The ONS have today released their UK trade figures for February.
Goods and Services
The total deficit on trade in goods and services was estimated to have been £2.1 billion in February 2014, compared with a deficit of £2.2 billion in January 2014.
The total trade deficit has almost halved in the three months to February 2014 compared with the previous three months, from £8.7 billion to £4.8 billion this is mainly due to a narrowing of the trade in goods deficit.
In the three months ending February 2014, exports of goods decreased by 2.5% to £72.7 billion. In the same period Imports of goods decreased by 4.7% to £99.0.
To break this down further exports of goods decreased between January and February 2014 by 1.6% to £23.5 billion, Imports for the same period decreased by 2.2% to £32.6 billion.
The news that the total deficit on trade in goods and services is down again from the January figure is a positive trend but the fall in the export of goods highlights the need for a greater support for exporters to ensure that export growth outweighs increases in import levels. Greater knowledge and skills are required to enter markets further afield, and exporters need to be aware of the support available and the prospects for growth by entering these markets. The chancellor’s recent announcements in the March Budget to widen the powers of UKEF and increase their direct lending ability to £3 billion and cutting interest rates to the lowest permitted levels are positive but some resource needs to be channelled to promote their services and offerings.
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Ed Miliband has outlined today his plans to provide cities and regions with more powers and funding to help rebalance growth around the UK should the Labour Party come to power in 2015.
The Labour leader has pledged to go further on the Heseltine recommendations and increase funding and powers to enable more joint working between local enterprise partnerships and other bodies responsible for growth in the regions.
The Labour Party announcement comes as Lord Adonis provides his interim recommendations on just how this can be delivered. More details can be found here.
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On April 6 new employment tribunal laws came into force intended to reduce the number of employment tribunals. Any employees wanting to bring cases of unfair dismissal or discrimination to tribunal are now required to notify Acas, which will start an ‘early conciliation’ scheme where Acas will attempt to resolve the dispute at the pre-tribunal stage.
Cases are not required to be settled through the early conciliation process and where disputes cannot be resolved, employees will obtain a certificate from Acas to allow them to proceed with the tribunal process.
Employment tribunals place considerable strain on businesses, therefore NECC has welcomed recent Government efforts to reform the employment tribunal process. It is important that genuinely wronged employees have access to the tribunal system, while employers are protected from having to expend resources on unwarranted or nuisance cases. Therefore, mandating early conciliation has the potential to encourage meaningful communication between claimants and employees to avoid going to tribunal – it is crucial that both parties are supported and aware of how to best utilise the early conciliation process.
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In the March 2014 Budget, The Chancellor committed to become much more proactive in support of UK business who want to expand globally, including supporting the UK-based supply chains of exporters and intangible exports for the first time by expanding the remit of UKEF and changing its underpinning legislation. As a result of this announcement, UKEF has launched a consultation on the proposals for the changes to its powers. The closing date for responses to this consultation is the 16th April.
NECC welcome the proposals made to extend UKEF’s powers with the intention to increase support for exporters. These changes coupled with the further announcement in the March Budget statement to overhaul UKEF’s direct lending programme; doubling it to £3 billion and cutting interest rates to the lowest permitted levels to provide competitive financing that helps UK firms win contracts and expand overseas, are commitments that show the government see exports as key to the UKs long term economic recovery. This consultation is our opportunity to input how UKEF service can be improved when its powers are extended.
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NECC has published its latest Quarterly Economic Survey, produced in conjunction with Barclays. The survey shows a continuing rise in activity and confidence throughout the business community and points to continuing growth looking ahead.
To see the NECC press release and full briefing on our latest QES please click here. If you have any comments or questions please e-mail email@example.com.