Thursday 6 August 2015

Thursday, August 06, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, August 06, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

Leicestershire police 'ignore' attempted burglaries at odd-numbered houses, to cut costs
Attempted break-ins at odd-numbered houses were not fully investigated by one police force as part of an experiment to save money. Leicestershire Police said the pilot scheme had had no adverse effect on public satisfaction or crime rates. Results of the three-month trial are being evaluated and could see it rolled out throughout the East Midlands. Due to cuts in central government funding, the force has cut £33.9m - about 17% of the entire budget - over the four years to March this year, but is expecting more savings to be needed. Eric Tindall of Melton Mowbray Neighbourhood Watch said: "It does announce to the criminal element, that they can go down one side of the street not being so cautious as to what they get up to, but on the other side they are going to be more cautious." Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Clive Loader said he was unaware of the idea but would have advised against it. BBC NEWS

NHS told to fill only essential vacancies due to 'almost unprecedented' finances
NHS trusts have been told by Monitor, the health service regulator, to fill vacancies “only where essential” as it warned that current financial plans are “quite simply unaffordable”. In a letter to NHS trusts, Monitor’s chief executive David Bennett warned of an “almost unprecedented financial challenge” as he said no stone should be left unturned to find savings. Bennett wrote in the letter, which was seen by the Health Service Journal, that financial forecasts for 2015-16 are unsustainable as he called for greater savings. The HSJ has reported recently that the provider sector has forecast a deficit of £2bn in 2015-16. In his letter, Bennett wrote: “We are already reviewing and challenging the plans of the 46 foundation trusts with the biggest deficits. However, it is clear that this process will not close the funding gap and so we need all providers – even those planning for a surplus this year – to look again at their plans to see what more can be done.” Bennett added: “... of course, all actions should be consistent with your responsibilities for safety and the delivery of constitutional standards.” GUARDIAN

Osborne panned over RBS sell-off as taxpayer suffers £1bn loss
The Government confirmed it has sold 630million shares at 330p each, raising £2.1billion and reducing its stake from 78.3 per cent to 72.9 per cent. But city analysts argued it had demonstrated spectacularly bad timing, with shares trading hands at 404p at the end of February. Selling the shares at 330p therefore resulted in a loss of £1.1billion for taxpayers, who paid 502p per share in the £46billion bail out of RBS almost seven years ago. Just under half the shares were bought by investors in the UK and around 40 per cent by US investors. Around 60 per cent of the shares were bought by hedge funds. George Osborne said ‘while the easiest thing to do would be to duck the difficult decisions and leave RBS in state hands, the right thing to do for the economy and for taxpayers is to start selling off our stake.’ Despite being accused by Labour of selling off RBS shares on the cheap, the chancellor was backed by business groups and campaigners. Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, described it as ‘a positive step forward, even if at first sight it looks concerning.’ Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: ‘The exact timing of the sale was always going to be a matter of judgement, but the overriding principle is that banks should be in private sector ownership.’ DAILY MAIL

Farmers hand out free milk in fresh protests over supermarket milk prices
Farmers have been clearing supermarket shelves by buying milk in bulk and giving it away over the past few days. They say they are being paid less than it costs to produce the milk, and some have gone out of business because shops have reduced prices. West Midlands dairy farmer Michael Oakes, from the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said: "I'm getting paid 24p (per litre) and it's costing me 28p to produce. So we thought we'd go along to the retailer, we've bought the milk and we're going to give it away to the consumer and explain why." Dairy farmer Bryce Cunningham, who helped to organise protests in Scotland, said: "At the moment we're being being paid 15p a litre for every litre of milk that we produce. It's costing me 24p to produce this milk." Protests have taken place in Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda in Kilmarnock and Ayr (Scotland), Coleraine (Northern Ireland), Bideford (Devon), Bude (Cornwall), and Telford (Shropshire). Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said shops were not to blame: "The global market at the moment is over supplied, we haven't seen the pick up in demand that we might have expected from places like China and India which were growing quite rapidly." BBC NEWS

Housing affordability gap grows, says ONS
The average home in Westminster, London cost 24 times more than a typical gross annual salary in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. At the other end of the scale, the average property price in Blaenau Gwent in Wales was only four times greater than the average salary. This gap has widened since 2007, the figures show. Peter Rollings, chief executive of Marsh & Parsons estate agents, said: "Investors have always been the highest stake players in these areas of London, and our latest research shows they have only strengthened their hand recently... Taxation at the top-end of the property market deters some domestic buyers from sitting at the table.” While prices rose, and homes became less affordable to buy, the amount of rent paid to private landlords in Westminster typically took up 78% of an average salary in England and Wales in 2014. This made it the least affordable area for private tenants as a result. In contrast, tenants in Copeland, Cumbria, typically spent 22% of an average salary on rent, the lowest rate in England and Wales. Overall, the figures show that rent for social housing took up a larger percentage of residents' earnings in England and Wales in 2014 than in 2002. The ONS said that house building had not recovered to the 150,000 or more completed new homes a year that were built before the recession. During the latter half of the 1960s more than 300,000 new homes were built every year. BBC NEWS

Back to bad selling habits? Lloyds staff claim sales pressure has intensified after slump in customers taking out products
Previously, we reported how Lloyds would issue sales points to staff members for selling certain products. This contributed to a monthly target, which if hit, meant a bonus. At the time we warned that for this reason, mis-selling was rife as desperate staff chased their targets, not only for a bonus, but to avoid potential disciplinary action from management. Under media pressure, at the start of the year, Lloyds brought in a new bonus structure which it said is based on customers giving feedback on staff. Their controversial sales incentives were binned. But since then sales have slumped at the bank. In the first 12 weeks of 2015, Lloyds saw 45 per cent fewer customers in branches take out loans. In the first three months of 2014, when sales targets were still in place, 50,000 insurance products were taken out. This year, the number fell to 15,000. There was a similar reduction in credit cards. Now an insider, who works in a busy branch based in the South East, says advisers and sellers are being 'micromanaged' around selling once again and are having to demonstrate to their superiors how they have 'helped' customers each week – which they say is another term for selling. The Lloyds Trade Union (LTU) also published a separate e-mail from a line manager telling staff to ignore customers who are not going to take out any products and only see those 'who could benefit from our excellent rates and offers'. The LTU also published an e-mail from Lloyds management which said: 'Here's what we are going to do in [2015] Q3 - pretty much back to what we did in [name of branch removed] in [2014] Q4 last year.' DAILY MAIL

14 years for banker Tom Hayes, found guilty of rigging benchmark interest rates
Tom Hayes, a former star trader at UBS and Citigroup, has been found guilty of eight counts of conspiring to rig Libor, the first conviction in the global scandal over the manipulation of benchmark interest rates. Hayes, a 35-year-old former yen derivatives trader who was described by one investigator in the case as “the Machiavelli of Libor”, was sentenced to 14 years in jail. The conviction on Monday came three years after a then-record fine against Barclays sparked a global outcry over the rigging of benchmarks and billions of dollars in fines. The sentence is the latest of a string of harsh punishments handed out to bankers convicted of fraud, which highlight the judiciary’s toughening stance on financial crime. Magnus Peterson, the founder of collapsed hedge fund Weavering Capital, was given a 13-year prison sentence earlier this year while UBS rogue trader Kweku Adoboli received seven years in 2012. Prosecutors said Hayes acted as the ringleader in manipulating yen Libor by asking rate setters and traders at UBS and several other banks who were on the panel that set the daily rate, as well as external brokers, to move the rate up or down in ways that would benefit his trading positions. He further encouraged brokers to help him influence other banks to move the rate. Hayes rewarded the brokers by paying them extra commission through wash trades, a system prosecutors said amounted to paying bribes. As part of his defence, Hayes claims his seniors knew what he was doing. The verdicts are a major victory for the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, which has several related Libor investigations in the works. There are already two other trials in the case scheduled to begin in the coming year, and the agency is also probing manipulation of forex rates. FINANCIAL TIMES

Cameron joins backlash against rip-off pension freedom fees: Government threatens charge caps and asks savers for feedback
Exit fee caps are under consideration following evidence that the pensions industry is imposing a mishmash of excessive and confusing charges on savers. The Government is calling on ordinary pension savers to fill in an online survey about their experiences to drum up direct feedback. Cameron said: 'The aim has always been to give people more control over their money, not to create a new way of charging people.'  The Government has already ordered regulators to find out the scale of the problems after Chancellor George Osborne said there were 'clearly concerns that some companies are not doing their part'. He threatened a cap on early exit penalties and other measures to ensure people were treated fairly. Pension freedom reforms in April gave over-55s full powers over their retirement pots to save, spend or invest the money as they wish, but these are being hampered by industry red tape and charges. Fees have become a flashpoint between firms and customers, while other common gripes include endless delays when people try to withdraw or move their money, and being forced to get expensive or unnecessary financial advice. Research by consumer group Which? and comparison website has laid bare the bewildering array of charges faced by people trying to use the new freedoms to access their pension pots. They found vast differences in the size and type of charges and the rules that companies are applying. DAILY MAIL

Big Six energy firms lose tens of thousands of customers to rivals in just six months - and most are switching to independent suppliers
Around 266,000 customers have deserted energy giant EDF in the first six months of this year, in a further sign that households are starting to ditch the big six energy firms in favour of their smaller rivals. British Gas also saw 45,000 customers leaving over the last six months, owner Centrica said today, and last week SSE revealed a loss of 90,000 customers in the past three months. The news comes as data from energy watchdog Ofgem shows that nearly half of the 1.1million gas and 1.4million electricity customers who switched between January and May did so to turn to an independent supplier. As a result, smaller independent energy providers had a 10 per cent market share as of March this year - from just 2 per cent in January 2013. An Ofgem spokeswoman said: ‘The increase is an improving picture for independent suppliers who are gaining market share and building up their customer base.’ But a report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) earlier this month found that millions of customers still failed to switch, with around 70 per cent on default standard variable rate tariffs despite better deals available. The CMA also found that the Big Six providers – British Gas, EDF, SSE, Eon, Npower and Scottish Power - were overcharging customers by around £1.2billion per year, or about £40 per household. DAILY MAIL

Clothes retailer Next banks £170m in interest charges from shoppers
The financial results showed 2.7 million shoppers used unsecured credit from Next to make purchases through its online and catalogue business, the vast majority of Next Directory’s 3.6 million shoppers. These customers were billed a “service charge” at an annual percentage rate of 24.99% if they did not repay the outstanding balance on their Directory account and card by a set date each month. The APR is higher than the typical 18% to 20% interest charged by bank credit cards, despite the fact Next has a default rate of just 1%. The interest income accounted for almost a third of the profit Next made on sales to its 2.7 million Directory shoppers. Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Customers need clear information when signing up for catalogue debt. Directory and catalogue sellers must not push customers to take on credit they often don’t need, and must make sure customers know how much catalogue credit will cost them.” GUARDIAN


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