Already thinking positively about economic alternatives | Letters

Tom Kibasi on proposals for a ‘digital commons’ and increasing worker ownership, Andy Chapman on Common Good Balance Sheets, and Peter Taylor-Gooby on better education, more training and decent cheap childcare

In introducing his welcome new series on economic alternatives, Aditya Chakrabortty rightly castigates those who continue to promote the failed economic ideas of the past (It’s time to take on the zombies, 17 January). But he underestimates the extent to which a vibrant network of thinktanks, academics, campaigning and community organisations are now “rethinking capitalism” in pursuit of a society fit for the future.

Here at IPPR we are working on everything from new approaches to macroeconomic policy to the proper taxation of wealth, from proposals for a “digital commons” to devolved economic governance, from increasing worker ownership to a new framework for environmental policy.

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UK’s richest 10% spend more on wine per week than the poorest on water

Official data on spending reveals stark contrasts – one’s furnishing money is the other’s rent

There is little for the average household to cheer these days as inflation crushes paltry earnings increases. Inflation is running at 3% while wage rises can manage no more than 2.5%. Worse for the average household, the banks are beginning to turn off the lending taps that have allowed them to boost their incomes with cheap debt.

Things were better in the year to April 2017, according to the number crunchers at the Office for National Statistics, who have lifted the lid on Britain’s spending habits in their annual family spending report.

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Banks extend £225m lifeline to Carillion subcontractors as firms offer jobs

Taskforce of high street banks, trade bodies and businesses draw up measures to limit job losses as unions press government to act

High street banks have made more than £225m available to help businesses put at risk by the failure of Carillion, while companies have offered to take on staff who were working for the firm when it collapsed into receivership.

A taskforce of banks, businesses and construction industry trade bodies met with the business secretary on Thursday to discuss ways to contain the impact of Carillion’s collapse on jobs and the wider economy.

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Pets and package holidays – how over-65s drive UK consumer spending

Household expenditure on cars, holidays and pets drives recovery but signs emerge of a slowdown

Spending by British households has returned to its pre-financial crisis levels in real terms, driven by purchases of cars and spending by older consumers on package holidays and pets.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed average weekly spending in the UK rose to £544 in the financial year ending March 2017, an increase from £533 the previous year. Transport and recreation were the two categories where expenditure increased the most, rising by about £5 on average per week.

Inflation is when prices rise. Deflation is the opposite – price decreases over time – but inflation is far more common.

Related: The economics of retirement: the power of pensioner spending

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Nationwide building society to hire Carillion staff – business live

Hundreds of Carillion employees who worked at Nationwide branches will now join the building society’s payroll

  • Latest: Good news for Carillion staff


Nationwide to bring 250 Carillion staff in house, saving their jobs. A further 1500 subcontractors will now be contracted directly, via their employer, to Nationwide. Good news for jobs.

In a dramatic reversal of decades of outsourcing, Nationwide Building Society is going to in-source all the Carillion employees who were working for Nationwide.

“Our contractors perform a vital and valued role for the society. During an unsettling time for Carillion employees we felt it was important to provide them with some reassurances.

“We are today announcing a proposal to bring all services provided directly by Carillion in-house, with Carillion employees becoming Nationwide employees from 22 January. This will provide clarity for those affected and ensure that services are maintained.”

“As part of the wider supply chain arrangements we will also now look to deal directly with third-party suppliers that currently support the Carillion contract.”

Nationwide says it plans to bring all services provided by Carillion in house from Monday, transferring all employees to its own payroll.

The household spending survey also shows that Britons spent more on recreation and culture last year, mainly due to increased spending on package holidays.

That’s despite the fact that wages didn’t rise in line with earnings.

It’s surprising to see how many of us are spending on non-essential things like eating out and holidays. Families are still splashing the cash on package holidays and travel despite the fall in the pound after the Brexit vote.

If you’re starting to feel the pinch, now is the time to take a serious look at where you’re spending your money. Make a budget and stick to it, when you look back at bank statements you may be surprised how much you’re actually spending on non-essential items. Getting a hold on your fun money is key.”

The ONS have also produced this chart, showing where households spent their money last year:

Newsflash: UK household spending has finally returned to its levels before the financial crisis.

The Office for National Statistics reports that the average household spent £554.20 per week in 2017. In real terms (ie, adjusted for inflation) this is a return to pre-economic downturn levels.

ONS says UK family spending returned to pre-crisis levels for the first time in financial year ending March 2017. Avg weekly spending hit £554.20 – the last time it was above this level was 2005/06, at £557.

Transport is the biggest component of family spending, and increased by about £5 per week on a year ago, to about £80 a week on average. Buying new and used cars, the latter on hire purchase, was one of the reasons for the jump higher.

Economist Rupert Seggins has also been analysing the RICS housing report:

Latest RICS survey points to little house price growth in next few months. Wales , Scotland & N. Ireland most optimistic. London expectations the weakest by some margin. Respondents also reporting no observable impact as yet from the changes to stamp duty for first time buyers.

Ouch! Britain’s largest estate agency has issued an unexpected profits warning, sending its shares slumping.

Countrywide, which owns a string of estate agents around the UK, reported that revenues and profits both fell sharply last year.

Total income in the sales and lettings business for the full year is expected to be circa £360m, down 14% on 2016, reflecting a disappointing fourth quarter performance.

Income in the UK business is expected to be circa £205m, down 17% year on year, and in London is expected to be circa £155m, down 10% year on year.

Today’s report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) also shows that fewer people have been making inquiries about buying a house.

Here’s City economist Sam Tombs of Pantheon on the RICS housing report:

The Chancellor’s reforms to stamp duty for first-time buyers have failed to stimulate demand so far. New buyer enquiries still falling rapidly in December, according to RICS, placing downward pressure on house prices:

Surveyors based in London are more optimistic about the stamp duty change.

RICS says that 28% believe abolishing the tax will help first-time buyers (compared to just 12% nationally).

In London, more than double the number of surveyors felt that it would have a beneficial impact on the market than those of outside London. Of course, this is reflective of the value of property in the Capital, where those purchasing for the first time can expect to save up to £5,000 under the new scheme.

Oldman-based surveyor Richard Powell of Ryder & Dutton says there’s no sign that abolishing stamp duty for first-time buyers has helped:

The stamp duty changes didn’t seem to have an immediate effect so we will have to see what happens in the early part of 2018. Stock levels are very low.

Usual seasonal downturn in enquiry levels, instructions and sales. Very little impact as a result of stamp duty changes but too soon to tell due to time of year.

[The market was] seasonally quiet and snowy weather also had an impact.

Stamp duty change for FTB’s so far has had little impact.

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, business and the eurozone.

“The initial feedback from the market doesn’t suggest that the change in the Stamp Duty regime announced in the budget is going to have a material impact on activity.

Indeed, the risk was always that a good portion of the benefit would be capitalised in the price, therefore limiting the benefit for the first-time buyer.

Related: Stamp duty cut for first-time buyers will push up prices, warns OBR

Related: ‘Flimsy’ reassurances anger unions as creditors brace for Carillion fallout

Whitbread: Premier Inn like-for-like revs miss (0.5% vs 1.5% est) but Restaurants beat and Costa not as weak as expected; On track for FY but expect tough UK high street environment and inflation to continue to pose challenges

Royal Mail says we sent more parcels (+6%) and fewer letters (-5%) last year. Overall its revenues rose 2%. Also reports that we sent 149m parcels in December. @BBCBreakfast

European Opening Calls:#FTSE 7720 -0.07%#DAX 13230 +0.35%#CAC 5510 +0.28%#MIB 23574 +0.25%#IBEX 10506 +0.30%

Related: Parliament to debate RBS ‘hang themselves’ comment

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UK’s largest estate agent Countrywide issues profit warning

Shares plunge at owner of Bairstow Eves and Hamptons brands as number of UK property sales fall

Shares in the UK’s largest estate agent, Countrywide, tumbled 18% as the group warned that profits would fall short of forecasts after a “disappointing” fourth quarter.

The company, whose brands include Hamptons, Bairstow Eves and Taylors and Gascoigne-Pees, warned in November that the house sales market was challenging and would be down from 2016. It now expects full-year income to fall by 8.8%.

Related: Countrywide profit warning; stamp duty cut fails to help first-time buyers – business live

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Costa Coffee loses its froth as sales fall

Chain warns of subdued demand as shoppers shun high street and artisan rivals perk up

Britain’s biggest coffee shop chain, Costa Coffee, has suffered a fall in sales at its high street stores and warned consumer demand would remain “subdued”.

Costa’s owner, Whitbread, said like-for-like sales at its UK outlets had fallen 1.5% in the 13 weeks to 30 November. Costa Express machines, which are mainly in petrol stations and convenience stores, fared much better, with 6.7% underlying sales growth.

Like-for-like sales have become the benchmark in the City for judging the current performance of retailers. Typically represented as percentage growth rates, like-for-like sales measure sales at stores that have been open for at least a year, stripping out the impact of sales at newer stores. The idea is that they allow a more transparent comparison of a retailer’s sales performance over a certain period of time, when compared with the same period of time a year earlier.

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The myth of Stoke’s Tory turnaround | Letters

The claim that Stoke-on-Trent is better off under the Tories is rejected by Cllr Mohammed Pervez and the Labour peer Jeremy Beecham

I think the Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton was rather misleading in his dig at the Guardian (Letters, 15 January) for not mentioning that the recent so-called turnaround in the city was down to his Tory party locally and nationally. He neglected to mention that he was the cabinet member who oversaw deep cuts to Stoke-on-Trent’s local services, including our children’s centres, social care and homelessness support. It is the current Conservative administration that has wasted tens of millions of pounds of council reserves to the detriment of the city’s long-term financial security.

Much of what Mr Brereton cited as improvements to the city are the legacy of Labour’s actions in power, including the creation of the central business district and cultural quarter, the district heating network, the relocation of Staffordshire University and the drive for better housing and jobs in the city.

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