Thursday 3 April 2014

Thursday, April 03, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, April 03, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

Lib Dems must oppose bedroom tax, says party president Tim Farron
In a damning assessment of the policy, Mr Farron said it impacted on the most vulnerable and was “wrong and unnecessary”. The Liberal Democrat president, who is currently developing the party’s housing policy, also said it reduced the amount of money available to invest in new homes. The policy means that tenants have their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent if they have one spare bedroom, and 25 per cent if they have two or more spare bedrooms. The idea is for them to move to a smaller home. But thanks to a critical shortage of housing stock, many are stuck with a benefits cut because there are no smaller homes for them to move to. INDEPENDENT

Bring back Dad's Army banks, says George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne has hailed Captain Mainwaring as a role model for today's bank managers. He said the bumbling Dad's Army character was at the centre of his community and knew all of his small business customers.  Asked about Lloyds Bank's recent decision to axe half of its small business advisers, with the loss of 1,000 jobs, Mr Osborne said banks should be focusing on building closer relationships with their customers. He singled out two relatively new banks to the UK - Handelsbanken and Metro Bank - as leading the way. Handelsbanken is Sweden's biggest bank and now has 170 branches in the UK. It specialises in "traditional" banking, with customers having a more active relationship with their bank manager. Osborne said of Captain Mainwaring: "the bank manager was at the very centre of local life, knew all the businesses, knew the people who ran the businesses and was empowered to make judgements about who had a good idea, who maybe had had a couple of failures in the past - but that wasn't their fault - and had a good idea going forward.” BBC NEWS

Atos quits £500m work capability assessment contract early
The £500m agreement to carry out work capability assessments had been due to end in August next year but following widespread public and political anger over the tests, which have been criticised by MPs and campaigners as crude and inhumane, the agreement will now end early next year. There has been mounting evidence that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have been wrongly judged to be fit for work and ineligible for government support. Last year the work and pensions select committee said the government's handling of the assessment was damaging public confidence and causing claimants "considerable distress". The committee said the problems with the computer-led, points-based assessment "lay firmly with the DWP", but added that the department was failing to apply "sufficient rigour or challenge to Atos". More than 600,000 appeals have been lodged against Atos judgments since the work capability assessments began, costing the taxpayer £60m a year. In four out of 10 cases the original decisions are overturned. GUARDIAN

At last! Rip-off pension charges capped at 0.75%
Rip-off charges which can wipe out more than a third of the value of a worker’s pension pot will be banned next year. Pensions Minister Steve Webb described the crackdown in which charges will be capped at 0.75 per cent as ‘a full frontal assault on poor value for money’. Over the next ten years, workers who diligently save into a pension will be around £200million better off as a result of yesterday’s announcement. This is because the money will go into their pension pots, rather than being siphoned off in high charges by well-paid fund managers. DAILY MAIL

Taxpayers lost £2.3bn in cheap Royal Mail sell-off
Taxpayers had a raw deal from the sale of Royal Mail because it was priced too cheaply, according to the National Audit Office. In October, the Royal Mail was floated on the stock market at a price of £3.3billion. Today it is worth £5.6billion – a gap of £2.3billion. On the first day of trading, about £750million ‘flowed to the new shareholders’ – mainly City investors who benefited from an instant 38 per cent share price rise. When the shares went on the market, private investors were allowed to buy a maximum of £750 worth, but an exclusive group of 16 of the City’s biggest names were given ‘priority’ status and allowed to buy up to £46million worth each. The NAO report reveals many of the ‘priority’ investors then rushed to sell their shares, making themselves a fortune as the share price rocketed from £3.30 to more than £6. Of the 16, six had sold 100 per cent of their shares ‘within the first few weeks of trading’, according to the NAO. The report also said Royal Mail’s £8.6billion pension black hole had also been given to the taxpayer. Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said that although the government had been ‘very keen’ to sell Royal Mail to prevent it becoming a burden on the taxpayer, ‘Its approach, however, was marked by deep caution, the price of which was borne by the taxpayer.’ DAILY MAIL

Bank fines pass $100bn in the US
While UK fines have not even passed £700m, Wall Street banks and their foreign rivals have paid out $100bn in US legal settlements since the financial crisis, according to Financial Times research, with more than half of the penalties extracted in the past year. The sum reflects a substantial shift in political attitudes towards banks, as regulators and the Obama administration seek to counter perceptions that bankers have got off lightly for their role in the financial crisis. The milestone comes amid signs that banks’ legal costs could rise further, with a number of large banks still under investigation by the task force set up by Barack Obama in 2012 and the political backlash still under way. FINANCIAL TIMES

Five million paid less than living wage: TUC highlights UK's pay blackspots
The TUC said a breakdown of official figures showed that on average around 20% of workers are earning less than the living wage – an informal and unenforceable benchmark – but that this rose to almost 50% in some parliamentary constituencies. Designed to top up the legally-binding national minimum wage, the living wage is set at £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 for the rest of the country. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, says he wants to include the idea as part of Labour's 2015 manifesto, while David Cameron says he supports a living wage in principle. GUARDIAN

Disbanded OFT’s regulation of UK estate agents handed over to Powys county council
Powys county council and Anglesey Trading Standards will run the National Trading Standards Estate Agents Team, taking on some of the powers previously held by the OFT, including assessing whether Britain's half a million agents are fit to carry out their work within the terms of the Estate Agents Act 1979. The move has been opposed by the shadow consumer minister, Stella Creasy, who said there were "real questions about whether Powys and Angelsey have the capacity to take on a project like this". The contract has been set up over three years and is worth £170,000 a year to the council, which said it would create three new jobs as a result. GUARDIAN

Poorest homes face £120 council tax rise as safety net goes
More than 670,000 of the poorest households in England will face an increase in council tax of £120 a year on average from Tuesday as the government withdraws a benefits safety net. Ministers cut funding for the means-tested council tax benefit by £500m last year and instructed each local authority to decide how the reduced benefit pot should be distributed. Local authorities must choose between charging council tax to the working-age poor, who in many cases may not have paid council tax before, or making deep cuts to local services on top of the government's 40% cuts to council budgets. As a result, an estimated 675,000 working-age households will see bills rise by an average of £127 a year, amounting to £234 on an average band D property. GUARDIAN

Barristers suspend action after legal aid cuts are delayed
Criminal barristers have agreed to call off industrial action after ministers delayed proposed legal aid fee cuts until at least the summer of 2015. The government has clashed with lawyers over plans for an average 6% cut to the criminal legal aid system. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said it was a "positive step forward" but said the savings were still needed. The Criminal Bar Association welcomed what it called a "breakthrough" deal. The agreement comes after thousands of lawyers staged their second walkout on 7 March, causing widespread disruption. Solicitors and probation officers will continue with another planned protest on 31 March. BBC NEWS

World Cup 2014: England shirts' £90 price tag 'takes the mickey'
The Football Association has been criticised after new England replica shirts were put on sale for up to £90. The previous Nike home kit has only been around since last May, a total of seven England matches. Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford said "The frequency with which these kits are changed adds to the expense. When it comes to buying for more than one child it gets extremely expensive and people on moderate or low incomes are excluded from that privilege." A Football Supporters' Federation spokesman said: "Fans with kids often argue that strips are changed too often. The FSF would advocate manufacturers incorporating a 'best before' date into the strip's label. Supporters buying a strip would then know exactly what they're paying for and be able to make a decision based on that." BBC NEWS


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