Thursday 27 February 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, February 27, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

Government accused of suppressing the damning report that its flagship welfare reforms are forcing ever more people to turn to food banks
The report was finally published by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs today morning amid suggestions that it had been “slipped out” while the floods were still in the news. It concluded that there was “growing demand” for emergency food because of increased need. This directly contradicts the position of Work and Pensions minister Lord Freud, who claimed last summer that the expansion of charities such as The Trussell Trust had driven the demand. INDEPENDENT

Atos seeks early exit from fit-to-work tests contract
Staff carrying out work capability assessments for Atos have received death threats online and in person, according to the Financial Times. In a statement, Atos pledged to carry on undertaking the tests until a new company was in a position to take over. But the government said that standards at Atos had declined unacceptably. Disability campaigners have described the work tests as "ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair". BBC NEWS

Atos awarded contract for NHS records
The beleagured firm Atos has been given the contract to extract patient records from GP surgeries as part of the controversial NHS data sharing scheme. MPs expressed concern when Max Jones, director of information and data services, for the Health and Social Care Information Centre, disclosed that the contract to extract data from GP records will be held by Atos, a firm which has attracted previous controversy. Mr Jones said that once data has been extracted from GP surgeries, it would be held in a “safe haven” held by the centre. Select committees raised fears that the disclosure could further damage public confidence in the NHS data scheme, raising fears that personal medical data would be passed to those assessing benefit claims. TELEGRAPH

IMF study finds inequality is damaging to economic growth
The International Monetary Fund has backed economists who argue that inequality is a drag on growth in a discussion paper that has also dismissed rightwing theories that efforts to redistribute incomes are self-defeating. The Washington-based organisation, which advises governments on sustainable growth, said countries with high levels of inequality suffered lower growth than nations that distributed incomes more evenly. Backing analysis by the Keynesian economist and Nobel prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz, it warned that inequality can also make growth more volatile and create the unstable conditions for a sudden slowdown in GDP growth. And in what is likely to be viewed as its most controversial conclusion, the IMF said analysis of various efforts to redistribute incomes showed they had a neutral effect on GDP growth. This last point is expected to dismay rightwing politicians who argue that overcoming inequality robs the rich of incentives to invest and the poor of incentives to work and is counter-productive. GUARDIAN

RBS to reignite bankers' pay row with bonus pot of £550m set to be revealed amid £8bn annual loss
RBS, which is just over 80 per cent owned by the Government, is thought to be heading for an annual loss of close to £8billion for 2013 after it stunned the City last month by revealing a string of scandal-related financial charges worth more than £3billion. Its latest round of provisions include £1.9billion to cover mainly US penalties over mortgage-backed financial products, an extra £465million to payment protection insurance (PPI) compensation and another £500million for mis-selling of interest rate swaps to small businesses. The bank was already facing bad debt write downs of up to £4.5billion in the creation of an internal 'bad bank' to wind down toxic loans. DAILY MAIL

Minimum wage: The Low Pay Commission backs a 3% increase
The Business Secretary Vince Cable said it would be the first increase in real terms since 2008 if the government accepts the proposal. "It is faster than inflation and that is the first time in six years that has happened," he said. But general secretary of the Unite Union, Len McCluskey said: "This increase is a slap in the face for low paid workers." At present, the minimum wage is £6.31 an hour for adults and £5.03 an hour for 18 to 20-year-olds. Mr McCluskey said "An hourly rise of 19p for adults is an insult when the minimum cost of living has increased by a staggering 25% since the beginning of the economic crisis." The government usually accepts the Low Pay Commission's recommendations. In January Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC "I believe Britain can afford an above-inflation increase in the minimum wage, so we restore its real value for people, and so we have a recovery for all, and work always pays." BBC NEWS

HomeServe hit with record £30.6m fine for duping families into buying expensive insurance for broken boilers and blocked drains
The Financial Services Authority issued the penalty after it found HomeServe had ‘serious, systemic and long running failings, extending across many key aspects of its business’. The fine comes on top of some £16.8million HomeServe is paying in refunds to thousands of wronged customers who took out the policies because of misleading information and hard sell tactics. The company, which styles itself as the UK’s ‘fifth emergency service’ used to have three million customers in this country, holding 7.5million policies. However this began falling significantly after it cut its sales team in the wake of the investigation. It had been expected that customer numbers would bottom out at 2million. DAILY MAIL

Think you know how much your pension costs? 'Hidden' scheme charges and how you can find out how much you're paying
Pensions minister Steve Webb has announced today that all defined contribution workplace pension providers will have to offer complete transparency to savers and employers about how much they are being charged for their pension. The Government will submit an amendment to the Pensions Bill designed to crack down on the hidden charges that over the course of a career can have a huge impact on your total pension pot. Even clued-up pension savers may not be aware they are being charged not only an annual management charge, but also a host of other fees related to the investment of their pension contributions. DAILY MAIL

Ordinary workers are being shut out of the economic recovery and just one in 50 say they are better off than last year
The findings by the TUC suggest that ordinary workers are simply not seeing any improvement in their bank balances and their wages have remained too low. But there is one group of people whose wages have trebled over the past decade – company directors. Last month, official figures showed that real wage growth had actually fallen 2.2 per cent since the start of 2010. Real wages grew by an average of 2.9 per cent in the 1970s and 1980s, 1.5 per cent in the 1990s, 1.2 per cent in the 2000s despite each one of those decades seeing at least one recession. In the first three days of the year chief executives of top companies earn what their workers can expect to receive during the whole of 2014. The pay of these executives has trebled over the past decade while real wages have stagnated for ordinary workers. DAILY MAIL

Energy firms told to trade fairly with smaller rivals
The "big six" energy firms are being told to trade with small energy suppliers fairly, or face heavy fines. Regulator Ofgem says its plan will make it easier for new suppliers to enter the market, and will improve the transparency of the firms' accounts. The firms, such as E.On and British Gas, will have to publish wholesale power prices two years in advance. This will make it easier for small companies to buy energy and re-sell it to domestic and industrial customers. But the consumers' association Which? said the latest measures only "scratched the surface" of the changes needed to benefit consumers. "We want a full competition inquiry so that hard-pressed consumers can be confident that the market works well for them, as well as shareholders, and that the price they pay is fair," said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd. MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) said in July that "working out exactly how their profits are made requires forensic accountants". BBC NEWS

Home ownership in England falls to lowest level in 25 years
The latest English housing survey showed that the proportion of homes lived in by owner-ocupiers had dropped to 65.2%, down from 71% in 2003 and its lowest level since 1987. Ownership levels have been driven down by rising prices and tougher mortgage criteria, and charities have called on the government to increase the number of affordable homes being built. Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: "These figures confirm the historic shift that people across the country are already feeling. As house prices rise, the dream of a stable home is drifting further out of reach. The survey also showed that the number of private tenants also overtook those in social housing for first time in 2012/13, according to English housing survey. 3.9m of the country's 22m households were living in private rented homes in 2012/13, compared with 3.7m social renters. In 1980, when the records began, there were 2m private and 5.3m council tenants, but the sell-off of council properties through right-to-buy, a number of changes in the private sector and, in recent years, falling home ownership, have caused the turnaround. GUARDIAN


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