Cars v Public Transport

Environmentalists advocate the use of public transport instead of cars as this will reduce carbon emissions and help combat climate change.

Achieving this is not only about changing people’s attitudes but will involve a significant shift in government strategy and investment to make public transport as convenient as cars.

This is an issue for urban and rural locations outside London, which has a relatively high usage of public transport and arguably offers an excellent network buses, tubes and trains that make it very convenient for the public.

Arguably, efforts to reduce car use in London have been helped by the introduction of the congestion charge and both the Low Emission and Ultra Low Emission Zones (LEZ). Indeed, other cities, such as Bristol, are said to be considering similar restrictions.

It is certainly the case that New Car Registrations have been falling drastically in the last two years.

According to figures published by Autoexpress, the UK’s new-car market...

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Post-Christmas apocalypse for the retail sector?

brexit economy retail Nov 12, 2019

As we head for its most crucial shopping period in the wake of Mothercare and Mamas & Papas collapsing into administration, I make no apologies for revisiting the UK’s retail sector.

Following last month’s Brexit Halloween deadline and with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas ahead of us retailers have reportedly stockpiled seasonal products earlier than usual but the consumer uncertainty remaining no one knows how much stock will remain unsold in the new year.

The Confederation of British Industry, the country’s leading business lobby group, said retailers’ stock levels compared with the volume of expected sales had risen to the highest point in October since it began compiling retail sales estimates in 1983.

This is against a backdrop of dramatically narrowing profit margins, falling consumer confidence and repeated demands for comprehensive reform of business rates falling on seemingly deaf Government ears.

A new report by the global professional...

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No respite for the global economy as conditions get worse

brexit economy growth Nov 05, 2019

As we head towards the end of the year it is a good time to look at the current state of the global economy.

Trade wars and the threats of tariffs being imposed by the US on China have become a wearyingly familiar story as US President Donald Trump continues his policy of ‘putting the American economy first’ at all times. It is not just China in the firing line, the rhetoric has escalated with his threat made in October to introduce a series of 25% tariffs on a range of exports worth an estimated £5.8bn from the EU.

But this is not the only trade dispute in the global economy as Japan and South Korea’s disagreements threaten the production of smartphones, computers and other electronics, while yet another Brexit delay, and now a UK general election, all add to the uncertain economic outlook in both the EU and the UK.

Growth has been slowing in India, particularly in its automotive sector, and to an extent in China also.

At the same time there seems to have...

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Recession, imminent or not is it time to ban the word?

brexit economy Oct 10, 2019

Recession is a word that has immense power, striking apprehension into the hearts of businesses, politicians and consumers alike.

Talk of a recession can also precipitate the very economic conditions that are so feared and it is worrying that the word is currently appearing regularly in the daily news media.

But is recession a useful concept especially in the context of increasing pressure to move to sustainable, rather than perpetual, economic growth, in order to combat climate change and global warming?

Should we keep growing?

The generally-accepted definition of a recession is, according to the Business Dictionary: a contraction in the GDP for six months (two consecutive quarters) or longer. It goes on to say: “Marked by high unemployment, stagnant wages, and fall in retail sales, a recession generally does not last longer than one year and is much milder than a depression. Although [they] are considered a normal part of a capitalist economy, there is no unanimity of...

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Sector update: have there been improvements in care home viability?

It hardly seems any time since I last assessed the viability of the UK’s care home sector, but in the light of recent developments with one of the UK’s largest providers it’s time for an update.

The last blog in December 2018 focused on the implications of the collapse of Southern Cross in 2011. This time it has been prompted by reports this month that Four Seasons, Britain’s second-largest private care home provider with around 320 sites and 22,000 staff, has confirmed it has failed to pay rent on time. It is being seen as a negotiating tactic in order to cut bills, but is this really the case?

Its latest troubles began in 2017 when its owner Terra Firma was unable to pay interest on its debts, most of which are owned by private equity firm H/2 Capital Partners who took control and have overseen the group since then.

The business, which has more than £700 million in debts, appointed Alvarez & Marsal as administrators...

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The state of manufacturing in the UK and globally

brexit economy sme smes Oct 01, 2019

This month’s Key Indicator looks at the state of manufacturing in the UK and globally and by all indications, it is struggling everywhere.

While the proportion of manufacturing as a part of individual national economies varies all economies depend on trade with each other and in an interconnected world a slowdown in one place can have a significant impact on others.

China is currently the No 1 in the world in terms of manufacturing output valued at $2,010 billion representing 27% of national output. USA is second ($1,867, 12%); Japan third  ($1,063, 19%); followed by Germany ($700, 23%); South Korea ($372, 29%); India ($298, 16%); France ($274, 11%) and Italy ($264, 16%).  The UK trails these countries in ninth place with $244 billion manufacturing output representing 10% of national output.

Poland meanwhile has the highest percentage of its workforce employed in manufacturing, followed by Germany, Italy, Turkey, and South Korea.

In the UK, manufacturing makes up 11%...

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Ongoing carnage in consumer services sector as consumers reduce spending in restaurants and bars

brexit economy retail Sep 10, 2019

As I outlined in my June sector blog, it is not only well-known shops in the consumer services sector that have been struggling.

The restaurant sector has also seen a plethora of big name closures, including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccios, Prezzo/Chimichanga, Byron, Cafe Rouge, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group and most recently the Restaurant Group which has announced that it plans to close up to 100 of its Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito branches.

A recent CBI poll has revealed that the whole of the consumer services sector, which includes hotels, bars, restaurants and leisure firms, has suffered its fourth consecutive fall in business activity with both profits and confidence plummeting.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist of the CBI, said: “The idea of a no-deal Brexit is clearly weighing down the economy and is affecting businesses both big and small.”

But, of course, there is much more to all this than Brexit uncertainty weighing on businesses and...

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The current state of UK commodity prices

brexit economy Sep 03, 2019

Ongoing fears of a global economic recession, not to mention the escalating trade war between the USA and China, are having an impact on commodity prices.

August has been a particularly torrid month, according to analysts, with iron ore prices in particular suffering a sharp drop – up to 30% according to a report in the Financial Times, although other sources also back this up.

The ongoing uncertainty has also had its effect on oil prices, with OPEC cutting production while the USA has increased theirs. This has had its impact on the futures price of oil, with Brent Crude for October falling 31 cents, or 0.5%, to $60.18 a barrel.

According to the latest analysis from Marketwatch.com, published on August 30, “Commodities will end August with a second straight monthly loss”.

It says that the S & P GSCI index, which tracks 24 commodities across five sectors was down by more than 4% at the end of August, following a fall of 7% in July.

Gold and Silver prices, on...

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UK productivity – is it time to move to a four-day working week?

economy productivity Aug 20, 2019

The UK’s comparatively low productivity and how to improve it has long been a source of debate and analysis.

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) has reported a reduction in UK productivity for three successive quarters and according to the Resolution Foundation productivity is now 28% below the average rate before the 2008 financial crisis.  Yet this is a time when employment levels in the UK are the highest they have ever been.

Business productivity has traditionally been calculated by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period and is used as a determinant of efficiency.

Productivity in both national economies and individual businesses is much scrutinised by governments, business commentators and business owners as an indication of performance, efficiency and economic health.

All of this is based on the assumption that perpetual growth and competition are the cornerstones of...

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The current state of the commercial property sector

brexit economy Aug 13, 2019

With economic uncertainty prevailing both globally and in the UK it would be no surprise if the commercial property sector was facing some difficulties.

The commercial property sector covers Community, Education, Hotel, Healthcare, Office, Retail and Industrial and it is clear from some of the statistics that the woes of retail have been acting as a drag on the sector as a whole.

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) provides information on property and investment opportunities and in its most recent analysis on new construction starts it revealed that they fell in the first quarter of 2019 for the first time since Q2 2017.

It reports that the ongoing uncertainty “dampened UK commercial real estate transactional activity in Q2, with investment volumes slowing to £8.9bn. This represented a 22% decline on the first half of and was the slowest first half of the year since 2013.

However, it reports, Alistair Meadows, Head of UK Capital Markets, believes that...

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