Port Delays – business news 14 October 2021

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Economy expands in August. Port delays. Sunak urged to cut business rates.  Gas companies tumbling.  Recruitment woes. And more business news.

Economy expands in August
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the economy grew by 0.4% in August, with the economy boosted as bars, restaurants and festivals benefited from the first full month without coronavirus restrictions in England.

Activity in accommodation and food services rose by 10.3% in August, while the manufacturing sector expanded by 0.5%. The report also revealed that retail sales fell amid shortages of some products and with consumers switching more of their spending from goods to services.

Output in the construction sector fell by 0.2% in August after a 1% drop in July. Overall, the economy remained 0.8% below its pre-pandemic level in August.

The ONS also noted that economic growth fell by 0.1% in July compared with initial estimates of 0.1% growth.

Claire Walker, co-executive director at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the ONS data “paints a picture of a slow-down in the UK’s economic recovery after a very strong second quarter.”

Jonathan Gillham, chief economist at PwC, noted that key sectors of the economy “are still struggling”, with many sectors “being hit hard by supply chain issues”. He added that high gas prices are also damaging the economy.

EY Item Club economist Martin Beck said: “The recovery is certainly facing more headwinds. Rising inflation, driven by significant increases in energy prices, and the recent cut in Universal Credit are squeezing consumers’ spending power.”

Sunak urged to cut business rates
Employers’ groups have called on Rishi Sunak to cut business rates in the autumn Budget. In a joint statement, the Confederation of British Industry and more than 40 other trade groups have called for fundamental changes to the system, which taxes companies based on the premises they occupy. The groups, which represent more than 260,000 businesses and 9m employees, say failing to deliver reform could hurt the Government’s ambition to create a high-wage, high-productivity and high-investment economy. They warn that the current system served as a tax on investment. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has warned that the business rates system is no longer fit for purpose, saying it “penalises high-street shops in favour of online giants and deters businesses from investing in new green technologies.”

Port delays.

Container logjam at ports, like the UK’s largest Felixstowe, and a shortage of HGV lorry drivers has sparked concerns among businesses, ahead of the most important period of the year for retail spending.

On Wednesday, the UK’s largest commercial port said the supply chain crisis has caused a logjam of shipping containers. The Port of Felixstowe, which handles 36% of the UK’s freight container traffic, blamed the busy pre-Christmas period and haulage shortages.

Shoppers can be reassured ministers are doing “absolutely everything we can” to fix supply chain issues in the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said.


Dunelm reported a rise in fiscal first-quarter sales as its summer sale promotion in July, boosted demand. For the 13-week period ended 25 September 2021, sales increased by 8.3% year-on-year against a ‘very strong’ comparative period in FY21, when sales grew by 36.7%, the company said.

Dominos Pizza

Dominos Pizza reported a pick up in sales in the third quarter of the year, driven by a recovery in collection orders and ongoing strength in online orders. For the 13 weeks ended 26 September 2021, system sales rose 9.9% to £375.8 million, and like-for-like sales excluding splits were up 8.8%.


Hays reported an increase in fiscal first quarter net fee income, driven by increase in demand for permanent placements. For the quarter ended 30 September 2021, net fees were up 36%, driven by a 58% jump in permanent placement markets.


Rank today reported a rise in revenue in its fiscal first quarter as customers returned to casino and bingo halls following the lifting of covid-19 restrictions. For the quarter ended 30 September 21, like-for-like net gaming revenue up 69%.On a channel basis, digital net gaming revenue grew by 5% and venues like-for-like revenue grew by 117% year-on-year.


Ashmore reported a decline in assets under management in its fiscal first quarter amid net outflows and negative investment performance. For the quarter ended 30 September 2021, assets under management declined by 3.3% to $91.3 billion, comprising net outflows of US$1.0 billion and negative investment performance of US$2.1 billion.


Oil Prices climbed on Thursday, reversing previous losses, as a bigger-than-expected draw in US gasoline and distillate stocks prompted buying.

Gas companies tumbling

Two more power suppliers have collapsed due to surging energy prices, bringing the total to go bust since the beginning of August to TWELVE. BP-backed Pure Planet and Colorado Energy, which serve a combined 250,000 customers, announced their closures yesterday. The sector’s woes are far from over, with the Glencore-backed gas supplier CNG Group also announcing they were no longer providing gas to utility clients.

Meanwhile, Putin denied he was weaponising the gas supply and said Russia is ready to deliver all of the natural gas that Europe needs, as he blamed the continent’s energy crunch on flawed policies of not topping up stores in the summer or approving the new pipeline . Russia has already boosted shipments to Europe by 15% this year through the end of September and stands ready to increase this further. Surging energy prices come as an opportunity for the Russian president, who wants to press the EU to rewrite some of its gas market rules.

The European Commission proposed the joint-purchase of fuel by EU members as well as tax cuts to alleviate the steep rise in energy prices. Kadri Simson, the energy commissioner, also outlined a “toolbox” of measures that member-states could take without breaching EU law, including state aid for ailing energy companies and income support for poorer households, to help pay energy bills.

Recruitment woes

Eight out of 10 companies in the U.K. struggled to recruit in September despite increasing the salaries on offer, a survey showed. The hiring difficulties are more acute in the catering and hospitality sector, where 92% of companies reported difficulties, according to the British Chambers of Commerce. The shortage reflects the combined effect of Brexit and the pandemic, as payrolls are already above pre-pandemic levels after a record surge in September and job vacancies are at an all-time high

Incidentally compare £5,681  the average visa cost incurred by British firms to hire a single skilled worker with €175 paid in Germany.

HMRC issues self-assessment reminder
HMRC has reminded self-assessment taxpayers to ensure they have the correct information in order to complete their 2020/21 tax return, with the October 31 deadline for completed paper forms nearing. The deadline for online returns remains a few months away, with the cut-off not until January 31, 2022. HMRC has also reminded taxpayers that they will need to declare whether or not they have received any grants or payments from Government support schemes during the pandemic, with money from these taxable.

IMF: Tax increases may be needed to foot green policy bill
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the pandemic has made it harder for governments to meet their green goals and warned that officials may have to increase taxes to pay for environmentally friendly policies. The IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor says the level of public debt – which globally amounts to £65trn – will make it harder for some countries to justify investing in environmentally friendly projects. The report said a “stark difference … in the projected scarring from the pandemic” is likely to make it more difficult for countries to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals. Saying countries will need to reverse a decline in tax receipts expected in the wake of the pandemic, the IMF suggested: “This can be achieved through a well-designed menu of value-added and property taxes, progressive income, corporate and capital taxation, and expansion of the base for corporate and personal income taxes.”

Financial services in staff shortage warning
Over a fifth of financial services firms have warned that staff shortages are limiting investment in the sector, according to a report by the Confederation of British Industry and PwC. Almost three quarters of financial services companies are actively recruiting new staff to tackle the skills shortage gap, while 78% of firms say upskilling existing staff is a high priority for the sector. Claire Tunley, chief executive at the Financial Services Skills Commission, said: “As the adoption of technology and automation accelerates, firms will have to continue to grow and adapt the skills of their workforce to meet changing needs”. Reflecting on the report, Emma Reynolds, managing director of financial services industry body TheCityUK, said: “In such a competitive market, ensuring the UK’s process for attracting global talent is quick, efficient and workable is key – especially where there are domestic skills shortages.”

42% of black employees have left a job due to lack of diversity
Analysis by Savanta has found that 42% of black employees have resigned from their job citing a lack of workplace diversity and inclusion, while 28% feel discriminated against by their employer. Among Asian employees, 32% feel discriminated against at work. When quizzed on the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, 30% of all staff said their employer had made them aware that their organisation supported the cause, with 22% saying their employer released a statement addressing the matter. However, 28% said their employer took no measures at all to address the BLM movement. Meanwhile, Business in the Community’s Race at Work survey found that black candidates are less likely to believe that they are being treated fairly by recruitment agencies. Just three in 10 black, Asian, mixed race and ethnically diverse employees believe they are treated fairly when working with a recruitment agency, compared to five in 10 white workers.

House prices and rents set to rise, say surveyors
House prices and rents are on an upward trend amid a “striking” imbalance between demand and supply, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics). Analysis shows that the number of newly agreed house sales fell for the third month in a row in September, with a net balance of 15% of property professionals reporting a decline rather than an increase in sales. The Rics poll saw 68% of surveyors report house prices rising rather than falling in September while a net balance of 35% reported a fall in properties coming to market. The survey saw 70% of surveyors voice a belief that prices will continue to grow over the next 12 months. In the lettings market, 62% reported an increase in the number of people looking for a rental property in September, with a balance of 21% seeing a decline in new landlord instructions. This imbalance is expected to drive rents higher.

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