Monthly Archives: May 2016

UK unemployment falls by 2,000

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

UK unemployment fell to 1.69 million between January and March, official figures show, down 2,000 from the previous quarter.

The jobless rate remained at 5.1%, the Office for National Statistics said.

There were 31.58 million people in work, up 44,000 from the previous quarter, and the employment rate hit a record high of 74.2%

Average earnings including bonuses rose 2% from a year earlier, up from 1.9% in the three months to February.


UK inflation rate falls on cheaper air fares

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

The UK’s inflation rate fell in April for the first time since September, largely because of cheaper air fares after the Easter holidays.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, fell to 0.3%.

The ONS said the main causes were falls in the prices of air fares, vehicles, clothing and social housing rents.

The Bank of England said last week that it expected inflation to increase in the second half of the year.

By far the largest downward effect in April came from air transport, with prices falling by 14.2%, compared with a rise of 4.5% between the same two months last year.

This was influenced by the timing of the Easter holidays in March. Fare prices increased dramatically between February and March this year and then fell sharply in April.

The price of clothing and footwear also fell as retailers dropped prices to try to revive sales hit by last month’s cold weather.

An alternative inflation measure, the Retail Prices Index, which is still used to index some rents and pensions, also fell from an annual rate of 1.6% in March to 1.3% in April.

Meanwhile, core inflation, which strips out energy, food, alcohol and tobacco, fell to 1.2%, compared with economists’ expectations for 1.4%.

Last week, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, had to write his sixth letter to the Chancellor George Osborne explaining why CPI inflation was still below the Bank’s 2% target.

In it, he said: “The underlying causes of the below-target inflation of the past year and a half have been: sharp falls in commodity prices, the past appreciation of sterling, and to a lesser degree the subdued pace of domestic cost growth.”

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted last week to keep interest rates unchanged at the record low of 0.5%. The Bank is not expected to raise rates until at least next year.

Martin Beck, senior economic advisor to the EY Item Club, said: “We are likely to see inflation remain close to current rates until the latter part of the year, when the base effects associated with last winter’s collapse in the oil price will begin to kick in and finally drag the CPI measure above 1%.

Such a benign outlook is likely to stay the MPC’s hand until well into next year.”

In a separate report, the ONS said that there had been a surge in house prices as landlords rushed to buy before higher stamp duty was imposed.

UK average house prices increased by 9.0% over the year to March 2016, up from 7.6% in the year to February 2016.

The pound lost about half a cent against the dollar immediately after the figures were released, but then recovered to stand at $1.4483, a gain on the day of more than 0.5%.


Steel tubes plant set to reopen

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

A steel tubes factory in Blaenau Gwent is set to reopen next month – eight months after it went into administration.

Caparo Tubes in Tredegar closed in October with the loss of 17 jobs.

It was part of 452 jobs lost in the UK after administrators were called into Caparo Group.

New owners Liberty House – which is also bidding for Tata Steel UK’s business – called the reopening “great news for the UK steel industry”.

The factory, based on the Tafarnaubach industrial estate, will be supplied in future with hot rolled coil from Liberty Steel in nearby Newport rather than having to import it.

The factory was set up by Labour peer Lord Paul in 1977 as part of his Caparo group.

Making tubes for engineering projects like gas, mining and tunnelling, in its heyday it employed between 100 and 200 people.

The group’s tube businesses were bought last November by Liberty House, which is now ready to restart production in Tredegar and hopes to increase the workforce to around 40.

Sanjeev Gupta, chairman of Liberty House, said: “Steel tube is a vital link in the supply chain and adds to the integration which is essential for the sector.”

The company is contacting former workers from the plant and plans to expand its product range as well as hiring apprentices.


Sponsor us!!

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

So as a team wax selection will be running the full tough mudder event next Saturday (10 – 12 miles or grueling obstacles and general mud) It seems to have crept up on us very quickly and we have not managed do very much training. It would be fantastic if we could raise some money for a local charity at the same time as putting ourselves through this challenge.

High heels row: Firm accused of sexism changes policy

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

A firm that sent home a temp without pay for refusing to wear high heels has changed its policy.

London receptionist Nicola Thorp, 27, says she was told to wear shoes with a “2in to 4in heel” when she arrived at finance company PwC in December.

When she refused and was sent home she set up a petition calling for the law on dress code to be changed.

Outsourcing firm Portico said, “with immediate effect all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes”.

The company initially said Ms. Thorp, from Hackney, had signed its “appearance guidelines” but said it would review them.

Ms. Thorp said she would have struggled to work a full day in high heels.

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“I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said ‘I just won’t be able to do that in heels’,” she said.

When she asked if a man would be expected to do the same shift in heels, she said she was laughed at and told to go home without pay.

“I said ‘if you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough’, but they couldn’t,” she told BBC Radio London.

Despite fearing what she said could be a “negative backlash”, she set up a petition calling for the law to be changed so women cannot be forced to wear high heels to work.

More than 50,000 people have signed it which triggers the requirement for a government response.

PwC said the dress code issue involving Ms. Thorp at its Embankment offices last December was “not a PwC policy”.

Later on Wednesday, Portico managing director Simon Pratt said the firm was “committed to being an inclusive and equal opportunities employer” and actively embraced “diversity and inclusion within all our policies”.

“We are therefore making it very clear that with immediate effect, all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes or plain court shoes as they prefer.”

“I think dress codes should reflect society and nowadays women can be smart and formal and wear flat shoes,” said Ms. Thorp.

“Aside from the debilitating factor, it’s the sexism issue. I think companies shouldn’t be forcing that on their female employees.”


EU blocks Three’s takeover of O2

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

The European Commission has blocked Telefonica’s sale of O2 to CK Hutchison, the owner of Three. The planned deal was worth £10.3bn, and would have left the UK with just three major mobile phone network operators. But Europe’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said she had strong concerns about the takeover, ruling that it would reduce customer choice and raise prices.

CK Hutchison said they were considering a legal challenge to the decision. “The goal of EU merger control is to ensure that tie-ups do not weaken competition at the expense of consumers and businesses,” said Ms Vestager. “We want the mobile telecoms sector to be competitive, so that consumers can enjoy innovative mobile services at fair prices and high network quality.” The decision ruled that concessions offered by Hong-Kong based Hutchison – including a five-year price freeze and billions of pounds in investments – “were not sufficient to prevent” the hampering of innovation and network infrastructure development.

CK Hutchison responded to the decision, saying the acquisition of O2 from Spain’s Telefonica would bring “major benefits to the UK not only by unlocking £10bn of private sector investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure but also by addressing the country’s coverage issues, enhancing network capacity, speeds and price competition for consumers.”

O2 said the ruling had little impact on their UK operations. “We work in an industry of constant change and have learnt how to manage that change better than most,” said an O2 spokesperson.

“Regardless of what happens next, we will continue to deliver for our customers as we always have.”

Meanwhile Liberty Global – the owner of Virgin Media – has said it would not rule out an acquisition of O2 if CK Hutchison’s bid was ultimately unsuccessful.

“It would be strange if we didn’t evaluate that option,” chief executive Mike Fries told analysts on a recent results conference call.

Kester Mann, a mobile operators analyst, at CCS Insight said non-UK buyers of O2 like Japan’s Softbank or Mexico’s America Movil were also plausible, but that the “most likely eventual outcome” was a sale to a private equity firm. “The collapse of the deal leaves both Three and O2 in a precarious position with uncertain futures in the UK,”

Mr Mann said. Retail prices for mobile services in the UK are currently amongst the lowest in Europe. The two other major UK operators are Vodafone and BT’s Everything Everywhere, known as EE.

The four major operators have paired off to share the costs of developing Britain’s 4G infrastructure. Unlike the main mobile operators, Virgin acts as a so-called “virtual operator” by paying wholesale prices to use the network infrastructure owned by BT’s EE. Owner Liberty Global recently ended negotiations for a major tie-up with Vodafone, and settled simply for a Netherlands joint venture.