More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam has warned. Ahead of three key international meetings next week, the charity said the impact of shutting down economies to prevent the virus spreading risked setting back the fight against poverty by a decade globally – and by 30 years in the hardest-pressed countries of sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the Middle East.
More businesses in the UK are laying off staff as they start to run out of cash and struggle to get access to emergency coronavirus financial support from the government, a leading employers’ organisations has said. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its weekly survey of how firms were coping with the Covid-19 crisis found an increase in the number planning to furlough workers as a result of the economic lockdown. – Guardian.
Mark Barnett, the protege of fallen investment star Neil Woodford, has been sacked as manager of a £400m investment trust for poor performance. Barnett has been handed six months’ notice by Invesco Perpetual Income and Growth Investment Trust after more than 20 years as its manager. – Guardian.
The government has committed to piloting no-interest loans for people on low incomes, but is resisting calls for the support to be accelerated to tackle the coronavirus recession. The coronavirus crisis has prompted concerns that people on low incomes could fall through the gaps in the government’s support, causing them to look to payday lenders and other providers of high-cost credit to pay for essential goods during the lockdown, when they are unable to look for work.
Fashion retailers and their suppliers are braced for a massive shake-out of the industry as an estimated £10bn of clothing piles up in warehouses during the coronavirus lockdown. Retail insiders said major firms including Primark, Peacocks, Arcadia and Next had all stopped taking deliveries to their warehouses because they had no more room. Numerous poorer performing retailers, including Debenhams and vintage-inspired retailer Cath Kidston, are on the verge of collapse.
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has banned banks from requesting personal guarantees for emergency loans to small businesses amid growing government concern that lenders have been slow in meeting demands for help. With the rapid increase in the number of universal credit claims suggesting many small companies have already collapsed since the economy was locked down, Sunak combined a new package of support for business with a warning to banks that they had to move more quickly.
Millions of people across Britain risk falling through gaps in the coronavirus wage subsidy plan and benefits system, according to two of the country’s leading economics thinktanks. After ministers hurriedly pulled together plans to increase the level of financial aid available from the state as the Covid-19 outbreak intensifies, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said many self-employed workers would still get no support, while others would be left financially better off as a result of the crisis.
The government has been warned it could be forced to abandon targets for ending low pay in Britain by raising the legal minimum wage, as the economic costs of Covid-19 mount. The Low Pay Commission, the independent body which advises ministers on legal wage floors, said the government target to increase the national living wage to two-thirds of average earnings by 2024 could be in danger. – Guardian.
Asos has been criticised by staff who say they are scared to come to work at its distribution centre because they are not being sufficiently protected during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 98% of more than 460 workers who took part in a survey carried out by the GMB union said they felt unsafe at the group’s warehouse in Grimethorpe, Barnsley, even after new safety measures were introduced last week. About 4,000 people are employed at the warehouse with an average 500 working each shift.
The coronavirus pandemic could cause UK economic output to plunge by an unprecedented 15% in the second quarter of the year and unemployment to more than double, according to dire forecasts. The deepest recession since the financial crisis is now all but unavoidable, according to analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), after businesses shut up shop and consumer spending fell dramatically as a result of lockdown restrictions. – Guardian.
"Life in Britain will not return to normal for six months, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned, as ministers begin preparing the public for an extended period of lockdown. At the government’s daily press conference, Jenny Harries said that strict social distancing rules may have to be in place for between two and three months. But she added that it would be a further three months before all restrictions were lifted, and even then there were likely to be “bumps” as new clusters of cases of coronavirus were identified.
The government has put the brakes on the housing market until the coronavirus restrictions are over, telling people to delay their home moves if possible and not to allow new viewings. In new guidance, the government said it was urging buyers and sellers to “adapt and be flexible” by agreeing new moving dates. – Guardian.
Gordon Brown has urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the twin medical and economic crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The former Labour prime minister, who was at the centre of the international efforts to tackle the impact of the near-meltdown of the banks in 2008, said there was a need for a taskforce involving world leaders, health experts and the heads of the international organisations that would have executive powers to coordinate the response.
The online shopping platforms eBay and Amazon Marketplace are failing to crackdown on a surge in profiteering by sellers due to the coronavirus, a consumer group has warned, after its investigation uncovered a wide range of products on sale at “extortionate” prices. Which? found “consistent overpricing” of household items, including cleaning products, hand sanitiser, thermometers, baby formula and tampons, which have all been in high demand since the coronavirus outbreak but in short supply in supermarkets and pharmacies.
Thousands of workers from across the country will continue to gather on the Hinkley Point C nuclear site – but work on the £106bn HS2 project could be halted – amid differing approaches in the construction industry to physical distancing aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19. Some of the 4,000-strong workforce at Hinkley, Britain’s biggest construction project, have raised concerns over an outbreak of coronavirus at the Somerset site after the government shut down restaurants, pubs and schools to contain the outbreak elsewhere.
Pressure is mounting on Rishi Sunak to extend his coronavirus bailout to the UK’s five million self-employed people, with gig workers threatening legal action against the chancellor’s current “discriminatory” policy and a survey suggesting half would keep working if they had symptoms. On Friday, Sunak said self-employed workers could access £94. 25 a week in universal credit, but he gave a far more generous deal to employees of 80% of salaries, capped at £2,500 per month.
Boris Johnson has said he is prepared to bring in a full lockdown to tackle coronavirus including "restrictions on people’s movements" if they do not act “responsibly” and follow social distancing guidelines. The prime minister raised concerns that people are ignoring the public health guidance after huge numbers flocked to parks, beaches and markets. - Sunday Times.
Mortgage holders clamouring to obtain a “payment holiday” during the coronavirus crisis are waiting hours to get through to Britain’s banks, and many have given up. Twitter has been deluged with complaints from customers unable to speak to someone at their bank. Some claimed they were waiting for as long as three and a half hours. Many expressed their anger at the lack of a simple online form that could be used to request a payment holiday. – Guardian.
Taxpayers would have to foot the bill if another tour operator followed Thomas Cook into insolvency, the National Audit Office has warned, after a tourism industry fund that paid out £481m to repatriate and refund holidaymakers hit by the collapse was left severely depleted. In a report on the shock demise of the 178-year-old tour operator last year, the NAO said the state had already borne £156m in costs, a figure it said was likely to rise in future. - Guardian.
Britain’s banks have revealed how they are going to implement Rishi Sunak’s promise of “payment holidays” of up to three months. In guidance issued after the chancellor pledged mortgage support for households affected by the coronavirus, UK Finance, the trade body for the major banks, set out how households can apply. – Guardian.