Displaying items by tag: Business
In April a deadline of 7 July was set for a decision on whether to go ahead with a new coal mine in Cumbria. The proposed mine would remove coking coal, which is used for the production of steel in the UK and Europe, from beneath the Irish Sea. Around 40% of this type of coal needed by the UK is imported from Russia. Meanwhile, West Cumbria is crying out for skilled, long-term, well-paid private-sector jobs. ‘Digging down to level up’ is often quoted; it is the idea that geography should not be destiny, and regional inequalities should be lessened. In light of the war in Ukraine, boosting energy security and reducing the UK's dependence on Russia need to be considered. The Government may also be reconsidering the commitment to net-zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Coal is widely seen as one of the dirtiest and most polluting energy sources. See also
UK workers are less keen to return to commuting than their European counterparts. Over a third of them still work from home. Hybrid working is the new normal. The new night for after work drinks is Wednesday, as many only visit the office on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays (sparking the acronym Twats). Boris Johnson told civil servants to ‘make sure everybody gets back to work’, but fewer than one in ten have returned to their desks five days a week. Some say staff are more productive in the office as it is harder to collaborate creatively with colleagues over video calls. Others say they get more done at home without distractions or gossiping, and there are big savings in money and time. Many say their work-life balance has improved, but research has found that working from home increases ‘burnout’ rates as people struggle to juggle their careers and family lives.
Two activists who successfully fought against mining on their ancestral lands have won an international environmental prize. Alex Lucitante, 29, and Alexandra Narváez, 32, led the Cofan indigenous community which used drones and camera traps to collect crucial evidence in securing a legal victory which resulted in 79,000 acres of rainforest being protected from gold mining. In 2017, they found out that the government had issued 20 mining licences, with 32 more waiting to be approved. After a legal battle which lasted almost a year, the community achieved a remarkable victory. A provincial court ruled that the authorities had failed to seek the consent of the Cofan, nullified both the existing and pending licences, and ordered that the mining activities be stopped.
Rishi Sunak implemented a 5p per litre cut in fuel duty in March, but retailers are taking profits of 2p per litre more than before the cut. The RAC said it seems some of the cut is being swallowed up by increased profits. Tory MP Robert Halfon, who has campaigned for fuel duty cuts, demanded action from his party’s leadership, saying these companies are fleecing motorists; nobody else is doing well out of the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis. The chancellor’s 5p cut has not been reflected at the pumps: ‘Time and time again we see global prices go up and overnight they’re reflected in pump prices. When it’s the other way round, it takes much longer.'
The UK could be heading for a recession. The economy contracted by 0.1% in March, and higher prices are ‘really beginning to bite’, the Office for National Statistics said. People are spending less in shops and cutting down on car journeys; the impact of higher energy bills in April has also yet to be seen. Many price rises are just starting to hit households now. Last week the Bank of England forecast that inflation could reach more than 10% by the end of the year. It warned the UK faces a ‘sharp economic slowdown’. The chancellor has threatened to hit energy companies with a one-off ‘windfall’ tax if they don't invest enough in new projects. Opposition parties want to tax the soaring profits of oil and gas firms to help families grappling with rising bills. Treasury officials have been ordered to examine a potential tax, and Boris Johnson said the Government would have to look at the windfall proposal if not enough investment was made.
Energy giant Shell has reported its highest-ever quarterly profits (£7.3bn) as oil and gas prices surge around the world. But Shell said pulling out of Russian oil and gas due to Ukraine’s conflict had cost them £3.1bn. BP also reported a sharp rise in profit, and Norway's Equinor, which supplies a quarter of the UK's gas, also posted record earnings this quarter. Oil prices were already rising before the Ukraine war as economies started to recover from the Covid pandemic. The public is now asking what these companies will do with all their extra profits. The Government has so far ruled out a windfall tax.
Joe Biden has declared New Mexico a disaster area. A wildfire has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometres) over recent weeks. Firefighters slowed the advance of the largest wildfire in the USA as heavy winds relented on 4 May. Biden approved a disaster declaration that brings new financial resources to remote stretches of New Mexico devastated by fire since early April. Representative Teresa Fernandez announced this declaration during a briefing by the Forest Service about containing the sprawling wildfire in high alpine forest and grasslands at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains. Aeroplanes and helicopters are dropping fire retardant as ground crews clear timber and brush to starve the fire along crucial fronts such as the small New Mexico city of Las Vegas and other villages scattered along the fire’s shifting fronts.
Governing includes difficult choices, confronting seemingly conflicting demands - and making a decision. So, should the government say yes to a new coal mine in Cumbria that will provide a domestic source of coking coal for the steel industry? Currently 40% of our coking coal comes from Russia. Now the government faces a deadline to decide. The office of the Planning Inspectorate has sent its completed report to Housing, Communities and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove with a 7th July deadline for him to issue his decision. If it goes ahead, it would be the first deep coal mine to open in the UK for over 30 years. There are many opponents to Whitehaven and they have previously protested outside the Home Office in London as well as at the site in Whitehaven.
Figures show that very little has changed when it comes to addressing the gender pay gap in Great Britain. Women in the UK were paid just 90p for every £1 earned by a man, according to the latest figures released through the government’s gender pay gap reporting mechanism. Among those high-profile companies reporting particularly large gender gaps was EasyJet. According to data filed by the company’s larger arm, Easyjet Airline Company, women’s median wage stood at just 36p for every £1 that men earned last year. Other companies reporting that median male earnings were at least double that of female employees include HSBC Bank along with several academy trusts. A spokesperson for EasyJet said its ‘gender pay submission does not represent a complete picture because the data in April 2021 included pilots, while the majority of our predominantly female UK cabin crew community remained on furlough’.
Rishi Sunak delivered his mini-Budget against a backdrop of rising fuel, energy and food costs. He cut fuel duty by 5p but resisted calls to scrap April's National Insurance rise of 1.25p in the pound; instead the start threshold will rise from £9,600 to £12,570. He warned the UK's post-pandemic recovery has been blown off course by the war in Ukraine, but he promised an income tax cut in 2024 when the economy would be in better shape. The Office for Budget Responsibility painted a bleak picture of the immediate prospects, saying that living standards are set to take the biggest hit since records began in the 1950s. It said inflation was set to peak at 8.7% at the end of this year and this - combined with rising taxes - will ‘weigh heavily on living standards in the coming twelve months’. The UK's tax burden will be the highest level since the 1940s.