Month: May 2014

UK Economy in Good Health, Business Lobby Groups Say

UK Economy in Good Health, Business Lobby Groups Say

UK Economy in Good Health, Business Lobby Groups Say
The UK economy is in good health according to two major business lobby groups, the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The CBI says growth reached a record high in May, marking the best reading since it began gathering data in 2003.

Meanwhile, the BCC upgraded its growth forecast for 2014 from 2.8% to 3.1%, which, if achieved, would be the highest rate since pre-crisis 2007. That figure is well above the 2.7% forecast by the OBR.

The OBR, or Office for Budget Responsibility, is the government’s independent fiscal watchdog. Latest official figures showed that the UK economy grew by 0.8% in the first three months of 2014.

The CBI’s growth report suggests the UK economy has continued to perform strongly in the second quarter of this year. Stronger economic performance was seen across the board, it said.

Sectors including retail sales and professional and consumer services did well in the three months to May, while manufacturing output continued to grow at a “solid pace”.

Andrew Graham, the chief executive of wallpaper manufacturer Graham & Brown, told the BBC he was cautiously confident: “The economy is improving, but that is from a very low base. “I think we are just starting to see recovery. As a business, we have starting investing seriously again over the last 12 months.”

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said the improvement was down to increased confidence in the UK economy, easier access to credit, and better global economic conditions.

However, Ms Hall said there were risks to the UK’s outlook from global developments, including the “possibility that the situation in Ukraine and Russia could impact on global commodity prices”.  She added: “With the eurozone crisis still far from being fully resolved, the UK continues to be exposed to a prolonged period of subdued activity in the region.”

The BCC also said the economic recovery was not guaranteed. John Longworth, the BCC’s director general, said: “Our forecast confirms that Britain is leading, rather than following, other major economies when it comes to short-term growth, which is great news. “But make no mistake – we still have a lot of work to do.” He added that the UK was “overly reliant on consumer spending” as a driver of growth.

eBay Faces Investigations over Data Breach

eBay Faces Investigations over Data Breach

eBay Faces Investigations over Data Breach
The UK’s information commissioner is working with European data authorities with a view to taking action against eBay over its recent data breach. Three US states are also investigating the theft of names, email addresses and other personal data, which affected up to 145 million eBay customers.

The online marketplace has begun the process of notifying its customers about the need to reset passwords.

However some customers reported problems when attempting to do so. EBay told the BBC that it was not aware of any technical problems with the password reset function on the site. “The site is busy, but our secure password reset tool is working,” a spokesman said.

The firm has been criticised for its slow reaction in informing customers about the theft of personal data.

“We are sending out millions of emails, and it will take some time. The process is certainly well under way,” the firm told the BBC. It warned though that its official password reset email contained no links and that customers should be wary of messages that did. “Any email with links is a phishing attempt,” it said.

Meanwhile the fallout from the data breach was beginning to kick in. In the US, Connecticut, Florida and Illinois said they were conducting a joint investigation.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live, the UK’s information commissioner said that the eBay breach was “very serious” but that outdated and complex data protection laws meant the ICO could not begin an immediate investigation. He said the watchdog would have to first liaise with the Luxembourg data protection, where eBay has its European headquarters. “There’s millions of UK citizens affected by this, and we’ve been clear that we’re monitoring it, but by taking the wrong action under the law now we risk invalidating any investigation,” an ICO spokesman told the BBC when pressed on why the watchdog had not yet launched any action.

Questions are starting to be asked about how well eBay safeguarded its customers’ data.

Hugh Boyes from the Institution of Engineering and Technology questioned why eBay stored so much data in the first place. “The Information Commissioner makes the point that organisations should keep the minimum information necessary so why do eBay need to hold and store dates of birth and addresses?” “As an occasional eBay user, I am concerned that not only have they lost my email, username and password, but according to their website the loss includes home address, phone number and date of birth. “This is serious from an identity theft perspective. The only item they are missing is the mother’s maiden name and they have sufficient information to impersonate an individual when dealing with many financial organisations.”

Reports that large numbers of eBay customer details have begun appearing for sale in Pastebin – a site where hackers publicise their attacks – have been denied by eBay.

Lysa Myers, a security research at ESET agreed that the data was unlikely to have originated from the auction site. “The users that are shown in the sample would represent an odd subset of users for an international company like eBay. And the price asked (1.45 Bitcoin) would seem to be astonishingly low for the data of 145 million users,” she said. “Even if the sample is not in fact from the eBay breach, it could potentially be data from another company’s leak.”

Nigel Farage: UKIP to be ‘Serious Players’ at General Election

Nigel Farage: UKIP to be ‘Serious Players’ at General Election

Nigel Farage: UKIP to be ‘Serious Players’ at General Election
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said his party will be “serious players” at the 2015 general election, in with a chance of securing representation in the House of Commons for the first time.

As results came in from England’s local elections, showing gains for UKIP across the country, he said: “The UKIP fox is in the Westminster hen house.”

Despite its gains, the party does not yet control any local authorities.

Labour is also making gains with Tories and Lib Dems both losing councillors.

Turnout looks set to be about 36%. Most results in 161 English councils are still to come. Euro election results are due on Sunday. Eleven councils in Northern Ireland are also up for grabs.

The surge in support for UKIP has sent shockwaves through the main parties at Westminster, with just a year to go before the next general election.

Mr Farage said: “There are areas of the country where now we have got an imprint in local government. Under the first-past-the-post system we are serious players.” The success of UKIP in Essex cost Labour control of Thurrock council.

Helping Make Exercise Fun for Kids with Hoopstarz

Helping Make Exercise Fun for Kids with Hoopstarz

Hoopstarz; Helping Make Exercise Fun for Kids
Obesity is a rapidly growing problem in the UK and throughout the Western world, and one of the top reasons for this is a decline in physical activity. Because parents these days live with more modern conveniences (like being less reliant on public transport) and are not able to spend as much time with their children because their lives are too hectic, more and more young children are growing up without early exposure to physical activity or even unstructured playtime.

As a result, the current generation of school-age children is more overweight – and beset with more cases of type II diabetes – than any that has come before, and fitness and healthcare professionals are alarmed by the very real possibility that in this generation we will see a decrease in the average life expectancy.

The obvious solution is to bring physical activity back into children’s lives, but how do we go about making exercise fun for children who have been watching television, playing video games and using iPads almost from the time they could walk and talk?

One important thing to remember is that many children growing up today are taking on a host of preventable health problems, such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes, even before they have fully mastered fine and gross motor skills and various types of functional movement. In order to entice children to participate voluntarily in exercise and to form a healthy habit that will last a lifetime, it is important to teach them how to do something.

Preadolescent children in particular soak up new information like sponges and will jump at the opportunity to learn how to do something, anything, if it looks like fun and they can participate in groups with other children. It need not be a team sport; anything fun will do if it offers a challenge that seems within the child’s reach.

The Hoopstarz programme
Hoopstarz is a fun and exciting way to get kids of all ages moving and to have fun at the same time. The Hoopstarz programme uses up-to-date music and friendly competition to motivate participants while improving balance and coordination and providing a cardio workout that your children won’t even notice because they’ll be having so much fun! The Hoopstarz licencing package includes a complete start-up package, lesson plans, instructor training and support for the duration of the licencing period.

Let Hoopstarz take the guesswork out of making exercise fun for your kids and get them on a path to good health! For more information, call us today on 0191 4387632 or visit

Royal Mail Sunday Parcel Delivery Service

Royal Mail Sunday Parcel Delivery Service

Royal Mail to Pilot Sunday Parcel Delivery Service
The Royal Mail is to trial a Sunday parcel delivery in response to the increasing demand for goods ordered online.  Later this summer it will open around 100 offices on a Sunday afternoon for customers to pick up their parcels.

Delivery offices with the highest parcel volumes across the UK will take part in the scheme. The company will also try out parcel deliveries to addresses within the M25 motorway.

“Through these new Sunday services we are exploring ways to improve our flexibility and provide more options for people to receive items they have ordered online,” said Royal Mail’s chief executive Moya Greene.  “The support of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has enabled us to respond quickly to a changing market, ” she added.

CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: “Royal Mail’s announcement about expanding delivery and collection services to seven-days-a-week is an exciting innovation which we welcome.

“We have worked closely with Royal Mail to develop how best we can go forward to grow the company together and improve the services for customers.”

Royal Mail’s express delivery service, Parcelforce Worldwide, which tends to deal with larger and more valuable parcels, will also offer a Sunday service to retailers from June. It will be up to the retailer to decide whether to offer it to customers.

The BBC’s John Moylan says that rival firms, including Hermes and DPD, have already announced plans to deliver on Sundays and that some have been undercutting Royal Mail, which increased the price of posting letters and parcels earlier this year.

Royal Mail was privatised last year. The company reports its first annual results as a public company on Thursday.

eBay Warns Customers to Change Passwords After Database Hacked

eBay Warns Customers to Change Passwords After Database Hacked

eBay Warns Customers to Change Passwords After Database Hacked
EBay asked customers to change their passwords after a database containing personal information was cracked by hackers, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

The database contained encrypted passwords and was compromised in late February into March. The hacked database contained customer information including phone numbers, birth dates, and email addresses. It did not include financial information, the online auction site said. “Cyber attackers compromised a small number of employee log-in credentials, allowing unauthorized access to eBay’s corporate network,” the company said in a statement. EBay has seen “no evidence of any unauthorized access to financial or credit card information, which is stored separately in encrypted formats.”

The breach was discovered about two weeks ago, according to eBay, leading to a probe that identified the hacked database.

EBay users will be contacted by the company on Wednesday asking them to change their passwords. A notice asking users to change their eBay passwords was first posted on the company website for PayPal, which is owned by eBay and handles its online payments.

Users who use the same password on eBay and other websites should change their passwords on all sites, the company said.

PayPal released a statement saying that an investigation has not uncovered any evidence that information for its customers was hacked. “PayPal customer and financial data is encrypted and stored separately, and PayPal never shares financial information with merchants, including eBay,” PayPal said.