The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is weighing up plans to replace the furlough scheme with German-style wage subsidies as part of a wider emergency support package to help businesses through a second wave of Covid-19. Sources from business and industry told the Guardian that the Treasury has been consulting on options for the end of the furlough scheme as concerns mount over increasing numbers of job losses, and as rising infections and tougher restrictions risk derailing Britain’s economic fightback from the pandemic.
Pubs, bars and restaurants in England will have to shut by 10pm from Thursday under new nationwide restrictions to halt an “exponential” rise in coronavirus cases. Police have also been handed powers to issue £1,000 fines and make arrests to enforce 2 metre social distancing in pubs and restaurants, the Guardian has learned. Boris Johnson is expected to make an address to the nation on Tuesday setting out the new measures. - Guardian.
The government has been accused of failing to rescue struggling industrial companies through its “Project Birch” bailout scheme amid signs that manufacturers are slashing investment in a fight for survival. Against a backdrop of mounting job losses, Labour said the Treasury support scheme was gathering dust after only one company qualified for emergency bailout funding. - Guardian.
Britain’s most senior government scientists will make a direct appeal to the public on Monday, warning that the coronavirus trend is “heading in the wrong direction” and “a critical point has been reached”. As Downing Street considers imposing nationwide curbs to contain a sharp jump in cases, the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, will make a rare live televised address alongside the UK chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. - Guardian.
The value of the Queen’s land and property has been written down by more than £500m following a steep fall in rental receipts from shops. The Crown Estate encompasses London’s Regent Street and St James’s as well as malls and retail parks around the country, alongside the rights to seabeds around the British Isles. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to consider the value of its holdings as retailers and office tenants struggle to make rental payments.
John Lewis is working on plans for a massive reduction in the size of its London flagship store, converting entire floors into offices, as shoppers switch to buying online and the crisis on British high streets turns into a fight for survival amid the Covid pandemic. The staff-owned department store has applied for planning permission to switch up to three floors of its landmark Oxford Street store – which currently house children’s ranges, electrical goods, kitchen and bathroom departments as well as dining areas – into office space for rent.
Thomas Cook is being resurrected as an online-only travel business, exactly a year after the 178-year-old company ceased trading, stranding 150,000 holidaymakers abroad. The relaunch comes as the travel industry faces the worst tourism crisis since records began. World Tourism Organisation figures show that international tourist trips dropped by 65% during the first half of the year, an unprecedented drop. But Thomas Cook’s UK chief executive, Alan French, said the company was taking the “long view”.
The government is under pressure to intervene in the $40bn (£31bn) takeover of the UK’s biggest tech company, Arm Holdings, after Labour, trade unions and the company’s co-founder voiced concerns about the deal. The US software firm Nvidia said on Monday it had agreed to buy Cambridge-based Arm, a global leader in designing chips for smartphones, computers and tablets, from Japan’s SoftBank. - Guardian .
Tens of thousands of pubs, bars, nightclubs and gig venues will not survive increased coronavirus-prevention measures, such as local lockdowns and evening curfews, unless they receive fresh state support, the UK government has been warned. One in four of the 115,000 licensed premises in Britain still had not reopened by the end of August after restrictions were imposed to contain Covid-19, according to data from the analysis firm CGA and AlixPartners. – Guardian.
SoftBank is set to sell ARM for more than £30bn to American tech giant Nvidia, as fears mount over the future of 3,000 domestic jobs at the Cambridge-based tech company. The Japanese conglomerate, founded and led by billionaire Masayoshi Son, could seal a deal to sell ARM, whose technology powers most of the world’s smartphones, as early as this week, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. - Sunday Times.
Hotels and restaurants have been hit by a wave of cancellations as new coronavirus restrictions throw the country’s Christmas celebrations into doubt and raise the prospect of a fresh setback for the high street. If new rules banning gatherings of more than six people remain in place over the festive season, analysts say, the absence of Christmas parties and big family get-togethers could cost retailers billions of pounds in lost clothing and food sales. - Guardian.
The number of people going back to work in offices has flatlined in the past two months despite the government push to get more workers into cities to protect Britain’s biggest urban economies from collapse. According to analysis of mobile phone tracking data by the Centre for Cities thinktank, worker footfall across 63 of the UK’s largest town and city centres was just 17% of pre-lockdown levels at the end of June, remained at 17% at the start of August and was still at 17% in the last full week of the month.
Amazon’s key UK business paid just 3% more tax last year when profits rose by more than a third as the online retailer benefited from the switch to home shopping. The group’s warehouse and logistics operation, which employs more than two-thirds of its 30,000-plus UK workforce, Amazon UK Services, said its corporation tax contribution was £14. 46m in 2019, up from £14. 03m the year before. Pretax profits at the division soared 35% to nearly £102m as revenues rose by 29% to nearly £3bn, according to accounts about to be published by Companies House.
The slow return of UK workers to their normal place of work will come too late to save hard-pressed city centre stores from going under, the body that represents retailers has said. Despite a pick-up in spending in August, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said sales were still below their pre-pandemic level and the lack of people was having a devastating impact on shops operating in places once thronged with workers. – Guardian.
Boris Johnson is drawing up legislation that will override the Brexit withdrawal agreement on Northern Ireland, a move that threatens the collapse of crunch talks which the prime minister has said must be completed within five weeks. Johnson will put an ultimatum to negotiators this week, saying the UK and Europe must agree a post-Brexit trade deal by 15 October or Britain will walk away for good. – Guardian.
At least 100m subsidised meals were eaten by diners in the UK in August following a last-minute rush by the public to take advantage of the government’s month-long “eat out to help out” scheme, the Treasury stated. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, praised the public for helping to save jobs in the vulnerable hospitality industry as it emerged that the meal discount scheme had exceeded expectations and would cost more than the £500m he set aside in the July mini budget.
The Bank of England has cast doubt on the government drive to get workers back to offices, after a senior official warned it was impossible for large numbers of staff to return to central London and other big cities while risks from Covid-19 remained. Pouring cold water on the government campaign, Alex Brazier, the Bank’s executive director for financial stability strategy and risk, said it was “not possible” for a mass return to city centre offices across Britain this autumn due to Covid guidelines, concerns over the health risks, and transport capacity issues.
The morning flow of commuters arriving at Canary Wharf, London’s financial district, was a trickle on Tuesday rather than the torrent traditionally associated with the end of summer return to work. Sparse numbers of suited and smartly dressed workers emerged from the underground station, clutching their morning takeaway coffees, destined for the corporate headquarters of banks, financial services companies and law firms. – Guardian.
Nearly one in four home purchases this year will be backed by the “bank of mum and dad” – up from fewer than one in five in 2019 – as buyers struggle with the economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis. Financial help provided by the bank of mum and dad, encompassing parents, grandparents, other family and friends, will be a driving force behind the recovery of Britain’s housing market. Those able to assist will lend an average of £20,000 towards a deposit on a home, said researchers from insurer Legal & General (L&G) and economics consultancy Cebr.
The Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, has signalled to Michel Barnier, the EU’s frontman, that he will recommend Britain leaves without a trade deal unless Brussels drops demands the UK continue to align with its rules on state aid. Frost took a tough stance a week ago in private meetings with Barnier, which failed to advance the talks. Barnier then demanded to see the UK’s blueprint for its domestic subsidy regime after the transition, which is not likely to be published until the end of September.