Friday 29 June 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,
The gang look on the bright side...

Thursday 28 June 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:

Bob Diamond shamed into giving up bonus after Barclays fined £290m for attempting to rig money markets
By repeatedly submitting artificially low figures, Barclays gave a false impression of its financial strength. DAILY MAIL

Mis-selling scandal set to destroy thousands of small businesses and jobs

Britain's big banks were today accused by MPs and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) of a huge new mis-selling scandal that could destroy thousands of small firms and cost 80,000 jobs. FEDERATION OF SMALL BUSINESSES

G4S chief predicts mass police privatisation

Private companies will be running large parts of the police service within five years, according to security firm boss GUARDIAN
The £705,000 'affordable' home
Some housing associations are stretching the meaning of 'affordable home' to the limit GUARDIAN

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,

Chris asks if tax avoidance is a moral issue...Tax avoidance

Monday 25 June 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , ,
A report by the High Pay Commission stated: "It is commonly argued that executives receive high levels of remuneration to compensate them for the high-risk nature of the job…… In a survey conducted by the High Pay Commission of CEOs in the current FTSE 100 between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2009, only six CEOs left the company, giving a turnover rate of 6%, compared with the national average employee turnover rate of 13.5%. Thus it appears that CEOs experience significantly lower rates of labour market risk than other employees. Of the CEOs that left, two went into retirement. A further three resigned voluntarily and received severance packages. In the sample only one CEO experienced involuntary redundancy in the period….This is equivalent to a rate of involuntary turnover of 1%; the national average for the same period was 0.9%."

The Economist newspaper's graphic showed that in Western Europe a mere 1% of CEOs were forced out.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012 Posted by Jake 8 comments Labels: , , , ,
If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it to be true. If there was a GCSE, or O'Level, in Propaganda this would be in Chapter 1.

Particularly since the banks crashed the World economy, we have been told by bankers and politicians alike that in spite of the financial sector's misdeeds we should leave it with light regulation, allow its executives to extract excessive salaries, and pump in billions of pounds taken from the rest of the economy to rescue it. 

We are told that the job cuts, pay freezes, reduced pensions, cuts to the armed forces, the police, health and education are all sacrifices well worth making in order to save the banks.

Why should we be so generous? We are told that the Financial Services Sector is the greatest engine of growth in employment and wealth in the United Kingdom. 

Is this actually true?

Figures presented in a report on banking reform by the University of Manchester's Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), titled "An alternative report on UK banking reform", suggest that this is a lie worthy of a place in our Liebrary.

a) Has the financial services industry actually made a huge contribution to the national coffers?
The CRESC report shows that in the five years before the crash in 2008 the financial services industry contributed £208 billion in taxes (including taxes paid by its staff). However the bailout cost was £289 billion, (i.e. over £80 billion more, up to when the CRESC report was written in 2009).

Thursday 21 June 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Rule change: you cannot bring a spouse into the UK unless you earn above £18,600. The price of love?
Unless you have an annual income of at least £18,600 per year the government proposes that you will not be allowed to bring a spouse into the UK (regardless of whether you are foreign born or you are a direct descendent of Boadicea). According to Oxford University's Migration Observatory, These changes mean that, of British citizens in employment:
- 47% will not qualify to bring in a family member.
- 58% of people aged between 20 and 30 will not qualify to bring in a family member 

Home ownership £200,000 cheaper than lifetime of renting
Barclays researchers say figure is a conservative estimate and does not factor in high inflation or resale value. Another reminder of how expensive it is to be poor GUARDIAN

Will banks hold on to £140bn of new government cash intended for small businesses?
Federation of Small Businesses warns against banks simply using the money to shore up their own finances DAILY MAIL

Work is not a way out of poverty for millions of working families
3.6m working households have little or no savings, nor equity in their homes, and struggle at the end of each month to feed themselves and their children adequately GUARDIAN and DAILY MAIL

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
The gang try to win a conservation competition to name a British species

Sunday 17 June 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , ,
In June 2012, John Vickers who headed the Independent Commission on Banking was very upset that some of his recommendations were rejected by the Chancellor, George Osborne. Was it just his hurt pride? Or does he spot another rip-off being pulled over our heads while we aren't comprehending?

The most important recommendation rejected by Osborne was:

"All ring-fenced banks with a RWAs-to-UK GDP ratio of 1% or more should have their minimum leverage ratio increased on a sliding scale (to a maximum of 4.06% at a RWAs-to-UK GDP ratio of 3%)."
(RWA - Risk Weighted Assets)

What this means in practice:

Never forget, the Credit Crisis was caused by banks borrowing too much. This leverage ratio refers to the ratio of how much a bank can borrow (and then lend on to its customers, or play with in the banking casino) relative to its Tier1 Core Capital. The higher the permitted leverage multiple the more the bank can borrow.

The banking industry claims that setting the higher requirement would be bad for the economy - higher prices and lower growth. The Bank of England, in a report from April 2011 (see later), says this isn't true. Who should Osborne believe? The City which provides 50% of Tory party funding, or the Bank of England which doesn't?

The Future of Banking Commission, set up after the Credit Crisis hit, reported in 2010 that bank executives have every reason to maximise the money they can borrow as it boosts the return on equity and net revenue. Page 60 of the report (scenario: banks can borrow at 4% and lend at 5%) provides some figures illustrated on this graph:

"The FSA has noted that prior to the financial crisis, many investment banks calculated net revenue and then determined the total size of their employees' bonuses by reference to a compensation ratio (typically between 40% and 50%). As Sir Martin Taylor has noted,
'Paying out 50% of revenues to staff had become the rule, even when [because of accounting rules] the ‘revenues’ did not actually consist of money.'"

The “Tier1 Core Capital” is money held by a bank that nobody has the right to take away.

This includes
-         Retained profits
-         Equity capital.

Retained profits are those profits that are not paid out as bonuses to staff or as dividends to shareholders. Retained profits belong to the bank, held as reserves. 

Saturday 16 June 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , ,

by , Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Britain’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies have been boosting their lobbying strength in the UK and Brussels in recent years amidst growing criticism of tax havens.
NGOs such as Christian Aid have argued that the Territories’ image as tax havens puts them at ‘serious reputational risk’ and if they continue with their current policies ‘then their international profile as facilitators of corruptions and tax evasion will increase’.
Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man have also come under fire, most recently from Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said the Dependencies must reveal the identities of tax evaders with money hidden on the islands.
‘I wouldn’t describe Bermuda as a tax haven. I’d describe Bermuda as being a very well run country that is able to have low taxes because it’s got a very strong economy.’ 
Henry Bellingham, Conservative Minister for Overseas Territories
In an attempt to counter such attacks, these offshore jurisdictions have been ramping up their PR and lobbying endeavours. They have also been lobbying in Brussels on European financial regulation.
Cayman Islands 
One recent example of this stepping up of ‘reputation management’, as revealed by the Bureau this week, was the hire of Lord Blencathra by the Cayman Islands as its UK representative.  Appointed in November 2011, his remit was to lobby in Westminster and Brussels and to fight off attacks on ‘tax neutral jurisdictions’. He told a press conference the financial services industry had to ‘justify its existence’ and that European financial regulation posed a threat to the Islands.
The Islands’ financial services industry lobbyist, Cayman Finance, has been represented separately by PR firm Media House International since April 2009. Chairman Jack Irvine is regularly quoted in the island press attacking critics of tax havens such as the Tax Justice Network and Labour MP John Cryer.
Media House has also employed Lord Blencathra as a public affairs consultant since 2008, though the peer told the Bureau his work for the firm did not involve the Caymans.
Business Bermuda, an organisation working with Bermuda-resident companies and the government, has also made moves to deflect criticism.  It hired financial PR and lobby firm Pelham Bell Pottinger in February 2011 with a remit to ‘develop and promote Bermuda internationally as the jurisdiction of choice’.

Friday 15 June 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
As FTSE 100 bosses' pay continues to rise, Chris and his wife come to terms with growing inequality in the UK

Thursday 14 June 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments

UK graduates contribute to UK Plc almost 10 times what it costs the state to educate them
"In 2000 the UK had the third highest number of graduates among advanced industrialised nations. By 2008 it had fallen to fifteenth because competitor nations had been investing at a faster rate" BBC

UK Uncut allowed to challenge Goldman Sachs tax deal
'Sweetheart' deal between HMRC and Goldman Sachs can be reviewed for legality, judge rules.  GUARDIAN

Fury as top bosses' pay soars yet again: Average rise of 12% for FTSE 100 fatcats
Manifest/MM&K survey shows under 'remuneration awarded' measure, executive pay rises in the top 25 FTSE 100 firms topped 41%. Overall, bosses of FTSE 100 companies enjoyed an average 12% rise in their take home pay last year, while their employees received 1%, well below inflation. DAILY MAIL

Housing shortage to turn under-30s into 'generation rent'
Study predicts 1 million more youngsters will be 'marginalised' as many face up to living with parents well into their 30s. GUARDIAN

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: ,
The Financial Services Authority has always let banks get away with murder. Will its replacement, the Financial Conduct Authority, do any better?..

Sunday 10 June 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012 Posted by Jake 7 comments Labels: , , ,
Ripped-off Britons: Internal struggles

"We're a financially illiterate nation, with millions caught by misselling, overborrowing and being ripped off. Is it any surprise we’ve just had a debt imbued financial crisis. This must change. Companies spend billions on marketing and teaching their staff to sell – it's time we got buyers' training. The most cost effective way to start is to ensure every child in the country gets a basic understanding of personal finance & consumer rights before leaving school."
Martin Lewis,

Of all the iniquities we Britons have to endure, perhaps the most fundamental rip-off, the most insidious betrayal, has been perpetrated by successive governments of the UK. It is the continuing failure to provide compulsory and robust financial education in schools.

After decades of foot-dragging by the authorities, Martin Lewis of gave the campaign for financial education a push forward in 2011 when he collected in excess of 100,000 names on a petition to Parliament. The government’s initial response to Lewis’ petition was that it is already included in PSHEE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) lessons. In a previous post we at Ripped-Off Britons pointed out the inadequacy of this. Lewis too commented:

The government also points to the Money Advice Service, formerly called the Consumer Financial Education Body, set up by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2010. The government has handed control of this body to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the successor (same snake, new skin) of the anaemic and discredited FSA.

Could the government be planning that this FSA/FCA controlled "Financial Education Body" will be responsible for Financial Education in Schools? This would be the equivalent of putting Herod, infamous in biblical times for the slaughter of the infants, in charge of British childcare policy. What with the FSA’s reputation for protecting consumers being about the same as Herod’s for protecting children. (To be fair, Herod had nothing against children in principal – he had fourteen of them though he did execute three). The FSA has admitted it has a poor record for regulation. The level of fines it has imposed is no deterrent, being a miniscule fraction of bonuses (zoom into the graph above, and you may just be able to spot the fines). And it was exposed by the consumer organisation Which? for shielding mis-selling financial institutions. Which? complained in May 2012 that the FSA had banned 327 misleading adverts in 2011, but had refused to identify which adverts they were. Which means if you bought something based on one of these misleading adverts, the FSA won’t tell you.

We should be appalled but not astonished if the government does plan to hand financial education in schools over to the financial industry and its regulators.

We should be appalled because, whether directly or not, this would become a marketing exercise for the finance industry. In 2008 HM Treasury, the UK finance ministry, commissioned a report by Otto Thoresen, then CEO of the insurer Aegon UK and now Director General of the Association of British Insurers. The report, on how best to deliver generic financial advice to the nation, stated:
The Review’s research also indicates that an effective Money Guidance service can drive behaviour change. Eight out of ten users of the prototype [money guidance] services surveyed went on to take at least one action within a week or so of using the service. Of these, over half took specific action such as buying a new product or speaking to a regulated adviser

In case you were wondering, “regulated advisor” = “salesman”. Already the Royal Bank of Scotland boasts that its Moneysense programme is “the largest personal finance education programme in the UK, and has a presence in 65% of secondary schools”. Financial education, when in the hands of the financial services industry, is as much about selling new products as it is about education

Thursday 7 June 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments

Lycamobile is Tories' top corporate donor - but pays no corporation tax. 
Lycamobile has given Conservatives more than £300,000 in last nine months, but has paid no coporation tax for three years. GUARDIAN

How to turn around the economy? History shows austerity has never worked.
It's not just about the current economic environment. History shows that slashing budgets always leads to recession.  GUARDIAN

Savings accounts with the same name but different rates - a new trick to baffle savers.
Banks and building societies are offering different rates on the same deal — depending on the day customers opened the account. Providers routinely launch waves of accounts to attract (surely "confuse" - Ed) new customers, putting out 188 easy-access accounts last year. DAILY MAIL

Personnel bosses call to reject 'objectionable and unnecessary' Beecroft plan for easy sackings
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said the proposals outlined in the far-reaching report by venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft would fail to achieve the intended result of kick-starting recruitment.  DAILY MAIL

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Wednesday, June 06, 2012 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , ,
As governments around Europe impose grim austerity on some of their citizens ("some" because the claim that "we are all in this together" is a fib), we show how generous these governments have been to the banks.

These graphs, using data provided by governments to the European Union, show the Assets and Liabilities of the UK government and also for the European Union as a whole. Note that these figures relate purely to government and the bank bailouts - and don't include assets/liabilities from other government activities or non-governmental support. The Eurostat briefing note states the data "is only intended to show government interventions directly related to the support for financial institutions. Support operations by central banks, government support measures for non-financial institutions and general economic support measures are not included."

The 'Assets' are mainly the shares in banks bought by the governments (e.g. Lloyds, RBS etc), and the money owed to the governments by the banks. 

The 'Liabilities' are mainly money borrowed by the governments to hand to the banks, plus the potential cost to the governments if the 'too big to fail' banks need to be prevented from failing.

Assets: Shares bought by government in financial institutions (Lloyds; RBS; etc), and loans made by government to financial institutions:
·        Loans granted by government or acquired from financial institutions (assets);
·        Debt instruments issued by financial institutions and bought by government as provision of liquidity (assets);
·        Equity subscribed by government in financial institutions as a counterpart for a provision of liquidity to the banks (assets).

Liabilities: Money borrowed by government to buy bank shares and make loans to prop up the banks:
·        Loans incurred (directly or indirectly) by government in order to finance various interventions (liabilities).
·        Debt securities issued by government to finance the interventions (liabilities).

Saturday 2 June 2012

Saturday, June 02, 2012 Posted by Jake 7 comments Labels: , , , ,
“Taxation means that Smith is forcing Jones to hand money to Bloggs under threat of imprisonment. That is treating Jones as Smith’s slave.”
Taxpayers' Alliance report "The Single Income Tax"

The key factor that drives companies and conmen who rip-off people is greed. The reason banks rarely steal candy from babies is not that they care for babies, it is that they don't care for candy. 

But have you ever wondered why some people with pots of money strive so hard to dodge tax? And why a huge multibillion pound industry of lawyers, accountants, bankers, politicians and lobbyists - many of them decent people - has grown to support them? Leaving a £35 billion (estimated by some to be as much as £120 billion) hole in public finances that has to be filled by higher tax and cuts in services for everyone else? Is it simply greed?

An insight into their reasons was published in May 2012 when the Taxpayers’ Alliance, backed by the Institute of Directors (who should know better), released a 420 page report, “The Single Income Tax”

In this report, apart from the stuff about why taxes on the wealthy should be radically cut, we also see why tax-cutters are so fervent. So fervent they are prepared to tell fibs and consign others to economic, mental and physical ruin by withholding their taxes thereby impoverishing public services. It is because they believe they are fighting wickedness! And by characterising what they do as a fight against wickedness it gives them licence to fight without scruple.

Throughout history powerful people have argued that the things they do are a battle against wickedness. Like the crusaders centuries ago invading the Holy Land, claiming to be doing god’s work, with the coincidental benefit of bringing them great wealth. The head of the Cistercian monks in the thirteenth century, during a war between types of Christians, when asked how to distinguish between the good and the bad on capturing the citizens of a city in France advised “Kill them all. God will know his own”.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance report seems to take the Cistercian’s view on taxes. The report comments “Tax maybe a necessary evil – but it remains an evil”, asserting in these extracts from the report that

·        Tax is coercive. “taxation relies on the use of force…. Coercion is a serious business: it imposes an awesome responsibility on the authorities to ensure that the money that is raised through it is spent wisely and effectively. Bureaucracy and waste are not just a loss to the economy – they are a moral outrage.”
·        Tax eclipses personal morality. “Not only is taxation a form of confiscation under threat of force. It is confiscation by people who believe their values and priorities are superior to those whom they force to pay up.”
·        Taxation raises the state over individuals. “the argument that some people must be forced to pay money for the benefit of others is extremely fraught. The state has no prior moral right to people’s property. If it did, there would be no logical stopping point; no level of state expropriation which any of us had any right to resist.”
·        Taxation undermines personal responsibility. “taxation also – malignly – relieves them of personal responsibility. They may wish, for example, to take care of elderly relatives, or to provide educative activities for their children, or to give themselves training that might enhance their employment prospects. By eating into their income, savings and capital, taxation reduces their ability to do these things.”

And it goes on about the effects of tax:
·        Higher taxes are morally corrosive.
·        Ethical corrosion in government.
·        War between social groups.
·        Creates perverse incentives.
·        Taxes reduce human prosperity.

Perversity, corrosion, immorality, slavery and social war – what’s there to like? Thereby the report asserts that dodging tax is not for the dodgy. Tax dodgers are actually dodging wickedness. And the only way to stop the dodging is to abolish the taxes - hence the report.

Saturday, June 02, 2012 Posted by Jake 8 comments Labels: , , ,

[UPDATED FEB 2016: MPs got another pay rise, of 1.3%, in April 2016, taking their salary to £74,962. This was on top of a 10% rise decided in August 2015 and backdated to the general election. The increase is an annual adjustment decided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which takes into account average public sector pay rises. However, it is slightly higher than the 1% public sector pay cap introduced by Chancellor George Osborne.]

Doctors, nurses, teachers, and all other public servants - if you want some tips on how to plead for more money you have no better example to follow than our members of parliament. You all may be having your pay and pensions sliced. But remember our poor Parliamentarians too had a chunk taken out of their incomes - when they were stopped from making dodgy and fraudulent expense claims that netted some of them tens of thousands of pounds.

Frustrated at the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) having the cheek to check on their reimbursements, and wanting to get a boost to their incomes from more carelessly doled out expenses, our Members of Parliament produced the following survey of themselves and statistics from their navel-gazing report published in 2011, which aim to show:

a) They reckon they work much harder than MPs from previous years, citing the number of pages of legislation, the number of meetings, number of reports, and the number of questions asked. They skate over the probable reason of the increase - computers and word processors spewing out padded verbiage that 30 years ago had to be laboriously produced by hand.
b) IPSA, the people who control their expenses really don't understand what they do, and why they really do need moats and duck houses.
c) We Ripped-off Britons really don't appreciate how lucky we are to have them, and they are cheap at twice the price, and they are really high calibre people, and we should be grateful, and... (I think you get the message)

In short, while the rest of the country's public servants are required to accept cuts to pay and pensions for the sake of the nation, the MPs want IPSA to get out of the way and hand the public purse back to the Honourable Members.

Questions in the survey include:

4. Do you agree with the following statement? IPSA's expenses system is adversely affecting MPs' family lives.  Response % Response count 
Strongly agree 41.0 84  
Agree 36.6  75 
Neither agree nor disagree  16.1 33  
Disagree 4.4  9 
Strongly disagree  2.0 4  
answered question  205  

5. Do you agree with the following statement? IPSA understands what I do in my role as an MP.  Response % Response count 
Strongly agree 1.0 2  
Agree 3.4  7 
Neither agree nor disagree  8.7 18  
Disagree 34.0  70 
Strongly disagree  52.9 109  
answered question  206  

Annex 2

Statistical information on the workload of MPs
Number of electors/people per MP 1922-2010

Source: Railings and Thrasher, British Electoral Facts: 1832-2006 (2007), pp 88-92.
House of Commons Library data.
Office for National Statistics population data.
B R Mitchell, British Historical Statistics (1988), pp 13-14.
Pages of legislation (Public and General Acts and Statutory Instruments)

Source: Parliamentary Trends: Statistics about Parliament, House of Commons Library Research Paper 09/69, 12 August 2009, Table 2.

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