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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, May 29, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

Back to the drawing board: Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit redefined as 'new project' after successive delays
Universal credit, the government's recasting of the welfare benefits system, has had to be reorganised so fundamentally that the government watchdog responsible for grading its implementation has judged that it is now an entirely new project. In its annual assessment of the implementation of nearly 200 major infrastructure projects, the Major Projects Authority (MPA) has listed universal credit as "reset", the only one to be listed as going back to the drawing board. The scheme has been dogged with IT design faults, leading to successive delays. Universal credit is the flagship project of Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Ministers started implementing it three years ago, and have been criticised by successive watchdogs for failing to come clean about the problems the DWP has experienced with the technology. GUARDIAN

British Gas salesmen who double your bills 'were treated like celebrities and given free helicopter rides for ripping off customers'
British Gas paid staff bonuses for inflating business customers’ bills – and churches and charities were targeted because they had fewer resources to shop around. Employees who made the highest profits by ensuring customers were sold the most expensive deals possible were sent on holidays to places such as Monaco, Rome and Iceland. Employees selling gas at base price for a one-year contract earn £18, but if they double costs to 5.5p per unit over three years they earn £435. Their food and drink was paid for and often they were given spending money. Other rewards included vouchers, 3D TVs, laptops, theatre tickets and PlayStations. A whistleblower who won a holiday said: ‘You were treated as if you were a celebrity. They spent thousands on each person for these trips... We are encouraged to charge as much as we can. If the customer is a charity, or someone who doesn’t speak English, they are so easy to mislead, it’s gold dust to us. British Legion is great because the volunteers are elderly.” DAILY MAIL

Bank of England governor: capitalism doomed if ethics vanish
Capitalism is at risk of destroying itself unless bankers realise they have an obligation to create a fairer society, the Bank of England governor has warned. Mark Carney said bankers had operated a "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose" system. He questioned whether traders met ethical standards and said that those who failed to meet high professional standards should face ostracism. Speaking at a City conference, the Bank's governor warned that there was a growing sense that the basic social contract at the heart of capitalism was breaking down amid rising inequality. "We simply cannot take the capitalist system, which produces such plenty and so many solutions, for granted. Prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital." In a strongly worded critique of City behaviour in the run-up to the financial crisis, Carney said market radicalism and light-touch regulation had eroded fair capitalism, while scandals such as the rigging of Libor markets had undermined trust in the financial system. "Just as any revolution eats its children, unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself. To counteract this tendency, individuals and their firms must have a sense of their responsibilities for the broader system." GUARDIAN

80% of small firms think they get 'poor deal' from big six energy suppliers
Only a quarter of FSB members thought there was enough competition in the energy market, echoing concerns of many British households. The FSB has presented its findings in a response to a consultation by regulator Ofgem, which ends on Friday, on whether the energy market should be referred to the Competition and Markets Authority. "It's clear from our research that many small businesses don't trust the big energy suppliers to deliver a smarter, fairer and more transparent billing process as four in five of our members say that energy companies don't care about them," said John Allan, FSB chairman. GUARDIAN

Royal Mail says postal deliveries to remote areas under threat
Royal Mail has warned that rivals are being allowed to cherry pick easy and profitable deliveries in towns and cities without having to run services to isolated homes such as on Scottish islands. Moya Greene, Royal Mail's chief executive, said rival TNT Post UK's ability to pick off profitable routes in big cities was "striking at the economics of the universal service obligation" – its statutory duty to deliver to every address in the country, six days a week, at the same price. Greene called for "timely regulatory action" from the regulator Ofcom to prevent undercutting from rivals threatening the universal service. But the boss of TNT Post UK, Nick Wells, said Royal Mail should stop "whingeing". He insisted his firm's competition posed "absolutely no threat to the universal service". An Ofcom spokesman said: "We do not believe that there is presently a threat to the financial sustainability of the universal postal service... We would expect Royal Mail to take appropriate steps to respond to the challenge posed by competition, including improving efficiency." GUARDIAN

At last, Tesco drops in-store Eon promotion after energy firm’s £12m mis-selling fine
A deal that let energy giant Eon sell electricity and gas tariffs to customers as they shopped in Tesco has been quietly dropped by the supermarket. Simon Icke, an unpaid independent campaigner against bad practice in the energy market, says Eon sellers’ use of ‘charm and chatter’ and the bait of Tesco Clubcard points glossed over the fact that, without their bills to hand, customers wouldn’t know what tariff they were on or whether they could save money by switching to Eon ‘all for the sake of £10 in Tesco vouchers’. The deal existed in about 40 stores. The revelation follows news of the supplier’s record £12 million fine by energy regulator Ofgem for mis-selling between June 2010 and December 2013, with a redress bill that could reach £8 million. A spokeswoman for Tesco says: ‘Customers told us their concerns so we have reviewed which companies we allow into stores. We are moving to a new policy, which will not include third party utility companies.’ DAILY MAIL

Degree courses 'not value for money', say one in three students
A survey of 15,046 UK students found they have just 10 minutes extra with university lecturers despite the rise  in fees since 2012. The findings are revealed by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA). The research found today's students in England were more likely to say their course was poor value compared to 2012 - before the fee hike. One third of current first- and second-year students (33%) said they were receiving poor or very poor value for money, compared with 18% in 2012. And just 36% of these students thought their course represented good value for money, compared with 52% in 2012. The survey also found 31% said they would definitely or maybe have chosen another course if they were to have their time again. The survey found that in the first and second years of their degree, undergraduates have an average of 14.2 hours of "contact" time - for example time spent in lectures and seminars, and spend another 14.3 hours on average in private study. This is much less than the 40 hours a week of study suggested in the Quality Assurance Agency's (QAA) guidelines. BBC NEWS

Church of England launches Church Credit Union Network
The Church of England has launched a new scheme to promote responsible lending, which will see people being given financial advice in church. The Church Credit Champions Network (CCCN) will promote the use of credit unions rather than payday lenders. Sir Hector Sants', former boss of the FSA and briefly boss of compliance at Barclays, spoke at the launch of Church of England's Church Credit Union Network. In a speech, he listed the scale of the problem:
  • The debt of the average UK household, excluding mortgages, is now almost £13,000
  • 7 million people are using high cost credit providers
  • 1m payday loans are taken out each month
  • 1.4 m people have no bank account

Christians Against Poverty, the debt advice charity, reports the following statistics about their debt advice clients:
  • 36% have contemplated or attempted suicide.
  • 67% visited their GP due to the negative effects of debt.
  • 76% said that their financial situation had adversely affected their primary relationship.
  • 23% said their relationship had broken down entirely.
  • 42% were prescribed medication due to the negative effects of debt.

The Archbishop of Canterbury criticised of payday lenders in July last year. Justin Welby said he was trying to put such lenders "out of business" by giving them greater competition. CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Antidepressant use soared during recession in England, study finds
The use of antidepressants rose significantly in England during the financial crisis and subsequent recession, with 12.5m more pills prescribed in 2012 than in 2007, a study has found. Researchers from the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation identified a long-term trend of increasing prescription of antidepressants, rising from 15m items in 1998 to 40m in 2012. But the yearly rate of increase accelerated during the banking crisis and recession to 8.5%, compared to 6.7% before it. The report also found that rises in unemployment were associated with significant increases in the number of antidepressants dispensed and that areas with poor housing tended to see significantly higher antidepressant use. GUARDIAN

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