Tag Archives: recession

U.K News in Brief

Downing Street Soothes Recession Fears
Downing Street has insisted that the U.K economy is “slowly healing” despite ongoing speculation that the country has entered an unprecedented triple-dip recession. Thursday will see the publication of the latest growth figures for the first part of the year. If GDP contracts Britain would officially have entered another recession.

Poll Shows Immigration Concerns Unfounded
A survey has shown that the number of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants planning on moving to the U.K is lower than expected. Work restrictions for the two countries are expiring later this year, sparking fears that there would be an influx of immigrants seeking work. However the poll suggests that most wouldn’t re-locate without a job offer.

Suarez Faces Ban Over Bite
Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez has been fined by his club after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during yesterday’s match between the clubs. The FA are set to review footage of the incident before deciding whether to impose a retrospective ban. Suarez stayed on the field before scoring a late equalizing goal in the game, which finished 2-2.

Cameron Defensive Over Nurse Plans
Plans to reform training for student nurses have been defended by Prime Minister David Cameron. The proposals have been blasted by the Royal College of Nurses, which also expressed concern over staffing levels. Cameron has said that the NHS should focus on the “level of care” provided.

Google Hits Back at Tax Critics
Google have defended their tax record in the U.K, after facing damning criticism last year over allegedly avoiding corporation tax. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt claimed that the internet giant, which has only paid £6m in corporation tax, was responsible for “billions of pounds of start-ups” in Britain.

Redundant man, redundant marriage?

By Lisa Toner

“A savage recession, like a war, shakes the traditional identity of men and women.”

Nick Clegg’s 2009 statement could not be closer to the bone for Karen Davidson, a 50 year old part-time admin worker, wife and mother from Midlothian. Her husband David, also 50, was made redundant from his job as a plant operator and has been unemployed for two years. Continue reading Redundant man, redundant marriage?

Marriages in Scotland on the up

By Georgi B

Marriages in Scotland are now on the rise according to new figures. This is also relative to the number of divorces, which has dropped dramatically since 2009 according to information collected by the General Register of Scotland.

In 2010, there were 28, 480 marriages which is 956 more than in 2009. Divorces have dropped by 478 to 9,893. Duncan Macniven, the registrar general for Scotland told the Scotsman, “We saw an increase in the number of marriages in Scotland in 2010. At 28, 480, the total for the year was 956 higher than in 2009, but still 423 fewer than in 2008.”

This is in spite of the financial strain which is affecting people across the country. An online poll by Opinium Research done in 2010 found that more than half the people polled were feeling the pressure to buy expensive gifts and attend stag/hen parties. The average amount of money spent on gifts in Scotland was £100.43.

Ireland loses living wage

by Fearghus Roulston

The minimum wage in Ireland will be cut by a euro, falling to €7.65, as part of a planned series of austerity measures introduced by Taioseach Brian Cowen today. The plans, outlined in a 170-page document, involve cuts to the social welfare budget and a hike in income tax. The Irish government hopes that they will make savings of €15 billion by 2014. The Taioseach said Ireland would have to “take some steps back to go forward again.”

“Postponing these measures will lead to greater burdens in the future for those who can least bear them, and will jeopardise our prospects of returning to sustainable growth and full employment. It’s a time for us to pull together as a people,” he said. The measures also entail tapping into the pension reserve fund to provide for infrastructure plans, and the loss of 24’000 jobs in the public sector over the four-year period.

These announcements come in the wake of negotiations with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund over a proposed financial aid package of around €90 billion euros. The austerity measures are considered key to ensuring the bailout goes through. They also mark an attempt by the beleaguered Brian Cowen to enforce his authority over an increasingly fractious government, as Ireland continues to suffer from social unrest. The decision to cut the minimum wage seems likely to lead to more protests, with the Mandate trade union leader claiming it will “will place those with the lowest incomes, including migrant workers, in an impossible situation”.

Ireland has seen a rash of protests over the last two years of financial recession. Measures in February 2009 aimed at stabilizing the economy brought 120’000 protesters onto the streets of Dublin. The plans to introduce fees for higher education have been constantly opposed and demonstrated against by the Union of Students in Ireland. Some protests have led to violence. A few days ago the office of the Transport Minister, Noel Dempsey, was attacked and sprayed with graffiti, and the arrival of IMF officials led to massive demonstrations outside government buildings.

Other countries across Europe have also seen explosions of anger and violence as the recession begins to affect daily lives. Portugal’s general strike against proposed austerity measures began at midnight, with worker participation of more than 75 percent. Union chief Joao Proenca said he considered it the biggest strike ever in Portugal.

It seems likely Irish workers will follow a similar route, with a major protest planned for Saturday the 27th in Dublin. Tens of thousands are expected to take to the street in protest over the cuts, but trade union secretary David Begg claimed the protests would be peaceful. “They just simply want to bring to the attention of the government that look, you have to be concerned with the citizens of the country, as well as the bond markets,” Begg said.

Protesters on the European Day of Action- from Informatique, http://www.flickr.com

 

Budget could be Cowen’s last action

By Ryan C. Gavan and Edoardo Zandona

Brian Cowan
Tough times for Taoiseach Brian Cowen (Image:Telegraph)

The Irish austerity budget is likely to be Brian Cowen’s last action as Taoiseach , as he is set to call an election early in the New Year.

The budget was set to be announced on December 7th but after mounting political pressure, an announcement will be made this afternoon. The aim will be to set out the plans to reduce the country’s deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014.

This will lead to welfare cuts and tax rises of up to 50%  for low paid workers. The minimum wage is set to be cut by 13% and middle class families will lose tax credits.

The IMF and the EU  have sanctioned an extensive bailout package of  €90Bn to the Irish govenment.

The Irish government states, “providing assistance to Ireland is warranted to safeguard financial stability in the EU and Euro area.” 

Initially, they did not wish to accept the bailout package, feeling confident the problems could be resolved without a handout.  After extensive meetings with EU finance ministers it was accepted on Sunday evening.

In a reversal, Cowen rejected calls from junior coalition partners the Greens to hold a snap election.

After discussions with his own parliamentary party last night, Cowen stated he will, ” seek the dissolution of Dail Eireann and enable the people to determine the responsibilities of government in the challenging period ahead.”

 He has denied accusations that he is  “hanging on” to power.

This could be welcomed by Sinn Feinn, who called for a vote of no confidence in the  Taoiseach yesterday. The party has seen increased support in recent times, prompting Gerry Adams to say that he will stand in  Louth for election to the Dail.

It has been recently reported that Ireland’s international credit rating has been dropped by Standard and Poor’s from AA- to A. This could have a great impact on the overall economy due to Ireland being highly dependent on oversees investment. The view that they may have difficulty repaying loans could increase interest rates and cause further problems.

Ireland’s debt crisis is the result of the property market crash, starting in 2008. After the huge economic boom, house prices have fallen by up to 60% and the banks have held bad assets ever since.  

Aiding to matters is the part-nationalisation of many of the country’s banks, turning into state-held debt.

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan stated “an increase in corporation tax will not be a condition of the bailout.”

Ireland has the lowest level of corporation tax in the Eurozone at 12.5% which has come under scrutiny by other EU member states, such as Germany and France.

Effects of recession on smaller businesses

By Sean Stringer

With the announcement of a nationwide financial crisis, fears were raised about the effect it threatened to have on the future of both local businesses and more established nationwide organizations. With the public spending less money, due to the fact income is said to be 10% lower than it would be if the financial crisis had not come about (source – http://www.thetelegraph.co.uk) the impact has been great with businesses of all sizes losing out on income. Although the larger, more well known organizations would have felt the ‘pinch’ they did not have the same fears that were held by the smaller companies, time would prove they under-estimated the severity of this ‘recession’.

Since 2008, figures have been released that show the larger businesses have been impacted massively by the recession, and larger well known companies now find themselves having to close down branches more and more regularly, even now in 2010. Well known clothing company GAP have had to close around 85 stores nationwide, and Footlocker was perhaps hit the hardest of all well known chain stores and had to stop trading in more than 140 stores nationwide. These are massive numbers and will inevitably result in the loss of profits for the companies and could also threaten their future. (source – http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/business/a/store_closing.htm)

An example of businesses closing down due to the financial climate in 2010.

In an interview Elaine Brown, the owner of a local business in Fife, had this to say about the ‘recession’ and the effects it has had on trading over the past few years:

“When the recession was initially announced and financial figures were released, immediately my husband and I were concerned. However, almost 2 years down the line the impact has not been as great as we thought it would be and over the past few months business has been as good as it has ever been.”

It is clear that there are more examples of larger organizations – banks and shops alike – struggling because of the recession, compared to smaller local businesses. Although this could be down to the fact that these larger companies are under more scrutiny and receive more media attention than smaller businesses, facts and figures that have been released over the past few years prove that the progress of the larger businesses has in fact been less impressive than that of the smaller local businesses.

As the image shows, there are businesses closing down even now in 2010 and it is likely this trend will continue in the coming years.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this

by Kirsty Tobin

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

As unemployment levels reach levels not seen since the mid-90s, dole queues have escalated almost beyond belief

We were sold the dream of graduating into a thriving economy.  We were sold the dream of fine houses, and cars, and comfort.  We were sold a social life and an ideal.  We were sold the equivalent of the picket fence, the smiling children (one of each), and the labrador retriever sitting on the lawn.  We were sold the idea that our degrees would be worth something.  We were sold the belief that we would be set up for life.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

When the early warning signs of this global recession started rearing their ugly heads nearly three years ago, our futures crumbled in front of our very eyes.  All of a sudden this perfect vision we’d been sold, the perfection we were assured was in all of our futures, was out of our grasp, replaced only with the uncertainty and fear that plagued our parents during the 1980s.  Overnight, thousands of college graduates, and prospective graduates, went from being much sought after candidates for employment to being merely possessors of what can only be described as essentially worthless pieces of paper.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Three years ago we were faced with endless possibilities.  The world was our oyster.  We had everywhere to go and nothing holding us back.  But that was then.  That was when the live register wasn’t overflowing.  That was when there were only 40,600 under-25s signing on every month.  That was before the recession, before the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA), before it all went pear-shaped.  Now there is twice that number signing on.  According to the Irish Central Statistics Office’s seasonally adjusted figures, 88,663 people under 25 signed on last month.  And, according to the Irish Labour Youth’s proposals on tackling youth unemployment from early this year, “23% of those aged 20-24 are in neither full-time education nor employment”.  That’s an overwhelming number of people, graduates for the most part, who are relying solely on Social Welfare Payments for subsistence.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Thirty years ago, faced with what we are facing today, our parents’ generation graduated and then left Ireland in droves – the United Kingdom and America were lands of hope and opportunity that promised them job security and a chance at a life.  At least they had options.  This generation isn’t so lucky.  Although some countries in mainland Europe and further afield are showing shaky signs of economic recovery, there is still a long way to go before any of these countries are out of the woods.  And even further to go before they are capable of supporting foreign job seekers.  So we have become largely confined to those economically deficient Emerald shores.  We’re doomed to signing on. Despite our best efforts, despite our university educations, we are doomed to being stuck in menial jobs – a fate from which we were supposed to be protected.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

While employment rates among graduates in the UK have risen slightly on figures from last year, this can’t last.  There are already much greater unemployment rates than there were two years ago, and with recent cuts to public sector jobs, as well as a rise in the retirement age, finding jobs post-graduation is about to get a whole lot harder.  UK students are facing the very same problems that Irish students are. They’re about to graduate under a government that cares so little about them that it’s proposing 40% cuts to university teaching budgets.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Since the recession hit in full force, there has been minimal attention paid to the plight of the disillusioned student masses, and the majority of this was relating to the reintroduction of third-level fees to Irish universities.  Other than this, the focus has been on job losses and NAMA, civil-service pay-cuts and ministerial over-spending.  There has been, by and large, little notice taken of the thousands of students who are graduating every year into a market that can’t hold them, with nowhere else to go even if they could afford to get there.  Historically, students have been instrumental in effecting change.  It’s time we followed that example.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

We have been whispering about our futures.  Talking about how the recession affects the direction of our lives.  Discussing the uncertainty of the coming days and months in hushed tones.  It’s time for the tones to become less hushed.  It’s time that people realised that there is more to this recession than job losses and pay-cuts; that a younger generation is suffering, neglected and forgotten.  It’s time that we students made our voices heard.  Let the cry ring forth:

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this!”

Bagpipe Busking across the USA

Photo courtesy of Dave Wilson

By Lauren Witherspoon

Widespread redundancies are now commonplace, but Rob Calder saw it as an opportunity to do something different. After uninspiring interviews and no clear vision of what he wanted to do, the bagpiper from Edinburgh had an epiphany.

“I was actually just coming back from football one night thinking to myself; “what am I going to do this summer? Then I thought, I’ll just go travelling and take my bagpipes with me and busk? And it was one of these ideas that just really blossomed. I decided to do it to raise money for charity.””

“The thing about American’s is that they all love to find out about their identity and origins,” said Rob. “If they’ve got Scottish connections, ninety percent of them just lap it up and they want to know more.”

Unfortunately, one American didn’t want hear any more, as Rob was given a New York welcome on his first day in the Big Apple. “Somebody threw a bucket of water out a first floor window” Rob explained. “Most of it missed me but it made me feel miserable, I was just about to knock it on the head but this guy asked me to keep playing and in the end I made about 50 bucks.”

Ignoring advice on wearing earplugs, Rob played every day of his seven-week one-man tour that saw him travel from the East to West coast of America. Starting off in New York and heading south through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and then crossing the continent through the southern states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, and finally making his way to San Francisco through Arizona and Colorado. “I’d commit to doing it every day, and there was some days when I thought I just couldn’t face it and I was getting so stressed out about it, but I always played. Even if it was nine o’clock at night outside a football ground or a baseball ground I forced myself to play.

“Once you get started it’s always fine but there was always that feeling of “Oh My God, can I really face drawing attention to myself again with this bloody loud instrument? That you sort of think people aren’t gong to enjoy. You almost try to talk yourself out of it. I am really proud that I played every single day.”

In Denver, Colorado, the police came to the response of a complaint. “I thought I was going to get arrested but they were absolutely great, they really enjoyed the bagpipes. I had my picture taken with them and they were a real laugh.”

At the Grand Canyon Rob saw an opportunity to boost the money he would be handing over to the Edinburgh charity Ecas. “I just turned up and started playing.” The scenic views were a perfect backdrop,” Rob told. “…people were really emotional, it was just as the sun was setting as well so it was beautiful. People were really generous.  I met a Scottish couple who came across and we started chatting for a while, it was nice to hear a familiar accent.”

The most financially successful destination on route, Rob intended on repeating his Scottish serenade the next day but was turned away due to laws that protect the peace of the historic site. “It was a bit of a downer, but I’m glad I did it ‘cos it was a great place to play the pipes.”

For now it is back to the daily grind for Rob but would he take on another globe-trotting challenge? “I think the conditions would have to be right for met do it again because now I have got a job. It’s one of these things that if have a got a few weeks to kill then I’ll definitely go and do it again, maybe in a different country.”

Rob completed his busking tour in organisation the summer of 2009 and raised over £5000 for Edinburgh charity Ecas, which is a voluntary organisation dedicated to giving practical and friendly help to physically disabled people.

Scots warned unemployment to get worse

By Fiona Gardner and Lauren Redpath

Another 40,000  Scots are set to become unemployed next year according to a leading think tank.

Fraser of Allander Institute has predicted that Scotland’s economy won’t grow in 2010, despite the UK’s economic recovery already underway.

While businesses remain optimistic that the recession is coming to an end, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has  warned that Britain’s unemployment figures could rise to nearly 10% of the population by 2011.

With more job losses predicted, the situation will become more difficult for those already looking for work.

Edinburgh Napier News spoke to Zia Jaimson, 24, who was made redundant 5 months ago and is still struggling to find a job.

“I’ve registered with agencies, handed CV’s in and I go to about 3 interviews a month but it’s so hard to get work because there is so much competition and people with more experience than me going for the same job.”

Miss Jaimson worked in IT for the computing company Dell for three years and found out in June this year that her position no longer existed.

“By law Dell had to try to re-locate me within the company but the job they offered me was so far out of my specialism that I couldn’t do it.  Four of my colleagues were also laid off at the same time and none of them have found work yet either.

“I was given two months redundancy money which I have managed to last up until now but I need to find work as soon as possible.”

While job-hunting in central Edinburgh, Miss Jaimson told Edinburgh Napier News that she is doing part-time training to become a make-up consultant, to improve her chances of finding a job.

Speaking to the Daily Express, Scottish Tory Finance Spokesman, Derek Brownlee said, “Scotland has suffered hardest from Labour’s debt mountain, Labour’s jobs crisis and Labour’s recession.

“The fact remains that we were first in and last out of this downturn, and Scottish unemployment has rocketed by 50 per cent over the past year.”

‘Capitalism: A Love Story’

Capitalism A Love Story
The 'American dream'

by Scott Norton

Michael Moore’s new documentary, ‘Capitalism: A love Story’ , attempts to broach the subject of corporate greed in American society and begins by illustrating the fact that one percent of the population in America control ninety-six percent of the wealth. Moore’s latest movie is thought provoking as well as extremely moving in the way that it puts a face to the victims of the ongoing recession, but, it reeks of hypocrisy on the part of Moore, who no doubt earns a pretty penny from intellectual property rights. Moore is a great social commentator, yes, his crude tactics attract the public’s attention, yes, but unfortunately this movie does not deal with the real reasons behind capitalism’s failure.  Mankind’s greed!

He, Moore, points the finger at the major corporations and the banking system. He lays blame solely at the feet of the wealthy one percent and rightly condemns the underhand practices of big business. But, while these are the men and women (mostly men) who control the economy and perpetuate wealth inequality, it is the majority who cling to the ideal of the ‘American dream’ who allow these inequalities to continue and prosper. Moore has bypassed or omitted the simple fact that everyone wants this wealth and neglects to criticise the protectors of capitalist society; his viewers the people.

‘Capitalism: A love Story’ is a shallow attempt at addressing serious issues concerning not only Americas economic society, but every capitalist society in the world. It glosses over the fact that it is everyone’s greed, and not just corporate greed, that has led to booming house prices and record levels of individual debt.Tracing the rise of Capitalism and depicting the struggles of those worst effected by the recent economic recession is all well and good but this documentary only skims the subject and uses almost ludicrous tactics to captivate the viewer’s attention. Wrapping wall street in crime scene tape and standing outside banks with a a dollar sign bag declaring that you want the taxpayers money back serves only one purpose, publicity. I have no doubt that Moore believes he is opening the American publics eyes to the problems facing capitalist society but, he surely must realise the hypocrisy of his argument when he deposits his royalties cheque in the same banks he is protesting against.

Moore is correct however. Capitalism no longer works for the majority, if it ever did, and it will be up to us, the people, to come up with an alternative that does. Socialism and Communism are two already available alternatives to Capitalism but neither has been proven to be any better than that which we have already embraced. In the working models of Socialism and Communism we can clearly witness the inequalities already evident in our own society, so it should not only be our goal, it should be our duty to provide an original working alternative to our failed Capitalist experiment.

It is our duty as members of society, regardless of race, class, religion or political standpoint, to ensure that individual economies, as well as the world economy, are  built upon a foundation that will not crumble under pressure, will not discriminate and perpetuate inequality and, most of all, will provide every man woman and child the opportunity, at least, to succeed in life and enjoy freedoms which we claim, as democratic societies, to already possess. Inequalities have only widened and it is high time that these inequalities are addressed properly without the aid of gimmicks and publicity stunts.

Food and Drink is our Bread and Butter

By Grainne Byrne

bonv
The Bon Vivant, Edinburgh

You wouldn’t think we were in the throes of a recession what with the peppering of snazzy new bars and restaurants that continue to pop up across the city.

Mark Fraser and Mike Spink of award-winning bar and restaurants, Sygn and Monteith’s have  just opened Edinburgh’s newest bar in the city’s West End; which you may consider an ambitious move given the knell of headlines that ring out about an economic slump.

4328_178167025111_735590111_6780067_3058621_n
Sygn Bar, Charlotte Lane

Sygn’s sister bar The Westroom, which lies a stone’s throw away, opened its doors at the end of October this year and the company’s directors are optimistic that by offering consumers something a little different, in a central location, that they will soon be reaping the benefits regardless of the pessimism of the press.

“The Westroom has now been open for just a week and despite the world-wide credit crunch, we believe that it shall be a huge success.  Our ethos is all about exceeding customers expectations through offering quality  food and drinks in a relaxed setting. at affordable prices; delivered by personable, well-trained staff that really care about the product.   The Westroom is a uniquely designed bar in the centre of Edinburgh’s West End with a full menu that offers British tapas style food to really set it apart from any other bar in Scotland.”

With radical rations such as beef and beetroot pork pie and fish finger tapas, the Westroom should appeal to those searching for quality food with a twist.  Whether you seek wi-fi with a coffee and cake, a 3-course lunch, dinner, or  just a pint and the rugby, The Westroom is keen to quench your thirst.

Entrepreneur Stuart McCluskey has enjoyed a successful first year with his first-born,  eloquently named eatery, The Bon Vivant, formerly The World pub on Thistle Street.

Stuart says that despite the recession business at the ‘Bon V’  (as it is affectionately known) is booming.  Putting paid to his 12 years of experience in Scotland’s hospitality industry, Stuart says he has learned  a great deal from other people’s mistakes, saying:

“The reason we are doing well and expanding is that we know the market and are good operators.  We have cut our teeth based on the lessons I’ve learned from the bars and restaurants that I witnessed working and failing in Edinburgh.”

Essentially, Stuart puts paid to offering great value food and drink in times when consumers may be watching their spend on socialising:

“For consumers, value for money means everything; we never compromise on quality to offer value to our customers in a great atmosphere. The businesses that are doing well are multi-faceted, offering  both food and drink.  By casting our net over both markets we are able to cater to changing habits, as people are no longer going out and just drinking during the day.”

Another success on the Edinburgh food scene is Stockbridge’s The Saint, a stylish and down to earth food and drink offering from owners of award-winning cocktail bar Bramble.

Jason Scott and Mike Aikman, both with robust backgrounds in the hospitality industry in Scotland, opened their second unit last year.  Not resting their laurels following the many accolades they gained with Bramble, both owners took a step into food and drink with their heavenly haven.
saintfire
The Saint, St. Stephen Street

Laid back co-owner of The Saint, Jason Scott says that they are simply responding to the changing habits of a seemingly more open-minded and food savvy population, he remarks:

“Britain as a nation has become more interested and influenced in food, travel, and the goal of a healthier and more cosmopolitan lifestyle. We like to think that we can be part of that and at The Saint we offer people locally and nationally sourced, good, honest food that is skillfully prepared yet reasonably priced. “

“We don’t stand on ceremony and prefer to preach casual all-day dining; we  like our customers to drop by on a whim, for a coffee, brunch, afternoon tea, or even a late drink besides lunch and dinner as substantial or modest as appetite dictates.”

Like Jason and Mike, the owners of Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen expanded earlier this year to open their sweet, second eating and drinking venue, Treacle on Broughton Street.

Also taking a risk, and a step back from the DJ booth, was Edinburgh’s much-loved DJ, Trendy Wendy who opened her first funky bar,  ElboW Bar and Kitchen, just down the hill from Treacle.

Not content with running just two establishments, owners of 99 Hanover Street and Hawk + Hunter are enjoying the perks and the recognition of running 3 successful outlets with their newest effort The Green Room picking up an award for Most Stylish Venue at the 2009 Scottish Style Awards.

It is evident that Edinburgh’s entrepreneurs are not afraid to take a risk and build on their successes, Stuart McCluskey of The Bon Vivant is not at threatened by the financial disaster purported by the media and is actively seeking out his next success story, he says, “we are currently looking to expand in Edinburgh and looking for venues now.”

It would appear that  if you give the people of Edinburgh a concoction of good quality bread and water, at the right price in the right place, they will keep coming back for more.  The good news for punters is with these opening rates, we’ll be able to eat and drink in a stylish new bar and restaurant every night for a very long time.

Eat that credit crunch.

Flowcrete Profits Despite Recession

By Ryan Culling

Flowcrete Group, a global flooring manufacturer with headquarters in Cheshire, have, against the recession, increased profits this year by 72 per cent.

Flowcrete, whose flooring has been used in locations across the globe, including the Beijing Olympic Stadium and Dubai International Airport, have seen profits increase from £2.9 million to a pre-tax figure of £5.1 million. These figures follow a 15 percent increased sales figure from last year of £50.8 million.

Courtesy of Flowcrete Group

Managing Director of Flowcrete, Mark Greaves, has attributed the rise in profits to expansion of the company in the Middle-East, South East Asia and South Africa, which has made up for the quieter trade in Europe and North America.

A large part of the recent success of Flowcrete is attributed to the opportunities created after the recent purchase of the business by American company RPM International. The company bought Flowcrete Group in April 2008.

Flowcrete’s Managing Director, Mark Greaves, said: “The integration of Flowcrete into the RPM Group of companies has progressed extremely well, with significant synergies being realised in raw material costs, logistics and cross sales of products to other RPM companies, which will support continued growth in Flowcrete’s sales and profits in coming years.

“Our success further enhances Flowcrete’s position in the flooring sector and gives us a distinct advantage in the marketplace. We have achieved a top rating for our industry from credit ratings agency Dun and Bradstreet, which offers reassurance to specifiers of our ability to manage large-scale projects in this challenging economic period.”

In spite of the global recession, the company’s success over the last year has also enabled the opening of offices in India and Vietnam.

Mark added: “This year has been a milestone for us and we are looking forward to more opportunities in 2010 and beyond.”

Economy still in recession

The United Kingdom is still deep in recession, reports Janos Gal.

The UK economy shrank by 0.4% in the last quarter from July to August reports the National Statistics. It is the longest period of  recession since records began in 1955.

This is the second year that the economy has contracted, or the sixth quarter, making the UK one of the worst hit economies in the European Union.

Germany and France came out of recession six months ago, and leading politicians and businessmen expected the UK would come out of recession by the end of 2009.

“There are many millions of people who will be deeply concerned to see that Britain is still in recession six months after France and Germany came out of recession,” told George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor the BBC.

He said that the new data means that the measures such as low interest rates and quantitative easing that the government said would turn the economy around have not worked.

He added: “It destroys the myth that Britain was better prepared.”

Source: news.bbc.co.uk
Source: news.bbc.co.uk

“Third quarter GDP is awful, with no positive news within the report, the UK may be the only major economy to have contracted in the third quarter” said James Knightley, economist at ING.

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of Exchequer said that confidence is returning but it will still take some more time to recover.

“I have always been clear that I did not expect to see growth until around the turn of the year and I have consistently said that we are not out of the woods yet.”

Rents Signal Return To Stability In Market

Edinburgh-Skyline

By Lauren Witherspoon

Rent levels in Edinburgh may have bottomed out providing confidence to landlords that Scotland’s recently volatile rental market is now on a path to stability, according to latest research by Scotland’s leading letting portal Citylets.
The latest Citylets quarterly report, which covers the period July to September 2009, shows that whilst some sectors in the capital recorded their biggest year-on-year decreases to date, the overall picture across Scotland has stabilised with average rents down 3.4% year-on-year.
Thomas Ashdown, the entrepreneur behind Citylets Network, which includes major partner brands such as s1homes and Primelocation, said the trend will be good news for landlords and letting agents who have been dealing with an unpredictable market for the past two years.
He said: “We’ve seen a lot of volatility in the rental market in the last two years.  First we had the credit crunch leading to a boom in rental demand as people couldn’t or wouldn’t buy.  That saw prices rise.  Then we had thousands of ‘reluctant landlords’ – those who couldn’t sell putting homes up for rent – redressing the balance before inducing elements of over-supply, so putting a squeeze on prices.

“The Citylets quarter three report, records some of the heaviest falls we have ever seen in rents year-on-year.  In particular the situation for two bed flats in Edinburgh has worsened slightly, down 7.7% year-on-year. However I think that we are now at the bottom of the curve and with demand remaining strong and the housing market seemingly on a more even keel, it is likely we should be moving to a more stable rental sector in 2010.”

“Across Scotland, rents are down but they are no worse than what they were in Quarter Two, providing yet more evidence of the stabilisation trend.”

The average rent for an Edinburgh property in 2009’s quarter three was £729, as opposed to £762 for quarter three in 2008. This represents a 4.3% reduction in the average property price year on year. Rents for one and two bed flats in the city fell on average by 4.6% and 7.7% respectively. Properties in Edinburgh also took longer to let compared with quarter three in 2008, with one bedroom flats taking fifteen days longer and two bedroom flats taking fourteen days longer to rent.

Thomas added: “A return to stability would be welcomed by landlords but at this time the average time to let at well over one month is still considerably longer than a year ago and as such they should continue to adjust to market conditions, have patience and accept the increased probability of voids.”

Steven Currie, director of Edinburgh-based, Murray & Currie Property Sales & Lettings, said: “We’ve definitely seen things stabilise over the past few months in Edinburgh. We’re still getting a lot of enquiries from people looking for flats to rent, so there hasn’t been any noticeable drop in the market.”

Greggs plan to open 600 new stores

By Michael McLintock

Greggs have today announced that they plan to open 600 new stores nationwide creating 6,000 new jobs.

A typical Greggs store
A typical Greggs store

Greggs, scots-born, chief executive Ken McMeikan announced that out of the 6,000 new jobs, 800 will be allocated to Scotland. The main bakery in Glasgow will also be expanded to supply the higher demand. Greggs plan to boost their outlets in scotland by 70%.

The Newcastle based firm already supplies 6 million customers per week nationwide through their 1,400 outlets. McMeikan explains “currently more than 50 per cent of the UK population do not have Greggs near by”

Greggs intend on opening 50-60 new stores in 2010 and 70 plus from 2011 onwards. throughout the recession Greggs have reported that their sales have increased by 2.5 % in the first 16 weeks of the second half, that would suggest the nation is turning to quick and easy food.

McMeikan said the new stores will be aimed “particularly in areas where we are currently under-represented or have no presence at all”

They went onto say “Southern England , the East Midlands, North East Scotland, North West England and North Wales are good examples of areas with further potential for us”

Greggs boasted of increased profits along with their total sales up by 3.8% and like-for-like sales up by 1%,  they insist there is a new public demand and lay these figures as backbone for such expansion.

The 600 new stores is expected to cost around £9 million however will produce an extra £300 million, Greggs insist that the new stores will only affect their finances in a positive manner.

Retailers Turn To Voucher Codes This Christmas

By Ryan Culling

With the continuing recession, it is little surprise that the spending habits of shoppers has changed. Recent research by ICM suggests that around a third of shoppers are prepared to spend less money this Christmas. Of those surveyed, 33% said they intended to spend less this Christmas, with only around 9% saying they would be spending more.

Retailers have now turned to voucher codes and offers in an attempt to win the online battle this Christmas. A new type of shopper, one who is more prepared to search around for the best possible price, has emerged from the recession. With greater access to the internet, it is now much simpler for the consumer to pick out the best possible bargain.

VoucherSeeker Director Neil Ainsworth says, “We are expecting more people than last Christmas to be on the lookout for discount codes for mobile phones and electrical goods such as Vodafone promotional codes and Currys discount codes this year.” “Consumers understand that the internet plays a significant role in bargain hunting.”

Photo courtesy of VoucherSeeker.co.uk
Photo courtesy of VoucherSeeker

Retailers are set for a tough year in 2010, with Business Advisors BDO Stoy Hayward predicting more businesses going bust. Christmas is an important time for retailers, as it sees a boost in sales for the companies.

Stores with online offers and voucher codes are better equipped to deal with the recession, after customers turn to online voucher websites, such as VoucherSeeker.co.uk, in an attempt to save money this Christmas. In turn, websites like VoucherSeeker are likely to see an increase in customers as shoppers go online to find discounts.

Beat the recession blues

By Catherine Henderson

The figures speak for themselves – 1 in every 4 adults have a diagnosable mental health problem in any one year, unemployed people are twice as likely to commit suicide, the UK has one of the highest rates of self harm than any other country in the European Union.  Add to these alarming facts new reports which show that the pressure of life in an economic downturn can cause major anxiety and therefore an increase in mental health problems and the need for innovative support becomes that much greater.

Edinburgh based Cognitive Behavioural Therapist Ruth Johnson, is well aware of the pressure that life in a recession can bring to people.  Later this month she will introduce her own response  by delivering an 8 week course, Johnson says “The course will be targeted at raising people’s self esteem and  focussing on how people can help themselves to get through tough times.”

Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer says “Redundancy and money worries put strain on relationships, cause sleepless nights, trigger stress and increase the risk of developing depression.  When it comes to the current recession we are in unchartered territory as to how many people could be affected.”

Johnson continues “I see lots of people who are worried and stressed, and feel their lives are out of control.    Nobody is immune to self-doubt I’ve worked with people in senior business roles, hospital consultants and teenagers all struggling in different ways with the pressures in their lives.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help people become more resilient and start to look at life and themselves in a more compassionate way.”

The 8 week course at Room4Health in Leith is aiming to offer an alternative to traditional one-to-one support.   Johnson says “I will provide techniques on how to break out of negative self image and learn the art of self worth.  The course will have a real educational aspect to it, helping people to develop new more supportive mindsets.”

Less money for women’s refuge

"Strength" Shakti Women's Aid
"Strength" Shakti Women's Aid

By Charlotte Turner

Edinburgh Local Government cut funding for black minority ethnic women’s refuge by ten percent.

Shakti Women’s Aid are experiencing cut backs in funding as a direct result of the recession.

Cutbacks in funding will mean services that were previously available to women experiencing and/or fleeing from domestic abuse will be reduced.

Reductions in the hours staff can work have been made in order to curb spending.

Information and education officer Mridul Wadhaw explained:

“Staff can no longer work as many hours. This means extra services such a social activities have had to stop.”

Mridul highlights the set backs Shakti Women’s Aid are experiencing:

“The cutbacks have not effected our core one on one service. It is the extra services that we previously offered that we have had to stop. These were therapeutic activities, such as a women’s group and parties for children and the women.”

The extra social activities helped to increase the support given to the women and minimize the feeling of isolation women fleeing domestic abuse may feel. Now that these services have been reduced the sense of unity these activities previously provided will be significantly less.

Shakti Women’s Aid provide a unique service for BME women and their children. They provide a wide range of services for these women. From safe refuge for both woman and child to stay, legal advice and even translations.

“Over 10 years Shakti has made a positive difference to the lives of over 1600 women and their children.”

Trick or Treat on the Cheap to affect Local Traders

7th October 2009

By Amy Sutherland

Pumpkin taken from HowStuffWorks.com
Pumpkin taken from HowStuffWorks.com

The pumpkins and witches are already gracing shop windows, but will they be left on the shelf this year as the recession continues to restrict the budgets of families throughout the UK?

An assistant in one Edinburgh costume shop, who did not want to be named, reported that they had a similar stock to last year although there had been limited interest so far.  Given that there is still another three weeks until Halloween she remained ‘optimistic’ for this month’s trade.

Kay McLennan, a mother of two from Uphall, has already bought ‘bits and pieces’ from local bargain shops and believes her spending on Halloween will be on par with what she spent last year.  She spoke of her son having a homemade costume this year, but that was through his own choice.  McLennan will continue to provide goody bags for her neighbours’ children, and although she will not be ‘spending a fortune’, she will be ‘spending enough for the kids to have fun’.

These bargain stores, such as Poundland, are promoting their budget Halloween packages including Party for £10 or Dress up for £5.  There are fears these bargain prices offered by large chains will be detrimental to local costume hire shops although no spokesperson was available for comment.

Perhaps schemes encouraging people to shop locally – the Tollcross Traders Association loyalty card for instance which rewards customers for shopping and eating in the area – will help small businesses in their battle with bigger stores in the run up to Halloween.

Weathering the storm in the charity sector

by Catherine Henderson

With this recession being touted as the worst since the 1930’s charities are having to get creative in the methods that they employ to fundraise.

Edinburgh based charity “500 miles” which raises funds to supply prosthetics for people in Zambia and Malawi this weekend faced the recession head on, organising a ball with over 700 guests and sponsored walk with 2000 participants.

The charity “500 miles” is founded by Olivia Giles, the former Edinburgh lawyer, who is a quadruple amputee as a result of meningitus in 2002.  Giles organised a similar fundraising event in 2004 and can clearly see the difference a tough economic climate has had on attempts to fundraise.

Olivia Giles, founder of charity "500 miles"
Olivia Giles, founder of charity "500 miles"

Giles says “The biggest difference was the amount of effort I had to put into getting corporate support.  Business owners had to think carefully before committing to help as many were facing the prospect of cutting jobs.  Tough choices are being made by these companies and supporting charities isn’t top of their agenda.”

Volunteers form the backbone of any fundraising event and Giles’s event used over 100 volunteers on the day, Giles felt that this was particularly challenging  “When times are hard people tend to look after themselves and their own and don’t always look outwards to what they can do for others – particularly if that involves charities supporting people outside the UK.”

National charity, Age Concern (Help the Aged Scotland) is also fighting to maintain their income levels.   Sheena Hunter, Head of Fundraising says “Overall donations are down, our support from business is reducing, and we’re losing some of our regular donors.  We’re facing a very lean year ahead and will be reliant on using our reserves this year.”

Hunter’s advice to other charities is “create as broad a fundraising base as you can, but at the same time focus strongly on individual donations, developing new relationships with business is going to be very difficult to do right now.”

Research by the Institute of Fundraising and Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP has shown that more charities are now feeling the effects of the recession with 56% of charities expecting a decline in their income.

Equality Bill forces companies to close gender pay gap

By Vikki Graves

The Equality Bill receives its first reading in Parliament today.  The Bill will impose legislation forcing companies which employ over 250 workers to declare average hourly rates of pay for men and women and the government will be able to take legal action if these declarations do not take place.

Equalities minister Harriet Harman says the Bill will help to end discrimination in the workplace, but the British Chambers of Commerce have expressed concern about forcing businesses to spend more on bureaucracy whilst in the grip of recession.

The Bill is expected to come into force from autumn 2010.

The Pre-Budget Report, A Reaction and Interpretation.

By Lindsay Muir.

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, unveiled the most anticipated pre-budget report in twenty years. The report is the basis for some radical changes and tax-cuts designed to buffer the force of the recession which looks certain to hit in 2010, perhaps even before the end of the year; and stimulate both the financial markets, which were up 9.84% at close yesterday, and consumer spending.

The Chancellor’s report is a major cataclysm in the economic policy of the Labour Party. The move to increase the income tax rate on earnings over £150,000 to 45%, should Labour win the next general election, marks the end of New Labour’s pledge not to increase income tax and is perhaps a hint of the return of the Labour Party of old.

As predicted VAT, value added tax that we pay on so called “luxury goods” is to be slashed by 2.5% to the new level of 15%. This is the lowest rate allowed under EU law. Through this the government hopes to stimulate consumer spending, which has understandably dropped in recent months with many facing growing utility bills and general financial uncertainty. In basic economic terms it is hard to overestimate the importance of consumer spending, without it the entire financial system on which the modern world is based would collapse on a scale one hundred times worse than has already happened.

The title of yesterdays report, “Facing global challenges: supporting people through difficult times”, should not be taken at face value but as the ethic which will see the world overcome recession. It is in the global interest that the nation states of the world begin to trust each other and their financial institutions in order to kick start the global economy in a reformed and better regulated manner in order to avoid the same economic problems 30 years from now.

Full details of yesterdays pre-budget report can be found here. Courtesy of HM Treasury.