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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thursday, May 07, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, May 07, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

One in four MPs now a landlord
The data has been seized upon by housing campaigners who claim it shows that Britain’s political class has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo instead of strengthening the rights of tenants. The private rental sector has grown rapidly to 4.8m renters, driven by a fall in social housing and increasing house prices. The landlord MPs include nine Conservative ministers who attend cabinet. David Cameron, George Osborne and housing minister Brandon Lewis are among 153 members who declared an income from property in 2015 – an increase of 36 since 2010. Alex Hilton, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said MPs are failing to address exploitation by private landlords. “There has been a quiet cross-party consensus in parliament in favour of landlords for decades. It’s time for full transparency, a full disclosure of all legislators’ land and property assets and a commitment to bar MPs from voting on issues where they have significant, financial and personal advantages from doing so. Some are renting out homes that were part subsidised by parliamentary expenses. Two shadow cabinet ministers declare rental income. Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, lets out a property in London. The shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, also rents out a flat in London. In the runup to the general election, housing has been a key theme for politicians, and Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party have all vowed to limit rent rises if they get into power. GUARDIAN

Legal aid cuts: 100 judges, peers, lawyers and doctors call on next government to prevent ‘widespread miscarriages of justice’
The Ministry of Justice is one of the departments expected to suffer further cuts whichever party or coalition comes to power after 7 May, with its spending unlikely to be ringfenced. Annual expenditure on civil and criminal justice, which stood at £2bn a year in 2010 – equivalent to “the cost of running the NHS for a fortnight” – has now dropped to £1.5bn. The number of debt cases supported by legal aid fell from 81,792 to 2,423 over a one-year period. “Funding in family law cases dropped by 60% causing a predicted rise in unrepresented defendants,” it states, “a trend now also starting to be seen in the criminal courts. Robin Murray, of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, said: “YouGov polling shows that 89% of the public believe access to justice, underpinned by legal aid, is a fundamental right. The legal experts and opinion formers who have added their signatures to the letter recognise this and know that if the current reforms are kept in place equality before the law will become a distant memory.” GUARDIAN

Consumer borrowing in biggest surge since 2008
Consumer borrowing surged by £1.2bn between February and March, the largest rise since the financial crisis, according to figures from the Bank of England. The biggest increase was in unsecured borrowing, such as bank loans and overdrafts. That accounted for £1.1bn of the overall rise, which was the highest figure since February 2008. By contrast, mortgage and credit card lending was broadly flat. "March's sharp rise will likely fuel concern that consumers will pile up debt again to fund spending," said Howard Archer, the chief European and UK economist with IHS Global Insight. One reason for the rise in bank loans is likely to be record low borrowing rates. A year ago, anyone borrowing £5,000 would have had to pay 9.1%, according to the website Moneyfacts. Now the same amount can be borrowed for 8.1%. BBC NEWS

EU to investigate claims McDonald's avoided $1bn in tax
The European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said on Tuesday that she was examining claims, made by trade unions, that McDonald’s paid just €16m of tax on royalties worth €3.7bn between 2009 and 2013. McDonald’s is accused of channelling money through a Luxembourg-based subsidiary with a Swiss branch to exploit a generous tax break on intellectual property rights. It is a similar structure to that used by a host of multinationals exposed by the Guardian’s LuxLeaks investigation last year. The trade unions claim that McDonald’s Luxembourg subsidiary employs just 13 people, yet booked €834m of revenue in 2013 – which would work out at more than €64m per worker. The commission has already opened investigations into the tax affairs of Amazon in Luxembourg, Apple in Ireland and Starbucks in the Netherlands. GUARDIAN


Shareholder rebels fight back against BG Group  boss Helge Lund's £31m pay deal
Chief executive Lund, who joined the company on February 9 from Norway’s oil giant Statoil, could be in line for a pay and perks package of £25-£31million if he meets every condition of his bonuses and long term share awards. But nearly one in five shareholders at the oil and gas giant’s annual meeting refused to back its remuneration report. The group’s AGM, held at Reading’s Hilton Hotel, also revealed more than 15 per cent did not back the re-election of Sir John Hood as chairman of its remuneration committee. Mark Bentley, a director at shareholder group ShareSoc, who also represents a group of small shareholders from Germany called DSW (Deutsche Schutzvereinigung für Wertpapierbesitz), said: ‘I think the remuneration committee has let shareholders and UK Plc down in agreeing this massive package.May I request an apology?’ Bentley’s question raised a round of applause from the room and chairman Andrew Gould admitted the group misjudged the public reaction but did not apologise. BG initially faced shareholder activism after it revealed the pay package of the former Statoil boss in October. The board reduced the expected value of Lund’s initial share award from around £10million BG said the final package that Lund will receive is yet to be worked out and approved. DAILY MAIL

UK tax officials face campaigners’ legal action for allowing payment amnesty for tax dodgers
Online campaign group Avaaz, which claims 40 million members worldwide, has initiated judicial review proceedings against the UK tax office over its decision to offer an amnesty to hundreds of the 3,600 UK customers it identified as potentially hiding money in Switzerland. It would mark the first legal challenge to HMRC’s widely criticised handling of the scandal. The tax office obtained the so-called Falciani list five years ago, giving it a comprehensive database of customers of the Geneva branch of HSBC. But since then the agency has used the information to prosecute only one tax cheat. Avaaz called on the agency to explain why HSBC evaders were encouraged to use a process called the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF), which allowed them to pay the tax avoided plus a fine equal to only 10% of the money owed. Had tax inspectors chosen not to use the facility, the letter claims, they could have imposed penalties of up to 200%. Those who opted for the amnesty were also given immunity from prosecution. Avaaz argues that the point of tax amnesties is to encourage evaders whose identities are not known to inspectors to come forward. The group claims it was wrongly used in the HSBC case, because the names were already known thanks to the Falciani list. The UK has recovered about £135m from individuals named in the Falciani files to date. GUARDIAN

HSBC chief attacks George Osborne over bank levy
Gulliver cited the bank levy – which cost HSBC £700m last year, more than any other bank – as well as the requirement to ringfence its high street arm from the investment banking operation, as among his concerns over remaining headquartered in London. Speaking from Hong Kong, Gulliver also told analysts the bank could move a large part of its investment banking arm, known as global banking and markets or GBM. Gulliver said the Hong Kong Monetary Authority was capable of regulating HSBC, which employs 266,000 people in 70 countries. But critics question whether Hong Kong can support HSBC at a time of crisis as the bank is nine times the size of the Chinese territory’s GDP. “They are regulating about 80% of the profit of the group already, they are quite capable of regulating the group,” he said. Any head office move would affect the roles of 250 people. GUARDIAN

Scrapping car tax discs triggers '£38m double-charging windfall' as both buyers and sellers are forced to pay for same month
For decades, if a car changed ownership any remaining vehicle excise duty would be transferred as well. But new rules mean existing tax can no longer be passed on with a car when it is sold - and force buyers to purchase that entire month’s tax but do not allow sellers to gain a refund for it. The new system means that someone buying a car on the 29th of the month should purchase car tax from the start of that month. However, someone selling a car on the 2nd of the month would not be entitled to a refund for that month. The change arrived with the scrapping of the tax discs last October and move to an electronic system for vehicle excise duty, but rather than working on a daily basis it works on a monthly basis. Those who fall foul of the new rules can find their cars clamped or towed away and face hefty fines. AA president Edmund King said: ‘UK drivers now pay 'double tax' for the month that a vehicle changes hands and the DVLA's clampers are now netting 3,000 more untaxed cars a month than this time last year.’ The AA said the changes contributed to a 71 per cent increase in the number of cars clamped for being untaxed, up from 5,115 in February last year to 8,741 this February. DAILY MAIL

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