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|INFLATION The squeeze on household budgets is showing no sign of easing after official figures revealed that inflation remained close to its highest in six years in January, increasing the chances of another rise in interest rate within months. The consumer prices index held steady at 3% last month, higher than the 2.9% predicted by economists and just marginally down from a near six-year high of 3.1% in November. Inflation was also 3% in December.The Bank of England stoked speculation last week that it will raise interest rate as May to keep inflation in check.
INTEREST RATE RISE The strength of the global economy and signs of a pick-up in wage growth in Britain have bolstered the case for higher interest rates, a policymaker at the Bank of England has said. Gertjan Vlieghe, a former economist for Brevan Howard,the hedge fund, added that the rapid growth in consumer debt also showed that households were willing to borrow and spend, rather than cut back on debt, suggesting that the economy was "ready for somewhat higher interest rates"
NEW YEAR CONFIDENCE Both consumers and businesses have started the year with bags of optimism, according to surveys showing that confidence jumped sharply in January. The GfK consumer confidence rose four points from December to -9, the largest one-month increase since September 2016, when the public mood was rallying after the Brexit vote. Separately, Lloyds Banks business barometer found that confidence among companies had jumped by seven points to a nine-month high of 35%
FACTORY GROWTH Factories are growing at the fastest pace in almost seven years after a solid three months to November that beat all forecasts and put Britain on trace to start 2018 on a firm footing. The Office of National Statistics said that manufacturing had expanded by 0.4% in November, taking the sectors annual growth rate for the latest quarter to 3.9%, the biggest rise since March 2011.
WIDENING SKILLS GAP Companies are facing skill shortages at critical levels that will restrain economic activity this year unless the issue is addressed, a leading business lobby group has warned.Concerns about recruitment have been mounting as unemployment fails to a 42 year low of 4.3%. Companies that recruit much of their their skilled workforce from overseas fear that the UKs departure from the European Union will make the process harder.
. RISE IN RETAILERS GOING BUST The number of retailers going into administration has risen for the first time time in five years as falling consumer confidence and rising costs take their toll on businesses.Figures compiled by Deloitte show that 118 retailers became insolvent last year, a 28% increase on 2016 when 92 firms filed for administration.
500,000 UK BUSINESSES IN DISTRESS Nearly half a million British businesses are in "significant financial distress" in what Begbies Traynor described as the calm before the storm. The number of businesses experiencing financial distress had reached "unprecedented" levels over the past 12 months. Many had "overstretched themselves" taking too many risks after being lulled into a false scene of security by the continued low interest rate environment. There were 448,011 businesses across the UK suffering significant financial distress between July and September, an increase of 27% compared with the same period last year, it said. Begbies Traynor defines businesses as having "significant" financial problems if they have minor county court judgments recorded against them, a sign they are struggling to pay bills.