Business news 8 November 2023

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Sharp rise in job seekers as companies cut headcount. The King’s Speech. retail sales, Grocery inflation, oil, house prices and more business news that we thought would interest our members.

Sharp rise in job seekers as companies cut headcount

Recruiters registered a sharp rise in the number of people seeking work last month, as companies cut headcount due to higher interest rates and slowing demand. The Recruitment & Employment Confederation and KPMG reported an increase in staff availability, with their index rising to 59.0 in October. Many recruiters attributed the rise to companies making staff redundant or restructuring their workforce. Claire Warnes, a partner at KPMG UK, said the widening pool of candidates was “good news for recruiters” but reflected “employers who are making more redundancies as they tighten budgets”. The report, which showed fewer permanent staff placements and a marginal rise in temporary billings, will be closely watched by Bank of England policymakers. The REC/KPMG survey also highlighted the struggle of certain employers to hire, leading to sharp wage increases to fill vacancies. The number of vacancies for nursing, medical, and care roles was still growing rapidly.

King’s speech

King Charles III has set out the UK government’s legislative agenda outlining a continued commitment to bring inflation down, support for homeowners and confirming plans to tackle smoking. In his first King’s Speech, the King said the government’s focus is on increasing economic growth and safeguarding the health and security of the British people for generations to come.

North Sea oil and gas licencing rules announced

The Government has announced new legislation that will require North Sea oil and gas licences to be awarded on an annual basis. The move is designed to bolster energy security while ensuring North Sea oil and gas is a critical part of the transition to net zero. new rounds of oil and gas licensing will only be approved if the UK is projected to remain a net importer of oil and gas and if the carbon emissions associated with projects are lower than equivalent emissions from imported gas.

Leasehold and freehold rules to be revised

New legislation announced in the King’s Speech would make it cheaper and easier for existing leaseholders to extend their lease or buy their freehold. The new legislation will also abolish no fault evictions and introduce new powers strengthening the legal rights of landlords to evict tenants if they do not pay the rent, but this reform will be delayed until new court procedures are in place.

Football governance bill announced

The Government intends to introduce a new bill to create an independent football regulator to make clubs more accountable to fans. The watchdog would operate a licensing system for clubs playing in the top five tiers of the men’s game in England.

October retail sales

UK Retail Sales eased in October, numbers from the British Retail Consortium showed. According to the latest BRC-KPMG tracker, retail sales increased 2.5% on-year last month, picking up speed from a 1.6% rise in October 2022, but a slight slowdown from 2.7% in September. Food sales increased 7.9% in the three months to October, below the 12-month average rise of 8.5%. Non-Food sales decreased 1.0%, falling short of the 12-month average climb of 0.6%.

British retailers lose £1.5bn in sales due to tourist tax

British retailers lost £1.5bn in sales last year due to the introduction of the “tourist tax”. A report reveals that French, Italian, and Spanish businesses benefited from a 98% rise in sales from international shoppers compared to 2019. The study by the Association of International Retail shows that British retailers suffered a 28% decline, equivalent to £401m. The £1.5bn figure includes lost sales and potential gains if the UK had seen a similar rise in spending as key European rivals. Spending from Gulf states decreased by 35%, while France experienced a 104% increase. The UK Government withdrew VAT-free shopping for non-EU international visitors in January 2021, stating that the economic benefit was unclear. The Association of International Retail urges the Chancellor to review the policy and restore tax-free shopping to benefit the whole of the UK.

Grocery inflation

UK Grocery Price Inflation dropped to an eight-month low of 9.7% in the four weeks to October 29, according to survey data from Kantar on Tuesday. The rate dropped into the single digits for the first time since July 2022. In the same period, take-home grocery sales rose by 7.4% from a year ago.


Oil prices dropped over 4% to their lowest point in 3 months. Brent crude settled at around $81 per barrel while US crude futures fell to $77 a barrel. The decline was driven by a big increase in American crude supplies and new data that suggested Chinese demand for oil may slow.


Despite the rain in the UK October was globally actually the warmest on record and 2023 looks “virtually certain” to be the hottest year ever recorded, EU climate scientists warned on Wednesday.

House Prices

UK House Prices are expected to be around £45,000 higher on average by 2028, as market demand and buying power recovers, according to a forecast. Property adviser Savills, which released the research, said the market looks set to “bottom out” around the middle of next year. Across Britain, the average property value will increase to £300,108 in 2028, marking a £45,521 or 17.9% increase from an average house price of £254,587 in 2023, according to Savills.

Winter comes early for professional services

The Telegraph considers the mood in the professional services industry in light of a slew of redundancies at Big Four firms. PwC on Monday announced that 600 jobs would have to go. This comes on the back of both EY and KPMG letting go of around 100 employees each. McKinsey, in the US, has announced plans to slash more than 1,000 jobs. A subdued deal market is also affecting law firms and financial PR is not immune, with consolidation well under way there. “I think it’s fair to say that growth has slowed somewhat given the UK and global economic climate that we’re facing at the moment,” admits Tamzen Isacsson, chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association. “What you’re seeing is some readjustments to the workforce and the balances of skills within firms, which is to be expected and to be honest is a continuous process.” A raft of scandals have also taken the shine of the professional services industry and the rise of artificial intelligence threatens to reshape white-collar work, eliciting more trepidation about the future.

Tory MPs call for tax cuts in Autumn Budget

Ministers have called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to bring forward tax cuts to this month’s Autumn Statement after warnings that the King’s Speech would not be enough to revive the Conservatives’ electoral fortunes. One minister said it was “time for the Chancellor to be bold and decisive. He’s got to announce more measures that will stimulate growth.” A former cabinet minister said: “Voters faced with a choice might reasonably say it’s time to give the other lot a go. We need something more retail in the next six months and the autumn statement is the ideal time for tax cuts, because closer to the election people just see it as a bribe.”

Oaknorth enters business banking market

Oaknorth is entering the business banking market to address the underserved small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Oaknorth founder and CEO Rishi Khosla criticised lenders for neglecting SMEs, which have experienced the highest insolvency rates in 14 years. Oaknorth will offer a range of products and services, including business savings and current accounts, putting the challenger bank in direct competition with major banks. In a phased beta launch, businesses will have access to a dedicated account manager for tailored advice.

New terror law could be costly for small businesses

Small businesses could be at risk from a new law requiring venues to have preventative plans against terror attacks. Under the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, known as Martyn’s Law after 29-year-old Martyn Hett, who was one of the 22 people killed in the 2017 Manchester arena bombing, local authorities would also need to put measures in place. Venues with a capacity of 800 or more could be fined £18m or 5% of its worldwide revenue if they do not comply.

FRC waters down governance reforms

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has abandoned the majority of planned changes to the Corporate Governance Code as the Government turns its attention to improving Britain’s competitiveness. Richard Moriarty, FRC chief executive, said on Tuesday he would drop over half of the eighteen changes the regulator had proposed in a consultation in May. “We are very keen to explore ways of ensuring any guidance is proportionate and limits burdens whilst not weakening effective governance. This is critical to our role in supporting growth and the UK’s competitiveness,” he said. Plans that have been scrapped include increased requirements for diversity reporting and new audit committee responsibilities for ESG issues – as well as regular engagement with large shareholders. Andrew Griffith, the City minister, described the FRC’s decision as “pragmatic and proportionate” but Roger Barker, policy and governance director at the Institute of Directors, said the move was “the latest stage in the unravelling of the Government’s corporate governance reforms.” Michael Izza, chief executive of the ICAEW, said: “Carillion’s collapse almost six years ago marked a watershed moment for UK audit and corporate governance, but it appears that the Government’s promise of comprehensive reform will remain unfulfilled due to a lack of political will.” An updated version of the code will be published in January, the FRC said.

JD Wetherspoon

JD Wetherspoon reported continued “gradual improvement” in sales, with inflationary pressures easing, though energy costs remain robust. In the 14 weeks to November 5, like-for-like sales were 9.5% higher on-year. Chair Tim Martin said: “Sales in the first 14 weeks of the financial year have continued the pattern of gradual improvement which has followed the ending of lockdowns and restrictions. Inflationary pressures have eased, but energy costs, in particular, remain at far higher levels than pre-pandemic, putting pressure on suppliers and the wider economy.”

Naked Wines CEO exits amid profit warning

A profit warning and concerns over debt obligations have led to the departure of Naked Wines’ CEO, Nick Devlin. Founder Rowan Gormley will take over executive responsibilities. The online wine merchant’s underlying profit is now forecasted to be as low as £2m, compared to earlier guidance of £8m to £12m. Naked Wines’ net cash at year-end is estimated to be as low as nil, compared to earlier guidance of £10m to £30m. The company insists it will remain within its banking covenants under the new forecasts. However, a breach could result in defaulting on debts and insolvency. Naked Wines experienced a surge in sales during the pandemic but has struggled to maintain momentum as online sales declined. The number of active subscribers dropped from 964,000 to 867,000 over the past year. Shares in Naked Wines plummeted over 35% and are down 74% in the past year.

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The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections.