Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Cameron and Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith work out why...

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , , , ,
Excessive pay in the banking industry has long been justified by the need to 'stay competitive' in the global market. The UK has to pay bankers exorbitantly, we are told by UK bankers, because everybody else does. We can't stop until they do, the bankers tell us. To add insult to injury, banker pay provides cover for executives in other industries (energy; transport; MPs; etc.) to pump up their own salaries and perks. Which they pay for by keeping ordinary workers' salaries down, and pulling off more and more consumer rip-offs. New data on banker pay has exposed the whole "everybody else pays pots" as a fib.

Figures published by the European Banking Authority expose the lie. They reveal that the UK has more than three times the number of bankers paid more than 1 million Euros than the rest of Europe put together. 

"The EBA published today a report featuring data on the remuneration of EU bank staff who received one million Euro or more in total in 2010 and 2011. The report focuses on the gathering of numerical data and provides a first analysis of remuneration structures across the EU. "

Second in the list, after the UK's 2,436 bankers, is Germany with just 170: fourteen times fewer.

Bankers taking more than one million Euros in remuneration

Friday, 26 July 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , , , ,
Chris tells KJ the answer...

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Archbishop of Canterbury wants to 'compete' Wonga out of existence
The head of the Church of England, Justin Welby, laid down a challenge to the UK’s leading payday lender after launching a new credit union for clergy and church. Welby, who served on the parliamentary Banking Standards Commission, said he plans to expand the reach of credit unions as part of a long-term campaign to boost competition in the banking sector. There are also plans to encourage church members with relevant skills to volunteer at credit unions. Small, local lenders could also be invited to use church buildings and other community locations with the help of church members. GUARDIAN

New bank rip-off: banks face £1bn bill for mis-selling credit card fraud insurance
Millions of bank customers mis-sold useless credit card theft insurance are set for payouts from a £1billion compensation fund, but there are fears that it could be higher. Customers of HSBC, Barclays, Santander, NatWest and Nationwide will be paid compensations over the next few months. It follows an investigation last year by the Financial Conduct Authority into CPP, a company which sold so-called card and identity theft cover via banks between 2005 and 2011. Not all banks sold these policies. While many high-street operators did, Lloyds and Halifax chose not to. Roughly nine in ten were sold via banks and the rest bought directly from CPP. These policies, which together cost £120 a year, promised cover of up to £100,000 if crooks went on a wild spending spree with a stolen card. But banks already cover customers for this for free. DAILY MAIL

HMRC yet to collect £2bn in unpaid tax held in offshore trusts
The taxman believes approximately 6,500 companies used employee benefit trusts (EBTs) as a mechanism to pay high earners yet dodge tax, particularly in the early 2000s. EBT's are a loan from a trust set up by a company to pay its employees. Usually the loan does not need repayment for a substantial amount of time, some even for 100 years. Around £650m of the total £3bn dodged has been collected, with a further £300m expected. But most of the businesses involved are holding back while the outcome of litigation is known. ACCOUNTANCY AGE

The end of rip-off council parking fees? Barnet residents win landmark court battle against permit hikes
Residents argued price hikes made parking in Barnet's residential streets more expensive than parking outside Harrods. The case could prevent other councils from using parking charges to raise revenue for other transport purposes. The cost of parking leaped from £40 to £100 in 2011 in the north London borough. Barnet council intended to use the additional income to meet projected expenditure for road maintenance and improvements, concessionary fares and other road transport costs. But London's High Court ruled that the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act ‘is not a fiscal measure and does not authorise the authority to use its powers to charge local residents for parking in order to raise surplus revenue for other transport purposes’. This is thought to be the first successful legal challenge against the level of parking charges set by a local authority and could see thousands of Barnet residents reclaim millions of pounds in unlawfully collected charges. DAILY MAIL

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 Posted by Jake 7 comments Labels: , , , , ,
We can't blame everything on 'Austerity' since the 2008 banker induced crisis. The number of hospital beds available has been dropping for decades, through Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron.

Shortage of beds is compounded by shortage of staff. The Parliamentary Health Select Committee reported in July 2013

  • Only 17% of emergency departments were able to provide 16 hours of Consultant cover in a working day, and even worse than that during weekends.
  • "Emergency staffing at all levels is under strain and a 50% fill rate of trainees is now resulting in a shortfall of senior trainees and future consultants"

Of course, this doesn't affect you if you can afford to go private.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013 Posted by Jake 9 comments Labels: , , , , ,
Would it surprise you to know the greatest perpetrators of the government premium rate phoneline scam, exposed by the National Audit Office, are IDS's Department of Works and Pensions and Osborne's HMRC? (Yes, we know HMRC is supposed to be 'non-ministerial'. But who are they kidding?). 

"Callers to higher rate lines paid £56 million in call charges in 2012-13. Callers spent a total of 880 million minutes on calls of which they spent 402 million minutes waiting to speak to an advisor. Customers incurred call charges of £26 million waiting to speak to an advisor."
“Callers do not receive a better service from higher rate numbers and many callers are put off calling government phone numbers altogether. The most vulnerable callers, such as low-income households, face some of the highest charges.”

The worse offenders are DWP (70 million high rate calls) and HMRC (47.4 million high rate calls), scamming money from the "most vulnerable callers, such as low-income households". 

Now there are depressingly many among us who believe the best time to kick a man is when he is down. They may see this £56 million as a decent contribution taken from the poor to save the nation's finances. They would be wrong. The lion's share of the loot goes to the telecoms companies:

Friday, 19 July 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , , , , ,
Fee, Chris and KJ reckon it's not just about the money...

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Iain Duncan Smith defends himself against ONS claim he mis-uses statistics over success of benefits cap
Duncan Smith has already been criticised by the Office for National Statistics for claiming the cap had led to 8,000 people finding work. He was told by the ONS it was not possible to find any causal link between the cap and those finding work, as thousands of unemployed find work anyway. An unrepentant Duncan Smith said: "You cannot absolutely prove those two things are connected – you cannot disprove what I said. I believe this to be right.” Duncan Smith denied he was punishing people, saying it was "no life to lead to accept the fact that you languish on benefits, trying to avoid ways of getting back to work". But polls show many say their chief barrier to work was the lack of opportunities. GUARDIAN

Poll: the average person thinks 24% of benefits budget is spent on fraudulent claims. It's actually 0.7%
An Ipsos MORI poll exposes gross misconceptions around key political and economic issues. On average the public also thinks: that 31% of the population are immigrants, when the actual figure is 13%; that one in four people are Muslims when it is actually 5%; that 15% of girls under 16 get pregnant each year, instead of the actual 0.6%. More people think capping benefits at £26k will save more money (it actually saves £290m) than stopping child benefits for those earning over £50k (saves £1.7bn) or raising the retirement age to 66 (saves £5bn). TELEGRAPH Ipsos MORI

Serious Fraud Office called in after G4S 'overcharges' by tens of millions for tagging of prisoners
The “phantom” billing is estimated to have cost tens of millions of pounds. Both G4S and Serco have been billing for tracking the movements of people who had moved abroad, already returned to prison and had their tags removed, and even people who had died. Serco has agreed to a forensic audit, but G4S has not, hence the SFO investigation. Cases date back to at least 2005 and possibly as long ago as 1999. GUARDIAN

Drug overcharging ‘scam’ costs NHS £100m a year
Drug companies are exploiting a loophole in the law to hike prices by as much as 2,000 per cent. Big-pharma firms sell on medicines to businesses acting outside the Government’s price-regulation scheme. The purchasing firms are then free to mark up the prices they charge the NHS. The British Medical Association has warned that vital treatments risk being denied to patients if costs rise so much that the NHS can no longer afford them. In one example, Pfizer sold the rights to its epilepsy drug Epanutin to another business, Flynn Pharma. The medication, which is used by around 100,000 people across Britain, originally cost about 67p per 50mg. But after the sale this price shot up to almost £16 for the same amount. INDEPENDENT

Over 2,400 UK bankers paid €1m-plus, more than three times as many as in the rest of the EU put together
Almost three-quarters of the 2,436 who received more than 1m in 2011 were classified as working in high-risk investment banking – some 1,809 – while 85 work in retail banking, 182 in asset management and 360 in other business areas. The European Banking Authority will now publish the data on high earners annually as regulators attempt to analyse the way pay deals are structured, particularly as a new bonus cap is introduced across the EU. GUARDIAN

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , ,
It is, I suppose, some consolation that the 1% are undiscriminating when they rip-off the 99%. Even when you look at the 1% itself: the top 1% of the top 1% get a far greater share than the bottom 99% of the top 1% as is shown by this report from a London School of Economics study "Banker's Pay And Extreme Wage Inequality In The UK". The report states that the top 5% of the top 1% took 23% of the top 1%'s wages. Hope that is clear.

Remember as you read this post that the graphs show data for the top 1% only.

"we rank the top percentile of all workers into 50 equally-sized bins based on total wage. So the workers in the top bin are the top 0.02% of [all] earners. We then compute the share of the top 1% wage bill that accrues to each bin in 1998 and 2008. It follows that the sum of all these shares will be 1. Figure 11 shows the results. In effect we are now focusing on the extremes within the extreme. The top 2% of the percentile took 11% of the wage share in 1998 and 13% in 2008. The relatively large share taken by the very top earners seems consistent with superstar theory, though they by no means account for most of the gains that have accrued over the last decade."

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Cameron checks whether Jeremy Hunt has got his sums right. He has!..

Monday, 15 July 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
July 2013 saw the rollout of a £500 per week (after direct taxes) cap on benefits paid to a family. Using graphs produced by the BBC we contrast how far the government will go to help the poor, with how far it is prepared to go to help the rich. 

The impact of this is families on benefits will be pushed out of the South East, while families earning up to £80,000 will be subsidised to buy properties in 99% of the UK.

Our assumptions relate to renting or purchasing a 3 bedroom property at the cheaper end of the local market in each area:

1) Renting family on benefits:
  • can afford to pay 30% of post tax income on rent or mortgage payments. With the benefits cap that would be £600 per month.

2) Buying family: all the below are eligible for government 'affordable housing' policy:
  • can afford to pay 30% of gross income mortgage payments
  • has a deposit equal to twice gross income

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
This graph produced by Bristol University's study on high cost lending shows the cost of borrowing £100 for one month in the form of:

a) a loan from a group of Payday lenders
b) an unauthorised overdraft from a group of high street banks
c) an authorised overdraft from a group of high street banks

Bristol University coyly declines to name the payday lenders and high street banks.

Cost of borrowing £100 for one month
However the report does provide a helpful link to Which?, showing the data from 2011, which does name them:

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Saturday, July 13, 2013 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Austerity is being used as a smokescreen to reduce the share of the many and increase the share of the few. It is happening with wages, with benefits, and with pensions. All under the smokescreen of 'unaffordability'.

Take a look at the three graphs below showing how we are being bamboozled over the cost of pensions.

Using Data from the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) you can show how the cost of pensions has doubled in absolute cash terms, but only gone up a tad as a share of GDP:

The graph below, produced by the National Audit Office shows the increase in real cash terms.

However, use the DWP data to produce a graph of expenditure on pensions as a percentage of GDP and you get something much less alarming:

Friday, 12 July 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , , ,
Fee and KJ state the obvious...

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
London loses control of scandal-plagued £350tn Libor market to NYSE
NYSE Euronext, the New York-based transatlantic exchanges operator, won the right to take over and reform the Libor global interbank lending rate benchmark, which serves as the reference point for more than $350tn in contracts worldwide. The new administrators will be charged with restoring confidence in Libor amid a global probe that has seen three banks pay nearly $2.6bn in fines for rigging the rate. An independent committee, set up by the UK government, selected the NYSE over two UK-based rivals. NYSE Euronext will take over the London interbank offered rate from the British Bankers’ Association by early 2014. NYSE Euronext will pay just $1, in part because the UK government was adamant the BBA should not profit from the scandal. FINANCIAL TIMES

“Historic” £3.2bn Swiss tax dodge deal will only bring in £347m
Two years on from the deal between the UK and Switzerland, only £347m has been collected, and little more is expected. The Swiss Bankers Association said: "First indications from selected banks in Switzerland show that there are fewer untaxed UK assets in Switzerland than had been previously assumed. This is mainly due to the fact that many clients have resident non-domiciled status." So confident was the government that the £3.2bn would arrive, it included the sum in its calculation of monies available to spend. The government will now have to find the money from elsewhere. GUARDIAN

Loyal insurance customers get charged over eight times more than new customers - Insurers to be investigated over renewal 'overcharging' 
The City regulator has launched an investigation into insurance companies for overcharging customers when they renew their house and car policies. One 83-year-old Money Box listener saw the cost of her home insurance rise to £850, when a similar policy was available to new customers for £200. BBC NEWS

Vodafone to charge by the minute rather than the second, raising the cost of most calls
It means a call lasting one minute and one second will now be charged as two minutes - costing 50p instead of 25p. The phone network said the change - which comes into force from 1 August - would "simplify" charges for its pay-as-you-go customers. Other networks, such as T-Mobile and Orange, also apply this billing method. However, O2 and Virgin Mobile still have a per-second model, with a one-minute minimum charge. BBC NEWS

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 Posted by Jake 13 comments Labels: , , , , ,
UPDATED FEB 2016: In July 2015 MPs got a salary hike from £67,000 to £74,000, and backdated the rise to the previous May. The watchdog also ruled that future pay increases would be adjusted every year in line with average earnings within the public sector, rather than being linked to the whole economy as previously announced. They then immediately broke that promise again, with a 1.3% pay rise (the public sector was capped at 1%) in April 2016.

It's astonishing how many rational people believe that an MPs salary is too low to attract good people. We are grateful to @simplem_ths for this simple graph that gives you the facts at a glance. Next time you hear this 'underpaid' nonsense use this to rebut it:

Those who claim MPs work so very hard they need extra money to console themselves need look no further than the Members' Register of Interests. Here they will see the many MPs who find they have enough spare time to hold second jobs earning them thousands of pounds. Names of MPs in brackets shown in the list below are given as examples. This is just a sample from MPs with surnames starting with an A or a B - there are many many more than just these - taken from data gathered by The Guardian.
- Broadcasting (Diane Abbot (L))
- Adviser/Consultant (David Amess (C); Kevin Barron (C); Nick Boles (C))
- Barrister/Solicitor (Steven Baker (C); Jake Berry (C))
- Newspaper Columnist (John Baron (C); David Blunkett (L))
- Dentist (Sir Paul Beresford (C))
- Local Councillor (Gordon Birtwhistle (LD))
- Crown Court Recorder (Robert Buckland (C))

Whatever the reason for our MPs being the sorry lot they are, it isn't insufficient pay.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Tuesday, July 09, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Cameron grills Chancellor Osborne over the embarrassing news...

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sunday, July 07, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , , ,

Legend has it that the Forty Thieves, who were ultimately extinguished by Ali Baba, once had a lucky escape. The cops had them surrounded in their cave. They had them bang to rights, holed up with their loot. However the cops knew the Forty personally, since when the cops got bored of finding hidden loot they joined other firms whose business was to hide the loot in the first place.

So the cops proposed a deal to their once and future friends:

  • Hand over the loot
  • Stop hiding more loot
  • We will let you go, and we won’t even ask who you are
Most importantly, the cops said they would go away and come back in a year and a bit to collect. The Forty naturally agreed. They said they wanted to be de-criminalised, and they wouldn’t do it again. The cops went away, and when they returned…..the cave was empty! 

Is this the nonsense of fairytales? Actually, no. It is the nonsense of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This was pretty much how the British tax authorities contrived to turn the pursuit of criminal tax evasion into a game of children’s hide-and-seek. They didn’t count to 10, nor even to 100. They closed their eyes and counted to just over 39 million (the number of seconds between the deal in October 2011 and the return date in January 2013).

In 2011 HMRC proudly announced they had finally got the better of rich individuals hiding their wealth in Switzerland. The Swiss-UK deal was signed on 6 October 2011 by the UK Treasury Secretary David Gauke and the Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlump. It was scheduled to come into force on 1st January 2013. 
HMRC's cops had given the dodgers over 1 year's notice that they were a-coming with their bells a-ringing.

Our boys in blue pinstripe were ecstatic. The government made a press release titled "Agreement with Switzerland to secure billions in unpaid tax":

"George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

Tax evasion is wrong at the best of times, but in economic circumstances like this it means that hard-pressed law-abiding taxpayers are forced to pay even more. That is why this coalition government made it a priority to go after those who don’t pay their fair share. We will be as tough on the richest who evade tax as on those who cheat on benefits. The days when it was easy to stash the profits of tax evasion in Switzerland are over.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

I am delighted that, through our constructive discussions with the Swiss Government, we have secured the best possible deal for UK taxpayers. This historic agreement will enable us to collect billions of pounds from those who have for too long evaded their responsibility to pay UK tax by abusing Swiss banking secrecy. The message is clear: there is no hiding place for tax cheats.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Saturday, July 06, 2013 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , , , ,

[UPDATED Dec 2016] The UK spent £3.5bn on temporary housing for the homeless in the last 5 years. That's 40% up from the £2bn spent over 4 years, the available figure when this article was first published in 2013.

By The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The UK has spent almost £2bn housing vulnerable homeless families in short-term temporary accommodation, according to new research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which demonstrates the dramatic scale of Britain’s housing crisis.
Rising private rents, a shortage of affordable housing and benefit cuts have forced local authorities, particularly in London, to place increasing numbers of households into bed and breakfast accommodation, hostels and shelters.
With the number of houses built in Britain falling to new lows, according to figures released last week, a four-month study by the Bureau drawing on local authority disclosures, has revealed that £1.88bn – enough to build 72,000 homes in London – has gone on renting temporary accommodation in 12 of Britain’s biggest cities over the past four years.
Campaigners have said welfare changes will exacerbate the problem. Official figures show that in London alone 7,000 families dependent on benefits stand to lose more than £100 a week under the ­benefit cap, and many are expected to become homeless as a result.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Friday, July 05, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Fee and KJ do the sums, even if the government can't...

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Thursday, July 04, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Tens of thousands of small and medium businesses still wait for compensation from banks a whole year after ruling on £2bn “rate swap” loan scandal
So far, only a small number have even received offers from the banks. It's estimated that over 90% of firms that signed up for the "rate swap" loan had been mis-sold to. Campaign group Bullybanks, which represents affected firms, claims more than 400,000 jobs have been lost due to the mis-selling, with the Treasury losing £1.7bn a year in revenue. This January, the FSA put forward a scheme so that the 40,000 firms affected could receive ‘immediate’ compensation. Responding to the delay, the British Bankers’ Association said: ‘Each bank’s priority is that the correct outcome is reached for all customers as soon as possible.’ DAILY MAIL
(Ripped-off Britons quickie quiz time! COMPLETE THIS SEQUENCE: 
...‘as soon as possible’
[A] Just kidding! Here's your £2bn back 
[B] Just #*@%  off)

David Cameron 'warned he cannot stop pay rise for MPs'
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is expected to say backbench MPs' £66,000 salaries should rise to over £70,000 after the next election. Mr Cameron said: "Whatever Ipsa recommends, we can't see the cost of politics or Westminster going up. We should see the cost of Westminster go down. Anything would be unthinkable unless the cost of politics was frozen and cut." BBC NEWS

Bank of England condemns lobbying by banks against new rules
City regulators have brushed aside complaints by Barclays and Nationwide over tough new liquidity rules. At a meeting last week Mervyn King, the former Bank of England governor, told MPs that banks' executives had lobbied the Treasury and No 10 to block the rule changes before 2015. GUARDIAN

Mobile phone insurers use vague wording to wriggle out of paying up
An investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority found vague wording that allows insurers to wriggle out of paying up. Insurers who said they would cover losses in “public places” rejected claims for phones lost in a hotel or taxi. One firm turned down more than four in 10 claims for telephone theft. Yet 70% of customers who have claims rejected by insurers win on appeal. The FCA confirmed it is about to hit an unnamed company with a “significant” fine for poor handling of complaints. The FCA said: “There is a gap between what the customer thinks they are getting, and what they are really getting. Closing this gap will lead to greater trust and confidence.” MIRROR
(...And we say: There is a gap between the FCA’s use of the word ‘gap’ and every normal person’s use of the word ‘lying, thieving cheats’...)

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Tuesday, July 02, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Surely Cameron can save our politicians from the wrath of the electorate...

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