Thursday 31 October 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
What recovery? Households are no better off than during recession as incomes flatline and essential costs soar
Confirming what cash-strapped families have known for some time, the Office for National Statistics reported that real household disposable income has changed little since 2009, despite cumulative real GDP growth of 4.2% since then. Meanwhile, the cost of essentials such as housing, energy and water has soared. The definition of “real household disposable income” is the money households have left over after tax and benefits, adjusted to take into account inflation. The ONS said that the share of this money families spend on basic essentials has jumped from 19.9% in 2003 to 27.3% in 2013. Most of that squeeze is accounted for by housing, which now takes up 20.6% of disposable income compared to 14.7% ten years ago. The share taken up by gas and electricity has jumped 72% in ten years, despite us not using any more than we used to. DAILY MAIL

Energy firms 'overcharge by £3.7bn a year'
Some of Britain's biggest energy companies have been accused of raising households bills for no reason and systematically overcharging customers by £3.7bn a year, as they were grilled by MPs over their soaring prices and profits. The Big Six energy firms were also challenged by Stephen Fitzpatrick, the chief executive of small supplier Ovo Energy. As part of his evidence, he said: "When a customer calls their supplier and says I'm going to leave, they say hold on a moment, we've just found out we can save you £160. British Gas seems to be the most active, with a dedicated win-back team whose sole job it is to call people up and there's a terrible mistake, we've been overcharging you all this time and now we can cut your bill. When this kind of behaviour is allowed to go unchallenged, this ex-monopoly advantage by the Big Six goes unchallenged by Ofgem, we'll never get effective competition." GUARDIAN

British Gas rakes in £20m profit from overestimated bills, says whistleblower
A whistleblower said that £20m-worth of "credit balances" was put into the annual accounts of British Gas in one recent financial year. Under the current system, energy companies can estimate customers' future usage and charge accordingly. If less energy is used han was estimated, credit is built up which can be reclaimed or used to offset higher-than-expected future bills. However, if the customers change supplier and leaves, the existing supplier is supposed to return the credit; British Gas appears to have kept the money for themselves. GUARDIAN

HMRC’s £35bn estimate of tax dodging is 'tip of the iceberg'
HM Revenue & Customs is failing to make Google, Amazon and others pay up, says Margaret Hodge, chair of the MPs' public accounts committee. The committee accused HMRC of being too cosy with the tax dodging industry. Edward Troup, tax assurance commissioner at HMRC, was then asked if he really once wrote an article which said: "Taxation is legalised extortion." He confirmed that he had written it but said that it was in the 1990s. GUARDIAN

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 Posted by Hari 6 comments Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday 26 October 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , ,
We are grateful to @KimBallard3 for suggesting this wonderful ditty by Richard Parry (inspired by Noel Coward (not by his banking skills)) entreating us all to be nice to bankers, ably accompanied on the piano by Pete Rosser

After all, even bankers have feelings. They may even have mothers who may even love them. Who knows?

Friday 25 October 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
KJ has a beer with a pal...

Thursday 24 October 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
The so-called “good bank” JP Morgan fined $13,000,000,000
The unprecedented $13bn fine, imposed by US regulators, is expected to cover government charges and some compensation payments to firms and investors who bought mortgage-backed securities from Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. But the bank’s boss Jamie Dimon failed to convince regulators that the bumper payment should end criminal claims too. That means the bank – and possibly individual former staff – could still be open to cases from aggrieved buyers of the securities in the run up to the financial crisis. CITY AM

Eurobonds scandal: The high street giants avoiding millions in tax
The tax dodging retailers include Nando's, Pizza Express, Café Rouge, Strada, Pret A Manger, BHS, the electronics retailer Maplin, Office and Pets At Home. How the tax dodge works: instead of putting their money in the shares of the companies they buy, the owners - mostly private equity funds - lend it to them instead. The interest payments on the loans cuts these UK companies' taxable income each year and the exemption - triggered because the loans are listed on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange - means the interest goes to the owners tax free. INDEPENDENT

HS2 rail 'loser cities' revealed after report omitted figures
HS2 would make more than 50 places across the UK worse off - among them Aberdeen, Bristol and Cardiff - previously unseen research by accountants KPMG suggested. These are the places that would see HS2 divert existing business away from them. The findings were only released in a freedom of information request passed to the BBC's Newsnight programme. The chief executive of HS2 Ltd said the figures were unsurprising. BBC NEWS

Energy bill policy chaos: David Cameron now pledges to reverse 'green charges' on energy bills, but promises robust annual review of energy market
David Cameron has pledged to roll back "green charges" that add an average of £112 to energy bills, as he came under fire over Sir John Major's call for a windfall tax on the excess profits of Britain's big six energy companies. But the annual review is seen as evidence that the government is panicked by price rises and the reasons that the energy firms have given for them. Critics say the energy firms behave like a cartel, conceal their true profits and manipulate the cost of wholesale energy. Also, a parliamentary committee will examine the "reasons and justification" behind recent price rises, the difference of pricing policies between the firms, and how "the transparency of energy company profits can be improved". Gas and energy bills have risen by over 50% since 2007. GUARDIAN BBC NEWS

Wholesale energy prices 'not going up', says Ovo Energy
Wholesale prices are not going up in the energy industry, according to the head of a small energy firm, despite British Gas following SSE's rises with a 9.2% increase in its dual-fuel bill price. Stephen Fitzpatrick, MD and founder of Ovo Energy, said he had not seen wholesale prices rise for about two years. "If they're buying more expensive gas, more expensive electricity, in a large part we think this is because they're selling it to themselves". BBC NEWS
Thursday, October 24, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , , ,

[UPDATE NOV 2016: Royal Bank of Scotland at last agreed to set aside £400m to compensate up to 12,000 small business customers that it “allegedly mistreated” in the wake of the financial crisis. Leaked RBS documents confirm that their "Project Dash for Cash" incentivised staff to search for companies that could be restructured and have their assets sold off, or have their interest rates bumped up. The documents also show that where business customers had not defaulted on their loans, bank staff could find a way to "provoke a default". In 2014 RBS said the department responsible, the Global Restructuring Group, was not there to make a profit. Weeks later, as the scandal was exposed, the then RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton was forced to admit that it was.]

The banks' Interest Rate Swaps scam ruined businesses across the UK. Having explained how 'interest rate swaps' work and why they were sold in previous posts, we asked the undercover banker Honestly Banking to tell how the banks have managed to get themselves made judge and jury in the processing of compensation claims.

Fantastic, amazing, a triumph! That's really the only way you can describe the FCA review of Interest Rate Swap mis-selling. The wonderful thing about it is that the banks that did the mis-selling have got to design, run and review the scheme. Yes that's right, the very banks that did the mis-selling are conducting their own 'independent' review. What's even better is that the 'independent' oversight is by litigation lawyers who are in the pay of the banks[1] and will use the review process to gather evidence that can be used in litigation against the very people the banks originally mis-sold to.

Admit it, you've got to admire us clever bankers. We've even persuaded the FCA to state publicly that those businesses who have been devastated by the mis-selling of swaps don't need to take any legal advice![2]

“The IRHP review has been set up to deliver fair and reasonable redress to customers where appropriate without them needing to hire lawyers or claims management companies” 
FCA advice

The mis-sale of the Swap went so well first time, why not remove legal representation from the clients as well? What’s better is the banks got a top-secret agreement with the FCA[3], so there’s no oversight of the cosy arrangement we’ve got!

Banks decide who is eligible for redress:
Let's look at how this shrewd scheme works. Firstly the bank decides whether you’re eligible or not to use the scheme. Sneakily the banks use different criteria than normal to exclude those that might cost us a lot of money and the FCA accepted it[4] - result! We decide that you’re 'sophisticated' so you're stuffed – get out and take your swap with you (and don’t dare cancel that direct debit!). Good that gets rid of some of the problem. What's even funnier is we've got the FCA to state that these clients can use the FOS (ombudsman) for redress – but actually if they have more than 10 employees (which is probably why they were deemed ‘sophisticated’ in the first place) they are not eligible to use this either[5] - a stroke of genius!

“Independent” case reviews:
Then we get our 'independent reviewers', giant law firms, to deploy their experienced litigators to cross-examine the clients[6], sorry, not supposed to do that, 'interview' for several hours. We don't give them any of the bank's side of the story, but we get them to spill the beans and get them to admit that they really wanted the Swap and to incriminate themselves so that we can use the recordings in litigation if needs be. Our clever PR people have decided to call this an 'open transparent' process and not to bother to explain the legal ramifications to the mis-sold customers, who have been told not to bother with lawyers after we suggested it to the FCA[7].

“Independent” assessors:
Once the reviewers have got what the evidence need, we then use our army of 'independent' assessors to review the cases and decide if and what redress is due. We've hired in these ex-bankers, many of whom have been made redundant on day rates of £1000+ a day[8], so they had better reach the right conclusion or we will kick them out. Cleverly our HR people have made these assessors set up Ltd companies, so we can limit our liabilities if they are found to have been unprofessional or incompetent.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 Posted by Jake 6 comments Labels: , , , , ,
This is no laughing matter, so lets skip the levity. OFGEM, one of the few organisations in Britain that manages to make the FCA (formerly the FSA) not look uniquely cowardly and incompetent, has published some useful data! 

Is it OFGEM's Wikileaks moment? Is it a fat-finger accident? Or did they actually mean to publish this useful information?

We like to think the best of everybody (we really do!) so lets assume they did this intentionally.

Anyway, for the first time OFGEM is explicitly publishing wholesale energy cost data. The data explicitly and independently shows the energy companies have been telling porkies about the rise in open market wholesale prices in recent years.

OFGEM data for the period September 2011 to October 2013 shows that since September 2011
  • Wholesale electricity price has gone up by just over 2%. NPower and British Gas have raised prices by nearly 30%
  • Wholesale gas price has gone up by 8%. NPower and British Gas have raised prices by upto 35%.

To add insult to penury, because the wholesale cost makes up half the bill the mathematics says the percentage increase in bills should be half the percentage increase in wholesale cost.  i.e. over the last 2 years wholesale costs would justify an extra 1% for electricity and 4% for gas.

As the director of OVO, one of those teensy independent energy companies, said about the Big Six in a BBC interview in October 2013:

"If they're buying more expensive gas, more expensive electricity, in a large part we think this is because they're selling it to themselves".

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 Posted by Jake 7 comments Labels: , , , , ,
The government's answer to gouging energy companies is to switch. In David Cameron's words:

“There is something everyone can do, which is look to switch their electricity or gas bill from one supplier to another.”

Cameron, washing his hands of the matter, says you're on your own - run for it! He would have us jump from one frying pan into another frying pan! 

Information on price rises from the Consumer Futures website reveals the futility of switching. The cheapest electricity provider is hardly ever also the cheapest gas provider. And while British Gas has offered the least shocking deal on electricity most of the time in recent years their suffocating gas tariff will have given you a right roasting overall. Taking gas and electricity prices separately there is a hundred or so pounds difference a year between lowest and highest. But taking both together the Big Six march a very disciplined pricing goosestep. Whoever you are with you will get a kicking.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013 Posted by Jake 6 comments Labels: , ,
At the Tory party conference in October 2013 David Cameron claimed HS2 "is about bringing north and south together" creating centres of excellence outside London. Cameron proclaimed:

"This country has been too London-centric for far too long. That’s why we need a new North-South railway line. The fact is this. The West Coast mainline is almost full. We have to build a new railway and the choice is between another old-style Victorian one – or a high speed one."

In fact a study done by the HS2 organisation in March 2012 found the greatest beneficiary of the proposed line would be London. The report states:

"It can be seen from Table 2.1 that growth from all GOR [Government Office Regions] to London is especially high, and that growth away from London, whilst not as fast is higher than between most GOR’s. This is because PDFH4.1 [the passenger demand model used in the report] associates high income elasticity on flows to London, and this elasticity increases with distance"

HS2 route map by Cnbrb
In short, because people can gain a higher income in London they will travel there. HS2 spreads London's tentacles wider. The BBC managed to dig out data on the 'winners and losers' of HS2, using a Freedom of Information request. The raw data they found conceals just how big a winner London is by reporting "London Central" seperately from London West; London South West; London South East; London South/Croydon; London North East; London North.

The graph below shows what happens when you combine the London regions:

Friday 18 October 2013

Chris, Fee and KJ wonder whether Michael Gove has been over-reaching himself...

Thursday 17 October 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , ,
Channel4 News report:

"Small businesses have told Channel 4 News that when their property assets were seized by RBS they were sold off at auction to another arm of the business called West Register.

The bank has sold properties belonging to debtors at below-market value after suddenly withdrawing credit.

Property developer Chris Kashourides had a building in north London sold off for just £415,000 when the bank unexpectedly gave him seven days to pay off his overdraft in 2010.

Four months later the property was resold on the open market for more than £1 million. Mr Kashourides was forced to sell 25 more of his properties at reduced prices thanks to pressure from the lender."

Thursday, October 17, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
People at foodbanks give back food that needs cooking because they can’t afford to turn on the electricity
The Trussell Trust is calling for an inquiry after they registered a tripling in foodbank usage. Over 350,000 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks between April and September 2013, triple the numbers in the same period last year. They say that UK hunger is getting worse and the charity is calling for an inquiry into the causes of UK food poverty. Food prices have risen by 12.6% above inflation over the past six years and rising energy prices this winter are likely to see more people forced to choose between eating and heating. But a government spokesperson said: "The Trussell Trust itself says it is opening three new food banks every week, so it's not surprising more people are using them." BBC NEWS TRUSSELL TRUST

Red Cross launches emergency food aid plan for UK’s hungry – the first time since the Second World War
The Red Cross will this winter start collecting and distributing food aid to the needy in Britain for the first time since the Second World War, as welfare cuts and the economic downturn send soaring numbers of people to soup kitchens and food banks across Europe. Its volunteers will go into supermarkets across the country at the end of November and ask shoppers to donate dry goods. Across Europe, the Red Cross recorded a 75% increase in the number of people relying on their food aid over the last three years. At least 43m people across the Continent are not getting enough to eat each day and 120m are at risk of poverty. INDEPENDENT

0.7% average pay rise is barely over a quarter of inflation rate
The Office for National Statistics said total pay rose at an annual rate of just 0.7%. Excluding bonuses, pay growth was marginally stronger, at just 0.8% – the weakest figure since comparable records began in 2001. Inflation was running at 2.7% in August. Also, the drop in unemployment has not yet been reflected in the kind of pick-up in wage growth economists have been hoping for to translate the early signs of recovery into a solid upturn. Young people appear to have been left on the sidelines with unemployment among 16- to 24-year-olds almost unchanged at 958,000 between June and August. GUARDIAN

Google Funnels More Billions To Bermuda
The US internet giant shifted €8.8bn of royalty payments to Bermuda last year, 25% more than in 2011. It’s a strategy that has saved Google billions of dollars in tax. Because Google books almost all of its foreign income through Ireland, the company has been able to capitalise on differences between the US and Irish tax codes to move the profits from Ireland to Bermuda. Other big brand business facing public wrath include Starbucks and Amazon. In June this year, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee recommended HMRC investigate Google’s tax affairs after it paid just £10m in tax despite generating £11.5bn in revenue from the UK in 2012. David Cameron said he was ‘determined’ to put an end to the ‘secretive companies in secretive locations’ which cost billions of pounds in lost tax revenues. MANAGEMENT TODAY

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments

Saturday 12 October 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013 Posted by Jake 8 comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
UPDATE JAN 2017: One of the government's flagship home ownership programmes, the Help-to-Buy Mortgage Guarantee scheme, ended on 31st December 2016. It has helped more than 100,000 individuals or couples onto the property ladder. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said it had worked "exceptionally well", making mortgages more available when it started in October 2013.

However Shelter argued that the scheme helped to push up house prices, and only helped those who needed little or no help. They said: “Drawing on official statistics and analysis, this research finds that Help to Buy has added around £8,250 to the average house price. In other words, it has helped a small number of people to buy, at the expense of worsening the overall affordability crisis for everyone else.”

Meanwhile, the Tory’s more recent 'affordable' starter homes programme kicks off in 2017. But Shelter points out that these “affordable homes” will cost up to £450,000! No doubt the perverse results will be the same. READ ON...

Fishermen putting worms on hooks don't intend to be cruel to worms nor do they intend to feed fish. When baiting their lines fishermen care nothing for the welfare of worm or fish, thinking only of their own dinners. 

So it is with the Conservative’s “Help To Buy” mortgage scheme, which has more to do with where the Tories' next meal is coming from than the welfare of struggling aspiring homeowners.

In an interview on the BBC, David Cameron piously stated: 

"If we don't do this it will only be people with rich parents to help them who can get on the housing ladder - that is not fair, it is not right."

A closer look at the scheme reveals that it is precisely these people with rich parents who will be "helped to buy".

The ‘help to buy’ scheme covers house purchases up to £600,000. Few struggling aspiring homeowners aim so high. According to a House of Commons research note the average UK house price in 2013 was £170,000. The same note states that even in expensive London the average house price was a trifling £330,000 - well below the £600,000 the government is offering.

There is certainly a need to help people struggling to get on the property ladder. A report by the Resolution Foundation shows how low-to-middle incomes have become inadequate to buy a home. In 1983 it took 3 years for someone on a low to middle income to save enough for a deposit, but by 2012 it took 22 years!
Resolution Foundation, "Squeezed Britain" report

This is confirmed by figures from the Department of Works and Pensions' "Family Resources Survey" showing that between 2002/03 and 2011/12 there has been a particular collapse in those under 35 years of age buying with a mortgage.

Friday 11 October 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Maybe it should all be privatised? Maybe not, thinks Chris...

Thursday 10 October 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Government to cap “back door” rail fare hike - while state-run railway company hands £209m profit back to taxpayers
Under the current rules, rail fares are tied to the rate of inflation plus 3%, averaged across all fare types. This allows them to increase some fares above the average so long as other fares rise below average. The proposed new rules will prevent firms from deliberately putting up prices on the busiest routes by much more than the average, a practice that the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin called ‘a huge back door hike’. The announced curbs come as the state-run railway company in charge of the East Coast main line has returned nearly £209m to taxpayers, even as the Government prepares to privatise. Rail Maritime and Transport trade union boss Bob Crow said the profit figures ‘destroy from top to bottom’ the case for handing back the line to ‘rip-off merchants from the private sector’. DAILY MAIL

Back-To-Work schemes: Majority of UK believe government is deliberately replacing paid staff with volunteers
Two thirds of UK respondents believe that volunteers are being used to deliver public services where once paid staff operated, according to new research by volunteering body Community Services Volunteers (CSV). In a tough economic climate, the government has come under fire for implementing back-to-work schemes which detractors say both mimic community service for criminals, and shrink the job market by replacing actual paid work. The government’s new Help to Work programme will include compulsory community work through community and voluntary organisations. INFORMATION DAILY

Disability charity attacks rise in 'disgraceful' short care visits lasting just 15 minutes
Short care visits to elderly and disabled people are "disgraceful" and on the rise, a charity has claimed. Leonard Cheshire Disability says 60% of councils in England use 15-minute visits, which are not long enough to provide adequate care. "It is disgraceful to force disabled people to choose whether to go thirsty or to go to the toilet by providing care visits as short as 15 minutes long." Research by the UK Homecare Association published last year suggested 87% of home visits in Northern Ireland lasted 30 minutes or less, 73% in England and 42% in both Scotland and Wales. BBC NEWS

Fat Cat city workers line up for government's Help To Buy scheme for taxpayer-backed guarantees on 95% mortgages
Property analysts expect bankers to be some of the most eager to apply for the Help to Buy scheme. Sandy Chen, banking analyst at Cenkos Securities, said: "Getting a 95% loan to value mortgage lets you speculate on the expected house price increases a lot more than a 75% mortgage," he said. "Bankers are speculative types and are likely to be highly attracted to the possibility of making lots of money." Bankers using Help To Buy will embarrass the prime minister, who said the scheme, which is available on properties costing up to £600,000, would help "people who can afford the monthly mortgage payments but haven't got rich parents and can't pay the deposit up front". GUARDIAN

The A&E crisis explained in 60 seconds
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Tuesday 8 October 2013

Tuesday, October 08, 2013 Posted by Hari 3 comments Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday 5 October 2013

Saturday, October 05, 2013 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , ,
"காக்கைக்கும் தன் குஞ்சு பொன் குஞ்சு" -  “Even a crow thinks its child is golden”. This proverb out of ancient India applies particularly well to privatisations. To the parent it is simply obvious their child is a treasure.  While others may notice the mite’s behaviour and odour with dismay, the parent focuses on precisely the same antics and bouquet with delight.

Not to be outdone, ancient Europe provides an equally apposite proverb:
"quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum" - "One man's meat is another man's poison".

Those debating the privatisation of public services – be it outsourcing of schools, hospitals and prisons, or the privatisation of Royal Mail - sniff precisely the same thing. What stinks to one smells sweet to the other.

Make no mistake, successful private companies bring success to their managers and shareholders regardless of the impact on everyone else. The “invisible hand” of Adam Smith (patron saint of capitalism, who like most saints is doubtless aghast at what is done in his name) that is said to push better services to customers is not benevolent. That mystical hand is directed by the selfish pursuit of profit. Ineptly regulated banks, energy companies, and the transport industry have all fulsomely proved that the quickest route to profit is the rip-off.

The irony is the decision to privatise public services, yay or nay, is made by politicians elected by us ripped-off Britons. Politicians spout their soundbites, one way or the other with equal sincerity (i.e. very little). The question for us voters is not whether privatisation brings overall benefits or dis-benefits. The question is who gets the upside, and who gets stuffed.

While private companies act in their own selfish interests, we ordinary citizens are asked to be more noble. We get the advice Queen Victoria gave her daughter on how the princess should respond to her husband's less welcome advances: "lie back and think of England". 

Being prone and selfless is a mistake even in capitalist terms. For the "invisible hand" to work, everyone must be selfish. Otherwise it is not the 'best' who wins the business, but the most selfish and ruthless and thus the 'worst'. 

So lets take a selfish look at two of the biggest privatisations from the point of view of we who elect the politicians who decide whether to privatise.

Friday 4 October 2013

Friday, October 04, 2013 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , , ,
KJ and Chris get an unexpected independent opinion...

Thursday 3 October 2013

Thursday, October 03, 2013 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Offloading State's stake in Lloyds is 'biggest blunder since Brown sold gold', warns top aide to Vince Cable
Selling Government-owned shares in Lloyds Banking Group could prove as big a mistake as Gordon Brown’s ill-timed gold sell-off of the late 1990s. The alarm has been raised by Lawrence Tomlinson, a multi-millionaire adviser to Cable. Tomlinson said: ‘What’s the big rush? Just because we can get some money back it doesn’t make sense. I would hate to think they do the same thing Gordon Brown did.’ He suggested that banks themselves would not sell shares now if they had financed a turnaround in a similar way. ‘What bank funds a crippled business and sells it back to the market at the original price?’ he asked. The allegation that a sale might compare to Brown’s sale of gold at $300 an ounce will particularly hurt Osborne, who taunted him over the sale. Brown sold 400 tons in 1999 for £2billion. The gold price has surged since, meaning he lost out on as much as £9billion. DAILY MAIL

It's a bug's life as expert warns council cutbacks will lead to 'pest plagues'
Britain faces a dramatic increases in "pest plagues" and rat infestations as councils axe their pest control teams to cope with Government cutbacks, experts warned today. A new report warned that 15% of the nation's local authorities have discontinued their pest services and the number is set to rise "considerably". Simon Forrester, chief executive of the British Pest Control Association, said he feared a big rise in the rodent population, while the number of bed bugs were likely to rise in London because of the "influx of tourists" after the 2012 Olympics. TELEGRAPH

Google UK paid just £12m in corporation tax in 2012 on sales of £506m - but firm claims it pays its dues
The revelation will add pressure to the internet giant over its tax dealings. Google says most of its UK sales are generated by staff in Ireland, hence their low UK tax bill. But an investigation by Reuters found UK staff were responsible for sales rather than, as Google claimed, their colleagues in Ireland. Reuters further claims that Google's total UK sales for 2012 stood at £3.5billion. Google declared profits of $10billion (£6.1billion) worldwide in 2012. DAILY MAIL

Most payday loan customers 'borrow for food and heating' - while many lenders still fail to check they can afford to repay
A shocking survey has revealed that the majority of payday loan customers are borrowing to buy food, heat their home, or avoid eviction. The worrying findings come from charity group Christians Against Poverty. More than half the clients surveyed said they had taken out between two and five payday loans, with 78% of respondents saying they had used the money borrowed for food shopping. While the quick processing times may make the loans suitable when a person is approaching payday but hit with an unexpected cost they can't afford, only 5% of people surveyed said they had used the loans for an emergency. CAP chief executive Matt Barlow said: 'This evidence shows that people taking out payday loans are not, typically, doing cosy house repairs as most payday lenders would have us believe. People who take out this expensive sort of credit are hungry, worried about keeping warm and becoming homeless.” DAILY MAIL

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