Posts Tagged ‘Richard Horton’

How the Tories talk down consumer confidence

10/02/2011, 04:00:34 PM

by Richard Horton

There has been much talk in the business pages of a two speed economic recovery. A recovery that sees the economies of the developing world grow quickly while the developed world sluggishly heaves itself out of the remnants of the financial crisis. The long and painful rebalancing of a number of Europe’s economies, the UK’s included, is forecast. And yet life, or should that be economics, is not that straightforward. Within the developed world and especially within Europe, we are witnessing our very own two speed economic recovery.

Economists at ING Group describe how “a deep economic chasm” has formed between core euro-zone countries and the rest. The UK may well sit outside the euro-zone but that does not mean that it sits outside of Europe’s two speed economic recovery. At first glance, the GDP figures for the fourth quarter of 2010 may point to the UK being firmly rooted on the sluggish side of the European chasm. But what is more telling than GDP figures or manufacturing production numbers is consumer and business confidence.

Two weeks ago, the BBC reported the findings of a social research survey published by GfK NOP. The results showed how consumer confidence between December and January had plummeted by its largest monthly fall since 1994. UK consumers were not just more worried about their current financial situation compared to a year ago but they were also more concerned about the future of the economy compared to a year ago. In contrast, and on the other side of the European chasm, the same survey indicated that German consumer and business confidence had reached a four year high in January. (more…)

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The other kind of trade union cuts battle: saving cost within Unite

18/01/2011, 11:29:42 AM

by Richard Horton

At the end of this month, Len McCluskey will officially become general secretary of Unite. The Simpson-Woodley or Woodley-Simpson era of joint leadership will pass. It will be the end of the union’s first post-merger era.

At face value, McCluskey will be inheriting a financially robust organisation. In 2009, the union recorded an operating surplus of £9,384,000 from the income it receives from its members. However, Unite has not been able to shield itself from the rigours of the credit crunch. It has been affected by the recession as much as any other body. For instance, in 2008 it had to write down the value of its properties and investments to the extent that it recorded a deficit of £28,114,000. While even now the union’s cash flow is being negatively impacted by an increase in its net pension liability – which is affecting almost every organisation that sponsors final salary pension schemes.

The merger of amicus and the T&G in 2007 was heralded as a means of generating greater industrial and political benefits for the membership of the two unions. Cost savings would be captured through the merging of two sets of staff, two sets of properties and two sets of campaigning operations. Beyond anything, cost savings would be captured through the sheer scale of the new union. Unite would be more efficient as an organisation and therefore more efficient in campaigning for its membership. (more…)

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AJ and VOC: what Bob Diamond doesn’t understand about bankers’ bonuses

13/01/2011, 12:00:20 PM

by Richard Horton

Barclays boss Bob Diamond talked at length about “pay for performance” during his stint in front of the treasury select committee on Tuesday. And perform he did. Yesterday’s papers inevitably focused on his handling of questions on the twin topics of bonuses for investment bankers and lending to retail customers. And while there was good copy to be had in his assertion that no minister has yet looked him straight in the eye and asked Barclays to restrain bonuses, the real story was sat next to him in the form of Antony Jenkins, chief executive of global retail banking.

AJ – as he is known by his friends and colleagues at Barclays – is in charge of the banking that you and I do on the high street or on the internet. However, his boss comes from an investment banking background, what committee chair, Andrew Tyrie, called “casino banking”. Diamond didn’t like the use of that term and made his feelings known to the committee. In fact, Diamond was so strident in his responses to the committee’s questions that AJ could barely get a word in edgeways. That in itself  speaks volumes about the dynamic between retail and investment banking. AJ was there to fire stats about lending to small businesses and customer satisfaction levels. To provide the necessary statistical liquidity to support his boss, just like retail banking deposits provide monetary liquidity for “casino banking” activities. (more…)

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