UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Boosting the economy: lower taxes, higher spending or both?

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suggested he will push expansionary fiscal policies to help boost the economy. Brown’s comments were the latest in a series from him and Chancellor Alistair Darling stressing the importance of boosting the economy, which shrank in the third quarter of 2008 for the first time in 16 years and is expected to contract more sharply next year.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has also put his weight behind “some fiscal stimulus”, just as the Bank predicted in its quarterly inflation report that the economy would shrink sharply next year.

But what is the way forward – tax cuts or higher public spending?

The dividing line between Brown and Tory leader David Cameron is whether to borrow to fund tax cuts. Cameron has argued that Britain’s deficit is too high to allow further borrowing. Brown says Cameron’s claim that he can pay for his tax cut by savings on welfare benefits isn’t realistic.

Tax cutting is a populist measure and it may be tempting for Brown, who no longer appears to be married to fiscal prudence, to go down that road, not least because of the backlash he faced earlier this year over scrapping the 10 percent tax band.

Job crunch Britain: how have you been affected?

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Net job creation in the UK has almost stopped as employers feel pessimistic about prospects for the economy, the latest quarterly Labour Market Outlook survey by KPMG and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found.

The balance between the proportion of employers looking to increase staff levels over the next three months and those expecting to cut has fallen from +41 in autumn 2007 to +2 in autumn 2008 – the lowest figure recorded since the survey began in spring 2004, according to the Payroll and Human Resources Newsletter.

Of the 721 employers surveyed, 83 per cent anticipated that Britain’s economic condition would further deteriorate this autumn and only one percent said they thought there would be an improvement.Respondents felt more optimistic about their own organisation though, with only 25 per cent believing that things would get worse.

Brown’s Scotland likely to be hit worst in recession

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The Labour Party may have won the Glenrothes by-election this week, partly on the back of the Prime Minister’s handling of the financial crisis, but Gordon Brown’s Scotland is predicted to suffer more than the rest of Britain during the economic downturn.

Scotland was named European Region of the Future for the second time in four years by the Financial Times’ fDi (foreign direct investment) magazine this year.

Comeback for the Misery Index

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misery4.jpgCredit crunch, surging food prices, rising unemployment, house prices tumbling, maybe even a recession …. isn’t it all enough to make you feel miserable? And I’m not even mentioning the dismal British summer weather.

And all that desolation can be measured – the Misery Index is a financial pain barometer measured by adding the rate of inflation to the unemployment level.

Has the Bank been too cautious?

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rtx71g6.jpgBattling with the twin evils of soaring inflation and weaker growth, the Bank of England has kept interest rates at 5 percent for the fourth month running.

With the risk of Britain possibly facing its first recession since the early 1990s, the MPC has clearly opted for caution.

Preparation key to riding out recession

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cash-3.jpgWe are living in uncertain times. House prices are falling, the economy is slowing and consumers are under the cosh from the fall-out from the credit crunch, which is sending borrowing costs higher.

Preparation is the best defence for your finances. As Karen Torson, partnerships business manager at the Cheshire Building Society, says: “An uncertain economy can cause worry for many individuals, but taking the time to ensure you are well prepared can provide peace of mind and make a big difference — whatever the future holds.” Whatever might lay ahead, our top tips should help:

Is curry the latest for the spending chop?

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The Friday night take-away, Saturday shopping spree and summer get-away are in line for the chop, as consumers become increasingly nervous over looming recession. Almost nine out of 10 Britons say they will cut spending on non-essential items to cushion themselves against impending economic downturn, according to a poll of 1,000 people for Web site Fool.co.uk.

A British institution — the good old take-away — is set to receive the biggest blow, with over two-thirds of the nation planning to cut back on curries, fish suppers and late-night kebabs, the survey says. Other planned cutbacks include retail therapy (67 percent) and fewer holidays (49 percent), while 12 percent plan to stop smoking, 4 percent to put pension contributions on hold and 3 percent say they will even cut their kids’ pocket-money.

Consumers go it alone as storm clouds gather

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storms21.jpgThe dust has settled on Alistair Darling’s first Budget and consumers have been given little reason for celebration. The Chancellor, though announcing various measures designed to increase housing affordability, has done nothing to help the masses.

There were no moves to give a helping hand to hard-pressed householders, already struggling amid rocketing mortgage, food, fuel and tax costs, to ride out an impending recession. Darling did pledge to introduce a savings scheme targeted at low and moderate earners, often least able to save: the “saving gateway” will attract government matching for savings over the duration of people’s participation in the scheme. This has the potential to introduce up to eight million people into mainstream savings in the UK who otherwise might not make thrift a priority.

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