after the retail giant’s banking arm announced plans to launch a mortgage range.

The company better known for selling groceries and underwear will roll out its first mortgage products early next year, subject to regulatory approval.

The M&S Bank products will be targeted at both first-time buyers and home movers, with rates and further details to be announced next year.

Sue Fox, chief executive of M&S Bank, said: “Many of our customers have shopped with M&S their whole lives, feeling the comfort of the brand at every key life event.

“We’re now in a position to support our customers with the biggest financial decision they’ll ever make – their home.”

M&S Bank, which launched in 2012 and has four million customers, currently offers credit cards, loans and current accounts. Its number of current account customers has grown 60pc over the last two years.

The bank has its roots in the financial services division of M&S, which was founded in 1985.

It is a joint venture between HSBC and M&S, although it has its own banking licence and its own board. It has 29 branches and over 120 bureaux de change in M&S stores.

By 

Banks may soon implement ‘hotline’ for victims of financial fraud

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 19 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Victims of financial fraud might soon be able to call for help via a new telephone hotline, similar to the 999 emergency service.

Under the plan anyone worried about scammers would be able to dial 555.

The idea – which is in its early stages – is being examined by Financial Fraud Action UK, and has backing from the Home Office.

Victims could be transferred immediately to their bank's fraud department or to the Police.

The information could also be used to help build up a database of incidents.

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In the first half of 2017 there were over 937,000 cases of fraud, many of which involved scammers trying to persuade victims to transfer their money into other accounts.

In such cases, prompt action is vital, allowing banks to freeze accounts and stop cash being moved.

“Protecting customers from fraud is a top priority for all banks and the industry is always investigating new ways to improve its response,” said a spokesperson for UK Finance.

“This is one potential idea that is at the very early stages of being explored.”

By Brian Milligan

UK Fintech firms set for a record breaking year of investments

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Thur, 19 Oct2017) London, Uk – –

Fintech startups in the UK are on track to attract a record amount of investment in 2017 new figures reveal, bucking concerns that Brexit could derail the star sector.

More than $1bn (£760m) has already been ploughed into technology firms hoping to disrupt finance this year by venture capital investors, more than double the amount this time last year according to fresh data from London and Partners and Pitchbook.

Read more: City calls for fintech sector deal to ensure UK remains leader after Brexit

Investment is set to smash 2015 when $1.16bn was invested in UK fintech, cementing London's position as the fintech capital of Europe and a global hub. It hit a five quarter high in the third quarter, with 37 deals worth $358m separate figures published by CB Insights show.

The data also predicts that investment across Europe could break the $2bn barrier for the first time in 2017, having already hit a record of $1.8bn across 216 deals in the first three quarters of the year.

The already bumper year has been largely driven by the UK, accounting for around half of investment and eight of the 10 biggest deals of third quarter. They include $66m for digital challenger bank Revolut, $50m for accountancy software firm Receipt Bank and $40m for lending platform Prodigy Finance.

Along with investment in China expected to hit new highs, it puts fintech investment globally on track for a record year. So far this year, firms around the world have raised $12.2bn across 818 deals. However, analysts believe the cash going into fintech in the US will be off record highs for a second year in a row. The country's still expected to grab the lion's share of cash, followed by China and the UK.

Meanwhile, a separate soon-to-be published report from Investec has noted increasing interest from new investors. “Reaffirming the global appeal of London’s fintech sector, in 2017 we have seen a large number of international investors invest in London fintechs who have not invested in London previously,” said co-head of emerging companies Kevin Chong.

Read more: Open Banking comes another step closer: Fintechs can apply for FCA approval

Deputy mayor for business Rajesh Agrawal said the figures were “yet more proof that global investors believe London will remain a leading fintech hub for many years to come”.

“Clearly, Brexit poses major challenges – but London’s position as a global financial centre and world-class technology hub is built on strong foundations which cannot be replicated anywhere else: access to more software developers than Stockholm, Berlin and Dublin combined, Europe’s largest fintech accelerator Level 39, and the continent’s only truly global financial market.”

He added: “This highlights the need for a Brexit which enables London to maintain its place at the heart of the single market, as Europe’s financial capital.”

By Lynsey Barber

Amazon and eBay warned over VAT fraudsters by MP

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 18 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Amazon and eBay are profiting from sellers who defraud UK taxpayers by failing to charge VAT, according to a report by MPs.

The report estimates up to £1.5bn has been lost from third-party sellers on online marketplaces not charging the tax on sales they make in the UK.

MPs in the Public Accounts Committee criticised HMRC for being “too cautious” in pursuing the “fraudsters”.

Amazon and eBay said they were working with HMRC on the issue.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, called online VAT fraud “hugely damaging” for British businesses and taxpayers.

She added that “the response of HMRC and the marketplaces where fraudsters operate has been dismal”.

‘Bewildering'

The fraud has increased because foreign firms selling goods to UK shoppers – usually via online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay – are keeping some of their stock in UK warehouses to provide next day delivery.

If items are dispatched from UK soil, the sellers have to charge VAT at 20%.

But many have not been, so undercutting genuine UK suppliers and reducing tax revenue, the committee's report found.

Brexit will make the issue more complicated because of uncertainty over trading and customs, it added.

Both Amazon and eBay told the committee they took action to remove “bad actors” from their sites.

But the report said it was “bewildering that these big companies have taken such little action to date”.

It added that Amazon and eBay, amongst other online marketplaces, “continue to profit from fraudulent activities taking place on their sites” by charging the sellers a commission.

In the hearings a pack of lightbulb socket converters and a hose for a Dyson vacuum cleaner were held up as examples of products sold without VAT.

‘Above and beyond'

The report's conclusions include:

  • The UK's tax agency, HMRC, should set up an agreement with online marketplaces by March next year to tackle the issue
  • The websites should require non-EU sellers – which dispatch goods already in the UK – to provide a valid VAT number
  • HMRC should “inject more urgency” by making more extensive use of its existing powers

HMRC said it had introduced new rules last year to hold online marketplaces liable for unpaid VAT by overseas sellers, leading to a ten-fold rise in the number of sellers registering for VAT.

“The new reforms will secure an extra £875m in tax to help pay for vital public services,” an HMRC spokesman said.

In a statement Amazon said it was reviewing the report and supported efforts to ensure sellers across all marketplaces were VAT compliant.

An eBay spokesperson said it was going “above and beyond” HMRC's requirements to provide a “fair marketplace for all our buyers and sellers”.

Sainsbury’s to axing 2,000 jobs in cost cutting overhaul

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 18 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Sainsbury’s is axing 2,000 jobs as the supermarket attempts to slash £500m of costs as it struggles with rising pressures from the return of  food inflation and soaring wage bills.

The grocer, which paid £1.4bn for Argos last year, has launched a radical staffing overhaul which will mean 1,400 payroll and human resources jobs will be scrapped. The retailer is also restructuring its human resources functions at its banking arm and Argos, which could lead to a further 600 job losses, a Sainsbury's spokesman confirmed.

In August, the Sunday Telegraph revealed that the supermarket had drawn up a staff reduction plan to meet its cost cutting target. Sainsbury’s employs 3,000 staff outside of its stores, including at its Holborn base in London. It also has a separate human resources centre in Manchester, an IT team in Walsgrave, Coventry, and a banking division in Edinburgh.

The staffing shake-up comes as the supermarket grapples with lower profits due to the price-war launched by discounters Aldi and Lidl whilst facing rising costs related to a weaker pound, the living wage and apprentice levy which is thought to have added tens of millions of pounds to its staffing bill.

Sainsbury’s has already cut 400 jobs in March while a further 4,000 employees were told they face major changes to their working hours in a shake-up of night shift work at 140 stores. Sainsbury’s follows Tesco in swinging the axe over its back-office staff. Britain’s biggest retailer unveiled 1,200 head office redundancies in June, just one week after it cut 1,100 jobs at a Cardiff call centre.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “The UK grocery market is changing at a rapid pace and it’s crucial that we transform the way we operate to meet future challenges and continue to provide customers with best in class service.

“Following a comprehensive review, we are proposing some updates to our HR structures and systems, as well as changes to a number of other support roles, subject to consultation.”

By 

FTSE edges down, Merlin Entertainments suffers collapse on poor summer trading

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 17 Oct, 2017) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – UK shares edged lower on Tuesday, with a flurry of trading updates animating early deals, such as tourist attractions operator Merlin Entertainments, which saw its shares collapse on disappointing summer sales.

The FTSE .FTSE had retreated 0.20 percent by 0839 GMT, barely moved by fresh data which showed British inflation rose to its highest level in more than five years and could make the Bank of England more likely to raise interest rates next month.

Shares in Merlin (MERL.L) plunged as much as 21 percent, its biggest fall ever, after the operator of Madame Tussauds waxworks blamed a series of attacks in Britain and unfavourable weather for a dip in trading in its key summer period.

“Given all this additional uncertainty we see less and less reasons to own the shares,” Liberum analysts said as the shares, trading at about 355p, touched three years low levels.

Mediclinic (MDCM.L) retreated 3.5 percent after a trading update and there was no bounce back for Convatec, still down 0.8 percent, after a profit warning triggered a sell-off on Monday and a 26.6 percent fall.

“While the market may be quiet, it is currently extremely intolerant of any company that dares to miss forecasts”, Chris Beauchamp, an IG market analyst, wrote about the slump of Convatec on Monday.

British education group Pearson (PSON.L) on the other hand was the FTSE 100 top performer, with a 5.2 percent rise, after it said it expected full-year operating profit to come in at the top half of its forecast range.

British challenger bank Virgin Money (VM.L) also shone after reporting gross mortgage lending of 6.5 billion pounds to the end of the third quarter and said it had seen robust customer demand due to low unemployment and a resilient housing market.

Investec analyst Ian Gordon said he expected the “stunning performance” to lead to new consensus upgrades on the stock.

Golba miner Rio Tinto (RIO.L) was up 0.3 percent after it said it lifted third quarter iron ore shipments by 6 percent after modernising its haulage railway in Australia’s outback.

British online fashion retailer ASOS (ASOS.L) which increased its outlook for sales growth in its 2018 financial year, saw its shares rise by 1 percent.

By Julien Ponthus

Automation to effect one in five job across the UK according to new research

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 17 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Workers in shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s constituency face highest risk of being replaced by robots, says research

Workers in the constituency of shadow chancellor John McDonnell are at the highest risk of seeing their jobs automated in the looming workplace revolution that will affect at least one in five employees in all parliamentary seats, according to new research.

The thinktank Future Advocacy – which specialises in looking at the big 21st century policy changes – said at least one-fifth of jobs in all 650 constituencies were at high risk of being automated, rising to almost 40% in McDonnell’s west London seat of Hayes and Harlington.

The thinktank’s report also found that the public was largely untroubled by the risk that their job might be at threat. Only 2% of a sample of more than 2,000 people were very worried that they might be replaced by a machine, with a further 5% fairly worried.

Future Advocacy’s report has been based on a PWC study earlier this year showing that more than 10 million workers were at risk of being replaced by automation and represents the first attempt to show the impact at local level.

The thinktank said McDonnell’s seat would be affected because it contains Heathrow airport, which has a large number of warehousing jobs that could be automated. Of the 92,150 employees in Hayes and Harlington in 2015, 36,170 (39.3%) were at high risk of having their jobs automated by the early 2030s. Crawley – the seat that includes Gatwick airport – was seen as the second most vulnerable constituency.

Future Advocacy said its report was an “attempt to encourage a geographically more sophisticated understanding of, and response to, the future of work, and also an attempt to encourage MPs to pay more attention to this critical issue”.

Opinion is divided on the likely impact of the artificial intelligence revolution on jobs. Optimists have said that the lesson from history is that technological change leads to more jobs being created than destroyed, while pessimists have argued that AI is different because the new machines will be able to do intellectual as well as routine physical tasks.

“One thing that almost all economists agree on is that change is coming and that its scale and scope will be unprecedented. Automation will impact different geographies, genders, and socioeconomic classes differently,” the report noted.

It added that “the highest levels of future automation are predicted in Britain’s former industrial heartlands in the Midlands and the north of England, as well as the industrial centres of Scotland. These are areas which have already suffered from deindustrialisation and many of them are unemployment hot spots.”

Olly Buston, one of the report’s authors, said it was vital that lessons were learned from the 1980s. “Let’s not have a repeat of the collapse of the coal-mining industry,” he said. “Instead, we should have a smarter strategy.”

Noting that there would be a political pay off for the party that came up with the best strategy for coping with the robot age, the report makes a number of recommendations for the government.

They include: publishing a white paper on adapting the education system so that it focuses on creativity and interpersonal skills in addition to the stem subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths; developing a post-Brexit migration policy that allows UK-based AI companies and universities to attract the best talent; exploring ways to ensure the benefits of the AI revolution are spread through research into alternative income and taxation models, including investigation of a universal basic income; and conducting further detailed research to assess which employees were most at risk of losing their jobs.

The report said that it was “arguably automation – rather than globalisation – that has created the economic and social conditions that led to political shockwaves such as the election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit.

The report found that the leaders of the four main Westminster parties represented seats where more than 25% of jobs were at high risk of being automated, while the constituency with the lowest proportion of high-risk jobs was Labour-held Edinburgh South.

High-risk constituencies typically contained large numbers of people working in transport or manufacturing, while lower-risk constituencies – including Edinburgh South, Wirral West and Oxford East – had high concentrations of workers employed in education and health.

By Larry Elliott

Facebook to invest £1 million in Uk’s schools to help pupils become “digital safety ambassadors”

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon, 16 Oct, 2017) London, Uk – –

Facebook says tens of thousands of children in secondary schools could be taught to counter cyber bullying by the social network.

The company is investing £1 million in helping pupils in the UK's 4,500 secondary schools to become “digital safety ambassadors” – young people trained on how to counter online abuse.

Facebook lets anybody aged 13 or over to have a Facebook or Instagram account, but up to one in four children have experienced online bullying, according to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety estimates.

According to research released on Monday, more than half would prefer to deal with bullying online instead of turning to an adult, but are more likely to seek the advice of friends.

Facebook says it is providing online help on how to combat cyber bullying, and funding youth charities to carry out face-to-face training in classrooms. It has partnered with the Diana Award, an anti-bullying charity set up in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Childnet International.

The social network's head of safety Antigone Davis said: “Over the last decade, we have developed a wealth of innovative resources on Facebook that enable young people to look after themselves and their peers, from our updated Safety Centre, to our online reporting tools. By offering trained digital safety ambassadors to every UK secondary school we are now taking this commitment offline too.”

 The company says it wants trained pupils in every school, ultimately meaning tens of thousands will be taught.

Last week, the Government promised to make Britain the “safest place in the world to be online” with a new internet safety strategythat would include an industry-wide levy to fund anti-bullying measures.

New data protection laws will also require social media sites like Facebook to delete posts made about a user before they turned 18 if they demand it.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said on Monday: “The internet has many amazing opportunities for our young people but what is unacceptable offline needs to be unacceptable on a computer screen.

“Our Internet Safety Strategy aims to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and working together with companies like Facebook is how we can all contribute to a positive online environment.”

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Financial Conduct Authority chief exec warns of a “pronounced” build up of debt among young people

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 16 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

The chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority has warned of a “pronounced” build up of debt among young people.

In an interview with the BBC, Andrew Bailey said the young were having to borrow for basic living costs.

The regulator also said he “did not like” some high-cost lending schemes.

He said consumers, and institutions that lend to them, should be aware that interest rates may rise in the future and that credit should be “affordable”.

The head of the FCA was talking to the BBC as part of its ‘Money Matters' coverage, looking at the issues of credit and debt in the UK.

Mr Bailey said action was being taken to curb long-term credit card debt and high-cost pay-day loans.

The regulator is also looking at charges in the rent-to-own sector which can leave people paying high levels of interest for buying white goods such as washing machines, he added.

“There is a pronounced build up of indebtedness amongst the younger age group,” Mr Bailey said.

“We should not think this is reckless borrowing, this is directed at essential living costs. It is not credit in the classic sense, it is [about] the affordability of basic living in many cases.”

‘Generational shift'

Although Mr Bailey said that high levels of consumer debt was not a crisis “in the macro-economic sense”, it did matter to struggling individuals whose stories he had listened to during visits to debt management charities.

“There are particular concentrations [of debt] in society, and those concentrations are particularly exposed to some of the forms and practices of high cost debt which we are currently looking at very closely because there are things in there that we don't like,” Mr Bailey said.

“There has been a clear shift in the generational pattern of wealth and income, and that translates into a greater indebtedness at a younger age.

“That reflects lower levels of real income, lower levels of asset ownership. There are quite different generational experiences,” he said.

Mr Bailey was speaking as research shows young people in particular are concerned about the amount of debt they are carrying and their ability to repay that debt

He said the high price of renting and lack of income growth meant that more people had to use credit to make ends meet.

Gig economy

Recent Bank of England figures show that consumer debt, excluding mortgages, now totals over £200bn and is approaching levels not seen since the financial crisis.

The increase in what is known as “unsecured lending” on credit cards, car loan schemes, personal loans and overdrafts is running at 10% a year.

People are also saving less as ultra low interest rates eat into returns.

“Obviously we all question how long this can that go on for,” Mr Bailey said. “But in aggregate it isn't on its own something that we should be describing as a crisis.”

He added: “I am not of the school of thought that credit should not be available to this section of society because credit should be there to smooth income in the classic sense, and we know there are more people with erratic income flows, that is one of the features of the so-called gig-economy.”

Mr Bailey said that “sustainable credit is a necessary part of society”.

By Kamal Ahmed