Thursday 28 February 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Inflation cuts value of money by 67% in 30 years - and prices on everyday goods like bread, eggs and beer rise far faster
The purchasing power of money has eroded at an average rate of 3.7% a year over the last three decades, thanks to inflation. Provided British pay packets keep pace, people have enough in their pockets to maintain their standard of living. But research  reveals that everyday goods like bread, eggs and beer rise far faster than inflation. Also, inflation now is well above annual wages increases: 1.3% (excluding bonuses) last month - a decrease from 1.4% a month ago. DAILY MAIL

British Gas price hikes help boost annual profit 11% to more than £600m
The profit rise comes as British Gas chief Phil Bentley leaves with a £10m combined share, salary and pension package. British Gas’s parent, Centrica, reported operating profits of £2.7bn – up 14%. British Gas raised its gas and electricity prices this winter by 6%. Much of the profits are thanks to a particularly cold winter. GUARDIAN
(...and the rest of the profits are thanks to a particularly cowardly history of our governments bending over to the UK's profiteering energy cartel.)

Tesco to pay £6.5m fine for fixing milk and cheese prices
Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys were operating a cartel to keep dairy prices high. The Office of Fair Trading estimated that the collusion led to shoppers paying 2p more for a litre of milk and 2p more for 100g of cheese. Although Tesco has always denied collusion, it finally lost a decade-long court battle. Supermarkets and dairy processors have paid £39m collectively in fines for this price fix. TELEGRAPH
(I’m just grateful they haven’t been selling us horse milk…)

Leading printer companies are shrinking the ink in their cartridges
Newer cartridges contain a fraction of the ink a similar product contained a decade ago. For example, the Epson T032 colour cartridge (released in 2002) is the same dimensions as the Epson colour T089 (released in 2008). But the T032 contains 16ml of ink and the T089 contains just 3.5ml of ink. It's a similar story with Hewlett Packard (HP) cartridges. Cut open a HP inkjet cartridge and you'll find what is going on. The size of the sponges inside, which hold the ink, have progressively reduced over the years. The rest of the cartridge is now simply empty space. In Epson cartridges the ink tank has been systematically reduced in size. GUARDIAN
(“We are well aware of the problem. We keep getting these angry letters that fade out two-thirds the way down the page,” said the Director of Customer Care at Epson…)

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg needs all the good news he can get. But maybe not from Cameron...

Saturday 23 February 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , ,
The Department of Education under Michael Gove has sometimes seemed like the proverbial group of monkeys randomly typing in the hope of producing the works of Shakespeare. A maths teacher would tell you that given enough time and enough monkeys and enough typing random statistical chance means every now and then a fragment of the Bard’s works would be produced. 

Sadly the random musings of the Department are being inflicted unedited on the country in the form of education policy.

But, credit where credit is due, every now and then something coherent turns up. One such thing was the notion to make Financial Education a compulsory subject in schools. Sadly, once that sentence was typed the Department of Education returned to its incoherent output of simian drivel. Their ‘big idea’ is to include Financial Education as part of the Citizenship curriculum, with Maths  taking responsibility for teaching percentages (as it already does, so no real change there). It is true, as the Department asserts, that Citizenship is a compulsory subject like Maths and English – but that’s where the coherence ends. 

Being ‘compulsory’ means students must take the course. Whether they take the course seriously is reflected by the number who actually go on to the GCSE examination. 

Maths and English are compulsory, and each had over 650,000 GCSEs awarded in 2012

On the other hand, Citizenship (10,982 GCSEs awarded) sits between the non-compulsory study of the ancient Greeks and Romans (Classical Studies, 15,265 GCSEs) and Welsh as a second language (9,743 GCSEs).

Friday 22 February 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , KJ, Fee and Chris discover...

Thursday 21 February 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Tax avoiders should be named and shamed
The Commons public accounts committee said tax avoiders - those not breaking the law but abusing legal loopholes - should be "named and shamed" to discourage others. HMRC lost £5bn a year from legal tax dodging. Tax avoidance firms were "running rings" around HMRC. Labour leader Ed Miliband says companies in the UK should publish the amount of tax they pay in the country. BBC NEWS
(“Ummm... How about naming and shaming tax avoidance firms? You can start with ours,” said the director of marketing at every tax avoidance firm, eager for some delicious free advertising...)

Energy watchdog OFGEM warns of higher energy bills as the UK becomes more reliant on energy imports
Older power stations are closing before renewable energy has grown to replace them. Longer-term solutions to the UK's energy needs, such as new nuclear power stations or domestic shale gas reserves, have yet to be given the final go-ahead by the government. "We cannot afford to be complacent," said the Department of Energy and Climate Change. BBC NEWS
(“Oh yes we can,” said the UK’s cartel of over-charging energy firms that sneakily pass their profits to their parent companies.)

Treasury urges tougher action on banks that mis-sold “rate-swap” loans to small businesses
Banks have set aside money to compensate small businesses that were mis-sold complex interest-rate hedging products. But because the compensation procedures have not been finalised, thousands of small businesses are still having to make the crippling monthly payments. The Treasury says they should have their payments suspended. Together, the largest banks have put aside just over £1.1bn for compensation. But some experts believe this figure is too low, and the bill could eventually exceed the more than £12bn compensation costs for the mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance to consumers. TELEGRAPH
(“Small businesses, consumers, energy firms, other banks, whole nations… is there anyone these banks haven’t yet screwed?” said one nervous inhabitant of the planet Venus…)

Are six water firms - Northumbrian, Yorkshire, Anglian, Thames, South Staffordshire and Sutton and East Surrey Water - dodging tax?
Corporate Watch says the water firms are artificially passing their profits to their owners. They are reducing their profits by taking high interest loans from their owners through the Channel Islands stock exchange. The interest payments reduce their taxable profits in the UK and, thanks to a regulatory loophole, go to the owners tax-free. Water bills are rising by 3.5pc to an average of £388-a-year per household. CORPORATE WATCH
(Water flowing upstream defies all laws of physics. Profits flowing upstream defies no laws at all, thank you very much UK government…)

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
Is the UK prime minister David Cameron listening?..

Sunday 17 February 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , ,
Tax avoidanceThe spectacle of David Cameron and George Osborne calling for an international crackdown on tax avoidance brings to mind an old school teacher of mine. A few decades ago my former French teacher, who had earlier served in the British Army during WWII, enlivened the class with tales of the crafty methods used by the Germans. One was a method to test whether a prisoner was a true Frenchman or a British spy wearing a beret. The German would stamp on the suspect's foot to see whether he said "Ow!" (British) or "Ai!" (French). 

The cry of pain is an instinctive reaction and difficult to feign, with the "Ow!" heralding a quick march for the presumed spy to a firing squad.

When David Cameron had his foot stamped on during Prime Minister's Questions of February 13th 2013, we got an insight into his instinctive reaction:

Q12. [142834] Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): Further to the Prime Minister’s rather acerbic exchange with the Leader of the Opposition earlier, will he tell the House whether he will personally benefit from the millionaires’ tax cut to be introduced this April?
The Prime Minister: I will pay all the taxes that are due in the proper way. 

There is a spooky similarity between Cameron's statement and that of Mr.Troy Alstead of Starbucks, when Alstead was being grilled by a parliamentary select committee on Starbucks' tax dodging shenanigans

"we strive to follow the letter of the law and have done so in the case of our tax obligations. All taxes owed to the UK have been timely and fully paid"

And also with that from Mr. Matt Brittin of Google, also on the tax dodgers' naughty step in the same select committee:

"We pay all the tax you require us to pay in the UK."

Messrs Alstead (Starbucks), Brittin (Google) and also Cecil (Amazon) were being grilled by the UK Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) looking into the near absence of corporation tax paid by their companies

Friday 15 February 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013 Posted by Hari 2 comments Labels: , , , ,
Chris shows his wife how much he cares...

Thursday 14 February 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Horse meat scandal: cuts have weakened food standards enforcement system
Public analyst for West Yorkshire Joint Services, Dr Duncan Campbell says the fragmentation of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) responsibilities and cuts in local authority budgets have led to weakening of the food standards enforcement system. The latest news revealed that Findus beef lasagne is 100% horsemeat. TELEGRAPH
(...and the government's justification for cuts to food monitoring is 100% horse sh*t...)

Barclays closes down “industrial scale” tax dodging service
The new boss of Barclays has attempted to break from the bank's scandal-ridden recent past by announcing plans to pull out of controversial businesses that speculate on food prices, specialise in "industrial scale" tax avoidance schemes and use the bank's money to bet on markets. GUARDIAN
(“An end to betting up the price of your food will be particularly painful as we’ve just put a big bet on that horsemeat,” said our thoroughly reformed Barclays insider.)

Real earnings are back to 2003 levels and millions may ‘never see their finances recover from the economic downturn'
Real earnings peaked in 2009 (average wage £12.25/hour), but since then pay increases have been outstripped by inflation, knocking the average back down to where it was in 2003 (£11.21/hour), the Office for National Statistics said. The economy is stagnant, but CBI boss John Cridland tried to be upbeat, saying: 'We are beginning to see the return of organic growth.” DAILY MAIL
(I think that’s just mould, John...)

Judges rule that most “back-to-work” schemes are unlawful
Cait Reilly, 24, has won her Court of Appeal claim that requiring her to work at Poundland for free to keep her unemployment benefits was unlawful. If you are 18-24, nine months after you start to claim jobless benefits you must attend the Work Programme. If you are above 25 years old, it is 12 months. Ministers expect half a million jobseekers to join the Work Programme each year. But the judgment meant nobody could be forced to participate under threat of losing benefits. Critics described the policy as a return to slavery. TELEGRAPH
(“Can I stop turning now?” said William Wilberforce, speaking from his grave.)

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , ,
It takes a prime minister to turn this one around...

Sunday 10 February 2013

Are right-leaning policies the price a nation must pay for maximising growth? The nanny state may be all nice and cuddly, but surely it’s not so good at growing wealth. Even the New Labour government behaved as though this was a given. 

But the answer is no. Over the long term, left-leaning nations have performed as well as right-leaning ones, if you are simply measuring economic growth.

Left/right policies are not about how to grow the cake, but how it is divided. The exception is the US, where growth as measured by GDP does pull ahead of other large developed nations. But it’s not the whole story (see final paragraph).

...But first, let’s look at how the UK cake has been divided

Before we go over those growth stats, let’s take a quick look at growing inequality in the UK.

The “Gini coefficient” is an internationally used measure of inequality, where zero corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income).

Source: Institute of Fiscal Studies

Gini doesn’t break down the details of precisely who is getting what. So what this graph doesn’t reveal is that since the mid-1990s (the flatter part of the graph) the very richest - the top 1% - have seen their incomes (before taxes and benefits have been taken into account) double, whilst the income of the bottom 90% has remained virtually unchanged. Yes, that all happened under New Labour.

Source organisation: Paris School of Economics

Saturday 9 February 2013

Saturday, February 09, 2013 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , ,
We get ripped off because the world is becoming an increasingly perilous place financially, but also because we allow ourselves to be conned out of our cash. Don’t worry - it’s never too late to change basic human nature
By Anne Caborn

The answer to the question: ‘Why do we get ripped off?’ can appear simple. The world seems to be filling up with financial cowboys, cynical retailers and suspect service providers who use a growing array of dubious practices to part us from our cash.

  • Any journey down the high street is a master class in highly sophisticated and sometimes morally suspect marketing techniques.
  • Everything from financial products to consumer durables are increasingly complicated, making choosing between options ever harder.
  • Traditional sources of impartial (if limited) advice are almost extinct. The smartly dressed bank official talking to you about refinancing your home loan may well have their salary linked to commission. Not something an old style bank manager had to worry about.

This new world is full of cowboys and every single one of them is after your horse. This is borne out by the facts and figures. Complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service went up 75% in 3 months. Mobile phone regulator Ofcom announces a review into terms and conditions that allow price increases during a ‘fixed’ contract. The Chancellor takes banks to task over their failure to ring fence investments from high street banking. And that’s just one month’s headlines.

Do we allow rip-offs to happen?
There’s plenty of evidence that it’s a jungle out there but we’re not without blame in all this. To quote a Money Fight Club motto: In a world full of sabre tooth tigers you shouldn’t leave home without your club.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Thursday, February 07, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:

£390m fine for RBS as traders fixed lending rates and joked it was in exchange for sex and sushi
The 81% state-owned bank RBS has agreed to pay the UK’s bank regulator, the Financial Services Authority, £87.5m, the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission $325m (£208m) and the US Department of Justice $150m dollars (£95.8m) for Libor fixing. The Government wants RBS to pay the fine out of their bankers’ bonuses rather than pass the cost on to customers and taxpayers, and have the offenders prosecuted and jailed. DAILY MAIL

Police paid millions for leaking car crash info to claims management companies
Police forces sold on the details of road accident victims to insurers. Insurers can then sell these leads on to claims management companies and lawyers. It may have led to thousands of people being pursued by “cash for crash” companies looking to profit out of personal injury claims, vehicle repairs and providing a replacement car. Police forces denied making a profit, insisting the money merely covered the cost of vehicle recovery and other admin, which it rightly passes on to the insurer rather than the taxpayer. But critics say any such financial incentive can be corrupting. The fees will become illegal in April as part of Government attempts to reduce the cost of motor insurance. TELEGRAPH

British families’ cost of living is £2,000 higher than other countries thanks to energy, transport and property costs
The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says British people face paying 31% more for transport, 18% more for housing and utilities, such as water and fuel, 14% more on recreation and cultural activities, while restaurants and hotels are 12% more expensive. However, they calculated that if prices of housing, commercial property, energy and transport were brought down to average levels over the next decade, it would save every UK household more than £2,000 pounds a year and boost the economy by 15%. DAILY MAIL
(£2,000 higher? Somebody tell those bloody immigrants. They come over here, taking our jobs, paying our rip-off prices…)

Osborne backs break-up of banks that fail to reform
The UK's big banks will be broken up if they fail to follow new rules to ring-fence risky “casino” investment banking from High Street retail banking. But the chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, Andrew Tyrie, warned once the spotlight had moved away from the banks, they may try to soften the rules: "At that time, banks could be particularly active in testing the ring-fence and lobbying politicians to alter its design for their benefit.” BBC NEWS
(“Contrary to what you all think, we don’t enjoy taking 'casino' risks. That’s why 50% of Tory party funding comes from us,” said our banking lobbyist insider.)

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
KJ, Chris and Fee know what the problem is...

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Tuesday, February 05, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Cameron is reassured by George Osborne...

Sunday 3 February 2013

Sunday, February 03, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , ,
Now here is something all the fat cats and their apologists really don't want us to see: scientific evidence that paying them fat salaries, perks and bonuses actually makes them worse at what they do not better. The evidence is provided not by some left wing think-tank, but from research done by top US universities funded by the US government.

Fat cats from executives to politicians claim that paying them loads is done for the good for all of us. Paying them more, they claim, would attract higher calibre people. Presumably because they find themselves and their colleagues inadequate (can't argue with that). To say anything to the contrary, they assert, is just envy. So we should just shut ourselves up and put their pay up.

You would have thought the evidence of the Credit Crisis, in which highly paid bankers crashed the World economy, together with the ongoing litany of banks ripping off their clients (PPI; Interest Rate Swaps; LIBOR rigging...) has proved beyond reasonable doubt that by paying vast amounts of money you simply get people who are blinded by money and will recklessly and without compunction pursue money for the sake of getting money.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Saturday, February 02, 2013 Posted by Hari 19 comments Labels: , ,
 Confused by phone charges or don’t know how much a phone call really costs? Perhaps that's their intention...

By Tony Monk. The information is based on research Tony did as a volunteer for KentLINk after it was discovered that several local GP practices were found to be using 0844 numbers, possibly on a revenue sharing basis.  Tony was also particularly incensed when he noticed that the expensive 0870 series number was rather cynically used by the Government as an emergency number for the public to ask for names of victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. 

Many callers think that that 0843/4/5 calls are charged at a local rate or similarly cheaper cost.

0845 and 0870 numbers typically cost between 1p and 10.5p/min with or without set up fees and again are normally far more expensive from a mobile phone, typically 12 to 41p per min.

0871/2/3 numbers typically cost more than 0845 and 0870 numbers.

Charges for 0843/4 numbers from a landline vary greatly, typically between 1p and 13p/min plus a call set up fee. For example, Talktalk charge a set up fee of 13.87p per call and then 5p/min. One company was unable to quote a charge as it depends on the recipient’s telephone service provider.  Charges to these numbers will normally be far higher from a mobile phone.

Friday 1 February 2013

Friday, February 01, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,
Chris, Fee and KJ listen to what pensions minister Steve Webb has to say...

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