Thursday 3 September 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, September 03, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

90 people a month died after being found fit for work and losing benefits, government figures show
Between December 2011 and February 2014 2,380 people died after their Employment and Support Allowance claim was ended. They had received Work Capability Assessments (WCA) to decide if they were eligible to receive ESA, which replaced incapacity benefit, income support and severe disablement allowance in 2008. 1,340 of them died after appealing against their decisions, though it is not known what proportion of those appeals were successful or failed. The figures - and the time frame they cover - were released after the Information Commissioner ruled the government should release the statistics, including mortality rates for benefit claimants, in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. The data does not contain a breakdown of how the people died. Campaigners have called for the "tragic" figures to be investigated. The DWP said no link could be assumed between the deaths and claimants being deemed fit for work. BBC NEWS

Small banks v big banks: Small lenders to confront Treasury over huge tax hike to pay for big bank tax cut
The Government has introduced £40bn worth of new taxation aimed at the big banks over a decade, through five different taxes including the levy and the corporation tax surcharge. These bank tax raids on the big lenders are justified in terms of making them repay the debt to society they incurred in the crisis: but many of the challenger (i.e. new and small) banks did not even exist back in 2008 so cannot be blamed for the meltdown. The challenger banks – along with the building societies – say they are shocked and angry at the Chancellor’s announcement that lenders making profits above £25m will be forced to pay an 8 per cent corporation tax surcharge, whilst the levies on the big banks will be scaled back. The revolt is being led by Paul Lynam of Secure Trust bank, who chairs the British Bankers’ Association panel of challenger banks. Lynam said: ‘...the surcharge is an absolute victory for the lobbyists for big banks... The large banks enjoy a multi-billion pound a year subsidy by being too big to fail, which means they can fund themselves at a fraction of the cost of smaller ones. Reducing the bank levy means they will be subsidised not only by the taxpayer, but by the smaller banks.’ Some suspect the Chancellor, who is trying to offload the Government stakes in RBS and Lloyds, wants to cut back the levy to make shares in those two lenders more attractive. Back-of-the-envelope calculations by industry experts suggest one of the big banks, HSBC, may benefit to the tune of £470m over five years from the tax change. DAILY MAIL

Restaurant tipping abuse under investigation
The government investigation will look at how tips left by customers are handled after recent reports found that a proportion of tips at some restaurants were being spent on administrative costs. Most chains use a "tronc" system, where all the tips are collected together and distributed evenly through the staff, usually with around 70% going to the waiters, and the rest given to kitchen and other workers. There is no law regarding how a tronc is divided, however. Many high-street chains deduct fees from tips. These include: Ask (8%), Belgo (10%), Bella Italia (10%), Café Rouge (10%), Prezzo (10%), Strada (10%) and Zizzi (8%). Recently Giraffe has scrapped its 10% admin fee on tips, joining chains like Restaurant Group, Carluccio's, Garfunkel's and Jamie Oliver's who do not deduct a fee. Research from 2009 found that one in five restaurants did not pass tips to their staff, yet the vast majority of customers said they wanted waiting staff to receive the money left for them, the government said. The investigation will consider whether there should be a cap on the proportion of tips businesses can withhold. But Unite officer Dave Turnbull said: "Capping admin fees will simply legitimise the underhand practice of restaurants taking a slice of staff tips and be near enough impossible to enforce," he said. BBC NEWS

'National living wage' dodgers face higher penalties
Originally employers had to pay the amount they had underpaid workers, plus a penalty calculated at 50% of the underpayment, up to a maximum of £5,000. Under the coalition, the penalty was increased from 50% of the underpayment to 100%, up to a maximum of £20,000. Prime minister David Cameron has now said that the penalty would go up again, from 100% of underpayment to 200%. The maximum penalty will remain at £20,000. A new labour market enforcement director will be appointed to ensure that firms comply with the national living wage – effectively a higher minimum wage rate for workers over 25. From the autumn, anyone found guilty of non-compliance will be considered for disqualification as a company director for 15 years. In the past, relatively few firms have been fined for not paying the minimum wage but ithe Department for Business announced in February that a crackdown launched in October 2013 had led to 162 firms being fined for non-compliance, as well as being named and shamed. Cameron said the new measures were intended to send a message to “unscrupulous employers” that they would pay the price if they underpaid their staff. He claimed that the government initiative would ensure that “people properly benefit from the recovery.” The national living wage, the surprise announcement in the summer budget, will start at £7.20 an hour from next April, rising to at least £9 an hour by the end of the decade. GUARDIAN

The number of workers on zero-hours contracts increases 20 per cent in a year
The number of people on zero-hours contracts as their main job has increased in the past year from 624,000 to 744,000. The figure equates to about 2.4 per cent of all people in employment, up from two per cent this time last year. The Office for National Statistics, which published the figures, suggested although the figure increased, it did not necessarily mean a large increase in the number of people on zero-hours contracts. "Two-thirds of the increase is from people in their job for more than a year and so the overall increase does not necessarily relate to new zero hours contracts. It could have been due either to increased recognition or to people moving on to a zero-hours contract with the same employer," it said. Although the government has introduced measures to reduce the number of people on zero-hours contracts, including banning exclusivity clauses, it has stopped short of banning the controversial contracts altogether. In April work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith called for the contracts to be rebranded "flexible hours contracts". He said workers valued the flexibility they afforded: "Only two per cent of the total workforce have those and they are mostly people like carers, who can't give direct time, and young people like students, so for them there is a reason for those." On Tuesday investor group Pirc encouraged Sports Direct shareholders to vote against six resolutions at the retailer's annual general meeting, in part due to the large number of staff employed on zero-hours contracts. CITY AM

Revealed: the widening gulf between salaries and house prices
A homebuyer earning the median salary for their region in 1995 would have had to spend between 3.2 times and 4.4 times their salary on a house, depending on where they lived. In 2012-13, the last year for which complete data is available, the median house price had risen to between 6.1 times and 12.2 times median regional incomes. The situation is most dire in the capital, where the median house now costs 12 times the median London income. Even in the most affordable regions of England and Wales buyers are forced to spend six times their income. The gap between house prices and income have led the OECD to class the UK in the category of countries “where houses appear overvalued but prices are rising”. The OECD warns that economies in this category, which also include Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are vulnerable to the risk of price corrections. Duncan Stott, director of affordable housing campaign group PricedOut, warned that rising house prices meant more people would be perpetual renters, which would have untold effects on society. “It takes a toll on young people who can’t afford a house. A lot of us are going to be spending our lives renting and we need to be thinking about the implications for children growing up in private rentals and how on earth we pay the rent when we retire, which no one is talking about.” GUARDIAN

Tesco to end defined benefit pension, but improves new scheme after staff backlash
Tesco says it has made concessions for its new scheme, which comes into force in November, in a bid to quell employee anger. The move was revealed in letters sent out last week and came after a backlash over its new pension plans. Instead of a 5 per cent maximum contribution staff will be able to pay up to 7.5 per cent into their pot, which will be matched by the supermarket - senior staff will get contributions matched at 1.5 times what they put in up to a certain level. The grocer has also increased the amount of life cover it offers from four times to five times. Tesco claims it improved its original offer following consultation with staff and unions. Tesco wrote to employees in spring to inform them of the proposed cuts, stating that it would contribute up to 5 per cent of their pay into the new plan - matching their contributions. Previously workers had enjoyed annual pension benefits worth about 18 per cent of their pay, with the company contributing around 11 per cent and the employee making up the difference. DAILY MAIL

Tax evasion: Argentina orders HSBC to replace local boss within 24 hours
Argentina's central bank has ordered HSBC to replace its chief executive in the country within 24 hours and accused the bank of failing to prevent tax evasion and money laundering. In November Argentine authorities charged HSBC with helping more than 4,000 clients evade taxes. The bank was accused of helping clients hide money in Swiss bank accounts. HSBC rejected the charge and said in a statement that it complied with Argentina's laws. The central bank said that HSBC Argentina's president and chief executive, Gabriel Martino, "had not directed the necessary measures to mitigate and adequately address the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities." In March Argentina ordered HSBC to return $3.5bn (£2.3bn) from offshore accounts. HSBC is already facing investigations in several countries over allegations it helped clients dodge taxes. BBC NEWS


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