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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, May 30, 2013 with 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...)

Campaigners damn G4S contract to run sexual assault referral centres
Rape Crisis said: "...commissioning generic private contractors such as G4S to run Sarcs will lead to a focus on cost-efficiency above the needs of sexual violence victims and, in particular, that crucial long-term support services will be sacrificed in the name of cost-cutting." G4S made headlines when they bungled the Olympics security contract. The company has been awarded a three-year contract to take over two sexual assault referral centres (Sarcs) in Birmingham and Walsall. G4S recently advertised for "female crisis workers" to work at Sarcs at £12.50 an hour and to be on call on a 24/7 rota. GUARDIAN

Mastercard and Visa charge UK retailers (and therefore consumers) over twice what they charge in Europe
Payment processors and card issuers charge wildly different fees in different countries. In the US, the average cost to a shop when they accept a credit card is 2%. The average fee in the UK is much lower at 0.79%. But European shops pay only 0.3%. After a bitterly-fought legal tussle over unfair fees, US retailers last year secured a giant $7.25bn payout from the payment processors and card issuers. A lengthy EU probe into "anti-competitive" behaviour should conclude this summer, while Australia has imposed fee caps and stiff regulations. GUARDIAN

Huge disparities in fees paid by the UK’s local authorities to pension fund managers
Staffordshire’s average investment management charges over the past nine years have been almost three times as high as Devon’s, despite having similar pension investment portfolios. Across the UK, the quarter of funds with the most costly investment management paid more than four times as much as the quarter of funds with the cheapest. For an average sized fund, this represents a difference of £5.5m per year. Suspicions increased when, even after freedom of information requests, many funds only supplied details of how much they had spent in brokerage commissions with the names of fund managers and brokers redacted. FINANCIAL TIMES

Tax dodge transparency deal signed by nine more countries
Luxembourg, Singapore and Austria, a traditionally secretive banking jurisdiction, were among the latest countries adding their names to a list of more than 50 countries who have agreed to automatically exchange tax information. This will help nations clamp down on tax debtors and allow countries to conduct wide-ranging joint multiparty tax investigations. However, Singapore's deputy prime minister said UK overseas territories needed to come on board to ensure the convention functioned properly. The Austrian finance minister branded the UK and its overseas territories like the Cayman Islands as "the island of the blessed for tax evasion and money laundering." GUARDIAN

PPI complaints to ombudsman soar as banks fail to deal with claims
The Financial Ombudsman Service received a record 2m inquiries and complaints last year, including almost 380,000 about payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling. Banks have put aside £14bn+ to compensate victims of the PPI scandal. The FOS said there were signs that banks were fighting more PPI claims than previously: the proportion settled in favour of consumers has fallen to 70%, from 84% last year. The increasing number of households in financial difficulty has also played a part in the big jump in all kinds of cases, and that financial services customers are becoming more aware of their rights. GUARDIAN

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