News Headlines: Monday 6th January

Economics

Calling 2014 “the year of hard choices” Chancellor Osborne will today set out plans to slash public spending, cap welfare and create a permanently smaller state after the 2015 election, saying that long-term recovery remains in the balance unless austerity is extended.  This comes as three major business surveys today (from Lloyds, Deloitte, and EEF) indicate that companies are optimistic about their ability to expand and create jobs this year. But in comments that will balance out the current optimism about the UK’s economic recovery, Osborne will highlight that the Government is still borrowing too much and paying too much interest on the national debt, requiring a fundamental change in the shape and nature of the State to enable Britain to once again be able to live with its means. This vision of a smaller state is also key to creating distance between the Tories and the other parties ahead of the election.  Osborne will say that the only way to permanently cut taxes is to permanently cut the spending those taxes pay for. (Telegraph front page, FT front page, Mail p.2, Guardian p.2)

Personal Finance

David Cameron has refused to guarantee universal pensioner benefits such as winter fuel allowance, free TV licenses and bus passes after 2015. Sources at No.10 have indicated that the PM is personally committed to the policy, but faces major opposition within his cabinet. Cameron has already pledged to keep the “triple lock” guarantee that state pensions will rise in line with inflation, wages or 2.5% if he’s elected, meaning that millions can expect an extra £1,000 a year in state pension by 2020.  But pensioner groups say this is worthless if energy prices keep on soaring. The National Pensioners’ Convention said the current £110.15 a week is the second lowest in the developed world after Mexico, arguing that add-ons are essential as British pensions don’t stretch far enough to cover travel on public transport or to heat homes.  (Daily Mail front page, Telegraph front page, Mirror p.2, Express p.2, Sun p.4, Times p.2, Independent p.4)

Property

The rising cost of commuting to and from London by train is eating into the mortgage savings made by living in popular commuter towns outside the capital, according to the latest research from haart.  The estate agents revealed that on average about half of the savings made by living in places such as Cambridge and Leamington Spa are lost on train tickets. The average mortgage saving by commuters was £10,799, compared with the £5,160 price of a season train ticket. Chief executive Paul Smith warned that people need to factor in the spiralling cost of commuting to London, “which may ultimately discourage people from moving out” (Telegraph B5, City AM p.3)

Recruitment

Business leaders have hit out at Labour’s plans to end the UK’s “chronic dependency on low-skill, low-wage labour from abroad”, as Ed Miliband vows to prevent companies from abusing loopholes in EU employment law to hire foreign workers through agencies at cheap rates, instead of British job-seekers. But CBI has claimed that the use of temporary agency workers is perfectly legal and has provided the flexibility needed to keep our economy going through the credit crisis. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation also said that agency workers gained all the benefits of permanent employees (including maternity leave and statuary redundancy pay), despite Miliband’s view that they are locked into a dangerous cycle of low wages, low skills and insecure jobs.  (Sun p.2, FT p.2, Guardian p.6, Times p.7, Independent p.15)

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Daily Newspaper Summary: Friday 27th December 2013

Economics

Fears of a festive slump across the retail sector were dispelled on Boxing Day as sales delivered a Christmas boost to Britain’s retailers. More than £2.7 billion was spent in stores and at online retailers across the UK with many shops reporting their busiest Boxing Day to date. Around 1.4 million shoppers were expected to have spent a total of more than £50 million in London’s West End yesterday. The Daily Telegraph, front page and everywhere else.

Personal Finance

The current strength of the pound is making exotic holiday destinations such as Bali and South Africa ore affordable as Brits find that their money goes further. The stronger sterling is giving Britons up to 28 per cent more spending money abroad this month, compared to this time last year. The Times, pg 21; The Daily Mail, pg 49

Fifty per cent of pensioners want higher interest rates to counteract the disastrous effects of years of low returns on their savings. Fifty per cent of the over sixties say a rise in interest rates would make them better off, according to a survey. By contrast, just seven per cent say they would be worse off. The Daily Mail, pg 18.

Property

There is currently a boom in sales of £1 million + houses  which have risen by ten per cent above the previous peak they of 2007, with 9,700 transactions at that level, according to Hamptons International’s analysis of Land Registry data. London accounted for around 70 per cent of £1 million + house sales this year and according the research new hotspots have emerged over the last six years with Battersea and St John’s Wood both moving into the £1 million + top ten. The Times, pg 11; The Daily Mail, pg 37

Britain’s high end housing market risks falling into a “zombie zone” as political rhetoric against foreign investors builds in the run up to the general election. George Osborne utilised his autumn statement to kick off the Tory party’s re-election aspirations with a crackdown on wealthy foreign homeowners who will be liable to pay capital gains tax in future. Ed Mead, Director at Douglas & Gordon, said the market was likely to fall into a zombie state, with a slowdown of growth at the top end of the market generated by uncertainty. The FT, pg 2.

Recruitment / HR

According to an exclusive in The Mirror staff in just three governmental departments pocketed more than £15 million in bonuses last year. £6.5 million of tax payer money was dished out to Home Office workers alone, 44.9% higher than the previous year. The Mirror, pg 6.

News Headlines – Saturday 14th December

Economics

The construction industry recorded its highest growth in two years in October, led by a revival in house building. Output increased 2.2% in October, according to the ONS, driven by a 5.5% increase in house-building and a 5.8% increase in infrastructure construction. The government stats came as the Mortgage Advice Bureau found 40% of adults were planning to move house, re-mortgage or buy their first home in 2016, before the end of the Government’s Help to Buy Scheme. More than a quarter of mortgage seekers only afford a 5% deposit, according to MAB, evidence of the demand for the scheme.

Recruitment/Education

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has rejected two applications from grammar schools, to open a satellite school in Kent – claiming it is an illegal attempt to open a new grammar school. Under current legislation, selective schools are allowed to expand, but the opening of new grammar schools is forbidden.

Gove also sanctioned the closure of one of the first free schools , after Ofsted inspectors reported that it wasn’t making enough progress, after warnings that pupils at the school were failing to receive a thorough enough education. This is the first free school to be closed down – and was used by critics to argue the coalition’s educations reforms were not working. Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary said the government’s free schools policy had led to “a huge waste of public money and poor standards.”

Property

The average price of a ‘prime’ home in London is set to rise above £6m in the next 30 years, according to family wealth manager Fleming Family & Partners (FF&P). Prime areas including Belgravia, South Kensington and Knightsbridge are expected to rise in price from up to £1.5m today to up to £6.4m in 30 years’ time, an estimate based on a ‘modest’ annual rate rise of 5%. The report found property to be the best performing asset class for the ultra-rich individual over the next 30 years.

Personal Finance

In the FT, Josephine Cumbo writes how the government is under pressure to intervene in the £12bn-a-year annuity market, after an influential consumer group warned that millions of people stood to lose out in retirement. This call was inspired by a study published by the Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP), which concluded that consumers were exposed to a “complex, confusing marketplace”.

News headlines Wednesday 4th December 2013

Economic/Business

Six city insurers (L&G, Prudential, Aviva, Standard Life, Friends Life and Scottish Widows) have announced a major investment into UK infrastructure projects, committing £25bn over the next five years. This will put the bellows under the government’s national infrastructure plan containing £375 billion worth of schemes financed by government and private investment. The UK will also sell its share in Eurostar.

Personal Finance

Britons are in top three countries for leaving big inheritances to their children more than any others in the western world according to research from HSBC. Two thirds expect to leave something to their families with an average value of £185,000 well above next ranked country France. Only Australian and Singaporean parents expect to leave more.

Property

The Office of Fair Trading is to investigate the residential property services market after a sharp rise in complaints of overcharging. Five million people live in leasehold properties. The Residential Managing Agents blamed the problems on the fact that the industry was unregulated.

Recruitment/Employment

A jobs bonanza is expected in the run up to Christmas as retailer jobs have risen by nearly 50% last month compared to November 2012, construction and property jobs are also up 69% for the same period

The Wriglesworth Consultancy works with Public Concern at Work on launch of ground-breaking report

The Wriglesworth Consultancy is working with Public Concern at Work (the whistleblowing charity) to launch the Whistleblowing Commission report, which reviews the effectiveness of whistleblowing policy in the UK and makes recommendations for improving legislation.

The Report has today been widely covered through 10 broadcast interviews, including the BBC, Sky News and ITV News and Daybreak, and six national newspaper print stories, including the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and The Guardian  – and counting!

The Report calls upon the Secretary of State, Vince Cable, to issue the Commission’s Code of Practice to be adopted in all UK workplaces. The Commission was set up by Public Concern at Work who were pivotal in drafting the report recommendations.

For the report press release: http://bit.ly/1bnMoX6

Media coverage

Call for better protection for whistleblowers

Laws to protect whistleblowers need beefing up and code of practice recommended by commission which investigated safeguards for those who reveal wrongdoing.

The Telegraph, 27 November 2013

Whistleblowers are a ‘barometer’ of work culture

Laws protecting whistleblowers should be strengthened in order to improve working culture and protect the vulnerable, Cathy James told Daybreak.

itv.com, 27 November 2013

Time to review whistleblowing arrangements

Legal Director Shonali Routray speak to BBC Radio 5 Live about the key recommendations of the Whistleblowing Commission.

BBC 5 Live, 27 November 2013 (at 6 minutes)

‘Code of practice’ for whistleblowing gets union backing

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grday said:

“Whistleblowing is an important way to root out malpractice and wrongdoing in a workplace. But with the blacklisting scandal showing that some people have had their careers wrecked for daring to speak out at work, most people are too scared to say anything for fear of retribution.

It’s important that we have stronger legal protections and written workplace procedures for whistleblowers to underpin the important work that union reps do in supporting workers who speak out.”

itv.com, 27 November 2013

Law ‘failing to protect’ whistleblowers

The main UK law that protects whistleblowers is failing, according to an independent commission established by the charity that helped draft the statute 15 years ago.

Financial Times, 27 November 2013

Whistleblower Michael Woodford backs legal protection calls

The businessman who blew the lid on the Olympus accounting scandal is supporting calls for a UK code of practice.

Sky News, 27 November 2013

Public accountability: it’s not only banks that needs closer scrutiny

There are too many areas of public life where it seems there are those who can get away with whatever they choose and a sense of responsibility have been alarmingly absent.

The Observer, 24 November 2013

Lessons in transparency for the UK government

Shonali Routray highlights the launch of the Whistleblowing Commission report and contributes to the debate on transparency and governence: “the government needs to strengthen protections, increase incentives for organisation to treat whistleblowers well and for regulators to do more.”

The Guardian, 22 November 2013

UK Paper Summary: 25th November 2013

Economics
The front page of the Daily Mail says Britain’s two state-backed banks have been accused of running thousands of small firms by using “disgraceful” business practices.  RBS and Lloyds “harmed their customers through their decisions and caused their financial downfall” according to a bombshell report released today by Laurence Tomlinson.  The report claims RBS acted like a “hit squad” by deliberately causing healthy businesses to go bust for its own gain.

 

Personal Finance
Immigrants and the seriously ill are in line for “a fresh Tory welfare raid” according to Tom McTague, in the Daily Mirror.  More than 500,000 sufferers of long-term conditions such as cancer face losing benefits currently paid to them as they train for a return to work.

 

Property
In the Daily Express, Sarah O’Grady reports that house prices jumped by £7430 last month – and are up £1,300 a week according to estate agency Sequence.  Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors said, “Help to Buy has opened a flood of new buyers, causing prices to surge upwards.”  The second phase of the Government’s Help to Buy scheme was launched in October and offers lenders a taxpayer-backed guarantee on 95 per cent mortgages on homes costing up to £600,000. In the first month, 2,000 sales were arranged.

 

Employment & Recruitment
The FT’s editorial looks at university degrees pointing out that, since the 1963 Robbins report, widening access to university has been a central aim of UK education policy.  Roughly half of young people now study for a degree, against 4 per cent when the report was written.  

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But the FT’s stance is that rising participation is welcome only if the benefits justify the cost: “young people’s horizons will not be widened by pushing university for its own sake.”

Wriglesworth Paper Summary 20/11/13

Economics

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (or OECD) has revised down its expectations for global growth – to 2.7% this year, from 3.1% expected back in May. OECD economists cite the trouble in the USA over levels of government debt and the resulting shutdown, alongside the United States federal reserve and the effects of slowing down their digital money printing tactics. In the Financial Times, Martin Wolf discusses the limits on global growth and, perhaps controversially, puts the blame on an excess of savings across the world. (FT p.15)

However, for the UK, the OECD report was flowing with more optimism – for the time-being at least – as the British economy is set to grow by 1.4% in 2013, and by an expected 2.4% over the course of next year. (FT p.3)

Personal Finance

In today’s Independent, the front page blares the warning of “Britain’s next debt time-bomb”. As if the current struggles with government overspending weren’t enough, it seems that a new threat is developing from levels of personal debt. According to the Centre for Social Justice, 3.9 million British families lack savings to cover even one month’s mortgage or rent. In total, households owe the equivalent of 94% of the UK’s economic output, according to the CSJ. Meanwhile Andrew Grice, political editor at the Indie, says some ministers are concerned that excessively low interest rates are not encouraging people to pay down debt as fast as in some other countries.
(The Independent, p.1, p.14)

Property

Yorkshire Building Society is today announcing 36 new mortgage offers, adding to the spate of new 95% mortgages coming onto the market. According to the Daily Mail (page 10) , the number of 95% mortagges on the market has now reached over 100, up from 64 yesterday and 42 last month. But – there is still some way to go until lost ground is made up – the number of these 95% mortgages stood at 986 back in August 2007.

Recruitment

This morning’s City A.M. leads with the headline “Too many grads not enough jobs” –covering statistics released yesterday from the ONS on graduates in the labour market. Almost half of the UK’s recent graduates now in employment are not making full use of their skills, with 47% working in “non-graduate jobs”, where their work does not require a degree. Despite recent economic growth the graduate unemployment rate has also barely fallen since 2009, now standing at 8.82% compared to 8.99% four years ago in the brimstone of recession. In the Daily Telegraph, Andrew Hunter of jobs search engine Adzuna puts this in the context of wider improvements in the job market – with just 1.9 jobseekers now competing for each vacancy, compared to 2.3 at this point last year, though he adds, “But for those who are fresh out of university, the prospects of finding that first job remain gloomy”.

On a less gloomy note for graduates, a degree might still seem like a good idea compared to other routes – those with a degree still have much better chances than those without. On the other side of the fence, those with just GCSE qualifications have to wait until the age of 32 before their wages “level out at £19,000”. (The Guardian, p.7)