Businesses Unite To Beat Tax 
An unlikely mix of business owners, from estate agents to restaurateurs, joined forces to gain a reprieve against the “tax on nightlife” parking charges in central London, which has been put on hold for at least nine months after a High Court judge allowed a judicial review of the way the local council made the decision to implement them.

The tax had been proposed by Westminster City Council and would have meant charges of up to £4.80 per hour in the normally free periods on Monday to Saturday evenings and from 1pm to 6pm on Sundays.

Council leader, Colin Barrow, a hedge fund millionaire, had tried to push the plans through to start as early as January 9 next year but Mr Justice Collins said: "There is a real risk of substantial damage to businesses and churches if it goes ahead."

Mr Barrow said that the “slightly surprising” ruling meant the postponement of the Council’s plans but said that it will still push for the charges to be implemented, despite warnings that they could cost the West End £800m a year and threaten 5,000 jobs.

He said: “We still think that congestion is a real problem and that this is the best way to solve it. We are not retreating from the principle, it is all to do with the practicality."
However, while businesses in the area are delighted that they have gained this reprieve, they agree that the plans should be scrapped altogether rather than just be put on hold.

Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone said the council should "drop rather than delay its plans". And Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jnr said: "I'm very happy but we can't open the champagne just yet. The council has to realise it was wrong. It must not waste any more money and time fighting this in court."

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Unemployment Rises 
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), unemployment in the UK rose by 128,000 in the three months to October, to 2.64 million, making it the highest total of people out of work since 1994.

And youth unemployment rose to 1.027 million, the highest since records began, while the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 3,000 to 1.6 million in November.

However, despite this, the rises were smaller than had been predicted by economists, many of whom have said that there are tentative signs that the deterioration in the labour market is slowing.

"Clearly the labour data are deteriorating, but much more slowly than the recent pace and not as badly as previously feared," said Alan Clarke, economist at Scotia Capital.

And there was also better news for women, with the percentage of 16 to 64-year-old women who are economically inactive falling to 29.1 per cent, the lowest proportion since records began in 1971.

However, those out of work for 12 months or more rose to 868,000 from 849,000 three months earlier, and account for one in three of all unemployed. And the number of actual job vacancies continued to decline, down 8,000 to 455,000.

Commenting on the unemployment figures, employment minister Chris Grayling said they did not present the level of bad news seen over the past two to three months.

"There has obviously been an unwelcome increase in unemployment since the summer but these latest figures show some signs that the labour market is stabilising," he said.

"The number of people in employment is higher than last month's published figure and the number of unemployed people is steadying. Encouragingly this is also the case for young people not in education.

"The increase in those claiming jobseeker's allowance has slowed and our welfare reforms are having a positive impact, with overall benefit claimant numbers falling by around 40,000 in the last 18 months."

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Mancession Or Myth? 
According to Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research out today, women have done better than men in the jobs market over the last year despite the public sector cutbacks.

The findings fuel the theory that the 2008-9 recession in the UK was a "mancession", the report says, because men were hit relatively hard when it came to jobs, while the female unemployment rate increased to 7.5 per cent since the end of the recession. The male unemployment rate stands at 9 per cent.

The term ‘mancession’ was coined during the same period in the United States when men bore the brunt of job losses at rates close to 50 per cent higher than those of women.

The report shows that the number of women in work has fallen throughout 2011 but the number of men in work has fallen even more; by the third quarter of this year the number of women in work was still 32,000 higher than at the end of 2010 while the number of men in work was 86,000 lower.

And it would appear that female unemployment has risen because more women have entered the labour market to look for work, partly because of a change in the way benefits are calculated.

John Philpott, chief economist at the CIPD, said: “As the economy weakens, private sector job creation dries up, public sector job cuts gather pace and unemployment continues to rise, it’s far too soon to conclude what will happen to the relative fortunes of men and women in the jobs market in the coming months.

"Indeed our final view of 2011 may yet alter once we have a full year of data. But what we do know is that the relative position of women has not so far worsened as much as commonly perceived or ... anticipated, given the high concentration of women workers in the public sector and in part-time jobs more generally.”

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Jobs Outlook Worsens 
According to a survey by employment giant, Manpower, the outlook for jobs is the worst it has been for three years, with four out of five of the employers surveyed saying that they have no plans to hire staff in the next three months.

Manpower's seasonally adjusted employment outlook balance fell to zero for Q1 2012, the lowest reading since that for Q4 2009 and down from +1 per cent for Q4 2011.

That isn’t good news for the 2.62m people looking for work. The jobless rate hit a 15-year high of 8.3 percent in the three months to September and is forecast to rise further when October data is released tomorrow.

And, the survey found large regional variations, with employers in the East of the country hiring more than those in the West and firms in the North East were more optimistic than those in the North West.

Mark Cahill, Manpower's managing director, said: "The 2012 jobs market sits on a knife-edge. In some ways this is a reflection of a weakening economy. We hear stories about companies hoarding cash and not investing, and we see a number of business sectors battening down the hatches.

However, the survey also points out that there are still hundreds of thousands of vacancies across the UK and many sectors are still hiring, particularly the utility companies.

And manufacturers, too, showed tentative signs of confidence, with their employment outlook balance coming in at 5 per cent and chiming with recruitment findings in a recent survey by the EEF, the main trade body for British manufacturers.

However, employment intentions in Britain's key finance and business services sector flat-lined, down from a reading of 5 per cent for the final quarter of this year and a strong level of 10 per cent a year ago.

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FSA To Admit Blame 
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has today published its report into the circumstances that led to the near collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 2008 and has admitted shortcomings in the way it handled the crisis.

It has confessed that it failed to spot the pressures building up in the banking system and did not understand the pitfalls of the reliance on the wholesale money markets. It goes so far as to say that many aspects of its work were “inadequate” or deficient”.

And the FSA has also accepted that it missed the implications for a bank like RBS when funding dried up, as it did during the credit crunch, saying: “By 2007 the entire UK banking system was dependent on wholesale funding and therefore liquidity had become a huge issue... that the FSA failed to appreciate..."

However, the report lays most of the blame at the door of the RBS board, led by Chief Executive Fred Goodwin, who earned the nickname ‘Fred the Shred’ for his dictatorial management style. The report accuses the board of making “poor decisions” and failing to carry out proper due diligence on its acquisition of ABN Amro Holding NV.

Mr Goodwin pushed through the world’s biggest bank takeover, the 72 billion-euro purchase of ABN Amro even after global money markets froze in 2007. The acquisition saddled RBS with bad debt and depleted its cash reserves, eventually leading to the £45.5bn bailout by the taxpayer.

Lord Turner, chairman of the FSA said that the public wants to know how the bank failed and why no one has been punished. In the report he says: "The fact that no individual has been found legally responsible for the failure begs the question: if action cannot be taken under existing rules, should not the rules be changed for the future?"

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