Thursday 10 July 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Posted by Jake on Thursday, July 10, 2014 with No comments | Labels:

Rents rose FOUR times faster than earnings in the last year as demand continues to surge
The latest figures from the Homelet Rental Index show that UK private home rents have risen 7.5 per cent in the last year, compared to a 1.7 per cent rise in wages. Homelet also found evidence that more affluent tenants are entering the rental market, helping to drive up prices and reducing the options of those on lower incomes. The average rent in the UK now stands at £846-a-month, compared to just £787 a year ago, with the rise inflated by hefty increases in East Anglia and Greater London, where rents were up 10.7 and 9.4 per cent respectively. The Bank of England's intervention into the mortgage market and retirees making use of new pension freedom rules to invest in buy-to-let could mean buying a home will become even harder for renters. DAILY MAIL

David Cameron promises to tighten strike ballot laws
The PM told MPs the "time had come" to set thresholds in union strike ballots. More than a million public sector workers are set to join Thursday’s strike. They include council staff, teachers, firefighters and civil servants on a range of disputes, including pay, pensions, jobs and spending cuts. Ministers froze public sector pay in 2010, and brought in a pay cap of 1% in 2012 which remains in place. Under the current law, a strike can take place if it is backed by a majority of those balloted. The Prime Minister said: "I think the time has come for looking at setting thresholds in strike ballots... The [NUT] strike ballot took place in 2012, based on a 27% turnout.” But Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, accused the prime minister of "complete and utter hypocrisy". "Ever since David Cameron came into government, and before him Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, I offered to sit down with them - all of the time, every time we raised it - and said 'We want to work with you to get higher turnouts in ballots' ...And if we work together and we use online voting, internet voting, supervised voting in the workplace - we know that these turnouts will dramatically increase. They never, ever wanted to discuss it" he said. BBC NEWS

NHS chief announces plan to give patients cash to fund their own care
Billions of pounds of health service and town hall budgets are to be handed over to the most vulnerable patients to purchase health and social care services in the community, in a dramatic change of policy being unveiled by the NHS's new boss. Frail elderly people, disabled children and those with serious mental illness or learning disabilities will from next April be offered individual pots of money to spend as they see fit on health and social care services such as carers, physiotherapists and psychotherapy sessions, in an attempt, in part, to keep them out of hospital. Some patients' budgets will be as little as a few hundred pounds, though most are likely to get more than £1,000, with a small number who have very complex needs receiving much more than that. Stevens said that "north of five million patients" could each have a personal combined health and social care budget by 2018, paid for by "billions" of pounds provided by the NHS and local councils. GUARDIAN

David Beckham among stars and wealthy investors warned of huge tax demands as taxman cracks down on suspected avoidance schemes
Footballers, singers, TV presenters, City bankers and other wealthy investors face handing over hundreds of millions of pounds to Revenue & Customs, despite still being locked in a legal battle over alleged tax-avoidance schemes. Investment company Ingenious Media has warned 1,300 investors past and present, who include David Beckham, Ant and Dec and Gary Lineker - that they will soon be hit with a tax demand even though their cases have yet to be resolved. Many investors put money into schemes that backed the British film industry, as directors of partnerships they were then able to write off losses against other income. The tax demands are said to add up to more than £500million and could total as much as £1billion, with larger investors hit with bills for millions of pounds. The stars invested in schemes offered by Ingenious that HMRC deems allowed them to avoid tax, in one instance by allowing them to take advantage of film tax relief, so that it reduced their own overall tax bills. And under controversial rules implemented by The Treasury earlier this year, investors will have to pay back the tax they are alleged to have avoided - possibly with interest - even before a decision has been made on their case. It is part of a wider crackdown by the Treasury to recoup some £7billion thought to be owed to the Exchequer as a result of avoidance schemes. Some 12,000 people are thought to have bought into movie schemes, or versions of them, that qualified for tax breaks under rules designed to help the UK's film industry, with hit films such as Life of Pi and Avatar benefiting. DAILY MAIL

Outcry at plan to put multimillionaire Tory donor David Ross in charge of Ofsted
David Ross, a co-founder of the Carphone Warehouse high street chain, is believed to be the front runner for the post after the Education Secretary in effect sacked the previous incumbent, Baroness Morgan. But the move will be deeply controversial because, as well as being a Tory donor, Mr Ross is the founder of a chain of 25 academies – for which Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, has responsibility. “What will happen when inspectors are sent into his own schools?” one teachers’ leader asked. Any attempt to appoint Mr Ross would ignite a fierce row within the Coalition as Mr Gove’s deputy, the Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws, has made it clear he expects the appointment to be non-political. Mr Ross, who has given the Conservative Party around £220,000, belongs to an elite diners’ club whose members get frequent access to David Cameron in exchange for donating more than £50,000 a year. Mr Laws indicated that he believed the decision not to re-appoint Baroness Morgan was a sign that the Ofsted inspectorate, which is officially independent of government control, was being damaged by political interference. INDEPENDENT

Dirty tricks banks use to hide your savings rates: Scale of deception that strips savers of nearly £4billion a year in interest laid bare
An investigation by City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, into the UK’s £700 billion savings market found bank behaviour left customers routinely deprived of interest. It has now launched a further probe and has asked savers for evidence about how they are ripped off. Half of easy-access savers are currently in an account which pays — or has paid — a bonus or ‘teaser’ rate. These typically last a year, after which the rate can be reduced to almost nothing. Banks and building societies rely on their customers’ laziness or lack of knowledge to leave them on this low rate. On top of this, £353 billion is in easy-access accounts where the rate can be cut without warning. These savers could be losing out on as much as £3.74 billion a year in interest, compared with what they would make if they moved to the best deal available, paying 1.32 per cent (1.65 per cent). Over the past 24 months there have been more than 2,000 cuts on variable accounts.   And they are coming thick and fast.  Banks and building societies don’t have to write and let you know of any change unless it is ‘material’. That means they only have to do it if the rate falls by more than 0.25 percentage points in one go, or a total drop of 0.5 points or more in smaller cuts over a year.  A number of firms now use conditional rates where the interest  paid will depend on the customer sticking to rules. This can include being restricted to making a certain number of withdrawals or depositing a set amount. Make a mistake and the savings rate usually drops substantially. These and other techniques are likely to come under scrutiny by the FCA. DAILY MAIL

First Wonga, now banks, energy and water firms, and the Student Loan Company are caught sending fake bullying legal letters to collect debts
A major row erupted last week when it was revealed that payday loan giant Wonga had made up the names of two firms to harass people who were behind on loan repayments. It has now emerged that Barclays, Lloyds, Halifax, RBS and HSBC are among firms who have sent customers letters that look like they are from outside firms when they are not. The letters appear to be designed to put pressure on customers by making them believe requests for debt repayments have been passed on to third parties. Energy giant Scottish Power and Anglian Water, which supplies families in the East of England, are also using the letters. The Student Loan Company also uses the same tactic to chase graduates for their student loans, and it can now be revealed that the threatening tactics go well beyond the ‘legal loan sharks’ such as Wonga, with a string of household names using the controversial ploy. Wonga was ordered by the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to pay £2.6million in compensation to the 45,000 people affected. The City of London police are investigating whether Wonga has broken one of several laws, ranging from the Theft Act to the Administration of Justice Act, which covers the harassment of debtors. DAILY MAIL

David Cameron's A&E waiting time claim questioned
David Cameron's claim that A&E waiting times are getting shorter have been questioned by the House of Commons Library. The Prime Minister’s claim that the average waiting time in NHS hospitals has fallen from 77 minutes under Labour to 30 under the Coalition is based on a “simplistic reading” of statistics. The intervention is significant to the Prime Minister because the House of Commons Library, which compiles research for MPs, is widely regarded by both parties as authoritative and non-partisan. It rarely makes comment on the merit of MPs’ claims in the chamber. The Library’s analysis concluded: "The data does not show that the average time in A&E has fallen since 2008. Rather, the typical total time in A&E has risen (for admitted patients, at least), and the typical time to treatment has remained static... It is welcome that the rich data on the amount of time patients spend in A&E is becoming part of the wider political debate on the NHS. But in order for it to be useful and informative, it must be discussed in a way which fully respects the data." TELEGRAPH

Main aim of pension reforms was 'to boost tax receipts' rather than give savers freedom - former government adviser claims
Bringing forward tax revenues is the 'primary driver' behind the Government's plan to give savers unrestricted access to their pension pots, a former senior government actuary Chris Daykin has claimed. He expressed concern that many pensioners will be left worse off by withdrawing their whole pensions when the new freedom rules are introduced from next April. People with defined contribution pensions will be allowed to withdraw as much as they want from their pots, provided they are over 55, and only pay marginal tax on it. But in taking their whole pot many savers would hit the 40 or even 45 per cent tax rates, rather than just paying 20 per cent if they were to take a small income every year. Many pensioners' total income will be under the £10,000 personal allowance that can be earned before any tax is paid. Mr Daykin explained: 'The assumption must be that many retirees, given the chance, will take their money out as quickly as, presumably, the Treasury are assuming cash is taken quickly, if not immediately, and that it is mostly going to be taxed at standard rates.' The Treasury data shows the change would 'front-load' the Government's tax revenues from pension savings, bringing in an extra £1.2billion revenue-a-year by 2018/19. Daykin went on to say: 'There is no doubt a risk that many people may spend their retirement monies too quickly and end up on a very low income.’ DAILY MAIL

Consumers don't trust pension providers, says report
Consumers do not trust the pensions industry and equate investment with casino-style gambling, according to a report from the government's workplace pension scheme. National Employment Savings Trust (Nest) found that consumers wanted their pensions to be safe and reliable but they associated the industry with corruption and incompetence. The financial crisis had made people more wary of investing by increasing fears that their money could be lost. Nest said the findings were a worry given that auto-enrolment into workplace pensions had started and people retiring had been given greater freedom over what they do with their pension pots. GUARDIAN

Network Rail fined more than £50m for late trains
The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has slapped a £53.1m fine on the track operator, the biggest it has yet levied for missing targets. Last year, almost one in six long-distance trains ran late, nearly twice as many as permitted by the 92% punctuality target. More than one in 10 commuter trains in London and the south-east ran late, where the target was 93%. The government said some of the fine would go towards improving Wi-Fi, with trackside equipment being put in place by NR over the next three to four years to provide a faster service. The service, costing around £90m, is expected to be free for passengers and should increase broadband speeds by 10 times. Unions have denounced the move. The RMT acting general secretary, Mick Cash, said: "The public need to be aware of the brutal fact that the fine will come straight out of safety-critical maintenance and renewals budgets and diverted into the pockets of the greedy private train companies to finance Wi-Fi services on their trains." Manuel Cortes, the leader of the TSSA rail union, said it was "yet another example of the crazy-money merry-go-round that is at the heart of our fragmented rail industry". GUARDIAN


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