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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Rip-off News round-up. Our pick of the last week's media (Thu 24th April)

Vince Cable warns businesses on 'ridiculous' pay awards
As firms prepare for their annual general meetings, Business Secretary Vince Cable has written to all FTSE 100 members to remind them that pressure on pay awards must be kept up to assuage public anger. He said pay levels at banks in particular had been "ridiculous". He singled out Barclays, which has its shareholder meeting scheduled for Thursday. Last year, Mr Cable introduced rules forcing listed firms to give shareholders a binding vote on directors' pay to make a "clearer link between pay and performance". The move followed investor anger over rising boardroom salaries at a time of falling share prices and sluggish earnings. "A lot of trust has been lost, because of the extremes of what happened in 2010, when pay escalated massively unrelated to the performance of companies," Mr Cable said. His letter on pay follows a series of corporate reforms announced by Mr Cable in recent days, including a public register in which companies will have to list their true owners, and a crackdown on "rogue directors". BBC NEWS

Foodbanks see donations surge after they were criticised by Mail on Sunday
Britain's biggest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, saw a surge in donations after a Mail on Sunday article criticised the charity for failing to run proper checks on people claiming food parcels. Before the article, there had been about 250 public donations since the Trussell Trust launched its JustGiving page in late January. That jumped to more than 3,300, worth more than £36,000. Several donors cited the article as the reason for contributing.  One donor, calling themselves Spitting Feathers, said: "I am incensed by the disgraceful article. Call this journalism? I don't. I'm not a Christian and admire the work being done by human beings for their fellow human beings. Thank you." The Mail on Sunday said it carried out an investigation which found that volunteers did not carry out adequate checks on those who claim vouchers and one of its reporters obtained three days' food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed. Many claiming food parcels were also asylum seekers, the paper reported. GUARDIAN

Councils sit on £67m in emergency help for poor
Figures released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests indicate that by the end of January councils in England were sitting on £67m of the £136m that had been allocated to local welfare schemes. Under the new local welfare assistance schemes, four in 10 applications for emergency funds are turned down, despite evidence that many applicants have been made penniless by benefits sanctions and delays in processing benefit claims. Under the previous system – the social fund – just two in 10 were. In some parts of the country, as many as nine in 10 applicants are refused crisis help. Under the new system, emergency funds are no longer ringfenced, meaning that councils can divert unspent cash to other budgets. Local authorities are anticipating further problems over local welfare in 2015 when the DWP scraps funding for the schemes. GUARDIAN

Energy giants pocket £75m of green tax cuts which were supposed to save millions of households £50 on their energy bills
Millions of households have missed out on a £50 saving on their energy bill because a cut in the green tax has been swiped by suppliers rather than handing the cut to their customers. All of the big six firms — British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, Scottish and Southern Energy and Scottish Power — will save money this year after the Government slashed network charges and the cost of implementing green schemes. And they will no longer have to pick up the tab for a Warm Home Discount — which gives vulnerable customers a £135 reduction on their electricity bill. The Government had said the green tax cut would save households around £50 on their annual gas and electricity bill. However, four months on and millions of customers have not received a penny in discount. An estimated five million households have missed out on the reduction because they are on a fixed-rate deal. The energy companies claim most people have benefited by up to £35. But this still means they have pocketed the remainder  — at £15 from each fixed-rate customer, that makes £75 million. DAILY MAIL

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Graphs at a glance: April 2014 saw average wages grow faster than average prices. Is the 'cost of living crisis' over?

In April 2014, just before Easter, newspapers including the Express and the Telegraph reported:

“March’s UK inflation figures suggest that the six-year squeeze on real earnings is finally over”

For the first time in 4 years prices were not rising faster than wages. Were they right about the squeeze being over?

Actually, in the 5 years upto March 2014 price rises have outstripped wages in 57 months out of 60.

This has left us on average 8% worse off than 5 years ago. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Rip-off News round-up. Our pick of the last week's media (Thu 17th April)

Pay rises scrape ahead of inflation - but only if you work in the private sector AND get an annual bonus
Wages including bonuses were on average 1.9% higher in February compared to the same month in 2013, said the Office for National Statistics, while the consumer price inflation rate for that period was 1.7%. But pay including bonuses was only 1.7% higher when you look at the three months to February and compare it to the same three months of the previous year, suggesting on this measure that real incomes actually flatlined. Furthermore, public sector workers saw pay increases of only 0.9% and the average wage excluding bonuses was only 1.3% higher in February. GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: 'The recovery under way is welcome but we have a very long way to go to climb out of the hole caused by the recession.' Part of the growth is simply because the UK population has increased. Kenny added: 'Given the increase in population, GDP per head is still 5.8% below 2007 levels. This is the root cause of average earnings being down 13.8% in real terms since then. The pay of the bottom 50 per cent of the workforce is still being squeezed.' The news comes as millions of health and local government workers gear up for possible strikes in protest at pay increases of 1%. DAILY MAIL

Hospital bed shortage exposed: UK now has second lowest number per capita in Europe
A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that among 23 European countries, the UK now has the second lowest number of hospital beds per capita. As a result, countries such as France and Germany now have more than twice as many beds per head as Britain. Only Sweden — which has invested heavily in community care — has fewer beds for its population. Meanwhile levels of overcrowding in hospitals have repeatedly breached recommended safety limits, causing longer waiting times, cancelled operations and a raised the risk of the spread of superbugs. Official figures show that since 2001, more than 50,000 NHS hospital beds have been lost in England alone. TELEGRAPH

Landlords' 'substantial' interest-free mortgage advantage is denied to first-time buyers
More first-time buyers would be able to own property if interest-only mortgages were made available to them, a study by the Institute of Housing has concluded. Interest-only mortgages – where monthly payments cover just the interest part of the bill, and do not go toward reducing the debt – were widely popular before the banking crisis. But since then they have been all but banned under new, tougher rules. Landlords are exempt from the rules, as buy-to-let lending is not regulated as tightly. The difference creates a "substantial advantage" for landlords. The Institute of Housing figures showed that renting was more expensive, in all regions, than the cost of meeting interest-only mortgage payments. So if someone renting were able to borrow an interest-only loan, not only would they become property owners but they would see a cut in their monthly outgoings. TELEGRAPH

Starbucks HQ relocation to UK 'will generate negligible tax revenue
Starbucks claimed that the head office move would "mean we pay more tax in the UK", but the amount is expected to be negligible based on an analysis of head office operations in Amsterdam. Accounts filed in the Netherlands show the existing head office has been loss-making since 2010, and paid just €342,000 (£281,500) in tax last year. Starbucks was heavily criticised by MPs and tax campaigners in 2012 after it emerged that the business had paid just £8.3m in tax since coming to the UK in 1998, despite sales of more than £3bn. Accountant and campaigner Richard Murphy said the coffee chain's small head office operation, currently in Amsterdam, was little more than a "conduit or moneybox" used by Starbucks to collect "royalty payments" and move them on to other parts of the group. Starbucks' European head office was at the centre of criticisms 18 months ago that it had been artificially depressing the group's tax bills around Europe by charging sister companies heavy royalty fees. Moving these headquarter operations to London is the latest example of a wave of multinationals arriving in Britain after a series of controversial tax reforms pushed through by George Osborne to woo international firms. GUARDIAN

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Guest Post from Barnet UNISON, telling a story of outsourcing in pictures and music.

The cartoons included in this guest post from Barnet UNISON were drawn by cartoonist Tim Sanders with lyrics from a UNISON supporter 


The “Tale of Bob in Barnet” provides an insight into the challenges facing Barnet UNISON and our members.