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M&C Saatchi, the London-listed advertising agency group, has lured one of Britain’s top media executives as its next chair.

Sky News has learnt that Zillah Byng-Thorne, the outgoing boss of The Week’s publisher, Future, has agreed to replace Gareth Davis.

City sources said an announcement confirming Mrs Byng-Thorne’s departure was likely to be made in the coming days.

Her recruitment is likely to be regarded as a coup by investors.

During her tenure at Future, she oversaw rapid growth in its earnings and share price, transforming it from an ‘old media’ magazine publisher into a digitally-led group.

Mrs Byng-Thorne has also agreed to take over as chairman of Trustpilot, the online reviews platform.

As part of a broader shake-up of M&C’s board, Chris Sweetland, a former WPP Group finance executive, is expected to join as a director representing Vin Murria and AdvancedAdvT, the company’s biggest shareholder.

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Lisa Gordon, the agency’s senior independent director, is expected to step down from the board in the next few months.

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The boardroom overhaul follows a turbulent period for M&C, which was last year at the centre of a bidding war involving both Ms Murria and Next Fifteen Communications, another London-listed company.

M&C handles advertising, direct marketing, public relations and sponsorship campaigns for scores of blue-chip clients, including Heineken and Barclays.

The government is also a big client of the group, which produces work for the NHS and a number of Whitehall departments.

Under the leadership of Moray MacLennan, M&C has returned to growth and recently reported record annual revenues and profits.

On Thursday, shares in M&C were trading at around 186p, giving it a market capitalisation of around £230m.

A spokesman for M&C declined to comment.

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Tata Steel workers to hold ‘all-out indefinite strike’ in July, Unite says

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Tata Steel workers to hold  'all-out indefinite strike' in July, Unite says

Around 1,500 workers at Tata Steel will hold an “all-out indefinite strike” next month, a union has announced.

The industrial action at the company’s sites in Port Talbot and Llanwern, Newport, will begin on 8 July, Unite said.

The union said the walkout would “severely impact” the company’s UK operations.

It comes in response to plans to close Tata Steel’s blast furnaces in South Wales, putting 2,800 jobs at risk.

The union said it would be the first time in more than 40 years that steel workers in the UK have gone on strike.

Members voted in favour of the move in April.

Industrial action short of a walkout, including staff working to rule and a ban on overtime, began earlier this week.

The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tata’s workers are not just fighting for their jobs – they are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales.

“Our members will not stand by while this immensely wealthy conglomerate tries to throw Port Talbot and Llanwern on the scrap heap so it can boost its operations abroad.”

She added: “The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans.

“Unite is backing Tata’s workers to the hilt in their historic battle to save the Welsh steel industry and give it the bright future it deserves.”

Read more: Port Talbot’s uncertain future as the cost of going green hits home

Tata Steel previously said it was losing £1m a day at Port Talbot and warned the situation was unsustainable.

The company said its plans, which include the building of an electric arc furnace, would mark the beginning of a new way of “competitive and greener” steelmaking.

The proposals were officially confirmed in January, with its boss TV Narendran telling MPs the decision was “pretty much” a done deal.

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Sky News first exclusively revealed details of the plans in September 2023.

Tata Steel initially offered an enhanced redundancy package to workers affected by the proposals, but this was reduced after the industrial action short of a strike began earlier this week.

Unions, including Unite, expect Labour to hold emergency talks with the company if the party wins the upcoming general election.

Alun Davies, national officer for steel at the Community union, which says it represents the “vast majority” of affected Tata workers, said it had decided with the GMB union not to take part in any industrial action for now.

He added: “If the Labour Party wins the general election it has said that it will hold emergency talks with Tata…

“We welcome this, and now feel it is important to wait for the completion of that process before initiating any significant course of action.”

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Former union boss George Thomson denies being ‘too close’ to Post Office as he gives evidence at inquiry

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Former union boss George Thomson denies being 'too close' to Post Office as he gives evidence at inquiry

The former head of a union for sub-postmasters has denied it became “too close” to the Post Office and was “flush with money”.

George Thomson, formerly of the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP), also denied lacking sympathy for those who were wrongfully convicted during the Post Office scandal, which occurred following faults in the organisation’s Horizon IT system.

It comes after the TUC claimed earlier this year that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) had been blocked from effectively organising at the Post Office, and alleged the NFSP was given funds by the Post Office.

Mr Thomson, who served as its general secretary between 2007 and 2018, gave evidence at the Post Office inquiry on Friday.

When asked by inquiry counsel Julian Blake if he became “too close” to the Post Office, he replied: “No, I wasn’t.”

Mr Thomson later added: “We worked closely with the Post Office because we both needed to have a successful franchise – that’s the reality.”

The inquiry was shown an email sent on behalf of Mr Thomson in August 2013 which outlined plans for the Post Office and NFSP to sign a 15-year contract to represent all Post Office operators.

It included annual payments starting at £500,000 in 2013/14 and reaching £2.5m from 2017 to 2028.

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Mr Thomson said it had taken “a lot of badgering” of the then Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells to agree to the deal. He also claimed her team “would have preferred the NFSP withered on the vine”.

Put to him by Mr Blake that they were significant figures, Mr Thomson told the inquiry the NFSP “took on new functions” as part of the deal.

When asked if the NFSP was financially dependent on the Post Office at the time when issues with Horizon were ongoing, Mr Thomson said the federation had lost 8,500 sub-postmasters in the previous 12 or 13 years, and that the money was “replacing what used to be membership money”.

He added: “It was never ever tied to Horizon.”

The inquiry was also shown a Computer Weekly article from May 2009 which detailed the cases of several high-profile sub-postmasters, including Sir Alan Bates.

The sub-postmasters told the magazine their union had “refused to help them investigate their concerns”.

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‘Did the mask slip in this email, Ms Vennells?’

Asked by Mr Blake why the NFSP did not help them, Mr Thomson said the federation had to seek permission from the Post Office first.

He said: “We did fight their cases but we asked the Post Office, ‘What are we to do as an organisation?’

“Every case that was brought to us, we took it up with the Post Office.

“You’re trying to make out that somehow we were flush with money… That’s not correct.”

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Mr Thomson said he had investigated 20 or 30 cases at the “highest level” during his time as general secretary, and would have tried to employ a computer expert had he known more about the issues with Horizon.

He said: “I’ve been around a long time – suspensions have always taken place, prosecutions have always taken place, under the manual system as well.

“We had a franchise that was in crisis and we always tried to help people.”

Mr Thomson described Horizon as “a strong system”. He added: “It’s a well-used system, and I still support it systemically as being very robust.”

However, some former sub-postmasters reacted with anger to his testimony on Friday.

They included Christopher Head, who wrote on X: “[Mr Thomson] and his organisation failed it is main overarching duty to protect its members. They are a disgrace and have no place today to be trying to represent the interests of current Postmasters, they are a sham…

“The NFSP should be completely disbanded.”

More than 700 sub-postmasters were convicted between 1999 and 2015 after errors in the Post Office’s Horizon IT system meant money appeared to be missing from many branch accounts when, in fact, it was not.

It has been branded the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.

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Government net borrowing lower than forecast – but next chancellor ‘facing Pandora’s box’

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Government net borrowing lower than forecast - but next chancellor 'facing Pandora's box'

Government borrowing was less than expected in May, new figures have revealed.

Net borrowing – the difference between public sector spending and income – was £15bn, an increase of £0.8bn on the same time last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported on Friday.

The amount is below the £15.7bn forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and less than expected by economists.

However, it was still the highest amount for the month of May since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ONS also said that public sector net debt, excluding public sector banks, was provisionally estimated at 99.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in May – the highest level since March 1961.

The figure is also 3.7 percentage points higher than during the same period last year.

Economists said it showed that whoever wins the upcoming general election will face a string of potential financial challenges.

Alex Kerr, from research firm Capital Economics, said that while the better-than-expected net borrowing figure would give a little extra wriggle room for the next chancellor, it would do little to reduce the “scale of the fiscal challenge that awaits”.

He said this included upward pressure on the government’s debt interest bill from higher interest rates.

Mr Kerr estimated that the next chancellor will have financial “headroom” of around £8.5bn at their first post-election fiscal event, slightly less than the £8.9bn left over from the last budget in March.

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Economist Michal Stelmach, from KPMG UK, said the next chancellor was facing a “fiscal Pandora’s box”.

He added: “The fiscal reality is similar for whichever party wins the general election. Interest rates are set to remain higher, debt more difficult to bring down, and spending pressures continue to mount.

“With only nuanced differences in the stated plans for fiscal rules and taxation, borrowing will likely follow a similar path under either government.

“That said, a clear victory would give the winning party a stronger mandate to implement big reforms or increase public investment.”

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