Business news 22 October 2021

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Supply chain challenges could get worse before they get better. Concern over debt advice. UK Retail Sales. Interest rates.  And more business news.

Supply chain challenges could get worse before they get better

The latest Business Outlook Tracker from Grant Thornton shows one in five mid-sized businesses are finding it harder to move products around the UK and across the world because of the ongoing supply chain issues.

Rachel Engwell, Yorkshire-based partner and head of tax for the North at Grant Thornton UK, said: “It’s a very challenging scenario. We have seen examples at docks where container turnaround time is slower due to additional Brexit regulations and container pick-up is slower due to a lack of drivers. It really is creating a perfect storm and the combination of the two is exacerbating delays and having substantial knock-on effects further down the supply chain. There is also the potential for things to get worse before they get better.

Concern over debt advice

There is growing concern that face-to-face debt advice given free to hundreds of thousands in debt each year could be cut.

New contracts from the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), which funds most free debt advice in England, will see more money spent on giving help over the phone or online rather than face to face.

Debt advisors says that risks leaving some people behind. MaPS however, says the new contracts will mean more people overall will be helped.

Debt advisors say while debt advice over the phone or online can work for some, for others, there is no substitute for help and debt advice given in person. “We will be losing that local connection that people need. The shift is towards regional or national contact centres rather than having organisations with front doors open where somebody with their carrier bag full of unopened letters [bills] can walk in and get the debt advice they need. So the MaPS is directing the funding towards remote debt advice and that is a different thing to what debt advisors do”.

UK Retail Sales

UK Retail Sales dropped in September for the fifth consecutive month but have bounced back from the pandemic. It marked the longest continuous stretch since records began in 1996, according to official figures. The Office for National Statistics said retail sales volumes dropped by 0.2 per cent last month, following a 0.6 per cent fall in August.

MPs urge Sunak to cut tax on pub pints
A group of more than 100 Conservative MPs has written to the Chancellor ahead of next week’s Budget, proposing a new “draught beer duty” which would be lower than the duty charged on bottles and cans of beer sold in shops.

Interest rates

Comments by the Bank of England’s chief economist Huw Pill to the Financial Times suggest that the case for a rate increase next month – widely anticipated by financial markets – isn’t a done deal. A decision next month is live and “finely balanced,” said the hawkish-leaning monetary policy committee member. He sees inflation possibly exceeding 5% in the coming months, with price gains moderating in the second half of 2022.

UK public borrowing falls by more than expected
Government borrowing fell to £21.8bn in September, down by £7bn compared with a year earlier, as the economy continued to recover from coronavirus lockdowns. While that was the second highest September borrowing total since records began in 1993, it was lower than economists had expected. Receipts rose to around £62.3bn, an increase of £6.2bn than a year ago – as tax revenues were lifted by the recovery. Martin Beck, senior economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said: “Stronger-than-expected tax receipts continued to account for the bulk of the borrowing undershoot, though spending has also fallen back more quickly than anticipated. In both cases this reflects a much stronger recovery in activity than forecast.” . However, this is unlikely to “prompt a fiscal loosening” by the Chancellor, he cautioned.

UK retailers call for human rights checks on global supply chains
Major UK retailers are among large businesses calling for new legislation requiring companies to carry out human rights and environmental checks on their global supply chains.

Tesco, John Lewis, Primark, Asos, Unilever and the Co-op are among those asserting that such “failure to prevent” legislation could potentially fend off future Boohoo-style supply chain scandals. In a letter to the Government, the organisations said changing the law would establish the UK as “a leader in setting standards for renewed and sustainable prosperity worldwide”.


Renishaw reported higher annual profit. Revenue was bolstered by ‘strong’ growth in the APAC region amid ongoing demand for its encoder product lines. For the year ended 30 September 2021, pre-tax profit jumped to £139.4 million from £3.2 million. Revenue increased 11% to £565.6 million.


Vodafone has unveiled plans to add 7,000 new software engineers to its workforce by 2025. Vodafone announced it would fill the roles from a mixture of retraining and reallocating current staff and recruitment from around the world.


US Markets touched a new record on Thursday, amid strong corporate earnings and year-end optimism. The S&P 500 rose 0.30% to new record at 4549.78. While the NASDAQ rose 0.62%.


Brent crude hit a three-year high above $86 a barrel yesterday morning, driven by tight supply and a global energy crunch, before prices eased in the afternoon to above $83 as some investors took profits on signs the rally is looking overstretched. Oil continued to fall this morning as demand for oil products in power generation cooled off amid easing coal and gas prices, while a forecast for a mild US winter also weighed on the market.

Tax policies are holding back Britain
A report by the Centre for Policy Studies indicates that further tax hikes will drive the UK even further down the tax competitiveness table.

The UK is ranked 22nd out of 37 OECD nations in the International Tax Competitiveness Index, but the CPS warns we will fall to 30th in 2023 after corporation tax jumps from 19% to 25% and the introduction of the new health and social care levy.

Tom Clougherty, head of tax at the think tank, said: “The Government needs to rethink its plans, and put growth, investment and competitiveness at the heart of its agenda.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Bunn of the Tax Foundation said, “the levelling up agenda could be curtailed by tax hikes”.

CBI director general Tony Danker asked whether, with the tax burden in the UK heading to its highest sustained level in peacetime, Britain was “going for growth or back to tax and spend”. Danker added: “There is a fundamental inconsistency where the Government wants to unlock business investment, but its tax policies do the opposite. Tax growth stunts investment.”

Small advice firms more likely to have clients invested in ESG
Research from NextWealth has revealed that both large and small advice firms are now talking to their clients about ESG investing but while larger ones are more likely to be approached about ESG, smaller ones are quicker to implement it. The report showed just 3% of advisers had no client assets invested in ESG, compared with 10% in 2020 and 7% in 2019. Emma Wall, Head of Investment Analysis at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the incoming ESG regulation for sustainable investing meant advisers are now having to ask clients questions around ESG.

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