Test and Trace consultants coached on how to apply for honours

A blunder by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has revealed the names and email addresses of more than 500 business leaders who had been invited to come up with nominations for the 2022 new year honours list. The breach has caused public anger after it was shown that many of the companies offered tips on improving their chances of honours success had profited from the pandemic. The Times points to Serco and Deloitte which both did well from contracts for the £37bn coronavirus test-and-trace system, which was blasted by Sir Nicholas Macpherson, permanent secretary at the Treasury until 2016, as the most wasteful and inept public spending programme ever.

The Times, Page: 1, 2 The Guardian, Page: 5 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2 Daily Mail, Page: 17

This and the wider issues of the whole cost of government reaction to the pandemic should be the subject of a full Public Enquiry.  Surely there must be some official recognition of the true costs and accountability  for those responsible?


CBI: UK needs tax system that rewards green alternatives

The CBI has called on the Government to institute wholesale reform to the UK’s tax system in order to hit its 2050 net zero target. Instead of tinkering with individual taxes, the business lobby group said ministers should instead pursue “fundamental change with a holistic, coherent tax plan” in consultation with business and the private sector. The CBI has set out nine principles which it says should guide the development of a new tax system with a “polluter pays” policy at the heart of the prospectus. CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said: “A tax system which discourages polluting behaviours and rewards greener alternatives is critical to unlocking the right kind of investments.” Jason Collins, head of tax at Pinsent Masons, agreed stating: “Activity in environmental taxes and green tax incentives has been marginal at best, window dressing at worst.”

City A.M.

Government defends “super-deduction” scheme

Following concerns that the Government’s £25bn “super-deduction” scheme could wipe out any taxes paid by large companies such as Amazon, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport defended the policy. Oliver Dowden said: “It is a good thing if companies are going to be investing in tech: that’s the point, to encourage companies to invest heavily while many of them, particularly in the tech sector, are sitting on very large amounts of cash. That will help drive tech growth. I don’t have a problem with that but I do want to make sure that everyone pays a fair share.” Mr Dowden went on to argue that there needed to be a “global approach” to resolving Amazon’s low UK tax bill, citing “complex intellectual property-licensing regimes”. He said: “It has to be done at an international level and the chancellor is making it a priority for the G7.”

The Times, Page: 38


Brexit boosts Britain’s investment prospects

A survey of 5,000 global business leaders by PwC has found that Britain is a more attractive investment proposition for multinational companies than it was before Brexit. Writing in the Times, Kevin Ellis, chairman of PwC UK, says: “The UK’s positive standing highlights what matters most to global business leaders. The EU trade deal drew to a close much of the uncertainty around Brexit. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of political certainty and stability when it comes to CEO decision making.” America, China and Germany remain the top three targets, but the UK has overtaken India as the world’s fourth most promising growth opportunity. Mr Ellis added that the UK’s tax regime is still competitive despite plans to increase corporation tax. PwC also found that business confidence was rebounding quickly with a three-year forecast showing continued growth in positive sentiment.

The Times, Page: 35 The Times, Page: 43


Financial services vacancies beginning to recover

Research from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSC) has found that vacancies in the financial services sector are well on their way to recovery after a sharp slump at the start of the pandemic. APSC found that hiring fell by 58% in the second quarter of 2020 as Covid battered employment prospects. Accountants were the least impacted of all financial professionals, while recruitment marketing was hit the hardest – down 41% compared to 2019. However, numbers improved towards the end of the year, with recruitment levels up 15.2% year-on-year in December 2020. The insurance sector dominated hiring within financial services in 2020, accounting for almost a third of the total vacancies. In contrast, the hardest-hit sector, consumer finance, saw jobs plummet 43% year-on-year. Fintech was the least impacted division, as roles dipped only 12.6% compared to the same period in 2019.

City A.M.

Pandemic accelerates a long-term move towards home working

The chief economist at Deloitte, Ian Stewart, has suggested people in jobs they can do at home are planning to return to work in the office for at least two days a week after restrictions are lifted. Mr Stewart told the Treasury select committee that a poll of 800 clients found very few people want to work entirely at home or in the office, but on average they would like to work in the office around two days a week. He added: “I think there is going to be a step change. There has been a long-term move towards greater flexible, agile home working. This is going to cause a significant acceleration of it.”

The Times, Page: 12


New sustainable finance disclosure rules come into force

European investment managers claiming to be green, must now also include new, black-and-white disclosures. The Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) requires financial companies and big investors to disclose the risk they face from ESG issues — such as climate change and human rights — as well as how their investments impact these same issues. This comes as the IFRS Foundation announces its intention to create a blueprint for corporate climate reporting, an initiative Larry Bradley, global head of audit at KPMG believes could be the “unifying force” that finally makes universal ESG standards a reality.

Financial Times Investors’ Corner Bloomberg Financial Times


Mixed feelings after evictions ban extended

The Government has extended the ban on housing evictions enforced by bailiffs in England until May. But ministers indicated this could be the final such extension, promising a “new approach” from June. The current ban was due to expire at the end of March. The Government also extended the ban on commercial evictions until 30 June, which it says will help firms as they re-open after lockdown. But the British Property Federation criticised the move with its CEO Melanie Leech declaring: “The scandal of those well-capitalised businesses who can pay rent, but have chosen not to, cannot be allowed to continue.” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said on the other hand that the move was “a sensible and positive step.”

BBC News Sky News The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2 Daily Mirror


83% pensions gap between men and women

According to The British Seniors State of Retirement Report, women have 83% less than men in their retirement pot, while nearly half of women over 50 believe they will struggle financially when they retire. The research found that women have an average total retirement pot of £113,520, compared to £206,990 among men – a disparity of £93,470.



Flybe’s operating licence revoked

The Civil Aviation Authority has revoked Flybe’s operating licence preventing administrators EY from transferring the airline’s take-off and landing slots to Thyme Opco, a company that was plotting the airline’s revival.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 3


Higher-earning Brits set for post-lockdown spending spree

Britons have amassed some £160bn in excess savings, according to new calculations by Deutsche Bank economists, who predict £16bn of this will be spent as lockdowns ease, double what the OBR expects to be pumped into the economy. Deutsche analyst Sanjay Raja said he wouldn’t be surprised if the figure hit £20bn. However, Raja pointed out that many on low incomes bore the brunt of the pandemic and were more likely to be going into debt: “These households, some may be on furlough and their costs are similar to before but their income is lower, are still reliant on credit, welfare, debt or family”.

City AM

Brexit knocks revenues at third of manufacturers

Since Britain left the EU in January more than a third of manufacturers have lost revenue according to Make UK, heightening worries over border delays and red tape. Separately, Brussels will make UK food manufacturers producing multi-ingredient products fill out new health assessment forms from April 21st, adding extra costs to exporting to the EU.

Financial Times, Page: 2 The Guardian, Page: 34 Financial Times, Page: 1 City A.M.


Young auditors concerned over purpose of work

Upcoming auditors and corporate reporters are keen to perform a function that is beneficial to society, says Leonid Sokolovskyy, PhD researcher at Alliance Manchester Business School. “They want to perform a function that creates value and doesn’t destroy value,” he adds, explaining how their priorities were reflected in their collective submission to the Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) future of corporate reporting initiative. In it they write: “A better form of socially responsible capitalism is possible if only we have the courage to pursue it.” They add that “public interest matters” when doing business and warn the regulator that should they not take the lead in developing corporate governance rules that put public interest at the forefront, then the FRC itself is in danger of becoming “irrelevant and detached” from the broader needs of society.

Accountancy Age

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward





Green investments should earn firms tax breaks

Companies investing in green technology should be eligible for tax breaks, EY’s former UK boss Steve Varley has said. Mr Varley suggested taxation could play a role in the Government’s efforts to end the UK’s contribution to global warming by 2050. He said: “In the past the UK… had incentives for research and development innovation. I think exploring those and reintroducing those at a greater scale to spur on green investments and green technology would be a really smart avenue for the Treasury.” The Telegraph points out that demand for consultants with expertise on reducing emissions is booming with companies keen for talent to help them reduce their carbon footprint.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 3

Doctors fighting Covid refuse extra shifts due to tax penalties

The Telegraph reports that doctors working overtime to fight the pandemic still face hefty tax bills due to the “tapered” annual allowance for pensions, leading many to refuse extra shifts. The NHS Pensions Scheme has previously extended a deadline to allow staff to cover tax bills using their retirement pots, known as “scheme pays”, to March 2021 for the 2018/19 tax year. But Rachael Hall, of adviser Sandringham Medical, said: “There is a clear mistake in people thinking the problem has gone away because the threshold of the taper was increased. Tapering thresholds have been extended but a £40,000 annual allowance still applies and some members will always exceed this level from one year to the next.”

The Daily Telegraph

Taxpayers told to query deadline fines

Accountants are urging taxpayers who receive penalties after the 31 January self-assessment tax deadline to appeal if they believe the fines were wrongly imposed. Data provided by HMRC to UHY Hacker Young shows that of £275m in penalties imposed for late payment, £167m was later cancelled. The firm also pointed out HMRC’s more understanding approach towards late filing suggests this may also be the case with the late payment of tax.

The I, Page: 45 Daily Express

It is not the time for Britain to raise taxes

An FT editorial says that Britain does not need to have taxes tinkered with at the moment, arguing that a broader look at taxation is called for, but this can wait for another day.

Financial Times, Page: 22


Calls for work placement programme to be extended

The UK Government’s Kickstart scheme, which offers paid six-month placements to 16 to 24-year-olds claiming universal credit, should be extended into 2022 in order to curb a rise in long-term unemployment for young people. The £2bn scheme launched last July pays employers £1,500 per post and then covers 100% of the minimum wage for 25 hours a week for a total of six months. The scheme is set to close to new applications at the end of the year. Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “The Government needs to extend it by at least another six months in my view – not least because the peak of long-term unemployment for young people may well be in 2022 rather than 2021.” Meanwhile, the FT reports that the Government is making it easier for small businesses to apply to the scheme.

The Daily Telegraph Financial Times Financial Times, Page: 2

Britain’s low-earners fall foul of rules on self-isolation

Studies provided to the UK Government show low earners are less likely to self-isolate after coming into contact with COVID-19, leading to calls for better financial support for this group.

Financial Times


Foreign demand remains for prime sites in the capital

International investment into commercial property in London is holding up well following an “horrific” period following the start of the pandemic with Q4 investment standing at about £5bn – roughly bang on the same number for Q4 each of the last three years, according to Mat Oakley at Savills. Kelly Cleveland, head of investment for British Land, adds that a “wall of capital” is waiting to deploy into London hinting at a rapid recovery once the Covid threat is lifted. With other sectors – retail and hospitality – remaining effectively uninvestable, offices and residential remain attractive especially given the lack of inflation of office rents due to Brexit, even if workers aren’t returning yet.

The Daily Telegraph


Bank of England warned over climate change investments

MPs have warned the Bank of England that it risks creating a “moral hazard” if it continues to buy bonds from companies with high emissions. Philip Dunne, who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee, has written to BoE Governor Andrew Bailey and said its rapid response to COVID-19 was “admirable”. However, he warned that the central bank’s actions were not lining up with global ambitions to limit climate change to 1.5C, as in the Paris Agreement, or the UK’s hopes to slash its emissions to “net zero” by 2050. Mr Dunne also called on the Bank to require companies getting taxpayer support through the Covid Corporate Financing Facility to publish climate-related financial disclosures. The Bank of England said in response “work to consider how best to take account of climate considerations in our corporate bond portfolio is already under way” and that climate change is a “strategic   priority ”.

Financial Times The Independent Daily Express


Tech frees finance chiefs for broader roles

The FT reports on how digital transformation has meant the skills companies are looking for in a finance chief have changed, with automation freeing CFOs up to work more strategically.

Financial Times, Corporate Change and Technology


Boohoo set to acquire Debenhams brand

The acquisition of the Debenhams brand by fast fashion retailer Boohoo is expected to be announced in the next few days. Sources say the cut-price deal will result in the closure of the group’s remaining department stores.

Financial Times


Record redundancies planned last year

Data obtained from the Insolvency Service shows that despite the Government’s furlough scheme, British employers made plans to cut 795,000 jobs last year, a record number. More than 10,000 firms planned job cuts, however the pace of planned cuts slowed at the end of the year. Last month employers notified Government of plans to cut 23,100 job cuts, which is the lowest monthly figure for 2020, though still a third higher than December 2019. Employers must notify the Insolvency Service when they plan to cut 20 or more jobs. The number of job cuts proposed through the year was well above the 530,000 seen the last time the UK was in recession, in 2010, and higher than any year in the records which go back to 2006.

BBC News

Hedge fund Element warns of deep economic blow from new virus strain

The head of markets at Element Capital, Colin Teichholtz, has warned that the impact of the new Covid strain on the European economy is being underestimated by investors and policymakers.

Financial Times

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward





Burden of crisis must not fall only on working people

Writing in the Express, Gary Stevenson, an “inequality economist” and former trader, talks about a report from Tax Justice UK based on the responses of ordinary people across the UK when asked about tax. He says Brits are increasingly irked by loopholes allowing the wealthy to skirt tax laws and many feel inequality is only growing. With huge rises in government debt as a result of rescuing the economy from the coronavirus crisis, Stevenson says the weight of this burden must not fall just on hard-working people but on the millionaires and billionaires too.

Daily Express, Page: 12


Scots workplaces must be “allowed to open quickly”

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has warned that businesses will struggle to survive a return to stricter coronavirus measures after Nicola Sturgeon halted any return to offices for at least another three weeks. Its CEO, Dr Liz Cameron, said: “We need to move forward to ensure our economy can recover and stem the loss of jobs where possible. That’s why we need our offices to be allowed to open quickly, particularly those where businesses have worked closely with employees and invested heavily in safety procedures.” Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland’s policy chair, added that the decision will have “consequences for firms reliant on workers’ footfall in our town and city centres.” He went on to suggest that “innovative new help might be required for those firms currently facing a footfall.”

The Scotsman, Page: 1

NatWest tops support lending league

Bank of England data show NatWest has been the biggest user of the Term Funding Scheme for smaller firms so far, which has extended £14.3bn to lenders. NatWest tapped the central bank fund for £5bn while Nationwide drew down £3.2bn, followed by Santander UK at £2.5bn.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 7


Comment: How to rebound from COVID without imposing tax rises

In an opinion piece for the Telegraph, John Mills argues that to recharge the economy coming out of the coronavirus crisis, the government should avoid introducing tax rises and spending cuts, and instead look to increase investment in categories with the highest total returns to the economy, which cluster around mechanisation, technology and power; and that to make these industries competitive, the pound should be brought down to a point where it is more profitable to invest in new production facilities in the UK rather than in China or Germany.

The Daily Telegraph


Reprieve for tenants facing eviction

A “truce” on enforcement action for tenants facing eviction in England and Wales this Christmas has been announced. The Government also said that evictions will not be enforced in areas subject to local lockdowns as the pandemic continues. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick added that it has increased notice periods to six months in an “unprecedented measure”.

BBC News


Failure to return spectators to stadiums will cost clubs £150m a month

The Premier League and English Football League estimate more than £150m could be lost every month across football clubs if Boris Johnson delays the Oct 1 return of crowds. Two of the 12 remaining trial games have now been scrapped after organisers confirmed they were no longer safe to continue. Meanwhile, restricting capacity to 1,000 fans means is not deemed financially viable. Half of financial directors working in the English professional game have concerns over the health of their clubs, according to a survey by BDO. Around 45% of those surveyed said their club’s finances were “in need of attention”, compared to 21% in 2019.

The Daily Telegraph, Sport, Page: 1-3


Saga CEO critical of former PE owners

Euan Sutherland, CEO of Saga, has criticised the over-50’s group’s former private equity owners for being “too focused on the short-term” and dramatically increasing its debts. Mr Sutherland said that the insurance and travel specialist had a “relentless focus” in its first 55 years that was then followed by 15 years of poor decisions.

The Daily Telegraph Financial Times, Page: 10 The Times, Page: 36


Warning on using life expectancy data for planning

Joseph Lu, director of longevity science at Legal & General Retail Retirement Income, has warned that national life expectancy data is not a suitable tool for retirement planning. He said: “National life expectancy data is not suitable for planning as it implies there is a one in two chance of outliving the figure. It doesn’t account for health, wealth and other important factors. If we would like a 90% chance of achieving life-long financial security, for age 65, plan for living to 100. This means planning for 35 years.”

FT Adviser


MPs urge Sunak to consider furlough extension for viable firms

MPs on the Treasury Committee are urging the Chancellor to consider a targeted extension of the furlough scheme so businesses with a chance of surviving the pandemic have an opportunity to do so. In a wide-ranging report on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, the MPs said Rishi Sunak should consider extending the more generous terms for universal credit and have a plan for helping debt-troubled SMEs, or risk a longer recession. The report added that tax rises were likely to stifle economic recovery, but indicated that the Committee would support the Chancellor if he scrapped the Conservative party’s manifesto pledge to maintain the pensions triple lock.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 The Times, Page: 19 Financial Times, Page: 2 The Guardian, Page: 31


Opinion: Corruption is the basis of UK’s wealth

The Guardian’s George Monbiot writes on corruption in the UK describing how research has revealed that three offshore centres are responsible for $1.1trn of illegal money flows annually. Monbiot rails against the City’s secrecy (it is exempt from FoI laws) and the freedom to hide ownership details when creating a company. He goes on to say the involvement of Britain’s bankers in global money laundering is a “perpetuation of colonial looting” and claims that processing “everyone else’s corruption is the basis of much of the wealth of this country.” Monbiot adds: “When you start to understand this, the contention by the author of Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano, that the UK is the most corrupt nation on Earth begins to make sense.”

The Guardian, Journal, Page: 1, 2

Contact Paul Southward