Monday 6 November 2017

Monday, November 06, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Paradise Papers: Queen and Bono kept money in offshore funds, leaked files reveal
The Queen, Bono and one of Donald Trump's closest advisors are among those whose offshore investments have been revealed in the largest ever leak dubbed the "Paradise Papers". The 13.4million files, which were obtained after a hack on law firm Appleby which has offices in Bermuda, the Isle of Man and a number of other tax havens, show the complex financial dealings of the super-rich and  major global corporations. Tory donor Lord Michael Ashcroft, Donald Trump's advisor Wilbur Ross and Arsenal football club stakeholder Alisher Usmanov have been named in the documents alongside Stephen Bronfman, chief fundraiser and senior adviser to the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau and a dozen of Trump administration advisers, Cabinet members or major donors who appeared in the records. They documents show that in 2005 the Queen's private estate invested £7.5m in Dover Street VI Cayman Fund LP, held on the Cayman Islands, which in turn invested in BrightHouse, a rent-to-own firm which has been criticised for irresponsible lending, and off-licence chain Threshers. The Queen does not manage the Duchy of Lancaster's investments, which are decided by a council, and pays tax voluntarily on any income. However it is the first time that the Queen's offshore investments have been revealed. It comes just a year after the release of the so-called "Panama Papers", in which the hidden millions of some of the world's richest and most powerful were exposed sparking the downfall of several governments around the world. TELEGRAPH

David Cameron's former energy minister lands top job as chairman of metals firm owned by Russian oligarch
Greg Barker has been hired by the high-profile oligarch Oleg Deripaska at his firm EN+. The firm hopes the hiring will boost the firm's credentials as it prepares to ask UK investors for money by selling shares on the London stock exchange. Lord Barker is the latest former minister in the Cameron government to accept a job in the corporate world. Earlier this year it was revealed that 52 former ministers now have jobs outside Parliament. A host of ministers from David Cameron's Coalition have roles in the private sector, including pensions minister Steve Webb and Owen Paterson, the ex-Northern Ireland Secretary. Lord Barker, who was given a peerage in 2015 and organised a PR trip to the Arctic in 2006 to promote Cameron's green credentials, has also worked for Russian oil oligarch Roman Abramovich. Critics said it was yet another example of the harmful revolving door between ministers and industry. Stefan Stern, director of the High Pay Centre, which campaigns against high corporate pay, said: 'It is a concern if people see politics and a political career as some kind of stepping stone or halfway house to their real career.' DAILY MAIL

HSBC accused of “possible criminal complicity” in South Africa scandal
Lord Hain said he had handed new evidence to the chancellor about the alleged involvement of a British bank in the “flagrant robbery” of South African taxpayers. The Gupta corruption scandal began when the Indian-born family was accused of allegedly using its vast wealth to wield influence over South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma. The Guptas and Zuma deny any wrongdoing. Hain told the Lords he had obtained information that “shows illegal transfers of funds from South Africa made by the Gupta family over the last few years from their South African accounts to accounts held in Dubai and Hong Kong... Many of the transactions are legitimate, but many certainly are not... The latter illicit transactions were flagged internally as suspicious, but I am informed that they were told by the UK headquarters to ignore it.” Hain said the transactions were disguised, originating from one bank account before being split in a number of different accounts. The former Labour minister’s latest intervention comes two weeks after the chancellor referred concerns about Standard Chartered and HSBC to the FCA, SFO and NCA. He did so after Hain wrote to him saying high-level sources in South Africa had alerted him to the exposure of British financial institutions to the affair. GUARDIAN

UK mobile phone firms overcharging customers after contracts expire
Three of Britain’s biggest mobile phone networks keep charging customers extra for their handsets after they have been paid off, leaving them up to £38 a month worse off, a consumer group has said. Citizens Advice found that Vodafone, EE and Three were overcharging customers who failed to change their contract an average of £22 a month, rising to £38 a month for buyers of premium phones including the Samsung Galaxy S8, Apple iPhone and Sony Xperia XZ Premium. Many contracts are paid monthly over two years and cover the cost of the customer’s phones, which can be hundreds of pounds to buy outright. At the end of the contract, the customer owns the handset and is free to stay on the contract or switch. However, Citizens Advice research found that Vodafone, EE and Three continued charging customers the same amount as when they were paying for the handset. Over-65s were the most likely to be caught out, with 23% on a handset-inclusive deal remaining on it for more than 12 months past the end of the fixed contract, compared with 13% of under-65s. Overall, 36% of people with a handset-inclusive mobile phone contract stayed on it beyond the fixed period, with 19% staying in the same contract for more than six months afterwards. Nina Bibby, chief marketing officer of O2, accused their rivals of undermining trust and reputation in the mobile phone industry, and said they separated device and service charges in monthly bills: “We’d like to see the other operators review their position and follow our lead.” GUARDIAN

One in four people 'trapped' in low-paid jobs with 'little chance of escape'
Low pay is "endemic" in the UK, especially among women in their early 20s who juggle work with childcare responsibilities, said the Social Mobility Commission. Research showed that only one in six low paid workers managed a permanent move to better paid jobs in the past decade, with half fluctuating in and out. On average, people stuck on low pay have seen their hourly wages rise by just 40p in real terms over the last decade, compared to a £4.83 pay rise for those who have permanently "escaped", said the report. Older people are less likely to leave low paid jobs than their younger counterpart, while low paid workers were mostly likely to escape in Scotland and least likely to escape in the North East, it was revealed. Conor D'Arcy, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, which conducted the study, said: "Britain has one of the highest proportions of low paid work in the developed world, and while three-quarters of low-paid workers did manage to move into higher-paying roles at some point over the past decade, the vast majority couldn't sustain that progress. This lack of pay progress can have a huge scarring effect on people's lifetime living standards.” TELEGRAPH

Insurers 'burying price rises' in renewal letters
Rules introduced in April require companies to "clearly, accurately and prominently" display a renewal premium and what was paid the year before. A message to encourage customers to shop around is also stipulated, under rules set by the regulator. The new rules were expected to collectively save consumers up to £103m a year - but the regulator has said some insurers and brokers are failing to follow the rules properly. The trade body for insurers said there had been "teething problems" with implementing the new system. The rules cover all general insurance products, such as home, motor, pet and travel cover. Steven Murdoch, from London, complained to John Lewis Insurance that there was not a like-for-like comparison on renewal documents for home insurance. It gives last year's premium in bold after the extra cost of paying monthly direct debit is added, but the new quotation has the price in bold before the direct debit charge is added. "It looks like the premium is about the same, when in fact it's an 8% increase," he said. The extra charge is shown in less prominent type. Admiral - one of the largest insurers in the UK and a FTSE 100 company - gave last year's quoted premium, before discounts were applied, rather than the amount that the customer actually paid. M&S had not used the correct wording in its four-year renewal offer for some customers. Ian Hughes, chief executive of research agency Consumer Intelligence said that, although implementation had been "patchy" there were signs of a rise in longstanding customers shopping around for a better deal in motor insurance. Switching rates had changed little, but that seemed to be because customers were being offered a more competitive deal from their original insurer or were haggling on price. BBC NEWS

EU raids Daimler and VW in widening cartel inquiry
The EU competition watchdog said in July that it was investigating several German carmakers on suspicion they had conspired to fix prices in diesel and other technologies over several decades. Daimler unexpectedly revealed on Friday that it had claimed whistleblower status to avoid any fines, while Munich-based rival BMW said EU officials searched its offices. German magazine Der Spiegel reported in July that Volkswagen, its units Porsche and Audi, Daimler’s Mercedes and BMW may have used industry committee meetings to fix the size of tanks for AdBlue, a liquid used to treat nitrogen oxide in diesel emissions. Strategic cooperation among German carmakers is not unusual, but companies found guilty of breaching EU cartel rules face fines of as much as 10 percent of their global turnover. The industry has been hit with billion-euro fines on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years for cartels related to parts including lighting systems, engine coolers and bearings. REUTERS

£250m Tesco fraud trial hears two staff quit over their concerns
Tesco's former finance head, managing director and food commercial boss deny charges of fraud by abuse of position and false accounting. Carl Rogberg, 50, Chris Bush, 51, and John Scouler, 49, are alleged to have failed to correct inaccurately recorded income figures. The trial into alleged fraud at Tesco has now heard that two members of its finance department resigned in 2014 over concerns they may be compromising their professional integrity. The two were unhappy about what they were being asked to do by bosses. The situation had left some staff "in tears", and afraid they would compromise their professional integrity if they continued to work at Tesco. The prosecutor told the court about Richard Parsons, a project manager at the supermarket, who in an exit interview said: "It has broken me" and that he was angry at having been put in a position which compromised his ethics. Jurors also heard that former Tesco accountant Aysen Nadiri quit her role on August 26 2014. She had said senior Tesco management refused to accept targets could not be met and they had a disregard, in Miss Nadiri's view, for proper accounting principles. The court also heard that one of Tesco's senior accountants, Amit Soni, who eventually presented findings of the hole in the accounts to the board, spent weeks agonising about what he was going to do. In an email on September 3 2014, he told colleagues: "Keep the file with you, the whistle is about to blow." He added: "It has consumed my life in the last four to five weeks, collecting information in secret, getting my team to understand what I want and then doing it in a subtle way and only on my desktop." BBC NEWS

Kobe Steel uncovers more evidence of quality mistakes
Scandal-hit Kobe Steel has found fresh evidence of mistakes with data on the quality of its products. The Japanese company said it had uncovered a new case of fake data involving steel, and had also halted some copper shipments from a plant. Kobe also said it had found a case of employees not reporting evidence to an internal investigation. The number of companies that may have used Kobe steel which was not correctly certified is about 500, including carmaker Daimler, aircraft manufacturer Airbus, and the maker of Japan's bullet trains. Among the new cases uncovered, the thickness of steel supplied to customers "was fabricated", a Kobe spokesman told the BBC. Kobe said that 3,793 tonnes of steel plates shipped to one customer had the wrong measurements. The company has also stopped shipping about 43% of copper products from its Hatano plant, near Tokyo, because it was found to violate Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) regulations, Kobe said on Friday. When asked whether the problem of data fabrication could have been going on for more than a decade, the spokesman said: "It could be longer than a decade, we are looking into it now." BBC NEWS

Sunday 1 October 2017

Sunday, October 01, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Supermarket chicken supplier 2 Sisters suspends operations
It comes after allegations that workers had changed slaughter dates to extend the shelf life of meat. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also been investigating the claims. The Guardian and ITV News claimed an undercover reporter witnessed workers changing the "kill dates" on chickens. They also allegedly saw meat of different ages being mixed together and codes on crates of meat altered. In a statement, the company said an internal investigation had shown "some isolated instances of non-compliance" at its plant in West Bromwich: "We will only recommence supply once we are satisfied that our colleagues have been appropriately retrained." Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl and The Co-op have stopped taking chickens from the site while investigations take place. The company also supplies Tesco and Sainsbury's, which are looking into the allegations. BBC NEWS

'Bullying' Tesco executives falsified profits to boost salaries in scam which wiped £2bn off firm's value, court hears
Carl Rogberg, 50, Chris Bush, 51, and John Scouler, 49, are accused of falsifying profits to boost their own incomes in a scandal which sent "shockwaves" through the stock market. The supermarket made a public announcement to the stock market on September 22, 2014 which stated that it had previously over-estimated its profits by £250 million, Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday. It led to its shares falling by 12 per cent, wiping £2 billion off its total share value. Tesco's former finance chief, managing director and food commercial head are charged with fraud by abuse of position and false accounting between February and September 2014. Sasha Wass QC told the jury: "Each of these three defendants used their managerial authority and actively encouraged those working beneath them to falsify the figures and, when those subordinate employees objected, the subordinate employees were bullied or coerced into carrying on with this practice." The court heard that Mr Rogberg, who was "directly responsible" for authorising the falsified figures, received a remuneration package of more than £1 million in 2014. Mr Bush, who was in charge of the performance and "integrity" of Tesco at the time, received nearly £3 million that year, and Mr Scouler, who allegedly directed those beneath him to falsify income figures, received around £1.5 million. Ms Wass added: "Each defendant would have had a very personal interest in keeping the share value of the company high, because a lot of their remuneration package included shares," she said. TELEGRAPH

HSBC fined £175m over insider information being used in its currency trading business
The penalty was issued because the bank failed to stop traders using inside information from clients. It comes as former HSBC trader Mark Johnson, who is British, is tried in New York for allegedly making gains from a £3billion currency deal. Johnson denies 'front-running' a deal made by British firm Cairn Energy by buying the sterling ahead of the transaction and then netting the bank billions of dollars when it went up and he sold later. With regards to the fine, the Fed said HSBC 'failed to detect and address its traders misusing confidential customer information, as well as using electronic chatrooms to communicate with competitors about their trading positions'. DAILY MAIL investigated over alleged deals with insurers
The site faces allegations that it has done deals with insurers that prevent them from making cheaper offers on other websites – known in the trade as most favoured nation clauses. Over the last decade price comparison websites have become a major seller of insurance products as they can be used by consumers to simultaneously check prices with hundreds of insurers. The market is dominated by four big comparison websites:,, and The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had been investigating whether the sector was operating as transparently as it should. It is thought that an insurance policy sold to a consumer following a comparison site search can net that website as much as £60 commission, although payments are rarely disclosed. GUARDIAN

How power giants trick and bully us into getting smart meters: Suppliers arrange fittings without being asked and threaten to take away cheap deals
Suppliers have been ordered by the Government to offer smart meters to all households in Britain by 2020 and face fines if they fail to meet the deadline. Customers are not obliged to say 'yes' and can refuse to have one installed. Yet customers have been bombarded with calls, texts and letters even after they have refused one. At least one major firm is sending out letters saying they have made a smart meter installation appointment, despite the customer never requesting one. Another says this is something they are trialling. If customers do not want a new meter, they have to call and cancel, or an engineer will just turn up. Suppliers are also sending out letters and texts to customers that fail to make it clear that smart meters are optional. EDF Energy is texting customers: 'We need to upgrade your meter to a smart meter', while E.ON is sending letters that state in bold, red type: 'Reminder: your meter is being phased out'. Scottish Power's letters say 'Action required' next to a large, red exclamation mark. Some E.ON customers have even been told they face losing their cheap deal if they refuse to have a new meter. And last week, the supplier said it would replace its expensive standard tariffs with rolling deals that cost up to £262 a year less — but only if customers get a smart meter first. But as many as one in five UK households says they do not want one. Some are concerned about how their personal data will be used. Others don't want the hassle of waiting in for an engineer to call. Many more are reluctant after learning that most of the 7.36 million meters already installed will stop working if you switch to a different supplier. Money Mail does understand that this problem will be fixed through a software update — without an engineer even needing to visit. But no details have been confirmed so far. DAILY MAIL

Ryanair law breach leaves UK regulator CAA 'furious'
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched "enforcement action" against Ryanair for wrongly claiming it did not have to re-route passengers on rival airlines. The CAA's chief executive Andrew Haines said: "People shouldn't have to choose between low fares and legal rights." Mr Haines singled out Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary for particular criticism, telling Radio 5live: "Michael himself said he wasn't going to pay for passengers to fly on other airlines. That's against the law.” In September, the airline announced the cancellation of up to 50 flights a day through to the end of October, affecting 400,000 passengers. A fresh round of flight cancellations will be between November and March and affect the travel plans of a further 400,000 customers. The regulator said that on both occasions Ryanair had failed to provide customers with "necessary and accurate" information about their rights. The CAA said information provided on Ryanair's website failed to make it clear that the airline was obliged to refund all expenses incurred as a result of the flight cancellation. Those expenses included meals, hotels, as well as transfer costs to re-route passengers on other airlines when there was no suitable alternative, the CAA said. The airline has said that passengers affected by the move will be offered alternative flights or full refunds and had been emailed about advising them of flight changes occurring until the end of October. They will also be offered vouchers of 40 euros (£35) one way, or 80 euros return, towards alternative flights on top of any refund. Ryanair has blamed the series of flight cancellations on "messing up" pilot holiday rosters. BBC NEWS

Uber: London Mayor backs talks after firm's apology
Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi issued the apology after the taxi-hailing firm lost its London licence. Mr Khosrowshahi said in an open letter that Uber would appeal against the city's decision, but accepted the company "must change". In deciding not to renew Uber's licence beyond the end of September, TfL cited concerns about the firm's treatment of criminal offences, medical certificates, and drivers' background checks. The firm, which is used by an estimated 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in London, also says it will continue operating while its appeal is heard. Mr Khosrowshahi, who took over at the firm less than a month ago, wrote on Monday: "While Uber has revolutionised the way people move in cities around the world, it's equally true that we've got things wrong along the way." "On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologise for the mistakes we've made," Mr Khosrowshahi said. Earlier, Mayor Sadiq Khan accused Uber of putting "unfair pressure" on TfL, with an "army" of PR experts and lawyers. BBC NEWS

Sunday 17 September 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:

Writing off student debt can cost £10bn, not £100bn, says IFS
The figures are well below the £100bn quoted by the universities minister, Jo Johnson, and other members of the government this year as they sought to push back against suggestions by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, that his party would end tuition fees and “deal with” existing student debts. As the IFS pointed out, the £100bn is the total for all student loans, including those for maintenance, for students from outside England, and for those incurred after fees were introduced in 1998 but before they were raised to £9,000 a year in 2012. If only post-2012 debt for tuition for students from England was scrapped, the policy would increase government debt by around 1% of national income by 2050, or around £20bn in today’s terms. The IFS also calculated that delaying the decision until the end of the current parliament in 2022 would raise that bill from £20bn to £60bn. A cheaper alternative would be to write off tuition fee debt above the £3,465 level of undergraduate fees charged before 2012 – which would add £10bn to government debt. The analysis also cautioned that the main beneficiaries of wiping out the debts would be high-earning graduates, given that they pay back a higher percentage of their loans than other graduates. That is because student loan debt that is not repaid after 30 years (i.e. by low-earning graduates) is anyway going to be forgiven. Therefore the government could pay for the additional debt with a “modest increase” in the top rate of income tax, the IFS suggested. Earlier this year the IFS calculated that young people from the poorest 40% of families entering university in England for the first time this year will emerge with average debts of around £57,000. GUARDIAN

One in ten British adults now a second-home owner, leaving millions of properties empty
The figures published by the Resolution Foundation show that the number of people with multiple properties rose from 1.6m to 5.2m between 2000 and 2014 - a 30 per cent increase in the proportion of adults who owned more than one home. The analysis also suggested that most of these owners are not landlords, with just 3.4 per cent of adults letting property out. This would mean that 6.6 per cent of adults, or 3.4m people, have extra properties that they leave empty as an investment or use as holiday homes. Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said that properties not being used for rental could include "holiday homes, flats that adult kids live in for free, empty properties they’re speculating on, MP’s with London flats and constituency houses, people who’ve inherited their recently deceased parent’s home and haven’t worked out what to do with it yet". The think-tank examined data from the British Household Panel Survey and the Office for National Statistics to find that while overall home-ownership has plummeted, second home-ownership has risen dramatically. The proportion of adults owning any property rose to a high of almost 66 per cent in 2002 but has since fallen to just over 60 per cent. The majority of those owning second or third homes were based in the wealthiest areas of the UK, the report added. Almost six in ten landlords are based in the South East or South West, the East of England and London. "This is where the young people are struggling to get on to the property ladder which is why towns are banning holiday homes," said Paula Higgins, of pressure group the Homeowners Alliance. "These people have had years and years of benefit from a rising housing market - but you shouldn't be making more money off your house than you do from going to work." Last year the Cornish town of St Ives voted to ban the building of second homes. The town, dubbed Kensington-on-Sea because of its popularity with well-heeled west Londoners, held a referendum last May after figures revealed that one in four new properties were being used as second homes. TELEGRAPH

Majority believe public sector pay cap has been unjustifiable and now is the time to end it, new poll says
Asked about the restraints on public sector pay since 2010, 51 per cent of those polled said they have been unjustified while just 26 per cent said the Government had been justified in using the austerity measures. A larger majority – 62 per cent – said now is the “right time” to lift the restraints on workers’ pay in the public sector with just 14 per cent agreeing with the statement “it is not the right time”. But the poll also highlights that the Prime Minister has limited political capital to gain from lifting the cap, with more people interpreting the end of the contentious policy as a victory for the Labour leader. Downing Street said earlier this week that the seven-year public sector pay cap is to be scrapped, unveiling a 1.7 per cent hike for prison officers and improvements totalling 2 per cent in policy pay for 2017-18. It is expected that ministers will announce further rises for other workers in the public sector at the Chancellor’s Budget in November. INDEPENDENT

National Audit Office points finger at Government welfare reforms over steep rise in homelessness
The latest report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on homelessness states that the number of households living in temporary accommodation in England has increased by 60 per cent — to 77,240 — in the six years since March 2011. These households now contained 120,540 children: an increase of 73 per cent in the same period. Since 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions has introduced a series of welfare reforms designed to reduce overall welfare spending and provide incentives for benefit recipients to take up employment. This included lowering the benefit cap on household incomes. “At the same time,” the NAO says, “rents in the private rented sector in much of the country — London in particular — have increased faster than wage growth. All of these factors appear to have contributed to private rented properties becoming less affordable, which in turn is likely to be contributing to homelessness caused by the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy.” The proportion of households accepted as homeless by local authorities “due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy” increased from 11 per cent in 2010 to 32 per cent this year, it says. In London, the proportion rose from ten per cent to 39 per cent. In the mean time, the number of households placed in temporary accommodation over the border in another local authority that recorded them as homeless increased by 248 per cent to 21,950. Homelessness, defined as having no accommodation or being unable to continue to occupy any given accommodation, currently costs the public sector £1.1 billion a year. More than three-quarters of this (£845 million) was spent on temporary accommodation last year, of which three-quarters (£638 million) was funded by housing benefit. The NAO also counted 4134 rough sleepers on a single night last autumn: 134 per cent higher than a similar count in autumn 2010. The charity Housing Justice said: “...there is a pragmatic reason for rethinking the underlying policy drivers here, Homelessness costs the taxpayer £1 billion a year, the government has been cutting housing benefit only to fund more expensive temporary accommodation further down the line. Not only does this fail to deliver cost effectiveness for the taxpayer it also creates chaos and misery in the lives of thousands of people forced in to homelessness.” CHURCH TIMES

Universal Credit wait a key factor in rent arrears, says DWP report
New figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that around one in four new claimants waited longer than six weeks to be paid. Of those Universal Credit claimants who fell into arrears on their rent, the majority said it was the first time they had fallen behind on their payments in their current accommodation. Earlier in the week, Citizens Advice said its research showed that those under the Universal Credit system were more likely to struggle with priority debts. The publications, ahead of a major acceleration in the roll-out of Universal Credit, has prompted debate among MPs and calls for a rethink. Labour said the system was in "total disarray", while Tory MP Heidi Allen told the BBC that the government "should slow down a little bit and get it right". Universal Credit combines existing benefits such as tax credits, housing benefit, income support, Jobseeker's Allowance, and employment and support allowance. By 2022, more than seven million households will receive Universal Credit - at least half of which will be in work. A major rollout of the scheme begins soon, following a series of delays. The system was originally scheduled to be fully in place this year. Citizens Advice is calling for a suspension in the roll-out. But the government said monthly payments reflected the way many working people were paid. BBC NEWS

'Digital-token investors should brace for total loss' says FCA
The City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned consumers of the dangers of investing in digital tokens issued by firms. So-called initial coin offerings can raise millions of dollars for firms and consumers can make a gain if the new crypto-currencies then go up in value. But the FCA says investors also stand to lose their entire stake in the high-risk investments. In an initial coin offering (ICO), a firm sells digital tokens, or "coins". These are often in exchange for a more established crypto-currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. The new coins issued by the firms can represent a voucher for some kind of future services, or a share in the firm, or they may simply have no discernible value at all, the FCA said. For example, Wild Crypto, an online gambling business which is developing a crypto-currency lottery, sold almost 34 million "Wild coins" to investors. Consumers got no stake in its operations for their cash, but invested in the hope that the Wild coin lottery tokens would take off in popularity. Companies can raise many millions of dollars in this way. US identity verification firm Civic recently raised $33m (£26m), while blockchain technology firms Bancor and Tezos raised more than $350m. Regulators around the world are becoming increasingly concerned with the popularity of ICOs. Last week China banned initial coin offerings, calling them "illegal fundraising". In July the US Securities and Exchange Commission warned of the risks of ICOs, and regulators in Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada have also pointed out some of the dangers. BBC NEWS

PR company Bell Pottinger collapses following claims it ran a 'racially divisive' campaign in South Africa
Disgraced public relations company Bell Pottinger has collapsed after it failed to find a buyer to save it from administration, in the most spectacular fall from grace ever to hit the industry. The firm collapsed after it orchestrated a ‘fake news’ campaign on behalf of the Gupta family, one of South Africa’s wealthiest dynasties. Lord Bell, who is famed for his willingness to represent dictators such as the late Chilean leader General Pinochet, admitted he was instrumental in bringing in a lucrative £100,000-a-month contract from a company called Oakbay, controlled by the Guptas. Bell Pottinger fanned flames of outrage when it embarked upon a campaign to divert attention from the Guptas’ ties with South African president Jacob Zuma. To do so, it branded the president’s opponents as the agents of ‘white monopoly capital’, despite the fact these included other big Bell Pottinger clients such as luxury goods giant Richemont. Industry body the Public Relations and Communications Association expelled Bell Pottinger for at least five years, saying its actions were likely to inflame racial discord. Henderson said this weekend he plans to start again in the PR business once the dust has settled. Lord Bell, who is accused by his enemies of conniving in the downfall of his former company, said he will not receive any more instalments on the seven-figure payment he agreed when he left the firm. About 270 employees will lose their jobs. One consultant said: ‘There are a lot of young people working here who are entirely blameless and now have an uncertain future.’ DAILY MAIL

Social media stars face crackdown over money from brands
Instagram’s popularity with young people, and women in particular – in April it reported 700 million members – has led to a roaring trade between marketers and so-called influencers with large and engaged followings. Members of the Kardashian family, who promote a range of products from “detox” tea to waist-training corsets to their tens of millions of followers, can reportedly command as much as $500,000 (£370,000) per post. But even lower-profile celebrities can make a profit from the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook. Elizabeth Olsen, who plays an influencer in the forthcoming film Ingrid Goes West, has attracted 745,000 followers since she joined Instagram for the first time in May, telling the LA Times: “Financially, it’s a brilliant opportunity. I was only hurting my opportunities by not participating.” With many paid-for promotions not disclosed, the blurry line between advertisements and heartfelt recommendations has led consumer protection bodies to take action against influencers for pushing brands they have received payment from. In the UK, influencers have had to identify advertisements with the hashtags “#ad” or “#spon” (sponsored) since 2014. In April, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found the makeup blogger Sheikhbeauty to have breached the CAP Code for non-broadcast advertisements by failing to clearly label a post about a herbal detox tea brand as an advertisement. This week the ASA ordered the reality television personality Sophie Kasaei to remove her own photo of the Flat Tummy Tea she had shared with her 1 million-plus followers in March. Last week the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asked a number of high profile social media influencers to clarify specific posts that had been identified as potentially non-compliant with their rules. Reuters reported that the models Naomi Campbell and Amber Rose and actors Lindsay Lohan, Vanessa Hudgens and Sofia Vergara were on the FTC list. Analysis of the 50 most-followed celebrities on Instagram by the US marketing firm Mediakix in May found that 93% of posts promoting a brand were not compliant with the FTC guidelines. GUARDIAN

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Wednesday, June 07, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,


£100bn a year is missing from our high streets thanks to 50 years of pay squeezes

Why does everyone say inequality is falling, when it's rising? Because they're only counting incomes, not all wealth (property, pensions, etc.)

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 18 May 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Jeremy Hunt quizzed over why nurses are using foodbanks
The Health Secretary was interviewed on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show after Theresa May said last week there "many complex reasons" why nurses are increasingly turning to the charitable centres. It comes after the Royal College of Nursing claimed that nurses are seeking debt advice and increasingly turning to food banks. Mr Hunt said: "The minimum a nurse can be paid in this country is £22,000 - £27,000 in inner London. The average pay was £31,000. Is that enough considering the brilliant work that they do? I think many people would say they want to pay them more. I think they do an incredible job.” Nurses have had seven years of pay freezes. Mr Hunt also acknowledged that failure to hit A&E targets was "not acceptable" during Sunday morning's show, but insisted that the Tories were increasing funding and recruiting more doctors and nurses. A separate target is for 92% of patients to be treated within 18 weeks of referral by their GP. But the NHS has not hit this target since February 2016 and performance has been slipping since then. Insisting that focusing on the targets was not a "fair reflection of the performance of the NHS" he said: "Just before the election was called, at the end of March, the NHS published an independent report in which they said that if you take most major conditions - heart attack, stroke, cancer, so on - outcomes have dramatically improved over the last five years." EVENING STANDARD

Germany admitted that crippling austerity measures would destroy Greece, claims former Greek finance minister
In his new memoir, Greece's former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis claims German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble candidly admitted to him that he would not have endorsed an EU-ordered austerity plan. In one exchange he said he asked Schauble whether he would sign up to the EU's austerity measures, to which his German counterpart responded: 'As a patriot, no. It's bad for your people.' The former Greek finance minister claims to have secretly recorded his conversations with top figures, and says his experience showed how far Germany was willing to go to protect the single currency. During one of these conversations, he said former US president Barack Obama agreed that 'austerity sucks', but said he could do nothing to influence Germany. In his new book, The Telegraph reports, the former Greek finance minister claims Germany blocked a Chinese rescue deal for Greece. He also warned British Prime Minister Theresa May not to expect the EU to play fair during Brexit negotiations. DAILY MAIL

New free schools funding system 'incoherent' and offers poor value for taxpayers' money, PAC warns
The Department for Education is spending “well over the odds” in its bid to create 500 more free schools, while local authority buildings crumble, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned. In a damning new report, the committee criticised the Government's focus on free schools, which it said were sometimes opened in areas with no shortage of places for pupils while existing schools struggle to make ends meet. The cross-party board also noted that each pupil place in a new free secondary school “costs 51 per cent more than places provided by local authorities”.  This was largely due to the high cost of land, which the DfE was found to be paying almost 20 per cent over official valuations for. Listening to evidence at the PAC hearing, MPs heard how one school was being forced to make two staff redundancies as a result of being unable to fund building maintenance costs. It was also noted that some 85 per cent of schools are known to have asbestos. The only way to address this would be to completely rebuild the schools at a total cost of £100bn. Analysing the report’s findings, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said: “The outgoing government committed to freezing school spending per pupil in cash-terms up to 2019–20. This implies a real-terms cut in spending per pupil of about 6.5 per cent between 2015-16 and 2019–20.” The IFS added: “We haven’t had a proper funding formula since the early 2000s, which has allowed various inequities across areas to develop, which will only grow if left unaddressed.” The committee added that the Government's pledge to create 500 free schools - including some grammars - by 2020 involved spending “significant funds”, even in areas with no shortage of pupil places at a time when existing schools “struggle to live within their budgets and carry out routine maintenance”. INDEPENDENT

£10.50 a call?! Ofcom opens investigation into the cost of 118 calls
The regulator will examine directory enquiries numbers, which begin with 118, after some providers were found to be charging up to £10.50 a call. It will also look at 070 numbers, which allow users to be contacted on any phone at any location, and can cost up to £3.40 a minute. The telecoms regulator said prices should be "transparent and fair". Ofcom, which raised its concerns last week, said there were now more than 400 directory enquiry services offering a variety of options and prices, with call costs ranging from 35p per call to £10.50. However, there is no stipulated cap on such charges, meaning operators are free to charge up to a maximum of £23.97 for calls of less than a minute. Ofcom said it knew of one client who had received a £150 bill for calling a 118 number. Meanwhile Ofcom said it was aware of one consumer who called directory enquiries in 2009, and ended up with a bill for £350. When directory enquiries was deregulated in 2003, calls to BT's 192 service cost just 40p. BBC NEWS

HMRC steps up inquiry into employment status of Hermes couriers
HM Revenue & Customs has stepped up its investigation into the delivery company Hermes classifiying its couriers as self-employed, while the business has also been hit with an employment rights lawsuit from the GMB trade union. Drivers for Hermes were sent letters from HMRC over the weekend asking them to provide evidence as the tax authority looks into their employment status. In the letter, seen by the Guardian, HMRC requests that the drivers disclose information such as their written contract and payslips, and agree to a one-hour interview. “This will help us decide what your employment status is/was,” it says. HMRC’s investigation follows one by the Guardian that found some self-employed couriers were being paid less than the “national living wage”, in an arrangement the company said had been approved by HMRC. Separately, GMB has filed a lawsuit challenging Hermes over employment conditions for its couriers, vowing to battle “bogus self-employment and gig economy exploitation”. Maria Ludkin, the GMB’s legal director, said: “Under the false claims of ‘flexibility’, Hermes seems to think it’s acceptable to wriggle out of treating its workers with respect. “Guaranteed hours, sick pay, pension contributions – these aren’t privileges to be bestowed when companies feel like it; they are the legal right of all UK workers. The union won a similar case against Uber last year, resulting in a ruling that the ride-hailing service should pay the minimum wage and grant drivers holiday pay and other benefits. Uber is contesting the ruling at the employment appeal tribunal. As well as Uber and Hermes, takeaway food delivery service Deliveroo has come under pressure from workers seeking improved conditions. The company was accused of “creating vocabulary” last month, after issuing managers with a list of words to ensure it did not accidentally use terms that indicated its motorbike riders and cyclists were employees. GUARDIAN

AstraZeneca shareholders revolt over chief executive's £13m pay
Nearly 39% of investors voted against the pharmaceutical group’s 2016 remuneration report at its annual meeting in London, similar to the rebellion it faced three years ago. Support for the new pay policy was much stronger, with 96% of investors backing it. AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, received a total pay package of £13.4m last year because a long-term incentive plan and other rewards paid out. He was paid an annual salary of £1.2m and an annual bonus of £1.2m, down from £2m the previous year. But he pocketed a further £6.9m from a long-term incentive plan, plus a one-off payment of £3.6m in compensation for bonuses he lost when he left his previous employer. Royal London Asset Management, which holds 1% of AstraZeneca shares, said it voted against the remuneration report and the chair of the remuneration committee, but backed the new pay policy. Two advisory groups, PIRC and Institutional Shareholder Services, had urged shareholders to vote against the remuneration report and policy. PIRC described the £6.9m long-term incentive plan payment as “excessive”. The housebuilding firm Persimmon suffered a near 10% protest vote over executive pay on Thursday, while Crest Nicholson has pushed ahead with plans to pay out controversial bonuses, even though more than 58% of shareholders rejected its remuneration report last month in a non-binding vote. GUARDIAN

UK pay growth outlook is 'among gloomiest in advanced economies'
The prospects for pay growth in the UK are among the gloomiest in advanced economies, with only Greece, Italy and Austria forecast to suffer bigger falls in real wages by the end of 2018, according to a TUC analysis. The trades union group said UK real wages – pay adjusted for the effects of inflation – were on course to fall by 0.5% between the start of 2016 and the close of 2018, based on forecasts from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In contrast, real wages were predicted to rise in most of the other 31 countries analysed. The average rate of real pay growth for those 31 countries was 2.6% between 2016 and 2018. Workers suffered years of declining real wages in the wake of the financial crisis. After a two-and-a-half-year period of respite, pay recently started falling again in real terms. That drop is the result of sluggish pay growth being overtaken by inflation, which has risen as the pound’s weakness since the Brexit vote makes imports more expensive. Higher oil prices have also raised inflation. The TUC said UK real wages will be 6.8% lower in 2018 than they were in 2007 before the financial crisis, according to OECD predictions. Only Italy and Greece will have suffered bigger falls, of 7.3% and 25.2%, respectively. GUARDIAN

The risky loans that let drivers on minimum wage buy a £19,000 sports car and could be fuelling a debt crisis
Every day, flashy cars are being snapped up by motorists on modest incomes. Our investigation found that drivers earning as little as £8,200 a year can walk away with a brand new £12,500 Ford Fiesta, Britain's most popular car. You would need to earn just £13,500 to be able to afford a Mazda MX-5 — a flashy Japanese two-seater sports car that's worth roughly £19,000. You'd need a salary of £20,000 to buy an Audi TT, which starts at £28,500; while a Range Rover Sport, a £60,000 luxury 4x4 off-roader, requires an income of £41,000 a year, according to figures from car finance broker No wonder car sales are soaring in Britain. Indeed, dealerships shifted a record 2.7 million new cars last year — the fifth consecutive year of rising sales. According to the Finance and Leasing Association, some 320,000 new and used vehicles were acquired through some form of finance in March — £3.6billion worth of new cars and £1.4billion worth of second-hand motors. Fuelling the boom is a relatively new type of finance called Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) — a type of lease agreement that dramatically cuts the monthly cost of owning a car. As many as nine in ten new cars bought on finance are done so using PCP deals — £160 million in loans a day. But fears are now growing that PCPs are luring millions of drivers into taking on too much debt. So rapid has been the growth of PCP finance that the City watchdog is concerned that some customers are being sold complex deals they do not understand. It has launched an investigation. Once the money has been loaned, many car finance firms package up the debt to flog to investors — a chilling echo of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007. Last year, finance firms packaged and sold £6.7 billion-worth of car loans — more than double the year before. Experts say that while a car finance bubble bursting would not have the same devastating impact on the economy, it could still cause significant damage. DAILY MAIL

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,
Fee and KJ hazard a guess...

SOURCE PUBLIC SECTOR EXECUTIVE: Lib Dems join Labour in pledge to scrap 1% public sector pay cap
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has pledged to put an end to the government’s 1% public sector pay cap and uprate wages in line with inflation, a commitment that is in line with Labour’s pledges according to its leaked manifesto. Farron, who accused the Conservatives of treating health workers “like dirt” at yesterday’s Royal College of Nursing (RCN) annual conference, said nurses and teachers could be £780 better off by 2021 as part of his party’s plans. Conversely, it is estimated that a new nurse would be around £530 worse off by then under current Tory plans, while a primary school teacher would lose out on £550 and an army sergeant £830, according to Lib Dem analysis. The party’s leader also said that the controversial pay cap, branded by many unions as a “cruel” policy, would leave the average civil servant £800 worse off by 2021. Vince Cable, Lib Dem shadow chancellor and the former business secretary, said: “Public sector workers are facing a double blow at the hands of this Conservative government, with years of pitiful increases to pay combined with a Brexit squeeze caused by soaring inflation. “Our NHS and schools are already struggling to recruit the staff they need. "Living standards are falling, prices are rising and nurses are going to food banks – but Theresa May doesn’t care.” Just last week, a leading trade union claimed the cap policy will cost the UK economy around £16bn in lost wages by the end of the decade. Analysis by the GMB also predicted that between 2017 and 2020, five million workers in the public sector will find themselves out of pocket by around £3,300 each. As expected, the cap has been an extremely controversial policy since its inception, and is now threatening to drive the nursing workforce to its first-ever strike in the RCN’s 100-year history.


£100bn a year is missing from our high streets thanks to 50 years of pay squeezes. See the stats

Hoping for a Brexit U-turn? Then let's U-turn inequality. Except Hammond’s budget is making it worse

Why does everyone say inequality is falling when it's rising? Measure all wealth/assets, not just incomes

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

Saturday 13 May 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,
A pound’s worth of product is not worth a pound when you’ve made it. It’s worth a pound when someone has bought it. That’s why Britain needs a pay rise.

There’s no rise in UK sales without a rise in UK incomes. That’s why we’ve not had a recovery. Only a recovery in credit card debt!

Whichever party understands that, vote for them.

Wages have flatlined since July 2005, says the Office for National Statistics. But it’s worse than that. Notoriously, the Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) data never include the earnings of the self employed, which have been getting worse, so that means there has been an overall decline.

If you’ve been one of the lucky ones who have seen his/her earnings increase, you have a counterpart who saw the opposite. As the graph tells us, the more you earned the more someone else didn’t. So if you’re trying to sell them something, you’re in trouble too.

Those people earning less: are they all lazy and stupid? Nigh on half the workforce?!

A balance must be struck between earnings rising too fast (businesses and their customers can’t afford it. So the business goes bust) and too slow or not at all (businesses can fill their shelves, but nobody can afford to buy the damn stuff. So the business goes bust). That balance has been lost since the 1970s. For too long wages, as a percentage of the nation’s GDP, have been falling.


That 10% drop in the UK’s wages bill, compared to 50 years ago, equates to around £100bn a year in spending being taken off our high streets.

Now take a look at the list of sectors where wages are falling. If your business depends on selling to people working in those sectors, you’d better pray they get a pay rise.

Yes, I said pray. Because businesses, in competition, find it genuinely difficult to coordinate a pay rise lest someone breaks ranks and win-wins by keeping pay down while selling to those who got the rise. That’s why unions do us all a favour, by coordinating that pay rise. Government too, by legislating that rise.

The Resolution Foundation, digging into Office for National Statistics data on wages, says around 40 per cent of the workforce are in sectors where pay is falling in real terms.

This is despite another “good performance” on jobs, with fast growth in hours worked, employment remaining at a record high and unemployment falling by 45,000. Although, notoriously again, the official employment data says anyone who has worked a measly one hour a week is “employed”. One hour! What a job that must be!

We’re wasting our time if jobs are being created, but incomes aren’t rising. We’re driving with the hand brake on.

“But having a job matters more than having a pay rise!” says the tub thumping right, who see low pay as a way of creating jobs. These are the same people who say “Those Commies, they think full employment matters more than growing the economy.” They’re asking for the same thing as the Commies now. Beautiful! Someone should tell them that if wages don’t rise, economies simply don’t grow *.


* ...except, of course, through immigration. More people, more GDP. Simples. No wonder neither New Labour nor the Tories cut immigration. Immigration is not the cause of our problems **, it’s the only thing that’s making our economy look as though it has a future.

** Do you seriously think if the population had risen through more British babies instead of immigrants, those past governments would have built the 250,000 houses a year we need, increased spending on the NHS and schools to shorten those queues, and raised those wages?

Thursday 27 April 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
3m poor working families face losing £2,500 a year from benefit cuts
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) the freeze in benefit rates and cuts to child tax credit, coupled with the rollout of universal credit, which has become less generous as a result of changes to work allowances, signal “large losses” for low-income households. If the cuts announced in 2015 were fully in place now, nearly 3m working households with children on tax credits would be an average of £2,500 a year worse off, with larger families losing more. The scheduled cuts for lower-income families come alongside tax breaks worth £5bn a year that predominantly benefit middle- and higher-income households. Although the average impact of tax and benefit changes since 2015 has been relatively small so far, planned benefit cuts will reduce government spending by about £15bn a year in the long run, with the poorest working-age households facing losses of between 4% and 10% of income a year, the IFS says. The impact of the planned cuts on the poorest working-age families over the next five years will be much greater than those imposed during the 2010-15 coalition government. Pensioner households are mostly protected from future benefit cuts. Tom Waters, a research economist at the IFS, said: “As suggested by the 2015 Conservative manifesto, the government have announced income tax cuts that mostly benefit middle- and higher-income households and working-age benefit cuts that mostly hit lower-income households. But while the tax cuts have largely already been delivered, most of the benefit cuts are yet to take effect.” GUARDIAN

NHS needs £25bn in emergency cash, say NHS leaders
An influential group representing NHS trusts says that the care provided by hospitals and GP surgeries will suffer over the next few years unless the prime minister provides an £5bn a year for the next three years – and a further £10bn of capital for modernising equipment and buildings. NHS Providers, an association of NHS Foundation Trusts and Trusts, is preparing to release its own manifesto next week, calling on the Conservatives and Labour to end what it calls the austerity funding of the health service. Hospitals needed that £5bn a year to get rid of their deficits of £800m-£900m a year, fulfil new NHS commitments on cancer and mental health and improve their performance against key waiting time targets. The NHS also needed a further £10bn for capital spending on building and repairing premises, buying new equipment and modernising how care is provided, she added. That is the sum which a recent report commissioned by the Department of Health said the service needed for those purposes. A second group, the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals and ambulance and mental health services, urged May to commit to giving the NHS £8bn-a-year annual budget increases after 2020-21, when the current funding settlement expires. The DH’s budget is due to reach £133.1bn by March 2021. Niall Dickson, its chief executive, said NHS services were so stretched that it would have to go back to getting at least the 4%-a-year budget increases it enjoyed historically between its creation in 1948 and 2010. After that, the coalition government limited rises to 1% annually. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has voiced concern that per capita health funding will decline in 2018-19 and 2019-20. It is due to fall from its current level of £2,223 a head this year by £16 next year and £7 in 2019. GUARDIAN

McDonald’s offers fixed contracts to 115,000 UK zero-hours workers
Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam and the bank's board of directors have offered to cut The move is a significant development in the debate about employee rights because McDonald’s is one of the biggest users of zero-hours contracts in the country. Sports Direct has also used workers on zero-hour contracts in its shops. The fast-food chain is to offer fixed-hours contracts after staff in its restaurants complained they were struggling to get loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts because they were not guaranteed employment each week. Zero-hour contracts are controversial because companies can use them to exploit workers, offering unpredictable working hours and changing shifts at short notice. The TUC has called for the government to ban zero-hours contracts. It has found that staff on these contracts earns a third less per hour than the average worker. McDonald’s has been trialling the shift to fixed-hours contracts in 23 sites across the country. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts and it has seen an increase in levels of employee and customer satisfaction after the offer. Staff have been offered contracts in line with the average hours per week they work. This includes contracts of either four, eight, 16, 30 or 35 hours a week. The company will initially expand fixed contracts to 50 more restaurants before rolling it out nationwide to existing and new employees later this year. Paul Pomroy, the chief executive of McDonald’s UK, said: “The vast majority of our employees are happy with their flexible contracts, but some have told us that more fixed hours would help them get better access to some financial products.” He added: “The hard work of our restaurant teams has enabled us to deliver 44 consecutive quarters of growth in the UK.” The company has been targeted by protesters over its treatment of staff. Earlier this month, campaigners from Fast Food Rights and Better Than Zero dressed as clowns and demonstrated outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Glasgow over its use of zero-hours contracts. The TUC has warned that 3.5 million people could be stuck in insecure work such as zero-hours contracts, agency work or low-paid self-employment by 2022 – 290,000 more than at present. GUARDIAN

The UK's middle class remains one of the smallest and poorest in Europe despite having expanded the most over two decades
The United Kingdom’s middle class has seen one of the biggest expansions among Western countries over the past two decades but it remains one of the smallest and least wealthy, new analysis by Pew Research Centre has shown. To qualify as middle class via Pew's income-based model, a family of four in the UK would need a cumulative disposable income of between just over $29,000 and $87,300 (£19,000 - £57,350 in 2010 rates). Among Western European countries this is the lowest except for Italy’s minimum of $25,000 and Spain’s $24,500. The study covers the two decades between 1991 and 2010 for Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK and the US. But while middle classes shrunk in seven out of the 11 countries, including Italy, Germany and Spain, mirroring a long-term trend in the US, Ireland saw its middle class expand most, followed by the UK. The report also shows that the UK had the biggest share of people on upper-income in Europe at 14 per cent, second only to the US (15 per cent). Norway, on the other hand, had the smallest proportion of population on upper income at 6 per cent as it also counts the biggest middle class, which makes up 80 per cent of its population. The Pew said that countries where incomes are more equal have larger shares of middle-income adults, and vice versa, suggesting that countries like Norway and Denmark are more equal than countries like the UK and Italy. For a UK family of four to be defined on ‘upper income’, it would need to have a cumulative disposable income of around $87,000, compared to Ireland’s $90,000. That is $43,600 for an individual in the UK, compared to $45,000 in Ireland. DAILY MAIL

Arrests as Newcastle and West Ham raided in £5m tax probe
Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley was among "several men within professional football" who were arrested. He was released without charge at about 17:00 BST. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) deployed 180 officers across the UK and France. The BBC understands the suspected income tax and National Insurance fraud amounts to £5m. HMRC said it searched premises in the north east and south east of England, and seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones. Newcastle were promoted to the Premier League on Monday, just 348 days after relegation. According to its 2015-16 accounts, the club had a turnover of £126m, paid out £75m in players' wages and recorded pre-tax loss of £4.1m. HMRC raided West Ham's offices at the London Olympic Stadium where the club moved in August, having played at Upton Park since 1904. Companies House figures for 2015-16 show it turned over £142m, paid out £85m in player's wages and made a pre-tax loss of £4.8m. In January, a Parliamentary Committee revealed 43 players, 12 clubs and eight agents were the subject of "open inquiries" by HMRC. The Public Accounts Committee highlighted particular concerns about tax evasion in the football industry and the "misuse" of image rights to reduce tax liabilities. BBC NEWS

Barclays boss faces shareholder revolt over whistleblowing case
Barclays’ chief executive is facing a shareholder revolt at next month’s annual meeting because of the ongoing regulatory investigation into his attempts to unmask a whistleblower. Shareholders are being advised to abstain from the annual vote to re-elect the American banker Jes Staley to the board by ISS, an influential adviser to major investors, in a sign that the bank could face a significant protest vote against its chief executive at the 10 May AGM. Staley will be braced for questions about his conduct when the bank reports its first-quarter results on Friday. He has issued a written apology for becoming too personally involved in the whistleblowing case, which related to the conduct of Tim Main, who worked with Staley at US bank JP Morgan and was then recruited to Barclays in a senior role last June. Both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority are investigating the matter. Barclays has formally reprimanded Staley and insisted that there will be a significant reduction in his bonus, which was £1.4m last year. Not only is it unusual for City regulators to investigate the conduct of chief executives of major financial institutions, it is also unusual for major proxy firms to issue advice to abstain against their re-election to the board. GUARDIAN

"GDP" is measuring the wrong things! Car accidents, poor health and the throw-away society boosts GDP
GDP is seriously messed up. It is often thought of simply as the most common measurement of the size of a country’s economy – how could that be controversial? But far from being impartial, GDP considers all sorts of negative things as good for the economy and ignores other things that are actually really beneficial. Worse than that, it incentivises governments to prioritise those negative things at the expense of the positive – and that can be hugely damaging for a healthy society. Lorenzo Fioramonti is the professor of political economy at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and author of The World After GDP. According to Lorenzo, the perfect GDP Man – someone who lived to optimise economic growth – would be ‘obese, driving a car to work every day and stuck in traffic, probably have a serious chronic disease and be on the verge of a divorce because after a divorce means more fees to lawyers but also two houses to be bought and one house to sell’. He adds that in theory to maximise GDP, no one would spend any time with their children and work all the time instead. That way, there would be two contributions to GDP instead of none – one of the parent earning money and a second of the carer being paid to look after their children and then spending their earnings. Furthermore, car accidents, poor health and destruction boost GDP, while maintaining and keeping things as they are – such as good health and natural resources - does not. He points out that the two countries that have seen the strongest GDP growth in the last few years have been Libya and South Sudan – both of which have suffered civil wars. DAILY MAIL

Anger as Tate asks underpaid staff to contribute towards boat for boss Nicholas Serota
Tate has come under fire after it asked members of staff, many of whom are not paid the London living wage, to contribute towards a boat for departing director, Nicholas Serota, just one week after their canteen discount was taken away. A notice which went up in the staff rooms of both Tate Modern and Tate Britain on Wednesday asking employees – including security, cleaners, those maintain the galleries or work in the cafe and gift shop – to “put money towards a sailing boat” as a “surprise gift” for Serota. The notice said management had thought “long and hard” about an appropriate gift for the director, who is leaving in May after 28 years at the Tate. “Nick loves sailing and this would be a lasting and very special reminder of the high regard which I know so many of us have for Nick and his contribution to Tate,” the plea for donations added. The appearance of the notice was a source of anger among junior staff. The gallery has been embroiled in disputes over low pay and its decision to outsource a large number of jobs to agency Securitas, which does not pay the London living wage and pay workers less than those hired directly by Tate for the same jobs. The notice was still up on Thursday morning but by lunchtime had been taken down. Tracy Edwards, the PCS Union representative for Tate staff, said several had contacted her about it, adding that she had originally thought the notice was a spoof. “The staff at Tate are underpaid paid and overworked, and haven’t had appropriate pay rises, and this just demonstrates how divorced from reality the management at Tate are,” she said. A staff member at Tate, who is hired through Securitas and spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, spoke of the “disgust” among colleague when they saw the request for donations. “There was a mixture of shock and laughter,” he said. “The chasm that exists between upper management and the staff on the ground is just farcical and this just made it clearer than ever. For us, Serota’s legacy among staff is one of privatisation and union busting and turning the Tate into Westfield with pictures.” GUARDIAN

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