Cars and keys stolen from car park near Manchester Airport

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Up to 130 sets of car keys have been stolen from a site used by a meet-and-greet company offering long-stay parking near Manchester Airport.

Four cars were also taken from the Car Park Manchester site in Hale, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Police said the full numbers involved were not yet known because many of the vehicles’ owners are still on holiday.

Car Park Manchester said it had reported the 18 August burglary but declined to comment further.

The company is not affiliated with Manchester Airport.

Cheryl Wilden said she discovered her sister’s car keys had been stolen after the pair returned from a holiday in Barcelona.

‘Absolutely devastated’

She said they had to retrieve a spare set of keys from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, before being taken to where the car had been left in a “muddy field”.

They then struggled to drive the brand new Hyundai out of the site because it was stuck in mud, Ms Wilden said.

“It was horrendous, there were lots of high value cars there. We were quite horrified,” she added.

“They eventually had to get the car out for us. It was not pleasant.

“I’m just absolutely devastated because I booked it.”

A spokesman for Manchester Airport said: “We would like to remind passengers that the airport offers a wide range of secure, official car parking facilities, and is also well connected via public transport.

“Anyone with any doubts about their car parking can verify it with our customer services team.”


Provident Financial shares dive on new profit warning

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Provident Financial

Shares in doorstep lender Provident Financial plunged 43% after it issued its second profit warning in months.

Provident Financial says it now expects to make losses of £80m to £120m as its debt collection rates have dropped to 57% compared with a previous rate of 90% in 2016.

Bradford-based Provident recently changed the way it collected its loans, replacing self-employed agents with “customer experience managers”.

Its chief executive, Peter Crook, has resigned.

Agent loss

Provident had already flagged up problems with its new system in June.

At the time, Provident said not enough of its self-employed debt collectors had applied to become employed by the company.

It had also been less effective at collecting money and selling new loans, and a greater number of agents than normal had left.

It said then it expected profits to be £60m at its consumer credit division.

‘Very disappointed’

The company is undertaking “a thorough and rapid review of home credit’s performance”, and will not now pay the interim dividend it promised just a month ago.

Its other divisions – Vanquis Bank, sub-prime car loan business Moneybarn and consumer credit brand Satsuma – are trading in line with plans, it says.

However, Vanquis has been under investigation by watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority, which had concerns about one of its products.

The company agreed to suspend all sales and is awaiting the outcome of that probe.

Manjit Wolstenholme, executive chairman who will also now act as chief executive, said: “I am very disappointed to have to announce the rapid deterioration in the outlook for the home credit business.”

She added that there was unlikely to be a full year dividend payout.

Tuesday’s share price fall is of a similar magnitude to that seen in reaction to the first profit warning in June, and leaves the shares at just under 1,000p, a third of June’s level.

Neil Wilson, from ETX Capital, said: “There is no easy way out from this hole.

“Management will take a long time to regain credibility… The performance is abysmal and significantly worse than management ever could have imagined… Is this the end? There must be some sense that things cannot get any worse.”


UK is 55 million years too late for fracking to work, says expert

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UK is 55 million years too late for fracking to work, says expert. The geology of the UK is unsuitable for fracking and the opportunity of the new energy source has been “overhyped”, a geoscience expert has claimed.

Professor John Underhill, chief scientist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, suggested the UK is “55 million years too late” for the gas extraction technique (fracking) to work. He said reservoirs of shale gas had been damaged by seismic activity 55 million years ago, causing some of the deposits to escape. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves drilling into the earth then injecting liquid into the rock at high pressure, forcing apart fractures and allowing gas to escape.

Opponents of the technique claim it will harm the environment, but supporters say it is a beneficial source of energy. Mr Underhill said: “Both sides of the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) debate assume that the geology is a ‘slam dunk’ and it will work if exploration drilling goes ahead. “Public support for fracking is at an all-time low of 17%, based in the main on environmental concerns, but the science shows that our country’s geology is simply unsuitable for shale oil and gas production.

The implication that because fracking works in the US, it must also work here is wrong. “For hydraulic fracturing to be successful, a number of geological criteria must be met. The source rock should have a high organic content, a good thickness, be sufficiently porous and have the right mineralogy. The organic matter must have been buried to a sufficient depth and heated to the degree that the source rock produces substantial amounts of gas or oil.

“However, in locations where fulfilment of some of the criteria have led to large potential deposits, uplift and the faulted structure of the basins are detrimental to its ultimate recovery. “Yet, the only question that has been addressed to date is how large the shale resource is in the UK.

The inherent complexity of the sedimentary basins has not been fully appreciated or articulated and, as a result, the opportunity has been overhyped.” He highlighted three potential fracking sites which he said have been subject to deformation – the Weald basin in southern England, the Bowland Shale in Lancashire and the West Lothian Oil Shale in Scotland.

Mr Underhill added: “Areas that were once buried sufficiently deeply with temperatures at which oil and gas maturation occurs, lifted to levels where they are no longer actively generating petroleum.

They have also been highly deformed by folds and faults that cause the shales to be offset and broken up into compartments. This has created pathways that have allowed some of the oil and gas to escape.

“There is a need to factor this considerable and fundamental geological uncertainty into the economic equation. It would be extremely unwise to rely on shale gas to ride to the rescue of the UK’s gas needs only to discover that we’re 55 million years too late.

“Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) said the report “adds weight to the already overwhelming case against fracking in Scotland, or indeed anywhere in these Isles”. Head of campaigns, Mary Church, added: “FoES has long highlighted the misleading use of US shale gas economics by industry players like Ineos to make a case for fracking in Scotland.

“However, even if Scotland’s geology presented ideal conditions for shale gas extraction, the case against fracking is still very clear.

“Fracking presents a whole host of risks to people’s health and our local environment, while in the context of irreversible climate change, going after a new source of fossil fuels is quite literally the last thing we should be doing.

“Support for fracking is at an all-time low. Over 60,000 people have responded to a consultation on fracking in Scotland with the vast majority calling for an all-out ban. “We urge the Scottish Government to put an end to this discussion by banning fracking once and for all, and focus instead on a rapid and fair transition to a zero carbon economy.”

 

 


Crawford Falconer takes up post as UK’s top trade negotiator

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Crawford Falconer takes up post as UK’s top trade negotiator. The man in charge of negotiating the UK’s trade deals once Brexit is finalised, starts his job this week.

Crawford Falconer will take up the post of chief trade negotiation adviser at the Department for International Trade.

Leaving the single market would mean the UK would have to establish new bilateral trade agreements, but cannot formally do so until after Brexit.

However, one economist suggested Mr Falconer would already be “building bridges” with the European Commission.

The UK faces a huge challenge in resetting its trading relationship with the EU and other countries when Brexit takes effect.

Trade pacts that have been negotiated by the EU with the rest of the world will no longer apply to the UK, while Britain will also need to define new trading relationships with the EU itself.

Membership of the EU has meant the UK does not have a large bank of trade negotiators with recent experience.

Prof Alan Winters, from the University of Sussex’s UK Trade Policy Observatory, said Mr Falconer’s experience and contacts at the WTO would mean the groundwork for separating UK trade policy from Brussels would be made easier.

“He knows quite a lot of the main players at the WTO and can build bridges at the European Council, which is good as there is work to be done right now,” he said.

“There is work he can do, such as discussions on whether the UK uses replicas or changes trade agreements that we have with nations by way of membership with the EU.”

One suggestion has been that initially trade agreements could be adopted by the UK in their current form – replicating them – at the point of Brexit, to be altered subsequently as new deals are agreed.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said of the new appointee: “Crawford Falconer brings a wealth of international trade expertise to our international economic department, ensuring that as we leave the EU, the UK will be at the forefront of global free trade and driving the case for international openness.”

Mr Falconer will lead trade policy and negotiation teams at the DIT. His appointment was first announced in June.

A New Zealander, Mr Falconer has more than 25 years trade experience. He has represented New Zealand at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and held various posts in foreign and trade affairs in his home country.


Yet another bank branch earmarked for the chop

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The axe is set to fall on yet another Wigan bank branch.

The latest victim of the remorseless march of technology will be the Barclays outlet within the Asda hypermarket at Newtown.

It is one of another 54 branches it is planning to close down in the coming weeks and Newtown will cash its final cheque on October 27. The move will bring its total number of Barclays closures in 2017 to 67 across the UK.

In a statement, the bank said along with a number of high street lenders, the closures are linked to the growing demand for digital services – such as the increasing shift towards immediate online and app banking facilities. A spokesman confirmed the closures will not result in any job losses, adding:

“The number of physical Barclays branches will reduce overall but our branch network and the colleagues who work in them remain a vital part of our offering. We will continue to evolve the shape and size of our branch network, as well as improving and investing in the experience in-branch.

We also provide our customers with a range of digital channels.” There was a time when there was a bank to be found in every modest-sized Wigan community upwards – sometimes several per town and village. But it was as early as the mid-1990s that branch closures began, one of the first being the NatWest in Shevington.

Few townships have been spared since as transactions are increasingly carried out digitally. According to consumer platform Which?, over 1,000 high street bank branches were axed between January 2015 and January 2017 alone, with HSBC the worst offender.


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