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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, May 22, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

The rich get richer: Britain's wealthiest DOUBLE their fortunes since the financial crash and are now worth £519billion
The fortunes of the 1,000 richest men and women in the UK rose by 15.4% in the last year. It also means that total wealth has doubled since 2009, when the top 1,000 were worth a measly £258billion. The figures were revealed in the Sunday Times Rich List. The list is based on 'identifiable wealth' - including land, property, other assets such as art and racehorses, or significant shares in publicly quoted companies. It excludes bank accounts, which the Sunday Times has no access to. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week revealed that there is a monumental gap between the rich and the poor in the UK, with the wealthiest 1 per cent owning the same amount as the 55 per cent poorest in the UK. DAILY MAIL

Revealed: Why millions WON'T get the £155 new state pension they're expecting
A major pledge of the new pension was that everyone who had paid all their National Insurance contributions would be guaranteed to get £155 a week. But a Money Mail investigation into the small print of the new flat-rate pension reveals as many as four in five older workers could miss out on the full flat-rate state pension of £155 a week when it is introduced in 2016. And millions face losing thousands of pounds in inflation-linked increases on company pensions. Disturbingly, not even the Government has calculated how much less than the promised amount people will end up getting. DAILY MAIL

Miliband sets out Labour's minimum wage plans. Tories and LibDems promise a rise too
The party will announce an exact figure - covering the years 2015 to 2020 - nearer the general election. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have already said they want a rise in the minimum wage. However any major increase is likely to be criticised by business groups worried that it would drive up costs and damage competitiveness. Mr Miliband said it was a "scandal" that there were five million people in work who "can't make ends meet". The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Downing Street believed that as a result of economic growth there could be a real terms increase in the level of the minimum wage, but that it should remain a matter for the Low Pay Commission to recommend its level. BBC NEWS

New RBS finance chief handed £1.9m 'golden hello' reigniting controversy over bankers' 'fat cat' pay
Ewen Stevenson was awarded 584,506 shares on his first day in the job on Monday to compensate him for payments he forfeited at his previous employer Credit Suisse. RBS shares are currently worth 326p each, up 2.3p on the day. Stevenson will enjoy an annual package of £1.9million a year, including a £800,000 salary, £280,000 in pension contributions, and £26,250 in benefits. He will also receive a controversial £800,000 fixed shares ‘allowance’, used by banks including RBS to swerve the EU bonus cap. Stevenson was recruited after Nathan Bostock resigned in December to join Santander UK after just ten weeks in the role. The revelations turn up the heat on the state backed bank, which is still 81 per cent owned by the taxpayer and slumped to a £8.2billion loss last year. RBS was accused of wasting taxpayers’ money after handing a £3.2million ‘golden hello’ to current chief executive Ross McEwan when he joined as retail boss of the bank in August 2012. The Government last month blocked RBS from paying bonuses twice the size of salaries - but approved the new pay measure at Lloyds. DAILY MAIL


Ofgem penalises Scottish Power for overcharging on energy bills
For years power firms have imposed higher charges on customers who elect to receive a quarterly bill rather than pay by monthly direct debit. Following an investigation, Ofgem has concluded that the price differential charged by Scottish Power, which supplies around 5m homes, was unfair. As a result the Glasgow-based firm has agreed to pay £750,000 to Energy Best Deal – a public awareness campaign run by Citizen's Advice. But affected customers will not be getting a refund. The £750,000, which is not technically a fine, will be used to help those on low incomes reduce their bills and get help if they are falling behind with energy payments. Last week the energy regulator ordered rival supplier E.ON to pay £12m to its customers after an investigation into mis-selling found "extensive poor practices". It was the largest-ever penalty levied by Ofgem. In October 2013, Ofgem ordered Scottish Power to pay back £8.5m to customers after an investigation found that its doorstep and telephone sales agents had misled customers. GUARDIAN

Energy price row reignited after SSE posts record £1.5bn annual profit
The row over high energy prices was reignited after Britain's second largest supplier reported annual profits of more than £1.5bn. This is despite them losing hundreds of thousands of customers following their price hike last year. SSE said the 9.6% year-on-year increase had largely come from its wholesale not its retail business but critics described the figures as a "kick in the teeth" for consumers. And there was embarrassment for energy regulator with figures showing that SSE's electricity transmission business which is overseen by Ofgem recorded an almost 50% rise in profits to £137m. Critics were quick to attack the company. "SSE's announcement of a £1.55bn profit is a kick in the teeth for consumers when their prices went up by 8.2% last year. So we're stunned that they've announced a massive profits increase of 9.6% after losing 370,000 customers in the past year," said Jonathan Senior, head of research at collective switching and low energy campaign, ThisIsTheBigDeal.com. GUARDIAN

Global Swiss bank pleads guilty to helping 'tax cheats', fined $2.6bn by US regulator
Credit Suisse’s $2.6bn payment is the highest in a US criminal tax investigation to date. However, as part of the agreement with US regulators, the bank will not lose its banking licence in the US. US attorney general Eric Holder said: "The bank went to elaborate lengths to shield itself, its employees, and the tax cheats it served, from accountability for their criminal actions... They subverted disclosure requirements, destroyed bank records, and concealed transactions involving undeclared accounts by limiting withdrawal amounts and using offshore credit and debit cards to repatriate funds." Since 2011 US authorities have indicted eight Credit Suisse employees who helped clients evade taxes. US prosecutors are also chasing more than a dozen other Swiss banks for allegedly helping wealthy Americans dodge US taxes, and at the press conference, they hinted that there would be more settlements to come. In 2009, another Swiss bank, UBS, settled similar charges with US regulators for $780m as well as an agreement in which the bank would give US authorities the names of its so-called "secret" account holders. BBC NEWS

Vince Cable warns booming house prices are destabilising UK economy
Business secretary Vince Cable has warned booming house prices are destabilising the economy and any sane person should worry about what is going to happen when interest rates rise as the economy returns to normal. He also warned that household debt in relation to income is set to become significantly higher in the UK than almost anywhere else, and contains serious dangers that represent "a real, real, real worry" for policymakers and homeowners. He said levels of household debt were forecast to surpass those reached before the financial crash in 2008. His comments have emerged as a study predicted that one in 10 mortgage payers risk becoming trapped on unaffordable deals as interest rates rise over the next four years. GUARDIAN

HMRC says £10bn, but tax expert says we lose £40bn each year from “hidden” sales
The Treasury is losing £40bn a year due to a shadow economy where firms and individuals deliberately hide sales from the taxman, according to a leading tax justice campaigner, Richard Murphy. He said it is wrong to think most of the tax lost to the shadow economy related to self-employed workers. The lion's share, he says, is from 1.1m companies that tell HMRC they trade in the UK at an average loss of about £10,000, and from a further 400,000 companies he estimates trade in the UK but do not file a tax return. The report has been swiftly rejected by HMRC as "seriously flawed", although Murphy said it had been peer reviewed by academics and other tax experts. Murphy himself is an accountant and tax specialist who until March 2013 sat on an HRMC panel of anti-avoidance experts. He is leading a campaign questioning the accuracy of HRMC figures on Britain's tax gap. Future reports due this summer will include a challenge to HRMC's figures on tax avoidance, which do not capture the activities of many multinationals shifting profits from high-tax jurisdictions such as the UK to offshore tax havens. The reports will also challenge HMRC figures on inheritance tax due, which he argues greatly underestimated the scale Britain's property and financial wealth. GUARDIAN

Backlash over banks' fee-paying accounts: Complaints triple amid fears of new mis-selling scandal
Around 9m people have a packaged account in the UK. But in an echo of the payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal, many are paying for perks they never knew existed, do not want or cannot benefit from. As a result, thousands of customers that have paid up to £300 a year for the perks have had their complaints routinely rejected by the high street banks, forcing them to take their case to the independent disputes arbitrator, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). 78% of these complaints were upheld in the customer's favour after being rejected by the bank. Banks are keen to sell them because they are far more profitable than ordinary current accounts, which are free if in credit. Typical packaged account benefits include travel insurance, breakdown cover and mobile phone insurance. Some also offer free music downloads or free National Trust days out. But pensioners, for example, may find they are unable to claim on their travel insurance policy because the small print contains an age limit of 65. The FOS said a growing number of complaints are from customers who said their accounts had been 'upgraded' without their knowledge. The total number of all complaints against banks were up by 1% on the previous year to a record of 512,167. Banks have already paid out over £14bn in compensation for mis-selling PPI to customers. Critics say the level of customer discontent over packaged accounts shows that the banks have a 'rotten culture' and that lenders may become embroiled in a new mis-selling scandal. DAILY MAIL

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