Business news 26 February 2024

UK economy off to strong start in 2024. Consumer confidence falls amid recession concerns. .Firms face pressure from higher energy bills and borrowing costs.  And more business news that we thought would interest our members.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

UK economy off to strong start in 2024

The UK economy has made a stronger start to 2024 than major European economies, with falling inflation and the increased likelihood of interest rate cuts driving hopes of a recovery. With the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) from S&P showing that private sector activity hit a nine-month high in February, Simon Wells, chief European economist at HSBC, said that although official data shows that the economy slipped into technical recession last year, the PMI suggests “modest growth will return in Q1.” The year has also started on a positive note for retail sales, with volumes up 3.4% in January. Although business activity improved in the eurozone, the bloc’s largest economies have struggled. Germany’s manufacturing sector saw business activity contract at its fastest rate since October and activity in France remained in negative territory, although the downturn eased.

ING expects inflation to fall and rates to come down

Economists at banking group ING predict that inflation fall below the Bank of England’s 2% target at the start of Q2. They believe that the reduction in the energy price cap will bring inflation down to 1.9% in April and 1.4% in June. This, they say, will prompt the Bank to cut interest rates. James Smith, a developed markets economist at ING, expects inflation to stay below the Bank’s target “for much – if not all – of 2024.” He added: “That should help to unlock a summer rate cut.” ING expects the first rate cut – from the current 16-year high of 5.25% to 5% – to come in August. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs believes the Bank will start to lower interest rates in June. It expects rates to fall to 4% by the end of this year and 3% by June 2025.

Consumer confidence falls amid recession concerns

Consumer confidence in the UK has fallen for the first time since October, as recession concerns and economic uncertainty took their toll. The GfK survey revealed a drop in confidence to minus 21 points in February, from minus 19 points in the previous month, reflecting a deterioration in confidence about the health of the economy over the next 12 months. Joe Staton, client strategy director GfK, said: “There’s a mixture of bad news and good news for February. The bad news is that the improvement in the overall index score seen over recent months stalled slightly in February due to a fall across most measures. However, the good news is that optimism for our personal financial situation for the next 12 months has not slipped back.” Linda Ellett, UK head of consumer, retail and leisure for KPMG, comments: “The reality for many households remains adapting spending to meet higher essential costs.”

Firms face pressure from higher energy bills and borrowing costs

Higher energy bills and borrowing costs are set to be the biggest challenges for British businesses in the coming months, according to a survey by BDO. Difficulties accessing new capital were also highlighted as a major issue. Over half of the mid-sized businesses surveyed expressed concerns about the elevated costs they will face in the first half of the year. The majority of businesses (84%) believe that business tax levels will rise or remain the same in the next six years. Businesses are calling for reforms in skills policy, tax streamlining, and better access to capital. More than a third (36%) said they wanted improved access to capital and government grants.

Retail sector hardest hit by economic challenges

Roger Hutton, an insolvency expert at Clarion, says the collapse of The Body Shop into administration is a sign of the economic challenges faced by businesses, highlighting that the retail industry has been particularly affected, with 239 businesses in the sector filing for administration last year. Overall, 1,641 businesses across all sectors filed for administration last year. Alongside retail, construction, hospitality, manufacturing, and real estate were the worst-hit sectors, accounting for 59% of the administrations. Mr Hutton identifies cost inflation as one of the biggest challenges firms are facing, with 72% of companies polled by PwC saying rising energy costs will hit profits.

Q4 sees record restaurant insolvencies

A record number of restaurants went bust in the last three months of 2023, according to Price Bailey. A total of 514 restaurant businesses entered insolvency in Q4, exceeding the previous high of 481 seen in Q2 2023. An average of 5.3 restaurants went bust each day last year, up from 3.6 per day in 2022.


The CMA has opened an investigation into information sharing between eight homebuilders.

The UK Competition Watchdog said it has found “fundamental concerns” within the UK housebuilding market, and has launched an investigation into eight housebuilders. The Competition & Markets Authority published its final report on the housebuilding market, “finding that the complex and unpredictable planning system, together with the limitations of speculative private development, is responsible for the persistent under delivery of new homes”.

The CMA said it is investigating Barratt, Bellway, Berkeley, Bloor Homes, Persimmon, Redrow, Taylor Wimpey, and Vistry.

Voters oppose tax cuts if public services are affected

A survey by the Fairness Foundation shows that Britons are not supportive of tax cuts if they mean a reduction in public spending. The poll saw 64% of voters say they support keeping taxes as they are or increasing them, while just 16% say they want tax cuts if it means cutting public services. Among Conservatives, the 17%of voters who back tax cuts are outnumbered by those who want to see public spending maintained (50%) or increased (23%). The Fairness Foundation poll also shows that there is public appetite for tax reform, with more than half of those polled supportive of a high-earners minimum tax rate, which would deliver a tax rate of at least 35% for anyone earning over £100,000. Will Snell, chief executive of the Fairness Foundation, said: “These findings make it very clear that the British public want to see well-funded schools and hospitals, not the unpopular and harmful tax cuts that the Government is considering.”

Small manufacturers face extensive net zero paperwork

Small manufacturers are being overwhelmed by the burden of filling out extensive paperwork as part of a net zero drive by big business. Regulatory changes expected next year will require large businesses to measure and disclose their scope 3 carbon emissions, leading to demands for information from suppliers. Some companies are being asked to complete 300-question spreadsheets, while others are being required to sign up to strict audits. Small manufacturers are struggling to cope with the additional workload, which comes on top of existing paperwork related to sanctions on Russia and post-Brexit checks. Several small manufacturers also said they had been asked to meet new environmental audit standards by their customers as a condition of securing contracts.

Meanwhile, a poll by industry body Make UK shows that more than three quarters of SMEs are now facing demands from customers to meet ESG requirements. Faye Skelton, head of policy at Make UK, warned that those who fail to meet ESG targets are at risk of being shut out of supply chains.

Price cap cuts typical household energy bills by £238

The typical annual household energy bill will fall to £1,690 from April under the new price cap set by Ofgem. This means bills will fall by £238 a year. While energy prices are now at their lowest level since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, bills will remain well above pre-pandemic levels. Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said that by April, energy bills for the average household will have fallen by £690 since the peak of the crisis. However, he told the BBC’s Today programme “there are still big issues that we must tackle head-on to ensure we build a system that’s more resilient for the long term and fairer to customers.”

Cutting net migration could leave Britons £1,100 a year better off

Analysis by the Growth Commission suggests that cutting UK migration would leave people more than £1,100 a year better off over the long term. The study said that a reduction in the UK’s annual net migration from 315,000 to 150,000 by 2028 could reduce GDP by 2.4% by 2045 – but raise GDP per capita by 2.1% that same year. This equates to a  boost of around £1,157 per person per year. Growth Commission co-chairman Douglas McWilliams said: “We’ve tried to move the migration argument away from crude assertions on all sides to more carefully quantified estimates of its economic effects.”

Fifth of British workforce in insecure employment

Half a million British workers fell into insecure employment last year, meaning that more than a fifth of the workforce are now in low-paid jobs. Research from the Work Foundation at Lancaster University found that 500,000 people had taken on insecure forms of employment – jobs with zero-hours contracts and no employment rights – between the spring of 2022 and 2023. The total number of people in unstable employment has hit 6.8m. This equates to 21% of the active labour force.

The report shows that vulnerable groups are more likely to be in such jobs, including women, disabled workers, young people aged between 16 to 24 and workers from Indian, black African and black Caribbean backgrounds. The Work Foundation has urged ministers to “implement an immediate pause to any further tightening of welfare sanctions” in order to assess whether employees are being forced into low-paid, low-protection jobs.

Government backs new menopause guidance

The Government has backed a landmark ruling from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission which says employers must “understand their legal duties” over the menopause. The guidance says it is “essential that employers know how to support workers experiencing menopause symptoms.” It also clarifies the legal obligations, highlighting that employers could face being sued if they do not meet them.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the equalities watchdog, said: “An employer understanding their legal duties is the foundation of equality in the workplace.” Mims Davies, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, said: “Tackling the stigma and lack of understanding about the impact of the menopause is good for women, their relationships and the workplace. It is good for businesses and their employees, and crucially, good for boosting the British economy.”


Last week marked a significant milestone in global financial markets, as major indices like DOW, S&P 500, DAX, CAC, and even the Japanese Nikkei all reached new record highs, buoyed by the widespread euphoria surrounding artificial intelligence. This wave of optimism even eclipsed the fall back in expectations of rate cuts from some major central banks, like the  Fed and BoE.

Next eyes Body Shop deal

Fashion retailer Next has reportedly approached The Body Shop’s administrators about a potential deal to purchase parts of the chain. Next executives have contacted FRP Advisory to express an interest in acquiring assets as part of any sale process.


Bunzl said revenue in 2023 edged down 2.0% year-on-year to £11.80 billion from £12.04 billion, though remained “significantly ahead” of 2019. “The base business was impacted by volume loss in our North America foodservice redistribution business due to deflationary pressure increasing price competition, post-pandemic normalisation trends, and a reduced level of inflation benefit,” Bunzl explained. However, despite the weaker topline performance, pretax profit rose 10% to £698.6 million from £634.6 million, as operating margin increased to 7.4% from 8.0%.

Berkshire Hathaway

Berkshire Hathaway approached a $1 trillion valuation after its releasing its latest earnings. It had a record $167.6 billion in cash  last quarter as Warren Buffett moaned about a lack of opportunities to put the cash at work that would give a shot at “eye-popping performance.”

Fewer trips and fewer flights as businesses rethink old habits

Companies are cutting back on business trips as they look to reduce their carbon footprint and cut costs, while PwC has imposed restrictions on UK partners travelling business class.

Latest Insolvencies

Appointment of Administrator – WIREFOX CITY PARK PROPERTY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – HARRIER TOPCO 1 LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – MOTOR TRADE STOCK SUPPLIERS LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – FALLSTAFF LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – GO TREK ROOF TENT HIRE LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – AUTO VETTURA GARAGE SERVICES LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – EUROFOODS SUPERMARKET LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – EASY HOUSING LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – GRANT CAMPBELL WRIGHT LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – COHAESUS PROJECTS LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – CRAIGHOUSE PROPERTY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BEST PRACTICE IT CONSULTING LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – MACSPEC ENGINEERING LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – DEAN FINANCE LIMITED
Winding up Order (Companies) – METTA SOLUTIONS LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – MAVERICK HEAVY HAULAGE LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – NEVILLE MOTORS LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BRILL SOUND LTD.
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – DERWENT VIEW GROUNDWORKS LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – OPEN SPACE DESIGN & BUILD LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – FERRY THORN LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – LUCENT DATA LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – DB GROUP (HOLDINGS) LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – TOM FLYE LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – HF OMNI HOLDING LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – JENKINS HEALTH CARE LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – INSTALL SOLAR LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – ROSS FARM MACHINERY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – TOHPHA LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – TOM CONATY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ARLAND PROPERTY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – CLOUDCROSS LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – GO DIXON DEVELOPMENTS LTD

Appointment of Liquidators – SHREWSBURY HOLDINGS LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – ARIX BIOSCIENCE PLC
Appointment of Liquidators – ATLAS FUNDING 2021-1 PLC
Appointment of Liquidators – REGLENSA LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – CHARTERHOUSE HOMES LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ULTIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – TURBO FINANCE 9 PLC
Appointment of Liquidators – CANOPY BEER COMPANY LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – S & S A LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – CAW (GROUP) LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BANKS & LEVETT LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – EURAMAX SOLUTIONS LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – LOGOBUILD LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – MOTLEY WEALTH MANAGEMENT LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – DPW ELECTRICAL LTD
Appointment of Administrator – KAT MACONIE LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ST. ENOCH PARTNERSHIP LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – SPECIALIST DRIVER RESOURCING LTD
Appointment of Administrator – BRYMO LTD

Why should you become a CPA member!

The Credit Protection Association (CPA) has been assisting thousands of UK businesses to get paid, since 1914. We have seen many financial crises, this one will be particularly deadly for suppliers for some time to come.

CPA eases cash from tardy debtors – Efficiently, Effectively, Economically and Ethically. And we provide credit information so you can monitor and assess your key customers.

Unlike other credit management companies, we offer our members a fixed annual subscription regardless of how high the debt value maybe!

Just call Peter Uwins, CPA’s National Sales Manager, on 020 8846 0000 (business hours) or email today.

When you see your money come in, you will be so glad you used CPA.

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


Do you have a commercial late payer that is causing you grief? Use CPA’s no-win, no-fee, commercial debt recovery service!

If you have a particular business customer who is late paying and causing you sleepless nights, why not offer it to CPA for purchase on recourse?

CPA’s collection department will then pursue the debt. We will be liable for any costs incurred and then when we have recovered the debt, we will pay you the net principle debt recovered less our percentage.

Once you have enjoyed that success then you can consider the more cost effective membership which includes our Overdue Account Recovery service and Status/Credit reports as well as a range of other complimentary services.

Just call  020 8846 0000 and ask for Godfrey Nelson or Cris Shirley (business hours) or email today.

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


Get compensated for previous late payments

Have you been paid late by business customers in the last six years?

Maybe you no longer work with them. Under legislation, you are entitled to  compensation you for those late payments you have suffered.

You put up with the PAIN – now claim the GAIN!

Claim late payment compensation (LPC) from former business customers who paid you late in the last six years!

CPA (LPC) Recoveries is using our bespoke software and decades of experience to do just that for our clients

Check our compensation calculator to see how much your business could be owed!

Discover NOW the potential value of late payment compensation hidden in your sales ledger!

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