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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Tesco's rip-off at the tills: Offers on shelves are out of date, but customers aren't told - so pay more
Tesco has been “accidentally” routinely overcharging shoppers at the tills, according to a damning investigation. Most customers do not usually bother to go through their receipt after a shopping trip, assuming supermarket technology will not get prices wrong. But it appears that about two thirds of Tesco’s outlets have not been updating the shelf prices for items regularly enough. And the vast majority of the errors involved overcharging rather than undercharging, the investigation found. The problem involved multi-buy deals that remained advertised on the shelves long after they had ended. Consequently people who were tempted by an offer may have ended up paying full price. For example, packs of Christmas gingerbread were listed at £1.75 each or two for £3, but the saving was not given at the till. Another ‘deal’ involving burgers and bottles of guacamole sauce saw a shopper pay 60 per cent more than the shelf price – an extra £3.30. One store offered two Viennetta ice cream packs for £2, however the till rang up the normal full price of £1.37 each. The findings will raise suspicion that the same thing is happening in other supermarkets and across the high street. A survey of 50 Tesco stores in the West Midlands, Liverpool and Leeds, over a three month period found 33 were regularly short changing customers on offers. When challenged over the discrepancy, Tesco staff honoured the shelf price offer, however trading standards say that was not good enough. Martin Fisher, from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: ‘If customer A has come back and complained and been refunded that doesn’t mean there weren’t 20 other customers who didn’t spot it and didn’t complain.’ One member of staff captured on film said there were not enough people to remove offer labels that are out of date. She said: ‘It’s called short staffed. They’ve cut the department in half.’ In some cases, staff failed to remove out-of-date labels from the shelves even after being warned that the offer prices were wrong. At a Tesco Express in Birmingham, one out-of-date offer price was still on display a month after the error was first pointed out. DAILY MAIL

Businesses are using self-employment laws to avoid tax
The head of Theresa May's inquiry into the way millions of people work has said there is evidence businesses are using self-employment laws to avoid tax. "There is no question - and Phillip Hammond said this in the Autumn Statement - that when self-employment rose that reduces the tax take to the Exchequer," said Matthew Taylor, who is head of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Some were deliberately using so-called gig workers to avoid paying contributions to the Treasury, he said. His comments come on the day a report by the Trades Union Congress says the tax hit from the growth of "insecure work" could be as high as £4bn ($5bn) a year. The TUC said that represented nearly a quarter of the social care budget spent in England. Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed last week that a permanently employed person pays an effective rate of tax of 31% on their income. That falls to 22% for self-employed people, who pay lower levels of national insurance. Businesses also save as they make no national insurance contributions and can avoid maternity and holiday pay entitlements. Because self-employed people tend to be on lower incomes they also receive higher levels of benefits, another cost to the Treasury. BBC NEWS

Nursing degree applications slump after NHS bursaries abolished
Applications by students in England to nursing and midwifery courses at British universities have fallen by 23% after the government abolished NHS bursaries, figures show. Nursing leaders said the sudden slump revealed by the latest university application data was inevitable given that student nurses now faced paying annual tuition fees of more than £9,000. “These figures confirm our worst fears. The nursing workforce is in crisis and if fewer nurses graduate in 2020 it will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation,” said Janet Davies, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. “The outlook is bleak: fewer EU nurses are coming to work in the UK following the Brexit vote, and by 2020 nearly half the workforce will be eligible for retirement. With 24,000 nursing vacancies in the UK, the government needs to take immediate action to encourage more applicants by reinstating student funding and investing in student education. The future of nursing, and the NHS, is in jeopardy.” Universities dismissed talk of a crisis, arguing that undergraduate numbers across other courses fell in 2012 when tuition fees rose to £9,000 a year but later recovered. GUARDIAN

Young men paid less than predecessors, says Resolution Foundation
By the age of 30, young men have earned £12,500 less on average compared to those born between 1966 and 1980, according to the Resolution Foundation. It suggested that men now were more likely to be working in basic service jobs, or part-time, with lower wages. Torsten Bell, executive director at the Foundation, said: "The long-held belief that each generation should do better than the last is under threat. Millennials - those born between 1981 and 2000 - are the first to earn less than their predecessors. "While that in part reflects their misfortune to come of age in the midst of a huge financial crisis, there are wider economic forces that have seen young men in particular slide back." Many found themselves working on reduced hours in shops, bars and restaurants, whereas their predecessors were more likely to have been employed in manufacturing. The proportion of low-paid work carried out by young men has increased by 45% between 1993 and 2015-16, compared with a fall among young women, the report said. This has narrowed the gender pay gap, but for the wrong reasons, it said. "In one sense this is a story of female progress on a massive scale. Women are leaving low paid occupations in their thousands. As public policy has supported female employment, with better maternity and childcare policies, and cultural norms have shifted, more women are finding work that pays a good wage," said report author Daniel Tomlinson. "But, on the flip side, the fact that the UK has a large low-paid service sector economy is something that increasing numbers of young men will now be able to testify to. It's good news that low-paid roles are now more evenly shared between men and women but the way in which this is happening raises serious concerns about what the world of work has to offer some young men... Young women are seeing a lack of generational pay progress and they are only catching-up with their male counterparts because of a deterioration in outcomes for young men.” BBC NEWS

UK tax burden will rise to highest level for 30 years, IFS warns
The amount of tax paid in the UK is poised to reach the highest level in 30 years and will rise even further because of mounting debt and pressure on public services, economic forecasters have said. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that next year more than 37 per cent of Britain's national income will be drawn from tax receipts for the first time since 1986. It said that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, will have to extend public spending cuts into the 2020s and introduce even higher taxes to tackle a £34billion black hole in his Budget. Britain's national debt has now hit its highest level since 1975, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said, leaving the Government more dependent on taxpayers to balance the books. Households and companies have been hit by an array of tax rises over the past decade including rises in VAT, increases in insurance premium tax and higher levels of stamp duty. Theresa May's Government has increased the "tax burden" further with further increases in insurance premium tax and an apprenticeship levy on big businesses. Hundreds of thousands of people have also been dragged into paying the higher rate of tax because the threshold at which it is paid has failed to keep pace with rising inflation. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that spending on social care dropped by over 6 per cent despite a 16 per cent increase in the population of over 65s in the UK. The report warned spending on adult social care "seems likely to continue falling", largely due to the increased pressure of an elderly population and overstretched health budgets. Spending on law and order and schools has also fallen significantly over the last few years. The report said that higher rates of inflation by the end of 2017 will push down household spending, increasing the Government's need to either increase taxes or cut spending. The Government has already announced for £17billion of tax rises over this Parliament, and the IFS believes that Mr Hammond will have to find an extra £34 billion unless he ditches his target of eliminating the state deficit before 2025. Compared with 1986, the last time the Government was so reliant on tax income to balance its books, companies pay significantly less tax but the amount of VAT has increased significantly. Health spending is rising at the slowest rate for a decade, the IFS said, as it warned the Government is not putting enough money into the NHS to cover the growth and increasing age of the UK's population in the years to come. TELEGRAPH

Government begins plans to sell off billions of pounds worth of student debt to private companies
Graduates who took out loans before the 2012 academic year could find themselves making repayments to private lenders buying up contracts from the Student Loans Company (SLC) – a move the Treasury expects to make £12bn from in return. Universities Minister Jo Johnson said there would be no impact on graduates with loans, but union leaders have attacked the decision - with the National Union of Students (NUS) accusing the Government of pulling an “ugly move” on students. Sorana Vieru, NUS Vice President of Higher Education, said: “Selling the loan book to investors is privatisation through the back door. It is outrageous that bankers will profit off the backs of graduates who took out loans because they had no other option.” First to be sold will be the 2002/06 student loan book, which had a face value of £4bn the end of the 2014/15 financial year. Former City lawyer and Advisory Board member for the Intergenerational Foundation think-tank, Estelle Clarke, said "The loans in question already charge expensive monthly compounding interest and purchasers may well seek to receive more money from borrowers.” While the Government insists there will be no changes made to the terms and conditions of loans undertaken, Ms Clarke warned: "The government has a track record of breaking its promises; its ‘press’ position cannot be relied upon”. INDEPENDENT

Hundreds of companies failing to pay minimum wage
The government has named 360 businesses which have failed to pay either the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or the National Living Wage (NLW). Among them are well-known names like Debenhams, Subway, Lloyds Pharmacy and St Mirren Football Club. More than 15,500 workers had to be paid back nearly one million pounds. But that may represent just the tip of the iceberg: The Office for National Statistics has calculated that 362,000 jobs did not pay the NMW in April 2016. The biggest offenders were employers in hairdressing, hospitality and retail. One worker at a dental practice in London's Harley Street was refunded nearly £12,000. Excuses used by businesses for not paying the full basic wage included using tips to top up their pay, making reductions to pay for a Christmas party, or making staff pay for their own uniforms. For the first time the list includes firms which failed to pay the National Living Wage, which was introduced on 1 April 2016 for workers over the age of 25. The current rate is £7.20 an hour. Those under 25 receive the NMW, currently £6.95 for 21 to 24 year-olds, and £5.55 for 18 to 20 year-olds. In total the 360 businesses that broke the law were fined £800,000. However the TUC said that was not a big enough deterrent. It called for higher fines, and more prosecutions. "This should be a wake-up call for employers who value their reputation. If you cheat your staff out of the minimum wage you will be named and shamed," said the TUC's general secretary, Frances O'Grady. "But we also need to see prosecutions and higher fines for the most serious offenders, especially those who deliberately flout the law." The ONS has said that 1.3% of employees are not being paid the minimum, amounting to 178,000 full-time workers, and 184,000 part-time workers. But the TUC believes that even that number is an under-estimate, as it does not take into account those working in internships, or those who may be wrongly classified as self-employed. BBC NEWS

Minister denies 'sweetheart' tax deal with Surrey
In January Surrey Council announced a local referendum on whether to raise council tax by 15% to cover what it said were shortfalls in funding to cover the rising costs of social care. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn later claimed leaked text messages showed ministers were prepared to offer a "sweetheart deal" to Surrey council to avoid the embarrassing referendum. But Mr Javid insisted there was "no memorandum of understanding" between the government and the council. And Surrey County Council said "no deal" had been offered. But plans for their referendum - which are triggered if a local authority proposes a council tax rise of 5% or more - were dropped during a full council meeting on Tuesday. Mr Corbyn asked the prime minister: "So how much did the government offer Surrey to kill this off and is the same sweetheart deal on offer to every council facing the social care crisis created by this government?" Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he was "seeking urgent clarification" about whether Surrey had been "bought off" by the government, adding that cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham had been hit "far harder" by funding cuts. BBC NEWS
Thursday, February 16, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Fee and KJ identify our last remaining hope for social mobility...

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Grammar schools ask parents for donations to cover funding cuts
The government’s plans for a revised “fair funding” formula would mean most grammar schools were worse off as a result of the changes proposed by the education secretary, Justine Greening – at a time when the government is banking on grammar school expansion as a key domestic policy aim. The Grammar School Heads’ Association said more than 100 of the existing 163 grammar schools in England would be worse off as a result of the proposals, with more than 60 suffering deep cuts in annual budgets. The new “fair funding” formula unveiled by Greening at the end of last year would impose cuts on schools in mainly urban and suburban areas, and redistribute funding to more rural regions that have received considerably lower per pupil funding for many years. However, the policy failed to inject any new funds into the school system, meaning that thousands of schools in England with frozen budgets will be further disadvantaged. Grammar schools, which select by academic ability at the age of 11, are worse off than many state schools because of their failure to admit disadvantaged pupils eligible for additional government funding of more than £900 each a year. Altrincham Grammar School for Boys has just 26 students receiving pupil premium funding out of 1,250 students enrolled, or just 2% overall. Schools in England are not allowed to charge pupils for teaching, attending or applying to join a school. But they are allowed to approach parents for donations and to charge for additional activities such as trips. While some grammar schools already ask parents for regular donations, Tim Gartside, the headteacher of Altrincham Grammar School for Boys in Trafford, said his school was considering asking parents for donations of £30 to £40 a month if the new formula goes ahead. Parents of pupils at Latymer school, a grammar school in north London, were told last year that a “very significant financial shortfall” could force it to cut staff, increase class sizes and offer fewer subjects at GCSE and A-level. A letter from the school’s headteacher and governors asked for donations of £30 to £50 a month, and told parents such contributions were “considerably less than the average fees of an independent school”. Other grammar schools known to have asked parents for donations include Southend High School and Ilkley Grammar School.


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FTSE bosses take 2.5 days to earn what you earn all year. Data shows they don't deserve it

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Graphs at a glance: Britain is already a low-pay economy with falling average wages

Is your Cost of Living crisis over?! Average wages are still back where they were 10 years ago

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Thursday, February 02, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Social Care funding crisis: Tory-led Surrey County Council announce referendum on 15 per cent council tax hike
A Tory-controlled council is set to hold a referendum on raising council tax by 15 per cent, after blaming the Government for the looming crisis facing social care. Surrey County Council said it had a "huge gap" in its budget following successive years of cuts to local government funding by ministers. The council, which includes the constituencies of both the Chancellor Philip Hammond and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will need the approval of local voters to bring in the new council tax rate. Such a hike would increase average tax on a Band D property by almost £200, bringing the bill to about £1,500. The leader of the council told Theresa May to stop spending money on foreign aid and instead fund elderly care. Conservative David Hodge blamed the Government for the looming crisis facing social care, saying it has to put up taxes.   He urged the Government to stop spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid. He said: "Government has cut our annual grant by £170 million since 2010 - leaving a huge gap in our budget. Demand for adult social care, learning disabilities and children's services is increasing every year. So I regret, despite us finding £450 million worth of savings from our annual budget, we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax." Local authorities are required to hold a referendum if they want to increase council tax beyond a Whitehall-imposed threshold of 2 per cent. Surrey's proposed referendum would take place on May 4, alongside the local elections. Politicians have been given repeated warnings that the country is facing a looming care crisis, as rising numbers of nursing homes close down in the face of shortages in staff and funding. The Local Government Association (LGS) says councils across Britain will receive £2.2 billion less to run local services in 2017/18 than last year. TELEGRAPH

NHS spending per person will be cut next year, ministers confirm
Numbers released by ministers show NHS England will face a sharp reduction of 0.6 per cent in real terms of per head in the financial year 2018-19. The figures also fly in the face of the Government’s public insistence that it is investing more in the health service, with Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May repeating the mantra of an extra £10bn for the NHS. That claim was debunked by the cross-party Health Committee in the summer, whose chair, Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, said the number was both “incorrect” and “risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash”. In a written statement to the House of Commons health minister Philip Dunne said NHS England’s per capita real terms budget would increase by 3.2 per cent in 2016-17 financial year. However growth would fall sharply next year, down to just a 0.9 per cent increase in 2017. It would then go negative by 2018-19 with a 0.6 per cent fall in real spending per head in that financial year. Growth would remain very low in 2019-20 at 0.2 per cent and 0.9 per cent in the years following. The wider health budget outside the NHS is facing even more sustained cuts, with two years of shrinking resource per head and a maximum growth rate of 0.4 per cent after this year. This includes staff training and public health. NHS trusts are reporting record deficits across the country as funding continues to tighten and fails to keep up with demand or inflation. This week the National Audit Office warned that overstretched A&Es were also having a knock-on effect on other parts of the health service such as ambulances, which they said were increasingly missing targets. The latest numbers of a per capita real terms cut relate only to England, because the health service is devolved to the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments – with Westminster’s controlling England’s system. INDEPENDENT

Your new job stinks, George! Worrying questions over links between Treasury and US finance giant that’s hired Osborne on huge salary
George Osborne was engulfed in a furious row last night over his lucrative new job with one of the world’s biggest investment firms. It emerged that Mr Osborne had met with executives from BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, a total of five times in his final two years as chancellor. Before that, only junior ministers had met with the firm since 2010. His final meeting with the investment management giant came just days before he was sacked by Theresa May in July last year. The former Chancellor has since been handed a part-time role as a senior advisor at BlackRock, which is expected to earn him a six-figure salary. Last night, the Whitehall appointments watchdog was facing questions over why it had waved through Mr Osborne’s appointment without any objections. The so-called Acoba committee wrote to the ex-Chancellor saying it had ‘no concerns’ about him taking the post because he had made no policy decisions relating the bank’s interests. But in another twist yesterday, it emerged that the committee had since been forced to correct the letter - to admit that Mr Osborne did make decisions affecting the asset-management industry. Media reports from two years ago showed how BlackRock had gleefully greeted the ex-Chancellor’s landmark pension reforms, which gave savers control over their pension pots. At the time, the bank said that it was ‘uniquely positioned’ to take advantage. Last night, opposition MPs accused Mr Osborne of ‘trading on his ministerial contacts book’. They described Acoba’s handling of the appointment as an ‘embarassing bungle’ and a ‘farce’. The ex-Chancellor said that he was taking the one-day-a-week role with the firm, which he will take up on top of being an MP, netting him at least £200,000 a year. On top of his MPs’ salary he has earned at least £628,000 from after-dinner speeches following his sacking last July. The Mail revealed last year that two thirds of ministers and officials who then go on to take private sector jobs do so in the same sector they were in charge of when in government. Around 10 per cent of MPs have a second job, earning an average of £46,000 a year of pounds on top of their £74,000 salary. DAILY MAIL

RBS puts aside further £3.1bn for US mortgages fine
The provision is for an expected penalty over the sale of financial products linked to risky mortgages before the 2008 financial crisis. RBS, which is 72% state-owned, has now put £6.7bn aside to cover litigation by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). It means the bank is set to report a loss for 2016, the ninth year in a row that RBS has lost money. Chief executive Ross McEwan has been trying to end RBS's legal wrangles so that the government can sell its stake in the bank, which was the result of a £45.5bn bailout during the financial crisis. RBS's potential US penalty could fall anywhere between $12bn and $20bn, experts say. Most of the big banks have faced litigation over claims they mis-sold toxic mortgage-backed bonds in the run-up to the financial crash. Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank agreed to pay $5.3bn and $7.2bn to settle their respective mis-selling cases in January. The DoJ is suing Barclays for alleged mortgage securities fraud after the bank walked away from negotiations in December. BBC NEWS

Well-paid bosses should not get knighthoods – says Sir Philip Hampton
Sir Philip Hampton, who is chairman of pharmaceuticals group GlaxoSmithKline and was awarded his knighthood for public service, said businesspeople were rewarded with money, and that the honours system should be directed at those who do not benefit from big financial inducements. “The rewards for being in business should be primarily financial and other rewards and appreciations probably should be more directed at people who are not getting financial rewards,” he said. “I think to get both financial rewards and other recognition is a bit too easy.” He also said bonuses ended up paying out even if performance was indifferent, adding: “We should try have a move back to much less incentive pay and, if necessary to keep the level of rewards competitive, more basic pay.” Honours handed to company bosses have been in sharp focus in recent months. In October, MPs voted for Sir Philip Green to lose his knighthood after the collapse of department store of BHS – a symbolic move – while the bribery scandal at Rolls-Royce has sparked calls from Labour for the firm’s former chief executive Sir John Rose to lose his honour. Fred Goodwin, who ran RBS until its £45bn taxpayer bailout in 2008, was stripped of his knighthood in 2012. He was appearing before MPs on the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee and was among a number of witnesses giving evidence on corporate governance. GUARDIAN

One in 10 nursery schools in England face closure within months
There are only 400 maintained nursery schools left in the country, offering high-quality early years education targeted at vulnerable children from difficult and deprived backgrounds. Research for an all-party parliamentary group has found that 45 of those believe they will be forced to close by July, and almost 67% say they will be unsustainable once transitional funding provided by the government to ease the crisis finishes at the end of this parliament. Nursery schools are widely acknowledged to be a “jewel in the crown” of England’s education system, offering high quality education for the youngest children and the best outcomes for those from challenging or deprived backgrounds – 97% are rated either good or outstanding by schools watchdog Ofsted. Campaigners fear, however, that many will be forced to close as local authorities look for savings to meet unprecedented budget cuts and the government’s new early years funding formula – which comes into force in April to support the 30-hour free childcare offer to working parents – reduces nursery school income further. Following an outcry from the sector, the government has found an additional £56m in transitional funding for the next three years to try to ease the crisis. It is also carrying out a consultation to try to find a longer-term solution to funding. But some nursery schools fear they will not survive that long and are worried about the long-term sustainability of the sector. GUARDIAN

Rolls-Royce lobbied ministers to weaken anti-bribery proposals
Rolls-Royce, which this week agreed to pay £671m in penalties after admitting it had engaged in corruption, lobbied ministers to weaken proposed curbs on bribery a decade ago. The effort to dilute anti-bribery regulations was conducted under the leadership of Sir John Rose, the firm’s chief executive until 2011, who is facing calls from Labour to be stripped of his knighthood after the bribery settlement. Documents from a 2004 court case show how Rolls-Royce, in alliance with other multinationals, exerted pressure on the government to water down proposals that were intended to combat bribery. Tony Blair’s government had proposed strengthening rules to stop bribery in contracts that were supported by the UK’s export credit agency and ministers said they were stepping up efforts to prevent UK businesses paying bribes to secure contracts overseas. The then Labour government subsequently diluted the anti-bribery proposals. That decision was challenged in a legal action brought by the anti-corruption campaign group Corner House. As a result, the lobbying documents were released. Sue Hawley, an anti-corruption campaigner involved in the legal action, said: “Clearly Rolls-Royce didn’t want any scrutiny of its agents and commission payments because its main business model was paying bribes via agents to win contracts.” In his judgment approving the Rolls-Royce settlement this week, Sir Brian Leveson described how the firm had systemically used middlemen to funnel “truly vast corrupt payments” to secure contracts. The bribes were paid to win contracts in countries including Indonesia, China, Russia, Thailand, Iraq and Angola, earning more than £250m in profits. GUARDIAN

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Wednesday, February 01, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , ,

SOURCE DAILY MAIL: A shameless ex-Chancellor: the damning extent of Osborne's murky relationship with the Treasury and the finance giant that's just given him a six-figure job
Former Chancellor George Osborne, who is paid £75,000-a-year to fulfil his duties as an MP, will be working one day a week as an adviser to the vast American finance firm, BlackRock. This position will add around £200,000 a year to the household income at the £4million Notting Hill home he shares with wife Frances and their two young children. It has also reignited the long-standing, and increasingly furious, public debate about the grubby ‘revolving door’ between government and the private sector. Since Tony Blair left Downing Street and began lobbying for a mixture of wealthy corporations and dodgy dictators, it has seemingly become almost automatic for ex-Cabinet Ministers to cash in by using the experience they gained in office for commercial gain. This shoddy practice is theoretically regulated by Acoba, a Whitehall appointments watchdog. Yet in the past eight years, it has not attempted to stop one single civil servant or politician from taking up a job. Osborne’s new role at BlackRock was waved through despite the fact that he’d met executives from the finance giant five times during his last two years at the Treasury. Even without this latest scandalous twist about BlackRock, which has sparked calls for a complete revamp of Parliamentary rules, there can be few dethroned senior politicians who have been quite so shameless and proactive as Osborne in their pursuit of a fast buck. His dash for cash began a mere four weeks after being sacked, when he signed up to an American speaking agency called the Washington Speakers’ Bureau. It represents 602 of what it calls ‘the world’s greatest minds’ — including those noted intellectuals Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, George W. Bush, the former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and the magician David Blaine — and has already helped Osborne earn £628,000 and counting since he left the Treasury. Some of the financial institutions that have paid to hear Osborne’s words of wisdom are, however, a rum old bunch. They include the aforementioned HSBC, which has paid vast fines in recent years for money-laundering offences in Mexico and Switzerland, and JP Morgan, which bunged the former Chancellor £141,752 for two speeches. This is the same JP Morgan that was last month fined £288 million by European regulators for interest-rate manipulation. Then there is Citi, who coughed up £85,396 for two Osborne speeches in November (this week it was hit with a £23 million fine in the U.S. for mis-treating mortgage holders), and Aberdeen Asset Management, which spent £51,328 getting him to talk to investors two months ago (and which not long ago paid a £7.2 million penalty to the Financial Conduct Authority for failing to properly protect client funds). Most curious of all, however, is a mysterious organisation called Palmex Derivatives that flew Osborne to New York in October, where it paid him £80,240.16 for giving a two-hour talk. This secretive firm — whose operations are said to include financial and insurance activities, security broking and fund management — has no website, no listed telephone number or email address and was, until December, registered to a detached brick home on a cul-de-sac in Southend-on-Sea. Now listed at a service address in Caterham, Surrey, it has just two directors, a 34-year-old ‘futures and options broker’ called Robert Palmer and his domestic partner Kirsty Lewis, who describes her occupation on Companies House documents as ‘home-maker’. In its last published accounts — up to January 2016 — Palmex listed assets of a mere £54,598, so hiring the former Chancellor appears to represent a huge investment for such an apparently small firm. And there is the intimate nature of the relationship Osborne appears to have forged with his new employer, BlackRock, while his day-job was running the British economy.

SOURCE BBC NEWS: Working age families are still £345 poorer than they were before the financial crisis
The average UK household's disposable income - or spending power - rose by nearly £600 in 2015-16. The typical household had £26,332 to spend after taxes were paid and benefits received, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Senior statistician Claudia Wells said: "Household incomes are above their pre-downturn peak overall, but not everyone is better off... While retired households' incomes have soared in recent years, non-retired households still have less money, on average, than before the crash." The ONS puts growing private pensions ahead of the guaranteed rise in the state pension - under the so-called triple lock - as the long-term reason for the pick-up in pensioners' incomes. Household income has tended to pick up faster over the years owing to an increasing number of couples both in employment. Matt Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: "Strong employment growth, low inflation and rising pensioner incomes over recent years have helped drive inequality down to its lowest level in nearly 30 years... However, the last three years of growth have come back off the back of a living standards squeeze so deep that typical working age families are still £345 poorer than they were before the financial crisis. With employment plateauing, productivity growth refusing to budge and inflation rising, the risk is that this mini boom won't continue."


OUR RELATED STORIES:

The NHS is not a “cost”. It creates nationwide jobs, technology, growth and wealth. Oh, and health

FTSE bosses take 2.5 days to earn what you earn all year. Data shows they don't deserve it

All governments agree to fix the housing crisis. Latest figures show we're still not even trying

Recovery? What recovery?! Bank of England director explains why broke Britain is still broken

Brexit was about inequality in Britain, not immigration. Have our politicians realised this?

See the Stats: Osborne's 2016 budget protected the wealthiest while the most vulnerable suffer

Inequality: the UK has 9 of the 10 poorest regions in Northern Europe. But Inner London is the richest

Graphs at a glance: With highest pay and highest job growth is London sucking the life out of Britain?

Londoners earn 15% more 'cos London is damn expensive! But the poorest 5th in London are paid only 4% more

Graphs at a glance: Britain is already a low-pay economy with falling average wages

Is your Cost of Living crisis over?! Average wages are still back where they were 10 years ago


Thursday, 26 January 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
Where are the jobs and economic growth of tomorrow going to come from? One dead cert is healthcare. So it completely mystifies me that the NHS is always described as a “cost”, whereas increased spending on anything from cars (£71.6bn, up 3%) and games (£4.2bn, up 5%) to soft drinks (£14bn, up 2.7%) and pet products (£4.6bn, up 3%) is celebrated and can win someone a knighthood.

The champions of an economy are the sectors that use high skills, and technological innovation. They are the ones that deliver better products, services, results and overall living standards than they did the year before.

And we’ll always need low and medium skilled jobs. Not just because such jobs support the cutting edge activities, but because getting any product or service out of the door and onto the high street needs skills at every level.

Uniquely, our health industry does it all. From trolley pushers to brain surgeons. From brooms and paperclips to MRI scanners and precision surgical knives.

Healthcare creates jobs from top to bottom within the NHS, and for all the businesses that stock and service the NHS. And on top of all that, uniquely, it does it across the country in every region, rich and poor.

So why are we cutting the NHS? Spending as a percentage of GDP is dropping. Previous governments raised it, recognising it's value in terms of health and wealth.health care spending % GDP

Tory spending per head has flatlined. This is happening while the population is ageing overall, and modern treatments are better yet more expensive.


That’s the core NHS budget. But total health spending in England (which includes things like public health, education and training) is set to fall by almost £5bn over this parliament.

“We can’t afford it!” Why? What were you planning to spend your money on? What makes you think if we spend less on healthcare, we’ll spend it on technology, engineering and other pro-growth sectors in the UK? Give me a tax cut and won’t I spend it on Ubers and coffee, or an imported car that gives one job to a UK car salesman whose skills – polishing a windscreen with his cuff while you sign on the dotted line – haven’t changed since the invention of the car salesman. Our “dazzling” employment figures are holding up overwhelmingly because of the creation of low-skilled, self-employed and zero-hour jobs. As far as UK Plc is concerned, they are dead end jobs.

“We’re cutting NHS fat, not the muscle. They’re efficiency savings.” Show me a report that says the NHS is less efficient than somewhere else. They’re not easy to find. The NHS comes top of most tables. Where it’s beaten (healthy lives: mortality amenable to medical care, infant mortality, and healthy life expectancy at age 60) it’s beaten by countries that simply spend more.

So what’s the difference between spending extra billions via taxes on the NHS, and keeping that money in our pockets so that we can spend it on whatever we like? Big, if you want a modern economy of the top rank (errr... and “universal healthcare free at the point of delivery for all,” you soppy twit). But if you’re offended that someone else (the state) is deciding how your damn money is spent, then you’ll see no difference. Fine, but please take your hands off the nation’s steering wheel, for all our sakes.

Yes, I get it. The right wing ideologues don’t object to spending billions more on the health sector. It’s a sector, and it’s growing, for heaven’s sake! They object to the fact that it’s overwhelmingly publicly owned, and they cannot make profits from it.

Never forget, in the USA where healthcare is the most privatised, health costs leave citizens with less money in their pockets while delivering worse results: $8,233 per capita in the US compared to our $3,268. That's almost £4,000 more spent on healthcare per person, and not on other parts of the economy. It's why the makers and sellers of cars, games, soft drinks and pet products should be the first on the barricades to defend the NHS.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
World's largest fund manager demands cuts to executive pay and bonuses
BlackRock is demanding cuts to director pension entitlements and an end to huge pay rises as UK companies prepare to put their latest pay deals to shareholders. In a letter to the bosses of more than 300 UK companies, the US fund manager said it would only approve salary rises for top executives if firms increase workers’ wages by a similar amount. It is a significant intervention from a company which is a shareholder in every business listed on the FTSE 100 index. BlackRock has $5.1tn (£4.2tn) of investments and describes itself as the world’s largest fund manager. The company’s head of investment stewardship in Europe, Amra Balic, said in the letter that a failure to meet the standards outlined by the fund manager would call into question the quality of the board. She said pay must be linked to performance. “Executive pay should be strongly linked to performance, by which we mean strong and sustainable returns over the long-term, as opposed to short-term hikes in share prices,” she said. One of the issues highlighted by BlackRock is the gap between the pay rises handed out to the most senior executives, and those awarded to the rest of the workforce. Blackrock said: “Pay should only be increased each year, if at all, at the same level of the wider employee base, and in line with inflation... In case of a significant pay increase year-on-year that is out of line with the rest of the workforce, BlackRock expects the company to provide a strong supporting rationale.” Excessive boardroom pay has moved up the national agenda since the financial crisis of 2008 and prime minister Theresa May stated an ambition to crackdown on poor corporate governance in the UK. GUARDIAN

NHS England chief hits back at Theresa May on health service funding
The boss of the NHS in England directly contradicted Theresa May’s claims about how much the government is putting into the health service in a defiant performance in front of MPs hours after reports that Downing Street had lost faith in him. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, told the public accounts committee that the prime minister’s insistence that the service was getting more money than it asked for was not true and asked why under current plans real-terms spending on health would actually fall in 2018-19. May was “stretching it” by claiming that the NHS was getting more than the minimum £8bn by 2020 it asked for, Stevens added, and he complained that health spending is already much lower than in many other European countries. His evidence came as the winter crisis in the NHS deepened further. At least 23 NHS trusts in England have had to declare a black alert this week alone as hospitals implement extraordinary measures to cope with a surge in demand. Freezing weather expected to imminently affect most of Britain could increase the pressures on already over-stretched hospitals, doctors are warning. At the select committee, Stevens held up a page from the Daily Mail to argue the NHS has fewer medics, beds and scanners per head than other countries in Europe, to contradict the suggestion that NHS spending was in line with the average for OECD countries, which he said included countries such as Mexico. The chief executive also took issue with May’s claim that the government would be giving the NHS an extra £10bn by 2020, and described the cuts to capital expenditure within the health service as “robbing Paul to pay Paul”. GUARDIAN

Dieselgate: UK motorists file class-action suit against VW
Thousands of British motorists have launched a lawsuit against Volkswagen over the “dieselgate” emissions scandal, in a claim that could end up costing the carmaker billions of pounds. The group of 10,000 VW owners has filed a class action lawsuit against the German car firm, seeking £30m, or £3,000 each. If the company had to pay £3,000 to each of the 1.2 million people who own affected cars, including its Škoda, Audi and Seat marques, it would cost about £3.6bn. The German firm has yet to reach a settlement with British and European owners affected by the scandal, in which the company admitted using “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests, making its cars appears greener than they were. It has not compensated British owners despite reaching a £15bn settlement with 500,000 US drivers, offering instead to fix affected vehicles. The class action suit, which is being led by law firm Harcus Sinclair, is expected to claim that drivers should be compensated because they paid extra for what they thought were clean diesel cars. In fact, Harcus Sinclair alleged in a statement on its website that the cars emitted far higher levels of NOx – a mixture of pollutants nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide – than stated. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, NOx emissions cause 23,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. The law firm’s application for group litigation, which is free for claimants to join, will be heard in the high court on 30 January. GUARDIAN

U.K. Workers Worse Off Than Pre-Crisis as Generational Gap Opens
Median U.K. household disposable income rose 2.2 percent to 26,332 pounds ($32,000) in the 12 months through March, the Office for National Statistics said in a report on Tuesday. But that gain hides disparities between working households, whose 0.2 percent increase lagged the 3.1 percent enjoyed by retired households. That left the median income for workers 1.2 percent below its pre-crisis value. The report comes after the Institute for Fiscal Studies said British workers are facing the longest period of wage stagnation in at least 70 years as faster inflation and lower productivity eat into pay packets. Some commentators say inequality is rising in the U.K., and it’s been cited as driving the rise of a populist and nationalistic backlash in politics and may have even partly fueled the Brexit vote. The latest ONS data contrasts with the assertion that incomes are diverging, with the figures showing the least well-off households have benefited from a bigger rise over the past decade. The median disposable income for the poorest fifth of households rose by 5.1 percent in the 12 months through March, while it fell 1.9 percent for the richest fifth. Still, perceptions of rising inequality have meant the issue is receiving increasing attention, with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney devoting a speech to it last month. He questioned the view that disparity in incomes was growing, saying the picture was complex, “but in general suggests relatively stable but high levels of overall inequality.” In the governor’s view, made in his last major speech of 2016, “it is no wonder that many question their prospects.” Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party, said on Tuesday he backs introducing a limit on high earnings to prevent inequality increasing in Britain after Brexit. The Adam Smith Institute, a London-based research group, criticized the idea, saying it would prevent the U.K. from attracting the best executives to run its biggest companies. “I would like there to be some kind of high-earnings cap,” Corbyn told BBC Radio 4. “We cannot set ourselves up to be a grossly unequal bargain-basement economy on the shores of Europe.” BLOOMBERG

“Anti-tout” Robbie Williams' company puts his tickets directly on resale sites at higher prices
Tickets on Ticketmaster for seats on level one, block 126 - for Robbie Williams's gig at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, on Friday 2 June 2017 - were found by the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme to be priced at £95, before fees. But on Get Me In, for "platinum" seats on level one, block 125, at the same gig, seats were priced at £160 before fees - £65 more expensive. Because the tickets came straight from the artist's management team, all the profit goes directly to them. But Williams's management, ie:music, has previously called on the government to take stronger action against resale sites. In November 2015, his company signed a petition saying: "We as artist, managers and agents deplore the increasing industrial-scale abuse and insider exploitation of tickets for music, arts and sports events by ticket touts, and their online associates and facilitators." Conservative MP Andrew Bingham, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said that "somehow, [touts] have worked a way round of abusing this [resale] system". He said it appeared that some artists' management teams were "now also complicit in it as well". In December, the Competition and Marketing Authority announced it was to investigate the resale ticketing market, to ensure sales were complying with consumer rights laws. The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme also found resale websites StubHub, Get Me In and Seatwave were providing specialist software - which could be used by touts - to enable users to sell large volumes of tickets through their platforms. BBC NEWS

Court forces Rolls-Royce to pay £671m bribery settlement
The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) found conspiracy to corrupt or failure to prevent bribery by Rolls-Royce in China, India and other markets. The firm apologised "unreservedly" for the cases spanning nearly 25 years. A UK court ruled the aerospace firm would pay £497m plus costs to the SFO, which conducted its biggest ever investigation into the firm. In one example, in Indonesia, senior Rolls-Royce employees agreed to pay $2.2m and give a Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit car to an intermediary. There was an "inference" that this money was a reward for the intermediary "showing favour" to Rolls-Royce in respect of a contract for Trent 700 engines, used in airplanes, the SFO said. The SFO revealed 12 counts of conspiracy to corrupt or failure to prevent bribery in seven countries - Indonesia, Thailand, India, Russia, Nigeria, China and Malaysia. Rolls-Royce said it would also pay $170m (£141m) to the US Justice Department, and a further $26m (£21.5m) to Brazilian regulators. Described by the judge as "a jewel in the UK's industrial crown", Rolls-Royce makes engines for military and civil planes, as well as for trains, ships, nuclear submarines and power stations. The agreement between the SFO and Rolls-Royce, approved by the court on Tuesday, is known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). It is only the third such agreement that the SFO has struck since they were first introduced into UK law in 2014. They allow organisations to pay huge penalties, but avoid prosecution, if they freely confess to economic crimes such as fraud or bribery. That means there are still questions about whether "justice has been served", said Robert Barrington, executive director at Transparency International UK. "Individuals haven't been held to account and the markets - when the share price has gone up today - are perhaps suggesting this isn't really a punishment or deterrent," Mr Barrington said. The firm's shares finished nearly 4.5% higher on the news of the settlements and the company's announcement that its 2016 profits would beat expectations. BBC NEWS

EE mobile firm fined £2.7m for overcharging customers
The watchdog found that the UK's biggest mobile network broke a billing rule on two occasions. Users who called its 150 customer services number while roaming within the EU were incorrectly charged as if they had called the US. That meant customers were charged £1.20 a minute, rather than 19p. As a result, more than 32,145 customers were overcharged a total of £245,000. Despite calls or texts to the 150 number from within the EU becoming free from 18 November 2015, EE continued to bill more than 7,600 customers until 11 January 2016 who were overcharged £2,203. Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's consumer group director, told the BBC: "We all rely on big companies to get the most basic things right, and that includes charging the right bills... we uncovered a catalogue of errors." Most customers have been refunded, although EE could not identify at least 6,900 who were more than £60,000 out of pocket. EE has donated about £62,000 to charity in lieu of this sum, but Ofcom has ordered the company to make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged. Current and former customers who believe they have been overcharged can contact EE on 0800 956 6000. In October, Ofcom fined Vodafone a record £4.6m for "serious" breaches of consumer protection rules. The regulator found the mobile operator had misled more than 10,000 pay-as-you-go customers, charging them for top-up credit but "providing nothing in return", and had broken the rules on handling customer complaints. BBC NEWS

US accuses Fiat Chrysler of excess diesel emissions
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of illegally using hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected, the result of a probe that stemmed from regulators' investigation of rival Volkswagen AG. FCA shares plummeted as the maximum fine is about $4.6 billion. The EPA action affects 104,000 U.S. trucks and SUVs sold since 2014, about one-sixth the vehicles in the Volkswagen case. The EPA and California Air Resources Board told Fiat Chrysler it believes its undeclared auxiliary emissions control software allowed vehicles to generate excess pollution in violation of the law and each issued notices of violation. Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne angrily rejected the allegations at a hastily-assembled conference call with reporters, saying there was no wrongdoing and the company never attempted to create software to cheat emissions rules by detecting when the vehicle was in test mode. He characterized the dispute as whether the automaker had completely disclosed software that protects the engine, adding the company was planning updated software to address EPA concerns. He said the EPA and the company could have settled the issue in "a more efficient way" without the EPA announcement, and he said "I'm really pissed off" about reports that equate FCA's issues with VW's. He also suggested regulators had a "belligerent" view of automakers. "We don't belong to a class of criminals," he said. "We're not trying to break the bloody law." The company has no plans to stop selling 2016 U.S. diesel models. EPA has reviews ongoing of other automakers' emissions systems, but it is not clear if they have found any additional wrongdoing. Regulators said FCA failed to disclose engine management software in 104,000 U.S. 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). Cynthia Giles, an EPA official, said Fiat Chrysler had an obligation to disclose the "illegal software" but has not decided whether to label them "defeat devices." The EPA said it found at least eight undisclosed pieces of software that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution. Fiat Chrysler had recalled vehicles for one of the undisclosed software. By contesting the charge, FCA will push the case into the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. It is not clear how Trump’s EPA will handle this or similar issues. Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a critic of federal environmental regulation, to lead EPA. Efraim Levy, analyst with CFRA, said FCA stands to "get a fresh start with the Trump administration." REUTERS

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , , ,
KJ and Fee celebrate Theresa May's Tory u-turn, for the moment...
For we know what happens when mainstream, centre-ground politics fails. People embrace the fringe – the politics of division and despair. They turn to those who offer easy answers – who claim to understand people’s problems and always know what – and who – to blame. We see those fringe voices gaining prominence in some countries across Europe today – voices from the hard-left and the far-right stepping forward and sensing that this is their time. But they stand on the shoulders of mainstream politicians who have allowed unfairness and division to grow by ignoring the legitimate concerns of ordinary people for too long. Politicians who embraced the twin pillars of liberalism and globalisation as the great forces for good that they are, but failed to understand that for too many people – particularly those on modest to low incomes living in rich countries like our own – those forces are something to be concerned, not thrilled, about. Politicians who supported and promoted an economic system that works well for a privileged few, but failed to ensure that the prosperity generated by free markets and free trade is shared by everyone, in every corner and community of their land.

The plans aim to make mental health an everyday concern for every bit of the system, helping ensure that no one affected by mental ill-health goes unattended. It includes... new ways to right the injustices people with mental health problems face. Despite known links between debt and mental health, currently hundreds of mental health patients are charged up to £300 by their GP for a form to prove they have mental health issues.


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