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Fake directors plan to combat money laundering

The UK’s record of companies is to be reformed to introduce proper checks on whether directors are real people, in an attempt to combat major crime. The long-delayed reform, announced by the government, comes after years of evidence that Companies House is serially abused by gangsters and fraudsters. The reform will finally force companies to prove who their directors are. Experts on corruption and white collar crime say billions of pounds of illicit profits are laundered through the lax Companies House system every year. While the announcement has been roundly welcomed by campaigners, it’s not clear when the change will be implemented because it will require legal changes to be passed in Parliament. What is Companies House? Companies House is the UK’s register of firms, their directors and the significant shareholders who control the business. The register is such an important part of global business, it is searched million of times a day by people who need information on Britis..

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John Lewis scraps bonus for first time since 1953

John Lewis has confirmed that staff will not receive a bonus for the first time since 1953 after it was hit by lockdown store closures. The retailer – which also owns Waitrose – posted a huge £635m pre-tax loss for the six months to 25 July after higher costs offset a 1% rise in sales. Its chairwoman told staff on Thursday the announcement “will come as a blow”. Even before Covid-19 hit, the chain had warned it might not pay the usual staff bonus as competition ate into profits. The group’s first-half loss was £635m once exceptional items were taken into account, including a £470m write-down in the value of its stores. Excluding those one-off costs, the group’s loss in those six months stood at £55m. The last time that the chain, which operates as a partnership, decided not to pay a bonus to its staff was in the aftermath of World War Two. Chairwoman Dame Sharon White said: “We came through then to be even stronger and we will do so again.” She added: “I know this will come as ..

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‘Nearly two-thirds’ of adults back in the workplace, says ONS

Nearly two in three adults are now travelling to work, as some employers ask their staff to return to offices during the pandemic. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that Business groups have warned city centres could become “ghost towns” if more staff do not return, damaging small businesses that rely on passing trade from office workers. However, new research released on Thursday by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests that working from home could be a permanent fixture for many, following the pandemic. According to the survey of 1,000 employers, 37% believe staff will regularly avoid the journey into the office following Covid-19 – up from just 18% before the pandemic. CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: “The step-change shift to home working to adapt to lockdowns has taught us all a lot about how we can be flexible in ways of working in the future. “Employers have learnt that, if supported and managed properly, home working can b..

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Rishi Sunak: New ways to protect jobs ‘my priority’

The chancellor has said looking for new ways to protect jobs is his “number one priority” after the unemployment rate hit its highest level in two years. Rishi Sunak said finding innovative solutions was “top of mind” as figures showed unemployment rose to 4.1% in the three months to July, up from 3.9%. Labour called for the furlough scheme to be replaced when it ends in October, warning joblessness could spike. But the chancellor stressed this would not help people find new opportunities. Mr Sunak acknowledged the furlough wage support scheme had worked, with more than half of the 9.6 million workers furloughed since May returning to work by mid-August. But he told the BBC: “I wouldn’t be being honest with people if I pretended that it was always going to be possible for people to return to the job that they had. “Now in terms of helping those people, I don’t think the right thing to do is to endlessly extend furlough. “People don’t want to be at home, they want to be in work, ..

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Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia ‘sorry’ after notice pay row

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire has apologised after claims it would pay some head office staff only half of their notice pay. Arcadia, whose High Street brands include Topman, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, said it was “extremely sorry”. All affected employees would get full pay, the firm said. The Unite union, which had threatened legal action, said billionaire Sir Philip should not have allowed the situation to happen in the first place. High Street retail is one sector of the UK economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, with shop closures during lockdown followed by reduced footfall in shops. While retail sales rebounded in July, rising above pre-pandemic levels, the ONS said clothing shops had been the worst hit during the pandemic and the volume of sales remained 25.7% lower than in February. Arcadia, which is cutting 300 jobs from its head office in response to the effects of the pandemic, said on Saturday: “We recently implemented a policy for thos..

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Restaurants at ‘critical risk’ of eviction

Food firms have written to the government asking for support as a stand-off with landlords looms over rent holidays. Companies such as Deliveroo called for a targeted extension of the commercial evictions ban, which was introduced at the height of the pandemic. Revo, which represents landlords, said well-known firms were “getting away with not paying their rent”. The government said it was “working closely” with landlords and tenants. In April the government introduced a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent, which was then extended until 30 September. In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, chief executives of these firms called for a targeted extension of the rent holiday for restaurants in city centres and for those in areas under lockdown. “There is a critical risk that many restaurants will face eviction proceedings from 1 October,” the signatories said. The bosses, including Will Shu of Deliveroo, Alasdair Murdoch, the UK chief executive of Burger King, and ..

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UK economy continues recovery in July

The UK economy grew by 6.6% in July, according to official figures, but remains far below pre-pandemic levels. It is the third month in a row that the economy has expanded. But the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the UK “has still only recovered just over half of the lost output caused by the coronavirus”. Hairdressers, pubs and restaurants contributed to growth after companies were allowed to reopen in July. Is the UK economy back to pre-coronavirus levels? Definitely not. The UK’s economy – which is measured by the value and the volume of goods and services it produces – is still 11.7% smaller than it was in February, before lockdown was imposed. Growth in July was also slower than the 8.7% expansion seen in June. There are encouraging signs, however. Thomas Pugh, UK economist at Capital Economics, said the reopening of restaurants and pubs meant the accommodation and food services sector “rose by a whopping 140.8%” between June and July. This had a knock-on eff..

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Santander hit by online banking outage ahead of holiday weekend

Santander UK customers were unable to access their online accounts for several hours from Friday morning until mid-afternoon. “We are currently experiencing issues with customers logging in to Online Banking,” the lender told customers via Twitter. It comes ahead of a bank holiday weekend and monthly salary payments for millions of Britons. The bank said the problem had now been sorted out. “We apologise for the problems some customers faced earlier today using our digital banking services,” the lender said in a statement. “These have now been fixed and we can confirm that any payments due today will have been processed.” It said debit cards, credit cards and cash machines should all have been working during the outage. While outages that last less than a day will be a minor nuisance to most customers, there could be significant knock-on problems for those planning on large transfers ahead of big purchases, such as for a car or home. Sophie Rivett, from Worcester, told the PA ne..

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Mike Ashley buys long-time rival’s business out of administration

Billionaire businessman Mike Ashley has bought the gym and fitness business from his rival and long-time critic Dave Whelan after they fell into administration. Mr Ashley’s Frasers Group said it would buy 46 leisure clubs and 31 retail outlets from DW Sports Fitness for £37m to merge with its own business. Some 922 jobs out of a total of 1,700 across the business will be saved. DW went bust earlier this month after its income evaporated during lockdown. The firm owns 75 retail stores and 73 gyms in total, all of which had to close temporarily due to coronavirus restrictions. Frasers, which also owns Lillywhites, Evans Cycles and House of Fraser, said the DW assets would “compliment (sic)” its own gym and fitness club portfolio, and would now be managed under its Everlast brand. Susannah Streeter, senior markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said it was surprising the group had bought a gym business as they were still “grappling with the public’s reluctance to train indoors”. “..

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What is a no-deal Brexit?

The European Union has reportedly warned the UK that it may be in for a lengthy wait before the bloc grants London access to its markets, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and leaving Britains financial sector in a “desperate” situation. On Monday, Valdis Dombrovskis, an executive vice-president of the European Commission, said Brussels may not be ready to assess whether Britain qualifies for some pan-EU access rights, known as equivalence provisions, until next year, the Financial Times reports. Dombrovskis claims that any UK-EU Brexit deal will meet a brick wall this year as the EU is currently undergoing significant regulatory changes of its own, the details of which he says are yet to be ironed out. “In some areas we will not be in a position to adopt equivalence decisions … [because] not all EU parameters are in place in these areas,” Dombrovskis said. “Implementing rules are not yet in place.” According to Politico, this may be a cynical ploy by the EU to push Britain ..

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