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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, January 15, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

Lloyds braced for rage over boss' windfall: Horta-Osorio's £7m pay 'sticks in the throat'
The Portuguese chief executive is set to receive the shares bonanza in the coming weeks, placing the state-backed lender under intense scrutiny ahead of the General Election. Last night campaigners said the huge award would ‘stick in the throat’ for ordinary taxpayers while Labour reiterated its pledge to reintroduce its tax on bankers’ bonuses if it wins power in May. Lord Thurso, Liberal Democrat member of the Treasury Select Committee, perhaps spoke for many when he questioned why bankers’ pay is still so out of kilter with the rest of society. He said: ‘I fail to see why any banker is worth more than the Prime Minister, a top brain surgeon, or the chief of the defence staff running operations in Afghanistan or Iraq... Bankers are paid huge amounts to use other people’s money to make money for themselves.’ Horta-Osorio’s huge pay-out – which is almost 50 times David Cameron’s £142,500 annual salary – stems from a performance-related long term bonus awarded three years ago. Andy Silvester, campaign director at The Taxpayers’ Alliance urged the Government to take a ‘more active role’ in curbing pay at the lender. He said: ‘It will stick in the throat that the boss of a bank which has had many of its fines paid by taxpayers is walking off with a sizeable bonus.’ Mark Garnier, a Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee, said the award for Horta-Osorio is ‘hard to justify’ despite putting Lloyds on a ‘more stable footing’. He added: ‘I am an enthusiast for free markets but even I am finding it hard to justify these enormous bonuses for people who take no risk with their own money but have everything to gain.’ DAILY MAIL

UK firms use scams to avoid paying minimum wage
Some firms have developed scams to avoid paying the national minimum wage, including charging for uniforms, clocking off cafe workers when there are no customers, and mis-using interns, according to a new report by the TUC. They found that apprentices were most likely to be underpaid, with suggestions that 120,000 were not receiving the proper rate. Other groups at risk of not being paid the proper rate include migrants, domestic workers, interns and temporary agency staff, said the report. Despite improvements to enforcing the statutory rate, new ways of cheating have emerged, said the union organisation. The research found a minority of employers were under-recording workers’ hours, not paying for travel between work sites, or “vanishing” to avoid paying fines, only to reappear under a different name. The adult minimum wage increased from £6.31 an hour to £6.50 last October and a new rate will come into force this October. But ministers are expected to decide before the general election what the new statutory minimum will be. Labour has already pledged to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour over the course of the next parliament if it wins power in May, while Chancellor George Osborne has suggested it could increase to £7 this year as the economy improves. Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “There are bucketloads of evidence that an uplift of at least 50p per hour would help the low-paid and start to stimulate the economy and that all the big firms, including the retailers, can afford it... There is no justification for the national minimum wage not keeping up with inflation. The Low Pay Commission should recommend a rate of at least £7 per hour from October 2014 to make up the ground lost since 2006.” GUARDIAN

Fall in life expectancy: are cuts and pressure on NHS to blame for earlier deaths?
Public Health England said it was scrutinising life expectancy trends following an alert from a council in the North-west of England warning it was “likely” that in many parts of the region “older people (over 85) are no longer living longer”. An email from Blackburn with Darwen Council’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, sent to regional colleagues and to Public Health England, said the council had seen a “sustained reduction” in life expectancy at 85 in its area. Possible explanations for the decline include government cuts to councils’ social care budgets, a lack of capacity in the GP sector or pressure on hospitals, it adds. According to the Office for National Statistics, life expectancy at 85, which is calculated by analysing mortality rates over a three-year period, has fallen among women from 6.81 years in 2009-11 to 6.78 years in 2011-13 – a trend which reflects more dramatic declines in some areas. The number of people in the UK who receive state-funded care in the home or in their community has fallen from around 1.8 million in 2008-09 to 1.3 million in 2012-13, with further reductions of an estimated 5.8 per cent last year, according to figures and a recent survey from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. This follows government cuts to council budgets, which led to reductions of £3.5bn in their adult social care spending over the past four years. INDEPENDENT

Ofsted admit league-table school inspections are not reliable
The comment comes from Sean Harford, the watchdog's national director for schools, responding to a critical blog from a head teacher. Some inspectors use data as a "safety net" instead of making a professional judgement, Mr Harford wrote. Head teacher Tom Sherrington, of Highbury Grove School in north London,  had complained of "enormous flaws and absence of proper validity trials" in the current inspection system. In his response, Mr Harford admitted Ofsted does not currently ensure "directly that different inspectors in the school on the same day would give the same judgement". He also agreed "some inspectors and some schools focus too much on a narrow range of data". He said Ofsted trained its inspectors to use data as a "signpost", rather than making it a "pre-determined destination". "But the weakest ones have been guilty of using the published data as a safety net for not making fully-rounded, professional judgements." School leaders have described Mr Harford's comments as a definite shift in tone. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed Mr Harford's comments but said he was a sceptical of Ofsted's ability to ensure reliability. He said under the current system, some inspectors had made up their minds before arriving at the school, based on league-table data. "That is a big waste of money and an insult to teachers." BBC NEWS


More than a million working households in England are in fuel poverty
A study by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange looking at the 2.3m households in England in fuel poverty found that half of them, around 1.1m households, had someone in work. Fuel poverty has been made worse by rising energy bills and, despite improvements, the housing stock is still highly inefficient, it said. Households in the least energy-efficient properties would have to spend an extra £1,700 a year to heat their homes to a comfortable level. The thinktank said energy efficiency should be viewed as a national infrastructure priority, tapping into the government’s £100bn infrastructure budget over the next five years. Richard Howard, the report’s author, said: “Most people assume that it’s the elderly who are most at risk of not being able to heat their homes. But the facts paint a startling picture. There are over one million working households struggling to afford their energy bills and living in underheated homes... Fuel poverty can severely affect people’s health and also puts a strain on the NHS. It is absolutely critical that the government prioritises support to those households most at risk.” GUARDIAN

State pension: 'Only 45%' to get full new payout
The new state pension, aimed at simplifying the system, will see a single payment of about £150 made to new pensioners from April 2016. But new figures suggest that two million people will not get the full amount. However, the government has stressed that they will be no worse off than under the current means-tested system. The new flat-rate state pension was unveiled two years ago by the government, and was promised to be a fairer system. This only applies to new retirees from April 2016, rather than the 11 million people who already receive the state pension. A freedom of information request submitted by investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown reveals that 45% of those retiring between 2016 and 2020 will get the full amount. Some with a private or workplace pension provision are contracted out of some of the state second pension, which is being integrated into the new flat-rate state pension. This means they will receive a lower amount. Others have a gap in their National Insurance contributions. BBC NEWS

Councils fail to ensure minimum wage for home care workers
Figures obtained by the Unison union show most councils in England and Wales are failing to ensure home care workers are paid the national minimum wage. The union says freedom of information figures show only six per cent of local authorities make it a contractual condition for care providers to pay their workers' travel time. It is common practice for carers to be paid for the time spent in an elderly person's home, but not for the time spent travelling between clients. This can amount to 30 per cent of a carer's shift, says Unison. The UK Home Care Association insists it accounts for travel time in its hourly rates but says it will become ''increasingly difficult'' for providers to comply with the minimum wage unless councils start to pay them more. In 2011 and 2013 HMRC investigated the sector and forced a number of companies who were failing to meet the minimum wage requirement to pay up. But investigations have stopped and the situation has worsened, says Unison. In April this year, HMRC said almost half the care companies it investigated were not complying with minimum wage regulations. Because of the investigation, several companies were forced to pay care workers the money that they were legally owed. The union says Business Secretary Vince Cable has the power to instruct HMRC to recommence investigations. They claim he could "name and shame some of the biggest care providers in the country and get the problem fixed." Unison has expressed the belief that the Busness Secretary has failed to take further action partly because there has been no pressure from the public. The union has launched a petition to demand that he restart investigations now. EKKLESIA + BBC RADIO 4 Today Programme: ‘Care workers and the minimum wage’

First ever private firm to run NHS hospital pulls out ahead of inspection report - blaming soaring costs, funding cuts and A&E chaos
Circle Holdings was hailed a 'miracle cure' for the NHS when it took over hospitals in Cambridgeshire in 2012, as rates of patient happiness soared and waiting times plummeted. At the time, experts said the system in place at Hinchingbrooke could be used in dozens of other struggling NHS trusts. But the operator will now pull out of the deal - a move that will cost it an extra £2m. It pointed to 'significant changes in the operational landscape for NHS hospitals' since the contract was first procured in 2009. Circle said there had been unprecedented increases in A&E attendances and a lack of care places for patients awaiting discharge. Meanwhile, funding had been cut by 10.1 per cent this financial year. Circle Holdings said the level of cash it had pumped in to prop up Hinchingbrooke healthcare trust in Cambridgeshire was about to reach £5 million, meaning it would have the right to terminate the franchise. The company said these conditions had 'significantly worsened in recent weeks'. It also said it was facing an imminent report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which it expected to be 'unbalanced'. Circle defended its running of the hospital, saying that it had been transformed since the 2012 takeover when it was described as a 'basket case' facing closure. DAILY MAIL

Schools face 'places breaking point': 880,000 extra pupils expected in England by 2023
The Local Government Association fears the demand for school places could soon reach a tipping point with no more space or money to extend schools. The LGA wants the government to fully fund the cost of all the extra places. The LGA says the cost of creating places for all these pupils could be £12bn, meaning the government's commitment of £7.35bn for extra school places leaves a shortfall. Ministers said the last Labour government had failed to plan ahead. Separate figures from the Labour Party suggest almost one in five primary schools is already over capacity. The party sent Freedom of Information requests to England's 152 local education authorities - 130 replied. The responses suggested 18% do not have enough capacity for their pupils, with children in over-large classes or temporary makeshift classrooms. These include a primary school in Northumberland which is holding classes in a converted double-decker bus, and another in Bristol which has taken over an old police station. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the spaces would be provided by academies and free schools, and £5bn had been spent in this parliament so far on the creation of new places. BBC NEWS

Milk Wars: Don't buy milk from Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl or Londis, say dairy farmers
The row centres on the "farm gate" price paid to Britain's 14,500 dairy farmers, most of whom will, from 1 August, receive just 25p a litre for the milk they produce compared with around 30p before. The price cut will force many into bankruptcy, warns the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, which along with the National Farmers Union and Farmers For Action say that 30p a litre is the minimum price that producers can survive on. The price cut has been pushed through by the major processors, such as Dairy Crest, which pasteurise and bottle much of the milk produced on UK farms. But RABDF chief executive Nick Errington blames the supermarket groups for relentlessly squeezing both processors and farmers. "In 1996 the retailers were making a margin of about 2.3p a litre, but today it stands at around 15p a litre, and has been as high as 26p a litre," he says. "The margin the retailers are making is just too high and they do not deserve it.” GUARDIAN

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