January 2011 Archives
When it comes to telling it how it is on pay Bank of England Governor Dr. Mervyn King might as well now be known formally as Dr. Doom.
Whilst looking at the wind farm issue in my last blog, I couldn't help but do a little maths around energy production and consumption, which made even more thought-provoking reading.
The UK economy shrunk by an unexpected 0.5% in the final quarter of 2010 as the UK's recovery from recession faltered.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that much of the contraction was caused by the bad weather that Britain suffered last month.
However, even without the bad weather, GDP growth would probably have been flat. That suggests that growth in the economy had already petered out even before the snow fell.
The economy shrank by 0.5% in the last quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.
If the government simply blames this on the weather, we're in more trouble than I thought.
Of course manufacturing output increased by 1.1 per cent, but our economy is so dependent on other sectors that it matters very little.
Had we had a better balanced economy in favour of manufacturing then the economy would be soaring ahead!
I seem to recall there being weather last year, too!
The outgoing boss of the CBI - Sir Richard Lambert - laid into the government today for its lack of strategy on economic growth. He warned that the government will fail to reduce the UK's budget deficit without having measures to boost demand.
It is the first serious attack from business on the government's economic strategy, or lack thereof.
In his last major speech as CBI director, Lambert accused the coalition government of taking policy initiatives for political reasons "apparently careless of the damage that they might do to business and to job creation". Ouch.
His timing was (probably) impeccable. Tomorrow we'll have the latest growth figures for the last quarter of 2010; many think these will show a slowdown in the pace of economic expansion.
This is the blog version of my Birmingham Post column printed Thursday January 6th 2011.
I showed in my last column that the 3rd biggest pension fund in the world would be the UK local government pension scheme, if only it was consolidated in to one fund.
The value of its assets in investments around the world was Â£161billion last March 31st. With the 'irrational exuberance' of recent market surges, it is worth even more today.
And each of the 99 separate local government pensions funds' recent accounts hid a fortune in investment fees paid out every which way from the UK nations' local wealth pots.
Over the last four years the total paid out in fees has been in the region of Â£1.2billion. That's paid to our old friends the investment bankers for 'looking after' the investments.
From the personal pension savings pots of low-paid workers around the U.K.'s local communities, these investment bankers have skimmed off a very nice little earner from the U.K.'s regions.
If it was all out of one big UK fund it would be very noticeable indeed and quite a scandal. Because it's tidied away nicely into 99 little skim-offs, rather than one big one, it's easily hidden.
But no less a scandal.
Figures released by the SMMT yesterday showed that UK car output rose by 27.1% in 2010 to some 1.27 million units. That's very good news - although do remember that this boost is off a very depressed 2009 output figure.
And let's bear in mind that output remains well below pre-crisis levels of around 1.65 million units in 2008. Go back to 1999 and the figure was 1.99 million.
Meanwhile, commercial vehicle output rose by some 35.7% in 2010 to just over 123,000 units. In addition, engine production in 2010 grew substantially, with around 2.4 million engine units made - many of which were exported.
As tradition dictates in my first column of the year, I predict what 2011 has in store in our ever expanding digital universe.
I could just say Google will become the next Microsoft and Facebook will become the next Google but it wouldn't fill enough column inches!
The Government's much awaited consultation on electricity market reform hit my inbox just before Christmas, and it contains a radical series of measures. The consultation follows hot on the heels of an overarching European strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy, published by the EU Commission last November.
Bosses at up-market chocolate bar maker Green & Black's are said to be trying to extricate the brand from the Kraft conglomerate after it swallowed up Cadbury a year ago.
Green and Black's was set up in 1991 by Craig Sams and his wife, Josephine Fairley, the journalist and and magazine editor. The "Green" in the name was thought to represent their environmental concerns, and the "Black" the high cocoa content of the delicious chocolate they produced.
G&B starting buying fair-trade cocoa from Maya farmers in Belize for its Maya Gold chocolate bar back in 1994, taking the Worldaware Business Award for good business practice that year, followed as well by a Fairtrade mark.
It grew quickly and established a loyal following, and today produces not just chocolate bars but also ice-cream, biscuits and hot chocolate.