Former Google executive Gill Whitehead to lead regulator’s online safety team

Ofcom has appointed a former executive from Google to oversee its new role as regulator for online safety, ahead of new laws to police the internet which are due to be introduced in the UK next spring.

Gill Whitehead was a member of Google’s UK management group and also ran the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum, which brought together bodies working on digital regulation. She will join in April.

The media regulator has been hiring technology and data experts and bringing in people from the big technology firms in order to boost its understanding of the sector as the new regime comes into force.

The Online Safety Bill will make technology companies more responsible and accountable for the content on their platforms. It also gives Ofcom the powers to fine them up to 10 per cent of worldwide revenue and to take other measures if they do not comply. About 25,000 … Read more

Business confidence at lowest in 21 months

Two new surveys have recorded sharp falls in business confidence as the uncertain economic outlook causes companies to become more pessimistic.

The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer found that confidence among businesses fell by 5 points to 10 per cent in November, the weakest since February 2021, and economic optimism also declined, with the net balance in negative figures for the first time since January 2021.

The survey of 1,200 companies, carried out prior to the chancellor’s autumn statement, showed business facing a deteriorating economic picture with the UK set to fall into recession.

Of businesses surveyed, 37 per cent, down from 41 per cent, said they were more optimistic about the economy with 40 per cent, up from 39 per cent, stating a more pessimistic view, resulting in a net balance of -3 per cent. compared to +2 per cent in October.

The number of companies expecting stronger trading … Read more

Mobile and broadband firms meet ministers to help people facing cost of living difficulties  

The UK’s biggest broadband and mobile operators have today met with the government to follow up on commitments agreed in the summer to support customers with the cost of living.

Digital minister Julia Lopez called together leaders from the telecoms sector – including BT, Virgin Media, O2, Sky, Vodafone, TalkTalk, Three Mobile, Hyperoptic and Ofcom – at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for an update on work to boost awareness of social tariffs.

Minister Lopez urged the sector to commit to raising awareness of these affordable deals available for people in receipt of Universal Credit, which could save them up to £180 per year when compared to the average tariff.

An Ofcom report in September found that only 31 per cent of eligible groups were aware that social tariffs were available, despite them being available in 99 per cent of the UK to reach those who … Read more

Primark to open at least four new stores and create 850 jobs

Primark has announced a £140m investment leading to the opening of four new shops and the creation of at least 850 jobs.

The retailer said it plans to make the investment over the next two years in its UK operations.

As part of that investment, the company said “at least” four news shops will be opened.

The locations announced on Friday are:

• Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk

• Craigavon in Northern Ireland

• Salisbury in Wiltshire

• Teesside Park in Durham

The new shops will increase selling space by more than 160,000 square feet.

Investment is also being put into existing locations and a dedicated Primark Home space will open in Liverpool.

Alongside the new stores, Primark will extend and invest in existing stores and will relocate its stores in Bradford and High Wycombe to more central locations. In Bradford, Primark will move from its existing Kirkgate Shopping Centre … Read more

Farmers without solar panels could lose out on £1bn as Government weighs up clampdown

Farmers without solar panels could be missing out on up to £1bn over the next two years, according to new analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

Solar panels have enabled farmers to sell energy they generate themselves to cut their own bills.

However, the vast majority of England’s farms do not have solar panels – with only 28 per cent having the renewable power source on their fields.

ECIU has calculated that if the remaining 78 per cent had followed their counterparts, energy savings and revenues could have almost balanced out the increase in fertiliser costs over the next two years.

This would have provided an estimated saving of up to be £1.1bn.

While gas costs are expected to remain historically elevated for at least the next two years, other income streams such as like renewables may be essential to some farm businesses surviving.

In the second … Read more