Thursday 24 April 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, April 24, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

Vince Cable warns businesses on 'ridiculous' pay awards
As firms prepare for their annual general meetings, Business Secretary Vince Cable has written to all FTSE 100 members to remind them that pressure on pay awards must be kept up to assuage public anger. He said pay levels at banks in particular had been "ridiculous". He singled out Barclays, which has its shareholder meeting scheduled for Thursday. Last year, Mr Cable introduced rules forcing listed firms to give shareholders a binding vote on directors' pay to make a "clearer link between pay and performance". The move followed investor anger over rising boardroom salaries at a time of falling share prices and sluggish earnings. "A lot of trust has been lost, because of the extremes of what happened in 2010, when pay escalated massively unrelated to the performance of companies," Mr Cable said. His letter on pay follows a series of corporate reforms announced by Mr Cable in recent days, including a public register in which companies will have to list their true owners, and a crackdown on "rogue directors". BBC NEWS

Foodbanks see donations surge after they were criticised by Mail on Sunday
Britain's biggest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, saw a surge in donations after a Mail on Sunday article criticised the charity for failing to run proper checks on people claiming food parcels. Before the article, there had been about 250 public donations since the Trussell Trust launched its JustGiving page in late January. That jumped to more than 3,300, worth more than £36,000. Several donors cited the article as the reason for contributing.  One donor, calling themselves Spitting Feathers, said: "I am incensed by the disgraceful article. Call this journalism? I don't. I'm not a Christian and admire the work being done by human beings for their fellow human beings. Thank you." The Mail on Sunday said it carried out an investigation which found that volunteers did not carry out adequate checks on those who claim vouchers and one of its reporters obtained three days' food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed. Many claiming food parcels were also asylum seekers, the paper reported. GUARDIAN

Councils sit on £67m in emergency help for poor
Figures released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests indicate that by the end of January councils in England were sitting on £67m of the £136m that had been allocated to local welfare schemes. Under the new local welfare assistance schemes, four in 10 applications for emergency funds are turned down, despite evidence that many applicants have been made penniless by benefits sanctions and delays in processing benefit claims. Under the previous system – the social fund – just two in 10 were. In some parts of the country, as many as nine in 10 applicants are refused crisis help. Under the new system, emergency funds are no longer ringfenced, meaning that councils can divert unspent cash to other budgets. Local authorities are anticipating further problems over local welfare in 2015 when the DWP scraps funding for the schemes. GUARDIAN

Energy giants pocket £75m of green tax cuts which were supposed to save millions of households £50 on their energy bills
Millions of households have missed out on a £50 saving on their energy bill because a cut in the green tax has been swiped by suppliers rather than handing the cut to their customers. All of the big six firms — British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, Scottish and Southern Energy and Scottish Power — will save money this year after the Government slashed network charges and the cost of implementing green schemes. And they will no longer have to pick up the tab for a Warm Home Discount — which gives vulnerable customers a £135 reduction on their electricity bill. The Government had said the green tax cut would save households around £50 on their annual gas and electricity bill. However, four months on and millions of customers have not received a penny in discount. An estimated five million households have missed out on the reduction because they are on a fixed-rate deal. The energy companies claim most people have benefited by up to £35. But this still means they have pocketed the remainder  — at £15 from each fixed-rate customer, that makes £75 million. DAILY MAIL

Energy companies ‘in line for £245m windfall’ from the cut in green taxes
Ministers in December announced a deal with the Big Six energy firms to cut household energy bills by about £50 a year by reforming and reducing several green levies paid for on bills. But analysis by the Association for the Conservation of Energy (Ace) suggests that the Government underestimated the benefits to the companies of the changes. The group calculates that the companies will in fact save an extra £10 per household, which they have not passed on through lower bills. The Government calculated that a watering-down of the scheme, lowering the targets for the home insulation installations, would result in £30 to £35 per household bill reductions. Suppliers duly cut their bills, or reduced the scale of planned rises, by this amount. But Ace predicts that the companies’ costs for the scheme will, in fact, be reduced by £41.90 in 2014-15 alone. “This represents a windfall to suppliers of at least £9.55 per household – and at least £245 million on aggregate,” Ace said in a consultation response to the changes. TELEGRAPH

Barclays boss Antony Jenkins under fire for hiking bonuses as profits fall
The Institute of Directors has accused Barclays of not acting in the interests of shareholders after hiking its bonus pool by 10 per cent to £2.4billion – despite a 32 per cent drop in profits. Almost 2.5 times more was paid in bonuses than in dividends, with the IoD in February urging ‘supine’ institutional investors to protest against the bank. The IoD’s head of corporate governance Roger Barker said the bank’s charm offensive with investors and the ejection of remuneration committee chairman Sir John Sunderland has failed to mollify its concerns. Barker said he expected a ‘significant protest vote’ from shareholders at the AGM on Thursday. DAILY MAIL

Pay booms for building societies' chiefs as millions of savers are hit with more than 1,000 interest rate cuts
Last year there were 1,015 rate cuts to building society savings accounts, compared with only 75 in 2012. The sharp increase was a result of building societies being able to obtain cheap money from the Government’s Funding for Lending Scheme, which meant they didn’t need to attract money from savers. But the resulting financial pain suffered by millions of savers – with many depending on the interest to boost retirement income – was not shared by those who occupy the boardrooms of organisations that are supposed to belong to members. Just under half of chief executives, 13, enjoyed double-digit percentage increases to their pay packages. Bar a few honourable exceptions who waived bonuses because of the tough economic climate, nearly all the bosses received increases far in excess of both general inflation and wage inflation. DAILY MAIL

And justice for all? Not with “low” fees set to double at the small claims court
As of 22 April, the cost to make a claim of between £3,000 and £5,000 rose from £120 to £205. The fee for claims from £5,000 to £10,000 soared from £245 to £445, despite the small claims court being touted as a low-cost means of resolving disputes without the need for a lawyer. The number of consumers going down this route has already slumped by more than 50% in the past five years, with 29,577 hearings in 2013, compared to 53,248 in 2007, but the Ministry of Justice says the new fee regime is "crucial" to cover the cost of cases. Fortunately, the fee for claims of £1,000 or less remains the same, on a sliding scale from £35 to £70. GUARDIAN

A third of lamb curries and kebabs are 'another meat'
The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaways - usually curries or kebabs - were wrongly described. The FSA said 25 of the samples were found to contain only beef, which is cheaper than lamb. Chicken and turkey were also found, but no samples contained horsemeat. Takeaway owners can be fined up to £5,000 for mislabelling food. "Prosecutions have taken place against business owners for mislabelling lamb dishes, but the recurring nature of the problem shows there needs to be a renewed effort to tackle this problem," said Andrew Rhodes, chief operating officer at the FSA. "Clearly the message isn't getting through to some businesses," he added. BBC NEWS

Are universities that make last-minute changes to courses breaking consumer protection laws?
The higher education sector is wrestling with the consequences of rapid expansion – latest figures predict that 49% of 17-year-olds will now go to university before they are 30 and the cap on student numbers will be removed completely from next year. But it is also a competitive market in which the desire to maintain quality has to be juggled against the drive for cash and significant numbers of students are concerned that they are not getting the education they paid for. A key complaint is unexpected changes to courses after they have begun, with modules or larger elements of degrees being withdrawn or revised, or fees increasing. The new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is so concerned about this trend it has just announced an inquiry amid fears that some universities could be breaking consumer protection law by changing degree courses once students are already enrolled and their fees banked. GUARDIAN

Car insurance small print 'longer than a novel'
Small print on some car insurance policies has a higher word count than George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, the consumer website Fairer Finance has found. The motor insurance policy documents produced by Endsleigh, Sheila's Wheels, Esure and M&S Bank run to more than 30,000 words. In contrast, insurer LV had terms and conditions of fewer than 7,000 words. A survey found that fewer than a third of customers read the terms and conditions. Similarly, the small print for an HSBC bank account totalled more than 34,000 words while Metro Bank, NatWest and Halifax all had word counts of more than 25,000. BBC NEWS

David Cameron blasted over shotgun licence fees veto
An internal coalition battle over a taxpayer subsidy for cheap gun licences spilled into the open when a Liberal Democrat Home Office minister said that he will attempt to force through reforms despite being blocked by the prime minister, David Cameron. Norman Baker, who has responsibilities for shotgun certificates, said he has been frustrated by the decision to block plans to raise the cost of gun licences, forcing police services to find more than £17m from their operational budgets to subsidise them. Chief police officers want to end this subsidy. The prime minister, himself a pheasant shooter and deer stalker, is understood to have intervened in December to stop a rise in the cost of a gun licence, which has been frozen at £50 since 2001 – just over a quarter of the £196 that it costs police to issue the licence. Britain has around 600,000 private gun licences, many of which are used by people such as farmers or those who shoot for sport or competitive marksmen. GUARDIAN


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