Press Round-Up Short (Premium)
UK car production plunged by more than a third in March to its lowest since 2009 as the coronavirus pandemic forced factories to close in an unprecedented crisis for the industry. Just 78,767 vehicles left factory gates in the month, some 47,428 fewer than the same period in the previous year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the sector’s lobby group. - Guardian.
The UK government’s plan to subsidise the wages of workers affected by the Covid-19 lockdown should be extended until at least autumn to prevent it from becoming a “waiting room” for redundancy, employers groups have argued. Demanding the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, make urgent changes to protect workers, firms and the wider economy, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said the Treasury’s multibillion-pound coronavirus job retention scheme needed to be made more flexible to allow furloughed staff to work reduced hours.
Ministers have held a series of high-level meetings with trades unions and business leaders amid fears that millions of people will be too fearful to return to work as pressure intensifies on the government to publish a path out of the national lockdown. The Guardian has been told that both sides of industry have been drafted into seven sector-by-sector meetings chaired by the business secretary, Alok Sharma, in recent days – after concerns arose in Whitehall that many employees may be reluctant to return to the workplace, even when the government gives the green light.
The government must set out its lockdown exit plans to restore confidence among British businesses that have become increasingly bleak about the economy’s future, a leading employers’ group has warned. The Institute of Directors said its 28,000 members were “clamouring” for information so they could start drawing up return-to-work plans. Jon Geldart, its director general, said it was in everyone’s interests to kickstart the economy again once it is safe to do so.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce plans for easing the lockdown as early as this week after he returned to Downing Street on Sunday night to take full-time control of the coronavirus crisis. The Prime Minister will on Monday morning chair his first meeting of the Covid-19 “war cabinet” since he was taken to hospital more than three weeks ago, and is ready to resume his role hosting televised Number 10 press conferences. - Sunday Telegraph.
Business leaders have urged the government to expand its Covid-19 rescue schemes to prevent thousands of businesses from going bust, as figures showed lenders have approved fewer than half of the applications for state-backed loans made to date. The CBI said ministers needed to address shortcomings in the loans scheme for small and medium-sized businesses, under which 16,624 firms have borrowed £2. 8bn to date, up from £1. 1bn a week earlier. – Guardian.
More than 100 nightclubs, pubs and bars are planning coordinated legal action against the insurer Hiscox over its non-payment of business interruption insurance claims. Hiscox sold policies before coronavirus hit the headlines, stating it would pay out when a business was forced to shut owing to a notifiable disease. Business owners have filed claims to Hiscox and other commercial insurers only to be told their business interruption policies do not cover the pandemic.
More than 70% of private firms have furloughed staff in response to the coronavirus lockdown, according to the latest survey of Britain’s struggling business sector. The British Chamber of Commerce said responses to its weekly Covid-19 tracker poll revealed the proportion of firms that have furloughed at least some staff increased to 71% this week, from 66% last week. - Guardian.
US oil prices turned negative for the first time on record on Monday after oil producers ran out of space to store the oversupply of crude left by the coronavirus crisis, triggering an historic market collapse which left oil traders reeling. The price of US crude oil crashed from $18 a barrel to -$38 in a matter of hours, as rising stockpiles of crude threatened to overwhelm storage facilities and forcedoil producers to pay buyers to take the barrels they could not store.
Crucial publicly owned transport services could face the axe because of lost revenues due to passengers staying away, cities around England have warned, as Metro light rail systems losing tens of millions of pounds a month are not covered by the Treasury’s support for bus and rail operators during the coronavirus lockdown. While private rail franchises have been replaced by guaranteed income, and bus operators’ revenue topped up, the government has yet to bail out major urban networks including Manchester’s Metrolink, the Tyne and Wear Metro and Liverpool’s Merseyrail, as well as the London Underground.
Downing Street's refusal to extend the Brexit transition period is partly based on a concern that the EU will demand "massive" payments to help deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Telegraph has been told. A source close to the negotiations said that paying into an increased EU budget was "clearly not in the national interest", adding: "We need to spend money on our own needs in our own way. " - Sunday Telegraph.
Britain’s biggest companies handed out almost half a trillion pounds in dividends and share buybacks in the years before the coronavirus crisis struck, according to a report warning that the scale of the payouts has undermined their resilience. According to research from the Common Wealth thinktank, around £400bn was paid in dividends and £61bn of cash returned to investors in share buybacks between 2011 and 2018 by the 100 biggest UK companies. – Guardian.
Crawley has been identified as the place in Britain at highest risk of widespread job losses amid the coronavirus crisis, according to a report warning that the economic damage will fall unevenly across the country. More than half of all jobs in the West Sussex town are at risk of being furloughed or lost, according to the Centre for Cities thinktank, which said Crawley’s high reliance on the aviation industry placed it at the heart of the economic storm. - Guardian.
Commercial creditors owed money by poor countries should only be eligible for government Covid-19 bailout cash if they agree to sign up to a comprehensive global debt deal, the head of one of the world’s leading charities has said. Despite signs that the G20 group of developed and developing nations are edging towards an agreement on help for the most vulnerable nations, Inger Ashing, chief executive of Save the Children International said the plan would only be fully effective if it included the private sector.
The coalition government policy that led to state pensions rising quicker than wages should be scrapped as part of an “intergenerational reciprocation” for the costs of battling Covid-19, a thinktank has said. The Social Market Foundation (SMF) proposes that the massive economic cost of the emergency measures deployed to manage the pandemic must be shared fairly between old and young, and that some of the huge anticipated government deficit could be funded by abandoning the so-called triple lock guarantee on state pension rises.
Property consultant Altus calculates that, of the £11bn in business rates relief granted in England, about £3bn will go to food retailers. A bailout package meant to prop up businesses facing closure is filling the supermarkets’ coffers even as they enjoy record sales. Tensions were raised last week when Tesco, the biggest beneficiary, said it would pay a final dividend of £635m for 2019-20, about 15% higher than the City had expected. Chief executive Dave Lewis reminded critics that it related to performance before the virus drove food-buyers to the supermarkets.
More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam has warned. Ahead of three key international meetings next week, the charity said the impact of shutting down economies to prevent the virus spreading risked setting back the fight against poverty by a decade globally – and by 30 years in the hardest-pressed countries of sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the Middle East.
More businesses in the UK are laying off staff as they start to run out of cash and struggle to get access to emergency coronavirus financial support from the government, a leading employers’ organisations has said. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its weekly survey of how firms were coping with the Covid-19 crisis found an increase in the number planning to furlough workers as a result of the economic lockdown. – Guardian.
Mark Barnett, the protege of fallen investment star Neil Woodford, has been sacked as manager of a £400m investment trust for poor performance. Barnett has been handed six months’ notice by Invesco Perpetual Income and Growth Investment Trust after more than 20 years as its manager. – Guardian.
The government has committed to piloting no-interest loans for people on low incomes, but is resisting calls for the support to be accelerated to tackle the coronavirus recession. The coronavirus crisis has prompted concerns that people on low incomes could fall through the gaps in the government’s support, causing them to look to payday lenders and other providers of high-cost credit to pay for essential goods during the lockdown, when they are unable to look for work.