Sunak pledges no return to austerity as tax rises loom

The Chancellor has said this Wednesday’s spending review will not usher in a return to austerity, rather there will be an increase in spending on public services. Rishi Sunak warned that forecasts revealed this week would lay bare “the scale of the economic shock” caused by the COVID-19 crisis with the economy “experiencing significant stress” with more to come. Although tax rises haven’t been explicitly mentioned, Treasury insiders admit there will have to be some “big” decisions on taxation ahead of a spring Budget. Mr Sunak hinted there could be a freeze on public sector pay saying any settlements would have to be considered fairly and in the context of what is happening with wages and employment across the economy. Unions reacted angrily at the prospect of a pay freeze with Frances O’Grady, head of the TUC refusing to rule out the possibility of strike action.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 1 Financial Times, Page: 1 The Times, Page: 4 The Times, Page: 43 Daily Mail, Page: 6 The Independent, Page: 7

Anders Povlsen: Tax should be measured against impact on natural world

Danish billionaire and Scotland’s largest landowner Anders Povlsen has said tax breaks should be granted to companies that reduce their carbon footprint as part of efforts to tackle climate change. Povlsen told the Sunday Times Magazine: “In the future, you should have to prove that you are carbon-neutral, that you’re not subtracting from the natural world, and I run a fashion business, so it’s challenging, right? I think there has to be a different kind of a firm way of measuring a company’s tax, in relation to the natural world and impact.” Povlsen has acquired about 230,000 acres covering 13 Scottish estates and harbours visions for a 200-year “rewilding” plan.

The Times The Sunday Times

HMRC issues scammers warning

HMRC is warning those who submit self-assessment tax returns that scammers are targeting people ahead of the January 31 deadline. Fraudsters are promising a “tax refund” or “rebate” in an attempt to gain access to personal details to sell on or raid bank accounts.

Daily Express, Page: 26

But you read this first from last Friday’s News Roundup:


HMRC are reminding taxpayers to stay alert for criminals claiming to be from HMRC as the deadline for submitting self-assessment (SA) tax returns approaches. In the last 12 months, HMRC have responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down. Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public offered bogus tax rebates.  Further information can be found at



Public primed to support small businesses over Christmas

A survey of over 2,000 consumers by the Post Office suggested that more than one in five are more likely to buy Christmas gifts from small businesses this year. Many of those questioned said it was important to offer support to businesses affected by COVID-19. Mark Siviter, managing director of mails and retail at the Post Office said: “The support for small and local businesses is one of the positive outcomes we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic and it’s reassuring to see the prediction that this sector is expected to thrive over the festive period.”

Daily Express, Page: 45

Chancellor urged to help excluded entrepreneurs

A consortium of professional bodies is urging Rishi Sunak to consider proposals for a “directors income support scheme” to help entrepreneurs who have missed out on coronavirus financial support packages.

Financial Times, Page: 3

Cynergy partners with Google for new banking service

Google has teamed up with Cynergy Bank to provide a mixed digital and personal banking service, the Times reports. The aim is to establish and develop a presence in the market for small business owners and professionals.

The Times, Page: 40


Pandemic puts further pressure on pension schemes

The Telegraph examines the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis on pension scheme deficits. Close to one in 10 schemes allowed employers to defer contributions during the pandemic but this has now reduced to less than 5%, according to a client survey by Isio. Meanwhile, the new Pensions Schemes Bill is expected to discourage trustees from investing in riskier assets in pursuit of returns. However, Baroness Ros Altmann warns: “If you stop the schemes from buying so called higher risk assets you’re forcing companies to put much more money into pensions and making the company’s business weaker than it needs to be”. The regulator says it is too early to predict the outcome of consultations on a new funding code but Baroness Altmann says higher costs for companies are “inevitable” and that she plans to mount further resistance in the House of Lords. Meanwhile, LCP partner Sir Steve Webb says the Government may take a pragmatic view and quietly delay major changes if the economic picture darkens and insolvencies rise as furlough comes to an end.

The Daily Telegraph Yahoo! Finance


Working from home shift rocks office projects

Construction of new offices in central London has fallen by 50% over the last six months, according to Deloitte Real Estate, with developers saying weak demand for office space was putting them off starting new projects. “Developers are pausing schemes because leasing sentiment is difficult at the moment,” Mike Cracknell, director at Deloitte Real Estate, said. “Occupiers are struggling to get people back into their offices, let alone worrying about a lease expiry that’s coming up.”

Daily Mail, Page: 67 The Times, Page: 45


Frasers warns against sweetheart deal for Edinburgh Woollen Mill

Frasers Group has warned FRP Advisory – administrators to Peacocks, Jaeger and Edinburgh Woollen Mill – that they must avoid giving a preferential deal to the former owners of the collapsed retail group.

Financial Times, Page: 11


Chancellor could save £300bn by trimming the fat

Analysis by the TaxPayers’ Alliance suggests the Chancellor could save £300bn over the course of the next five years without increasing taxes. Rishi Sunak would have to tackle waste and make dramatic cuts to public expenditure including scrapping public sector pay rises and bringing overseas aid to an end. John O’Connell, chief executive of the TPA, said: “The Government’s manifesto commitments and the economic challenges of the coronavirus crisis can only be met with bold action that protects taxpayers. Ministers must refuse the tired argument that there is no more fat left to trim.” Separately, the Daily Mail claims public sector waste and extravagance has cost the taxpayer £5.6bn this year, with Whitehall mandarins taking home at least £42m in bonuses last year while £81m was paid to public-sector workers to carry out union tasks. Meg Hillier, chairman of the public accounts committee, said: “There is no magic money pot – this is taxpayers’ money that’s being spent at a time when the low-paid and hard-working people have seen a massive cut in income or lost their livelihood.”

Daily Express Daily Mail, Page: 1, 10-11, 18

Brexit and Covid spark reshoring switch

The coronavirus pandemic and Brexit have prompted businesses to bring production back to the UK with factories predicted to make up to £4.8bn more goods for British retailers in the next 12 months. A report by Alvarez & Marsal and the research group Retail Economics says structural weaknesses in global supply chains, highlighted by the pandemic, and the threat of tariffs through a no-deal Brexit combined with increased demand for sustainable products, has persuaded retailers to consider alternatives to sourcing from the far east, for example. Separately, PwC expects Black Friday spending to fall 20% to £6.2bn following a slump in sentiment, particularly among those at risk of losing their job.

The Guardian, Page: 35 The I, Page: 22


EU spending mostly suspect

The European Court of Auditors has refused to give the 2019 EU budget a clean bill of health, branding more than half of last year’s £142bn expenditure as “high-risk”.

Daily Express, Page: 4

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward