Friday 31 May 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , ,
But how come KJ is a lot more disappointed than Fee and Chris?

Thursday 30 May 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Private firms are running frontline NHS services by stealth
David Cameron’s election campaign promised the NHS was safe in his hands, and that frontline services would not be touched. But Virgin Care’s interests include sexual health services, children’s services, radiology departments, diagnostic and urgent care centres and even entire GP practices. More than 100 NHS services are now run by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Health reforms have already handed £7bn in contracts to private firms such as Virgin, Care UK, Serco and Circle, with a further £20bn predicted. Virgin is notorious for getting its brand name in front of everything it does, including planes, trains, TV, mobile phones and internet. But there is little or no sign of the Virgin brand, just the usual NHS logos. The accusation is that the private companies prefer to conceal their involvement. MIRROR
(Ever wondered why you haven’t seen Branson prancing round in a nurse’s uniform? Now you know.)

Energy suppliers held back gas during UK shortage, doubling prices
Terminals near London and in Wales were 40% and 52% full on the day it was claimed the UK had six hours' worth of gas left. Some of Britain's biggest energy suppliers were holding back gas in storage tanks at a time when the market ran into an acute shortage two months ago, triggering a doubling of wholesale prices.  GUARDIAN
(The energy firms responded: “There’s loads of gas where? Oh, you mean *those* gas terminals. The massive ones with the billions of cubic metres of gas in them... sorry. Mmmm... better hike your prices again...”)

Former HMRC boss Hartnett gets tax-advice job at Deloitte
The job opens Deloitte to accusations that it is rewarding Dave Hartnett for being soft on tax dodging corporates. Deloitte is one of the world’s largest accountancy firms with services including tax advice. The firm said he would not work with UK companies or HMRC but will advise foreign governments primarily in the developing world. Hartnett will work one day a week. Earlier this year he also took a part-time role as an adviser to banking giant HSBC. Deloitte and the other "big four" accountancy firms – KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young – have all been criticised for using knowledge gained from staff seconded to the Treasury to help wealthy clients avoid paying UK taxes.  TELEGRAPH
(We all know official regulators have a revolving door between them and the fat cat corporates. Looks like HMRC and the Treasury have a waxed chute…)

'Out of control' payday lenders are giving loans to the mentally ill and children
Citizens Advice also found that people were being chased for loans they had never taken out and customers were being 'hounded' at their home to shame them into paying up. Its research also said that in almost nine out of 10 cases, borrowers were not asked to hand over documents to show they could afford the loan. The findings come at a time when Britain's biggest payday lenders are under threat of being put out of action if they fail to prove to the Office of Fair Trading that their practices are up to scratch. Citizens Advice has been calling for high street banks to offer people 'micro-loans' as an alternative to payday lenders. DAILY MAIL
(“These people are constantly being hassled by everyone about their ability to pay. So when they meet us they’re always extremely grateful that we take them on their word,“ said a man with a baseball bat and a Rottweiler...)

Saturday 25 May 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , ,
Size is relative. To a little kid a big kid is big. To the big kid the bigger kid is big. And to the bigger kid the biggest kid is big.

In school most of the bullying is actually not done by the biggest kid. There is only one 'biggest' while there are plenty of 'bigger' so the cumulative capacity for being mean is bigger among the many bigger than the solitary biggest. Punishing the biggest kid does not address bullying. But it does give the impression 'something is being done' even though nothing much is achieved.

Which is something rippers-off in politics and industry have noticed. By giving all us ripped-off Britons the spectacle of a really big fish getting a pasting in a courtroom or a parliamentary committee room or on the front page of a newspaper we are deceived that 'something is being done' and are thus lulled into doing nothing.

High pay is not actually to reward a top banker for being a really good banker, an energy company director for being really energetic, nor a top civil servant for being exceedingly civil. High pay is to compensate them for being called liars and buffoons. It buys them entry into the society of other liars and buffoons, where they can provide mutual consolation in their clubs chuckling into their canapes and claret.

Friday 24 May 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,
Fee and Chris boycott Amazon. KJ is not so sure...

Thursday 23 May 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Amazon pays less corporation tax than it got in government grants
The UK arm of internet shopping giant Amazon received more money in government grants than it paid in UK corporation tax in 2012, according to its accounts. Amazon's UK subsidiary paid £2.4m in corporation tax in 2012, but it received £2.5m in government grants during the same period. The company has previously said it made £4.26bn in sales to British customers. Amazon received the grants from Scottish Enterprise, part of the Scottish government, to develop its operations in Scotland and create more jobs. CHANNEL 4 NEWS
(“Oh, but Amazon’s so convenient. I order a gift in one place (let’s call it Scotland), and send it to another (let’s call it HMRC). Sure, £100k goes missing along the way, but what can you do? It's Amazon,” said the FD of Amazon...)

Atos benefit claimants face biased medical assessments, doctor alleges
Medical assessments of benefit applicants at Atos Healthcare were designed to incorrectly assess claimants as being fit for work, one of the company's former senior doctors has claimed. GP Greg Wood says that medical staff were told to change reports if they were too favourable to claimants. He added, "I think the Department for Work and Pensions is the real culprit here. It's the government training that makes Atos assessors do this." Last year the British Medical Association called for the tests to be scrapped to prevent harm to the most vulnerable people in society. GUARDIAN
(“OK, our health checks have zero credibility. But our health cheque has lots of zeros! So that’s OK, then,” said our Atos insider.)

MPs ask for £10k pay rise, saying 'It's not snouts in the trough - if you pay peanuts you get monkeys'
Annual salaries would increase from £65,738 to £75,000. One senior MP described their salary as a 'pitiful pay cheque.' The rise is expected to be recommended next month. Downing Street will be alarmed at the prospect of a big rise for MPs because it would undermine Cameron’s ‘we’re all in it together’ campaign to encourage other workers to make do with no increase or minimal rises of one per cent. DAILY MAIL
(So… to be clear about this: it’s a race for global competitiveness. And this is the Planet of the Apes…)

Lloyds chief pledges to pull out of tax havens
António Horta-Osório, CEO of 39%-taxpayer owned bank, makes pledge after a shareholder demanded to know why bank was the seventh biggest user of such facilities. Campaigning shareholder Anne Edmonds said: "I want to know when this will be stopped. Tax avoidance is legal and what Lloyds is doing is legal. But to me there is little difference between tax avoidance, which is legal, and tax evasion, which is illegal." GUARDIAN
(“We’ve been asking the same question for years! Seventh? We should be first!” said all the other shareholders...)

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 Posted by Hari 2 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Cameron and Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith decide to check their facts...

Saturday 18 May 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
An earlier Tory chancellor during an earlier crisis claimed "If it isn't hurting it isn't working". This, together with the fib from a later Tory prime minister "We are all in it together", is used to convince the majority of us ripped-off Britons to keep taking the painful poverty pill while the elite take the opportunity to reinforce their positions. 

As Lord Young, former Tory minister and advisor to David Cameron, said "a recession can be an excellent time to start a business. Factors of production such as premises and labour can be cheaper". Young just said it as it is: bust businesses leave empty buildings and sacked employees who can be got on the cheap.

It was ever thus: when a ship sinks although all the passengers start off 'in it together' it is the passengers in the lower decks that drown first. The water eventually reaches the middle class, creeping up so they don't notice until it is too late. Giving the upper class time to float away in the lifeboats, taking their luggage and hampers, rowed by their more essential servants.

The sinking of the UK economy was made apparent by a release in May 2013 from the OECD and the Office of National Statistics. This shows that austerity did not improve our position relative to our competitor countries. In the period from 2005 to 2011 the disposable income per head in the UK fell from fifth to twelfth place in the OECD. France, much criticised for eschewing austerity, in the same period moved from four places below the UK to four places above.

Equally telling from these figures is the fact that in this period the UK disposable income grew by just 7%, compared with 22% in France and 19% in Germany.

Friday 17 May 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
KJ, Chris and Fee have a brilliant idea...

Thursday 16 May 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Cameron threatens to prosecute oil bosses for fixing the price of petrol
BP and Shell’s London HQs have been raided for evidence by the European Commission. They are investigating claims that prices were rigged for more than a decade. It could have had a "huge impact" on the price of petrol at the pumps "potentially harming final consumers". Four months ago the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ruled out an investigation into petrol price fixing after finding "very limited evidence." TELEGRAPH
(Oh no, not another EU initiative that tells us what to do. We Brits do things differently! Errr... we do nothing.)

Iain Duncan Smith caught exaggerating benefit cap figures
The Work and Pensions Secretary said that his new benefit cap was having "the desired impact" because 8,000 people who would have faced a benefit cut had been incentivised to get jobs. But the UK Statistics Authority, the statistics watchdog, said his figures were simply "unsupported by the official statistics published by the department". For the third time in just six months, the head of the UK Statistics Authority has written to ministers to warn them about their misuse of statistics. BBC NEWS
(However, their sister regulator, the UK Lies Damn Lies Authority, once again gave IDS its full support...)

100 of UK's richest people concealing billions in offshore tax havens
An unprecedented global investigation is now under way as HM Revenue and Customs acts on a 400-gigabyte cache of leaked data. George Osborne, the chancellor, warned the alleged tax evaders and a further 200 accountants and advisers accused of helping them cheat the taxman: "The message is simple: if you evade tax, we're coming after you." HMRC declined to name any of the individuals, advisers or companies it is investigating. GUARDIAN
(“...And why should we? A quick look at the list of Tory party donors should tell you all you need to know,” said HMRC...)

One nurse for 250,000 patients: whistleblower reveals nurses are replacing GPs to cover entire counties 
The revelations about Britain's biggest out-of-hours private care provider Harmoni come from a whistleblower GP. Harmoni makes £100million a year from NHS contracts. The GP has made a number of other startling allegations about how Harmoni is routinely jeopardising safety to cut costs. They include:  
  • Terminally-ill cancer patients made to wait eight hours for a doctor to visit them at home and administer pain relief 
  • Foreign doctors with a poor grasp of English being used to plug gaps in the rota
  • Locum doctors flying in on easyJet from Europe, or driving from elsewhere in Britain, to work back-to-back shifts round-the-clock without sleep 
(How about Easy Group cuts out the middle man and launches its own “no-frills” out-of-hours private care provider. Call it easyNHS?... easyGP?... easyMoney!!!)

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Cameron interrogates Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs...

Saturday 11 May 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , , , , ,
The government gets regularly rapped by its own statistics body, the UK Statistics Authority, for making up stuff to support government policies. In May 2013 the Secretary of State for Works and Pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith, was put on the naughty step for fibbing about the number of people enthused into getting a job as a justification for his draconian policy of cutting benefits. 

Duncan-Smith's claim that the statistics "clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact" was quickly shot down by the UK Statistics Authority. The Authority declared the statistic "explicitly states that the figures are 'not intended to show the additional numbers entering work'". The decrease in claimants was actually due to policy changes that reduced the number being counted. Andrew Dilnot, Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote:

"We have concluded that the statement attributed to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that ‘Already we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact’, is unsupported by the official statistics published by the Department on 15 April.

The release Ad-hoc statistics on JobCentre Plus activity, from which the 8,000 figure appears to be drawn, explicitly states that the figures are ‘not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact’. The release Ad-hoc statistics on households identified points out a number of policy changes that occurred between the publication of the 56,000 and 40,000 numbers, as well as caseload changes ‘due to normal caseload churn, reducing those potentially in scope for the cap’."

Politicians rarely allow truth to get in the way of policy. 

Friday 10 May 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
KJ and a banker discuss...

Thursday 9 May 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:

“Shrinkflation”: Food products are getting smaller while the price you pay stays the same
Manufacturers and retailers are increasingly sneaking in new reduced sizes while describing them as special offers or re-launches. One shopper said: ‘It feels like being lied to. Why act in a deceptive manner unless it is to make more money out of us?’ The shrinking has happened over the past few years, with many customers being none the wiser. 
  • Bakery chain Greggs cut the meat content of its Steak Bake pie by 15% while keeping the price at £1.35.
  • Walkers crisps contents have fallen by 6% from 34.5g to 32.5g, but the price remains the same.
  • A Mars bar has shrunk 2.5g to 58g.
Tell-tale signs are “special deals” which are just a cover for shrinking goods. They even have the nerve to make boasts like “less fat” when it is due to them offering less everything.’ Shredded Wheat Superfruity used to be sold for £2.68, so Sainsbury’s put it on £2 special offer before returning it to £2.68 but with less content. A spokesman for PepsiCo, which owns Walkers, said: ‘We have faced rising commodity prices and raw ingredients costs. Where possible we absorb costs but we have had to make slight reductions to the weight of some crisp products.’ Laura Sandys, Tory MP for South Thanet, says: ‘It’s wrong that consumers are forced to absorb inflation without knowing about it. The Government is looking at the issue.’ DAILY MAIL
("…we certainly are. So we can pull the same trick. Pay, pension and benefits freezes force those on lower incomes to absorb inflation more than anyone, but sadly they know all about it!" said our government insider…)

£20m 'Sweetheart' tax dodge deal between HMRC and Goldman Sachs was struck to save Government embarrassment, court hears
The deal has become the subject of a legal challenge by UK Uncut, the tax pressure group. The deal allowed Goldmans to escape paying between £6m and £20m in interest on tax owed to the Exchequer. HMRC apparently feared that Goldmans would pull out of George Osborne’s new tax monitoring agreement unless it was let off the tax. UK Uncut wants the High Court to declare the deal unlawful, but even if it does so, the deal cannot be overturned and Goldmans will not be obliged to pay the money. The court saw incriminating emails by Dave Hartnett, who was the top ranking civil servant at HMRC at the time. INDEPENDENT
(“So… it always pays to dodge tax. Even if we get caught, we get to keep the interest on the cash we’ve stashed. And get to blackmail George Osborne while we’re at it!” said our Goldmans insider…)

One in four UK children will be living in poverty by 2020, says thinktank
The IFS says tax and benefit reforms introduced since April 2010 account for most of the projected rise in numbers. Another 600,000 children may fall into relative poverty during this parliament, with this figure rising by more than 1 million by 2020, the IFS says. The jump will result in Britain missing binding targets to reduce child poverty by 2020: the target was to reduce it to one in 10, or fewer, of all children, or about 1.3 million. A government spokesman replied: "...We want to take a new approach by tackling the root causes of poverty including worklessness, educational failure and family breakdown.” GUARDIAN
(“Ummmm… and all our tax and benefit reforms introduced since April 2010,” the government spokesman added. Not.)

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Tuesday, May 07, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith do the sums...

Saturday 4 May 2013

Saturday, May 04, 2013 Posted by Jake 7 comments Labels: , , , ,
The local elections in May 2013 reminded many Tories that their time at the trough maybe shorter than they had thought. Like children stuffing themselves in an unguarded sweet shop they will have two things on their minds:

1) How to stay in the sweet shop as long as possible, stifling their rustling and their chuckles hoping no-one will hear them.

2) How to take as many sugary delights with them when they are eventually ejected.

The sugary delights in question being the lucrative transfer of public services to the private sector. It is not that the time for privatisation and outsourcing is getting short. Labour governments of recent years were hardly any less enthusiastic under the cover of PFI (Private Finance Initiatives). It is just a question of which political party has its hands on the ladle when the deals are doled out.

With further privatisations and outsourcing likely to be fast-tracked - including the sale of Royal Mail and the sale of government stakes in the banks RBS and Lloyds, as well as various outsourcing contracts - we take a closer look at a little reported skirmish in Parliament in April 2013.

A debate was held in the House of Lords on the 24th April 2013, where peers voted to accept legislation making it a legal requirement for the NHS to contract with private sector suppliers of any odour (or should that be ordure). In particular, it removes the right of the NHS commissioning body to refuse to deal with a company because of its dodgy background:

Here are extracts from the clarification document (extracts highlighted in yellow and red) produce by the Department of Health with annotations by us:

The pre-amble to the Department of Health document states:

These notes relate to the Regulations made under sections 75 to 77 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. They have been prepared by the Department of Health in order to assist the reader of the Regulations and help inform any debate. These notes should be read in conjunction with the Regulations themselves. Where a regulation does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given. 
The specific sections are these:

It goes on to say that those commissioning services from the private sector must:

3(2)..treat providers equally and in a non-discriminatory way, including by not treating a provider, or type of provider, more favourably than any other provider, in particular on the basis of ownership. 

Now we know from his time as Culture Secretary that the current Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has particularly liberal views in terms of the type of owners he is pleased to deal with.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Thursday, May 02, 2013 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels:
“Big 4” accountancy firms use knowledge gained from staff seconded to Treasury to help clients avoid taxes
In one example, KPMG advised on the development of "patent box" rules, and then issued marketing brochures titled "Patent box: what's in it for you."  Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers have provided the government with expert accountants – free of charge - to help draw up tax laws. But the firms went on to advise multinationals and individuals on how to exploit loopholes in legislation they helped to write. GUARDIAN
("Yes, free of charge... Well, there is a small charge... Between £35bn and £70bn+ of taxes dodged by our clients!" said our Big 4 insider.)

Warning from headteachers as parents dig deep to fund boom in private tutors
Parents on modest incomes and families from ethnic minorities are behind a massive boom in Britain's multimillion-pound tutoring market. Hundreds of thousands of children – some as young as two – now receive private tuition at a cost of between £7 and £60 an hour. Parents say the extra study gives their children confidence and helps them secure top grades. But headteachers are warning that the tutoring market is beginning to spiral out of control and is "trading on insecurity". GUARDIAN
(…So… degrade a public service - education - and a whole new private sector is born! The system works!!)

More women turn to credit cards and loans to make up for their lack of income
A survey by credit report company Callcredit found that 72% of women have applied for some form of credit in the last 18 months, compared to just 28%. Worryingly, the main reason women did so was to make up for shortfalls in their income. The research also found that women are now far more likely to apply for credit to cover household goods than men, as well as being more likely to resort to the desperate measure of taking out an exorbitant payday loan. European Commission studies found that across the continent women earn on average 16.2% less than men. DAILY MAIL

Iain Duncan Smith urges wealthy elderly to 'hand back' benefits
Wealthy elderly people who do not need benefits to help with fuel bills, TV licences or free travel should give the money to his department, said the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. He said he would "encourage" people who do not need such financial support "to hand it back". BBC NEWS
(Meanwhile, extremely wealthy people who do not need 'loopholes' to help with their 'tax', 'moral compass' and 'vast wealth' should give the money to the Conservative Party, if they haven’t done so already...)

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