US Economic Growth Rate

US Economic Growth Rate
The US economy grew at the fastest pace in two years in the third quarter, initial figures have indicated. The world’s largest economy grew at an annual rate of 2.9% in the three months to September, the Commerce Department said.

Analysts had predicted growth of just 2.5%.

The stronger-than-forecast rate could increase expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates before the end of the year. The annualised rate of 2.9% is equivalent to a quarter-on-quarter rate of 0.7%, which is the way that many other countries express their growth rates.  In the second quarter of the year, the US economy expanded by an annualised rate of 1.4%, or a quarterly rate of 0.4%.

Consumer spending, which makes up more than two-thirds of US economic activity, grew less rapidly than in the previous quarter.

In the April-to-June period, it increased at an annual rate of 4.3%, but in the July-to-September period, the rate slowed to 2.1%. However, this decline was offset by businesses spending money to restock their inventories after running them down in the second quarter.

“There’s nothing here that will put the Fed off hiking in December,” said Aberdeen Asset Management fixed income investment manager Luke Bartholomew. “This shows that the US is roughly on track. It’s a natural bounce-back following a pretty underwhelming year so far. The election campaign has probably created a degree of uncertainty that has impacted growth,” he added. “But underneath all of that, the labour market is still doing well and inflation is creeping up.”

Why Use an Independent Insurance Broker

Why Use an Independent Insurance Broker
If you find shopping for insurance time consuming and complicated why not consider using the services of an Independent Insurance Broker like Weir Insurance? They can guide you through the process from beginning to end and help you to get the type of cover you require for the best possible price with the minimum of fuss.

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An insurance broker for Newcastle and Northumberland with over forty years’ experience within the insurance industry you can be sure that at Weir Insurance they have all the knowledge and expertise required to make sure they find you the best possible quote available. No matter what type of insurance you are looking for at Weir Insurance you can be certain that they will be able to offer you all the guidance, information and advice you need to make sure that you get a policy that is totally suited to your needs.

With a friendly team available to discuss your needs fully, explain any jargon and offer you expert knowledge they will do everything they can to ensure that you are totally happy at every stage, and with many years’ experience building great relationships with many different company’s they have specialist knowledge of what is available on the market both locally and with the larger national and multinational companies.

Whether you are looking for business insurance, residential insurance or trying to insure an item that is hard to cover you can be certain that Weir Insurance will be able to find you an insurance company that is ideal for you.  With a friendly and professional service and the expertise to find the policy you need at Weir Insurance they will be able to help you make sure they you have the correct level of cover and explain and terms and conditions before you have signed anything so you can be certain that you will receive no nasty surprises if you ever do need to make a claim.

With no hidden extras and an easy to understand pricing structure you will always know exactly where you stand at every step.  So if you are looking for insurance in Newcastle and Northumberland why not get in touch with Weir Insurance and see how they can help you.

For further information please call one of our experienced insurance team today on 01670 365533 or visit the Weir Insurance brokers website. We have been helping our clients’ with their insurance needs since 1972. We talk to you about your requirements, work with you to figure out what cover you need (and what cover you don’t) and then use our relationship with dozens of insurers to find the best solution for you.

Vodafone Fined £4.6m by Ofcom

Vodafone Fined £4.6m by Ofcom
Regulator Ofcom has fined Vodafone £4.6m for “serious” breaches of consumer protection rules, its largest fine to date for a telecoms operator. The regulator said Vodafone had misled pay-as-you-go customers, charging them for top-up credit but “providing nothing in return”. It also found Vodafone had broken the rules on handling customer complaints.

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Vodafone offered its “profound apologies” for the failures said it was “determined to put everything right”. The fine stems from two earlier investigations into Vodafone, which has 20 million mobile customers in the UK. One found that 10,452 pay-as-you-go customers lost out when Vodafone failed to credit their accounts after they paid to top-up their mobile phone credit.

The affected customers collectively lost £150,000 over a 17-month period, Ofcom said.

The problems were caused by IT issues linked to the company’s move to a new billing system.

However, Vodafone “failed to act quickly enough to identify or address these problems” and only moved to fix the issue after Ofcom intervened, the regulator said.

A second investigation found that Vodafone’s customer service agents were not given “sufficiently clear guidance” on what constituted a customer complaint. Moreover, poor processes meant some complaints were not handled “in a fair, timely manner”.

The firm also failed to ensure customers were told, in writing, of their right to take an unresolved complaint to a third-party resolution scheme after eight weeks.

In a statement, Vodafone said it had “fully refunded or re-credited” 10,422 pay-as-you-go customers out of the 10,452 affected. It said it was unable to track down the remaining 30 affected. It also said it had invested in better customer service and training.

“Everyone who works for us is expected to do their utmost to meet our customers’ needs,” it said. “It is clear from Ofcom’s findings that we did not do that often enough or well enough on a number of occasions. We offer our profound apologies to anyone affected by these errors.”

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom Consumer Group director, said: “Vodafone’s failings were serious and unacceptable, and these fines send a clear warning to all telecoms companies. “Phone services are a vital part of people’s lives, and we expect all customers to be treated fairly and in good faith.”

New Heathrow Runway May be Built Above M25

New Heathrow Runway May be Built Above M25
The BBC website is reporting that the third runway at Heathrow Airport could involve planes taking off from a “ramp” over the M25 motorway, the transport secretary says. Chris Grayling said this would be “cheaper and quicker” than building a tunnel for the M25 under the new runway and would cause less disruption for drivers during construction. He said many other airports around the world had built runways over motorways. There would be “a very gentle hill up which the planes would take off”.

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The government’s long-awaited backing for a third runway at London Heathrow has been attacked by cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Justine Greening and sparked the resignation of Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.

The decision is also set to face a challenge in the courts, with the Richmond council leader Lord True telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “taking legal advice”. The Conservative peer said Heathrow was “busting air quality legal limits” and was responsible for “40% of all noise pollution in Europe associated with airports”.

He added: “The fact that the government has already delayed action for a year results from our reminding them that they hadn’t yet fulfilled things which they’re required to do under the existing law.”

Lord True said he would be campaigning for Mr Goldsmith, who will contest the Richmond Park by-election as an independent with the Conservatives not putting forward a candidate against him.

Heathrow Expansion Decision Likely Today

Heathrow Expansion Decision Likely Today
The government’s long-awaited decision on airport expansion is set to be announced, with Heathrow the favourite. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will make a statement to Parliament around lunchtime on Tuesday, but the decision faces a long consultation before it becomes final.

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A study last year, led by Sir Howard Davies, recommended a third runway at Heathrow but other options include a new runway at Gatwick or extending one of Heathrow’s existing runways. Writing in the Telegraph on Monday Sir Howard said the case for expanding Heathrow had “strengthened in recent months” and that the case was now “overwhelming”.

The issue of where to expand airport capacity in the UK has vexed politicians for years and there are strong divisions within the government. Prime Minister Theresa May told the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions last week the subject had been “debated, discussed and speculated on for 40 years”.

Heathrow is already operating at 98% capacity and Gatwick is expected to run out of space in the next few years. Airlines and business groups favour expansion of Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, which offers more direct connections than Gatwick and handles more freight.

But local residents and politicians are concerned about noise, traffic and pollution. A Heathrow expansion is also strongly opposed by Education Secretary Justine Greening and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has pledged to “lie down” in front of bulldozers to stop the building. However, neither he nor Ms Greening are members of the airports sub-committee charged with making the final decision.

As many as 60 Tory backbenchers could also vote against expansion at Heathrow, and Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, has vowed to resign if it goes ahead.

Mrs May has given ministers “exceptional and limited” freedom to criticise the government’s final decision – although they will not be allowed to campaign against it – a move being seen as evidence a third runway at Heathrow will be backed.

The decision will also be subject to around a year of consultation before Parliament votes and, if approved, will only then enter the planning process. Construction is not likely to begin until 2020 or 2021, the Airports Commission has said.

A final decision on which London airport to expand has been years in the making. In 2009, former prime minister David Cameron pledged that there would be no new runway at Heathrow. In July 2015, the Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies backed a new third runway at Heathrow, but did not rule out the option of expanding Gatwick. Mr Cameron had promised a decision by the end of last year on whether to build a new runway at Heathrow.

Last week Mrs May told ministers at a cabinet meeting that a decision on increasing airport capacity in the south east of England had been “delayed for too long”. Her spokeswoman said the prime minister believed it was important to now take a decision “in the national interest”.

Tax Awareness Needed as Deadline Looms

Tax Awareness Needed as Deadline Looms
People wishing to file their tax return on paper face a looming deadline, but flexible workers in the self-assessment process need to be aware of the rules. About one in 10 people in the system files tax returns on paper.

The deadline for doing so is 31 October. Online filing has a deadline of the end of January 2017. The self-employed and those with more than one source of income must file. Accountants say changing work methods mean more people may be in the system. A rising number of entrepreneurs and self-employed freelancers found in the more flexible “gig” economy will have to grapple with the tax return system.

Lucy Brennan, partner at accountancy firm Saffery Champness, said: “For people who are unsure about the process, or are submitting for the first time, it is crucial that the information is filed promptly and accurately – even if it seems that no tax is due to be paid. “It is imperative that, if you are still completing a paper tax return, vigilance and accuracy is maintained as fines may be handed out to those who file their return late.”
About 10 million people are in the self-assessment system, and returns up to three months late will incur a fine of at least £100.

The vast majority file electronically and so face a later deadline, but Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at accountancy body the ACCA, said that they should already be alert to changes in the system.

“The paper deadline is particularly important this year for those using older computers and browsers, as HMRC systems will now only allow filing of online returns through more recent technology,” he said. “While the move to more secure browsers is a sensible one, it may come as an unwelcome shock to those who might be faced with upgrading technology that they don’t really understand or feel comfortable if they miss the paper deadline.”

Anyone using an older browser, such as Internet Explorer 8, will need to update it or use a different browser in order to file their returns online by the end of January.

Software Solutions for Vehicle Rental Companies

Software Solutions for Vehicle Rental Companies
Every industry, no matter how large or small, has industry-specific software for maintaining accounts and for other day-to-day operations. Whereas large organisations often have the resources with which to have software for accounting and other systems developed in-house, smaller ones typically rely on different software applications purchased separately – and then must become experts in their use if they want their business to run smoothly, since tech support is not generally included in the package.

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Since car and van hire companies have large vehicle fleets to keep track of and customers to invoice, it makes sense to have one system that does it all. For most of the larger vehicle rental companies currently in operation in the UK, the ideal car hire software for keeping track of both vehicles and clients includes the following features:

Shortcuts for repeat customers
Most rental companies recognise that repeat customers are their primary source of revenue. Since it would make little sense to have to enter a repeat hirer’s personal information for every single transaction, the ideal software system will prefill it automatically the next time the hirer comes in. In the case of corporate clients with multiple employees involved in vehicle rental transactions, a truly ideal software solution would link such clients to an inbuilt accounting system for ease of billing and other types of recordkeeping.

Damage and loss tracking
On the flipside, the number one source of financial loss for a car hire company is damage to hired vehicles. Where there are damages, there are also drivers, insurance and other means of compensating damages and losses. This means that a comprehensive, user-friendly means of tracking damage to vehicles, maintenance repairs and other losses is essential for keeping accurate accounts of inflows and outflows and protecting the company against preventable losses in the future.

Cloud-based
Any vehicle rental company that has been the victim of a security breach can appreciate the importance of cloud-based solutions; your company need only be targeted once in order for thousands upon thousands of client records and other sensitive information to be compromised. By using encrypted connections and cloud-based updates, the records your company keeps on both vehicles and clients is a great deal safer than when software programs are installed and maintained on a local network with inherently limited security.

Simple pricing
Price is usually the driving factor behind a company’s decision either to buy one system with all the necessary bells and whistles or, in the case of smaller companies for which this option has been prohibitively expensive in the past, maintain “granular controls” by purchasing different software products for different purposes. For vehicle rental companies, the ideal software system allows users to manage their fleets and carry out all accounting and invoicing functions in one place – and at one reasonable price.

iVech Rental Control System
iVech Rental Control System offers all these features and many more. Our vehicle rental software allows you to keep all the information you need about your vehicles, drivers and accounts to ensure smooth client transactions, timely billing and loss prevention – all at your fingertips, all in one secure environment.

For more information on our introductory 3-month offer, call us today on 0191 460 3263 or visit the iVech Vehicle Rental Control System website today.

Married Couples Failing to Claim Tax Perk, says HMRC

Married Couples Failing to Claim Tax Perk, says HMRC
Less than a quarter of couples eligible for marriage tax allowance are bothering to claim it, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The allowance – introduced in April 2015 to incentivise marriage – is worth £220 in 2016/17.

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However those eligible can also back-date a claim for last year, meaning £432 can be claimed in total.

Out of 4.2m couples who could claim that amount, only 1m have done so, despite an HMRC advertising campaign.

Marriage tax allowance lets one half of a married couple transfer part of their tax-free allowance to their partner. However one of the partners must not be earning more than £11,000 – the personal allowance – while the other must be paying income tax at the basic rate.

A spokesman for HMRC said it takes less than five minutes to apply online.

“We don’t know the reason why so few couples have taken up this allowance, but the fact is, it’s a fairly quick and simple process and could save couples up to £430 – which can go a long way especially around this time of year,” said Sam McFaul, a personal finance writer at MoneySavingExpert.com.

Anyone wanting to claim can go to this page.

 

Skilled Workers May be Exempt from UK Immigration Controls

Skilled Workers May be Exempt from UK Immigration Controls
The chancellor has indicated that highly skilled workers may be exempt from the government’s planned immigration controls. Philip Hammond said he could not see why firms should be restricted from recruiting “high level” workers. The public was not concerned about controls on “computer programmers, brain surgeons, bankers”, he said.

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The chancellor said voters wanted restrictions on those migrants competing for “entry level jobs”. “I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which we would be using those migration controls to prevent banks, companies moving highly qualified, highly skilled people between different parts of their businesses,” he said.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, Mr Hammond did not dispel suggestions that he supported students being taken out of the target for reducing net migration. Mr Hammond’s comments will fuel growing speculation that the government wants to introduce a work visa scheme aimed at low-skilled migrants.

On Tuesday night Downing Street released details of the aims of the government’s immigration sub-committee, which included a commitment to introduce a “targeted visa scheme”.

Elsewhere, Mr Hammond – who supported the remain campaign – appeared critical of some of his pro-Brexit cabinet colleagues. He said those seeking “hard decisions” risked undermining the prime minister’s negotiations with the European Union. The chancellor also criticised some of the recent briefing against him: “It would be far more helpful if we could conduct negotiations privately without leaks to newspapers.”

MPs on the select committee also questioned the chancellor about the impact of Brexit on the economy.

Mr Hammond said they were right to identify that “uncertainty is the big challenge in the next phase of this process”, adding: “It’s a challenge to our economy – there will be a period inevitably of uncertainty until we know the outcome of the negotiations.” He also tried to calm fears that the financial services sector would be hit hard by Brexit by saying that retaining passporting was important and “would be the ideal outcome”.

Passporting refers to the sector maintaining the same access to the EU’s financial services market as it enjoys under the UK’s membership of the union.

“The reality is that financial services remains our single largest sector; it is responsible for a very large number of jobs straight across the United Kingdom, it’s not London-based industry,” Mr Hammond said. “The industry knows that we regard it as extremely important, the industry knows that we understand that it has a particular set of challenges as we go into this period of negotiation with the European Union. And I hope the industry knows – it certainly should know – that helping to address these challenges and taking account of these challenges will be a very high priority for the government.”

However, the Chancellor admitted that some banks and financial firms were being “realistic and are looking at other options beyond passporting to protect their interests”.

Mr Hammond also insisted that the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, would remain responsible for monetary policy. That stance was called into question after Mrs May made a surprise attack on the Bank in her speech to the Tory Party conference this month, saying that “a change has got to come”.

The Bank’s actions – such as maintaining low interest rates since the financial crash – had meant those with assets such as property had got richer, while those without had suffered, Mrs May said.

Mr Hammond was asked what Mrs May’s promised “change” referred to if it was not monetary policy. He said: “There will be no change in monetary policy. Monetary policy is independently determined, that will continue to be the case.”

Philip Green Moves Towards BHS Pension Deal

Philip Green Moves Towards BHS Pension Deal
The BBC are reporting that former BHS owner Sir Philip Green will meet the pensions regulator by the end of the week to try to secure a deal over the collapsed retailer’s pension fund, the BBC has learned. The news comes as MPs prepare to debate stripping him of his knighthood.

One MP voiced scepticism to the BBC about the timing, arguing it made the issue “essentially cash for honours”.

BHS, sold by Sir Philip last year, subsequently collapsed with 11,000 jobs lost and a £571m pension deficit. Sir Philip has vowed several times to sort out the pension problem, telling MPs in June that his advisers were working on a “resolvable and sortable” solution.

On Monday, he told ITV that he was in a “very strong dialogue” with the pensions regulator to find a solution, but would not put a number on the level of financial support he would be willing to give.

A damning MPs’ report on the High Street chain’s failure, published in July, concluded Sir Philip had extracted large sums and left the business on “life support”. At the time Sir Philip described the report as “the pre-determined and inaccurate output of a biased and unfair process”.

A debate in the House of Commons on Thursday will discuss whether Sir Philip’s knighthood, awarded in 2006 for services to retail, should be removed. Should they vote on the issue, any such vote would not be binding. The issue would be for the Honours Forfeiture Committee – part of the Cabinet Office – to decide.