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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, February 19, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

Cameron wants young people to work 30 hours a week for benefits in new Tory plan
The proposals would put young adults who have been out of work, education or training for six months (“neets”) into compulsory community work such as making meals for the elderly or joining local charities. Under the scheme, Jobseekers’ Allowance would be abolished for 18 to 21-year-olds and replaced with the already announced “Youth Allowance” of the same amount: £57.35 a week, or £1.91 per hour of work, well below the £5.13 legal minimum wage for that age group. After six months on the Youth Allowance, claimants would be required to undertake an apprenticeship or community work for their benefits. It is understood that the new plans will not apply to young people who have completed independent work experience in the six months before their benefits claim or the small number of university graduates who could be drawn into the scheme. The Community Work Programme policy would apply to the roughly 50,000 new 18 to 21-year-old claimants a year who have been “neet” for six months - around 10 per cent of claims. But a Liberal Democrat spokesperson criticised the Tory proposals as “all stick, no carrot”, saying they were designed to “punish” rather than to help people into work, the BBC reported. Under Labour plans, young people who have been unemployed for a year would be offered a six-month job, paid for by a tax on bankers’ bonuses. The "Compulsory Jobs Guarantee" would also apply to adults aged 25 or over claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years or more. Ed Miliband has also warned that young unemployed people who refuse to comply with the scheme could lose benefits under a Labour government. INDEPENDENT

Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator resigns over his paper’s HSBC Swiss tax scam coverage
Peter Oborne, the paper’s chief political commentator, claimed the paper did not give due prominence to the HSBC story because of commercial interests. Newspapers had a "constitutional duty" to tell readers the truth, he said. In a statement, Mr Oborne said he had already resigned from the paper "as a matter of conscience" because a number of its editorial decisions. He said he had intended to "leave quietly" until he saw the paper's coverage of HSBC and its Swiss banking arm. In comparison to the coverage of the story in other national newspapers, "you needed a microscope to find the Telegraph coverage", Mr Oborne said. He said he had been told HSBC was an "extremely valuable" advertiser by what he called a "well-informed insider". Mr Oborne later told Channel 4 News he believed he spoke "for the vast majority of Telegraph staff" in saying he had no confidence in Murdoch McLennan, the paper's chief executive, and the Barclay brothers who own the paper. A Telegraph spokesman said the "distinction between advertising and our award-winning editorial operation has always been fundamental to our business". They added: "We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary”. BBC NEWS

House of Bishops' letter: Call for "humane economy" irks Tories
A pastoral letter to be sent by the House of Bishops to every parish calls for a "fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be." But Tory backbenchers accused the bishops of offering a policy prescription with a "very definite left-wing leaning", while Prime Minister David Cameron urged the Church to recognise the value of work in creating a better society and the dangers of a welfare system that pays people to stay idle. Asked about accusations that the letter resembled a list of SNP or Green Party policies, he told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "I don't believe that, I think it's much more even-handed than that. The only manifesto the Church is signed up to is the teaching of Jesus." The letter said that increasing numbers of people "feel detached" from politics, and warned of "worrying and unfamiliar trends" which have seen "a growing appetite to exploit grievances, find scapegoats and create barriers between people and nations". It argued that there was a "deep contradiction" between Britain's avowed commitment to equality and the way in which the poor and vulnerable are sometimes treated as "unwanted, unvalued and unnoticed". It was "counter-productive" to "denigrate" welfare claimants as people who are "undeserving, dependent and ought to be self-sufficient", the letter said. And it supported the idea of a "humane economy" and the Living Wage, noting the "burgeoning" of in-work poverty. The bishops warned that "an ugly undercurrent of racism" had been introduced into the debate over immigration by language which treats particular ethnic communities as "the problem". The bishops state that the time has come to move beyond "retail politics", adding: "Instead of treating politics as an extension of consumerism, we should focus on the common good, the participation of more people in developing a political vision and constructive ways to talk about communities and how they relate to one another." DAILY MAIL

HSBC: Swiss prosecutors search bank as money-laundering inquiry is launched
Pressure on HSBC has mounted after prosecutors in Switzerland raided the offices of the bank’s Geneva operations following revelations that it helped wealthy customers avoid taxes. The search was being led by the prosecutor-general, Olivier Jornot, and comes after the Belgian and French authorities began to scrutinise the tax affairs of Europe’s biggest bank. The UK is not embarking on a criminal investigation and has faced criticism for prosecuting just one out of the 1,000 individuals whose details were contained in the cache of documents obtained by Hervé Falciani, a former employee of the bank. Those files were the basis of last week’s reports by the Guardian and a collaboration of news outlets around the world about the scale of the tax avoidance operation being run by the bank’s Swiss subsidiary. Swiss prosecutors said the investigation followed those revelations, which showed how HSBC’s Swiss arm allowed clients to withdraw “bricks” of cash and helped clients conceal their accounts from domestic tax authorities. The prosecutors in Switzerland said they were investigating suspected aggravated money laundering and currently focusing on the bank - HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) - although this could be extended to people suspected of committing or participating in money laundering. A petition calling for the UK to investigate the affair is two-thirds of the way to towards its target of attracting 1m signatures. GUARDIAN



Bank of England base rate stuck on 0.5% for five years, but the interest charged on credit cards has shot up to nearly 19%
When the financial crisis struck in 2008, the average credit card customer was paying interest of around 15.5%, while mortgage borrowers were paying around 6% for a two-year fixed-rate deal. Seven years on, new mortgage customers are paying around 2%, but the rates charged on credit cards have headed in the other direction, and now average 17.8% – or nearly 36 times the base rate charged by the Bank of England. Figures prepared for Guardian Money by Moneysupermarket.com show a striking commonality in rates across the market, with every major provider, bar Nationwide building society, now charging the same standard rate. Do you want a credit card from HSBC? Or Santander? Tesco? Sainsbury’s? In each and every case, the APR is now 18.9%, with all of them hiking rates over the past six years. In November the Financial Conduct Authority began an industry-wide probe into the UK’s £150bn credit card market, investigating whether credit cards are being marketed too aggressively, amid concerns that consumers are running up debts they cannot afford. Credit cards can be hugely profitable for the banks. Barclays made £764m profit from its Barclaycard division in the first half of 2014 – up 24% on a year earlier, and equal to more than a fifth of the entire profits the group earned during the period. GUARDIAN

95% of dual fuel customers ‘overcharged for gas and electricity’ by up to £234
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the average saving available to these customers was between £158 and £234 a year depending on the supplier. The findings were the latest update from the CMA’s full-scale probe into the sector which is dominated by the Big Six firms - Centrica, SSE, npower, EDF, Scottish Power and E.ON. The probe also highlighted how customers stuck on more expensive, standard types of tariff tended to be less educated, less well-off, less likely to own their own home or have internet access and more likely to be disabled or a single parent. These customers were more likely to be with an “ex-incumbent” supplier - the gas or electricity provider that served the area before the market was opened up to competition in the 1990s. They tended “to think switching is a hassle, that there are no real differences between suppliers and that something may go wrong if they switch”. But the CMA found that from 2011 to 2014, the Big Six suppliers made 12% more per unit for electricity and 13% for gas from those on these standard variable tariffs (SVTs) than customers on fixed or other deals. Half of customers surveyed said they had never switched, and around a third said they had never considered switching or thought it was impossible. Those in the latter category tended to include people aged 65 and over, those in social accommodation, customers with no qualifications and those on lower incomes. It said the next stage of its investigation would focus on understanding which customers do not switch and why, and identifying the nature of “barriers to switching”. Energy Secretary Ed Davey said he would not flinch from breaking up the Big Six companies if the evidence from the CMA was strong enough to suggest market intervention as the next step. YORKSHIRE POST

While some bosses keep wages frozen rivals dish out inflation-busting rises
A pay divide is opening up, with some workers enjoying annual rises of 2 per cent or more while others are hit by a wage freeze, new research has shown. Gerwyn Davies, labour market analyst for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: 'What's interesting is that this gap exists within sectors, with a significant proportion of employers able to afford a 2 per cent or above pay increase and a significant proportion of organisations in the same sector imposing a pay freeze.' Almost half of workers had their pay frozen or cut last year while a similar number saw their wages increase by at least 2 per cent, said the CIPD. To many a 2 per cent pay rise will sound a minimal amount. But with consumer prices inflation standing at just 0.5 per cent and forecast to fall towards zero or lower by the Bank of England, those seeing such a rise will now find it is inflation-busting. Elsewhere in separate research by trade union union group the TUC, lower than predicted wage settlements are contributing to the deficit as income tax and National Insurance contributions come in under target. The TUC said its research found that the Government was collecting £33 billion less than official forecasts estimated. If pay had increased in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast made shortly after the coalition came to power in 2010, receipts this year would total £308billion - but the Treasury is expected to collect £275billion, said the union organisation. General secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'When wages go up, consumers spend more, businesses can grow, more income tax and national insurance rolls in and the deficit shrinks. We need a new plan for the economy that gets wages growing and keeps them growing’. DAILY MAIL

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