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Southern Rail owner handed £13.4m fine

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Southern Rail’s owner has been fined £13.4m by the Department of Transport over delays.

The Go-Ahead Group operates Southern Rail via its Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) subsidiary.

“We are pleased that this issue has been concluded, and accept and are sorry that our service levels haven’t been good enough for passengers”, said GTR CEO Charles Horton. “We run the most congested network in the UK where passenger journeys have doubled in the last 12 years.”

“This has meant we have been running services for more and more passengers while also allowing stations to be rebuilt, platforms extended, track and signalling replaced and new trains and technology introduced too.”

Unions have rejected the fine as being too lenient.

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UK entrepreneur Nick Wheeler kicks off KPMG Dublin series

Picture credit/Julien Behal
NO FEE
27/06/2017
KPMG today launched a new series of speaker events for business, the KPMG Inspire Series, with it’s first speaker being entrepreneur Nick Wheeler, Chief Executive of Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts, a leading UK shirts and menswear maker which has taken the traditional bricks and mortar retail model and added a highly successful online presence, quickly becoming one of Europe’s leading online retailers.  Nick Wheeler spoke to guests at a lunch in the Royal Hibernian Academy, Ely Place, Dublin.Picture shows Nick Wheeler with Olivia Lynch, Partner and Head of Private Enterprise at KPMG in Ireland at the RHA Gallery,Dublin in front of a painting by Blaise Smith one of the artists featured in the RHA’s 187th Annual Exhibition.
Pic Julien Behal Photography/No Fee
More info contact Nuala Buttner Q4 PR 085-1744275
KPMG has launched a new series of speaker events for business, the KPMG Inspire Series, with UK entrepreneur Nick Wheeler, chief executive of Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts.

Successful businessman Wheeler spoke to guests at a lunch in the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin at the KPMG Inspire Series yesterday. The series will feature guest speakers from across the business spectrum, from leading entrepreneurs to venture capital and business leadership and management experts.

Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts is a leading UK shirts and menswear maker, which has taken the traditional retail model and added a highly successful online presence, quickly becoming one of Europe’s leading online retailers.

Olivia Lynch, Partner and Head of Private Enterprise at KPMG in Ireland said: “We have created the Inspire Series to share the very best business insights on how to build, grow and transform a business. At KPMG Private Enterprise, we have a long and proud history of working shoulder to shoulder with Irish entrepreneurs, helping them to move through the various stages of the development of their businesses, from the early days to scaling up. We’re always looking for new ways to share insights and that’s what led us to launch the KPMG Inspire Series.”

She continued: “We are delighted to be joined today by shirt entrepreneur Nick Wheeler. Nick has taken a highly conventional business, making and selling high quality shirts and menswear, and has transformed it into a global, business with bricks and mortar stores in Paris, London and New York, and, probably most important in the modern business era, a huge global online presence. Across the traditional and new retail platforms, Nick’s business sells over five million shirts a year. His passion to succeed as an entrepreneur is inspirational and we hope will encourage those enterprises attending today to be similarly motivated and inspired.”

The next event in the series will feature Julie Meyer of Ariadne Capital on fundraising and investment opportunities.

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UK election results hit consumer confidence – YouGov

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The indecisive outcome of this month’s general election damaged consumer confidence, according to data released by YouGov.

The research firm saw a sharp dip in the important economic measurement immediately after the vote.

“UK consumer confidence slumped sharply after the indecisive result of the general election, falling to levels comparable to the immediate aftermath of last year’s vote to leave the EU, our latest analysis with the Centre for Economics and Business Research shows,” explained YouGov head of reports Stephen Harmston.

“We found that in the first eight days of June – before the results were known – the YouGov/Cebr Consumer Confidence Index stood at 109.1, around the same level it was at the month before the snap election was declared. However, in the first twelve days after the votes were counted, the Index fell to 105.2.”

YouGov identified two key drivers in the data: lack of confidence over property prices, and a “slow puncture” in people’s household finances.

“However, the data suggests that the job security and business activity measures, both for the last 30 days and the next 12 months, are proving relatively resilient,” said Harmston.

 

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Britain ‘weary’ of austerity, says Hammond in Mansion House speech

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British voters have tired of austerity and the health of the UK’s economy depends on the outcome of Brexit negotiations, UK chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond said in his Mansion House speech on Tuesday.

The annual event, delayed due to last week’s Greenfell Tower disaster, saw the chancellor lean towards a ‘soft’ Brexit with economic matters to the fore.

“Britain is weary after seven years of hard slog repairing the damage of the great recession,” said Hammond. “Funding for public services can only be delivered in one of three ways: higher taxes; higher borrowing; or stronger economic growth. And only one of those three choices is a long-term sustainable solution for this country in the face of the inexorable pressure of an ageing population.”

Hammond addressed Brexit in milder terms than he did on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show in which he said “no deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain” on Sunday.

“The future of our economy is inexorably linked to the kind of Brexit deal that we reach with the EU,” he said yesterday.

“Our departure from the EU is underway. But ensuring that it happens via a smooth pathway to a deep and special future partnership with our EU neighbours, one that protects jobs, prosperity, and living standards in Britain, will require every ounce of skill and diplomacy that we can muster.

“Yesterday was a positive start. It will get tougher. But we are ready for the challenge,” he said.

Brexit negotiations, led by Brexit secretary David Davis and EU negotiator Michel Barnier, opened in Luxembourg on Monday.

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Are businesses turning away from Theresa May?

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Katya Puyraud of Euro Start Entreprises interprets the mood in advance of election day.

Think Conservatives and you think business. The current governing party has always been inextricably tied to the interests of commerce in the UK, back to Thatcher and beyond. Their policies of privatisation, corporation tax cuts and red tape reduction have developed an image of economic competence that has seen businesses back them to the hilt. A combination of vocal support and party funding has formed a significant part of the last two Tory electoral victories.

Recently, however, this cast-iron support has come under question. An apparent move away from the party’s favoured free market economic model has left businesses lukewarm and wondering where the Tories are headed. While it’s debatable whether the opposition’s vision is more palatable to business, the fact that this debate is even being had may worry the current government in the run up to June 8th.

Manifesto malaise
The Conservative manifesto has been a difficult sell for many groups, but the most unusual dissent has come from business interests. Analysis by the Telegraph of small business leaders suggests that the reaction on social media has been almost overwhelmingly disapproving: over 50% of responses were negative, and only 8% were clearly positive. Larger businesses have not taken it much better, with Morrisons boss Andy Higginson calling their policies an “attack on business.”

Chief among the complaints is the lack of costing throughout the manifesto, making up 34% of complaints logged by the Telegraph. This is thrown into particularly stark relief by the ‘fully costed’ Labour manifesto, though there are indications that this was rushed and is not entirely accurate. Still, combined with the recent U-turn on the cost of social care, May seems to have undermined the ‘strong and stable’ slogan that has been the bedrock of her campaign.

It is the general willingness to complain that might hurt May the most. The manifesto pledges are only the latest in a line of decisions that have tested the resolve of the business community; these include raising the minimum wage, a controversial apprenticeship levy and a flagship policy to cap energy prices. With the additional burden of slowing consumer spending and political uncertainty, business leaders say they are struggling to shoulder these burdens.

Deal or no deal
Dwarfing these, however, is the thorny issue of Brexit. Businesses have put a brave face on things, and most feel confident of pulling through what will be a challenging period. But they still face a significant instability, not least because of the government’s insistence on a ‘hard Brexit’, and an unwillingness to clarify its negotiating position this early on.

For businesses contributing to the UK’s £14.3bn trade deficit, import costs have risen thanks to the weakened pound sterling. These now have to be passed on to consumers who are spending less, contributing to the recent fall in growth. And the future of exporters remains uncertain, with 44% of UK exports going to other EU countries.

It’s notable that in the weeks since the manifesto launch, Theresa May has moved away from domestic policy issues and back towards Brexit. While she notably did not support it, her apparent willingness to leave negotiations with ‘no deal’, as opposed to ‘a bad deal’, has won plaudits.

Whether this is an economically sensible approach is questionable; any deal involving billions of pounds in settlements is likely to be seen as a bad deal. But what some would see as stubbornness, many see as strength – a quality that the more demure Jeremy Corbyn sometimes is perceived to lack.

Opinion still varies on Brexit when it comes to ideological grounds, as well as other political factors, but it did not represent the pragmatic choice. The ability to acquire the best person for the job and trade freely only benefits business, and these abilities remain under direct threat. The last thing SMEs want from the government at this uncertain juncture is policies that upset the status quo.

Labouring the point
On these grounds at least, Labour do not present a particularly credible alternative. Jeremy Corbyn has proposed a tax rise for the top 5% of earners in order to pay for massive public expenditure, as well as nationalising certain keystone industries; none of this plays particularly well to larger businesses. Questions have also been raised of Corbyn’s leadership qualities following Labour infighting, something that may inhibit his influence on the global stage.

But smaller enterprise will not be hit by these tax cuts, and big business is hardly in favour of the Tories’ move to give employees more power in the boardroom. While its position on Brexit has been muddled, Labour also represents the most likely choice to pursue a softer approach to negotiations, and would do so without the dubious services of Boris Johnson.

What this shift represents remains uncertain. It is entirely possible that business interests will continue to simmer, aware that there are few options other than to quietly lobby government. But the outcome of the election could prove decisive.

A more likely scenario than a Labour victory would be a coalition government. This would have the potential for more balanced policymaking, involving both sides of the spectrum – and both sides of the Brexit vote – in decisions with decades of consequences. But it could also descend into unwelcome chaos and uncertainty, given the polarised opinions on each side. It would also throw doubt on Theresa May’s mandate to continue as both prime minister and party leader.

As ever, British enterprise will try to adapt to the hand it’s given. Brexit is not an immediate positive or a long-term one, but enough remains to be negotiated that businesses can be optimistic. While social issues have altered the momentum of the election campaign, the battle for Brexit is probably where the war will be won.

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Former journalist Katya Puyraud is the co-owner of Euro Start Entreprises, specialising in company formation in France and the rest of the EU. Since 2007 Euro Start Entreprises has helped budding digital nomads, entrepreneurs and expanding SMEs to open their companies in over 30 countries worldwide.

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No ‘rationalisation’ at Vauxhall, says Business Secretary

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UK Business Secretary Greg Clarke has claimed that GM-owned carmaker Vauxhall’s UK future is secure.

“There is some way to go in discussions between GM and PSA but I was reassured by GM’s intention, communicated to me, to build on the success of these operations rather than rationalise them,” he said having met General Motors president Dan Ammann amid reports of a sale of Vauxhall and Opel to the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen.

“We will continue to be in close contact with GM and PSA in the days and weeks ahead,” said Clark.

GM was more cautious in its announcement: “While we have no definitive news to report at this time, we can affirm that our objective in exploring opportunities with PSA Group is to build on the success of Opel Vauxhall and to put the business and the operations in the strongest possible position for the future. We look forward to engaging with our stakeholders as part of these ongoing discussions,” it said.

The proposed deal is facing union opposition and political uncertainty, with details of the plan still thin after news of takeover talks emerged earlier this week.

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IFS predicts more spending cuts and low growth

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The Institute for Fiscal Studies has announced its Green Budget, with predictions and analysis highly critical of the UK economy.

The London-based think tank predicts that sharp spending cuts are due to arrive before the next election, with tax rising to a greater proportion of national income than has been seen since the mid-1980s: the IFS says that spending cuts and tax rises will continue into the 2020s.

The report was compiled with analysis from Oxford Economics, which expects a “relatively disappointing” 1.6% GDP growth this year, and 1.3% growth in 2018, with wages almost static.

“For all the focus on Brexit the public finances in the next few years look set to be defined by the spending cuts announced by George Osborne,” explained IFS director Paul Johnson. “Cuts to day-to-day public service spending are due to accelerate while the tax burden continues to rise. Even so, the new chancellor may not find it all that easy to meet his target of eliminating the budget deficit in the next parliament. Even on central forecasts that is going to require extending austerity towards the mid-2020s. If the economy does less well than hoped then we may see yet another set of fiscal rules consigned to the dustbin.”

Andrew Goodwin, Oxford Economics’ lead UK economist, said that the UK economy has thus-far achieved solid growth – but that it has been almost entirely reliant on the consumer. “With spending power set to come under significant pressure from higher inflation and the welfare squeeze, the consumer will not be able to keep contributing more than its fair share. Exports should be a bright spot, but overall a slowdown in GDP growth appears likely.”

“If the government is able to agree a transitional arrangement with the EU and make progress on a free-trade agreement then the impact of Brexit is likely to be fairly modest within our forecast horizon of 2021. However, the negative effects of leaving the single market and the customs union are likely to become clearer over time and we estimate that the new trading arrangements could reduce UK GDP by around 3% by 2030, compared with remaining in the EU. Should we fail to secure a free-trade agreement then the outcome is likely to be worse still.”

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Britain “open for business” says May at Davos

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May addressed trade, globalisation and Brexit at Davos this morning in a keynote World Economic Forum speech.

May, who set out a Brexit strategy for the first time earlier this week, used the opportunity to speak in more general terms about the issues of the day – particularly globalisation and the UK’s place in the world.

“The United Kingdom – a country that has so often been at the forefront of economic and social change – will step up to a new leadership role as the strongest and most forceful advocate for business, free markets and free trade anywhere in the world,” she said.

May also said that the Brexit vote was a choice on the part of voters “to build a truly global Britain” and said that critics and said that international critics have failed to understand voters’ motivation.

She also focused on the pressures facing international institutions. “I believe strongly in a rules based global order. The establishment of the institutions that give effect to it in the mid twentieth century was a crucial foundation for much of the growing peace and prosperity the world has enjoyed since. And the tragic history of the first half of the last century reminds us of the cost of those institutions’ absence,” she said.

May said that Britain is “open for business” but set out a need for better corporate governance and social responsibility if globalisation is to attract popular support. “That is why I have talked a great deal about our country delivering yet higher standards of corporate governance, to help make the UK the best place to invest of any major economy.

“That means several things,” she said. “It means businesses paying their fair share of tax, recognising their obligations and duties to their employees and supply chains, and trading in the right way; companies genuinely investing in – and becoming part of – the communities and nations in which they operate, and abiding by the responsibilities that implies; and all of us taking steps towards addressing executive pay and accountability to shareholders.”

The prime minister concluded by referring to “that great Conservative principle – change in order to conserve”. “I am determined to make sure that centre-ground, mainstream politics can respond to the concerns people have today. I am determined to stand up for free markets, free trade and globalisation, but also to show how these forces can work for everyone,” she said.

This year’s Davos conference concludes tomorrow.

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Theresa May’s speech: five things we learned

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The UK prime minister’s Brexit details have been vague and limited to the “Brexit means Brexit” soundbyte – until she stood up at Lancaster House and made what is expected to be the only major policy explanation before Article 50 is triggered.

 

1: Brexit means out of the single market

“I want to be clear – what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market,” May confirmed: here comes the hard Brexit.

2: And no more Customs Union

“Full Customs Union membership prevents us from negotiating our own comprehensive trade deals,” she also said. “I do not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and I do not want us to be bound by the Common External Tariff. I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU.”

3: Ireland will get special treatment

What to do about the UK’s only land border – with the Republic of Ireland – has been unclear to this point. “We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system,” May announced. “Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past, so we will make it a priority to deliver a practical solution as soon as we can.”

4: Parliament will vote on the deal

“I can confirm today the government will put the final deal… to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force,” May announced. Brexit minister David Davis has predicted that this will be a rubber-stamp operation: “They won’t vote it down. This negotiation will succeed,” he said.

5: Reaction: the pound rises, Europe laughs and the opposition are angry

Markets like certainty, and sterling enjoyed its biggest one-day jump since 1998, to $1.23, although the FTSE dropped significantly. The political reaction, on the other hand, has been mixed. The European media was hostile, with Die Welt just one of the outlets that interpreted the speech as “leading Great Britain into isolation”. Back in the UK, Labour and the Liberal Democrats went on the attack.

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“She only makes the tea”: 10 reasons why employers don’t pay the minimum wage

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The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has published a list of the most bizarre excuses why businesses refuse to pay the minimum wage.

It is topped by “The employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage,” followed by “It’s part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first,” and in third place was “I thought it was ok to pay foreign workers below the National Minimum Wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it”.

The move comes as the government launches a £1.7m awareness campaign aimed at educating workers regarding their entitlements.

“There are no excuses for underpaying staff what they are legally entitled to,” explained Business Minister Margot James. “This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid in society about what they must legally receive and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be paid less to contact Acas as soon as possible.

“Every call is followed up by HMRC and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage,” she said. The National Living Wage will increase to £7.50 per hour this spring, with the National Minimum Wage ranging from £4.05 to £7.05.

That list in full:
  1. The employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage.
  2. It’s part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first 3 months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.
  3. I thought it was ok to pay foreign workers below the National Minimum Wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it.
  4. She doesn’t deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.
  5. I’ve got an agreement with my workers that I won’t pay them the National Minimum Wage; they understand and they even signed a contract to this effect.
  6. My accountant and I speak a different language – he doesn’t understand me and that’s why he doesn’t pay my workers the correct wages.
  7. My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the National Minimum Wage doesn’t apply to people who work for themselves.
  8. My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they’re actually serving someone.
  9. My employee is still learning so they aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
  10. The National Minimum Wage doesn’t apply to my business.