Cheque Guarantee Cards Won’t Return 
Research from the Payments Council “provides clear evidence that no case exists for reinstating the cheque guarantee card scheme” because almost 90 per cent of users said that their cheques continued to be accepted without it.

In fact, only 40 per cent of consumers who had used their card to guarantee a cheque in the last twelve months were aware that the scheme had actually closed in June.

A Payments Council survey found that over 80 per cent of businesses poled still accepted cheques from customers without a guarantee card, particularly f they knew them. And only one of the 501 businesses that accepted guarantee cards before the scheme closed said that the closure had had a detrimental effect on its business.

Adrian Kamellard, chief executive of the Payments Council said: "We have committed that cheques are here to stay, so we were pleased that the demise of the guaranteed cheque has had little impact on the way people use cheques, nor has it stopped businesses accepting them.”

The cheque guarantee system meant that cheques up to £50 or £100 were honoured by the bank, as long as the card number was written on the back, even if there were insufficient funds in the account.

The scheme was used predominantly by tradesman for small jobs, guaranteeing them payment by often elderly customers. However, t would appear that knowledge of the customer’s bilty to pay is guarantee enough.

Mr Kamellard added: “It’s particularly reassuring to find that older people have taken the change in their stride, however, our research has highlighted that there is a small minority of customers and businesses who might need extra help – so that will be what we’re focussing on next.”

And Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury Committee, said: “The Payments Council must do more to ensure that banks do not phase out cheques on the quiet."

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Banking Industry To Be Overhauled 
Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed that the Government will implement the recommendations contained in the report produced by the Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by Sir John Vickers.

The recommendations include ring-fencing retail banking from investment banking and requiring banks to hold greater cash buffers against potential loss or future financial crises.

Mr Osborne also announced that the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) would reduce the size of its investment bank, saying that RBS must "go further" in shrinking its global banking and markets division, which was largely blamed for losses that led to the lender's collapse in October 2008.

The Chancellor said: "We believe RBS's future is as a major UK bank, with the majority of its business in the UK and in personal, SME and corporate banking, adding that RBS would have to scale back its "riskier activities that are heavy users of capital or funding".

Mr Osborne said: "Our objective is clear. We want to separate high street banking from investment banking, to protect the British economy, protect British taxpayers and make sure that nothing is too big too fail.
"Second, we will make sure the banks have bigger cushions so they are better able to withstand losses."

While accepting the changes would cost the industry £3.5bn to £8bn a year, Mr Osborne said that the costs would be "far outweighed" by the benefit to the economy of avoiding future financial crises. He said these could reach £9.5bn a year on "modest" assumptions.

However, John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the reforms in themselves would not help the wider problem of businesses gaining access to bank lending.

"Businesses still find it difficult to get access to capital, or capital on reasonable terms, in what is a highly risk-averse environment.

"Given the timescales for the implementation of credit easing, the time may now have come for the government to consider the introduction of an SME bank."

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Small Businesses To Boost UK Economy 
Research suggests that new, technology-based businesses are likely to generate over £360m to the UK economy and create tens of thousands of jobs over the next twelve months.

According to T-Mobile, which commissioned the research, mobile technology is at the heart of the new breed of small businesses, dubbed TOTs by Henley Business School. These are firms that are Twelve months old; have an Optimistic outlook on business; and are Technologically-minded.

Most of these business owners rely on smart phones for emails, diaries and accessing business apps. They also use social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to promote products, network with potential customers and get real-time feedback on products and services.

The study goes on to say that such businesses are growing faster than the average start up, with over half of them predicting that they will increase revenues by 30 per cent or more over the next 12 months.

Martin Stiven, Vice President of Business for T-Mobile, said: "It’s clear that Britain is benefiting from these optimistic young firms that have embraced technology and are creating jobs. We must do everything we can to help TOTs continue to be as successful as possible."

Over 90 per cent of TOTs export goods and services to markets around the world, with almost half trading with Western Europe and over 40 per cent with Eastern Europe.

Professor Dominic Swords of Henley Business School, said: “TOTs have made it through the teething phase and have a different mindset that will challenge traditional businesses.

They see opportunities in challenges, showing the benefits of a positive attitude in winning market share and leading a growing business. However, they’re not foolishly optimistic. They’re realistic about the challenges they face, with 82 per cent developing strategies to manage the risks and uncertainties in the future.”

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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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