Thursday 6 November 2014

Thursday, November 06, 2014 Posted by Hari 2 comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, November 06, 2014 with 2 comments | Labels:

MPs to escape expenses investigations after paperwork destroyed by Parliament
John Bercow, the Speaker, faces accusations he has presided over a fresh cover-up of MPs' expenses after tens of thousands of pieces of paperwork relating to claims made before 2010 were shredded. Members of the public who have written to Kathryn Hudson, the standards watchdog, to raise concerns about their MP’s claims have been told there can now be no investigation due to lack of evidence. Under the House of Commons' "Authorised Records Disposal Practice", which is overseen by Mr Bercow’s committee, records of MPs’ expenses claims are destroyed after three years. The move is necessary to comply with data protection laws, a Commons spokesman said. However, under that same set of guidelines, the pay, discipline and sickness records of Commons staff are kept until their 100th birthday. Health and safety records are kept for up to 40 years, while thousands of other classes of official documents on the day-to-day running of the House are stored indefinitely in the Parliamentary Archive. The shredding of the claims records means that “cold case” investigations like that into Maria Miller, the former Culture Secretary, by the expenses watchdog are now unlikely. In April Mrs Miller was forced to resign from the Cabinet and apologise to the Commons after Mrs Hudson ruled she had wrongly claimed thousands of pounds in mortgage payments between 2005 and 2009 on a home occupied by her parents. TELEGRAPH

Rail ticket 'rip-off': Self-service machines routinely denied cheapest fares to passengers
Self-service machines — which are used to purchase almost a quarter of all tickets sold annually — offer wildly different fares. Customers buying from a machine can pay more than £200 when a ticket for the same destination can be found elsewhere at the station for more than £100 cheaper. For example, at machines run by train company Northern Rail in Leeds, passengers buying a First-Class Anytime Return to Birmingham were charged £271. Only feet away, an East Coast trains machine offered the same journey using a First-Class Off-peak Return for £145.70. This type of ticket is not available for customers using Northern Rail’s machines, which means that some passengers might not be aware that they could save £125.30 by travelling off-peak. The investigation also found that many machines promote expensive fares, bury cheaper options and do not apply discounts for groups or families. Since 2004, the proportion of passenger revenue collected by machines has grown from just seven to 21 percent. Rail travel is at record levels with 1.59 billion journeys recorded in 2013-2014. In 2011, Theresa Villiers, as transport minister, condemned rail companies over how difficult ticket machines were to use and challenged the industry to clean up its act. But The Telegraph investigation examined rail fares across the country and found that customers were being offered different prices for the same journey depending on which operator’s machine they used. TELEGRAPH

NHS cuts: spending on agency nurses soars past £5.5bn
NHS spending on agency nurses and staff has spiralled to more than £5.5bn over the past four years and is continuing to rise amid a debilitating recruitment crisis in the health service. Budgets for temporary staff this financial year have already been blown apart, it can be revealed, with spending in some parts of the NHS running at twice the planned figure. Reliance on agencies – at a cost of up to £1,800 per day per nurse – comes as the number of nurse training places in England has been cut. In the last year of the Labour government, 20,829 nurse training positions were filled in England. That fell to 17,741 in 2011-12 and to 17,219 in 2012-13, rising to 18,009 in 2013-14. According to the latest figures, there were 7,000 fewer qualified nurses in August 2013 compared with May 2010, excluding health visitors, school nurses and midwives. Ministers were accused on Saturday of “truly incompetent planning” by the Royal College of Nurses. GUARDIAN

Pay rise for 60,000 workers after surge in firms signing up to living wage
More than 1,000 companies are now committed to paying the living wage or above, securing tens of millions of pounds in extra pay for the working poor. They join a host of leading companies, including Google, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, ITV and Legal & General, in making the commitment to be a living wage employer, remunerating all employees well beyond the legally enforced £6.50 national minimum wage. The surge in numbers, and the burgeoning campaign to lift the pay of the worst-off, means that about 60,000 people will be given a pay rise. The living wage rate rose this month to £9.15 in London and £7.85 elsewhere. In 2013, 432 companies were accredited by the Living Wage Foundation, a part of the community organisation Citizens UK. That figure has now more than doubled, as hundreds of other organisations, charities and businesses have signed up. The Department of Energy and Climate Change pledged on Friday that all its subcontractors would pay the living wage, becoming the first Whitehall department to be formally accredited by the foundation. In contrast, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,  and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), continue to refuse to ensure that all their subcontracted staff are paid the living wage. An independent evaluation of the living wage initiative funded by Trust for London calculates that by September 2013 the living wage campaign had generated £48m in additional wages for 23,000 low-paid workers. The huge increase in accredited companies since then means those “gains have significantly increased”. The proportion of employees on less than the living wage is 22%, up from 21% last year, says the study. In real terms, that is a rise of 147,000 people to 5.28 million. GUARDIAN

Britain's bosses call on Government to stop 'ducking' big questions' and invest in 'crumbling' infrastructure
The nation’s bosses urged the Government to deliver significant improvements to everything from roads and runways to energy supply and broadband. They also called for the creation of an independent infrastructure authority to take politics out of the decision-making process. Two separate reports on the matter, by the CBI lobby group and manufacturing organisation EEF, were released amid signs that business confidence is wavering as the economic recovery slows. The CBI’s survey of 443 senior business leaders found that 67 per cent expect energy infrastructure to worsen over the next five years while 57 per cent fear the same over transport. More than 90 per cent said ‘political uncertainty’ and ‘political rhetoric’ – such as Labour leader Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices – was damaging confidence and discouraging investment. Katja Hall, deputy director general of the CBI, said: ‘Progress on infrastructure has been a case of two steps forward and three steps back for far too long. ‘Politicians are too often seen as ducking the big, politically difficult questions looming large on businesses’ risk register, rather than grasping the nettle... Where hard decisions have been taken on issues like energy, populist political rhetoric threatens to send us backwards... We’re at a crossroads. We also need to see bold thinking and a renewal of the politics of infrastructure, finding a new way to agree upon and then consistently deliver the improvements we’ll need over the next 50 years - not just the next five.’ DAILY MAIL

Low pay court victory: Your overtime should count in holiday pay
Workers have won a ground-breaking case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal to include overtime in holiday pay. Your holiday pay entitlement is normally calculated from your contractually guaranteed basic pay, which does not including your overtime. The case was brought by staff for whom overtime has become normal practice, claiming that holiday pay should be based on contractual and overtime pay combined. 1 in 6 working people do voluntary or compulsory overtime. The ruling means some people working overtime could claim for additional holiday pay. The tribunal also ruled that workers can make backdated claims, but only for a limited period. The ruling has widespread implications for companies where staff are required to do overtime as a regular part of their job. The government and business groups had argued strongly that overtime should not be included in holiday pay calculations. They were particularly concerned about a raft of back payments potentially going back many years. But backdated claims have been limited, with the tribunal ruling that employees cannot claim more than three months after the last incorrect payment. BBC NEWS

Legal aid cuts: Government ‘washing its hands’ of vulnerable parents, says judge
In what amounts to a confrontation between the judiciary and the executive over who controls spending in the courts, Sir James Munby, president of the family division, has handed down a judgment saying “some state agency” should pay the costs of legal representation in a case. It is the second time that Munby has threatened to order the courts service to pay for legal representation that parliament has explicitly withdrawn. In August, he warned the Ministry of Justice in the parental access case of Q v Q that costs would have to be borne by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) if a father’s right to a fair trial were to be upheld. The language in the latest judgment, known simply as “In the Matter of D (A Child)”, goes even further. It relates to the removal of a child by Swindon borough council from his parents, both of whom have learning difficulties. Munby explained: “What I have to grapple with is the profoundly disturbing fact that the parents do not qualify for legal aid but lack the financial resources to pay for legal representation in circumstances where, to speak plainly, it is unthinkable that they should have to face the local authority’s application without proper representation.” GUARDIAN

Supermarket staff demand payments, totalling billions, from suppliers for an 'easy' bonus
One-off payments demanded by supermarkets from suppliers could contribute billions more to profits than previously thought, sources have told the Mail on Sunday. Supermarket demands for such payments are also too closely tied to their buying staff’s individual bonuses, putting at risk supplier relationships, industry experts have warned. Tesco said two weeks ago it had a £263million black hole in its accounts relating to supplier payments known as ‘commercial income’. The period when the accounting scandal began remains a grey area, but its timing ties in closely with the point at which bonus payments to staff at the supermarket came under severe pressure. One former supermarket buyer told The Mail on Sunday that pressure on buying teams to find extra income from suppliers rose when it became clear other revenue targets would not be met.  He said: ‘When you’re struggling, you have crunch points twice a year – at the half-year and year-end. The emails begin to fly and phone calls are made. Sooner or later, you might find your commercial income becomes a bigger portion of your profits than your basic trading margin.’ Duncan Swift, insolvency partner at accountancy firm Moore Stephens, which advises cash-strapped supermarket suppliers, likened the bonus culture at Britain’s big supermarkets to that of banks, saying extra payments were ‘very easy’ to levy from suppliers. He said in tough trading times it was ‘15 times more attractive’ to demand £1million from suppliers than make an extra £1million profit from sales of produce. According to Moore Stephens’ analysis, Britain’s top ten supermarkets owe about £15billion to suppliers for goods at any one time, giving them leverage to negotiate extra payments. It estimates commercial income levied by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons could be £5 billion a year. DAILY MAIL

Royal Bank of Scotland sets aside £400m for forex-rigging fines
Further evidence that banks are bracing for stiff penalties for rigging currency markets emerged on Friday after Royal Bank of Scotland set aside £400m to cover the cost of the investigation into the £3.5tn-a-day market. There are expectations that HSBC will incur a similar charge, which would come on top of moves by Barclays, US banks Citigroup and JP Morgan and Swiss bank UBS to put hundreds of millions of pounds aside to cover penalties from regulators in the US and Britain. The decision to allocate funds indicates the banks’ belief that the penalties could be imposed soon, with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and its US counterparts expected to announce a coordinated settlement with up to six banks next month. RBS, which is 81% owned by the taxpayer, also added £100m to its provisions to cover the cost of mis-selling payment protection insurance. It follows responses by other high-street banks to increased applications for compensation in the costliest mis-selling scandal in history. Another £180m was earmarked by RBS for other penalties including the IT meltdown in 2012, which left customers locked out of their accounts, including those at Ulster Bank who were affected for more than three weeks. GUARDIAN


  1. 14
    Nov 2014
    DWP admits investigating 60 benefit-related deaths since 2012
    By john pring



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