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A flagship Government scheme to kickstart the economy will be rendered obsolete when an £80 billion lending initiative kicks off, it has been claimed.

The Funding for Lending scheme, devised by the Bank of England and the Treasury, will offer money to banks on condition they pass it on to businesses and households in the form of cheaper loans and mortgages.

It was reported that the launch will effectively supersede an existing £20 billion flagship National Loan Guarantee Scheme (NLGS), also known as credit easing, to encourage banks to lend to small businesses.

Treasury officials have told bankers the scheme, unveiled in March, will be quietly abandoned although not officially axed, according to Sky News.

There are fears that the loans made available to small businesses under the Funding for Lending scheme will be less affordable than those under the credit easing scheme because there is no obligation for banks to pass on a discount from the Government.

Labour claimed that would be a further blow to Chancellor George Osborne after he announced in June that the scheme was to be extended to allow larger businesses to take part. Shadow Treasury minister Chris Leslie said: "If the National Loan Guarantee Scheme was always supposed to be replaced by the new Funding for Lending scheme, then why, two weeks after that new scheme was announced, did George Osborne say that the NLGS would be extended?"

The initiatives to boost lending to businesses and households are of critical importance to the Government's attempts to revive the economy from the longest double-dip recession in more than 50 years. The Government borrows at relatively low rates as a result of the UK's perceived safe-haven status from eurozone turmoil and it is hoping to take advantage of its low borrowing costs to stimulate the banks to lend. But there are fears that its schemes do not address the underlying problems of a lack of demand for credit in the wake of the financial crisis.

 

The message to stay away from London during the Olympic Games has worked "too well", with businesses suffering as a result, it has been claimed.

There are fears the host city has turned into a "ghost town", with visitors flocking to Olympic venues but avoiding traditional tourist hotspots in the centre.

But despite concerns being raised by the tourism industry, the Mayor of London insisted that the city was "open for business".

A London Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman said too many people had heeded warnings about transport in the city. She said: "It's understandable that some people are staying out of the city at the moment. TfL and Locog did a good job of making people aware - maybe too good a job."

However, she stressed that it was too early to assess the impact of the Games on business, as the picture would only emerge when they have finished, and added that it was a traditionally quiet time of year for many. The spokeswoman also said there could be long-term benefits connected to international trade.

Boris Johnson said: "Things are going really well. London is open for business with world-class tourist attractions and theatres, world-renowned restaurants and world-famous shopping. "Crime is down across London, we've only needed about 40 per cent of the Games lanes so far and I'm obviously heartened that people have heeded the travel advice and have indeed got ahead of the Games."

Some theatres and tourist attractions have reported a fall in visitors. But Mr Johnson added: "Many, many thousands of people are flowing into London, the hotels are busy, the Olympic venues are attracting huge numbers and people are enjoying the brilliant live sites, a raft of free events for all the family and the free sport as well, with hundreds of thousands out over the weekend for the cycling."

 

Three people who were due to work as security staff at an Olympic venue have been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences, the Home Office said.

The trio were drafted in to work as security guards at St James' Park, Newcastle, but were arrested on Wednesday - just 24 hours before the Mexico and South Korea match at the stadium.

The three were employed by a private security firm, but were not G4S staff, a Home Office spokesman said.

He added: "These arrests show that UK Border Agency security checks are working.

"The responsibility for ensuring that employees have the right to work in the UK rests with the employer.

"The UK Border Agency is working closely with employers and contractors at Olympics venues to prevent illegal working."

 

A former Barclays executive at the heart of the rate-rigging scandal has walked off with an exit package worth nearly £9 million, sources close to the bank have said.

Jerry del Missier, who resigned as Barclays' chief operating officer three weeks ago, negotiated a severance deal worth at least £8.75 million in the days before he quit.

The Canadian banker, who followed former chief executive Bob Diamond out of the door, was one of Barclays highest paid executives with a salary and bonus package for 2011 worth £6.7 million plus a further £10.8 million from share awards from previous years.

It has been reported that the settlement represents just over half of a £17 million potential long-term incentive award made to Mr del Missier some years ago that matured in March.

Mr del Missier was dragged into the Libor-fixing affair when it emerged he had told staff to lower rate submissions following a conversation with Mr Diamond about Whitehall fears over Barclays' financial health.

The revelation comes a day after non-executive director and remuneration committee chairman Alison Carnwath stepped down from the board, piling more pressure on the crisis-hit board ahead of its half-year results on Friday.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of consumer publication Which?, said: "It's outrageous that people who preside over corruption in banking are being rewarded. The individuals involved in rate-rigging should be held to account, otherwise the culture of banking will never change."

 

A much-delayed deal for new intercity express trains has finally been announced by the Government, with the £4.5 billion contract helping to create 900 new jobs.

Under the deal, Agility Trains, a consortium led by Hitachi of Japan, will build 596 rail carriages at a new factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. The first trains will enter service on the Greater Western Main Line in 2017 and on the East Coast Main Line by 2018.

Agility was announced as preferred bidder for the Intercity Express Programme in early 2009, but after a series of delays it has taken more than three years for the deal to be finalised. The project, to replace the Intercity 125 trains, will not only create new jobs but safeguard thousands more.

A total of 730 skilled jobs will be created at Newton Aycliffe with a further 200 created during construction of the factory itself, where Hitachi will assemble a fleet of 92 complete trains. The company will also locate its European rail research and development capabilities on the site which will enhance the factory's ability to win rail contracts across Europe.

As well as building the new state-of-the-art assembly facility, Hitachi will construct maintenance depots in Bristol, Swansea, west London and Doncaster, and will upgrade existing maintenance depots throughout Britain.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: "A new train factory is fantastic news for Britain and will be welcomed by everyone who wants to see a thriving UK manufacturing sector. The decision to build almost 600 new intercity train carriages is great for rail passengers who will experience faster and more comfortable journeys when travelling across Britain on the East Coast and Great Western main lines."

 

London taxi drivers have brought Westminster to a standstill in a protest over their ban from dedicated Olympic traffic lanes.

More than 200 black cabs arrived in Parliament Square blaring their horns to tourists' bemusement.

Their demonstration is targeted at Games' organisers who developed the so-called Zil lanes available only to Olympics officials, athletes and other approved vehicles.

Jonathan Myers, of the United Cabbies group union, said: "There will be no access to these lanes for any traffic apart from the Olympics family.

"Taxis are excluded, which is unacceptable and wrong. This is a working city and we need to get around and do our job."

Parliament Square quickly ground to a halt as the drivers descended on central London for what they plan to be a two-hour protest.

Traffic soon snarled up Whitehall, Millbank and over Westminster Bridge as car horns and traffic fumes filled the air.

One of Britain's largest milk suppliers is relaxing rules that tie crisis-hit farmers into 12 month contracts.

Dairy Crest, which supplies around 15% of British milk production, said farmers will be able to move their milk supply with three months' notice if they are unhappy with price changes, instead of the 12 months currently.

The move will give farmers more flexibility and comes as part of measures to help offset the impact of damaging milk price cuts on the industry.

But the change will not come into effect until after Dairy Crest's 1.65p per litre price cut planned for August 1.

Dairy Crest - behind well-known brands Cathedral City, Clover and Country Life - is one of a number of milk producers that have slashed the price they pay farmers for milk after seeing the value of cream plummet this year.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) said it welcomed the decision by Dairy Crest to reduce the notice period for milk suppliers, but it warned farmers wanted to see a reversal of the price cut and would demonstrate again if the reduction was not scrapped.

More than 2,500 farmers gathered in London last week to protest about the cuts.

 

The rate of inflation dropped to a 31-month low last month, official figures have shown, as record rainfall forced clothing retailers to bring forward their summer sales.

The consumer price index (CPI) rate of inflation fell to a lower-than-expected 2.4% in June, from 2.8% in May, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. City analysts had forecast the rate to drop to 2.7%.

The fall in CPI was driven by a record May-to-June decline in clothing and footwear prices, which the ONS said was more typical of the June-to-July period, reflecting earlier than average seasonal discounting.

Inflation has fallen from 5.2% last September due to the waning impact of the VAT hike at the start of 2011, falling energy, food and commodity prices, and a number of bill cuts from utility providers. Inflation is now within 0.5% of the Government's 2% target.

Chloe Smith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Inflation has more than halved since September, meaning a little less pressure on family budgets. This lower inflation should support high street spending and growth in the economy in the months to come."

Last month's drop will add weight to the Bank of England's decision earlier this month to pump more emergency cash into the economy through its quantitative easing programme. The steeper-than-expected fall is also likely to raise the likelihood of further emergency support later this year as the UK struggles with weak growth.

 

Every country competing at the London Games will include female athletes for the first time in Olympic history after Saudi Arabia agreed Thursday to send two women to compete in judo and track and field.

The move by the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom to break with its practice of fielding male-only teams followed earlier decisions by Qatar and Brunei to send women athletes to the Olympics for the first time.

“With Saudi Arabian female athletes now joining their fellow female competitors from Qatar and Brunei, it means that by London 2012 every national Olympic committee will have sent women to the Olympic Games,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said.

Saudi Arabia had been under intense pressure from the International Olympic Committee and human-rights groups to include female athletes. Thursday’s announcement followed months of IOC negotiations with the Saudis to bring women to London.

The two female Saudi athletes selected to compete are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar.

“A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going,” the 17-year-old Attar said in an IOC statement from her U.S. training base in San Diego. “It’s such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport.”

The two athletes, who were invited by the IOC, were entered by the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee by the July 9 deadline.

“This is very positive news and we will be delighted to welcome these two athletes in London in a few weeks time,” Rogge said in a statement.

The Gulf kingdom will also include female officials in their Olympic delegation for the first time.

About 10,500 athletes are expected to compete in London, representing more than 200 national Olympic committees.

“The IOC has been working very closely with the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee and I am pleased to see that our continued dialogue has come to fruition,” Rogge said. “The IOC has been striving to ensure a greater gender balance at the Olympic Games, and today’s news can be seen as an encouraging evolution.”

Rights groups hailed the decision as a step forward for Saudi women in their quest for basic rights in a country that severely restricts them in public life.

 

The Government department dealing with business will have to manage much tighter finances in the future as a result of the coalition's spending review, an official report has found.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is targeting a 27% reduction in resources between 2010/11 and 2014/15, although its total spending is forecast to reduce by 6% during the four-year period, said the National Audit Office (NAO).

The spending watchdog praised the department for keeping its financial management on track during a period of "substantial" organisational change.

The department, headed by Business Secretary Vince Cable, was said to have worked hard to improve its financial management.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "The department should meet the challenges posed by the 2010 spending review through coherent strategic planning, rather than short-term fire-fighting.

"Until it does so, the department will not achieve the value for money it needs from its financial management activities."