Published2 hours agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingBy Bea Swallow & PA MediaBBC NewsA building society has announced that about 500 workers are at risk of redundancy as its head office goes through a “streamlining” process.Nationwide, based in Swindon, said it expects about 200 workers to leave as it will seek to find people new roles.The company said the redundancy consultation aims to improve efficiency and direct investment into other areas of the business.Nationwide added that “customer-facing colleagues” will not be affected.The building society, which is led by Debbie Crosbie, said it remains committed to running branches across the country.The move comes a day after Nationwide revealed it was rescinding its “work anywhere policy”, and would require full-time staff to return to the office for at least two days a week, from early next year.A spokesman said: “Our strategy is to give customers greater value, better products and a distinctive customer experience.”To do this, our systems and operations must be best-in-class and we need to be more agile and efficient.”They added: “We are streamlining some of our head office teams and expect around 200 people to leave the society.”This will enable us to increase investment in the value and service we provide our customers.”We have worked hard to keep the number of affected colleagues to a minimum and are ensuring we provide the right support for those impacted.”Follow BBC West on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to: [email protected] More on this storyAnger as Nationwide orders workers back to officePublished1 day agoNationwide tells 13,000 staff to ‘work anywhere’Published25 March 2021Nationwide customers hit by payment glitchPublished31 December 2021Related Internet LinksNationwideThe BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
Published31 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesBy Theo LeggettBusiness correspondent, BBC NewsA US senator has called for a government investigation into the impact on national security of garlic imports from China.Republican Senator Rick Scott has written to the commerce secretary, claiming Chinese garlic is unsafe, citing unsanitary production methods. China is the world’s biggest exporter of fresh and chilled garlic and the US is a major consumer.But the trade has been controversial for many years. The US has accused China of “dumping” garlic on to the market at below-cost price. Since the mid-1990s it has levied heavy tariffs or taxes on Chinese imports in order to prevent US producers from being priced out of the market. In 2019, during the Trump administration, these tariffs were increased.In his letter Senator Scott refers to these existing concerns. But he goes on to highlight “a severe public health concern over the quality and safety of garlic grown in foreign countries – most notably, garlic grown in Communist China”. He refers to practices which, he says, have been “well documented” in online videos, cooking blogs and documentaries, including growing garlic in sewage.He has called for the Department of Commerce to take action, under a law which allows investigations into the impact of specific imports on the security of the US.Senator Scott also goes into much detail about the different types of garlic that should be looked into: “All grades of garlic, whole or separated into cloves, whether or not peeled, chilled, fresh, frozen, provisionally preserved or packed in water or other neutral substance.” He argues: “Food safety and security is an existential emergency that poses grave threats to our national security, public health, and economic prosperity.”The Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Quebec, which attempts to popularise and explain scientific issues, says there is “no evidence” that sewage is used as a fertiliser for growing garlic in China.”In any case, there is no problem with this,” an article published by the university in 2017 says.”Human waste is as effective a fertilizer as is animal waste. Spreading human sewage on fields that grow crops doesn’t sound appealing, but it is safer than you might think.”More on this storyWhy do criminals smuggle garlic?Published12 January 2013
Published40 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesJobs growth in the US was stronger than expected last month, in part boosted as striking workers in Hollywood and the car industry returned to work.Employers added 199,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department said. That helped to push down the jobless rate to 3.7% – the lowest level since July – despite more people entering the workforce. The monthly report is being closely watched as the US central bank tries to cool the economy to stabilise prices. Investors are increasingly betting that the Federal Reserve has done enough – and may even start to reverse course next year – after raising interest rates to the highest level in more than two decades. The latest figures are welcome news for jobseekers, but analysts said they suggest that debates over the central bank’s next move will continue.”Recent economic data has suggested that the labour market could be cooling off, but today’s figures may derail hopes that the Fed will cut rates sooner, rather than later,” said Richard Flynn, managing director at Charles Schwab UK.”Today we have seen that, for employment, this month’s job’s report does not reflect the cooling that the market is likely hoping for.”
Published10 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe UK’s competition watchdog is to look at whether Microsoft’s high-value partnership with OpenAI could be considered as a merger.The Competition and Markets Authority is examining whether the US tech giant’s work with OpenAI could affect the AI market overall.Microsoft, which owns 49% of OpenAI, said it had “preserved independence” for both firms.But the relationship has come under focus after recent upheaval at OpenAI.Last month, OpenAI, which is best known as the creator of ChatGPT, was plunged into chaos when its boss Sam Altman was suddenly fired.After Mr Altman’s sacking, Microsoft then offered him a job leading a new advanced AI research team, before he was reinstated at OpenAI following an appeal from employees.During the drama, a spotlight was cast on how commercial competition is shaping the development of AI systems and the pace at which the technology is moving.It caused confusion about the future of the start-up, while Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella had said previously that governance at the firm needed to change.The CMA said that it was asking for comments, partly “in light of these developments”.The watchdog is questioning whether the partnership has resulted in an “acquisition of control”, whether an effective merger has taken place and if this could affect competition in the UK.It has asked third parties for their comments on the tie-up and could launch a probe if it feels it is necessary.Sorcha O’Carroll, senior director for mergers at the CMA, said: “The invitation to comment is the first part of the CMA’s information gathering process and comes in advance of launching any phase 1 investigation, which would only happen once the CMA has received the information it needs from the partnership parties.” OpenAI chaos not about AI safety, says MicrosoftA triumph of people power at OpenAI In response to the announcement, Microsoft said that its partnership with OpenAI has “fostered more AI innovation and competition”.Vice chair and president of Microsoft Brad Smith said that the only thing that has changed is that it “will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s board”.This means that it will have access to confidential information, but it will not be able to vote on matters like choosing directors.He added that the tech giant, which also came under scrutiny from regulators over its acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard, will work closely with the CMA to provide all the information that it needs.Mr Smith has previously denied that the recent drama witnessed at OpenAI was due to concerns around the safety of the technology being developed.Fears that AI was going to overtake humans in the next year were unfounded, he said recently during an event in London.”There’s absolutely no probability that you’re going to see this so called artificial general intelligence where computers are more powerful than people come in the next 12 months. It’s going to take years, if not many decades.”Mr Altman was a co-founder of OpenAI and became the face of its ground-breaking chatbot ChatGPT after it launched last year.He secured a significant funding boost to the tune of $13bn (£10bn) from Microsoft, which helped catapult the business.In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), one of the four board members who fired Mr Altman said that its goal was to “strengthen OpenAI and make it more able to achieve its mission.”Helen Toner, an academic and now former board member, did not answer questions about her interactions with Mr Altman, but said that the move was due to a “lack of trust” in the executive.There was reportedly a clash between the two after her work on an AI safety paper was published, which suggested that other tech companies had fast-tracked AI products in a bid to keep up with OpenAI.She told the WSJ: “OpenAI is a very unusual organization, and the non-profit mission – to ensure [artificial general intelligence] benefits all of humanity – comes first.”More on this storyOpenAI chaos not about AI safety, says MicrosoftPublished30 NovemberA triumph of people power at OpenAIPublished22 NovemberMicrosoft offers to match pay of all OpenAI staffPublished21 November
Published52 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesBy Lora JonesBusiness reporter, BBC NewsMPs have branded a post-Brexit shake-up aimed at boosting growth in the financial sector a “damp squib”.The Treasury Committee said since the “Edinburgh Reforms” package was set out, there has been little progress.Its new report suggests some of the changes heralded by the Treasury were not yet complete.But a Treasury figure said “significant strides” had been made towards making the UK more attractive in the face of fierce competition globally.In the wake of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), the government has been trying to overhaul financial regulation to improve London’s attractiveness in comparison with other European rivals such as Paris or Frankfrurt.One year ago, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the “Edinburgh Reforms” – 31 key measures, which included plans on scrapping a cap on bankers’ bonuses and allowing insurance companies to invest in long-term assets such as housing and windfarms. The package of changes was described as an example of post-Brexit freedom, with regulation being tailored to suit the needs of the UK economy.However, the new analysis by the Treasury Committee said six of the 21 changes the government said it had delivered were not yet complete.It also questioned whether another six, including things like publishing a document, should be considered “reforms” at all.Cap on bankers’ bonuses to be scrappedBank rules in biggest shake-up in over 30 yearsChair of the committee, Harriett Baldwin, said that more than a decade after the financial crisis, the Treasury was “absolutely” right to update rules to encourage growth.”We welcome many of the changes as logical and sensible measures. We do, though, question the validity of claims that welcoming consultations, establishing reviews or publishing documents should be considered reforms,” she said.She described the Edinburgh Reforms as a “damp squib”, due to “the lack of progress or economic impact.”In a statement issued to mark the anniversary of the changes being announced, the government said it had already delivered 22 of the 31 promises.Economic Secretary to the Treasury Bim Afolami said: “My number one priority in this role is to deliver on the Edinburgh reforms.”The reforms have shown the UK’s dedication to fostering a sensible, innovative and robust financial landscape – over the past year we’ve made significant strides towards creating an environment that supports economic growth, openness and the well-being of savers.”London’s position as the pre-eminent European financial centre has been dented in recent years, and a number of companies have moved their share listings away from the UK.Earlier this week, travel giant Tui said it was considering quitting the London Stock Exchange in favour of a listing in Frankfurt.Britain’s biggest chip company, Arm Holdings, listed its shares in New York earlier this year, and building supplies firm CRH and plumbing company Ferguson have also shifted their listings to the US.On Friday, betting giant Flutter – which owns Paddy Power and Betfair – said it would list its shares in the US from 29 January.The company’s shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange and Flutter said it would keep its primary listing in the UK. However, there has been speculation that it could switch its main listing to the US at a later date.More on this storyCap on bankers’ bonuses to be scrappedPublished24 OctoberBank rules in biggest shake-up in over 30 yearsPublished9 December 2022
Published1 hour agocommentsCommentsShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesBy Kevin PeacheyCost of living correspondentMortgage rates on a typical two-year fixed deal have fallen below 6% for the first time since mid-June, according to Moneyfacts.The financial information service said the average rate was now 5.99%.Competition among providers has intensified as they face a battle to attract a small pot of new homeowners, and to maintain current custom.They have been given added confidence as many analysts suggest the Bank of England’s base rate has now peaked.The rate on a typical two-year fixed mortgage rose sharply during Liz Truss’s premiership, then fell slightly before rising again.It peaked at 6.86% in late July, and has been falling steadily since.ImpactDavid Hollingworth, from broker L&C Mortgages, said that the best rates for two-year fixed deals were below 5%, or under 4.5% for five-year deals.However, this was still significantly higher than many homeowners paid for more than a decade, and many of these deals were close to their end date.The Bank of England’s latest Financial Stability Report estimated five million mortgage holders would see their mortgage payments rise by 2026.
According to the Bank’s estimates, just under 900,000 will see mortgage payments jump by more than £500 a month due to higher interest rates.About a fifth of those are predicted to see a jump of more than £1,000 per month.But the number of households predicted to spend more than 70% of their post-tax income on their mortgage by the end of next year has fallen to 500,000 from the 650,000 predicted in July.Mortgage arrears up sharply with landlords hit hardRental pressure pushing families to smaller homesMr Hollingworth said some lenders may have “overshot” when setting their mortgage rates during the summer as the Bank rate was rising. It has now been held twice at 5.25%.He said mortgage rates were now at more historical norms, but would still be painful after years at a low level. Many were choosing a two-year, rather that a five-year, deal in the hope rates would fall further, although there were no guarantees of that scenario.He suggested people searching for a new mortgage prepare early, lock in a product that suits them, then review before their current deal expires.”The danger is not to do anything,” he said, pointing out that default standard variable rates were often very expensive.What happens if I miss a mortgage payment?If you miss two or more months’ repayments you are officially in arrearsYour lender must then treat you fairly by considering any requests about changing how you pay, such as lower repayments for a short timeThey might also allow you to extend the term of the mortgage or let you pay just the interest for a certain periodHowever, any arrangement will be reflected on your credit file, which could affect your ability to borrow money in the futureRead more here.More on this storyMortgage problems ease but many face ‘price shock’Published1 day agoMortgage arrears up sharply with landlords hit hardPublished9 NovemberBenefits falling behind rising cost of livingPublished3 days agoRental pressure pushing families to smaller homesPublished29 November
Published2 hours agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, British Transport PoliceBy Andrew BlackBBC Scotland NewsScotRail is asking customers if they support ending the blanket ban on drinking alcohol on its services, amid a claim it is “unworkable”.The online survey comes more than three years after it was introduced as a temporary measure to help stop the spread of Covid-19.The future of the ban is a decision for ministers, rather than ScotRail.The government is currently asking rail bosses, the police and unions whether they think the restrictions should end.Alcohol ban for foreseeable future, ScotRail saysPeak rail fares scrapped as six-month trial beginsRail users logging into ScotRail Wi-FI spots are being invited to take part a pop-up online survey, which begins with the statement: “In November 2020 ScotRail introduced a 24/7 ban to help support public health measures put in place by the Scottish government to help tackle coronavirus.”This was presented and reported as a temporary measure.”We are now looking to re-evaluate this prohibition and we are seeking our passengers views and opinions on this matter.”Customers are then asked to answer yes or no to the question: “Would you be supportive of ScotRail removing the permanent alcohol ban on trains and in stations?”A second question asks: “If the current total alcohol ban remained in place, would this impact on your decision to travel with ScotRail for leisure journeys in the future?”Respondents are asked to answer if they would be less or more inclined to get on a ScotRail train in that situation, or whether it would not affect them either way.’Unworkable’ banScotRail is run by a Scottish government-owned company after being taken into public ownership in 2022.ScotRail did not make anyone available for interview to discuss its position on the alcohol ban, but the operator did say that it regularly asked customers for their views on a variety of issues to help inform future decisions. The first minister has been urged to lift the current restrictions by Conservative transport spokesman Douglas Lumsden, who said in parliament last month: “ScotRail and British Transport Police have both told me the ban is unworkable.”Humza Yousaf said at the time ScotRail, the British Transport Police, union leaders and others had been asked for their views and would give “appropriate consideration” to lifting the ban if the evidence pointed in that direction.He added: “We will give particular weight to the voices of women and girls, who are often those who tell us that they can feel unsafe when it comes to antisocial behaviour.”The current ban prohibits the consumption of alcohol at any Scottish station or ScotRail train at any time of the day.Passengers are also banned from carrying visible alcohol and can be stopped from getting on a train if deemed “unfit”.Drinking alcohol was previously banned on ScotRail services between 21:00 and 10:00. More on this storyAlcohol ban for foreseeable future, ScotRail saysPublished29 July 2022Alcohol ban comes into force on ScotRail networkPublished16 November 2020
Published52 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, EPABy Annabelle LiangBusiness reporterElon Musk has said Disney boss Bob Iger should be “fired immediately” after the company stopped advertising on X.”Walt Disney is turning in his grave over what Bob has done to his company,” Mr Musk said in a series of posts against the media giant.It comes just a week after he told companies that joined an ad boycott of his platform, formerly known as Twitter, to “Go [expletive] yourself”.Some firms have paused advertising on X amid concerns over antisemitism.Could X go bankrupt under Elon Musk?Elon Musk launches profane attack on X advertisersDisney did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment on Friday.Mr Iger made a shock return to Disney just over a year ago – less than 12 months after retiring – to steer it through turbulent times, as its share price plummeted and streaming service Disney+ continued to make a loss.In his time at the company, he has been credited for driving major acquisitions involving the likes of animation studio Pixar, comic book company Marvel, Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and Lucasfilm, the home of Star Wars.These moves, as well as amusement park openings, helped the company’s market value increase five-fold.In a post on Thursday, Mr Musk appeared to allude to the recent box-office performances of some Disney firms, saying Mr Iger dropped “more bombs than a B-52″.The multi-billionaire also accused Disney of advertising on other social media platforms that allowed controversial materials.Image source, Getty ImagesLast week, in a profanity-laced outburst at an event in New York, Mr Musk slammed advertisers that had left X and warned that they would kill the social media platform.He also accused companies including Disney, Apple and Comcast, which have paused advertising on the site, of trying to blackmail him.”I don’t want them to advertise,” Mr Musk said in response to a question at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit.”If someone is going to blackmail me with advertising or money go [expletive] yourself.”Go. [Expletive]. Yourself. Is that clear? Hey Bob, if you’re in the audience, that’s how I feel.”Mr Musk was apparently referring to Mr Iger, who spoke at the summit earlier in the day.X’s chief executive Linda Yaccarino, who also attended the summit, has since reposted what she called Mr Musk’s “candid interview”. She added her perspective on advertising that “X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street — and the X community is powerful and is here to welcome you”.Mr Musk has been on a visit to Israel after he appeared to personally back an antisemitic conspiracy theory last month. He denied the post was antisemitic but apologised, saying it might have been the “dumbest” thing he had ever shared online.However, many advertisers had already chosen to spend their money elsewhere. In July, Mr Musk acknowledged in a post on X that ad revenue had fallen by 50%.More on this storyCould X go bankrupt under Elon Musk?Published5 days agoElon Musk launches profane attack on X advertisersPublished30 NovemberWill Tesla’s cybertruck recover from its shattering start?Published30 NovemberElon Musk visits Israel after antisemitism rowPublished27 November