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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, March 13, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

The NHS has lost nearly 4,000 senior nursing posts since 2010
The drastic cuts are putting patient care at risk, warns the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). The NHS is in the middle of a tough drive to save £20bn by 2015. The government has claimed this can be achieved through efficiency savings and the frontline should not be harmed. But the RCN disagrees. The RCN says that hidden within wider nursing workforce cuts are a significant loss and devaluation of skills and experience. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said: "As more patients require complex care from specialist nurses, letting so many years of skills and experience vanish from the NHS is an utterly reckless policy... These cuts are a short-term attempt by trusts to find efficiency savings, yet they will lead to a very serious and very long-term crisis in our health service." BBC NEWS

E.On UK energy supply profits leap 26% to £296m
German-owned electricity and gas supplier says cold weather and cost-cutting boosted its UK supply profits but power plant earnings fell 34%. But it immediately faced criticism from Labour politicians for the "out of order" profit increase, which followed a 9pc price hike for consumers at the start of 2013. E.On's pre-tax profit margin almost doubled, from 2.3% in 2012 to 4% last year. All the “Big 6” energy suppliers have faced huge criticism of their profits and price rises. Tony Cocker, E.On UK chief executive, defended the supply profit increase, but reiterated calls for regulator Ofgem to refer the energy sector for a full competition inquiry. "The questions that still hang over the sector show more than ever that now is the time for a full Competition Commission Investigation," he said. TELEGRAPH

G4S agrees to repay £109m for overcharging on tagging contracts
The private security firm G4S has agreed to repay £109m plus VAT for overcharging the Ministry of Justice for the electronic tagging of offenders – but still remains barred from bidding for fresh contracts. The repayment follows a similar £70.5m settlement with the outsourcing group Serco. The two companies have now agreed to repay nearly £180m for overcharging on tagging and prisoner escort contracts, indicating that the scale of the scandal is 10 times larger than previous estimates of £15m to £20m. In November justice ministers rejected an offer by G4S of a £24m "credit note" after it admitted overcharging on its electronic monitoring contract had been going on for years. The MoJ has said the overcharging practices stretched back at least to 2005. Both companies are still facing a criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into their operation of tagging contracts. GUARDIAN

Councils using lie detector tests that "don't work" to catch benefit fraudsters
More than 20 councils have used or plan to use controversial lie detector tests to catch fraudulent benefits claimants, despite the government dropping the technology because it was found to be not sufficiently reliable. Leading experts in linguistics at Stockholm University said that VRA "does nothing. That is the short answer. There's no scientific basis for this method. From the output it generates this analysis is closer to astrology than science. There was very good work done by the DWP in the UK showing it did not work, so I am surprised." But a number of councils – Redcar, Middlesbrough, West Dorset and Wycombe – said they were convinced of VRA's merits and were considering using it in the future. GUARDIAN


JPMorgan whistleblower gets $63.9 million reward in mortgage fraud deal
A whistleblower, Keith Edwards, will be paid $63.9 million for providing tips that led to JPMorgan Chase & Co's agreement to pay $614 million and tighten oversight to resolve charges that it defrauded the government into insuring flawed home loans. In February JPMorgan admitted that for more than a decade it submitted thousands of mortgages for insurance by the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs that did not qualify for government guarantees. JPMorgan also admitted that it had failed to tell the agencies that its own internal reviews had turned up problems. The government said it ultimately had to cover millions of dollars of losses after some of the bank's loans went sour, resulting in evictions and foreclosures nationwide. Edwards, a Louisiana resident, had worked for JPMorgan or its predecessors from 2003 to 2008, and had been an assistant vice president supervising a government insuring unit. The US Justice Department said it had paid out roughly $1.98 billion of whistleblower awards from 2009 to 2013. REUTERS

Banks may be 'hindering' small businesses, says OFT
The OFT also says some banks are still failing to conform to a previous investigation by the Competition Commission 12 years ago. That inquiry found that banks sometimes required customers to open an account as a condition of receiving a loan. The OFT says there is evidence that this practice - known as "bundling"- is still occurring. Business Secretary Vince Cable said that small businesses still face problems with banking. "SMEs feel they have too few lending options other than the big four banks, which is not healthy for the economy," he said. "The picture of concentrated ownership and excessive profit margins from SME banking described in the 2000 Cruickshank Report remains largely unchanged," he added. BBC NEWS

Ministers approve rise in minimum wage to £6.50 per hour but unions say it's not enough to solve 'cost of living crisis'
The minimum wage will rise later this year, giving more than a million workers a pay rise. The rate for 18 to 20-year-olds will go up by 10p to £5.13 an hour - a 2 per cent increase - while for 16 and 17-year-olds the statutory rate will rise by 7p to £3.79, also 2 per cent. The minimum wage for apprentices will go up by 5p to £2.73 an hour, with all the new rates coming into force in October. This means a worker on the adult rate, working a 36-hour week, will receive an extra £355 a year from October. Business Secretary Vince Cable said: ‘I urge businesses to consider how all their staff - not just those on the minimum wage - can enjoy the benefits of recovery.’ Unison general secretary Dave Prentis welcomed the increase but said at £6.50 an hour the new minimum wage was still well below what people needed to earn to lift them out of poverty. Mr Prentis said: ‘Even the chancellor has stated support for a £7-an-hour minimum wage rate. The government should have had the courage to step up and meet that target.’ DAILY MAIL

DWP cuts put government's welfare reforms at risk, says leaked document
The government's ambitious welfare reform strategy is at risk because of the speed and depth of the cuts imposed on Iain Duncan Smith's work and pensions department, according to a leaked internal review. Also, separate internal DWP modelling shows that, as universal credit is expanded in the months before the general election next year, the cuts will diminish the department's capacity to keep on top of rising customer demand in jobcentres and benefit offices. Almost 30,000 DWP posts (24% of the workforce) have been cut, with thousands more expected through voluntary redundancy schemes in the next few months. The review warns, however, that future cuts of over £1bn could jeopardise the department's capacity to roll out reforms including those of pensions, child maintenance and disability benefits. The flagship universal credit programme, which is beset by delays and IT problems, is not part of the review. Most of the more straightforward cuts have been made over the past two years, the DWP review says, and further savings can be achieved only by radical measures, such as outsourcing core services to the private sector, investing heavily in new IT systems, and moving to digital-only customer services. GUARDIAN

Public sector workers are biggest losers in UK's post-recession earnings squeeze
The study showed that public sector workers earn 2.7% more on average than those in the private sector when factors such as age, experience and qualifications are taken into account, but the gap has narrowed from 4.3% in 2010, the year the coalition came to power. The ONS said, however, that pay in the public sector was lower once allowances were made for the size of organisations. It said that, on average, people who worked for organisations with more than 500 employees earned more than those who worked for smaller organisations. While the public sector was made up largely of big organisations, the private sector was more evenly split. Once this was taken into account, public sector pay was between 1.3% and 2.4% lower. The ONS figures showed that the pay gap between public and private sector workers was 8% among the lowest paid workers in each sector once the size of organisations was taken into account. At the top, private sector employees earned 11% more than those in the public sector. GUARDIAN

The tricks insurers and retailers use to sell poor value insurance
The City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has labelled “add-on” insurance products such as gadget, home emergency and personal accident cover poor value for money and warned customers are being overcharged by up to £200m a year. The FCA has proposed a shake-up of the £1bn general insurance add-on market, which it said sees customers “as pound signs”. TELEGRAPH

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