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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Posted by Jake on Thursday, February 13, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

Floods: Environment Agency frontline staff hit by cuts, whistleblowers reveal
Deep government cuts to the EA budgets means it will have shed a quarter of its staff by October and senior insiders have told the Guardian that hundreds of staff, including those work with the fire and police services and those issuing flood warnings, are being cut. One whistleblower said at the same time that frontline staff were being put onto 24/7 duty rotas, managers were being asked to cut staff by 13% across all regions of the country. Lord Smith, chair of the EA, said last month: "An absolute red line for us is that we have to be able to maintain our ability to respond to flooding emergencies wherever they are happening. Our response to flooding emergencies must be protected and will be protected." GUARDIAN

Bank of England to 'stress test' banks in case a house price crash requires another bail out
A ‘stress test’ will examine whether banks will need bailing out if prices plunge. A recent Nationwide Building Society survey showed house prices had risen by 8.8 per cent since January 2013. The high-profile examination by the Bank could highlight the gulf between Bank of England boss Mark Carney and Chancellor George Osborne over the housing market. Bank officials are keen to use whatever tools they can to prevent a price bubble, with Carney drawing attention last year to the relatively small number of new homes built. Osborne’s Help to Buy scheme offering Government-backed mortgages has been blamed by some for helping to inflate the market. DAILY MAIL

Average earners 'need to double their salary' just to keep up with the effect of soaring house price inflation
Property values are totally 'out of sync' with wages, says the leading housing charity Shelter. Their results found average earners would need to be paid £29,000 more to keep up with soaring house prices. In some parts of the country, this figure is far higher: In the London borough of Hackney for example, the average annual salary would need to increase by more than £100,000 to be in line with astronomical increases in property values in East London. The Shelter report echoes recent Office of National Statistics data, which showed how through boom and bust house prices in Britain have largely risen far faster than wages. Since 2003 the average house price has gone up by £100,000, whereas the average annual salary has risen by just £6,570. Even removing London and the South East out the average home has risen by £73,000. DAILY MAIL

Bedroom tax: With no smaller homes to move to the housing benefit changes are 'unworkable'
Since last April, people deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14%, while those with two or more spare bedrooms have seen reductions of 25%. The government argued the measure would help control the billions spent on housing benefit and free larger properties for those who needed them the most. But the NHF said: "We know there aren't enough smaller homes in England for these families to move into." Without the smaller homes, and no money to pay the rent, people are facing eviction. 72,000 housing association tenants – two thirds of the total affected by the bedroom tax  - were in rent arrears because of the policy and, by last October, 15% of households affected by the cuts had received letters warning them they were in danger of being evicted. BBC NEWS

Jackpot! Bookies avoid £1bn in taxes
Bookmakers and casinos have avoided paying around £1bn in UK tax on bets placed by British people by routing them through subsidiaries based in overseas tax havens. Football, racing and poker betting operators are estimated to be saving around £250m a year by offshoring online gambling – more than the highly publicised recent cases of tax avoidance by Starbucks and Amazon. Although William Hill and Ladbrokes are UK Plcs with hundreds of high street branches, bets placed on their websites and phone lines are regulated and taxed in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. Other big names such as Betfair, PaddyPower and 888 – which heavily market their games in the UK – also avoid paying British tax on "remote" betting and gaming. INDEPENDENT

Winning the lottery makes you more conservative
A joint Australian and British study has found that lottery winners tend to switch their political allegiances to rightwing parties after their windfalls. They also appear to become less egalitarian and less concerned by the challenges faced by people on low incomes. The research analysed more than 4,000 British citizens who won up to £200,000. Most of these wins were of relatively small amounts, with only 541 people winning over £500 ($910). But even among those who won small amounts of money, researchers found a clear trend of lottery winners switching support from the Labour party to the Conservatives. Existing Conservative voters who won lottery money said their support for the party had strengthened after the lucky break, while winners from all political persuasions were more likely to say that ordinary people already had a fair share of wealth, compared with before their win. GUARDIAN

Energy secretary calls on regulator to consider breaking up Big Six if they have overcharged
The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the move, saying that the business energy market was in desperate need of reform. "Over 40% of all small businesses are with British Gas and it simply cannot be right that one company has such a dominant share especially given the price of gas now accounts for between five to 10 per cent of total business costs for nearly one in ten of the UK's smallest businesses," said the FSB's chairman John Allan. Energy secretary Ed Davey suggested the worst overcharging was for gas, rather than electricity. His view was echoed by Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP who chairs the energy and climate change select committee. Yeo told the Guardian: "We are now seeing a few more independents coming into the electricity market. In gas you have got 41% dominated by British Gas, that is a very big share for one company to hold." Yeo welcomed Davey's intervention, but said the timing was surprising. "This is not new information; it does raise the issue, what has Ofgem been doing in the meantime." GUARDIAN

Institute of Directors blasts Barclays for short-changing shareholders and dodging EU cap on bonuses
The Institute of Directors slammed the bank’s decision to hike its bonus pool for last year by 10 per cent to £2.38bn. It said it ‘cannot be right’ for bonuses to be ‘almost three times bigger than the dividends paid to shareholders’. The row erupted as Barclays announced it has hiked its bonuses by 10 per cent to £2.4bn, despite a slump in profits and thousands of job cuts. But it said its ‘casino bankers’ enjoyed a 13 per cent increase in their windfalls, sharing a pot of £1.57bn. The bank also awarded a higher proportion of its earnings as bonuses. The scandal-hit lender also came under fire for trying to swerve restrictions on bonuses imposed by Brussels in January. The cap limits banks to paying a maximum of one year’s annual salary as a bonus, rising to twice salary if shareholders approve. This was supposed to stop the casino-style behaviour that led to the financial crisis. To dodge the new rules, Barclays has been dishing out monthly cash payments to top staff since January: these are classified as part of employees’ basic pay, so do not count towards their bonus. DAILY MAIL

Recovery 'is neither balanced nor sustainable', says Bank of England governor
Mark Carney said a few quarters of above trend growth driven by household spending are a good start but they aren't sufficient for sustained momentum. "If and when the time comes that the economy can sustain higher interest rates, Bank rate is expected to rise only gradually. For a sustained and balanced recovery, the degree of stimulus will need to remain exceptional for some time," he said. EXPRESS

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