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Thursday, 28 May 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, May 28, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

David Cameron has dropped plans to block 10% (£7,000) rise in MPs' salaries
The Prime Minister described the plan as ‘totally unacceptable’ when it was first put forward in 2013 by Ipsa. But government sources said yesterday that he had now abandoned plans to block the increase. Prime Minister's u-turn comes in the wake of protests from backbenchers. The decision means MPs will now almost certainly see their salaries rise by £7,000 to £74,000 a year following a final review by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. The pay rise, expected in the autumn, will be backdated to the General Election. However, Mr Cameron imposed another five-year freeze on ministerial pay. The move means ministers will continue to receive £134,565 and the Prime Minister £142,500. Many Ministers and MPs have previously argued that it is almost impossible for them to support their families and keep separate homes in London and their constituency on the current money – but realise that it is politically toxic to say so publicly. One of the few prepared to speak out, senior Conservative MP Charles Walker, warned on Saturday night that continued pay freezes were driving talent away from the Commons. He said: 'We cannot have a monocultural Parliament that over time excludes professional middle-class people – it will only be political anoraks and the well-off... That will be a really bad day for democracy.' DAILY MAIL

Landlords enjoy £14bn tax breaks as figures reveal buy-to-let expansion
Landlords enjoyed a record £14bn in tax breaks in 2013, according to figures revealing the expansion of the UK’s buy-to-let market in the aftermath of the financial crisis. In the 2012-13 financial year, £6.3bn was declared against the cost of mortgage interest alone, according to information obtained by the Guardian from HMRC through a freedom of information request. The figures reveal that the number of landlords has increased by more than one-third over the past six years: 2.1 million taxpayers declared income from property in the 2012-13 financial year, up from 1.5 million in 2007-08. The anti-homelessness charity Shelter has called for the government to conduct an urgent review of the tax treatment of landlords, who can also deduct the cost of insurance, maintenance and repairs, utility bills, legal fees and other expenses from their income. Owner-occupiers are not entitled to the same privileges. Critics of the expanding buy-to-let market have long warned that such tax breaks give landlords a considerable financial advantage over ordinary homeowners when competing for the limited supply of houses. In response to the figures, Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “In the context of looming welfare cuts and a dramatic shortage of homes, all those struggling to keep up with sky-high housing costs will be shocked to hear that a massive £14bn has been given in tax breaks for landlords in just a year.” Data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders indicated that landlords were granted nearly as many mortgages as first-time buyers in January. In April, analysis by Wriglesworth Consultancy for the lender Landbay found landlords had enjoyed returns of 1,400% since 1996, far in excess of the rewards offered by shares, bonds or cash. GUARDIAN

Pressure forces Amazon to start to undo Luxembourg tax dodge
Transactions carried out in European markets were previously recorded in Luxembourg, with which Amazon had a low-tax agreement. Now sales made through subsidiaries in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy will be registered in those countries, the retailer has said. Amazon had received heavy criticism for its tax avoidance policies. The company said in a statement: "As of 1 May, Amazon EU Sarl is recording retail sales made to customers through these branches in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy.” In recent years, the European Union has intensified its investigations into the tax deals negotiated by global companies with countries such as Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It suspects that such deals amount to illegal state aid and distort competition. Last year, the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - launched a formal investigation into Amazon's tax arrangements with Luxembourg. And the EU is also looking into tech giant Apple's tax dealings in Ireland, coffee-shop chain Starbucks' dealings in the Netherlands, and Italian carmaker Fiat's agreement with Luxembourg. BBC NEWS

France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities
In a rare cross-party consensus, the French national assembly voted unanimously to pass the legislation as France battles an epidemic of wasted food that has highlighted the divide between giant food firms and people who are struggling to eat. In recent years, French media have highlighted how poor families, students, unemployed or homeless people often stealthily forage in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves, able to survive on edible products which had been thrown out just as their best-before dates approached. But some supermarkets doused binned food in bleach to prevent potential food-poisoning by eating food from bins. Other supermarkets deliberately binned food in locked warehouses for collection by refuse trucks to stop scavengers. Pressure groups, recycling commandos and direct action foraging movements have been highlighting the issue of waste in France. One action group dons gardening gloves to remove food from supermarket bins at night and redistribute it on the streets the next morning to raise awareness about waste, poverty and food distribution. GUARDIAN


Tesco to claw back failed executives' bonuses
Executive pay continues to dominate the headlines as Britain’s largest supermarket, Tesco, introduces new company regulations giving it the power to take back the bonuses of senior managers. Applicable for up to five years, the clawback provision could see the high street retailer retrieve payments made to unsuccessful former chief executive Philip Clarke and finance director Laurie McIlwee, if Tesco can prove that financial results were misstated during their tenure or the executives damaged the company’s reputation. Potentially, Tesco could also claw back up to £2.2m of 'golden goodbye' payments made to Clarke and McIlwee, who left Tesco last year before its £263m accounting scandal, which is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Reporting Council, came to light. Such provisions are not new; following the financial crash of the late 2000s, many City and Wall Street firms were pressured by investors, the media and politicians to use the regulations to punish culpable staff. High profile clawbacks have occurred at firms including UBS, Barclays and Rolls Royce. CHARTERED MANAGEMENT INTSITUTE

Rat-infested: Landlords 'earn £5.6bn a year from unsafe homes'
The Citizens Advice study says landlords are receiving £5.6bn a year on rent for homes with category 1 hazards - the most severe - which includes £1.3bn in housing benefit. That equates to 740,000 households in England living in privately rented homes which present a severe threat to tenants' health from problems like damp and rat infestations. Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Rogue landlords are putting profits before safety." The government said it had given councils new powers to tackle them. The report, A Nation of Renters, says that among these 740,000 households are 510,000 children while 180,000 of them have a disabled resident. The report also says 16% of privately rented homes are physically unsafe - compared with 6% in the social rented market. Citizens Advice says there are now more than a million families raising children in privately rented homes in England - three times higher than a decade ago. It also says private renters are under-protected and that taking court action against a landlord can be a lengthy, complicated and expensive process. The charity recommends that tenants should be entitled to rent refunds where properties are dangerous or not fit to live in. BBC NEWS

Microsoft accused of threatening MPs with job cuts in their constituencies unless they voted against IT reforms
Microsoft executives telephoned Conservative MPs threatening to shut down a facility in their local area because of planned IT reforms, David Cameron’s former strategy chief Steve Hilton has claimed. He said: “And we had the same from other tech companies as well … We had the stories from the MPs saying I’ve just had this call from – sometimes a global CEO – phoning a Conservative MP, saying we will close down this plant.” Another former Downing Street aide, Rohan Silva, said: “A day or two before we were going to give a speech, a couple of backbench MPs called the office – they said Microsoft had called them saying if we went ahead with the speech on open standards, open architecture and open source, they would cut spending or maybe close research and development centres in the constituencies of the MPs they had called.” Microsoft for years opposed the Conservatives’ position on open document standards, which was advocated from 2007 but not adopted by the government until 2014. The government’s standard is now open document format (ODF), which means files can be opened with free software, rather than commercial products. GUARDIAN

Ofgem to investigate 'forcibly installed' pre-pay meters on customers struggling to pay
More than half a million pre-payment energy meters have been forcibly installed in people's homes over the last six years. Energy suppliers can gain a court order to install a pre-pay meter when customers run up debt. But Citizens Advice said pre-pay customers got a "raw deal", paying £80 a year more on average than direct debit customers. In 2009, the first year figures were made available for, there were 36,837 electricity pre-payment meters and 26,711 gas meters installed - a combined total of just over 63,000. In 2014, the figure had risen to 49,615 for electricity and 47,876 gas - totalling about 97,000. Energy UK, the trade body which represents energy suppliers, says the meters are only forcibly installed as a last resort. The energy regulator Ofgem does not define exactly what "last resort" means but says companies must communicate with customers to try to arrange payment before a pre-payment meter is imposed. BBC NEWS

Keydata founder £75m fined by City watchdog for 'death bonds' scam
Keydata sold the bonds to some 37,000 customers between 2005 and its high-profile collapse in the summer of 2009, doing so on the impression that they were eligible for tax-free ISAs, which they were not. Keydata was declared insolvent in June 2009 by the the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the pre-cursor to the FCA. Founder and CEO Stewart Ford, and lieutenants Mark Owen and Peter Johnson, have been fined a combined total of almost £80m for their part in the scandal, as well as be banned from any role in regulated financial services. The fine dwarfs the previous record, of $9.6m (£6.2m), imposed on Dubai-based Rameshkumar Goenka for stock manipulation. More than £330m of the losses investors faced has since been returned to them by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. TELEGRAPH

Cadbury's Roses tin shrinks AGAIN for the fourth time in four years: Tub now 25% smaller than in 2011 (for the same price)
American owners Kraft, who took over Cadbury's in 2010, have taken a whole 24g off the world renowned circular gift box, dropping its capacity for treats down to 729g from 753g. Yet, the price -  £9.19 - remains the same. Tony Bilsborough, of Cadbury's told the Telegraph: 'Like many food manufacturers, we have found costs increasing... It is important we keep Cadbury Roses an affordable treat”. Roses were first created in 1938 and have been a popular gift ever since. DAILY MAIL

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