Business Briefing

Brits ‘gearing up for £50bn post-lockdown spending spree’

Uber U-turns, property sales taking 295 days, and other breaking business news

1

Economy 

Consumers set to splash cash on holidays and meals out

UK householders have squirreled away a total of £192bn in extra savings during the past year - but are planning to blow around a quarter of that cash once the latest Covid lockdown ends, new research has found.

According to the study by financial mutual Scottish Friendly and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), nearly half (46%) of Britons have saved more of their income than usual during the ongoing restrictions. 

And survey findings suggest that pent-up demand will see a “hefty chunk” of those savings - £50bn in total - being spent on holidays, eating out and in shops after the economy reopens, The Guardian reports. 

Of more than 4,000 adults quizzed, 34% of those who plan to spend more money this year said their cash will go towards travel and accommodation for overseas holidays, while 29% intend to splash out on breaks in the UK. 

Lots of meals out are also on the menu, with 28% planning to up their spending in restaurants and cafes.

Scottish Friendly saving specialist Kevin Brown said the spending bonanza “will provide a welcome boost for many businesses”. However, “it could lead to a sharp spike in prices during the remainder of 2021, which risks hurting many savers”, he cautioned.

2

Companies

Uber’s UK drivers to get worker benefits

Uber’s 70,000 UK drivers will get a guaranteed minimum wage, holiday pay and pensions from today, following the ride-hailing app’s defeat in a Supreme Court case last month.

The U-turn comes after the court ruled that the drivers should be classed as workers rather than independent contractors, and marks a “huge win” for Uber employees and unions - and “a blow to gig economy companies”, says the Daily Mirror.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News that the move was “absolutely to be welcomed”.

In a further boost for the workers, a senior Uber executive told the broadcaster that the company will also be contacting drivers in coming days with “settlement offers” to make up for shortfalls in past pay.

Uber Eats delivery workers are not included in the new conditions, however.

3

Property market

Ten-month wait for house sales to complete 

Covid delays and the stamp-duty holiday has seen property sale completion times increase to an average of 295 days, compared with 240 days pre-pandemic, a study has found.

The race to get deals over the line before the tax break ends has left councils and legal professionals buried in an “avalanche of admin”, The Independent reports. And the resulting backlog of paperwork “means the average time from listing a property to handing over the keys is up by a month and a half” year-on-year. 

Colby Short of estate agent comparison site GetAgent.co.uk, which conducted the analysis, said that while the stamp duty holiday has “helped boost buyer demand and the speed at which sales are being agreed”, there has also been a “small-print catch in the form of substantial market delays during the tail end of the transaction process”.

4

Personal finance 

ATM visits fall - but withdrawn amounts are up

Withdrawals from cash machines in the UK have fallen by £37bn during the 12 months of the Covid pandemic, new research shows.

But while the number of visits to ATMs is down by 43%, the average amount withdrawn has risen from £67 to £84, according to data from cash machine network Link. 

The newly released figures “renew the debate over the future of cash”, with 4,000 fewer free ATMs in operations during the ongoing Covid restrictions, says the BBC

 Yet while the pandemic “has drastically changed Britain’s relationship with cash”, says the Daily Mail,  “millions still rely on physical money to pay for things”. 

NoteMachine chief executive Peter McNamara said he expected withdrawals to “soar” when the current national lockdown ends, adding that cash is “still the chosen method of payment” and “a vital lifeline” for many people. 

5

Tourism 

P&O invites vaccinated passengers to set sail on UK cruises   

P&O has announced plans to restart domestic cruises around the British Isles this summer - but only for passengers who have been fully vaccinated against Covid. 

The cruise operator is “dipping its toes back in the water” after seeing its fleet forced out of action for more than a year as a result of the global health crisis, says The Guardian. Ships will not stop at any ports owning to coronavirus restrictions, but customers will be able to enjoy onboard dining and entertainment.

P&O, which is part of the Carnival group, will operate voyages of between three and seven nights on its Britannia and Iona ships. Cruises will depart from Southampton between late June and September.

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