Tuesday 29th July

UK falling behind on 4G

The UK is falling behind countries like the US and South Korea in its adoption of 4G-enabled handsets, according to new figures....

The UK is falling behind countries like the US and South Korea in its adoption of 4G-enabled handsets, according to new figures.

Data based on a study of mobile analytics in 242 countries by Netbiscuits came as London’s Mayor Boris Johnson pledged that London would have access to 5G connectivity by 2020.

According to the figures, just 33 per cent of mobiles in the UK support 4G compared with 67 per cent in the US.

Globally, Apple’s 4G-enabled iPhone 5 and 5s are the most popular new handsets, but in the UK they are yet to overtake the older 3G-reliant iPhone 4 series.

Mr Johnson’s pledge came as part of his infrastructure plan for London leading up to 2050, which sets out infrastructural and technical requirements for the city over the next four decades.

“London is earning a reputation for being the tech capital of Europe and that is why we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access the very best digital connectivity,” he said.

“Londoners increasingly regard broadband as another utility and I am expecting a wide variety of providers will want to work with me to make this aspiration a reality.”

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Numbers of freelancers ‘set to soar’

In future, people will have their own “brands” and sell their skills to organisations on a case-by-case basis, according to a report looking at the future of work by accountants PwC....

In future, people will have their own “brands” and sell their skills to organisations on a case-by-case basis, according to a report looking at the future of work in 2022 by accountants PwC.

It’s one of a handful of findings implying that traditional office environments could become a thing of the past, while the number of people working as freelancers will grow.

Better internet access and smartphones have already caused a big increase in people working for themselves. According to official data, 183,000 people became self-employed in the first quarter of 2014 alone.

In other findings from the PwC report, which is based on conversations with 10,000 workers and 500 HR professionals globally, just 14 per cent of people want to work in a “traditional office environment” in future.

One in five said they would prefer to work in a virtual organisation, logging on from home or shared workspaces instead of at an office. Meanwhile, a quarter said traditional employment structures won’t exist in future.

Jon Andrews, UK HR consulting leader at PwC, said: “It’s clear from our research that traditional nine to five office working could soon become resigned to history for many workers.

“People feel strongly that they no longer want to work within the constraints of the typical office environment and advances in technology mean that workers no longer have to be shackled to their desks.”

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Anger at HMRC debt recovery proposals

A prominent business lobby says the government should rethink proposals allowing HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to recover debts directly from the bank accounts of freelancers and small businesses....

A prominent business lobby says the government should rethink proposals allowing HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to recover debts directly from the bank accounts of freelancers and small businesses.

Plans, unveiled at the Budget in March, are meant to penalise people who can afford to pay tax bills but refuse or forget to do so.

They would allow inspectors to dip into bank accounts to retrieve debts if there were sufficient funds to pay.

But the Forum for Private Business (FPB) says decisions to take money should take into account important factors in the business cycle, such as 12-month debts and unexpected costs such as stock or investment opportunities.

It also says the £5,000 safety net floated by the government is too low. HMRC inspectors would not be allowed to take funds from companies with bank balances below this level.

Alexander Jackman, head of policy at the FPB, said: “Our members are unequivocal in their condemnation of tax avoidance and the tax evasion practices that have received significant coverage in the media, in particular the practices of large corporates.

“However, many of our members already feel that they are unfairly targeted by HMRC and these proposals do little to dispel this commonly held belief.

He added: “The smaller scope of their operations means many small business owners feel much more vulnerable to investigations than larger firms with more complex tax arrangements.”

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Monday 28th July

Two-thirds of freelancers ‘have no pension’

Two in three freelancers are sitting on a "pensions time bomb" by failing to provide financially for their retirement, new figures suggest....

Two in three freelancers are sitting on a "pensions time bomb" by failing to provide financially for their retirement, new figures suggest.

Research by Crunch Accounting shows two-thirds have no pension and less than half putting in place any preparations for retirement.

Darren Fell, managing director of Crunch, said: “with the economy picking up, I would advise anyone working for themselves to think of the future and invest in their retirement.”

The survey of 280 freelancers also revealed that one in four had yet to give any thought to retirement at all, while just 15 per cent were confident they were saving the right amount.

According to government figures, one-person businesses make up around 15 per cent of the workforce. An extra 750,000 people have become self-employed since the start of the credit crunch.

Crunch Accounting’s survey involved freelance IT consultants, writers and designers among other professions.

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Friday 25th July

UK economy goes from bust to boom

UK economic growth hit 0.8 per cent between April and June after registering the same growth rate during the first quarter of the year, government number-crunchers have confirmed....

UK economic growth hit 0.8 per cent between April and June after registering the same growth rate during the first quarter of the year, government number-crunchers have confirmed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the economy swelled by 3.1 per cent year-on-year, meaning that is now officially bigger than when the recession began in 2009.

The economy is currently 0.2 per cent bigger than its previous peak before the global economic pinch set in, said ONS.

"Thanks to the hard work of the British people, today we reach a major milestone in our long-term economic plan," said chancellor George Osborne.

But while the UK is currently storming ahead, some economists pointing out that other European countries hit their pre-recession peaks much sooner.

Germany returned to its pre-recession level in 2010, while France followed a year later in 2011. The US also achieved the feat in 2011, three years ahead of the UK.

"Any celebrations will of course also be marred by the fact that the milestone reminds us that it has taken some six years for the country to merely regain the economic might it had before the financial crisis struck,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

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Firms should prepare for ‘best time to recruit’

The upcoming autumn months are when the highest proportion of people look for jobs, meaning recruiters could find richer pickings at this time of year, according to figures by Randstad Technologies....

The upcoming autumn months are when the highest proportion of people look for jobs, meaning recruiters could find richer pickings at this time of year, according to figures by Randstad Technologies.

For every job advertised there or 3.9 jobseekers during August, the highest ratio in any month during the year. It compares with just 2.9 jobseekers per position in January.

The figures indicate that the autumn is a good time for employers to step up recruitment drives, particularly with the annual influx of graduates into the jobs market.

Conversely, the figures imply that people looking for work might have the best chance at the beginning of each year, when they will have the lowest level of competition.

Mike Beresford, managing director of Randstad Technologies, said: “If you want the best odds on scooping up high-flyers, August is the month to hire. These figures show the competition for the best talent is less intense.

“You might not be able to count on the sun during a typical British August but if you are in the IT and technology industries, you can count on having to fight that little bit less hard for every candidate you want to hire.”

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Amazon reveals giant losses

Global online retailer Amazon says it lost $126 million (£74 million) during the second quarter of 2014, causing ripples through the stock market....

Global online retailer Amazon says it lost $126 million (£74 million) during the second quarter of 2014, causing ripples through the stock market.

The online retail behemoth added that sales could slow in the current quarter and predicted a loss of between $810 million and $410 million. The news caused Amazon’s share price to fall six per cent.

While profits were down, takings were up 23 per cent to $19.4 billion in the second quarter, it added.

Amazon is investing in growth, particularly in non-retail parts of its business. This year alone it has unveiled a subscription book service, new content for its Prime video on-demand service and the soon-to-be-released “Fire” smartphone.

In a statement accompanying the release, Amazon chief technology officer Tom Szkutak said: “The increase in capital expenditures reflects additional investments in support of continued business growth.

He added that this investment went towards “Additional capacity to support our fulfilment operations and investments in technology infrastructure including Amazon Web Services.”

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Thursday 24th July

Online furniture brand picks up £4m funding

Swoon Editions, a UK-based furniture business that connects designers with customers, has raised £4 million in Series A funding....

Swoon Editions, a UK-based furniture business that connects designers with customers, has raised £4 million in Series A funding.

The online business was founded in March 2012. It says it “slices through traditional supply chains” connecting consumers with manufacturers and artisan designers directly.

It has grown from three employees to 36 in 12 months following seed investment of £1.2 million in May 2013. Octopus Investments led both and the latest round with additional investment from Index Ventures.

Brian Harrison, CEO and co-founder, said the money would go towards hiring an additional 20 staff members in London, Vietnam, India and China.

“We cut out unnecessary retail overheads and gain further efficiencies by only producing pieces we know are in demand.

In the past year we have tested every aspect of our business model, rapidly growing our base of suppliers, designers, customers and industry style watchers.

“We are delighted that this has inspired our original investors to provide additional capital to accelerate our growth.”

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Facebook reports surging profits

The world’s most popular social media website Facebook has revealed a 138 per cent increase in profits during the second quarter of 2014....

The world’s most popular social media website Facebook has revealed a 138 per cent increase in profits during the second quarter of 2014.

Facebook declared income of $791 million (£464 million) for the three-month period, with revenue from advertising increasing by two-thirds to $2.68 billion.

However, expenses were also up 22 per cent, with the business spending big on expansion plans.

In a statement on the website, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: "Our community has continued to grow, and we see a lot of opportunity ahead as we connect the rest of the world."

"We had a good second quarter," he added.

Mobile traffic is continuing to increase with more than a billion users accessing the site through smartphones and tablets. Revenue from mobile advertising was also up 62 per cent year-on-year.

News of increased revenue and users had an immediate impact on the stock market. It sent Facebook shares spiralling five per cent after the results were released.

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Wednesday 23rd July

Crowdcube raises £1.2m in 16 minutes

Crowdfunding platform Crowcube has used its own service to raise a £1.2 million investment from its followers, and managed to hit that total in 16 minutes....

Crowdfunding platform Crowcube has used its own service to raise a £1.2 million investment from its followers, and managed to hit that total in 16 minutes.

The fundraising followed a £3.8 million investment by Balderton Capital last week. Just over 140 investors backed Crowcube in the Series B round with an average investment of £8,500.

Darren Westlake, CEO and co-founder, said: "This record-breaking fundraise from our crowd of registered investors at the same time as backing by an established VC firm is a huge thumbs up for our business, team and the growth path that we outlined.

“This is the first time that any sizeable fundraise has meshed traditional and alternative finance methods and we expect to see more of this in the future.”

Crowcube will use the £5 million total investment to expand its operations in the UK and globally. It will double its 25 employees, while opening new offices in London and Scotland.

The business successfully raised money on its platform in 2011 and 2013, raising £320,000 and £1.5 million respectively.

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