Tuesday 3 November 2015

Tuesday, November 03, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Tuesday, November 03, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

Scotland introduces living wage for public contract bidders
The new statutory guidance for the public sector is part of the Scottish government's commitment to fair work procurement practices. They will also ban the exploitative use of zero hours contracts, and require companies to commit to giving workers an "active voice" in the workplace. Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said the guidance sees the government "nail its colours to the mast... Employers must now recognise - as many already do - that if you want to do business with the public sector in Scotland, you have to be a responsible employer and value your workers. You have to do your bit to make Scotland a fairer and more equal society." The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually by the Living Wage Foundation. It is more than a pound an hour higher than the current national minimum wage, which is currently set at £6.70 for over-21s. While the minimum wage is a legal requirement, the living wage is designed to reflect the actual cost of living and is paid voluntarily by some employers. The introduction of Scotland’s new guidance on public sector procurement was welcomed by trade unions. In July, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to replace the lower minimum wage for over-25s with a new National Living Wage of £7.20 an hour from next April. The chancellor said he wanted the National Living Wage to rise to £9 by 2020. BBC NEWS

Cuts and costs crisis ‘could close 50% of UK care homes’ for elderly
Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the all-party Commons select committee on health, is calling for the government to act, saying that social care providers are reeling from rising costs and declining fees from cash-strapped local authorities. Wollaston, a former GP, said she supported the new national living wage and moves to pay transport costs to carers, but added that the government had to recognise that both measures would increase the costs of care. “There has been a longstanding gap in funding for social care and this will become much more severe if there is not adequate recognition of the rising costs the sector will face as a result of the living wage. Otherwise, we will see more care providers pulling out of the sector,” she said. Many problems result from the fact that local authorities, which have suffered funding cuts of more than 40% since 2010, cannot offer enough to make contracts attractive or, in many cases, viable. Many providers are turning to the private market as an alternative, where they can. Martin Green, the head of Care England, said the crisis would lead to more people ending up in hospitals and Chai Patel, the boss of one of Britain’s largest care home operators, HC-One, said he had given research to the government that showed that half of care homes could disappear. The Local Government Association has admitted that there is likely to be a £2.9bn shortfall in social funding care by the end of the decade and has called on the government to take action. GUARDIAN

Majority of goods sold in UK stores are on "special offer"
Two-for-one on packs of Christmas cards; buy one, get one free on wrapping paper and wine that seems to be permanently on special offer. But market research group IRI has found that more than half of all goods (54.6%) sold to UK shoppers in supermarkets and major retailers were on promotions such as ubiquitous multi-buys. This compares with 28.6% for Europe overall, making the UK the country with the highest level of promotions across Europe. In Spain and France, for example, about one-fifth of volume sales are on promotion, while in Italy one-third of all volume sales are offering such deals. Critics argue that it amounts to a tactic for obscuring the true cost of goods. But it may backfire for retailers as consumers come to expect a discount. The report concluded: “UK consumers have been inadvertently trained to look for deals in-store and to concentrate their purchasing into promotional periods. This behaviour is having no signs of slowing down. In essence, this means that the impact of promotions is also declining with each new promotion becoming less effective at achieving the desired uplift than the last.” Fizzy drinks, sweets and body care products were most likely to be on permanent promotion for UK shoppers; 83% of cola sales were on promotion, while deodorant and body sprays had an 81% volume of sales on promotion and hair conditioner 80%. Richard Lloyd – executive director at consumer group Which?, which in April took the unusual step of launching a “super-complaint” to the government’s competition watchdog – urged retailers to only advertise specials when they genuinely offered a big saving to consumers. GUARDIAN

Construction fatalities force clamp down on London's 'billionaire basements'
The rise in “billionaire basements” – subterranean home extensions in some of London’s most expensive boroughs – is attracting fresh scrutiny amid concerns over a rise in fatalities and serious injuries. The Health and Safety Executive will look at properties in Kensington and Chelsea as well as Hammersmith and Fulham next week, as the government prepares to clamp down on unsafe practices. HSE reported 17 deaths of construction workers over the last 10 years as a result of collapsing excavations. There were 27 serious injuries over the same period. Last December, Conrad Sidebottom, a company director, was jailed for three years, after labourer Anghel Milosavlevici was crushed to death at a basement excavation in Fulham. Sidebottom and another man, Richard Golding, were convicted of failing to take reasonable care for Milosavlevici’s health and safety. Last year, Kensington and Chelsea won approval on new rules to restrict “dig-downs” to just one storey below ground level after complaints over multistorey extensions planned by wealthy residents. Buildings more than a century old have been fitted with swimming pools, cinema rooms, spas and tennis courts. In 2013, Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich was given the go-ahead for a £100m home in Chelsea, which included plans to excavate a two-storey basement. In 2012, after Christoph Stanger, the boss of Goldman Sachs, began to dig under his £7m property in Kensington Palace Gardens to create a children’s playroom, the house began to subside, pulling the facades of his neighbour’s houses down with it. GUARDIAN

Six million workers paid 'less than the living wage'
The accountancy firm KPMG said its research showed that the proportion of workers earning less than the living wage had risen for three years in a row. The data showed a "worrying trend" of part-time, female and young workers being most likely to earn below the figure. The living wage, promoted by the Living Wage Foundation, is currently £7.85 an hour and £9.15 in London. It is not compulsory for employers to pay it. The government said it was "determined to move to a higher wage economy". The wage is well above the compulsory national minimum wage, and more than the new national living wage which the government has announced will come into force next April. Mike Kelly, of KPMG, said: "The figures show there is still more to be done if we are to eradicate in-work poverty. For some time it was easy for businesses to hide behind the argument that increased wages hit their bottom line, but there is ample evidence to suggest the opposite, in the shape of higher retention and higher productivity.” BBC NEWS

MPs hit out at HMRC for tax evasion crackdown failures
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) described the number of prosecutions for offshore tax evasion as 'woefully inadequate', adding that HMRC needed to gather more intelligence about the value of tax lost through aggressive tax avoidance schemes. The PAC report follows an investigation by Private Eye into the extent of properties owned by companies outside the UK. Earlier this summer it revealed that 490,000 acres in England and Wales, an area larger than Greater London, were held offshore, presumably to avoid stamp duty and inheritance tax. The committee noted there had been only 11 prosecutions in relation to offshore tax evasion since 2010, of which only one came from a list of some 3,600 potential UK tax evaders whose Swiss bank account details were leaked by a former employee of HSBC. The report also pointed to flaws in customer service at HMRC, now considered so bad it could be having 'an adverse impact on the collection of tax revenues'. In 2014-15, HMRC responded to just 72.5% of calls. Over the first half of 2015, this had fallen to 50%. PAC chair and Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier, said: “It beggars belief that, having made disappointing progress on tax evasion and avoidance, the taxman also seems incapable of running a satisfactory service for people trying to pay their fair share.” CITYWIRE

Payday lender QuickQuid to write off unaffordable loans
Payday lenders QuickQuid and Pounds to Pocket are to write off more than 2,500 loans to customers and refund almost 1,500 people who were granted loans they could not afford to repay. The lenders’ parent company, CashEuroNet UK, has agreed with the City regulator to provide redress worth £1.7m after it found customers were able to borrow amounts greater than they could afford to repay. The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), found 3,940 customers were lent sums in excess of what they could afford to repay. Of these, 2,523 will have their current loan balance written off, 961 will get a cash refund of interest paid on the unaffordable element of the loan and 456 customers will get a cash refund and have their current loan balance written off. The FCA has so far unearthed problems with thousands of short-term high-cost loans granted by the biggest operators in the sector. In October 2014, the UKs biggest payday lender, Wonga, was forced to write off 330,000 loans and to compensate 45,000 other customers. More recently The Money Shop’s owner, Dollar Financial, was told to refund £15.4m to 147,000 customers. Borrowers who have been affected will be contacted by CashEuroNet by email within two days, and it will make repayments within 60 to 90 days. GUARDIAN

US trader found guilty in landmark ‘spoofing’ case
Spoofing is rapidly placing orders with the intent to cancel them before they trade in order to trick other investors by creating the illusion of demand. While long prohibited by authorities and exchanges, it was explicitly banned under the US Dodd-Frank financial reforms of 2010. The tactic has risen to prominence in futures markets with the emergence of electronic trading that has taken the place of face-to-face trading. Now a jury in Chicago found Michael Coscia, 53, guilty on 12 counts, including intending to defraud other traders by flooding gold, corn, soyabeans, foreign exchange and crude oil futures markets with small orders with the intent of cancelling them. Federal prosecutors alleged Coscia made $1.4m in three months of 2011 at Panther Energy Trading with an algorithm custom designed to “bait and switch” investors.‎ Coscia faces a maximum sentence of 25 years and a $25,000 fine on each of the six counts of commodities fraud and 10 years and a $1m fine on each of the six counts of spoofing. One expert commented on the implications of the verdict for other traders: “If you were a trader in high-frequency trading and had an algorithm that automatically pulls trades, this [verdict] would be of serious concern to you.” FINANCIAL TIMES


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