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The Financial Times
Osborne eyes breathing space on austerity as fiscal outlook improves – George Osborne is looking at relaxing the Treasury’s assumption of deep austerity over the coming five years in next week’s Budget, countering Labour’s claim that his “extreme” policies would take state spending back to 1930s levels. In December’s autumn statement, Mr Osborne’s assumption for total public spending after 2015-16 saw its level falling to 35.2 per cent of national income, sufficient to build up a projected £23bn surplus in the public finances by 2019-20.
New homes and tax simplification dominate Budget wishlists – Acknowledging the limited scope for big reforms before the election on May 7, the Federation of Small Businesses wants George Osborne, the chancellor, to focus on simplifying regulation. It suggests a single tax account system for small businesses and that HM Revenue & Customs accept monthly tax payments.
Euro driven towards 12-year low by QE and forecasts of US interest rate rise – The euro fell 1.4 per cent to $1.0695 in late London trade yesterday, raising the prospect of euro parity with the greenback. It also fell against sterling, to below £0.71, its lowest level since December 2007. US stocks also retreated, as investors worried about the impact that a stronger dollar would have on American corporate earnings.
Car sales plunge as Russia sanctions bite – Car sales plunged 38 per cent in Russia last month compared with the same period a year ago in a fresh sign of the economy’s deterioration as it hurtles towards recession. The February decline, reported by the Association of European Businesses, was the worst monthly fall since 2009. It follows a 4.4 per cent drop in January retail sales – the first such decline in more than five years – amid a collapse in real wages.
Esure bears brunt of low fuel costs as drivers hit accelerator – The sharpe prices of UK motor insurance providers went into reverse yesterday, with Esure leading the falls with a 9 per cent drop after it highlighted a rise in accident claims that coincides with robust economic growth and lower fuel prices.
Abolish three ministries to save billions, say taxpayers – Three Whitehall departments should be abolished during the next parliament so the government can balance the books, a report recommends. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, along with most of their agencies should be scrapped, says the Tax Payers Alliance.
GM sees off activist with $5bn share buyback – America’s biggest carmaker has become the latest large US corporation to embark on a share buyback, saying that it would repurchase $5 billion of its stock to avert a clash with an activist investor who helped to rescue it from bankruptcy.
Thousands of lane hoggers are fined £100 – At least 10,000 motorists have been fined for offences such as tailgating, hogging the middle and undertaking following the introduction of new powers in 2013. Most forces are making use of the powers and issuing drivers £100 fines and three points for careless driving. In all 35 out of 45 police forces published figures on the number of motorists fined for careless driving between August 2014 and last August, with 9,852 penalties being logged. The total number, including those forces that don’t publish figures, is likely to be closer to 13,000. Driving groups criticised the system, saying it was a ‘postcode lottery’ because officers in some areas were declining to use the powers.
Carmakers won’t fear referendum – Robert Lea examines why the car industry is so relaxed about the possibility of an in-out European referendum. Even if Britain were to withdraw from the EU, industry executives believe trade barriers would be unlikely to go up. Lea notes that last year more cars were built in Sunderland than in Italy, with four fifths of Nissan’s production in the North-East bound for the continent. Half of the cars sold in Britain, meanwhile, are built in Germany. Lea sees no reason why Germany would allow barriers to key markets.
Jaguar builds electric car in Austria – that Jaguar Land Rover is set to build an all-electric car in Austria. An electric debut would be the latest in a string of high profile launches after its XE ‘baby Jag’ and F-Pace SUV. The carmaker is thought to be devising plans for a small factory in Austria to produce around 10,000 cars a year. JLR is looking to build an electric car in part to sidestep looming European Union emissions fines.
Fiat chief pockets £48m – chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Sergio Marchionne is to receive Eur66.4m for the past year. A large portion of the bumper reward comes from bonuses and stock awards linked to Fiat’s takeover of Chrysler, which saw the Italian marque’s share price surge 61 per cent. Marchionne earned Eur6.6m in salary and incentives last year.
Acceleration at Audi – German carmaker Volkswagen is investing heavily in its Audi marque in a drive to overtake BMW as the world’s biggest seller of luxury cars. The company, headquartered at Wolfsburg, is investing more than €1bn (£700m) in new factories in Mexico and Brazil after Audi’s operating profit margin slipped from 10.1% to 9.6% last year.
The Daily Telegraph
Hard questions for Volkswagen chief – With Volkswagen’s 2014 earnings coming up this week, many investors will be questioning whether the group’s chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, should remain at the company. Winterkorn is due to retire at the end of 2016 and talks openly about finding his successor.
Renault and Peugeot on shaky recovery – Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen are both enjoying rising share prices, but could both struggle if Europe’s car recovery falters. The French companies’ shares have raced ahead of other mass-market competitors, including General Motors, Toyota Motor and Volkswagen.
The Daily Mail
Lib Dems seek 10mph limit outside schools – Speed limits could be cut to 10mph outside schools it the Liberal Democrats are back in Government after the general election. The party has proposed introducing the new limit outside schools in a bid to reduce air and noise pollution. Many schools already have 20mph limits. The Lib Dems are to debate a 10mph at their spring conference next week. Motoring campaigners however, warned that the change would do nothing to improve safety while increasing car emissions
It drives me potty that you can’t pay to park with cash – Brighton and Hove council has joined the war on real money by phasing out all its coin-operated parking ticket machines. Inevitably, other councils will soon follow.
Sustained growth for UK ‘still a long way off’ – The British Chambers of Commerce have hiked their forecast for the UK economy this year but warned it is “still a long way” from achieving sustained growth. They upgraded their outlook for gross domestic product growth for this year from 2.6 to 2.7 per cent for next year from 2.4 to 2.6 per cent.