Thursday 20 August 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, August 20, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP admits using 'fake' claimants in benefit sanctions leaflet
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) leaflet featured one welfare claimant, "Sarah", who said she was "really pleased" a cut to her benefits had encouraged her to improve her CV. But after a Freedom of Information request by website Welfare Weekly, the DWP said they were not real claimants. The images used were "stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants". The stories were for "illustrative purposes only". The DWP later said in a statement: "The case studies were used for illustrative purposes to help people understand how the benefit system works. They're based on conversations our staff have had with claimants... They have now been removed to avoid confusion". Under the sanctions system - introduced by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith - people can lose benefits for anywhere between a few weeks and three years if they fail to meet the government's requirements for jobseekers. The system of benefits sanctions - introduced under the coalition government - has been accused of having a detrimental impact on some claimants. Earlier this year, the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee called for an independent inquiry into the way the sanctions were applied, saying that in some cases they were causing food poverty and "severe financial hardship". BBC NEWS

Soaring student rents push college accommodation to brink of crisis
Between 2010 and 2013, rents rose 25%, according to the student housing charity Unipol. This compared with rises in the wider rental market over the same period of 13%, according to Homelet. The latest Unipol data, to be published in November, is expected to show further rises of around 7%. A maintenance loan of up to £8,000 in London or £5,500 outside the capital is available to students for help with living costs, but the National Union of Students (NUS) is concerned that the sky-high costs of housing mean this is now being almost being completely eaten up by rent. NUS figures for the academic year just gone show a typical £8,000 a year shortfall between student living costs and their income from loans and the maintenance grant. The housing charity Shelter said: “Even when people do find somewhere, we too often hear from students dealing with issues like poor conditions, unprotected deposits and unfair terms in tenancy agreements.” The figures from Shelter’s Private Tenant Survey show that 50% of students are struggling with rent and 40% of student renters had borrowed money from any one of a range of sources to meet their monthly rental payments, in the last year. The majority of the new accommodation needed will be provided by private companies, which in 2013 provided 80% of new bed spaces, according to Unipol. Already this year private investment in student digs has reached record levels with billions poured into the market by Russian, Middle Eastern and Canadian investors. At the same time, the lower-cost rooms available from education institutions have got much more expensive, rising 23% in price since the academic year 2009-10, according to Unipol. This means some institutions no longer have any low-cost rooms for their poorer students. GUARDIAN

Investors settle $2bn forex rigging claim in US court against nine banks including RBS, HSBC and Barclays
The law firm that brought the claim in New York’s southern district court added there was scope for cases to be brought outside the US. Anthony Maton, a managing partner at the law firm Hausfeld in London, explained: “There is no doubt that anyone who traded FX in or through the London or Asian markets – which transact trillions of dollars of business every day – will have suffered significant loss as a result of the actions of the banks. Compensation for these losses will require concerted action in London.” The case comes after banks were hit with record fines for manipulating forex markets, where £3.5tn a day changes hands from Sydney to London and New York. The fines topped £6.3bn, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issuing penalties alongside US regulators including the Department of Justice. At least seven other banks are still being pursued in the continuing case in the New York court, where the allegation is that they conspired to manipulate prices in the foreign exchange market since 2003. GUARDIAN

Ex-council flat in central London sold for record £1.2m
The three-bedroom property near Covent Garden has been sold by the original buyers, who bought it from Westminster council in 1990 for £130,000 under the right-to-buy rules introduced by Margaret Thatcher. That makes the return on their investment more than 800%. The 1,118 sq ft flat boasts its own private front door entrance, a third bedroom and an eat-in kitchen separate from the main reception room. The property is not the first ex-council flat to be marketed for more than £1m this year. In May a two-bedroom home above Stella McCartney’s boutique in Fulham came on to the market for £1.15m. Last year, two large houses were sold by Southwark council for almost £2.96m and are now back on the market for more than £3m each.  Since right-to-buy was introduced in the early 1980s more than 2m properties have been sold off across the country. Currently, council tenants in London can get discounts of up to £103,900 on their property if they decide to exercise their right to buy. Under new rules being brought in by the Conservative government the right to buy will be extended to all housing association tenants, while councils will be forced to sell off their most valuable stock to pay for replacement homes. Councils in London have warned that this could lead to the sell-off of thousands of homes in the capital. Tracy Kellett, a buying agent for wealthy house-seekers, said ex-council homes were of interest to homebuyers and investors: “Any stigma is waning fast as there’s a whole generation of people who don’t even know what a traditional council house is or was. Investors are keen as they often give great yields as purchase prices are lower than average.” GUARDIAN

Sky-high London rents prompt calls for new controls on landlords
In 18 of London’s 33 boroughs, the median rent for a one-bedroom flat is more than £1,000 a month. In Greater London, the rent for a one-bedroom flat has risen by an average of 22% over the past five years. The gap between what Londoners should pay – economists most commonly say 30% of their salary – and what they actually pay is among the highest in the world, according to a report by McKinsey Global Institute. To rent in Bexley, the cheapest of London’s suburbs, a nurse or teaching assistant on a salary of £19,700 a year with monthly take-home pay of £1,373 would be looking at paying £700 a month for a one-bedroom flat, according to the Valuation Office Agency data – 50% of their pay. Go north to Barnet and the rent rises to 75% of take-home pay, while the rent in Camden would leave a teaching assistant in debt. The figures have prompted David Lammy, one of Labour’s prospective candidates for London mayor and the MP for Tottenham, to warn that the capital risks civil unrest similar to that in the ghettoised suburbs of Paris unless rent controls are imposed. Rent controls – or rent stabilisation, as it is referred to in New York – are not caps on monthly rent: they are usually restrictions on in-contract rent increases and lease conditions, such as length of tenancy. This prevents landlords pushing rents up to overheated levels. Separate data from 2014, supplied by City Hall, shows that London is becoming like New York and Berlin, where the majority of homes are rented. In the early 1960s, 36% of Londoners owned their homes, the data shows. The figure peaked at 59% at the turn of the century, but by 2011 fell below 50%. GUARDIAN

Most graduates 'in non-graduate jobs', says CIPD
Overall, 58.8% of graduates are in jobs deemed to be non-graduate roles, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. It said the number of graduates had now "significantly outstripped" the creation of high-skilled jobs. The CIPD said: "The assumption that we will transition to a more productive, higher-value, higher-skilled economy just by increasing the conveyor belt of graduates is proven to be flawed." The report found the issue was leading to "negative consequences" including employers requesting degrees for traditionally non-graduate roles despite no change to the skills needed for the role. As a result, it found graduates were now replacing non-graduates in roles and taking jobs where the demand for graduate skills was either non-existent or falling. The trend was particularly prominent in construction and manufacturing sectors where apprenticeships have previously been traditional routes into the industry, the report found. The CIPD is calling for a "national debate" over how to generate more high-skilled jobs. It said government and organisations both needed to act to help graduates make better use of their skills, but said the report also highlighted that for young people choosing an apprenticeship instead of university could be a "much better choice". BBC NEWS

Chief executives earn '183 times more than workers'
A report by the High Pay Centre, a think tank which monitors income distribution, shows that top bosses earned on average £4.964m in 2014. That compares to £27,195 median pay for a full-time employee in 2014, according to official figures. The High Pay Centre said the executive pay packages went "far beyond what is inspire top executives." The pay gap did not increase dramatically between 2014 and 2013, when chief executives earned 182 times the average workers pay, but the High Pay Centre points out that it is much bigger than in 2010, when CEOs earned 160 times more. The think tank would like companies to publish their own figures on the difference in pay between executives and their workers. It would also like a structure in which employees are represented in pay negotiations. In response to the study, the TUC said that inequality had now reached "stratospheric levels" while the Unite union called for institutional investors to "use their clout to draw a line in the sand over CEO pay". BBC NEWS

Eight in ten drivers who appeal against Dartford Crossing toll fines have them cancelled - but thousands just pay up
Despite the high chance of an appeal leading to the fine being cancelled, only one in 25 (4 per cent) of those who get a ticket bother to appeal. The disparity suggests thousands of drivers are being unfairly fined but just ’paying up’ and that the tolled road bridge and tunnel system is ‘in chaos’, say experts. The damning figures are revealed from a Freedom of Information request by motoring magazine Auto Express. It says more than 25 million drivers have used the Thames crossing to the east of London during chargeable hours (6am to 10pm) since the system came in on 1 December, with nearly one million of them landing a fine. The crossing was previously operated by toll booths with drivers having to pull up and pay before being let through. But now drivers must pay in advance – online, by telephone or at some shops – and the system uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to police cars going through the ‘’free flow system.’ Those deemed not to have paid are photographed and the fines sent to the drivers’ homes. But the camera system been criticised by drivers for misreading letters and incorrectly sending out charges.’ The fine is £70 – halved if paid within 14 days – plus the toll price. First-time offenders, accounting for 40 per cent of the total, get a warning letter. DAILY MAIL


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