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Some great news potentially - at last - for LDV. The government has finally supported a last-ditch takeover of LDV by Malaysian firm Westar with a ÃÂ£5m bridging loan that will buy an extra month to hammer out a deal.
That deal is not yet completed, but the news keeps LDV in the game and offers hope that it can indeed pull off yet another famous recovery.
The loan, from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), will - it's hoped - prevent the Brummie van maker from sinking into administration and keep the firm going whilst the deal is sorted out.
Whilst it isn't clear whether Westar, a Malaysian vehicle importer with whom LDV have long-term ties, has guaranteed that production will remain in Britain, it is doubtful whether the British government would be lending the money if UK production wasn't on offer.
Westar is probably the only hope to keep LDV going in Birmingham. If LDV had been forced into administration tomorrow, the most likely outcome would be another lift-and-shift of LDV assets and knowledge out to the Far East as we saw so painfully with MG Rover four years ago.
Amid all the doom and gloom surrounding the budget, record levels of debt, unemployment and swine flu (am I the only person who watches the news from behind the sofa these days?), here's a genuine good news story for UK plc.
So please stand and cheer whilst the UK Higher Education sector steps forward and takes a well-deserved bow. Pride of place goes to the ability of our universities to attract overseas students to live and study in the UK. According to the Higher Education Policy Institute's Director, Bahram Bekhradnia, international students (who are treated as an export for these purposes) contribute more to the UK economy than exports in the drinks, textiles, clothing, publishing or media sectors. In fees and living expenses, the more than 300,000 overseas students living and working in the UK between 2006 and 2007 spent over ÃÂ£4 billion. HEPI calculates that this is a net contribution to the UK's GDP of more than ÃÂ£2 billion. By any measure, that's a lot of money, and would merit that description in boom times as well as bust.
It's also good news for the West Midlands with a number of our leading institutions - Aston University in particular (overseas students paid Aston over ÃÂ£14m in fees, 16% of its total fee income, in 2006-2007 and will have invested much more into the local economy) - proving to be very attractive to overseas students.
So, despite all of the press stories about exams (both at school and university) getting easier, the UK education system is still widely admired for the quality of its teaching and research.
However, Mr Bekhradnia warns that there are a couple of clouds on the horizon. First, the fact that, although popular, a UK higher education is expensive. In 2006, Australian Education International calculated that the average total cost of a UK BA or BSc was $93,382; about $10,000 more than an American public university ($82,986) but significantly less than a private American college ($161,257). This makes Britain the second most expensive destination for international students.
He also warns that a number of those countries who export the most students - India and China in particular - are investing heavily in improving their home-grown higher education provision, suggesting that the potential number of international students will shrink over time. This presents a different set of challenges for UK Higher Education; not least in relation to academic collaboration and the provision of the UK degrees abroad. The good news is that our universities' track record of success suggests that they are more than ready to meet the challenge.
Now why didn't Mr Darling mention this in the budget?
So, Darling did finally unveil a (better late than never) scrappage scheme in yesterday's budget whereby motorists will get ÃÂ£2,000 if they trade in their 'old' (over ten years old that is) car and buy a new one. Interestingly, it seems this will also apply to vans up to 3.5 tonnes, so could - potentially - help LDV if it can restart production.
The scrappage scheme will run until March 2010 or until the money runs out. The UK is the last major EU government to set up such a scheme.
However, the auto industry will itself have to provide matched funding, with ÃÂ£1000 from government and ÃÂ£1,000 from dealers for each car traded in for a new model.
The cost to the exchequer is ÃÂ£300 million, with another ÃÂ£300 million from the auto industry. Unlike it France, the scheme won't be restricted to smaller, greener cars.
The UK scrappage scheme will be much smaller than Germany's, which is costing the government there some Ã¢ÂÂ¬5bn (around ÃÂ£4.5bn) and which has - it is estimated - lifted sales by 40% in March year-on-year.
A lot of what was in today's Budget had already been pre-announced and therefore came as no surprise.
There were however a few interesting nuggets, some good, some bad, some downright ugly; some predictable, some a total surprise.
Above average increases in petrol, tobacco and alcohol duty and the previously announced 0.5% increase in both employers and employees NIC (curiously absent from today's statement), just confirm what we already knew. All of us are going to have to pay extra tax to pay off the swingeing debts now being incurred by the Government. The increased tax rates for those with income of more than ÃÂ£150,000 a year are just not enough to make any real impact but it looks good to suggest that better off will be footing the bill.
The car-scrapping scheme might, at first glance, appear attractive but lack of credit is still going to be a limiting factor, even for those driving a ten year old car, who are prepared to splash out on a new one in these troubled times. Tax relief for pension contributions in excess of ÃÂ£20,000 per annum is now restricted to basic rate for those earning more than ÃÂ£150,000 per year.
There is a get out for those who have regularly paid in excess of this amount for over a number of years, but only if contributions are paid quarterly or at shorter intervals. In the case of two taxpayers who have each been paying ÃÂ£30,000 per annum for several years, but one has paid premiums monthly and the other has paid annual premiums; the one paying monthly with get basic and higher rate relief on ÃÂ£30,000. The other will get basic and higher rate relief on ÃÂ£20,000 and basic rate relief only on ÃÂ£10,000.
Whatever happened to the taxpayer's charter - assuring us that all taxpayers will be treated equally?
The removal of higher rate relief for pension contributions has been mooted for several years but no-one anticipated a system where the quantum of relief will depend up on the frequency of premium payments!
On a positive note, you can now buy a furnished holiday let in the EEA and get all the tax benefits of UK holiday lets - you can also get IHT exemption on businesses and woodlands in other EEA countries in the same way that you can for UK businesses and woodlands. It would be nice to think that this is the Chancellor being generous but it is, in reality, to prevent challenges to UK legislation under the Treaty of Rome.
There is further evidence in the Budget of HMRC's determination to stamp out tax evasion. Firstly there is to be a second disclosure facility in the autumn which has been widely anticipated. What was not anticipated was that HMRC are going to make public the names and addresses of tax payers who evade tax and who have either not made an unprompted disclosure, or when prompted by HMRC have not made a full disclosure.
In the past only information about taxpayers who have been prosecuted or appealed against penalties for tax evasion has ever come into the public domain.
So, Darling expects a quick bounce back for the British economy in 2011 and beyond. That can happen but when there's a credit crunch dimension, recessions tend to take longer to recover from, so I think the 3.5% growth forecast for 2011 is a bit optimistic. That impacts in turn on his ability to balance the books, or get anywhere near to doing so...
Is this a 'Soak the Rich' or rather 'throw a slightly damp cloth at the rich' budget as John Clancy wondered aloud in the live Birmingham Post Budget blog coverage today? Well, with a new top rate of tax of 50% for those earning over 150K, Darling aims to tax the rich to some extent to get borrowing down.
However, whilst last November Darling highlighted the future tax rises on the rich, the bulk of the fiscal tightening will - it seems - come mainly through slower growth in public expenditure after 2011. The key question here is whether this will impact on front line public services.
The new top rate of tax of 50% for those earning over ÃÂ£150K also leaves Cameron in a potentially tricky position. Will the Tories back this (to get the budget deficit under control) or will they pledge to reverse it?
After the ÃÂ£300 million EIB loan to underpin JLR's R&D efforts was announced last week, the firm is set to develop a hybrid version of the stunning new XJ which is scheduled for launch sometime later this year.
The lightweight 'Limo Green' will be produced from 2011, with an electric-powered range of 30 miles, fuel economy of 57mpg, CO2 emissions of 120g/km or less and a top speed of 112mph.
This will, in effect be the first electric-powered luxury saloon in the world, and will use technology similar to that in GM's Volt car (to be sold in the UK as the Vauxhall Ampera). The latter will be electric powered by batteries that can be charged by plugging into the mains grid as well as by a small engine as the car moves.
I may be guilty of abusing the Post's hospitality with this blog, but I'd welcome people's thoughts on an issue that's really irking me at the moment. The cause of my discomfort - St Andrews in Scotland.
For those who don't know it, St Andrews is a charming, quirky and characterful place in an obscure corner of Fife comprising lots of golf courses, three beaches (including, famously, the one at the start of Chariots of Fire), more history than you can shake a stick at and a wonderful university where, too many years ago than I care to remember, I managed to persuade the examiners at the Department of Mediaeval History to award me a degree.
It's a decision of Dr Louise Richardson, the university's new principal - or rather the reaction to it - that has got me worked up. The furore centres around a student society - the Kate Kennedy Club - which exists to maintain the traditions of the university and the town, uphold and improve relations between the two and raise money for local charities. It is perhaps best known for its colourful and popular annual procession of famous people from the university's past. It also attracts controversy because it refuses to allow female members
Until recently, the Club had the official support of the university. Dr Richardson has decided to withdraw that support because the University can no longer endorse a club "from which so many of our students are excluded at birth". To quote further from the announcement of the decision: "The official endorsement of any club or society which excludes people because of their gender or race would be completely at odds with the values of this university, and our commitment to foster an open and inclusive international community of scholars and students in St Andrews."
I should stress that I wholeheartedly agree with the decision, not least for the reasons given in the previous paragraph. However, not everyone agrees. Some of the comments on this web-page are quite strident and there are even rival Facebook groups (supportive of the decision; and against).
All of which has led me to this blog. You may think it a bit odd that I still care so passionately about what goes on at my alma mater, but St Andrews is that sort of place. I also accept that in the grand scheme of global problems "University principal in equality furore" may not be front page news, but if you've read this far I hope I've tweaked your curiosity.
What genuinely surprises me is that in the 21st century (or in the 20th for that matter) there is a groundswell of opinion that discrimination on the grounds of gender is justifiable and that decisions taken in favour of equality are somehow political correctness gone mad. What do people think?
Today's news that the European Investment Bank will lend Jaguar Land Rover some ÃÂ£300 million - backed by UK government guarantees - is a vote of confidence in the technological prowess of one of Britain's biggest investors in R&D (of course that's if all the due diligence is completed - the actual cash is still weeks away for JLR). The EIB also announced its intention to provide financial support to Nissan's operations in the UK and Spain.
It is hugely important for the firm in terms of it being able to keep up its impressive rate of investment, especially in environmental technologies. The firm has an ÃÂ£800 million investment programme in green technologies - something that much of the London 'quality' press seem to have overlooked completely.
It is also great news that the UK government has finally done something to help the UK auto industry, by guaranteeing the loan. So, this is good news for JLR's long term R&D investment, but equally does nothing to help the firm's cash position in what is the worst downturn in the UK car industry since records began.
The first chunk of money attached to the ÃÂ£2.3bn in loans and loan guarantees unveiled by Lord Mandelson back in January may finally be on its way to car manufacturers such as JLR. The long-awaited support will finally be approved in principle by the EIB board which meets tomorrow in Luxemburg.
However the deal is not yet agreed - due diligence is ongoing and some form of government guarantees will be needed before any monies are disbursed. It could still be weeks before JLR see the cash.
It should be stressed as well that the EIB money is being offered to assist JLR in developing a new generation of "green" vehicles. The funding will not help boost its cash flow.
After forcing out Rick Wagoner from his role as CEO at GM yesterday, President Obama today firmly laid the blame for the problems at Chrysler and GM firmly at the door of leaders in both firms. In comments today he stated that "it is a failure of leadership - from Washington to Detroit - that led our auto companies to this point."
Chrysler - majority owned by Cerberus - in particular appears to have failed to convince the US government that it can survive as a stand alone company.
According to a hard-hitting memo released by the Obama administration's auto industry task force yesterday, the best option for Chrysler and GM "may well require utilizing the bankruptcy code in a quick and surgical way... a structured bankruptcy... would be a tool to make it easier for General Motors and Chrysler to clear away old liabilities so they can get on a path to success.
Obama's task force has been pondering the state of the US auto industry since mid-February and now thinks that Chrysler's best hope for recovery lies in a possible tie-up with the Italian car manufacturer Fiat.