Unemployment in the UK increased by 35,000 in the three months to October to 2.5 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said. It is the first time that the jobless measure has risen for six months however 33,000 of the increase was in the public sector, raising the overall unemployment rate up to 7.9%. It has been assumed that the private sector will mitigate many, if not all, of all current and future losses now resulting from the full impact of public sector cuts………..but with UK retailers suffering, VAT rising in January and businesses holding on to cash rather than investing there is a fragility to the economic recovery.
Millions of families are struggling to pay their bills — and the number is likely to increase in the new year, according to analysis from the Bank of England. The report published this week shows that two fifths of households have difficulty from time to time or constantly in meeting their monthly bills, compared with a third last year, and more than half regard their overdrafts or credit cards as a burden.
More than three years after the start of the credit crunch, the Bank of England warns today that a lack of available credit “continues to be one of the main factors holding back the economic recovery” and repeat warnings about the size and concentration of Britain’s banking sector.
The Bank of England is forcing high street lenders to repay £185 bn of emergency loans in an attempt to avert a new market meltdown next year. Bank officials have recently held meetings with four major banking groups and the biggest building societies demanding that the loans, which were handed out at the peak of the financial crisis, be paid back sooner than planned. Analysts warn that the tough line could stop banks lending to small businesses and slow down Britain’s economic recovery.
The messages therefore for a UK economic recovery are not looking good for 2011.
It has been just over a week since the UK comprehensive spending review, (CSR)), which was keenly awaited but with no surprises on the whole, except there were copious figures quoted and a time frame of 2014 / 15 to turn the country around. The upshot was work longer, pay more taxes, and suffer reductions in benefits and public services.
There was however a “double whammy” for men in respect of pensions with an earlier rise in the retirement age and the potential for a move by annuity providers to remove the differential in providing higher annuity rates to males who have the same sized “pension pot”, as females on the basis that men are likely to die sooner. This is a result of a European Court of Justice opinion that “insurance companies may not charge men and women different rates for products”. Once this opinion is ratified in EU law it could have significant implications for life insurance premiums, transfer values and member options.
The private sector over the last eighteen months has suffered the full impact of the economic downturn, recession and low growth “recovery”, but things are getting worse with the cuts announced in the CSR and a view that the private sector will have to absorb the fallout in people and cuts in services in the public sector. In addition, public sector workers will have to increase their contributions and possibly move from a final salary to average salary scheme………..but this is a half measure. The private sector has already, over a number of years, moved away from final salary to money purchase schemes and increased contributions have followed for employees. Why can’t the public sector make the change? More importantly, there should be legislation that does not allow any government to utilise public pension funds in other areas of public sector spending, thus protecting public sector workers.
This week leaders of some of Britain’s biggest businesses gave an emphatic endorsement of the coalition Government’s decision to cut spending immediately in order to pay down the UK deficit.
That of course is the private sector view, however the suggested 25% cuts in the public sector have not engendered the same reaction from those employed in this area or their unions, with a figure mooted of around 600k jobs to be lost in the next few years. The Government expects new jobs to be created in the private sector to cover most of these losses, but there are two factors that show this may not happen and thus push the UK into perhaps a “double dip” recession. Firstly, the public sector relies on supplies from the private sector and so there are bound to be ancillary job losses there. Secondly, many companies have already saved job losses by putting in pay freezes and short-time / part-time working. Any recovery will only mean putting the effected employees back to work full-time and thus not produce additional employment.
There are difficult times ahead but now that the budget has at least provided the benchmark on what to expect – businesses now can plan with some certainty their future recovery strategy.
MW Interim Finance can assist SME’s to develop and implement their strategic and operational objectives, and for further information either call Martin Walby on + 44 (0) 7876 566875 or email firstname.lastname@example.org