People & Business

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Stand by for a Budget leak to blow your socks off: I can exclusively reveal that the cover of Gordon Brown's Green Budget today will be coloured in vertical green stripes, shading from dark to light, and will include a picture. Gone are the boring old plain covered Budgets of yore. New Labour, New Artwork.

Yet bizarrely, prices for Budget documents are going down. The "Red Book" for Ken Clarke's 1996 Budget cost pounds 17.90, whilst the cost of Gordon's first Budget in July this year was just pounds 16.80.

Is this the great Global Deflation we've been hearing about?

Just as the big accountancy firms are wallowing in gold from four years of buoyant corporate activity, spare a thought for one group of people within those firms who aren't sharing in the fun: the receivers.

Our corporate undertakers inhabit a looking glass world in which bad times for us mean good times for them, and vice versa. The trouble for liquidators at the moment is, not much in the UK is going belly up.

Thus Steve Hill, an insolvency partner at Coopers & Lybrand, when asked how business was going recently, gloomily replied: "We're bumping along the bottom."

Meanwhile some receivers are going to where the action is, in the currency crisis-hit Far East. Lots of stuff is going bust out there. For instance, Stephen Adamson of Ernst & Young, who helped rescue Canary Wharf when it went bust three years ago, flew out there recently to lend a hand.

The receivers shouldn't worry. According to Simon Bevan, head of Arthur Andersen's Fraud Services Unit, the banks have been taken in by so many fraudsters that "another crop of loan disasters is on the horizon."

Mr Bevan, a former Hong Kong policeman, reckons that the UK's big six high street banks lost around pounds 2bn to loan fraudsters in the years 1991- 1996. Something to remember next time you're taken to task by your bank manager for going overdrawn.

Uh-oh. Sell everything and head for the hills. Last week's CBI Industrial Trends Survey talked of a good chance for a "soft landing" for the UK economy. The last time people were discussing a soft landing it was in the late 1980s. And we all know what happened then.

Another culprit is Stuart Morley, national head of research at Grimley, the property agents, writing in a research note this week: " There is some concern ... that the soft landing envisaged may turn out to be harder than expected."

Call me superstitious, but in order to avoid another Lawson-style recession why don't we avoid the phrase completely. "Slow-down" will suffice.

Ding dong merrily on high, in the City the bells are ringing. The Bank of England is supplying bell ringers to the Personal Investment Authority's Carol Concert to be held at St Bartholomew's Priory on Thursday 18 December.

Some carollers may hope the boys from the Bank don't pull on the bell ropes too enthusiastically. The service comes a day after the PIA Christmas Party, to be held in Cabot Hall, Canary Wharf.

The PIA's own Social Brief advertises the event with the slogan: "Find out what Scotsmen wear under their kilts ... " Pipers from the Scots Guards will welcome the revellers, and Scottish dancing will be followed by a disco. Suitably, tickets are available from one Ian Dewar. The PIA is urgently seeking experts in Scottish dancing, who can provide a bit of coaching before the big night.

Just one thought. Anyone trying to find out what is worn under the kilt of the Scots Guards is unlikely to outlive the night.

The ball's in the back of the onion bag, and the crowd go wild. Barrie Pierpoint, chief executive of Leicester City football club, is Britain's Best Boss. Barrie won the DHL Boss of the Year award yesterday at a bash at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel in London.

The twinkle-toed midfielder was nominated by his PA Michelle Newman and had to undergo "a rigorous selection process" before being presented with his gong by Nick Butcher, managing director of DHL International, the delivery service.

Leicester has just floated successfully on the stock market. The team won the Coca Cola Cup last year and were promoted to the Premier League, where they have won a reputation for doing well on a shoestring budget.

DHL adds: "By winning the competition as the UK's top boss, Barrie Pierpoint and Michelle Newman each win a holiday of their choice." So there you go. It pays to be nice to the boss after all.