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January 10, 2014

Also in the news this week – 10 January 2014

UK rail commuters pay most in Europe

In the week when most workers return to work after Christmas, it has been revealed that UK commuters pay the highest train fares in Europe. Research by the TUC's Action for Rail campaign found that commuters in England spend on average 14% of their salary on their season tickets – almost three times more than any other European country. This compares with 4.3% in Germany, 3.8% in France and 1.3% in Italy. Although the Government has capped season ticket price increases in England to 4.2%, some commuters using private rail services faced an increase of more than twice that amount.

Growth optimism tempered by finance warning

Released this week, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Quarterly Economic Survey Q4 results are grounds for optimism that the UK economy faces steady growth. But, they warn, access to finance could be a major barrier to a continued recovery. John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: "It's fantastic to start the new year with a very positive quarterly survey. But businesses have major ambitions, and to be able to meet them, more support must be provided. We must give companies the opportunity to get the finance they need to go out and trade the world if we are to succeed in rebalancing the economy."

NICs savings equivalent to £200 per employee

With three months to go until the introduction of the new 'Employment Allowance', new figures show that government measures to cut employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) will save UK employers nearly £5.5 billion per year - equivalent to £200 per employee. The savings are due to three factors: the new Employment Allowance coming into effect from April this year; the abolition of employer NI for employees under 21 from April 2015; and 2011's increase to the threshold before a business starts paying NI for an employee.

Online sales light up Christmas trade figures

Despite heavy discounting and a busy final week in December, many bricks and mortar retailers are reporting disappointing figures. Figures released this week by accountants BDO indicate that like-for-like sales by high street retailers were down 2.2% in December compared to December 2012. Tesco and Morrisons also announced drops in like-for-like sales this week - Tesco reported a 2.4% drop while Morrisons reported a bigger, 5.6% fall in like-for-like sales. This comes in stark contrast to online sales which grew by 31% compared to 2012. The final week before Christmas saw online sales grow by 56%.