Recent Articles

Thursday, 17 April 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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

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


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

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Graphs at a glance - British Social Attitudes Survey shows Tories and Labour have lost swathes of their core supporters. Politicians should be very afraid of us. Don't let them forget it! Make sure you Vote!

In politics how high you reach depends less on how tall you stand and more on who you stand on. For decades political parties have gained power standing on people who don't vote.

In the twilight weeks of the electoral cycle, like little children at bedtime, politicians see terrors lurking on every sofa across the land. Millions of zombie voters who might be roused if they get annoyed enough. Not to vote for what they are for, but to vote against what they are against.

Consider the sudden ejection of Maria Miller from her role as the Secretary of State for Culture. Miller was given the boot in the month before the May 2014 local and European elections. When Jeremy Hunt, the previous Secretary of State for culture (what is it about that ministry?), was caught up in far more serious allegations David Cameron rescued Hunt by promoting him to Secretary of State for Health. Luckily for Hunt there were no key elections in sight then. What ultimately did for Miller wasn’t her sin but her timing - getting caught during the witching hours that run for the few weeks before the Local and the European elections.

This is a lesson you must remember dear voter. It is a lesson you must not let our politicians forget you remember. You must keep them afraid of you.

Once the dark electoral hours have passed, politicians of all parties forget about us electors. For example the key strategy of successive Tory governments is to appear to cut taxes and spending. A graph from the 2013 British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey shows fewer than 1 in 10 Britons have wanted this in the 30 years since 1983. More than 90% have consistently wanted the level of tax & spend to remain the same or to increase.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Graphs at a glance: Tories abolished 50% tax rate for people earning more than £150k. But did you notice the stealthy 51% tax rate for graduates earning more than £43k?

Did they or didn't they? Did the Tories abolish the 50% tax rate, or didn't they. 

Actually, they did and they didn't: 

a) They Did: People earning more than £150,000 have been spared the 50% rate (52% including 2% National Insurance). 

b) They Didn't: People with student loans earning more than about £43,000 are heading for a 51% rate (including 2% National Insurance).

This is illustrated by a graph in the IFS report "Payback time? Student debt and loan repayments: what will the 2012 reforms mean for graduates?" showing the marginal tax rate for people repaying student loans.

Graduates will start paying an additional 9% of their earnings once their pay exceeds £21,000. The 40% income tax rate kicks in at about £43k (assuming 1% annual increases in the upper earning limit). Marginal rate = 40% (income tax) + 2% (NIC) + 9% (Student Loan) = 51%.

Rip-off News round-up. Our pick of the last week's media (Thu 10th April)

Bupa 'harming NHS' by offering patients “bribes” of £2k to use public services instead of private hospitals
Bupa is accused of offering the cash handouts to customers who agree to undergo cancer, heart, gynaecological and other operations on the NHS. A letter from the private health giant to a male cardiac patient explains: “The cash payment takes the place of private treatment funding... If you are admitted to hospital under the NHS as an in-patient for any of the above procedures, we will pay you a fixed sum amount.” Operations can cost fives times more than the cash payments offered by Bupa. For example, private hospitals charge a minimum of £10,000 for having a pacemaker fitted. So Bupa is offering its customers £2,000 to have it done on the NHS. This effectively passes Bupa’s costs onto the NHS. The cash payments have been condemned as “outrageous” and “disgusting” by doctors. Bupa raked in a staggering £2.57billion in revenue last year, and pocketed £139million in profit - up 26% on 2012. Bupa denied that the cash offers were bribes, and insisted it was simply “offering customers choice”. MIRROR

Benefit cheats face higher fines and losing their homes
Welfare cheats will be forced to sell their homes and pay higher fines to reimburse taxpayers for the money they have wrongly claimed, under plans to tackle benefit fraud. The plans form part of a major campaign from ministers this week to publicise reforms to the welfare system, which the Conservatives regard as among their most popular, vote-winning policies. A publicity campaign, including posters urging claimants to report those whom they suspect to be cheating the system, and letters warning individuals to check they are not receiving too much. TELEGRAPH

MP expense pong: Ex-Culture Secretary Maria Miller bought a £1.2m mansion with proceeds of '2nd home'
Maria Miller’s stunning new home, a sprawling barn conversion complete with oak beams, wood-burning stove and library cost her £1.2million - almost exactly the profit she made selling a property funded by taxpayers. Mrs Miller made taxpayers fund some of the mortgage payments on her London property, then sold it and used the whopping profit to buy this ‘charming’ Tudor house in Hampshire. It boasts five bedrooms, a spectacular vaulted gallery and its own woodland set in more than an acre of land. DAILY MAIL

Are high frequency traders rigging stock markets? Split-second sharks accused of profiting at expense of ordinary investors
US financial firms are being accused of using speed - an advantage of just a few thousandths of a second - to fleece big money rivals and by extension ordinary savers and investors. The allegations have prompted the US Justice Department to say it is probing high-speed trading for possible insider trading violations. The FBI and US financial watchdogs are also investigating the industry. The book focuses on Wall Street share trading, but one City insider has commented: 'The same players are in the UK and Europe – if it’s happening in America, it’s happening here too.' DAILY MAIL