National Living Wage: OECD Urges Caution

National Living Wage: OECD Urges Caution
The UK should be careful with its plans to raise the National Living Wage, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD said “caution” was needed in the roll-out of the policy, given its possible impact on employment. In the Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to raise the wage to £7.50 an hour next April.

The OECD also forecast that the UK would have one of the lowest growth rates among G20 countries by 2018. It predicts that the UK’s economy will grow by 1% in 2018, slower than both Germany (1.7%) and France (1.6%).

However, the organisation has raised its UK growth forecasts for this year and 2017. It now predicts the UK’s economy will expand by 2% this year, compared with an earlier forecast of 1.8%, while in 2017 it has lifted the growth forecast to 1.2% from 1.0%.

The OECD said the upward revision was due to Bank of England action and the depreciation in sterling since the Brexit vote. They also said the UK’s labour market had been “resilient”, although job creation had moderated recently.

“Real wages have been growing at a time of low inflation, but the fall of the exchange rate has started to increase price pressures,” it said. “Caution is needed with the implementation of the policy to raise the National Living Wage to 60% of median hourly earnings by 2020. The effects on employment need to be carefully assessed before any further increases are adopted, especially as growth slows and labour markets weaken.”

FTSE 100 Falls as Banks and Oil Firms Drop

FTSE 100 Falls as Banks and Oil Firms Drop
London’s benchmark share index opened lower, with banks and oil companies among the main fallers. In early trade, the FTSE 100 was down 54.63 points, or 0.8%, at 6,786.12.Shares in oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP were both down by about 1.5% as the price of oil remained under pressure ahead of a meeting of the Opec oil producers this week.

Oil prices had fallen 3% on Friday, and they slid again on Monday before recovering. Opec is meeting on Wednesday, but it remains uncertain as to whether the group will agree cuts to oil output in order to rein in global oversupply.

Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland fell 1.7% while Barclays dropped 1.5%. The results of the latest bank stress tests will be published by the Bank of England on Wednesday.

In the FTSE 250, shares in JD Sports rose 3.3% after the retailer said it had bought the 58-store Go Outdoors chain for £112.3m. On the currency markets, the pound rose 0.3% against the dollar to $1.2511, but fell 0.4% against the euro to €1.1728.

Brexit EU Trade Deal UK Should Not Cherry Pick Market Sectors

Brexit EU Trade Deal UK Should Not Cherry Pick Market Sectors
Campaigners are urging the government not to “cherry pick” different parts of the economy for special trade agreements with the EU after Brexit. Three pro-EU MPs argue this approach risks creating “losers” because almost all sectors are linked to the EU.

ukeconomyTory Anna Soubry, Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Lib Dem Nick Clegg all want the UK to remain in the EU single market. The three pro-EU MPs are part of Open Britain, which replaced the official Remain campaign after the EU referendum.

At an event in London, they will present a report looking at different sectors of the UK economy and their links with the EU. Written by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, it says every sector appeared to benefit from trade within the single market with 3.25 million UK jobs directly or indirectly linked to EU trade.

Manufacturing would “certainly suffer significantly” from restricted access to the single market, it says, while banking and insurance and professional services also have a “very strong link” to the EU and other sectors have “indirect” links.

“Although it might seem theoretically possible to cherry pick a number of sectors and negotiate trade agreements for the sectors, there is considerable linkage between the sectors,” the report says. “It has taken a quarter of a century to negotiate the single market as it exists today and could take nearly as long to renegotiate a new arrangement on a sectoral basis.” Any attempt to choose “winners” for free trade deals with the EU “cannot be achieved without the risk of creating ‘losers’ through reduced access and reduced future mutual benefits”, it adds.

Ms Soubry will say: “There are no inevitable outcomes. There is no mandate for one particular Brexit option. The only question on the ballot paper was whether to leave, which we will, but how we execute our extraction must be debated.”

The single market, which allows EU states to trade free of tariffs and other barriers – is central to the debate on what kind of deal the UK should seek when it leaves.

EU leaders have said access to, or membership of, the single market is dependent on the UK continuing to accept the principle of free movement, while Downing Street says people voted for greater control over the UK’s borders and says it will not compromise on immigration controls.

Ministers have yet to set out in detail their negotiating aims, but say they want maximum possible access to the single market.

Prime Minister Theresa May has also said the UK will not seek to replicate other countries’ trading arrangements with the EU, saying she will be pressing for a “bespoke” deal.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: “The government has been clear that we want to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market – and let European businesses do the same here. But we have also been clear that the UK should make its own decisions on controlling immigration and the authority of EU law should end. It’s not in the UK’s interest to give a running commentary on our thinking that could undermine our negotiating position.”

On Sunday, ex-minister and Vote Leave campaign chief Mr Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think when people voted to leave the European Union they voted to take back control of our money, our laws, trade deals and our borders. That means that the single market, that is basically a bureaucratic web, we need to be out of.”

In other Brexit news, 81 MPs and peers have signed a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk calling for a deal to protect the rights of both Britons living in other EU countries and EU nationals in the UK.

The letter, co-ordinated by Conservative MP Michael Tomlinson, says people are not “bargaining chips” and calls for discussions to “move forward quickly”.

Heathrow Third Runway ‘to Breach Climate Change Laws’

Heathrow Third Runway ‘to Breach Climate Change Laws’
Plans to expand Heathrow Airport are set to breach the government’s climate change laws, advisers have warned. The Committee on Climate Change says the business plan for Heathrow projects a 15% increase in aviation emissions by 2050. If that increase is allowed, members say, ministers will have to squeeze even deeper emissions cuts from other sectors of the economy.

heathrow2The government said it was determined to keep to its climate change targets.

The Committee on Climate Change is a statutory body set up to advise the UK government on emissions targets. It warns that creating the space for aviation emissions to grow will impose unbearable extra emissions reductions on sectors like steel-making, motoring and home heating. The committee also says that in making the decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow, ministers appear to have jettisoned their policy that aviation emissions in 2050 would be frozen at 2005 levels.

Its chair, Lord Deben, wrote to the Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark, saying: “If emissions from aviation are now anticipated to be higher than 2005, then all other sectors would have to prepare for correspondingly higher emissions reductions. Aviation emissions at 2005 levels already imply an 85% reduction in other sectors. My committee has limited confidence about the options (for achieving the compensatory cuts needed).”

Already since 1990, aviation emissions have doubled while economy-wide emissions have reduced by more than a third. Ministers see aviation as a special case because low-carbon technology for planes is not well advanced. The committee says the Department for Transport appears to be planning to solve the aviation overshoot by buying permits to pollute from poor countries which have low levels of CO2 emissions.

This is permitted internationally under a new code recently agreed by the aviation industry. But it is a departure from the government’s own existing policy – and rules stipulate that the change should have been checked with the committee before being agreed.

A committee spokesman told BBC News: “The committee has consistently said the government should not plan to use credits to meet the 2050 target because these credits may not be available in the future and they may not be cheap.”

Doug Parr from Greenpeace said the affair showed climate change was still an afterthought from a government pursuing business as usual. He said: “What ministers know full well but don’t want to admit is that a third runway means other sectors of the economy will have to bear the costs of further carbon cuts – whether it’s regional airports or the manufacturing and steel industries. If that’s the plan, it’s time ministers came clean about it with those concerned and the British public.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy told BBC News: “The government agrees with the Airports Commission’s assessment that a new runway at Heathrow can be delivered within the UK’s carbon obligations.

“We are considering how we will continue to reduce our emissions across the economy through the 2020s and will set this out in our emissions reduction plan, which will send an important signal to the markets, businesses and investors. Our commitment to meeting our Climate Change Act target of an at least 80% emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 is as strong as ever.”

But it’s not just on aviation that climate policies are struggling. The government’s long-awaited master plan for reducing long-term emissions has been delayed again – until early 2017.

The government did signal help for electric vehicles in the Autumn Statement, although critics say it has much more to do. But the biggest challenge is the UK’s leaky housing stock: since the government scrapped its ill-fated Green Deal programme of home insulation it has had no nationwide plan to improve comfort and reduce emissions from existing homes.

Cost of Casual Work ‘Gig Economy’ in UK

Cost of Casual Work ‘Gig Economy’ in UK
The UK’s “gig economy”, powered by self-employment and casual work, is starting to hit government revenues. Wednesday’s Autumn Statement for the first time showed how it is cutting into the government tax take. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that in 2020/21 it will cost the Treasury £3.5bn.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said he would find more effective ways to tax workers in the shifting labour environment. “Technological progress is changing the way people live, and the way they work,” he said. “The tax system needs to keep pace.” But the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) said the government is ignoring the importance of the self-employed sector.

Andy Chamberlain, deputy director of policy at IPSE, said: “The chancellor boasted about record low unemployment, scoring political points, but failed to mention that the huge rise in self-employment is the main thing that allows him to make that claim.”

MPs Frank Field and Andrew Forsey, in their report Wild West Work, published in September, said that out of those 2.6 million people who have found a new job since 2010, more than a third have been classed as self-employed.

Mr Hammond also said that he could claw back some £630m over the next five years from self-employed workers who are not paying tax on so-called “disguised earnings”, payments made as, for example, a loan or a payment in kind.

Mr Chamberlain said he “wholeheartedly supported” any measure to stop any scheme deliberately designed to avoid paying tax. But he added: “The loss in tax revenue for the government is not because self-employed workers are paying much less. The real differential is because the employer is no longer paying National Insurance Contributions (NIC).  If you employ someone for £100,000, you pay the taxman about £13,000 in NIC. If you pay a self-employed person the same amount, the government loses that tax revenue.”

Mr Hammond also said the government was losing revenue from “incorporation”, the process by which individuals form a company, often with themselves as the only employee, to pay less tax. By doing so, instead of just taking a salary and paying income tax, they can also get much of their earnings as dividends from their corporate profits.

Even though the tax on dividends has risen, for most people it is still lower than income tax. And for the Treasury that means less tax revenue.

The chancellor said in the Autumn Statement he would “consult in due course on any proposed changes”.

Mr Chamberlain said: “The reason self-employed workers become incorporated is not just to do with tax. It’s also to do with the security of having limited liability. And clients often insist upon it if they want to have a business-to-business relationship. This whole area of work is changing faster than the government can keep up with. For instance the ruling on the Uber drivers last month that established that they were workers, employed by Uber, gives them some statutory rights. But it doesn’t effect their tax status, which is still one of self-employed.”

Mr Chamberlain added: “The government is now beginning to wonder if it really has the systems in place to capture all the different ways of working.”

Internet Security – Getting the Basics Right

Internet Security – Getting the Basics Right
Taking some simple actions and practising safe behaviours will reduce the risk of online threats to your business.

cybersecurity

Download software updates
Download software and app updates as soon as they appear. They contain vital security upgrades that keep your devices and business information safe.
Visit www.cyberstreetwise.com/software-updates for further advice on updates.

Use strong passwords
Use strong passwords made up of at least three random words. Using lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols will make your passwords even stronger.
Visit www.cyberstreetwise.com/passwords for further advice on passwords.

Delete suspicious emails
Delete suspicious emails as they may contain fraudulent requests for information or links to viruses.
Visit www.cyberstreetwise.com/common-scams for further advice on suspicious emails.

Use anti-virus software
Your computers, tablets and smartphones can easily become infected by small pieces of software known as viruses or malware. Install internet security software like anti-virus on all your devices to help prevent infection.

Visit www.cyberstreetwise.com/security-software for further advice on security software.

Train your staff (& family members)
Make your staff aware of cyber security threats and how to deal with them. The Government offers free online training courses tailored for you and your staff which take around 60 minutes to complete.
Visit www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/sme to find out more and take the course.

For further simple tips on how to protect your business, visit www.cyberstreetwise.com

Tree Surgery Services in the North East

Stan Timmins Tree Surgery Services
If you have problem trees, bushes or shrubs outside your property you may want to consider contacting a professional tree surgery service to make sure that the job is done safely and properly without causing any damage to your property or others around it as it is easy to underestimate how much work and expertise is required if you want to move or conserve trees and other greenery.

treesurgeonsBased in the North East, Stan Timmins and sons is a company offering expert Tree Surgery Services to many satisfied customers, with over 50 year’s experience working within the industry they have all the knowledge and expertise required to help you find the solution to any problem you may have.  The owner and manager Stan Timmins hold numerous industry qualifications in a broad range of horticulture and arboriculture subjects including diplomas both from Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and also the Royal Forestry Society.

Offering fully insured and registered tree surgery services to every customer and a guarantee that every job completed will be carried out to meet current best practices for Arboriculture work and to comply with the BS3998 (2010) regulations you can be certain that any work you need to have carried out will be done properly and as safely as possible.

With a wide range of service on offer including formative pruning, sectional dismantling of dead, dangerous and diseased trees, ivy Removal / severance, large tree removal and site clearance as well as many others you can be certain that no matter what problem you may have Stan Timmins and Sons will be able to help you find a workable solution.

They offer a comprehensive range of tree surgery services including:

• Formative Pruning.
• Crown Cleaning / Deadwooding.
• Crown Reduction.
• Crown Lifting.
• Storm Damage Work.
• Sectional Dismantling of Dead, Dangerous and Diseased Trees.
• Large Tree Removal.
• Hedge Maintenance.
• Ivy Removal / Severance.
• Site Clearance.
• Stump Grinding / Treatment.
• Target Pruning.
• Veteran Tree Management.

They can be contacted on 07966 207280 or 01670 825089 or by visiting their website at http://www.stantimmins.co.uk.

 

Heslop Electrical Appliances

Heslop Electrical Appliances
Are you searching for a specialist local supplier of high quality, guaranteed electrical appliances in the Newcastle & Tyne & Wear region? Established in 2008 by John Heslop who has over 20 years experience within the electrical industry working, Heslop Appliances seven Day a Week Delivery on everything we have in stock.

heslopapplianceslogoThe range of electrical appliances supplied include Bosch, Hotpoint, Indesit, Candy, Hoover, Zanussi, Aeg, Flavel, Beko, Ignis, Whirlpool, Daewoo, Fridgemaster, and Gorenje. Located close to the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, we believe your purchase should be quick and simple.

We also provide a full installation service with in 15 mile radius of Newcastle so you can be up and running with your new appliance in no time at all.

We stock a wide range of white goods, kitchen appliances and domestic appliances at discount prices. We boast an exceptional range of discount built in ovens and cookers, microwaves, electric hobs, extractor hoods, refrigerators, washing machines, washer dryer, dishwasher, and vacuum cleaners.

Reliability, product knowledge and excellent back up service ensure our customers keep coming back – some have been using us for many years, with much of our business being repeat business with many of our clients ordering new appliances time and time again. In these difficult economic times, Heslop Appliances have not only survived, but flourished, we believe due to the very high regard placed by the company on providing the best product at the best price together with great customer service.

Enquiries are welcome and free impartial advice is given. If you are looking for a good old fashioned service at a great price then visit the new Heslop Elctrical Appliances website or call us now on 0191 2634296.

Sports Direct Denies ‘Bugging’ MPs

Sports Direct Denies ‘Bugging’ MPs
The board of Sports Direct has denied knowledge of any attempt to bug MPs from the Business and Skills Committee who were on a surprise visit to the firm’s Shirebrook warehouse. The six MPs claimed an attempt was made to smuggle in a recording device behind a plate of sandwiches to record their private discussions after the visit. The MPs wanted to check whether Sports Direct had improved employment methods.

The board said it did not authorise the use of any device.

Sports Direct said in a statement: “The board is disappointed that reporting of a possible recording device (the veracity of which has yet to be determined) has overshadowed the truly important issues that the visit should have focused on – the true working conditions and worker satisfaction at Shirebrook.”

The firm’s founder Mike Ashley said: “I stand firmly behind the people of Sports Direct, who through no fault of their own have been made a political football by MPs and unions.”

The MPs only gave notice on Monday morning that they would visit the Derbyshire site. After a three hour tour, they gathered in a private room, and were served a series of refreshments, including a plate of sandwiches.

However, Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, said the lady who had served the sandwiches also left a recording device in the room. “I went over to pick up the device and there it was: a camera and a recording device for the conversation that we were having privately. I’m very disappointed.”

Ms Turley told the BBC that the situation was “bizarre”, and that during the visit the group had been “man-marked” with devices recording everything that was said during the visit. She said the device in the private room “was on, the red light was showing, it was on, it was recording”. She said the firm had tried to claim it didn’t know anything about it – “Mike Ashley’s even accused us of planting it ourselves, it was totally bizarre.”

Sports Direct, which has around 450 retail outlets, came under fire after BBC and Guardian investigations uncovered working practices at the warehouse which MPs later described as being akin to a Victorian workhouse.

Concern about working conditions led to Sports Direct’s founder Mike Ashley being called to give evidence to MPs. He said at a hearing of the Business and Skills Committee that control of the company may have outgrown him. But Mr Ashley denied knowing about day-to-day operations at Shirebrook.

Sports Direct has promised to make a number of changes to its working practices.

Investors Braced for Volatility

Investors Braced for Volatility
Donald Trump said it would be like Brexit plus plus plus, and for investors as they wake up to the news that Mr Trump has won the presidential election, the feeling will be very similar to that day in June.

american map and flag

The dollar is already weakening against “safe haven” currencies such as the Japanese yen. Sterling is also strengthening against the dollar and gold – the ultimate safe haven dump – is up in value by nearly 4%. US stock market futures – judgements on the direction of travel before the major markets open in America later today – have already been suspended as sell offs overnight led to a 5% fall – the limit before automatic brakes are put in place.

About half an hour into trading the FTSE 100 was down 1% – although that’s not as steep as the 3.5% that the futures market predicted as the results started coming in.

Two forces are in play. First, many investors are unclear about the economic direction of travel of a Trump presidency, both domestically and in the wider world. And second, Mr Trump has pledged to “tear up” international free trade agreements, a move which many believe will be bad for global economic growth.

2016 has been a remarkable year of volatility and uncertainty in the markets and for investors, as Britain’s exit from the European Union followed the stock market crisis in China. And, don’t forget, we are also in the middle of the biggest, untested monetary experiment ever attempted by central banks following the financial crisis – $12.3tn of quantitative easing, or money printing, to stop the world lurching into deep recession.

Investors and markets are no longer sure which way is up.