MPs' 2nd JOBS

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , ,
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released in April 2015, just before the May 2015 UK General Election, showed a fall of over 800,000 on the Electoral Register during the year 2014. Is this a symptom of public disgust at all the shabby little things politicians do to grasp at power?

Before even more of us make the mistake of turning up our noses at the ballot, we should consider what is the root cause of the bad smell that comes from politicians.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
EU files antitrust charges against Google for skewing search results
European Union regulators said they had reached the preliminary conclusion that Google “systematically positions and prominently displays its comparison shopping service in its general search results pages, irrespective of its merits.” That conduct started in 2008, the regulators said, adding: “The commission is concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries—to the detriment of consumers and rival comparison shopping services, as well as stifling innovation.” The EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, conceded that the scope of the formal charges was “limited” given it focused on comparison shopping. But she said her agency would continue to look at Google’s conduct in other areas, such as “hotels or flights or maps” and would also “actively pursue” three other concerns expressed by the EU regarding Google’s conduct—allegations that Google copies or “scrapes” content from rival sites, its exclusivity contracts with advertisers, and advertisers’ ability to use competing advertising platforms. WALL STREET JOURNAL

Skills shortage driving up skilled worker salaries
Skills shortages are driving increases in pay, with almost a third of recruitment agencies reporting improved starting salaries, according to a study. Pay growth was especially strong in the Midlands and the south, said the report from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (Rec). The rate of pay growth was the strongest since last September, while the availability of candidates continued to fall. Skills shortages were a particular problem in teaching. For temporary staff, the problem was worse in nursing and healthcare, it was reported. KPMG’s Bernard Brown said: “Recruiters are struggling with industry-wide skills shortages, as demand for talent continues to outstrip the number of candidates seeking work. This pervasive skills shortage could put the brakes on economic growth if it continues unabated.” GUARDIAN

Twenty-eight English clubs are now owned overseas, increasing the risk of tax avoidance
Almost one in three of the 92 Premier and Football League clubs are now substantially owned overseas, including in offshore tax havens, leading to the English football leagues being accused of allowing ownership structures of clubs that could be used for tax avoidance. Research into the ownership of all the clubs has found 28 clubs with a substantial shareholding overseas, including nine of the 20 Premier League clubs. Owners residing abroad, who hold shares in clubs through companies registered overseas, may not be liable for UK capital gains tax – currently 28% for higher rate, wealthier, tax payers – on the profits they make when they sell a club. The huge rise in offshore ownership of clubs, which were almost all UK-owned until the wave of overseas buyers moved in around a decade ago, has coincided with steepling increases in television rights and the value of clubs, in the Premier League, and in the Championship for clubs with a prospect of promotion. George Turner, author of the Tax Justice Network’s report, said: “This should be of great concern to fans around the country, who invest so much time, commitment, emotion and money into their clubs... Football is not just another business and tax havens have no place in our national game, whatever the reason an owner may have for using them.” Premiership clubs under suspicion include Arsenal, Aston Villa, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, QPR, Sunderland and Tottenham. Clubs in all four leagues feature in the report. GUARDIAN

Tory housing association right-to-buy policy attacked by big business
The Conservatives have come under fire after David Cameron pledged to give people the chance of a “good life” by extending Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme to 1.3 million families in housing association properties. Under the Tory plans, councils would be forced to sell off their most valuable homes, raising £4.5bn net a year. This would be used to fund the building of cheaper, replacement properties. But the Confederation of British Industry and the blue chip Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) property firm joined many housing associations, warning that the Tory plan would not meet targets to address the chronic shortage of housing. Boris Johnson said last month that the proposal would involve massive subsidies. Adam Challis, head of residential research at JLL, said: “The expansion of right to buy may be good politics, but represents terrible policy. This is exactly the kind of short-termist thinking that the country’s 4.7m households in social housing don’t need, not to mention the same number again of aspiring owners in private renting”. GUARDIAN

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Tory housing association right-to-buy policy attacked by big business
The Conservatives have come under fire after David Cameron pledged to give people the chance of a “good life” by extending Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme to 1.3 million families in housing association properties. The Confederation of British Industry and the blue chip Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) property firm joined many housing associations, warning that the Tory plan would not address the chronic shortage of housing. Boris Johnson said last month that the proposal would involve massive subsidies. Adam Challis, head of residential research at JLL, said: “The expansion of right to buy may be good politics, but represents terrible policy. This is exactly the kind of short-termist thinking that the country’s 4.7m households in social housing don’t need, not to mention the same number again of aspiring owners in private renting”. Gavin Smart, the deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, warned that the proposal could make life more difficult for people on lower incomes, adding: “We fear the figures simply won’t stack up.” Under the Tory plans, councils would be forced to sell off their most valuable homes, to be replaced by affordable housing in the same area. The funds from the proceeds of the council house sales would be used to pay for the extension of the right-to-buy scheme to housing associations. A further £1bn from the sales would be used by the Tories over four years to prepare brownfield sites for house building, with the aim of creating 400,000 extra homes. The Tories said around 15,000 council properties that are in the top third price bracket – around 0.4% of the stock – become available every year. Under the new rules, councils would be forced to sell those homes, raising £4.5bn net a year. This would be used to fund the building of cheaper, replacement properties. “That is more than enough to pay for one-to-one replacement of the council houses sold, discount for the right-to-buy housing association property, one-to-one replacement for the right-to-buy homes and this £1bn over four years fund to deal with brownfield sites,” one Tory source said.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
What's in a manifesto? Politicians make their careers more promising by promising more. Most of all during a closely fought general election where no party expects a majority. In these tight contests a goon with a gatling could not fire off promises faster nor more recklessly. 

Party manifesto writers confidently disregard truth because win or lose politicians will get away scot-free with failure to deliver their pledges:

  • Lose and they don't even need an excuse. With no power to fulfil the promises, nobody would know if they were fibbing.
  • Win to be the biggest single party in a coalition, and they blame their coalition partners for their broken promises.

In the weeks before the May 2015 general election we saw many promises from the various parties, a few of which we have retrieved from the BBC's collection. There is little point attributing them by party, so we just list them. To paraphrase the poet Catullus, what is promised in an election should be written in the wind and the running water:

  • Raise £1bn from extra corporation tax on banking sector
  • Increase charges to “non-doms”, raising £130m
  • Support weekly bin collections
  • No rise in VAT
  • Take family homes out of Inheritance Tax
  • Keep mortgage rates low so families are more financially secure
  • Make big businesses pay their fair share of tax 
  • Make it illegal for employers to undercut British workers by exploiting migrants 
  • Invest £2.3 billion in over 1,400 flood defence schemes to protect 300,000 homes
  • Allow a public sector rail operator to bid for and take on new lines
  • Scrap Winter Fuel Payment and free TV Licences for pensioners on the 40% income tax rate
  • Restrict child benefit to two children and stop paying it all together for children who do not live in Britain 
  • Introduce minimum pricing of alcohol
  • Maintain the triple lock on the state pension, so it rises by the highest of prices, earnings, or 2.5%
  • No increase in the retirement age 
  • Give 16-21 year olds two thirds off all bus travel
  • Spending increase for the NHS in real terms every year, an extra £8bn a year in England by 2020
  • Make greater use of direct democracy, such as local referendums
  • Guaranteed job for under-25s unemployed for over a year and for adults unemployed over two years 
  • Guaranteed childcare for primary school children from 8am to 6pm 
  • Ensure speed cameras are not used for profit by councils 
  • No out of work benefits for migrants or child benefit for dependents living outside UK 
  • more social housing to be built by local authorities
  • Boost police recruitment of black and minority ethnic groups

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Thursday, April 09, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Drug firm Novartis tried to 'scupper' trials of a cheaper version of eye medicine
Avastin, which costs just $50 (£34) a dose, could save the NHS £102m if used instead of the standard treatment, ranibizumab, or Lucentis, which costs $1098. The drugs giant Roche holds the intellectual property rights for both, but Novartis has the rights to market Lucentis in Europe. In one of several examples given in a report by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a senior researcher from Bristol University, who took part in a UK trial of Avastin said that Novartis had “tried to prevent UK ophthalmologists joining [the trial]”. The chief investigator in another trial, known as Tandem, told the BMJ that a Novartis representative had tried to divert him, during the trial’s planning stage in 2009, to trial work funded by Novartis and had opened up the prospect of funding for his future research projects. Despite positive trial evidence, Avastin is not licensed for use to treat wet AMD, a leading cause of blindness. And the General Medical Council has issued guidance telling doctors it is unlawful to prescribe unlicensed medicines on grounds of cost. INDEPENDENT

Has Austerity caused the UK’s first decline in life expectancy in 20 years?
Life expectancies for women aged 65, 75, 85 and 95 all fell in 2012 compared with a year earlier, the first slip in all age groups in nearly two decades. There was also a small drop in life expectancy for men at ages 85 and 95, while longevity for men in the two younger age groups stagnated, according to a report published on Tuesday by Public Health England (PHE). Although the figures for 2013 did not show any further falls, the life expectancies for men and women aged 85 and 95 failed to recover to 2011 levels, which were the highest to date. Age campaigners warned the unexpected decrease in life expectancies was a “canary in the coal mine”, showing how five years of austerity was beginning to take its toll on elderly people. But PHE said it was too early to conclude there was a significant change in the three-decade-old upward trend in life expectancy. Its report suggested the falls could be due to flu or bad weather, or even a statistical blip, although it noted that they were reflected elsewhere in Europe. To take one example, the life expectancy of an average 75-year-old woman in 2013 was 13 years and five weeks, which is five weeks fewer than people of that age in 2011. The falls in life expectancy come after three decades in which life expectancy has on average increased by 1.2% for men aged 65 and 0.7% for women. It is the first time since 1995 that life expectancy has fallen among women of all four age groups studied. GUARDIAN

A&E waiting in England hits new worst level
The NHS in England has missed its four-hour A&E wait target for the past three months with performance dropping to its lowest level for a decade. Just 91.8% of patients were seen in four hours between January and March - below the 95% target. That is the worst three-month performance since the target was introduced at the end of 2004. The figures were widely expected as the weekly performance has been below 95% since September. Figures released in Scotland showed that in the 12 months up to the end of February 92% of patients were seen in four hours. Monthly waiting times have been even worse in Northern Ireland and Wales, although the latest yearly figures are not yet available. Labour immediately linked the figures to cuts in GP services, forcing people to go to A&E instead. BBC NEWS

Kellogg's effectively paid no corporation tax in the UK in 2013
Tax experts said the complex web of companies it uses to do business in the UK generates 'significant opacity' which makes it hard to tell if it is paying its fair share of tax in this country. Other American firms, in the technology sector, such as Google, Apple and Amazon have been heavily criticised in recent years over alleged tax avoidance. Kellogg's is being accused of acting like these 'classic US-owned IT company' with bases in Ireland and Luxembourg rather than as a food manufacturer known around the world for its cereals. Kellogg's has three factories in Britain – two in Wrexham and the third in Manchester – where it makes cereals and snacks. It sells in the UK through two main subsidiaries owned by Irish-based Kellogg Europe Trading Ltd. The two subsidiaries paid corporation tax of £8.4million on profits of nearly £50million in 2013. It also has six Luxembourg-registered companies which paid corporation tax of £210,000 on profits of about £57million. But the £210,000 and £8.4million figures were offset by an £11.8million tax credit at another UK registered operation, Kellogg Group. DAILY MAIL

Monday, 6 April 2015

Monday, April 06, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , ,
The LibDems and Tories squabbled over who should get credit for the increases in the personal tax free allowance (Personal Allowance), which rose from £6,475 in 2010/11 up to £10,000 in 2014/15.

Whoever did it, did it mean low paid people got to keep all their income to spend as they will? Of course not!

For people receiving Working Tax Credits, who may or may not be getting Child Tax Credits too, their tax credits are clawed back at the rate of 41 pence for every pound (i.e. a 41% withdrawal rate) above an income threshold of £6,420. Note this applies to a household's joint income rather than on an individual basis. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Thursday, April 02, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
London’s poorest tenants hit by £50m rent rise as social housing converted to 'affordable' homes
Housing associations quietly switch thousands of tenancies to higher rates to make up a shortfall in government funding. In 2010 the government made a 63% cut in capital investment budgets for housing associations, in effect a £3bn reduction in available funding. The government has also demanded that any taxpayer investment in new housing should be in affordable rather than cheaper social rented homes. Social rents are typically half market rate, while so-called affordable tariffs are up to 80% of private rents, leading to complaints that the definition of affordable is Orwellian. About 11,000 homes in the capital have been converted from “social” housing to “affordable” since 2012, and thousands more are to follow in a policy that has sparked tenants’ rebellions. Annual rents have risen by £29m, but the total cost to tenants over the three years to date has been £49.7m. Over half of the housing associations set the converted rents higher than 70% of market rate in the last recorded period. But others, determined to keep housing genuinely affordable, have charged much lower rents. In the past year Affinity has converted 295 homes across its portfolio. It said it had halted conversions at the estate after a protest by residents and said it would suggest tenants consider moving only if they had surplus room. Among other associations, in the past two years, London and Quadrant switched 1,673 tenancies earning an extra £4.2m a year, Circle Housing switched 1,337 earning £3.8m more a year and Notting Hill Housing Trust switched 853 earning an extra £3.3m annually. The National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents housing associations, said its members were being forced to convert tenancies because of George Osborne’s deep cuts in investment budgets. GUARDIAN

Huge rise in number of families living in temporary accommodation in England
By the end of the year 61,970 homeless households were in temporary lodging, from B&Bs to homes rented from private landlords, of which 46,700 were families with children. The figures, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, had been falling, dropping to 48,190 and 35,950 respectively in the spring of 2011, but have now returned to the levels seen in early 2009. The number of children in temporary housing increased by almost 10,000 year-on-year to 90,450. The housing charity Shelter said the figures were equivalent to four homeless children in every school. Rising private rents and a chronic shortage of affordable homes have helped push the number of families without a permanent home to the highest level in almost six years. GUARDIAN

Anger as bosses of two of Britain’s biggest firms walk away with annual pay packages of over £11m each
Rakesh Kapoor, chief executive of Nurofen and Durex owner Reckitt Benckiser (RB), took home £11.2million last year – an increase of almost 65 per cent – despite the firm having faced a string of fines over its corporate governance practices. And the Prudential chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, enjoyed a 36 per cent pay rise taking his salary to £11.8million after profits jumped 14 per cent to £3.2billion. Thiam, who will soon take the helm at Credit Suisse, was not even the highest paid employee at the Pru. That accolade went to Richard Woolnough, a fund manager at its investment arm M&G, who scooped more than £15.3million despite his funds slipping to the bottom half of the performance tables. RB’s boss’s £11.2million pales into insignificance compared to the £91m that predecessor Bart Becht took home in 2009. While their shares have risen 20.9 per cent over the past 12 months, the firm has suffered the acute embarrassment of being fined for questionable practices. In January RB was fined £539,800 for breaching stock market rules following share deals made by Kapoor and another director. The City watchdog said the household goods giant had ‘inadequate systems and controls’ to monitor dealing by its senior executives in its own shares. The fine came one month after RB was fined £95million for fixing the prices of products in France. In November it admitted its office in America had been raided by the US Attorney in connection with more alleged anti-competitive practices. And a year ago, RB agreed to pay the NHS £90m after it was accused of profiting from its indigestion treatment Gaviscon after the product’s patent had expired. Earlier this month the Institute of Directors issued a stark warning about excessive pay in the investment industry, warning fund managers could replace investment bankers as the target of public anger. And last night leading shareholder group Glass Lewis recommended voting against the pay of BP boss Bob Dudley, who received a 25 per cent jump in pay and perks to £8.6million despite a drop in profits after it was hit by the plunging oil price. DAILY MAIL

UK productivity growth is weakest since second world war, says ONS
The Office for National Statistics said productivity decreased by 0.2% in the third quarter of the financial year, leaving output per hour worked little changed on the previous year and slightly lower than in 2007, before the UK’s longest and deepest modern recession. The ONS figures show that with workers producing less than they did in 2007, Britain’s productivity gap with its major economic rivals, such as the US, Germany and France, has widened. The UK has the second worst productivity record of the G7 leading Western industrial nations. Weak productivity has been the flipside to strong employment growth, since the increase in the number of people working has not been matched by the hourly output of goods and services they have produced. Up until the global economic crisis, the efficiency of UK workers tended to increase by around 2-2.5% a year. Had that trend continued, productivity would have been 15% higher than it was before the recession. An alternative measure of productivity, output per worker, showed some growth in 2014 but only as a result of employees working longer hours. The ONS said, despite Britain’s poor productivity, businesses were keeping their costs in check by keeping a lid on their wage bills. GUARDIAN

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , , , ,
Defining who is very rich is not straightforward. Some with vast wealth have little income and live in poverty (for example, low income pensioners living in million pound London houses bought for a song decades ago). 

For this post we consider households with more income than 90% of households in the UK. Perhaps not all "rich", but certainly "richer than most". 

We use the Household Disposable Income data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

These ONS figures for 2013 show the top decile (top 10%) of households had 13.4 times more disposable income than the bottom decile of UK households. 

[Disposable Income = income after receiving state benefits and paying direct taxes (e.g. income tax is taken out, but not VAT which is an indirect tax). Disposable Income is effectively a household's "spending money".]

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Britain's in love with borrowing again: Household debt hits record £9,000 and is growing at the fastest rate in a decade
The figure, which does not include mortgages, soared by £20billion or nine per cent last year to hit £239billion, a report from PwC found. The situation will only get worse as interest rates start to rise, which will mean Britons will have to fork out an increasing proportion of their incomes on servicing their debts. What's more PwC projects unsecured borrowing will grow over the next two years between four per cent and six per cent annually, it said in its report Precious Plastic: How Britons Fell Back In Love With Borrowing. This would bring average household non-mortgage borrowing just shy of £10,000 by the end of next year – unchartered territory in terms of borrowing levels. The average credit card balance rose to £1,021 by the end of the year, which is just £39 off the all-time high seen at the beginning of 2010. Nearly half of the increase in borrowing last year came from students, PwC said, warning that graduates who started university after 2012 could leave with an average debt of £40,000 to £50,000. The total household debt to income ratio, including mortgage debt, is projected to reach around 172 per cent by 2020 – surpassing its previous peak in the run-up to the financial crisis. Already some households are depending on credit for essential items, particularly 35 to 44 year-olds, with close to 20 per cent borrowing simply to make ends meet. DAILY MAIL

MPs denounce government TTIP plans amid fears for NHS and public services
A future government must be allowed to expand the NHS without facing legal challenge under a proposed new EU-US trade deal, according to a sharply critical report from an all-party committee of MPs. The Business, Innovation and Skills committee said the government needed stronger evidence to back up its claim that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would bring a boost of £100bn a year to the UK. It also said the case had not been made for the highly controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the provision that would allow private investors to sue governments for the loss of future profits caused by decisions made by national parliaments. The committee reserved its strongest criticism for the government, which has been firm in its support for TTIP and wants the European commission to conclude negotiations as swiftly as possible. “Whilst TTIP has the potential to deliver economic benefits to the United Kingdom, it is impossible at this stage to quantify those benefits in any meaningful way. Rather than continue to use the £100bn figure, the government must come up with a comprehensive assessment which includes the estimated economic yield of a variety of levels of agreement.” The report added that MPs were “deeply concerned” about the government’s intention not to submit a formal response to the EC’s consultation on ISDS provisions. GUARDIAN

More high street chains named and shamed over failure to pay minimum wage
The government has named almost 50 employers for failing to pay their workers the national minimum wage, including childcare nurseries, restaurants and a 99p store. The 48 employers, who owed £162,000 in arrears, were in sectors ranging from fashion and publishing, to health and fitness and retail, with penalties totalling more than £67,000. More than 200 employers have now been “named and shamed” since a new regime came into force in October 2013, with total arrears of £635,000 and penalties of almost £250,000. The latest cases included: French Connection in London, which the business department said had neglected to pay £16,400 to 367 workers; Toni & Guy in Wilmslow, Cheshire, alleged to owe £1,031 to one worker; Call & Deliver, trading as Pizza Hut in Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, said to owe £163 to nine workers; and 99p Stores in Northampton, apparently owing £633 to 11 workers. The cases were all investigated by HM Revenue and Customs. Toni & Guy said: “As a company with over 400 salons globally under its brand umbrella, we do not condone any kind of mishandling of staff wages. Once made aware, the franchisee resolved the issue swiftly.” But Newham council in east London called on the government to allow local authorities to tackle businesses failing to pay the minimum wage. A report by the council and the GMB union said more than £500m was lost to workers across the country because firms paid below the statutory minimum rate. Almost a fifth of residents in Newham are paid below the minimum wage, at an average of more than £2,200 per worker, it was estimated. GUARDIAN

Businesses, running on Diesel, are being ripped off by retailers who are looking to offset losses from low petrol prices
Fuel retailers are ripping off the public and businesses on diesel charges, according to the RAC. Companies, which more often run on diesel, are hit hard by the fuel rip-off. The wholesale price of diesel is 1p a litre more than for petrol, yet diesel is almost 6p more at the pumps, it said. There is scope for a diesel price cut of around 4p a litre to restore some parity to the market, the RAC added. The RAC’s comments came as it highlighted Government figures which showed total fuel sales were up 3.5 per cent in February compared with the same month last year. Diesel sales last month, at 2.42billion litres, represented the fifth highest monthly total since 1990. But petrol sales are among their lowest for 25 years. Because companies traditionally run on diesel, they are particularly hard hit by the fuel rip-off. RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘It’s hard not to think that business is being taken for a ride. 'With sales of diesel at an all-time high the retailers have maintained a higher margin on diesel, perhaps to subsidise petrol sales.’ DAILY MAIL

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