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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Firms back Theresa May's attack on runaway executive pay
Business leaders have given a resounding endorsement of Theresa May’s proposals to shake up corporate governance and put pressure on runaway levels of executive pay. In a new poll by FTI Consulting, seen exclusively by City A.M., 81 per cent of senior figures from small, medium and large companies backed a tougher government stance on how the UK’s largest companies are run. Theresa May pledged last week to put big businesses under the microscope as prime minister, announcing her intention to introduce completely binding shareholder votes on executive pay and force companies to publish their pay ratios — the difference between the salary of the average worker and the top earner. In further departure from previous Conservative policy, she also signalled support for employee representation on boards and stricter controls over foreign takeovers of UK firms. CITY AM

Millennials to become first generation to earn less than their predecessors
The Resolution Foundation found that under-35s earned £8,000 less in their twenties than Generation X workers. The thinktank defines Generation X as those born between 1966 and 1980 and millennials as those born between 1980 and 2000. If wages for millennials follow the same path as Generation X, average career earnings will be about £825,000. That would make them the first generation to earn less than their predecessors over the course of their working lives. Its research found that some of the pay squeeze was due to under-35s entering the job market as the recession hit, but it also concluded that generational pay progress had ground to a halt even before the financial crisis struck in 2007/8. Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation, said: "We've taken it for granted that each generation will do much better than the last - earning more and enjoying a higher standard of living. But that approach risks looking complacent given the realities of recent years and prospects for the future." The research comes as Prime Minister Theresa May warned last week of a growing divide between a "more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation". The think-tank also found that millennials will have spent £44,000 more on rent by the time they reach 30 compared to the baby boomers, and £25,000 more than Generation X. BBC NEWS

PM urged to launch inquiry into low pay of "self-employed" Hermes couriers
Frank Field MP, chairman of the powerful House of Commons work and pensions select committee, said the government should review HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) criteria that allow companies to contract work to self-employed individuals rather than hire them as employees. Referring to Theresa May’s first speech as prime minister, in which she said she would legislate for “families who are just managing” and people who “have a job but … don’t always have job security”, Field said: “This is a really good chance for [May] to start this new approach. This [issue with self-employment] is undermining government policy which is to raise wages at the bottom.” The Guardian obtained information about the earnings, hours and expenses of couriers for Hermes, which delivers parcels for retailers including John Lewis, that indicated some were earning below the national living wage of £7.20 per hour for people aged 25 and over. However, because the couriers are self-employed and not covered by the national living wage, the arrangement is legal. The general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, has also called for reform. “This isn’t just one company,” she said. “The rise of bogus self-employment is hitting people’s incomes and job security across the country.” Field’s call came as the Citizens Advice Bureau revealed a marked increase in the number of people coming forward with concerns about self employment and employment status. One case involved a childminder who worked set hours, five days a week but was hired on a self-employed basis and told she needed to start saving up for her own holiday pay and sick pay. Another case involved a pub employee whose landlord had told him his work was finished unless he switched to self-employment. The man was worried he would no longer receive holiday and sick pay or a steady wage and working pattern. The UK’s self-employed workforce has grown by 800,000 to 4.7 million since 2008, according to official figures. As many as two-thirds of self-employed workers in the transport sector, which includes couriers, delivery drivers and Uber taxi drivers, now earn below the national living wage. GUARDIAN

Uber faces legal challenge from drivers demanding basic rights including holiday pay, sick pay and minimum wage
Two test cases, brought by drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam at Central London Employment Tribunal and supported by the GMB union, argue they should be entitled to holiday pay and receive at least the national minimum wage. Uber claims it is a technology company rather than a taxi firm, and allows people to be their own boss and work flexibly. In his statement Mr Farrar said Uber claimed it had paid him £13.77 an hour on average for the hours he has logged in the app. But he said his earnings for August last year after expenses came to just £5.03 an hour - below what was then the national minimum wage of £6.70 for those over 21. David Reade QC, representing Uber, argued drivers have a choice about their work, there is nothing to force them to work exclusively for Uber, and they are free to work with other private hire operators. But Mr Farrar said Uber controls him 'very, very carefully', logging him out of its system if he ignores two bookings - which Mr Reade said only happens if a driver dismisses three consecutive jobs - and puts him in a 'penalty box' for 10 minutes, also sending him warnings if he does not take jobs, all of which he said would make doing extra work for another company unrealistic. Mr Farrar also explained he had to be 'very, very careful' about deciding whether to take jobs: he had been physically assaulted twice, racially abused once and verbally attacked many times while working as an Uber driver. But he said that even if drivers cancel jobs over safety fears they are penalised. He told the tribunal: 'Sometimes you have to choose between your own safety, your own life sometimes, and doing this job.’ DAILY MAIL

First-time buyers half as likely to be single as 20 years ago
Figures from the latest English Housing Survey show that in 2014-15 just 14% of first-time buyer households were made up of single people, compared with 29% in 1994-95. The change comes despite growth in people living alone, which the Office for National Statistics said accounted for 29% of UK households in 2015. Over the same 20-year period, the share of the market that comprised couples rose from 63% to 80%, and the proportion of couples with children increased from 20% to 31%. The remaining 6% of buyers were loan parents or those buying in larger groups. The majority of first-time buyers were aged between 25 and 34, but the average age increased from 30 to 33, and the proportion of new buyers aged between 35 and 44 almost doubled – from 11% to 20%. The increase in average ages may also mean that people are more likely to be in a couple before they buy. The survey shows that the number of first-time buyers dropped from 564,000 in 1994-95 to 300,000 in 2014-15 despite an increase in the number of households in the same period. First-time buyers were especially hit by the credit crunch in 2008, with banks and building societies withdrawing mortgages for those with small deposits, but they have come back into the market since the government’s help-to-buy scheme was launched in 2013. The housing charity Shelter said: “More and more people on ordinary incomes have no choice but to face a lifetime of expensive, unstable private renting, unless they’re lucky enough to have help from friends and family.” GUARDIAN

Rail minister Claire Perry quits after admitting she feels 'ashamed' about chaotic train delays
Claire Perry quit the Government today just two days after admitting she felt 'ashamed' to be in charge of Britain's railways because of the chaotic delays hitting London commuters. She resigned from her post at the Department of Transport before new Prime Minister Theresa May had time to sack her. Mrs Perry, MP for Devizes, has been the public face of anger over delays at crisis-hit Southern Railway. She has repeatedly refused demands to strip Govia Thameslink Railway of owning Southern Railway despite services being hit by high levels of staff illness, crew availability, walkouts by the rail union RMT and bitter disputes over guards' responsibilities. Commuters have reported losing their jobs and missing out on seeing their kids, as a result of the chaos - which saw the embattled operator cancel at least 341 services every day. They staged a protest earlier this week after Ms Perry appeared to reject their calls to renationalise the line. The beleaguered rail operator introduced its emergency timetable yesterday – axing 341 services a day to avoid ad hoc cancellations – as it struggles to cope with a union dispute and a series of 'sickie strikes'. DAILY MAIL

U.S. charges two British HSBC executives over $3.5 billion forex scam
Mark Johnson, HSBC's global head of foreign exchange cash trading in London, and Stuart Scott, its ex-head of cash trading for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, were charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn. Both men were charged with wire fraud conspiracy, in a case that a person familiar with the matter said was the first against individuals to flow out of a U.S. Justice Department probe of foreign-exchange rigging at global banks. Prosecutors said Johnson, 50, and Scott, 43, misused information provided by a client who had hired HSBC to convert $3.5 billion to British pounds in connection with a planned sale of one of the unnamed company's subsidiaries. The two British citizens then used their insider knowledge to engage in a process called front-running in which they made trades ahead of the December 2011 transaction, resulting in a spike in the price of the currency that was detrimental to HSBC's client, prosecutors said. "Ohhh, f---ing Christmas," Johnson told Scott in a recorded call the day the transaction went through, the complaint said. In total, HSBC earned $3 million from trades its FX traders placed and earned $5 million executing the transaction, the complaint said. "The defendants allegedly betrayed their client's confidence, and corruptly manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. The case was, according to a source, related to a years-long Justice Department probe that has led to four banks last year pleading guilty to conspiring to manipulate currency prices. The charges came a day after the Federal Reserve Board said it was banning Matthew Gardiner, a former FX trader at Barclays and at UBS, from participating in the banking industry for manipulating pricing benchmarks. HSBC was not among the four banks that pleaded guilty, but in 2014 agreed to pay $618 million to resolve related probes by U.S. and British regulators. The Justice Department has continued to investigate, and HSBC has set aside $1.2 billion to cover various forex-related probes, according to a regulatory filing. REUTERS

Sunday, 17 July 2016

In his first tweet after being sacked as Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne chirped "Others will judge - I hope I've left the economy in a better state than I found it".

It so happens two weeks earlier the excellent Andy Haldane, executive director at the Bank of England, made his judgement. The date is important, as Osborne was still sitting confidently on his stool in the Treasury, so Haldane wasn't simply knifing a political corpse. Haldane was speaking truth to power, as so many others who should be doing so had long since ceased.

Haldane's speech in June 2016, titled "Whose Recovery?", should be essential reading in particular for the revolting Labour MPs. The speech offers them an insight into why the ordinary Labour Party membership backed Jeremy Corbyn. And why the Labour Party actually is a party of protest, both in Government and in Opposition. 

 
The Golden Rule states "Whoever has the Gold makes the Rules". Whether in Government or in Opposition, the Labour Party should represent those without the Gold, and should act as a counterbalance to those who make the Rules even when it is in Government. Because when the Labour Party was not a party of protest, it became the de facto Tory Party (a.k.a. "New Labour"). In truth, had Tory leaders during the Blair years been brighter they could have more quickly undermined Blair by supporting, not opposing, his policies.

Britain needs strong parties of all complexions, from left to right. Regime change in the Tory Party is done with ruthless corporate efficiency, while in the Labour Party it is done with all the blood and broken noses of a pub brawl. Both methods are fine, so long as both emerge representing their members.

Haldane, a product of state school and redbrick university, whether he is in an oak panelled room or in a whitewashed community centre listens to what he hears and  he sees what he looks at. Listening and seeing are talents sadly missing in the revolting Labour MPs. 

In his speech Haldane says:
"I began by speaking about the UK’s economic recovery.  I never got as far as the improvement in the jobs market or surging confidence.  I was stopped in my tracks by a forest of furrowed brows and a phalanx of probing questions, not all of them gentle.  “What exactly do you mean by recovery?” one asked.  “My charity is dealing with 50% more homeless people than three years ago.”   Every other charity in the room had similar stories to tell.  Whether it was food banks, mental health problems or drug addiction, all of the numbers were up.  The language of “recovery” simply did not fit their facts."

We leave it to Haldane to explain whether Osborne left the economy better than he found it, and why ordinary Labour Party members support Jeremy Corbyn:

1) Haldane points out that the UK economy as a whole can improve by making the rich slightly richer and the poor much poorer:

2) Regional income inequality has widened.
Haldane says:
"Another notable pattern in regional income gains and losses is that the largest gains have come in regions where income was already high – London (incomes more than 30% above the UK average) and the
South-East (14% higher). Contrarily, some of the larger losses have been in regions where income was already-low – Northern Ireland (18% lower than the UK average) and Yorkshire and Humberside (14% lower). Put differently, since the crisis the regional distribution of incomes has widened."


3) In recent years the rich have been given more and the poor have been made poorer. Haldane says: 
"in a subjective well-being sense, there may have been no recovery in the UK over the past few years"

He states:
"aggregate GDP figures may over-state somewhat the impact of the recovery on societal well-being: gains by the already-rich boost well-being by less than equivalent losses by the already-poor. To demonstrate that, Chart 12 plots an illustrative measure of “social welfare”. "
3) The recovery from the 2008 recession has been the slowest in decades:

4) By 2015 GDP per person was only 1% above pre-crash levels.
5) The GDP figure includes all UK income, including that which is sent overseas. Office for National Statistics figures show over half of UK quoted shares are owned by the 'rest of the World'. Illustrating how boosting company profits by holding down wages isn't good for Britons.
% of UK stock market owned by "rest of the World"
Haldane states that in terms of GDP per head that is actually kept in the UK there has been no recovery:

6) The "jobs recovery" has not been a "wages recovery". Noting that more people are in poorer paying jobs, Haldane states: 
"Although the recovery of the past few years has been jobs-rich, it has been notably pay-poor."
Haldane goes on to say:
"This is the longest period of flat or falling wages since at least the middle of the 19th Century". 

7) Bank of England and Office for National Statistics figures for 2015 show that in fact only London and the South East have passed their pre-crash peak. Haldane says:
"For example, in Northern Ireland GDP per head remains 11% below its peak, in Yorkshire and Humberside 6% below and here in Wales 2% below."

8) When it comes to Wealth, Haldane says:
"If we turn from income to wealth, the picture is much the same...This has risen across all regions. But the pattern is again uneven, with the largest gains in London (47%) and the South-East (25%), whereas in Wales the gains are smaller (8%) and in the North East there has been a small fall in wealth. 
"..these gains have come principally from rises in property and pension wealth. In other words, the gains have been skewed towards those in society who own their own home or who have sizable pension pots."

Andy Haldane says in this speech:
"The rising economic tide has not lifted all boats. Indeed, a sizable fraction of households have seen no recovery in their disposable incomes, a rise in job insecurity and at best modest rises in their wealth. For them, the “recovery puzzle” may not be so puzzling. These data also suggest that distributional factors may be important when understanding “whose recovery”. "
 
"This has been an uneven economic recovery, looking across regions, income and age cohorts. Large parts of the UK – many regions, those on lower incomes, the young, renters - have not experienced any meaningful recovery in their incomes or in their wealth."

The revolting Labour MPs desperately hope to cling to their well compensated jobs. The poor things have invested years sucking up to one set of leaders, only to find them chucked out and replaced by Jeremy Corbyn of all people! Probably Corbyn has so little support among the MPs because nobody had bothered licking their spittle onto him.

Labour MPs need to emulate Andy Haldane. Instead of cloaking themselves in self-importance, convinced that only they can "save the Party", they need to go out and see what they look at, and listen to what they hear.  


Labour MPs must stop peeping out of the windows of their Westminster Chambers, demonising their own party members. 

Instead of plotting engrossed in their Westminster mutual admiration society, they need to understand the reasons why Labour Party Members around Britain overwhelmingly supported Jeremy Corbyn.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
KJ and Fee know who and what is to blame...

In safe seats odds are firmly stacked against any voters looking for change. The average constituency last changed hands between parties in the 1960s, with some super safe seats having remained firmly in one-party control since the time of Queen Victoria. That means, at every election, the majority of seats can be predicted because of Westminster’s broken First Past the Post electoral system. As consituencies are small and only elect one MP, rival parties often don’t stand a chance of winning in hundreds of seats across the UK. Even if they have significant support it counts of nothing if they lose. As the loss of safe seats is rare, parties target their resources on a small number of floating voters in marginal seats – meaning they give up on millions of voters across the country. Four weeks away from the 2015 election we could predict the results for over half of the total constituencies.

OUR RELATED STORIES:

More votes shifted left than right at GE2015. That's where the Labour party needs to be. See the stats

It's constituency boundaries wot won it: The Tories won more swing seats. But more people shifted their votes left

Apathy? Since the 1970s Brits vote less. But they take part in community, charity and civic activities more

British Election Study shows UKIP voters are well to the left of the Tories and even the LibDems

Every democracy, including ours, needs a left and a right party. Politicians who shift too close to their opposition are putting their careers before the nation

Most MPs vote the way they're told by the party. Many have second jobs earning tens of thousands. Half sit in safe seats they never lose. It's tough being an MP!

British Social Attitudes Survey: Tories & Labour are losing their core supporters

In 1997 the percentage of young people not voting shot up. Under 55- year-olds too

Since 1979, Labour or Tory, inequality rose whilst economic performance remained the same

"It's the economy, stupid" means the economies of individual families, not just UK Plc

Hope you didn't vote for anyone who helps pump up house prices

Lest we forget: all policies are pointless unless the banks are reined in


Thursday, 14 July 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
National Living Wage has not led to job losses, survey says
Employers have responded to the new National Living Wage (NLW) by raising prices or reducing profits rather than cutting jobs, according to a survey from the Resolution Foundation. The wage, which requires employers to pay staff aged 25 and over at least £7.20 an hour, was introduced in April. This report is the first snapshot of how firms have reacted to the NLW. It comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted it would lead to 60,000 job losses by 2020. Five hundred companies, covering a range of UK businesses, were questioned just before the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, of which 215 said that the new NLW had impacted their wage bill. Some 36% of those affected by the NLW said they had put up their prices to compensate for the higher wage cost, while 29% said they had reduced their profits. Despite reports of some employers cutting back on staff terms and conditions, the survey found that only 8% had cut paid breaks, overtime or bank holiday pay. The policy was announced in last summer's Budget by Chancellor George Osborne, in what he said was a move to create a higher-wage, lower-welfare economy. Workers aged 21 to 24 continue to be paid the National Minimum Wage of £6.70 an hour. A spokesman for the Department for Business said: "The government wants to move to a higher wage, lower tax and lower welfare society and the National Living Wage is a crucial part of achieving this. It is encouraging to hear that employers are investing in training and technology which will help to improve productivity. BBC NEWS

HSBC escaped US money-laundering charges after Osborne's intervention
On Monday, a US congressional report published letters and emails from Osborne and Financial Services Authority (FSA) officials to their US counterparts warning that launching criminal action against HSBC in 2012 could have sparked a “financial calamity”. The US government subsequently decided not to pursue criminal charges against HSBC for allowing terrorists and drug dealers to launder millions of dollars. The report said the FSA was “problematic”, “weighed in very strongly” and caused a “firestorm”, which led the then attorney general, Eric Holder, to overrule the advice of his own prosecutors and not pursue criminal action. Instead of pursuing a prosecution, the bank was made to pay a record $1.92bn (£1.4bn) fine. The House report said Holder “misled” Congress about the justice department’s reasoning for declining to prosecute. It said the department had enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against HSBC and pointed out that the bank had already admitted to the US government that it broke money laundering rules. If HSBC had been found guilty of the potential charges, the US government would have been required to review and possibly revoke its charter to do business in the US. The UK’s FSA repeatedly warned that even the threat of possible charter withdrawal could have caused a fresh global financial crisis. The 2012 settlement detailed how Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel and Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel laundered $881m through HSBC and a Mexican unit. In some cases, Mexican branches had widened tellers’ windows to allow big boxes of cash to be pushed across the counters. HSBC also violated US sanctions by working with customers in Iran, Libya, Sudan, Burma and Cuba. GUARDIAN

Government is letting VW off the hook over emissions scandal, say MPs
In a scathing report, the transport select committee said the Department for Transport had been far too slow and ambivalent over taking any action in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, while industry regulators had “shown little interest” in whether the law had been broken. Customers in the United States will be compensated after VW admitted last September that 482,000 of its diesel vehicles in the US were fitted with “defeat devices” to pass emission tests, reaching a $15bn settlement last month with federal authorities. But it has not offered any similar redress to UK consumers – a position that the committee described as “deeply unfair”. Although VW said 1.2m UK cars were affected, it has disputed whether the same software is illegal in the EU. Although the then transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said that VW could face action from the Serious Fraud Office, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and under his own powers, the report found: “In practice little action has been taken.” GUARDIAN

Greedy currency firms cash in on falling pound with deals well BELOW market rate in exchange rate rip-off
Furious MPs criticised 'rip-off merchants' for taking advantage of the public's lack of financial knowledge to offer rock-bottom exchange rates. And consumer experts warned that families heading abroad – already suffering from the fall in the pound – were being hit by a 'double whammy' of costs. Following the EU vote, sterling fell 10 per cent against the euro – and to a 31-year low against the dollar. On the night of the referendum – June 23 – £1 was worth 1.31 euros or $1.50. After the result, rates tumbled to 1.22 euros and $1.34 per pound. And the market rate for sterling has since fallen to around 1.173 euros and $1.30. But in the worst cases, tourists are receiving less than a pound per euro, once they have paid commission. On top of this firms typically charge commission fees if customers do not buy their currency online, meaning holidaymakers receive less than a euro per pound. According to online currency firm FairFX, Moneycorp was offering just 1.0002 euros per pound at Bristol Airport on Thursday when the market rate was 1.17504 euros. The firm also charges £4.99 commission on orders below £300, meaning customers receive about 95 euros from £100. Holidaymakers flying from Doncaster Robin Hood Airport receive just 1.02 euros per pound from Travelex. With a £4.99 fee, that means less than 97 euros back from £100. According to the FairFX figures, currency firms have increased their profit margins sharply since the referendum. Before the Brexit vote, the gap between the exchange rates some firms offered and the market rate was much smaller. In mid-April ICE had offered 10 per cent less than the market rate, compared to 14 per cent at Edinburgh Airport on Thursday. DAILY MAIL

France's Hollande joins critics of Ex-European Commission chief Barroso, as he is hired by Goldman Sachs
French President Francois Hollande on Thursday became the most senior critic to date of former European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso's decision to take a job at the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Hollande noted that Barroso was running the European Union's executive arm at the time of the U.S. subprime home-loans crisis, which has been blamed for the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. He said Goldman Sachs was "one of the main institutions" involved in selling subprime debt, and also noted the U.S. bank's role helping Greece establish credibility about its finances in the early 2000s. Worries about Greek debt later rocked the currency bloc. "It's not about Europe, it's about morality," said Hollande in his annual interview to mark Bastille day, France's national day. "Legally, it's possible, but morally, it's about the person, it's morally unacceptable." Barroso was hired 20 months after stepping down, shortly after an 18-month "cooling off" period when ex-commissioners must seek clearance for new jobs to avoid conflicts of interest. Earlier this week the French government called on Barroso to walk away from the job and the European Ombudsman called for the EU to tighten rules on commissioners taking appointments on leaving office. REUTERS

Whistleblowers say RBS is desperately selling loans and mortgages ahead of Williams & Glyn re-launch
Staff at a flagship Royal Bank of Scotland branch in the heart of the City of London are being pressured to flog loans and mortgages, according to claims made by whistleblowers. They say branch staff have to cold call customers every day and are bullied into filling managers' diaries – failure to do so means staying late and eventually the stress of being put on a performance contract that puts their job under scrutiny. This particular branch, in Threadneedle Stereet, is set to be re-branded as Williams & Glyn, a bank which is yet to receive its licence from regulators. It means any customers who open a loan or mortgage or other product via this branch will be shifted over to Williams & Glyn once the re-brand happens. The whistleblower says the pressure has started in the past couple of months – and believes it could be to make the branches look good ahead of the move over to the Williams & Glyn brand. 'Staff are very stressed and scared to say anything as the managers will put them on a performance contract and eventually drive them out,' he said. RBS has been forced to break away part of its business as part of its bail out in the aftermath of the financial crisis. RBS said in November last year that it had scrapped sales targets for staff, in a move designed to ensure customers know they are only being sold products in their best interests. Retail banks in general have cracked down on sales targets, after the industry was forced to pay compensation of over £20bn for selling payment protection insurance to customers who did not need it. At the end of last year, the FCA quietly shelved plans for an inquiry into the culture, pay and behaviour of staff in banking. It had planned to look at whether pay, promotion and other incentives had contributed to scandals involving banks in the past. In November 2015 RBS chief executive Ross McEwan announced that bonuses for staff will be scrapped in an attempt to avoid future mis-selling scandals and there will be no sales targets for staff. DAILY MAIL

Thousands of Post Office workers forced to take pension benefits cut
About half the Post Office’s 7,000-strong workforce is being forced to shift from a final salary pension scheme to a defined contribution scheme, a move that unions say could cut retirement benefits by 30% or even more in some cases. The planned pension cuts were announced just days after the Post Office said it would be looking to put 20 more Crown offices into private hands, taking the total this year to 85 in a process opposed by unions who see it as a form of backdoor privatisation of the service. The Post Office was already facing criticism after agreeing to hand over up to 61 branches to WH Smith in April including some of the 39 Crown offices flagged up to be put into private hands in January. Before that, 50 Crown offices, which are run directly by the Post Office, had been franchised or otherwise offloaded since 2013. Andy Furey, a CWU official, said: “CWU is completely opposed to the closure of the Post Office defined benefits pension scheme. This is another cost-cutting exercise to prop up their balance sheet at the expense of staff. The scheme itself is in rude health, carrying a surplus. We will be balloting our members for strike action over this attack on their quality of life after retirement along with our opposition to the company’s dogged pursuit of closures, privatisation and up to 2,000 job losses.” GUARDIAN

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Thursday, July 07, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
London pays almost a third of UK tax, exposing economic divide
A study by the thinktank the Centre for Cities found that London generated almost as much tax as the next 37 largest cities combined and increased its share of “economy taxes” underpinning the Treasury’s finances to 30%, up five percentage points since 2004/5. Economy taxes are tied to economic growth, the report said, and include income tax and national insurance contributions, VAT, land and property taxes, corporation tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax and stamp duty on shares. Other major cities have seen little or no growth in their tax income over the past decade. The report found that while London generated nearly 25% more tax for the exchequer adjusted for inflation, Manchester’s tax haul grew by only 1%, while it plunged in Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds. The report, which covers 62 cities, said: “In the face of political and economic uncertainty and potential shocks to the economy, the growing reliance on fewer places – and London in particular – to generate more revenues is a risky situation for the exchequer to be in compared to one where more cities are making a positive contribution to the national tax pot.” The findings are likely to intensify debate about government plans to devolve powers and public spending to regional centres based around cities in the Midlands, the north and the west. The thinktank said the research revealed the loss of economic strength in places that mainly voted to leave the EU in the recent referendum. GUARDIAN

Four in five professionals work longer than they are paid for
More than four out of five professionals work more than their contracted hours - and a third never take a lunch break, according to new research. The study suggests businesses are facing an 'alarming' burnout epidemic with 81 per cent of employees working beyond their contracted hours. And those that work in high level positions are twice as likely to work more than 10 hours over their contracted hours (42 per cent) as those at entry level (21 per cent). The survey of 2,600 professionals in sectors such as banking and finance by global professional services recruiter Morgan McKinley found that 75 per cent of employees felt obligated to work beyond their contracted hours. But businesses are not rewarding these staff, with only around one in eight (13 per cent) saying that they are compensated for working extra hours. The figures revealed that less than a third of professionals (32 per cent) believe that they are productive during the extra hours that they work. A third (34 per cent) don't take their lunch break at all, with millennials (21 per cent) being the largest group to have a working day without their lunch break. When they do finally leave the office, three out of four are 'sometimes' or 'always' working from a mobile device. Many businesses have a widening gap between modern business philosophy around 'smart' working, and the reality of old fashioned noses to the grindstone. DAILY MAIL

MasterCard facing £19bn damages claim over inflated card charges
A collective damages claims, led by former financial services ombudsman Walter Merricks – who has instructed US-based law firm Quinn Emanuel, is to be filed under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. It claims MasterCard set unlawfully high interchange fees – charged to stores when shoppers swipe their debit or credit cards – for 16 years, which were passed on to consumers in the form of inflated prices for good and services. In 2014 the European court of justice declared that such fees were a violation of EU antitrust rules. On 29 April last year, the European parliament and the council of the European Union adopted the interchange fee regulation, and caps of 0.2% for debit cards and 0.3% for credit cards came into effect on 9 December. Merricks said: “Although most of us did not know [of the overcharging], experts who study the retail economy knew it was happening – and so did MasterCard.” Boris Bronfentrinker, lead partner at Quinn Emanuel, said: “This is precisely the type of claim for which the new collective action regime was established. This is a landmark case where unlawful anti-competitive conduct has harmed UK consumers. “That harm, likely to be in the hundreds of pounds, is not large enough for any individual consumer to bring their own claim. But by aggregating the claims and bringing them on a collective basis, all UK consumers who lost out will get the compensation they are owed.” GUARDIAN

Four ex-Barclays traders jailed for Libor fraud
Jay Merchant, a 45-year old trader based in New York, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison by judge Anthony Leonard at Southwark Crown Court. He will be joined by his underling Alex Pabon, aged 38, who was given a sentence of two years and nine months. Another junior trader, the 35-year old Libor submitter Jonathan Mathew, was given four years in jail. His boss Peter Johnson, 61, pleaded guilty before the trial and was also given four years. Mr Merchant was told he bore the “greatest responsibility” for the crime, which saw him and his junior trader repeatedly ask Barclays’ Libor submitters to adjust the submission to suit his trading book. As a result Mr Merchant hoped to benefit to the cost of the counterparties on the other side of the trades who, the prosecution said, would not be aware that Libor was being fixed. As Libor is used by borrowers and lenders across the world to set prices in trillions of pounds-worth of loans, deals and derivatives transactions, the traders’ activity could have had a major knock-on effect globally. The manipulation scandal has also hurt banks, including Barclays, which was fined £290m in 2012. The former bankers are expected to serve half of their sentences before being released on licence. The other two defendants – Stylianos Contogoulas and Ryan Reich – will face a retrial, the Serious Fraud Office has announced. Previous trials have seen former UBS and Citi trader Tom Hayes jailed for 11 years, while six former brokers accused of working with him were acquitted. TELEGRAPH

Councils too quick to send in bailiffs, says Citizens Advice
A report from Citizens Advice says some councils also add extra charges, or take court action, rather than arrange manageable repayment plans. The effect is to push people who are in financial difficulty even further into the red. In many cases, council tax payers who miss a monthly payment are then required to pay the whole of the remaining cost for the year in one go. Citizens Advice wants that practice to be stopped. In one case uncovered by the charity, someone who owed £27 to the council found their debt rose to £417 by the time that fees had been charged and bailiffs had been called in. The Local Government Association (LGA) said it agreed that use of bailiffs was a last resort. It said that before that happens, people should have been written to, and helped with alternative payment plans. "Councils have a duty to their residents to collect taxes, so important services are not affected," said an LGA spokesperson. BBC NEWS

Secret deal that may sink final salary: US giant wins landmark fight to walk away from UK pension promise
The move tears apart an important principle of pensions law, which is that any benefits promised to savers cannot be reversed. Engineer CH2M has been given permission to dump 3,000 savers from the Halcrow scheme into the lifeboat Pension Protection Fund after arguing it has no legal responsibility for the promises made to the British workers before it took over the 148-year-old company in 2011. Since then, the black hole on the Halcrow final salary scheme has climbed to £500million. And now, in a deal that is thought to be the first of its kind, CH2M has managed to argue that pensioners must accept lower retirement incomes than they were promised or have the scheme handed over to the PPF. Under this arrangement those who have not yet retired will receive an automatic 10 per cent cut to their payouts. This is also highly unusual as only firms that have gone bust are allowed to put their pension schemes in the PPF. Colorado-based CH2M – which has a number of lucrative contracts including work on the High Speed 2 Railway – is solvent and made a £60million profit last year. It is a move that experts believe poses a threat to thousands of other company schemes which have giant pension deficits, particularly those with foreign owners. Labour MP John Mann, who sits on the Treasury Select Committee, said: 'These employees have paid into the pension and this company shouldn’t be trying to wriggle out of its responsibilities.’ CH2M said that without being able to pare back generous annual cost of living increases the scheme’s members receive, it will have no choice but to put Halcrow into insolvency. The deal has been thrashed out by CH2M, the Pensions Regulator and the trustees of the Halcrow Pension Scheme. DAILY MAIL

Energy inquiry accused of 'turning the clock back'
The CMA report recommended that price comparison websites should no longer be obliged to show deals on which they do not earn a commission. Consumers would therefore be unable to see some of the cheapest deals available. The CMA report was released on June 24, the day of the EU referendum result. Angus MacNeil, the chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) said the CMA's recommendation would mean that price comparison sites would become advertising sites. "This will lead to further consumer distrust of the whole edifice around energy," he said. Six small suppliers previously wrote to the energy secretary, Amber Rudd, to express their concern about the plans. In response, Roger Witcomb, chair of the CMA's energy market investigation panel, said: "What we're doing is putting energy back where motor insurance and home insurance and broadband deals already are," he told MPs. He said that Citizens Advice already runs a website which compares all the energy deals available. "We only need one of those," he said. In February 2015 a report by MPs on the ECCC criticised price comparison sites for "hiding" the cheapest deals. It said consumers who had been misled as a result should receive compensation. The CMA report found that 70% of domestic customers using the big six suppliers were on expensive default variable tariffs. As a result it said that such consumers could save £300 a year by switching. Overall consumers were paying £1.4bn more than they should be, a figure downgraded from the CMA's previous estimate of £1.7bn. BBC NEWS

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Superman?
Labour MPs slipping into their underwear to “rescue” the Labour Party by defenestrating Jeremy Corbyn should beware. They should take heed of the precipitous scene in the 1978 Superman movie, as well as the precipitous destruction of the Liberal Democrat Party in 2015.

As in the Superman (1978) Movie: Labour Party falls from a skyscraper to be caught by SuperLabourMP,

SuperLabourMP: “I’ve got you”
Labour Party: “You’ve got me? Whose got you??”
 


Labour MPs' plotting to subvert the will of ordinary party members who chose Corbyn forget that without the support of those ordinary party members the MPs don't amount to a hill of beans. Labour MPs forget they owe their jobs to their party and its members, and not to their own talents. A survey by the Hansard Society in 2013 found more than three quarters of people didn't even know the name of their own MP. Over a single decade the number who knew even their MP's name dropped from 42% to 22%, such is the irrelevance of the individual MP.


Am I being unfair? Could it be our MPs, like Spiderman and Catwoman, deliberately seek anonymity? So they can go unmolested into their local nailbar for a soothing scrub?

 
Or is it just that most people simply don't care who their MPs individually are? They just vote for the Party because the Party has their support regardless of the person who takes the seat. And when the Party loses their support it will hit the ground with an almighty CRASH! Rather like the Liberal Democrats did in 2015.

Liberal Democrat supporters brutally punished the LibDem parliamentary party for what they regarded as treachery supporting Tory policies during the 2010-15 coalition government.  

Labour Party supporters too will punish their Party for the MPs' treachery. Specifically the party supporters motivated enough to fill envelopes and schlep around canvassing during elections will be motivated enough to stop


Angela Eagle MP seemed to have worked this out. Having been persuaded by more timorous colleagues to be the Forlorn Hope standing against Corbyn, within days she postponed her declaration. Perhaps persuaded by rumblings of discontent from her own constituency party, expressed not least in a "Hello Angela" letter to her:

“Hello Angela

At the CLP [Constituency Labour Party] AGM on Friday 24th June 2016, delegates asked me to write to you to ask you to reject the motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. The meeting was overwhelmingly behind Jeremy continuing as Labour leader. Your appearance on TV during the post referendum programme was mentioned. Your response in putting the question of his leadership aside to deal with the issues was welcomed. The idea that the Labour Party would rather miss the chance to capitalise on the splits in the Tory party by in fighting was not acceptable to members.
On behalf of the constituency I would ask you to make a clear public statement of support for him.

Regards

Kathy Miller & Kathy Runswick
Secretary & Chair Wallasey CLP”


Labour MPs believe the Labour Party's primary purpose is to keep them in a job. They are mistaken. The Labour Parliamentary Party's primary purpose is actually not even to be in Government. The Labour Party's primary purpose is to represent its supporters, whether from the Government or from the Opposition. Ideally by being in government. The same goes for the Conservative and any other party.

Having a Labour Party in Government that does not represent its supporters is the worst of both worlds. With an un-Labour Government and a Tory Opposition, Labour Party supporters are effectively cast adrift.

In fact both Labour and Tory parties have been casting off their supporters over the last 30 years. The British Social Attitudes Survey of 2013 showed both Tories and Labour losing swathes of their traditional supporters. As both parliamentary parties moved to the Right, supporters seemed to have been pushed from Tory and from Labour to None:
 
 
 

The disconnection with traditional supporters is reflected in the takeover of political parties in Parliament by career politicians as shown in a report in 2013 by Parliament's "House of Commons Library". Parties taken over by career politicians who use their parties to support their careers.


A political party's primary purpose is not to keep a few hundred anonymous individuals in comfortable Westminster jobs. 

It is to select people who will represent each party's supporters.

If Labour MPs don't understand this, then they should be replaced. Just as if Tory MPs didn't represent the comfortably off, not just the exceedingly flush, they too should be replaced.
 
Treachery always has unintended consequences. Gove didn't shank Johnson in pursuit of female emancipation. And yet the consequence of his act will likely be the second female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

The Labour MPs' coup wasn't intended to strengthen Jeremy Corbyn, and yet it left him immeasurably stronger. Their rebellion made Corbyn the KingMaker, who can hand the Labour crown that he never wanted to whomever he chooses. The next Labour Leader should be beating a path to Mr.Corbyn's office bearing his CV. The job is in Corbyn's gift.

Perhaps this is Corbyn's destiny:
Step1: Block a new New Labour leader in 2015.
Step2: Anoint a new Labour leader in 2016.
Thereby Corbyn rescues the Labour Party:

Corbyn: “I’ve got you”
Labour Party: “You’ve got me? Whose got you??”
Corbyn: "The party membership! ;)"


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